“No, it isn’t.” I’m not sure I like Four this way. There’s something unsettling about it.
“Didn’t know you had a tattoo,” he says, looking at my collarbone.
He sips the bottle. His breath smells thick and sharp. Like the factionless man’s breath.
“Right. The crows,” he says. He glances over his shoulder at his friends, who are carrying on without him, unlike mine. He adds, “I’d ask you to hang out with us, but you’re not supposed to see me this way.”
I am tempted to ask him why he wants me to hang out with him, but I suspect the answer has something to do with the bottle in his hand.
“What way?” I ask. “Drunk?”
“Yeah…well, no.” His voice softens. “Real, I guess.”
“I’ll pretend I didn’t.”
“Nice of you.” He puts his lips next to my ear and says, “You look good, Tris.”
His words surprise me, and my heart leaps. I wish it didn’t, because judging by the way his eyes slide over mine, he has no idea what he’s saying. I laugh. “Do me a favor and stay away from the chasm, okay?”
“Of course.” He winks at me.
I can’t help it. I smile. Will clears his throat, but I don’t want to turn away from Four, even when he walks back to his friends.
Then Al rushes at me like a rolling boulder and throws me over his shoulder. I shriek, my face hot.
“Come on, little girl,” he says, “I’m taking you to dinner.”
I rest my elbows on Al’s back and wave at Four as he carries me away.
“I thought I would rescue you,” Al says as we walk away. He sets me down. “What was that all about?”
He is trying to sound lighthearted, but he asks the question almost sadly. He still cares too much about me.
“Yeah, I think we’d all like to know the answer to that question,” says Christina in a singsong voice. “What did he say to you?”
“Nothing.” I shake my head. “He was drunk. He didn’t even know what he was saying.” I clear my throat. “That’s why I was grinning. It’s…funny to see him that way.”
“Right,” says Will. “Couldn’t possibly be because—”
I elbow Will hard in the ribs before he can finish his sentence. He was close enough to hear what Four said to me about looking good. I don’t need him telling everyone about it, especially not Al. I don’t want to make him feel worse.
At home I used to spend calm, pleasant nights with my family. My mother knit scarves for the neighborhood kids. My father helped Caleb with his homework. There was a fire in the fireplace and peace in my heart, as I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing, and everything was quiet.
I have never been carried around by a large boy, or laughed until my stomach hurt at the dinner table, or listened to the clamor of a hundred people all talking at once. Peace is restrained; this is free.
I BREATHE THROUGH my nose. In, out. In.
“It’s just a simulation, Tris,” Four says quietly.
He’s wrong. The last simulation bled into my life, waking and sleeping. Nightmares, not just featuring the crows but the feelings I had in the simulation—terror and helplessness, which I suspect is what I am really afraid of. Sudden fits of terror in the shower, at breakfast, on the way here. Nails bitten down so far my nail beds ache. And I am not the only one who feels this way; I can tell.
Still I nod and close my eyes.
I am in darkness. The last thing I remember is the metal chair and the needle in my arm. This time there is no field; there are no crows. My heart pounds in anticipation. What monsters will creep from the darkness and steal my rationality? How long will I have to wait for them?
A blue orb lights up a few feet ahead of me, and then another one, filling the room with light. I am on the Pit floor, next to the chasm, and the initiates stand around me, their arms folded and their faces blank. I search for Christina and find her standing among them. None of them move. Their stillness makes my throat feel tight.
I see something in front of me—my own faint reflection. I touch it, and my fingers find glass, cool and smooth. I look up. There is a pane above me; I am in a glass box. I press above my head to see if I can force the box open. It doesn’t budge. I am sealed in.
My heart beats faster. I don’t want to be trapped. Someone taps on the wall in front of me. Four. He points at my feet, smirking.
A few seconds ago, my feet were dry, but now I stand in half an inch of water, and my socks are soggy. I crouch to see where the water is coming from, but it seems to be coming from nowhere, rising up from the box’s glass bottom. I look up at Four, and he shrugs. He joins the crowd of initiates.
The water rises fast. It now covers my ankles. I pound against the glass with my fist.
“Hey!” I say. “Let me out of here!”
The water slides up my bare calves as it rises, cool and soft. I hit the glass harder.
“Get me out of here!”
I stare at Christina. She leans over to Peter, who stands beside her, and whispers something in his ear. They both laugh.
The water covers my thighs. I pound both fists against the glass. I’m not trying to get their attention anymore; I’m trying to break out. Frantic, I bang against the glass as hard as I can. I step back and throw my shoulder into the wall, once, twice, three times, four times. I hit the wall until my shoulder aches, screaming for help, watching the water rise to my waist, my rib cage, my chest.
“Help!” I scream. “Please! Please help!”
I slap the glass. I will die in this tank. I drag my shaking hands through my hair.
I see Will standing among the initiates, and something tickles at the back of my mind. Something he said. Come on, think. I stop trying to break the glass. It’s hard to breathe, but I have to try. I’ll need as much air as I can get in a few seconds.
My body rises, weightless in the water. I float closer to the ceiling and tilt my head back as the water covers my chin. Gasping, I press my face to the glass above me, sucking in as much air as I can. Then the water covers me, sealing me into the box.
Don’t panic. It’s no use—my heart pounds and my thoughts scatter. I thrash in the water, smacking the walls. I kick the glass as hard as I can, but the water slows down my foot. The simulation is all in your head.
I scream, and water fills my mouth. If it’s in my head, I control it. The water burns my eyes. The initiates’ passive faces stare back at me. They don’t care.
I scream again and shove the wall with my palm. I hear something. A cracking sound. When I pull my hand away, there is a line in the glass. I slam my other hand next to the first and drive another crack through the glass, this one spreading outward from my palm in long, crooked fingers. My chest burns like I just swallowed fire. I kick the wall. My toes ache from the impact, and I hear a long, low groan.
The pane shatters, and the force of the water against my back throws me forward. There is air again.
I gasp and sit up. I’m in the chair. I gulp and shake out my hands. Four stands to my right, but instead of helping me up, he just looks at me.
“What?” I ask.
“How did you do that?”
“Crack the glass.”
“I don’t know.” Four finally offers me his hand. I swing my legs over the side of the chair, and when I stand, I feel steady. Calm.
He sighs and grabs me by the elbow, half leading and half dragging me out of the room. We walk quickly down the hallway, and then I stop, pulling my arm back. He stares at me in silence. He won’t give me information without prompting.
“What?” I demand.
“You’re Divergent,” he replies.
I stare at him, fear pulsing through me like electricity. He knows. How does he know? I must have slipped up. Said something wrong.
I should act casual. I lean back, pressing my shoulders to the wall, and say, “What’s Divergent?”
“Don’t play stupid,” he says. “I suspected it last time, but this time it’s obvious. You manipulated the simulation; you’re Divergent. I’ll delete the footage, but unless you want to wind up dead at the bottom of the chasm, you’ll figure out how to hide it during the simulations! Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
He walks back to the simulation room and slams the door behind him. I feel my heartbeat in my throat. I manipulated the simulation; I broke the glass. I didn’t know that was an act of Divergence.
How did he?
I push myself away from the wall and start down the hallway. I need answers, and I know who has them.
I walk straight to the tattoo place where I last saw Tori.
There aren’t many people out, because it’s midafter-noon and most of them are at work or at school. There are three people in the tattoo place: the other tattoo artist, who is drawing a lion on another man’s arm, and Tori, who is sorting through a stack of paper on the counter. She looks up when I walk in.
“Hello, Tris,” she says. She glances at the other tattoo artist, who is too focused on what he’s doing to notice us. “Let’s go in the back.”
I follow her behind the curtain that separates the two rooms. The next room contains a few chairs, spare tattoo needles, ink, pads of paper, and framed artwork. Tori draws the curtain shut and sits in one of the chairs. I sit next to her, tapping my feet to give myself something to do.
“What’s going on?” she says. “How are the simulations going?”
“Really well.” I nod a few times. “A little too well, I hear.”
“Please help me understand,” I say quietly. “What does it mean to be…” I hesitate. I should not say the word “Divergent” here. “What the hell am I? What does it have to do with the simulations?”
Tori’s demeanor changes. She leans back and crosses her arms. Her expression becomes guarded.
“Among other things, you…you are someone who is aware, when they are in a simulation, that what they are experiencing is not real,” she says. “Someone who can then manipulate the simulation or even shut it down. And also…” She leans forward and looks into my eyes. “Someone who, because you are also Dauntless…tends to die.”
A weight settles on my chest, like each sentence she speaks is piling there. Tension builds inside me until I can’t stand to hold it in anymore—I have to cry, or scream, or…
I let out a harsh little laugh that dies almost as soon as it’s born and say, “So I’m going to die, then?”
“Not necessarily,” she says. “The Dauntless leaders don’t know about you yet. I deleted your aptitude results from the system immediately and manually logged your result as Abnegation. But make no mistake—if they discover what you are, they will kill you.”
I stare at her in silence. She doesn’t look crazy. She sounds steady, if a little urgent, and I’ve never suspected her of being unbalanced, but she must be. There hasn’t been a murder in our city as long as I’ve been alive. Even if individuals are capable of it, the leaders of a faction can’t possibly be.
“You’re paranoid,” I say. “The leaders of the Dauntless wouldn’t kill me. People don’t do that. Not anymore. That’s the point of all this…all the factions.”
“Oh, you think so?” She plants her hands on her knees and stares right at me, her features taut with sudden ferocity. “They got my brother, why not you, huh? What makes you special?”
“Your brother?” I say, narrowing my eyes.
“Yeah. My brother. He and I both transferred from Erudite, only his aptitude test was inconclusive. On the last day of simulations, they found his body in the chasm. Said it was a suicide. Only my brother was doing well in training, he was dating another initiate, he was happy.” She shakes her head. “You have a brother, right? Don’t you think you would know if he was suicidal?”
I try to imagine Caleb killing himself. Even the thought sounds ridiculous to me. Even if Caleb was miserable, it would not be an option.
Her sleeves are rolled up, so I can see a tattoo of a river on her right arm. Did she get it after her brother died? Was the river another fear she overcame?
She lowers her voice. “In the second stage of training, Georgie got really good, really fast. He said the simulations weren’t even scary to him…they were like a game. So the instructors took a special interest in him. Piled into the room when he went under, instead of just letting the instructor report his results. Whispered about him all the time. The last day of simulations, one of the Dauntless leaders came in to see it himself. And the next day, Georgie was gone.”
I could be good at the simulations, if I mastered whatever force helped me break the glass. I could be so good that all the instructors took notice. I could, but will I?
“Is that all it is?” I say. “Just changing the simulations?”
“I doubt it,” she says, “but that’s all I know.”
“How many people know about this?” I say, thinking of Four. “About manipulating the simulations?”
“Two kinds of people,” she says. “People who want you dead. Or people who have experienced it themselves. Firsthand. Or secondhand, like me.”
Four told me he would delete the recording of me breaking the glass. He doesn’t want me dead. Is he Divergent? Was a family member? A friend? A girlfriend?
I push the thought aside. I can’t let him distract me.
“I don’t understand,” I say slowly, “why the Dauntless leaders care that I can manipulate the simulation.”
“If I had it figured out, I would have told you by now.” She presses her lips together. “The only thing I’ve come up with is that changing the simulation isn’t what they care about; it’s just a symptom of something else. Something they do care about.”