Appeared in Writers of the Future 30.
Although Aleck is excited to join the wooden pushbike ranks, he arrives late. Fossey, one member, drives himself into the desert that surrounds the town. The old man explodes into dust. "Waste of a good bike," says Praetor Jones.
Aleck is given a new house and wife-to-be, Martha. He's not comfortable about their being thrust together although he finally comes to terms with this.
Wisps and sand figures step off the desert and spook the cows. The villagers steer clear of the creatures. The old sage--Charlie Potato, a potato farmer--turns out to know what caused the desert: People were chock-full of nanites but an update, which contained a computer virus, turned everything to dust
What begins as fantasy becomes SF. Fun.
A cool story with images that stick to your ribs. Although it deals with nanotechnology, ecological damage haunts this tale as it does many in the volume, and it does so subtly. However, if all that's left is a little strip of land, deep in the interior of a country, the land is doomed and should be fighting against the encroaching desert--nano or not. The tale's beginning and ending meander ("driving to the story" as it's sometimes called) instead of socking it to the reader. While it all could use a little paring, the tale's solid and likely to please most readers.