The Road: A Timeless Story This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   They walked the road, through the old grayness and the murky air. The city stood gray against greater, darker gray. Their feet made a heavy, programmed sound against the corroded cement, and this mind-embedded sound forced them to walk on and on. The inconsiderate noise of their feet broke the dirty white silence of the city. Yet they walked on, did those worn and tired feed. The gagged city did not speak, but Ribb impulsively broke the silence. "How much longer?" he asked. No answer came. He looked up slowly, and gazed around at the passing city, but it offered no consolation. So he asked once again, "Curs, how much longer?" The response that Curs Arius knew he would have to make time and time again came. "Much longer...we walk the road."

The sound of the misused chalk ripping against the blackboard awakened Carl from his classroom-aided daze. Here, on only the third day of school, his concentration had found a way to waver. He hardly remembered what he'd been thinking of, just that it was a blurred streak of dull colors. He tried to refocus his attention on the lesson at hand, but found it difficult. Slowly he felt himself losing control, falling off into another daydream he would neither remember nor comprehend. But he caught himself, shook his head, and sat up in his chair.

He checked the clock. Time ticked on slowly. Fifteen minutes still remained in the day's final class. The skinny red second hand moved gracefully past the large Roman numeral twelve. The hand breathed and paused for an instant, as if to take a break from its breakless work. It ticked on, into the night, into the beat of tired feet that pounded against that unforgiving, motionless cement.

Ribb had not spoken since the afternoon, and still he had only one question to ask. He knew the answer, but could not help himself. He asked again, this time in a less curious tone, "Curs, how much longer?" The answer came sooner than Ribb expected. "Ribb, my friend, we walk the road," said Curs, looking out at the long stretch of cement and city that challenged them. "...Much longer."

The long awaited bell somehow managed to break through Carl's September slumber. He picked himself up out of his chair, and dragged his body, still half-asleep, into the corridor. He lumbered through the hallway towards the far off exit, trying to make sense of his latest daydream. Once outside, reality struck Carl like a jolting wake-up alarm. He stood up straight and looked about. It had just hit him, he was back in school. The September air teased Carl's nostrils as if to remind him of his whereabouts. The lightly tinted leaves told Carl the truth. September had arrived indeed. That meant only one thing, soon October would follow, and then the long dreaded winter months. The slow transition into spring and summer would come after that, and before he knew it, school would pursue him once again.

Carl began the lonely walk home. Alone with his thoughts of school, he trudged up a hill and left the tired edifice behind. The sun beat down on him, and did not let go. He carefully closed one eye to rid himself of the sun's wrath, but the mighty sun laughed at poor Carl's feeble attempt. It sent more rays to block his sight. "September," he thought to himself once again, "how is it possible?" He asked this question without a reason, for he knew no answer existed. "School means September and September means school," he said aloud, and then checked quickly around to make sure no one had heard.

He kicked at a tiny pebble lying in his path as he meandered on the route home that he had travelled so many times before. This route especially stood for school. Now in September the route was somewhat quiet, yet when winter came it was mean and unloving. He hardly noticed the cars that drove by now. They seemed almost invisible. Yet during the snow months Carl saw each revolution of every wheel as a painful, tortuous task for the gasping vehicle. Carl looked up the street to watch the cars coming towards him. None appeared. In fact, no sounds came at all, only those of his shoes against the pavement. Then somewhere in the back of his mind something clicked.

Ribb gradually turned his head up, towards the starless heavens and then back to the right and the left. He gazed sorrowfully at the lifeless city. His boots vigorously hammered the concrete, yet they made no sound to him, as once they had. Silence. Then a calamitous roar that had been building for years shook his surroundings. It echoed across the hardened city, mercilessly attacking every inch of it. It doubled back, not yet done with its wrath, and then it attacked once again. It rebounded from the earth to the ageless buildings until it slowly lost its power, and it fluttered and died.

As the quiet once again fell on the city, Ribb looked at Curs, slumped motionless and dead on the concrete. Ribb knew what had happened. The anger and frustration that had built up in his companion for so long had been released. Let loose in one eruption, the mighty bellow of Curs had shook the city and in return had taken the man.

The warm sun sunk behind a cloud, and a cold chill gripped Carl. He didn't know what to make of it, yet he knew somehow that the playful September sun that had teased him before would never return. He looked ahead, up the road. A gray and lonely figure stood there, not moving. Carl understood. He walked toward the image, and silently nodded his head.

Carl's boots pounded against the cement. The dead gray city did not speak. Neither did Carl, for he had made the choice, and now there was no return. He would walk the streets of time forever. He had inherited for all eternity the unglorious job that belonged to Curs. Yet he felt somewhat proud to know it was his duty, to walk through time with his companion, all mankind depending on them. Never could they stop, for the two men of time never take a break from their breakless work. Yet Carl felt compelled to ask the question, so he did. "Ribb, how much longer?" Ribb sighed a silent sigh and looked out upon the concrete street that stood in their path. "Carl, my friend," responded Ribb, "we walk the road...much longer." n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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