Dauntless

What if Tobias and Beatrice transferred to Dauntless in the same year? (Cover by the wonderful Rose)

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7. Seven

 

“Welcome to the first day of initiation,” Eric’s voice echoes off the training room walls, running up and down each of our spines. Most of us are groggy, rubbing our eyes due to lack of sleep. No one had told us we’d be up before sunset.

“There are two stages that will be undertaken simultaneously,” he continues. “Dauntless born will go through physical training first. Transfers will face their fear landscapes. Then, we’ll swap. Though you are training separately, you are ranked together, and those with the lowest ranking scores will be cut. Understood?”

No one speaks, but we don’t need to. You can tell a lot about what someone is thinking just through the expression in their eyes. Most of us are afraid, of being cut, of being factionless. Without a home or family to turn to.

“Good.” Eric turns to his group of Dauntless born initiates whilst transfers follow Amar out of the training room to a smaller room that’s well-lit compared to the rest of the compound. He stands before a door and eyes each one of us in turn, sizing us down to the scrawny little sixteen year olds that we are.

“First jumper,” he says. It takes her a few moments to respond. She’s thinking about something, far too distracted to hear her name get called out. “Tris?” Amar says a second time, and she snaps out of her daydream. “You’re up first.” He opens the door and she follows him inside. The last thing I see is the back of his head as he closes the door behind them, leaving us alone to ponder what this stage of initiation entails.

“Dauntless are known for using simulations,” Will offers up. “They work in partnership with Erudite who supply the serums. My guess is that they’ll inject us with something that’ll make us think we’re facing our worst fear.”

My face drops. My worst fear isn’t something I thought I would have to face ever again, even if it won’t be real. I was supposed to be safe here, away from him. “What’s the matter Stiff? You’ve gone… Stiff,” Peter laughs. “What are you so scared of?”

I curl my hands into fists, my green veins protruding. But at the exact moment my brain tells me to punch him, the door opens and Tris walks out. She doesn’t make contact so I can’t read her eyes, tell what she’s feeling, but she looks shaken to say the least. We expect Amar to walk out after her, but he doesn’t.

“Peter,” she says after a few seconds of silence, and I can tell it’s because she was trying to regain her breath. “You’re next.” Though he walks into the room with confidence, his shoulders high and proud, I know deep down he’s afraid. Even the bravest of us are.

Christina is the first of us to speak after the door closes behind Peter, not that I’m surprised. Once a Candor, always a Candor. “What happened in there, Tris?”

“Birds.” Tris hugs her shoulders as if she’s still living in the nightmare, “Lots and lots of birds.”

“You’re afraid of birds?” Will interjects.

“I guess so,” Tris shrugs the imaginary birds off her shoulders. “I think it’s random,” she says. “Not necessarily your worst fear.” This seems to make me feel calm again, releasing the knots of tension that were building up.

But before anyone can ask another question, Peter comes out of the room shaking uncontrollably. The mask of confidence is gone, replaced by the terrified little Candor boy he really is. The knots creep back up on me.

Peter doesn’t hang around. He just says “Stiff” and disappears out the door we used to come in. There is something unsettling about the whole thing. The way he said Stiff without his usual malice. The knots crawl under my skin, getting tighter and tighter. It takes all my will to keep upright as I walk towards the testing room, as if there’s a rope tied around my ankles and it’s tugging me towards it, to face my nightmares.

The room looks exactly like the one used for aptitude testing, just slightly smaller. I take my seat on the chair in the centre of the room, letting Amar attach electrodes to my forehead. He explains the process to me but I’m hardly listening, “This serum will induce one of your greatest fears as a simulation.” He pricks my neck. Thankfully, I don’t have a fear of needles. “Don’t try to fight it,” he advises, “Find a way to overcome it. I’ll be monitoring how long it takes you, so be quick if you want to rank highly.”

I think he keeps talking, but his voice fades away and the white walls of the testing room suddenly become painted in a dull grey. I’m in Abnegation again, and my heart races at the realisation that the serum induced my worst fear. The last thing I wanted was to see him again, but his figure emerges from the shadows before me, his belt ready to lash out.

“Tobias,” he says. “This is for your own good.” I stumble back, trying to get away from this monster before me, but I only get so far. My back hits the grey wall behind me and I’m trapped. My back stings, not from the impact of the wall but from the memory of previous lashings. My father continues to say that name, “Tobias…” I wish he would stop. It was my mother who named me. He did not deserve to say it.

It all feels so real, or maybe it is real. But I remember Amar’s voice. It’s just a simulation, I tell myself. But I don’t know how to fight it. Don’t try to fight it. Amar’s voice again. I helplessly shield my face with my arms to counter my father as he lashes out. Find a way to overcome it. I don’t know how. I don’t fight, I just run away. That’s what I was doing when I chose Dauntless. I was running away from my fear, instead of standing up to it. That’s what I needed to do now. I need to run away again, but I’m trapped between the wall and my father’s body. He’s looping the belt around his hands, saying my name over and over again.

I can’t find a way out. The door is behind him, the windows too high up. But it’s not real. I keep telling myself this as I watch him get ready to pounce. My fingers press against the concrete walls of our Abnegation home. It’s not real. I close my eyes and picture myself escaping. It’s not real. Suddenly I’m moving backwards, even though there’s nothing but a wall behind me. I realise I’m moving through the wall. My father lashes out at me one more time.

I wake, panting. My palms are slick with sweat and it takes me a while to adjust to the room again, replacing the grey walls with white, replacing the shadow of my father with Amar. He’s staring at me.

“How did you do that?” He asks.

“Do what?” I sit up, trying to erase the voice of my father from my head.

“Escape,” he says, “You went through the wall.”

“It wasn’t real,” I counter, “So it was possible.”

“That kind of mentality is going to get you killed, Tobias.” I shudder as he says my name. “I told you to overcome it, not run away from it.”

“I don’t need your advice.”

“You will if you want to survive here in Dauntless.”

I get up, ready to leave. He steps in front of me. “How long do you think you were in that simulation?”

I wasn’t thinking about time while I was in the simulation. It always seemed to stop when my father was around anyway, real or not real. “I don’t know,” I guess, “Twenty minutes?”

“Five.”

“Is that good?”

“It’s the fastest time so far today.” He doesn’t say anything else, but from the way he looks at me I can tell it’s not exactly a good thing.

“Can I go now?” I ask. He steps aside to let me pass.

When I’m just about to exit, he gives me a warning, “Just remember what I said, Tobias.”

I don’t turn around to face him. “Don’t call me that,” I say, slamming the door behind me.

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