Friday, June 20, 2014

Elected by Rori Shay: Exclusive Excerpt

Today, I'm excited to share an excerpt from my one of my book buddies, Rori Shay. If you haven't read ELECTED yet, you should go get yourself a copy, ASAP!


It’s the year 2185, and in two weeks, Aloy will turn eighteen and take her father’s place as president of the country. But to do so, she must masquerade as a boy to avoid violating the Eco-Accords, four treaties designed to bring the world back from the brink of environmental extinction. Aloy hopes to govern like her father, but she is inheriting a different country. The long concealed Technology Faction is stepping out of the shadows, and as turmoil grows within her country, cryptic threats also arrive from beyond their borders.

As she struggles to lead, Aloy maintains her cover by marrying a woman, meanwhile battling feelings for the boy who knows her secret—the boy who is somehow connected to her country’s recent upheaval. When assassination attempts add to the turmoil, Aloy doesn’t know whom to trust. She understood leadership required sacrifice. She just didn’t realize the sacrifice might be her life.

ELECTED is a YA Sci-fi and focuses on the topics of environmentalism, gender, and tolerance.

Here’s an exclusive excerpt:

We walk across the lawn over to a long, slate gray building adjacent to our house. I’ve never been inside this one, even though it’s close by.

Before I can wonder what we’re going to be doing together, my father says, “We keep prisoners here.”
I stop in my tracks. Even though I started the conversation with Tomlin, it’s like his session with me was manufactured for this exact moment. I think of my last words with my tutor. Hemlock.

My father stops and turns to look back at me. “Don’t delay.” His words are clipped, but there is the slightest bit of understanding in them. He is also reluctant to do this. I can see it in his eyes. “You know why this must happen, do you not?”

Unfortunately, I understand too well. It’s a system I believe in. Just not one I want to witness.
I hurry forward to walk with my father. Who knows how many of these he’s overseen? Soon they’ll be mine, alone, to witness. The responsibility sits on my shoulders like a lead weight.

How have I not known the prisoners’ building is so close to where I live? It was right next door all this time, in what used to be called the Old Executive Office Building. I realize my parents and Tomlin have sheltered me against the realities of my new role until the end. Taking the Elected position is technically my choice, but I don’t get the full story until it’s too late.

I’m angry at them, but when I stop to think about it, reluctantly thankful at the same time. I know I would have chosen the same route either way. How could I have abandoned my family and country like Evan did? If I declined the Elected role, my family would prematurely lose power before a hundred years’ time, and East Country would be thrown into disarray. So, maybe it was better all along not to know the gory details of my leadership role. In two weeks, I will be the Elected, and nothing I see now will make a difference. My commitment to the generations of my family and East Country will not be deterred by seeing hemlock wreak its havoc.

We are both steadfast in our walk up the stone steps. Each of us is resolute. Both of us walk in the same manner. I’ve studied my father’s manly gait for years. I can now recreate it so well, I walk more like him than I do like myself.

A few guards nod to us as we cross the door into the building. My father knows the way and thus no one leads us further. After a turn down one solitary corridor, we stop in front of a wooden door. Before we go in, my father turns to me.

When he doesn’t speak and merely looks at me I say, “Apa?”

He touches my shoulder almost like he cares for my feelings. “Are you ready?”

“I am.” I’m firm, even now that I realize exactly what we’ll be doing.

“One day soon you will have to watch one of these by yourself.” He stops squeezing my shoulder. “Do not close your eyes when it happens. The accused deserves for you to see them. Lock eyes with the prisoners. Give them your full attention. Think about their lives. How precious every life is. But remember our laws. If we did not have them, there would be no life at all.”

I nod. I know why my father adheres to the four Accords so fervently. They’re the only things keeping our world in check. Without them, there would be chaos, and we’d be thrown back into the old times. So, even though we might not like or agree with all of the Accords’ policies, we have to follow them. At least, I might not like or agree with all of them. I’m pretty sure my mother and father are believers, one hundred percent.

We cross through the wooden doorway into the prisoner’s quarters. It’s a room sectioned into two parts. Our side holds a wooden bench and nothing else. A thick piece of glass separates our side from the one housing the prisoner. The accused seems to be in his forties, relatively old for our country. I look over at my father, who answers my question without being asked.

“His crime is invention. He was trying to manufacture a battery.”

The accused sits on the small cot in his room. There’s a large potted plant in the corner—a rarity for us. We try to provide a few luxuries in this small space. We try to make it nice for people’s last days.

The prisoner’s eyes are downcast, but then he suddenly leaps up. He moves toward the glass separating us. I can’t hear what he’s yelling, but I can make out what he’s mouthing anyway. He screams over and over again, “We need technology!” He beats his fists against the glass, and I instinctively lean back.
“It won’t break,” my father assures me. “It’s from the old days. Armor glass. A piece leftover.”

Even when the atomic bombs went off, this glass didn’t break. So I feel confident this man won’t be able to get through. We aren’t able to manufacture this glass anymore, so it’s all the more precious to our country. However, I do see the irony in using the glass technology enabled years ago when we outlaw technology now.

I swallow hard when I see the prisoner eventually slump back onto his cot in defeat.

“How long until he drinks it?”
“Not long. They’ll bring it in now that he’s settled down.”
A burly guard enters the prisoner’s space and hands him a crystal glass containing approximately one hundred milligrams of clear liquid. It would seem like the prisoner was just given a cup of water if I didn’t know better.

I’m reminded of the many chemistry and biology sessions with Tomlin where he taught me again and again what kind of plants survived the global eco-crisis, which ones we could eat, which ones leached in atomic radiation, and which one we now use for capital punishment. The prisoner’s cup holds hemlock.
Withstanding the high and low temperatures brought on by global warming, the hemlock plant hung on, its lacy white flowers torturously beautiful, but deadly if eaten in large quantities.

The prisoner lifts the cup of hemlock to his nose, breathing in lightly. The toxic component, alkaloid coniine, will give off a small scent of anise, the same kind of smell one encounters biting into black licorice. It was my favorite treat as a child. I can imagine what it smells like even though it’s impossible to detect the fragrance through the glass.

The man holds the cup out in front of himself, determining his next course of action. I watch him closely, as Apa told me to keep my eyes open for the duration. It’s only right to give the accused the dignity of someone witnessing his final moments. But I turn to Apa anyway, fright and curiosity getting the better of me.

“What if he refuses to drink it?”

“He won’t.” My father’s eyes never leave the man’s face even as he answers my question. “It is honorable to drink the hemlock oneself instead of it being forced into his person by the guards.”

I’m horrified by the thought of having to watch the guards perform the execution themselves. In our country, capital punishment is carried out only through assisted suicide. One person killing another is against the law. In fact, I’ve never heard of it happening. Murder is obsolete, but it’s considered honorable for people to accept government-controlled suicide if an Accord is violated.

I pray silently that during this, my first execution, I won’t have to witness a killing. I pray the prisoner will drink down the liquid by himself. As I watch him studying the crystal, I secretly wish the process would go faster, that he would just tilt his head back and pour down the hemlock as quickly as possible. But then I chide myself on being so callous. This execution is not meant to be easy for me to watch. These are the man’s final moments, and if I cannot offer him anything else, I can at least grant my attention and time.

After what seems like an eternity, my father squeezes my hand and says, “It is happening now. He is starting.”

The prisoner rocks back and forth on the heels of his feet, preparing himself mentally for the ordeal ahead. I can only imagine what resolve it must take to drink the liquid and know it will be the last thing you do.

The prisoner looks to us one more time through the armor glass, gives a nod, and then lifts the chalice to his lips, taking a large gulp. His eyes are tightly closed. Immediately, the glass shatters upon the ground as paralysis takes over. I know through study with Tomlin—the respiratory function is at first depressed and ultimately ceases altogether. The prisoner’s death will result from asphyxia. However, the man’s mind will remain unaffected to the end, allowing him one more fleeting thought of his loved ones and the life he’s lived.

The man falls to the floor. I can see him trying to clutch his stomach, but his arm won’t lift. Vomit erupts from his mouth, puddling next to him on the ground. Saliva bubbles around his lips, mixing with the vomit in a toxic pool. He gasps deeply, trying to take in air even though it’s impossible.

My head aches as I watch the demise. Soon, I see the paralysis take its final toll as the man chokes again and again. Finally, when I think I can take it no more, the prisoner is stiff and no more mess exits his nostrils or mouth. He doesn’t move.

The guards enter the room. It’s finished.

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