The Tower
by Admiral Jota

There is a tower. You might say there are many towers, but this is untrue. There is one tower in many places. The tower is in a remote cleft in a cliff in the Himalayas. It is covered in snow, and the frosted doorway is almost invisible between the rocks. The tower is also in a lost clearing in a jungle in Brazil. Its facade is crumbling, vine-choked stone, carved with characters that can no longer be read. The tower is also near a small town in rural America. It is one of three rusted, abandoned water towers huddling together several miles from the highway.

Many have found such entrances to the tower, over the years. Some of them, from times before, have left records of the presence; I have spent a great deal of time studying these. Most visitors do not immediately realize that there are several ways to reach the tower, of course; some never discover this. But sometimes, two explorers will find it near the same time and will meet each other. It is amusing to me to watch this happen, as they gradually come to understand the nature of their discoveries.

I was once unhappy in this tower. I once accosted visitors, trying to communicate to them my situation. Few believed me — you must observe the nature of the tower firsthand before you can truly accept it, as I myself know. But now I have grown to accept the tower and its visitors calmly. I answer them only what they ask me.

There are many entrances to the tower, many passages that will bring you here. There is only one exit, one doorway that provides escape from this place. But every entrance is an exit, and the exit is every entrance.

When visitors leave the tower, they leave to the same place they entered from. A woman who discovers a pathway into the tower concealed within a cave with painted walls deep in the Australian Outback will leave to that same place. A man who finds his way here through a well-protected shrine in Japan without being slain by the warriors at the gate will find that the doorway that brought him here will also return him to those same armed guardians awaiting him without. There is only one exit, and for you, it leads to only one place.

This tower was once a secret meeting place for dignitaries; at another time, for dealers in information. This I have gathered from the few records they left behind. But it is not a place for passing trade goods: what enters with you must leave as you do. What you take will not be with you when you go; what you give, you will find waiting for you just outside.

I discovered this the hard way. I was separated from the rest of my team somewhere in the French countryside when I noticed a wooden shack. Inside, I found this place. There was a Japanese soldier here already; I saw him before he saw me, so I hid. I never found out how he came to be there.

When he was standing near the door and facing away from me, I acted. I lodged a grenade into his pack, shoved him through the door, and dove for cover. The blast tore through that flimsy wooden structure that I had entered to reach here; splinters were scattered across the tower's floor in front of the now-darkened opening. That other soldier never returned, but from what I have since learned about this place, I am certain that he was entirely uninjured.

There are many entrances to the tower. But one fewer than there once were.

I grow weary of this place.