Tower of Babylon (Chiang)

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Tower of Babylon
Summary of the Short Story
Microsummary: Workers, including miners and bricklayers, endeavored to build a tower that reached the heavens, however, upon their arrival, they discovered that heaven and earth were the same.

In ancient times, men lived across all the corners of the earth and gazed at the sky with curiosity for what lay beyond. They decided to build a tower from the plains of Shinar, all the way to heaven - a stair that would allow men to ascend to see the works of God.

The tower's base resembled the first two platforms of an ordinary ziggurat. There stood a giant square platform some two hundred cubits on a side and forty cubits high.

In this grand endeavor, men and raw material were deployed. Many men moved bricks up the towering structure, and others, like a group of miners from Elam and quarry stone workers from Egypt, were needed to dig through the vault of heaven.

Hillalum — miner from Elam and the narrator; hardworking, thoughtful, and inquisitive.
Nanni — another miner from Elam, and Hillalum's friend; supportive and curious.
Beli — the foreman of the Elamite miners; authoritative and sensible.

'We are the miners summoned from the land of Elam.' 'You are the ones who are to dig through the vault of heaven?'.

The work progressed with significant labor and resource involvement until they came close enough to see the vault of heaven. Fear and confusion beset many of them. Many experienced a disorientation at the sight of the vault. The perceived gravitational direction seemed to fluctuate randomly. These conditions made the men question the wisdom of their endeavor.

Eventually, there was a catastrophic mishap. While doing the tunneling work, they hit a reservoir in the vault, triggering a huge gush of water. Hillalum, a miner, was swept away by the water and he found himself miraculously back on earth. Having nearly lost his life, Hillalum came to see the folly of the quest they had embarked on. After recovering, he returned to Babylon with a new understanding - the world was ingeniously constructed and by its very construction, the work of God was both indicated and concealed. Thus, men came to realize their place in the world.