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The Towers are on Strike

A writer, runner, reader, parent, and teacher, Daniel Ausema's fiction has appeared in many publications, including Strange Horizons, Diabolical Plots, and previously in Daily Science Fiction. His latest novel, The Silk Betrayal, is published by Guardbridge Books, and he is also the creator of the Spire City series. He lives in Colorado at the foot of the Rockies.

When the palace issued a decree to raze the old Weavers' District to make way for new buildings, the condemned houses rebelled. They held picket signs above their low roofs, and some even left their foundations to march against the decree.
It was an unfortunate situation for those who lived there, with houses moving and windows chanting slogans day and night. Even so, most people supported their buildings, and some even joined in the fight, for all the good it would do. The palace never noticed the residents nor heard their complaints.
People might be ignored, but the condemned houses were a more serious problem. Their actions couldn't be allowed. The palace wouldn't risk its own walls in that part of town, though. It tried to send the market in to clean up.
Few shops had any interest. Some smaller stalls made their way toward the houses. Instead of forcing the houses to remain calm, they set up shop on the condemned streets and sold bricks and mortar to the demonstrators, food to their humans. (And perhaps some bricks to the humans, as well, and if those goods became projectiles, what did the shops care?)
Angered, the palace sent for the churches. Cathedrals and the like had long given reliable support to the palace, yet for once the churches did nothing to shore up the palace walls. Most remained aloof. A few bent their spires low to bless the marchers. One small chapel even entered the streets, marching among the condemned.
Unacceptable. The palace cut off all money to the churches and turned to the city walls. Close in, they commanded, strangle the neighborhood. The time had come for this unrest to end. Arm the towers and let them shoot at the houses. What does it matter if some fall? They were destined to be destroyed, anyway.
Joy surged along the wall, angry joy at being given such a charge. What was a wall for, if not to crush, divide, destroy? It strained against its foundations, stretched toward the little buildings in their little streets. But the walls could not move on their own. They needed the towers to move them close to the fight, and the towers refused.
This was not their purpose. They called the walls back and argued against the palace. The towers had been raised to defend those streets, not crush them. They would not raise a single block of granite against their own houses.
Overthrow the towers, the palace told the walls. Take your rightful place around the palace and crush all else. But the towers held them back, and the walls could not break that hold.
At just that moment, an army of tents appeared outside the city. Perhaps by chance, perhaps summoned by the towers or the condemned buildings, no one later learned the truth. Unconstrained by foundations, unweighted by heavy bricks, the tents flowed right over the walls, tearing down their heights, ripping stone balustrades and armaments apart, teasing open the crenellations so that more tents could flow through into the city.
The towers they left, though, and the buildings within as well were largely unscathed. All they destroyed was the palace, tearing it down stone by stone in silent yet complete devastation. In its place, they lifted a new palace, one built of cloth and tent poles. Sturdy yet yielding and able to quickly change, whenever needed.
The pieces of the old palace found their way into the remaining city. At times, it is true, to shore up the angry walls. Far more often, they became part of the formerly condemned buildings, replacing the old bricks and making old foundations stronger once again.
The city thrived.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, March 26th, 2018

Author Comments

A writer friend had seen a sign saying "The Towers are on Strike" while traveling, when what was meant was "The towers are closed due to the worker strike" or something along those lines. After returning, he challenged a group of us to use those words as the title for something, and I took the words in this rather whimsical (--and-yet...) way and ran with it.

- Daniel Ausema
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