Ancient Past Earth Her Dark Arts

A Book of Days

A tax. What is a tax?

Simeon looked at the space where the male twin would be standing if he were visible to the naked eye. The twins’ voices are heard at a loud volume in an untouchable space behind his head. Simeon’s right shoulder is dragging downwards. He clenches at papyrus sheets as the full power of their thoughts activate receptors in his cerebral cortex.

> A tax is completely inconsequential in itself, but symbolically, it keeps people from easily and without obstruction, relocating to new settlements with the wealth, knowledge, goods, and services they’ve generated in your community.

<< You need a strategy for keeping your community members in. Outsiders should have higher living costs if they stay for a short time, and community members should not be able to maintain a separate living arrangement outside without incurring significant losses here.

Simeon’s hands drop on a pillow. The stress of the present exchange leaves him out of breath. Crumpled transcripts fall to the floor.

Do you see what’s in front of me? You say many things, but its hard to understand any of it. How can I create this tax? How do we make sure everyone will cooperate?

<< Offer something in return. It’s quite simple. A sense of community, stability and privilege will ensure loyalty to the community as a unit. This sense of community ensures that newcomers must prove they are qualified to become a part of the system.

I’m not sure I can sell “loyalty” or “community”. Shouldn’t people be able to go about as they please?

> They are indeed free, but how can you collect taxes if that’s true?

Exactly. Why do we need to collect taxes at all?

<< It’s just a strategy for keeping a stable society. It’s what we’ve said before.

> I have modified the idea. Why don’t we put a value on the land. How much is one length worth?

<< No, before that, let’s measure the land space. How many lengths are contained in it? Then attach that value to the most basic measure of wealth that everyone is accustomed to.

Goats, cows?

<< Copper, it’s difficult to mine. You can just breed goats.

> I have an even better idea of what will ensure future collection of taxes.

<< I am rapt.

> Good. We collect time and labour, and build things using materials that are long lasting and difficult to destroy. They don’t easily erode over time.

<< So the wealth is preserved in the infrastructure, and built into the land.

We like moving around. Stability doesn’t appeal to our tribe.

<< You have to try it first.

What would we build anyway?

> First let’s start with your stars.

The stars?

> Yes, your children use the skies to chart a course across the desert during the year, do you not?


> So, build something using the earth as material, to capture the light of the sun over the course of a day.

Hmmm. I’m … mystified here.

<< What my brother is saying, is that you should try to capture the movement of the sun across the sky in one day. Use that as your measurement to make decisions.

> Yes. Using this writing system we have taught you to record the position of the stars in the night sky every day. Use this collection of records to explore the patterns and cycles you already know.

I understand what you’re trying to do but that’s too much work for me, I’m just one man.

> Ah, now you’ll need another building.

For what?

> To teach people to create records of the observations. For future use, of course. And then we need another building in which to place these records.

Hold on a minute. How many people do we teach?

<< Show the youngest ones first how to use the glyphs we’ve taught you. Then ask them to record the charting of the stars. The adolescents will learn how to create material for recording and storing your records. Another group will make the tools for inscribing glyphs. Just small units of three, for each task, are enough for now.

But there is only a small amount of papyrus. And where do we find tools for writing?

> First, cultivate the papyrus yourselves.


<< Cultivate. Farm.

These .. and many words you use don’t exist in our language.

<< Cultivate: Make more of the papyrus by growing the shoots in an area just for that purpose. Farm: collect the leaves at harvest.

Uh, huh. Farm. What do we call the ‘teach’ building?

> A college.

So we’re doing all of this to build a college?

<< No, we’re building a college so children can be taught how to create records of the sun’s movement. We’re doing that to keep your tribe in the same place. If we do that, we can collect taxes at last.

> But to start, you must convince your peers that this particular territory provides a good, long stay. One thing at a time.

Where do you find your ideas?

<< We calculate. We’re very good at it. Just try it our way.

It won’t work. It’s many ideas all together.

<< There’s a word for that: It is “complex.” We’ll make sure the idea is welcomed. Pay attention to what’s happening around you and make sure to grasp the opportunities presented. Brother, let’s be away before he says something again.


Life is short, so let’s be decent.