Breathe

"I love you," I told Katrina. "Yeah. I love you. But I only love you when you're Dauntless. When you're not afraid of anything. I don't love you when you tell me you're Divergent, because that doesn't make you brave, that makes you vulnerable. That makes you weak."

This is the story of Eric as a Dauntless initiate.

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1. Chapter One

 

I laugh, the sound rising high above the roar of the wind. It’s an animalistic noise, more a shriek than anything, but I hear the other initiates echo it down the carriage. We sound mad, crazy – and that’s probably for the best because this is mad, this is crazy, and it’s the best I’ve felt in all my life. The wind is pulling my long hair back from my face, leaving me feeling bare, exposed. Back in Erudite I would hide behind it, but that isn’t possible now. I grin, my smile so wide my cheeks ache.

“I’m going to shave my head!” I yell, my voice wild and excited. “I’m going to cut all my hair off!”

The girl standing beside me nudges me with her shoulder, her eyebrows arching in amusement. She’s transferring from Erudite, same as me, and I know her by sight if not by name.

“Someone’s excited,” says the girl, smirking. She has to raise her voice to be heard over the sound of the train screeching against its rails, or the other initiates whooping throughout the carriage.

I smile at her, ruffling my hands through my hair for what I hope to be one of the last times.

This is mad. This is crazy. This is going to be the rest of my life.

I close my eyes, embracing the rampage around me like it’s a lullaby, or a victory chant. My sister, the same age as me, chose Erudite. She didn’t just choose faction, she chose blood – she chose to stay with our parents, and her friends, and the world that she knows. Hers is going to be a safe road. An easy road.  Do I envy her?

The girl beside me shrieks, grabbing hold of my arm and shaking it. My eyes snap open, my ears attuning to the words the initiates around me are screeching.

“They’re jumping off the train! They’re jumping off!”

I hold onto the side of the carriage and lean out the door, far enough to see the Dauntless in other carriages ahead of us jumping from the train onto an opposite rooftop.

“We have to jump as well!” shouts a boy sitting on the floor behind me, wearing stark Abnegation grey.

The Candor girl sitting beside him rolls her eyes, but gets to her feet anyway, brushing the dust from her jeans. “After you, then, Stiff.”

The Stiff’s jaw tightens, and he stands up robotically. Pushing past me, he walks to the door of the carriage, his shoulders hunched forwards.

“Go on then!” urges the girl who was sitting next to him, making her way to stand behind him. The boy nods, the hem of his baggy shirt wafting in the wind. He takes a deep breath, looks down at the drop below him, and jumps.

The boy launces off the train cart, his arms drawing circles in the air as he falls towards the building. He lands on the edge, on his hands and knees. Once he’s picked himself up, he doesn’t look back – just walks away, following the other Dauntless.

Our carriage is quiet now – everyone must have stopped to watch the Stiff jump. The Candor girl who had sat next to him whistles, the sound piercing.

“Who’d have thought,” she says, her tone smeared with a grudging approval. “A Stiff, making that jump before any of us.”

No one answers her, at first – and then there’s a roaring cheer from the other side of the carriage as a boy from Candor launches into the next jump. He almost misses the rooftop, his feet dangling off the side, but he uses his arms to pull the rest of himself up. The Candor boy is shaking when he stands up, safer than any of us still on the train. To be honest, I don’t blame him – the train is at least seven stories up, the building only slightly lower.

The Erudite girl standing beside me shakes her head. “I can’t do this.”

The girl from Candor pats the Erudite on the shoulder, pursing her lips together in an attempt at a smile. “You don’t know that.” She backs away from the entrance, her path clear for a run up. “Just copy me.”

She jumps, landing confidently on the rooftop opposite us and waves.

The Erudite girl laughs nervously, and I’m reminded of just how elated I felt – how we all felt – only a couple of moments ago, before anyone started jumping.

“You’ll be fine,” I tell the girl from the faction I once called home. I could never be Candor, I realise, because at the moment, the girl looks to me like she’ll be anything but fine.

She nods. “Yeah. Yeah.”

She grits her teeth, and I wait for her as she steels herself, even as other initiates hurl themselves out of the carriage all around us. I look at her, raising an eyebrow.

“Ready?”

She swallows before nodding her head; her lips are so taut it seems like they’ll stretch all the way off her face. “Uh-huh,” she says slowly, “I’m ready. Just…” She pauses, looking at me. “If, you know, I die right now – which has probably around a fifty percent chance of happening, because this is really, really impractical…” The girl fiddles with a loose lock of her hair that’s escaped her ponytail, her voice trailing off.

“What?” I ask impatiently, beginning to worry that we’ll miss the rooftop. If we miss the rooftop, it’s not hard to figure out that we’ll be instantly factionless.

“My name,” says the girl, taking a deep breath. The carriage is almost empty now – it’s just the two of us and a couple of crying Amity kids. “It’s Katrina.”

It’s a typical Erudite name – nice enough, not too outlandish. I don’t have time to reply with anything but a “Come on, we have to jump now!”  though. If we wait around much longer, there won’t be any rooftop left for us to jump onto.

I take Katrina’s hand in my own, and we make the jump together. My legs flail as I strain to touch the roof top, Katrina’s grip on my hand loosening as we fly through the air. When we land, our bodies flying into the surface of the roof like flies against a windshield, I do not waste much time over relief.

I stand up first, then Katrina, both of us flicking the dirt from our clothes with the stone-cold vanity that comes with growing up in Erudite. She might have been close to crying just seconds ago, but it is her upbringing that paints a hostile expression on her face now that she has made the jump. I admire that – how quickly the Erudite move on.

It just wasn’t enough to keep me in their faction.

"Eric," I tell Katrina, trying not to sound as out of breath as I feel. They don't do that much running in Erudite. "My name's Eric."

After that, we don’t speak as we run after the other initiates. We do not look behind us at the faces of those who aren’t going to make the jump. We are Dauntless. We are merciless.

We are no longer afraid.

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