Tower of Babel
Author: Isaac Woulms

Chapter 9
Ch.9

After searching the main floor, Ben found a staircase to the next level’s narrow hallway that had no black line or graphs. As he made his way to a turn, Ben saw another corridor stretching to the other side of the Tower that led to another corner, creating a lengthy hall covering the perimeter of the Tower. Along the first hall he traveled was a few doors that had no nameplates. Along the main passage, past the first turn, Ben came across an archway that held two large doors that seemed out of place.

The door’s hinges were brass and the rest a dark rosewood finish. Carved flowers were at the bottom rail that vined their way around the panels to the top railing.

Should I knock?

Ben put his hand against the right door and felt a tingling feeling at the center of his palm.

Weird.

He gave a small shove and the door drifted open. The size of the room’s interior was a sign of an Ascending member’s ownership, along with the two story tall ceiling, but the floor was coated with dust. Potted plants hung from the ceiling, withered to a black, lifeless state. While observing the tapestry, Ben almost tripped over a deceased garden that had a brick perimeter jutting out of the ground. More than half  the floor was covered in beds of all types of flowers, all dead. Even the vines wrapped around the support pillars decayed. Floor to ceiling stain glass windows, along the left wall, depicting desert landscapes, allowed the sun’s rays to illuminate this bleak dwelling.

By his right, near the entrance, was a dried waterfall that used to provide water to the gardens in the room through tiny pathways ebbed into the tiles. Ben could only imagine how this room must have been when the fauna was alive.

Ben walked towards the back of the room and noticed a second level that was a large L-shaped shelf. He could see a bed on the short end, a kitchen at the corner, and on the right, an enclosed room that he assumed to be the bathroom. A thick wall of vines hung over the ledge of the shelf acting as a unique set of stairs.

A lone door stood in the right corner of the room past a finely detailed statue.

That must be the exit.

“Leaving so soon?” The statue asked as it turned and faced him.

Ben realized it was a young man standing near. He wore a white robe with green lines around the cuffs and a line down the robe’s lips. There was a bulky necklace around his neck with a glowing pink line at its center. Nothing out of the ordinary with the stranger's body but above his head hovered a half circle, extending six feet, made of a multitude of stones.

The young man walked slowly towards him as the stones followed with a half-second delay. He stood in front of Ben but faced slightly off to the right. Both his eyes were cataract. “Are you in the wrong place? Or did you intend on getting lost?” His face is dust covered and worn.

“Are you the Ascending member who owns this room?”

“Nebuchadnezzar is the handle I have chosen. Tell me, what is yours?”

He put his hand out and said, “Call me Ben.” At first, he felt dumb for offering his hand, but before he put it down, Nebuchadnezzar awkwardly reached out and shook it.

“You're much too trustworthy.” One of the large pots from above fell to the ground just to Ben’s right. When it crashed to the floor, the ceramic pot shattered and the hardened clump of soil barley lost its shape from the impact. “It doesn't take a genius to figure out what would happen if I made it fall on you. Why, you didn't even realize I was using my powers, did you? Given you cannot see my pupils, but let alone feel the waves move around you.”

Nebuchadnezzar was only half-right. The tingling sensation Benjamin felt when he touched the door came over him while he introduced himself to Neb.

Ben took a few steps back and braced himself for an attack.

“A second surprise attack so soon would do me no good. A comedian does not tell the listener they will laugh before a joke,” Neb said. “What are you doing here, Ben?”

“I'm here to save Lilly from this place.”

Nebuchadnezzar walked over to a dead bouquet of flowers and knelt down to touch them. “Save Lilly? Mistress Lilith? She is capable of leaving at any time, granted she is very important to the Ascending.”

“Why do they need her to stay in the tower?”

“There is something going on up top.” Neb stood and looked at the ground momentarily. His brow dropped and his head shook. “I would know if I had not fallen.”

Is this another trick? Ben thought.

“No, no trick. The collar I wear is my badge of shame. You don't know what it does, do you? Of course not. It's called a telekinetic chain. I am unable to take it off, and the material is too strong to break. The chain heavily reduces my telekinetic gift, and as a reminder, this specific chain is engineered to force what little power I have left to manipulate the rocks that hover above my head, my crown. A crown fit for a fallen king.”

“So you did something wrong?”

“Is it wrong to try and follow your dreams? Two years ago, I tried to rule this tower. Bring the others to see my view of how things should be. Even my eyesight was taken from me.”

“So there's a judicial system in this tower?”

Neb pointed his palm at Ben.

Ben jumped back and put his hands up in front of him. Nothing happened the following second and Neb started laughing.

“There are beings in the upper levels that are nothing short of nightmares incarnate. A community of people stronger than I ever was, or will be. The world has no idea we are here, hence no one will come and save you if you fall. Are you sure you are ready for what this tower holds?”

Ben weighed the opposition. “I'm not sure if I'm ready but I'm sure I'm ready to try.”

“Very well.” Without movement from Neb, the center rock in his crown launched forward. The rock was the size of a basketball, and picking up speed. Ben focused his powers and tried pushing it back, but there was no time. He caught it with his stomach and fell on his back. The rock then hovered motionless over Ben.

“That's not good.”

Ben rolled to the side in time for the rock to punch a hole in the ground. He got to his feet in a dead sprint. One by one, the rocks from Neb's crown shot after Ben. The stones slammed into the ground behind their target, inching closer with every miss. Each violent impact sent pieces of dirt and garden into the air. As the crown grew smaller, Ben curved his path back towards Neb.

All it’s going to take is a direct hit and game over.

With his distance closing in, a rock brushed against Ben’s shoulder, and he jumped over the next. The crown’s final piece left Neb and hurled towards Ben’s chest. Ben forced his energy to exert from both palms as the rock slowed its velocity, yet the force of impact was still strong enough to send Ben tumbling on his back.

“My turn,” Ben said, as he got to his feet.

He ran up and swung forward, but punched a wall of earth that came to Neb’s aide as the crown rejoined its master. Ben reeled back and shook the pain off his knuckles.

“If you would have put some of your power into your fists, then you might have forced your way through.”

Ben’s teeth clenched. Put my power into my fists?

“Now, let’s begin again,” Neb said, as the rocks repositioned above his head. He lifted his right hand out in front of him, and the center rock flew towards Ben.

“Not again.” Ben forced a bigger wave of energy from his palms. Neb took a few steps back to steady himself and the crown above his head wavered. The stone’s speed slowed, but Ben could not deter its path. The impact made stars twinkle in his vision and his peripheral blackened.

My first real battle, Ben paused in thought for a deep breath, not going as smooth as I had hoped.

“Would you like a break? Or maybe a nap?”

Ben felt it this time. He jumped back before a falling pot shattered on the floor at his feet.

“You’re going to have to find a new trick. That one got old the first time,” Ben said.

Neb’s face turned grim. “What a lucky nuisance you are.” Neb put both hands out then drew back his right arm. As he moved in a fluid motion, his right arm leaving his side, a rock from the crown moved in a small arch towards Ben following the motion he made with his hands. Neb then took his left hand and waved it over his head before throwing it out in front of him, and with that, another rock from his crown followed the same pattern of motion before launching itself at Ben.

Here goes nothing, Ben thought. He prepared for the flying rocks by focusing his powers in his hands.

Ben reached out to grab the first projectile, yet the trajectory remained the same and bounced off his shoulder. “Ah!” Then the second rock hit Ben at the waist and made him fall to one knee.

Neb began to laugh, his stance resembling a martial artist. “Be glad that I am your executioner.” Neb did a quick sweep with his foot, and then pushed both his hands out. Ben glanced above his head and saw another pot falling to greet him. Two more rocks from the crown were also on their way to assist the pot in crushing Ben’s skull.

There’s not enough time to move.

In desperation, he swung wide at the pot above; his powers focused at his palms, and met the pot in midair. The pot never touched his hand but repelled by the power within, as he brought it down and eclipsed the flying rocks.

“You?” Neb's movements became less fluid and more aggressive. He flailed his arms out sending more rocks after Ben.

Now I see.

Ben ran towards Neb and focused his powers on both his hands. Each time a rock neared, he swung at it with his palm and adjusted its flight path out of his way. The rapid succession of rocks flying towards Ben almost overwhelmed him. Small sparks of adrenaline tingled inside of Ben's head. Each rock held the capability of knocking him out at the speed they flew.

“Die,” Neb yelled.

The closer Ben got, the closer the rocks came to hitting him. He was almost within arm’s reach. The last rock avoided Ben’s left cheek by an inch.

Ben combined the power from his left hand into his right, and made a fist. Now standing in front of his enemy, he planted his punch directly into Neb's face. The impact made a pop sound and blood shot from both of Neb's nostrils. His head jerked back and Neb fell flat on his back and twitched a little, his mind shell-shocked.

Ben caught his breath from all the excitement and pumped his right fist in there air. “Sorry I hit you so hard, but I think we all know who won this one.” Ben knelled down. “You okay?” He nudged Neb's shoulder with his knee.

After a few seconds, Neb coughed and gasped. “I have truly fallen.” Silence followed and then Neb said, “So you really think you can find the mistress?”

“I have to. I've already gone this far.”

Neb laughed in a desperate way. “That does make sense. My time here is nigh. I have the lowest room in the tower, I am only kept around as a joke, and here I am defeated by someone as inexperienced as you. I still have one last trick up my sleeve.”

“Wait-”

Neb reached up and cupped his hands around Ben's ears. At first, Ben jerked away, but he felt something sedative about Neb's touch. A new flow, emptying Neb’s reservoir, syphoned into the river of energy in Ben’s mind to his heart.

The pain he felt from his battle disappeared. His senses peeked. The flow of energy he felt from within coursed through his body.

Neb’s hands fell and the telekinetic chain around his neck lost its glow. “What are you?” Neb said as an ill grin left his face.

Ben stood and looked himself over. He felt like a new person. In the background, he saw Neb reach out for something. A faint shiver of telekinetic energy, the last bit he had left, tugged at a pot hanging above him.

“I have fallen.”

“Stop-”

The pot fell and buried Neb’s head underneath its ruin.

Ben’s chest tightened and his stomach flipped. Stomach acid spackled against the back of his throat and he leaned over. After he spat out the last bit of bile, Ben averted his eyes at the sight of his former enemy. “You didn’t have to die.” There was more than sorrow in his voice. A small pustule of anger burst at the selfish act of suicide.

It did not appeal to Ben if he were to simply walk away so he gave Neb a moment of silence and turned toward the door in the corner of the room. “Nowhere to go now but up.”

 

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