The pain sears through my body so fast and so sudden, like a mousetrap closing in on a hungry and unsuspecting animal, and my vision blurs for a second as I stumble back. I almost fall into the chasm myself as I regain control of my blundering body, but I cannot stop the involuntary speeding up of my breaths. The amount of pain and fear we must have caused in order for her to fight back with such strength is almost impossible to imagine. We all thought her death would come much sooner and without such struggle.
“Stiff,” I mumble under my breath, and I am shocked to hear myself speak the word aloud. Ever since the moment Tris let her blood drip into the Dauntless bowl, it has been clear that she is not like the other Abnegation. She is more powerful than them, her will even stronger than her force, and it is her fighting spirit that has both enthralled me and yet also turned the spinning wheel of a growing hatred for this true Dauntless.
I cradle my left arm, the bitten one, in my right, and I try and identify features of the Pit in the gloomy light. Despite Tris’ groaning and screaming, and the lapping water of the chasm just inches from my feet, the cavernous room is silent. I back up against one of the stone walls, wondering what I can do to save the girl I agreed to help murder. I close my eyes for a second, trying not to focus on the pain in my arm, when from my vantage point I see a shadow on a far wall. I don’t stop to see who it is; I turn and run, tapping Peter hurridly on the shoulder as I flee, my lumbering body pounding loudly despite my hope to remain anonymous to this curious nightwalker. I’m halfway down the nearest tunnel, the one leading back to our room, when I hear more footsteps after me and I speed up, terrified that it is an older Dauntless, or worse yet, one of the instructors.
The person gets closer and then reveals themselves, “It’s just me, you buffoon,” spits Peter, and although his voice is reassuring, it chills me to the bone.
I ignore him, practically able to hear him about to hiss another spiteful comment when we hear an echoing thud further back down the tunnel; someone is hurt, I don’t know whom.
The minute I get one foot through the doorway I let out a breath I did not even know I was holding, and fling myself onto my bed. My heart is still racing when Peter jumps into his own and I know we are both listening out for Drew’s return; we don’t hear it. There is no way that I can sleep tonight, not after what I was involved in, and not long after our frantic escape, Peter’s snore joins the chorus of grunting in the cold, dark room. I stay awake, staring up at the ceiling.
What I imagine to be hours into the night, I sit up in my bed, my vision long- adjusted to the unlit room, and gently walk over to Tris’ bed. She hasn't returned; I didn't think she would. I lie down on her still-made covers and shake with my cowardice, slowly at first, but then uncontrollable, and I have to stifle the sobs that try and pass the hand I press against my lips. With my hand where it is, I start struggling for air, but an inner force keeps it in firmly in place. I can now imagine what it might have felt like for Tris to have an unwanted barrier between her and the air that keeps her alive. The longer I leave my hand over my mouth, more hatred builds up inside me, but I realize it is not her I despise but it is myself.
The scent Tris has left behind in her bed, her soft, welcoming smell, becomes too much for me to handle, and I pull my hand away, gulping the air like a fish out of water, as I get up and leave the room.
I go back to the now- deserted chasm and sit at the top of the highest part of rock near the life- threatening crevasse. I swing my legs over and look down, unafraid, imagining what the fall would feel like. I imagine the weight leaving from my body as I drop soundlessly into the surging water. The dark, suicidal thought makes me flinch, but I cannot move away from the entrancing gorge. I watch the chasm as it begins to get light outside, the sun’s rays seeping in and bouncing off the water at the bottom, or so I imagine, it’s much too deep to see the sharp rocks that supposedly cover the bottom and the cold water sloshing around them.
I only move my motionless body when I eventually hear voices, Dauntless on their way to the dining hall. I hide behind a wall of the Pit and watch the brave walk past. I am not Candor, I am not Dauntless, but neither do I belong amongst the factionless. I don't think I belong anywhere. Crowds press past the wall in front of me, and when I think the Pit is clear I step out from my concealed location. I gasp aloud when I see her and back up as fast as I can. She comes down from a higher part of the Pit and isn’t alone. Four. I knew something was going on between them but now it has been proven the feeling is almost unbearable. My attempt to finish her last night not only moved her farther from me, but also brought her closer to another man.
“I’ll go in first,” he says when they stand in front of the dining hall. “See you soon, Tris.”
She is left alone and I cannot help my heart from speeding up, wanting to protect her from the pain I caused. I decide that I need to sort this out and beg for her forgiveness if that is what it’ll take. I step out into the vast space, but before I get a chance to open my mouth and apologize, she slips inside the hall. Gone. Again.
I punch the stone wall. I punch it again and again until my hand starts to bleed. Then I use the other one and fight with the stationary wall until the tears start to run down my cheeks. When the salty sadness seeps into my mouth I throw one last punch at my stomach and bend over in pain. I cry harder; I hate myself; Dauntless do not cry.
I lean against the wall and slide down against it until I’m crumpled, sobbing, on the floor. I inch myself out of the line of sight of anyone leaving the dining hall, and when the initiates, including Drew who bravely entered the room after all the others were inside, follow Four along the paths surrounding the Pit, I follow them. Drew looks dreadful, and the pain he feels is apparent in the way he trudges along behind the others. Four notices his slowness too, “Pick up the pace, Drew!” he says. It is comments like this, comments I know I too would receive, that make me doubt my ability to join them openly. As we get higher, we get closer to the glass ceiling and farther from the Pit and the chasm, but I can still see it glaring up at me through the spaces in between the creaky metal steps we climb up. When Four leads them through another door, I do not follow. Instead, I listen at the door, shuddering at Four's explanation of the next stage of initiation, a stage I know I will fail at.
“This,” he says, his eyes seeming to glow in the palely lit room, “is a different kind of simulation known as the fear landscape-" I can't bare hearing any more, just the name of the exercise alone, the fear landscape, is enough to make my heart beat speed up, and I hurry back down the stairs and into the dormitory, alone.
When I get back to the dormitory I go straight into the bathroom, still disgusted with the line of toilets open in the same room, and I lean against the sink. I stare at myself in the mirror for a long time, clenching my fists and punching myself feebly in the shoulder, which reminds me of my lack of muscles. I punch myself again, but this time my fist flies not towards my body but towards my reflection, as If my whole existence could shatter along with the shards of a mirror. I cry out in exasperation; I am not even strong enough to break a mirror. I suppose it is just as well, I already seem to be suffering from a lifetime of bad luck, although seven years more would not really make much of a difference.
Even though it is now mid-afternoon, and I have been hiding all day, I find I am not hungry at all. I sit on my bed, and when the other initiates enter the room I wish I could just fall through the floor. In the crowd of faces pouring through the doorway, I instantly pick out Tris’ and my heart pains as I see Will holding her shoulders and Christina edging closer to her. They know what I did; They have seen my true colors.
“Tris,” I start, embarrassed of my breaking voice, “Can I talk to you?”
This is not what I had planned to say, but there is nothing I can do about that now. I know I have asked for too much when Will answers for her, “Are you kidding? You don’t get to come near her ever again.”
I’m desperate, and I know everyone can tell. The others pretend to look away, but I know they are all paying attention to everything that is going on.
“I won’t hurt you. I never wanted to…” I cover my face with my hands, as if not seeing the disappointed and hurt expression on her face might help, “I just want to say that I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I don’t… I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I… please forgive me, please…”
She doesn’t answer and I reach for her, trying to touch her, wanting to hold some part of her.
I almost don’t hear her response when she speaks, because she doesn’t face me when she says, “Stay away from me. Never come near me again.”
I have not looked away from her since she came into the room, and now her eyes finally meet mine, “If you do, I swear to God I will kill you.” As if that did not hurt me enough, she throws one more knife, like the one Four threw at her ear. When it seems like nothing she could say could make me feel any worse, she throws a final blow at my chest, telling me exactly who I know I am, “You coward.”
I am a coward. I am, I am, I know I am. I don't see any other option than leaving, and so I get up and run, like the coward everyone knows I am.
I’m not thinking as I run, but my legs take me straight to the chasm. I don't slow down as I near it, I know, deep down, that jumping in, ending my own life, is the only way to stop the pain. No one is around when I say my last prayer and jump as far forward as I can. As I fall, time seems to slow down. People say that your life should flash before your eyes, and it does, but I only see my memories of Tris as I drop closer and closer towards my death. I see her in her Abnegation clothes, staring after the Dauntless who are jumping from the train, a fascinated look on her face; I see her lining up for her aptitude test, getting grief from Peter; I see her sat with her family at the Choosing Ceremony; I see her standing on the ledge, the bravest of us all, the first jumper; I hear her laughter as I carry her on my back, running, and I almost feel happy, but then I am reminded of her face as she called me a coward, and another tear runs down my face.
“I am a coward,” I shout, the honesty instilled in me from Candor revealing itself during my last moments.
I know that no one can hear me, and I hope that no one finds me.
I feel the first touch of water on my feet and I know I have met my end. I jumped from a moving train and a ledge to get into Dauntless, but I lived my life in cowardice and I know that my last jump proves as much .