Excerpt: Zombie, Incorporated by Jill Elaine Hughes

Zombie, Incorporated
By: Jill Elaine Hughes
Publisher: Hackberry Books
Published: March 25, 2013
Genre: New Adult/ Paranormal

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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.

I froze. Nobody had ever kissed me before. I didn’t know what to do. I’d often wondered what my first kiss would be like. (Yeah, I was eighteen and never been kissed. Talk about a late bloomer). And you can sure as hell bet that I never once would have guessed that my first kiss ever (especially with tongue) would come courtesy of Steve Bosch, the most popular guy at school at an exclusive invitation-only party at Lily Carmichael’s house.

Wow, I had hit the ‘in’ crowd jackpot. This really was too good to be true. All I could think about was what I might have done to bring this incredible chain of events about—and I was totally at a loss.

So we made out on the bean bag for a few minutes. I was scared at first, but Steve was really sweet and patient, and eventually I seemed to get the hang of things. I relaxed a bit and even let my mouth open a little so Steve could get his tongue all the way inside. I didn’t really tongue him back, just let him explore my mouth as he liked and enjoyed the sensations. My whole body felt warm and tingly, and I started breathing hard. I remembered from our Sex Ed unit in Health Class that this was all normal when it came to this sort of thing, but I’d never really made out with a boy before, so it still felt strange. Wonderfully strange.

But when Steve reached under my blouse to grab my boobs, I put on the brakes. I pulled away from him abruptly and turned to face the wall. “I’d rather you didn’t do that,” I heard myself say.

Steve bit his lip and looked sheepish. “Sorry,” he said in a small voice. “I thought you would like it.”

I shrugged. “Maybe next time.” I tried to sound nonchalant, like I made that kind of remark to hot popular boys trying to feel me up every other day or something, but I just ended up sounding stupid.

But Steve seemed to take it in stride. “That’s cool,” he said. “I like a girl who takes her time with things.” He reached over and patted me softly on the back of the hand. “Do you want another beer? Or maybe some food? If you’re hungry I can go see what they have.”

This day just got weirder and weirder. Just when I thought Steve was going to ditch me and find some other more attractive and popular girl to make out with, he started waiting on me hand and foot. And I was sort of hungry. I’d forgotten my lunch money that day at school so I’d only eaten a few leftover tater tots from somebody else’s plate since breakfast. “Sure, I’ll eat something,” I said.

“Cool. What do you like to eat?”

I shrugged again. “Oh, anything I guess. I’m not picky.”

Steve smiled again and left the room, giving my shoulder an affectionate squeeze first. I glanced around the room and saw that most of the other necking couples had disappeared, and the loud music that had been blaring from somewhere in the house when we arrived was gone, too. Plus the room seemed a lot darker than before. I glanced out the only window and saw that the sun was almost down.

Gee, time really flies when you’re having fun, I thought to myself with a chuckle. I glanced at my watch and saw that almost two hours had passed while Steve and I were sucking face. Boy, no wonder people were so into making out—it was more entertaining than going to the movies.

I unwedged myself from the beanbag and tried to figure out what the hell was going on. How long had I been there, exactly? And what had happened to everybody else? God only knew where Stacey had disappeared to, or if she was even still here at all. I thought about going off to look for her, but then how would Steve find me when he came back with the food? Would Steve come back at all? Or was he just messing with my head and this whole thing was some sort of sick joke perpetrated by the popular kids onto lowlifes with no social standing like me?

Just as I was weighing the merits of sticking around to see what happened next versus making a mad dash for home, Steve reappeared, carrying two Styrofoam dinner plates. “There wasn’t much left,” he said. “Looks like we missed most of the good stuff while we were, um, you know.”

He handed me my plate, and reached around to take two more beers that he’d stuffed in his back jeans pockets. It was the same beer as last time—Busch Light— but the food was, well, not like anything I’d ever seen before.

 

 

 I’m an independent author of New Adult (mature YA, 18-26) fiction as well as a full-time freelance journalist based in Chicago. I’ve contributed to the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Chicago Reader and many magazines as a journalist over the past 15 years.  And like most New Adult fiction authors these days, I’ve gone the self-publishing route for my work since most publishers haven’t caught up to the readership trends in this emerging shelf category. My writing is usually laced with humor and also often has sexual and/or dystopian elements.

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