CLEVELAND—Shocked Cleveland residents stared silently Thursday as workers tried for the 11th consecutive day to dismantle the massive black-and-white "We Are All Witnesses" LeBron James mural hanging from the downtown area's Landmark Office Tower.
Friday morning, as was the case the previous morning and the morning before that, Clevelanders awoke to find the iconic, 10-story-tall image of James—his arms fully extended after tossing his signature talcum powder into the air—completely intact, dominating the city's skyline as if it had never even been touched.
In the week since James' announcement that he would join the Miami Heat, Cleveland city officials and citizens alike have attempted to tear down, shred, deface, and even burn the image from the wall only to find it back in place the next day.
No one has reported observing the mural's reappearance.
"We can't escape it," said 42-year-old Clevelander Mark Hoffman, who along with 300 other local Cavaliers fans watched as the mural was ripped into thousands of pieces and buried under two tons of dirt in Riverside Cemetery Wednesday evening. "The next morning it was there. Just…there. It's always there. Hovering over us like some sort of demon."
"We are all witnesses," a visibly traumatized Hoffman mumbled while swaying back and forth, his eyes engaged in a removed, distant stare. "We are all witnesses. We are all witnesses. We are all witnesses."
As the city becomes increasingly disturbed and agitated, sources confirmed that the banner's sinister hold on the metropolis appears to be growing in strength. The image, they say, somehow becomes clearer and more ominous each time it reappears, intensifying the utter hopelessness and betrayal citizens have felt ever since James held a nationally broadcast television special to announce that he was leaving his home state in search of an NBA title with the Heat.
The banner's resilience has reportedly taken on almost supernatural properties: On Tuesday city officials removed it panel by panel, only to find an identical mural hanging directly behind it. On Wednesday, not only did the banner reappear after being loaded onto a chartered one-way flight to Siberia, but the LeBron James depicted in the new banner was wearing a Heat jersey and holding two NBA Championship trophies in his outstretched hands.
"I walked up to the banner with a ladder and a rented power sprayer and painted it over about halfway," 36-year-old Luke Denton said. "I took a two-minute break to get some water, and when I looked up, the paint had disappeared. As if I'd never even done it."
"And I could have sworn that LeBron's face was staring right at me," Denton added. "He had this demented grin that I'll never forget. Why does he want to torture us? Why?"
Though the hated billboard is said to typically reappear as James' haunting likeness, some have seen other disturbing images. Last Thursday when the mural was attached to four 1,000-pound weights and forcibly sunk in the Cuyahoga River, commuters driving into the city reported seeing in its place a 10-story-tall photograph of John Elway leading Denver to victory over the Browns in the 1987 AFC Championship game. Others saw a still image of Michael Jordan jumping into the air and pumping his fist after his game-winning shot over Craig Ehlo. Many pedestrians, meanwhile, reported seeing a 100-foot banner of Earnest Byner's 1988 fumble on the three-yard line.
An attempt to demolish the building altogether proved futile, as it was mysteriously replaced the following day by the completely new 15-story Art Modell Public Library.
"I would like to assure the citizens of Cleveland that we are doing everything in our power to rid our city of the LeBron James mural," Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson said Thursday, adding that a priest from Bulgaria would be brought to the city next week to exorcise the banner. "That being said, if you gouge your eyes out like I did, you can't see the image."
"However," Jackson continued, "on the very threshold of audibility, you can still hear LeBron's voice repeating, 'This fall, I am going to take my talents to South Beach.'"
As of press time, nobody outside the Cleveland area had seen the mural once since it was originally taken down last Sunday.