The room disappears and I find myself now on a bus, an empty bus. Well, empty except one man sitting with a newspaper. He is completely hidden behind the black and white print. I throw my hand up to my left arm and clasp it but the pain is gone and there is no blood or wound.
“Nothing is real,” I mutter.
I walk towards him, feeling slightly better about not having a hole ripped into my arm. I sit down opposite him to roll my sleeves up past my shoulders, letting the cool air access to more skin as the sweat shines on me.
I recoil slightly when I noticed that the man's hands are burned beyond repair. They are covered in scars and I rub the back of my neck nervously. I realise I am staring so I turn away from him and stare at a spot on the opposite wall. He grips the paper so hard, I think he is about to rip it.
“Do you know this guy?” he says.
I turn back to him and see the headline and picture in which he is talking about. I think for a moment as I read: “Brutal Murderer Finally Apprehended!”
Murder? That is completely unheard of in Amity. How could someone do such a thing. But then again, I killed that dog to save myself... is that different from killing a man? Could I kill someone to save myself?
I clear my throat and look at the image of the man to distract myself from the thoughts. How do I know this man?
“Well?” He looks at me, “do you?”
I rub the back of my neck again. “I think I do.”
His grip loosens slightly. “Who is it?”
His face is still hidden but I can hear the urgency in his voice, the despair of needing to know. Something tugs in my stomach, if I tell him, something bad will happen.
I take a deep breath to calm my thoughts, “It's... it's... I don't know his name.”
His grip tightens, “tell me his name.”
“I- I don't know.”
The name. Why can't I remember the name?
I jump to my feet. The face is so familiar to me yet I can't grasp the name. The man stands up and I can see he is wearing black sunglasses. He towers over me, making me feel smaller than I really am. Small like a scared child.
“I-I told you! I know him but I don't know his name.”
“The truth! I need the truth... save me.”
I cower back slightly as he comes towards me but then I remember that I am brave, I stand up, correct my stance and stare straight at him. “I don't know his name.”
He disappears and I wake up in the test room. Jude is still there, offering me a smile as I shake. I clear my throat and realize that it's completely dry.
“Well done,” Jude offers. “You have completed the aptitude test.”
I try to smile back, “thank goodness.”
“I'll have your results momentarily, please relax while we wait.”
I try to relax back into the chair as my fingers curl around my left arm. “The dog bit me, I felt it's teeth rip into my skin, it felt so real.”
Jude looks at me, “that is just the simulation, nothing would have ultimately harmed you. You were always perfectly safe within the test.”
“It was so real.”
The ghost of the bite haunts me as I wait, I would say patiently but I have no patience. Not in this situation anyway.
“Here we go. Oh my, what have we got here.”
I watch her facial expression as she reads. Her eyebrow creases above her tired eyes, I can't seem to break my gaze as she looks up. “Well, this is not unheard of but entirely rare these days.”
“What is it? What's wrong?”
“You are Amity born, correct?”
I nod, “correct.”
“Your results have concluded that you are Dauntless. Do you see why this is rare?”
My eyebrows squeeze together as I think. “No, sorry.”
She pulls her computer chair over and seats herself in front of me. She rests the results on her lap and I see the words written there, in bold plain writing. “Dauntless.”
“Amity is the one and only faction which dedicates itself to peacefulness, kindness, generosity, and neutrality.”
I nod, I know all of this.
“It just seems strange that a child of this would be more suited to a life with the Dauntless faction. Do you know why?”
I nod again. “Dauntless is the faction that honours itself in bravery and nerve. To be fearless.”
“The complete opposite of Amity, I believe.”
I sit up straight and swing my legs of the chair. “So you are saying that what my results show... shouldn't happen?” I raise an eyebrow at her.
“Not exactly my words-” she looks at her watch. “Thank you for your participation. Good luck with the Choosing Ceremony tomorrow. I wish you well with your decision.”
I take that as a hint to leave. I find that Zahn has waited for me outside at the school gates. We never travel home without each other.
He pulls me into a hug as soon as I am in arm's length. I slip my hands around his waist and rest them on his lower back. I press my ear to his chest, the sound of his speeding heart comforts me and I finally start to calm down.
He keeps his hold on me tight, “are you OK?”
“I'm fine... now.”
I look up at him to see his smile stretch out. He links his hand with mine and we silently agree to walk home.
“So... how did your test go?”
I shrug and his arm that circles my shoulders bobs up and down slightly. “It was OK, I got through it at least. It's tomorrow I'm worrying about now.”
“Zahn, everything will be fine, trust me.”
He stops outside of my house and turns so he's in front of me. “I trust you, in everything.”
I kiss his cheek, “are you still coming over tonight?”
He bites his lip. “I can't, not any more. My mum is convinced I'm going to leave tomorrow so she's demanding we have a family meal. I'm sorry.”
I laugh. “She thinks that? I think out of all your brothers, you are the most likely to stay here tomorrow. That's what I think any way.”
He tilts his head to the side slightly. “What makes you say that?”
I shrug, “you're you. You're Zahn Mason. You love your family, your friends and ultimately, you love your home. You are Amity personified, if that makes sense. You have no reason to leave.”
He hugs me then starts the half a mile walk back to his own apartment. I wave one last time then enter my home. “I'm back,” I announce to the stillness.
“In the kitchen!”
I follow the voice and smile at my mother who is at the stove, starting on dinner. “Hi, mum.,” I kiss her cheek. “Where should I start?”
I roll my sleeves up again and wait for instructions. She inclines her head to the table. “Can you set that for me?”
I set out for the cutlery drawer and open it up. I am about to grab some forks when my father enters. “Ah, Shiloh. You are home.”
“Yes, father,” I walk over to him and give him a quick kiss on his cheek then go back to my duties. “How was your day, father?”
He grins at me, “my day was great. Wait, you had your aptitude test today, right?”
I don't look up from setting the table. “Yeah, I did.”
“I know it's forbidden to talk about it but how did it go? Did it go smoothly?” He smiles at me. “Did you get the result you expected?”
“Uh, yeah, it did actually. The results... were conclusive and helped a lot.”
Farrah skips into the room, pulling her fiancé, Steve with her. He his about a head taller than her and has messy black hair that makes his blue eyes stand out.
I still can't see what she sees in him. He's always been the loner type yet he managed to start and keep a relationship with my sister. It's a good thing my back is to them as I roll my eyes. There's just something about him I don't like.
Maybe it's the fact he was an Erudite transfer to Amity, I guess I've just never fully trusted his love of knowledge and books. It's unnatural for this faction.
Then again, I am unnatural for this faction.
Rare but not unheard of.
Steve stands awkwardly beside Farrah as I finish and take my place at the table. “Well, are you going to sit or stand all night?”
“Shiloh! Be polite.”
I take a deep breath. I would rather fight the dog again than sit here and have to force conversation with Steve.
“I'm sorry, Steven. Please forgive me.”
Farrah makes him sit down beside her and she offers me a slight scowl. “His name is Steve, not Steven. How many times do you have to be reminded?”
I shrug. “Steve had to come from somewhere.”
Steve sat up straight while my mother served the food. “Well technically, that is true. My father was called Steven and his father before that. My mother didn't want to call me Steven but my father did. They compromised on Steve.”
I pretend I'm interested. “Whoa, what a compromise!”
My mother clears her throat and my father says the grace. The food is passed around and I remain silent, listening to the bustle of conversation at the table. The conversation between my mother and father catches my ears and I can't help but listen.
“There's rumours flying around everywhere. We shouldn't listen to it.”
“Do you think it's true?” my mother asks.
He shrugs, “I have no idea. Marcus has always been... odd.”
I frown, Marcus?
They notice me watching so I turn to look at my sister and instantly regret it. She is being all lovey-dovey with Steve. I gag loudly on purpose and receive a clip to the ear from my father. “Sorry, but do I really have to see that at the dinner table?”
Farrah laughs. “You would do the exact same thing if Zahn was here.”
“No, I wouldn't.”
“You are such a hypocrite, Shiloh. If your boyfriend was here, you would act that way, don't lie.”
“I'm not Candor, I can lie all I want.”
“Shiloh, room, now.”
I sigh then walk to my room. It's not he first time I've been sent to my room but hopefully, it'll be the last. As I shut the door behind me, I change to my sleeping clothes and then lie down on top of my bed. For about ten minutes, the air is silent, only being disrupted by my breathing.
I turn onto my side and close my eyes, wishing for sleep to swallow me up.
The bed shifts and someone shakes me awake by my shoulders. I turn over and open my eyes lazily. I am greeted by a fuzzy image of my father. “Dad? What's wrong?”
“Nothing is wrong, I came in to check up on you. It's a big day tomorrow and I just want to see if you are prepared for what your decision might bring.”
I force myself up into a sitting position, which I find to be difficult when I am almost completely under the grip of sleep. “My decision?”
“Your faction choice,” he says softly.
“Oh, that.” I rub my eyes. “Dad, I'm not sure what I want yet.”
His “Well, sleep on it and tomorrow, when the time comes, you can make the decision with a clear mind.”
He leans down and lightly kisses my forehead before getting back to his feet and crossing back to the door. “Dad?” I croak. “What... what will happen if I choose a different path?”
He smiles at me as he holds the door handle with his hand. “We'll still love you. You'll always be our child, our youngest daughter. If a change is what you want then we'll accept that and continue to love you.”
I smile as I lie back down, letting my head sink back into the mould in my pillow. “I love you, dad,” I whisper as he closes the door and goes to his room.