Gone With the Wind: Abandoned Lands

For two decades far back in the last millennium, climate chaos resulted in increasingly violent and increasingly wide tornados. The scale that had once measured storm intensity had to be revised by an order of magnitude in order to measure and grade these storms that passed year after year along the same 12-state corridor of what once was the “mid-western and southeastern states” before the Great Decline.

The ravaged storm boulevard that had once been called “tornado alley” according to the surviving ancient documents was finally abandoned for human settlement entirely.

The Abandoned Land was scoured by superstorms of almost all remnants man-made dwellings, and the law forbad rebuilding there. The landscape reverted to visiting species that could come in during the relatively calm late fall for the scant seeds and nuts the stunted trees produced, then hastily leave ahead of 8 month long unrelenting roiling storms that came predictably as early as February.

There had once been a system of migration paths across the former US upon which the residents passed in wheeled vehicles powered almost entirely by ancient carbon in liquid form. Along those surfaced pathways, now overgrown and invisible, remain a few series of these monoliths of steel as pictured here, at intervals of a few to many miles.

Their purpose is not entirely clear, although they are believed to have been totems marking the domains of resident tribes some believe were called the McDonalds and the Hardees. The towering markers–an unbelievable extravagance in use of metals now so scarce– were obviously of great importance, built to be visible for miles by those of alien tribes, and designed to last as long as the culture that produced them. (A few of these surviving totems have been illegally toppled and sold at great price for the tons of precious iron they contain.)

Unfortunately, none of the McDonalds seem to have survived out of the Abandoned Land. To this day, a few of their tribal totems are all that remain of a once wide-ranging if not great civilization. The last of these metal monoliths is predicted finally to rust and crumble within the next several decades.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Those huge highway signs were a good choice of artifact to be still around in 1000 years. From traveling all over this country, I can’t think of a more likely suspect.