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Crosshairs

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Crosshairs

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Author: Catherine Hernandez
Publisher: Atria Books, 2020
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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Science-Fiction
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Synopsis

Set in a terrifyingly familiar near-future, with massive floods leading to rampant homelessness and devastation, a government-sanctioned regime called The Boots seizes on the opportunity to round up communities of color, the disabled, and the LGBTQ+ into labor camps.

In the shadows, a new hero emerges. After he loses his livelihood as a drag queen and the love of his life, Kay joins the resistance alongside Bahadur, a transmasculine refugee, and Firuzeh, a headstrong social worker. Guiding them in the use of weapons and close-quarters combat is Beck, a rogue army officer, who helps them plan an uprising at a major televised international event.

With her signature "raw yet beautiful, disturbing yet hopeful" (Booklist) prose, Catherine Hernandez creates a vision of the future that is all the more frightening because it is very possible. A cautionary tale filled with fierce and vibrant characters, Crosshairs explores the universal desire to thrive, love, and be loved for being your true self.


Excerpt

1

Evan. My beautiful Evan. Here in the darkness of this hiding place, I write you these words. Without paper, without pen, I trace these words in my head, along the perimeter of your outline. Watch this sentence travel along the meat of your cheekbone. See my teeth dig into your flesh playfully. Watch these words ball into your hand along with a fistful of bedsheet, which you pull over us to create a tent. I imagine you now, lying across from me, improvising a silly song about the smallness of my ears. Ironically, you sing it half in tune, half out of tune.

"Maybe you're the one with the small ears," I suggest, and you scrunch your face in embarrassment. You're talented at many things, but music isn't one of them. Sometimes the image of you is clear, right down to the curl of your eyelashes. Sometimes, especially when I'm hungry, I recall the shape of your smile and nothing more. Watch these phrases ink across an imaginary page, a Whisper Letter, folded twice, placed in an envelope and mailed to wherever you may be. I will never forget your name, Evan. And I pray you will never forget mine.

If by some miracle my whispered words reach you, I want you to know that I'm safe on Homewood Street where Liv has hidden me in her basement.

No room in Toronto is ever used in the way it was originally in- tended. That's what happens in a city always trying to reinvent itself. Like it has an itch it can't scratch. Like it has a commitment problem. This place was meant to be a cold cellar. A place where, before the invention of refrigeration, the woman of the house would have likely stored things like butter or eggs. That's why even in the heat of the summer, the heat of this hellish summer, I feel like I'm swimming in the cold breath of ghosts. I'm wearing all the clothes I ran away in. Five layers, which you told me to wear. There is no finding me. At least I hope so.

To ensure that I am hidden, I have set up my bed beside Liv's furnace. My bed consists of two layers of cardboard boxes cut to fit in the corner of space behind the furnace, and a pile of Liv's old winter coats, which I use as blankets and a pillow. The idea is, if I need to leave again and in a hurry, what remains behind won't resemble a hideout for me: a Queer Femme Jamaican Filipino man. Anne Frank, minus the diary.

It is here where I await news, where I hope for your arrival, where I wait for Liv to feed me or to tell me it's time to run again. I am unsure of exactly how long I have been here, as counting days is its own form of torture. Instead, I understand the passing of time by watching the moon's cycle from the basement window. Maybe you are doing the same. Lunar crescents have grown fat and then thin across the night sky almost six times. And at the swelling of every moon, Liv has re- plenished my supplies. It is through this same basement window that I have watched a raccoon give birth, pushing those kits out, one at a time, in the space between the spiderweb-stained glass and the corrugated metal framing. I have been here long enough to watch them grow too large for the cubbyhole. Long enough to watch the mama bite the collars of each of her whimpering kits and carry them to the surface of the world, high above me.

In the dead of winter, under a waxing fingernail moon, I jogged in place to keep my limbs from feeling wooden and numb. In the spring, when the flooding began once again, I would stand in ankle-deep filthy water. Under a new moon, with flashes of lightning as my only guide in the darkness, I filled buckets with floodwater and passed them to Liv through the hatch to pour down the kitchen drain. Since summer has returned, and the moon is pregnant-round, I am thankful the musty smell of mold has dissipated a bit.

I can see the sky peeking through the opening of the basement window like a half-circle picture-perfect blue. I'm not sure what is better: to look outside the window and long for sunlight or to lie on my dark makeshift bed, close my eyes, and dream of bicycling with you through the city, fast and free.

Copyright © 2020 by Catherine Hernandez


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