Fifteen years ago, five ordinary teenagers were singled out by a prophecy to take down an impossibly powerful entity… Chosen Ones, as the teens were known, gave everything they had to defeat him.
We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from Chosen Ones, the first adult novel from Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent series. Available now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Fifteen years ago, five ordinary teenagers were singled out by a prophecy to take down an impossibly powerful entity wreaking havoc across North America. He was known as the Dark One, and his weapon of choice—catastrophic events known as Drains—leveled cities and claimed thousands of lives. Chosen Ones, as the teens were known, gave everything they had to defeat him.
After the Dark One fell, the world went back to normal… for everyone but them. After all, what do you do when you’re the most famous people on Earth, your only education was in magical destruction, and your purpose in life is now fulfilled?
Of the five, Sloane has had the hardest time adjusting. Everyone else blames the PTSD—and her huge attitude problem—but really, she’s hiding secrets from them… secrets that keep her tied to the past and alienate her from the only four people in the world who understand her.
On the tenth anniversary of the Dark One’s defeat, something unthinkable happens: one of the Chosen Ones dies. When the others gather for the funeral, they discover the Dark One’s ultimate goal was much bigger than they, the government, or even prophecy could have foretold—bigger than the world itself.
And this time, fighting back might take more than Sloane has to give.
AGENCY FOR THE RESEARCH AND INVESTIGATION OF THE SUPRANATURAL
MEMORANDUM FOR: ROBERT ROBERTSON OFFICER, AGENCY FOR THE RESEARCH AND INVESTIGATION OF THE SUPRANORMAL (ARIS)
SUBJECT: PROJECT RINGER, SUBJECT 2, DEEP DIVE AFTERMATH
Dear Officer Robertson,
Attached is the document we discussed. Sloane and I developed this piece of writing in one of our sessions as part of her ongoing cognitive-behavioral therapy for PTSD. In our exposure-therapy practice, we need to reliably provoke Sloane’s panic so that she can become habituated to the emotions it brings forth. As such, the following exposure is as detailed as Sloane could manage in order to most effectively simulate a re-experiencing of the event, which we refer to as “the Dive.”
I must remind you to keep this confidential, as providing this to you is a violation of HIPAA. However, given how dire the situation is, I agree that an exception must be made.
Thank you, and have a pleasant week.
Dr. Maurene Thomas
I’m on the ARIS ship. It’s a cold morning. I see the glare of the sun on the water. As I pull the string attached to the zipper of my wetsuit, the fabric tugs in from both sides toward my spine. The mouthpiece tastes like chemicals. My nose feels blocked as I try to breathe only through my mouth.
All around me are ARIS officers, at first identical in their black scuba gear, but if I look closely I see the swell of Maggie’s hips, or Marie’s long, muscular legs, or the bristle of Dan’s mustache. Their eyes are shielded by the goggles, which is a relief, since they’ve been looking at me skeptically since I met them.
And they have good reasons. I’m only fifteen. I got my dive certification in a hurry once Bert briefed me on the mission. I’ve only practiced a few times.
But I’m Chosen, and that means they have to follow my lead. So even though I’m shivering in the cold and squinting into the sun and so scared I want to throw up right into the ocean, I sit on the edge of the boat and slide into the water.
There’s a rush of cold. I try to stay still. To breathe deep into the regulator. To exhale fully before inhaling, so I don’t hyperventilate. All over me is something tingling and burning. It’s not the sting of salt water on the skin around my eyes; it’s more like feeling coming back to a limb that’s gone to sleep. On the way here I asked the ARIS officers if they felt it too. They didn’t. They don’t. Just me. Is she making it up? I feel them wondering, and I’m wondering too.
The others are in the water now. Someone tosses me the line that will keep me attached to the boat, and I hook it to my belt, tug at it to make sure it’s secure. All the ARIS officers wait for me to move. They look like aliens in their mirrored masks, polarized so they can see better underwater. The Dive is too deep for a beginner like me, but there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I have to go.
I think of that Millay poem as I kick my flippers. Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave. I have a flashlight in one hand, held against my side. I swim away from the boat, checking over my shoulder now and then to make sure the others are following me.
What’s ahead of me is just cloudy blue. Bubbles and particles of sand. The occasional piece of seaweed flopping past. A darker shape develops slowly in front of me, and I know what it is.
I wasn’t expecting the boat to blend so well into the bottom of the ocean. It’s coated in a fine layer of sand, the same muted blue as the ocean floor. It could have been a stretch of dead coral if not for the sharp bends of the radar aerials and the main mast, with its attached ladder, the rungs still white when I shine my flashlight on them.
I know this ship, the Sakhalin. I researched it right after the briefing, months ago. A Soviet spy ship, Primor’ye class, built sometime between 1969 and 1971. The Primor’ye-class ships had been converted from large fishing boats, outfitted to gather electronic intelligence and transmit it back to shore. They were not usually made for combat, but the Sakhalin was special. When I swim closer, I shift the beam of light back to the distinct bulges of weapons systems, one of them now wrapped in seaweed.
The tingling is in my chest now, right behind my sternum. Like heart.burn. When I swim closer to the ship, it drops to my belly, right to the middle of me. I keep kicking, moving toward the energy. (I have no choice. I don’t mean that ARIS is forcing me; I mean that whatever it is—the feeling, even though it’s almost painful—won’t let me turn back.)
Someone tugs on the line attached to me, a signal that I should stop. I don’t. I swim over the deck gun and dodge the bulk of the aft superstructure. As I pass over the smoke funnel, I feel a stab of terror, like I’m going to be sucked into the blackness and disassembled. But I can’t stop swimming.
I reach the aft mast, and I know I’m in the right place. The burning in my chest turns to a thump. Built in the base of the aft mast is a door fastened by a busted lock. Without thinking much about it, I slam the base of my flash.light into the lock, once, twice, three times. Already worn by time and exposure to water, the lock breaks.
The little door opens and I turn my beam of light toward it. Inside the mast there’s a small trunk about the size of a toaster, elaborately decorated with gilt and enamel in a pattern of flowers and leaves that reminds me of babushkas and matryoshka dolls. I know I should swim with it to the surface, let the ARIS officers scan it with their equipment to make sure it’s safe. But if I do that, they’ll form a perimeter around it, and I have to be looking at it, holding it, feeling inside me the pounding of its heart.
So I open it.
Settled inside on a bed of black velvet is a silver needle about the length of my palm.
I read a lot of folktales to prepare for this mission. They say Koschei was a man who couldn’t die. He hid his soul away from his body in a needle and put the needle in an egg, the egg in a duck, the duck in a hare, and the hare in a trunk. Only when a person broke the needle could they take his life.
I am trembling when I touch it. I think it trembles too.
And then—horrible pain, a flash of white. The tingling of returned feeling is gone, and in its place, I’m enveloped in flames. Scalding skin peeling away from muscle, muscle cooked away from bone, bone turning into ash, that’s what it feels like. I scream into the regulator mask, and it pulls away from my face, letting in water. I choke and thrash, struggling to grab the line that attaches me to the boat, but my hands won’t work.
And then it’s like—a pang so deep I feel it in every part of my body, like the sounding of a clock tower at midnight. It feels like wanting something so much you would die to get it, more than craving or longing or desire—I am empty, and more than that, a black hole, so absolutely composed of nothingness that I attract all somethingness to me.
All around me the water swirls and churns, bubbles so thick they keep me from seeing anything. Pieces break off from the ship and enter the cyclone of water. Black shapes tumble past me—the ARIS officers in their scuba suits. I choke on water as I scream, and I feel like I’m pulling something in, like I’m drawing a breath.
The next time I open my eyes, I’m staring at the sky. All across it are clouds. I tip forward, water rushing down my back and into the wetsuit. The water that surrounds me isn’t blue; it’s red, dark red. My hand hurts so badly I can’t stand it. I lift it up to look at it. Something hard and straight is buried under my skin like a splinter, right next to one of my tendons. I press against it. It’s Koschei’s Needle.
Something bobs to the surface next to me. It looks like a piece of plas.tic at first, but when I pick it up, it’s soft and slippery. I scream, dropping it when I realize it’s skin. All around me are pieces of skin and muscle and bone and viscera.
Everyone is dead. And I’m alone.
Excerpted from Chosen Ones, copyright © 2020 by Veronica Roth.