Four: A Divergent Collection (Divergent 4) - Page 11


I close my eyes, and the world falls away again.

+++

When I open my eyes, I am standing on the roof of an impossibly high building, right near the ledge. Beneath me is the hard pavement, the streets all empty, no one around to help me down. Wind buffets me from all angles, and I tilt back, falling on my back on the gravel roof.

I don’t even like being up here, seeing the wide, empty sky around me, reminding me that I am at the tallest point in the city. I remember that Jeanine Matthews is watching; I throw myself against the door to the roof, trying to pull it open as I form a strategy. My usual way to face this fear would be to leap off the ledge of the building, knowing that it’s just a simulation and I won’t actually die. But someone else in this simulation would never do that; they would find a safe way to get down.

I evaluate my options. I can try to get this door open, but there are no tools that will help me do that around here, just the gravel roof and the door and the sky. I can’t create a tool to get through the door, because that’s exactly the kind of simulation manipulation that Jeanine is probably looking for. I back up, kicking the door hard with my heel, and it doesn’t budge.

My heart pounding in my throat, I walk to the ledge again. Instead of looking all the way down at the minuscule sidewalks beneath me, I look at the building itself. There are windows with ledges beneath me, hundreds of them. The fastest way down, the most Dauntless way, is to scale the side of the building.

I put my face in my hands. I know this isn’t real, but it feels real, the wind whistling in my ears, crisp and cool, the concrete rough beneath my hands, the sound of the gravel scattered by my shoes. I put one leg over the ledge, shuddering, and turn to face the building as I lower myself down, one leg at a time, until I’m hanging by my fingertips from the ledge.

Panic bubbles up inside me, and I scream into my teeth. Oh God. I hate heights—I hate them. I blink tears from my eyes, internally blaming them on the wind, and feel with my toes for the window ledge beneath me. Finding it, I feel for the top of the window with one hand, and press up to keep my balance as I lower myself onto the balls of my feet on the windowsill below me.

My body tilts back, over the empty space, and I scream again, clenching my teeth so hard they squeak.

I have to do that again. And again. And again.

I bend, holding the top of the window with one hand and the bottom with the other. When I have a good grip, I slide my toes down the side of the building, listening to them scrape on the stone, and let myself dangle again.

This time, when I let myself drop onto the other ledge, I don’t hold on hard enough with my hands. I lose my footing on the windowsill and tip back. I scramble, scratching at the concrete building with my fingertips, but it’s too late; I plummet, and another scream rises up inside me, tearing from my throat. I could create a net beneath me; I could create a rope in the air to save me—no, I shouldn’t create anything or they will know what I can do.

I let myself fall. I let myself die.

I wake with pain—created by my mind—singing in every part of my body, screaming, my eyes blurry with tears and terror. I jerk forward, gasping. My body is shaking; I’m ashamed to be acting this way with this audience, but I know that it’s a good thing. It will show them that I’m not special—I’m just another reckless Dauntless who thought he could scale a building and failed.

“Interesting,” Jeanine says, and I can barely hear her over my own breathing. “I never tire of seeing inside a person’s mind—every detail suggests so much.”

I put my legs—still shaking—over the edge of the chair and plant my feet on the ground.

“You did well,” Amar says. “Your climbing skills are maybe a little wanting, but you still got out of the simulation quickly, like last time.”

He smiles at me. I must have succeeded at pretending to be normal, because he doesn’t look worried anymore.

I nod.

“Well, it appears that your abnormal test result was a program error. We will have to investigate the simulation program to find the flaw,” Jeanine says. “Now, Amar. I’d like to see one of your fear simulations, if you wouldn’t mind obliging.”

“Mine? Why mine?”

Jeanine’s mild smile doesn’t change. “Our information suggests that you were not alarmed by Tobias’s abnormal result—that you were quite familiar with it, in fact. So I would like to see if that familiarity comes from experience.”

“Your information,” Amar says. “Information from where?”

“An initiate came forward to express his concerns for your and Tobias’s well-being,” Jeanine says. “I would like to respect his privacy. Tobias, you may leave now. Thank you for your assistance.”

I look at Amar. He nods a little. I push myself to my feet, still a little unsteady, and walk out, leaving the door cracked open so I can stay and eavesdrop. But as soon as I’m in the hallway, Jeanine’s assistant pushes the door shut, and I can’t hear anything behind it, even when I press my ear to it.

An initiate came forward to express his concerns—and I’m sure I know who that initiate is. Our only former Erudite: Eric.

+++

For a week, it seems that nothing will come of Jeanine Matthews’s visit. All the initiates, Dauntless-born and transfer alike, go through fear simulations every day, and every day, I allow myself to be consumed by my own fears: heights, confinement, violence, Marcus. Sometimes they blur together, Marcus at the top of tall buildings, violence in confined spaces. I always wake half-delirious, shaking, embarrassed that even though I am the initiate with only four fears, I am also the one who can’t dispel them when the simulations are done.

They creep up on me when I least expect them, filling my sleep with nightmares and my waking with shudders and paranoia. I grind my teeth, I jump at small noises, my hands go numb without warning. I worry that I will go insane before initiation is done.

“You okay?” Zeke asks me at breakfast one morning. “You look … exhausted.”

“I’m fine,” I say, harsher than I mean to be.

“Oh, clearly,” Zeke says, grinning. “It’s okay to not be okay, you know.”

“Yeah, right,” I say, and I force myself to finish my food, even though it all tastes like dust to me, these days. If I have to feel like I’m losing my mind, I’m at least putting on weight—muscle, mostly. It’s strange to take up so much space just by existing when I used to disappear so easily. It makes me feel just a little stronger, a little more stable.

Zeke and I put our trays away. When we’re on our way out to the Pit, Zeke’s little brother—Uriah is his name, I remember—runs up to us. He’s taller than Zeke already, with a bandage behind his ear that covers up a fresh tattoo. Usually he looks like he’s constantly on the verge of making a joke, but not right now. Right now he just looks stunned.

“Amar,” he says, a little breathless. “Amar is …” He shakes his head. “Amar is dead.”

I laugh a little. Distantly I’m aware that that’s not an appropriate reaction, but I can’t help it. “What? What do you mean, he’s dead?”

“A Dauntless woman found a body on the ground near the Pire early this morning,” Uriah says. “They just identified it. It was Amar. He … he must have …”

“Jumped?” Zeke says.

“Or fell, no one knows,” Uriah says.

I move toward the paths climbing the walls of the Pit. Usually I almost press my body to the wall when I do this, afraid of the height, but this time I don’t even think about what’s below me. I brush past running, shrieking children and the people going into shops, coming out of them. I climb the staircase that dangles from the glass ceiling.

A crowd is gathered in the lobby of the Pire. I elbow my way through it. Some people curse at me, or elbow me back, but I don’t really notice. I make my way to the edge of the room, to the glass walls above the streets that surround the Dauntless compound. Out there, there’s an area sectioned off with tape, and a streak of dark red on the pavement.

I stare at the streak for a long time, until I feel myself comprehending that that streak comes from Amar’s blood, from his body colliding with the ground.

Then I walk away.

+++

I didn’t know Amar well enough to feel grief, in the way I’ve taught myself to think of it. Grief was what I felt after my mother’s death, a weight that made it impossible to move through each day. I remember stopping in the middle of simple tasks to rest, and forgetting to start them again, or waking up in the middle of the night with tears on my face.

I don’t carry Amar’s loss like that. I find myself feeling it every now and then, when I remember how he gave me my name, how he protected me when he didn’t even know me. But most of the time I just feel angry. His death had something to do with Jeanine Matthews and the evaluation of his fear simulation, I know it. And that means that whatever happened is also Eric’s responsibility, because he overheard our conversation and told his former faction leader about it.

They killed Amar, the Erudite. But everyone thinks that he jumped, or fell. It’s something a Dauntless would do.

The Dauntless have a memorial service for him that evening. Everyone is drunk by late afternoon. We gather by the chasm, and Zeke passes me a cup of dark liquid, and I swallow it all without thinking. As the liquid calm moves through me, I sway a little on my feet and pass the empty cup back to him.

“Yeah, that seems about right,” Zeke says, staring into the empty cup. “I’m going to get some more.”

I nod and listen to the roar of the chasm. Jeanine Matthews seemed to accept that my own abnormal results were just a problem with the program, but what if that was just an act? What if she comes after me the way she came after Amar? I try to push the thought down where I won’t find it again.

A dark, scarred hand falls on my shoulder, and Max stands beside me.

“You all right, Four?” he says.

“Yeah,” I say, and it’s true, I am all right. I am all right because I’m still on my feet and I’m not yet slurring my words.

“I know Amar took a particular interest in you. I think he saw strong potential.” Max smiles a little.

“I didn’t really know him,” I say.

“He was always a little troubled, a little unbalanced. Not like the rest of the initiates in his class,” Max says. “I think losing his grandparents really took a toll on him. Or maybe the problem was deeper … I don’t know. It could be that he’s better off this way.”

“Better off dead?” I say, scowling at him.

“That’s not exactly what I meant,” Max says. “But here in Dauntless, we encourage our members to choose their own paths through life. If this is what he chose … so much the better.” He puts his hand on my shoulder again. “Depending on how you do in your final examination tomorrow, you and I should talk about the future you’d like to have here in Dauntless. You’re by far our most promising initiate, despite your background.”

I just keep staring at him. I don’t even understand what he’s saying, or why he’s saying it here, at Amar’s memorial service. Is he trying to recruit me? For what?

Zeke returns with two cups, and Max melts into the crowd like nothing ever happened. One of Amar’s friends stands on a chair and shouts something meaningless about Amar being brave enough to explore the unknown.

Everyone lifts their glasses and chants his name. Amar, Amar, Amar. They say


Tags: Veronica Roth Divergent Science Fiction
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