Daredevil Town

April 22

Ronda is a daredevil town, standing on tiptoe at the edge of a deep canyon. In the late afternoon, the light is fine champagne, a golden froth rolling down the sides of the crevasse. The path into the canyon swings drunkenly from switchback to switchback. Drifts of Judas tree blossoms drape the trail like a threadbare carpet, velvet luxury worn thin by April’s debauchery.

As the path unwinds into the canyon, the undergrowth closes in, shrouding me in a green bower. Deep in Bacchus’s pavilion of fig trees and wild vines, I find an abandoned electricity station. Central Electric is a masterwork of arboreal architecture. Though the mortar decayed long ago in a snow of white dust, roots now seal the chinks between stones. The windows are curtained in a damask of ivy leaves. Vines furbish the walls with braided tapestries. Where the fig leaves fan out like fingers, their shadow puppetry plays across the plaster.

The trail unreels all the way to the river’s edge, where a meek brook creeps beneath Ronda’s Puente Nuevo. This creek is only a wrinkled ghost of the river that gouged out the canyon. That river was a species now extinct on this continent, like the aurochs and the old gods.

The bridge is an autochthonous creature, spawned from these stones. Forged from the same mason’s gold as the prehistoric canyon, the bridge looks as old as the cliffs. Where its pylons root down in the canyon floor, a waterfall glitters like a stream of shattered glass.

Blackbirds patrol the canyon. They never fly alone. In pairs and trios, they coast along the canyon rim. Against the swollen sun, their silhouettes never waver. They are unflinchingly sober.

As the sun dilates on the horizon, morning glories close like violet parasols. Already, shadows bruise their blue skin. To the west, the fields are drenched in fermented sunshine, oversaturated in shades of gold and green. All the blue has been wrung from the western horizon, leaving it raw and sunburnt. The mountains dissolve into the sunset, melting into effervescent light.

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