F is for: The Face #AtoZChallenge

SPRINGTIME (1)

The building was an exact copy of the other five lining the street on which it stood. It was part of a neighborhood created to provide suitable housing for those in need and at some point during the planning, someone decided that income level should directly correlate to uniformity. It was not a neighborhood of “Good Mornings.” and borrowed lawn tools. Scowls greeted outsiders from porches and stoops instead of welcoming smiles. Unfortunate events occurred more often than positive ones, so when The Face appeared on the unassuming building with five identical brothers, the residents immediately considered it evil.

The children were the first to discover him. They were playing in the alley when his features emerged above the large dumpsters active with scurrying rats. The children said he came in silence as they frantically explained the eight-foot stone visage embossed on the surface of the shortbread colored bricks. The Face was old, but the natural imperfections in the wall of the building added the appearance of more age. And as if his sudden arrival wasn’t curious enough, he was deep in slumber with shallow breaths blowing from his broad nostrils.

The residents yelled at him and threw rocks in attempts to wake him, but he didn’t stir. The braver of them employed ladders to get close enough to touch him and reported the skin felt human-like even though it appeared hard as stone. Those intrusions of personal space failed to wake him, so the people were left with not much more to do but stand and stare as he slept.

Journalists and television news cameras came in the first wave. All it took was one poorly shot cell phone video on the internet to draw them all in with thick cords and trucks that littered the streets. At first, the residents were as much a novelty as The Face and reporters scrambled to interview and photograph them standing next to the gigantic slumbering mug. Soon police tape and barricades were placed all around him and the building no one ever wanted to claim before, was deemed off limits.

Religions of all denominations proclaimed ownership of him. They came in the second wave of all the worshipers and believers praying furiously on the floor of the grimy alley. The residents of the neighborhood were popular once again in this wave and subject to conversion attempts at any given moment. He was equally considered both savior and omen depending on which spiritual official you asked. Each argument was as convincing as the next but the faith-based disagreements never really reached a satisfying conclusion. The local government settled the score and invoked eminent domain. The bureaucracy turned the miracle the faith’s created, to a problem that needed to be discussed and subjugated.

The Face was graffitied one night about four months after he appeared. Someone spray painted three white 6’s and horns on his head while he slept in his perpetual coma. The next morning aggressive police, backed by mayoral decree, decended on the residents and attempted to find the responsible party. Tensions grew as the community pushed back against the unjust treatment and the atmosphere muddled with controlling outside forces grew increasingly toxic.

Arrest rates rose as believers were regularly attacked verbally and physically by residents and the number of misconduct complaints against police soared. The media covered it all, equally demonizing each party until the conflict surrounding The Face was being covered in reports more than The Face itself. Then on one muggy summer night, the fighting exploded into a violent riot in the short alley where The Face hung.

There would be much debate about who started the uproar, but no one could say any of them were innocent. Police in riot gear advanced on residents and believers armed with makeshift weapons in the narrow space. They attacked each other viciously, and their humanity evaporated away like sweat in the sweltering heat.

The people watching the fight on television in their homes saw The Face’s wide open eyes long before the crazed mob noticed him. Cameras abandoned the battle and focused on his large brown irises watching the disgusting display below him. The eyes moved slowly left to right taking in the scene as they all continued unaware they were being watched until, one by one they begin to see him seeing them for the first time.

The vulgar yells and combat died away, and they all stared up at him waiting for something more than eye contact. The stone face was damp with tears beneath the soulful brown eyes and his thick lips parted to reveal an impenetrable blackness inside his mouth as he heaved a deep sigh. Many people in the crowd began to drop their heads to avoid meeting his dismal stare, and soon all of their heads hung as he continued to cry.

His eyes closed once more as he began to sink back into the building wall as if he was disappearing beneath a liquid surface. The brick slowly flattened as he went until the tip of his wide nose was the only remaining indication he’d been there. When that melted away the building only remained as ordinary and unassuming as before.

It didn’t take long for things to go back to normal after The Face departed. The media jumped on the next exciting story and began to mention The Face only in short segments like a fluff piece. It was easier to avoid the subject altogether than to risk discussing the ugly rioting that took place. After enough time had passed it even was acceptable to blame the damage from the fighting on the impoverished residents’ lack of motivation and desire for a better life.

The story of The Face eventually became just another urban legend with twisted variations from storyteller embellishing. Every so often tourists would show up in the alley to investigate the spot of the mysterious face, but he was never seen again. The reason for his appearance was lost to them forever.

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