...The tower was indeed an enigma and a riddle all wrapped into one. Their strange descriptions of the place did little to forewarn me of what I was about to encounter. It was the size that impressed one the most. It was very large tower and stood thousands of meters high. It was made from a number of materials and was both, though it sounds strange, circular and square at the same time. But perhaps I am getting ahead of myself. I should first explain my solitary journey to its location which, as I’ve said, was on a mountain top deep within a forest. It was not simply an afternoon walk but, rather, took several days. They had warned me of this, however, so I was ready and supplied when the time came.
I had done some hiking in the past so I knew how to set up a tent, cook and start a fire. When I told them that I feared getting lost in the great forest, they assured me that the path to the tower was well worn. When I asked if others would be there, I was told that I would likely first meet the keeper of the tower. He would direct me to certain rooms which may or may not be peopled by others. I began to question my assumption that the “community” was really from this world in light of the simple fact that I had never heard of this place. A building this monumental and unique would not have gone unnoticed in the world from which I came. I had looked into the subject of architecture and I knew that this tower was a marvel of design. I would have heard of it. But some things had been kept secret...
Since time had become obliterated, I could not really tell when I had embarked on my journey to the tower. It was still summer but there was a slight change in the atmosphere and I could tell that autumn would soon come. I put my loaded backpack on my shoulders and began the journey through the compound and into the forest. It seemed rather absurd for some reason that on one side of the lake it was all open fields and, on the other, an immense forest that went on for how long I didn’t know. I know that I set up camp four times before I finally got to the tower and I must have walked at least 15 kilometers a day.
This was also out of jive with the world from which I had come. I knew that there were some woodlands outside the city but that forests this large were only to be found much further away. I had been led to believe that such nature existed only in the north of the country. Only now do I realize that I had been taken away from my world. Perhaps I was now in Europe, I guessed, given some of the gothic architecture of the tower. Although it took me a while to figure it out, I came to at least one conclusion. I had been drugged, moved and tricked.
These people also had access to airplanes and what they called “inter dimensional devices.” I had to admit to myself, even then as I walked through that endless forest, that I could no longer be sure of any fact or reality any longer. The matrix of the world had changed with the apocalypse and new codes, sciences, languages, arts, and philosophies were being developed. The tower was both very old and very new. It had been started ages ago but was still under construction. It held a mirror up to the past and one up to the future.
I now also questioned the cosmos. The idea that I was living on a planet that sat in an endless universe was no longer applicable or even useful to understand the reality I was now in. True, in the fantasy machines I could go to other planets, but how real is a journey that one takes in a box? As I was walking in that forest, I realized just how everything was now up for question. It was an invigorating yet frustrating feeling. I was now living in a world of riddles.
I met no souls along the way but I did see plenty of animals and some strange ones too. Indeed it had been awhile since I had seen any animal. I never ate meat in the compound and they didn’t keep any farm animals as far as I could tell. There were birds and insects but as for mammals, I saw only humans. Actually, come to think if it, there was a cat that hung around. A small thing that kept mostly to itself and would always run away when you called it. Its name was Zuska and nobody seemed to know from where it came. She had just sort of appeared.
In addition to its size, I was also puzzled by the character of this forest. True, it was like others in which I had been, but some aspects were decidedly different. There were fruit trees in parts of this forest I had remarked - this in addition to monstrous trees that seemed hundreds of years old. Though I could imagine such a forest in the world from which I came, there were certainly no forests like this in the vicinity of the city in which I had been living. But in those days I still thought in terms of distances. I didn’t at that time know that I had been drugged, moved and tricked.
When it became dark I set up camp. The tent I had was very compact but, once opened, it provided a comfortable space. The cooking was made easy by way of a box like device that heated up the already prepared food. I made sure to make a small fire each evening not only for the fun of it, but also to ward away any beasts of the night. It was a bit lonesome out there but I enjoyed the surroundings and didn’t mind being alone too much. I woke early each morning and packed up my tent, set my backpack on my shoulders, and continued the walk to this mythical tower.
Perhaps “hike” is a better description of my journey through this great forest for there were spots of difficult terrain. The forest was by no means homogeneous but rather startling in its diversity. There were hills and valleys and the path, at times, either ran along or crossed a river so I was always near to a source of clean drinking water. There was no evidence at all of pollution in this forest and it was simply brimming with life. It had been a number of years since I last hiked so it was refreshing to be once again in a natural setting.
I did not know how long my journey would last. By the third day I was assuming that I was close for the others had told me it was either a three or four day journey dependant on one’s speed. I did not feel however that I was approaching anything and this thought troubled me greatly. I wondered if they had been mistaken or if they had purposely led me astray as they had done on previous occasions. Unfortunately, there were no signs that told me how near I was coming to the tower or even that one existed in the distance before me.
I set up camp on the fourth night in a valley. By this time I was becoming frustrated for it had now become the limit of the time they said that it would take to reach my destination. It was too late to turn around - that I knew. I would have to follow the path to its conclusion. By the fifth day I was also out of food. I had been told at the compound that food would be available at the tower so I went forward in the assumption that I would make it. And luckily I did.
It was late in the fifth day that I came upon the first signs of human activity. There was now a small dwelling to the right of the path. I decided to venture forth and knock on the door.
“Yes,” said the old man who now stood before me. “What is it that you want?”
“I have come to explore the tower,” I said. “My friends told me about it.”
“Which friends are those?” he asked.
“The ones from the community by the lake.” I now realized that they hadn’t ever given me a name for their community.
“There are many lakes,” he replied. “And many communities beside them.”
“This one is down the path about five days. There is a geodesic dome there.” Only now do I realize how ridiculous these comments were.
“There are many paths and many domes,” he said. “Why have you come?”
“As I have said, to explore the tower.”
“Tower? Which tower is that?”
“The one I was told I would find at the end of this path.”
“But this is not the end of the path,” he retorted. “Like the others, it goes on and on.”
“Then further I too must go. It had been so long since I had seen anyone that, when I saw your small cottage, I thought I would stop in to see if you knew the whereabouts of this tower.”
“I have no idea as to a tower. There are some doors in the forest further up. Perhaps you should try them.”
“Doors?” I asked. “What do you mean by doors?”
“People use them,” he said.
“Use them?” I questioned.
“You know. To exit like.” I could see that he liked his riddles as much as the others.
“To exit? From where?”
“From wherever you are,” he said.
“Is that the way into the tower?”
“Tower? I know of no tower.”
Indeed he was telling the truth. What he didn’t know was that he was actually in the tower without knowing it. I was also now in the tower but, like this fellow, I knew it not and thus soon decided to go “further down the path.” I was not going to stand around and have an absurd conversation with this individual and, besides, he seemed to want to be on his way. Soon I was again alone and moving down the well trodden path. As the old man had said, I soon came upon a number of doors in a sort of meadow in the forest. They were arranged in a sort of semi circle. I thought of the Steppenwolf and Pablo’s magic theater.
The path now went no further and it was to a series of choices that I evidently had come.
I went closer and, after I turned around, I could see a tower built into the hillside - or shall I say that I saw some stone work that I assumed was part of the tower. It was sphere like and I could not see to its top. It was now obvious to me that I had been in the tower all along - or at least for a good part of my journey. I turned around and walked the hundred meters to its side - but there was no door to be seen amongst the bricks which disappeared into stone and then into the hill side. I was in but a part of the tower. But what part? Before me now were perhaps nine or ten doors. I returned to them.
I didn’t waste anytime and, following the logical course, I started with the door on one end of the semi circle. I planned to look behind each one of the doors before choosing which one to walk through. As I said, in those days things had become quite absurd so it didn’t really seem all that strange that this fairytale vision was unfurling itself before me. I felt like De Quincey in his opium dreams or like Alice falling down the rabbit hole. I had already met the Mad Hatter - two fellows who went by the names of Smithers and Deckland -and I had met other members of their cult as you shall see if you read on.
I went to the first door which was red and thick and heavy. When I opened this door all I saw was the forest on the other side of it. The same was true for the second, which was fitted with a stained glass window, and the third, which looked like a barn door. By the time I was towards the other half of the semi circle, I was going to give up altogether. It was then that I heard knocking coming from the green door at the far edge. I went over to this medieval looking door, which was even surrounded by old stone, and opened it. There now stood a man wearing a bowler hat in the doorway before me. He said;
“Bonjour, Nazdar, Dag, Hello?”
“Hello,” I said to indicate that it was English that I spoke.
“Hello,” he began with a slight accent in the most friendly of tones. “I thought you might need some help figuring this all out. My name is Winston and I am here to sort of guide you. This your first time in the tower?”
“Am I in a tower?” asked I with a skeptical tone. “All I see is a forest with a bunch of strange doors built in it.”
“And this is usual for someone like yourself? I guess you have been in these parts before then. We shall have to find you in the vaults. Shall we begin?”
“What are you talking about? Begin what? Explain to me what is going on if you are indeed a guide as you claim to be.”
“Where have you come from? Is perhaps the question I should be asking,” he said in a friendly tone.
“I have come on a five day journey from the lake. I have walked through the vast forest.”
“But where was your point of origin?”
For some reason I found this question difficult to answer and I hesitated for a second.
“I am from the planet earth” I said.
“Ah yes, earth. I’ve heard of that one before.”
Again with the riddles. “Who are you if I may ask?” said I.
“I am as I said - a guide. One of the keepers.”
“The keeper of the tower?”
“I am versed in such matters,” he said. “I could show you around. But you’ll have to tell me about yourself so we can consult the archives. We can’t put you where you don’t belong.”
“Archives? What do you mean by archives?”
“In the caverns under the tower. We can gain access by way of the tubes. Or we can use our feet but that would take much longer and it is so much more fun to slide than walk.”
“But how would we get back up to the top of the tower?”
“There is no top to the tower. Indeed, there isn’t even a tower.”
“Then what is that behind us?”
“Those stones and bricks? The relics of the ages. Left by the ancient ones.”
“But I’ve heard it referred to as a tower.”
“We are no more in a tower than on a planet. I prefer to call it a labyrinth but others have their own theories and ideas some of which are very interesting. The tower is one of them. Such people point to a book written in ages past about such a place. They say that the universe is a creation of science and nothing more.”
“I know nothing of that,” I said. “I was told that I should go to the tower and that I would meet the gate keeper.”
“Here we go again with the tower.”
“That’s what they told me.”
“They?” he said. “Who are these people that you keep talking about?”
“The people from the community at the..” I began but realized it was pointless. I knew no more of them than I did of this place.
“Community?” he questioned. “What community? You don’t mean a cult do you?”
“I don’t know what I mean,” I confessed.. “Perhaps you should tell me something about yourself.”
“Not too much to tell. I am in character now. Can’t you see?”
“I see that you are wearing a bowler hat. And I know your name is Winston.”
“And that is all you need to know.”
“Well then, where shall we go to now that we have met and acquainted ourselves with one another?”
“We should go to the archives as I was saying.”
“By the tubes?” I questioned. I found this reference rather bewildering I must admit.
“Yes, by the tubes. Through the door on your right.”
We walked over to the third door from the far end of the semi circle. Winston opened it and, sure enough, there was the opening of a tube on the other side. I could just make out that it went down for its opening filled the space of the doorway entirely.
“Feet first or head first?” I asked innocently. I still couldn’t believe this.
“As you wish. Either way your fall will be soft. Just follow me. We’ll have to make a couple of turns before we reach a bottom.”
“How will I be able to turn?”
“You’ll see. It’s really very easy. By the way, I need to know some information. In what century were you born?”
“The twentieth century.”
“By what calender?” he asked.
“By the Christian one, of course,” I said without provocation.
“There is no “of course” around here. You’ve figured that one out at least haven’t you?”
“Figured what out?”
“Figured out that this is all a puzzle. A puzzle that you will never solve.”
“Perhaps it’s better that way.”
“Yes, perhaps it is. So shall we go for a little ride? Stay close behind. I don’t want to lose you.”
After saying this he dove into the tube. Although I knew that all this was an absurd illusion - a dream perhaps - I followed closely behind for I did not want to lose him. I was in desperate need of a guide now that I had found myself in this strange place...