Voices called after him.

"Come back!"

"It's not safe!"

A man reached a hand out towards Martin. "You can still be one of us."

Martin felt his skin where the fishing line had torn it into flaps. The bleeding was slowing, but even the faintest breeze felt like fire. "Us?" he asked. "There is no plural for you. Not any more. There's only the Tower."

"What's wrong with the Tower?" the rawboned woman asked. "Progress, belonging, unity. Don't you think those are good things?"

"I have no arguments for you," replied Martin. He looking around. They'd somehow made it all the way back to where they'd started, to _ Square. The clothes he'd dropped, along with those of all the other joiners, were still there, lying in heaps in front of the cathedral. "I just know this is wrong."

"The Tower is perfect," said the man. "It can't be wrong. It can't make mistakes."

"Well, there you go," said Martin. "I want the freedom to make mistakes."

The man snorted. "You mean the freedom to destroy yourself."

"Maybe," Martin admitted. He craned his neck to look up at The Tower. Just since that morning it had grown. Now it was hundreds of feet high. He wondered what the city looked like from up there. Like a toy, he thought. Something to be played with. "I can't explain it," he said. "Not in words you'd understand." He found his clothes and put them back on. The fabric was sandpaper against the tears in his skin, but he still felt better.

A naked man rushed past him and practically dove into the gap that Martin that left. The rawboned woman handed him the needle and reel of fishing line. He started to sew himself in at a furious pace, as though terrified that the Tower would move on before he finished. Martin could hardly believe his eyes.


Jean didn't stop working for a second. "Martin."

"What do you think you're doing?"

"It's perfectly simple," said Jean. "I'd rather step on other people than be stepped on myself. Besides, it's only temporary." A glassy look crossed his face, then he was gone.

The buzzing started again, louder, deafening. Martin backed away. The Tower reached towards him like a man stooping to pick up a mouse.

"Participation is mandatory," said the Tower.

Martin bolted. He reached the far corner of the cathedral and slumped against the stone wall, panting. He could feel the Tower coming after him. The square shook with its every step.

"Why?" he shouted. He ran again. If he could only keep the cathedral between himself and The Tower, he had a chance.

"Everyone must do their part."

His heart sank. Even the many throated voice of the Tower could only recite cliches and platitudes. It couldn't think for itself. But a silver lining was possible. Maybe now that he was out of its line of sight it would forget him and go back to hunting Deniers. Go away, he prayed. Go away, go away, go away, go away.

A fist the size of a bus punched right through the nave of the cathedral. Stones and naked bodies sprayed down. He hunched forward and threw his arms over his head. Shards sliced into his skin. A naked man struck the ground in front of him with terrific force, bounced, rolled over, and lay still. Martin stared. The body was so twisted and broken he could barely recognize it as something that had once been a human being.

"You're either a part of me or the enemy," said the Tower.

The wall of the cathedral wobbled and collapsed like a drunk man trying to sit down. The shock knocked Martin to the ground. The ruins half-buried him, kicking up a cloud of dust. He held his breath and lay still.

The Tower hesitated for a seeming eternity, then rumbled into motion and stomped away. Slowly, checking each limb as he moved it, Martin clawed his way out of the rubble and crawled to the edge of the square, choking and spitting up stone dust and blood.

A finely polished pair of tasseled loafers was waiting for him.

"What's important to remember," said the loafers, "is that most cathedrals haven't been knocked down by the Tower."

The Chuck Taylors next to the loafers sniffed. "It was a waste of space anyways."

Martin blinked the blood out of his eyes. The smooth-haired man was looking down at him with an expression so cool you could have stored ice cream in it. The boldly dressed young woman, on the other hand, would have melted lead.

Martin started chuckling, then he retched, then he chuckled again. A hand attached to some sensible shoes helped him up. It was the older woman. Her eyes were as large as a hunted animal's. She made a show of brushing the dust off his clothes.

"This whole thing will still blow over, you'll see," she whispered to him. "Besides, there's nothing I can do."

Martin didn't say anything. He was waiting for what he knew was coming. Solid steps crossed the square behind him. They sounded like they came from work boots. They stopped in front of the ruined cathedral.

"Wow," said the work boots. "That's crazy."

He needed a drink. One of his favorite bars was only a few blocks away. He dragged himself toward it. The others followed. He knew why, of course, but he couldn't think that far ahead. Just one drink, he thought. Just one, and then do your worst.

The bar had been smashed flat. Bodies lay scattered in the ruins. Martin snapped. He grabbed the smooth-haired man. "Look! Look what your precious Tower did!"

The smooth-haired man pushed Martin away. "The Tower is the protector of the people."

Martin laughed hollowly. "Are you mad? It's killing them!"

The smooth-haired man crossed his arms. "Show me the evidence." Martin pointed at the bodies. The smooth-haired man scoffed. "That's just an anecdote. Anecdotes aren't evidence."

"Besides," said the young woman, "they must have done something to deserve it."

"That's right," nodded the smooth-haired man. "You can't prove that they didn't do something to deserve it."

The older woman tugged at Martin's sleeve. "They are plenty of other bars. Nothing's really changed." He whirled on her angrily. She bit her lip and looked down at her sensible shoes. "Maybe things have changed," she admitted. "But it's too late to do anything now. We just have to adapt and get used to it."

The working man with the heavy face whistled. He was staring at the bodies. "Wow," he said. "That's crazy."

Martin ran. Or at least he tried to run. The streets were so full of rubble that he could barely take two steps without having to climb over piles of shattered brick. By the third block he realized with a creeping sensation that something else was wrong. Where was everyone? Even the shops and restaurants that were still standing were dark and empty. Only an uncanny silence remained.

He reached a roundabout where several streets intersected. He could barely tell which was which anymore. They were equally destroyed, equally desolate. He hollered and yelled, but heard only echoes in response.

He made his way down to the river. He was moving more slowly now. Maybe he was weak from loss of blood. Maybe he was just emotionally exhausted. But when he reached the embankment and found his Greek chorus waiting for him, with the Tower behind them, so enormous that only a single leg could be seen beneath the clouds, he felt too tired to fight or flee.

Besides, what would have been the point?

This time he wasn't sewn into the outside of the Tower, but deep inside, in the darkness, with naked flesh pressed so tightly against him that he could only breathe in when someone else was breathing out. And they didn't just bind his arms and body and legs. This time they stitched his mouth shut. He took comfort in the fact that everyone else also had their mouths stitched shut, and some of them their eyes. But he could still hear. He made out voices a long way away. They were faint but recognizable.

"I don't consider myself a religious person," the young woman said with a note of satisfaction, "but the Tower is just divine."

"Yes," said the smooth-haired man. "Soon it will reach all the way to heaven."

"How soon?" asked the carefully dressed woman.

"Soon," he replied confidently. "There are only a few holdouts left. Then the Tower will be complete."

"Forever and ever?" asked the working man.

"Forever and ever," the smooth-haired man assured him.