Dauntless

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

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2. Two

 

The day of the Aptitude test starts like any other day. I wake up, alone, caved in by the four walls of my bedroom. I shower, carefully slipping into another grey shirt and another grey pair of pants when I’m done. I run my fingers through my hair to shake out the water. I could really do with a haircut. My hair has become curled at the ends, much too long for an Abnegation. But I guess it doesn’t matter anymore because I won’t be here much longer.

When I walk into the kitchen, there is no breakfast waiting at the table. My father always eats alone before he heads to work in the morning. There is however, a stack of dishes greeting me at the sink and I know that I’m expected to wash them. I do so, grudgingly, not wanting a back to belt confrontation when I get home today. When I’m done, I scan the empty shelves and scour the empty fridge. I’ll just have to eat at school. I’m not entirely hungry anyway, but the Aptitude tests will take place after lunch so I should have time to eat. There are knots in my stomach, twisted by anticipation. And fear. I’m afraid of what the test will tell me.

I see the bus I take to school pull away from the kerb when I leave the house which means I’ll have to walk to school instead. It’s a short walk, so I don’t mind. As I walk through the silent streets of the Abnegation sector, there is only the sound of gravel crunching beneath my feet. Some people find the stillness comforting, yet it unsettles me. As I near the school, the silence is replaced by the laughter of a group of Amity girls, the shouting from a bunch of Dauntless, an intellectual conversation between a pair of Erudite and a heated debate steaming from a crowd of Candor. The Abnegation, however, stand only in silence. All around me, there are people from every faction distinguishable by the colour of their clothes; grey for Abnegation, blue for Erudite, black for Dauntless, red for Amity and white for Candor. Though we are all together, we are separate. Factions hardly tend to mix, even at school.

The morning drags on. I stare at the walls in Faction History and listen to the clock as I have so often done at home. My stomach growls in need of food. I’m lucky that lunch is next. Soon enough, the bell signalling the end of the morning rings and there is an announcement to say that Aptitude testing will take place after lunch. I suddenly don’t want to eat. My hunger is replaced by nerves, gnawing at my stomach.

In the canteen, I choose to sit near a couple of Abnegation I don’t know. I guide my fork through the bowl of salad I picked up with no intention of eating. Soon after, Caleb and Beatrice take a seat opposite me.

“Hi,” Caleb greets me and I pass him a smile. But I’m hardly looking at him. I’m looking at his sister. They look so alike yet so different. She doesn’t acknowledge me, just stares at her food instead. I notice she’s chewing on her bottom lip which she only does if she’s nervous or lying. I don’t know when I picked that up, but it’s the small things I always notice about her. I want to talk to her again, the way we did last night, so freely. But Caleb is here and he’s rather protective of her, though they’re only a few months apart.

Sometime between shifting my gaze from my salad to the girl opposite me, her leg brushes mine under the table and our eyes meet. Caleb is too engaged with eating his own salad that he doesn’t notice the way I’m looking at his sister and the way she’s looking at me. Some may even call it flirting.

A woman walks into the canteen then, reading a list of names from all five factions, in no apparent order, from a piece of paper. “And from Abnegation, Caleb Prior, Beatrice Prior, Tobias Eaton...” I zone out when I hear my name, too busy fumbling over the table as I get up. We don’t look at each other as we walk silently towards the door to be escorted to the testing rooms. A group of Dauntless push and shove each other when we get into line.

“Out of the way Stiff!” One of them yells in Beatrice’s face. I realise I had balled my hands into fists at the mention of that word, though I had no intention of fighting them simply because I don’t know how to.

We walk in single file through the dimly lit corridors lined with rooms that are only used for Aptitude testing. I stop at door number four. Caleb is beside me, at number three, and two doors down in the opposite direction is Beatrice. We exchange a brief glance at each other before we walk in.

The room is surrounded by mirrors rather than four dull walls. I stare at my reflection as I walk towards the chair at the centre. I find it fascinating. I can’t seem to peel my eyes away from the boy who stares back; the boy who is and isn’t me. My face seems fuller, my features sharper, and my hair longer than it should be. It has been so long since I saw my reflection in the one mirror we have at home, which we are only permitted to use on the second day of every third month. I am still staring at this new version of me when the man in the room introduces himself as Amar and hands me a vial of clear liquid to drink. I don’t ask what it is even though I’m curious. I just drink it and let it leave a bitter taste in my mouth. For a while nothing happens. Then, my vision becomes distorted and Amar’s clothes blend in with the blackness that creeps around the edges of my eyes. I stare at my reflection at the exact moment that it fades away and I am plunged into nothingness.

When I open my eyes again, Amar is gone but I’m standing in the same room, the one with the mirrors. I bring my hand closer, to touch my reflection but I only feel the cold surface of the reflective glass.

“Choose,” a voice echoes in the room. I glance around to see where it came from but there is no one here but me. When I look back, the mirrors are gone and there are two bowls before me; one with a block of cheese and the other with a knife. I look around for the voice again but it has disappeared, and so have the bowls when I turn back. Then, I hear a low growling and this time it comes from someone else in the room, something else in the room. An angry dog snaps its teeth at me, saliva dripping from its open mouth. My heart beat picks up and all I can think about is running, but my feet don’t cooperate and stay planted to the ground as it approaches me. I need to think of something fast. I vaguely recall something I had heard in Biology this morning, about dogs smelling fear, that it leads them to attack. But how do I show that I’m not afraid when I’m so terrified?

The dog is just inches away from me now and I try to stay calm, steadying my breathing by concentrating on my inhales and exhales. I don’t flinch when its fur brushes against my leg. I don’t flinch when it licks my shoe. I don’t flinch when it raises its leg and pees on mine. But when I hear the little girl’s voice and see the anger behind the dog’s eyes, I am running after the dog before I know it. I can’t let it hurt her. The dog is much faster than me but I don’t slow down. When I close the gap between us, I jump and sink into the ground, bringing the dog down with me.

And then, I’m in the testing room again and Amar is there hovering over me, his eyes trained upon the screen before him. “What did you choose?” He asks.

“Hmm?” I don’t understand the question. I raise my eyebrows at him quizzically.

“The cheese or the knife, which did you choose?”

The word slips out before I can stop it, “The knife,” I say, without hesitation.

He stares at me then and I wonder if it’s the wrong answer. I wonder if I’ve failed the test somehow. But then, he walks up to me and his eyes slice into mine as he yells, “Liar!”

My eyes flutter open, and the light in the room is blinding. But when my eyes adjust, I can trace the outline of Amar beside me, his eyes focused on the monitor. I wonder if he knows I’m awake because he doesn’t seem to acknowledge me. But when I open my mouth to warn him of my presence, he beats me to it.

“Welcome back,” he says.

“Thanks,” I respond, though I have no idea what I’m thanking him for. I wait for him to say something, to tell me my test result, but he just stares blankly at the screen so I get up to leave.

“Don’t you want to know your test result?” He asks.

No, would be my honest answer. I’m still afraid of what it will tell me. “What was my test result?”

“Abnegation,” he says. My heart sinks. Even though I was prepared to hear it, there was still a part of me that hoped I was something else. I turn towards the door. “And Erudite,” he adds, just as I’m about to open it.

“Two factions?” I turn back towards him, intrigued by this revelation. “Is that possible?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says. “But extremely rare.” I stare at him with a dumbfounded expression, unable to form words. He nears me now and speaks in a barely audible voice, “They call it Divergent.”

“What does that mean?” I question.

“It doesn’t matter what it means,” He shakes his head, “Listen to me carefully. You can’t tell anyone about this because it may get you killed. As far as everyone else is concerned, your test result was Abnegation because that’s what I put into the system.”

I have so many questions that I want to ask but I can tell from the expression on his face that he doesn’t want to answer any of them. So, I try something else, “What am I supposed to choose tomorrow at the Choosing Ceremony?”

He considers it for a second but answers my question without actually answering my question, “The test isn’t designed to tell you what to choose.”

I don’t say anything else. I take one last look at my reflection in the mirror before I step out of the room.

“And Tobias?” Amar’s voice calls out after me when I’m already halfway down the hallway. I turn back around, hoping that he addressed me because he’s ready to answer my questions now. But all he says is, “Good luck.”

When I get home, my father is anxiously waiting at the door. I have never witnessed this side of my father before, so eager to see me. His eyes light up when I walk down the path that leads up to our house. He places a hand on my shoulder and guides me in. The smell of dinner wafts through the air, making my stomach turn. My father has already set the table, for two. I sit down opposite him and we eat dinner in silence, the way normal Abnegation fathers and their sons do. But something puts me at unease. It’s hard to tell whether it’s guilt for thinking about leaving my father, or fear of him knowing what I’m going to do.

When we finish eating, he asks the one question I know he’s been itching to ask me, “What were your test results son?”

“We’re not supposed to talk about them,” I respond, hesitantly, afraid that it’ll tick him off. But his belt stays put, between the loops of his pants.

He leans closer and in a soft reassuring voice, he says, “You can tell me.”

I waver at first, but I don’t see the point in keeping it from him. “Abnegation,” I say. And Erudite. I’m Divergent.

“Well done son,” He pats me on the back, in the same place his belt has whipped me many times before. But, not today. “I’m proud of you,” he adds.

As I lay on my bed that evening, excused from doing the dishes because I need to think about tomorrow, I get that feeling again. That unexplainable sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

My mind wanders off in all directions. Why is my father being so kind to me? What if he knows what I’m going to do? And if he does, why hasn’t he punished me yet?

But how can my father know what I am going to do, when I don’t know myself? Am I going to choose the faction I have an aptitude for? But then I remember Amar’s words. Abnegation, he had said, and Erudite. Abnegation or Erudite? Or something else entirely? And what did it mean to be Divergent? What did Amar mean when he said it may get me killed?

Despite all this, there is only one thing my mind keeps wandering back to; there is only one person who occupies my thoughts. I realise that I have memorised every inch of her by now, from her insistent blue eyes to the way her blond hair frames her round face, and all the places where her body dips and curves around her petite frame. I wonder if she knows these things about her. I would ask, but I already know the answer. If I could, I would ask her about her test results too and what she’s going to choose tomorrow, because I don’t know what her answer will be. But I know that I can’t ask her, and I will probably never be able to after I choose tomorrow because I will never see her again. And I don’t know if it’s worth it anymore. I don’t know if I can leave Abnegation, not because I’m afraid of leaving my father, but because I’m afraid of never seeing her again. But if I stay, I’m afraid of falling in love with her and I’ve always been terrified of falling.

Before taking the test, I had feared it would tell me that I’m Abnegation. And it did. And I had also wished that it would tell me I’m something else. And it did; Erudite. But the truth is, I am neither Abnegation nor Erudite.

I’m Divergent.

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