Kat in Zombieland

(in reading order)






To Deidre Knight, Travis Pennington and Natashya Wilson--You guys rock!


Here's the scoop: I'm dead. And awesome. Mostly awesome. But seriously, I was killed--murdered, actually--and there will be no coming back to life.

Stick a fork in me, I'm done.

Someone decided it'd be a good idea to deprive the world of a national treasure. Boo, hiss. BUT. There's always a but with me. Though I know who, what, when, and why, the information isn't exactly a priority for me. I've moved on to bigger and better, yo.

Dude. Check it. My spirit has lived on.

News flash: everyone's spirit lives on. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But that's a story for another day. Today is all about me, myself, and I--my three favorite subjects. A girl's gotta love herself and all that jazz.

Anyway. One moment I was in agonizing pain, the next I wasn't. I ended up in a new realm, a holding zone of sorts with a mansion for every resident. I'm now plugged in to a higher consciousness. My mind is an open door, and knowledge simply walks in. As long as I remain connected, there's no fear, no hate, only love and determination.

The moment I opened my eyes and "awoke," I knew I had a choice to make. Move on to the final resting place or stay in the holding zone to help the people I left behind. People like my boyfriend, Frosty. The original ice man. His real name is Aston Martin. Yep, just like the car. How he loved when I teased him about taking him for a ride.

My eyes fill with tears. Dang, I miss him. I'm dead, but he's alive, and that's a little too long distance, even for us, the greatest couple ever to date. I miss my friends, too. Ali Bell, Reeve Ankh, and Cole Holland.

My loved ones are the reason I opted to stay in the holding zone. Like a boss! I've mentioned my spectacular awesomeness, right? Anyway. Apparently, the best way to help my friends is to remain in the holding zone and attended higher court. That is where the magic happens.

I know, I know. The fact that I'm plugged in to undiluted love and determination should mean I have no more problems or obstacles to overcome, blah blah blah. Live and learn, right? Or die and learn, as I like to say now. Here's the deal. We gotta get permission from the Supreme Judge before we can do anything for our family and friends back on Earth. Why? Because our enemy--yep, we've got an enemy, even up here--likes to sue us in hopes of tying our hands and keeping everyone we care about helpless.

Today I'll be fighting my first case. I must have disconnected from the higher consciousness somewhat because I'm a little nervous. If "little" is the new word for "extremely." See, Frosty hasn't handled my death well. If he doesn't receive divine intervention--and fast--he's going to join me in this realm far before his time.

That's right. Not everyone dies at their appointed time. Because of free will--my free will, yours, and everyone else's--some people die far too soon.

Proof: Me!

If Frosty dies, well, it will be a tragedy for the world. Seriously. There will be a ripple effect, and people will suffer in ways they shouldn't.

"You ready?"

I jolt at the sound of Emma Bell's voice. Emma is Ali's younger sister. She died a while back, decided to remain in the holding zone, and now the darling is showing me the ropes.

"Yeah, I'm ready. Of course I'm ready." Just have to get my trembling under control.

Em stands on her tiptoes and places her delicate hands on my shoulders. Her dark gaze is steady, and for a moment, I'd swear she's older than me. She's definitely more confident. How is that possible? I've got the ego of... Who or what has the best ego in the history of ever?

Easy. Me. I've got the ego of me.

"I've given you pearls of wisdom," she says. "Use them and you'll rock a victory, no problem."

Right. Absolutely.


Crap! Doubts are little devils skittering across the edge of my mind. I hate doubts! They are the country cousins of fear, and fear ruins everything. Fear is darkness. Surrendering to fear is destruction. No good comes from it, ever.

I lived with fear most of my life. Born with wonky kidneys I inherited from my mom, I spent more time in hospitals undergoing dialysis than I spent playing outside with friends. I was supposed to die years ago, but I kept motoring on.

In my last months, I learned to let go of fear and grab hold of love. Love is power. Love is strength. That is why my latter days were far better than my former days.

I love others, I even love myself, and I fight for better. No matter how many times we're knocked down, we have to get back up. If we won't quit, we can't lose.

Emma links our arms and draws me through the mist that leads to the higher court, a spirit realm connected to our holding zone. A massive gate looms ahead, and it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen--and I used to look in a mirror every morning. What? I mentioned my ego and my love for myself, right? There are no cracks, no mortar, as if the entire arch is part of a single pearl.

We pass through, and a golden street stretches before us. The gold is so pure it's translucent, allowing us to see the glittering jewel tones beneath the surface. The beauty takes my breath away.

Yep. People in the holding zone breathe. We even bleed. Only difference between humans and us is our intangibility to people who are still living. Of course, that will change after we enter the final zone.

Em and I march past different groups of people. Some of those people smile and wave, and despite my nervousness, I smile and wave right back. The compassion I feel for every person from the holding zone... well, I'm amazed. I'm as connected to them as I am to the higher consciousness. We're individuals, but we're all part of the same body if that makes any sense.

And yes, they are lucky to have me in the family. I make everything better!

The people who scowl at us are from a different holding zone. Wait--did I forget to mention there are two holding zones?

Remember the enemy I talked about? Well, our competition is from the other zone. Their family is made up of those who helped zombies, whether intentionally or unwittingly. Our family is made up of zombie slayers or those who helped zombie slayers. I'm thrilled to know I helped.

Oops. Did I forget to mention zombies exist?

Real zombies are worse than books and movies suggest. They don't eat brains. Heck, no. They're spirits, and they hunger for other spirits. Like always calls to like. They hunger for what they lost--life. They are pitiless darkness while (some) human spirits are brilliant lights.

I feel nothing but pity for the citizens of the other zone. Really. Not hate. Not disgust. Just pity. I mean, now that I'm here, they're about to get their butts kicked in court. Am I right?

I hold my head high as I climb the steps. When we reach a plateau, a cluster of both towering and sprawling buildings overtakes the horizon. The center is made up of multiple crystal columns. The sides--tunnels with ivory walls--are linked to palaces that make every Disney princess look like she lives in a cardboard box.

We climb another set of golden steps, winged warriors holding swords of fire at our sides. These warriors sit atop winged unicorns, here to prevent fights from breaking out in front of the courthouse. The men and women nod in greeting, and the unicorns bow. As if I'm royalty. Because I am. I'm Her Royal Highness of Awesomeness. And yet my nervous system is still a little frazzled.

What if I say the wrong thing? What if I lose? Sure, I'll have a court-appointed advocate who will help me out, but unless he smacks his hand over my mouth every few seconds, this could go horribly wrong.

Ugh! Gotta get the doubts under control. Doubt = fear. Fear = ruin.

"You're tense," Emma says. "Just remember, you're doing this for Frosty."

"I know! That's why I'm tense." He needs me. He needs me bad. Because he's been bad--and I want to spank him real good for his actions since my death. My boy has been getting blackout drunk every danged night. He's been sleeping around, wallowing in guilt because he didn't save me. As if he could have. Check it. I got nailed by a bomb blast, a crumbling house, a hailstorm of bullets, and zombie toxin. All in the same day! Heck, all in the same hour.

Frosty's guilt about the entire mess is only growing. With every new conquest, he feels worse about himself and his life, so he drinks more, trying to forget, then he hooks up with another random hag.

What? Truth is truth.

He can't go on that way. And I'm not saying all this because I'm jealous. Shockingly enough, I'm not. My feelings for him are what they were always meant to be: love with a big dose of affection and loyalty... without the romance. I was never the right girl for him.

"I've never seen you fail," Emma says. "Except when Death beat the crap out of you."

Death smeath. Nothing has ever been this important to me. "I still love him. I will always love him, and I want the best for him." Plowing through a skank parade isn't the best. "If someone doesn't help him soon, he'll never want the best for himself." At that point, nothing I do will benefit him. No matter how many times I go to court, free will matters. He can refuse help.

"The judge wants the best for him too," Emma says. "Don't worry."

I haven't met the judge yet. Apparently, he presides over millions of cases--at the same time. Don't ask me how it's possible. All I know is that anything is possible in the spirit realm. An-ee-thing. Things that would blow the circuits in a physical mind.

"Why do I have to go to court then?" I grumble. "Why doesn't the judge just rule in Frosty's favor right now and call it a day?"


Oh, wow. That's soooo informative. "The fact that you've actually won a single case is a miracle."

She rolls her eyes. "Spiritual laws have to be obeyed, even in the natural. Like, you can't just break the law of gravity because you want to fly. You have to supersede it with the law of lift. Besides, if everyone did everything they wanted, chaos would reign. There have to be rules, and there have to be guidelines. And to be fair, exceptions can be made only if they are lawfully made, or again... chaos. Justice will be perverted for no one."

How is this pint-size cutie so smart?

My guess? Osmosis. She's touching me. Yeah. I'll go with that.

"This might surprise you," she continues, "but your way may not be the best way for Frosty. There could be a better one, and if so, the judge will help you find it. More important, we aren't allowed to go where we aren't wanted. We aren't allowed to violate another person's free will."

"I know, I know. I was just thinking about this."

"Remind yourself the judge knows the heart and mind of everyone involved, and we'll be good to go."

The judge knows the heart and mind o everyone involved, and he wants to help me. He will help me.

"Frosty will welcome my aid," I say, "so at least I don't have to worry about that."

"Unless he's been blinded by his guilt and sorrow and he's decided he doesn't deserve help. I've seen it happen with others."

Ugh. It's like she's been reading my mind. I stop, just stop, and stare at her. She's super adorable with dark pigtails and dark eyes alight with mischief, but right now I kind of want to shake her brain out of her ears.

"Thanks for that." My dry tone is rougher than sandpaper.

"You're welcome."

Brat. Ali would love seeing her sister like this. Teasing and sassy. It's a shame Emma didn't get to finish her life in the land of the living.

I sigh. I'd once thought her early death was part of some master plan. That's what I thought when my mom died of kidney disease. All for the greater good. God needed a new angel in the choir and all that jazz. I suppose the thought consoled me, helping me make sense out of what happened. But I couldn't have been more wrong. So many times meant to be is a lie. Bad decisions, bad outcome. Free will. A world full of toxins--zombie and otherwise. These are the reasons people die too soon. Emma wasn't meant to die as a kid, and I wasn't meant to die as a teen, but bad people did bad things, and we weren't where we were supposed to be--wrong place at wrong time--and together our decisions put us in harm's way.

Anima steals, kills, and destroys...

Wait. How do I explain Anima without overhyping its awfulness? Okay, I'll give it a shot. It is the worst company in the history of the universe, ever. It is enemy one, two, and three, and it helped create the zombies. When civilians and innocents got in the way of Anima's ultimate goal--eternal life in a physical body--those civilians and innocents were killed. I'm a shining example of that.

One day, after Anima has breathed its last tainted breath, I'll step into the final zone. But only then. I'll see my mother. She's there.

"All I'm saying is," Emma adds, "don't be too cocky. But don't be scared either."

I toss my arms up. "Don't do this, don't do that. What can I do?"


Now I want to vomit. And she's not even done taunting me.

"By the way, you won't just be presenting your case. The other side will question you and--"

"What?" I squeak.

"--present their side. They'll argue that Frosty dug his own grave and now he needs to lie in it."

I sigh. Basically, they have nothing to lose, and I have everything to gain. Or rather Frosty does.

Time to pull on my big-girl panties and give myself a pep talk. I'm a force of nature. I died at the age of seventeen, but I endured more pain in those too-short years than most people do in a century. Kidney disease sucked butt! I had no real future. I was told I wouldn't live long enough to marry, and having kids was completely out of the question. And yet, despite the doom and gloom, I lived with a smile and hope.

I dated Frosty. I planned ahead. I was going to go to college and do the whole medical thing, helping others with terminal conditions.

I am Kat freaking Parker. Hear me meow.

Okay, that sounded better in my head. So scratch that. I am Kat freaking Parker. Hear me roar!


Emma whoops and gives a fist pump to the sky. "There she is. The Alley Kat with claws."

That's right. I have claws, and they're sharp. Deadly! "I'm going to march in there and give the best--"

"Second best," Emma corrects. "I can't be beat."

"Don't sass me, Bell. The best petition this realm has ever heard."

"Well. That's some good talk." She grins and pats my butt. "Now go do."


"Court is now in session, the honorable Supreme Judge presiding."

The bailiff's voice echoes through the courtroom. I wipe my sweaty palms on my thighs and sit in my assigned seat behind a hand-carved wood table. I'm wearing a dark green robe. In fact, everyone involved in the case--Kathryn Parker versus Turd Face (that's just a guess on my part)--is wearing a robe. Ceremony is big up here.

I scan the courtroom and do a double take. The judge is... not human. And by 'not human' I mean he's never been human. He's too big, too packed with muscle, and it's difficult to make out his individual features. Light shines from his pores. If he even has pores. Basically he's a living candle. Or better yet, a living flame.

There is no jury here, but there is an audience behind me. A big one consisting of people from both holding zones. The walls are transparent, and I can see a rainbow behind them but nothing else.

My court-appointed advocate is sitting at my side. He's an unassuming guy with brown hair and blue eyes. Honestly, if I'd seen him on the street I wouldn't have looked twice at him. I'm not sure what good he's going to do me, but no matter. I've watched the entire season of The Grinder. (He could get anyone off. Hee-hee.) I've got this. Objection! Overruled! Sustained!

Dude. I'm soooo danged good at this.

My competitors are staring at me from their side of the room--a man and a woman around the age of thirty. Meaning: OLD. Up here, and I guess in the other zone, no one ages past thirty-five. These two are somewhat marginally a bit attractive. If you don't compare them to me. What? I'm exquisite. It's not bragging if it's true. And yes, my modesty is one of my best qualities, among thousands of others. But back to the competition. They are former Anima employees, and they, too, have an advocate.

"Those two... they are the best in their realm, and they came with the best advocate," Emma whispers to me. She's seated on the other side of me. "But we've got the best advocate in our realm, too."

Our guy--Jay--smiles at me. He's totally at ease. Pure confidence. "On Earth and up here, mistakes have consequences. A price must be paid. Always. Good news for you, the price for your mistakes has already been paid by a generous benefactor, but only if you accept. Free will matters with you too. But, because the price has been paid for everyone in our holding zone, do not admit to guilt of any kind no matter what you're asked," he says. "Not for yourself, and not for Aston. And don't lie. It's an automatic loss."

Ugh! How do I tell the truth without admitting to guilt? There's so much about this afterlife I do not yet understand.

"Who's this generous benefactor?" I ask. "And why would he--she?--do such a thing?"

"He was the first slayer ever born. And the price was eternal death."


Emma gives my hand a comforting squeeze. "You may not be asked any questions. Cases like this one tend to move at warp speed, and there's never a deliberation. Usually after the two sides speak, the judge renders a decision."

My throat goes dry. Again, she isn't done.

"All you have to do is present the facts, dazzle the judge with your wit and charm, and make sure you debunk everything the other team says while creating an argument they can't debunk."

Oh. That's all?

The judge bangs his gavel and says, "Begin. I'll hear your arguments."

My mind goes blank. Crap! Of course I bluff my way through it, offering a royal wave to opposing council, indicating they should go first. And look at me, already getting my lawyer-speak on. Oppo