For the longest time, change on the steppe occurred at a walking pace. The quarterly rural revolution, wildlife and weather languidly cycling, crops, clover and livestock padding in and out of being. The plains progressed to the one wild beat. Lynxes broke off their teeth like matchsticks. Falcons swung like pendulums. Foxes printed out the hours of the coldest months in their nervous trails through the snow.

The seasons lolloped, unbalanced, their ears stuffed with migratory birds. Sweltering spells scuffing their feet, shading their necks. Lightning storms marching and the hot and cold rains hopscotching.When the winter arrived the swineherds raced against it to their doors, the frost ambling in second place. Six months on, it thawed and the children herded it out of the village, the spring snatching at their heels.

Then the carriageways appeared, tar and shingles laid down at a quick march. Followed by the pipes and pylons. Gas canals and sewage conduits. Telephone masts sprung up like shoots of bamboo. Vents patched. Troughs dug. Cables slithered, singing under the tension. Enormous bird-boned machines pecked at the earth, churning, softening, pitching the potholes for others to straddle - planting the aching postures of empty towns. Lushka’s homespun manor, the unkempt, unchallenged champion of this stretching nowhere, unrivalled in stature, was conquered – usurped by a water reservoir and its towering appendices.

Walking pace has been horse drawn, hauled to its own exhaustion. Now change roars in on four wheeled drive, it falls from the crop-dusters. Widowers plant power lines in place of poplars. Street lights grow up from the roadside. Aerials sprout off of every home.

The seasons are unsettled. Frozen waters flowing. Parched river beds replenished. The winter lays awake through its long evenings, pestered by electric lights, nursing its scolds from filament fires. The stretching summer occasionally drops off unexpectedly, curtailed by American lager and benzodiazepine.

The big cats have been hunted out. The wolves, the deer gone. Falcons stuffed. Crake and linnet plucked. The beaks of the song birds shut like purses. In their stead power tools and cement mixers sing on the grasses. Mass bird migration occurs solely in the form of lorry loads of frozen chicken. It is television that sneaks into houses at night and drags villagers off over the steppe. Salespeople who scratch at the doors for scraps.

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