In a time of global warming and spiralling damage to the environment, the Virgin Zones were established to help combat the change. Abandoned by humanity and given back to nature, these vast areas in a dozen remote locations across the planet were intended to become the lungs of the world.
But there are always those drawn to such places. Extreme sports enthusiasts and adventure racing teams target the dangerous, sometimes deadly zones for illicit races. Only the hardiest and most experienced dare undertake these expeditions. When one such team enters the oldest Zone, Eden, they aren’t prepared for what confronts them. Nature has returned to Eden in an elemental, primeval way. And here, nature is no longer humanity’s friend.
I’m so honored to be part of the book tour for Eden! Thank you so much, Titan Books! I feel like this is a timely story, so you can enjoy an excerpt from the book below the tour schedule!
“Eden,” Poke said.
At first Jenn saw little to differentiate the view across the valley from the landscape they had traversed over the past few hours. More trees, more hills, more valleys. Poke had brought them here on a very precise schedule, and even now she continued glancing at her watch.
“This is where it gets tricky,” the guide said.
“But you’ve got our route planned,” Jenn’s father said. He had been quiet today, no doubt considering the difficulty of the task to come. They’d all been quiet, even Gee. Coming together for an expedition, they each prepared mentally in their own private ways.
“I have,” Poke said.
“But still it’s tricky?” Lucy asked.
Poke sighed heavily, looked at her watch one more time, and eased herself down against a tree. She massaged her knees. It was the first time Jenn had seen her displaying any sign of discomfort.
“Of course it is,” she said. “Take a look. All of you. A closer look.”
“What are we looking at?” Cove asked, but none of them answered. Instead, they did what their guide told them.
Jenn and Aaron stood side by side, arms touching, breathing heavily from exertion. They were used to it. Revelled in it. She could smell him, a familiar scent of heat and perspiration.
“It looks… deep,” he said. He smirked, and Jenn nudged against him. But he was right. Across the valley, over a narrow river, starting on the other side and stretching into the distance over rolling hills with dark clefts that might contain anything, Eden looked as deep as any place she had ever seen.
Deep was how she described her nightmare. It was imprecise, but the best word she could find. If she was ever ill or jaded, the deep haunted her sleep and sometimes woke her in a bath of sweat. A sense of wide open space and depth, a vision of expanse and endless, unknown breadth; she had tried explaining the nightmares to Aaron when she shouted herself awake beside him, and he asked her what was wrong. Nursing a midnight coffee she’d sit propped against the wall and talk through the fears that haunted her sleep. Like all the worst nightmares, they defied explaining. No words did them justice. It’s a feeling of endless, daunting depth, she’d said. Like the universe has swallowed me up and forgotten about me.
She remembered her mother holding her when she woke from more frequent childhood versions of this nightmare. She’d never needed to ask Jenn what was wrong, and Jenn never tried to explain. Her arms were enough. The strength of her, the smell, the comfort she offered when she said, You’re safe in my warm.
As Jenn and the others stared out across the wilderness, a dreg of her recurring nightmare trailed a whisper across the landscape. A shiver ran through her and she shook it off. The view was beautiful, awe-inspiring, and she welcomed the early afternoon sun on her face and the closeness of her friends to see away any lingering fears. She had entered several other Virgin Zones, but she would never get used to this feeling of standing outside waiting to go in. At their purest these places were removed from the world, as wild as the land before apes stood on their hind legs and walked.
And Eden was special.
She felt that shiver again. Someone was watching her watching Eden, and this time when she glanced at Poke the woman did not look away.
Jenn inclined her head slightly. “Is there water nearby?” she asked.
Poke understood her intention. “Over here.”
Jenn held out her hand and took canteens from Cove and Selina, then she and Poke moved away from the others.
“What do you see?” Jenn asked, voice low, as soon as they were out of earshot.
“A woman who looked just like you,” Poke said. “Same eyes. Same mouth.”
Jenn’s heart jumped. “What woman?”
They knelt by a stream and filled the canteens.
“Couple months ago,” Poke said. She waved a fly from her eyebrow, not blinking. “She came here with a team, bit like yours but lots more gear. Not as together. They carried a few guns, other shit. Paid me for some advice, a couple of maps. A few hours of my time. Then they went into Eden.”
“And did they come out again?” Jenn asked.
Poke’s eyes were flat. Cold. She smelled deception and wanted no part of it. “You’re keeping something from your team,” she said. “That’s not cool. It’s dangerous. In there you need to be solid, together.”
“I have reasons,” Jenn said. “Please, did they come out again?”
“Not that I heard.” Poke tilted her head, cigarette smoke making her squint. “Name was Katharine, but she called herself—”
“Kat,” Jenn said. “My mother.” She looked back towards the group, and her father standing there staring away from her into Eden. She felt the weight of unsaid things, and as ever it was a gravity holding them together, and a barrier forcing them apart.