You're lying on your back, pinned to the ground by the weight of stones upon your chest. It's getting hard to breathe.
Above you stand a circle of elders, called wise people, or administrators. They look down on you with the grins of salesmen and show you the next stone. Over the sound of your pulse pounding in your ears, you hear them describe the new weight. You're hardly in a position to refuse their fine words, and it doesn't sound so bad anyway, so you nod as best you can and whisper the words of acceptance. "More Weight."
Flashes of black and yellow dance before your vision as your realize with a sudden spike of fear that if it was hard to breathe before, it's nearly impossible now. Panic makes your heart race, and your oxygen starved lungs can't comply with the demands adrenaline lays on them.
With dulling awareness, you feel someone squeeze your hand. You let your head fall to the side a little and find yourself looking into the tear-filled eyes of your best and only friend. The tears running down her face make your own spill over. You hadn't wanted to cry, but it's just too hard.
"Just say it," her eyes beg, but she doesn't speak a word out loud, because you both know you'll never listen. You'll never give in. You'll never say 'no more weight'.
So your friend watches you and holds your hand, unable to stop your pain, as you accept another weight.
The world goes out of focus and everything goes black and white before slowly fading to indifferent grey. Darkness tugs at your consciousness and a calm reality settles over you; you cannot survive this.
Your friend's grip on your hand tightens as she sees you're drifting away. She's speaking, but everything sounds like there's cotton stuffed in your ears, and her words don't make sense.
Finally, as you open your mouth to say those words that lead to blissful, shameful surrender, the world goes black.
As you come to, your first thought is air. You can breathe.
Your last memories are the feelings of giving up –the disgrace and the relief- and the overriding need for air.
Gulping at the sweet, free air, you sit up and rub the sticky tear tracks from your face. Your ribs ache, but it's a sweet sort of pain, because it's the ache of healing, not of new hurts being applied.
You look around for your friend, but you don't see her. However, the elders are still there.
"Congratulations," one says, handing you a flimsy piece of paper that says 'Graduate' on it. You accept it with a nod and get up to leave. You need to find your friend.
A hand on your shoulder, however, discourages that idea. "One more thing," the elders tell you. It is then you notice that they all hold the stones that so recently were crushing your lungs. As you look on, each of them is placed into a large bag. Responsibility... Maturity... Achievements...all of them have a name. All go into the bag.
...which is then laid on your shoulders and bound. Now, with those same salesmen grins, the elders push you towards a door labeled 'Real World' and turn their backs on you, as you stagger through the door with your burden pressing against your back.