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Jerri Chisholm | Exclusive Excerpt: UNRAVELING ELEVEN


Unraveling Eleven
Jerri Chisholm

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Eleven Trilogy #2

November 2021
On Sale: November 16, 2021
384 pages
ISBN: 1649370989
EAN: 9781649370983
Kindle: B08SKWPPVF
Trade Size / e-Book
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Also by Jerri Chisholm:
Unraveling Eleven, November 2021
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Escaping Eleven, November 2021
Escaping Eleven, November 2020

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“Why is it,” Jeffrey Sitwell asks, “that you want to become a guard?”

Under the desk, my steel-toed boot taps against the floor. Unsteady fingers smooth my ponytail, they tug my blazer straight. The past two hours were spent celebrating; Emerald is now a professional fighter, though it was never in question, and Maggie is a writer for Compound Eleven’s paper. I am happy for my friends, but now it’s my turn.

I take a steadying breath and glance around the small office where I sit, one located on the fourth floor where the guardship is housed. A concrete room, no decoration or ornament whatsoever. Nothing to distract me from the two men sitting across the table.

One of them has black hair and black skin, and his name is Dirk Nkrumah. He wears the uniform of a guard, but he is no regular guard. He is the most senior guard of the compound, and I loathe him for this reason alone. Beside him is Sitwell, a man much older, a Preme, one dressed in a navy-blue suit with gold cufflinks, one with white hair and a sharply cut nose. The one in charge of Compound Eleven’s security. His skin is as white as his daughter Addison’s, and I loathe him more than Nkrumah.

He leans into the desk and taps his pen against a pad of paper. “Ms. Hamilton?”

“To...s-serve,” I stammer. “To serve and protect.” Inwardly I bristle at my words. Not because they are generic, or cliché, or meaningless, but because of how untrue they are. I have never been protected by the guards, or served by them, either. Just the opposite. To join their ranks, probably I should tell Sitwell that I want to bully, abuse, torment, harass, and kill the civilians of Compound Eleven unlucky enough not to carry guns. Unlucky enough to be born below the fifth floor.

After all, the guardship serves Premes and nobody else, that is the crux of it, and yet the privileged Premes don’t deserve their station or their status. They don’t deserve the ease with which they live their lives, or their security, or the luxuries they are afforded at everyone else’s expense. I hate them. In this moment I can’t even think that Wren is one.

I blink, and something in the back of my brain becomes clear.

Whether the Premes know the world aboveground is inhabitable or not...they will never go, or allow others to. Life is too comfortable and safe for them down here. Why risk it all—why start fresh up there?

More and more often lately I find myself feeling nothing at all. Completely numb. But right now something bubbles in my stomach. Right now I am determined. Determined to expose the Premes. Determined to carry on my back every last citizen of this compound born to a lower floor to the top of the storeroom—determined to find a way to bring up food and water so we can all survive. And with nobody left to rule and to look down upon, to kick and to kill, the Premes will turn on one another. It’s inevitable.

“Something funny, Ms. Hamilton?” Sitwell asks sternly.

I force my face to straighten. “No, sir.”

“You’re bleeding, right here.” He taps his lip.

I wipe it dry, and the disgust that distorts his face eases ever so slightly.

“I’m going to be blunt, Ms. Hamilton—it isn’t often we receive an application from a...” He makes no effort to disguise the smirk that touches his face. “From a person such as yourself.”

“Meaning that—”

“Meaning that our applicants come from the fourth floor, if I must put it in so many words. The guardship is an Upper Mean institution, it always has been. Mr. Nkrumah, do share with Ms. Hamilton just how many applications have come from the second floor in recent years.”

“Three. Least in the thirteen years I’ve been around.”

“And how many of those three were hired on as guards?” Sitwell continues. He speaks with a slight drawl.

Nkrumah glances at his boss. “Zero.”

“My point exactly,” Sitwell says crisply. “So you see, Ms. Hamilton, the chips are rather stacked against you.”

I am still, except for my pulse that quickens with desperation. I need this job. So I gather my courage and my wits and I lean forward in my chair. “I’m more qualified than any of your other applicants, no matter the floor. I know I am. Who are you looking to have join your ranks? Someone brave? Strong? Someone who can fight? I’ve been fighting for sport since I was nine years old. I’ll fight anyone—you’ll never see me back down. You’ll never see me cower.”

Sitwell stirs; he pinches his brow. As though it pains him to say so, he mutters, “Yes, your physical prowess is commendable, there is that. But it takes more than—”

“I’ve volunteered to feed the Noms my whole life. Did you see that in my application? Are any of your other applicants claiming something like that?”

“Again, commendable—”

“How about this, then. The job of the guards is to maintain order. At the end of the day, that’s it. Keep things running smoothly. Probably you have issues most often on the lower floors. People live terribly downstairs, I can vouch for that, and so it’s the most violent. The most miserable. You’ve lost five of your own down there in the past few weeks alone, isn’t that right? I know those floors—inside out, like the back of my hand. Nobody can hide from me down there. You want order downstairs? Then you need someone like me enforcing it.”

Silence, except for my hammering heart.

Nkrumah throws down his pen. “She’s good, gotta give her that,” he says slowly to Sitwell, and I notice a large gap between his two front teeth, the whites of his eyes that are tinted red. “Thing is, Ms. Hamilton, says in my notes here you recently underwent a criminal verification.”

“Fully reinstated back into civilian life,” I say quickly. I lift my chin higher. “I was never verified as a criminal.”

“Thing is,” he continues, “any involvement in the criminal verification process means an automatic rejection. Standard practice. Add to that the fact that you’re Lower Mean...”

And so it’s a no. I can almost hear my hopes smashing to the floor, can feel it at the bottom of my stomach. A toxic mix of disappointment and fear and embarrassment thrashes inside me as tears prickle behind my eyes.

Then Sitwell sighs. He rubs his forehead with the flesh of his palm and glances at Nkrumah. “Wren Edelman was in my office recently. His mother oversees the Department of Energy. He spoke very highly of this young lady. Even said he would consider it a personal favor if we accepted her application.”

I lean forward ever so slightly at his words. Wren went to Sitwell? I don’t want him to be the reason I get this job. Truly I don’t. But who am I kidding? I need this.

Nkrumah, meanwhile, stares at me. “Is that so,” he says slowly, and something stirs in his dark eyes. It makes the back of my neck tingle.

“Normally I don’t call in favors, and I don’t accept bribes. Normally even someone with the surname Edelman wouldn’t play a role in my decision making. But.” Sitwell drums his fingers together, then fixes me with a piercing stare. “But Mr. Edelman is my daughter’s boyfriend, and so I am inclined to do as he requests, at least in this instance. Your application has been hereby accepted.” Wincing, he adds, “Welcome to the guardship.”

Accepted.

A Lower Mean serving as a guard. A guard who has authority. A guard with weapons and access to all the compound has to offer. I can almost taste my freedom—almost. But my ears are ringing too loudly, and instead of basking in triumph, my brain hones in on one thing. Mr. Edelman is my daughter’s boyfriend. That is what he said. Mr. Edelman is my daughter’s boyfriend.

Wren is my boyfriend. He is not Addison’s boyfriend—he isn’t.

Maybe Jeffrey Sitwell, with his gold cufflinks and his pressed suit, is confused. Maybe he thinks that because they used to date, they still do. Maybe he doesn’t realize that they broke up months ago—that must be it. Except Sitwell doesn’t strike me as the type of man who makes mistakes.

“Ms. Hamilton? Did you hear me?”

I blink.

“You’ve been officially hired. What say you?”

“Th-Thanks,” I stammer. “Thank you.” I pinch myself, then I force my gaze to my new boss—to both of them. Be polite, Eve. Be polite until you can track down Wren.

The rest of the meeting is a blur. Snippets of important information are passed my way. Training starts in three days. Okay. It will last for two weeks. Fine. At that time and at that time only will I be permitted to serve and protect Compound Eleven.

Sure.

A bag is shoved into my arms as I leave: my uniform, weapons, and guardship passcode inside. “Looks like you got lucky, Lower Mean,” Nkrumah says quietly.

“Looks that way.”

“Better bring your A game. You don’t look like much of a fighter.”

“Looks can be deceiving.”

“I suppose they can,” he says, and as he does he stares at me with something peculiar in his eyes. But I simply walk on, knowing that for now, at least, I got what I came for.

(c) Jerri Chisholm, Entangled Publishing/Entangled Teen, 2021. Shared with permission from the publisher. 

UNRAVELING ELEVEN by Jerri Chisholm

Eleven Trilogy #2

Unraveling Eleven

In Compound Eleven, freedom from tyranny is impossible.

My name is Eve Hamilton, and I’ve managed the impossible.

I am free.

Until just like that, it is wrenched from my grasp. And this time, the corridors of the dark underground city are even more dangerous than ever before. But my brief taste of freedom has left me with something useful, something powerful, something that terrifies the leaders of Compound Eleven.

And now I have a monster inside.

One I’ll need to learn to control, and fast, or I’ll lose everything and everyone I hold dear. Starting with Wren Edelman. The one boy who has taught me that anything is possible if we stick together.

But will that matter if I become the very thing he fears the most?

Dystopian | Young Adult [Entangled: Teen, On Sale: November 16, 2021, Trade Size / e-Book, ISBN: 9781649370983 / eISBN: 9781649371126]

About Jerri Chisholm

Jerri Chisholm

Jerri Chisholm is a YA author, a distance runner, and a chocolate addict. Her childhood was spent largely in solitude with only her imagination and a pet parrot for company. Following that she completed a master’s degree in public policy and then became a lawyer, but ultimately decided to leave the profession to focus exclusively on the more imaginative and avian-friendly pursuit of writing. She lives with her husband and three children, but, alas, no parrot. 

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Comments

1 comment posted.

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