Did a weekend of reading leave you wanting more?
Sneaking peeks of your newest novel from under
your desk at work?
For the eternal reader...here is your
Monday Morning Sneak Peek!
HANNA, HANNA, ONE-AND-TWO by Myndi Shafer
Twenty-two year old Johanna Cochrin has spent the past six years in self-imposed silence. After witnessing her brother's murder, she vowed to take his secret to the grave - even if that meant living the rest of her life as a prisoner in a remote government compound. But when she is kidnapped from that compound, Johanna finds her silence difficult to maintain. With the ruthless dictator of a fragile government plotting to sacrifice her to a time-altering Device, she is forced to trust people she has never met, share secrets she never meant to share, and come to terms with her own mortality - all while trying to save the world.
Hanna, Hanna, Where Are You?
Palm reading is a load of crap.
Every palm that has ever opened to receive a gift, that has ever collided with a cheek in a slap, that has ever stroked the perfect smoothness of a baby’s skin, or the stubble of a man’s beard - every single one had valleys and gullies that ran across its plain. Every palm that ever was, every palm that will ever be, every palm that is. But those lines don’t mean anything. Life line, love line, heart line - everyone’s got them. Fate line - not everyone’s got that one. If you don’t, don’t lose any sleep over it. Those lines don’t mean a damn thing.
Every night as I fall asleep, I listen for the sounds of the wilder-than-most outside the door of my shack. In these parts, the brush wolves are our biggest fear. A wilder-than-most wolf could rip out my throat in three seconds flat, and just like that, my story would be over. The little pot of boiling water I keep on my stove would make a pitiful weapon against them, but it’s better than nothing. Hopefully it would buy Joby enough time to go in for the kill, and that’s really all that matters.
So I listen, and while I listen, I rub the fate line on my left hand, back-and-forth, back-and-forth, like it’s something I could wear away with enough time and enough pressure. I picture it in my mind’s eye while I do: a perfectly vertical crease in my palm with a starburst of lines that dance out from it, like an abstract compass or star. Some folks would call it beautiful. I wouldn’t go that far. Unusual, yes. Unfortunate, probably. Beautiful? No.
Back-and-forth, back-and-forth, I rub it.
Every morning when I wake up,
it’s still there.
It’s been six years to the day since my brother was killed. That’s when they put me here. It seems like I’m alone.
There’s a full one-square mile section inside of the fence. Electric current runs through it twenty-four seven even though the Trench is lucky to get power a few hours out of the day. I’ve never thought of myself a Trenchwoman, but rumor has it Haier doesn’t consider prisoners much better than Trenchfolk, so I try to take the electrified fence as a compliment. It also does a pretty good job of keeping out the wilder-than-most, so you won’t hear me complain about it. The fence after that one, a quarter mile away? I might gripe about it. The one after that, a half-mile away? It seems a little redundant. Three fences to keep in all 5-feet-two inches of me...
You know how it is, right? When a guy compliments you, and you say thanks, but he keeps on gushing about how pretty/smart/funny/angelic/whatever you are, and after a while it stops sounding genuine and just becomes pretty damn annoying. That’s what those last two fences are to me.
I avoid the fence most of the time. When I’m away from it, it almost feels like I’m alone. But I’m not stupid enough to settle into that feeling. Every move I make is watched by careful eyes whose job it is to make sure that I stay harmless, but most of all, that I stay unharmed. The scrawny tree outside my shack, the one that always seems surprised by its own shadow, houses a camera. So does the dingy mirror over the sink that doubles for my kitchen and bathroom. No way for me to prove it, but the moon probably has a camera on it, watching my sorry excuse of an existence.
I flip them off every chance I get, just in case someone’s watching. It probably drew a few laughs at first, when I was younger. People like to laugh at crap like that - young kids using obscenities they don’t understand. Now, though, I’m sure they’re bored with me. Tired of watching me.
It’s a satisfying thought.
Four times each day they rotate guards along each length of the fence. Once a week since they put me here, I’ve walked to that fence, chosen a guard, and stood in front of him, and stared him straight in the face, making him see me. I refuse to ignore them, to pretend they’re not there, that I’m just living my life like any other person. I’m a prisoner, and I know it. I won’t forget it.
They always look away before I do, waiting until my back is turned to hurl insults or slurs or threats that leave my skin crawling. Those are the only moments I’m grateful for the cameras. President Haier, being a woman, frowns upon rape.
There is very little else she frowns upon, especially when it comes to getting what she wants. Certainly not murder.
There used to be one guard who looked at me longer than the rest. When I took my place in front of him, he’d stare back, stubbornness written in the color of his eyes and the set of his jaw. Once he actually smiled. It wasn’t a cold grin, or even a leer. It was a real smile, genuine as the sunrise, and it reached his eyes.
That day I looked away first, tripping over my feet as I ran. He didn’t call after me, not then, not ever.
I avoided him after that, but whenever he was there, I knew it. It was a gut thing, almost like a primal thing. He wasn’t like the other guards. That made him dangerous. With the others, I knew what to expect; with him I was in uncharted waters. Danger, my gut whispered. Stay away from that one. But I was young, and curious - intrigued by the man with the sunrise smile. I walked by him every day, far enough away that it could seem that I just happened to be where he was, but close enough that I could snatch a glance or two out of the corner of my eye. I thought the act was clever, un-see-throughable.
I thought wrong.
One cold day he started coughing as I walked past. The sound of it stopped me in my tracks, and I turned. He squatted to the ground and opened his coat. A puppy was tucked inside. A fucking puppy. The guard’s eyes never left mine as the puppy cantered toward me with its clumsy gait. His mouth broadened into that sunrise-smile again. Somehow a fist found its way into my chest and grabbed my heart, squeezing with all its might. For the second time, I looked away first.
That was my seventeenth birthday.
The next day his face was swollen with bruises. His mouth didn’t smile, but his eyes still carried traces of dawn. Day after that, he was gone.
I named the puppy Joby. I wanted to name him after my brother, but it seemed like bad luck. I didn’t want to lose him like I lost Bill, and the chances of Haier letting me keep the dog were less than slim without an unlucky name haunting him. The dog was the first warm, breathing thing I’d touched since the day my brother died. I wanted to keep him as badly as a person’s lungs want to breathe air.
Turns out, Joby was a lucky name - no one ever came to take him from me. Now he is all I have, and I’m all he has. You could say we’re in a mutually exclusive relationship.
Two days before Bill was murdered, he came home. To see me, he said, and tell me a secret. Nothing could have prepared my sticky-sweet teenage-girl self for what he told me. It was an uneasy Truth, a dangerous Secret - the kind of thing nobody believes except crazy Trenchmen and fallen HighBorn who’d fled to the nowhere places of the plains. I didn’t believe him - still not sure if I do, entirely - but I’ve decided to take it on faith. Faith in my brother. Faith for what he thought he knew. At sixteen years old, I suddenly found myself faced with a burden whose weight felt unbearable without him there to bear it with me.
What’s left of my homeland - the dismantled regions of what used to be the North American Allegiance back when my grandfather was a boy - operate under a precarious sort of peace that’s held together by two things. Two things its leaders lust after; two things its leaders all fear:
It, and me.
I don’t know about It, but I belong to her, and as long as I am in this cage within a cage within a cage, President Haier has less to fear than the others. As long as I am in this cage, I am contained. Not controllable, but not exploitable, either. At least, not by people on the wrong side of the fence.
Even so, I like to think there are nights that she wakes up sweating and terrified at the thought of me. Because I know what she doesn’t. I know how to make It sing. I can either be her Messiah, or I can ruin her fucking life.
After my brother’s murder she tried to talk it out of me. I held my tongue. Gentle coaxing turned to beating. Beating turned to torture.
But I would not speak.
That was a problem for her.
So she put me here. Prisoner, national treasure, however you want to look at it. Titles don’t matter.
It would be a lie to say the thought of killing myself has never gone through my mind, especially in those early days, those days without Joby. But that would have made it too easy for her. She’d have to find a way to cover up and move on. Make do. Forget.
Move on? Forget? Them?
Not after what they did to Bill. I won’t let her. No.
Instead, every day, she’ll get to see my pretty face and remember. Remember that if I get free, she’s screwed. Remember that if I die, her best chance at using It will die with me. Remember that when it comes down to it, I hold all the cards.
So I live to torture her. To honor my brother.
To piss her the hell off.
And no matter what happens, whatever she does, I won’t talk.