The streets full, noon hour the grey of the skyscrapers' concrete glass and steel, men and women all colors of suit their faces painted of flesh but only painted and painted so coarsely that the brushstrokes overpower their features and make them all unrecognizable. They all carry briefcases. Step step out of step all of them the sidewalks grey colored by their misstepping all colors into grey matching the sky, the clouds individual to look closely at their wisping and ephemeral air but all summed together on the winter noonday sky the sky of some solstace they too are grey, featureless the individual silkthreads invisible if not looked for specifically. There is no sun.
The river is grey and he sticks a finger in. Swirling little stones in places above the rocks surely different colors but through the waters all of them grey the current he watches thinking the water could be dust it is so dead. He throws in a stone and the ripples are eaten up by the current and the dust.
Four hundred miles away there is a small earthquake.
The colors swim but only as individual threads.
The sky above the canyon now a little red with sunset, the caverns in the cliffs are still with people watching through the clouds. The pottery and baskets and tanning and foodmaking are over. It is time to do other things. Across the desert from the walls of the cliffs there is little that the people of the houses of the cliffs cannot see. The chanting begins. Its quiet rhythms join a small quiet stream with occasional rapids dark blue in the black of the sight of the night and reflecting of fires tiny in the lowland around it, tiny and seen from the houses of the cliffside, hinting in rhythm of chanting that carries below.
In the canyon between the grey cliffs the people carrying briefcases the people who from the tops of the cliffs look like pills the briefcases nonexistent from that height. The sound of typewriters tribal drums for the feet of the marchers below from cliff to cliff and across the wild blacktop the metal insects it seems from the top the metal insects in a long line a long line of grey smoke and waiting. In the sunset of the cliffs there is a stirring and the starting of an emptying.
Another stone. Another small quake. The city is unshaken.
The head helmeted of a conquistador.
The police captain his lecture over puts the pills back into his pocket to seal them later inside the vault with the rest of the pills he uses as exhibits for his lectures to rookies and boyscouts watching his every move and he prepares to leave the lectern and they applaud. He leaves the stage in the rain of applause and outside the sun disappears behind clouds.
"Again?" he is asked.
"No, we will leave the city be. We will work on another part of the river. The city is not wet enough yet."
The skies swirl above the cliffs, another storm coming and the metal below in the darkness of the canyon the metal beings crowded clouds taking on real shapes now, thunder for the thunder of the riders grey on metal, thunder for the thrower of stones.
And when the stone is finally thrown the glass will be eight feet deep in the streets and the sky will have colors again.
Written in 1972.