The Parable of the Master Weightsman

There is a far-off (nonexistent) land (imaginary place) where weight works a bit differently (impossibly). In this land (reality), objects have an inherent unit in which their weight can be measured. If someone tries to weigh a large egg using the standard Scales (mystical divining device) of the land (reali- you get the idea), they will find out that the egg weighs two units of weight. The Scales, however, do not say what unit the egg weighs two of. In this instance, the individual in question can probably surmise that the egg weighs two ounces—but it is not always so simple. Why, the Wizard of Nom Fals once discovered a cow that weighed six hundred eighty thousand four hundred units of weight, and the natives of Illa build statues that sometimes weigh in tons and sometimes weigh in a very-slightly different type of ton.

Needless to say, the Scales are useful, but not quite useful enough to outweigh the confusion that they cause. Engineering and technology have been held back, but thankfully people are rather resourceful—and stubborn—so they did manage to get to that Enlightenment thing and whatnot, and eventually the Industrial Revolution.

In this land there lived a fellow who was known far and wide as the Master Weightsman. Alone in the world, he was able to consistently tell the difference between the inherent units of the weights of objects. Once, the Master Weightsman was able to determine that a certain horse weighed in liters! This made sense to no one, save the Master Weightsman. He lived on a miniscule island off in the middle of the sea, in a massive laboratory. Though everyone of course knew of the Master Weightsman and his skill in differentiating weights, not a soul actually knew how he did what he did.

A curious young woman, fresh from The University and hungry for adventure, decided to travel to the Master Weightsman’s island and figure out how his incredible skill worked. Did he have magical powers? Did he confer with dark beings better left alone? She had to know.

Her journey was exciting and eventful, she faced many a trial and blah blah blah she arrived upon the shores of the island at long last.

Ahem.

As she approached the steel doors of the impressive building, she could hear ominous sounds of something being set up inside. Whatever it is, it must be enormous, she thought, as the sounds echoed up to the very top of the domed roof. She pressed the button beside the doors, and a gong went off within the building.

Not a minute passed before the doors slid open, and a bearded face poked out. He doesn’t look all that weighty, the girl thought.

“Can I help you?” said the mouth upon the bearded face, voice like a pile of wood planks tumbling against each other.

The girl was nervous—this being the first time she was confronting a famous figure—but her curiosity would not let her back down. “I want to know how you do it.”

The Master Weightsman smiled ruefully, and his eyes twinkled like bright, polished cliches reflecting the light of yesterday’s creativity. “Come inside,” he said, opening the door wide

She followed him through dozens of halls and rooms, each more bizarre than the last. Finally, they came to what could only be his main laboratory—the high dome overhead reminded her of what she’d heard outside, and she looked to the back of the expansive room. An enormous tarp covered some manner of device, whose nature she could not divine—mainly due to the fact it was covered by an enormous tarp. Upon the tarp was printed, in bold red letters, P Device.

“What…what is it?”

The Master Weightsman smiled again and held up a finger. “It is not yet finished being set up. Soon, though.”

It must be a very precise machine to require so much setup. I bet this is what he uses to do his work, or at least a prior version of this machine. “It looks like it takes quite a while to set up,” she remarked.

“The setup is always worth it,” he replied with a cryptic expression. “No matter how long.”

“When it’s finished…can you show me what it does?”

He looked thoughtful for a moment, then nodded. “First, you must come with me on a short journey.”

The girl was tired, having recently completed a journey of her own—one that was decidedly on the longer side. “Is it quite necessary?” she asked, painfully aware of her aching feet, as that was the only type of aware she could be what with the fact that they were aching so badly.

“This journey is indeed necessary, if you wish to truly appreciate and understand my work,” said the Master Weightsman, his solemn expression lending his words a certain weight.

“Very well,” said the determined girl. Her curiosity would not allow her to give up now.

The Master Weightsman walked over to the tarp-covered device, lifted the edge of the tarp, and dragged out something that looked like a cross between a radio and a barrel. Which parts were which, she could not have said. He heaved the contraption into the air, then walked past her and out through the laboratory doors.

They traveled back through the dozens of halls and rooms, and, inexplicably, each was still more bizarre than the last. It’s like a single path that takes you uphill both there and back!

Once outside, the Master Weightsman led her around the back, down a rocky set of rough-hewn stairs set in the side of the cliff, and across the beach. They stood before a beautiful ship, mast tall and strong, sails filled with wind, yet not moving the ship an inch. Ah, he must have placed some of his perfect weights in the perfect places, the girl realized. Truly, he is a Master Weightsman in all ways.

Once aboard the ship, the Master Weightsman threw a couple levers and they surged forward into open sea.

All day they sailed upon his great ship, and the curious girl began to lose patience. “How long must we sail?” she asked him as he stood next to the motionless wheel, staring off into the distance.

“We have waited long enough,” he murmured to himself, the murmur accompanied by the slightest of nods.

“Waited?”

He didn’t answer, instead turning to the radio-barrel-thing on the deck beside him. “The setup is complete,” he announced.

Finally, I’m going to witness the secret to differentiating weights! Her excitement mounted as the Master Weightsman began calibrating the contraption by way of some knobs on its side.

I’m about to be the first person to learn his secret. If I can recreate it…so many possibilities. With the ability to tell the weights apart, I could finally-

Her thoughts were interrupted by a string of loud, purposeful, ‘BEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEP BEEEEP’s that continued uninterrupted for the next few minutes, as the Master Weightsman tapped away at the contraption.
When the air finally wentstill, and the ‘BEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEP BEEEEP’s a thing of the past, she dropped her hands from her ears. There followed a sudden FWIP, quite different from the ‘BEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP BEEP BEEEEP’s, and a blur shot up from the top of the barrel-shaped contraption before quickly disappearing into the sky.

“It is done.” The Master Weightsman stood triumphantly next to his now-silent contraption, nodding to himself in satisfaction.

What was that? “What did it do? Did it divine the unit of weight of the ship? Of the sea?” If it could tell the unit of even the sea, then-

“Divine the whatsit of the what?” said the Master Weightsman, brow furrowed.

“The…the unit,” she replied, more than somewhat lost. “The unit of weight.”

“You must be mistaken, lass,” said the Master Weightsman. “This here is my most famous invention, an unbounded communication device!”

What is going on here? Were all the stories made up? What of his unit-divining abilities? What of his legacy? What about that time he differentiated between an ounce and a dram? Or between a ton and a tonne? Baffled, she tried to find some sense in what had happened. “Then what did you take me out here for?” she cried. “What did you just show me?”

The Master Weightsman smiled proudly at his most famous invention. “That, lass, is how you telegram from a galleon.”

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