Fin alternative à Divergente Tome 3 (Allegiant)
Je suis un grand cinéphile. Et pour assouvir cette passion là, j'ai conçu et construit ma propre salle de home cinéma privée de luxe: j'aime en effet particulièrement pouvoir regarder mes films de Fantasy, Aventure, Science-Fiction surtout, ... dans les mêmes conditions que les meilleures grandes salles de cinéma. Tout ça pour en venir où? Si vous aussi vous avez déjà vu les deux premiers films de "Divergente", et si vous avez lu le troisième tome comme moi (intitulé "Allegiant" en anglais) car vous ne pouviez pas attendre la production du dernier film, ou pour être précis des deux derniers films pour le tome 3 (oui, ils ont décidé de couper le tome 3 en deux films), vous aurez peut-être détesté la fin, comme beaucoup de lecteurs. Avertissement: ne lisez pas la suite de mon article si vous souhaitez ne rien savoir et attendre patiemment de pouvoir voir les deux derniers films de cette trilogie (qui sera donc composée de 4 films).
Cette fin, où l'héroine - Tris - meurre, a en effet beaucoup fait pleurer dans les chaumières. Elle a suscité des pétitions pour que l'auteure - Veronica Roth - produise une fin alternative. Or, le tournage du premier des deux films vient de se terminer: on devrait le voir dans les salles en mars 2016. Et LionsGate a annoncé que le deuxième film reproduira une fin qui restera fidèle au livre (à priori visible en salle en mars 2017). On a donc peu de chance de pouvoir voir une fin alternative disponible en bonus en plus de la fin originale lorsque le dernier film sortira en Blue-Ray, probablement au 3ème trimestre 2017.
Donc, fouinant sur internet, j'ai trouvé qu'une fan - Stéphanie Ziel - qui elle aussi s'essaye à l'écriture depuis son plus jeune âge, s'était attachée à l'écriture d'une fin alternative, en se basant largement sur les écrits de l'auteure originale, et donc en reprenant de larges passages de l'oeuvre originale. Cette fin alternative, qui comporte huit chapitres supplémentaires ainsi qu'un nouvel épilogue retravaillé, peut être consultée ICI. La voici en anglais ci-dessous reproduite brute de fonderie. Je reprendrai quelques éléments de formatage lorsque j'en aurai le temps, voire je tenterai une traduction en français si j'ai encore PLUS de temps et surtout si j'en ai le courage (ça risque d'être folklorique vu qu'habituellement, je ne traduis que des livres ou textes informatiques...):
The death serum smells like smoke and spice, and my lungs reject it with the first breath I take. I cough and splutter, and I am swallowed by darkness.
I crumple to my knees. My body feels like someone has replaced my blood with molasses, and my bones with lead. And invisible thread tugs me toward sleep, but I want to be awake. It is important that I want to be awake. I imagine that wanting, that desire, burning in my chest like a flame.
The thread tugs harder, and I stoke the flame with names. Tobias. Caleb. Christina. Matthew. Cara. Zeke. Uriah.
But I can’t bear up under the serum’s weight. My body falls to the side, and my wounded arm presses to the cold ground. I am drifting…
It would be nice to float away, a voice in my head says. To see where I will go…
But the fire, the fire.
The desire to live.
I am not done yet, I am not.
I feel like I am digging through my own mind. It is difficult to remember why I came here and why I care about unburdening myself from this beautiful weight. But then my scratching hands find it. The memory of my mother’s face, and the strange angles of her limbs on the pavement, and the blood seeping from my father’s body.
But they are dead, the voice says. You could join them.
They died for me, I answer. And now I have something to do, in return. I have to stop other people from losing everything, I have to save the city and the people my mother and father loved.
If I got to join my parents, I want to carry with me a good reason, not this -- this senseless collapsing at the threshold.
The fire, the fire. It rages within, a campfire and then an inferno, and my body is its fuel. I feel it racing through me, eating away at the weight. There is nothing that can kill me know; I am powerful and invincible and eternal.
I feel the serum clinging to my skin like oil, but the darkness recedes. I slap a heavy hand over the floor and push myself up.
Bent at the waist, I shove my shoulder into the double doors, and the squeak across the floor as their seal breaks. I breathe clean air and stand up straighter. I am there, I am there.
But I am not alone.
“Don’t move,” David says, raising his gun. “Hello, Tris.”
“How did you inoculate yourself against the death serum?” he asks me. He’s still sitting in his wheelchair, but you don’t need to be able to walk to fire a gun.
I blink at him, still dazed.
“I didn’t,” I say.
“Don’t be stupid,” David says. “You can’t survive the death serum without an inoculation, and I’m the only person in the compound who possesses that substance.”
I just stare at him, not sure what to say. I didn’t inoculate myself. The fact that I’m still standing upright is impossible. There’s nothing more to add.
“I suppose it no longer matters,” he says. “We’re here now.”
“What are you doing here?” I mumble. My lips feel awkwardly large, hard to talk around. I still feel that oily heaviness on my skin, like death is clinging to me even though I have defeated it.
I am dimly aware that I left my own gun in the hallway behind me, sure I wouldn’t need it if I made it this far.
“I knew something was going on,” David says. “You’ve been running around with genetically damaged people all week, Tris, did you think I wouldn’t notice?” He shakes his head. “And then your friend Cara tried to manipulate the lights, but she very wisely knocked herself out before she could tell us anything. So I came here, just in case. I’m sad to say I’m not surprised to see you.”
“You came here alone?” I say. “Not very smart are you?”
His bright eyes squint a little. “Well, you see, I have death serum resistance and a weapon, and you have no way to fight me. There’s no way you can steal four virus devices while I have you at gunpoint. I’m afraid you’ve come all this way for no reason, and it will be at the expense of your life. The death serum may not have killed you, but I am going to. I’m sure you understand -- officially we don’t allow capital punishment, but I can’t have you surviving this.”
He thinks I’m here to steal the weapons that will reset the experiments, not deploy one of them. Of course he does.
I try to guard my expression, though I’m sure it’s still slack. I sweep my eyes across the room, searching for the device that will release the memory serum virus. I was there when Matthew described it to Caleb in painstaking detail earlier: a black box with a silver keypad, marked with a strip of blue tape with a model number written on it. It is one of the only items on the counter along the left wall, just a few feet away from me. But I can’t move, or else he’ll kill me.
I’ll have to wait for the right moment, and do it fast.
“I know what you did,” I say. I start to back up, hoping that the accusation will distract him. “I know you designed the attack simulation. I know you’re responsible for my parents’ deaths -- for my mother’s death. I know.”
“I am not responsible for her death!” David says, the words bursting from him, too loud and too sudden. “I told her what was coming just before the attack began, so she had enough time to escort her loved ones to a safe house. If she had stayed put, she would have lived. But she was a foolish woman who didn’t understand making sacrifices for the greater good, and it killed her!”
I frown at him. There’s something about his reaction -- about the glassiness of his eyes -- something that he mumbled when Nita shot him with the fear serum -- something about her.
“Did you love her?” I say. “All those years she was sending you correspondence… the reason tou never wanted her to stay there… the reason you told her you couldn’t read her updates anymore, after she married my father…”
David sits still, like a statue, like a man of stone.
“I did,” he says. “But that time is past.”
That must be why he welcomed me into his circle of trust, why he gave me so many opportunities. Because I am a piece of her, wearing her hair and speaking with her voice. Because he has spent his life grasping at her and coming up with nothing.
I hear footsteps in the hallway outside. The soldiers are coming. Good -- I need them to. I need them to exposed to the airborne serum, to pass it on to the rest of the compound. I hope they wait until the air is clear of death serum.
“My mother wasn’t a fool,” I say. “She just understood something you didn’t. That it’s not sacrifice if it’s someone else’s life you’re giving away, it’s just evil.”
I back up another step and say, “She taught me all about real sacrifice. That it should be done from love, not misplaced disgust for another person’s genetics. That it should be done from necessity, not without exhausting all other options. That it should be done for people who need your strength because they don’t have enough of their own. That’s why I need to stop you from ‘sacrificing’ all those people and their memories. Why I need to rid the world of you once and for all.”
I shake my head.
“I didn’t come here to steal anything David.
I twist and lunge toward the device. The gun goes off. Then again. But this time it sounds different. Pain pulses through my body. I hear Caleb’s voice repeating the code, as if standing behind me helping me, encouraging me. My vision is starting to blacken. It will not end here. I won’t let it. I hear Caleb’s voice again as I finish typing in the code. The green button.
So much pain.
But how when my body feels so numb?
I start to fall and slam my hand onto the keypad on my way down.
A light turns on behind the green button. I hear a beep, and a churning sound.
I slide to the floor. I feel something warm dripping down my forehead onto my cheek. I raise a shaky hand and touch it.
Red. Blood is a strange color. Dark.
From the corner of my eye, I see David slumped over in his chair, a bullet in his shoulder. It doesn’t make sense. But then again, nothing does anymore.
I feel a hand interlock with mine. I must be dying. Death has come to guide me to my fate.
I am done here.
It’s when I feel a squeeze that I open my eyes to see Caleb, lying next to me, gun in hand.
He had come back for me. But not from guilt. The look in his eyes tells of a different reason.
As we both drift off into the unknown, I whisper, “I love you” just before he is gone.
Caleb is dead. He came back to help me. He couldn’t let his sister die for him, for his guilt. He may have chosen Erudite, helped Jeanine, and delivered me to my own execution, but the last little part of him that was Abnegation told him that running away wasn’t the right thing to do.
Fighting side by side with me, he died like my parents. For me. For something bigger than all of us.
Everyone in my family is dead, but they did not die for nothing.
And I won’t have either.
The threads of the serum that tugged me earlier tug again.
This time I do not resist. I go with them.
I am done here.
The feeling as returned to my hands. As I stare out at the world, dusted in white, I feel like everything has begun again, and it will be better this time.
“I think I can get in touch with Marcus over the radio to negotiate a peace agreement,” Evelyn says. “He’ll be listening in; he’d be stupid not to.”
“Before you do that, I made a promise I have to keep,” I say. I touch Evelyn’s shoulder. I expected to see strain at the edges of her smile, but I don’t.
I feel a twinge of guilt. I didn’t come here to ask her to lay down arms for me, to trade in everything she’s worked for just to get me back. But then again, I didn’t come here to give her any choice at all. I guess Tris was right—when you have to choose between two bad options, you pick the one that saves the people you love. I wouldn’t have been saving Evelyn by giving her that serum. I would have been destroying her.
Peter sits with his back to the wall in the hallway. He looks up at me when I lean over him, his dark hair stuck to his forehead from the melted snow.
“Did you reset her?” he says.
“No,” I say.
“Didn’t think you would have the nerve.”
“It’s not about nerve. You know what? Whatever.” I shake my head and hold up the vial of memory serum. “Are you still set on this?”
“You could just do the work, you know,” I say. “You could make better decisions, make a better life.”
“Yeah I could,” he says. “But I won’t. We both know that.”
I do know that. I know change is difficult, and comes slowly, and that it is the work of many days strung together in a long line until the origin of them is forgotten. He is afraid that he will not be able to put in that work, that he will squander those days, and that they will leave him worse off than he is now. And I understand that feeling—I understand being afraid of yourself.
So I have him sit on one of the couches, and I ask him what he wants me to tell him about himself, after his memories disappear like smoke. He just shakes his head. Nothing. He wants to retain nothing.
Peter takes the vial with a shaking hand and twists off the cap. The liquid trembles inside it, almost spilling over the lip. He holds it under his nose to smell it.
“How much should I drink?” he says, and I think I hear his teeth chattering.
“I don’t think it makes a difference,” I say.
“Okay. Well… here goes.” He lifts the vial up to the light like he is toasting me.
When he touches it to his mouth I say, “Be brave.”
Then he swallows.
And I watch Peter disappear.
The air outside tastes like ice.
“Hey! Peter!” I shout, my breaths turning to vapor.
Peter stands by the doorway to the Erudite headquarters, looking clueless. AT the sound of his name—which I have told him at least ten times since he drank the serum—he raises his eyebrows pointing to his chest. Matthew told us people would be disoriented for a while after drinking the memory serum, but I didn’t think “disoriented” meant “stupid” until now.
I sigh. “Yes, that’s you! For the eleventh time! Come on, let’s go.”
I thought that when I looked at him after he drank the serum, I would still see the initiate who shoved a butter knife into Edward’s eye, and the boy who tried to kill my girlfriend, and all the other things he has done, stretching backward for as long as I’ve known him. But it’s easier than I thought to see that he has no idea who he is anymore. His eyes still have that wide, innocent look, but this time, I believe it.
Evelyn and I walk side by side, with Peter trotting behind us. The snow has stopped falling now, but enough has collected on the ground that it squeaks under my shoes.
We walk to Millennium Park, where the mammoth bean sculpture reflects the moonlight, and then down a set of stairs. As we descend, Evelyn wraps her hand around my elbow to keep her balance, and we exchange a look. I wonder if she is as nervous as I am to see my father again. I wonder if she is nervous every time.
At the bottom of the steps is a pavilion with two glass blocks, each one at least three times as tall as I am, at either end. This is where we told Marcus and Johanna we would meet them—both parties armed, to be realistic but even.
They are already there. Johanna isn’t holding a gun, but Marcus is, and he has it trained on Evelyn. I point the gun Evelyn gave me at him just to be safe. I notice the planes of his skull, showing through his shaved hair, and the jagged path his crooked nose carves down his face.
“Tobias!” Johanna says. She wears a coat in Amity red, dusted with snowflakes. “What are you doing here?”
“Trying to keep you all from killing each other,” I say. “I’m surprised you’re carrying a gun.”
I nod to the bulge in her coat pocket, the unmistakable contours of a weapon.
“Sometimes you have to take difficult measures to ensure peace,” Johanna says. “I believe you agree with that, as a principle.”
“We’re not here to chat, Marcus says, looking at Evelyn. “You said you wanted to talk about a treaty.”
The past few weeks have taken something from him. I can see it in the turned-down corners of his mouth, in the purple skin under his eyes. I see my own eyes set into his skull, and think of my reflection in the fear landscape, how terrified I was, watching his skin spread over mine like a rash. I still am nervous that I will become him, even now. Standing at odds with him with my mother at my side, like I always dreamed I would when I was a child.
But I don’t think I’m still that afraid.
“Yes,” Evelyn says. “I have some terms for us both to agree to. I think you will find them fair. If you agree to them, I will step down and surrender whatever weapons I have that my people are not using for personal protection. I will leave the city and not return.”
Marcus laughs. I’m not sure if it’s a mocking laugh or a disbelieving one. He’s equally capable of either sentiment, an arrogant and deeply suspicious man.
“Let her finish,” Johanna says quietly, tucking her hands into her sleeves.
“In return,” Evelyn says, “you will not attack or try to seize control of the city. You will allow those people who wish to leave and seek a new life elsewhere to do so. You will allow those who choose to stay to vote on new leaders and a new social system. And most importantly, you, Marcus, will not be eligible to lead them.”
It is the only purely selfish term of the peace agreement. She told me she couldn’t stand the thought of Marcus duping more people into following him, and I didn’t argue with her.
Johanna raises her eyebrows. I notice that she has pulled her hair back on both sides, to reveal the scar in its entirety. She looks better that way—stronger, when she is not hiding behind a curtain of hair, hiding who she is.
“No deal,” Marcus says. “I am the leader of these people.”
“Marcus,” Johanna says.
He ignores her. “You don’t get to decide whether I lead them or not because you have a grudge against me Evelyn.”
“Excuse me,” Johanna says loudly. “Marcus, what she is offering is too good to be true—we get everything we want without all the violence! How can you possibly say no?”
“Because I am the rightful leader of these people!” Marcus says. “I am the leader of the Allegiant! I—“
“No you are not,” Johanna says calmly. “I am the leader of the Allegiant. And you are going to agree to this treaty, or I am going to tell them that you had a chance to end this conflict without bloodshed if you sacrificed your pride and you said no.”
Marcus’s passive mask is gone, revealing the malicious face beneath it. But even he can’t argue with Johanna, whose perfect calm and perfect threat have mastered him. He shakes his head but doesn’t argue again.
“I agree to your terms,” Johanna says, and she holds out her hand, her footsteps squeaking in the snow.
Evelyn removes her glove fingertip by fingertip, reaches across the gap, and shakes.
“In the morning we should gather everyone together and tell them the new plan,” Johanna says. “Can you guarantee a sage gathering?”
“I’ll do my best,” Evelyn says.
I check my watch. An hour has passed since Amar and Christina separated from us near the Hancock building, which means he probably knows that the serum virus didn’t work. Or maybe he doesn’t. Either way, I have to do what I came here to do—I have to find Zeke and his mother and tell them what happened to Uriah.
“I should go,” I say to Evelyn. “I have something else to take care of. But I’ll pick you up from the city limits tomorrow afternoon?”
“Sounds good,” Evelyn says, and he rubs my arm briskly with a gloved hand, like she used to when I came in from the cold as a child.
“You won’t be back, I assume?” Johanna says to me. “You’ve found a life for yourself on the outside?”
“I have,” I say. “Good luck in here. The people outside—they’re going to try to shut the city down. You should be ready for them.”
Johanna smiles. “I’m sure we can negotiate with them.”
She offers me her hand, and I shake it. I feel Marcus’s eyes on me like an oppressive weight threatening to crush me. I force myself to look at him.
“Good bye,” I say to him, and I meant it.
Hana, Zeke’s mother, has small feet that don’t touch the ground when she sits in the easy chair in their living room. She is wearing a ragged black bathrobe and slippers, but the air she has, with her hands folded in her lap and her eyebrows raised, is so dignified that I feel like I am standing in front of a world leader. I glance at Zeke, who is rubbing his fists to wake up.
Amar and Christina found them, not among the other revolutionaries near the Hancock building, but in the family apartment in the Pire, above the Dauntless headquarters. I only found them because Christina thought to leave Peter and me a note with their location on the useless truck. Peter is waiting in the new van Evelyn found for us to drive to the Bureau.
“I’m sorry, I say. “I don’t know where to start.”
“You might begin with the worst,” Hana says. “Like what exactly happened to my son.”
“He was seriously injured during an attack,” I say. “There was an explosion, and he was very close to it.”
“Oh God,” Zeke says, and he rocks back and forth like his body wants to be a child again, soothed by motion.
But Hana just bends her head, hiding her face from me.
Their living room smells like garlic and onion, maybe remnants from that night’s dinner. I lean my shoulder into the white wall by the doorway. Hanging crookedly next to me is a picture of the family—Zeke as a toddler, Uriah as a baby, balancing on his mother’s lap. Their father’s face is pierced in several places, nose, ear and lip, but his wide, bright, smile and dark complexion are more familiar to me, because he passed them both to his sons.
“He has been in a coma since then,” I say. “And…”
“And he isn’t going to wake up,” Hana says, her voice strained. “That is what you came to tell us right?”
“Yes,” I say. “I came to collect you so that you can make a decision on his behalf.”
“A decision?” Zeke says. “You mean, to unplug him or not?”
“Zeke,” Hana says, and she shakes her head. He sinks back into the couch. The cushions seem to wrap around him.
“Of course we don’t want to keep him alive that way,” Hana says. “He would want to move on. But we would like to go see him,”
I nod. “Of course. But there’s something else I should say. The attack… it was a kind of uprising that involved some of the people from the place where we were staying. And I participated in it.”
I stare at the crack in the floorboards right in front of me, at the dust that has gathered over time, and wait for a reaction, any reaction. What greets me is only silence.
“I didn’t do what you asked me,” I say to Zeke. “I didn’t watch out for him the way I should have. And I’m sorry.”
I chance a look at him, and he is just sitting still, staring at the empty vase on the coffee table. It is painted with faded pink roses.
“I think we need some time with this,” Hana says. She clears her throat, but it doesn’t help her tremulous voice.
“I wish I could give it to you,” I say. “But we’re going back to the compound very soon, and you have to come with us.”
“All right,” Hana says. “If you can wait outside, we will be there in five minutes.”
The ride back to the compound is slow and dark. I watch the moon disappear and reappear behind the clouds as we bump over the ground. When we reach the other limits of the city. It begins to snow again, large, light flakes that swirl in front of the head lights. I wonder if Tris is watching it sweep across the pavement and gather in piles by the airplanes. I wonder if she is living in a better world than the one I left, among people who no longer remember what it is to have pure genes.
Christina leans forward to whisper into my ear, “So you did it? It worked?”
I nod. In the rearview mirror I see her touch her face with both hands, grinning into her palms. I know how she feels: safe. We are all safe.
“Did you inoculate your family?” I say.
“Yep. We found them with the Allegiant, in the Hancock building,” she says. “But the time for the reset has passed -- it looks like Tris and Caleb stopped it.”
Hana and Zeke murmur to each other on the way there, marveling at the strange, dark world we move through. Amar gives the basic explanation as we go, looking back at them instead of the road far too often for my comfort. I try to ignore my surges of panic as he almost veers into streetlights or road barriers, and focus instead on the snow.
I have always hated the emptiness that winter brings, the blanket landscape and the stark difference between sky and ground, the way it transforms trees into skeletons and the city into a wasteland. Maybe this winter I can be persuaded otherwise.
We drive past the fences and stop by the front doors, which are no longer manned by guards. We get out, and Zeke seizes his mother’s hand to steady her as she shuffles through the snow. As we walk into the compound, I know for a fact that Caleb succeeded, because there is no one in sight. That can only mean that they have been reset, their memories forever altered.
“Where is everyone?” Amar says.
We walk through the abandoned security checkpoint without stopping. On the other side, I see Cara. The side of her face is badly bruised, and there’s a bandage on her head. But that’s not what concerns me. What concerns me is the troubled look on her face.
“What is it?” I say.
Cara shakes her head.
“Where’s Tris?” I say.
“I’m sorry, Tobias.”
“Sorry about what?” Christina says roughly. “Tell us what happened!”
“Tris went into the Weapons Lab instead of Caleb,” Cara says. “She survived the death serum, and set off the memory serum, but she was shot… in the head. She’s alive… but it doesn’t look good. I’m so sorry.”
Most of the time I can tell when people are lying, and this must be a lie, because Tris is fine. Her eyes bright and cheeks flushed and her small body fully of power, and strength, standing in a shaft of light in the atrium. Tris is fine, she wouldn’t leave me here alone, and she wouldn’t go into the Weapons Lab instead of Caleb.
I take off running to the hospital wing where she remains fighting.
As I’m running I realize: of course Tris would go to the Weapons Lab instead of Caleb.
Of course she would.
Christina yells after me, but to me her voice sounds muffled, like I have submerged my head underwater. The details of the halls are difficult to see, the world smearing together into dull colors.
When I reach her room, I look in. All I can do is stand still—if I stand still I can pretend everything is all right. That she isn’t dying right in front of me.
All I’m doing is standing still. Helpless.
Even I didn’t jump first.
Her eyes were so stern, so insistent.
I suppose a fire that burns that bright is not meant to last.
They don’t know what she’ll be like. No one’s ever survived the death serum. Not to mention she was shot in the head, and laid there dying while everyone was gassed. And I was nowhere near her.
I should have been there. I didn’t feel right leaving her alone with this big of a task. I’m always right, I can hear her say.
But this time she wasn’t. I’ve let her down so many times because I wouldn’t listen to her. For trusting my own instincts over my own.
I was so worried about letting her down again, that I ignored what I felt completely.
And now she’s here. And it’s my fault.
My hands shake as I stop by the control room to watch the city on the screens. Johanna is arranging transportation for those who want to leave the city. They will come here to learn the truth. I don’t know what will happen to those who remain in Chicago, and I’m not sure I care.
I shove my hands into my pockets and watch for a few minutes, then walk away again, trying to match my footsteps to my heartbeat, or to avoid the cracks between the tiles. When I walk past the entrance I see a small group of people gathered by the stone sculpture, one of them in a wheelchair—Nita.
I was there for some of Uriah’s last breaths. Christina found me to let me know that they were unplugging him.
We go to the observation window, my body aching with each step. Evelyn is there—Amar picked her up in my stead, a few days ago. She tries to touch my shoulder and I yank it away, not wanting to be comforted. I don’t deserve it.
Inside the room, Zeke and Hana stand on either side, holding his hands. I notice a doctor standing near the heart rate monitor, extending a clipboard not to Hana or Zeke but to David. Sitting in his wheelchair. Hunched and dazed, like all the others who have lost their memories.
“What is he doing here?” I feel like all my muscles and bones and nerves are on fire.
“He’s still technically the leader of the Bureau, at least until they replace him,” Cara says from behind me. “Tobias, he doesn’t remember anything. The man you knew doesn’t exist anymore; he’s as good as dead. That man doesn’t remember shooting—“
“Shut up!” I snap. David signs the clipboard and turns around, pushing himself through the door. It opens and I can’t stop myself—I lunge toward him, and only Evelyn’s wiry frame stops me from wrapping my hands around his throat. He gives me a strange look and pushes himself down the hallway as I press against my mother’s arm, which feels like a bar across my shoulders.
“Tobias,” Evelyn says. “Calm down.”
“Why didn’t someone lock him up?” I demand, my eyes to blurry to see out of.
“Because he still works for the government,” Cara says. “Just because they’ve declared it an unfortunate accident doesn’t mean they’ve fired everyone. And the government isn’t going to lock him up just because he shot a rebel under duress.”
“A rebel,” I repeat. “That’s all she is now?”
“Of course not,” Cara says softly. “She’s a hero now, but as far as everyone is concerned now, it was an accident. Confusion. It was chaos around here. No one knew who the good guys were.”
I’m about to respond, but Christina interrupts, “Guys, they’re doing it.”
In Uriah’s room, Zeke and Hana join their free hands over Uriah’s body. I see Hana’s lips moving, but I can’t tell what she’s saying—do the Dauntless have prayers for the dying? The Abnegation react to death with silence and service, not words. I find my anger ebbing away, and I’m lost in muffled grief again, this time not just for Tris, but for Uriah, whose smile is burned into my memory. My friend’s brother, and then my friends too, though not for long enough to let his humor work its way into me, not for long enough.
The doctor flips some switches, his clipboard clutched to his stomach, and the machines stop breathing for Uriah. Zeke’s shoulders shake, and Hana squeezes his hand tightly, until her knuckles go white.
Then she says something, and her hands spring open, and she steps back from Uriah’s body. Letting him go.
I move away from the window, walking at first, and then running, pushing my way through the hallways, careless, blind, empty.
Am I alive?
My name is Beatrice Prior…
I know nothing else.
I wake up to Christina standing over me, eyes wild with excitement.
“Tris!” She’s pants. “She’s awake!”
Before I even realize it, I’m jumping out of my bed and take off running. When I reach the hospital, I shove doctors out of my way and practically kick her door open. She stares at me. She’s there. Awake.
I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.
She looks the same, yet different. She’s quiet and still.
And she’s scared. She’s looking at me like a stranger…
She doesn’t remember me.
“I tried to stop you… to tell you,” he says calmly.
“She doesn’t remember me, does she? She never will…” I say. My face is getting hot, my eyes are burning. I can feel my heart dropping.
“We’ve kept her sedated because of her wounds. We wouldn’t know anything about her memory until she woke up. When we got to her she was very weak... not only did she fight off the death serum, which is a miracle in itself, she was shot pretty severely in the head, it was all just too much. I’m so—“
“Sorry?” I say coldly. I turn and walk out.
After all we have been through, she’s alive. She’s mine to have again.
But she’s gone. She’s not Tris. She’s not the same. She never will be.
I don’t know if I can take this anymore. I’ve always been worried I’d lose her to death. This is much worse. It sounds selfish, but I’d almost rather her be dead. Just a memory for me to have forever.
Now she’ll be around, alive. I’ll know she’s here, so close to me, but I can never have her. I’ll always love her. Even the Tris who she becomes without her memories.
But will she love me?
When I reach the fields that separate the city from the outside world, I press down on the accelerator. The truck crushes dying grass and snow beneath its tired, and soon the ground turns into pavement in the Abnegation sector, and I barely feel the passage of time. The streets are all the same, but my hands and feet know where to go, even if my mind doesn’t bother to guide them. I pull up to the house near the stop sign, with the cracked front walk.
I walk through the front door and up the stairs, still with that muffled feeling in my ears, like I am drifting far away from the world. People talk about the pain of grief, but I don’t know what they mean. To me, grief is a devastating numbness, every sensation dulled. I press my palm to the panel covering the mirror upstairs, and push it aside. Though the light of sunset is orange, creeping across the floor and illuminating my face from below, I have never looked paler; the circles under my eyes have never been more pronounced. I have spent the past few days somewhere between sleeping and waking, not quite able to manage either extreme.
I plug the hair clippers into the outlet near the mirror. The right guard is already in place, so all I have to do is run it though my hair, bending my ears down to protect them from the blade, turning my head to check the back of my neck for places I might have missed. The shorn hair falls on my feet and shoulders, itching whatever bare skin it finds. I run my hand over my head to make sure it’s even, but I don’t need to check, not really. I learned to do this myself when I was young.
I spend a lot of time brushing it from my shoulders and feet, then sweeping it into a dustpan. When I finish, I stand in front of the mirror again, and I can see the edges of my tattoo, the Dauntless flame.
I take a vial of memory serum from my pocket. I know that one vial will erase most of my life, but not all of it. I will still know how to write, how to speak, how to put together a computer, but I won’t remember her. Our memories.
The experiment is over. Johanna successfully negotiated with the government—David’s superiors—to allow the former faction members to stay in the city, provided they are self-sufficient, submit to the government’s authority, and allow outsiders to come in and join them, making Chicago just another metropolitan area, like Milwaukee. The Bureau, once in charge of the experiment, will now keep order in Chicago’s city limits.
It will be the only metropolitan area in the country governed by people who don’t believe in genetic damage. A kind of paradise. Matthew told me he hopes people from the fringe will trickle in to fill all the empty spaces, and find there a life more prosperous than the one they left.
All I want is to become someone new. In this case, Tobias Johnson, son of Evelyn Johnson. Tobias Johnson may have lived a dully and empty life, but he is at least a whole person, not this fragment of a person that I am, too damaged by pain to become anything useful.
“Matthew told me you stole some of the memory serum and a truck,” Says a voice at the end of the hallway. Christina’s. “I have to say, I didn’t really believe him.”
I must not have heard her enter the house through the muffle. Even her voice sounds like it is traveling through water to reach my ears, and it takes me a few seconds to make sense of what she says. When I do, I look at her and say, “Then why did you come, if you didn’t believe him?”
“Just in case,” she says, starting towards me. “Plus I wanted to see the city one more time before it all changes. Give me the vial Tobias.”
“No.” I fold my fingers over it to protect it from her. “This is my decision. Not yours.”
Her dark eyes widen, and her face is radiant with sunlight. It makes every strand of her thick, dark hair gleam orange like it’s on fire.
“This is not your decision,” she says. “This is the decision of a coward, and you’re a lot of things, Four, but not a coward. Never.”
“Maybe I am now,” I answer passively. “Things have changed. I’m all right with it.”
“No you’re not.”
I feel so exhausted all I can do is roll my eyes.
“You can’t become a person she would hate,” Christina says, quietly this time. “And she would’ve hated this.”
Anger stampedes through me, hot and lively, and the muffled feeling around my ears falls away, making even this quiet Abnegation street sounds loud. I shudder with the force of it.
“Shut up!” I yell. “Shut up! You don’t know what she would hate—no one does! Not even me! She’s not Tris anymore! She’s just—“
“I know she wouldn’t want you to just erase her from your memory like she didn’t even matter to you! No one would!”
I lunge toward her, pinning her shoulder to the wall, and lean closer to her face.
“If you dare suggest that again,” I say, “I’ll—“
“You’ll what?” Christina shoves me back, hard. “Hurt me? You know, there’s a word for big, strong men who attack women, and it’s coward.”
I remember my father’s screams filling the house, and his hand around my mother’s throat, slamming her into walls and doors. I remember watching from my doorway, my hand wrapped around the door frame. And I remember hearing quiet sobs through her bedroom door, how she locked it so I couldn’t get in.
I step back and slump against the wall, letting my body collapse into it.
“I’m sorry.” I say.
“I know,” she answers.
We stand still for a few seconds, just looking at each other. I remember hating her the first time I met her, because she was a Candor, because words just dribbled out of her mouth unchecked, careless. But over time she showed me who she really was, a forgiving friend, faithful to the truth, brave enough to take action. I can’t help but like her now, can’t help but see what Tris saw in her.
“I know how it feels to want to forget everything,” she says. “I also know how it feels to lose someone you love for no reason, and want to trade all your memories of them for just a moment’s peace.”
She wraps her hand around mine, which is wrapped around the vial.
“I didn’t know Will long,” she says, “but he changed my life. He changed me. And I know Tris changed you even more.”
The hard expression she wore a moment ago melts away, and she touches my shoulders lightly.
“The person you became with her is worth being,” she says. “If you swallow that serum, you’ll never be able to find your way back to him.”
The tears come again, like when I first learned how serious Tris’ condition was. This time, pain comes with them, hot and sharp in my chest. I clutch the vial in my first, desperate for the relief it offers, the protection from the pain of every memory clawing inside me like an animal.
Christina puts her arms around my shoulders, and her embrace only makes the pain worse, because it reminds me of every time Tris’s thin arms slipped around me, uncertain at first but then stronger, more confident, more sure of herself and of me. It reminds me that no embrace will ever feel the same again, because no one will ever be like her again, not even her. The Tris I know and love is gone.
Crying feels so useless, so stupid, but it’s all I can do. Christina holds me upright and doesn’t say a word for a long time.
Eventually I pull away, but her hands stay on my shoulders, warm and rough with calluses. Maybe just as skin on a hand grows tougher after pain in repetition, a person does too. But I don’t want to become a calloused man.
There are other kinds of people in this world. There is the kind like Tris, who after suffering and betrayal, could still find enough love to sacrifice her life instead of her brothers. The kind like Caleb, confused and cowardly, but will come through in the end to help someone he loves. The kind like Peter, evil and unable to change. Or the kind like Cara, who could still forgive the person who shot her brother in the head. Or Christina, who lost friend after friend but still decided to stay open, to make new ones. Appearing in front of me is another choice, brighter and stronger than the ones I gave myself.
My eyes opening, I offer the vial to her. She takes it and pockets it.
“I know Zeke’s still weird around you,” she says slinging an arm across my shoulders. “But I can be your friend in the meantime. We can even exchange bracelets if you want, like the Amity girls used to.”
“I don’t think that will be necessary.”
We walk down the stairs and out to the street together. The sun has slipped behind the buildings of Chicago, and in the distance I hear a train rushing over the rails, but we are moving away from this place and all that it has meant to us, and that is all right.
There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.
But sometimes it doesn’t.
Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.
That is the sort of bravery I must have now.
I would say it was some sick joke they were playing on me, but the way he looked at me, the hurt in his eyes, told me they weren’t lying. I guess I was a very brave and selfless person. Everyone, strangers, keeps praising me as some sort of hero, but I don’t know why. I was a hero. But I that’s not who I am anymore.
I don’t know who I am.
Wanting. Anger. Sadness. Joy.
I have no doubt he loves me. And I know I loved him too, I can feel it. But could I love him again? He’s a stranger. Though sometimes the way he looks at me, I know he’s seen more of me than anyone.
I want to love him.
I want him to be happy.
I ask for him.
But I do.
She’s waiting for me when I get there. “I didn’t think you’d come.” She says.
“I wasn’t going to. But it didn’t feel right, just leaving you.”
“I want to tell you something…” She stares at her hands. It’s funny. She may be a totally different person, but I can still read her emotions. She doesn’t look confused or sad. She looks, embarrassed and uncomfortable.
“Sometimes when you look at me… I can tell that we’ve… been intimate. You’ve seen more of me than anyone. I can feel that,” her cheeks flush red with embarrassment, “I don’t remember you.” Her words cut through me. It stings. Bad. “But when I see you, I get… emotional. All of these feelings flood my thoughts. The strongest of them being love. I’m telling you this because I want you to be happy. I loved you once, I’m sure of it,” she continues.
Is she going to try and love me again? Do I want her to?
“But I don’t… know you. And you don’t know me. I don’t know if I can love you like before. I don’t know if I can love you the way you want me to.”
I can feel my heart exploding. My eyes are watering. I’m speechless. She’s just staring at me now, as if she didn’t just rip my whole world apart. All of my memories of us come crashing back. I let her in. I took her through my fear landscape. She helped me get through all of it. How could I possibly live without her? She helped me overcome some of my greatest fears. She knows my deepest secrets. I was able to share my pain with her, and it felt amazing not having to carry that weight alone anymore. And now it’s all back, on me, alone. Crushing me. Suffocating me.
She’s still just sitting there. Waiting. Waiting for me to react. I want to leave, but I can’t. I start to get up, but there’s one more thing I need to do. I cannot just leave without it, at least, I hope I don’t have to.
“I know you don’t remember anything. About before, about me. Every time I thought I had lost you, all I wanted was one more kiss. To wrap you in my arms one last time. And now that I am losing you, it’s still all I want.” I know she understands what I am asking. But she takes her time thinking about it. I can tell she doesn’t want me to. It was a selfish thing to ask. But it’s what I need.
She can tell I’m collapsing.
She raises her hand, waving me towards her.
I walk toward her, awkwardly, timidly. It’s weird knowing everything about someone, knowing them so intimately, but having them look at you like you are a stranger. This is my last moment with her, ever. I’m next to the bed and I lean toward her, looking deep into those eyes that I’ve stared into for so long. Savoring every moment. Wishing it could last forever. I slide my hand toward the side of her face, brushing a piece of her hair away as I have done so many times before, so familiar but so new. We close our eyes, and I kiss her one last time.
His lips meet mine. My head starts racing.
Trains. Net. Blue eyes. Strong hand. Pain.
Desire. Ferris Wheel. Fear. Secrets. War.
Serums. Fence. Bureau. Experiments. Intimacy.
I don’t know what is happening. I don’t know why she is doing this. But I never want it to stop. She pulls away, holding my face between her hands grinning from ear to ear.
“I’ve missed kissing you… Four.”
It took two years for me to return to normal. To the old Tris. I had to learn everything over again.
Learning how to walk took me the longest. I’m only now starting to run and jump again.
I often think back to those chaotic times. Though there are more than a few gaps in my memory. Tobias talks about things from the past, our first memories together. Sometimes I think he wishes we still lived in that time. Sometimes when he talks like that though I have no idea what he’s talking about. I know it frustrates him.
I remember enough from the past to know that we’ve changed. I guess experiencing as much death and war as we did would change anyone. I’d like to say we’re living happily, but the more time that passes I realize we’re just living. Existing.
I still blame myself. I know I shouldn’t. I know she doesn’t. But I do. Everything that happened at the bureau, almost losing her, it was all my fault. I know I should be over this, but every day I relive those memories. Those moments. Guilt consumes me. Maybe someday I can forgive myself. I’ve got a lot of things to let go. I suppose it’ll just take time.
It’s funny, I thought with all the craziness and violence gone it would be easy to live peacefully with Tris. Like I had always dreamed. But it’s exactly the opposite. Before, with all the fighting, I had chances to redeem myself, to make up for my mistakes. It’s hard to make yourself feel better about something when you have no opportunities to show yourself that you can be good. It’s not that I want the chaos back, or our lives endangered ever again but… the grass is always greener I guess.
I’ve seen my mother only a handful of times since the agreement we made with Marcus and Johanna. She had to leave the city. As much as I wanted her around, after so many years apart, I knew it was best for her to not be there while Tris and I worked through her injuries, and our problems.
I meet Evelyn, alone, at the place where the two worlds meet. Tire tracks are worn into the ground now, from the frequent coming and going of people from the fringe moving in and out, or people from the former Bureau compound commuting back and forth. Her bag rests against her leg, in one of the wells in the earth. She lifts a hand to greet me when I’m close.
When she gets into the truck, she kisses my cheek, and I let her. I feel a smile creep across my face, and I let it stay there.
“Welcome back,” I say.
The agreement, when I offered it to her more than two years ago, and when she made it again with Johanna shortly after, was that she would leave the city. Now, so much has changed in Chicago that I don’t see the harm in her coming back, and neither does she. Though two years have passed, she looks younger, her face fuller and her smile wider. The time away has done her good.
“How are you? How’s Tris?” She says.
“I’m… okay,” I say. “Tris is doing well, started walking not too long ago.”
Evelyn puts a hand on my shoulder and looks out at the fields. The crops that were once isolated to the areas around Amity headquarters have spread, and continue to spread through all the grassy spaces around the city. Sometimes I miss the desolate, empty land. But right now I don’t mind driving through the rows and rows of corn or wheat. I see people among the plants, checking the soil with handheld devices designed by former Bureau scientists.
“What’s it like, living without factions?” Evelyn asks.
“It’s very ordinary,” I say. I smile at her. “You’ll love it.”
I take Evelyn to our apartment just north of the river. It’s on one of the lower floors, though Tris tried to get me to agree to a top floor apartment. We were some of the first settlers in the new Chicago, so we got to choose where we lived. Zeke, Shauna, Christina, Amar, and George opted to live in the higher floors of the :Hancock building, Cara moved back to the apartments near Millennium Park, but we came here because it was beautiful and because it was nowhere near either of our old homes.
“Our neighbor is a history expert, he came from the fringe. He calls Chicago ‘the fourth city’ – because it was destroyed by fire, ages ago, and then again by the Purity War, and now we’re on the fourth attempt at settlement here.” I say as I push the door to the apartment open.
Tris is inside sitting on the couch. I can feel the tension in the room. I thought enough time has passed for them to be able to finally get along. I cringe as Tris pushes herself to her feet and walks over to Evelyn. She’s still a little awkward on her feet.
When Tobias told me that Evelyn was coming to stay with us for a while until she gets settled in Chicago, I was worried about how it would go. I know she means a lot to Tobias, and I know I should get over the past. But I wasn’t sure that I could.
Looking at her standing in the doorway though, she looks different. Changed. I walk over and shake her hand. Hugging is out of the question. Probably forever.
“Thank you for letting me stay with you guys for a little while. I promise I’ll find another place soon.” Evelyn says.
“No problem,” Tobias says. I can tell he’s nervous. I know he wants to patch things up with her. And I know that if I don’t try to bridge the gap between her and I, they won’t either.
I manage to get a few words out, “Stay as long as you need to, family is always welcome.”
They both look stunned. I want to move forward with Tobias. I want a future with him. I want a family with him. And that includes her. I have no family anymore. Tobias and Evelyn are all that I have.
It’s weird sitting down for a family dinner. I’ve never had much experience with small talk, but it’s strange just sitting in silence.
“George says he needs some help training a police force,” Evelyn says, finally breaking the silence, “You didn’t offer?”
“No,” I say. “I told you, I’m done with guns.”
“That’s right. You’re using your words now,” Evelyn says, wrinkling her nose. “I don’t trust politicians you know.”
“You’ll trust me, because I’m your son,” I say. “Anyways, I’m not a politician. Not yet, anyway. Just an assistant.”
I’d be a liar if I said becoming a politician didn’t worry me. One step closer to becoming him, Marcus. Something I have been fighting to avoid my whole life. But with Chicago the way it is now, starting over, I think it could use me. I have Tris. I know she’ll keep me grounded.
As if she knew what I was thinking, “Do you know where your father is?” she asks.
I shrug. “Someone told me he left. I didn’t ask where he went.”
She rests her chin on her hand. “There’s nothing you wanted to say to him? Nothing at all?”
“No,” I say, fiddling with the fork, rearranging the food on my plate. “I just wanted to leave him behind me, where he belongs.”
Two years ago, when I stood across from him in the park with the snow falling all around us, I realized that just as attacking him in front of the Dauntless in the Merciless Mart didn’t make me feel better about the pain he caused me, yelling at him or insulting him wouldn’t either. There was only one option left, and it was letting go.
Today’s the day we all let Uriah go. Hana and Zeke said goodbye when they unplugged him, but they knew that they weren’t the only ones who loved him like family. They agreed to let all of us say goodbye to him. Dauntless style. But being in the condition I was in, I obviously couldn’t join them. So they waited.
The spring air is cold but we leave the windows open in the truck as we drive through the city. I can feel the air piercing my lungs. We stop by the train platform near the Merciless Mart. We walk down the platform toward the group that has already gathered. Christina stands with Zeke and Shauna, who sits in the wheelchair with a blanket over her lap and the urn resting on top. The urn was perfect. Jet black with an orange ring around the nexk. Dauntless style. I notice Shauna has a better wheelchair now, one without handles on the back so she can maneuver it more easily.
“Hi,” I say, standing at Shauna’s shoulder. Christina smiles at me, and Zeke claps me on the shoulder, “Glad to see you walking again Tris. Ready?”
I give him a shaky smile, “Ready.”
“Wait!” Shauna yells, “Got something to show you,” and she tosses the blanket aside, revealing complicated metal braces on her legs. They go all the way up to her hips and wrap around her belly like a cage. She smiles at us, and with a gear-grinding sound, her feet shift to the ground in front of the chair, and in fits and starts, she stands. It’s a somber occasion, but we all smile and cheer her on.
“Well, look at that,” I say. “I’d forgotten how tall you are.”
“Cara and her lab buddies made them for me,” she says, “Still getting the hang of it, but they say I might be able to run someday.”
The train is coming. It charges toward us on the polished rails, then squeals as it slows to a stop in front of the platform. A head leans out the window of the first car, where the controls are – it’s Cara, her hair in a tight braid.
“Get on!” She says.
Shauna sits in the chair again and pushes herself through the doorway. Christina and Zeke follow. Tobias gets on last, helping me into the train. The train starts again, building speed with each second, and I hear it churning over the tracks and whistling over the rails, and I feel the power of it rising inside me. The air whips across my face and presses my clothes to my body, and I watch the city sprawl out in front of me, the buildings lit by the sun.
It reminds me of all the times I had ridden the train with Tobias. Holding onto the only person holding my world together. Sitting still together while the world around us speeds out of control. I shuffle over to him, and rest my head on his chest, as I had done so many times during our train rides. He’s warm. He wraps his arms around me and kisses my forehead, and for the first time in a long time, things felt like they did before this whole mess. Before we lost so many loved ones, before we almost lost each other.
I hadn’t realized how little Tris and I have touched until she scooted over to me on the train. It felt so new, like the first time we ever got close. The guilt, weighing me down all these years, has just disappeared and I realize I’ll lose her again if I can’t forgive myself. I squeeze her tight, and kiss her.
All of us have found new places. Cara works in the laboratories at the compound, which are now a small segment of the Department of Agriculture that works to make agriculture more efficient, capable of feeding more people. Matthew works in a psychiatric research somewhere in the city – the last time I asked him, he was studying something about memory. Christina works in an office that relocates people from the fringe who want to move into the city. Zeke and Amar are policemen, and George trains the police force—dauntless jobs, I call them. And I’m the assistant to one of our city’s representatives in government. Johanna Reyes. Tris is just trying to get back to who she used to be, before she moves forward any more.
I stand up and grasp the handles of the train car and lean out of it as it turns, almost dangling over the street two stories below me. I feel a thrill in my stomach, the fear-thrill the true Dauntless love.
I overhear Tris and Christina talking. “How is it having Evelyn living with you?” Christina asks. I try to make it seem that I am not listening.
“It’s fine. It’s not ideal, but she and Tobias are all that I have now. It’s time to move on.” Tris replies.
Tris can still surprise me. You think you know everything about someone, and then they do something like this. I never seem to give her enough credit for her character. It makes me hopeful for myself. Being with her will make me a better person.
“You going to zip-line? Or are you going to be a pansycake and back out?” Christina jabs at me.
“Yes. I’m going. I know Tris wants me to try it at least once, and I want to say goodbye to Uriah the right way.” I say.
Cara guides the train to a stop, and I hope onto the platform. At the top of the stairs Shauna gets out of the chair and works her way down the steps with the braces, one at a time. I carry her empty chair after her, which is heavy, but not impossible to manage.
It’s random, but Peter enters my thoughts. After he emerged from the memory serum haze, some of the sharper, harsher aspects of his personality returned, though not all of them. I don’t hate him anymore, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him. I heard he’s in Milwaukee. But that’s all we know.
There are still GD rebels in the fringe who believe another war is the only way to get the change we want. I fall more on the side that wants to work for change without violence. I’ve had enough violence to last me a lifetime, and I bear it still. Tris does also. We just want to move on.
We walk the streets to the zip line. The factions are gone, but this part of the city has more Dauntless than any other, recognizable still by their pierced faces and tattooed skin, though no longer by the colors they wear, which are sometimes garish. Some wander the sidewalks with us, but most are at work—everyone in Chicago is required to work if they are able.
Ahead of me I see the Hancock building bending into the sky, its base wider than its top. The black girders chase one another up to the roof, crossing, tightening, and expanding. I haven’t been this close in a long time.
Tris, who had been walking behind me with Christina so far, as if sensing my uneasiness, ran up and squeezed my hand.
We enter the lobby, with its gleaming, polished floors and its walls smeared with bright dauntless graffiti. A place that holds a very special memory. One that hasn’t been forgotten.
My first trip zip-lining.
Uriah was the first person to invite me here. I’ve been so busy trying to walk again I hadn’t realized the hole he left in me when he died. Uriah is gone. The thought feels like a kick in the stomach from Peter our first time fighting. He came to me when I was lost, and took me under his wing. Took me to a place that allowed me to bond with other Dauntless, and create a memory I’ll think back to forever. It’s one of my favorites. Zipping down the line, my screams getting lost in the whips of the wind. My face cold but beaming with life.
I had been so busy lost in my own memory that I didn’t even realize everyone else had stopped too. All as if doing the exact same thing I was doing. Whether they were thinking of Uriah, or their first time zip-lining, or both, they were all frozen in time. Even Tobias. Though I suspect that is out of fear and awe. He wasn’t so thrilled about this send off, but he figured he had to do it. For Uriah.
Zeke jabs the elevator button with his index finger. We pile in, and Cara presses 99.
I close my eyes as the elevator surges upward. I can almost see the space opening up beneath my feet, a shaft of darkness, and only a foot of solid ground between me and the sinking, dropping, plummeting nothingness. The elevator shudders as it stops, and I cling to the wall to steady myself. Tris wraps her frail arm around my waist. I never noticed how much muscle she lost from all this. I feel a twinge of guilt creeping in, but I brush it off. Now is not the time.
Zeke touches my shoulder. “Don’t worry, man. We did this all the time, remember?”
I nod. The air rushes through the gap in the ceiling, and above me is the sky, bright blue. I shuffle with the others toward the ladder, too numb with fear to make my feet move any faster.
I find the ladder with my fingertips and focus on one rung at a time. Above me, Tris maneuvers awkwardly up the ladder. I feel like I should offer help or something, but I’m too paralyzed to be any use to anyone.
I asked Tori once, while I was getting the symbols tattooed on my back, if she thought we were the last people left in the world. Maybe, was all she said. I don’t think she liked to think about it. But up here, on the roof, it is possible to believe that we are the last people left anywhere.
I stare at the buildings along the marsh front, and my chest tightens, squeezes, like it’s about to collapse into itself.
Zeke runs across the roof to the zip-line and attaches one of the man-sized lings to the steel cable. He locks it so it won’t slide down, and looks at the group of us expectantly.
“Christina,” he says. “It’s all you.”
Christina stands near the sling, tapping her chin with her finger.
“What do you think? Face-up or backward?”
I feel nauseous at that suggestion. I hope those aren’t my only two options.
Christina gets in the sling feet-first, belly down, so she’ll watch the building get smaller as she travels. I shudder.
I can’t watch. I grab for Tris’ hand and I close my eyes as Christina travels farther and farther away, even as Shauna and Cara do the same thing. I can hear their cries of joy, like birdcalls, on the wind.
“Your turn, Tris,” says Zeke. I absolutely cannot watch this. If I couldn’t even handle watching Christina or Shauna, there’s no way I can handle this.
As Tris is about to step forward I can’t help myself. I step forward.
“I’ll go next,” I say shakily.
“Alright, Four!” He says as he claps me on the back. I may have unintentionally impressed Tris. I did it because I’m selfish and couldn’t watch her go, and she thinks it’s because I’m brave. I don’t think she needs to know that though.
I cross my arms and inch closer to the edge of the roof. Even though I’m several feet away, I feel my body pitching over the edge, and I shake my head again and again.
“Hey.” Tris touches my shoulder. “This isn’t about you, remember? This is about him. Doing something he loved.”
She’s right. Of course. I can’t avoid this. I can’t back out now. I climb in feet first, as Tris had advised me to do on the way here.
I climb into the sling, my hands shaking so much I can barely grip the sides. Zeke tightens the straps across my back and legs. I stare down at Lake Shore Drive, swallowing bile, and start to slide.
Suddenly I want to take it back, but it’s too late, I am already diving toward the ground. I’m screaming so loud I want to cover my own ears. I feel like the scream living inside me, filling my chest, throat, and head.
The wind stings my eyes but I force them open, and in my moment of blind panic I understand why Tris went this way, face-first—it was because it made her feel like she was flying, like she was a bird.
The ground is only a few feet below me when I finally stop, close enough to jump down. The others have gathered there in a circle, their arms clasped to form a net of bone and muscle to catch me in. I press my face into the sling and laugh.
I undo the straps holding me in. I drop into my friends’ arms like a stone. They catch me, their bones pinching at my back and legs, and lower me to the ground. It’s just Tris and Zeke left.
“Ready?” Zeke says to me, even though he knows the answer is always yes.
“Absolutely.” I reply.
I climb in feet first, as I did the first time. I thought about trying something different, but not yet. Maybe next time. But this is the way I went down with Uriah, and it was amazing.
We decided to have Zeke go down last. That way he could have some time alone, on top of the Hancock, with his brother. Their final goodbye. It felt wrong to have anyone else there. He pats my head as he tightens up the straps.
“I know you cared a lot about him too.” He says to me, tears beginning to form.
It was one of those situations that I don’t think really needs a reply. I smile somberly crosses my face, and then I’m gone.
It’s just as I remember it. Flying through the air like the birds on my collarbone. This moment could last forever. I feel so light and free. It’s exactly like the first time. Which is what I hoped. I wanted to badly to relive an experience from my once forgotten past, and now I am. For once I feel like me. Like the old Tris.
I fall. And suddenly it’s like the first day I joined Dauntless. Dropping into the pit onto the hard net. Painful but exhilarating at the same time But that’s not really why. It’s the strong hands that help me to my feet, and the blue eyes that I stare into that bring me back to the very beginning.