Piling bricks 

BY Anagha chakravati

 

This is too much, Julius thought, scratching his head. His hair felt much drier than usual, calloused, rough, and discolored. He tried feeling his hair, longing for his usual shiny, lucious, and blonde mane. He held a pile of bricks and trudged to his friend, Freddy.

“Last lot for today?,” Freddy asked him.

Julius shook his head and his eyes squinted against the sun. “Nah man, we got much more,” he replied, swallowing against his dry throat.

Freddy sighed. “You know Julius, sometimes I wonder why we even chose to fight this war.  Look where we’ve ended up now. We thought we were fighting to ultimately be free of this conflict, but we’ve ended up right on the enemy’s side. Now, we are their slaves.”

Julius gulped, and let out a dry and humourless laugh. “We fought to win, Freddy. It isn't over yet. Thats where you’re wrong.” wiping dust from his shirt.

“Huh? Where else is there to go? We ain't ever getting out of this pit of hell,” Freddy complained.

Julius couldn’t blame him. “This pit of hell is our life for now, Freddy. You gotta deal with it, or you ain’t getting out of it.”

Freddy didn’t reply then. Julius wanted a reply. He didn’t want this to be his life. The cycle of life he found himself trapped in was intolerable. The prisoner of war camp seemed like an abyss of hopelessness and despair.

The next day began early as always. Julius opened his eyes in his pitch dark, musty room. He put on his ragged brown clothes - the same ones he wore everyday.
“Where is Emanuel?,” asked a sudden voice.

“Hmm?,” Julius replied. “What do you mean?”

“Emanuel, the new guy,” answered Jacob, one of the boys in the unit.

“It seemed that he felt a bit sick last night.” Freddy commented.

“Sick?” Jacob chided. “He better toughen up around here.”

The day was scorchingly hot and the view was painstakingly horrendous. Many boys were carrying bricks from one place to another, carrying heavy sacks and running errands. Apart from that, they were being lashed, shouted at, and mistreated. Julius was ordered to start immediately. He knelt down and started collecting mud and piling bricks. He was repeatedly whipped. He just couldn’t ponder what he had done to earn them, but he was used to them by now. His mind was only focused on piling the bricks; a cycle of its own. The bricks needed to be dusted and then properly piled on top of each other. One oddly shaped, brittle brick would cause the whole pile to fall, and then Julius would have to start over. From the bricks, he had learned what it took to be strong and withstand life here. He couldn’t be the weakling. He needed to go along with the cycle of daily struggles. When he looked up, he saw a frail boy being pushed by soldiers into a small cellar. The boy was screaming, but there was no sound. His emotions were extreme, but there was no hope. Julius felt nothing while watching him. His body was just numb. Emanuel, the boy, was shut in the cellar. The door closed on him and the door rattled as if a dog were trying to break free. Julius’ eyes squinted against the sun again, as always. It blinded him from the traumatic sight he just saw. Then, he resumed his daily cycle of piling bricks and hard labor.

The sun was setting over the area. Julius had just finished his evening shift and sat down for a quick rest. He pondered about Emanuel and how he had been the brittle brick that had now fallen. He then realized that even though a brick is strong, it can’t remain strong forever. The cycle needs to end. Even the strong bricks will fall when the time comes.

Julius somehow desired to fall. He had been strong in this cycle for a while. He woke up each day, set out to work, felt the pain, slept and then started again. But somehow, he wanted to break out of the cycle and see his weak side crumble.

A thunder was heard in the middle of the night, followed by some loud murmurs. The boys in the unit stepped out the door and saw raging winds.

“Rough.” commented Jacob, quite disinterested at the disastrous sight.

“It better be a miracle.” ridiculed Freddy.

Julius looked up but didn’t squint this time, unfazed under the cloudy night skies. The thunder sent a crackling of light, parting the sky down the middle. The wind howled, unaware of its danger.

“Hush, Julius,” commented Freddy, noticing Julius’ weak sniggers. Julius sniggered, as he knew that this thunder would destroy the cycle he had been trapped in.

Julius saw the wind as a force of nature - a force that never sticks to any routine and is totally unpredictable. The soldiers ordered the boys to start clearing up the area. They guarded them as they fled.

“They’ll make sure we die first!” yelled Jacob in the middle of the frenzy, “We better get out while we can.”

The chaos was lunatic; screams and yells filling the area. People ran around frantically, praying that the rain would clear up. But the trees swayed violently and a huge wave loomed over the horizon. The water sprayed on Julius’ face and showered down far away with a large impact, submerging places. The day was dark and deadly The wave suddenly had a face, screeching and sniggering at the grave situation.

Julius took cover near a tree, watching his piles of bricks collapse nearby. The cycle and routine hard work had been demolished, leaving nothing behind. The wind was too strong and they were all going to be submerged soon enough. Julius smiled to himself, accepting the strong and natural force. Breaking the normal cycle. He then had an epiphany. At that point, he noticed the wave racing towards him and the face appeared on the wave again. This time, the face was his own. The face that was forced to conform to daily, torturous, and repetitive life in the war camp. He saw that face and grinned. Then, he laughed an almost witch-like laugh. His laugh echoed as he immersed himself under the water.

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