Seattle's newest anonymous art -- a 9-foot-tall smooth steel block planted atop Kite Hill in Magnuson Park -- has disappeared just as mysteriously as it appeared on New Year's Eve.
The disappearance was discovered Wednesday morning. Park officials said they have no idea how or when it disappeared. All that's left in its place is a large rectangular indentation, some candle wax and flowers.
In the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," the appearance of a black monolith caused or portended radical shifts in human evolution, from the ape-to-man jump at the film's outset to the human-to-star-child transformation at the end.
So what should local humans make of Seattle's smooth steel block?
Kelly Davis, 34, of Seattle went to the park as soon as she heard about it. Familiar with the movie, she hoped it would make society "wake up and think." Personally, she hoped her sunset contact with the mystery box would make her a "fearless, loving, human being."
"I'm star-struck by it," she said.
John Cuyle, a 21-year-old programmer who walked to the base of the block with a few co-workers, said he was impressed with the unknown artist's attention to detail. The smooth welds. The lack of obvious construction marks. The sunrise-to-sunset orientation of its narrow sides.
Cuyle noted that its dusk shadow shows that the monolith is a few degrees off perfection, but he allowed that someone put considerable thought into the tower.
"You don't just drop a large metal monolith in a park without some planning," he said. His co-workers said they hoped it stayed.
Seattle's monolith isn't the nation's only new arrival, said George DeMet, a 24-year-old high-tech entrepreneur and founder of one of the nation's oldest Web sites devoted to the Arthur C. Clarke novel and 1968 Stanley Kubrick film. Just a few days ago, the Northwestern graduate received an e-mail from one of his site's regular visitors, a man who "found" a monolith in his yard.
In the photo posted on the Web, it does look like a slimmed-down, snowbound version of Seattle's newly popular pillar.
"Maybe it isn't the work of humans after all," DeMet joked ominously, noting that 2001 devotees differ on whether the monolith is a force of good or malevolence. "What the monolith is and what it means is never fully explained in the film."
City Parks Superintendent Ken Bounds said he heard about the structure on the morning after it arrived. He doesn't know where it came from, or exactly why it is there. But he has a good idea where it is going.
"I'm impressed," he said, before it disappeared. "I think it is fun, and a lot of people want to see it. But it isn't what we want to encourage."
In Clarke's most recent novel, "3001: The Final Odyssey," the monolith is destroyed. Bounds said he won't wait that long.
"We'll keep it up there for a while, and then, I hope, the owner will step forward and take it down. We're not going to leave it up forever."
Dr. Floyd: [prerecorded message speaking through TV on board Discovery while Bowman looks on] Good day, gentlemen. This is a prerecorded briefing made prior to your departure and which for security reasons of the highest importance has been known on board during the mission only by your H-A-L 9000 computer. Now that you are in Jupiter's space and the entire crew is revived it can be told to you. Eighteen months ago the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered. It was buried 40 feet below the lunar surface near the crater Tycho. Except for a single very powerful radio emission aimed at Jupiter the four-million year old black monolith has remained completely inert. Its origin and purpose are still a total mystery.