Dauntless

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

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3. Three

 

I wake early to my father’s voice on the morning of the Choosing Ceremony.

“Tobias?” He calls, knocking on my bedroom door. I rub sleep away from my eyes as I let him in. He is fully dressed, ready to leave for work. As part of being our faction leader, my father’s job today involves conducting the Choosing Ceremony. Each year, a different faction takes on the role. This year, it is Abnegation.

“Good luck for today, son,” he says, placing a firm hand on my shoulder, “I know you’ll choose wisely.” He closes the door behind him when he leaves and I sink onto my bed. A part of me feels guilty. Yet, a part of me knows it’s what my father deserves.

We’re not expected to take anything with us to the Choosing Ceremony, even if we’re going to transfer. Our new factions are expected to provide for us. Faction before blood. That’s our motto. I have heard it so many times during Faction History. Even if we could take anything, Abnegation don’t have many possessions. Most of what I own is a stack of identical grey clothing. Anything else is seen as self-indulgent, a sign of defiance. I take one long look at my room because I know I will never come here again, the place I have grown up in and called home. It is bare, sparsely furnished, the way an Abnegation room should look. I open my dresser to take out a fresh pair of pants and a shirt, and get dressed. As I’m about to close the drawer, I see light reflecting off the glass blue sculpture I had cushioned between my clothes. I take it out and run my fingers along its edges, memories of my mother resurfacing in my mind. She had given this to me, the day before she left. I was only a child then, and I did not know what it meant. But I knew enough to keep it hidden; I knew it was against Abnegation values. But now, looking back at it, I see that it was a symbol of my mother’s defiance. I place the ornament on my dresser, and take one last look at my room before I close the door behind me. When my father gets home today, he is likely to walk into my room. I want him to see the sculpture; I want him to see the symbol of my defiance. But most of all, I want him to know that I am not the son of Marcus Eaton. I am the son of Evelyn Johnson.

I ride the bus to the Choosing Ceremony, held on the top floor of the highest building in the city, the Hub. It is a tall black skyscraper that disappears into the clouds. The elevator is crowded with people; sixteen year olds of all factions and their families. I opt to take the stairs instead, a selfless act, but also a cowardly one. I have never liked confined spaces. When I reach the stairwell, I notice that most of its users are Abnegation. I see Andrew Prior leading his family up the steps so I quicken my pace to join them, comforted by their familiar faces. We walk in silence as we ascend to the top floor, a grey mass of thudding footsteps against concrete. When we reach the top floor, Andrew holds the door open for everyone. I have always admired Andrew, looked up to him, and sometimes even wished that he was my father. He greets me as I pass through the door, and I respond by thanking him.

The room of the Choosing Ceremony is buzzing with life. I have never before seen so many people from every faction together in one place. There are five sections, each dedicated to a faction, that form an arc around the room. I walk to the sea of grey at the far end. We’re supposed to sit next to our families so I take a seat next to Andrew because he is the closest I have to family aside from my father. Once I’m seated, facing the centre of the room, I see that there are five large bowls arranged in a straight line, and behind them stands my father.

Once everyone is seated, the Choosing Ceremony begins.

My father clears his throat before he speaks into the microphone, “Welcome,” he says. “100 years ago, after the war, our founders divided society into five factions to maintain peace. Each faction was dedicated to a particular virtue they believed would help prevent human conflict.” He lists each faction and its values, turning towards them as he does so. Abnegation; they value selflessness. Candor; Honesty. Erudite; Intelligence. Amity; Peace. And Dauntless; Bravery.  “It is time for our dependents to claim their rightful place in society,” He concludes, unrolling a piece of paper from which he reads a list of names. I notice that he is reading them by surname but other than that, I am unable to focus on what is going on in front of me. I hear a round of applause each time someone chooses their faction of origin. When someone transfers, there is a mix of applause with gasps and boos from their previous faction.

“Joshua Daniels.” There is a shuffling of feet in the row behind me, and Joshua Daniels walks up to the front, taking the knife from my father’s hand. He brings the blade across his palm, and holds his hand over the bowls, his eyes darting back and forth between two of them. I can’t see which factions they are. And then, he makes his decision and thrusts his hand out over one of the bowls, letting his blood drip into it.

“Candor!” My father’s voice is followed by shouts and screams from the Candor. But, the Abnegation only stare at him in silence as he walks towards his new faction. I hear a woman’s cry behind me, his mother probably. He will be seen as a traitor now. His family may visit him in his new faction on Visiting Day but he will be forced to forget of their existence because the Candor are his family now.

“Tobias Eaton,” my father’s eyes fall upon me as he says my name. A lump forms in my throat and I struggle to swallow. My heartbeat speeds up the closer I get to the bowls, and to my father. He hands me the knife and I take it, not looking directly into his eyes in fear that he’ll see right through me. But even if he did, it’s too late now. I push down on the knife as I drag it across my palm. It stings. Blood immediately seeps from the cut and my eyes scan all five bowls. The Abnegation bowl is closest to me, and now I can see what is inside each of them. Grey stones for Abnegation. Beside it, hot coal for Dauntless. Water for Erudite. Glass for Candor. And soil for Amity. I think about my Aptitude test results, and my eyes jump back and forth from the stones to water. The silence in the room is unsettling, and I can feel hundreds of eyes upon me. But they don’t compare to my father’s eyes, piercing the back of my head.

All my life, I have been so afraid of my father and my cowardice has led to my suffering. But I don’t want to suffer anymore. I don’t want to be a coward. And I don’t want to be afraid of him. I close my eyes, taking a deep breath, and when I open them again I thrust my hand out, letting my blood sizzle on the hot coal. The silence is replaced by the Dauntless shouting, welcoming me. I don’t look at my father as I go and join my new faction, my new family. And he doesn’t look at me either as he continues to read the list of names.

“Caleb Prior.” I watch as Caleb takes the knife from my father’s hand, cutting into his palm the way everyone else has done. But what surprises me about Caleb is that he looks so relaxed. He looks so calm, unlike everyone else who has chosen so far. But I guess there’s very little to be nervous about when you’re going to choose your faction of origin. I almost don’t notice when he lets his blood drip into the water. I would have sworn that I imagined it but then I hear my father announce, “Erudite!” and Caleb walks away from his family and sits with his new faction. I feel like I’m going to throw up so I stand to go to the bathroom but then I hear her name.

“Beatrice Prior.” I sit back down and watch as she walks to the centre of the room and takes the knife. She doesn’t cut her hand straight away. Instead, she looks back the way she came, at her parents, and then her eyes find Caleb amongst the Erudite. I know for sure then, that she’ll choose Abnegation because she feels guilty about leaving her parents, especially after Caleb’s betrayal. I barely notice when her eyes fall upon me next. Something about her look makes me feel guilty. I know what she’s thinking. That I betrayed our faction too. That I left my father alone. But she knew I would do this. A part of me hoped that she was thinking about leaving Abnegation too. Though she would never admit it, I knew she felt like she didn’t belong. She was never as selfless as her brother. But Caleb had transferred to Erudite, which meant that she would have to make the most selfless decision and stay in Abnegation for the sake of her parents.

My eyes stay trained on her, and I notice everything from the way her hands shake when she cuts her palm to the way her legs tremble as she walks closer to the bowls and the way her eyes only dart back and forth between the last two; the Dauntless and Abnegation bowls. I wish I was closer, so I could read the expression on her face, and not have to sit through this long wait because I would know what she was going to choose. But then, she pushes her hand out towards the Abnegation bowl and I close my eyes, all hope within me lost, and wait to hear the applause. But it doesn’t come. When I open my eyes again, she is still standing there and there is a drop of blood staining the wooden floor, her hand still hovering between the two bowls. I think about turning away, not wanting to watch, but just as I’m about to, I see her hand favour the direction of the Dauntless bowl. Her blood drips onto the coal. I wait for my father’s voice, just to make sure it’s real.

“Dauntless!” It is. The crowd around me erupts in applause and I join them because I am one of them now. It’s rather strange, going from a life of silence to complete chaos. I don’t know if I made the right decision. But I do know that I don’t regret it. Not now. Not ever.

As the Choosing Ceremony comes to an end, I find myself thinking about what Amar had said to me, “The test isn’t designed to tell you what to choose.”

He was right. I didn’t trust the test. I didn’t choose Abnegation or Erudite. I chose Dauntless. I chose Dauntless because I was afraid and I didn’t want to be. I was afraid of falling and I hoped that it would teach me not to be. But what I didn’t realise is that I had already fallen.

I had fallen in love.

I didn’t just choose Dauntless.

I chose her.

And I hope that she chose me.

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