Chapter One: A Peek into the Unknown
"Ugh, bored already." Uriah groans writing it down. "We're not even past the title yet, don't write that." Violet protests. "What's wrong?"
"Chapter one, what type of boring title is that?" He answers. "Ok fine. How about we all name the chapter we read." She suggests. Uriah seems to contemplate this then nods waiting. "Well not now, let's get through the chapter first." Uriah groans dramatically while some in the room laugh.
THERE IS ONE mirror in my house.
Peter snorts. "What a page turner start."
"Why only one?" Christina questions sounding outraged. "Why would we need more than one, if we discourage vanity?" Andrew Prior conveys. "Sure fine, I get you Mr P." He goes tight-lipped at her choice of words.
It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs.
"And you hide it." You lost me, she adds mentally.
Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month,
"Okay wow, the average person should look at themselves at least eight times a day." Uriah says. "Not proven." Will argues chuckling lightly.
"It is in my books."
Zeke grins wearily. "That's why nobody reads them."
The day my mother cuts my hair. I sit on the stool and my mother stands behind me with the scissors, trimming. The strands fall on the floor in a dull, blond ring.
"Should we be writing any of this down?" Cara asks pen raised. "It seems somewhat irrelevant." Tris who's been busy scribbling away about Alexandra and Violet, and the portal and about the different colour balls looks up pointedly. "No offence." She adds unapologetic.
"I have an inquiry as well." Uriah raises his hand waiting for everyone's attention. "When are we having lunch?"
"Soon." Violet snaps. "Can I please read at least one sentence without being interrupted?" Theirs an immediate silence. "Write what you think is relevant." She adds as an afterthought to Cara.
When she finishes, she pulls my hair away from my face and twists it in to a knot. I note how calm she looks and how focused she is. She is well-practiced in the art of losing herself. I can't say the same of myself. I sneak a look at my reflection when she isn't paying attention-
"Vain." Peter coughs.
—not for the sake of vanity, but out of curiosity.
She emphasizes looking at Peter.
"I'm actually going to try it. No mirror three weeks, who's in?" Christina exclaims. "I can't go without looking at this pretty face." Uriah traces his jaw in emphasis, theirs a low hum of laughter. "Oh is that how it is, okay; challenge accepted no mirror 1 month."
"Yeah right, Uriah." Tori laughs. "I'm in too, just to beat you." Zeke nods after a second agreeing as well. "Me too."
Uriah eyes them huffing. "Hmm, we shall see."
A lot can happen to a person's appearance in three months. In my reflection, I see a narrow face, wide, round eyes, and a long, thin nose-
"Your nose is pretty long." Cara notes suddenly staring at Tris' face, who attempts burying her face in her notepad as people incline to look at her face. Violet continues reading steadily refocusing the attention on her.
I still look like a little girl, though sometime in the last few months I turned sixteen.
"She is quite small, weak and girly." Eric notes. "How'd she end up number 1?" Tris stares at him in disbelieve. "I'm number 1?!" The whole room looks at Eric, Alexandra and Violet glaring patently at him.
The congratulations roll in. "I'm very proud of you sweetie."
"What does that mean?" Andrew asks his wife seemingly the only oblivious one. "It means your daughter ranked number one among all other initiates both transfers and Dauntless born. It represents that she's the strongest mentally and physically, and the bravest of all." Eric explains.
"Well, that's pleasing." Though his words are very suitable and appropriate for an Abnegation Andrew glows with an anti-abnegation hue of pride.
"I lost to a Stiff." Peter words hold menace, and not for the last time while reading this book. "You came second." Alexandra says as a flimsy attempt at cheering him up. It calms him down enough for her to continue.
"Just so you are all aware there are rules and we'll be telling you them while reading one of them are; #Rule17; Never reveal events that are yet to transpire in the book, or have and are unknown to all present- unless told otherwise." The majority of the room nod in acknowledgement, diligently writing it down.
The other factions celebrate birthdays, but we don't. It would be self-indulgent.
"No birthdays, no mirrors, no fun. Abnegation sure is living the life." Lynn says sarcastically before adding. "So what after sixteen do you just stop keeping count?"
"Usually…" Natalie trails off. "We sometimes keep count, but what's the point Abnegation is till death anyway." Every faction is, except Dauntless. What's a hamburger?Susan wonders to herself.
"There," she says when she pins the knot in place. Her eyes catch mine in the mirror. It is too late to look away, but instead of scolding me, she smiles at our reflection. I frown a little. Why doesn't she reprimand me for staring at myself?
"Why didn't you reprimand her?"
"She isn't vain Andrew, and it was almost time for the test and she was so nervous already. It wouldn't have helped her at all." He nods understandingly.
"So today is the day," she says. "Yes," I reply. "Are you nervous?"
Theirs an internal, silent nod from every transfer and initiate.
I stare into my own eyes for a moment. Today is the day of the aptitude test that will show me which of the five factions I belong in. And tomorrow, at the Choosing Ceremony, I will decide on a faction; I will decide the rest of my life; I will decide to stay with my family or abandon them. "No," I say.
Eric raises an eyebrow at her, many of the room giving her questioning glances as well. "I was terrified, she knows I was but acknowledging it wouldn't do anything but make me feel worse."
"The tests don't have to change our choices."
"Right." She smiles.
Tris almost smiles in memory of the appreciation she felt at her mom immediate termination of the subject. She always understood her so well.
"Let's go eat breakfast." "Thank you. For cutting my hair." She kisses my cheek and slides the panel over the mirror. I think my mother could be beautiful, in a different world.
"Mother's very beautiful." Caleb protests. "That wasn't very proper." Susan says.
"Incredibly rude." Cara adds. "Beatrice apologize immediately." Peter scolds her mockingly. Uriah topples over laughing, Tris blanks incredulous, "Wait just a minute, this has to be explained." She gestures for Violet to continue.
Her body is thin beneath the gray robe. She has high cheekbones and long eyelashes, and when she lets her hair down at night, it hangs in waves over her shoulders. But she must hide that beauty in Abnegation.
"See I'm calling you beautiful. I'm basically saying outside of Abnegation you would be turning heads." Natalie smiles warmly at her daughter. "I never thought any differently, thank you sweetheart. Beauty though, is not something I care for very much." Andrew despite knowing it as rude, bends down and whispers something to his wife that makes her blush ever so slightly.
Tris eyes wonder idly to Alexandra and her partner, whose definitions seem to be beauty, who with no doubt would turn heads even in Abnegation drab, with their perfect figures and amazing , angle features. She can't help but compare herself to them, and wonder how Tobais feels about Alexandra and how he even knows her?
She sighs her curiosity almost overwhelming when she fails once again at catching his eye.
We walk together to the kitchen. On these mornings when my brother makes breakfast, and my father's hand skims my hair as he reads the newspaper, and my mother hums as she clears the table—it is on these mornings that I feel guiltiest for wanting to leave them.
The Priors avoid eye pointedly stare at different things in the room.
The bus stinks of exhaust.
"Whoa, okay." Will interrupts. "You couldn't have said new scene or page break." He says almost flustered. "Don't just do that, it's very unnerving."
"Touchy, touchy." Violet mocks but eventually says page break.
Every time it hits a patch of uneven pavement, it jostles me from side to side, even though I'm gripping the seat to keep myself still.
"The trains should be available to everyone, don't you think?" Uriah whispers to Marlene. "I think that's a great… thought, but the trains don't stop remember and I think even though it would be easier it would be harder too." She pauses. "Imagine all the factions trying to hop on and off trains."
He laughs lightly. "Yeah, never mind bad idea." She smiles lightly at him as if the scene was enfolding in front of them. "Though it is a nice thought." The two share a smile.
My older brother, Caleb, stands in the aisle, holding a railing above his head to keep himself steady. We don't look alike. He has my father's dark hair and hooked nose and my mother's green eyes and dimpled cheeks.
"Hooked nose." Caleb questions running his hand over his nose. "It suits your face though now that you're all grown up."
"It very much does." Christina says her voice suddenly faint.
Caleb turns beet red, and clears his throat awkwardly at the many ogling, pensive eyes of Marlene, Susan, Cara and Alexandra. "Dude, your brother is so hot." Alexandra says as a matter of fact. "Hubba, hubba." Marlene giggles and she, Christina and Alexandra laugh in unison.
Violet nods looking more calculating than attracted. "It's true." "Like good genes in your whole family." Marlene adds. Tris makes a disgusted face. "Eew, can we just keep reading before the boys get anymore jealous."
"Don't pout at me Uri." Marlene says still laughing. "Yeah, Will, it's all in good fun." Tris smirks at Christina, "Anyway it wouldn't matter Caleb and Susan are a thing."
"No, we're not!" Said two say unconvincingly. "Sure..." Robert nods slowly, him and Tris exchanging a knowing look. "We're in different factions, anyway." Susan continues in a small voice avoiding eye contact with anyone. "It wouldn't work." They both shift away from each other.
When he was younger, that collection of features looked strange,
"Thanks, for telling me." Caleb mutters arms crossed.
but now it suits him. If he wasn't Abnegation, I'm sure the girls at school would stare at him.
"They do anyway." Cara says. "In Erudite before he even joined he was known of, and not because of his father's position."
"Honestly, he was seen everywhere." Christina adds. "In Candor since we always had to tell the truth imagine when you have a crush." Caleb having had no idea of this bows his head in silent mortification.
He also inherited my mother's talent for selflessness. He gave his seat to a surly Candor man on the bus without a second thought.
Face still flaming from embarrassment, Caleb gives himself a disapproving shake. He never, of course liked how good he was at tricking them.
The Candor man wears a black suit with a white tie—Candor standard uniform. Their faction values honesty and sees the truth as black and white, so that is what they wear. The gaps between the buildings narrow and the roads are smoother as we near the heart of the city. The building that was once called the Sears Tower—we call it the Hub—emerges from the fog, a black pillar in the skyline.
The bus passes under the elevated tracks. I have never been on a train, though they never stop running and there are tracks everywhere. Only the Dauntless ride them.
Five years ago, volunteer construction workers from Abnegation repaved some of the roads. They started in the middle of the city and worked their way outward until they ran out of materials. The roads where I live are still cracked and patchy, and it's not safe to drive on them. We don't have a car anyway.
Caleb's expression is placid as the bus sways and jolts on the road. The gray robe falls from his arm as he clutches a pole for balance. I can tell by the constant shift of his eyes that he is watching the people around us—striving to see only them and to forget himself.
"Actually... I was thinking of how the bus operates." Caleb corrects her. Andrew has to resist the urge to bury his face in his hands, wondering how he did not notice his children's indifference to their original faction.
Candor values honesty, but our faction, Abnegation, values selflessness. The bus stops in front of the school and I get up, scooting past the Candor man. I grab Caleb's arm as I stumble over the man's shoes. My slacks are too long, and I've never been that graceful.
Peter, Will and Uriah chuckle. Understatement.
The Upper Levels building is the oldest of the three schools in the city: Lower Levels, Mid-Levels, and Upper Levels. Like all the other buildings around it, it is made of glass and steel. In front of it is a large metal sculpture that the Dauntless climb after school, daring each other to go higher and higher. Last year I watched one of them fall and break her leg. I was the one who ran to get the nurse.
"Oh my goodness, thanks for that by the way." Alexandra exclaims suddenly, Tris' jaw goes slack. "That was you? But you looked so differe-"
"Yeah, that was a, wig, the DUTT was doing some," She pauses thoughtfully. "Work and then… oops." Violet begins to laugh. "Hey! That was your fault you pushed me."
"No I didn't! You slipped."
"I've literally never slipped, liar."
"I'm the one whose ankle broke, I think I'd know if I got pushed or if I sli-"
"Ok then…" Tris intrudes feeling that this could be a long discussion. "We should you know read." Caleb writing something down under NB goes unnoticed.
"Aptitude tests today," I say. Caleb is not quite a year older than I am, so we are in the same year at school. He nods as we pass through the front doors. My muscles tighten the second we walk in. The atmosphere feels hungry, like every sixteen-year-old is trying to devour as much as they can get of this last day.
"We're not animals, Tris." Cara crosses her arms in artificial insult. "Well, some of us aren't." Four chuckles dryly looking at Uriah who's playing with strands of Marlenes' hair as if he's a cat.
It is likely that we will not walk these halls again after the Choosing Ceremony—once we choose, our new factions will be responsible for finishing our education. Our classes are cut in half today, so we will attend all of them before the aptitude tests, which take place after lunch.
My heart rate is already elevated. "You aren't at all worried about what they'll tell you?" I ask Caleb. We pause at the split in the hallway where he will go one way, toward Advanced Math, and I will go the other, toward Faction History.
He raises an eyebrow at me. "Are you?"
"Directing the question back at her," Eric nods. "Smart."
I could tell him I've been worried for weeks about what the aptitude test will tell me—Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, Amity, or Dauntless?
Caleb smiles half-heartedly. "You could've told me, you know."
"No, I don't think I could of actually…" She wonders though if her brother would have told her to stay, so he could go. No, he wouldn't..?
Instead I smile and say, "Not really." He smiles back. "Well…have a good day." I walk toward Faction History, chewing on my lower lip. He never answered my question.
Caleb raises an eyebrow disbelievingly. "Aren't you observant? I thought I had you."
"Am I the only one who thinks chewing my lower lip sounds odd?" Alexandra says before Violet can read again. "I know right!" Uriah bursts. "But I didn't want to interrupt, Vio... never mind." He trails off at said girl's piercing glare.
The hallways are cramped, though the light coming through the windows creates the illusion of space; they are one of the only places where the factions mix, at our age. Today the crowd has a new kind of energy, a last day mania. A girl with long curly hair shouts "Hey!" next to my ear, waving at a distant friend.
"Can you say rude!"
"Oh really Christina, she was a Candor." The first jumper adds eyeing her friend's reaction. "That faction, hmm how expected." Though that was her faction only months ago Christina shakes her head disapprovingly as if they're worst one ever. Tris and the rest of the room laugh jokingly.
"What!? I swear it wasn't me."
A jacket sleeve smacks me on the cheek. Then an Erudite boy in a blue sweater shoves me. I lose my balance and fall hard on the ground. "Out of my way, Stiff," he snaps, and continues down the hallway.
"The nerve." Marcus huffs slightly his face turning red. "The Erudite are seriously out of hand." Natalie adds with less vigour. "Did you hear of the uprising?" Andrew asks his question directed to the room as a whole.
"Uprising?" Tris questions. "We heard the Erudite were wanting to take over as government leaders, but nothing as drastic as an uprising."
"The rumours are true, we have no idea what they're planning to do but it's all the factions are talking about." Tori adds quizzically. "That's odd though. Instead of the two factions just meeting and discussing this why is Erudite creating all this… drama."
Will nods. "Uriah, I think they just want everyone's- all the factions that is- accordance, right now we're all just nodding to whatever rumours they put out there which is expected because they're the faction of intelligence."
"You think they're using that against us and spreading all this, you think none of its true…" Christina asks after a moment.
"I do." Tris says when Will doesn't answer. "Why else would they do all this?" Heads not so discreetly turn to the two Erudites' in the room who remain silent. "I think that's enough-"
"I'm just saying," Tris continues putting her hands up in mock defence. "All the Erudite seem to be unquestionably on the same page." Her eyes dart between Caleb and Cara, with no accusation just curiosity. "Sorry, if we offended you." Natalie directs at her son, after an awkward pause of Violet just glaring at Tris.
"It's OK." This is going to be a dramatic group. Violet thinks to herself, as she watches them tactfully write things in their notepads
My cheeks warm. I get up and dust myself off. A few people stopped when I fell, but none of them offered to help me.
"Huh, this is unbelievable." Alexandra bursts. "That's called bullying where we're from-"
"It's called bullying here as well." Peter interrupts.
"Either or," She shouts standing, ready to bounce in to a dialogue. "Bullying is getting out of hand, and people need to take a stand against all of this. They can't just go round thinking their better than you! Don't let them judge you for something when you're not even doing anything wrong! Whether it's cyber bullying or-"
Violet slips her foot by her partner's ankle, causing Alexandra to fall back onto her chair. "Shut up and sit down," "Oh, sorry," She flushes, before rambling on. "This will most probably happen a lot I used to be a motivational speaker."
"What's that?" Tris asks.
"A motivational speaker also known as an inspirational speaker is a speaker who makes speeches intended to motivate or inspire an audience. The talk itself was known as a pep talk." Caleb answers. "I read a book on jobs that no longer exist." He says to the confused expressions.
"Interesting job." Cara says absently, Alexandra's outburst forgotten.
Their eyes follow me to the edge of the hallway. This sort of thing has been happening to others in my faction for months now—the Erudite have been releasing antagonistic reports about Abnegation, and it has begun to affect the way we relate at school.
"Why didn't you tell us? We had no idea it was that bad." Andrew worries. "I thought it would pass and it would be self- sympathy." Tris answers smartly.
The gray clothes, the plain hairstyle, and the unassuming demeanour of my faction are supposed to make it easier for me to forget myself, and easier for everyone else to forget me too. But now they make me a target. I pause by a window in the E Wing and wait for the Dauntless to arrive. I do this every morning. At exactly 7:25, the Dauntless prove their bravery by jumping from a moving train.
The whole room stares at Tris, who hadn't been aware of how strange that sounded until hearing it out loud. "What?" She manages feigning innocence.
"Stalker alert!" Uriah screams. "Were you like obsessed with us or something?"
"No!" She says too loudly. "I just found Dauntless interesting."
My father calls the Dauntless "hellions."
"Haha, hellions." Alexandra repeats laughing like it's the funniest thing ever. Her laugh is loud, comedic and contagious then suddenly everyone's suddenly snickering in unison. "Right, sorry, " She coughs wiping at her tears as everyone dies down. "Continue."
They are pierced, tattooed, and black-clothed. Their primary purpose is to guard the fence that surrounds our city. From what, I don't know.
"I still don't know." Tris glances at Four for an answer. "Neither do I." Four shrugs. The whole room looks at Eric. "I know what I'm told, and what's behind the fence isn't one of them" He scoffs. "Even if I did know I wouldn't tell any of you."
Tris purses her lips in suspicion, putting her pen to paper instead of voicing her opinion.
They should perplex me. I should wonder what courage—which is the virtue they most value—has to do with a metal ring through your nostril.
"I never got that part either." Four agrees. "Does make you look cool though." Will says. Alexandra can't help but chuckle to herself. "Nostril." Such a strange, amusing word.
Instead my eyes cling to them wherever they go.
Tris acknowledges that her fascination with the Dauntless might have been a bit extreme. "You are a stalker." Eric taunts.
The train whistle blares, the sound resonating in my chest. The light fixed to the front of the train clicks on and off as the train hurtles past the school, squealing on iron rails. And as the last few cars pass, a mass exodus of young men and women in dark clothing hurl themselves from the moving cars, some dropping and rolling, others stumbling a few steps before regaining their balance. One of the boys wraps his arm around a girl's shoulders, laughing.
Watching them is a foolish practice.
"I used to watch them sometimes too." Christina admits suddenly. "I guess I always thought they were just, so, amazing. They kind if just inspired me. Then again who doesn't watch the faction they want to be in." She laughs dryly at her choice of words, but when no one argues smiles in satisfaction.
I turn away from the window and press through the crowd to the Faction History classroom.
"You should say excuse me." Andrew scolds his daughter. "Right," She agrees quickly. "Done with chapter one?" Violet nods.
"So, just a note I think this should be called; Life as an Abnegation or My Weird World." Uriah says. "Just a suggestion."
"How about since you like to talk so much you read the next chapter." Violet says chucking the book at him. "Fine. This will be called; The Test, or The Choices or-"
"Just read, Uri." Marlene punches him. "OK, OK don't get your Dauntless cake in a bunch."
"I'm going to call it," Violet pauses mulling over Uriah's suggestion. "A Peek into the Unknown." Uriah grumps but nods eventually. "Not bad Agent Violet."