“What are those?” Tris says.
“The other greenhouses,” Johanna says. “They don’t require much manpower, but we grow and raise things in large quantities there—animals, raw material for fabric, wheat, and so on.”
Their panes glow in the starlight, obscuring the treasures I imagine to be inside them, small plants with berries dangling from their branches, rows of potato plants buried in the earth.
“You don’t show them to visitors,” I say. “We never saw them.”
“Amity keeps a number of secrets,” Johanna says, and she sounds proud.
The road ahead of us is long and straight, marked with cracks and swollen patches. Alongside it are gnarled trees, broken lampposts, old power lines. Every so often, there is an isolated square of sidewalk with weeds forcing their way through the concrete, or a pile of rotting wood, a collapsed dwelling.
The more time I spend thinking about this landscape that every Dauntless patrol was told was normal, the more I see an old city rising up around me, the buildings lower than the ones we left behind, but just as numerous. An old city that was transformed into empty land for the Amity to farm. In other words, an old city that was razed, burned to cinders, and crushed into the ground, even the roads disappearing, the earth left to run wild over the wreckage.
I put my hand out the window, and the wind wraps around my fingers like locks of hair. When I was very young, my mother pretended she could shape things from the wind, and she would give them to me to use, like hammers and nails, or swords, or roller skates. It was a game we played in the evenings, on the front lawn, before Marcus got home. It took away our dread.
In the bed of the truck, behind us, are Caleb, Christina, and Uriah. Christina and Uriah sit close enough for their shoulders to touch, but they are looking in opposite directions, more like strangers than friends. Just behind us is another truck, driven by Robert, which carries Cara and Peter. Tori was supposed to be with them. The thought makes me feel hollow, empty. She administered my aptitude test. She made me think, for the first time, that I could leave Abnegation—that I had to. I feel like I owe her something, and she died before I could give it to her.
“This is it,” Johanna says. “The outer limit of the Dauntless patrols.”
No fence or wall marks the divide between the Amity compound and the outer world, but I remember monitoring the Dauntless patrols from the control room, making sure they didn’t go farther than the limit, which is marked by a series of signs with Xs on them. The patrols were structured so that the trucks would run out of gas if they went too far, a delicate system of checks and balances that preserved our safety and theirs—and, I now realize, the secret the Abnegation kept.
“Have they ever gone past the limit?” says Tris.
“A few times,” says Johanna. “It was our responsibility to deal with that situation when it came up.”
Tris gives her a look, and she shrugs.
“Every faction has a serum,” Johanna says. “The Dauntless serum gives hallucinated realities, Candor’s gives the truth, Amity’s gives peace, Erudite’s gives death—” At this, Tris visibly shudders, but Johanna continues as if it didn’t happen. “And Abnegation’s resets memory.”
“Like Amanda Ritter’s memory,” I say. “She said, ‘There are many things I am happy to forget,’ remember?”
“Yes, exactly,” says Johanna. “The Amity are charged with administering the Abnegation serum to anyone who goes out past the limit, just enough to make them forget the experience. I’m sure some of them have slipped past us, but not many.”
We are silent then. I turn the information over and over in my mind. There is something deeply wrong with taking a person’s memories—even though I know it was necessary to keep our city safe for as long as it needed to be, I feel it in the pit of my stomach. Take a person’s memories, and you change who they are.
Swelling inside me is the feeling that I am about to jump out of my own skin, because the farther we get outside the outer limit of the Dauntless patrols, the closer we get to seeing what lies outside the only world I’ve ever known. I am terrified and thrilled and confused and a hundred different things at once.
I see something up ahead of us, in the light of early morning, and grab Tris’s hand.
“Look,” I say.
THE WORLD BEYOND ours is full of roads and dark buildings and collapsing power lines.
There is no life in it, as far as I can see; no movement, no sound but the wind and my own footsteps.
It’s like the landscape is an interrupted sentence, one side dangling in the air, unfinished, and the other, a completely different subject. On our side of that sentence is empty land, grass and stretches of road. On the other side are two concrete walls with half a dozen sets of train tracks between them. Up ahead, there is a concrete bridge built across the walls, and framing the tracks are buildings, wood and brick and glass, their windows dark, trees growing around them, so wild their branches have grown together.
A sign on the right says 90.
“What do we do now?” Uriah asks.
“We follow the tracks,” I say, but quietly, so only I hear it.
We get out of the trucks at the divide between our world and theirs—whoever “they” are. Robert and Johanna say a brief good-bye, turn the trucks around, and drive back into the city. I watch them go. I can’t imagine coming this far and then turning back, but I guess there are things they have to do in the city. Johanna still has an Allegiant rebellion to organize.
The rest of us—me, Tobias, Caleb, Peter, Christina, Uriah, and Cara—set out with our meager possessions along the railroad tracks.
The tracks are not like the ones in the city. They are polished and sleek, and instead of boards running perpendicular to their path, there are sheets of textured metal. Up ahead I see one of the trains that runs along them, abandoned near the wall. It is metal-plated on the top and front, like a mirror, with tinted windows all along the side. When we draw closer, I see rows of benches inside it with maroon cushions on them. People must not jump on and off these trains.
Tobias walks behind me on one of the rails, his arms held out from his sides to maintain his balance. The others are spread out over the tracks, Peter and Caleb near one wall, Cara near the other. No one talks much, except to point out something new, a sign or a building or a hint of what this world was like, when there were people in it.
The concrete walls alone hold my attention—they are covered with strange pictures of people with skin so smooth they hardly look like people anymore, or colorful bottles with shampoo or conditioner or vitamins or unfamiliar substances inside them, words I don’t understand, “vodka” and “Coca-Cola” and “energy drink.” The colors and shapes and words and pictures are so garish, so abundant, that they are mesmerizing.
“Tris.” Tobias puts his hand on my shoulder, and I stop.
He tilts his head and says, “Do you hear that?”
I hear footsteps and the quiet voices of our companions. I hear my own breaths, and his. But running beneath them is a quiet rumble, inconsistent in its intensity. It sounds like an engine.
“Everyone stop!” I shout.
To my surprise, everyone does, even Peter, and we gather together in the center of the tracks. I see Peter draw his gun and hold it up, and I do the same, both hands joined together to steady it, remembering the ease with which I used to lift it. That ease is gone now.
Something appears around the bend up ahead. A black truck, but larger than any truck I’ve ever seen, large enough to hold more than a dozen people in its covered bed.
The truck bumps over the tracks and comes to a stop twenty feet away from us. I can see the man driving it—he has dark skin and long hair that is in a knot at the back of his head.
“God,” Tobias says, and his hands tighten around his own gun.
A woman gets out of the front seat. She looks to be around Johanna’s age, her skin patterned with dense freckles and her hair so dark it’s almost black. She hops to the ground and puts up both hands, so we can see that she isn’t armed.
“Hello,” she says, and smiles nervously. “My name is Zoe. This is Amar.”
She jerks her head to the side to indicate the driver, who has gotten out of the truck too.
“Amar is dead,” Tobias says.
“No, I’m not. Come on, Four,” Amar says.
Tobias’s face is tight with fear. I don’t blame him. It’s not every day you see someone you care about come back from the dead.
The faces of all the people I’ve lost flash into my mind. Lynn. Marlene. Will. Al.
My father. My mother.
What if they’re still alive, like Amar? What if the curtain that separates us is not death but a chain-link fence and some land?
I can’t stop myself from hoping, foolish as it is.
“We work for the same organization that founded your city,” Zoe says as she glares at Amar. “The same organization Edith Prior came from. And . . .”
She reaches into her pocket and takes out a partially crumpled photograph. She holds it out, and then her eyes find mine in the crowd of people and guns.
“I think you should look at this, Tris,” she says. “I’ll step forward and leave it on the ground, then back up. All right?”
She knows my name. My throat tightens with fear. How does she know my name? And not just my name—my nickname, the name I chose when I joined Dauntless?
“All right,” I say, but my voice is hoarse, so the words barely escape.
Zoe steps forward, sets the photograph down on the train tracks, then moves back to her original position. I leave the safety of our numbers and crouch near the photograph, watching her the whole time. Then I back up, photograph in hand.
It shows a row of people in front of a chain-link fence, their arms slung across one another’s shoulders and backs. I see a child version of Zoe, recognizable by her freckles, and a few people I don’t recognize. I am about to ask her what the point of me looking at this picture is when I recognize the young woman with dull blond hair, tied back, and a wide smile.
My mother. What is my mother doing next to these people?
Something—grief, pain, longing—squeezes my chest.
“There is a lot to explain,” Zoe says. “But this isn’t really the best place to do it. We’d like to take you to our headquarters. It’s a short drive from here.”
Still holding up his gun, Tobias touches my wrist with his free hand, guiding the photograph closer to his face. “That’s your mother?” he asks me.
“It’s Mom?” Caleb says. He pushes past Tobias to see the picture over my shoulder.
“Yes,” I say to both of them.
“Think we should trust them?” Tobias says to me in a low voice.
Zoe doesn’t look like a liar, and she doesn’t sound like one either. And if she knows who I am, and knew how to find us here, it’s probably because she has some form of access to the city, which means she is probably telling the truth about being with the group that Edith Prior came from. And then there’s Amar, who is watching every movement Tobias makes.
“We came out here because we wanted to find these people,” I say. “We have to trust someone, don’t we? Or else we’re just walking around in a wasteland, possibly starving to death.”
Tobias releases my wrist and lowers his gun. I do the same. The others follow suit slowly, with Christina putting hers down last.
“Wherever we go, we have to be free to leave at any time,” Christina says. “Okay?”
Zoe places her hand on her chest, right over her heart. “You have my word.”
I hope, for all our sakes, that her word is worth having.
I STAND ON the edge of the truck bed, holding the structure that supports the cloth cover. I want this new reality to be a simulation that I could manipulate if I could only make sense of it. But it’s not, and I can’t make sense of it.
Amar is alive.
“Adapt!” was one of his favorite commands during my initiation. Sometimes he yelled it so often that I would dream it; it woke me like an alarm clock, requiring more of me than I could provide. Adapt. Adapt faster, adapt better, adapt to things that no man should have to.
Like this: leaving a wholly formed world and discovering another one.
Or this: discovering that your dead friend is actually alive and driving the truck you’re riding in.
Tris sits behind me, on the bench that wraps around the truck bed, the creased photo in her hands. Her fingers hover over her mother’s face, almost touching it but not quite. Christina sits on one side of her, and Caleb is on the other. She must be letting him stay just to see the photograph; her entire body recoils from him, pressing into Christina’s side.
“That’s your mom?” Christina says.
Tris and Caleb both nod.
“She’s so young there. Pretty, too,” Christina adds.
“Yes she is. Was, I mean.”
I expect Tris to sound sad as she replies, like she’s aching at the memory of her mother’s fading beauty. Instead her voice is nervous, her lips pursed in anticipation. I hope that she isn’t brewing false hope.
“Let me see it,” Caleb says, stretching his hand out to his sister.
Silently, and without really looking at him, she passes him the photograph.
I turn back to the world we are driving away from—the end of the train tracks. The huge expanses of field. And in the distance, the Hub, barely visible in the haze that covers the city’s skyline. It’s a strange feeling, seeing it from this place, like I can still touch it if I stretch my hand far enough, though I have traveled so far away from it.
Peter moves toward the edge of the truck bed next to me, holding the canvas to steady himself. The train tracks curve away from us now, and I can’t see the fields anymore. The walls on either side of us gradually disappear as the land flattens out, and I see buildings everywhere, some small, like the Abnegation houses, and some wide, like city buildings turned on their sides.