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Old 03-27-2005, 03:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Sand Castle

This is an allegory for several things, but I'll let you figure out what they are. I am really interested in what you come out of this short story with. Enjoy.

Sand Castle

The craftsman woke up with dusty eyes and the taste of sleep still lingering in his mouth. His bed of sand had kept him comfortable during the night; he had spent hours upon hours sculpting it to support his body perfectly. He could hear the ocean surf outside his subtle window and feel the gentle caress of a springtime breeze slide across his face. He smiled. He had the finest castle of all the men and women, and rightfully so. He was the greatest craftsman of them all, and he had deserved it.

“Yes, I deserved it, and most rightfully so,” he said as he stood up and dusted the sand from his shoulders.

He smelled the ocean surf, listened to the rustle of the palm trees, and let his senses bask in the cawing of distant seagulls. It was the finest and most perfect of days. The craftsman left his bedroom and entered the grotto he had sculpted many years ago. There was a bubbling spring at its center which was filled with steaming waters from a natural spring, filling the air with a salty aroma. Exotic trees speckled the grotto floor, bearing forth fruits of the most wild and rare varieties. One of his many servants approached him with a flask of pure, crystalline spring water. The craftsman accepted the offer and hurried his assistant away, noting that he did not want to be disturbed by his presence on this particular day. Passing through the grotto, the craftsman entered his veranda, which was perched on a cliff overlooking the sandy city below. From here he could see the entire world with the ocean to the South, and the great desert to the North. He could hear the distant bustle of the city below, its flags and clotheslines billowing in the ocean wind. He turned around to look at his castle. The sandy spires reached so high that some were lost in the clouds. His walls were decorated with the smoothest ocean stones, and his gates were made of the finest wood. Yet, as he looked at his behemoth there seemed to be something yet missing from it. There was still some tiny flaw, some unmentionable something that was just beyond his grasp, like a whisper blown away by the wind. He returned his gaze back to the city. Today he would go down to the market, just as he did everyday, and look for that whisper. He would go there, and try to catch it in his hand before it could be blown away. He felt it today. Today he would find it. He threw on his sandals and began to follow the long trail that lead to the city.

When he arrived at the sand city he was assaulted by the noise of the market. He began to move from vendor to vendor, looking for that perfect something to complete his masterpiece, his monolith, his thesis. He searched for hours and hours, until the streets had emptied and all that could be heard was the distant sound of a band playing a sad song. That was when he saw an astounding statue. It was a massive marble statue of a woman standing at least ten feet high, her hair billowing in a summer's wind. The artisan who had sculpted the marble figure was putting it under a sheet, getting ready to close his shop for the night.

“Artisan, I say artisan! How much gold would you have for that sculpture? I swear that I will give you any price you ask for!”

The artisan named his price and the craftsman hired a team of horses to pull the statue back to his castle. As he moved through the streets like a lonely visage a small boy wearing an extraordinary red bandanna around his neck appeared from the shadows of a sandy villa, his hands outstretched and tears drenching his eyes.

“Please noble sir,” he cried out desperately, “spare me a coin that I might purchase a piece of fruit for my mother!”

The craftsman halted the horses and stared down at the boy in disgust.

“Every coin I have in my pocket I have earned with my own sweat and blood. You have earned nothing from me, and so you shall receive nothing,” he said coldly.

There was a moment of silence before the craftsman lashed out with his reins, sending his team of horses back to their laborious task. When he returned to his great castle he placed the statue at the center of his grotto, and he marveled greatly at its beauty. Yet in the darkness he noticed something peculiar. It was as if his great castle had sunken several meters while he was gone. He excused the thought, blaming it on a long day and the need for sleep. The thought of a boy flickered through his mind briefly before disappearing into a void. It had been a strange day. He went to bed, feeling uneasy.

The next day he awoke, walked through his grotto, admired his statue, and accepted a flask of crystalline spring water. He stepped out onto his veranda and peered at the sandy city below. He heard the sounds of the city and turned to admire his castle. He felt as if there was something missing from it, but there was something more to it. He felt a subtle twist of fear crawl down his back. His castle had sunken lower into the ground. He would have to visit the city today and find something to support it with. Perhaps a tree with strong roots would keep the soil from sliding away. Yes, that would work wonderfully.

He went to the sandy city, but instead of going to the market he visited the orchard where he bought the oldest and strongest tree to take back to his fortress. He hired a score of horses to pull the massive ancient back to his spire. It took him longer to pass through the city, and soon stars began to speckle the sky. He heard a band playing in the distance, but tonight the song was slower and darker. A dirge. He struggled with the horses, which became nervous when a wind came sailing in from the sea. As he neared the outer edges of the city a woman appeared at the side of the road. She was young, but poverty had weathered her face. As he passed she called out to him.

“Noble sir, have you seen my son? He left last night looking for food, but he never returned. He was wearing an extraordinary red bandanna about his neck, and he was a good boy. Oh yes, he was a good boy.”

The craftsman stopped his horses and though back to the night before. Had he seen a boy? Had someone asked him for a coin? He remembered something – something he could not put his finger on. Then suddenly he remembered!

“Ah yes, I saw the bandanna! Quite amazing, really! Excellent craftsmanship if I do say so myself. If I could only find one myself I would most certainly buy one to keep as my own!” He said jovially.

“But sir, it is not the bandanna I seek, it is my son! He has gone missing!”

“Nonsense, woman! I'm sure it will turn up sometime soon!” he replied, and with a lash of his reins he urged the horses back to their work, their hooves thundering upon the ground as he rushed them back to his solitary castle.

Upon returning he planted the ancient tree outside his gate so that its roots would support his spire and keep it from faltering. He admired its great branches and its many leaves, and he was greatly satisfied with his work. Suddenly the thought of a woman passed through his mind and he realized in a wave of terror that his sand fortress had already sunk deeper into the ground. What was happening? He had planted the tree! Were its roots not strong enough? No. They had to be strong enough. He had bought the greatest tree in the entire orchard. It could support his castle and one-thousand more with its roots. His castle could not sink! After all, he had built it with his own hands, and he was the greatest craftsman of them all! He went to bed that night, but he found it hard to sleep. An unfamiliar crumbling sound kept him awake deep into the night before he finally drifted into an uncomfortable sleep.

The next day the craftsman awoke with sore muscles and an aching back. There were blisters on his hands and his eyes were sore. He did not brush the sand from his back. He walked through his grotto and accepted a flask of spring water from a servant, but said nothing. The city made no sounds today. Black clouds cast ominous shadows onto the churning ocean. He turned to look back at his fortress. He saw the great cracks running up its sides and the way the towers leaned at strange angles. A roll of thunder reached his ears. Today he would go to the city. Today he would visit the quarry and purchase the finest stone to reinforce his walls, his towers, his prison. Today he would work faster and harder and rebuild the life that was crumbling before his very eyes. He did not put his sandals on. Today he ran, barefoot, along the trail to the city, the untouched flask of water still clenched in his hand.

Upon arriving at the sandy city he did not browse through the market for a whisper, he did not stop to look for a tree with strong roots, he did stop to give a boy a coin or to help a desperate mother. Today he ran, sweating and furious through the city like an animal pounding its way through the jungle. He reached the quarry drenched in sweat, his lungs heaving and his eyes red with rage.

“Bring me the finest stones in this quarry! I want all of them, each and everyone! I will pay you all handsomely, and you will never have to worry about a meal ever again once I am through here!” he cried out, madness flickering into his voice.

The finest stones were brought to him and he hired all the horses he could find, hundreds in total, to carry the quarry stones back to his mammoth. He whipped them furiously and their hooves pounded like raging thunder as they raced through the city, the storm clouds growing ever closer, turning up a furious wind, staining the sky black. As the craftsman urged his army of horses forward a voice caught his ears as if it had reached out to him from another world. He pulled the reigns with all his strength and brought his mighty caravan to a stop. A man was laying in the sand shirtless, looking up at him pleadingly.

“Please, noble sir. I have traveled across the Northern desert alone to return to my wife and son, and I am in need of water. I have not the strength to make it any further. I require but a drop to survive, that is all!” the man said in a rasping voice that sounded as dry as wind through prairie grass.

The craftsman starred in horror at the man, who was bony and thin and emaciated from prolonged exposure to the desert. He suddenly realized he was still holding the flask of crystalline water his servant had given him, untouched and filled with water. He made an uncomfortable motion and hid it behind his back awkwardly, but the thirsty man had already seen it.

“Please noble sir, just a drop of water will save me,” he said, his eyes peering into the craftsman, stirring his very soul.

The craftsman's voice came out like sandpaper, “I have no water for you pathetic beggar. Wait for the storm, then you will have all the water you could ever wish for.”

“But sir, I shall not last that long. Give me a drop from your flask and I will repay you with my life. A drop is all I ask for,” he said, outstretching his arm as if to grasp for the life that the craftsman hid behind his back. The craftsman listened. The man's breathing was becoming slower with each breath. His eyes began to flicker and his hand began to shake. Slower. Slower. His breathing had nearly stopped. “Please sir...”

He drew in his last breath and his hand fell to the ground, lifeless and gray like a twisted old tree. There was a clap of thunder and rain began to fall, washing over the dead man's corpse. The craftsman starred, shanking in horror. He raised his arms and with one desperate lash urged his horses onwards to his black castle, his dungeon, desperate to escape the dead man's eyes.

The storm began to rage around him and lighting arced across the black sky, illuminating the landscape in sudden flashes of violet light. He whipped furiously at the horses until foam began to froth at their bits and their nostrils spewed smoke. His whipped cracked as loud as the thunder until one by one his army of horses dropped from exhaustion, leaving him stranded at the foot of his fiery citadel. Like a possessed animal he picked up the lashings of the horses and tied them around his chest. His muscles rippled like iron curtains as he straited to pull the quarry rocks up to his castle, his most precious creation. Sweat mingled with blood and rain as he pulled against the chains which bore into his flesh like claws. He could see his castle just ahead, now sunken so low that only the highest the spires still stood above the earth. He could still save it! He could rebuild it! All was not lost! But as he took one last step he fell to the ground, his strength depleted. He stretched out his arm. He was so close to the gate he could nearly touch it, but his fingers simply could not reach any further. He lay defeated at the foot of his own creation, rain pounding on his back as thunder leaped ferociously across the sky. He turned his head to peer out at the sea. There was a great wave forming, sea green under some unearthly illumination. It was being blown inland by the vengeful wind, forming higher and higher until it touched the clouds. It hit the beach and came flying towards his cliff. As the monster hit the rocky face the craftsman felt the very earth shake below his chest. He peered up as the beast broke and came falling down from the sky, engulfing his entire field of vision, the frothing water bearing downward to drown him with is own greedy ambition. When the water hit it burned like fire, burying him in a rush of sand and leaves, and stone. The great tree exploded into splinters under the force of the wave and he was rushed downward into the black pit where his creation waited for his companionship. His most beloved possession, his perfect fixation. His sand castle.
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Old 03-27-2005, 07:48 PM   #2 (permalink)
Illusionary
 
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I found this a great read....well written and profound as a whole. I could venture a guess as to the intended meaning, but will not do so now.

Thanks for your work.....quite enjoyable
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Old 03-28-2005, 09:28 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I'm very sastisfied that you found it profound. This is definately not what I usually write. Generally my short stories are literally *short*, like a paragraph or two. I felt that this idea, however, deserved a little more attention because there are several morals/ideas, whatever you want to call them, jammed in there.
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Old 03-28-2005, 10:00 PM   #4 (permalink)
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A really well thought out allegory - artful yet suggestive in a way that makes sense. Thanks for sharing!
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