out past the crook in the road,
the forest dies by degrees. step by step, the leaves turn red then orange then brown then, by some mystery of nature, golden; a bright sheen of yellow and gold, glinting in the sunlight, forever reflecting off of the white birches that they find their roost on. the ground is littered with autumnal death and detritus, and yet overhead, it is as if the entire process has been stopped in time by some manic artist with a lifetime's supply of gold leaf (hah!) and too much time on her hands.
farther still, past the forests, lies the desert. when you first stumble upon it, a fog covers the land, blotting out the sun and the surface alike. nothing but grey stretches out in every direction. at your feet, the sand is damp and crumbles in your hand like you were at the beach. the colors and stripes of the surface are blotted out, robbed of their color by the cloud that has settled over it all.
but soon - too soon for any sort of reality - the fog is gone, burnt away by the ever watchful eye of the sun, and the deserts lie before you. reds and oranges and purples blend together in the endless expanse of dunes that stretch before you. in some horrifying branch of recursive thought, it strikes you that it is as if there are more dunes on the horizon than there are grains of sand in the world. the sun still waits overhead, but even so, the world is tranquil. the oppressive heat of the african and middle american deserts is absent here; no, in the new hampshire deserts, even the stretches of sand remain cool and livable.
except, i'd imagine, in the summer. it is new england, after all.
to your back are rock walls, the remnants of some canyon from a bygone era, long since eroded away by the determined sands. there, throughout the landscape, similar formations can be seen - crags of orange, dusty rock, bursting from below the ground to stand as silent sentinels in the wastes. to your left, the remnants of that same forest continue on for a spell, and before them, cacti - massive cacti; thirty, forty, fifty sixty seventy feet tall singular columns of plant flesh and needles - sit together in a copse, quietly basking in the sun and waiting for the fog to return.
and throughout - across the rocks, in the dunes, on the horizon, wrapped around the cacti - are the vines. black, jagged vines, stunning in their geometric clarity. they rise from the ground in perfect arcs and spirals before ending back in the sand, without so much as a bend or an angular twist along the way. their spikes are massive - you do not get close, but can occasionally see them loose on the ground, here and there, dislodged by the forces of nature or some as of yet unseen new hampshire desert denizen - as long as your forearm, at times, and sharp and shiny, ready to run you straight through. but from a distance, which is as close as you're willing to get, you don't see the spikes. you see teeth. square, rhythmic teeth in a cog, lining one edge of each vine, like the bones of some dead clockwork beast, now forever home among the infinite dunes.