On the planet Thera you either died from old age or an anvil fell on you. As far back as people could remember, things would be fine one moment, then suddenly an anvil would drop out of the blue sky and crush one or more people.

Richer people could build houses with roofs that were somewhat anvil resistant. That way, most of the time they could hold off the anvils a little longer, but they might be in their car or walking down the street and—BOOM!—an anvil would fall on them. Or a particularly big anvil would fall on their house and crush it in anyway.

Not all deaths by anvil were instantaneous. Some people seemed to get slower and slower and heavier and heavier until they died. When the doctors opened them up to see what was wrong, their scalpels would almost inevitably ping on something metallic. Then they would glance at each other knowingly and say in an authoritative and conclusive tone, “Body Anvils.”

Sometimes people would run amok and kill others and then themselves. When the doctors opened up the bodies of their victims they would find small bullet-sized anvils. When they would open up the brains of the people who went bonkers, again their scalpels would ping on something metallic and the doctors would again propound authoritatively “Anvilum Craniosis” or, as it was more commonly called, “anvils on the brain.”

Not all anvils killed people. Some killed relationships. A couple who had been together for years would be walking down the street when suddenly an anvil would fall right between them. Then they would turn to one another, blink, and say in shock, “Who are you?”

So that was life on Thera. For most of the history of the planet, the falling anvils were totally unpredictable. Sometimes a giant-sized anvil would fall and crush dozens or hundreds of people at once, but it was more common for a much smaller anvil to hit a single person.

Then came the birth of Science and Probability. Scientifically-minded people started to notice patterns. For instance, if you didn’t take care of your health, you were likely to develop body anvils. Or if there was a lot of pollution and chemicals in a certain place, that place attracted more anvils than other places. Or that when powerful and greedy people took all the wealth out of a country, anvils would fall on the children there.

You can imagine the controversy this caused. People who made things happen on the planet were getting angry at the scientists for making people uneasy about anvils. Anvils had always been a fact of life, but the scientists were leading people to believe that the way some of the rich and powerful did things caused anvils. These people were mad because the scientists were giving wealth and power a bad name. So very quickly they learned to ask, “Are you certain about this?” The scientist could only respond, “No, but it’s probably true.” Then the people who made things happen would scoff and say, “Probably?!  What’s that mean?” And the scientists would go back to their labs beaten, with their tails between their legs. (Oh, I forgot, people on Thera tended to have tails.)

Then one day came the grand discovery from the lab: metal filings!  A higher concentration of metal filings was found in the blood stream of people who later developed body anvils. Metal filings were also found in the lungs of those who smoked, and those who were constantly around people who smoked. Metal filings were found coming out of factory smokestacks and the tailpipes of cars. Metal filings were even found coming out of some banks and secret government meetings.

Even more impressive, however, was the fact that metal filings were found up in the atmosphere in huge concentrations right before anvils dropped from the sky!  In a famous press conference televised around the planet, an atmospheric scientist told the millions of viewers the reason that anvils had been dropping all this time. He said, “The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind, metal filings are blowing in the wind.”

He went on to tell the public his theory:  When people acted in certain ways that were generally known not to be very good, they generated tiny slivers of metal that went up into the air. Some slivers stayed in the vicinity and would clump together in the shape of an anvil and fall near or on the person who created them. Other metal filings would float away and clump together and fall on people far away who did nothing to create the slivers. The scientist predicted a rapid increase in the number and size of anvils as the population grew, and as people did more of those things that generated metal slivers. He even added that there was a growing possibility that a huge anvil would slam into Thera herself. The good news, though, was that there were activities that people could do to draw the metal back out of the air.

The scientist was just about to give examples of those activities when suddenly he was interrupted by a well-dressed man in the audience who stood up enraged and said, “I know that people create metal filings, and that some people create their own anvils. But as for anvils from the sky, you don’t really know where they come from. It’s just a theory you have.”

“Now this is an astonishing thing!” the scientist replied. “You know that peoples’ actions create the metal filings. You know that each year millions of tons of metal dust goes up in the air from various sources. And you know that ever since the world began, anvils have been dropping from the sky. Yet you are still unwilling to accept that it is you who cause the anvils to fall!”

“You are just an atmospheric scientist!” the man retorted. “How dare you make a theory about economic anvils, body anvils, relationship anvils, psychological anvils, and political anvils!  I have a feeling that the people who make things happen are going to stop funding your irresponsible anvil research!” With that, the well-dressed man stormed out of the room.


That’s pretty much the state of things on Thera right now. Some people were willing to draw the conclusion that the metal slivers they generated somehow caused anvils somewhere in the world. They began to modify their behavior. Others pointed out how much was not known about the weather, the jet stream, and atmospheric conditions in anvil clouds.

Still others refused to change their behavior until they were furnished with undeniable proof that metal filings caused anvils.


How about you?  What do you think about anvils?

I guess the conclusion to this story is still up in the air.



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