The Deadlands and the rare safe spots dotted across them were an idea that grew in my mind for a long time before I sat down to work on “Waystation VII,” where average people try to make it through a ruined world where travel is restricted by factors so far beyond the control of most people that it is nearly impossible.
Purchasing fuel and supplies in preparation for a journey is one thing. Carrying along the air you need to survive long enough to make the next leg of your trip is a weight that hangs on all the characters moving through the Deadlands, including those souls who operate the Waystations scattered across the landscape.
Travelers who don’t plan well enough for their expeditions, or who run into a spot of bad luck, may end up stuck at a Waystation, operating the aging machinery as the poisoned air swirls around them, kept at bay by thick ways and interlocking doors. For some, working the Waystations is simply the only life they’ve known, selling air to passing caravans that are traveling to lands they can’t even imagine.
The caravans often end up facing dangers caused by the ferocious storms in the Deadlands, the shifting pathways, and their limited supplies of air. After all, even canisters of pressurized air can only last for a few hours. Some of the Waystations are more than a day apart, requiring strict rationing of air and, often, more than a bit of good luck.
A single mistake can cost caravans precious minutes, leaving them in unfriendly lands, surrounded by an ocean of air they can’t breathe. Caravans get lost. Travelers leave one Waystation and never reach the next, never reaching the other side of the Deadlands and whatever waits beyond.
But despite the ruin of the Deadlands, there’s still a promise of hope found at the end of the stepping stone path of Waystations. Rumors of clear air beyond never really fade away, tempting characters to stash aside their funds, planning to strike out through the poisonous wastes, in the hope of reaching whatever might lay beyond.
J.S. has been writing since she could get her hands on a pencil and paper. These days, she writes as a freelancer for her day job and pens fiction by night. Her fiction has appeared in print and around the web.