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To Harmony and her brains

Nom nom nom


Prologue

Scarlet

almost in passing. “xe cadavers were herded and destroyed.” xe radio

hosts then made a few jokes, and that was the end of it. It took me a moment to process what the newswoman

had said through the speakers of my Suburban: Finally. A scientist in Zurich had finally succeeded in creating

something that—until then—had only been xctional. For years, against every code of ethics known to science,

Elias Klein had tried and failed to reanimate a corpse. Once a leader amid the most intelligent in the world, he

was now a laughing stock. But on that day, he would have been a criminal, if he weren’t already dead.

At the time, I was watching my girls arguing in the backseat through the rearview mirror, and the two

words that should have changed everything barely registered. Two words, had I not been reminding Halle to

give her xeld trip permission slip to her teacher, would have made me drive away from the curb with my foot

grinding the gas pedal to the floorboard.

Cadavers. Herded.

Instead, I was focused on saying for the third time that the girls’ father, Andrew, would be picking them up

from school that day. xey would then drive an hour away to Anderson, the town we used to call home, and

listen to Governor Bellmon speak to Andrew’s fellow xrexghters while the local paper took pictures. Andrew

thought it would be fun for the girls, and I agreed with him—maybe for the first time since we divorced.

Although most times Andrew lacked sensitivity, he was a man of duty. He took our daughters, Jenna, who

was just barely thirteen and far too beautiful (but equally dorky) for her own good, and Halle, who was seven,

bowling, out to dinner, and the occasional movie, but it was only because he felt he should. To Andrew,

spending time with his children was part of a job, but not one he enjoyed.

As Halle grabbed my head and jerked my face around to force sweet kisses on my cheeks, I pushed up her

thick, black-rimmed glasses. Not savoring the moment, not realizing that so many things happening that day

would create the perfect storm for separating us. Halle half jogged, half skipped down the walkway to the

school entrance, singing loudly. She was the only human I knew who could be intolerably obnoxious and

endearing at the same time.

A few speckles of water spattered on the windshield, and I leaned forward to get a better look at the cloud

cover overhead. I should have sent Halle with an umbrella. Her light jacket wouldn’t stand up to the early

spring rain.

xe next stop was the middle school. Jenna was absently discussing a reading assignment while texting the

most recent boy of interest. I reminded her again as we pulled into the drop-ox line that her father would pick

her up at the regular spot, right after he picked up Halle.

I heard you the xrst ten times,” Jenna said, her voice slightly deeper than average for a girl her age. She

looked at me with hollow brown eyes. She was present in body, but rarely in mind. Jenna had a wild

imagination that was oh-so-random in the most wonderful way, but lately I couldn’t get her to pay attention to

anything other than her cell phone. I brought her into this world at just twenty. We practically grew up

^ THE WARNING WAS SHORT SAID




together, and I worried about her, if I’d done everything—or anything—right; but somehow she was turning

out better than anyone could have imagined anyway.

That was only the fourth time. Since you heard me, what did I say?”

Jenna sighed, peering down at her phone, expressionless. “Dad is picking us up. Regular spot.”

And be nice to the girlfriend. He said you were rude last time.”

Jenna looked up at me. “That was the old girlfriend. I haven’t been rude to the new one.”

I frowned. “He just told me that a couple of weeks ago.”

Jenna made a face. We didn’t always have to say aloud what we were thinking, and I knew she was thinking

the same thing I wanted to say, but wouldn’t.

Andrew was a slut.

I sighed and turned to face forward, gripping the steering wheel so tightly my knuckles turned white. It

somehow helped me to keep my mouth shut. I had made a promise to my children, silently, when I signed the

divorce papers two years before: I would never bad-mouth Andrew to them. Even if he deserved it . . . and he

often did.

Love you,” I said, watching Jenna push open the door with her shoulder. “See you Sunday evening.”

Yep,” Jenna said.

And don’t slam the . . .”

A loud bang shook the Suburban as Jenna shoved the door closed.

. . . door.” I sighed, and pulled away from the curb.

I took Maine Street to the hospital where I worked, still gripping the steering wheel tight and trying not to

curse Andrew with every thought. Did he have to introduce every woman he slept with more than once to our

daughters? I’d asked him, begged him, yelled at him not to, but that would be inconvenient, not letting his girl-

of-the-week share weekends with his children. Never mind he had Monday through Friday with whoever. xe

kicker was that if the woman had children to distract Jenna and Halle, Andrew would use that opportunity to

talk” with her in the bedroom.

My blood boiled. Dutiful or not, he was an asshole when I was married to him, and an even bigger asshole

now.

I whipped the Suburban into the last decent parking spot in the employee parking lot, hearing sirens as an

ambulance pulled into the emergency drive and parked in the ambulance bay.

xe rain began to pour. A groan escaped my lips, watching coworkers run inside, their scrubs soaked from

just a short dash across the street to the side entrance. I was half a block away.

TGIF.

TGIF.

TGIF.

Just before I turned ox the ignition, another report came over the radio, something about an epidemic in

Europe. Looking back, everyone knew then what was going on, but it had been a running joke for so long that

no one wanted to believe it was really happening. With all the television shows, comics, books, and movies

about the undead, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that somebody was xnally both smart and crazy enough to

try and make it a reality.

I know the world ended on a Friday. It was the last day I saw my children.


Chapter One

Scarlet

thick metal door closed loudly behind me. I held out my arms to each side, letting

water drip ox my xngertips onto the white tile xoor. My once royal-blue scrubs were now navy, heavily

saturated with cold rainwater.

A squashing sound came from my sneakers when I took a step. Ick. Not much was worse than wet clothes

and shoes, and it felt like I’d jumped into a swimming pool fully dressed. Even my panties were wet. We were

only a few days into spring, and a cold front had come through. The rain felt like flying death spikes of ice.

Flying death spikes. Snort. Jenna’s dramatic way of describing things was obviously rubbing off on me.

I slid my name badge through the card reader and waited until the small light at the top turned green and a

high-pitched beep sounded, accompanied by the loud click of the lock release. I had to use all of my body

weight to pull open the heavy door, and then I stepped into the main hallway.

Fellow coworkers xashed me understanding smiles that helped to relieve some of my humiliation. It was

obvious who all had just arrived on shift, about the time the sky opened up and pissed on us.

Two steps at a time, I climbed the stairs to the surgical xoor and snuck into the women’s locker room,

stripping down and changing into a pair of light-blue surgery scrubs. I held my sneakers under the hand dryer,

but only for a few seconds. xe other X-ray techs were waiting for me downstairs. We had an upper GI/small

bowel follow-through at 8:00, and this week’s radiologist was more than just a little grumpy when we made

him run behind.

Sneakers still squishing, I rushed down the steps and back down the main hallway to Radiology, passing the

ER double doors on my way. Chase, the security guard, waved at me as I passed.

Hey, Scarlet,” he said with a small, shy smile.

I only nodded, more concerned with getting the upper GI ready on time than with chitchat.

You should talk to him,” Christy said. She nodded in Chase’s direction as I breezed by her and her piles of

long, yellow ringlets.

I shook my head, walking into the exam room. xe familiar sound of my feet sticking to the xoor began an

equally familiar beat. Whatever they cleaned the xoor with was supposed to sanitize the worst bacteria known

to man, but it left behind a sticky residue. Maybe to remind us it was there—or that the xoor needed to be

mopped again. I pulled bottles of barium contrast from the upper cabinet, and xlled the remaining space with

water. I replaced the cap, and then shook the bottle to mix the powder and water into a disgusting, slimy paste

that smelled of bananas. “Don’t start. I’ve already told you no. He looks fifteen.”

He’s twenty-seven, and don’t be a shrew. He’s cute, and he’s dying for you to talk to him.”

Her mischievous smile was infuriatingly contagious. “He’s a kid,” I said. “Go get the patient.”

Christy smiled and left the room, and I made a mental note of everything I’d set on the table for Dr. Hayes.

God, he was cranky; particularly on Mondays, and even more so during shitty weather.

I was lucky enough to be somewhat on his good side. As a student, I had cleaned houses for the

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