by Aaron Grissom
There were two brothers who came into a time where it was due them to reap the Sum of what their lives were worth so that they may go into the world and make something of themselves. One brother lived in a high tower in a far away land and the other brother tended fields. The Assessor- who knows the worth of all things and gives to each accordingly- summoned the brothers to meet with him. When the Brother of the Tower heard this he said to himself “This is a good thing. For now I may go into the world and make a name for myself.” The Brother of the Fields thought “I have all that I need. What would I do with such a Sum? Let me see what the Assessor may say on this matter.”
When the Assessor had gathered the brothers to himself, he bestowed upon them both equal Sums of great worth. The Brother of the Tower took his Sum and left joyfully for there was already a city in the faraway land in which he lived that he intended to buy. The Brother of the Fields gazed upon the Sum of his Life and felt an overwhelming responsibility. He said to the Assessor “You know the worth of all things and give them accordingly. I would sit with you and learn how I should employ the Sum which you have given me.”
The Brother of the Tower went back unto his land and inquired about purchasing the city in which he lived and when he saw the price he realized he would still have a great sum left over. “Do you wish us to examine its foundations for you?” the chief architects of the city asked him before he made his purchase. “No,” he said. “For after buying this city, I would have wealth enough to hire an army of engineers if I should need them.” And he went forth and bought his city.
The Brother of the Fields spent many days with the Assessor learning his thoughts and learning his ways. For the Brother of the Fields realized that the Assessor’s thoughts were not his thoughts and the Assessor’s ways were not his ways. And there came a time when the Brother of the Fields made a decision as to what he would purchase. For the Assessor would only advise him on the value of things. The Brother of the Fields would have to make the purchase for himself.
And so at that time he said to the Assessor, “Since I have all that I need from the gardens and the fields, I would buy a field so that others can be as I- wanting for nothing.”
“You have gained for yourself what I had hoped for you,” the Assessor said to him. “Take your Sum and go in peace.”
But the Brother of the Fields continued. “To honor what you have given me, I would set aside some of the harvest of my field that I should feed the sheep and servants in your care so that you may be about your business.”
And the Assessor said to him “You will continue to prosper.”
And the Brother of the Fields was grateful and said to the Assessor “I have become as you. I have learned the worth of all things.”
The Brother of the Tower used his surplus to build upon and expand his city. And people came and lived in it and for a time the city prospered. And the engineers and architects came to the Brother of the Tower and said to him “We have come to speak to you of foundations and structures for they have not been examined and we must tend to them.”
But all of the Brother’s surplus had gone to expanding the glory and power of his domain and believing that any problem the architects would find would defeat that glory he said to them “All of my surplus is in my city. I have no money to pay you. Leave me.” And so the architects and engineers left him for the Brother would not even hear the list of items to be tended to.
At that time, the Brother of the Fields invited others to come and help tend the field and share in the harvest. And through thieves and blight and locusts, the Brother of the Fields tended wisely according to the Assessor’s instructions and gained a surplus.
The Brother of the Tower had lost his surplus to his city. The city had stopped growing and everything had been the same for some time and the Brother of the Tower said to himself, “I am bored. I wish to entertain myself. This is my city and those who live here live here for me. They shall entertain me.” And so the Brother of the Tower toyed with his servants and with the inhabitants of his city and those people- having the freedom to choose their master as all people do- chose to move away from the city and the city grew increasingly empty. The markets and shops closed and without taxes to maintain the paint and sheen on the beautiful buildings and houses, the city began to reflect its true state.
It was at that time that a Hole appeared in the midst of the city. The Brother of the Tower’s chief architects and engineers- who stayed out of concern for the city hoping they could make the Brother listen- came to the Brother and said “A Hole has appeared in the midst of the city. You did not examine the purchase that the Sum of your Life bought and now the flaws in the city’s foundations are so deep we fear that they cannot be repaired.” He despaired and again sent the engineers and architects away without wanting to know what needed to be fixed.
It was also at this time that representatives from the Assessor began to make calls upon the Brother’s city. They wished to express the Assessor’s desire to speak with him. But the Brother would not see them. He would not open the gates or respond to the messages they left for him. The Brother felt regret at his use of the Sum which the Assessor had given him and did not want the Assessor to know his folly.
To avoid the Assessor, the Brother of the Tower ceased venturing outside of his city. He spent more and more time behind increasingly cracked and crumbling walls. Inside the city, the Hole in the Midst of the City grew and pests and vermin made their way into the city. Then the infestations steadily grew to plagues which the Brother of the Tower could comfortably weather within his mansion. Gradually and surely, as the plagues became worse and the things from the hole in the midst of the city grew more terrifying, his self confinement within his city’s walls turned into self confinement inside his mansion and then finally self confinement inside a single room within that mansion; for All Things had now lost their worth to the Brother of the Tower.
Throughout the decline of his city, one servant remained in the mansion of the Brother of the Tower. The servant was a lazy and foolish man who said to himself, “I will surely die if I leave the walls of this city. Let me take up with the owner of this city so that I will not have to fend for myself outside of the city walls.” And as the servant spent more time letting the Brother of the Tower decide what was to be done with his life, the servant became weaker and weaker until the two were as one mind. What the Brother of the Tower spoke, so did the servant speak. What the Brother of the Tower did, so did the servant do.
And the Assessor continued to call upon the Brother of the Tower but the Brother would not see him. The servant would meet the Assessor’s messengers at the gates of the city and- though the city was empty- each time the messengers were sent back with the same message; “The owner of this city is an important and busy man. He does not have time to speak with your master now.” But it was not the servant who spoke but the Brother of the Tower speaking through him; for the Brother of the Tower wished to hide his state from the Assessor.
And so it was as the Brother of the Tower saw his fortunes dwindle and the worth of All Things go out of the world for him, he grew tired of his servant for he now found he lived with himself, for the servant had become him- a puppet which mimicked his actions and thoughts and through which he could speak and see. And the Brother of the Tower found this new situation unbearable for he had long since grown to find his own company detestable.
By this time, the horrors and the plagues emanating from the Pit in the Midst of the City had become a steady stream of loss and death and the Brother of the Tower could not venture outside of his mansion had he even desired to nor could he send his servant to the gate to answer the Assessor’s calls. So it was one day that the Brother of the Tower said to himself, “How will I regain the fortunes which have fled from me? The Sum of my Life had been a great quantity surpassing all value. What shall I have to replace It?” And he looked to his servant and thought “If my life was once worth so much, what is his worth? Were it even just a little, I could take that sum and be saved.”
And so it was one day when the servant brought food into his master’s room that the master slew the servant so that he may take the sum of that life and regain the worth of his own. But the Brother of the Tower despaired for there was not enough to the servant’s life to sustain him for even a meal.
It was at this time that all grew silent. The incessant buzzing of the locusts had stopped and the terrible wailing of the horrors of the Pit in the Midst of the City ceased. “What is this?” the Brother of the Tower asked himself. “I have stopped the plagues from the Hole in the midst of my city. I am free.” And as the Brother of the Tower made his way to the door of his mansion, he stopped for he saw the Shadow of something monstrous pass over the windows of the upper floors and come to rest outside of the door. The Brother of the Tower stared in wretchedness and fear at the door he had before so eagerly desired to exit. The Brother’s pause was met with three thunderous knocks that shook the mansion to its foundations. And the Brother of the Tower fled from his mansion by a different way without looking back for this was a Thing from the Pit in the Midst of the City which he could not face. The Brother of the Tower left the walls of his city and locked the gates behind him. The Thing He Could Not Face shook the gates violently but the gates held fast. And with heavy heart and little hope, the Brother of the Tower walked away. In his heart he told himself he must never look upon his city again for the things he had done there.
And the Brother of the Tower wandered through dry places for a time roaming far and wide for he had foolishly sacrificed the Sum of his Life on the altar of his selfish desires and he had no more place in the world. And he would sometimes come upon people who were much like he had been in his mansion in his city- possessing everything but knowing the worth of nothing- and growing to despise his own life, he would become to those people as his servant had been to him. He would adopt their mind and mimic their actions so that his thoughts were no longer his thoughts and his ways were no longer his ways for he longed to live through them the life he had once lived in his city. And in time he became hollow as his servant had been and they spoke his words for him and did their deeds through him. And the time he had spent in the dry places was just a blur to him for he had begun to lose his very sense of the world.
And so it was one day that the Brother of the Tower came upon a land of lush fields and vineyards. And being empty he ate of the produce of this land and it was like nothing he had experienced before. Its substance filled him deeply and truly and made him long for nothing. But being a strange food unlike that which he had been used to, he wretched it up on the ground and could not keep it. And so as the Brother of the Tower lay upon the ground in his own sickness, the Brother of the Fields came upon him and greeted him warmly. “My Brother,” the Brother of the Fields said to the Brother of the Tower. “It has been very long. You look unwell. Stay with me in my orchards and gardens that you may find your health again.”
And so the Brother of the Tower remained with the Brother of the Fields and partook in the food of that land. But the Brother of the Tower continued to grow sicker for his body would not take the food which the Brother of the Fields gave him and his spirit faltered. Then one day the Assessor called upon the Brother of the Fields as he regularly did so that he and the Brother of the Fields would talk. And in those times the Assessor would give the Brother of the Fields advice and guidance and the Brother of the Fields would pay the Assessor tribute out of gratitude for the Assessor’s time and wisdom. So it was when the Brother of the Tower heard that the Assessor was in the midst of the gardens he grew fearful and spoke to the Brother of the Fields saying “The Assessor comes. Do not tell him I am here nor mention my name for I would not have the Assessor know my state.” And the Brother of the Fields agreed that he should make no mention of his brother when he met with the Assessor.
And the Brother of the Fields met with the Assessor as they had always done and they spoke and he filled his heart with the Assessor’s advice. And after the Brother of the Fields had given the Assessor a gift of gratitude, he asked the Assessor “Under your guidance, the Sum of my Life has grown. It is more than I can keep to myself. And it is a Sum that you direct and that you hold in your banks and in your storehouses. May I receive an advance on your books to transfer some that worth to another?” And the Assessor, knowing the heart of the Brother of the Fields said to him “Tell your Brother that the Worth of each man’s life is his own. It is not a sum that can be transferred. It is something that only I can redeem. Your Brother will have to come to me for only the debtor himself can initiate the loan with me.” And when the Brother of the Fields heard this he was both sad and perplexed. For he had done as his Brother asked and never mentioned him to the Assessor.
So the Brother of the Fields went back to the Brother of the Tower and implored him to meet with the Assessor. And the Brother of the Tower felt betrayed by his Brother that the Assessor knew of his state saying to him “You have betrayed me to the Assessor and I asked you not to because I would not have him know what has become of me.” And the Brother of the Fields pitied the Brother of the Tower and said to him “I did not mention you to the Assessor. He divined your situation for himself. You must be the one to go to him and redeem the Sum of your Life that you may be put right again. In your heart do you not think that he has always known your Worth?” And the Brother of the Fields was right in that this was the reason the Assessor often called on the Brother of the Tower when that Brother would not see him. The Assessor knew that after a time of neglect only he could fix the foundations of the Brother’s city.
But the Brother of the Tower grew bitter and angry. Like the food of his Brother’s fields he could not hold the Assessor’s words. And the bitterness filled him and he died there in the field passing away into Nothingness.
The Assessor and the Brother of the Fields held a funeral for the Brother of the Tower. They were the only ones present. The Brother of the Fields had searched far and wide for anyone who had known his Brother to beseech them to come to the funeral. But he could find no one who had ever known his Brother. Nor anyone who had heard of him. Nor anyone who had heard of the city which he had purchased or where it had been. What his Brother had purchased with the Sum of his Life had come to Nothing. It was as if he had never existed.
And so the Assessor and the Brother of the Fields stood at the marker commemorating the Brother of the Tower- for there had been nothing to bury. And the Brother of the Fields asked the Assessor what had become of his Brother.
And the Assessor looked to the Brother of the Fields sorrowfully and said “He spent the Sum of his Life as it is the choice of all men to do. But he chose to spend that Sum without me. I was not there when he purchased his city. I was not there when the architects and engineers told him of its flaws and he would not heed them. I was not there when the Hole opened in the midst of the city and all manner of plague issued from it. I was not there when he did the thing that banished him from that place forever. And I was not there when he wandered the earth with no place in which to rest. For his eyes would not see and his ears would not hear and he would not look upon the Thing which overtook him for fear that it should overtake him. For I came to the gates of his city and he would not let me in. I could have told him of the city’s flaws. I could have told him whose council to heed. I could have fixed the Hole in the Midst of the City. I could have helped him find the strength to stay his hand from the final act which set him to roam to and fro with no home of his own in which to lay his head. And I could have redeemed the Sum of his Life so that all would be as it was in the beginning.”
Copyright © Aaron Grissom 2012