19. America

It’s just sand.

Sand and heat and the remains of a city that no longer has any inhabitants to speak of. Maybe somewhere in the shadows of buildings, but not in the homes, because there are no homes, and not in the businesses, because there are no businesses. Phoenix hasn’t risen from the ashes; it is just ash.

The area outside the maintenance compound was artificially cooled by those air conditioning trees, and there must be irrigation or something else under the ground to help the real trees grow. Beyond its perimeter, there’s very little else.

It’s a stark contrast to my home, which is anything but dry: I’m surrounded by a constantly-increasing waterline. Here, there’s no water at all.

The buildings on the base were empty: there were no soldiers. No automata. Just dust.

The sky is a deep, dark blue. The sun is blazing.

We’re baking.

“There used to be a city here,” Sal says, quietly. “It was never the most beautiful city, but it was a city nonetheless. Millions of people lived there.”

“So was London,” I reply.

“We’re trapped,” Sal says.

“Only if we stay out here.”

So we move back onto the base, under the shelter of the air conditioning trees and the empty shells of buildings, near the conveyor belt of broken copters.