9.34 Teri Hall The Line

ISBN 13: 9780142417768

The Line

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9780142417768: The Line

When Rachel and her mother move to Mrs. Moore's house-the one with the greenhouse, right next to the Line-Rachel starts questioning things. There are so many rumors of horrible things that lie beyond the Line-in a place called Away-but no one dares to talk about it. And it's no use asking questions- especially of Mrs. Moore, who has always lived by the Line, or of her mother, who is just happy to have a place to stay, especially since Rachel's father died in the war. But then Rachel comes across a recorded message-one that could only have come from Away. And the voice on the recorder is asking for help. As things start to unravel, the question becomes, how far is Rachel willing to go to cross the Line and do the right thing?

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About the Author:

Teri Hall is the author of The Line and Away. She lives in Washington with two cats and a dog.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

It seemed to Rachel that she had always lived on The Property, though this wasn’t true. Her mother, Vivian, said they moved there when she was three years old, but Rachel didn’t remember. To her, The Property was home. She felt as comfortable there as she did in her own skin. But she knew that for most people, The Property was too close to the section of the National Border Defense System known as the Line.

The National Border Defense System enclosed the entire Unified States. The section called the Line was only a small part of it, but because of its history it was infamous, at least locally. Strange things were supposed to happen near the Line; dangerous things. Even though there hadn’t been a Crossing Storm in over forty years, people still thought of the Line as a bad place to be near. There were whispers about Away—the territory on the other side of the Line. There were whispers about the Others.

Rachel wasn’t afraid. After all, she spent a lot of her time in the greenhouse that was all the way at the back of The Property, right next to the Line. Away was clearly visible from the greenhouse windows. Rachel had gazed countless hours out those windows at Away, and she had never seen anything strange over there at all. Just the same meadows and trees that were on the U.S. side of the Line.

Technically, Rachel wasn’t supposed to be in the greenhouse. Ms. Elizabeth Moore, the owner of The Property, grew orchids there, which she shipped to the cities to sell. Vivian had always cautioned Rachel to stay away from the greenhouse; she worried that Rachel might be a bother to Ms. Moore, or that she might break something. Rachel tried to do whatever she could to make things easier for her mother, but the greenhouse had seemed magical to her from the first time she saw it—so hushed, so peaceful and beautiful. The air was warm and soft, and a gentle light filtered in through the glass, illuminating the lush emerald hues of the orchids’ leaves. Their exotic blooms vied for Rachel’s attention, some offering flashes of intense colors in bold shapes; others, pale and delicate, coquettishly inviting a closer inspection.

Rachel couldn’t resist. She hid somewhere in the greenhouse almost every day when she was little, happy among the flowers. She was careful to stay out of Ms. Moore’s sight, of course. She would have been careful even if she hadn’t been warned not to bother her. Ms. Moore was old, and not old in a grandmotherly, “here are some cookies” way; she was quite forbidding. Rachel was almost scared of her. But being in the greenhouse was worth the risk.

Rachel used to lose herself there in the kind of daydreams that children who grow up in solitude often have. She’d imagine that she was a princess, the greenhouse was her castle, and the whole of The Property was under her rule. Sometimes she would pretend that she was able to talk with the orchids. Each bloom had a different voice; some were quiet and polite, while others were loud and boisterous. Rachel made them her friends.

Rachel’s favorite daydreams when she was a little girl were those in which her father, Daniel, was still alive and had come to take her and her mother somewhere fabulous. In those daydreams, the anxious look Vivian always seemed to wear faded, and she smiled a lot more. Daniel was dashing and handsome, and he let Rachel try things that Vivian would have scowled about, things like climbing tall trees and wandering ahead when they went on walks. In real life, Vivian was always saying “Be careful!” or cautioning Rachel not to stray too far. She looked at Rachel sometimes as though she were waiting for her to break, and that her own heart would break at the same time. But in Rachel’s daydreams, if her mother started to protest that Rachel was being too reckless, Daniel would pick Vivian up and twirl her around until she laughed and laughed, and forgot her concern. In her dreams, the three of them could spend every day together, doing whatever they wanted, and Rachel never felt worried.

In actuality, Vivian was busy much of the time working in Ms. Moore’s house, where a child underfoot wasn’t welcomed. This left Rachel on her own quite a bit, though not completely unsupervised. Ms. Moore’s hired man, Jonathan, had helped keep an eye on Rachel when Vivian couldn’t. Judging from his grizzled gray hair and his bonsai fingers, twisted from years of arthritis, Jonathan was even older than Ms. Moore. Yet Rachel never felt nervous around him the way she did around his employer.

One of her earliest memories was of Jonathan; she had tripped on something and fallen, and she was crying hard. Her mom must have been working, because it was Jonathan who had gently righted her. She remembered how softly he had said her name and how she felt instantly better. Jonathan always seemed to know how to make her feel safe. He even put up with her playing in the greenhouse, though Vivian didn’t approve, as long as she kept out of Ms. Moore’s way.

As Rachel grew older, Vivian scheduled enough chores and homework to keep her out of most kinds of trouble, and Jonathan checked in on her less and less. Of course, she wasn’t alone all the time. She spent every evening with her mother, and she often rode with Vivian during her weekly supply trips to Bensen, the nearest town. Trips to Bensen, where the highlight might be a treat from the bakery, were about as exciting as things got in Rachel’s life. She hadn’t minded that when she was little, but as she got older, she often wished that something—anything—would happen to her. She loved her mother, and her life on The Property wasn’t horrible by any means. But it was predictable. Nothing ever seemed to change; no one new ever drove down the long driveway from the main road. There were no other kids to play with, and even though Rachel usually did a pretty good job of entertaining herself, she still got restless sometimes.

Away was Rachel’s escape from boredom.

It was inevitable, really. Rachel lived right on the Line. Away was next door, and it was the opposite of boring. It was taboo. Perhaps someone with less imagination, or more friends, could have resisted the pull of something so forbidden, so tantalizingly close at hand, but Rachel was not that person.

Away had been around forever—it was even older than Ms. Moore. Yet it was rarely spoken of, at least officially. The streamer news seldom mentioned it; people in other parts of the country seemed to have forgotten it existed. But the people in Bensen hadn’t forgotten. And there was quite a collection of questionable literature about it available on the net. Of course, Rachel read everything she could about Away and the Others, every trashy, “true eyewitness account” she could find.

Vivian would have disapproved if she knew. She had always told Rachel that what happened to the Others was a tragedy, caused by government callousness. She wouldn’t have liked the way they were described in Rachel’s net books—at best as mindless husks, at worst as monsters. Vivian was pretty strict about Rachel’s streamer use anyway; it was reserved mostly for homework assignments. She did let Rachel watch a few stream shows, but only after she had screened them herself.

Vivian wanted Rachel to check out what she called “real books” at the Bensen library when they went to town for supplies. She’d try to talk Rachel into books about art history or girls with pet horses. Rachel thought art history and pet horses were boring and that real books were ancient and smelly. Half of them were falling apart at the seams, and most of the ones she could find about Away were outdated. The graphics were better on the net, and you could find almost anything you wanted, right from the streamer at home.

Rachel would sneak screen time when she was supposed to be doing schoolwork. All the stories about bizarre happenings and weird animals were thrilling. Some claimed that the Others were cannibals, or that they had super-human strength. One book had outlined the process by which Others could hypnotize a person and enslave them forever, or at least until they wanted to eat them. Even Vivian’s protests that the accounts were probably produced by government writers didn’t dampen her enthusiasm.

Rachel made up stories in her head about how the Others would creep up to the Line and try with all their might to break through. She imagined seeing one of the odd animals she had read about that were supposed to be so common deep in Away territory, things like birds with funny heads or house cats the size of sheep. Sometimes when she was looking out the greenhouse windows, Rachel did see birds on the Away side of the Line, and more than once she had seen deer standing frozen between tree trunks, certain of their own invisibility. But the birds were just regular birds, the same as any bird she’d ever seen, and the deer were just deer.

The Line itself was invisible. There was a barren ribbon of soil running along the meadow as far as the eye could see, where the grass couldn’t grow. And Rachel thought she could see a funny sort of haze, but even that was only apparent in certain lights—right before dusk, or early in the morning.

Though the Line was almost imperceptible, it had affected many lives. It affected Rachel’s too. In a sense, the Line was the reason Rachel ended up working in the greenhouse, instead of just playing.

Her mom would have said that wasn’t true. Rachel could hear the lecture in her head: It is always a person’s own actions that bring about any real change, good or bad. Vivian would have said a lot more than that if she knew what really happened.

What really happened was that Rachel tried to Cross.

When the U.S. constructed the National Border Defense System, they didn’t just ensure that their enemies were kept out. Once the invisible barrier was activated, nobody could leave the country without the government’s permission. As far as Rachel could tell, permission was never given to regular citizens; the only people who were allowed to travel outside the borders were political officials or military troops. Crossing—the attempt to leave the country without official permission—was punishable by death.

Trying to Cross would have been bad enough. But Rachel not only tried to Cross, she tried to Cross the Line. Nobody ever Crossed that section of the System. There was no reason to—there was nothing on the other side but Away.

Rachel had just finished reading yet another net article about Away. In this one, the author described “confirmed” sightings of strange hybrid creatures being commanded by Others, very near the Line. The creatures were supposed to be canine, but as large as horses. The author said they were incredibly beautiful and fierce, and that the Others used them for hunting. The article was dated just two days before. When she saw that, Rachel felt a shiver go down her spine. Two days ago. Confirmed sightings. Right in her backyard. Rachel wanted to see those animals. She tried not to think about exactly what they might be hunting.

She knew she had to at least try to Cross.

She figured there was only a slim chance that she would be able to, since there were only two ways that the System could ever be deactivated. One was a Crossing Storm—a severe electrical storm that was supposed to disarm the System somehow. According to local lore, just such a terrible storm had occurred many years ago, and some Others had managed to Cross somewhere along the Line. Most official records claimed it never happened—the government maintained that there were no verifiable accounts of anything but a terrible weather system that caused some damage. But the local weather reports still called big storms “Crossing Storms.” And whenever something bad happened in Bensen—a murder, a break-in, some random vandalism—people blamed the Others for whatever occurred. They whispered that Others were still secretly living among them.

The only other way the System could be deactivated was by the government, if some dignitary had permission to go to another country, or troops needed to Cross. There was no public record of it ever happening on the Line. None of the Crossing Stations from which sections of the System could be disabled were located on the Line. They were all on other parts of the System, the parts where they had had time to plan the construction better. On the Line, the closest thing to a Crossing Station was a little brick bunker near the edge of The Property. As far as Rachel knew, it had always been unmanned; it was locked up all the time and no soldiers ever came to check it. She thought it must be some sort of maintenance shack.

Even though Crossing was likely impossible—or perhaps because it was—Rachel worked herself up enough to plan an attempt. She felt like a kid who’s been dared to go up to the “haunted” house at the end of some long dark road, only the person daring her was herself. In the back of her mind, she was banking on the probability that nothing would happen. Though she didn’t believe most of what she read about the Others in the net books, if even part of it was true, she didn’t think she would want to encounter them. Actually Crossing the Line would be the scariest thing Rachel could imagine happening. But the idea of trying was exciting.

The next morning, Rachel made the bed and did the breakfast dishes as she waited for Vivian to leave the guesthouse where they lived to go work at the main house. Then she put a hunk of cheese and some of the breakfast biscuits in a bag and set out for the back of the greenhouse. If she did somehow Cross, she might need some food.

The day was already pleasantly warm, but Rachel had brought a jacket just in case. She moved cautiously, even though there was no one around. Once she passed the greenhouse, she stopped looking over her shoulder. Nobody could see her this far away from the main house. The closer she got to the Line, the faster her heart pounded in her chest. Everything else seemed eerily quiet.

Finally, she was standing right next to the Line. The meadow grass grew long and shaggy all the way up to where the Line was, but then it died. A line of brown earth about four inches wide extended as far as Rachel could see in either direction. It was different seeing that boundary right at her feet than it was looking at it from the safety of the greenhouse. Away was right there, inches from her nose. The only thing separating her from it was the Line. All she could hear was her own breathing, and a sort of rushing sound that filled her head.

Rachel looked hard at the space in front of her, squinting her eyes to see if she could detect how the Line worked, as if something like that has a way of working that you could figure out from staring at it. Her heart thumped so hard it felt like something separate from her.

She forced herself to take a deep breath, then another. The thumping in her chest slowed some. The rushing sound in her head lessened. Finally, she extended her hand tentatively, to see if she could feel the Line, maybe just poke through a little. Her hand was shaking. As she was about to touch the place in midair where she thought it was, there was a shattering sound behind her, so loud it made her jump—forward. Into the Line.

It felt sort of like a cloud, or what Rachel imagined a cloud would feel like: soft, but firm against her body, letting her sink into it. But after a moment, it pushed back. She was so startled, she fell into the grass. Flat on her back, she gasped for air, while the sky c...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. When Rachel and her mother move to Mrs. Moore s house-the one with the greenhouse, right next to the Line-Rachel starts questioning things. There are so many rumors of horrible things that lie beyond the Line-in a place called Away-but no one dares to talk about it. And it s no use asking questions- especially of Mrs. Moore, who has always lived by the Line, or of her mother, who is just happy to have a place to stay, especially since Rachel s father died in the war. But then Rachel comes across a recorded message-one that could only have come from Away. And the voice on the recorder is asking for help. As things start to unravel, the question becomes, how far is Rachel willing to go to cross the Line and do the right thing?. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780142417768

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. When Rachel and her mother move to Mrs. Moore s house-the one with the greenhouse, right next to the Line-Rachel starts questioning things. There are so many rumors of horrible things that lie beyond the Line-in a place called Away-but no one dares to talk about it. And it s no use asking questions- especially of Mrs. Moore, who has always lived by the Line, or of her mother, who is just happy to have a place to stay, especially since Rachel s father died in the war. But then Rachel comes across a recorded message-one that could only have come from Away. And the voice on the recorder is asking for help. As things start to unravel, the question becomes, how far is Rachel willing to go to cross the Line and do the right thing?. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780142417768

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. When Rachel and her mother move to Mrs. Moore s house-the one with the greenhouse, right next to the Line-Rachel starts questioning things. There are so many rumors of horrible things that lie beyond the Line-in a place called Away-but no one dares to talk about it. And it s no use asking questions- especially of Mrs. Moore, who has always lived by the Line, or of her mother, who is just happy to have a place to stay, especially since Rachel s father died in the war. But then Rachel comes across a recorded message-one that could only have come from Away. And the voice on the recorder is asking for help. As things start to unravel, the question becomes, how far is Rachel willing to go to cross the Line and do the right thing?. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9780142417768

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