There and Back Again
“This is great,” said John with a massive grin, stretching from ear to ear.
Niamh and Bryan gave him a deathly stare for this was the fifth time he had repeated himself in the last hour. Like a sermon, he was preaching to his congregation.
“John! My hands can’t take much more of this,” said Niamh, trying desperately to catch her breath.
“This is why I asked you to do your stretches,” shouted John with all the false authority he could muster.
“I think I’m gonna collapse as well,” murmured Bryan, as sweat dripped from every inch of his body.
“Alright, fine! You guys can take a five-minute break and I’ll hold up the boulder in the meantime.”
As soon as those words escaped John’s mouth, Niamh and Bryan dropped to the ground. The sudden loss of support on the boulder surprised John, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. The same couldn’t be said about his two comrades, for each of their hearts was thumping at a hundred miles a second and their lungs, close to exploding.
“How much longer will it take to reach the top of the hill?” said Bryan in a petulant tone.
“Um … I want to say ten minutes. We’re not that far away,” lied John. He knew it was going to take them another hour to get to the top, but saying that would discourage the band too much from continuing. Fortunately, Bryan’s delirium was fucking with his sense of direction.
“Oh God! Oh God! I can’t believe you convinced us into this trial. Why do we keep falling for shit like this?” Bryan exaggerating his previous petulant tone.
“Cheer up, Bryan. It’s the worst thing in the world,” sighed Niamh.
“Are you sure about that?”
“I mean, the activity has it’s downsides. But at least we’re getting a good workout out of it.”
“Activity, huh? Is that what we’re calling it?” Bryan raised his voice, “I thought it was meant to be a fucking—”
“Bryan!” interrupted John. “Let Niamh have her fun.” He turned to Niamh and cheered her on, “Yeah! That’s the spirit. Now we’re finally getting into it.”
“Thanks, John,” said Niamh as she raised her arm and tried to show off her newly acquired biceps.
An awkward silence followed.
Perhaps, it would’ve seemed more impressive if not the incarnation of a Greek God which was John’s body. His abs reflecting the sun at Niamh and Bryan’s faces.
“Ok guys. Chop! Chop! We need to get back on track. I want to reach the top of the hill by sundown.”
“I thought you said the top was only a few minutes away?” inquired Bryan with a suspicious tone.
“Let’s just see how we get on,” said John with an exaggerated smirk.
Bryan wasn’t happy about John using his catchphrase against him but Bryan would never point it out. For he didn’t want to give John the satisfaction.
Hours passed. But it felt more like years. Together, they walked, they stumbled, and fell and crawled and cursed and finally they reached the top of the hill.
“Ok, let’s be careful, now. I know this is the best part but we need to make sure we don’t hurt ourselves,” said John, bringing back his authority and like simple cattle, the other two followed his instructions.
They slowly moved to the sides of the boulder and after a count of three, they let go of it. The boulder raced down the hill, back to where this had all began. Within moments, it was out of sight but painfully, not out of mind.
“This was a good lap. But we need to work on our teamwork.” John stared innocently at his buddies, “So, another lap, then?”
“When’s Sisyphus coming back?” asked Bryan.
“I don’t know. If you ask me, he’s missing out.”
Niamh stared at John, completely exasperated. “John! This isn’t fun anymore. Every time we bring up the boulder, it simply descends back to the bottom of the hill.”
“That’s the point, Niamh,” shouted John. “It’s a metaphor for life!”
“I’m done with this. Niamh let’s get out of here.”
“No! You guys! This is gonna be fun.”
“No John! I agree with Bryan.”
Niamh and Bryan began their march back home, tired and disillusioned by John’s antics. It just wasn’t charming anymore. Perhaps, it never was. But within a few moments, they stopped on their tracks. Without even needing to turn their backs, they could sense John’s actions. He was on his knees, crying in a low voice. They could’ve chosen to ignore it. They had wished they had ignored it. But they simply they looked at each other.
“Fuck this Catholic guilt shit,” said Niamh.
“Yeah, I know right,” answered Bryan with a smile.
And they walked back to John, gearing up for another stupid lap, even though neither of them was remotely religious. For the bond between them transcended the power of God Himself.
For the rest of eternity, John pushed the boulder up the hill, only for it to fall back to the bottom after each lap. On his back were his two friends, cursing every step of the way. But the bond between them not only survived but thrived. None of them were happy, of course, but they won't have it any other way.
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