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THIS MORNING I put on the clean clothes I am given: black pants—too loose, but who cares?—and a long-sleeved black shirt. No shoes.
It is not time yet. I find myself lacing my fingers together and bowing my head. Sometimes my father did this in the morning before sitting down at the breakfast table, but I never asked him what he was doing. Still, I would like to feel like I belong to my father again before I . . . well, before it’s over.
A few silent moments later, Peter tells me it’s time to go. He barely looks at me, scowls at the back wall instead. I suppose it would have been too much to ask, to see a friendly face this morning. I stand, and together we walk down the hallway.
My toes are cold. My feet stick to the tiles. We turn a corner, and I hear muffled shouts. At first I can’t tell what the voice is saying, but as we draw closer, it takes shape.
“I want to . . . her!” Tobias. “I . . . see her!”
I glance at Peter. “I can’t speak to him one last time, can I?”
Peter shakes his head. “There’s a window, though. Maybe if he sees you he’ll finally shut up. ”
He takes me down a dead-end corridor that’s only six feet long. At the end is a door, and Peter is right, there’s a small window near the top, about a foot above my head.
“Tris!” Tobias’s voice is even clearer here. “I want to see her!”
I reach up and press my palm to the glass. The shouts stop, and his face appears behind the glass. His eyes are red; his face, blotchy. Handsome. He stares down at me for a few seconds and then presses his hand to the glass so it lines up with mine. I pretend I can feel the warmth of it through the window.
He leans his forehead against the door and squeezes his eyes shut.
I take my hand down and turn away before he can open his eyes. I feel pain in my chest, worse than when I got shot in the shoulder. I clutch the front of my shirt, blink away tears, and rejoin Peter in the main hallway.
“Thank you,” I say quietly. I meant to say it louder.
“Whatever. ” Peter scowls again. “Let’s just go. ”
I hear rumbling somewhere ahead of us—the sound of a crowd. The next hallway is packed with Dauntless traitors, tall and short, young and old, armed and unarmed. They all wear the blue armband of betrayal.
“Hey!” Peter shouts. “Clear a path!”
The Dauntless traitors closest to us hear him, and press against the walls to make way for us. The other Dauntless traitors follow suit soon after, and everyone is quiet. Peter steps back to let me go ahead of him. I know the way from here.
I don’t know where the pounding starts, but someone drums their fists against the wall, and someone else joins in, and I walk down the aisle between solemn-but-raucous Dauntless traitors, their hands in motion at their sides. The pounding is so fast my heart races to keep up with it.
Some of the Dauntless traitors incline their heads to me—I’m not sure why. It doesn’t matter.
I reach the end of the hallway and open the door to my execution chamber.
I open it.
Dauntless traitors crowded the hallway; the Erudite crowd the execution room, but there, they have made a path for me already. Silently they study me as I walk to the metal table in the center of the room. Jeanine stands a few steps away. The scratches on her face show through hastily applied makeup. She doesn’t look at me.
Four cameras dangle from the ceiling, one at each corner of the table. I sit down first, wipe my hands off on my pants, and then lie down.
The table is cold. Frigid, seeping into my skin, into my bones. Appropriate, perhaps, because that is what will happen to my body when all the life leaves it; it will become cold and heavy, heavier than I have ever been. As for the rest of me, I am not sure. Some people believe that I will go nowhere, and maybe they’re right, but maybe they’re not. Such speculations are no longer useful to me anyway.
Peter slips an electrode beneath the collar of my shirt and presses it to my chest, right over my heart. He then attaches a wire to the electrode and switches on the heart monitor. I hear my heartbeat, fast and strong. Soon, where that steady rhythm was, there will be nothing.
And then rising from within me is a single thought:
I don’t want to die.
All those times Tobias scolded me for risking my life, I never took him seriously. I believed that I wanted to be with my parents and for all of this to be over. I was sure I wanted to emulate their self-sacrifice. But no. No, no.
Burning and boiling inside me is the desire to live.
I don’t want to die I don’t want to die I don’t want to!
Jeanine steps forward with a syringe full of purple serum. Her glasses reflect the fluorescent light above us, so I can barely see her eyes.
Every part of my body chants it in unison. Live, live, live. I thought that in order to give my life in exchange for Will’s, in exchange for my parents’, that I needed to die, but I was wrong; I need to live my life in the light of their deaths. I need to live.
Jeanine holds my head steady with one hand and inserts the needle into my neck with the other.
I’m not done! I shout in my head, and not at Jeanine. I am not done here!
She presses the plunger down. Peter leans forward and looks into my eyes.
“The serum will go into effect in one minute,” he says. “Be brave, Tris. ”
The words startle me, because that is exactly what Tobias said when he put me under my first simulation.
My heart begins to race.
Why would Peter tell me to be brave? Why would he offer any kind words at all?
All the muscles in my body relax at once. A heavy, liquid feeling fills my limbs. If this is death, it isn’t so bad. My eyes stay open, but my head drops to the side. I try to close my eyes, but I can’t—I can’t move.
Then the heart monitor stops beeping.