Line in the Sand

The man stood on the beach. The beach belonged to him as much as any man could own anything. There he reached out with a stout stick, and drew a line in the sand. “No one will cross this line, this is where I will stand, and none shall be allowed to pass.” He watched the tide, and looked up at the sky, and was content. A snake approached, he wore a fine suit tailored to fit, and his scales were black and bright red. Despite his fancy dress the snake seemed hollow in some way. “You will let me pass,” it ordered.
“No this is my line, and no one will cross it,” the man replied.
“Very well then,” The snake drew out his wallet. “How much will it cost for you to let me pass.”
In his earlier days the man would have accepted that, taking a fair sum. After all what did the line really matter. Even a few years previous he would have named an outrageous sum, something the snake wouldn’t possibly pay, but now with this line, on this day, nothing could move him. “There is nothing any could offer that would cause me to let you cross this line,” he rebuked.
“Feh, be this way you fool,” the snake hissed. “I could have given you all the money in the world, made you a god among the stars, granted any wish.”
“I have no wish, only the will to see this line is not crossed.”
The snake slithered to the side, for the line was only as long as the man could draw it, and went past, coming back around to stand behind the man. “There now I am on this side, and what did you accomplish, nothing.”
“You may have reached the other side, but it remains true that you didn’t cross my line, merely circumvented it.”
“So you are useless you admit, a mere pebble in my path.”
“And if there were a thousand men beside me?” The man questioned,
“Then I would walk around them to.”
“But a thousand thousand, each with a line in sequence stretching around the world?”
“Then I would find one that could be bribed.”
“You couldn’t cross my line, what leads you to believe you could cross any.”
“Bah, I waste my time I am already past you, and you cannot stop me if you hold the line.”
“I have but one purpose, to hold the line.” So the snake stormed away leaving the beach once again peaceful and undisturbed. The man stood there watching the tide rise.
A bull approached, pure black and glistening with sweat. Muscles rippled under it’s skin, it was as tall as the man, and many times more powerful. Horns curved out to either side, as thick as the mans fist, and with deadly points. “Step aside,” the bull bellowed.
“I can’t, this is my line and none may cross it.”
“I have crossed many such lines, and trampled stronger men then you.”
“You will have to trample me as well, I will not be moved.”
The bull roared and charged forward. The man did his best to fend it away with his stick, but the bull would turn and make another run, each time caring less for what little pain the man could inflict with the stick. The man plunged the stick into the sand panting.
“Have you given up yet? Fall to the ground, and you will be spared the horns,” the bull said, shaking his head to make clear the danger of the horns.
The man stood firm, and with bellow the bull ran at him. The bull expected the man to dodge away to the left or right, as all whom he had trampled before had, but the man would not move. So the horns landed to either side of his chest, and couched themselves below his armpits. The bull was enraged, and with a twist of his neck sent the man flying over him. This saved him from trampling so the man escaped from the encounter relatively unharmed, having landed on the soft sand. “There and now I am past, and it is for naught but luck that you still breath,” the bull crowed.
The man returned to the stick where it marked the line, and redrew the trampled line. “You may have crossed the line, but I did not allow it.”
“No man can stand against my strength, you accomplish nothing standing there, wasting your life.”
“But if I had a thousand man standing behind me?”
“Then I would trample each of you.”
“But if they were not armed with a simple stick like I, but instead had each had sharp sword?”
“Then I would gather my friends and a thousand bulls would make short work of your army.”
“But which one of you would go first, I think you would find no volunteers in the herd of bulls.”
“Bah, I waste my time I am already past you, and you cannot stop me if you hold the line.”
“I have but one purpose, to hold the line.” So the bull stormed away, leaving the beach once again peaceful and undisturbed. The man stood there watching the tide rise.
A bird approached, beautiful with all the colours of the tropics. It circled over head before landing in front of the man. “What is the point of this line?”
“I will not allow anyone past it,” the man answered.
“But I flew over it many times before, even just now I crossed it while circling.”
“I cannot stop you from flying over it, for it is not within my power but I care little for what I cannot do.”
“So you will let the birds fly across, and the insects crawl beneath.”
“Perhaps below is an insect with its own line, and above you will find another bird holding you behind it’s line.”
“I think not, it is not the nature of such creatures to hold the line, only fools such as yourself do.”
“I warn you to not try and cross the line within my reach, back away and be high in the sky before you try to cross. I will stop those I can, and in doing so know I have given it my all.”
“Why not abandon this fools quest, the tide is rising, and if you follow me I can lead you to a paradise, a place of honeyed milk, and ease, where the thought of lines will not come to you.”
“If I forgot this line, I would forget myself. I have committed all my will to this, and have none left to be swayed by honeyed words. I have but one purpose to hold the line.”
“Very well.” The bird flapped it’s wings, and took to the air passing over the line high above the man, leaving the beach once again peaceful and undisturbed. The man stood there watching the tide rise.
The tide rose higher till it washed away the line. The man redrew it, but with every wave it was washed away. Soon the waters were so high that they covered the line always. No matter how deeply the man dug the line the constant motion of the water would slowly erode it. A fish, with plain grey scales, and without any defining feature that would let someone determine its species, approached the line. “What are you doing?”
“I’m holding the line.”
“What line?” The fish swam down. “Is this supposed to be a line, this indent?”
“Why not go further back to where the tide hasn’t reached, surely that would serve your purpose better.”
“This is not the first line I have drawn, many times before I’ve done this. Each time when the tide rose I pulled away and found another place further back to draw the line.”
“So do that again.”
“This is my last line, perhaps I grow tired of retreating, or the land back further is too rocky for my liking, both are true I suppose. I will remain here.”
“But the line cannot be seen below the water, I can barely even be seen where it was on close inspection.”
“True, but the tide as it comes in, it must again come out. If that takes a day then I will stay here waiting for that. Even if it takes a decade I will remain.”
“You are a man you cannot stay in the waters for so long a time.”
“I will hold the line, and when I die my bones will mark the spot, so that those who come after will know someone else held the line.”
“Then you are a fool, and I will be on my way.” The fish swam past, but the mans hand reached out and caught it.
“Just because you can no longer see the line, doesn’t mean I do not know where it is, or that it means any less. I have but one purpose, to hold the line.”
The man flung the fish away, and held the line that only he could still see.