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Describing an Abandoned Town

November 28, 2021

I’ve stumbled upon several abandoned buildings tucked away on rarely-travelled dirt roads. Exploring them is exciting and creepy. Some where sketchy when it came to structural integrity and others were mysterious because of possible wildlife they may have harboured.

I can describe collapsed roofs, sun-baked decomposing wood, weather-soiled floors that felt spongy when I walked on them, and the stillness of the air when glassless-windows made it feel like the building was part of the overgrowth.

However, I’ve never been in a town or city that has been abandoned for so long that the buildings are hollow, signs are missing letters and the streets are a patchwork of broken pavement grown in with weeds and shrubs and hardly recognisable.

In Natural Selection, I had to envision what this might look like and then describe it through the eyes of someone who had never seen a modern city. Here’s part of the scene where Eloise, Hadwin and Mug enter a town that has been abandoned for almost 30 years.

Snippet from Natural Selection

“What is that?” Eloise whispered in Hadwin’s ear. “Flat rock? It is shattered but stretches as far as I can see.”

He looked to where she pointed. They rode on a street that once supported gas-powered vehicles that travelled much faster than a horse. What remained of what Mug had called pavement was like a dull grey puzzle with pieces missing. The missing sections were sometimes filled in with debris and dirt, and grass, weeds and short shrubbery, mostly evergreens, dotted the once pristine street. Other times, there were gaping holes. “Pavement for cars.” Her eyes danced across the sight as if trying to take it all in, the pavement, the derelict building and the other structures emerging in the distance. There was even a vehicle. Two of them. They were rotting in place, and he wondered if he kicked the side would they topple over.

“Road,” she said. “City street. Yes, that’s what the books called it. I never believed I’d see this. The descriptions are inaccurate. I would describe it differently.”

“You see it in a ruined state,” he said. “It was different back then with electricity to erase shadows.”

“Electricity?” Her eyes widened. “That was magic. Was it truly real?”

Magic? He hadn’t thought of it that way. “It was real. At least everyone I’ve spoken to who is old enough to remember says it was.”

“Incredible. Those who used the magic must have felt like royalty. The luxury of turning a switch to illuminate a room and cook food is something truly unimaginable.”

Electric Magic

If I had lived like Elois, I might call electricity magic, too. Certainly sensors triggering an action feels like magic at times. Sometimes when I walk towards shop doors, ones I know will open when I reach a certain point, I wave my arms as if I am the one opening them, not the censor and electricity.

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