The first day of spring was special, once.
The moments that the dreary winter began to melt away as the sleepy planet stirs awake. Now, blossoming green jungles that stretched over the farthest corners of the earth were replaced with a wartorn concrete expanse; the war was not a physical one, rather, it was a reign of terror against the invisible and impossible. A conflict against the cold chlorophyll that had sustained us all for longer than time could keep. Even the sky, once blue and wide and billowing with stars and birds and possibility, had shifted to a murky gray, thick with pollution and flecks of metal. There are no signs of life. Not anymore. Only the constant hum of the Machine in the background.
The sun was peeking over the horizon, casting a haze over the bleak city. The streets were empty and desolate; the word “wasteland” seemed like an impossibility before the start of the end of the world. No one predicted that it would become a reality. The concrete was cold and unforgiving, an endless landscape of gray debris, but something else was in the air. Something familiar. Something nearly forgotten.
In the midst of the concrete labyrinth, far below the ashen tops of the stone towers that stretch towards the infinite smoky beyond, the tiniest speck of green flickered through a crack in the sidewalk as a leaf began to push its way up towards the sky. Then, another. A sprout stretched upwards in a good-morning salute; it was small and frail and its leaves curled towards its stem, but it was alive. Perhaps the rich land that is buried far underneath the thick slabs of asphalt still remembered the lyrics to the song of spring.
But The Machine, it cared little for pieces of a forgotten yesterday. It was made of metal and concrete, oozing oil and coal and ink-black tar. The Machine saw no need for organic life and saw the tiny sprout as a threat. It was an intruder to the Machine; a weed that needed to be whacked.
The sprout had drawn attention by its vibrance, a spot of fresh green that new humans had first mistaken as radioactive because it was so bright. As the tiny plant twisted up in search of unfiltered sunlight that no longer existed, the Machine warned that the sprout was dangerous, that it was contaminated, that it would bring rot and desolation.
The people believed the Machine; it was strong and relentless, tar dripping from the sharp metal teeth that formed in jagged rows along its spiny body, clawlike rivets sinking into splintered granite. The Machine did not have a body, but it did have an inescapable presence. The world had become its panopticon and the Machine was both the warden and the wrought-iron gates that held people captive, imprisoned. Surveilled. All they thought they could do was watch.
But the sprout was undeterred. It danced carelessly in the wind, showing off its growing stem with a pirouette.
The Machine swelled with ire.
With an inhale of the acrid air of the smoggy world, it let out a roar of gunmetal, sending twisted wire and nails and rust and steam pipes and rubble and power lines and debris towards the plant in massive ripples of warped asphalt, leaving clouds of sulfur-gray ash in its wake. Mountains of rubble formed tidal waves of destruction throughout the city, splintering through buildings like bulldozers through anthills. Tiny pieces of fragmented metal sliced through the air.
The end of the world was promised to come with trumpets and floodwater, lightning and wrath as the earth splits open, but it seemed like, for a moment,
When the tirade was finally over and the dust began to settle, there was a crater in the gravel where the plant stood, but the sprig of green persisted. People gathered around the edge of the crater with wonder; maybe the Machine wasn’t as powerful as it had seemed. The sprout’s roots ran deep, deep underground. It refused to be moved.
Although plants do not have the loudest voices, the sapling sang hymns of hope, of determination, of love. It sang of warmth and courage and resilience, from the rustles of its leaves to the strength of its roots. It sang of replacing the tightly-coiled metal springs that grind and churn in the body of the Machine with sprigs of lavender and marigold. It sang of a future where the metallic world was nothing more than an afterthought, washed away by the rains from a spring that is yet to come.
Creative Direction Ali Meltzer, Lily Vereen
Words Sabrina Powell
Photographs Reni Akande, Owen Rokous
Makeup Olivia Slemmer
Stylists Arielle Roybal
Featuring Jordan Mackie, Fiona Lyons-Carlson
Armour Magazine Season 29 — F/S 2023