"I want nothing more than to kill god," said Mr. Judas, a tiny man with a big bald spot.
"You mean that I've been an engineer in the employ of a heathen? Of an atheist?" he asked.
"No, no. I am no heathen. I don't believe in bugaboos in the dark, beyond Satan, and I've met him so I daresay that I don't believe in him any more than I believe in my milkman. Nor am I an atheist, for atheism is the denial of god, and I know that he exists and know equally well that he must be killed, destroyed, cast down from his throne upon the clouds!"
Cornelius wasn't sure if he was employed by a megalomanical madman. Actually, he was sure, but that wasn't particularly troubling for a skyscraper engineer. Anybody with the money and the desire to build a skyscraper had to be, by definition, a megalomaniacal madman. It was a matter of degrees, and the blueprints for the tower were nothing less than history-making, towering over even the highest buildings in the skyline.
He wished that he hadn't inquired as to why they'd had such a difficult job retaining personnel. The workers had been circulating silly rumors that the owner wanted to build the tallest tower in the world as an affront to god. Cornelius figured the rumors began as a result of the man's unfortunate name.
The workers may have believed the rumors. Construction slowed because the project lost all their union men and women, most of the non-union replacements, and now relied on a small number of angry young men who joined the project on ideological grounds but who had contributed little more than angry tirades and clove cigarette butts. Many suppliers canceled their contracts. City officials had tried to stop the project but Judas possessed an interesting photography collection that he had promised to distribute to private individuals if the project was stalled.
Now Cornelius was now the lead engineer for the same reason that a young sapling is the tallest tree in a field of smoking stumps.
Cornelius was a faithful man who believed in god. But he was also an engineer.
"You say that you've met Satan?" Cornelius asked.
"Yes," Mr. Judas replied.
"What's he like?"
"Friendly chap, if he smells a bit like rotten eggs. Pleasant. Polite. He carries a great big knife in a belt around his waste for cleaning off his hooves before he comes into your house. I must say, I was a bit startled by the goat-sticker when he first pulled it out."
"And he told you how to kill god?" Cornelius asked.
"Not only told me. Gave me the equipment."
"Why doesn't he just do it himself?"
"Oh, he doesn't want god dead. He thinks I'm a silly bugger and hates me, but I've got a few compromising photos of him with a particularly foxy angel that he'd prefer to keep out of the hands of his dukes and lords," Mr. Judas said, grinning. Cornelius shivered.
Mr. Judas went to a safe in the wall. It was the sort of safe that didn't bother with obscurity and Mr. Judas didn't bother to hide it behind any artwork. After a through number of spins, the lock thudded open and he pulled out a small gold box and carried it over to Cornelius.
"You seem like a man who recognizes craftsmanship," Mr. Judas said. He opened the gold case. What looked like a fat upholstery needle in unmarked silver sat on a cushion of black velvet that shone like a lake under a full moon.
"Do you know the myth that Zeus' father was a titan? That Zeus led the armies of the gods in the Titanomachy?"
"To gain more allies, Zeus recruited his uncles and aunts, who had been imprisoned in the dungeon Tartarus and guarded by a wretched beast by the name of Campe. It was part dragon, part woman, part scorpion, and was said to be immortal. Campe succumbed to a single slash of Zeus' knife, though her power blew the knife into a thousand shards. This is a shard of Zeus' knife, a weapon lethal even to the monsters that could battle the Cyclopes and other brothers of Cronus the titan."
Cornelius got a headache from straining so hard not to roll his eyes. Mr. Judas may have been a megalomaniac, but it would be facile to believe that successful megalomaniacs like Mr. Judas couldn't read other people.
"Come," Mr. Judas said, snapping the gold box shut and taking Cornelius on a ride in the most luxurious car that he'd ever seen, let alone ridden in.
They drove to the tower. Despite the setbacks, the tower was almost complete. Mr. Judas used a stream of money like a water cutter to blast through obstacles. They arrived and took the fastest elevator in the world to a penthouse that was built at the very top. Cornelius had only been up here twice, and both times he wondered what pictures Mr. Judas possessed of which employees at the FAA with what animals to get clearance.
One of the peculiar features of the tower was that there were no antennas.
"I had this tower built as an affront to god."
"Like the Tower of Babel?"
"Fuck the Tower of Babel!" Mr. Judas yelled suddenly. "A bunch of amateurs. I built this tower to get god's attention not for such a petty reason as to make my name known. I don't want a physical monument. My monument will be the death of god, my legacy his abject destruction."
Mr. Judas pressed a button and a small, secret door opened that Cornelius didn't recall being in the plans.
"An elevator to the observation deck," Mr. Judas said.
"What? On top of the building? I don't recall planning that."
"Because you are a fantastic engineer of stresses and shearing and whatnot, but I needed an engineer of especially wicked intent to plan this section. Satan sent me a few of his and although they were used to working with lava and rock, they adapted marvelouslly."
The elevator rose and Cornelius became light headed. He wasn't sure if it was because of the thin air or a latent fear of heights or the needle on his personal megalomaniac sensor knocking on the side of the case next to the little words that read "fucking lunatic."
They stepped off of the elevator and they were on another plane that was best measured in altitude and not stories. A railing that would've seemed to be extremely sturdy if it was on a balcony hundreds of feet lower now seemed like a wholly inadequate toy. The fall from this height would give the victim time to get bored.
"And here is the crowning achievement of Judas' Tower," Mr. Judas said, pointing to a small pyramid.
He stepped to it without fear, while Cornelius had to focus to put one foot in front of another.
Mr. Judas opened the gold case and slotted the silver needle, slayer of Campe the fiend, future killer of god, into a small set of pincers that held it point-up.
"When god comes here to stomp upon my tower, this shall deliver the fatal scratch."
The tower rumbled and the clouds swirled above.
"I quit," Cornelius announced, running back to the elevator, riding it down, and taking the world's fastest elevator to the base of the tower and fleeing into the street. Several blocks away, he glanced up at the indistinct speck in the sky where Mr. Judas was probably still standing.
The tower wavered and shook as the clouds above continued to swirl. The instability was so great that it even caught the attention of the angry young men who, along with the other workers, soon abandoned the building.
In one magnificent motion, the tower collapsed folded in on itself like a collapsing confectionary as the very center gave way before the external walls. It took quite a while for the tower to finish collapsing.
Miraculously, none of the surrounding buildings were damaged nor was anybody save Mr. Judas missing. His estate attempted to have a memorial built, but could find no employee of the city willing to approve the work. The site was cleared and turned into a park.
Decades later, Cornelius took his grandchildren there and stepped on something sharp poking out of the grass. He picked up a large silver needle.
The Moral: always use union labor for major construction projects.