“Newcomer Jill Elaine Hughes raises a fresh new voice in the
zombie genre with a story filled with plenty of action, well-rounded characters
and lots of shocks. Fun, fast-paced and highly entertaining. ZOMBIE, INCORPORATED
rocks!” –Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of FIRE & ASH
and CODE ZERO
Twilight. With zombies.
Eighteen-year-old Katie Allred is socially awkward and unpopular at school. The
only child of parents who had her right out of high school, Katie is herself
about to leave the nest, even though she hardly feels ready.
Katie’s new after-school job at the Zimble Box Corporation draws her into the
complex social strata of high school cliques and backstabbing friends in ways
she never imagined. Katie soon discovers there’s something very strange about
the “in” crowd at school—and about her employer, too. Shortly after starting
her new job, the Contagion breaks out, plunging her town and the entire nation
into chaos as zombie shadow forces come out into the open, ravaging the
streets. Katie goes into hiding and her parents disappear, along with almost
everyone else she knows.
But Katie soon discovers she has special powers that help her survive. She’s a
Beacon, someone with the innate ability to help zombies produce children. It’s
a power her employer — and what little remains of the U.S. government — both
want to exploit for their own ends. Not only that, it runs in her
family—which has a secret past Katie never knew about until now.
Enter Agent Morehouse of the FBI Special Zombie Control Unit. A reformed zombie
working undercover, he suppresses his urge to eat human flesh in order to serve
and save humanity. But Agent Morehouse can’t help but be attracted to a Beacon
like Katie, and she to him. Even as they fight zombies the world over, they
must fight their intense attraction to each other, hoping to keep Katie from
suffering Agent Morehouse’s terrible zombie fate.
right. The zombie apocalypse was my fault. Everything
was my fault. I’d ruined her life, and
now she wanted me out of it. All the mean underhanded comments over the years,
all the passive-aggressive decisions to spend money on herself instead of me,
their decision not to plan for my future, all the not-so-subtle hints to get
the hell out of her house and become somebody else’s problem—-it all made
perfect sense now.
could take a hint. I knew where I wasn’t
wanted. And somehow I figured I’d have a
better chance of surviving the coming onslaught of the Undead if I was on my
own. Conventional wisdom says there’s
safety in numbers, but I’d watched enough horror movies to know that sometimes
it’s best to fly solo.
went to the bookcase and dragged over a milk crate to stand on so I could reach
the top shelf. I reached behind the main part of the bookcase to the secret
compartment I knew was behind it, the same secret compartment where I’d hidden
candy and comic books as part of a treasure hunt game I’d used to play alone as
a little girl. My fingertips felt around
until they touched the smooth, cold gunmetal.
I wrapped my fingers around the pistol, pulled it out, inspected
it. It was a lot heavier than I’d expected,
yet it still seemed small, too small to be something that could explode and
kill someone—-or something—-in
less than a second. The lines of Dad’s semiautomatic Glock were sleek, almost
animal-like in their curvature. I didn’t know what I was doing, but on sheer
instinct my finger pressed a tiny switch on the spine of the weapon and the
chamber popped open, revealing a bullet.
I popped the chamber closed, pressed another switch and the clip fell
out into my hand. I inspected that,
studied it, worked out in my head how its various components connected with
various components inside the gun which, when the trigger was pulled, would
result in a projectile issuing forth, then with a flick of my wrist pushed the
clip back inside its slot, heard it click.
knew next to nothing about guns or weaponry or ballistics, other than that I
knew my father stored guns in the basement and I had always been forbidden to
touch them. But despite that lifetime of ignorance it seemed as if merely
holding the weapon in my hand transferred all the knowledge I needed about how
or why to use it directly to my brain.
As if I had a natural (maybe even a supernatural) talent for it, or a gift as my grandmother would have said.
I could see all the moving parts in my mind’s eye as if they’d been there all
reached back into the secret compartment and felt around again until my
fingertips touched dusty cardboard. I
grabbed and pulled and came out with a heavy box of magazine clips. Three magazines, sixteen shells to a clip. I
couldn’t do the arithmetic in my head, but I knew it was a lot of bullets. A lot, but probably not enough. I reached and grabbed and pulled once again,
and retrieved two more boxes of magazines.
Lots and lots of bullets now. I
hoped I’d never have to use them, but just to hold them in my hand felt like a
good life insurance policy.
stood and turned my newfound possessions over and over in my hands, studying
the switches and gears, memorizing where the safety was and mentally practicing
how to disengage and re-engage it. I read the instructions and warnings on the
sides of the magazine boxes, noted how they said that semiautomatic-loading
weapons were illegal in many states, and the manufacturer had no liability for
any physical or legal consequences for any injury or death resulting from
improper (or proper? Since guns were
for shooting, after all) use of its commercial products. I knew I was holding
deadly force within the palm of my hands, and knew that should have scared me
at least a little bit.
it didn’t. It did the opposite.
watched me do all of this without comment.
I made a point not to meet her eyes for a while, instead keeping my gaze
on the gun and the shell magazines. The basement air thickened between us. The
ticking sound of the air conditioner as the blower switched on automatically on
the other side of the wall seemed way too loud.
We both waited for the other to speak, or at least meet a gaze. But
neither of us did, and for far too long a time.
Mom broke the silence. “It’s been way more than ten minutes, and your father
isn’t back yet. What do you want to do?”
think you should go up there after him, Katie. Take the gun with you.”
forced myself to meet Mom’s eyes. I saw
a lifetime of disappointment behind her tinted glasses and blue-black mascara.
in a real hurry to get rid of me, aren’t you Mom?” I asked. My tone was cold,
deadpan. I was through with all the
bullshit. I just wanted my mom to tell
the truth about me for once.
don’t know what you’re talking about.”
it. You’ve been trying to get rid of me for years. Makes me wonder why you didn’t just get rid
of me before I was born and saved yourself the trouble.”
the color drained from Mom’s face. “How dare you speak like that to me!”
dare you say straight to my face that
you didn’t want me, that you never wanted me, and that I basically ruined your
and Dad’s lives!” I shrieked. “Because that’s basically what you just said.”
took off her glasses, pressed her palms flat against her eye sockets and choked
down a sob. “Katie, you’re reading way
too much into this. Your father and
I—-we made a lot of sacrifices for you.
Most people who became parents as young as we did would never have done
even a tenth of what we’ve done for you.
You should be grateful. And I
think it’s high time your father and I had some time to ourselves now that we
gave up so much to raise you. Except—-“
now you can’t. Because of the stupid zombies.
Which I suppose are all my fault too, just like everything else is.”
slumped down onto a stack of milk crates. “I never said that.”
didn’t have to.”
stared each other down for a minute or two, Mom always keeping a nervous eye on
the gun. For a split second I actually
considered shooting her with it, but dismissed the idea as insane. Plenty of teens my age think they hate their
mothers, but they really don’t. It’s just a phase all young women go
through. The more I thought about it
though, I didn’t hate my mother. I
honestly didn’t feel anything for her. I
was as indifferent to her now as I was to a lump of coal. And that was far worse that hate. After all, in order to hate someone, you have
to love them first. I wasn’t sure I ever
loved Mom, and in that moment I doubted my mom ever loved me either. Sending me off to face the zombies and my
almost-certain death just proved my theory.
now you want me to save you from the zombies at the risk of my own life, huh?”
I said, fingering the barrel of the gun in my hand. “Sort of kills two birds
with one stone, doesn’t it?”
turned on my heel and dashed up the creaky stairs, skipping the rotten ones at
the bottom. I was still missing one
headed up to my room and packed a knapsack with one hand. Clothes, shoes, and
random toiletries landed in the bag at random as I kept the gun, cocked and
ready to fire, out at an angle and sweeping the air, ready for whoever and
whatever might appear.