“They just keep these lying around?” I ask.
“Yeah, but they aren’t loaded.” Uriah pulls up his shirt. There is a gun stuck under the waistband of his pants, right under a tattoo. I stare at the tattoo, trying to figure out what it is, but then he lets his shirt fall. “Okay,” he says. “Go stand in front of a target.”
Marlene walks away, a skip in her step.
“You aren’t seriously going to shoot at her, are you?” I ask Uriah.
“It’s not a real gun,” says Lynn quietly. “It’s got plastic pellets in it. The worst it’ll do is sting her face, maybe give her a welt. What do you think we are, stupid?”
Marlene stands in front of one of the targets and sets the muffin on her head. Uriah squints one eye as he aims the gun.
“Wait!” calls out Marlene. She breaks off a piece of the muffin and pops it into her mouth. “Mmkay!” she shouts, the word garbled by food. She gives Uriah a thumbs-up.
“I take it your ranks were good,” I say to Lynn.
She nods. “Uriah’s second. I’m first. Marlene’s fourth.”
“You’re only first by a hair,” says Uriah as he aims. He squeezes the trigger. The muffin falls off Marlene’s head. She didn’t even blink.
“We both win!” she shouts.
“You miss your old faction?” Lynn asks me.
“Sometimes,” I say. “It was calmer. Not as exhausting.”
Marlene picks up the muffin from the ground and bites into it. Uriah shouts, “Gross!”
“Initiation’s supposed to wear us down to who we really are. That’s what Eric says, anyway,” Lynn says. She arches an eyebrow.
“Four says it’s to prepare us.”
“Well, they don’t agree on much.”
I nod. Four told me that Eric’s vision for Dauntless is not what it’s supposed to be, but I wish he would tell me exactly what he thinks the right vision is. I get glimpses of it every so often—the Dauntless cheering when I jumped off the building, the net of arms that caught me after zip lining—but they are not enough. Has he read the Dauntless manifesto? Is that what he believes in—in ordinary acts of bravery?
The door to the training room opens. Shauna, Zeke, and Four walk in just as Uriah fires at another target. The plastic pellet bounces off the center of the target and rolls along the ground.
“I thought I heard something in here,” says Four.
“Turns out it’s my idiot brother,” says Zeke. “You’re not supposed to be in here after hours. Careful, or Four will tell Eric, and then you’ll be as good as scalped.”
Uriah wrinkles his nose at his brother and puts the pellet gun away. Marlene crosses the room, taking bites of her muffin, and Four steps away from the door to let us file out.
“You wouldn’t tell Eric,” says Lynn, eyeing Four suspiciously.
“No, I wouldn’t,” he says. As I pass him, he rests his hand on the top of my back to usher me out, his palm pressing between my shoulder blades. I shiver. I hope he can’t tell.
The others walk down the hallway, Zeke and Uriah shoving each other, Marlene splitting her muffin with Shauna, Lynn marching in front. I start to follow them.
“Wait a second,” Four says. I turn toward him, wondering which version of Four I’ll see now—the one who scolds me, or the one who climbs Ferris wheels with me. He smiles a little, but the smile doesn’t spread to his eyes, which look tense and worried.
“You belong here, you know that?” he says. “You belong with us. It’ll be over soon, so just hold on, okay?”
He scratches behind his ear and looks away, like he’s embarrassed by what he said.
I stare at him. I feel my heartbeat everywhere, even in my toes. I feel like doing something bold, but I could just as easily walk away. I am not sure which option is smarter, or better. I am not sure that I care.
I reach out and take his hand. His fingers slide between mine. I can’t breathe.
I stare up at him, and he stares down at me. For a long moment, we stay that way. Then I pull my hand away and run after Uriah and Lynn and Marlene. Maybe now he thinks I’m stupid, or strange. Maybe it was worth it.
I get back to the dormitory before anyone else does, and when they start to trickle in, I get into bed and pretend to be asleep. I don’t need any of them, not if they’re going to react this way when I do well. If I can make it through initiation, I will be Dauntless, and I won’t have to see them anymore.
I don’t need them—but do I want them? Every tattoo I got with them is a mark of their friendship, and almost every time I have laughed in this dark place was because of them. I don’t want to lose them. But I feel like I have already.
After at least a half hour of racing thoughts, I roll onto my back and open my eyes. The dormitory is dark now—everyone has gone to bed. Probably exhausted from resenting me so much, I think with a wry smile. As if coming from the most hated faction wasn’t enough, now I’m showing them up, too.
I get out of bed to get a drink of water. I’m not thirsty, but I need to do something. My bare feet make sticky sounds on the floor as I walk, my hand skimming the wall to keep my path straight. A bulb glows blue above the drinking fountain.
I tug my hair over one shoulder and bend over. As soon as the water touches my lips, I hear voices at the end of the hallway. I creep closer to them, trusting the dark to keep me hidden.
“So far there haven’t been any signs of it.” Eric’s voice. Signs of what?
“Well, you wouldn’t have seen much of it yet,” someone replies. A female voice; cold and familiar, but familiar like a dream, not a real person. “Combat training shows you nothing. The simulations, however, reveal who the Divergent rebels are, if there are any, so we will have to examine the footage several times to be sure.”
The word “Divergent” makes me go cold. I lean forward, my back pressed to the stone, to see who the familiar voice belongs to.
“Don’t forget the reason I had Max appoint you,” the voice says. “Your first priority is always finding them. Always.”
“I won’t forget.”
I shift a few inches forward, hoping I am still hidden. Whoever that voice belongs to, she is pulling the strings; she is responsible for Eric’s leadership position; she is the one who wants me dead. I tilt my head forward, straining to see them before they turn the corner.
Then someone grabs me from behind.
I start to scream, but a hand claps over my mouth. It smells like soap and it’s big enough to cover the lower half of my face. I thrash, but the arms holding me are too strong, and I bite down on one of the fingers.
“Ow!” a rough voice cries.
“Shut up and keep her mouth covered.” That voice is higher than the average male’s and clearer. Peter.
A strip of dark cloth covers my eyes, and a new pair of hands ties it at the back of my head. I struggle to breathe. There are at least two hands on my arms, dragging me forward, and one on my back, shoving me in the same direction, and one on my mouth, keeping my screams in. Three people. My chest hurts. I can’t resist three people on my own.
“Wonder what it sounds like when a Stiff begs for mercy,” Peter says with a chuckle. “Hurry up.”
I try to focus on the hand on my mouth. There must be something distinct about it that will make him easier to identify. His identity is a problem I can solve. I need to solve a problem right now, or I will panic.
The palm is sweaty and soft. I clench my teeth and breathe through my nose. The soap smell is familiar. Lemongrass and sage. The same smell surrounds Al’s bunk. A weight drops into my stomach.
I hear the crash of water against rocks. We are near the chasm—we must be above it, given the volume of the sound. I press my lips together to keep from screaming. If we are above the chasm, I know what they intend to do to me.
“Lift her up, c’mon.”
I thrash, and their rough skin grates against mine, but I know it’s useless. I scream too, knowing that no one can hear me here.
I will survive until tomorrow. I will.
The hands push me around and up and slam my spine into something hard and cold. Judging by its width and curvature, it is a metal railing. It is the metal railing, the one that overlooks the chasm. My breaths wheeze and mist touches the back of my neck. The hands force my back to arch over the railing. My feet leave the ground, and my attackers are the only thing keeping me from falling into the water.
A heavy hand gropes along my chest. “You sure you’re sixteen, Stiff? Doesn’t feel like you’re more than twelve.” The other boys laugh.
Bile rises in my throat and I swallow the bitter taste.
“Wait, I think I found something!” His hand squeezes me. I bite my tongue to keep from screaming. More laughter.
Al’s hand slips from my mouth. “Stop that,” he snaps. I recognize his low, distinct voice.
When Al lets go of me, I thrash again and slip down to the ground. This time, I bite down as hard as I can on the first arm I find. I hear a scream and clench my jaw harder, tasting blood. Something hard strikes my face. White heat races through my head. It would have been pain if adrenaline wasn’t coursing through me like acid.
The boy wrenches his trapped arm away from me and throws me to the ground. I bang my elbow against stone and bring my hands up to my head to remove the blindfold. A foot drives into my side, forcing the air from my lungs. I gasp and cough and claw at the back of my head. Someone grabs a handful of my hair and slams my head against something hard. A scream of pain bursts from my mouth, and I feel dizzy.
Clumsily, I fumble along the side of my head to find the edge of the blindfold. I drag my heavy hand up, taking the blindfold with it, and blink. The scene before me is sideways and bobs up and down. I see someone running toward us and someone running away—someone large, Al. I grab the railing next to me and haul myself to my feet.
Peter wraps a hand around my throat and lifts me up, his thumb wedged under my chin. His hair, which is usually shiny and smooth, is tousled and sticks to his forehead. His pale face is contorted and his teeth are gritted, and he holds me over the chasm as spots appear on the edges of my vision, crowding around his face, green and pink and blue. He says nothing. I try to kick him, but my legs are too short. My lungs scream for air.
I hear a shout, and he releases me.
I stretch out my arms as I fall, gasping, and my armpits slam into the railing. I hook my elbows over it and groan. Mist touches my ankles. The world dips and sways around me, and someone is on the Pit floor—Drew—screaming. I hear thumps. Kicks. Groans.
I blink a few times and focus as hard as I can on the only face I can see. It is contorted with anger. His eyes are dark blue.
“Four,” I croak.
I close my eyes, and hands wrap around my arms, right where they join with the shoulder. He pulls me over the railing and against his chest, gathering me into his arms, easing an arm under my knees. I press my face into his shoulder, and there is a sudden, hollow silence.
I OPEN MY eyes to the words “Fear God Alone” painted on a plain white wall. I hear the sound of running water again, but this time it’s from a faucet and not from the chasm. Seconds go by before I see definite edges in my surroundings, the lines of door frame and countertop and ceiling.
The pain is a constant throb in my head and cheek and ribs. I shouldn’t move; it will make everything worse. I see a blue patchwork quilt under my head and wince as I tilt my head to see where the water sound is coming from.
Four stands in the bathroom with his hands in the sink. Blood from his knuckles turns the sink water pink. He has a cut at the corner of his mouth, but he seems otherwise unharmed. His expression is placid as he examines his cuts, turns off the water, and dries his hands with a towel.
I have only one memory of getting here, and even that is just a single image: black ink curling around the side of a neck, the corner of a tattoo, and the gentle sway that could only mean he was carrying me.
He turns off the bathroom light and gets an ice pack from the refrigerator in the corner of the room. As he walks toward me, I consider closing my eyes and pretending to be asleep, but then our eyes meet and it’s too late.
“Your hands,” I croak.
“My hands are none of your concern,” he replies. He rests his knee on the mattress and leans over me, slipping the ice pack under my head. Before he pulls away, I reach out to touch the cut on the side of his lip but stop when I realize what I am about to do, my hand hovering.
What do you have to lose? I ask myself. I touch my fingertips lightly to his mouth.
“Tris,” he says, speaking against my fingers, “I’m all right.”
“Why were you there?” I ask, letting my hand drop.
“I was coming back from the control room. I heard a scream.”
“What did you do to them?” I say.
“I deposited Drew at the infirmary a half hour ago,” he says. “Peter and Al ran. Drew claimed they were just trying to scare you. At least, I think that’s what he was trying to say.”
“He’s in bad shape?”
“He’ll live,” he replies. He adds bitterly, “In what condition, I can’t say.”
It isn’t right to wish pain on other people just because they hurt me first. But white-hot triumph races through me at the thought of Drew in the infirmary, and I squeeze Four’s arm.
“Good,” I say. My voice sounds tight and fierce. Anger builds inside me, replacing my blood with bitter water and filling me, consuming me. I want to break something, or hit something, but I am afraid to move, so I start crying instead.
Four crouches by the side of the bed, and watches me. I see no sympathy in his eyes. I would have been disappointed if I had. He pulls his wrist free and, to my surprise, rests his hand on the side of my face, his thumb skimming my cheekbone. His fingers are careful.