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  • Writer's pictureShanti Hershenson

The Accidental Insurgent - read the first chapter now!

Below you will find a sneak-peak of my next novel, The Accidental Insurgent, releasing October 31, 2021.

I was five minutes late to class again.

That might not have seemed like a lot, but to me, it arguably was. I had learned not to be late after a series of fun punishments—not something I would want to repeat on a day-to-day basis.

It was five minutes taken out of my day, and five minutes that I could not make up—I wouldn’t have cared less, but our authority would. And it was my last year at the Endmost School, which meant things were only worse—stakes were high, and everything was a living nightmare. Rudimentary School was the easiest, then came Middlemost, and then, Endmost—the worst of them all.

I ran through the dirty halls of my school, just trying to make it to the right place. It wasn’t a terribly complex place, and despite being a somewhat funded recourse, it was terribly run-down.

As I ran, I nearly slipped on a puddle of murky, brown water that trailed dirt onto my shoe. I slid down the rest of the hallway until I stopped at a door; my classroom door. I half wondered if I was making the right choice, attending school and enduring the punishment I knew would come—though skipping would be much worse. We lived and adapted to punishments; rules that could not be broken. Missing even a moment of class, let alone skipping, was severe. I didn’t want another crime added to my record, and I didn’t want to face another punishment—we lived by drowning in fear.

My chest was heaving and anxiety crept up on me like a creature hunting its weak prey. It spiraled out of control inside of me, and my legs collapsed. I knelt before the classroom door, wondering what else I could do. The longer I sat there, fearing the inevitable, would only increase the looming punishment.

I wiped the sweat that was beading on my face, standing up with trembling legs. I didn’t really want to miss class, either, though I’m not sure it mattered what I did. I would graduate from the Endmost School in a few more weeks, and after that, I had two years to invent or do something incredible; to prove myself as a use, and to prove that I could hold the job. If I didn’t prove to be useful by the age of twenty, I would be executed, and that was not a fun thought.

It was called the Endmost School for a reason, and that was it.

I knew I couldn’t sit there any longer just to contemplate my chances—I had to go and hope that something good would happen.

And that was exactly what I did.

I opened the door, staring only at my torn shoes, as I trudged into the classroom. I could feel the eyes of my classmates locked onto me as I made it to the desk, waiting to be scolded, or given a punishment.

I sat at my desk, and only then did I look up to realize that the teacher was gone. Being late was a crime, and never once in the last four years was Ms. Hallie, the strict teacher we had learned from since we were fourteen, late.

I peered over to my best friend, Finch Briar, who was staring fearfully at the board, not speaking or saying anything. There was something different about him—he looked as though he had seen a ghost. His light brown hair was messy, and his skin looked paler than ever. Looking around, it seemed as though my whole class shared the same, haunted look.

Being late had clearly spared me from something, though what, exactly, I didn’t know, and would have to ask.

“Finch,” I whispered, and he jumped, staring at me. “What happened?”

He turned to look at me and it finally seemed as though he was snapped out of it. Our gazes met, and finally, he spoke in a soft voice.

“The police took Ms. Hallie right before you came. They decided she’s no longer useful to the city—the mayor decided it.”

Finch genuinely seemed upset, and I couldn’t blame him. Even after one was claimed to be useful, they could still be killed, and that was common now. Even the police, who had proven to be more than useful; brave and loyal—they could be killed too. No one had a high chance of survival, and I was not optimistic. I supposed that I wouldn’t get punished now, unless a new teacher arrived quick enough. And that was my next question.

“Are we getting a new teacher?”

Finch sighed nervously, but he clearly had an answer. “They called for one, but I doubt someone will arrive in time.” He then added, “Don’t sweat it, Ally. You’ll be fine.”

Despite the fact that Finch was my best friend, I could not trust him. My hands were shaking and I was afraid—his words could not change that, no matter how much he would try to help.

“Are we allowed to leave class yet?” I asked him, knowing the chances of that were slim. We were required to take only one class per day in Endmost—not math or reading—nothing that would really help us. We had learned those things in Rudimentary, but they were now no longer taught. Instead, the one class apparently taught us how to do incredible and useful things, though I was convinced that they were setting us up to fail.

Finch took a long moment before he finally replied in a firm voice. “No, we can’t.” He was afraid too. We had gotten used to having the same teacher, and a new one would be terrifying. A new teacher decided how we would learn, and a new teacher could still punish me for being late.

I sat back at my desk, just waiting for something to happen. If a new teacher was to arrive, which was likely, then I would have a problem. The only class lasted for an hour or two, and that was certainly more than enough time for someone to show up, and make my life hell.

But as the moments passed, nobody came, and I was growing more and more certain that I would be off the hook. A feeling of pure relief flooded me and relaxed my pounding nerves—I was going to be okay.

But then I heard footsteps from outside.

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