In this city, in a street, there was a high fence. All day, from before dawn until hours after sunset, people passed, but they kept their heads down and their eyes were always turned away. Though the space on the pavement was small, no one walked in the shadow of the fence. They would step into the road if the press became too thick and dodge the blur of traffic, stirring up the litter that lay around the drains.
Here too there was a hush, the passing crowds spoke in whispers where they spoke at all. Their voices were grey and slight, never carrying above the rustling of leaves underfoot or the swish of the cars.
The people of the city never thought about these things. The fence defied their thoughts, slipped out of their minds once they had passed it by. No one remarked how new it looked. How long had it been there? – no one knew. It seemed as if it had always stood there. They could not think hard about it, its strangeness raised up echoes in their minds, made them feel uncomfortable. They left its shadow gladly, and forgot to wonder.
Those who thought about the fence at all found themselves growing confused. They felt saddened, as if they had lost something, but had forgotten what it was they had lost. Once they rounded the corner, leaving the fence behind them, the feeling remained all day, even though they never once remembered the cause of it. They were unsettled and discontented, snapping in anger, arguing with everything. Others whispered; ‘He’s not himself’; ‘She’s in a temper’; ‘What’s gotten into him?’
The city grew as time passed, its people becoming richer. Parts were redeveloped, drawing the city centre away toward the West. Businesses and stores moved, new stations opened, new roads cleaved through the ancient streets. The crowds that passed by the fence shrank, slowed to a trickle of shabby figures, and then stopped.
The area around was up for redevelopment. Overnight the council came and blocked the roads. They put a fence around the old fence. The new fence was just as high as the old one. Crowds passed without once looking up. In the no man’s land between the fences everything was still. Even the rain when it fell, fell softly as if it did not like to disturb.
In that silent, dead space, something happened. No one saw – no one was there to see – but something changed. Rain, which had been falling just a moment before, shimmered as if a wind had blown through it. Just for that moment, the rain stopped behind the fence. Sunlight caught the skirting rain, making it glitter, and sunlight also shone on the ball that came bouncing over the fence.
Where one thing goes, so can another. So shall we wait now, and see who comes to follow that ball?