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After Babel

by Rudi Dornemann

After the Confusion and the Scattering, Gether son of Aram remained a farmer in the plains of Shinar in spite of the hardships:

* First, there was always having to mime everything because, no matter how loudly you shouted, no one understood anything you said.

* Then, there was the soil. The earth had been stripped to bedrock to make bricks for the tower, so Gether and his sons plowed narrow bands of silt either side of the river.

* Now that Nimrod had scarpered off to found other cities, there was no royal treasury to disburse subsidies to those farming in the tower's shadow.

* Also, when Nimrod had been around, mighty hunter he was, lions had been scarce. Now it was Gether's goats who were scarce.

* Finally (and this annoyed Gether so much that he tugged the curl right out of his beard) the tower was full of noisy ghosts who chattered all the time in that language that had once seemed as natural to Gether as thought, but was now as unintelligible as the hooting of baboons -- and far more depressing. What with the lions, however, the tower was the only place to live.

Gether called his sons together, and they debated over cups of weak wine. The more they drank, the harder it was to interpret each others' miming. He tried to convince them that it was time to round up the last couple goats and move to Ninevah, and they finally seemed to get it. They packed up their belongings at met Gether at dawn.

To his chagrin, they didn't follow him out, but began climbing the vast spiral stair that led around the outside of the tower. He hurried after them through the overgrown remnants of the hanging gardens. His sons' gestures made no more sense than their words.

They climbed. As they approached the summit, he readied himself for a smiting from above. When his sons picked up discarded tools, he seized his beard with both hands in panic.

One son whacked bricks loose from the topmost wall; the other shoveled them over the edge. Still no smiting, and the too-near sun seemed to beat a little less harshly on Gether's head.

One of his sons said something nearly intelligible, and Gether picked up a pry-bar to help with the deconstruction.

After that, the ghosts made a little more sense every day.

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