Up over the hills, overlooking the city, it’s been sitting there for a long time. It’s waiting, but I might just be imagining things.
The doors have been sealed for ages. “Only the most intelligent and erudite may enter,” is what the sign says, in bold serif, etched into the white stone. Whatever those standards are, no one has met them.
Einstein visited in 1951. He was invited by the mayor, it was a big publicity thing. Politicians from San Francisco and Sacramento even deigned to visit. The press and the crowd turned out as well, snapping pictures and gum.
From way back in the crowd, it just looked like a quiet ceremony taking too long. Then it was the scandalous newsworthy event: Al wasn’t getting let in.
That was the last time I know of that someone tried to enter the tower. The renowned poets Kaliska and Mark Twain gave it a shot, as well as two presidents (although only one of them was President at the time).
Before those recent historical events, the story goes that it was inhabited by a group of elders. This was before the American gold vampires and probably even the Spanish Inquisition. They built it, or conjured it, it’s not clear. My guess: elemental construction, but it’s hard to tell from the stone work.
They had a sort of club and secret society, the sort that might have lead to a university in those days. They never went that far. Instead, they created their own secret language to hide their arcane secrets within. And knowing these, being familiar with prime metaphysical concepts, was so critical that it was a requirement for membership. They built the tower to keep their club secrets protected.
They grew so secretive that they stopped sharing their knowledge, not even summary excerpts. These would be hints that could reveal too much. They certainly had supplicants, many who would attempt to perform various feats of philosophical gymnastics and tests of logical endurance to impress the elders, but they stuck to their rules.
They said, “You need to work harder than that.”
“Pity what they teach children these days.”
“A useful exercise, if you have a distracted mind.”
“Perhaps, you simply don’t want to be here as much as you think you do?”
They would say to each other with chuckling that scurried across the floor. When the supplicants stopped coming, they were overjoyed.
Their parties were extravagant and exclusive.
You have to understand that their style and allure was so great that no one could really fault them. I mean, if we were among their number, we certainly wouldn’t have let in riff-raff, either; no matter how much more forgiving we like to think of ourselves. They could speak with stars. They learned the secrets comets carry with them into oblivion.
But that didn’t stop us from wanting to be let in, even after the supplicant process stopped altogether.
Eventually, they started to die off. A few left to retire in Australia before then, but the finite membership growing closer and closer to an empty room withered and wheezed. They were brilliant people, make no mistake, and they knew their days were numbered. They just didn’t believe it.
They would say, “We could build a device that will make us young.”
“Perhaps, we can seek out worthy young academic minds, instead of waiting for the perfect supplicant.”
“Let us consider opening the doors to all who are curious.”
They said to each other with grumbling about the difficulty, the danger, and most importantly, the weather.
Eventually they decided more rules would protect them. They passed laws that forbade death. They banned chemical (and later atomic) dissolution of any member, living or deceased. This did put a few members in quite an awkward spot, particularly the ones who had been dead a while. They felt they had a good rot going and weren’t inclined to stop.
The elders condemned to life started to wonder how they could get promoted. They began making rules to try and trip up the others. Rules banning blinking on particular seconds during the day; a rule that prohibited snoring, that was repealed and then replaced by one that required it; and of course the rule making exploiting the rules punishable by exile. When none of this insanity did the job of improving the organization, they just began to murder each other.
In the end, even the deceased in the cemetery got over the slight against their persons. Once no one was left alive, they took a vote to repeal the recent rulings. The newly dead, who joined them one by one, were inclined to agree, particularly seeing how the rules did nothing to actually stop the natural process of decay. Death was a great equalizer, and they congratulated each other on keeping the secrets of the universe safe.
This leaves us with an empty tower, sealed off by standards so high that no one will be able to live up to them.