"Five" – A Divergent Trilogy Fanfic
Rating: M/NC-17 for strong language and future lemon zest
Category: A/U that diverts from canon the day after the knife-throwing exercise
Summary: Then it dawns on me: she's not slipping. Panicking, but not slipping. Afraid of falling, but not slipping. The others aren't here. This isn't capture the flag. This is a fear sequence. I'm still in the simulation, and I can no longer be called "Four."
~ / ~ / ~/ ~ / ~
My visit to the simulation wing will be disinterestedly noted. It will not rouse suspicion, even though they are watching. They are always watching, waiting to create deviants when they detect deviation. But I am a model Erudite, for I am predictable.
That was a joke, in case you didn't catch it. Few Dauntless would. How deep Erudite's hooks are into Dauntless leadership is a well-kept secret. I only know what I know because my software development skills were deemed too valuable to waste on trivial matters. That, and I've convinced them that they can trust me. I deserve some fucked up Divergent award award for how well I play my part.
It's harder than it looks. Acting is one thing, but science is another. The Erudites' work is astounding. Simulation serum. Truth serum. There was even a mind-erasing serum I'd heard rumors of but never seen in action (at least I didn't think I had). There were other inventions—what I'd seen of the Erudite's laboratory facilities on the surveillance cameras was substantial. And the petabytes of data that had grown to exabytes, then zettabytes, in my short two years was proof of the unsettling: the Erudite were frighteningly busy.
They used to watch me a lot more closely. My four fears had caused quite a stir, eleven having been the fewest of any Dauntless initiate prior to me. More people than I cared to recall had dropped in on simulation after simulation, spying me at my most vulnerable as they tried to deconstruct why I feared only four circumstances and why I couldn't overcome a single one.
It only took until the end of the day of my aptitude test for the initial surprise to stir suspicion, months for suspicion to fade to intellectual curiosity, and nearly a year for curiosity to melt into annoyed frustration and, finally, boredom. I was one of few Dauntless with regular interaction with the Erudite, who were brought in to study my mind for a time. I worked at eluding them even as the eradication of my fears eluded me.
About my fears…did mention that I can't control them? I have some ability to manage how quickly I get through the simulations, some above-average presence of mind that lets me figure out, quickly, what I need to do. But my inability eliminate a single one of the fears isn't part of the act. These four fears are my saving grace and my greatest torment. To relive them haunts me deeply, but the fact of their inertia keeps me alive.
That I have not overcome a single one is viewed as a great vulnerability. I am seen as talented, but not extraordinary, a model Dauntless, but lacking the power to be Divergent. Some part of me is jealous of the Dauntless who were changed by initiation, who escaped who they were and became who they wanted to be. A bigger part of is grateful that I remain unchanged, even when ignorance seems like bliss.
It's almost curfew. I wait for the city lights to fade. It's my cue to let my midnight ritual begin. I missed last night—the fear landscape at least—capture the flag got in the way. But I didn't miss out on facing one of my fears. Climbing the ferris wheel at Navy Pier was hardly high on my list of preferred ways to spend a cold and windy night. I had Tris to thank for that, of course.
The lights fade and it takes effort to push thoughts of her out of my mind. She is becoming…important. It won't matter in a second. Once the serum enters my bloodstream, thoughts of her will fade away. But this knowledge doesn't stop me from trying to edge them out.
I crook my head to one side, closing my eyes as my hand blindly guides the tip of the needle to that spot. I exhale as my thumb depresses the plunger of the syringe, sending the familiar serum rushing in.
I am still exhaling when something pushes me hard from behind, knocking what little wind there is left out of my lungs.
They're closing in on me, with more vigor than usual. Instead of a slow, foreboding encroachment, these walls shift in by large, periodic degrees, encapsulating me one cubic foot at a time. They clench in a slow rhythm…convulsing…contracting. If I let things go too far, they will crush me in a single movement. Something else happens with each loud quake: the light inside the cramped space grows dimmer. The terror of my claustrophobia never wanes. I have only gotten better at mastering the fear landscapes, and I must master this sequence right now.
A well-practiced breathing technique helps me slow my heartbeat down, as does an affirmation I repeat like a mantra. It works, as always, right in the nick of time, and just like that, I am in the next part of the simulation.
The gun. The table. My mother. It's always the same. It's not the easiest fear to face, but it is the most efficient. Nevermind that she has been dead for more than fifteen years, and that I would have been utterly incapable of killing her at the age of four. In the simulation, I am grown—capable—and her eyes beg to know why I would harm the only person to ever really accept me, nurture me, care for me, and love me without condition.
See how the Erudite fuck with your mind? This isn't a natural fear. It's an invented one they give to me and everybody else: kill someone you love. It's not about conquering a real fear (because the real me would never conceive to shoot my own mother) it's about showing us how brutal we can be. It cultivates the killer inside each of us, shows us what we are capable of. It is a contrivance, something that doesn't exist in most of our minds, yet solidifies with the repetition. If killing my mother wasn't a fear ever before, it has become one now.
There's never any doubt as to how to make this one end, though sometimes I don't want it to. Sometimes I want to stay longer, just to see her familiar, forgotten face a moment longer even though her eyes crush me with the unmerited guilt of betrayal. Sometimes—like tonight—the sight of her destroys me and I find that I can't take it. Tonight, I pick up the gun. I aim. I fire.
The next sequence—my father—does nothing to improve the shaking that began in my hands when I picked up the revolver and spread to the rest of my body soon after. "This is for your own good," he lies, before the lashing begins.
The things he says after that are harder not to believe.
I am almost relieved to feel frigid wind soothe the throbbing ache of my welts as the fourth sequence begins, until I realize that I'm on the roof of the Hancock building and could be blown over the edge at any minute. My mind steps in, reminding me that I'll have to jump and won't be pushed, but my vertigo is intense, and the invisible thread that holds me near that precarious place on the edge might be worse than the actual fall.
I will die, if I jump. I'm certain of it. Why heed my mind when I can feel this in my bones? My reason tells me to just jump; once I do, it will be over, but my fear doesn't talk—it screams, and loudly.
But I want this to end.
So I jump.
And I fall.
And I hit…
I'm not on the ground.
The wind hasn't stopped. I feel it everywhere now. It is louder and it whips my whole body. Something heavy pulls me down. The ache in the arm that holds it is nothing I have ever felt. I haven't a clue where, but I know I'm somewhere I've never been before, someplace strange.
I open my eyes.
"Four," Tris sobs, all the vulnerability she never shows spilling down her cheeks in fat tears. "Please…don't let me go."
We are on the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. Tris has lost her footing and my forearm cinched to hers is the only thing stopping her from plummeting to her death.
"I won't," I promise, not understanding what is happening even as I speak the vow.
It's as if she doesn't hear me, the way she keeps talking, keeps begging. There is no more Dauntless bravado. All that is gone now. Tris is no more Dauntless than I.
I focus on problem-solving, my mind grasping for a way to save her. I shout down to the others on the ground, for help. But nobody is there. I stretch to grab more of her, but her other arm is out of my reach and the precarious grip on the arm that I do have cannot be improved. I briefly think it a miracle that she is not slipping—that hers is a weight one arm alone can bear. I scour my brain for some strategy that will get us out of this.
Then it dawns on me: she's not slipping. Panicking, but not slipping. Afraid of falling, but not slipping. The others aren't here. This isn't capture the flag. This is a fear sequence. I'm still in the simulation, and I can no longer be called "Four."
A few things click into place. Whatever I feel for Tris…it's deeper than I knew. And I have to get out of this simulation. Leadership cannot find out that there's a fifth, or that Tris has anything to do with it—if they do, she's as good as dead.
I have to get out of here and hack the computers and erase the file before it can be detected. And I have to think through whether there's anything within my power to stop this from ever happening again.
Yes. I have to go. But the only way to finish is to face this, my newest fear.
"I'm sorry, Tris."
I say it with a lump in my throat, and in place of the other three words that spring unexpectedly to mind.
The muscles in my forearm twitch with apprehension an instant before I let her go.
~ / ~ / ~/ ~ / ~
Hmmmm…what do you think Four's fear was? It wasn't killing somebody he loves or letting someone he loves die—that one was covered by having to shoot his mother. I know what I think it is, but I'm open to wild guesses :)
As always, constructive feedback is appreciated and invited. Finally, if you've read good divergent fic, send me the link and let me know. I'm on the prowl!