I am a nation. I am the fabric of pride, nationalism, and community. Rippling in the breeze, the heavy folds of cloth remind me of my importance, the fact that no expense is spared in me, and no sky is above my conquering gaze.
I fly. The gentle wind lifts me and the shining sun casts my shadow down below, where among heaps of fallen bricks the ants run around in a frenzy. I can hear snatches of conversation from them.
“Left my textbook in the math hall,” they say.
“Wonder if she’ll go with me,” they say.
I neither care nor understand.
Each day I guard the ants and make their courage rise up in their chests, make their feet run faster, and make the day so much brighter. In red and blue glory, I watch their meager attempts, their futile squabbles and short-lived victories. I am timeless.
Each evening I sink with the sun, coaxed downwards by the gentle slap of rope against pole, folded like a child, and carried to a boxed bed of finest silk like the treasure I am. Each evening my stars lie folded, and I die – and in the morning I rise again, the first to wake. Drawn aloft by the threads of spider’s silk, newly coated with dew, I come to watch again over the bustling anthill of mankind.
I am timeless. I have existed as long as I can remember, which must be a very long time indeed. No one has come before me, and no one would dare follow. The ants, however, aren’t timeless at all. They come and go, and when they go I am sure they die.
“The flag’s getting a worn patch,” they say.
“I’m so screwed for that English final,” they say.
“Look into getting a new one,” they say. “The pride of America.”
I am right, see? They leave and when they leave, they die. That is what they say. The word America means death, or maybe heaven, I think. At least, that is what I’ve discovered.
This is a day like every other day, except that I do a thing I’ve never done before. I have experienced all, and yet today I do the thing I’ve never done before: I touch The God Beneath.
The God Beneath is big, and it is mottled. It is the only thing bigger than myself, because so matter how far I stretch, my folds of painted skin can never quite obscure it completely, whereas the ants are blocked out easily.
The God Beneath is something beyond me, something too vast for me, but today, as I am gently drawn down towards it to be put away, it rises up to meet me.
I don’t quite know what happens.
“Don’t let it slip-” says a voice.
“You’re letting go,” replies a second voice.
They are loud voices, much louder down here than when I am flying above them. My ant servants hold me gently, but I tip, and the God Beneath jumps up and grabs hold of one of my corners – the one that’s blue with a star in it.
The exhilaration is too much. I am flushed beyond comprehension, alive with the fire of a presence so much bigger and more important than myself. I’ve never felt this before. It feels like ice so hot it burns me up, and I feel this so strongly that the flames spring from my imagination and suddenly coat me in a fire feeding hungrily on my red and blue flesh.
“Well, it was getting worn anyways,” says the first voice.
“Shouldn’t have dropped it though. Shame we have to burn it,” says the second.
The Flames consume me, and before I pass into America, the last thing I feel is the God Beneath embracing me.
photo credits: http://ilimage.com/american-flag-2/