Naomi Hughes

Afterimage

YA Sci-Fi Thriller

Seventeen-year-old Camryn loses her mom in an explosion at the Army base—and gains a see-through boy in a lab coat. “Quint” can’t remember anything about himself but insists he’s real anyway, and he’s been warning her not to trust the military doctors investigating her condition. Camryn isn’t quite ready to believe a guy who might be a hallucination, but her doctors are acting pretty squirrely too, so she decides to take matters into her own hands.

 

But a stolen tablet reveals a shattering secret: Quint is the result of the same catastrophic physics experiment that caused the explosion at the base and killed her mother. Now, the military is trying to use Camryn’s medical data to rebuild and weaponize the experiment, which converts a human soul to usable energy. And she isn’t the only one horrified by their agenda—a teenage physics genius-turned-terrorist is intent on destroying the experiment, even if he has to screw with the space-time continuum to do it.

 

With a possibly-real hallucination as her only ally, Camryn must evade the military’s grasp and stop—or maybe aid—the terrorist before she becomes the next casualty.

 

 

Will appeal to fans of: Claudia Gray's A Thousand Pieces of You, Kiersten White's Mind Games.

First Page Excerpt:

 

Ten minutes before the explosion, I’m trying to get up the courage to go through a parking lot gate.

 

I used to love gates. There’s something about the sleek straight lines, the bland iron of the bars, the honest minimalism of the decorative spikes that’s always made me feel at home no matter where we were deployed. This gate, though, comes with a new feature: judgmental stares from the guards in the booth, along with muttered complaints from everyone who’s driven past during the last fifteen minutes while I failed to finish this morning’s therapeutic homework.

 

Shame curls in my belly. I grit my teeth and keep pacing. The fear weighs down my steps and tries to glue me in place; moving, even if it isn’t in the right direction, is an act of defiance. I hate that it’s the best I can do.

 

“Remember your diaphragmatic breathing,” emanates a voice from my palm. I lift my phone. On the videochat app, Mom gives me a thumbs up. I grimace and return the gesture with as much enthusiasm as I can muster, which isn’t very much at all, as massive panic attacks are emotionally-limiting douchebags that way.

 

Another car pulls up in the entry behind me and honks and I step to the side so it can go through. The man inside grumbles in my direction as his car slips past. I catch something about the “nuthouse” and my place therein.

 

The insult bites deep, but I give him a smile and a cheerful flip-off. Then one of the guards presses a button and the gate slides open and, for a moment, I hate nothing in the world more than the man in that car—not because he’s a jerk but because he can drive inside the Agency base crowded with soldiers and scientists and too-close buildings without so much as a second thought.

 

I try to hang on to the anger—anything is better than this panicky suffocation—but it fizzles away in seconds like a defective fourth-of-July sparkler.

 

I stop pacing. “Maybe we should just try this tomorrow.”

 

“Breathe, Camryn,” Mom repeats serenely.

 

“I am breathing,” I argue.

 

“No, you’re hyperventilating.”

 

“Hyperventilation is a type of breathing.”

 

She gives me a Look. She approves of humor as a coping technique, but not as a defensive one. The biggest reason I both love and hate that my mom is also my therapist: she knows all my bullshit, and buys exactly zero of it.

 

 

Naomi Hughes | Author

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