The Big Crumble

Once upon a time, in a faraway land; there lived an inventor by the name of Bob. He was quite wealthy, as inventors go, for early in his career he had invented several tools which could be used to attain alignment with the up dimension: including one that forever-after bore his name: the plumb-bob.

Bob lived in a tall tower, built using the proceeds from his inventions, and of course aligned perfectly upwards. This was a prosperous land, and towers had become popular once Bob’s tools hit the market, so from the roof of his tower Bob could see hundreds of others in all directions.

On the day of our story, Bob had climbed to that roof to test out his latest invention: a precision distance-measuring device. As a first test, he resolved to start measuring the distance to all of the towers he could see, while carefully tabulating the results. By the time his house-staff called him down for dinner he had accumulated a large number of measurements. He studied these figures while he ate, a puzzled frown beginning to form on his face: he was noticing a disturbing pattern in the data.

One of the things that Bob had thought to use the data for was to rate tower-building contractors by how straight their towers were. Since Bob’s tower was perfectly straight, any other straight tower would of course be parallel to Bob’s own, so he had taken multiple readings on each tower to check that. While his device might not detect a faint lean to the left or the right of his line of sight, even the faintest tilt in that line would show up. And all the towers he had measured were indeed leaning: away from his.

This was extremely puzzling. Bob could well imagine that all the building contractors were sloppy about aligning their towers: he’d had to keep a close watch on the ones who built his tower to make sure it was done right. He could even believe that most of the builders buying his alignment tools did not understand how to use them properly. But…if that was the case, he would expect to see towers leaning randomly: some towards him, some away. Instead they all leaned away.

As the evening progressed, another pattern became apparent: the tilts he had measured were proportional to the distance: the further away the tower, the more it leaned away from his.

Bob could not sleep, and kept trying to make sense of his data as the night wore on. He double-checked his measuring device, but it was working perfectly. He entertained the thought of a giant conspiracy involving every contractor, but that was too absurd to believe: what would be the point? And surely the owners would not be willing to go along with it.

The only theory that Bob could come up with that explained the facts was one that pointed to a great disaster: the disk of the flat world was crumbling away. All the towers had been built level (or at least fairly so), but shortly before Bob began to take his measurements all the land, excepting Bob’s plot, had started to subside. The crumble seemed to have paused during the day: he could detect no difference in the degree of lean between the first measurements he had taken in the morning and the last ones in the evening. Presumably it could begin again at any time. The world was being reduced in diameter to just the size of Bob’s yard. His would be the last tower standing: and everyone in the world, once they realized what was happening, would be trying to take refuge in it.

Faced with these inevitable consequences of the “Big Crumble,” Bob decided he did not want to see it, so just before dawn he climbed his tower for one last time and threw himself off the roof.

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