Firstlife

By: Gena Showalter


I’ve been told history is written by survivors. But I know that isn’t always true. My name is Tenley Lockwood, and very soon, I’ll be dead. This is my story—but the end is only the beginning.

Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl...who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms that will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision...






chapter one

“You are better off Unsigned than a slave to Troikan law.”

—Myriad

I’ve been locked inside the Prynne Asylum—where happiness comes to die—for three hundred and seventy-eight days. (Or nine thousand and seventy-two hours.) I know the exact time frame, not because I watched the sun rise and set in the sky, but because I mark my walls in blood every time the lights in the good-girls-gone-bad wing of the facility turn on.

There are no windows in the building. At least, none that I’ve found. And I’ve never been allowed outside. None of the inmates have. To be honest, I don’t even know what country we’re in, or if we’re buried far underground. Before being flown, driven, shipped or dropped here, we were heavily sedated. Wherever we are, though, it’s bone-deep cold beyond the walls. Every day, hour, second, our air is heated.

I’ve heard friends and enemies alike ask the staff for details, but the response has always been the same. Answers have to be earned.

No, thanks. For me, the price—cooperation—is simply too high.

With a wince, I rise from bed and make my way to the far corner of my cell. Every step is agony. My back hates me, but the muscles are too sore to go on strike. Last night I was caned just because.

I stop in front of my pride and joy. My calendar. A new day means a new mark.

I have no chalk, no pen or marker, so I drive the tip of an index finger over a jagged stone protruding from the floor, slicing through the flesh and drawing a well of blood.

I hate the sting, but if I’m honest, I’ll love the scar it leaves behind. My scars give me something to count.

Counting is my passion, and numerology my favorite addiction. Maybe because every breath we take is another tick on our clock, putting us one step closer to death...and a new beginning. Maybe because my name is Tenley—Ten to my friends.

Ten, a representation of completion.

We have ten fingers and ten toes. Ten is the standard beginning for any countdown.

I was born on the tenth day of the tenth month at 10:10 a.m. And, okay. All right. Maybe I’m obsessed with numbers because they always tell a story and unlike people, they never lie.

Here’s my story in a nutshell:

Seventeen—the number of years I’ve existed. In my case, lived is too strong a word.

One—the number of boys I’ve dated.

Two—the number of friends I’ve made and lost since my incarceration.

Two—the number of lives I’ll live. The number of lives we’ll all live.

Our Firstlife, then our Everlife.

Two—the number of choices I have for my eternal future.

(1) Do as my parents command or (2) suffer.

I’ve chosen to suffer.