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Atlas Shrugged

By Rohit Vakul

Beads of sweat trickled down his back as he struggled to hold posture. Days turned to months, months to years and decades, but the weight bearing down on his shoulders only grew. Despite the incessant weight on his shoulders the single thought running thorough this mind throughout the years was not about the pain or the lack of companions, but pride, in defying all odds and managing to keep his honor. Every single time the weight seemed too much to bear or when it seemed to slip from his fingers, he was tempted to let go, maybe not forever, just a brief pause perhaps. He most definitely deserved it, he reasoned with himself. But he knew that a moment’s pause was all it took for worlds to come crashing down taking all his years of toil with him. He had no choice, he told himself, but to rally own, straining every muscle to a point where he was sure they would burst, spending every ounce of energy he could muster.
He thought he heard someone call out his name. It couldn’t be, he told himself, must be the exhaustion playing tricks with his mind. He heard it again, this time however it seemed too real to be just voices in his head. However even if there was someone calling out his name, he was not willing to spend any precious energy on lifting his head.
“Atlas, a man of his word, the epitome of endurance!”, he heard a cheerful voice say, which, in spite of his disarrayed state, recognized as that of Prometheus, his brother. Atlas began to wonder why Prometheus decided to pay Atlas a visit, assuming of course that this was not a hallucination, a possibility that hadn’t entirely deserted Atlas’s mind. Prometheus spoke, “When brother, would you give up? When would you realize that this burden is not yours to bear? Let go brother and come with me.” Silence ensued as Atlas debated on whether his brother’s words were worthy of the energy spent on a reply. “I do it because I can.” said Atlas. Prometheus laughed, a hollow laugh, which echoed long after the he stopped. An eerie silence of the infinity of space which followed, unsettled both the brothers. It was first broken by Prometheus, “Because you can? That’s your excuse for having spent close to eternity bearing the weight of the skies on your shoulders?” “ Because I can.” Atlas repeated. “And because no one else can.” he continued.”I don’t need an excuse to do what is right. You, a sly thief are judging me for what I do, for my actions, which any man would see as noble and moral? It’s my turn to laugh! And come with you? Where to, may I ask? Need my help in another scheme of your? Is that the purpose of this encounter?” Atlas asked, finally looking up, straight into Prometheus’s eyes. Prometheus sighed and said, “I did not steal out of greed. I was once like you. I thought it was unjust of the Olympians to not share their knowledge of the fire with humans. All my attempts to reason it out with the Olympians were futile, which inevitably led me to my act of thievery. I stole, not out of greed or malice, but with the most noblest intentions, the same as yours, to help man. I gave them the gift of fire. I saw them flourish. And then I saw the same fire engulf them. Their greed consuming them slowly, spreading like fire, it’s flames turning everything to ash. It’s not the greed of those who were able or those who could, those like you and me, but the greed of the parasites, those that fed off our abilities. Their idea of nobility and morality nurtured this vicious cycle. The burden of stupidity fell on the intellect, and they bore it! Carrying them along on all their endeavors, holding on to the idea that it’s their moral duty to do so, despite the incessant increase in their number. They toiled on, just like you are now, only to be consumed. All of them. Those that believed that the quality of their work was their religion, were consumed by the rest of the world. Atlas, don’t make the same mistake they did. Their greed consumed them, the lack of it will consume you. Come with me dear brother. The strong shall no longer bear the burden of the weak. I’m leaving this universe, along with a few of the ancients, to set up a new Atlantis. A land where morality is defined as each man’s pursuit of happiness, reason the only absolute and achievement his religion.”
The silence that followed was almost deafening. Atlas was unsure of his own thoughts, as the sheer gravity of the exchange bore down on him. He closed his eyes in an attempt to gain a perspective on the things that had been said. In the silence that ensured, even sound rustle of the sweat bead as it rolled down Atlas’s back was audible. As Atlas opened his eyes trying to gauge what Prometheus expected of him, he realized Prometheus was nowhere to be seen. Atlas called out his name, in vain. As he began to wonder if this was trickery of his brain or that of Prometheus, an elaborate plan where Atlas would now abandon the skies and go in his pursuit, he realized that the burden of the conversation, real or imaginary exceeded the weight of the skies. And Atlas….shrugged.


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