No matter what they did the concrete always ended up looking like this.
It was starting to wear on all of them, really. Everything else in the place was the very picture of pristine. Their cleaning abilities and resources were many and varied and they each put in the time needed to ensure everything was sparkling, so why was this one patch of concrete so intent on defying their wishes?
When they had taken on the challenge all those years ago they had been asked time and again if they wanted to make the conditions less stringent, but they had been adamant. No amount of grime or dirt could stand against them, they had said, and until recently no amount ever had. Mildew, mould, dust, rust and more besides wilted and withered under their ministrations and tales of their spotless exploits rang across the land. Often, pilgrims bearing items they simply could not shift the stains from would come from far and wide to receive a blessing in the form of a thorough cleaning.
This was how it should be. That now their gifts should be failing them was unthinkable, and without precedent at that. Nothing even vaguely similar had happened in all their combined years of cleaning experience, and they had enough experience to put a battalion of maids and caretakers to shame. There was no secret trick or hidden technique not known to them to banish filth; that it should persist so – and in the very heart of their domain – was an affront.
It did not take long for fingers to start being pointed.
Things started jovially enough, with some jokes that could have been taken as insinuations, but soon the humour was stripped away and the accusations laid bare. Some were accused of being in league with the dirt, or of having lost the gift and simply pretending so as not to be cast from the group. Tempers flared, bottles of polish thrown. It wasn’t long before they were openly fist-fighting, all beneath the watchful, malevolent gaze of the dirty concrete.
Attempts were made take a more reasoned, scientific approach to the cleaning. It was said their old style had been too dogmatic and hidebound; perhaps this was a sign telling them they had to be flexible and learn new methods. Since no-one had any better ideas, they went with that. Scrapings and pictures were taken and analysed in the hopes some remedy or hitherto unforeseen avenue would make itself apparent. The results were awaited eagerly, and came back inconclusive.
For most this was the final straw. An out-and-out riot erupted and the report back from the lab was torn to shreds in the ensuing scuffle. Very rude things were said as fists and dusters flew; things that could never be taken back. At least one person was run over by a floor buffer and left polished for life. Blood and vomit spilled across the floor but, in their madness, they barely even noticed. Most bayed for more, throwing themselves into the fray with renewed frenzy. Reason had deserted them, and the concrete stood and watched over it all.
When the dust – and to think how low they’d sunk that there should be dust at all! – settled there was one who remained. Bruised, bloody and battered they staggered between the limp bodies at their feet, numb mind barely able to comprehend just what had happened. Standing before the concrete they raised a fist and shook it in fury, only to pause, noticing something that somehow all of that had missed up until now.
Right up at the very top of the concrete, it could seen to be peeling. In pain, the survivor reached up and with little effort was able to pull the whole thing away from the wall. It had been a film; an effect. They had all been fools. Weeping, they collapsed onto the ground with their fellows, knowing they would never come back from this.