When Yellow Leaves


From afar Boyd could see it like the patched gray quilt his grandmother used to cover him with, saying, Good night, sleep tight, wake up bright in the morning light, and do what’s right. She must have learned those rhymes before the Wars of Excision, back when doing what was right was a credible notion. Now, as a gray cloud swallowed the hills and palm groves dozens of kilometers east, he didn’t need to remind himself that there was neither right nor wrong anymore. As he triggered his camera’s shutter, hearing it snap over and over, he tried to recall an old proverb, something to the effect that There is nothing either good or bad but Guv’na Brush makes it so—but he soon gave up. The railroad tracks, black lines that covered The Valley’s belly like surgical sutures, were beginning to recede. Whether the cloud had begun with the prevailing westerlies slamming into a cold front east of Mount Marvelous, or whether it had gathered force thanks to some unimaginably humongous fans constructed by the Looters on the shadowy northern slopes of the mountain, it was no still life. Its gritty gusts were approaching, though not as fast as a falcon. There was time to photograph dunes and rocky outcrops being obliterated, time to focus on sand dervishes reconnoitering, scouting out ever-widening swatches of ground. Although he couldn’t hear it, soon, he knew, the deafening whoosh of a prewar freight train highballing directly overhead would block out every sound. Too soon there would be nothing to shoot, nothing breathable, even with a bandana pressed over his mouth. read more