“What’s the camera for?” asked the Officer

“For taking pictures.” 

“Is that supposed to be funny?” He read over her permit carefully. “What’s there to photograph?”

It had been more than 30 years since the infamous toxic gas explosion. There wasn’t much left except the crumbled and rusted ruins of a once thriving town. He was right, nothing to see here.

“The Cliffs. I’m photographing Wasteland for a gallery exhibition in the city.”

He rolled his eyes and flung her permit back at her. “Coyotes have been sighted at night by the Cliffs. They’re getting big. And brave. Just so you know.”

After the accident, the entire area, for a 10-mile radius, was paved over in concrete, so the buildings looked semi submerged coming out of the ground. Even the dead bodies of the trapped locals were covered. Wasteland was an abandoned concrete tomb.

Weeds and trees started breaking through the concrete, many thought to be defiant new species, but that couldn’t be confirmed since scientists weren’t permitted to take samples.

The Wasteland Officer had taken up her valuable time, so she had to walk-run uphill to the Cliffs. The Cliffs used to overlook a magnificent ravine, but it was dried up and silent now.

Luckily, she had time to find a vantage point before her targets arrived on scene. The couple held hands, they kissed and they gazed dreamily at the sunset sky over the quiet corpse of a long poisoned city.

She got her shots quickly and quietly.

By the time she made it back to her hotel, it was pitch dark. Darkness fell quickly in Wasteland because because there was no electricity for street lighting.

No one managed the hotel. She accessed her room with a key card she got from a vending machine and activated online.

Once or twice, she thought she could hear coyotes howling in the distance. Her phone vibrated.

Ugh. Might as well get this over with. “Hi there.”

“Did you find him? Is he cheating?”

“You sure you want to know?” She always asked one last time, as a professional courtesy.

There was a brief, heavy pause. “Just tell me.” 

“Yes. I have your evidence,” she said, reflexively reaching for her camera.

Don’t ask if she’s alright. You’re not her shrink. You just take the pictures.

“I’m sending you the money now. Can I have the photos by morning?”


The room was spectacularly dusty, even for the rate she was paying, but that was to be expected. Workers were only allowed to stay in Wasteland for up to 14 days at a time. Oddly enough, it was no longer because of the toxins, but because of the psychological distress of being in an abandoned tomb.

And yet, there were still people willing to abandon their land of the living to come this desolate place, because it promised them secrecy. 

A secret was worse than toxic gas. A secret was worse than death shrouded in concrete.

She lay on the bed and heard a coyote yipping in the distance, calling in its circle. 

Maybe she wouldn’t spend the night.

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Image by Zsolt Palatinus from Pixabay