Late

The statue dragged behind the man, attached to a long length of fine chain that had once been silver. With every left-footed step his leg strained, thigh and calve quivering, to pull his load a few inches forward. Somewhere, uncounted miles behind, the long furrow led back to a nearly forgotten cave.
He paused, and looked back. An endless dirt road stretched behind him, just as it did in front.

“Why are you still carrying that?”

The man turned back to the direction he had been travelling. A woman stood on the path.

The man thought for a moment.

“It’s a pretty heavy-handed metaphor at this point, isn’t it?” he said.

“I guess,” the woman said, and walked over to casually kick the chain loose from his leg. “It worked in the last story though.”

“It feels like I wrote that a decade ago,” the man said as he knelt to gingerly touch the raw skin around his ankle.

“It’s been a while. I mean, look,” she said, gesturing behind him. “It’s not even recognizable anymore.”

The statue’s features had been worn away by the slow tumbling it had received on the journey. It barely looked like a person now.

“I need to sit down,” the man said.

“May I sit with you?” the woman asked.

The man nodded, grunting as he lowered himself to the grass on the side of the road.

The two sat in serene quiet. Soon they talked some, about life and potential futures, but soon again they lapsed into a comfortable silence, looking at one another. The man felt as though he’d arrived at his destination.

Throbbing pain shot through his leg, and he winced.

“I’d like the story to end here,” the man said.

The woman nodded with a sound of agreement.

“But it doesn’t, does it?”

She shook her head, a pained smile on her face. The ground between the two of them seemed to stretch a bit.

“Right, it still hurts,” he said, rubbing his ankle. “I’ll rest here, you go on ahead.”

She made no move, but the distance between them increased all the same. The world rolled out of itself. Soon she was only a speck in the distance.

“Go on!” he shouted. “I’ve no right to keep you waiting!”

She hesitated for a long while, then finally, with visible reluctance, turned and began walking down the path.

The man sat alone for some time. He looked at the chain, lying in the middle of the road, leading up to the barely recognizable lump of stone.

“Why did I spend so much time dragging you around?” he said aloud.

There was, of course, no answer from the empty world around him. He rested a short while longer before standing up. He looked back the way he came, then where he was going, and let out a slightly exaggerated sigh before resuming his way down the road.

He walked with no limp. He hoped he would catch up.



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