The landmark

No one knew from where it had come.

It had simply been there, one Thursday morning when the department’s staff had arrived for work. The somewhat incomplete and damaged sphere had been placed outside the local government office whose job it was to help those who had least. This fact alone had given first the local and then the national media humorous material for weeks.

But eventually, as happens with all puzzling news stories, interest had slowly declined, and within a couple of years, it was no more than a parochial curiosity.

Annual features in the local newspaper persisted for another seven years, before a new editor was appointed upon the resignation of his predeccessor, and decided they were no longer required. (He believed they made the newspaper less serious somehow, and besides, he needed all the space he could find for the additional games of bingo he introduced.)

After two decades, regional histories started referring to its origins as that of a failed art project, but no-one ever suggested the artist’s name.

On the seventy-fifth anniversary of its appearance, there was a small ceremony, attended by some elderly residents who’d been children when it had first arrived. Each of them were interviewed for the national news, and one of them briefly became a minor celebrity when it was discovered she’d once had a short-lived love affair with a government minister some thirty years earlier.

The one hundredth anniversary passed without notice.

And then, one day, some one hundred and thirty-six years after its arrival, it vanished.

Staff teleported into their local booth, a few meters away from the doors to the building, and each received a shock when, upon exiting the booth, they discovered instead of the pleasing shade usually afforded by the sphere, bright sunshine assaulted their eyes.

There were inquiries, of course, but no witnesses – its removal had been planned far too carefully to allow for that basic error.

And, several days later, several thousand miles away, a man watched as the sphere was installed in a specially commissioned display case. And, when installation was complete, he ordered everyone out. He wished to be alone with his possession.

He stood in front of the sphere and took pleasure in its presence.

He was not an ignorant man, nor unaware of why he had stolen the sphere. He had no special knowledge of its origins, nor its history, nor of who’d placed it in front of its previous home. He’d wanted it simply because it was unique and to derive others of it. He was rich enough to arrange for its acquisition and so he had done so. He no more cared about the object itself than he did about others less fortunate than he.

A rich, selfish, amoral man who got what he wanted while others still subsisted on the kindness of others.

Not much had changed in one hundred and thirty-six years. Not very much at all.

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