Upon This Rock I Will Build

The scoundrel must have snuck upon his sleeping body in the middle of a nap and done the deed, buried him in sand even before death had come for him
But who? Who among the rogues gallery of characters he had met upon the island so far, who among them had it out for him this time? The possibilities were myriad, but it didn’t really matter, did it? The deed had been done, and the perpetrator had absconded from justice.


Stuck here under a mound for the rest of his time on the island, he grumbled, and unless he found a way out from under it quickly, or unless some new and more charitable unfortunate soul were to find his way washed upon the shores of the nightmare island.


And unless he were lucky (or unlucky) enough to happen upon one of those outcomes soon, it seemed that the final sweet release he always yearned for, and always feared, would come to him at last, whether by starvation, dehydration, sheer ennui, or else a playful high tide come to drown him from so far from the shore.


He supposed he should have counted himself lucky, then, when a stranger did in fact chance upon him. Someone he was sure he had never met before in his life, but that was immaterial. All the more this strange fellow would be willing to help him, he thought, if he was unaware of the sheer heights of moral turpitude this blasted island had driven him to commit.


He noticed the strange man had a large book with him, and wondered how he could have come across it. While it was true that he could often find lots of random detritus that washed ashore along with its new residents, the book seemed remarkably intact, with almost none of the crinkly water damage that would have resulted from a dip in the salty sea. And he had been around the circumference of the island many times, and not once did he notice a library.


He didn’t have long to wonder, though, as the strange fellow proceeded, not to simply dig him out of the mound of sand, but to sit beside him and read from the book.


Hours, days even, must have passed him by as his companion read word after word, turned page after page, as chapter followed chapter.


With what little motion of his neck that ridiculous mound afforded him, he tried in vain to see if perhaps the book itself contained something that could help him. Maybe the reader was simply researching a novel method of his rescue, and he was simply more impatient than this strange man apparently was to see it finally implemented.


But there was no way he could move his head enough to get a clear view of what the tome contained. He resigned himself to the reader’s mercy.


He could feel himself getting weaker, and what was once the faint whisper of the angel of death calling him to finally tiptoe over to his side became louder and clearer with every turn of the page.


How did he even keep it up for so long? As far as he could recall, for as long as he could keep himself conscious anyway, his companion himself never seemed to get up for food, or water, never slept, never did anything most other normal men did.


What little hope he gleaned from his appearance before, he’d gladly surrender now. It would be better at this point if he were to simply take his hateful book and leave. Better no hope of escape at all than this teasing, this torture, this constant intimation of salvation with nothing concrete to show for it.


With the last of his energy, he vowed that he would get the stranger to either help him from the mound, or leave him to his peace. Or at the very least, he could tell him what he was reading about. Tell him a good story, teach him something he didn’t know before, anything.






It shocked him, the moment his strange companion closed the covers of that large and monstrous tome. So his outburst had some effect on him after all, and fate would let him know soon whether it was for good or ill.








…yes, anytime now, fate would show him. Fate was indeed poised to let him know soon, whether or not it was all to be for ill or-


At last the strange fellow returned, exactly as he knew he would.


He could tell there was something heavy weighing on his companion’s mind, as he simply stood beside him and thought, and thought. He must have composed hundreds of feet of invisible blueprints in his mind, and only when those were completed to his own satisfaction did he begin his work.


There was a good foundation already established here, he had to hand it to whoever started it. But the work was incomplete, and he knew just how to finish it.


He got to work, adding sand to the mound, grain by grain, brick by brick.


He was sure he could see the finished product with the eye of his mind, see it in its glory amid the plane of ideal artistic perfection, and that he was in the corporeal plane of existence simply adding pieces where he could see they were not but should be, simply actualizing on earth what he saw potentially in this dreamlike ideality.


It was all coming along rather nicely. What were mere bricks a day ago became walls, then walls with windows, then spires reaching up to the sky.


What an incredible thing it was, the marriage of artistic ambition with craftsmanlike discipline. He remembered the state it was before, and how far along he’d come since. He even remembered with a little tear in his eye some of the amateurish edifices he had erected in his youth, and noted the leaps and bounds he had surpassed since then as well.


Anticipation tasted sweet on his tongue as he laid the last bricks of his edifice with care. Just a little more… just one more…


…and it was finished at last.


He beamed with pride at his work. Everything he set out to do, he achieved brilliantly. He couldn’t help but stand by and admire the elegant design, the sound foundation upon which all the elaborate towers and buttresses rested and supported each other.


What a magnificent creation. He took pleasure in his own talent and thanked the Lord on High for bestowing such talents to him. Surely it was why he was here. Surely this was his purpose on this earth, on this island.


But then, as it always did in the end, he felt a twinge of pain deep within his breast, a tiny prick of regret among the rosebush of his artistic pride. It was beautiful, but it was surely set to pass away, like all things. The wind would slowly erode the foundations and let the edifice entire crumble back to the sand. Perhaps an uncaring gull might fly too close to the shore and brush a tower or two off with its insolent wings. There was also the tides to worry about. Who could predict when the tides would be in another one of their capricious moods, when they’d dare to reach lengths of the shore they never dreamed of before? And what could he say then, have a care you don’t destroy my creation, for which I’ve spent so much time and given so much to bring forth?


And what if no one else were to witness this beautiful thing, between now and its inevitable demise? The thought of that almost hurt him more than the destruction of his structure. The record of the deed would be gone, the experience of it. He could tell others all he wanted that he could achieve such things in his past, but who would believe him? And what of his own mind? Even the memory of such deeds was fated to escape his mind one day. The thought of that was too much to bear, that even the ability to create such things would vacate his very soul, and there was nothing he could do to prevent it.


He allowed these terrible thoughts some space in his heart and soon after sent them away elsewhere. It was well-known by all that a beautiful thing is so for the very reason that it can pass away. And what if it were in his power to decree an infallible foundation for this construction? What if he could order that his art remain on the earth for all time? Well, then not only would his capacity to create stagnate (for why build ever again if one could build the perfect, ineffable, and permanent structure?), but the passage of time of this unchanging thing would only inspire scorn and rancor in those who would have otherwise looked upon it in awe and reverence.


Yes, he said to himself, better to leave his creation in peace, and let whatever fate may decide to happen to it. Let the winds blow it away, or let the waters advance as far as they like, for as long as they like. Let the waters flood over the whole island, for all he cared.


He vowed at that moment, however it was his masterpiece was fated to pass from this world, that the joy of its creation would never leave his heart.



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