"Three thousand miles of rad-deserts, hostile muties, atomic war survivor freaks and general hell on earth, stretching from one poisoned ocean to another, with a different way to die waiting for you in just about any direction you choose to take. She's a mean ol' bitch, Mother Cursed Earth, and she eats fools like you alive."1
The Cursed Earth is the radiation-blasted wasteland surrounding Mega-City One, occupying most of what used to be the USA. A horrifying legacy of atomic war, it is occupied by mutants, criminals and herds of resurrected dinosaurs. The acid rains that blow in from Canada can strip flesh from bone in seconds (unless you're a mutated monster like a dog vulture that has evolved to survive the harsh terrain), but that might be preferable to falling into the hands of bandits such as Fink or Mean Angel.
The only people who will venture into the hellscape, braving locations such as the Ash Desert, Brunner's Warplands, Sauron Valley, the Slough of St Louis and the Black Hills of Dakota, are intrepid pioneers in search of a new life in the New Territories, criminals who have been sentenced to work in one of the penal colonies run by Justice Department, or Judges from Mega-City One and Texas City. Some Judges have missions to complete there; some are cadets doing the 'hot-dog run' as part of their training; and some have resigned and chosen to take the Long Walk, bringing law to the lawless until death. Judge McGruder and Judge Dredd both took the Long Walk but, amazingly, survived everything the Cursed Earth could throw at them and returned to aid Mega-City One in its hour of need.
Notable Cursed Earth landmarks include the Tulsa Melts, which were created when a thermonuclear device was detonated a kilometre above Tulsa and the city, built of the new material 'glasseen', "melted like a candle in hell." There is also a great dust bowl between the Mississippi and the Missouri, "a vast desolate radioactive plain, swept by 400 kph winds." Further on lies the Nebraska Fault, where an underground silo exploded during the atomic war and "blew a crack clear down to deep magma," creating a volcanic fault 200 kilometres long and a lake of molten lava called Lake Omaha. The Mississippi river courses across the Cursed Earth, but brings it no revitalising water: it has become so polluted that it is now a river of fire that burns everything it touches. (In one story, Missionary Man, the dams holding the Mississippi in check were destroyed and it incinerated the city of New Orleans.)
Stories set in the Cursed Earth
12000 AD prog 1174.