“By the Waters that Babylon” is collection in a post-apocalyptic, post-technological human being where people hunt for their food with bows and also arrows and also their clergymans scavenge the “Dead Places” because that metal. John, the protagonist and also first-person narrator, belongs to the tribe of the Hill People and also is the kid of a priest. The Hill world consider themselves culturally remarkable to the rival tribe of the woodland People, and live by dogmatic laws that, amongst other things, forbid castle from travel east, crossing the Ou-dis-son river, visiting the location of the god (which was ruined in “The good Burning”), and saying the true surname of the ar of the Gods.

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John’s father and also the other priests teach man reading, writing, healing, and “magic,” and also John is fascinated by the stories about the gods. The story complies with John ~ above his initiation quest, a journey he undertakes in order come be known by his tribe as a man and a priest. Man chooses the course of his journey based upon visions and his reading of indications in the herbal world. John’s desire for new knowledge leads him come break countless of the laws of his tribe. He travel to the ar of the Gods, even though he is afraid the he will die there. Instead, he discovers that numerous of the stories about the ar of the Gods are inaccurate. The island is not filled v magical mists, the soil is not burning through eternal flames, nor is it occupied by spirits and also demons. Instead, man finds a large Dead Place, a city of ruined towers. Together he explores the city and learns more and more, John’s feeling of fear diminishes.

John explores an abandoned apartment full of items the he believes space “magic” but which are recognizable come the leader as defunct modern-day appliances—a sink, a stove, and electric lights. John spends the night there and also has a vision that the city together it was in the time of the gods. The city to be once complete of gods, lights, and “magic,” and John understands the the god possessed remarkable knowledge and also power the they go not constantly use well. John sees the the city was destroyed by poisoned mist and also “fire falling out of the sky” in a destructive war in between gods, and understands the this war created the various other Dead Places. The next morning man searches the apartment, hope to find an explanation for the destruction of the city, and he find the human body of the dead god—who he soon realizes is no a god, yet a man. John realizes that the gods were in truth humans from an previously society, and also he return home, fearless and also determined to share his new knowledge v his tribe.

Upon John’s return, his father recognizes him together a priest and a man. John tells his father the the gods were no gods, and also asks that to kill him together punishment for breaking the legislations of the tribe. John’s father refuses, explaining the the laws adjust from generation to generation, but advises John not to re-publishing his exploration with the civilization of the tribe, cautioning that it have the right to be dangerous because that a society to gain knowledge too quickly, and theorizing that the culture of the “gods” to be destroyed because they did so. Man agrees, however he and also the various other priests start visiting the Dead areas to gather publications (and thereby knowledge) and also metal.

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In the story’s closing lines, john vows that as soon as he becomes the head priest of the tribe, he will lead his human being to the location of the Gods—which he currently refers to as “newyork”—and start to rebuild the city.