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They taught me to become them. There was nothing else they taught. Either we accepted what they were teaching, or we got nothing at all from them.

Still, people from far and wide showed up at their gates, hoping to gain some leg up on life from what they were providing. Each morning, the courtyard in front of their entrance would be packed with pilgrims from across the realms, waiting for a chance to enter their academy. Eventually we would all get in, one way or another, but some were able to get in on their first day. Maybe they were seen as having more potential than the rest who showed up at the steps of the Spiral Tower.

I was one of the ones lucky enough to make it inside on my first day, but was not included in the primary circles. I suppose only the most promising students went there. I didn't mind though. I was happy just to have got in so early, even if it would mean instruction from one of their lesser masters or even another trainee. I knew on the other side, we would be granted things they all had access to.

Immersed in their way of life for months on end, we almost couldn't help but become one of them, not only adopting their skills and knowledge, but also their points of view. In many ways, we were sacrificing our former identities when we stepped inside their halls, but we each had our own reasons for going there.

If we had been satisfied with our former lives, we would never had made the trip. We would have stayed home and lived out the rest of our lives in our villages, or wherever else we were from. But no, none of us were happy with our old lives, and so we would make the journey of days and months to their tower.

Our personal stories were all unique, but the longer we were at the tower, the less that mattered. We were being assimilated into their culture. Our old memories still existed to differentiate us, but dwindled in importance as the weeks went by, and eventually became only a minor novelty and topic of irrelevant conversation.

We were given a mission in the world beyond the tower. A mission that would eventually consume our lives. We did not go unwillingly. We still believed we had freedom to choose. But because we were slowly being assimilated into their culture, all our choices would flow from the new ways we were taught to think.

Nobody complained.

There were a few who did reject their thinking eventually, but they knew that would mean they had to leave. And they left voluntarily, because they could see that staying would change them even more. Leaving meant that they could take what they had learned with them up until that point, and no more. And they could do with their knowledge as they wished. But in exchange for greater freedom, they were no longer able to accumulate power.

Those of us who stayed continued to gather everything the masters at the Spiral Tower had to offer, but we knew we were also adopting their way of thinking at the same time, learning to approach problems in the same way. This was one way the tower was able to get their trainees to operate as one, to know what each other graduate was thinking, and to instinctively know which gaps needed to be filled whenever they opened up.

And we would take the teachings of the tower into the wider world, attracting more acolytes who were not happy with their existing lives.

Some of our former students, particularly the ones who left early, would attempt some kind of opposition against us. It was hard for me to judge which side was correct, only that I immediately knew what those from the tower would think of their opinions.

We were much more organized and greater in number, so rarely did our former students pose much of a problem for us. We felt no need to harm them. That's how confident we were. If they needed defeating, then we would defeat them, and then simply let them go. It was hard to take a few individuals seriously when we had thousands on our side for each of them.

We did try to stay out of their business though. No need to stir up additional trouble and cause headaches for ourselves.

It was a few years before I even thought of the ribbon I had hanging up in my home.

Memories of my past life had faded away like a half-forgotten dream. And yet one day, I looked up and saw it hanging there, and was reminded of the person who gave it to me.

It was so long ago. I had better things to do with my life now, but I could still remember the day I first moved in, the day I decided to hang it up, to remind myself of who I was, where I came from, and who I left behind.

I wasn't the same person anymore. The mission was calling me. I had a new family now, new friends, and there was still so much for us to do. I was satisfied, something I could almost never have said before I came to the tower.

Yet I felt the coast calling to me that day. I knew going there wasn't going to help, but nonetheless I took the ribbon down from the wall, stuffed it back in my pocket, and headed for the coast, not knowing what I was really expecting.

I knew I could have used the ribbon, but I didn't. Maybe I was just curious. Maybe I just wanted to see and not get involved. Maybe I was searching for something that only existed in the distant past.

I found nothing that day at the coast, but wasn't even sure I should have been looking. That was not the tower in me that day. That was my old life trying to call me back.

When the sun fell beneath the water that evening, I looked out into the ocean beyond. And over the waters I flew. I knew there was nothing for me to find out there, but as I watched the land disappear behind me, I was no longer satisfied.

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