If I do not pass initiation I will be sent to live with people called the factionless, making failure not an option.
We finally arrive at the first floor. There are metal poles that people are beginning to climb up, and I see above a tiny platform where we stand. I begin climbing the poles, shaking away the memory of climbing trees with Rue. I finally get to the top and balance on the beam.
All I can see are a set of train tracks, and off to the right I spot a train heading for us at top speed. The doors of each car are open, and it only takes me a few seconds to realize their intention. We have to jump onto the train.
A few other initiates and I approach the tracks cautiously. The train grows steadily bigger until it begins to pass us.
My heart is beating a mile a minute and there's no way I can calm down. I take a deep breath and move closer to the edge, focusing on my breathing. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
A few brave people are already leaping into the train. I take one more shaky breath. I'm brave too.
I start jogging alongside the train. Without thinking about it too much, I pushed myself off the platform, reaching for the rail on the side of the car. I stumble into the car, losing my balance because of the sudden loss of wind. I land on the floor, leaning against the wall and struggling to catch my breath. We are now past the platform, and I catch a glimpse of two or three people watching, helpless, as the train moves on. These people are now factionless. They lost.
I glance up to see a man around my age holding his hand out to help me up. "Thank you," I pant, grabbing his large hand in my sweaty one.
"No problem." He turns to help the girl, Beatrice, who had jumped right after me, and introduces himself. "I'm Four. It's nice to meet you."
"Four is a number, not a name," I blurt out, and he rolls his eyes.
By the look on his face, I can tell that he's probably had to tell this story a hundred times over. "Well, it's a name now. We are allowed to make our names whatever we want, yes?"
I shrug, crossing my arms tightly over my chest.
"Well, the number four is important to me. When I was evaluated, I only had four fears. This is pretty much unheard of, and it makes me stand out. I'm also originally from District 4. This number is very important to me, so I made my name Four," he explained.
"Ah," I say, nodding in understanding. There's no question about me changing my name. I could never lose it. My father picked it out. It seems to be the only part of me that hasn't changed.
Four sighs and sits down, and we do the same. I'm not good with words, so I wait for one of them to say something. The way Four holds himself and talks reminds me of Gale, but I try not to think about the resemblance.
"Well, I know you," Four says, pointing to me. "So who are you?" He turns and faces Beatrice.
"Beatrice," she replies, turning a bit red. "I'm from District 8."
Four nods. "District 4, as you already know."
"So you knew Finnick?" I ask, my voice cracking as I said his name. Finnick and I became pretty close in District 13 and all through the rebellion.
"Yep. He taught me how to fish." He looks down, and I can tell I hit a soft spot. I know too well how it feels to think about someone that's gone, so I stay silent.
I can tell we're getting close. I watch the dark buildings pass until I hear an announcement on the intercom. "Get ready."
I stand quickly, as do Four and Beatrice, and we stand at the edge of the car. We start passing a rooftop that we are obviously supposed to jump onto.
I don't hesitate this time and leap out towards the ground. I land hard on my feet, feeling the pain through my entire legs.
Four and Tris are right after me, landing a few feet away. I stand up straight, brushing my pants off.
The initiates that aren't still recovering from the jump are gathering at the edge of the rooftop looking expectantly at a man standing on the ledge. I begin to jog over, ignoring my legs, which are still screaming in protest. As I approach, the man begins to speak.
"My name is Eric. I'm one of the leaders here. This is the way into Dauntless. The only way. If you don't go this way, you aren't Dauntless."
A boy in the crowd speaks up. "Is there water at the bottom or something?"
"I guess you'll find out. Or not." He smiles wickedly at the crowd, and I roll my eyes. This is ridiculous. Is it really necessary to try to intimidate us like this?
"Well, we need a first volunteer. Anyone?" Silence. Nobody dares to speak, and we all stand stock still. I definitely am not volunteering to be first. I did last time I was asked, and look where that got me.
Beatrice looks deep in thought, suddenly blurting out, "I'll do it."
Everyone turns their attention to her as she walks to the front. She probably feels as if she has a lot to prove. No one expects a lot from District 8, who's main purpose was making uniforms for Peacekeepers.
She climbs onto the ledge, her long skirt blowing against her legs. Gazing down, she removes her jacket and takes a deep breath before stepping off. I can hear her gasp in shock as she falls, and then it's silent again.
I rush forward and look over, peering down into the hole. It's pitch black and completely silent. To my surprise I hear a voice call out, "First jumper, Tris!"
I sigh in relief and watch another person step out onto the ledge. She jumps, screaming the whole way down, and we all cheer when the same voice yells, "Second jumper, Christina!"
I quickly climb up next, not wanting to put it off any longer. I glance down, immediately wishing I hadn't. It seems never ending, pitch black and filled with the great possibility of death. I no longer fear death, but it'll always be something that I try to avoid.
I will not back down. I have to do this eventually anyway. No way out. I take a deep breath and jump, shutting my eyes tight. Holding my breath, I feel the wind rushing past me for what seems like minutes. Now thinking about it, it's a good thing I wasn't breathing, because I'd probably get the air rushed out of me anyway.
I suddenly feel myself landing on something soft and I open my eyes, realizing that it's a net. It springs back upward and I roll toward the edge, feeling someone pull me off. My eyes are wide with excitement; I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins. It's absolutely incredible.
A few more people jump, but I don't take any notice to them. I'm still trying to get my heart back to a normal pace.
"So. The girl on fire hasn't lost her spark."
My breath hitches in my throat as I turn towards the voice. It is so familiar, yet so distant that I can barely believe that it's him. But... it can't be. He's dead. My arrow killed him two years ago.
I turn on my heal and stare into the eyes of a stranger. I begin to breath easier, thankful that I am not going insane. But that voice.
"Ironic, really, that you chose to be Dauntless. It's meant for the brave, and all you are is a fucking coward!" He shouts the last bit, causing me to step backwards. "Not so tough now that you don't have Lover Boy, eh?" He starts laughing, a cold laugh that is not meant to be humorous.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I say coolly. A crowd has now gathered around us.
"You still don't know who I am?"
I do not reply, crossing my arms over my chest.
"I'm Peter Hadley. Two years ago you murdered my cousin. Does the name Cato ring a bell?"
I see it now. Not so much in the face, but in the eyes. His eye color matches the ones that I saw in the pile of muttations, the same ones that looked pleadingly up at me, begging to be put out of his misery.
"And who's this?" He gestures to Tris standing a few feet behind me apart from the circle of onlookers.
He inspects her clothing and smirks. "District 8? Ha! Is she your new little follower? Your new number one fan? Well, Cato had fans, too! And a family! And you took him away!"
"The Capitol took him away. And if he hadn't volunteered, I would never have had to kill him."
He glares at me, unable to contradict, instead turning to Tris. "You're trusting her? She's a cold-hearted killer!"
"So was your precious cousin!" Tris shouts back, and Peter lunges at her.
"Oh, no, you don't," Four intervenes, pulling Tris back and grabbing Peter by the shoulders. He pushes him backwards and he falls.
Peter scrambles to regain his footing, obviously irritated that he got stopped. "You watch your back," he shouts, pointing a finger at me, reminding me of his cousin doing the exact same thing to the boy from District 6. Turns out, Cato wasn't lying. He ended up killing the boy five minutes into the Games. "And you," he turns on Tris. "I'd watch my mouth if I were you. I will avenge him! If that means getting rid of you, I'll do it. Oh, I will do it." The crazy look in his eye makes it hard to doubt him.
Tris stands her ground, her hands clenched into fists at her sides.
"That's enough, let's go," Eric interrupts, an amused smile on his lips. He's enjoying this.
Eric begins walking down the dimly lit hallway to our right, and we follow. I try not to run, but Eric's brisk pace is difficult to keep up with.
We stop suddenly and I can see Eric facing us, his arms folded. "This is where we split up. Twenty five and under, follow me. Everyone else, head down this hall with Lauren." He gestures to a hallway, then to a woman who is obviously Lauren.
After a quick tour of a room called the Pit, we are brought into the dining hall to eat supper.
I sit between Johanna and Tris, and Four sits across from us. As I eat my hamburger I try not to think of my last meal, which included not only Peeta, but my mother and Gale, too.
After eating we are lead to our sleeping quarters, but I can't sleep. I instead lay awake, not used to the coldness of sleeping alone.
I finally drop off to sleep at around two thirty but am met with the same nightmares that always accompany my dreams. Marvel and I, facing off in the woods, resulting in him lying dead on his back with my arrow sticking out of his chest. This time is different, though. This time, when I wake up screaming, Peeta isn't there to hold me.