Archive | January, 2017

THE TOWER MAN

14 Jan

He built the tower tall and strong, an edifice so mighty his enemies quailed at the very thought of walking in its shadow.

He was the lord of all he surveyed, which said a great deal, for he surveyed much of the known world and even some beyond its borders, but it was derelict and filled with nothing much. His wealth was mythical and formed the basis of many tales told in hostelries by sage old men and toothless gaffers. It was even rumoured that he had a deep well inside his edifice, and that a team of dwarfs delved deep within it, heaving unimaginable wealth to the surface hour after hour and piling it high within its ramparts.

The tales became unbelievable, but he did little to dissuade people from telling them. They added, he thought, to his own kudos. The very nonsense words surrounded him with an atmosphere of almost tangible wealth: his breath, it seemed to him, was made of the gems themselves. And when he rode out on horseback men crawled on their bellies before him and failed to notice that his horse was a half-dead nag,

He was always scornful. It seemed to him that lesser men should always be treated with huge doses of scorn, and as all men considered themselves to be lesser men as they grovelled in front of his perceived grandeur, then all men received the scornful treatment. It pleased him and kept them in their place.

There is one thing that happens every time a man with apparent and rumoured incredible wealth becomes established in the world, and that is he attracts the unsavoury and the vile. He becomes an object of jealousy because there are always some willing to sacrifice all, even their lives, in an effort to get a slice of his fortune. They gather in murky dens and whisper foul expletives at one another, their trousers hanging obscenely from their bodies and their caps greasy beyond belief. Their teeth are invariably blackened by tobacco and disease and their breath has about it a foul stench.

Of all the creatures spawned under the blue skies of a fair planet, it might be said that they are the people who really need wealth, or they will die of the foulness and sores that covers their bodies. And those who dwelt within this land were no exception.

As tales of the wealth of he who built the tower spread far and wide it reached the ears of this certain type of man, and as if drawn by an invisible magnet they descended onto his doorstep and began talking to one another, foul words rumbling between them until he inside the edifice heard them. So he went to the front door, fortified as it was by huge steel bars and great iron bolts, and swung it open.

What have we here?” he asked when he saw the unsavoury gathering.

They looked at him and took a step back.

We have called to see your master,” said one of them, believing the man who had opened the door to be a lowly servant, for his cloth was cut after a cheap style and his skin was soiled.

I have no Master,” the man replied, a gleam in eyes that were said to be made of gemstones. “I live within this tower that I built, and I live on my own. What may I do for you good gentlemen?”

You?” sneered the man who had spoken for the other. “You own this great place? You and whose army, that’s what I would like to know! But we will find out, won’t we, fellow brigands?” he roared to the motley gang standing behind him.

Aye, we will!” they shouted back.

And they pushed past him in a crowd of stinking, reprehensible tatty men, and swarmed over the inside of the castle. They went up flight of stairs after flight of stairs, and looked hither and thither, but never found so much as one gemstone.

In the end they returned to the main entrance where he who had built the castle was still waiting patiently.

They say you are the lord of all you survey,” snapped the leader of the gang of ruffians. “They say you have unbelievable wealth! They say you have tunnels delved deep into the world, and have mined huge mountains of wondrous gemstones! Where are they, fellow?”

They say those things, do they?” smiled the master of the edifice. “Well, they may be wrong, don’t you think? You have seen my wealth, my friends. You have seen the very substance of all that I own, and must judge for yourselves.”

There is nothing here,” admitted the leader of the gang, “but the tales are so convincing you must have cast a spell that hides your wealth! Yes, that’s what it is! You have used magic and have hidden your piles of jewels and gold and silver and rare coin! You have tried to deceive us with your foul magic, but we are not so easily fooled!”

I have what you see and no more,” sighed the master of the tower.

You lie and cheat!” roared the leader of the ruffians. “Come men, we will string him up and then maybe his magic will become as nothing and we will see what is truly there!” he urged.

And being easily led the gang grabbed hold of the tatty owner of the edifice, and took him to a nearby tree, and placed a rope around his neck, and hanged him. His face went many shades of different colours, back and forth like dying faces might, and then, sadly, he died.

He died with his tongue hanging out and his eyes bulging. He died with his heart fluttering to an anguished standstill. He died, and his flesh started decomposing as the sun shone on it and rats gnawed at it.

Now for the riches, men!” shouted the gang leader, and he returned to the tower. The gang entered once more, and went up the stairs one by one until they reached the very top. Then they came back down again, staircase by staircase, until they reached the bottom.

There is nothing here,” they moaned.

There must be!” shouted the self-appointed leader. “For the folks around tell such tales of wealth and gemstones…”

But none say they have actually seen a single ounce of anything more precious than an apple core!” snapped another.

Then they left the tower, and stood and looked at it.

Like a huge obelisk with windows, it seemed to reach to the heavens themselves. But there was no decoration, no sign, nothing but plain stone, to suggest it was anything more than it seemed to be, a folly in a green land.

Bah!” shouted the men in unison and they all returned to their homes far and near.

And the tower stood there through the ages. Men came and went, then when time was running short the place was left deserted and slowly, like a clock ticking down to zero hour, the ancient stones weathered. Then came the time when all the men in all the lands had died and the world was an empty place.

Only then, and like a sentinel, an old crow came along and landed on the edifice in a particular place, and the whole thing creaked and cracked and in glorious slow motion it tumbled down.

And underneath the weathered rugged stone that fell away was a second tower wrought from the purest gold with gemstones twinkling from it.

And a bleached old skeleton, swinging from a dead tree, gazed blindly here and there in the twinkling light, nodding slowly with the nodding breeze, and more at home that ever.

© Peter Rogerson 16.04.08 Revised 14.01.17

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