Chapter 10: of a good universe next door;let's go

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Tobias gathers all of the initiates, transfer and Dauntless born alike, in the commissary on the morning of the first day of Stage Three. He leads us into the Pit and up through the glass ceiling, rickety stairs creaking from our weight. In the daylight I can see that all the buildings around us are abandoned and crumbling down, leaving their innards exposed to the elements and our eyes.

My brother keeps going, herding us through the large glass room and through a door that’s been painted to match the wall. The room beyond is massive and covered in bright graffiti, some of it depicting blurry individuals managing great feats of bravery and some of it illegible scrawl. Exposed pipes wind over the walls and through the ceiling and floor. Old-fashioned fluorescent bulbs try to light the dank space, but they don’t quite succeed.

“This is a different kind of simulation,” he says. “We call it the Fear Landscape. It’s disabled right now, so this isn’t how it’ll look the next time you see it. Through the last stage, the computers have compiled and stored information on your worst fears. The Fear Landscape accesses that data and presents you with a series of physical obstacles. Some of the fears you see will be ones you’ve previously experienced in Stage Two; some will be brand new. The difference is that you will be aware that this is a simulation.

“To beat the Landscape, you have to beat your fears. You can do this in two ways: you either find a way to calm down, to lower your heartbeat and your breathing until you fool the system into registering a normal pace, or you can face your fear, which will force the simulation to move on. One way to face a fear of drowning is to swim deeper.

“Tomorrow afternoon, you’ll each be subjected to the simulation in front of a panel of Dauntless leaders. The faster you face them, the better your score. That will be the test to determine your final rankings for Stage Three. I suggest you take the next twenty-four hours to consider what will show up.”

“How many fears are we going to face?” Jack, the Dauntless born that Alice cut, asks.

“How many do you have?”

***

“That’s why they call you Four, isn’t it?” I ask my brother. “Because you only had to face four fears?”

He and I are sitting on the roof of Dauntless HQ on the same concrete platform I jumped from on Choosing Day. I’m wearing his spare jacket against the night chill, but I’m still shivering. Tobias has a cigarette between his fingers; he lit it when we sat down, but he hasn’t sipped from it, only watched it burn out.

“Yeah,” he says quietly.

“Is – is Marcus…”

“Yeah, Marcus is still one of mine.”

"Sometimes I think we'll never get away from him."

"We're away from him now," he says. "He's still in our heads and he may always be, but he's gone."

"No," I whisper, "he's not."

***

Cate is waiting for us outside of the Fear Landscape the next morning. When it seems like everyone has arrived, she starts talking.

"Twelve years ago I was afraid of heights, spiders, snakes, failure, being lonely, choking to death, public humiliation, needles, small spaces, burning to death, and the dark. Most of you will have ten to fifteen fears in your Landscape; that's average," she pauses. "You won't find out your number today. The Landscape has been set up to run each of you through one of my fears. This is just so you can get a feel for what the simulation is like. When you face your own fears, it will be more traumatizing.

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