The chill, oxygen sparse air blew in a torrent over the top of the tower. It delved through the gaps and holes of the unfinished stairways and open windows that marked the incompleteness of its highest point. The cold seeped deep into the bones of the organisms that dwelled so high and made the reality of their monumental task all the more harsh.
The tower was the greatest and grandest structure to have ever been created, even before its completion. The tower took great pride in its privileged position, no building could match its height or width, not even a city compared to its sheer majesty. The tower was a habitation, an entire city housed within a single stone structure as the people within worked day in and day out to build it higher and higher. The eventual goal was to reach to the Heavens and gaze upon the land of God. The tower would be the first to see this, the bridge between the world of man and the celestial land of God.
A year ago the tip of the tower had reached the lower part of the cloud line, though low flying clouds occasionally burst across the tower’s midriff and showered the habitants in mist. To stand on the highest point of the tower meant standing in a damp fog where the chill air froze the dewdrops to the fingers and frostbite nibbled at the extremities. Of course the cold meant nothing to the tower though it was aware of the low temperature and could feel in its stonework the freezing temperatures just as it could feel down near the ground the warmth of the earthen foundations. When the first clouds had reached the tower the inhabitants had rushed to touch them and feel the stuff of the Heavens only to be shocked by the cloying wetness of the tiny wisps.
On clear days the sun beat down on the tower, blinding the people who tried to gaze at the cloudless, unobstructed Heavens. Many of the people who lived out their lives at this height had become extremely bronzed under the direct sunlight and there was frequently a worker to be found who had become light-headed and faint. Sometimes a man would be found unconscious and be dragged back inside the dark interior to recover.
All down one side the tower was warmed by the sun’s rays and the people who were fortunate enough to not be working gathered on the various balconies, verandas and walkways that bathed in the golden heat. The dark side of the tower consequently became a chill autumnal place were the moisture clung to the stonework and refused to evaporate away.
An enormous, long shadow stretched across leagues of landscape eclipsing the lives of those who lived in the tower’s shadow. The sundial effect of the tower had become part of the land workers lives, with the passing of the shadow signaling the passing of the day. Those who lived on the east side of the tower often felt as though they lived in a different time zone to those on the west side and could be seen taking their lunches and dinners at odd times in the shade.
The tower had been constructed on a huge swathe of plain, the largest and flattest land that could be found. Surrounding it as far as the eye could see were miles of intensive farmland to feed to populous inhabitants of the tower. The feeding of the masses had been a problem since the inception of the tower where those gathered by Nebuchadnezzar’s ideals had lived in shanty towns upon the wild plains. Soon even the farmland was not enough and the lower levels of the tower had been repurposed.
Efforts had been made to create ‘indoor’ farmland in the lower levels. Masses of soil had been brought in to cover an entire level. The sides had been opened out to the air as much as possible, the above levels of the tower supported on thousands of pillars instead. Shafts had been carved into the level above and a series of mirrors erected to bring sunlight into the central areas. It was all very technical, very impressive and only mildly successful.
A river flowed across the plain, bringing the nutrients and water that the crops demanded. It wound between the fields and disappeared beneath the base of the tower. Down there the water was drawn up through a series of pipes and dropped off at varying heights of the tower where it would splash across waterwheels or collect in pools carved into the stone for the purpose.
Nebuchadnezzar had been the voice that called the tower into being. As pious as he was zealous Nebuchadnezzar had travelled the land gathering people to his cause. The priest spoke of a trial set by God, that humanity lived low on the ground only because He wanted His faithful to prove they could be worthy of Him. How could they prove they were worthy of the Heavens? By climbing to the Heavens. It was a journey, a quest that made perfect sense to the aimless and previously nomadic people. Once they were amongst God’s Chosen the people would have their every desire, there would be no strife, no starvation, no disease, no death. The tower itself had no opinion on this save that the beliefs contributed to its growth.
This faith did little to change the social hierarchy within the tower. Gathered together under a single cause the people were divided by their skill sets, their wealth and their birthrights. The base of tower oozed out across the plain, each level, oval in shape, was smaller than the one beneath it, such that the topmost levels were only big enough to accommodate a single noble manse or meeting hall whilst the base housed thousands of people, several families sharing single rooms in the dark interiors. It was a class system in which upper and lower were kept separated both figuratively and literally.
The tower knew its lower levels were packed with the unskilled labourers, the farmers and huge warehouses for the keeping of slaves. It could feel the mass of bodies as they trudged sleepy eyed in the barely lit mornings down the corridors. Slightly further up it felt the constant, gentle tapping of lower class children kept in the communal crèches and cared for by a gathering of wives and matrons.
The middle levels housed the skilled labourers, those artisans and leaders of the labour forces as well as the merchants and the traders. Here they were afforded their own living spaces, though still small. Large warehouses were built into many of the floors of these levels, used to house the goods and merchandise of the flowing economy of the tower, it was here that the tower felt most bloated, stuffed as it was with the various resources. The great city-esque size of the tower meant that to walk its width could take an entire morning and to travel to its height was a journey of days.
Part of the difficulty of travelling through the tower was the maze of carved corridors. The initially illogical layout of the pathways, rooms and walls of the tower was a necessity for its stability, though one that was frequently planned at the last minute like the repeated patching of a torn piece of clothing. The architects repeatedly lectured that the infrastructure of the tower was sound, but among the workers doubts had begun to arise.
The tower had begun its construction meticulously planned and uniformly crafted, however, such a huge construct demanded much and compromises had to be made the higher the tower grew. As such the lesser used portions of the tower and those areas generally tucked away out of sight were crafted from mismatching stones with additional wooden supports. These corridors were an example of the inferior quality of used materials. Of course the main thoroughfares of the tower maintained the usage of the highest quality material, or at least their façades did, with the underlying resources covered up. The tower was ashamed that parts of its interior were not as carefully selected, but had been pleased as these unsightly blights on its surface had been covered over with thin layers of smooth marble and cut stone where appropriate.
All of the floors sloped in the tower, upwards or downwards depending on where you were going, with grooves carved into them to help maintain a grip on the, often worn smooth, stone. The sloping was in an effort to reduce the ridiculous amount of stairs required from living and travelling about the tower and the strain they put on one’s legs.
At the estimated halfway point of what would eventually be the completed tower was a statue stood within a great hall. It had been constructed in Nebuchadnezzar’s honour as the founder of the tower. The priests used the hall for their sermons and delivered verses before the open gaze of the statue. It had been carved with a head of gold and arms of silver, a brass torso and iron legs. The statue backed on to a central spire that ran up the entire height of the tower. It was a central support that had such a width that from the small section of it seen as the back wall of a room it appeared to be flat, the slight curve of it only noticeable on close inspection.
The edges of the tower were lush, tropic paradises. They had been designated for the habitation of wildlife and converted into gardens lined with potted plants. Vines hung off the edges and fruit bearing plants sprouted out of huge flowerbeds. The time taken to hoist up the soil necessary for this undertaking had been almost as arduous as the construction of the tower itself. Waterfalls of the pumped water cascaded down the sides of these idyllic gardens. The apartments of the nobilities were also housed at this height with easy access to the luxurious environments and sweeping, never before seen views.
The upper levels of the tower featured skeletal, unfinished architecture were purpose overtook aesthetics as few wished to live in the harsh climes. The workers, with little other choice, huddled in squalid, temporary housing with tarpaulins hung over the entryways as feeble protection against the screaming winds.
In order to bring new building material to the topmost levels of the tower heavyset men had been tasked with tugging away at pulley systems. Sweat dripped off of their exposed backs and soaking into their shalwars as they heaved on the ropes. The tower would boast of the uniqueness of the system of shafts at every level that allowed platforms of food, goods and building materials to be hoisted to where they were needed. Every level was manned with a station and wooden platforms that had to constantly be unloaded and loaded onto the next one to keep them moving up. The entire process meant the materials could reach the top of the tower within a day, though sometimes more. It was an incredible feat that was much faster than the carts that wound their way up the tower edges cautiously.
A meeting was gathering on the tallest point of the tower. At this height the floor was barely as wide as a single house, a far cry from the densely populated cityscapes of the lower levels. A frost had gathered over the stonework of the oval floor. The edges blocked with half built walls and it was by these that the assemble dignitaries huddled, away from the cold, damp wind.
The tower sensed king Nimrod and his guard arriving on the roof were he greeted Nebuchadnezzar formally before allowing the priest to begin his sermon. The majority of the construction effort wouldn’t have been possible without the aid of Nimrod. The King had taken Nebuchadnezzar’s teachings to heart and had dedicated his entire nation’s resources to the effort. The cities he once ruled were now empty husks left behind to rot and erode as the people had embarked on a pilgrimage to the tower.
The tower had heard the people’s low opinions of Nimrod though. The whispers and mutterings echoed into the stone, each and every piece forming a part of the tower’s body such that its walls heard everything. It had been surprised though gratified to learn that though it had no name the inhabitants had taken to speaking of their home, the tower, reverently, knowing it simply as The Tower.
Amongst the gossip rumours abounded about Nimrod. Some concerned his ‘crown’, a piece of head jewellery he had created to symbolise his kingship. The people spoke of the crown as a sign of sacrilege, that in creating this symbol of his status the King had sought to transform himself into an idol. The more brazen detractors said that Nimrod’s intentions were entirely other to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. They claimed that he sought not to join God in the Heavens, but to usurp Him. It was said that Nimrod wanted to steal the secrets of the Heavens and turn them on the Almighty. The tower new nothing of Nimrod’s intentions, the king had never spoken quietly on his own to the walls elucidating his plans, though like Nebuchadnezzar’s sermons the tower had little care beyond its own construction and the continuing of the lives of its inhabitants who worked rather like the internal blood flow of its body.
Nebuchadnezzar was speaking with great zeal at the meeting. Talking of how soon their dream would be accomplished and the joy that would be bathing in God’s gaze. The priests white dalmatic billowed out in the wind. His face was weathered from his habit of residing high in the tower anxious as he was to see its completion. He had been a young man at its inception and the tower had been sad to see him grow old rather like the aging of a beloved dog.
The gathering was one of repeat, monthly meetings that essentially formed the governance of the tower’s residents. Nebuchadnezzar would begin as he had done with a sermon or speech, though his words fell on deaf ears as the gathered men stared blindly at him, focused on surviving the cold clime. Soon it would be time for the assembled men, chiefs of workforces and architects as well as union leaders and political figures, to discuss the progress and problems of tower life. King Nimrod, surrounded by his four guardsman, idly stroked his trimmed facial hair as watched on. His crown, made of twisted silver threads and inlaid with a few precious gems, seated neatly over his brow, nestled in brown curls of hair.
A bright light interrupted Nebuchadnezzar as a gap in the clouds unleashed the full majesty of the sun into their eyes. Murmurs and gasps abounded as the gathered men blinked in the intense light. The men rose to their feet as black spots danced across their vision. The blindness gradually receded until sore eyes could see once more. At the same time a low ominous chanting breathed through the gathering and the tower felt its tip tremble in unexplainable fear.
Nebuchadnezzar’s voice broke through the confusion of the men. “Have we succeeded? Are we to be taken to the Almighty?!” He cried out with wild euphoria. Nebuchadnezzar had fallen to his knees with his arms cast wide. No one responded to the priest, the rest of the gathering having huddled closer to the centre of the open space with shock and awe etched across their faces.
Seven figures stood atop the half constructed walls surrounding the gathering. They held the stature of men but were covered from head to toe in voluminous white robes that obscured any other human feature they may have had. The tower could not feel their feet upon its stones.
The robes were trimmed with elaborate gold embroidery and ethereal wings sprouted from their backs.
The unintelligible chanting continued and it grew, as if the words were wrapping themselves around the men steadily getting louder. There was no doubt now that it came from these figures that could only be described as angels.
“Quick, seize that one!” Shouted King Nimrod to his guards. One of them stuttered briefly before flinging himself onto the stone floor prostrated before the angels. The other three wavered, but another shout from Nimrod spurred them forward.
“What ist tu doing!?” Exclaimed Nebuchadnezzar turning his head up from his prostrated position as he saw the men advance. His words were obscured by the chanting.
“Raphèl maí amèche zabí almi,” responded Nimrod a mad glint in his eye.
The three guards drew closer to the nearest angel and fanned out around it. The robed figure turned and raised a covered arm towards them. The guards collapsed before it. Completely still. Dead. A glance at the prone bodies by Nimrod revealed white eyes as though the eyeballs had revolved back inside their skulls. Nimrod, horrified, backed up against a wall, desperately glancing from side to side to find a way to the stairs that would not bring him near an angel.
“Ce qui est arrivé à eux?”
“Somos nós que estamos sendo punidos?”
“Ich gebe Ihnen meine Seele mein Lord,”
The men squealed and moaned their devotions and their cries of horror. Scared at what might become of them also. But when their strange words gargled out of their throats they panicked all the more and clung to one another hoping for salvation.
“Что случалось к моему голосу?”
The tower felt a force press against its central pillar like a tap to the spine it sent a shiver throughout the stone building. A red hot burst of heat exploded in the tower’s innards and it felt its stones begin to crumbled and tear apart.
The chanting continued uninterrupted as the tower was taken by a great trembling, those men standing tumbled to the floor and rolled to the edges of the tower shouting and clawing to get away from the angels. The walls began to crumble from the strain and the bricks against which Nimrod pressed himself fell into the sky, swiftly followed by Nimrod himself flailing wildly. His crown tipped from his head and began a rapid descent to the ground.
A deep, rumbling roar issued up from the lower regions of the tower as huge volumes of air sought escape from the crushing rubble. It rolled through the trembling rocks and reverberated through the human’s bones. The chanting ceased and the angels disappeared. In the same instant the floor gave way, opening up to reveal a void with screaming, broken bodies and crushing debris. Down Nebuchadnezzar fell along with the rest of the men into the monstrous ruins of the tower.