I'm taking part in a blog challenge where you post each day with the theme being each letter of the alphabet.
Mine is the burden of all burdens. I hold up the sky. I am Atlas. No one can match my strength, but no one can match my pain either. No one can ever understand the weight of my suffering. I stand atop this hill for all eternity, with the sky heaped upon my aching and weary shoulders, and so I shall remain for eternity. For who would wish to trade places with me? Who would wish to carry the load that I carry?
A villager approaches. He climbs the hill in his rags, limping along the trail with his walking stick. He is old and feeble. What does business could a peasant have with a Titan? He hobbles to my feet and falls to his knees. He is sobbing.
"Mighty Atlas," he cries, "I ask for your help. I ask that you might carry my burden, and in turn, that I might carry yours, at least for a while."
"Peasant, you know not what you ask, or you would never think to ask it."
"I know all too well what I am asking, skybearer."
"Intriguing. What is the burden that you carry, that you are so desperate to take mine?"
"My wife," says the peasant through his sobbing, "she has died from illness. She has died, and I cannot bear to tell my son and two daughters. You may think it cowardice, but as a father, I can't bring myself to inflict such pain upon my children. I sent them to stay with my sister while I tended to their mother."
"So, you wish me to tell them, and in exchange, you shall hold up the sky?"
"Yes, mighty Atlas. That is my prayer. Ease my burden."
"Then my load is yours to carry, naive peasant."
I heave the sky off of my shoulders and place it on the back of the quivering man. For a moment, I think I hear him sigh. I shrink down to human size and take on the appearance of the man and pick up his walking stick. I stretch my arms for the first time in centuries and walk down the hill to the village. I feel as if I could float right off of the Earth, I am so free, so weightless. I find the peasant's sister's hut and walk inside.
Immediately, I see three small children, the eldest girl can't yet be seven years of age, the young son barely three. They see me enter and rush at me, and shower me with hugs. They look up at me with wide eyes, hoping with a child's hope that I come bearing good news. I look down at their eyes and feel sorrow.
"How is mother?" asks the middle sibling, a girl.
I clench my teeth, and try to make the words come, but I cannot. I avert my eyes from theirs and hold them tight.
"I..." I pause, not knowing what to say. "I do not know, children."
They look worried, but their hope has not gone away. My lie pains me inside.
"I must return to your mother. I will come again soon." I walk out the door without another word and make the long walk back up my hill, my eyes staring at the ground the whole way. I approach the man and silently lift the sky off of his back and onto my own.
"Your burden," I tell him as I settle into my all too familiar stance, "is greater than mine."