THE BURDEN WALL by Norbert Kovacs

The room’s east wall always had been fine and smooth. It seemed firm, too: one knock on the exterior assured me it was like marble. So, I didn’t believe it when I saw the crack. I turned away, telling myself I had made some terrible mistake. However, I could not forget that short but ugly, dark crack.

Soon enough, there came this rumble from that side of the room that grew louder and louder. I tried to ignore it; I looked through the window at a bird in the sky. I was shocked to find the whole wall came loose then and tilted over me. I responded quickly; hoping the partition might stay upright, I set my back square against it. A tremendous weight pressed down on me; I struggled to stand under it even as my steps careened side to side. Taking the slightest breath, I felt I might be crushed. Then, large chunks of the wall broke above my shoulders and tumbled to the floor. I reached and tried to catch these in my arms; I thought that, by quick half-turns, I could fit them back as I stood there and so keep the wall intact. However, the blocks broke my arms, and I felt the burden on my back the keener.

The room where I struggled to stand collapsed over the next few minutes. The love seat and matching chairs smashed to splinters; the ceiling lights blew out. Then, I found myself in the open air, hurt but sound, the disintegrating wall still on my back. I walked forward, seeking somewhere to stand the partition that I hoped still to salvage. I sensed its great size compared to mine as I went, heaving. It seemed now almost too much for one person to transport. But I had carried it this long–couldn’t I go on with it?, I thought. I didn’t answer myself as I trudged onward.

I went the length of the winding river and crossed many lines of forest trees. In every place I tried gently to set or rest it, the wall wobbled, and its base chipped into dust. It chipped, and it chipped. As the afternoon heat bore down on me, I cried with frustration. I realized the crumbling partition on my back wouldn’t last. I could have gone on carrying it or maybe firmed it at bottom so it would stand, but, unless it all held together, the wall I had admired would not survive. I saw now my diligence in carrying it was all that had let it last even in the poor condition it did. I did not like to believe so, but there was no denying it.

As I thought this, I discovered I was pulling away from the wall. It slid to a side along my shoulders without catching on my shirt. I breathed easier. The dark shadow the wall cast sped, and the sun overhead flooded me. I came free of the weight I carried and stood tall, firm, and straight.

Norbert Kovacs lives and writes in Hartford, Connecticut. He has published stories in Headway QuarterlyBlink-InkHypnopompCorvus Review, and The Write Launch. His website is