Today I begin with a grave confession. These tales I've shared around the table, these parables of love, hate, and loss are fabrications. They're harvested, constructed, manufactured, advertised, and sold by my mind. They're simple wordcraft performed on a grain of truth lost in a beach of lies. They're founded on fascination, imagination, and wonder. They're like a castle I've built in my mind, but these castles are not just built by storytellers, and although they're always inspired, they do not always lead to entertainment. So here is yet another... fabrication... of the man who built a castle.

Our protagonist was an average middle class fellow who worked eight hours and slept for six. He enjoyed television, was soothed by a good book, hated paying taxes, but most importantly he loved relish.

Beyond his skull and out in the world you and I inhabit his life was mundane. Although it was speckled with the rare chance encounter or sudden surge of excitement they would vanish quickly and quietly into the uninspiring routine of every single vastly identical day. But inside that skull, in the space without boundaries or constraint, there was a bounty of fulfillment just waiting to be seized. On his long walks home where he stared at the ground with an unfocused gaze, characters would appear in his mind. Plot points and themes would wizz from left to right and collide in beautiful explosions of inspiration. Creativity would churn his earthly life into the heavenly fuel that creates art! Although no one could see it, there was much value in our then silent hero.

On one walk home something amazing happened. After leaving work ten minutes late, he passed the most exquisite woman he had ever seen. The instant the beams of radiance reflecting from her hair hit his dark and unsaturated pupils a grassy plain appeared in his head. A field of infinite potential, possibilities, and most lucratively and seductively: opportunities.

Did he speak to her that day? No, my friends, he did not. He was an artist of sorts, and what kind of artist would spoil such a perfect canvas. His mind was already bent on a far more sinister idea. One that, without his consent but also without his objection, began laying a foundation.

A section of field was ploughed when he saw that no ring constrained any finger of any hand blessed with her delicate skin. There was no man (or woman, for that matter) around her arm keeping her close, and he could swear he sensed a tinge of loneliness in her heart from thirty feet away.

Once home he sat on the couch before a blank TV, for on this very evening his heart was abuzz and his closed eyelids offered more entertainment than a screen of finely crafted pixels ever could.

He saw her, sitting ripely on a bench, reading a book of impressive girth, and the first brick was placed.

She looked up and smiled as he passed, and the walls erected around him.

He commented on the book with a perfect mix of wit and substance; she laughed. The walls were five stones thick now, and a simple knock with his hand confirmed nothing could ever break this foundation.

She, with great suave, transitioned the conversation to philosophy, and said she relished Shakespeare. He smiled at the new south tower, for it was a marvel of emotional engineering.

She relished relish; the mightiest and strongest drawbridge the kingdom had ever seen embellished his massive estate.

She gracefully offered her name, he willfully relinquished his; the central keep, brick by brick, climbed endlessly into the sky.

With hands clasped, they talked the next few hours away. With every personal boundary they broke in their talk, he took another dozens steps up the keep's spiral staircase in utter bliss.

They lay together, and he opened his heart as she gifted him with the keys to her own.

He stood, what seemed like miles above ground, on the castle in his mind. The breeze wafted the light, bright, and pure white clouds through him as he raised his arms in the sky and pronounced with great certainty:

"It's perfect."

As fate (or agency) may have it, he happened upon her again the next day. For a split second as the man with endless confidence approached, he thought her face looked somehow different. But alas, it could not be so, for he had seen their life together just last night in his mind. He had seen months of unquantifiable joy and necessary despair wrapped in a massive pallette of experience. He couldn't possibly not know her face and as such quickly dismissed thought, covering the crack in the brick with his shoe.

No book in her hand today, he noticed, but it was no matter. Everything else he adored was still there, for he could smell it in her perfume. She failed to notice him as he passed, but it was just yet another minor crack. No more threatening than the first. Nothing he couldn't easily ignore for the chance to realize his fantasy. He sat beside her, as determined as ever, and they began to speak. And it was that speech, from her unabridged lips, that summoned the army.

She first voiced her disinterest in the areas of literature, stories and art for they were but time-consuming pursuits headed by intellectuals who simply didn't have as much of a life as she. He started to see it now, in the distance, coming nearer and nearer still: the army of truth.

She told him that Shakespeare was the biggest bore since Descarte, and he saw the catapults and trebuchets lined up on the horizon. He called for the defences to be armed, the towers to be staffed, and the turrets to be manned but there was no response. He finally become acutely aware that he was the only inhabitant of this castle, this fortress of one.

She went on and on without a sign of pity or remorse as massive mounds of stone smashed through the walls. Bricks tumbled on all sides as the man ran from wall to wall in search of rescue or relief. He wanted to find something, anything, to save him but every stone upon which his hand rested turned immediately to sand - and there was not a grain of truth in the lot.

She hated poems, and another wall crumbled.

She hated romantics, and the left tower exploded.

When fear had finally stolen his foresight, the man ran up the keep once more into the clouds. He dropped to the stone floor, curled up in a ball and cursed his ears for contradicting what his eyes had saw not a day before. He cursed the outside world, cursed his mind; cursed her.

Then... she... I can barely bring myself to say it but I must! To leave this out is to rob the story, and what greater crime is there than the crime against art! I say here and now that this woman, the one who could have shared his castle for eternity continued:

I

Hate

Relish.

A tooth chipped, an artery ripped, a bone snapped, a femur fractured, a tendon tore, and a nerve cut, flung, and whipped his heart one thousand times as if his brain was out for revenge. Bricks fell dozens at a time crushing him into the ground and creating a cacophony of brutal screams which rang in his ears and pounded his very soul! He was bruised! He was battered! He was blistered! He was dead! I was-

He was-

He...

He was blistered! He was dead! He was a fool! A damned poor silent over imaginative fool... A fool that for a very long time would sit in that coffin, the one he imagined himself, the one for which he would recognize the irony of had he the spirit left to conjure a thought.

I suppose it's true what they say, that the building is greater than the sum of its bricks but, it's nothing without them.