North America, after the nuclear holocaust, is a hostile and desolate land—populated by tribes of barbaric savages and ferocious wild animals. From one the few widely scattered settlements, Bill Ashley rides onto the Deathlands, searching for a chilling, unknown enemy that lures its prey by telepathy. Instead, he finds Tamara Bush, the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. She considers him beneath contempt. But if she is ever to see her home again, Tamara knows she must accept Bill's protection.
Bill moved out cautiously and quietly. Within ten yards, he found himself hurrying forward. He stopped deliberately and waited, motionless, while his mind frantically informed him that the thing was getting away; it was moving down the back side of the ridge right now and if he didn't hurry...
When he started forward again, he found himself staggering up the ridge as fast as he could go. Somewhere in his consciousness, he was aware that this wasn't right—his very life depended on slowing down, but no longer heeded it. He must get up there and see, before the thing got away from him.
He was on top of the ridge, searching for the quickest way down the far side, when the scream stopped him. It came from somewhere ahead, down the side of the ridge and to his right; from the place he had been heading toward. And it sounded human.
Bill stopped as though he had run into a wall. The compulsion to hurry was gone, leaving him with a clear and horrifying memory of how he had scrambled up that ridge. He hadn't been pursuing a fleeing foe; he'd been running toward destruction.