Rock-dust litters the streets of a city on the same latitude as Rome and the Gobi Desert. Abandoned cars are parked in great clots; the cars are all identical. They are big and silver and they are family cars, and one or more children have jumped out of these cars to join the children of the city. On the ground, small dust-particles are carried away by stray crenellations of spilt water or gasoline; the smallest particles are still hanging in the air, and there is the bustle of a town busy creating more of them, a distant clink of metal against rock, metal against rock, metal against rock again.
It is the children who carve the stones, and it must have been they who brought all the stones into the city in the first place, from the surrounding forest. There must be dormant stones there, and trees that bend out of the way when the boulders come rolling. The trees, then, root themselves back firmly into the ground.
At first it was just one stone. There is a picture floating around from that first morning, with an angry and incredulous woman pressing her useless hands against a 50-tonne rock standing in her driveway, between her car and the street. She lifts herself from the ground with her efforts, and the rock remains, violently, perfectly still. The next morning, three more stones neatly and deliberately prohibited anyone from leaving that whole street by car. The working adults of that neighbourhood had dressed in their work clothes and simply commuted that day and the next, but the following morning there was a stone guarding every bus stop in a mile-wide radius. At this point, the stones were mostly jagged and pyramidal, cut-off but smooth, as if broken off a very long time ago from a larger structure.
Some of the stones have cracks in them clean through, after tired frustrated and tiny hands making mistakes. While a stone is still being carved, children will crawl all over it, chipping away at select chunks of stone in concert. Other children hammer large pieces of rock that fall off into rock-dust; they wear paper masks over their faces for this.
The children carve faces into these stones, or, they carve one face into them: a round, masculine face with a large nose, and full lips, and hollows for eyes. It is as if they all know this man and capture him in different moods, with a caricaturistic flair added to give the stone life. But whether seething, serene, smirking or sulking – it is the same face. One of the larger stones depicts this unidentified male, his mouth set into a firm line and one shoulder raised from the asphalt, as though he is rising from the middle of the street as a man coming out of the water. The white painted line in the middle of the road goes right through his neck.
There are still cars coming through the city, though their main arteries are blocked, and they inch along on capillary systems and on novel routes. One citizen has opened her garage and knocked out the back wall to let people through. There is a passage in the North of the city where two stone faces stare at each other and any driver must slow to a crawl to pass through, their car’s wing mirrors folded back like the ears of a frightened animal.
Forest is being cleared in two sweeping arches; the highway is projected to be finished by early next spring.