The boulder crumbled eons ago—
even the gods can’t defy erosion.
This is the question that rolled
like a dark ocean behind his eyes:
what happens when the Almighty’s will
is bested by mere physics? Mortals weren’t
supposed to reach the top. Men weren’t
supposed to escape their punishments. But
all the Underworld’s nebulous gloom swirled
before him, and his back was achingly unbent.
Like an eel though a net, he slipped out
of time, his mind a boat drifting on a starless sea,
waiting for someone to descend and tell
him it was all part of the plan. For the boulder
to reform like a cancer. For the mountain to rumble
and rear up to twice its height. Anything to keep
his ordeal eternal. He waited. And
he stood and wandered down the far side
of the mountain. Stretched his back, popped
his knuckles. Found the biggest boulder, the one
he imagined Zeus would have chosen. He planted
his feet, leaned hard against the stone. He thought
to push, but the wheel of habit had long ago snapped.
Slowly, he sat down in its shadow and did not get back up.
Is this part of it?
he asked the void.
He wasn’t sure if anyone was listening anymore. But
he waited, still, for an answer.