I wake up to find myself looking at a bright blue sky filled with drifting white clouds. Beautiful weather. And then I remember it's Choosing Day.
"Uriah!" my mom calls from downstairs. "Get down here and eat your pancakes!"
I grin at what she says. Pansycake. Pancake.
"Coming!" I yell back. I quickly take a shower and put on a new set of black Dauntless clothes. Most of my clothes looks the same anyway.
On the way downstairs, Zeke comes up from behind me and pats me on the back. "Make a good choice." He smiles at me, and for once, it's not sarcastic or teasing. It's genuine. "Just know what whatever faction you choose, you'll always be my little brother."
I put on a mock pouting face. "Why all the sentiment?" I whined, sounding like a kindergartener.
He laughs and puts his arm around my neck, squeezing it tightly. "Would you rather I did this?"
"No," I manage to choke out, and at the same time, aim a good punch at his stomach. He winces and lets go of me, and we both enter the kitchen, chuckling.
"Come on, eat up. We have to get on the train soon." My mom places a jug of syrup on the table and we both spill it over our pancakes. Within five minutes, our heap is reduced to nothing. We walk outside of the Dauntless compound and wait for the rumbling of the train. I spot Marlene and Lynn with their families. Mar smiles at me, and Lynn doesn't seem to notice me just yet.
When it arrives, we split up.
"Good luck, Uriah!" my mom yells, her eyes twinkling, then she's gone in the swarm of people. I'm surrounded by chaos. People are splitting up everywhere. I grab Lynn's shoulder and Marlene's arm and drag them onto the train before I can lose sight of them. The train gains speed and we're off in a matter of seconds.
I take a look at Lynn and Mar. Lynn is looking away into the distance out of the window, and Mar is smiling, as usual, deep in thought. I'm sure that they both what decision they are going to make. Me? Nope.
I know I have an aptitude for both Amity and Dauntless, which I find so confusing. I mean, I used to be pretty silent. I only opened up after knowing Marlene and her rubbing off of me, encouraging me to enjoy myself more. Dauntless, on the other hand, I knew forever. We've been training in the Dauntless compound for a long time, and I'm pretty good at it, if I can say so myself. But both of them? How can that be possible? Aren't Amity and Dauntless opposites? I mean, I guess I don't like violence if I can help it, you know. If someone's arguing, then I usually break it up, unless they insult my friends or something like that. But Dauntless training is a whole other issue. I know I have to be brave there. And I am. I don't have an issue with that.
I see us arriving at a building I don't recognize, but I know enough to categorize it as Abnegation area. I see colored clothing ascending many flights of stairs through the glass. The train slows down, and Marlene and Lynn come over to me, prepared to jump off together.
"Now!" Marlene yells, and we jump off, too easily now, running towards the building along with the crowd of Dauntless.
As it turns out, the "many flights of stairs" I saw the other factions climb turned out to be twenty. I inwardly groaned and followed Mar and Lynn, racing to get to the top out of anxiety.
When I enter the room, I see that it is filled with concentric circles. Facing inwards from those are the sixteen-years-olds of each faction, waiting to decide their fate. I remember my mom telling me to arrange myself in alphabetical order, so I am placed in between Nancy Farmer, from... you guessed it, Amity, and Nathan Foner, a tall Candor boy who shows no expression whatsoever on his face.
Then, to the middle of the podium steps Marcus Eaton, Abnegation's spokesperson.
"Welcome. Welcome to the Choosing Ceremony," he says. "Welcome to the day we honor the democratic philosophy of our ancestors, which tells us that every man has the right to choose his own way in this world."
I can choose whatever I want to become. Not anyone else. That thought calms me somehow, and I smile a little, relaxed a bit.
"Our dependents are now sixteen. They stand on the precipice of adulthood, and it is now up to them to decide what kind of people they will be. Decades ago, our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather, they determined that it was the fault of human personality - of humankind's inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world's disarray. Those who blamed agression formed Amity."
I look at the smiling Amities in their colorful clothes. Do I believe in peace above all? Will I join them? Am I supposed to join them?
"Those who blamed ignorance became the Erudite." I don't even have to look at them to decide I'm not going to join them.
"Those who blamed duplicity created Candor." While honesty is quite an important virtue of mine, it doesn't tower over all of the others.
"Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation." I know I'm not selfless enough to join them.
"And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless." The name said in Marcus's slow, deep tone felt like home. Yet I find myself looking back to the soil in Amity's bowl.
"Working together, these five factions have lived in peace for many years, each contributing to a different sector of society. Abnegation has fulfilled our need for selfless leaders in government; Candor has provided us with trustworthy and sound leaders in law; Erudite has supplied us with intelligent teachers and researchers; Amity has given us understanding counselors and caretakers; and Dauntless provides us with protection from threats both within and without. But the reach of each faction is not limited to these areas. We give one another far more than can be adequately summarized. In our factions, we find meaning, we find purpose, we find life."
My whole life has been in Dauntless. Is that the life I want?
"Apart from them, we would not survive."
A huge silence fills the room, in which I am sure all of the sixteen-year-olds would be pondering where they want to spend the rest of their lives. However, Marcus concludes this speech.
"Therefore this day makrs a happy occasion - the day on which we recieve our new initiates, who will work with us toward a better society and a better world."
Applause echoes from every corner of the room. Marcus starts reading off the names, and I stiffen.
I only remember a few of the people choosing. One dark haired boy from Abnegation shifting to Erudite, and the room gasps, breaking into furious mutters. However, the Erudite smile smugly, and I knew that I never liked them. Another was another Abnegation transfer, a blond haired girl, who shifts to Dauntless, after some hesitation. The last one I recall is James, one of my only Dauntless cousins, moving away to Amity. He looks back at me and smiles, something almost apologetic.
I step forward and attempt to pull on a stoic face, because I know most of Dauntless is watching my every move. I take the knife from Marcus and pull it across my palms, blood pooling up in the center, but I hardly notice the pain. My eyes are on only the bowls.
The Dauntless and Amity bowls and next to one another, thank God.
Will I be able to live as an Amity?
I look again towards the peace loving members who look happy and content. They look so calm and joyful, something that wasn't really ever an option in my life. Joyful, maybe, but not calm. Amity never stick up for someone else if it means them getting hurt.
I look at Lynn and Marlene. Would I be brave enough to save them if they were in danger? The answer clicks instantly. I grin and drop my blood on the sizzling coals, for everyone to hear. The sound rings in my ears, and I look up to the ceiling in thanks.
I am Dauntless.
Marlene and Lynn smile, and I return it, walking down to the Dauntless and receiving pats on the back and a few words of congratulations.
Before I turn back, Marlene is at my side, her eyes twinkling and her hair windblown, grasping my hand. I squeeze it, laughing softly.
"I knew it."
"Mhm," she replies, smiling.
We both look up as Lynn is choosing. She throws us a wink, and drops her blood onto the coals. Marlene lets go of my hand and throws her arms around me. I'm taken aback, but hug her back. I didn't lose either of them.
As the last few names are called, people start getting restless, especially the Dauntless. Finally, the last girl, now an Erudite, joins them, and the Dauntless all walk to the stairs. I am aware of this custom, and so is Lynn, because of our elder siblings, but Marlene is not.
"What's going on?" She laughs, and starts walking quicker to join the others.
"Watch and see," Lynn answers. She is overjoyed; her eyes sparkling... rare. But this is a rare occasion.
Suddenly, the Dauntless start whooping and screaming and yelling, skipping down the stairs. I join in after a second, and so do Lynn and Mar. This feels right.
This is right. We are brave. We are Dauntless. We are together.
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