I stare down at what could first be perceived as an endless casum. A dark tunnel that from the untrained eye looked to be awaiting a deadly fate at its end. The thought triggers a creased smile to pull itself onto my tight lips. If the new initiatives were to see me during this small moment of perplexity, they would assume I'm not all there in the head. After all, they had spent their lives safely tucked behind the walls of comforting homes, libraries, and in the odd case, gardens. They were soon going to realize that in order to adapt as a true Dauntless, they would have to let go of the sanity they had wrapped around themselves so tightly. It was hard to see the fearlessness that came with years of danger and a rising pulse. But they had chosen this life, just as I had years before. The ones that had made it this far without being whisked away by the roaring train or miss judging just how far they had to jump from the compartment's trembling ledge to the building's roof, were in for the journey of their life. In order for that journey to begin, they would first have to take a leap of fate.
"Listen up! My name is Thea! I am one of the instructors here at Dauntless!" I yell over the wind that howls against the side of the building. I stand on the very edge of the roof, giving the illusion that I could simply fall off with the slightest push. Standing with my hands outstretched at my sides and my wavy brown hair whipping around my porcelain face makes me feel like I was at the center of a tornado. "Stories below us is the entrance to the Dauntless compound. There are no stairs, no elevators. If you can't find the courage to jump, you don't belong here." My words bring a chorus of whispering to generate within the crowd.
There was nothing more to discuss about the matter. This was the initiation and for many, the moment that will define them as either a cowered or Dauntless. The new information only manages to stir these peoples emotions more, sending some into a state of panic. Others try to conceal the tears that dare to trail down their face. Many were scared, but most were terrified. Yet they all stayed together, huddled in their old fraction groups, no one stepping forward, no one backing away. They had come here for adventure, but now that the veil had been lifted it was becoming clear to the sea of newbies, that this place wasn't like any other.
Eventually the hissing of disbelief and fear grows so quiet, no words can be heard over the air that throws itself violently against our clothes, snapping the fabric back against our bodies. Just when my predictions of how gutless these new recruits are begins to see light, someone pipes up. "You expect us to jump off that ledge. How are we suppose to know if there's anything down there to catch us?" a young Candor asks, her natural tone coming out frank, but shaken.
"Well, I guess there's only one way to find out." I inform the girl and she nods, clearly not satisfied with my answer. As a Candor she will learn quickly enough that not everyone here is honest and forthright. You do not act on the truth of others, you act on your own instincts.
"Does anyone else have a burning question worth answering?" I snap in a harsh tone many of these people haven't had the pleasure of hearing from behind the protective walls of their fraction. Rudely enough, I don't wait for another voice to carry my way. "No? Okay. Initiates, you have the great privilege of going first." I motion for the other Dauntless to step away from the edge of the roof, making a path for the new arrivals to jump.
It's no surprise to any of us when the first Dauntless-born initiatives step forward. Growing up in the compound they would never shy away from a great height. We craved the adrenaline rush and strength that came with facing fear straight in the eyes. But they were questionable of what awaited after your feet leave the roof. We all were the first time. If one was to stare into my steel, grey eyes today they would find a intensity that would take years to build up. A coldness that blocked out even the strongest emotions that fought to get to the surface. But, when I had first arrived on this roof as a Erudite, I was scared to the point I was quaking in my own boots. I remember thinking how my whole life I had been taught knowledge was power, but standing on the edge of the roof with a force that could whisk me away at any moment, the pounding of blood rushing to my ears. I was powerless and no logical decision or well-educated mind was going to help me. When I finally did jump, it wasn't a smart decision, but it was my decision. I no longer would rely on knowledge, only instincts and my own emotions. For the first time in my life I felt brave and strong, just like the characters I had spent countless hours reading about in the Erudite libraries. When my feet touched down on Dauntless ground I was asked my name. Some would see this as the easiest part of the entire initiation, but for me, the moment would forever change me. I was no longer Althea, the girl that spent her days researching, trying to understand how the world worked, who dedicated her life to learning. As far as I'm concerned, that girl died when she plummeted off the roof.
I told the man my name was Thea and from that day on I became the women people both feared and wished they could be. I stopped looking to books for the answers and started to enjoy the recklessness that came with being labeled a Dauntless.
As the crowd slowly starts to deteriorate, the wimps begin to appear beneath the cracks. The ones that are fighting between the thought of trying to cheat death or becoming fractionless. For some, being without a fraction was worse than dying. This becomes a problem for one girl in particular. She is clearly Abnegation, wearing a long grey robe that not only covers her underclothes, but every inch of skin from her neck down. The thin fabric flaps around her in a dance with the air. Only her black hair stays in place, with each strand of hair slicked back into a perfectly pinned bun. Every time another jumper takes off, she takes a step back, towards the train tracks built to level with the skyscraper's height. I watch her wide brown eyes in question, waiting for that moment when the thought to give up will click into her mind. I had seen the look plenty of times before. The outer defeat etching itself into their desperate and saddened features. But, she doesn't get the chance to make that decision, at least not before a boy grips onto her wrist and pulls her forward.
Maybe if I hadn't been so fixated on watching the initiatives jump, I would have noticed him among the huddled crowd. He didn't stand out anymore than the average person would, in a day where I dealt with hundreds of students running rapid in the compound. He had a narrowed face, wide eyes with a ever changing colour of blue, a long thin nose, and prominent cheekbones. His brown hair was cut short showing off his defined jaw line. But it wasn't his hansom looks that kept me from looking away, it was the unsettling fact that I couldn't define him to a fraction by the way he carried himself or what was hidden behind those dark, stormy, blue eyes. I would never admit it to one living person, but this boy in all his mysteriousness was the first thing I had feared since jumping from that ledge.
I watch from afar as he pulls the Stiff close, despite her mouthed protests. In her fraction, having a man that close to you must be considered a sin. Self indulgence and drawing attention to yourself was frowned upon also. Here at Dauntless we honored them with the name of Stiff. Appropriate in my opinion for if you were to see them, they looked as dull as the washed out grey they wore. Hair always perfectly pulled back from their faces, their bodies standing at a straight angle, and a look of perplexity that could be found in even the most youthful beings. Every year more and more Abnegation appear at initiation, looking for adventure and an excitement they had only been allowed to dream about. It's also true that every year I see a large amount of Stiffs turn away, become fractionless because their bland and secluded fraction never prepared them for what would come here at the compound.
I'm too far away to hear what the young boy tells the girl. It hadn't come to my attention that he was the only male left standing on this high rise. Yet, I didn't believe he was still here out of fear, he was here to help. I had never seen anything like it. As his hot breath trickles past the girl's ear, she simply nods and steps forward. Then I watch in astonishment as her face hardens with a determination not even I had at times and saunters past the lines of Dauntless. Without a moment of hesitation, she leaps of the ledge, with not even a simple scream to escape her lips. It's not until, Mike, a fellow Dauntless narrows his eyes at me that I realize my mouth had fallen open, gaping at the man and the words I'll never get to hear. He does this several times more until it is only him and two other ladies left on the roof. I re-compose myself and stand at attention as the three wait patiently for their turn to jump. I try to keep my eyes trained on the horizon, but when the boy's sea blue eyes fixate on mine I can't help but return the favour.
"Take a picture, it will last longer." I bark when it becomes clear neither of us are going to break away from the heated stare.
He simply cocks his head in questions, as if he couldn't figure out the reason for my hostility. "I could say the same." his voice comes out clear and strong, but far from a snap.
I smirk and look away, enjoying the breath of cold air that slaps against my skin. "I didn't properly introduce myself, my names Blane." I look down to find his hand outstretched inches from mine. Not only did this boy, Blane seem to be relatively calm considering the circumstances, he offered his hand, ruling out the Abnegation who bowed their heads in greeting. Despite not being from that fraction, I shake my head in refusal and return to watching the sun disappear beneath the cities gleaming buildings.
"I had no idea the Dauntless were so clever." he mutters to himself, but just loud enough that I can hear him.
"What do you mean?" I abandon the act of ignoring him, my Erudite curiosity becoming to much to bare any longer.
Blane seems pleased to have grasped my attention, even if it was for a short time. "The initiative jump. It's clearly testing our ability to think on instinct, but also knowledge. There will always be something to catch us at the bottom, it's just seeing how long it takes for people to realize that."
I raise a eyebrow in his direction. This boy was a puzzle I was unable to solve. In all my years of instructing, never had a newbie been able to distinguish what beneath the truth was real and state it so blatantly. He may be from Candor, considering how much he loves to talk, but the knowledgeable speech and "know it all" expression I knew all to well could easily mean Blane was Erudite.
"If you knew that, why weren't you the first to jump?" I ask.
"I came here to start over. I'm jumping and not one thinly veiled threat is going to keep me from doing so." he states. "But the other ones, like that Abnegation girl. They came, because they didn't want to go back. I was able to separate myself from my fraction. Some aren't as lucky. I figure if I can get them to see the whole board, they'll continue to play."
I push away the craving for knowledge that came with each word he managed to twist and turn into a fascinating topic. I could tell he had a way with words, skating by each day, manipulating people into doing the things he didn't want to. Here at Dauntless, a swift kick to the knees and Blane would soon realize he had far to go before being able to stand tall.
I know I should not be judging this boy and I certainly should not be conversing with him. I was his instructor, here to do nothing more than assess and decide the fate of his life. As smart as Blane seemed to think he was, I'm sure he'll never see the hidden truth behind what makes the Dauntless so tough. The jump was only the first step in a long process of deciding who would stay and who would be turned away, banned from returning to the compound. Fractionless.
I want to respond, but I can't. Not with the Dauntless prying eyes and a fluttering sensation bubbling deep within the pit of my stomach. I refuse to admit the feeling was a sign of nervousness, but with the way Blane bores into me with his eyes of the sea, I know what I am experiencing is mutual.
"Thea!" Mike hisses, snapping me back to the present, just in time to witnessing the last girl leap from the roof with an echoing scream following shortly after. Giving my equal a sharply executed nod, I step back into line. Once again a leader, not a Erudite.
Blane notices how easily I fit into the formation and it brings jealousy to his once soft features. He came to Dauntless to fit in, escape just as the Abnegation girl had. The thought of him fleeing to here of all places for safety seemed obscured. Certainly he had watched the Dauntless jump from moving trains everyday before school. Maybe, I was choosing to ignore an important fact. Blane came here for adventure, to leave the world of books or selflessness behind.
I watch him lean forward, his ripped torso tensing as a harsh gust of wind tears through his grey t-shirt. His feet leave the support of hard concrete and he dives head first for the ground stories below. Gasps generate among the group of remaining Dauntless. We had all experienced the jump, but never had any one of us found the courage to face it head on as Blane just did.
Suddenly, the last pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place. Brave like the Dauntless, intelligent like the Erudite, selfless like Abnegation, honest like the Candor, and peaceful like the Amity. Blane was different, an outcast among the Factions. He had a secret hidden beneath his ageless blue eyes, one that could not only bring him to his knees, but me as well.
The usual protocol is followed as the Dauntless empty off the side of the roof in herds. Mike continues to eye me with his soulless brown eyes, but I simply shrug off his daggered stare. He would drill me later for growing soft around the initiatives and I would break his nose before the end of the lecture. Mike may have towered over me in height and brute force, but he was nothing without the intelligence that came with my natural fighting skills. I was the true Dauntless in charge here.
Beneath the skin of my petite body came a force of power no man would dare test with. Mike had learned this the hard way when we first came to the Dauntless as initiatives. During one of our training sessions I was paired to fight him. I was also at the bottom of the board and my life at the compound was running out. I had tried my best to fight the man, but every punch only doubled the pain that was thrown back at me. Then, when I was ready to give up- bent over helplessly on the floor- he yanked back on my hair, pulling a fistful of strands from my skull. Never had I felt such a searing pain and never had I experienced white hot fury like I did that day. I stood back up, squared my body and fought back. I went on to beat Mike, cracking a few of his ribs in the process. He's never gotten over the defeat and he never will, because I will always come out on top as long as he's willing to play dirty.
I motion for Teresa- another Dauntless that arrived several months after I did- to jump next out of curtsy. She nods in agreement and waves before falling backwards of the side of the building, her hair flying around her face in a halo of blonde strands. I'm sure she would have plenty to say when we got back to the bunks for the night. She'll want to hear every detail of my conversation with Blane, but unfortunately not every detail of the story could be repeated. Not when the last page to my unwritten story had never been shared with anyone.
Now, I am the only one left to jump. I step up onto the the concrete ledge that separates me from my old life and the life of a Dauntless. I lean forward as my gut wrenches forward. Then I'm flying. Air flows around my body, violently smacking against my clothes and exposed skin. The windows of the surrounding buildings become a blur of colour and my arms flap loosely at my side. I hit the netting full speed, bobbing up and down as the momentum dies down and my pulse slows. With helpful hands I'm pulled off the coarse rope of the net and onto stable ground.
As soon as everyone is back on their feet I'm reading to move on. The crowd disperses as I lead the group away from the entrance and towards a narrow tunnel. The initiatives eyes follow the stone walls as they descend into a slope. We have set up lights several feet apart along the hallway, causing some to become disoriented in the dark space between each lamp.
We stop abruptly at the end of the tunnel, causing many people to collide. Three leaders stand before the group- Mike, Teresa, and I. I of course stand out front with the other two flanking my side.
"Dauntless-born initiates go with Teresa. The rest of you will stay with Mike and I for the tour." I watch the Dauntless disperse into the shadows. "First we will be visiting the Pit. This is where you will spend most of your free time." I push open the double doors, walking through the archway as the group follows. I try to ignore both stares from Blane and Mike in the process.
The Pit was breath taking no matter who the eye of the beholder was. A underground cavern with uneven walls of rock rising above my head. Dug into the stone was buildings for food, clothing, and supplies. Several narrow paths and steps carved into the rock connect them. If you were to fall from one of the paths there was no railings to catch you. The roof was covered by a large pane of glass that let direct sunlight in from gaps between buildings. Blue lanterns glow from every wall of the huge cavern. Chaos plays out before me as the Dauntless go about their day, running, talking, occasionally shouting from the crowd of black clothing.
The tour runs as usual. I show the initiatives the chasm. A roaring pit of rushing water, crashing against the jagged rocks of a river. Barred of by only an iron barrier. It is a reminder that even the bravest of us are not stupid enough to attempt a fall that would surely kill us.
I lead them into the cafeteria through a hollow archway carved out of the wall. Many Dauntless are already seated and stand to applaud the newcomers. Our group splits off to go find seats. Somehow I end up sitting beside Blane in all the madness and he stares curiously at the plate of food laid out across the center of the table.
"What's the matter. Never had a Hamburger before." I laugh, but he simply shrugs my comment off.
"Not in Abnegation. Extravagance is considered a form of indulgence." That explained why Blane was so selfless on the roof. Clearly, one faction did not define him though.
I had forgotten that the Abnegation forbid self-indulgence, finding it to be an unnecessary way of living. "Well, you're in Dauntless now. Try one." I pile a burger onto his plate and pass over a bottle of Ketchup.
At first Blane stays still, refusing against the Abnegation side of life. Then curiosity becomes to much for him. He eyes me suspiciously as he bites into the beef patty, but his features soon fill with delight as he swallows. "This tastes incredible."
A smile lights up my face and he arches his eyebrow questionably. "What?" I ask
"Nothing, I just find you interesting." He admits, forcing his gaze down onto his plate. "I can't seem to figure you out." Blane adds when everyone else at the table is occupied by conversation.
I choose my next words carefully, knowing the power they can hold. "Sometimes a puzzle with more than enough pieces is the hardest to solve."
Blane goes to interject, fear flooding his features for the first time since arriving at the compound. But he is cut short by the sound of a throat clearing from behind me. Too indulged in the conversation I hadn't noticed the silence that had fallen over the dining hall. As I turn around I come face to face with the true leader of Dauntless, Mason. He was only a year or two older then I was and although younger, he was feared. Tall, but lengthy, his body is covered from head to toe in tattoos. The black ink poking out from his black t-shirt. His blonde hair is short to show off the coldness that seeps into the very irises of his grey eyes. I had worked along side Mason for over a year now and I had never gotten use to his chilling demeanor and overly snarly attitude.
"Thea, it's great to see you making friends." He smiles, showing off the gap where he had lost a tooth during a fight.
"What do you want Mason?" I snap.
"I just came to admire who we have to choose from this year." The word "choose" draws the tables attention to Mason. But he wasn't ready to give the big reveal yet. "Well, are you going to introduce me?" He points to the boy beside me.
"Mason this is Blane, he's from Abnegation." I try to sound interested, but my tone comes out more like a growl.
"Oh a stiff." The nickname makes Blane squirm nervously in his seat. "Can't wait to see how long you last."
The comment doesn't seem to offend Blane and he bows his head at Mason in Abnegation greeting. For someone that had offered his hand to me on the roof, I have every right to believe this was strange. Either way, the greeting causes a string of laughing to generate from the table. The Dauntless weren't use to seeing Abnegation stiffs in a place of recklessness and adventure.
"What did you mean before by choosing?" Blane asks, an unlikely curiosity throwing Mason off.
"You'll have to ask Thea after she shows you to your living quarters." he gives one last deceptive smile then slips away to indulge in the banquet from another table.
Originally, Mason was in charge of showing the newbies to their rooms for the night, but because of convenient scheduling issues I had to take his place. I lead the group through a series of hallways and stop at a wooden door. The group stays quiet, awaiting my instructions.
"Today you met Mason, as the head leader he will oversee most of your training along with myself." I wait for a Candor to perk up and share their opinion, but everyone stays silent. "Going over some ground rules. You have to be in the training centre by eight o'clock everyday. Training runs from eight to six, with a break for lunch. After six you're free to go. You will also be given breaks in between initiation stages." I pause to take a breath. "You can't leave the compound grounds without a Dauntless to chaperone you."
Several people nod in understanding. I grip the door handle harder knowing the speech was coming to a close. I explain the different stages of initiation and how they will be ranked against the Dauntless-born initiatives.
"What are the rankings for?" This time the voice doesn't come from a nosy Candor, but Blane.
I try my best to keep composed as I explain the next and most crucial part of this test. Surely if Mason was here he would have given a wicked grin in Blane's direction. I couldn't find the guts to do so. I refuse the thought of this boy making me grow soft.
"Rankings help us decide what jobs you will take after being accepted into initiation and the top ten initiatives that will become members of Dauntless."
The crowd of becomes a still as statues. "What do you mean top ten? What happens to everyone else?" A small Erudite boy asks.
"They become Fractionless."
A mixture of crying and gasps come from everyone, everyone except Blane. He stands still, motionless as he looks at me with a blank stare.
"Welcome to Dauntless." I push the door open to the dormitory.
No one moves at first, but with a quick snap of my fingers they flood into the room, scrambling over one another for a bed. Blane walks past me and I latch out, gripping his arm tight enough to leave bruises. I yank on his limb as I shut the door to the bunks. I pull him over to a corner in the tunnel where the launtern's light can't reach. He breaths heavily as I put my face inches from his. But he doesn't ask what I'm doing or what's going on. He knows now is the time to listen.
"I know what you are." I whisper. "I know you can't be defined to one Faction. I've known since our meeting on the roof that you are both Abnegation and something much more than selfless. Blane, what you are is both dangerous to the people of these Factions and to yourself."
Panic etches itself into his darkened features. "I don't know what you're taking about." He denies in an attempt to protect himself.
I wrap my hand around his wrist hard enough to brake bones and he stifles a yelp. "Don't lie to me." I snap. "They told you at the aptitude test, didn't they?"
That was a rhetorical question, of course they had. Blane's sets his jaw, giving me the answer I needed to continue. "They told you that you qualified for more than one Faction and they explained that this was something you shouldn't take lightly. It was a rare occurrence that was to be kept a secret for your own safety. There's a name for what you are." I pause. "Divergent."
This word causes Blane to smack my hand away out of both fear and anger. He attempts to stand taller, be more intimidating, but he's too shaken. "How do you know all this?" he asks, keeping his hands protectively in between our two bodies.
But I wasn't going to hurt Blane, I was going to give him the truth he had been searching for since the test that changed his life for the worst. He wanted to know he wasn't alone. He wanted someone to see him for who he really was, different. "Because, I'm Divergent."