The architects of Babylon drew straight lines, hard geometry to define edges and perimeters. They measured the arc of the sun with triangular devices, plumbs dropping straight down like descending vertebrae. They threw rhomboids in the air and watched how they were stretched by the wind. As the pit was dug, the loose sand was collected in perfect barrels and the filled barrels ringed the circumference of the pit in concentric circles. The architects agreed on a number and, when the foreman of the diggers reported that the pit was the depth of that many men standing on the shoulders of one another and the foreman of the sand packers agreed that the number of concentric circles of barrels was the same, they pricked their hoary thumbs and made their marks on the drawing of the Tower. They sealed the geometry of the Tower with their hearts' blood and put away their arcane tools of measurement and took up the hammer and the pick.
The stones were carved and shaped by the calloused hands of thirteen men. It took two mules and three men to transport each stone to the pit where they were cemented in place with a mixture of sand and shit and blood and sweat. The Tower was perfectly proportional, drawn on an infinite scale and yet still fit to the dreams of men. It took many generations to build the Tower, a number equal to the depth of the pit and the rings of sand about the rising base of the stone finger being raised to Heaven. Each mason fathered another child for every full count of bricks that he cut from the mountains—children, rings, generations, spans deep; the geometry was precise, and each mason fathered an unequal number of boys and girls for the geometry of the Tower was unique and indivisible. Their children made other children, and every third generation spawned thirteen new masons to replace the old men whose hands were too arthritic to cut stone any longer.
When the Tower was almost completed, one of the mule teams dropped a stone. They were children of the twenty-second generation and had never known a time when they were not conscripted to the mule teams, dragging stones from distant quarries to the hard, brick finger by the sea. The team of three formed a triangle about the mule, one leading and two following. The man in front was day-dreaming, staring at the sky and wondering if it was his children who were going to the ones to finish the Tower. He did not see the hole in the roadway and failed to guide the beast. The mule stumbled, its ankle breaking in the hole, and the shaped stone of the Tower shifted in the harness. The weight distribution was upset, and the injured mule collapsed, the full weight of the stone falling upon its flank and upon the roadway.
A chip the size of a small child's hand split off the stone, unnoticed by the team. They dragged the block all the way to the Tower, delaying all production until they arrived (each stone, you see, had its place upon the walls) and, in a rush to recover the lost time, the foreman did not notice the damage to the stone.
The chip was small, but it was enough for the wind and the rain. A generation later, the stone cracked. Another generation later, it shifted, collapsing in on itself. Thirteen days later, the Tower came down.