Borderland: Love and severance on the new frontier

Podcast, also available on iTunes and Spotify – 11 episodes released monthly.

In 2036 a new nation is born: Borderland. It’s a wild and dangerous new frontier where what’s mine is yours, if you can take it. These songs and stories chronicle three generations of its inhabitants struggling to love and live in a land designed to divide. 

Episode 1: King Of The Dogs

Young Nero flees his home town after his family is murdered by a rival family. Traveling the open road, he is haunted by the ghost of his mother and the guilt of her death. Finally settling in Wounded Tree, he discovers his calling as the outlaw extraordinaire, King Of The Dogs.

Episode 2: Wounded Tree

Nero’s new home, Wounded Tree, has become the defacto capital and beating heart of Borderland. It’s a safe haven for gangsters, outlaws and corrupt politicians, while also attracting all types of thrill seekers to it’s wild west inspired anything-goes culture. But even before Borderland’s establishment, the town had an ancient reputation for trapping visitors in a web of indulgence, vice and debt.

Episode 3: Kemina’s Demise

At the peak of Nero’s outlaw fame, he meets the beautiful and uninhibited Kemina. They fall in love in front of the world on Wounded Tree’s immersive, pay-per-act, live streaming stage. But their impassioned, high thrills romance is cut short by Nero’s soul-destroying error at the Governor’s ball. 

Episode 4: Jaguar Moon

Jax, an orphaned child of Wounded Tree enters the story. Escaping an abusive orphanage at a very young age, Jax lives as a thief on the streets. He finds shelter in caves on the edge of town and lives a solitary nocturnal life, withdrawing into his lucid dreams. But when his gang is absorbed by a cartel he is forced to change professions from theft to murder.

Words & Lyrics

Episode One: King of the Dogs

Life in Borderland in the 2030s was hard on everyone.

After the states were forced to agree to the secession of south Texas and the articles of incorporation were published, all hell broke loose. From the Wild Horse Desert, down past the Rio Grande, a cultural crevasse opened up, rending a deep gash in the progress of both American and Mexican decency.

The articles set forth a new kind of fundamentalism the likes of which no one had seen, a laissez-faire-everything approach to getting what you could out of the new frontier that was Borderland. Part social experiment, part political revolution, part theme park, it was a runaway fantasy nightmare, a Wild West ghost town that had been electro-shock-reanimated and then pumped full of methamphetamine.

Borderland lurched into the world a well armed, dangerous and out of control Frankenstein, summoned from the past collective trauma that links us all as human. This new nation was impossibly fantastical, horribly amazing and streamed to your device of choice 24/7 – it’s no wonder we couldn’t stop it – it was the best show on earth!

All this, in combination with a world that seemed caught in a downward spiral of political instability, increasing inequity and climate catastrophes, led to a mad scramble for wealth and power, and our young Nero was caught right in the middle of this shit storm.

Nero was born into an old and powerful family whose prominence and position was about to be erased. Another family, seeking to take advantage of the chaos and seeing an opportunity, made a bold and brutal strike to take what they saw as rightfully their own.

And so our story begins with the murder of Diego’s family. Like a rock kicked down a hill, this tragedy set him in motion and triggered the cascade of a whole cast of characters, all doing what they could to make the best of a bad situation.

Song Lyrics

Born of the sea, boy of the town
Big family, he’s known around
Life was so bright, full of delights 

He didn’t know all the big families
Fighting for control wanted his on its knees
A war would come, mama made him run

So he did and then he hid until he had to go back and stop the attack
He was just in time to see them die his mother begging for her life cried in vain
He was just a little chico couldn’t sneak away they caught him made him hold the knife
Cause the bad men wanted him to be a message in a bottle all a full of pain

Dark as the sea, done with the town
Dead family, completely broken down
He drifted away, wandered for days

Living on the road all dressed in rag
Seven golden coins in a brown leather bag
They were his to keep, helped him to sleep

So he did and dreamt about the time before, it was all he could do
Until he found a town where the pain was rain and a storm it grew 
He was just a little chico but he had a lot of freako and he used it well
All the others on the streets they knew they couldn’t really beat him or he’d give them hell

He was the king of the dogs, sang his own songs 
To the tune of blood and thunder
He was back from the dead, black wings had spread
He would take it all before the fall
And every kill he made paid tribute to the bones in his mother’s grave

Rising in the ranks, knew how to play
Held up some banks and he always got away
He was doing fine, drinking the wine

Ladies really liked his faraway eyes
Sorrow bottled up made him seem kinda wise
It melted their hearts, they circled like sharks

But his soul had shattered it was tiny sharp pieces, when touched they drew blood 
He was a message that hurt and they always got burnt when they drank from his cup
But they just kept coming though they always left running from his angry hand
It’s a power that he had to make people sad and to rule his land

He was the king of the dogs, sang his own songs 
To the tune of blood and thunder
He was back from the dead, black wings had spread
He would take it all before the fall
And every kill he made paid tribute to the bones in his mother’s grave

Episode Two: Wounded Tree

The idea of a human wall dividing north and south wasn’t exactly new when Borderland was established in 2036.

In the 1820s, Mexico encouraged Americans to immigrate and settle the dangerous lands that would eventually become Texas. They did this because raiding Apache and Comanche warriors were killing Mexicans by the thousands. This immigration policy was designed to put Americans between the Indians and the Mexicans. 

Thousands of Americans were attracted who did eventually decimate the Indian nations, but not before revolting against Mexico’s anti-slavery laws. This conflict ultimately led to the Mexican-American War and Mexico losing the lands of Texas, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and California to the United States of America. So when Borderland was established on the bicentennial of the Texas Revolution, it was drawing on a long history of violent mediation.

Borderland’s main premise was to drive the creation of a new human wall through its Articles of Incorporation. They were a green light for those ready to do whatever was required to get as much wealth and power as possible. This gave rise to a chaotic, dangerously aggressive culture of upwardly mobile reprobates of all persuasion. And in all of Borderland, the town most at the epicentre of this frenzy, was Wounded Tree.

It’s probably no accident this is where our wandering Nero found his calling to become King of the Dogs. Wounded Tree was a distorted mishmash of high tech and odd relics held over from a time long past. It’s broad streets and narrow alleys were full of ambitious young desperados strapped with deadly devices, their menacing eyes searching for the slightest challenge. 

Why did gas lamps cast dim light on cobbled streets? What was that skittering metallic creature in the gutter? Why were heinous crimes overlooked, while spitting in the streets triggered automatic hellfire? No one really knew, but one thing was for sure: it was a wild and dangerous place full of opportunity for men like Nero.

The town even had its own creation myth in which it was populated by fisherman washed ashore in wild storms only to become ensnared by the town’s seductive indulgences. In the town square is an old tree once struck by lightning, a wounded tree that has served as a whipping post for as long as anyone can remember. Being tied to this tree was a fate all feared and all too many, experienced.

Song Lyrics

Riding upon an angry wave
The wind and currents made me their slave
Forced ashore to always be 
Bound to the town Wounded Tree

Inside the hungry river’s mouth
Divides the borders north and south
More brutal a folk you’ll never see
Found in the town Wounded Tree

As old as stones that cover bones
The town has been a mighty crossroads 
Still the sight that frightens me 
A whipping post called Wounded Tree

Villains, vagabonds, dreamers and schemers 
All know what it means to leave
Tied to Wounded Tree

Many came to stake their claim
Only to live in sorrow and shame
Some saw this opportunity
Profit in the town Wounded Tree

Floating on top of endless doom
High society’s ballroom 
Dancing they sing in harmony 
With demons who haunt Wounded Tree

Villains, vagabonds, dreamers and schemers 
All know what it means to leave
Tied to Wounded Tree

Listen my kind and gentle friends
A word of warning from my own ends
Don’t sail upon the darkened sea
Steer clear of the town called Wounded Tree

Episode Three: Kemina’s Demise

The Articles of Incorporation attracted many enterprising northerners who settled and mixed in Wounded Tree.

This gave birth to a new generation that thrived in its hedonistic, die-for-the-moment culture. The Articles fueled this culture by making it possible to be paid in secret by anyone, anywhere to perform any task. Unnamed offshore agents paid Wounded Tree’s inhabitants to create elaborate spectacles in the guise of entertainment.

For the youth Wounded Tree, it was largely irrelevant who held power, or if they themselves were pawns in a larger game to manipulate distant masses. Living in desperate circumstances and being able to auction your sensory stream to the highest bidder was good work, when you could get it. If you had the looks, attitude, and were willing to go the extra mile, you would be lifted up out of the slums and into stardom.

Our story now centers on the wild and arresting, Kemina, who was emblematic of this new generation and new economy. She forced her way into life, demanding it and everyone take notice. In doing so, she caught the attention of Nero, also a rising star of the streets, already well known as King Of The Dogs.

The combination of their natural glamour, unbridled lust for the extreme and nightly antics fuelled the town’s daily rumor mill. Everyone loved to hate them, hated to love them, and argued constantly about the propriety of their escapades. One thing they did agree on was that Kemina and Nero’s time would be short.

So their audience watched, wondered and wagered on the details of their demise.

Song Lyrics

Wild smile carnival eyes, everyone wanted a ride
She’d spin, grin take it all in, and run away into the night
Daddy was rich, down from the north, mother a queen from the south
She knew too, how to break through, using her eyes and her mouth
All the kind folk whenever they spoke, said she could never be won 
Kemina’s demise tears in my eyes, burned just as bright as the sun

She knew he was bad beautifully sad, no one could stand in his way
They danced, entranced she was romanced, she liked how his slow eyes would play
He was so hard and so very scarred, never stopped foolin around
But he held her tight what a great sight, they turned every head in that town 
All the mean folk whenever they spoke, said no one should have so much fun 
Kemina’s demise tears in my eyes, burned just as bright as the sun

Toast of the town making the rounds, daddy had strings he could tug
Governor’s ball highest of all, tonight they would cut up that rug
The guests were impressed the governor too, he noticed Kemina’s rare charm
Interrupted their dance he took his chance, to steal her away on his arm
Brazen and bold he hadn’t been told, her man would kill anyone 
Kemina’s demise tears in my eyes, burned just as bright as the sun

He knew right away the governor’s play, fury rose with great speed
Before he had thought he got off a shot, triggering panic stampede
Crowd cleared worse than he feared, Kemina lay dead on the ground 
Dangerous men now closing in, Governor not to be found
He fought like a snake no means of escape, now you know how it was done
Kemina’s demise tears in my eyes, burned just as bright as the sun

There’s one chapter more I hope it’s no bore, her man was tied to the tree
Governor mad beat him so bad, destroyed his charming beauty 
Worse than the grave he made him a slave, a punishment all through his years
But what’s really sad and so very bad, Kemina’s poor daughter’s cold tears
Her papi so bitter he tortured and hit her, poor little girl nowhere to run
Kemina’s demise tears in my eyes, burned just as bright as the sun
Kemina’s demise brought tears to our eyes, she burned twice as bright as the sun

Episode Four: Jaguar Moon

By the 2050’s, the US and many other nations had gambled their survival on the belief that technology would deliver them from the intractable disaster the world had become. Leaders of these nations reasoned that once human intelligence was matched by machines, it would double every year or two, giving them a first-mover advantage in the accelerating race to control the Earth’s remaining resources. 

But, a decade on and this intelligence hadn’t materialised, and many were beginning to doubt that it ever would. Instead, the final steps towards a game-changing super intelligence, seemed more like an infinite regress, with ever more stubborn problems emerging with every problem that was solved. This led to increasing desperation and social unrest as society grappled with a crisis of faith.

The people of Borderland were surprisingly resistant to this crisis, having kicked faith into the gutter long ago. Instead, they seemed to exist in a state of suspended disbelief in anything beyond the fulfilment of their immediate needs. This suspension of disbelief also extended to themselves and what their culture could become, allowing an evolution into something as magical, even mythical, as it was terrible. 

Borderland’s simplicity of purpose and it’s “cowboys from the future” culture seemed to cut through much of the world’s debilitating chaos and generated an attractive force that radiated from the dark heart of Wounded Tree. Reinforcing this pull was a push from all directions, driven by the rapidly changing climate and resulting mass migrations. Millions on the move, and the disorder, disease and death that accompanied them, delivered a steady stream of orphaned children to the streets of Wounded Tree. 

Jax, was fairly typical in this regard. After his mother died in childbirth, he was left on the steps of the mission. His mother’s dirt-poor migrant family could scarcely feed themselves and his father had already left town on a merchant ship. The mission where Jax spent his early years tended to attract those who relished commanding and abusing the innocent, weak and helpless. 

This was hard on Jax and at about the age of seven he ran away and lived on the streets, learning to steal as a means of survival. He found shelter in a network of caves near the river’s edge and was able to steal what he needed from the drunken men who would stagger out of the drinking halls late at night and pass out in the gutters. While this new life wasn’t easy, it was better because he was completely free from the prison that had been the mission and the torments of its wardens. 

But, eventually Jax stole from the wrong man, a gangster who immediately recognised his talent, and put him to work. This development came with the advantages of a regular paycheck and his own living quarters. In time he even made friends, giving him the feeling of what he imagined it to be to have family. This lasted for a few years, until the gang was absorbed by a growing cartel who had no need for cat burglars. They needed assassins. 

Jax’s uncanny ability for dead-of-night stealth made him a perfect candidate, the only problem was the killing. He struggled deeply with this, running away several times, only to be caught and lose a finger or toe. As a result, Jax became increasingly depressed, only happy when asleep and dreaming.

During his time living in the caves by the river, sleeping through the day waiting for the cover of night, he had cultivated the ability to lucid dream. When he awoke in his dreams, he could go anywhere, do anything, be anyone, and it felt every bit, if not more real than his waking life.

It was also in the caves that he discovered the work of some ancient and forgotten people. In its deepest chambers, amongst glittering stalactites and crystal outcroppings, oddly proportioned figures danced across the walls with serpents and beasts unknown to those in the present. He spent many hours narrating the wild scenes, until these figures began to merge fluidly with his lucid dreams. This life put him in touch with a more ancient form of existence where dream and wake, night and day infuse one another, blurring the borders and boundaries of everyday life.

This was also when he was first visited by the Jaguar. Under a full moon, a great black mass stepped into the cave’s entrance and looked at him with eyes like twin suns burning in the depths of space. Jax was sure he was going to die, but instead, the Jaguar simply turned and left. When it returned in the following months, always with the same pattern, entering the cave on a full moon just to gaze at him, Jax realised it was only coming to witness him and acknowledge his presence. This brought him great comfort, even more so when the Jaguar began visiting him in his lucid dreams. 

In later years, Jax was left with a feeling of certainty that he would again someday meet the Jaguar in the waking world, but in the form of a human.

Song Lyrics

Never held in love, cast away
He would live or die on the streets of fate
Birth took mother, father sailed away
Devil found him in the house of god

He ran away hid from everyone 
Only a child he was all alone

Skinny legs and face, no resting place 
Hunger burns all day, no mind for play
Night was time to feel and steal
Sleeps away the day in a river’s cave

Dreaming, believing the wind would speak
It held him and showed him the way

Sorrow of daylight
He dreams of the moonlight
And dances with Jaguar
Through gardens of stars

From petty theft to creeping death
Forced to play the fool for the men who rule
In dreams awake, life he did remake 
There the singing wind showed its form to him

She was the one who would set him free
Bound they would cross over in the night

Sorrow of daylight
He dreams of the moonlight
And dances with Jaguar
Through gardens of stars

Sorrow of daylight
He dreams of the moonlight
And dances with Jaguar
There’s no star too far