Here's the skinny: nobody knows what it was. Aliens, divine intervention, a black project gone wrong, a natural "tear" in the structure of the universe itself - all idle speculation. We don't know what it was. Chances are, we'll never know.

We do know what it did.

When we woke up on June 7th 2015, six regions of the Earth were...changed. Twenty million people were gone, just like that, blink of an eye. Wichita, Kansas turned into 5000 square miles of rainforest with the occasional building rising from the wild like an ancient temple. Kinshasa became a stunningly strange landscape, with intricate structures grown from crystals - an alien city, some say. A bubble of breathable atmosphere sprang up over the Challenger Deep, building a strange cupola of translucent ice between itself and the cold depths of the sea. The Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station was caught in a time differential, with everything inside slowed down to 1/10 of outside time - and promptly became a haven for the terminally sick, hoping to cheat death by waiting for medicine to catch up with their illness. Vienna - plus a sizeable portion of Austria - simply disappeared for 2 years and emerged with everyone within the city limits either dead or blind, with none of the survivors even aware of the passing time - and pockets of it still warp in and out of reality as the city rearranges itself for some unknown purpose. Finally, Czernobyl was both the most and the least affected - though the landscape stayed the same, life itself and the very laws of physics have been twisted inside, and when most people speak of The Zone, they talk about Czernobyl.

We tried to contain it. It was such an attack on our very sense of reality that we cordoned off every anomaly, surrounded them with military patrols and walls. Wichita and Vienna were easily contained. The South Pole and the Challenger Deep required special equipment to reach, making them relatively safe from outside interference even without the resources to completely encircle them. But Kinshasa and Czernobyl? Anything goes. Kinshasa in particular is a war zone and draws the worst of African and international mercenaries to fight over its secrets and resources. Czernobyl is almost a country of its own now, with the Ukrainian Army lacking the resources to do anything but patrol the Zone borders and try to keep all the bad stuff inside.

Oh, right, did we mention the mercenaries? The insane, the desperate and the greedy men and women trying to make a living in these pockets of strangeness?

We call them stalkers.

The Stalkers

The Zones

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