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CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

THE NEXT MORNING I am silly and light. Every time I push the smile from my face, it fights its way back. Eventually I stop suppressing it. I let my hair hang loose and abandon my uniform of loose shirts in favor of one that cuts across my shoulders, revealing my tattoos.

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“What is it with you today?” says Christina on the way to breakfast. Her eyes are still swollen from sleep and her tangled hair forms a fuzzy halo around her face.

“Oh, you know,” I say. “Sun shining. Birds chirping. ”

She raises an eyebrow at me, as if reminding me that we are in an underground tunnel.

“Let the girl be in a good mood,” Will says. “You may never see it again. ”

I smack his arm and hurry toward the dining hall. My heart pounds because I know that at some point in the next half hour, I will see Tobias. I sit down in my usual place, next to Uriah, with Will and Christina across from us. The seat on my left stays empty. I wonder if Tobias will sit in it; if he’ll grin at me over breakfast; if he’ll look at me in that secret, stolen way that I imagine myself looking at him.

I grab a piece of toast from the plate in the middle of the table and start to butter it with a little too much enthusiasm. I feel myself acting like a lunatic, but I can’t stop. It would be like refusing to breathe.

Then he walks in. His hair is shorter, and it looks darker this way, almost black. It’s Abnegation short, I realize. I smile at him and lift my hand to wave him over, but he sits down next to Zeke without even glancing in my direction, so I let my hand drop.

I stare at my toast. It is easy not to smile now.

“Something wrong?” asks Uriah through a mouthful of toast.

I shake my head and take a bite. What did I expect? Just because we kissed doesn’t mean anything changes. Maybe he changed his mind about liking me. Maybe he thinks kissing me was a mistake.

“Today’s fear landscape day,” says Will. “You think we’ll get to see our own fear landscapes?”

“No. ” Uriah shakes his head. “You go through one of the instructors’ landscapes. My brother told me. ”

“Ooh, which instructor?” says Christina, suddenly perking up.

“You know, it really isn’t fair that you all get insider information and we don’t,” Will says, glaring at Uriah.

“Like you wouldn’t use an advantage if you had one,” retorts Uriah.

Christina ignores them. “I hope it’s Four’s landscape. ”

“Why?” I ask. The question comes out too incredulous. I bite my lip and wish I could take it back.

“Looks like someone had a mood swing. ” She rolls her eyes. “Like you don’t want to know what his fears are. He acts so tough that he’s probably afraid of marshmallows and really bright sunrises or something. Overcompensating. ”

I shake my head. “It won’t be him. ”

“How would you know?”

“It’s just a prediction. ”

I remember Tobias’s father in his fear landscape. He wouldn’t let everyone see that. I glance at him. For a second, his eyes shift to mine. His stare is unfeeling. Then he looks away.

Lauren, the instructor of the Dauntless-born initiates, stands with her hands on her hips outside the fear landscape room.

“Two years ago,” she says, “I was afraid of spiders, suffocation, walls that inch slowly inward and trap you between them, getting thrown out of Dauntless, uncontrollable bleeding, getting run over by a train, my father’s death, public humiliation, and kidnapping by men without faces. ”

Everyone stares blankly at her.

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“Most of you will have anywhere from ten to fifteen fears in your fear landscapes. That is the average number,” she says.

“What’s the lowest number someone has gotten?” asks Lynn.

“In recent years,” says Lauren, “four. ”

I have not looked at Tobias since we were in the cafeteria, but I can’t help but look at him now. He keeps his eyes trained on the floor. I knew that four was a low number, low enough to merit a nickname, but I didn’t know it was less than half the average.

I glare at my feet. He’s exceptional. And now he won’t even look at me.

“You will not find out your number today,” says Lauren. “The simulation is set to my fear landscape program, so you will experience my fears instead of your own. ”

I give Christina a pointed look. I was right; we won’t go through Four’s landscape.

“For the purposes of this exercise, though, each of you will only face one of my fears, to get a sense for how the simulation works. ”

Lauren points to us at random and assigns us each a fear. I was standing in the back, so I will go close to last. The fear that she assigned to me was kidnapping.

Because I’m not hooked up to the computer as I wait, I can’t watch the simulation, only the person’s reaction to it. It is the perfect way to distract myself from my preoccupation with Tobias—clenching my hands into fists as Will brushes off spiders I can’t see and Uriah presses his hands against walls that are invisible to me, and smirking as Peter turns bright red during whatever he experiences in “public humiliation. ” Then it’s my turn.

The obstacle won’t be comfortable for me, but because I have been able to manipulate every simulation, not just this one, and because I have already gone through Tobias’s landscape, I am not apprehensive as Lauren inserts the needle into my neck.

Then the scenery changes and the kidnapping begins. The ground turns into grass beneath my feet, and hands clamp around my arms, over my mouth. It is too dark to see.

I stand next to the chasm. I hear the roar of the water. I scream into the hand that covers my mouth and thrash to free myself, but the arms are too strong; my kidnappers are too strong. The image of myself falling into darkness flashes into my mind, the same image that I now carrywith me in my nightmares. I scream again; I scream until my throat hurts and I squeeze hot tears from my eyes.

I knew they would come back for me; I knew they would try again. The first time was not enough. I scream again—not for help, because no one will help me, but because that’s what you do when you’re about to die and you can’t stop it.

“Stop,” a stern voice says.

The hands disappear, and the lights come on. I stand on cement in the fear landscape room. My body shakes, and I drop to my knees, pressing my hands to my face. I just failed. I lost all logic, I lost all sense. Lauren’s fear transformed into one of my own.

And everyone saw me. Tobias saw me.

I hear footsteps. Tobias marches toward me and wrenches me to my feet.

“What the hell was that, Stiff?”

“I…” My breath comes in a hiccup. “I didn’t—”

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“Get yourself together! This is pathetic. ”

Something within me snaps. My tears stop. Heat races through my body, driving the weakness out of me, and I smack him so hard my knuckles burn with the impact. He stares at me, one side of his face bright with blush-blood, and I stare back.

“Shut up,” I say. I yank my arm from his grasp and walk out of the room.

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