Friday, June 1, 2018

South of Last Wells

South of Last Wells
Bobby Derie

South of Last Wells stretch out the crystal plains. Four hundred miles of broken glass, where the lightning slammed the desert in the days of thunder for weeks on end. 'til the sand puddled and ran, cracked and shattered in the heat and the pounding hail. There is a road through that strange desert, a ribbon of crystal that was a river of silt. You can walk over it and see that creatures caught in the sudden eruptions, burnt and captured for eternity. A determined trekker could drive the river in a day, go in one side and out the other, if they avoid the storms.

The wind brings grit down from the mountains, and salt from the sea. The glass crumbles, erodes, winnowed into strange shapes. Dust, sharp and fine, blows in dry drifts. It gets everywhere, ground glass grinding away at seams and crannies, clogging zippers and intake manifolds. Not honest sand. And when the winds pick up the warm, wet air of the ocean...

Few can be said to survive a glassstorm. When the cyclone picks up its billion tiny knives, each with a fractal edge as sharp as an obsidian blade. They cut and shatter and each piece is as sharp and deadly as the other, grinding finer and finer. Artists in Last Wells leave out statues of shiny steel and bronze, letting the weathering erode their features to shapeless pock-marked inhuman blobs; the collectors like it. They tried it with wood, but the storm whittled their statues down to sticks.

I met an old man who stood at the mouth of the river, where the quartz pebbles give way to the glassy ribbon wending its way through shattered canyons with sharp facets. "Been here too long," he said, with a dry smile, eyes reduced to a black slit by the sunshield. "I don't think I'll see the end of the river. But that's okay."

So he walked, south of Last Wells. Into four hundred miles of burning glass. Not expecting to see the end.


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