I stare at the target in front of me until my vision narrows and it is all I see. I am in the Dauntless training room, breathing in the thick smell of sweat, must, and metal; it fills me. I had woken up from another nightmare clawing at the sheets. In the nightmare, Will made yet another appearance; in the moments right before he died. Before I killed him. He was wearing clothing from all five of the factions, like the factionless do: a red Amity shirt with a black leather Dauntless jacket, blue Erudite jeans and Abnegation gray sneakers. He was staring at me, but his eyes were blank, just as they were when he was under the simulation. I stared at the smooth space between his eyebrows, and then I felt a jolt in my hands, and suddenly that space is red. He started to slump, and I saw his eyes shift toward mine and give me an accusatory glance, his eyebrows furrowing and deepening the crease between his eyebrows, but that is not possible. It's not possible, because he is dead, he is dead, he is dead. The second he slumps to the ground, eyes still fixed on me, the gun in my hand exploded, and I woke up clawing at the sheets, at my skin, at whatever my wild grief could reach from its cage. Then I loaded my gun and snuck out of Abnegation to come here. I don't care if Jeanine sees me through one of the many hidden cameras in Dauntless. She must know I'm not dead, and my presence here endangers no one but myself.
I jerk my eyes away from the center of the target and let them settle my gun on the metal table. As soon as I arrived, I dropped it on the table and leaned against the wall, my palms pressed against the wall to keep them from trembling. This needs to stop. I vaguely remember at Candor trying to fix this, whatever broke inside of me when I shot Will, but I had failed, in more ways than one.
I stride over to the metal table and pick up the gun. I wrap my hand around it slowly and firmly, first my right, then my left to support it. I squeeze the gun tightly in an attempt to stop the shaking. I can't have my hands shake, or I'll shoot myself by accident, and what a bummer that would be.
Stop it, I command myself. There is no use in thinking like that, especially after my revelation that I do want to live, that my life is worth living, seconds from execution at the hands of Jeanine Matthews. And that is another reason I am doing this right now, to defend myself if the need arises, and it will arise.
I bring up my right arm and lock it, then my left arm to control the recoil. I have used this gun to protect my father and brother, to save Tobias when Eric almost shot him. Weapons are not good or evil; it is the holder that decides what intention they're to be used for. My throat closes up. Somehow that does not make me feel better. Placing my feet an equal distance apart, I stare straight ahead and aim. I try to remember the first time I fired and controlled a gun, the rush of power I felt at controlling it. I hold on tight to that memory as I click a bullet into place.
Statistically speaking, you should have hit the target at least once now, even by accident.
I start to shake all over again; first my hands, then the rest of me. This is not good. I always shake before I start crying, and I cannot afford to cry right now, not when I'm trying to eradicate a weakness inside of me. My breaths come short and shallow.
The sound is jarring, and it reverberates inside of me like a gong, like the roar of a lion as it is about to attack, just as I feel the gun jump in my hand. Choking back a sob, I fire again, and again, and again, and again, until it is all I hear. I hit the bulls-eye each time, and how nice is that, I am a good shot, which was already pretty evident, if you ask me. I laugh at the irony, but halfway out of my mouth it becomes a strangled sob, and then a scream as I fire over and over and over again as I violently tremble but my arms stay rock-steady, as my breaths become even shorter and my vision blurs but I still keep shooting. I see the target fall apart but I move on to the next one, determined to kill this cold beast inside of me, but terrified I am helping it thrive. A click signals my lack of bullets. My ammunition has run out.
I think you're actually defying nature.
And then it is over, and I set the gun down and sit with my back to the wall until the strangled sobs leave me and I am as silent as the Dauntless compound right now, empty of people and noise and life. I sit there for about an hour, until I calmly stand up and pick up the gun. My hands don't shake. I tuck it into my waistband and I quietly exit the Dauntless compound, avoiding the cameras.
I don't look back.
Back at Marcus's house, I snuggle in next to Tobias. Just as my breaths are steadying and I am almost asleep, I feel his arms around me squeeze, just once. After a pause, I squeeze back and lean into him, drawing from his warmth. He knows, somehow. But of course he knows. He is Tobias.
I close my eyes, and then there is nothing.