by Bryan Russell
The Rusting Forest
The land breathed, swelling beneath Mark’s feet, rolling and falling, exhaling heat that hissed up through the dust. Mark watched the horizon. His eyes tricked him with dreams of a geometric forest.
He hitched up his backpack, walking, eyes down. Every few minutes he looked up to see the forest growing. Hard lines, right angles.
Mark drew close, staring upward. All around him grew the iron forest, girdered towers rising up into the air, sharp fingers plucking at the bitter brightness of the sky. Wires slung themselves about everywhere, winding through the air, draped from tower to tower to tower.
It was not new, this geometric forest. Silent and dark, its steel limbs reflecting little of the sun. A graveyard, the bones of fantastical trees rotting, bleeding rust.
Flakes whispered down. In the grass the rust stained the earth, the floating dust stained orange.
The scent of metal pervasive, wires swaying in the breeze.
A group of boys running through the grass. There were cows grazing, huddled in the precise angles of shade.
“Here, here!” Mark said, and the boys ran over. Sweat on their dark skin, though they were not so damp as Mark. He waved his hand at the forest. “What is this?”
“Voice of America! Voice of America!” the boys yelled in English and ran off, laughing.
Mark nodded. A relay station. Old, pre-satellite communication. But there were no signals now, just hollow air. He pulled out his cellphone, aimed it up at the array. His finger hesitated, unwilling to snap the picture.
He looked back at the grazing cattle, the boys running. The boys in their old t-shirts, some with bare feet, running across the sloughed off skins of metal trees. Mark looked up again at the rusting forest, the wires like lines of latitude and longitude crossing the sky.
Mark put his cellphone away, hitched up his pack, started walking. He looked back once, at the giant skeleton of a future that would never arrive here.