Christina is looking at Will, and he is looking back at her. Neither of them is really listening to me.
“All right,” Christina says distantly. “Well, I’ll see you later, then.”
Christina and Will walk toward the dormitories, Christina tousling Will’s hair and Will jabbing her in the ribs. For a second, I watch them. I feel like I am witnessing the beginning of something, but I’m not sure what it will be.
I jog to the path on the right side of the Pit and start to climb. I try to make my footsteps as quiet as possible. Unlike Christina, I don’t find it difficult to lie. I don’t intend to talk to Four—at least, not until I find out where he’s going, late at night, in the glass building above us.
I run quietly, breathless when I reach the stairs, and stand at one end of the glass room while Four stands at the other. Through the windows I see the city lights, glowing now but petering out even as I look at them. They are supposed to turn off at midnight.
Across the room, Four stands at the door to the fear landscape. He holds a black box in one hand and a syringe in the other.
“Since you’re here,” he says, without looking over his shoulder, “you might as well go in with me.”
I bite my lip. “Into your fear landscape?”
As I walk toward him, I ask, “I can do that?”
“The serum connects you to the program,” he says, “but the program determines whose landscape you go through. And right now, it’s set to put us through mine.”
“You would let me see that?”
“Why else do you think I’m going in?” he asks quietly. He doesn’t lift his eyes. “There are some things I want to show you.”
He holds up the syringe, and I tilt my head to better expose my neck. I feel sharp pain when the needle goes in, but I am used to it now. When he’s done, he offers me the black box. In it is another syringe.
“I’ve never done this before,” I say as I take it out of the box. I don’t want to hurt him.
“Right here,” he says, touching a spot on his neck with his fingernail. I stand on my tiptoes and push the needle in, my hand shaking a little. He doesn’t even flinch.
He keeps his eyes on me the whole time, and when I’m done, puts both syringes in the box and sets it by the door. He knew that I would follow him up here. Knew, or hoped. Either way is fine with me.
He offers me his hand, and I slide mine into it. His fingers are cold and brittle. I feel like there is something I should say, but I am too stunned and can’t come up with any words. He opens the door with his free hand, and I follow him into the dark. I am now used to entering unknown places without hesitation. I keep my breaths even and hold firmly to Four’s hand.
“See if you can figure out why they call me Four,” he says.
The door clicks shut behind us, taking all the light with it. The air is cold in the hallway; I feel each particle enter my lungs. I inch closer to him so my arm is against his and my chin is near his shoulder.
“What’s your real name?” I ask.
“See if you can figure that out too.”
The simulation takes us. The ground I stand on is no longer made of cement. It creaks like metal. Light pours in from all angles, and the city unfolds around us, glass buildings and the arc of train tracks, and we are high above it. I haven’t seen a blue sky in a long time, so when it spreads out above me, I feel the breath catch in my lungs and the effect is dizzying.
Then the wind starts. It blows so hard I have to lean against Four to stay on my feet. He removes his hand from mine and wraps his arm around my shoulders instead. At first I think it’s to protect me—but no, he’s having trouble breathing and he needs me to steady him. He forces breath in and out through an open mouth and his teeth are clenched.
The height is beautiful to me, but if it’s here, it is one of his worst nightmares.
“We have to jump off, right?” I shout over the wind.
“On three, okay?”
“One…two…three!” I pull him with me as I burst into a run. After we take the first step, the rest is easy. We both sprint off the edge of the building. We fall like two stones, fast, the air pushing back at us, the ground growing beneath us. Then the scene disappears, and I am on my hands and knees on the floor, grinning. I loved that rush the day I chose Dauntless, and I love it now.
Next to me, Four gasps and presses a hand to his chest.
I get up and help him to his feet. “What’s next?”
Something solid hits my spine. I slam into Four, my head hitting his collarbone. Walls appear on my left and my right. The space is so narrow that Four has to pull his arms into his chest to fit. A ceiling slams onto the walls around us with a crack, and Four hunches over, groaning. The room is just big enough to accommodate his size, and no bigger.
“Confinement,” I say.
He makes a guttural noise. I tilt my head and pull back enough to look at him. I can barely see his face, it’s so dark, and the air is close; we share breaths. He grimaces like he’s in pain.
“Hey,” I say. “It’s okay. Here—”
I guide his arms around my body so he has more space. He clutches at my back and puts his face next to mine, still hunched over. His body is warm, but I feel only his bones and the muscle that wraps around them; nothing yields beneath me. My cheeks get hot. Can he tell that I’m still built like a child?
“This is the first time I’m happy I’m so small.” I laugh. If I joke, maybe I can calm him down. And distract myself.
“Mmhmm,” he says. His voice sounds strained.
“We can’t break out of here,” I say. “It’s easier to face the fear head on, right?” I don’t wait for a response. “So what you need to do is make the space smaller. Make it worse so it gets better. Right?”
“Yes.” It is a tight, tense little word.
“Okay. We’ll have to crouch, then. Ready?”
I squeeze his waist to pull him down with me. I feel the hard line of his rib against my hand and hear the screech of one wood plank against another as the ceiling inches down with us. I realize that we won’t fit with all this space between us, so I turn and curl into a ball, my spine against his chest. One of his knees is bent next to my head and the other is curled beneath me so I’m sitting on his ankle. We are a jumble of limbs. I feel a harsh breath against my ear.
“Ah,” he says, his voice raspy. “This is worse. This is definitely…”
“Shh,” I say. “Arms around me.”
Obediently, he slips both arms around my waist. I smile at the wall. I am not enjoying this. I am not, not even a little bit, no.
“The simulation measures your fear response,” I say softly. I’m just repeating what he told us, but reminding him might help him. “So if you can calm your heartbeat down, it will move on to the next one. Remember? So try to forget that we’re here.”
“Yeah?” I feel his lips move against my ear as he speaks, and heat courses through me. “That easy, huh?”
“You know, most boys would enjoy being trapped in close quarters with a girl.” I roll my eyes.
“Not claustrophobic people, Tris!” He sounds desperate now.
“Okay, okay.” I set my hand on top of his and guide it to my chest, so it’s right over my heart. “Feel my heartbeat. Can you feel it?”
“Feel how steady it is?”
“Yes, well, that has nothing to do with the box.” I wince as soon as I’m done speaking. I just admitted to something. Hopefully he doesn’t realize that. “Every time you feel me breathe, you breathe. Focus on that.”
I breathe deeply, and his chest rises and falls with mine. After a few seconds of this, I say calmly, “Why don’t you tell me where this fear comes from. Maybe talking about it will help us…somehow.”
I don’t know how, but it sounds right.
“Um…okay.” He breathes with me again. “This one is from my fantastic childhood. Childhood punishments. The tiny closet upstairs.”
I press my lips together. I remember being punished—sent to my room without dinner, deprived of this or that, firm scoldings. I was never shut in a closet. The cruelty smarts; my chest aches for him. I don’t know what to say, so I try to keep it casual.
“My mother kept our winter coats in our closet.”
“I don’t…” He gasps. “I don’t really want to talk about it anymore.”
“Okay. Then…I can talk. Ask me something.”
“Okay.” He laughs shakily in my ear. “Why is your heart racing, Tris?”
I cringe and say, “Well, I…” I search for an excuse that doesn’t involve his arms being around me. “I barely know you.” Not good enough. “I barely know you and I’m crammed up against you in a box, Four, what do you think?”
“If we were in your fear landscape,” he says, “would I be in it?”
“I’m not afraid of you.”
“Of course you’re not. But that’s not what I meant.”
He laughs again, and when he does, the walls break apart with a crack and fall away, leaving us in a circle of light. Four sighs and lifts his arms from my body. I scramble to my feet and brush myself off, though I haven’t accumulated any dirt that I’m aware of. I wipe my palms on my jeans. My back feels cold from the sudden absence of him.
He stands in front of me. He’s grinning, and I’m not sure I like the look in his eyes.
“Maybe you were cut out for Candor,” he says, “because you’re a terrible liar.”
“I think my aptitude test ruled that one out pretty well.”
He shakes his head. “The aptitude test tells you nothing.”
I narrow my eyes. “What are you trying to tell me? Your test isn’t the reason you ended up Dauntless?”
Excitement runs through me like the blood in my veins, propelled by the hope that he might confirm that he is Divergent, that he is like me, that we can figure out what it means together.
“Not exactly, no,” he says. “I…”
He looks over his shoulder and his voice trails off. A woman stands a few yards away, pointing a gun at us. She is completely still, her features plain—if we walked away right now, I would not remember her. To my right, a table appears. On it is a gun and a single bullet. Why isn’t she shooting us?
Oh, I think. The fear is unrelated to the threat to his life. It has to do with the gun on the table.
“You have to kill her,” I say softly.
“Every single time.”
“She isn’t real.”
“She looks real.” He bites his lip. “It feels real.”
“If she was real, she would have killed you already.”
“It’s okay.” He nods. “I’ll just…do it. This one’s not…not so bad. Not as much panic involved.”
Not as much panic, but far more dread. I can see it in his eyes as he picks up the gun and opens the chamber like he’s done it a thousand times—and maybe he has. He clicks the bullet into the chamber and holds the gun out in front of him, both hands around it. He squeezes one eye shut and breathes slowly in.
As he exhales, he fires, and the woman’s head whips back. I see a flash of red and look away. I hear her crumple to the floor.
Four’s gun drops with a thump. We stare at her fallen body. What he said is true—it does feel real. Don’t be ridiculous. I grab his arm.
“C’mon,” I say. “Let’s go. Keep moving.”
After another tug, he comes out of his daze and follows me. As we pass the table, the woman’s body disappears, except in my memory and his. What would it be like to kill someone every time I went through my landscape? Maybe I’ll find out.
But something puzzles me: These are supposed to be Four’s worst fears. And though he panicked in the box and on the roof, he killed the woman without much difficulty. It seems like the simulation is grasping at any fears it can find within him, and it hasn’t found much.
“Here we go,” he whispers.
A dark figure moves ahead of us, creeping along the edge of the circle of light, waiting for us to take another step. Who is it? Who frequents Four’s nightmares?
The man who emerges is tall and slim, with hair cut close to his scalp. He holds his hands behind his back. And he wears the gray clothes of the Abnegation.
“Marcus,” I whisper.
“Here’s the part,” Four says, his voice shaking, “where you figure out my name.”
“Is he…” I look from Marcus, who walks slowly toward us, to Four, who inches slowly back, and everything comes together. Marcus had a son who joined Dauntless. His name was…“Tobias.”
Marcus shows us his hands. A belt is curled around one of his fists. Slowly he unwinds it from his fingers.
“This is for your own good,” he says, and his voice echoes a dozen times.
A dozen Marcuses press into the circle of light, all holding the same belt, with the same blank expression. When the Marcuses blink again, their eyes turn into empty, black pits. The belts slither along the floor, which is now white tile. A shiver crawls up my spine. The Erudite accused Marcus of cruelty. For once the Erudite were right.
I look at Four—Tobias—and he seems frozen. His posture sags. He looks years older; he looks years younger. The first Marcus yanks his arm back, the belt sailing over his shoulder as he prepares to strike. Tobias shrinks back, throwing his arms up to protect his face.
I dart in front of him and the belt cracks against my wrist, wrapping around it. A hot pain races up my arm to my elbow. I grit my teeth and pull as hard as I can. Marcus loses his grip, so I unwrap the belt and grab it by the buckle.