Borderland: Love and severance on the new frontier

11 episodes released monthly

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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.

Episode 5: Twenty One Years

Kemina’s death and the Governor’s resulting punishments have reduced Nero to a bitter and broken old man. Luna, his daughter, only three years old when her mother Kemina was killed, grows up alone under Nero’s oppression and cruelty. Luna bides her time, retreating into stories of her own making while longing for love and freedom.

Episode 6: Across The Border

Through a chance encounter, Luna and Jax meet and begin a secret affair. They fall in love and make a plan to escape Papi and the cartel by crossing the border with the help of a coyote. But crossing proves difficult when they are attacked by the Federales. 

Episode 7: Night Of Skies

Jax and Luna are separated when their attempt to cross the border is thwarted by the Federales. Hiding through the night they come to terms with their predicament and prepare themselves for what lies ahead.

Episode 8: Leather Bag

Luna, fleeing the attacking Federales disappears into the badlands of Borderland and discovers she is pregnant with Jax’s baby. A kind family gives her shelter while she gives birth to a healthy boy, but Papi soon catches up. Narrowly escaping, Luna and her child, Davy, begin a life on the road and on the run.

Episode 9: Doubtful Canyon

Jax wanders the northern border before returning to Borderland to liberate Luna. After confronting the Federales and Papi, the cartel forces him out of Borderland before he is able to find Luna. After he returns to the north, war breaks out and Jax gets caught up in the conflict.


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

Episode 5: Twenty One Years

With drones overhead, sensor and surveillance networks embedded in both nature and media, most countries were in a constant state of cracking down on violent extremists who manipulated the media to spread their messages. But not Borderland. There, things seemed to run in the opposite direction. Aside from spitting in the streets, just about anything and anyone was fair game. In fact, this was enshrined by its Articles of Incorporation and was a driving force behind its booming entertainment industry as one of the world’s most popular virtual destinations.

Dreaming in the caves and growing up rough on the streets of Wounded Tree, Jax largely ignored this backdrop that had so effectively captured the world’s imagination. Also growing up ignoring this no-holds-barred spectacle, was Kemina’s daughter, Luna. This was in part due to her lack of interest, but more so because her life had been totally dominated by her broken and twisted papi, Nero. After he had shot and killed Kemina when aiming for the Governor and then was tied to the Wounded Tree and whipped to near death, Nero seemed to take it all out on poor little Luna. She spent most of her young life generally enslaved and abused in the virtual visitation tanks, forced to earn the pittance she and Nero lived on. 

Her only real friend was a roborat. These feral little mechanical creatures had been introduced into Wounded Tree some years back and had become a general nuisance for almost everyone. No one knew who had let them loose, or why, and no one really seemed to care. It was just one more odd factoid that bemused the more erudite Borderland fandom groups. Over several years, Luna had tamed one of these roborats, despite this being believed to be impossible. She had even trained it to bring to her small trinkets, coins and bits of broken electronics that it found in the streets.

Her only interest in these items was to use them as characters in scenes and scenarios that she would narrate late in the night when she was finally alone. Luna would spill out an assortment on the ground and read them like runes, this spontaneously inspiring long and detailed stories that never ceased to surprise and delight her. Many times after finishing such a story, she would sit back in wonder and remark to the roborat that it must surely be magic that brought her these stories. The roborat, looking up with its dull red eyes and head cocked to one side, would give her the response she was looking for simply with this apparent attempt at comprehension.

Sometimes, also deep in the night, Luna would think of her mother. She had only fuzzy memories of Kemina, a smile, a flower, but had heard the stories of her mother and father’s wild and passionate love affair that had sparked fame and infamy in Wounded Tree and around the world. When she thought about these stories, she couldn’t reconcile how her mother could have loved someone so cruel. But she knew nothing of the childhood murder of Nero’s family, or of the dashingly handsome features and commanding confidence he had once possessed as King of the Dogs. She knew him only as a bitter, old, crippled man in which not even the sprout of a kind thought could grow.

The other thing she knew was his pain. He made sure she knew when he felt it and exactly how it felt. Despite this, she was remarkably resilient and while her skin did collect the scars from his angry hand, in the depths of her eyes there also gathered a quiet and stoic dignity. She was careful to keep this dignity well hidden, closing her eyes to anyone who might threaten it, for she knew that one day, it might be the only gift she would have to offer.

Song Lyrics

She was less than the dust, that filled every crack, she couldn’t go back, to happier times
Mama had left, the girl was bereft, some kind of theft, had robbed her of love
No one to hold her, no one to care, no one to notice if she isn’t there

Papi just took, he never gave, she was his slave, time nearly stopped
Others came too, they were the same, playing his game, she was nothing but hurt
Everyone’s servant, plaything to all, beauty now drained by the pain of their call

Twenty one years, rivers of tears, dark growing fears
Who will come hold her down now 

When out of the dark, a man from the hill, was down for a kill, empty and cold
Through fate and a whim, their paths met by chance, a delicate dance, a flicker of eyes
Meal for the starving, door with a key, he was a weapon to fight her way free 

Twenty one years, rivers of tears, light for dark fears
No one will hold her down  

Twenty one years, rivers of tears, summer time nears 
No one can hold her down now

Episode 6: Across The Border

After nightfall, the streets of Wounded Tree ran steady with wild-eyed revellers who were themselves stalked by cut throats, thieves and deviants, effortlessly drifting in and out of the shadows like terrible creatures from the abyss. Their bodies and faces were distorted by bizarre appendages and masks, technologies that allowed them to thrive in the blackness, seeing, sensing and snaring their unsuspecting prey. Intoxicated tourists who lagged too far behind their belligerent companions would be swallowed up by these hunting shadows, with only the luckiest to wake the next day with their body and soul intact.

On this particular night, Jax was one of these hunting shadows, making his way into town from the cartel compound in the hills, on his way to end the life of another as prescribed by his masters. Also on this same night, Luna hurried along the murderous streets, watching the shadows and staying in the light, her Papi having been a living demonstration of the type she would likely meet if she wasn’t very careful. 

For Luna, this was a risk worth taking, because tonight was special. It was her 21st birthday and her papi had let her make a rare trip to the cantina alone, a memory she would revisit countless times through the rest of her life. She was only going to buy a bottle of drink to return home with, but the idea that something could be special in her life lifted her spirits and awakened a long dormant instinct that things could be different. 

Absorbed in this thought and stepping into the cantina, her path was suddenly blocked by a tall thin shadow, Jax, who was himself stepping out. For a moment they stood in each other’s way as their eyes drifted up from the ground, over one another and then locked. In this moment, something was transferred and a connection was made, altering the course of the rest of their lives.

Against all reason or propriety, they stuck up a short conversation, culminating with Jax asking to see her again, something that for him was quite out of character. In the following days they met in secret along the riverbank, away from watchful eyes that might inform their respective owners and cut short their time together. Normally, Luna would have avoided the river, but she felt safe with Jax and him feeling this, gave meaning to his deadly skills for the first time in his life.

After several meetings, they recognised their common plight had a shared solution and they made a pact to start a new life together, far away from the cartel and the killing and Papi and his tournaments. They would cross the border and head north where neither cartel nor Papi could follow. But with Borderland’s aggressive and well armed Federales, sensor networks and drones, this would be no easy thing. Their only real chance was for Jax to use his connections to find a coyote who could lead them across, so this is what he did.

When the day finally arrived, they slipped away and on the edge of town drank, danced and laughed in the cooling desert afternoon, their new life calling from beyond the boundaries of their imagination. This would be a memory that Jax in particular would revisit for the rest of his life. Never again would someone force him to take a life, and never again would someone force Luna to give her’s away.

Under a sky so filled with stars it looked like the inside of an abalone shell, they and others arrived at the crossroads to meet the coyote, the whites of their eyes and teeth flashing against the coal black night. As the coyote worked his way through the group collecting his fee, an altercation broke out over a young woman who had hidden an infant in her shawl. The coyote demanded a fare for the child, which she didn’t have, and the desperate mother began to panic as the coyote drew his gun.

Jax stepped between them and with a dead look from his cold killer eyes stopped the coyote in his tracks. Jax paid the child’s fare with a fistful of solid gold Borderland coins, and everything was as it had been – except for the mother, whose panicked shouts had turned to sobs of relief that flowed towards Jax. But when she too looked into his eyes, her sobs ceased with a choked cough and she backed away quickly into the darkness, her frightened children huddling all around her legs. 

They traveled fast and hard for hours until they reached Broken Bridge, a disused overgrown ferry crossing from the old days, marked by an enormous boulder that some ancient force of nature had cracked in half. As they passed hidden and protected between the stone’s severed halves, the Coyote said, hold hands tightly or you’ll be swept away and no one will come for you. And then they were in the black rushing waters and as they waded further into the depths and the currents pushed ever harder on their legs the chain of hands collectively tightened its grip.

When they were halfway across and the river was chest deep, the darkness was suddenly shattered by a flash of gun barrels, lighting up the night like lightning bolts. There were screams as the chain of hands was broken and they were all separated. Jax and Luna instinctively and separately, allowed their bodies to sink down under the surface and drift, becoming dead for a time and of no use or interest to those who had attacked.

When their minds were near blinded by the fire in their lungs, they both rose to the surface and swam to shore, only to find themselves alone – Jax was on the north shore and had made it to freedom, but Luna was on the south side, and still in Borderland.

Song Lyrics

He had raven black hair, and without care, pointed his eyes through her soul
But she managed to hide, through this strange ride as she lost her control
He looked in her mind, hoping to find, something of value to steal
But she knew her path well, straight out of hell with an aching to feel

Well it’s a dividing line that most of the time keeps us apart from disorder 
But they erased that space when they stepped across the border

They decided to run, across the hot sun, taking on new names and faces 
Past the Rio Grande, they’d take a strong stand against those in high places
He put his guns down, left that cruel town, done with killing to live 
She was really now free, from her papi’s sick plea, to choose what she wanted to give

Well it’s a dividing line that most of the time keeps us apart from disorder 
But they erased that space when they stepped across the border

They paid the coyote, picked some peyote, danced as the sky lost it’s light 
At the crossroads they met, others placing their bet, scared wide eyes in the night
After traveling days, in weary haze, crossing they thought they heard screams
Federales attacked, coyote shot back, shattered and scattered their dreams

Well it’s a dividing line that most of the time keeps us apart from disorder 
But they erased that space when they stepped across the border

They shattered and scattered their dreams in the night
The border, dividing disorder
Between them a river, now forever apart

Episode 7: Night Of Skies

As Jax, Luna and nameless others swam for their lives, screams and bullets bounced across the river’s surface as if the gods were skipping lightning bolts for fun. The attacking Federales, empowered by Borderland’s Articles of Incorporation, were cowboy bounty hunters who collected biometric scalps for reward. They formed a network of autonomous cells that patrolled Borderland’s northern front  with one simple mandate: unauthorized crossers will be be shot on sight. This evening’s assault had seen men, women and children lose their lives in the dark and bloody currents, however, Jax and Luna had emerged alive on separate shores, divided by a river long accustomed to scenes of severance.

Jax now lay hidden between large rocks on the water’s edge, knowing there would be snakes, men searching and shouting all around him. These men spoke the Northern tongue, confirming his suspicion that he had reached the other side. The menacing shouts Luna heard were all too familiar, as she crouched in a muddy thicket, thorns tearing her clothes and skin. She looked up and above her was a perfect porthole to an endless and undivided celestial expanse, vast in its potential but unattainable in its distance. A shooting star suddenly streaked across this small window, so close it startled her; she could clearly make out a trail of glowing smoke behind it.

Both wet, cold and too afraid to move, Jax and Luna felt powerless to search for or protect one another. She lay in her tangled cage, he in his rocky cocoon, watching the same stars that formed two very different skies. Now they drift into a still and deathlike sleep, devoid of both dreams and division.

Even with the benefit of hindsight, it’s difficult to know if a particular turn of events is for the better or worse. Many implications from myriad perspectives complicate the assessment. In the end, we just keep moving forward trying to make the best of our situation. 

As morning arrived and the sun began to share its warmth, Luna woke to the sounds of dogs and drones and was driven away from the river bank. With the coyote nowhere to be found, and without Jax, attempting to cross the river was a hopeless proposition. So she went south and then west, away from Papi who would surely be following her, a songbird free from her cage and embracing the opportunity. On the opposite shore, Jax spent several days searching for Luna, and then turned north, knowing to do otherwise would mean certain death at the hands of either the Federales or the cartel.

Song Lyrics

Instrumental

Episode 8: Leather Bag

Fleeing the border, Luna ran like a hunted animal, sleeping during the day and travelling by night, only pausing to search for scraps of food in the occasional refuse piles along the roadside. While she had nothing and no one to help her, the thought of being free of Papi filled her with a strange sense of confidence that once clear of the Federales, she would survive.

In the early 2080’s, Borderland was one of the few places on Earth where one could legally exist off-grid, cash currency had been reintroduced and identification was temporary, only used when those with enough privilege or prosperity crossed the border. Luna took advantage of this off-grid opportunity and disappeared into the ungoverned, wild badlands, blending into the sea of nameless souls who were unknown, storyless and thus of no consequence to anyone anywhere.

It was during these first few months on the run that she realised she was with child. She had known she might become pregnant when she was with Jax, but things had moved too fast, like a carousel broken loose and spinning away under its own momentum. 

The realisation that she was pregnant made her feel as if she was balanced on a mountain top, about to fall down one side or the other. On one side was total breakdown and giving in to the dark force that seemed hellbent on her destruction. Falling down the other side would require her to confront this force with all the courage and energy she could muster, in order to defeat it and come out the other side alive and safe with her child. Both paths completely overwhelmed her as she trudged through the night and it was all she could do to keep her blurry eyes open and focused on the road before her. So she shut out all thoughts and feelings other than the instinct to find somewhere to hide and give birth.

Through chance or providence she eventually found a town that was far enough from Wounded Tree to almost be its opposite, the people were welcoming and kind and time passed slowly. Most importantly, she found a family that took her in while she gave birth to a healthy boy who she named Davy. 

This oasis of peace was soon shattered by the arrival of Papi who had tracked her down using the connections he had made as King Of The Dogs, Luna was now his only source of income and therefore a possession he could not afford to lose. Papi had gone from house to house dragging their occupants into the street, demanding they turn over Luna and beating those who he felt were holding back. 

Luna and Davy had only narrowly escaped, due to the courage of Abraham, the head of the family who had taken her in. He had distracted, delayed and purposefully enraged Papi to give them time to escape. As a result, he had been severely beaten and Luna did not know whether he had even survived. That Abraham would trade his well-being and dignity for her and Davy’s was deeply humbling and to help assuage the guilt she felt she vowed to always remember and honour the sacrifice he made.

Years passed and while they no longer knew if Papi followed, moving had become a habit, crisscrossing Borderland, never taking the same road twice and never staying anywhere longer than 6 months. As Davy grew, it continuously amazed Luna how much he looked and acted like his father, he had the same cool, feline gaze, never rushed and was always present.

Luna told Davy everything she knew about Jax, who evolved into a sort of mythical character for the boy through her stories of courage, strength and freedom, qualities Davy hoped to one day possess himself. Luna knew these embellished stories were no substitute for a real father, but this was something she couldn’t risk, relationships with men had only brought her pain in one form or another. So instead she channeled all her love towards the child and tried to bring him joy when and where she could.

Remembering the stories inspired by the trinkets her pet Roborat had once brought her, she kept a small leather pouch full of odd little treasures she collected as they traveled. At night in their dusty roadside camps under the scant shelter of rustling tarpaulin, she would animate these treasures and improvise long, fantastical stories until Davy drifted off and into sleep. Throughout Davy’s childhood, this leather bag was a symbol of imagination and security, for every time it appeared and its stories spilled forth, he would be transported to a magical world so very far away from the dust, hunger and hardship.

Song Lyrics

A mother and son, growing up on the run
Would rest at night from hard day’s flight and find a little fun
From a small leather bag, mother pulled strange tales
A rock, some wood, she understood, they cleared away my ails

Brightly shown the sun, morning fresh and willing
Little leather bag, opened out came spilling
Yawning Red Rock, and sleepy Mister Twisted Wood
Rolling Brass Ring, shouted so they understood 
I’m here, I am ready, come let’s go
Nothing more was needed, they all just rolled

Leather bag what will you show me tonight
I’ll climb right inside with the stories you hide 

The gang rolled and sang, spirits taking to the wing
When down from the clouds, a bird it snatched up Rolling Ring
Shocked and horrified, the leather bag they hurried to 
Ms Looking Glass, cried, “Oh no, what shall we do?”
Don’t panic said Twisted Wood, we’ll think and we’ll try
But when they saw the bird so high, they all just cried

Leather bag what will you show me tonight
I’ll climb right inside with the stories you hide 

A strange tale no doubt, that led me to shout 
What will they do and is it true, I really must find out!
Well take it easy now, and I’ll tell you how
The bird was made to fly away, and drop the ring from bough

So back to the place, where bird stole their rolling friend 
Ms Looking Glass looked up, said “look where branches end!”
There in the tree, was bird with Ring not minding
Little Red Rock said, “Ms Glass your light it’s shining!”
And then when she looked, her light shined that way
It startled bird who dropped the ring, they all cheered “hurray”!

Leather bag what will you show me tonight 
Your stories take stage in the silver moonlight
Leather bag what will you show me tonight
I’ll climb right inside with the stories you hide 

“Sleep time- my boy”, and scooping up the toys
She’d closed the bag my lids would sag recalling all those joys
Cause that’s how we rolled, and cast away the cold
From that leather bag great times were had, no better tales were told

Episode 9: Doubtful Canyon

Following his devastating separation from Luna at the border, Jax traveled north along the river, a distant echo of Nero’s journey up the coast to Wounded Tree so many years before. 

Like Luna, he traveled off-grid and by night, but to avoid repatriation, or, should his refugee claim be successful, being ID chipped. The trauma he had endured in the servitude of others had made him too distrustful to give anyone the supreme power of knowing his whereabouts at all times, even if it was in his best interests.

Despite being free of the cartel’s dominion, Jax was deeply unhappy, tormented by the loss of Luna. So he traveled for months in the shadows like a ronin samurai who had lost its master: a deadly drifter without purpose, meaning or dignity. 

Following the Rio Grande, he eventually came upon a great dam now destroyed.

For reasons unknown, someone had used explosives to cleave an enormous gash in its center, freeing the river’s flow. Here he found dozens of caves now liberated from submarine exile, many of which were adorned with ancient pictographs and petroglyphs. 

In one of these chambers, amongst images of undulating lines, slain deer, and odd animal forms, he came across a blood-red, antlered figure that seemed to float amidst a constellation of black stars. Held transfixed by this ghostly creature, he was suddenly transported through time as he realised this same figure had also inhabited the cave of his childhood. With this recognition something large and heavy seemed to shift deep within him and he scarcely could catch himself as he collapsed on the rocky cave floor.

Born into the darkest depths of abuse and despair, Luna had shown him the warm light of love, only to have this light blown away and to be plunged back into the cold darkness. Like Luna in her moment of crisis, he too felt as if he were balanced atop a towering summit, teetering and about to tumble down one side or the other. Falling down one side was to end things once and for all and take his own life, joining the chorus of ancient spirits entombed within the cave.

Down the other side was to rage against those who had separated him from Luna with hellfire summoned from the dark depths to which he had been returned. While these dueling prospects overwhelmed him as they had Luna, he did not have the new life growing within him to help steady his balance. And so he fell, not towards his own death, but towards the death of others, as a concentrated rage grew within him that now in motion, could not be stopped.

Looking up from where he lay, he met the gaze of the red, antlered beast and it spoke to him with words that made no sound but that echoed through all time: hunt the deer, eat the peyote, drink the cave water. He observed these sacred instructions for three moons and as he did a plan formed within him as if it were growing of its own accord, fed by this ancient ritual and delivered by forces he didn’t dare confront. 

And then he was ready. He returned to Broken Bridge and after weeks of careful observation, murdered one by one all of the Federales who had separated him from Luna. This terrible retribution took place on a single moonlit night, with each individual knowing their fate in the moments before they felt his blade. With his path into Borderland now clear, he traveled directly to Wounded Tree and quickly found Papi in a cantina, raving drunk and boasting of the old days as King Of The Dogs.

Jax watched from a dark corner, peering out from under his hat and over a glass of mezcal as Papi grew more belligerent, challenging a man who had questioned his tall tales of the past. This particular challenge resulted in a fist fight that left Papi bloody, humiliated and violently ejected from the establishment. Watching from the shadows, Jax saw him stagger to his feet, cursing and fumbling, trying to bring his blade into play against an adversary who had already forgotten the incident. 

Jax followed him home, and while he was eager to be done with this man, the plan dictated that Papi would confront his fate in the harsh, sober light of morning. As Papi stumbled into his squalid shack, he was oblivious to the deadly shadow that followed only inches behind him and watched as he unceremoniously vomited in the basin and passed out on the bed. Jax pulled up a decrepit wooden chair, sat down and settled into a deep state of open-eyed meditation, watching Papi as he slept.

Eventually the sun’s burning rays crept in through the window, up onto Papi’s bed and into his face, contorting it as he groaned under the weight of a powerful hangover. Opening his eyes he bolted upright at the sight of Jax sitting, watching him, without expression or movement.

Papi looked across the room to where his gun and knife lay at a small shrine – a grim reaper made from the bones of a bird, human hair and dressed in a little black gown that might fit a child’s doll. Papi slowly turned back to Jax and seeing the familiar dead look in his eyes and how he held the blade in his hand, cursed himself as he realised he was beat.

What do you want? 

Luna, Jax replied.

Papi let out a sudden laugh and looked at him with pity. Stupid boy. I don’t know where she is, probably dead. In any case, even her bones belong to me. Jax, seeing in Papi’s eyes that he was speaking the truth, shifted forward with an odd jerk to the right, a feign that caused Papi to blink, and in that fraction of a second, Papi’s throat was cut.

With Luna now free of Papi, Jax searched long and hard for her, but she had become meticulously clever in obscuring her maze-like routes through Borderland from anyone who might follow. Also complicating his efforts was the need to hide his presence from the cartel. This was difficult because he bore the telltale scars of punishment and branding on his face, arms and hands, and the cartel had spies everywhere. In the end, he could not find her and was forced back across the border, vowing to return as soon as he was able.

But War had broken out in the north and upon his return to the caves he found Borderland loyalist forces amassing there. A secessionist rebellion that had been brewing ever since the formation of Borderland, now boiled over with armed militias staging devastating attacks in all states of the union. While Jax had no understanding of or interest in politics, he held a deep resentment for Borderland and quickly found himself swept up in the conflict.

He joined one of the many counter-insurgent groups known as Jayhawks who were dedicated to resisting the secessionist rebellion and maintaining the state of the union. After fighting for the better part of a year, always as a lone killer in the night, he realised this war would not have a decisive victory, but instead, would settle into long, drawn out, self-perpetuating cycles of urban guerrilla warfare.

One cold morning, staring into his coffee next to a small dying fire, he suddenly stood up and without a word, walked out of the Jayhawk camp. Returning to the border, he passed himself off as a cartel operative returning with intel and reentered Borderland to continue his hunt for Luna. He mapped sightings of her with diligence and determination, even hearing stories of the boy she traveled with, wondering if this might be his son, but, each time he would get close to her, the cartel would close in on him.

After several years and much anguish, he crossed back into the north and followed the river upstream, past the destroyed dam and its caves, to its source, a vast maze of deep and treacherous canyons. Here, he would live as a recluse, a ghost of the desert that was seen by few, and recognised by none.

Song Lyrics

Planned it so long, I mapped it in song, left under cover of doom
Knew my path well, straight outta hell, laid them in a cold dark tomb
Though I feel you are near, I can’t see you my dear, night’s lost moon rise

But it’s got me so good, coffin’s cold wood, oh Doubtful Canyon

Born in the south, I ran to the north, freedom that was due to me
I fought in state’s war, my saber kept score, blood for those hung in the trees
I won’t give up my dear, I feel you are near, night’s lost moon rise

But it’s got me so good, cold coffin’s wood, oh Doubtful Canyon

Doubtful Canyon, cruel companion, your river cuts deep and cold
Doubtful Canyon, dark companion, I’ll break your stranglehold 

Snakes and coyote, sage and peyote, lost in this tangled maze
I’ll never relent, till I’m up and spent, it ain’t my dying days
No I can’t let you go, the visions they flow, night’s lost moon rise

But it’s got me so good, coffin’s cold wood, oh Doubtful Canyon

Doubtful Canyon, cruel companion, your river cuts deep and cold
Doubtful Canyon, dark companion, I’ll break your stranglehold