The Architect - A Short Story
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
(To Freyja Inanna, with gratitude for her unrelenting support and acceptance. She is my She, my garden, my muse.)
“How am I doing?” I asked.
“You’re doing great” tso replied in his quiet, peaceful, soundless voice. As always, I loved hearing his voice. Frank stirred in the background, but seemed to be asleep. I allowed myself a quiet moment to enjoy the affirmation. Then I picked up another brick and examined it closely.
Heavy, grooved, old. Hefting it, I let it soak in. Ah, yes… This one was part of “the box”, I recalled.
“I have a bad memory.”
“I can’t trust myself.”
“Defer to others, blah blah blah.”
Chuckling, I tossed it into the “no” pile.
“Are you sure about that?” sneered Frank. I looked over at him, insolently draped over an easy chair. He never left that chair, never seemed to eat, drink, or do anything else except torment me.
“Yes,” I responded shortly. “Done.”
He just rolled his eyes in his condescending way, and then pretended to go back to sleep. He’s been pretty damn grouchy since the calamity, and frankly, I was getting tired of his attitude.
Leaning back on my heels, I took a break. Crouched among the rubble, my legs were beginning to get numb again, so I let circulation return as a surveyed my progress with pleasure. “This is going to be so much nicer than the old one.” I thought to myself, and it really was. A completely different architecture, a stronger base, beautiful flourishes, and all my creation. Thinking back on the old one, I tried unsuccessfully to recall how it came about. Haphazard, piecemeal, full of odds and ends….no wonder it couldn’t hold up!
Tso’s voice whispered delightfully in my mind. “It is beautiful. Good job.”
“Thank you!” I said with a pleased grin. “It’s been much more fun than I thought it would be!”
Tso treated me to one of his radiant smiles, and I forgot how to think for a bit.
Later, as I was digging through the dusty, musty pile, I sensed his return.
“I keep trying to remember building the first one, but I can’t. Where did it come from?” I asked.
“What do you remember?”
“I remember…it grew slowly…I think.”
“Where did it come from?” he asked.
I love being with tso, but he has an annoying tendency of answering my questions by asking me questions.
“Others helped me. Actually, they kind of helped a lot…”
I fell silent and thought about it for a bit. Come to think about it, I couldn’t remember actually ever seeing it from the outside, just the feel of it from the inside.
Yeah, that feeling. Shuddering, I went back to poking around the bricks.
YES! There is the one I’ve been searching for – bright, shiny, ruby red. Holding it close to my chest, bouncing up and down with excitement, I felt the connection. Tiny orbs floated around it, each one cycling through the colors of the rainbow, each one responding to me with delight. A delightful scent that reminded me of patchouli drifted from it. Basking in the ruby red glow, I realized I hadn’t ever really experienced this gem quite this way. I could more clearly see the many facets, experience the colors more brightly, enjoy it all in a whole new way.
“Oh, this one is going to find a special place!” I said with delight.
Frank snorted, but he knew better than to open his mouth right now.
Setting it carefully into place, so the radiance would permeate the entire structure, I smiled, content for the moment.
“Enough building for today!” I declared. I’m just going to enjoy this for a bit.
And leaning back, I did just that.
“You’re just fooling yourself, you know.” Frank said.
“I’ve got this.” I insisted. “Just let it go.”
“No, you don’t. You’re going to fuck it up. You always do. Just let it the FUCK go.”
“You’ve got a filthy mouth,” I replied irritated. “Besides, I can use the help! This is taking so much time, and tso confuses me!”
“Who?” asked Frank.
“Never mind,” I said. “She said she’d help, and I believe her.”
He laughed his bitchiest laugh. “Get off your high horse! You’re not ready for help. You don’t even know what you want, and she’ll just make a huge mess of it! Besides, she won’t even like what you’ve built. It’s a fucking mess! You’re a mess! You don’t know what you’re doing, and she’s going to get tired of fixing your fuck-ups!”
“Look, I want to do this! It’ll be amazing! She has such good ideas, she’s so full of energy, together we can get so much done!”
“Like last time?” he goaded.
“Oh, don’t even go there!” I responded angrily.
“I warned you then, too. You wouldn’t listen. You knew better. It was going to be amazing, perfect, earth-shaking. What. Fucking. Ever.”
“SHUT UP!” I screamed in fury.
“I TOLD you it would crash, and boy did it! You stopped building for months, all broke up, pathetic, whining constantly… You wouldn’t listen to me then and you’re not listening to me now. This will fail, and it will fail hard and then I’ll have to deal with all the fallout because you wouldn’t do what I said. I’m telling you, DON’T DO THIS!”
“Stop!!! Goddamnit stop! Ok? Just leave me alone! You never let up, you never stop!” Tears streaming down my face, I collapsed in a heap, shaking.
“You know you need me,” he replied quietly. “I keep you safe.”
“Just leave me alone,” I replied miserably.
“You know I’m right. I’m always right.”
I stare quietly at the block. It is big. Huge, really. One of the biggest I’ve seen. And it is complicated. It seems to have wispy tendrils connecting to many of the other blocks, some that I’ve kept, some that I’ve discarded. It’s a strange mishmash of dusty old pieces and bright shiny crystals and I don’t know quite what to make of it. I remember it. I remember it surrounding me before, permeating everything, but I’ve never seen it quite this way. Holding it to my ear, I shake it and jump in surprise at the cacophony of sound that results. I stare at it bemused.
Sweet satin in my ear, “What do you have?”
“Complexity,” I reply, and get rewarded by a rich chuckle.
“What will you do?”
“Toss it?” I say, tentatively.
Sighing, I contemplate it further. “There’s an energy I feel from this that I really don’t like,” I say. “But…”
I trace my fingers along the greedy tendrils, feeling their insistent thirst for control. I tap old pieces that seem ready to collapse into dust any moment, smelling faintly of death. Pieces seem to loop around and around endlessly, pointlessly, relentlessly. Mud, dung, stinky old vomit, bits and pieces of ancient paper, symbols covering everything, trying to lend authority and power, it seems. But then the jewels! Brilliant, flawless jewels nestled within the filth, shining through it all. Gazing at their scintillating beauty, I wonder. Can I really let them go? Picking it up, I spin it rapidly on the palm of my hand. If I get it going fast enough, it almost seems like a single brilliant jewel, spinning, mesmerizing, drawing me in.
“What are you going to do?”
I sigh and continue to watch it spin. “It’s so beautiful! And it’s so wretched! I can’t keep it, but I must keep it!”
I spin it faster and faster, feeling and thinking and feeling. I can feel it, I can sense it. There’s an answer tripping around inside me wanting out. Then I hear Frank snicker, and I get angry. Raising my hand, I slam the block into the floor with everything I have. The deafening explosion tosses me aside like a rag doll and I am engulfed in dust and noise and debris.
When the dust clears, I quietly gather up the beautiful gems for myself. I don't even have to look, I can feel tso’s warm smile on my back, while Frank glares at me sullenly from his chair.
I am content.
No matter how much I discard on the no pile, it never gets very high. Even after cleaning up the debris from the explosion, it’s no higher than before. It just seems to slowly sink into the earth. When I asked tso about it, he just smiled his radiant smile, and I forgot what it was I was asking.
The original debris from the cataclysm, however, does slowly change. It cheers me to see the progress, and to see the structure itself grow, beautiful and grand.
One day I asked tso, “Is it almost done?”
“It will never be done.”
Thrilling with his reply, I am still dismayed. “But I only have so many bricks!”
“You’ll find more.”
A little panicked, “But what do I do when it gets too large?!”
“Do what you did last time.”
Stunned, I rocked back. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
I paused for a long moment. “I didn’t do that.” I said quietly.
“Why would I do that? I would never do that! I’m not a destroyer - I’m a builder, a creator, an architect!”
“You asked the right question – Why would you do that? Look around you.”
I look. I see rubble and debris. I see the “no” pile. I see the beautiful structure rising out of the ruin.
Another long moment. “Is this all I have to look forward to? Continually building and tearing down? What’s the point?”
“You asked the right question – What’s the point?”
Sigh. “I am an architect. I must build.”
“You sure talk to yourself a lot. You need help,” mumbled Frank, who then went back to sleep.
It’s a beautiful day today, bright and shiny. It smells like Spring. As I work busily clearing around the base, I can see dusty old patterns begin to emerge from underneath the debris. Something rather like a compass, covered with symbols I don’t understand. It’s not my creation though, so I let it be. Humming to myself, I walk around from the far side and am brought to a halt by the look on Frank’s face.
He is white with some indefinable emotion, shaking, barely controlling himself. I look at him baffled.
“That is sick!” he chokes out, finally.
Stunned I could only look at him.
“You have to take it all down and move it now! It’s pointing in the wrong direction!!”
“What the hell are you talking about!” I declared angrily. “It’s just fine, and I am NOT going to start tearing it down now!”
Looking at me with contempt, he sneered “This explains tons. I thought there was something off about it this time. It’s twisted. It’s distorted. It’s WRONG! Didn’t you check the angles when you started? You can’t just build it any which way you want! There is a proper, approved order and you are violating it!”
Staring at him after this uncharacteristic, even for him, outburst, I turned and looked at my handiwork. Beautiful, strong, perfectly balanced, wonderful proportions, with just the right embellishments, colors, and additions. I smiled with delight.
“I’m not changing a damn thing.”
“You will” he said with disgust. This cannot be permitted.
Humming happily, I dusted myself off and turned to leave.
“You don’t get it.” I said in parting. “Last time this was a group project, and everyone liked it but me. This time, it’s all mine.”
Today, walking through the remaining debris, something caught my foot and I fell flat on my face. Shocked, I took a moment to recover, and then turned to investigate what could cause me such a fall.
Black, sticky, and very heavy for its size. I picked it up, shaking my head, and went to put it on the no pile. I could not let it go. What I took to be stickiness turned out to be far worse. Slowly the small rock melded into my hand, and I watched with horror as first my hand, and then my arm began to blacken. I could not wipe it off, and as it moved into my shoulders and chest I frantically called out for help. I could hear Frank cackling with glee and clapping his hands. To my dismay, the blackness continue to spread throughout my body, and as it moved up my neck and into my head I cried out in terror. Feelings of self-hatred filled every pore of my body. Blame, guilt, shame, every possible variation of revulsion and contempt overwhelmed me. As I sunk to my knees in despair, I screamed at the top of my lungs.
Suddenly, I felt the familiar calm and the quiet voice in my ear. “I AM here.”
“What’s happening!” I cried in panic.
“You found the catalyst. That which caused you to destroy the old structure.”
“What is it!”
“You know exactly what it is.”
The blackness overwhelmed me, followed by a flood of sick knowing.
“I had no idea how horrible, how lost, how unworthy I am and have always been! I deserve to die. I want to die. I must die! Leave me in my misery, for I don’t deserve to be in your presence!”
Suddenly his light began to dim. Slowly by degrees, and for the first time I could start to make out an outline, followed by his perfect features. Bit by bit, more became visible until the shocked moment when what could not be, was. It was like I was looking in a mirror, but the beauty and love he radiated was limitless. He looked deep in my eyes and I knew. The blackness left in an instant, as I realized the identity of the shining one, the one I loved and adored, the one who guided me and who knew all. For the first time, I noticed the shiny band of light connecting us. I felt the infinite, inseparable connection, and knew that I would never forget it. Then he smiled at me and was gone.
Turning, I noticed Frank start to say something and I looked at him, directly in the eyes. I could see the terror in his eyes as he rose, kneeled down and bowed before me, shaking. A moment of silence passed between us, and then I spoke. “Thank you for your service. I don’t need you any more. You may leave.” His scream of terror rang in my ears as I walked away.
Busy day today as I worked on the last of the debris. Humming happily to myself, I finished up the remaining bricks, swept off the dust and fragments, and then sat back, enjoying the magnificence. Symmetrical, balanced, and everything just the way I wanted! It looked powerful, with a solid foundation and no weaknesses that I could find…indestructible! Perfect!
“Yes, this will do nicely,” I said contentedly, a wash of supreme satisfaction swept through me – the satisfaction only a creator can know.
Suddenly I felt eyes on me – I was being watched! Seated in Frank’s old chair was someone new.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Carl,” the stranger answered quietly.
“How long have you been there?”
“Quite some time,” said Carl.
“Why didn’t you say something!” I asked, annoyed.
“I was closely monitoring you and evaluating the situation in order to determine the parameters under which I may safely operate.”
I stared at him, dumbfounded.
“Besides,” he said with a small smile, “you seemed to be enjoying yourself immensely.”
“Uh, huh,” I remarked cautiously. Turning back to the structure, I mumbled under my breath “Great. This one has a sense of humor.”
Reaching out, I traced out the solid outline, the gems and fabrics, the energetic connections and the beautiful additions, much of it never before seen in my previous structure. Wonderful scents that hinted of Frankincense and Summer, Bright days and mysterious nights wafted from it.
“It certainly is spectacular,” she said breathlessly.
Startled, I gaped at the beautiful apparition now standing on my left. The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, she was powerful and calm, confident in a way that signaled she needed no one and nothing. Her shining eyes continued to survey my structure, and I could see that her admiration was genuine, authentic.
“Who are you?” I asked, perplexed.
“I AM She,” she said.
“Where did you come from?”
“You summoned me,” she said matter-of-factly, her smile pure radiance. “Although it took you long enough.”
“I did nothing of the sort!” I stammered weakly.
“Resonant tones were released when you placed those last bricks,” she said. “They matched the tones from my structure perfectly! Of course I had to come!”
“Oh” I said. I was beginning to accept that this sort of thing was normal now.
“So, you like it?” I asked, gesturing towards my accomplishment?
“Oh, yes!” She said with delight, “Although….”
“What! What is it!” I asked in alarm.
“Well, there is this one little thing that could use the teeniest adjustment…” she said pointing.
Stifling my angry outburst, I looked closer. Grudgingly, I had to admit that she was right. A small thing. I don’t think I’d ever have noticed it on my own. A slight adjustment and the structure seemed to emit a small hum of approval.
Stepping back, I couldn’t help but admire the tweak.
“You could let me enjoy basking in the perfection of my creation a LITTLE longer!” I said in mock anger.
“It’s all good!” she said brightly. “It’s my job after all!”
“If you say so,” I said looking at her doubtfully.
“Oh, yes,” she said, “and I’d appreciate the same from you. Otherwise, we’re wasting it all.”
I watched as she cooed and clucked over my creation, and suddenly everything seemed to make sense in a whole new way. Something told me I’d not soon be rid of her, but that didn’t bother me nearly as much as I’d have thought…
Today I stumbled on a wonderful surprise. A large bundle of gold wire, tightly tied, unused, in the corner. I’d never noticed it before, but the way it shone in the light was mesmerizing. I must have stared at it for an hour, admiring the beauty, the strength, the mysterious ways it played with the light.
“I have got to find a way to use this,” I decided.
Pulling off the fastenings, I unrolled some of the wire and held it up to the structure. That’s when I took notice of the faint grooves. They’d always been there, but I’d ignored them as something odd but useless. The wire looked like it would fit perfectly! Carefully working and gently tapping the wire in, beautiful, intricate patterns began to emerge. Many of the grooves were aligned in ways I’d never noticed, and others started and stopped creating the most amazing geometric shapes, waves, dashes and whirls. Hours passed in a delightful flurry of discovery – I’d never known it could look so delightfully beautiful! Powerful, almost impregnable, aligned and harmonious, yes, but this added an entirely new, lovely aspect to the entire structure!
Finally finishing up, I leaned back on my heels and just admired my handiwork.
“She is going to love this,” I thought, “I can’t wait to show it to her!”
“What are you doing?” asked Carl.
“Is this amazing, or what?!” I responded proudly.
“I think it may be too much,” he said, sounding worried. “Nobody has seen it like this. Nothing like this! They won’t know what to think!”
“It’s the way it’s always been!” I exclaimed, “Just look at it! The grooves were here, the wire was there, I’d just never fitted it all together! I’d never known it could be that way!”
“It’s not going to go over well,” he insisted, “They will reject it, attack it, make you change it back.”
“Who will?” I asked.
“Somebody will!” he insisted with exasperation, “Maybe someone you don’t know, or maybe someone closest to you. They might hate it and make you change it!”
I looked at Carl incredulously. “Change it? I can’t change it. It is so beautiful, and if I were to deface it by removing all this exquisite filigree, I’d never be able to look at it with joy again! I’d only see it as disfigured, damaged, scarred. How can anyone, stranger or friend, look at this and see anything but beauty???”
“I think you’re kidding yourself,” he said, sullenly.
“You’re starting to remind me of someone else who used to sit there,” I said sternly, and was rewarded by his silence.
It’s been a month, but I can’t help it. Every day I spend hours admiring the structure, marveling at the scintillating beauty, taking in the earthly and otherworldly scents coming from it, continually amazed that I could create something so beautiful.
“It’s time,” he said, his voice cascading over me like a waterfall of light.
“For what?” I responded quietly. “I can’t find any way to improve this, not now, anyway. I’ve used all the bricks, I love it, She loves it…I don’t have to break it now, do I?”
“No,” he said. “Look within. You know.”
After a moment of reflection, I sighed, “Yes. But I hated it last time! Constricting, suffocating, pure misery and endless pain…I don’t want this one to be anything like that!”
Carl moved restlessly, a puzzled look on his face.
“Do you often talk to yourself?” he asked.
“Hush,” I told him, “This isn’t for you.”
Addressing tso again, I asked “Will you be there with me this time?”
“I was there last time,” he replied with a rainbow splash of power that opened my mind up, and I remembered.
I remembered all the crystalline times that I focused my intention and created miracles in the face of the impossible. The times when I was in my deepest fears, my lowest valleys, and I’d take the step that would shift everything. The times that Frank’s oppressive power was suddenly, magically lifted by something far greater.
I remembered that part of me that was always inspired by beauty, by joy, by truth. And then I remembered even further back. Back when I existed as confident and beautiful and perfection embodied. Every step, a step of joy and gratitude. Child-like in my reality, playing on the mother’s breast. Wonderment and joy at her green fields, the creatures that shared her space, the rivers flowing and the mountains permanent. A child of congruence and perfection and pure innocence.
“Ok,” I said resignedly, “can She come?”
“She’ll be there,” and my heart glowed at the news.
“I want to come!” chimed in Carl.
Looking calmly at him, I replied “Of course! As long as you behave.”
Then, closing my eyes and reaching out, I placed my hands on the structure…
…and fell into eternity.