The Wild Dead West by Eric A. Reynolds
The Wild Dead West is a new character-driven, post-apocalyptic supernatural western series by author Eric A. Reynolds.
A catastrophic cosmic event has claimed most of the Earth’s population, and has left the surface of the planet a barren desert wasteland. In the wake of this “Great Reaping,” supernatural forces have begun rising into the world and plaguing the Dead West.
Liberation of the Left-Behind, Pt. I sees a lone, lost stranger stuck between the ruts of a grinding cycle of survival, despair and addiction—locked without hope behind the imposing walls of a seedy labor camp. Commanded by the fanatical Captain Carson, an officer of the remnant Confederate States Army, Fort Liberation becomes the oppressive, and often horrific, backdrop to the stranger’s “rehabilitation”—in which a growing cult of deranged zealots eagerly await the arrival of some all-powerful being.
But with the help of an old wise man, the stranger begins learning how to scale the walls of a different kind of prison, altogether—a prison with walls higher than that of the impenetrable, towering walls of Fort Liberation. For, the prisons we build for ourselves are often trickier to escape than the ones others build for us.
“You make it sound so easy,” countered Joe, smiling and shaking his head. He waved his finger at the old man and his tone went sharp. “And don’t you dare tell a single soul about any of this, you hear me?”
The old man rolled his eyes before he carefully explained, “Listen. Sometimes when we cling to a thing, we tend to make it our end-all, be-all. We tend to make it the thing that is supposed to ‘save’ us. That it will magically ‘fix’ everything once we obtain it. But that is never the case—one of the greatest follies of man. Because there will always be something else. Always-always-always!”
Joe gazed at the crackling fire and fell into deep contemplation.
“We do not need all these things. These things that are always so far away,” the old man waved his hand over the night sky like a paint brush, “endlessly perched upon the horizon, always just out of reach. All we will ever need—” he smacked the dirt with his opened palm, “is this. Right now. What is right in front of us. We must learn to let the moment in—to lose ourselves in it.”
Joe’s pointed eyes peered around the sleepy prisoner encampment. The dim, orange lights, rising from the dozens of glowing campfires all around him, each attempted to poke through the ocean of cold night like speckles of dying awareness. Hints of body odor, urine and deprivation snuck up into his nose, replacing the smell of cold stone and burning wood. “Yeah, well, right now seems to kinda bite the big one.”
The old man reached forward and snatched a burning stick from the fire, his hand dangerously close to the glowing embers of it when he held it in his delicate, bony grip. “This is because you cling to the thing that you feel will save you from the personal hell you have unwittingly created for yourself.” He held the flaming stick between the two of them now. “We need this fire to stay warm. To protect us from the harsh elements.” The smoldering embers were creeping and crawling towards his bare hand.
Joe reached for the stick. “Old man, put that thing down before you burn yourself!”
The old man waved the burning stick around like a child playing swords. Streams of smoke trickling into his nose, causing him to cough. “Exactly. You said it. I will burn myself if I continue to cling to this fiery piece of wood.” He threw it back into the fire just before his hand could be burned, the scar on his wrist flashing in the firelight. Then he went on, “One of the greatest ironies in life is that when we cling to the thing that is supposed to save us, we create more pain and suffering for ourselves. Get it now?”