Humoring the Stone
The mason aligned the large sandstone block and lowered it onto the mortar he’d just ladled with water against the growing heat of late morning. The heavy block nestled into the mortar resting on the soft metal plugs that would keep the stone level with its neighbors while it set.
This was a particularly troublesome corner of the tower, and the mason knew he would have to humor this stone. He would have to nudge and finesse this limestone block to keep the graceful tower wall he was completing straight and true. For this was the final tower of the mighty wall stretching along the entire border. The wall that was to be an impregnable buttress against all evils trying to enter this promised land. And an eternal symbol of security and sovereignty and lasting national solidarity.
That’s why this particular tower was being built by hand, by him and other stonemasons trained in the time-tested methods of great palaces and churches. For this final tower of the border wall was to be a cathedral of sorts, meant for great dignitaries and emissaries to stand upon and praise what uncompromising rightness could accomplish.
High on the tower, the mason was working, expertly humoring the pivotal stone into perfect position, when he heard laughter echoing up from below. He held his worn-edged trowel before him and looked out over the rampart where a group of extrans, extra-nationals, had gathered near the scrub brush that marked the no man’s land adjacent to the mighty wall.
Their laughter was gentle and confident. From his perch eighty feet above them, he wondered if they had come to mock him. To scorn his work. This tower. He did not care. He was a craftsman, a master builder. The work of his hands would outlast all of them. These stones would stand for centuries, a bulwark against invasion. His stones would have the last laugh.
This thought made the mason smile, and he waved his trowel in their direction. The extrans waved back. They continued to chatter and unload some large backpacks. The mason watched as they deftly assembled something. During his many months working on this final tower he’d seem many attempts by extrans to cross the border illegally, to defeat the mighty wall.
Their attempts had been a joke. The mason didn’t even bother to check with security to see if they were monitoring this latest attempt. It would fail. He tapped his trowel on the limestone block he had humored into place. It was setting nicely. He was about to start lining up the next level of blocks when the extrans below him began a loud, rhythmic cadence. One of the extrans was decked with a strange harness sporting a number of tubular appendages and apertures. The mason couldn’t make out what they were, but he could see that the extran was wearing a heavy duty crash helmet.
The cadence grew louder, and though the mason didn’t understand the language well, he recognized it for what it was: a countdown.
An electric crackling filled the air, then a furious luminescence erupted from the strange harness, and with a roar the extran arced into the sky, far above the tower, high over the mason’s head.
The primitive boost suit carried the extran half a mile beyond the mighty wall. The mason dropped his trowel and slumped against his proud handiwork, watching as a mylarium parasail deployed and the floating extran caught a thermal, riding a warm rising air current deep into this more promising land.
From above and below the stolid stones surrounding him, all the mason heard was the liberating sound of laughter.