Pique'n'yer Interest 

The Tower

The people gathered at the base of a soaring tower.

From far and wide they came to marvel at its size. It reached so high that the people could not see its summit. It rose from the ground in layers, each of them composed of tightly-packed sheets of paper. Like a ziggurat the layers narrowed, each thinner than the other as the tower fought a headlong battle against the sky.

At its summit stood Killiam, a burly, balding hulk of a man with a pushbroom mustache. Eyes closed, he wore a toga and raised a single hand towards the sun as the people gathered beneath him. He was their spiritual leader, a semi-divine being who could interpret portents from the gods and help the people understand them.

Thousands of people stood rapt in silence as they awaited his message. Each of them had taken leave from the factories and the fields, bringing their mothers, fathers, children and pets to hear the weekly message. What they knew of the world, they heard from Killiam and they were to learn nothing else.

Children fidgeting with toys were kicked to attention by their parents, worried as they were that they'd be seen dissenting. Little Nick, the son of a carpenter, played with a ratchet his father had given him. His father smiled as his son played but politely admonished him to look to the sky.

Finally, Killiam opened his eyes, looking so deeply into the sun that he must have been blind. He shouted phrases of nonsense, as yet unable to decipher what the gods were telling him. Soon his babblings turned to the language of the people, and finally they could understand his message.

"The word of the gods has reached me," he said. "They say that we are good! That our society remains in a careful balance because each contributes as he is ordained! You, the people, toil in the fields and the factories, harvesting resources from the Earth so that they may serve us. Whistler, I interpret the will of the gods on high! Today, they will that we continue! That we maintain our balance for the greater good!"

Killiam raised a fist so powerfully he shook the foundation beneath him. The tower shook and the people worried it would fall, something Killiam had once assured them would never happen.

But as the tower shook a piece of its foundation fell out - a sheet of paper that floated through the sky and landed at the feet of Little Nick. The people gasped as it floated towards him and all were too frightened even to tell him to let it alone.

Nick, a curious young man of eight years, picked up the paper and read its message in a small-but-resonant voice that everyone heard.

"Killiam... the fraud," he read. "False... prophet."

His father the carpenter placed a sympathetic hand on his son's shoulder. Aware that everyone was watching he said, "Read on, son."

"Killiam is a fraud," Nick read. "He is a false prophet and we have no confidence in his... por... tents."

Nick read aloud from a report by an expert in divination who gave an unfavourable review to Killiam's divining abilities. He had learned a fact without Killiam to tell it to him - a grave violation of the spiritual leader's rules.

Then another emerged from the crowd and approached the tower, a young man wearing the dirty clothes of a factory worker. He grabbed a sheet of paper from the tower's lowermost layer and on it found an engineer's report stating that the structure wasn't built to last. Then the young man's wife emerged from the crowd and grabbed a sheet stating that the tower was built higher than was legal.

One by one people approached the tower, shaking its foundation with every sheet of paper they removed. Killiam struggled to remain standing at its summit.

Every sheet of paper that the people read ate away at the veil that Killiam had carefully crafted for his people. They read about how he'd tricked the people into building the tower for him; that it would stand forever as a monument to their work; and that he had to stand on top of it so as to maintain proximity to the gods.

Killiam covered his ears and tried to drown out the people's growing knowledge. He swayed back and forth until finally the tower came crashing down, its foundation fractured into the hands of the people. Killiam screamed as he fell, dropping down into a whirlwind of paper before he hit the ground.

Once there, the people kept reading and their knowledge drove him insane. Papers fell all around him, finally engulfing him before he disappeared. The people kept reading and learning, not even noticing that they no longer had a spiritual leader.

Nick's father tried to unify their voices into one, but each felt too empowered by their new knowledge to listen. They had lost their tyrant... but found themselves without a leader to hold them together.



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