There is a tower. Everyone has to climb it at some point. Some sooner than others. The reason for climbing varies. It is usually to receive answers to a question. Or it is simply to climb, because that is what people do. They climb.
The climb itself varies. One’s journey up the tower is completed once they are given the answer that suits them. I once heard of a man that walked in the front entrance, and upon being greeted by those that keep the tower and its grounds he asked them, “Will I find my answer in this tower?”
When they answered in the affirmative he turned and left. When he was later asked why he had left without even attempting the climb he answered, “The knowledge that there are answers is enough for me.”
There are ten floors to the tower. This is common knowledge among our people. It is believed that the more complex or thoughtful the question the higher one must travel for answers. I’ve heard of people that have been given satisfactory answers on the second or third floor.
I have even met one man who made it all the way to the top floor. He did not tell me what his question was, for this is considered improper, but he did tell me his answer was not to his liking. I have heard of those that have climbed to the eighth and ninth floors who have returned overjoyed with their discoveries, but none that have been satisfied with the tenth.
So it was, when my time to climb came, that I set out for the tenth floor of the tower. Through the entrance I found a desk. A man and a woman sat behind it, dressed in gorgeous robes of brown and red, fringed with jewels. Their arms folded over the fine wood of the desk.
“Will I find my answer here?” I asked.
“You will find your answer, and others, here,” the woman answered, a smile on her face.
The man, his face stern, said, “You will find more than you seek.”
I started up the stairs.
On the second floor I found myself in a round room the size of the tower itself. The stairs continued around the room towards the next floor, but I knew I had to stop on every level until my answer was found. An old man sat in a chair in the middle of the room. He was dressed like a farmer. The floor around him was littered with tools and machinery I had never seen before. His hands were covered in oil and grease as he poked at a fist size cog with a screwdriver.
“Do you have my answer?” I asked him.
He shook his head, “I have the answer others have sought, but not yours.”
“What answer did they seek?” I asked him.
“Is there purpose to our labors,” he stated, not looking at me as he continued to work.
“Is there?” I asked him.
“There is purpose to every action,” he said while picking up another gear and matching the two in his hands.
I nodded and returned to the stairs. I climbed to the next floor.
On the third floor I found a beautiful young woman, her robes almost transparent. I could not see the rest of the room, for the light was dim. Drapes of a deep red hung around a bed behind her. She reclined on a long, soft-looking couch. The curve of her breasts inviting questions to which I had not come seeking answers.
“Do you have my answer?” I asked.
“No,” she said, her voice light and frivolous, “But I have another. I know you will never find love of the kind they seek outside these walls.” Her eyes met mine, and I saw promises in those eyes.
I thanked her, and continued on my way.
In the fourth room was a large man. Opulent robes draped over his girth. He was standing at a table. On the table were scales and bags that clinked as he moved them. On the walls around us were tapestries and paintings. I suspected that each painting was worth more than all my worldly goods.
Before I could ask him he spoke, “I do not have your answer, but I know you will never amass worldly wealth.” He never took his eyes off his work. He opened a bag and moved the contents with a finger, his eyes glazed.
I nodded and left him to his chamber.
The fifth room was empty. Though it felt as if someone had just been there. It felt like a home that was still inhabited. There was a long table in the center of the room, chairs set beside it, with a cup resting at each seat. I felt that all who sat at this table had left at the sounds of my approach. I did not feel welcome in this place. It was not the home of a friend, but of a stranger.
The sixth felt empty. If anyone had lived here they were long dead. There were the remains of furniture scattered throughout the room. Piles of rotted wood and cloth. Cobwebs lined the walls and ceiling. I did not like the answer I knew that room intended to give.
In the seventh room was an old woman. Her gnarled hands clutched her chest as she struggled to breath. She sat in an overstuffed armchair, a small quilt on her lap. Around her were the remains of a long life. What appeared to be souvenirs of many travels, small pictures of what could only have been her children, and on a small table next to her I saw pile after pile of letters. Memory upon memory filled this room.
“Do you have my answer?” I asked.
She shook her head. She then coughed violently and pointed at me. She shook her head again. There was more gravity this time.
I nodded, accepting the answer, and resumed my climb.
In the eighth room I found a gate before the stairs, I decided this was to keep the small child from falling down the stairs. It sat in the middle of the room, alone but for the assortment of toys and playthings scattered around it. I did not ask it for my answer. The child ignored me and instead focused on sticking a small toy duck into its mouth.
On the ninth floor was a large, muscular man. His face criss-crossed with scars, his fists large and gnarled. He held a cudgel in one hand, both arms crossed in front of him, menacingly. Behind him was a large chest, old and dirty, the iron bands around the outside were rusted and crumbling. He did not let me ask for my answer.
“There is nothing for you here. Continue on your way.”
I did so.
On the final floor I found a small, nondescript man standing next to a small pedestal. Resting on the pedestal was a bowl. There was nothing else in the room. He gestured towards the bowl. I approached and peered in.
The surface of the liquid was smooth and reflective. All I saw was my own face. I looked at the man, confused.
“Is this my answer?” I asked.
“Is it?” he asked back.
I could feel the anger growing inside me, “Is this my answer?” I repeated again.
He looked me in the eye, “You tell me. It is your answer you seek, after all.”
I straightened, prepared to return home disappointed. That was when I saw the door behind the man. I pushed past him and he allowed me to pass.
As I began opening the door he spoke up, “You will not find one answer through that door,” I looked back at him, he had a smile on his face, “you will find them all.”
I walked through, into the light. As far as I could see were towers. White, black, brick and stone. Towers of steel and glass. Some sparkling with jewels, others solemn and dark. The door closed behind me. I heard the click of the lock, and I smiled.
Answers by James Jakins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.