This Is The Toy Castle

This is the toy castle.

These are the playthings lying on the floor of the toy castle.

This is a child's skeleton, flesh rotted away by now -- look, you could cradle it in your arms, such a small thing, such a delicate thing -- lying forgotten in a pile of stuffed animals, hidden somewhere in the toy castle.

This is a child's body (how oddly similar to the skeleton which we just surveyed, look, the same size, the same shape) lying somewhere in the dirt, because they paused to bury him, because the man with the long crimson hair insisted on it, because this child never came to the toy castle.

This is the bell that rang out sound and beads and pain, a ceremonial ghanta turned to a murderous child's toy, swung with such careless enthusiasm, pocking the walls with traceries of holes, tearing through flesh, ringing requiems, fallen from his hand now -- where did I put it? Please, master, wait just one moment, I laid it down only a second ago, I know that I can find it if you give me time, but I am so tired, I cannot seem to breathe, and the light is shattering above me -- and lying among the other playthings in the toy castle.

These are the beads which wind around and around and around, a necklace of promises, a cluster of dreams, tight enough to throttle a man, loose enough to hold a world of dreams, long enough to wrap a child in so that he could believe he held the future in his hands, shattered and lost between his fingers -- no, wait, master, I am coming, but I must pick them all up, every one of them, and they have run away between the toys on the floor and become matted with blood and they are heavy and I do not have the strength to carry them any more, please, master, wait -- and perhaps if you looked very carefully you could read the pattern they made as they lie scattered on the floor in the toy castle.

This is a sutra, and you must read it very carefully, because it is not necessarily what you think it is -- it is a principle given form in words, a thought become material, a slice of the universe turned sideways and shrunk down to a length of paper -- and it is not merely a possession, and it is not merely a proof of position, and it is a very heavy weight to carry on your shoulders, and it banishes darkness, though it does not necessarily leave the light behind to sustain you when the comforting shadows have vanished away, and when it was read aloud the words shook the foundations of the toy castle.

This is the man who came here twice, both times to reclaim something that he had lost, and he does not want to be what he is, yet he will not renounce it, and he protests most grievously when it is taken from him. He is jealous of the things to which he will not admit attachment, but nobody ever said that life was supposed to be simple, or easy, or painless. He was invited, he was expected, he was most particularly entertained, but for some reason he seems disinclined to remain, and he walks down the steps that lead away from the toy castle.

This is the child who owns the toy castle. He is lying on the floor now among his playthings, and looking up at the man who stands above him and who still has the same smile and the same cool humour in his voice as all the times before. His robes are splashed with blood. The light is fading from his eyes as he wonders about god. He sees the stained glass overhead splinter and shatter and come pouring down like rainbows, and listens to the world come tumbling down. There are many things that he could say -- master, take me away from here, heal me, help me, hold me, please hold me -- but they choke in his throat on blood and knowledge. He has at last achieved satori in the awareness that his master gave him everything he ever had, and that all he gave up in exchange was everything he might have had, and all there is to do in the light of that knowledge is to lie there and pay the price for losing the game. The big people came and took his toys away and playtime is over and now it's time for him to go to sleep. And the light comes crashing into the toy castle.

This is the priest who is no priest, the Sanzou who is no Sanzou, the man who owns the word that says there is no god, and whose forehead is unmarked by the touch of Heaven. He came to watch the end of the game, because people who own toys always like to see what happens to them in the hands of others, and because he was bored, and because he was curious, and because he wanted to see the one who unites the light and the darkness one more time. Everything is the same to him; the falling castle, the dying child, the breaking glass, the scattered playthings, the blood, the light, the necessary air. He will take what is left and go on his way smiling, the priest who owns the child who once owned the toy castle.

This is the dragon flying over the toy castle, watching it collapse below him like a house of cards. Once he had watched greater things collapse. Once he had been greater himself. Now he looks down on the ruins of the toy castle.

Because there isn't a toy castle any more.


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