Excerpt from The Project by Courtney Summers, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Project

by Courtney Summers

The Project by Courtney Summers X
The Project by Courtney Summers
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  • Published:
    Feb 2021, 352 pages

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Rachel Hullett
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Print Excerpt

SEPTEMBER 2017

I woke to the promise of a storm. It wasn't in the air but I felt it in my bones. Sunlight edged the corners of my covered window and if I'd told anyone to pack an umbrella, they would have told me I was crazy because when I threw the curtains wide, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. But my body never lies and by the time I get to the train station, it's raining.

"Damn."

I slowly raise my eyes from my lap, unclenching my fingers from fists. My cab driver is leaned forward, staring through the windshield at the dark gray shroud overhead. I dig my wallet out of my pocket and fumble for some bills, passing them over the seat before getting out. The first few drops of rain land cold against my skin and the downpour starts in earnest the moment I'm safely through the automatic doors. I turn to watch the people who didn't get so lucky as they scramble for cover.

"Fuck's sake," a woman mutters as she fumbles in, drenched, dragging two miserable toddlers alongside her, a boy and girl. The boy starts to cry.

I face the station and check the noticeboard against the wall. I'm ten minutes early; no delays. A relief, though not in terms of arrival. When I close my eyes, I see the mess of blankets atop the bed I forced my aching body from, awaiting me.

I turn and stumble into a human wall, a man. Or a boy. I'm not so sure. He might be a little older than me, maybe a little younger. Time has yet to stake a claim on him in any definable way. His eyes widen just slightly at the sight of my face.

"Do I know you?" he asks.

The apples of his cheeks are a fevered red against his pale white skin, and there are dark circles under his brown eyes, like he hasn't known sleep in any recent sense of the word. He has a greasy mop of curly black hair and he's very thin. I've never seen him before and I like the way he's looking at me less and less, so I sidestep him, leaving him to his mistake.

"I know you," he says at my back.

I join the crowd gathering at my platform. I hate the preboarding jostle, of finding myself amid an impatient collective that has lost all sense of assigned seating. Soon, I'm surrounded by twitchy passengers, their shoulders touching my shoulders, elbows touching my elbows. I press my lips together and close my eyes, rubbing my hands together. I love wasting a day off at the doctor's office for my annual diagnosis of still kicking, whatever that means.

"Whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it."

I still at the strangeness of the words, at the newly unwelcome familiarity of the voice they belong to. I open my eyes and glance beside me to see if anyone else heard, but if they have, they do what I don't, keeping their faces pointed down the tracks, awaiting the train. I decide to do the same, ignoring the heavy presence behind me until there's a push against my back, and those words again—but closer.

"Whoever will lose his life for my sake will—"

I face him. "Look, would you back the fuck off—"

"You're Lo," he says.

It stuns me into silence. His eyes broker no argument, more certain of me than I've ever been of myself. Before I can ask him how he knows my name, where he ever could have heard it, he opens his mouth once more. The rumble of the oncoming train drowns him out, but I read his lips: Find it. He grasps my arm and moves me aside to push through the disgruntled travelers standing between him and the edge of the platform. The edge of the platform and the …

"Hey," I say at his back. "Hey!"

No one sees him until he's made a clean jump onto the tracks and then everyone sees him and they all watch, waiting for what he'll do next.

"There's still time," someone yells.

There's still time. Maybe he just had to get this close to the other side to realize it was there all along because sometimes that's the moment life brings you to. But more often than not, it feels like it's this one: you lie down on the tracks and the train is coming.

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Excerpted from The Project by Courtney Summers. Copyright © 2021 by Courtney Summers. Excerpted by permission of Wednesday Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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