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Four years after the 121st Hunger Games, President Rome has announced the 5th Quarter Quell and it's twist. To celebrate 125 years of Hunger Games, the government decided to make these games particularly special.
Instead of Capitol citizens, the Gamemakers will be previous Victors. President Rome had planned this special year, and this is why he allowed four Victors in the 121st Hunger Games instead of one. These four Victors will become the main Gamemakers. They will design the arena, control the environment and create mutts. They even have the power to kill off certain tributes if they wish. But all the while they will be under the watchful eye of President Rome and the Head Gamemaker.
The Victors include: Odin Amarth, Beemo Xra, Crimson Typhoon and Shyvana Feuer. They will become the main Gamemakers, assisted by a large team of other Victors from various Games.
They will control everything about the Games, including mutts, the arena, the environment and even which tributes will die. Prior to the start of the Games, they will decide the training scores of the tributes and will greatly affect their chances of getting sponsors and surviving. Some Victors will even design the chariot and interview outfits. However, they will be under the watchful eye of the President and the Head Gamemaker.
Not only will the tributes have POVs written, the four main Victors will also get POVs written.
Rules and Important Parts
- You can give advice to mentors/tributes/Gamemakers/stylists
- You can only send parachutes and sponsor items to tributes, with a limit of 3 items (choose wisely)
- I will try to write to the best of my ability and make the storyline detailed, but if there's anything I need to fix, improve or include then let me know!
- If your tribute dies, please do not get angry! There is always a reason why your tribute has died (if you want to enquire about that, feel free to ask me!)
- Please, no spiteful comments or foul language to other users or myself.
- You may advertise your own Games, but it would be nice if you asked me first!
- If you've read these write 'Everlark' in the comments.
- I will be writing Reapings, some train journeys/interviews/training POVs, but not for all tributes.
- Rankings and scores will be given, but will not be chosen by me - they will be decided by the Trainers.
- There will be a storyline, so even if you lose all your characters it would be great if you kept reading!!
- If there is anything you want to say, comment as you please!
|Position||Name||District||Gender||Age||Year of Games||User|
|Assistant Gamemaker||Beemo Xra||3/1*||Female||18||121st||Blue-Ribbonz|
|Mutt Maker||Odin Amarth||1||Male||23||121st||Icanhasnofriends|
|Weather Gamemaker||Lyra Meadowlace||2||Female||23||120th||
|Arena Designer||Akumai Kubaya||8||Male||20||119th||Tehblakdeath|
|Cornucopia Designer||Crimson Typhoon||13||Male||18||121st||AwesomeAiden|
- Beemo Xra changed Districts, due to a particular situation (see my other blog post, 121st Hunger Games epilogue).
The Scorer decides the private scores of all tributes, based on their performance in private training.
The Ranker decides the predicted rank of tributes, e.g. 8th, 23rd...
All the mentors will be very important in the storyline. They will have their own POVs as well, and you will need to give them advice at some point.
|Name||District||Gender||Age||Year of Games||How They Won||User|
|Firebelle Vinicius||1||Female||27||115th||She was in an alliance with her brother + boyfriend. When they were both killed, Firebelle flew into a rage and killed the remaining career tribute.||Tehblakdeath|
|Geneviene Maine||2||Female||32||113th||The typical Career. Killed anyone and was ruthless, and was more skilled than other tributes.||Scarizard|
|Seraphina "Sera" Oaks||3||Female||21||119th||Teamed with her District partner went looking for the button that would free her from a maze.||Pippycat|
|Clay Barines||4||Male||33||110th||Started off as a double-agent, but then became injured. He managed to make a friend who helped him but was killed in a feast. Clay then ran and hid in a tree. There was a Finale battle and Clay came out on top.||Tehblakdeath|
|Stanley Pines||5||Male||46||94th||Killed everyone in the Bloodbath.||N/A|
|Blade Spectrus - Head Mentor||6||Male||20||119th||Towards the end of the Games, Blade teamed with Sera Oaks but let her escape the maze first. He searched around, alone, until he came across the final button where he battled Rubin Jett for it and won.||Tehblakdeath|
|Bee Clio||7||Female||15||124th||Her friend sacrificed herself so Bee could be in the final two where Bee then axed her opponent.||Pippycat|
|Wendy Shrullux||8||Female||20||118th||She was in an alliance for a long while but was driven crazy by hallucinations and killed the last person, her ally, thinking her friend was a Career.||Blue-Ribbonz|
|Acacia Twilight||9||Female||21||122nd||Fuelled by upset and anger of her ally's death, she killed the remaining tributes.||Sambaroses|
|Eli Winersin||10||Male||39||100th||It was the last 3 - one girl drowned and the other was stabbed by Eli when she ducked to avoid his spear shaft.||YourFavouriteSalmon|
|Phineas Moonsliver||11||Male||21||116th||Hid until everyone was dead. (pathetic)||N/A|
|Robin Smoke||12||Female||15||123rd||By killing a member of an alliance, remaining ally then commited suicide.||Ladysi|
|Shyvana Feuer||13||Female||22||121st||Allied with an old Victor and killed the person who attacked her ally.||PumPumPumpkin :3|
These three stylists were kept as they will have an important role to play in the storyline. If you would still like to add stylists, feel free to do so and comment below.
|Alexandrite Bohamia||Female||1||14||Tree climbing, easily tricked||Bow, sword, knives||Marinalacrosse|
|Ajax Orbit||Male||1||17||Severely forgetful, dislikes killing people who've done nothing wrong||Sword, spear||Biel1458|
|Jem Nightshade||Female||2||16||Plant ID, hand-to-hand combat||Throwing daggers/knives||The Symphonic Taco|
|Kristoph Inferno||Male||2||15||Speed, climbing, h-2-h combat, getting burned||Matches, throwing knives||Smilingtribute|
|Lolita Fey||Female||3||13||Brute strength, easily distracted/persuaded, fears becoming a doll||Chain whip||Blue-Ribbonz|
|Jrue Maclin||Male||3||17||1-2-1 combat, ignores the details, climbing, bees/wasps, trackerjackers||Mines, traps, dagger, knives||MyWorld|
|Electra Lucid||Female||4||16||Hunting, hand-to-hand fighting, electrocution, claustrophobia||Knowledge and wits, archery||The Symphonic Taco|
|Marsh Steel||Male||4||17||Laliophobia, plant ID,||Sword and trident||TheFakerChild|
|Sparks Edison||Female||5||12||Likes to cause trouble, h-2-h combat, daydreams, death, spiders, never seeing her loved ones||Bow, sword, electricity||Sambaroses|
|James Desmond||Male||5||15||Falls for traps, headstrung, untrusting||Machete, trident, poison||ConspiracyKiller825|
|Ruby Burn||Female||6||12||Weak, gets attached to people, running||Dagger, any knife||Pippycat|
|Orlando Johnson||Male||6||15||Weak without weapons, swimming||Daggers, throwing knives||MyWorld|
|Sunny Coleman||Female||7||13||Swimming, merciful - sometimes zones-out||Blowgun, sword, axe||Summer bee13|
|Jayson Huff||Male||7||17||Not a bright one, slow, big target, social skills||Axe, hatchet||Nlby001|
|Amaya Selene||Female||8||17||Uncoordinated, intelligence, indecisive||Spear, mace, bow||Pippycat|
|Henry Polyester||Male||8||12||Not strong, climbing, asking for help, snakes||Knife||Meoryou|
|Bree Riverbuck||Female||9||18||Fishing, throwing knives, making friends, death||Blowgun, dagger||Biel1458|
|Dipper Pines||Male||9||12||Paranoia||Sword, blunt objects||N/A|
|Jessica Woods||Female||10||16||Slow, climbing||Sword, throwing knives||MyWorld|
|Euan Lorelle||Male||10||15||Swimming, cocky, inexperienced with other weapons, h-2-h combat||Scythe, axes, knives||Sambaroses|
|Artemis Moonsilver||Female||11||13||Very sensitive, doesn't like killing, strangely hyper||Bow and arrow (needs desperately)||Marinalacrosse|
|Tobias Drew||Male||11||15||Too cocky, tricky ally||Sickle, wire||Summer bee13|
|Amaryllis Skylark||Female||12||14||Resistant, hand to hand combat, fragile body||Dagger, throwing knives||Sambaroses|
|Ophelia Zigler||Female||13||16||Not stealthy, wants it her way always||Flail, spiked mace, bare hands||Summer bee13|
|Eric Desmond||Male||13||18||Plant ID, close combat, mutts||Spear, throwing knives, sword||ConspiracyKiller825|
The Quarter Quell Arena was specially designed by Akumai Kubaya, infamous Victor of the 114th Annual Hunger Games. The Arena has been split into four sections, each with it's special qualities. It's like four Arenas rolled into one! Tributes will have to decide the best place to go, and figure out the dangers by themselves. Each Section has it's own weather and climate and tributes need to be aware of the differences.
Section 1, North West: This section is full of different sized fresh water lakes. The water is safe to drink but beneath the surface the real horrors start to appear. Horrifying water mutts will emerge when tributes go to deep. Mountains are dotted all over this section. All are very tall, possibly taller than Mount Everest. They are rocky but not snowy, and provide excellent protection from other tributes. However, they are all dangerous climbs and don't offer any sources of water. The only food here is the mutts that patrol the mountainside, but they are near impossible to kill. Tributes best hope when they meet these mutts is to run or hide, and just pray they don't find you.
Section 2, North East: Section 2 is a very good source of food. There are different sorts of fields that tributes can 'harvest' from if they know how to. Some are poisonous so they must choose wisely when selecting which foods to take. However, water here isn't really water. It is a concentrated form of the clear hydrochloric acid. If tributes drink this, their whole bodies will simply burn away. This acid is VERY corrosive with all types of human flesh. A slight droplet of it on skin could leave an everlasting hole in the body. The south of Section 2 is a lot rockier, and is hard terrain to travel through. Hiking through this part of Section 2 will be a great physical challenge, only attempted by naturally very strong tributes. The younger tributes will most likely die of exhaustion if they even bother to tackle this epic feat.
Section 3, South East: This section is definitely the best if tributes want to hide, or lie in wait for others. The whole area is just a labyrinth of caves. Once you go in, there's no way you'll come back out the same way. It's a maze, placed in darkness. It provides a great area to cook food, or rest while you get energy back up. Although, if you take a wrong turn you could face deadly traps. Somme walls automatically fall in on tributes, crushing them. Some floors are just layers and layers of punji sticks, destined to impale any unfortunate tributes. There are no mutts but these traps could be just as bad. Tributes who venture too deep will face the traps, but if you can see daylight, you'll be fine. Between certain caves and tunnels, there are areas of lush foliage and plants. The berries here are poisonous and it's unlikely you'll find food here, but the trees and some plants contain water, only accessed by cutting a hole into the centre of a tree. However, random sandstorms can suddenly take place and lose a tribute. If they find their way into a cave, they might venture too deep, as the sandstorms reach into the shallow caves and tunnels. The sandstorms are designed to disorientate and scare tributes. Sand can cause blindness if it gets in the eyes, or ear infections if it manages to get inside the ear. If you have open wounds it can cause a disgusting infection to fester and rot into a tribute's blood, causing further blood poisoning.
Section 4, South West: This section is fairly plain. It's a dense forest of pine trees and deciduous plants that don't wilt, and are great sources of food and water, as all the trees hold the precious liquids they need to survive. Although, this bountiful area comes at a heavy price. Mutts run wild all over the place, and wherever you go you face new challenges and new animals. There are more mutts here than anywhere else. If you do manage to avoid them, you'll be driven mad by the sickening noises some of them create, or maybe the screams of an unfortunate victim. People who come here usually do not stay long, unless they want prizes. If you kill certain mutts, tributes are rewarded with gifts that aren't from sponsors. Some parachutes might contain small weapons, or even precious medicine, food or water that the tributes are lacking.
The weather is brought to you by Gamemaker Lyra Meadowlace, the pretty Victor of the 120th Hunger Games!
As you know, each of the Sections in the Arena have their own climates and weathers. Some tributes will try to flee bad weather, only to be driven into battles with others who are also escaping the life-threatening weather.
Section 1 -- Mist and torrential rain. Tributes will have little visibility, attacks by mutts could happen, and up on the mountains, the cold altitude only makes it worse. The torrential rain will force tributes to find shelter, quickly. It could destroy food packs, causing them to go bad or soggy.
Section 2 -- Hail and strong winds. If tributes aren't blown away, whatever shelter they try to set up might be. The hail might hurt as the Gamemakers make glass-sharp ice to tip down on them. If tributes are hiking in the rocky part, they'll be more at risk of injury and find it significantly harder to travel in these conditions. It's probably best to stay put or escape to a cave for shelter.
Section 3 -- A very fierce sandstorm will break out here. Tributes will become disorientated and might be driven into dangerous caves and tunnels with a lot of deadly traps. They could develop health problems, like blindness if sand is in the eyes, ear infections if sand works its way into the ears and even blood poisoning if sand causes infections in wounds. If tributes decide to collect or gather any sort of water at this time, it's simply going to mix with sand and be ruined.
Section 4 -- Perfect weather. Bright sunshine, clear visibility and dry ground will make it the perfect place for tributes to gather, which is exactly why the tributes are making a big risk coming here. Many of them will try to escape the awful conditions in other areas, only to meet up with some contestants. This prolongs the Bloodbath. A lot of kills will be made here, as the tributes will want to find shelter and food. Although, the mutts also group here, another dangerous reason why the tributes will hate this place.
Tributes will want to choose where they go wisely. Are they willing to battle the elements in order to stay away from each other, or will they take the risk of mutts and other tributes, and face an even higher death chances?
Careers: Marsh Steel D4, Ophelia Zigler D13, Ajax Orbit D1, Alexandrite Bohamia D1
Leader: Marsh Steel
Co-Leader - Alexandrite Bohamia
Anti-Careers: Eric Desmond D13, Artemis Moonsilver D11, Orlando Johnson D6
Leader: Eric Desmond
Co-Leader: Artemis Moonsilver
Trust Alliance: Amaryllis Skylark D12, Sparks Edison D5, Electra Lucid D4
Leader: Sparks Edison
Co-Leader: Amaryllis Skylark
Loners: James Desmond D5, Tobias Drew D11, Bree Riverbuck D9, Jayson Huff D7, Jessica Woods D10
District Partners: Kristoph Inferno D2, Jem Nightshade D2, Jrue Maclin D3, Lolita Fey D3
Leader: Jrue Maclin
Co-Leader: Jem Nightshade
12 And 8: Gideon Gleeful D12, Amaya Selene D8, Henry Polyester D8
Leader: Amaya Selene
Randomers: Sunny Coleman D7, Ruby Burn D6, Euan Lorelle D10, Dipper Pines D9
Leader: Sunny Coleman
Co-Leader: Euan Lorelle
District 1 - Alexandrite Bohamia
The Reapings proceed at usual:
The finger prick and the small bead of blood, the lining up and awaiting the news. The arrival of the escort who seems overjoyed at the prospect of another Quarter Quell. The mayor who looks as afraid as ever, because he knows he’s about to see two of his citizens leave on a train – maybe for the last time. The distant Firebelle sitting placidly beside her son on stage.
My parents advised me that I might want to watch the last Quarter Quell, the 100th Hunger Games – so that maybe it might help me win if I get chosen. So that Firebelle wouldn’t have as much to mentor me on.
I knew that the 100th Hunger Games were the worst Games ever. There were four tributes, instead of two. But there weren’t only double the numbers. Each tribute had to be related to one other. A pair of siblings might get chosen, crying out for help from their parents. Or cousins, who look at each other with a look of dismay when they shake hands. But the President made it even worse. The ages were changed. You had to be between 10 and 20. Even the people that thought they’d escaped the Games hadn’t.
Alexa thought she could win. But she didn’t. I thought she could win after I sent her the backpack and the bow. I look back now and think it was a waste. I paid a lot of money for that, and now Alexa lies six feet under cold ground. I just hope my family doesn’t waste any money on me, if I get reaped. We’ve lost enough already.
“Ah District 1! The ever-gleaming jewel of the Capitol!” The escort opens the speech in a seemingly happy manner. Cold glares face back at her. I have to bite my cheeks to stop myself laughing, because we know the jewel of the Capitol is District 2, even if we are luckier than the out-lying Districts. Ever since they decided to sweep up all our Victors and whisk them to the Capitol, nobody has been too pleased. Nobody knows what’s happening to them. Peacekeepers just turned up one day in the Victor’s Village and carted them off like animals. “Anyway, let’s get this started shall we? Which two of you will be the lucky tributes for the Fifth Quarter Quell?” The escort asks rhetorically. “Ladies first,” Ruby smiles gleefully.
She unravels the paper with her freakishly long nails. They’re painted blood-red. I guess that’s just to match with her dress and name. I do so hope it’s not supposed to resemble blood.
“Alexandrite Bohamia!” She declares, her smile creasing from ear-to-ear. I can feel the blood drain from my face. A quiet circle forms around me, and relieved faces of girls turn away. They don’t want me to see that they are happy. Happy that they didn’t get picked.
But I did. “Come on dear, up you come!” Ruby ushers me up on stage. I take one step at a time. It feels like my knees are about to buckle. I have to steady myself. My eyes are about to flood with tears. But I won’t let that happen.
Even if I’m going to die, I don’t want to look weak. Because I’m not. The Capitol hates underdogs. I’ve just got to play for them, that’s all. Then I can die in peace. Maybe commit suicide or something. I don’t want to kill anyone; I’m just not that kind of person. There are others who have dedicated their life to the Games, to murder. But I haven’t, and I don’t want to die with the faces of the deceased on my mind.
“Ah, you’re a pretty thing aren’t you?” Ruby whispers kindly, stroking my coloured hair. It’s not something you see every day in District 1. Dyed hair, I mean. It’s more of a Capitol luxury. A luxury I could afford before Dad lost his job. “Well, are you excited?”
“No,” comes a curt reply. I can’t even explain what came over me. It just happened. Ruby looks taken-aback but nods anyway. She doesn’t say anything else to me. And I’m glad of it. I glance over at my mentor, Firebelle. She’s hanging her head.
“Boys, now...” Ruby continues casually. I stand on stage, half-crying and trembling. I’m not crying properly, but tears roll down my cheeks anyway. I guess some emotions you just can’t keep hold of. She reaches into a bowl and I can’t control it anymore. I drop to my knees and burst out into floods of tears. “Ajax Orbit!” The escort announces briskly. The boy doesn’t hesitate to dash up on stage. He doesn’t seem eager; I guess he just wants to get this over with. Ruby seems to want to ignore my crying and hysterics.
“I don’t wanna die... I don’t want to kill anyone. I never wanted this. Please pick someone else. I can’t do this. I’m going to die...”
Ajax walks over and helps me to my feet. At least he’s a nice person. He won’t be by the time the other tributes finish him off. Yet another kind person about to be destroyed by the Games. He doesn’t look sympathetic, but I don’t think he’ll bring himself to kill me. He doesn’t look like the kind of person who would kill me for no reason.
I just hope I’m right.
“Here we have our District 1 tributes for the Fifth Quarter Quell! Congratulations you two!” Ruby squeals delightedly. She makes us shake hands – Ajax chooses not to notice my hands that are wet from wiping away tears.
District 2 - Jem Nightshade
I can see the eyes locked on me, the owners of the eyes constantly judging me. Quiet whispers hiss like snakes throughout the crowd as I take my place amongst the other girls. I try to ignore them but they just keep getting louder.
“I hope she gets picked,” One person says. They don’t even bother to lower their voice. They know I’ve heard it, because I flinch. I felt like a knife has gone right through me. I go back to facing the stage, but it gets harder to ignore as more and more people turn up, and more people start to gossip about me.
“She nearly killed people in a fire. Maybe she’ll do alright in the Games,” another girl sniggers close by. I hear girlish giggles. It makes it worse when I realise they used to be my friends. We used to go out together in the evenings, and even talk about volunteering for one another. Obviously they weren’t really my friends. They were probably just with me because I was from a good family. It is exceedingly hard to find good families nowadays. “She’s already murderous. It’d be an advantage!”
I try to think about something else, but as the whispers continue, it becomes impossible. Instead, I focus on Maximus Estes, our district escort. He’s wearing a green suit of various shades. His hair has been dyed to match, and styled in various directions of curls and ringlets. He looks like he has a forest growing on his head.
“Hello, District 2!” His greeting is welcomed with an excited uproar from the crowd. The training academy has produced some pretty fearsome tributes this year. I guess you could say the star students are very excited to get picked. I’m just thankful District 2 actually has tributes organised - nobody else has to worry about facing their deaths. “Well, here we are for another Quarter Quell! Are you all excited?” Another roar sounds from the crowd. Even the adults seem overjoyed. “But this year, there have been a couple of rule changes to the Reapings,” Maximus says sincerely. The crowd silences immediately. Even the sniggers about me stop.
And my heart skips a beat. Any of us could get picked. Before, there were two scheduled volunteers. It’s almost certain they won’t be chosen now. “Anyway,” Maximus breaks the deafening silence. “Boys first.” He strolls over to the glass bowls and stirs the cards up. The shuffling is the only noise that echoes through the crowd. I can’t even hear anyone breathe. Maximus abruptly picks one out and unravels it. “Kristoph Inferno!” The sniggers begin again.
“Her hair is the same as his – fire red!” A boy laughs from the other side of the crowd. So it’s not just the girls that decide to bitch about me.
I’m distracted by a red-haired boy walking slowly up the steps, his knees shaking. I recognise him. Another reject of District 2: supposed murderer, just like me. Hardly anyone speaks to him, and as far as I know, he rarely replies. “Hello, Kristoph! Are you excited to be competing this year?” Kristoph looks at the escort doubtfully, and shakes his head. Maximus raises his eyebrows, expecting more of a reply. But there is only silence and Kristoph looks over at our mentor, Geneviene Maine, almost seemingly forgetting about the whole of District 2 looking at him.
“And the girls!” Maximus hurries along now, choosing quickly. Geneviene is looking sad, disappointed to see off another year’s tributes. The Games really have taken a toll on her. I bet she can’t wait to mentor people that weren’t even chosen by the academy. It’s weird to think she used to be the merciless tribute – now the gentle mother of the District.
As the years wore on, Geneviene’s bloodlust diminished. Sometimes, District 2 would win, and it’d brighten her up a little. But she’s seen other people been destroyed, and eventually the Games got to her too. Now she focuses on keeping them alive, instead of enjoying their fights. She’s greatly respected now.
“Jem Nightshade!” I was so consumed with ignoring the voices and thinking about Geneviene, I forgot about the Reaping. My heart stops. Now everyone is looking at me. It’s not the first time, but now it feels different. Now people are starting to regret whatever they’ve done or said to me. Part of me is happy that they finally see what they’ve done. How much they’ve made me crumble since before the accident. “Jem, are you out there?” Maximus asks persistently. It dawns on me, at long last.
I blink, tears welling. I shake my head lightly and they sink away. People don’t move around me, I just have their unblinking stares locked on my face, watching, waiting for me to break down. I walk up. I don’t want these faces on me anymore. I just want to get to the Capitol. I can finally be accepted in society, even if it is as a tribute. Maximus looks nervous to talk to me, and Geneviene looks disappointed. Maybe we’re too weak to win this year.
“You match!” Maximus exclaims girlishly, gesturing to my red hair, and then Kristoph. It’s true, we do match. We both have red hair. Advantage in the Capitol, I think automatically. I smile at him and he smiles weakly back, seeing the opportunity for unity we’ve been given. Maximus seems happy with us, but Geneviene definitely doesn’t. She looks more upset than when we started. “Hello, Jem!” Maximus greets me brightly. We’re friends, I tell myself. I haven’t thought that for a while. Just put on a show, I decide. Just do whatever he asks, whatever he seems to want.
“Hello, Mr Estes!” I grin back. He chuckles heartily, and puts a hand on my shoulder like an old friend. I smile wider.
“Please, call me Max,” He says politely.
“Hello, Max!” I repeat myself. This makes him laugh and he turns to the crowd.
“Here we have our bold and beautiful Jem Nightshade,” the microphone booms. Maximus turns to me, beaming. Then he looks over at Kristoph. “And our fiery-headed, handsome lad Kristoph Inferno!” District 2 roars with happiness. Maybe we haven’t lost all hope, I pray. Maximus places the microphone back on the stand and backs the crowd, gesturing for us to follow him to the Justice Building. I glance at Kristoph as we walk behind our escort, the cheers of District 2 behind them.
I am Jem Nightshade. I am the bright and beautiful tribute of District 2. I am the bold and adventurous girl from District 2.
That’s what this will be, I tell myself as I stroll through the Justice Building. It’ll be an adventure.
District 3 - Jrue Maclin
“And that’s a wrap!” I declare, clicking the button on the camera. I clap my hands and the actresses before me stop immediately. They both grin at each other, but Electra’s eyes are still full of tears, because of the last scene they just acted.
“Good luck, Jrue!” Dayta and Electra both say to me. Both being nineteen, this is their first year without the reapings, and for once they are happy on possibly the worst day of the year.
“See you tomorrow!” I call after them as they have already begun to whisk themselves home, still in their makeup. Dayta has a huge painted gash on her forehead, but she must have forgotten about that. I hear a scream down the road, and I laugh because I know their parents have probably spotted the huge fake wound on Dayta’s head. They’re both great actresses, plus their twin bond makes them super easy to work with. It’s just a shame they’re stuck in District 3, instead of the Capitol where their talents could be put to good use, just like mine. If I get famous in District 3, maybe then the Capitol might invite me to their city.
I shake my head at my stupid dreams. It’d never happen, not yet. I haven’t even finished my first video, which I have yet to finish with Electra and Dayta. I pack up my stuff and drag it over to my house across the street. I open the front door and call the names of my family, but nobody seems to be in. Only silence answers my calls. I roll my eyes, as it’s Reaping Day and we’re always supposed to go together, for my sister’s sake. As usual, I hide my stuff under the floorboards, because we’re not supposed to have access to cameras in District 3, especially as I stole them from a factory. It’s the only way to get them, after all. Unless you’re as rich as Capitol citizens, nobody can afford cameras. I just thank God that I was born in a District where we make them – no other districts have access to technology like this.
I slip into some nicer Reaping clothes and head over to the square. I search for my family, but they don’t seem to be here. Maybe my sister ran off or something, afraid to face another year of the Hunger Games. I hope she arrives before the Mayor’s speech. It’s always then that Peacekeepers begin to get frustrated and come banging on the walls of houses and beating parents for hiding their children.
As I line up, my mind focuses on the special effects in the Panem video. I grin, because I think I’ve found the perfect effect to match with a scene in the video. I can see someone staring at me, utterly astounded at my grin. I shake it off and make sure to keep my mind on the Reapings from now on. If I get Reaped, I must forget about life at home and only to my future – my fame.
“And here we are,” The escort breathes softly. What I wouldn’t give to be as famous as her, though I don’t exactly desire her blue skin. She used to have pink, but she got attached to last year’s tributes – particularly the girl. I recall last year when on the television, they looked at each other like best friends – and then the time came when the tributes had to enter the arena. The girl made it quite far, and received a lot more sponsorship gifts than the rest of the tributes. But she was drowned in one of the turquoise blue lakes dotted around the Arena. I guess, maybe, in honour of the girl, Daphne dyed her skin. That’s what she told everyone in the papers, anyway.
“Another Quarter Quell,” Daphne announces, though she doesn’t sound as spritely as last year. “And the same amount of tributes, of course.” She doesn’t quite know what to say. Her emotion and peppy attitude from last year as completely disappeared. “Girls first,” she says blandly. She takes a couple of steps, and then pulls out one straight away, not even bothering to take time to select a specific one. “Lolita Fey.”
A distant, confused girl is staring up at the escort. “Come on up,” Daphne welcomes her, a little shaky. As Lolita walks up to the microphone, her expression is perplexed. “Are you glad to be reaped?”
“Wait, what?” Lolita glares at Daphne, who shakes her head. Most escorts might laugh, or joke about it. Daphne seems to be feeling some sort of compassion for Lolita. I’m kind of glad that we have an escort who doesn’t celebrate for us, and might actually try and help us win, instead of just watching us parade around like models and then die.
“You’ve been reaped, darling,” Daphne pats Lolita’s shoulder gently. Daphne nearly chokes on her words, nearly unable to keep the tears down. The entire colour from Lolita’s face drains, and her she’s shaking. Lolita sniffs quietly, but doesn’t let a single tear slip. “Get her a chair,” Daphne orders a Peacekeeper. He dashes off into the Justice Building and he returns quickly with an old wicker thing. Lolita sits down as Daphne calls out the next name. The female tribute covers her face, maybe to stop the tears – I don’t know.
“Good luck, boys,” she says weakly. The escort draws out a name, and reads gently. “Jrue Maclin,” she finishes quickly, eager to get this finished.
I freeze, but the crowd ushers me out quickly. All I can think is I won’t get to finish my film. I’ll never become famous. I’ll die in the Hunger Games and never even have a single glimpse at fame. “Come on, Jrue. There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Daphne reassures me. I hear the familiar sound of crying. It’s the twins – Dayta and Electra. It’s not like their on screen crying – it’s real. Pure, emotional. I roll my eyes... why couldn’t they cry like that for the video? “Handsome, aren’t you?” Daphne comments as I emerge from a sea of people.
I kind of smile, but that’s in thanks of the compliment. The cameras are following me as I walk up. Maybe they think I’ll be as shaky as Lolita. It’s weird to be on the other end of a lens, when usually I’m the one behind it.
Daphne meets me at the steps and quickly gets me to shake hands with Lolita, who only manages to get to her feet for a few seconds. She sits down speedily after that.
“District 3...” Daphne breathes, her voice wavering. A tear rolls down her cheek. “Your Quarter Quell tributes, the darling Lolita Fey...” Daphne can’t control herself and cries, distraught. Why is she the one crying? It’s not like she’s about to die! “And Jrue Maclin. Congratulations you two.”
District 4 - Marsh Steel
For some reason, the Peacekeepers are desperate to begin the Reapings this year. The escort is already on stage and they skip the video, which surprises me. They always show it - without fail. The Capitol is insistent on reminding us of our terrible histroy. The Mayor gives a quick speech but he is cut short when someone sends him a message through his earpiece. He sits down in his chair sharpish, his eyes darting around for danger.
I’m amongst the early children – I don’t want to be caught in the rush down the main street. Floods have basically covered the whole area – it’s caused alleys to sink beneath the water. Peacekeepers apparently don’t have the time to get rid of the floodwater, so they cleared the high streets and the train tracks. They left everything else for us to clear, even though half of us don’t have the time. It’s the best fishing season we’ve had in years too – and the longest hours we’ve had to work in a lifetime. The Peacekeepers haven’t noticed none of us have any spare time to clear our streets and our flooded houses. We've been forced to work nearly one hundred percent of the time.
It’s the reason why I have to volunteer for my family. The floods practically destroyed our whole house. It was a bungalow, after all. The torrent of saltwater either washed away or spoiled all of our stored food, and the strength of the currents smashed the glass of pictures and cups that we kept on shelves. All our possessions were washed away. Our clothes were soaked – and we had to stay in the same clothes for days until they dried out. Our mattresses took weeks to dry and my parents found it near impossible to work. With me cleaning the house and trying to salvage whatever I could, nobody had time to look after my younger siblings. Everyone's time is running out.
So is mine. This is my last Reaping, I’ve got to volunteer this year without fail, so I can get a new house. So we won’t have to pay for repairs on our house. We might be able to replicate our missing family photos, or replace all the items that were washed away in the water. I will volunteer, and I will win – even if it’s the Quarter Quell and all the odds are against me. Practically the whole district agreed that I would be tribute when I announced it at school. Everyone knows I need to save my family from working themselves to death.
“Good morning, District 4!” Cleo blurts down the microphone. Her tone is happy, but her makeup is shabby and her clothes aren’t as colourful as last year. I’m surprised to see her twin, Hestia, absent from the Reapings. She hasn’t been seen on any TV screens since the last Reaping. Maybe there wasn’t room for a new escort in any of the districts. Her name hasn't even been uttered - not even when Cleo celebrated her huge birthday. I frown, because they're twins. Hestia wasn't even present at her own birthday now, thinking about it.
“And we’re back for a very special edition of the Hunger Games! The Fifth Quarter Quell!” Cleo celebrates, clapping her hands. I sigh. Her acting is terrible. She really isn't happy at all. I question whether her missing twin has anything to do with it. “Anyways, let’s get this going!” She trots over to the girl’s bowl in her sparkly angel heels. Strange bands are wrapped around her ankles, but they match her shoes so I guess they’re just decoration. But the red light and quiet beeping makes me think otherwise.
“Electra Lucid!” Cleo calls out. A stormy-eyed girl appears before our escort. Around her neck is a moon necklace – possibly made of silver. She looks like a Merchant child – having jewellery and all. She must be one of the lucky people – the one who can afford pointless accessories. Our mentor, Clay Barines, is eyeing her up carefully, analyzing what her skills might be. “You look like my sister.” Cleo barely stifles the words out.. The ankle bands flash and Cleo looks pained for a minute. Her ankle goes red and swells a little. Electra hasn't noticed but smiles and thanks her escort. Cleo smiles back, weakly, her eyes watering painfully. The escort picks out a male’s name hastily.
Before she can even utter the words, I scream from the crowds.
“I volunteer!” I run out of the crowds, pushing people out the way furiously. “I volunteer as tribute!” I repeat calmly. Cleo nods her head, and I am marched up with Peacekeepers by my side.
“Ok, Mr Volunteer,” Cleo jokes, though she knows it isn’t funny whatsoever. Maybe she’s just trying to lighten the grey atmosphere. Even the weather seems to match the dull and dreary mood. “What’s your name then?” Cleo puts a hand on my shoulder like a good friend. I can see Electra with a slight flash of jealousy in her stormy grey eyes.
“Marsh Steel,” I reply smoothly. The weather darkens, and a slight drizzle of rain falls. Sparkles of tiny raindrops appears in Cleo’s dark black hair. It's more natural coloured than I had first assumed, as I've always been quite far away from the stage
“And why have you volunteered?” She asks inquisitively, shaking off her wet hands. Her knuckles are white from gripping the microphone so hard. As she leans it over to me, the pressure on her hands doesn't change.
"For my family,” I say boldly. Cleo widens her eyes, but asks me nothing more. She presents us as tributes to the cameras and crowd. As we walk into the Justice Building, Cleo leans her head close to my ear, whispering nearly silently:
"You want to watch yourself now. Your family could destroy you, even if you want to save them...” She pauses, glancing around at the Peacekeepers. She glances at her beeping ankle band. She waits for it to stop flashing and beeping before adding: “Believe me, I know."
District 5 - Sparks Edison
Nina adjusts my dress, because it’s way too big for me. She pins it up, so it looks like it’s supposed to instead of just hanging off me. She curls my hair for me so I look actually pretty for once. It seems weird to look so nice. Mother bought this for me as a gift, so I could turn at the Reaping and not be judged. Nina knows what the Reapings are like, what to expect.
I don’t have a clue.
It’s my first year and the only thing I can think about is my name. My name on a slip, getting pulled out by the escort. Being read, and called up as a tribute. I shake the images out of my head, and remind myself my name has only been in there once. It's very unlikely I'll get picked. I make a mental note to stay confident, though the image still snags in the back of my mind. Nina slides the final hairpins in, and announces that I’m ready to go. She sorts herself out, and we leave hastily, not wanting to be late for my first year.
“Why couldn’t Mother be here?” I say quietly as we make our way down to the main square. People are kissing their families goodbye on porches. It seems strange to see people usually happy, now broken. I’ve never seen the District like this before. Then again, I've never been in this situation before. I'm almost shocked at the fact Nina can ignore tears of children and parents that stand only a few feet away.
“Because she works, as do most adults here. You know what Peacekeepers do to people who don’t turn up at work,” Nina explains in a hushed voice. The main square looms on me, casting a dark and cold shadow that sends a chill through me. Stanley Pines, the dry and dreary mentor sits as plainly as ever in his chair. His plain clothes and grey face suggest he’s as grumpy as always. I’ve seen him on television, but in the Capitol he seems so happy. It’s weird, because he’s nearly always silent and cynical in District 5. The same plain-faced man that seems to express no emotion or character whatsoever. “Same with Father," Nina finishes eventually.
My sister splits off from me suddenly and I find myself stranded in a crowd full of pale-faced twelve year olds, alone and unsure what to do. I see Nina lining up, for some sort of register. She looks at me and mouths ‘okay?’ and I nod, copying her exactly. A Peacekeeper stabs a pin into my finger, and then dots my blood on a page. Nina walks into a crowd of people her own age. I stroll right up to the front. People hustle and bustle around, whispering to one another about their odds. I don't even want to think about them. The odds are never in our favour, no matter how many slips you've got in those bowls.
I shake my head. I can do this. I can get through just one reaping. And then I’ll do the same next year and everything will be fine. I’ll get to eighteen and forget about the Hunger Games once and for all. Nothing will take me down, not even the Hunger Games.
Romulus, the escort, introduces us to the Quarter Quell. My first reaping had to be a Quarter Quell, didn’t it? I roll my eyes and try to focus, but my vision is hazy. I don’t know whether it’s the nerves or the fact I forgot to have breakfast. I curse myself, because my tummy rumbles and I'm sure the cameraman heard me.
I wish there was a place I could go to, where there were no Hunger Games and everyone in all districts were well-fed and looked after. There were doctors to cure all diseases, and nobody had to worry about anything except homework and their careers. I wish it could be a completely equal, where there was no racism. People weren’t judged on their religion, and the world was at peace. But there will be no peace while the Capitol are in control, I remind myself. I feel stupid for having imagined an impossible reality.
“Good morning District 5! It’s a beautiful day and I can’t wait to get these Reapings started!” Romulus grins, looking not at the crowd but directly at the cameras. Nina is looking slightly perplexed for some reason, like something isn’t right. I dart my eyes around the stage. It all seems fine, but whatever she sees is obviously a problem because she’s shaking as Romulus draws out a slip.
“Okay, and the female tribute for the Quell is....” Romulus frowns as he realises the slip is already unravelled. He ignores it, but reads the name out anyway. “Sparks Edison!”
Wait, that’s my name. I bite my lip, praying it’s just a dream. I’ll wake up any moment now. ‘It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real!’ My mind screams. I pinch myself on the soft inside of my arm. I small zap of pain shoots up, but nothing else. I don’t wake up in my house, in my warm and cosy bed. Instead I’m still stood in the middle of the Square, silent tears rolling down my face, looking like a fool as chilling goosebumps rise on my arms and legs. “Come on up, honey,” Romulus encourages me a little too kindly. I blink, dazed. This can’t be happening. No way.
Peacekeepers press guns to my back, and I’m violently shoved forwards because I'm taking too long. I almost trip on my own feet. I suck my cheeks in, biting them between my teeth. As Romulus’ strangely manicured hand pulls my arm upwards, I taste blood. Silent tears roll down my cheeks. No! I scream inside. Don’t cry, you wimp, I shout at myself. The tears disappear quickly and I fix on a courtier smile especially for the cameras.
“Hello, Romulus,” I say brightly, my tone changing very quickly. This is the way I’ve got to be now. All smiles and a pretty face, anything that’ll help me win these Games. I’ll do whatever it takes to stand in my Victor’s home at the end of this.
“Good day, Sparks. Are you happy to be chosen?” He asks inquisitively. I smile wider, my white teeth showing. I thank God Nina forced me to brush them thoroughly before we left the house.
“Oh yes. Like a dream come true,” I laugh peppily. Romulus chuckles a little and seems almost cheered up by my happy attitude. I search the crowds for Nina as the escort slides his hands over the male Reaping bowl. I see my sister, breaking down in hysterics towards the back of the sea of faces. Peacekeepers are surrounding her, making sure she doesn’t even bother to try and rescue me.
She stares right at me, and I grin wider. There’s nothing else I can do except smile. I can’t cry because I’m leaving her, because that’d make me seem weak. Weakness means death in the Games, I advise myself. Forget about Nina, you don’t need her. She can’t help you, I decide, as much as it hurts.
My sister breaks down even harder, knees on the ground and her head in her hands. Nobody seems to have noticed my sister, or my strangely perfectly fixed smile that grows even wider and ‘happier’ as my fellow tribute comes up on stage. I look away from my sibling, and I don't look at her again. Not even for a second.
“Good day, James,” Romulus says, my attention turning to my new District partner. A dark-purple haired boy arrives beside my escort. His eyes flicker over to me, completely ignoring the escort. He just nods. “Well then, shake hands you two,” Romulus encourages us, stepping back. James’ hands are cold compared with mine. I nod my head, and whisper congratulations to him. He says exactly the same, copying me. My eyes stay fixed on him as Romulus announces us. James copies everything I do, down to the very last detail. The way I hold myself – chin up and straight posture – even the way I smile. Wide, but meaningless.
Looks like I have competition from my own District, I laugh inside my head. I try not to let it get to me, but as we walk into the Justice Building I know I’ll be facing much more than a copycat.
Confidence is the key. Confidence, always confidence. Nothing else now, I tell myself, completely ignoring the fact all the odds are stacked against me as a twelve year old. I’m not the girl from District 5 anymore. I’ll be a tribute, and I’ll have to change myself to fit the Capitol. My ordinary self isn’t good enough. But Capitol Sparks will be good enough, she’ll be more than enough for them to handle.
District 6 - Orlando Johnson
I barely have enough time to change out of my work clothes before the Reaping. I wipe the sweat off my forehead after hastily running home, desperate to be on time this year. School wasn’t on today – it never is on this day of the year. Instead, to keep us ‘busy’, they force us to work in the factories. We were made to piece together bits of train track. I can’t think why, as the train only goes between districts periodically. We haven’t had to make train tracks since... Well I don’t know. I’ve never had to make train tracks.
There have been rumours all over the place that the tracks were destroyed by people, not by accident. I don’t know whether to believe them. People here believe all sorts of rumours, in the hope that it might mean a rebellion. District 12 isn’t the most impoverished District anymore. Tesserae levels are huge here – possibly the highest rates there have ever been in the history of Panem. In the Seam, everyone is hoping for a change. Everyone wants a rebellion. We just can’t organise it ourselves. The citizens are so broken down it takes all their strength to even get up in the morning.
An aching feeling throbs in my arms. I’ve had to stack metal sheets all day so they can be melted down into train tracks. I notice that the other people walking to the square also seemed tired out. Everyone, not just people from the Seam, has been worked especially hard.
As I approach the Justice Building, I see that the number of Peacekeepers has increased. They’re all armed, and full protected in head-to-toe armour. I don’t recognise any of them – the usual people were sent on the train along with the Victors. It’s like they’re trying to remake District 6. I line up, ready to get my finger stabbed. It’s pointless. Why can’t they just take a picture of us? Do they think our DNA changes over the course of the year? It’d be fine if they could just take our names down, instead of drawing our blood to register us. It’s like the Capitol will find any excuse to cause pain.
At long last, the escort arrives and has a snappy argument with the Mayor. Something is obviously not to her liking. Her green dress resembles splodges of vomit, and I have to control my laughter as she trots around, pointing out non-existent problems that only she seems to notice. The Mayor shrugs his shoulders, saying something witty that shuts the escort up. I don’t know what happened to last year’s escort, Tatiana. She was nice to the tributes, even commenting on how nice they looked at the Reapings. Her sympathy for us definitely showed through on the 121st Hunger Games, when there was a sibling set. As the years went past, Tatiana became nicer and nicer, sometimes crying at the fact she’d see off another two children, who she knew she’d probably never see again.
Once the 124th Hunger Games came and went, Tatiana was never seen or mentioned again. Her birthday, which was usually a huge party attended by hundreds of journalists, wasn’t even in the papers. She never modelled for clothing lines, or attended the Victory Tour after-party in the Capitol. But she’s not the only escort to have simply disappeared. There have been others in the past – more recently, Hestia, the lovely twin from District 4. I shake the thoughts of assassination as the new escort introduces herself.
“Hello, District 6!” Her annoying accent is just unbearable. “We’re going to play the tape, and then I’m going to read a speech specially written by the President himself! Doesn’t that sound lovely?” I frown, because I swear I recognise her from somewhere. Her elaborate hat covers half her face, so it’s difficult to remember anyone she might resemble. “Ok, here we go with the tape.” The long and very fake video plays, still voiced by the first President.
“War, terrible war. Widows, orphans, a motherless child...This was the uprising that rocked our land.” People scoff at the terrible acting, the crying children. It’s so outdated and only reminds us of why we hate the Capitol so much. Why District 6 is hungry for a revolution. “Thirteen Districts...”
I remember when the Capitol revealed the survival of District 13. It would have been a hard decision, after almost a century of trying to cover it up. They’d been in a quiet war against each other for nearly ten years, yet the districts knew nothing about it. Mother told me that people lost all hope when District 13 joined us in the Games. Some had prayed that they would bring us salvation, that we could escape there if we were ever endangered. But now, we have nothing left to run to.
“But freedom has a cost...” The past President continues. I roll my eyes. What freedom? I tune out the rest of the video. It’s meaningless. It doesn’t hold the same effect it did before the President died. People were afraid of him – but now Rome is in power, nobody seems to fear the government. He might be cruel, but he isn’t near as sneaky and deceitful as President Snow was.
“Anyway, let’s get onto the Reapings,” the escort says. She trots over to a Reaping bowl in her tight-fitting heels. With her patterned nails, she holds one between her fingers. Happily and almost excitedly, she unravels the paper and reads delightedly. “Ruby Burn!” A little girl, of only twelve, walks up. She was the person that tried to escape, not so long ago. The person with a herd of younger siblings that were all thrown in a children’s home, after the death of her ill mother and the public execution of her father. “Hello, dear. You’re a sweet one! Look at those dimples!” The escort exclaims, grabbing Ruby’s cheeks and shaking them. Ruby looks uncomfortable, looking around for her siblings. “So, Ruby, have you got any family here today?” The escort asks, smiling like a pageant girl to the cameras. Ruby nods, her hands shaking.
“I’ve got six younger siblings,” she whispers, her face going red all over. “They couldn't come today.” she continues, her throat croaky. The escort looks perplexed. Ruby explains for the stupid woman. "They've been kept in an orphanage."
“I didn't ask for your life story!" The escort hisses sourly. Ruby's lip quivers, her hands shaking terribly. I'm angry at this escort already. Why the hell did she say that? The poor girl's just been reaped and you're treating her like that? The escort shrugs carelessly, not that bothered about it. “Boys now!” Ruby looks, offended, and tries to cover her face. Her face is red and contorted, like she’s holding in the tears and emotion. “Orlando Johnson!”
I swear I almost die at that moment. I stop breathing, but my heart beats faster than ever. I realise my odds. I have almost none. Ruby’s at least good at climbing, she has the looks on her side. I’ve got nothing. I’m weak and tired from work. How am I expected to wield an axe, fire a bow or survive alone for a week? Even if I do win, what’ll happen after that? I might get post traumatic stress, destined to drown in alcohol and morphling for the rest of my life.
As I rise to the stage, I glance at Ruby – her poor, tatty clothing is half-ripped and disgustingly dirty. I look down at myself. I look even worse, with my misshapen hand-me-down boots and tight-fitting top that’s getting way too small for me. Then I scan the crowds. The wrinkled faces of the adults working themselves to death glare at me. The young children barely out of primary school who are already being forced to do extra shifts in factories, just to provide a little bit of money for their families – remind me of myself.
I realise that I may have something to win for. If I win, the money I receive could go towards helping them. I could pay for food, to those who can’t afford it. To help children to avoid taking out tesserae. To stop twelve-year-olds like Ruby getting reaped ever again.
I could do this, or at least die a martyr.
District 7 - Sunny Coleman
The sun’s shining, as always. The forest is calm – only the mockingjays sing. There are no sounds of furious axes cutting the trees, no distressed people calling out ‘timber!’ every other second. Golden leaves drift from the trees, sunlight streaking through the canopies. It is early autumn here. Pale grass begins to shorten, disappearing in the cold weather. But still, the skies are blue and the clouds are still puffy.
The sunlight flashes into darkness, the clouds going black. I open my eyes. I’m back in District 7. I’m lying in an old timber forests. Old, may I remind you. Rotting stumps are all that’s left of this wood, with the paling ferns dying off – overexposed to the harsh sunlight. The whole area is lined with deceased electric fences. They were turned off years ago apparently, when the District’s borders were extended to new forests. I sigh as I realise my cold reality.
“Sunny, what the hell are you doing?” My brother asks. In his hand, he holds a half-rusted axe, turned orange by icy rain. The wooden handle is rotting – it’s got moss growing over it. Slung across his shoulder and down his back is an old saw chain, still in perfectly good condition. Maybe some of the employees that used to work here just left the old tools in place of new, more modern buzz saws. “It’s Reaping Day, Sunny. I think you forget that, even here,” Samuel reminds me. I groan. I wasn’t born into this life. I was born to the Capitol, probably destined for fame and riches had my father not been assassinated and my family torn apart. “Come on!” Samuel’s voice has drifted away. The rattling of the saw chain along the ground is the only thing I can hear. I reckon, if I lay here long enough and quietly enough, I’d probably hear the plants rotting.
“Coming!” I reply, jumping to my feet. I do a little jog to catch up with him.
The main square isn’t far from the dead forest. It’s about half a mile, and probably only about two hundred metres from the house. If you go to the borders of District 7, it might take hours to reach the Justice Building. But I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had to walk that far, really. Maybe if I still lived in the Capitol, I might have gone on jogs around the city with my parents. Maybe if I’d done something to prevent my father dying... My world is full of ‘maybes’, ‘ifs’ and ‘I should haves’. Everything in the past was preventable. I should have done something. If I’d done something, it’d have been different. Maybe if my family had never been perfect – my father might still be alive.
“Do you want to change?” Samuel wonders, looking at my outfit. I’ve got grass stains on my trousers and bits of leaves cling to my thickly-woven jumper. In the summer sun, it’s starting to get very hot. I wish I hadn’t taken an early shift at work. I should have just stayed at home and rested – preparing myself for what might happen.
“No. I don’t have time, and neither do you.” I point to the clock tower. It’s almost midday – almost time for the Reaping. Samuel sighs. He’s still in the tatty old hand-me-downs that he wears in his spare time. His Reaping clothes aren’t the height of fashion, but they’re better than half-ripped, patched shirts and trousers. His big boots aren’t exactly desirable, either. He could have been super fashionable. If our father hadn’t been assassinated. “Come on, everyone is lining up.”
I join the queue and ignore the pinprick in my finger, trying to stop myself wincing. It hurts. I didn’t realise that they did this to District 7 citizens. It seems a bit cruel, when two of them are about to face their deaths – and they’ll still die with the mark of where it all began. That single dot on their finger.
I’m praying that neither Samuel’s nor my name has been rigged in the bowls, but I know it’s possible. I know President Rome wouldn’t hesitate to take one last shot at the Winston family, to knock them down forever. I also hope that my other siblings and relatives all over Panem are safe. I have no idea where they are; if they are even alive.
I have to keep telling myself that I’m not a Winston anymore. I’m not part of a rich family in the Capitol any longer. I’m a Coleman, and I belong to District 7 now. Technically, I shouldn’t know any of the Winston family. After all, they don’t exist anymore. To do the Districts, they never were real. So I need to stop worrying about them.
I line up with the thirteen year olds. All the girls stare at me. I’m a stranger. I wasn’t here last year. This is my first Reaping, despite the fact I’m thirteen. It’s weird, because I know what to expect. I guess I’ve seen it all before; on the television. The thing that makes it strange is actually experiencing it. The reaped tributes usually looked happy – maybe a lot of them were faking it. Nobody here seems happy. It’s an overwhelming feeling – being on the other side. Never did I think the Reapings would be so hollow, so depressing.
“Hello District 7,” says the escort in a drab, monotone voice. I don’t think I can bear another five years of this. “It’s the Quarter Quell as you know,” he explains tiredly. “So, here we go.” I know who he is. He’s called Gaius Gemini – a man who trained to be a politician but decided not to do that, and go with a different career choice. I have no idea how he ended up as escort for District 7. But what I do know is that he’s possibly the most cynical and plain boring men you shall ever meet. “Boys, first – for a change,” He says, his tone lightening slightly.
His coarse, wrinkled hands pull out a slip. He strolls over to the microphone once again, clearing his throat to speak. I can almost hear the phlegm sink away. I have to stop myself gagging when a horrid stench of rotting wood drifts across the main square. It’s always made me a little sick, that stench. I’m still not used to the smells of nature. The Capitol was always so clean...
“Jayson Huff, please come to the stage,” Gaius requests. A quite well-built boy surfaces into the narrow strip between the crowds. He looks reasonably scary. I hope with all my heart he’s a nice person. God help me if I get reaped and have to fight him. I notice though, he’s got a strange scar on his face. It looks like claw marks... surely not? There aren’t clawed animals around here! “Hello Jayson! Good luck,” Gaius says, in more of a statement than a compliment. Jayson just nods nervously. Clearly he’s not used to the Capitol accent, because he’s looking perplexed.
Suddenly, it’s mid autumn again. Trees materialize around me. The smell of rotting wood and sawdust disappears, leaving only the clean air and silence. Mockingjays sing in the trees once again. It’s not their usual song: elegant, smooth and pretty. It’s harsh sounding, almost like a shriek. They’re distressed and screaming. The flowers begin to wilt and die – the trees going dark and they lose their leaves.
“Sunny Coleman!” The mockingjays scream. “Sunny Coleman!” Their deafening screeches causing the trees to shatter like glass. Instead, a stage appears and I’m back at the Reapings. It’s not the mockingjays screeching my name, it’s Gaius Gemini. “Please come to the stage, Sunny.” My shuddering body somehow drags itself next to the escort. I can feel the colour drain from my face.
Suck it up and smile, I shout at myself.
Gaius Gemini is tapping his foot on the ground impatiently.
“Hi,” he says curtly. “Shake hands,” he orders strictly. I look at the huge clock tower. It’s taken me over ten minutes to get to the stage. Gaius steps back, looking down at his feet. Jayson looks down on me. He’s feet taller than I am. He offers his hand and I reluctantly shake it. His grip is tight – his hands are dry and hard. He obviously works in the forests with the old-fashioned axes.
“District 7, your tributes for the Fifth Quarter Quell!”
District 8 - Amaya Selene
I slip down various alley ways, cautious not to take the main streets. If people saw me, they’d recognise me as the girl who killed her sister. They all deserve a punch in the face. They don’t understand the situation. They don’t know what she put me through. But I can’t tell them what happened. I can’t explain it to them, or I’d have Peacekeepers barging through the door within the hour. I pull up the hood of my jacket and make sure my hair disguises my face, just as I did last year; and all the years after the death of my sister.
The roads open out into direct routes to the Justice Building. I make sure people don’t look at me. In my black clothing, I try to blend into the crowds heading towards the Reapings. I hurriedly push in the queue to get registered, desperate to merge with the rest of my age group. I just want to get today over with, and quick.
Our District escort is stood up on stage. She’s wearing a bright pink outfit. Her shiny skirt puffs out in all directions, satin and velvet and silk blending in with one another, creating one big mass of fabric. Her tight-fitting top splays out at the waist, resting on her skirt. It looks like she’s wearing a giant marshmallow. Disgusting. I just want to rip it to shreds.
“Hello, District Eight!” Ceres says brightly. She’s received by a silent crowd. I swear I could hear tumbleweed whistle across the main square. Ceres’ face falls, disappointed. She’s been doing this for four years. She should know what to expect. “Let’s skip the tape, hey? Ssh,” she says cheekily. Ugh, she’s just sickening. I want to just rip her vocal chords out. She shuffles over to a bowl. “Boys first,” she grins.
I take notice of her ghastly nails. They’ve been painted pink-leopard print and are as long as the fingers themselves. Her hands are starting to wrinkle as she ages, but who knows how wrinkly and cragged they might be. All the cracks in her hands have been filled up by makeup. They look orange now, underneath all that foundation and concealer and whatnot.
“Henry Polyester!” Ceres announces proudly. “Strange name, that one,” she comments as a curly-haired boy emerges from the crowd. He’s got a scrunched up dollar note in his hand. He stuffs it in his pocket when he realises everyone is staring at him. “Hello.” Ceres smiles as Henry stumbles up on stage. He nearly trips on one of the steps. Usually, people would laugh at him. Not today, however. I bet people would laugh at me. I guess I deserve it.
“Henry, are you looking forward to seeing who will be your district partner?” Ceres asks Henry. His lip is quivering. He’s just a twelve year old. He nods his head timidly, his face as white as a sheet. “Girls, good luck!” Ceres continues gleefully, skipping over to the girls’ reaping bowl. She draws out a slip of paper, smiling like she’s picking sweets out a bowl.
A girl next to me shuffles around, trying to give herself some space. She accidentally knocks back my hood, causing my hair to splay all over the place. My face is completely showing. The girl opens her mouth to apologise, but then the realisation hits. Her eyes widen and fill with horror.
Holy shit. She knows who I am. “And the female tribute is...” Ceres’ voice plays in the background. She knows, she knows, she knows. Fucking hell. “Malou-”
“I VOLUNTEER!” I shout, raising my hand. The girl gasps, stepping back immediately to make way for me. Ceres is smiling delightedly. She gets me to shake hands with little Henry once I’m up on stage. Then we turn to the crowd.
All I can see are faces filled with horror.
District 9 - Bree Riverbuck
In the corner of my eye, I glimpse the Peacekeepers. I duck behind the bush. My brown jacket helps me blend in perfectly. My soft boots make it impossible for them to retrace my steps, luckily. They've occupied the cabin now for a good ten to fifteen minutes. I can hear them ransacking the place. The hiss of smashing glass rings in my ears. Mariann's pictures, probably. Sadness twists in my heart.
Despite never having met the girl, I've always felt a connection. She's been dead for nearly two centuries, yet everything she owned had been preserved, somehow. And now the Peacekeepers are completely destroying the place. It's got all my stuff in it too. They'll know someone's been there recently. They'll come looking for them, too. They'll come looking for me.
It's Reaping Day, too. I'd planned to hide my stuff and then head off to the main square. I've still got to go. The town Peacekeepers will notice my absence, whereas these wood Peacekeepers seem to only recognising my presence. I shake my head, coming to a final conclusion.
There's no way I can come back here - even after the Reaping. The Peacekeepers will bug the cabin, or the area around it. They won't take the risk of someone escaping the District. I crawl across a hedgerow, careful to keep dry twigs out my way. To make a noise now would be disastrous. They'd find me - let me bear the torturous reaping - and then arrest me or kill me or whatever they do to criminals nowadays.
Once the Peacekeepers are out of sight, I jump to my feet and make a quick sprint to the fence. There's a small gap underneath the wires. I'm cautious to chuck my backpack through first. I go head first, my cheek pressed against the dry ground. Shards of pine needles scratch my skin, crackly fern leaves crushed against my body. When I emerge safely on the other side, I'm coated in half-dead leaves, nuts and seeds. I brush myself off.
On the way to the square, I conceal my backpack in a bush. I'll need to pick it up on my way home. Wait, I've got no home now. The Peacekeepers took my home. They probably took Mariann's, too. There's no way I can go home to my father. He probably wouldn't want me living there.
I killed his wife, because she gave birth to me. She planned to welcome a gift into the world, and instead brought on her own death. My heart aches at the thought. I bite my cheeks when I sling the backpack over my shoulder once again. Might as well keep it with me. I don't want to risk the Peacekeepers finding that, and making a connection between me and the cabin. I wouldn't stand a chance against the Head Peacekeeper. I'd be in the stocks before I could plead innocent.
When I reach the square, nearly everyone is there. I'm a straggler, as I have been for the past few years. I've always been hunting in the forest, or staring at the sky, time passing me by meaninglessly. Only today does time mean anything to me.
The escort is immersed in deep conversation with this year's District mentor: Acacia Twilight. Her smile is as sarcastic as ever. I have quite an admiration for Acacia. Her words are like acid, even to Capitol citizens. She's quite hilarious - constantly making snarky remarks about our escort: Aspen-Kendra. I love her bravery - her fearlessness to talk about the Capitol in such a way.
Aspen totters up to the microphone. Her walk is similar to that of a toddler learning to walk; messy and all over the place. It's probably because of her eight inch heels. They look like massive rocks on her feet, not shoes.
"Hallo, District 9, and isn't it such a fine morning?" Aspen asks brightly. I can see Acacia grin behind her. I can't help myself, but I smile too. The whole situation is just ridiculous. "Well, we're running a bit late this morning, so we'll have to sadly skip the tape." Aspen mimes someone crying, rolling her lip. It takes everything to keep myself from laughing my head off. "Well, let's do boys first, for a change, seeing as it's the Quarter Quell! A lot of changes this year, hey?" Aspen remarks thoughtfully.
Aspen seems overjoyed when she unravels the name slip.
"Dipper Pines, I welcome you to the stage," Aspen reads, her head turning to scan the crowd. A boy with a face of confidence walks up. Wait, that's not confidence at all. It's ignorance, arrogance and ego all rolled into one. God help whoever has to put up with him as a District partner. He looks more like a Capitol-raised brat than a District 9 child.
"Girls, let us see who will be joining Dipper." The male tribute looks up at the mention of his name. A flicker of smugness rises in his eyes. He blinks it away as his District partners' name is read out. "Charlotte Morgan."
My heart stops. It's not me. I know her. And she knows me, very well. I moved away from my father a while ago now, but Charlotte used to bully me for moving. She claimed I was selfish, throwing away my 'rich' Merchant life to live in the Seam. Charlotte was the girl that drove me into the woods. But without her, I would have never come across the cabin. I would never have found all of Mariann's belongings: her diary, her pictures, her home. My life wasn't going great in the Seam, even without Charlotte's bullying and constant taunting. I guess I've got her to thank for that. I don't know where the idea comes from. But it's an idea, nonetheless. Mariann was probably killed by Peacekeepers. I might face the same fate, if they discover me. They won't be able to hurt me if I volunteer.
"I VOLUNTEER!" I shout. "OVER HERE!" I run out of the crowd. Charlotte's face goes pale, tears streaming down her face. She hugs me. Her affection is newfound, but I welcome her with open arms. She's got a better life here in the Seam. People make mistakes, she deserves it. But damn, she deserves much worse. She deserves to get Reaped. But I'm not doing this for her. I'm doing it for Mariann, and for myself. I won't let the Peacekeepers force the same fate on me as they probably did to Mariann, all those years ago.
"Why?" Charlotte whispers in my ear, out of hearing to the cameras. The Peacekeepers give us a minute. They must think we're sisters or something.
"This isn't for you," I hiss with poison in my voice. "Get off me bitch." Charlotte jumps back suddenly. She keeps her emotional state. Maybe she doesn't want me blabbering all about the torture she caused me. I push past her quickly, rising to the stage.
"Welcome, welcome, tribute. What's your name, sweetheart?" Aspen asks me, a pageant smile on her face. Her lipstick cracks. Maybe her mouth isn't used to smiling.
"I'm Bree Riverbuck," I answer her softly. She's annoying me already, that woman. I only want to talk to my mentor. The person that's actually of use to me. "Did you know Charlotte?" Aspen continues smoothly. She sounds like she's trying to copy an interviewer on the Capitol television.
"Not really. She used to bully me terribly." Now it's my turn to copy. I act out a broken girl, all caused by another person. A brutal person, a bully. That'll show you Charlotte.
"Oh dear. Well, we'll sort that out for you." Aspen pauses, smiling. "Peacekeepers, do me a favour will you?" A crowd of Peacekeepers nod at her. Charlotte begins to run away, but they pin her down and lock her in handcuffs. One beats her on the back. Charlotte drops to the ground, her body cramping. I hear her wheezy, contorted breaths from the stage. Aspen's brutality shocks me. Even I wouldn't have done that. Acacia, the mentor, is shaking her head with disappointment. She disappears into the Justice Building as Charlotte's agonizing screams echo through the square. Aspen announces us hurriedly, and then leads us straight after Acacia. As the doors shut, a gunshot rings.
District 10 - Euan Lorelle
“Good luck, Euan,” Alecia winks, giving me a flirty smile. I grin back at my ever-gorgeous friend and split off, my family trailing behind me like little ducks. They tease and joke about Alecia and me. We’re nothing but friends. I have to keep reminding them of that. I’m not really looking for a relationship right now. Not when I have all my younger siblings to care for, as well as working two shifts at work.
But I guess I'd be lying if I said I didn't like Alecia. She's an amazing person to be around. “Ash, remember you’re second from the front, right?” I explain to my younger sibling, getting back to reality. My little brother nods nervously. He’s been biting his nails with stress. They’re so short, there’s possibly about half a centimetre between the end of his finger and the actual nail. He stumbles off, squeezing in between his 14-year-old mates. Aspen and Cedar stalk off to their groups, being the lonesome older children. Usually we're quite close, but the Reaping is always a touchy subject within the family. They're absence leaves me with Alona. It’s her second year, and she’s still not used to it. By "it" I mean the Hunger Games. “Ok, Alona, is there anything you need to tell me before we move?” I ask her quietly.
“No,” she mumbles quietly, looking around. Her mood can't stay like this if she gets reaped. A weak schoolgirl is not what the Capitol want.
“You’re diagonal from Ash, okay? Just over there...” I point over to the thirteen-year-olds. They’re all shuffling around quietly, like lambs trapped in a corral. “Cedar and Aspen have shifts... you’ll see them at dinner. Ash will walk home, so you just look for me afterwards. I’ll meet you at the bakery, yeah? Wait for me until I come back, alright?” Alona nods, her body trembling with nerves. “Confidence, remember,” I advise. Almost instantly, my little sister switches from weak school-girl to fearsome woman. “Good. Now off you go.” Alona struts away, smiling at her friends and wishing them good luck.
Peacekeepers push me into my group, because I’ve taken too long talking to my sister. Aster Clelia, daughter of the President, is standing up on stage. A sour look is cast on her face, her foot tapping the ground impatiently. She’d be pretty if her personality wasn’t toxic acid. The cameramen are all ready to film, when a shout comes from a Capitol visitor towards the side.
“Aster, less of the sass,” they say strictly. He sounds like a film director or something. Aster smiles sarcastically.
“How’s that?” She snaps back at him. I hear sighs, and then the clicks of buttons. Aster rolls her eyes when the music thunders from the speakers. The video tape plays. It’s too blurry to decipher. The colours of the actors’ costumes merge and make a brown sludge of murky pixels. Aster groans. “Stop the tape,” she commands icily. The flick of a switch casts the screen to darkness once again.
The district is looking at her with confusion. She’s the daughter of the President, and is willing to risk skipping the video? President Rome has executed escorts for skipping tapes, before. Usually only in District 10, strangely. Assassinating his own child isn’t beneath him. She’s treading on eggshells already. Maybe that’s why the director and technicians were all called in to help her.
“The graphics were positively awful,” Aster explains matter-of-factly to us. There are many girls I can get along with, Capitol pedigree or not. But Aster... even the nicest person walking this planet couldn’t like her. The relation to President Rome doesn’t help. “Okay, District Ten. This is my fifth year as escort, can you believe it?!”Aster brightens her tone, seeing the cameras zoom in for a close-up of her face.
Yeah, five years and you’re still the escort for District Ten, I think. By now you should be working for District 2, Aster.
Why would a beautiful girl like her act so icy? Maybe because President Rome has favourite children. We all know he does. Aster's not doing too well with her career in the Capitol. The escort position seemed the only job for her to take. We're the reject District, too. Nobody wants to work with our tributes except very desperate Capitol citizens.
“Boys, are you up for going first?” Aster says, walking over to the bowls. She hastily pulls out a slip and tosses the spare bits of paper on the floor. “Euan Lorelle!” She reads slowly and clearly. That’s my name. That’s my name. That’s my name! Aster signals for me to come up, repeating my name a second time. I stare down at the floor, not looking up. I don’t want to meet the escort’s eyes.
I stand in the middle of the two gender crowds, alone and staring at the ground. I’m not afraid. I’m strong. I’d rather give my life than have a twelve-year-old die. I’ve lived longer than them, after all. I look up, gazing into Aster’s eyes. She looks away quickly, embarrassed.
I barely notice Alona silently walking in front of me.
Her bottom lip is quivering, but she’s not crying. Before I can stop her, she’s hugging me in front of the entire District. Her head is only tall enough to reach my shoulders. “Confidence,” we whisper at the same time. Alona releases me and heads out of the crowd, almost marching proudly. Another scream echoes. That’s not Alona. I turn my head and my best friend comes into view.
Alecia is screaming. Tears roll down her cheeks. Peacekeepers are restraining her in an awkward angle. They let her go when I glare at them.
Her screams are cut short when I envelop her in my arms. I don’t want to let her go. Even if she is sobbing into my shoulder, getting my jacket wet with tears. I’d happily stand here for everyone to watch, if it meant being with her forever. But I know that can’t happen. Aster is already reading out the girl’s name, fed up of waiting for me. All eyes are still on Alecia and I.
I pull her gently off of me. She wipes away her tears as I hold her at arm’s length, her shoulders square with mine.
“I don’t need you,” I say firmly. The only way for her to get through this is to know we can’t be together. We never can, especially not after the Games, if I make it. “You don’t need me, and I don’t need you. Fall in love with someone else and be happy.” I let go of Alecia and almost run away. I ignore her crying when I meet up with Aster at long last.
“Jessica Woods.” The girl tribute. That’s the person who’s going to be my district partner. The person who might be my last friend until the day I die in the Games. A beautiful girl elegantly steps up. She’s got lovely sky-blue eyes. I shouldn’t be saying this after Alecia... but I have to. I have to get over her. “Aww, you two are just gorgeous,” Aster comments when I look directly at Jessica’s face. “Shake hands then.” As Jessica takes my hand, I pull her into a hug before she can react. I hear her shaking with fear or nerves. Or both.
Loud crying echoes from the back of the main square. Alecia. I plant a kiss on Jessica’s cheek as we pull apart. Alecia screams with dispair as Aster ‘ahhs’ softly behind us, completely oblivious to the real meaning of what I'm doing.
I want Alecia to forget me. I don't want her to feel anything for me, so that when I die, it will impact her less. In some ways, I want her to realise I'm doing this to help her. But in some ways I don't, because if she understood my actions she'd feel even more pain over my death. I really do not want Alecia to care for me any longer.
“Like girlfriend and boyfriend already,” Aster comments jokily, though I know she’s speaking honestly. Jessica’s face is flushing red. She’s blushing! I grin wider, though it's not making me happy at all. A pain wrenches my heart in two.
Just before we get directed to the Justice Building, I see my sister walking into town. She’s heading to the bakery, where we agreed to meet. Where she agreed to wait for me until I came back.
District 11 - Artemis Moonsilver
It’s just gone ten past eleven. Fifty minutes to get to the Reaping, to be exact. My family will have to go hungry, just this day. I’m almost glad that I haven’t seen any bloodshed today. If I get reaped, I’ll see enough of that. Midday isn’t far away, and I’ve got to get back to the house to get ready. The harvesters will be going back home in a few minutes. I don’t want them to see me scarpering past them.
I hang my bow over my back, the quiver of arrows knocking against them. I’m careful to keep my pace to a minimum. I don’t want anyone seeing me in the fields. A girl walking around armed isn’t exactly what the Peacekeepers want to see on Reaping Day. Plus, I’m not allowed in the fields, not these fields anyway. They’re growing a particularly special crop for the Capitol this year. I don’t have a clue what the plants are, but whatever they are, they definitely cannot be eaten. I’d be stealing from this field if any parts of the plants are edible.
Flowers stretch from one end of the District to the other, in a long narrow strip that borders the fences. All the petals of these “flowers” are blood-red. Occasionally, you’ll see a different colour. But they’re all cut down and burnt, per the requests of Peacekeepers. They are constantly patrolling this area of land. Apparently the plants can transfer diseases, or something.
It’s hard to ignore one off-colour flower. It doesn’t have feelings, but I feel bad for it. The flower is just all by itself, alone and unique.
It’s a brown flower, standing tall by itself. I’m surprised the growers haven’t spotted it yet, to be honest. There are gaps throughout this whole section of field where patches of brown flowers have been cut down. There are only red flowers as far as the eye can see. Yet, one, innocent bud pokes up, spreading its brown petals ever so proudly.
“Oi, missy! What you doing?” Someone yells across the field. I freeze, a chill shooting down my back. Oh god, they’ve seen me with my bow. They’ll take me to the Head Peacekeeper, for sure.
“It’s okay, she’s with me. She’s training for pest control,” a second voice answers them, in a rather vague reply. In the corner of my eye, I see a Peacekeeper nod and stroll off like nothing ever happened.
I turn around, expecting to see a friend of mine, or someone that might have a reason to get me out of trouble. Instead, an old lady stands in an apron and a thin linen dress. Her boots have been trodden ragged, her wrinkles creasing as she smiles. She plucks a red flower off the stalk, and hands it to me. “Thank you,” I say in a whisper. The tiny thing looks so delicate and out of place on my hand. The gorgeous chocolate-brown petals contrast against my pale skin.
“It’s called a chocolate cosmos flower. Very rare,” she tells me quietly, plucking one for herself. She holds it to her nose and breathes in its scent carefully. Until now, I haven’t really noticed the fragrance in the air. I’ve been so focused on the Reapings and hunting, I completely ignored the plants around me. I close my eyes. The overwhelming scent of vanilla is the instant thing I smell. The sweet smell makes my stomach go funny. “Brown ones, especially,” the old lady continues sadly.
“Why do they cut the brown ones down, then?” I ask, suddenly intrigued. I check the position of the sun. It’s near midday. I’ve spent at least half an hour in this field now. I won’t have time to get changed. Looks like my bow is staying in a bush while I’m away, I conclude. There’s no way I’ll get home and get to the Reaping without being excessively late.
“They don’t look right, in the Capitol’s eyes. They’re ornamental plants for the citizens. We’ve been told to keep the red ones because they’re better than the brown ones,” The woman answers for me. I can hear a touch of sadness in her voice, but a smile curls on her face anyway. “It’s nearly midday. You better get a move on.”
“Yes, I must.” There’s not even enough time to head home, but I can’t walk into the main square with a bow across my back. I wouldn’t make it within fifty metres of the town square without getting arrested first. The lady notices my agitation. She offers out her hand.
“Don’t worry; I used to hunt, like you. I know the importance of a bow and arrows.” I hesitantly place the items on her hand, the bow hanging from the tips of her fingers. I slip the quiver of arrows over my head. I’m careful not to hurt the woman when I rest them on her shoulders. “I’m here, every day.” The woman says as I begin to walk off. I wave her a thank you and make a sprint for the square.
I’m panting by the time I reach the centre of District Eleven. My legs are stiff with lactic acid and there’s a burning feeling around my appendix. I’m the last person to get registered, and I line up smelling strangely of vanilla and sweat. Nice. The girls around me shuffle uncomfortably, looking me up and down quite judgementally. I decide to ignore their shocked looks.
“Girls and boys, the final person has at last arrived,” the escort says, opening the Reapings. My cheeks flush red with embarrassment. The escort’s eyes fall on me as he begins to walk to the girl’s bowl. I bite the inside of my cheeks. The clock tower says twenty minutes past twelve. Only twenty minutes late. “Artemis Moonsilver.” The thirteen-year-olds squirm around me, and nearly push me out. Peacekeepers identify me immediately and shove me up on stage. The whole District has eyes on me, most of them annoyed at my bad time keeping. “Well, well, Miss Late,” the escort comments sourly. “Welcome to the Fifth Quarter Quell.” His words are said with such spite, my body quivers with tears. “Boys, lets hurry along,” he says dryly. “Tobias Drew, please greet your fellow District partner.” A black-haired boy with huge amounts of arrogance steps up. “Shake hands.”
Things pass in a blur. The justice building. My family crying. The goodbyes. The train.
And suddenly, I’m gazing out the window at the field. The field of red, where one old lady holds a bow and a flower in her hand.
District 12 - Amaryllis Skylark
“Goodbye, Mrs Collis. Tell the kids I said good luck?” I say, holding in a yawn.
"Of course,” Ivy Collis replies, her bag swinging. The bell on the door rings, and she’s gone. I let my yawn out at last, and heave a sigh of relief. As nice as she is, the Mayor’s wife is an unbearable woman to talk to. The Capitol are tightening their grip on District 12, but the mayor and his family are reeking the benefits of it. They’re getting paid even more for enforcing the harsh rules, even if it means taking away their humanity. Mrs Collis has been having weekend shopping trips for the past month or so. She just goes on and on about how blessed she is. At first, you’re almost happy for them. Then time wears on and you begin to resent the whole family.
I lock up the front of the shop, heading to the storeroom to get changed. I remove my uniform (an ugly pinafore) and swap it for a floral dress. It’s a shop reject, “gifted” to me by my parents. It was a Reaping present. For my luck at making it through another year. I don’t know how I should be rewarded for my survival. Surely the gifts should be going to the tributes? They deserve it more than we do.
I pin my hair in a tight bun. Any trailing strands of hair I string up, too. I check myself in the mirror. No blemishes today; thank god. My mother counselled me on Capitol fashion – once. ‘No hair down’ she advised me. ‘Makes you look like a little girl,’ she told me. I was twelve at the time, so I was still a little girl. But she was trying to help me: so I followed her advice. I daren’t let her down. Even now.
Per usual, I slip the shop keys between the cracked bricks of the shop entrance – for my sister to find later. It’s her shift this afternoon. If she makes it, that is. Sometimes she skips schedules to be with her friends. I don’t blame her. I would do the same – if I had as many friends as she. I miss her a lot, even though I see her occasionally. I love her to pieces. We could have been born best friends, and it make no difference to our relationship. We’d still be as close as ever. There’s just this thing... I don’t know what... that’s like a barrier. Stops me from welcoming her like I used to. No way to explain it, to be honest.
On the way to the main square, I make sure to hold the skirt of my dress down. It’s blowing all over the place in the summer winds. The sun’s out and bright today, not a cloud in the sky. It’d be a nice day, if it weren’t for the Reapings.
My shoes are heavy on my feet. They’re black and finely polished, with thick soles and wide straps. Rejects from long-ago clothing lines. They stick to your feet when you get them wet, like walking in shoes with a million holes. Along the streets, puddles have appeared overnight. I make certain to avid them. I can see younger children jumping over them, smiles stretched on their faces. Their parents hold their hands, helping them over rocks and piles of settled coal dust.
Memories of my childhood flood into my mind. My parents holding my arms, swinging me in the air. The feeling of flight. Eating quietly at the table at dinner. The new arrival of my sister, just a babe in arms. Me holding her for the first time and rocking her gently to sleep. Her first jumbled up words, echoing through the past. Taking her on walks next to the fence; I can still feel the coldness in the air. Educating her on the dangers and pointing out the nasty Peacekeepers. Then work. And school. And the shop, too. My sister coming home with friends and cooking her own dinner for the first time. Me, holed up in my room, scribbling down hurried homework and taking inventories of the shop stock just to avoid talking to my sister’s friends. And then the clock ticking by. Year after year. My parents visits and conversations becoming less and less frequent. My heart beginning to crack and my kindness slowly dying.
The images flicker out of focus. The crowds of children stand before me. The older kids are in their work clothes, parents and out-of-Reaping siblings stand watching nearby. The empty hole in my heart becomes a crater when I don’t see my parents, or my sister for that matter. Must be running late from work, I guess. Like always.
“Hello District 12. I welcome you to the Fifth Quarter Quell Reapings.”
You welcome me, Miss Rosa Florie? No, I welcome you, madam.
“I’ve had a busy day today. So, we’ll progress the Reaping fairly quickly," Rosa sighs tiredly. How can she be the tired one?
She's stating the obvious, per usual. As she always does. Saying the exact same stuff every year. The same old tape and the same old speech and the same old Reaping day. Just like the President wants it to be. Everything perfect and exactly the same as everything used to be. Used to be.
“Boys, are you ready?!” Rosa begins the Reapings. My body quivers. I know this is a special year. Whoever gets picked as even less chances of surviving. They’ll be a body in a week. Not a person anymore, just a dead person – their soul only living in memories. Rosa selects a slip of paper.
“Gideon Gleeful!” Rosa frowns, because she knows it’s a weird name. I am inclined to agree with her. I know of nobody with a name as strange. A fat rosy-cheeked lad steps up. He’s got acne and it looks quite awful. A warm feeling fills me up when I think of my mother advising me about Capitol fashion and style. Thank God she’d taught me the right way to look. Rosa tries to look happy when she greets Gideon. A weak smile is all she can manage right now.
Desperate to move on, she opens up the girl’s Reaping. Gideon’s not going to get a Reaping interview. Not today.
“Alrighty then, girls, prepare yourselves!” Rosa’s tone lightens hopefully. I can almost hear her wishing for a nice female tribute. She asked us to prepare ourselves, right? How could we possibly prepare ourselves anymore?
Rosa totters over to the Reaping bowl in her ballerina flats, her elongated nails flicking a slip up into her palm. Rosa shakily unravels the paper. I cross my fingers, hoping for the best. It’s not just Rosa praying for a nice female tribute.
“Amaryllis Skylark!” The blood drains from all my limbs, rushing all up to my heart. It pounds furiously, like a horse trying to run away. I wish I could run away, right now. In front of all these people. But that can’t happen. “Come on dearie,” Rosa urges me to come forwards. Her lips curl into a wide grin when she sees me. She gasps, clapping her hands delightedly. What’s she getting so excited about? Gideon’s face is shadowed by overhanging clouds. I can barely make out the shape of his chubby face. “Ooh, you’re too gorgeous!! So petite!” Rosa comments like a grandmother finally getting a visit from her grandchildren.
I pat her hand away lightly, but with a slight force. Rosa’s smile falls when I begin talking to Panem.
“I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you, okay? Listen now, and listen close. My family’s busy, including me. We hardly see each other. I’m independent, and can take care of myself. I’m my own woman, even if my age betrays me. Don’t go treating me like some little girl, alright? I’m fourteen, not five. Don’t you dare even think about counting me out. I could probably beat you to the ground in a second.”
District 13 - Ophelia Zigler
“Have you had all necessary medical checks?”
“Answer the question.”
“Sorry, what question? I was too busy looking at you.”
The guard huffs and just ticks the box anyway. He puts the clipboard and pen by his side and waves me off. I grin. The guy holding my arms back walks me down the corridor and drills me on what to do and what not to do. Like I’ll listen! He doesn’t let me out of the handcuffs till we reach the top level, where the Assembly Hall is. That’s where we hold Reapings now. The Justice Building came under attack from arson a couple years ago. The Capitol couldn’t be bothered to rebuild it.
“Ophelia, repeat after me: I will not attack or harm any of my fellow citizens," The guard instructs tiredly. It's like he's not slept all night! Then again, I am pretty hard work to keep control of. What? I don't like people, alright?
“I will not... blah blah. Load of rubbish. Can I go now?” I whine impatiently. The guard looks at me sternly. He waits for me to say it properly. Ugh, it would be so much easier if I had a knife and could slit his...
“Ophelia, focus,” the guard snaps coldly. My visions of his corpse disappear and my heart sinks. “I will not attack or harm any of my fellow citizens. Say it.” I glare at him with fire in my eyes. Fat chance he’s going to get me to say that. The guard grips tighter on my arms. “Ophelia,” he reminds me commandingly. Pathetic. He sounds like wimpy child, pining to be let out of the bunkers.
“Fine, I’ll say it!” I hiss fiercely when he refuses to leave. I mock his accent, which is a mix between the Capitol’s and Thirteen’s. “I will not attack or harm any of my ‘fellow’ citizens.” The guard nods, and then unlocks the cuffs with a sour expression on his face. I walk away before he can make me do anything else.
The Peacekeepers are wary when they take my blood. Maybe they think I’ll freak out at the pain, because they’ve probably got double back-up watching me right now. Security cameras trail my every move from the corners of the ceiling. I can tell the lenses of the cameras are half-misted though. There are so many people in this one assembly hall. You would not believe how hot it is in here. I’m kind of thankful that I’ve got the institute’s flimsy top and shorts on, now. All the people around me are panting like dogs. And they call me the weird one!
“Hello, District Thirteen. Is it me, or is it hot in here?” The escort whines childishly. She’s fanning herself with a bit of paper, yet she’s the one who’s hot? Ugh, she deserves to be a corpse, too. My hands are just the right size to squeeze around her neck. Her neck twitches enticingly. I roll my hands up into fists. I’m not as rude to kill someone on stage. Off-stage, maybe. But not in front of the whole of Panem! That’d be a bit embarrassing for the escort, wouldn’t it? “Okay, the fans are coming on I think,” the escort smiles. A whoosh of cold air blows through the Hall.
“Shall we get started?” Althea promptly decides. The Reaping bowls are placed nearer to her, because her heels are so tall. They’ve probably made her about a foot taller. She looks about normal size now. She's a midget without those extra inches. Althea struggles to take a couple steps in the heels. Her stick-like ankles are wobbling. Fall over, fall over... I pray. That would be hilarious. Especially when she's supposed to be a catwalk model! Instead of risking a terrible slip, Althea calls Peacekeepers to choose names for her. “Let’s do it consecutively, hey? That’ll make it interesting.”
Yes, so interesting. I’m literally immersed. If you can’t tell, I’m being sarcastic. That woman deserves a bullet to the head. After ripping her vocal chords out, of course. I couldn’t bear to hear her screams. They’d probably leave you deafened. Better to keep her quiet, hey?
“So, District Thirteen, your Fifth Quarter Quell tributes are...” Althea unravels both the slips at the same time and reads both carefully. A few intense seconds pass before she finally reads the people out. “Eric Desmond and Ophelia Zigler!” I roll my eyes at the thought of going into the Games. It doesn’t sound scary to me, to be honest. Killing people isn’t that hard. I’ve done it all my life. It’s not any different to killing an animal. We’re all the same, right? My district partner is stood beside me when we walk up. He’s not giving me a single glance. Probably scared, the poor lad. I don't blame him. If I wasn't me, I'd be scared of Ophelia Zigler too.
“Hello, you two,” Althea grins happily as we stand on either side of her. She takes one look at me and her face falls. I quench my laughter and try to look upset. Got to give the Capitol what they want. They want pain, right? Pain and death? I’ll give them that for sure. “So, Eric, you’re a handsome lad.” I glare at my District partner. He’s not too bad. He looks pretty determined. At least he’s not shaking or crying or screaming. I’d end up strangling him before we even got to the Training Centre if that were the case. He looks like a proper brave one.
That bravery won't last long when I'm around.
“And Ophelia.” Althea breathes nervously. She’s trying to think of something nice to say. I have that effect on people. “You’re outfit is simply gorgeous.” She finishes at long last. Gorgeous? No. Simple? Yes. About as simple as the institute could get! Plus, they don't trust me with any sort of elastic or thread, so they give me a plasticy material to put on. It's to stop me from choking people, or harming myself. The only harming I'm going to be doing now is in the Hunger Games. Where killing is legal.
“So, go on you two. Shake hands,” Althea nudges Eric towards me. Until now, he’s been standing a lot closer to Althea than me. He reluctantly shakes my hand, jumping back when we let go of each other.
Behind my shoulder, I can see Shyvana, the 121st Hunger Games Victor, smiling at me. Smiling at me. When she sees me looking, her smile disappears and turns into an icy cold glare. Without hesitation, I glare right back. As Althea takes us backstage, my eyes are still locked on Shyvana.
"Welcome to the beginning of the 125th Hunger Games!" The crowd roars as President Rome's autotuned voice thunders through the speakers. Aloysius Calix walks on stage in an ordinary-looking black suit and teal shirt, his tie as bright and bold as ever. Peacock feathers have been embroidered into the material to make a flashy, expensive accessory.
"Hello, Panem!" Aloysius announces his prescence with a gleaming, white-toothed smile. He rests himself in a red, leather armchair and sits back. "First things first, our guests tonight include not only the tributes of the Fifth Quarter Quell, but the Gamemakers will also join us in their own special interviews." The Capitol rejoices at the mention of their most beloved Victors: Beemo Xra, Odin Amarth, Crimson Typhoon, Lyra Meadowlace and Akumai Kubaya. Aloysius calmed the sea of people with his hands. Silence fell.
"But I also have a surprise to share with you." Gasps fill the air, quiet whistles echoing. "I'm sure you have all been waiting to find out who the Head Mentor is. Although currently undecided, we'll finish off by announcing who will be in control of the tributes this year." The crowd gives him a round of applause. Many glare down at their phones, texting and voting for their chosen Head Mentor repeatedly. They were all desperate to see their most favoured mentor on the screens tonight.
Lolita Fey of District 3
"Let's welcome Lolita Fey from District Three to the stage!" Aloysius welcomes me up. I can just see him through the backstage curtain, and I hesitate. He looks so comfortable up there, in front of the cameras. But I'm sure I won't be as confident. I stumble up in my heels, my ankles buckling in these strange new shoes. Why my stylist chose them for me, I will never know. It's like being a baby again, just learning to walk. That's really not the image I want the Capitol to see.
"Shall we get you sat down before you trip?" Aloysius jokes softly, offering me a hand. I'm thankful for the support as he leads me to the armchair. I blush, embarrassed, when I nearly fall over the leg of the chair. Aloysius smiles, but doesn't say anything. My poofy blue dress circles me when I sit down, a sea of turquoise satin bunching up against the arms of the chair.
"Lolita, how would you describe yourself?" Aloysius asks, kicking off the interview. That question gets me. I haven't really prepared for the interview much. I was too busy learning to walk in heels to think of any answers.
"Clumsy, definitely," I reply guiltily. It's all I see myself as, right now. My stylist has been forever telling me off for spilling drinks, food and falling over since I've been here. On the bright side, at least she finds it funny and means she's nicer to me. Hopefully she'll get me sponsors.
"Tell us a few stories of your clumsiness," Aloysius says, intrigued. His blue eyes are on me constantly, and it's starting to freak me out. Never has an adult stared at me for so long. Plus, the list of my embarrassing moments is endless, and I have to talk about them to the whole nation. Great. I've really set myself up here, haven't I?
"Goodness, I couldn't name just one! I've done so many clumsy things you wouldn't believe... Just this morning, I spilt my breakfast on Seraphina. I mean, I didn't mean to... I was just reaching to get a glass and it kind of all tipped over her suddenly," I explain sheepishly, recalling this morning. My mentor wasn't very happy when she had to change clothes half way through breakfast. "My stylist had to find me a new dress... I fell over in the other one and ripped a seam."
Aloysius laughs, turning to the crowd. They laugh heartily along with him. I manage a weak smile, kind of offended. I can't help it! I can see the cameras panning the audience and landing on Cressa, my stylist. She's got her head in her hands. I hope she means to do that as a joke.
"Let's get onto a more serious subject..." Aloysius suggests solemnly. I bite my lip, nerves crawling through me. "The Games." Aloysius pauses for tension. He's supposed to be helping me through this interview, not making it terribly nerve-racking! "Do you think you are prepared to go up against the Games?"
"There are tributes this year that are a lot more fortunate than I am. They've been trained. They know how to use weapons better and more easily than me." Aloysius frowns, doubting me. Perhaps he thinks I'm just throwing my chances of sponsorship away. "But I have skills that they never learned, maybe never even thought of needing. I can swim, which could get me out of an otherwise deathly situation. I can identify plants that other tributes have probably never seen or heard of before. So yes, I would say I am prepared."
"But you're a young tribute, at only thirteen. There are girls and boys much stronger than you in this competition," Aloysius retorts. He doesn't mean to be offensive, but I am definitely insulted. He's making me look bad to the Capitol. I'll have to change things around, won't I?
"Strength isn't always the winning factor. I'm smart. I can lure people into traps as easily as you get people to do interviews." Aloysius raises his eyebrows, and turns to the crowd.
"That, everyone, is Lolita Fey from District Three!" He raises my arm and gets me to my feet, our hands clasped together in the air.
Euan Lorelle of District 10
"Remember, flirtatious, handsome and kind. That's the persona you'll take on tonight," Aster debriefs me on the plan of action. We've run through this a couple of times already. Seemingly, my escort doesn't think I'm getting the idea. Maybe she doubts my capabilities to act. I certainly doubt them! I'm supposed to be flirty? How am I possibly going to be able to flirt with the whole of Panem? But I'll keep a happy mindset because Aloysius is one damn hot dude to talk to. I'm joking, of course. "Are you ready Euan? Or do we need to go through this again?" Aster is still looking down at her clipboard, ticking off things as we hurry around backstage. My stylist tightens my tie and straightens out the collar and jacket. Just before my name is called, she fixes some cufflinks to the end of my shirtsleeves. I don't have time to look at them. Aloysius' unfamiliar voice announces my name before I get a chance to.
Flirtatious, handsome and kind, I remind myself as I bounce up the steps. A smile creases on my face as I am presented. Aloysius' eyes and the camera lenses fall on me, constantly staring.
"Take a seat," Aloysius offers 'generously'. Perfect time for a joke, I think. I pick up the armchair and begin to lift it across the stage, taking Aloysius' words literally.
"Okay!" I laugh, grinning. The chair is still in mid-air, held in place with my arms. Aloysius falls into a hearty laugh, and calls me back with the wave of his hand. The crowd is laughing along with him. At the joke, I hope. I place the chair down and Aloysius' controls himself. My 'joke' wasn't even that funny. I'm afraid Aloysius might be laughing just to be kind to me.
"So Euan, you're quite the joker, as we can see," Aloysius states, a smile printed on his face. I nod, being deeply serious. Of course, my graveness is another 'joke' to make the Capitol crowd happy. I wonder if Alecia's watching this at home. Is she laughing at me as well?
"If I do say so myself," I say with mock modesty. Or vanity, whatever way you want to see it. Aloysius is still smiling. His happiness looks genuine for once. Maybe he's glad to have an enthusiastic guest for once.
"You're a good-looking lad... Are there any girls at home you've got your eye on?" Aloysius leans in, a serious look on his face. He's not joking. Not like I was. He has a habit of taking interviews into very serious moments, and transforming the atmosphere very quickly. I think about how I might answer. The seconds tick past and the audience is on the edge of their seats, desperate to know who I'm currently 'crushing' on, as they say in the Capitol.
I'd say Alecia. I'd say Alecia if it weren't for the fact I'm on camera in front of the whole frickin' country. And I have to please the crowd. If I have a love back home, there are no hopeful girls to impress... No hopeful girls that'll get their families to sponsor me.
"Well..." I turn my eye to the crowd, winking. Half the ladies faint, obviously thinking I'm winking at them. Even Aster, my escort, is madly flushing red. "There isn't anyone at home I've got my eye on," I answer at last.
"But..." Aloysius continues, curious.
"But there is one girl I've seen... Here in the Capitol... She's gorgeous." Now all the girls in the audience are flushing red. More people drop in a faint. A pang of guilt tightens in my stomach. They all think I'm talking about them, when really I've not seen one genuinely pretty girl here at all.
They've all got too much makeup on, their clothes are too extravagant and they're more plastic than skin. But Alecia. She's beautiful. She's natural and could wear a trash bag and still look stunning. She doesn't even need make-up to look pretty. A smile is the prettiest thing I think I girl could wear.
"Well, even I blushed for a second there!" Aloysius grins. The crowd laughs even harder at his 'joke'. I didn't find it remotely funny, but I laugh a little too. Just to be 'nice'. "Thank you ever so much for talking to us this evening, Mr Lorelle. I hope I get to interview you again soon!"
So do I, I think.
Aloysius rises to his feet, and encourages the audience to clap and cheer. I stroll of stage to the music of their wolf-whistles and appreciation. Aster greets me as I walk down the steps to the backstage area. She's still clapping. I can hear the audience still.
The thunderous noise of their applause is what keeps me awake that night.
Jayson Huff of District 7
The metallic stairs that lead up to the stage remind me of axes. Of course, they’re not as sharp but they look dangerous. With their silver edges and shiny texture, you could slice a bit off and attach it to a pole. You’d have a good axe then.
“Jayson?” Gaius strolls up behind me in a dark, plum-coloured suit. I look at him blankly. “Your interview is in...” Gaius looks down at his gold watch. Lucky bastard. I don’t even see the Mayor of District 7 wearing accessories like that. The symbol of Panem has been engraved behind the clock face. “You’ve got sixty seconds. Can you remember the topics you’re going to speak about tonight?” Gaius asks, expecting an answer. The seconds tick past. Fifty, forty-five, forty... “Jayson?” Gaius prompts desperately. Aloysius begins to introduce me before I can answer. Gaius’ face pales as we both realise that I’ve completely forgotten everything I was supposed to say.
I trot up the axe-stairs with not an inch of nervousness. I’ll just talk about axes and trees. I always come with a plan B!
“District Seven’s male tribute: Jayson Huff!” Aloysius announces. Tired, sedated applause welcomes me beside the interviewer. Almost in unison, we sit. I slouch back in the armchair, but remember at least a few of Gaius’ wise words. ‘Don’t slouch. Sit like a gentleman.’ I change my posture and Aloysius smiles at me, almost congratulations for remembering one thing. “So, Jayson, you’ve come a long way since the Reapings, haven’t you?” Aloysius states. I don’t know what he means by that, so I just nod.
“You could say that,” I reply. My voice echoes to the back of the audience, bouncing off the walls and rebounding in my ears. The whole of Panem can hear me, and just my voice. It’s almost empowering. Almost. I wonder how Aloysius feels, sat up here the entire night listening to himself talk to absolute strangers who are about to kill each other.
“You’re quite a burly lad. How do you plan to defend yourself in the Games?” Aloysius questions, getting into the more strategic side of the interview. I’m glad he’s asked me this. Whatever Gaius told me to say was sure to sound too feminine and weak.
“With an axe, if I can get one. It’s what I’m used to back home,” I explain proudly. Aloyisus nods his head, like he’s impressed. I guess not everyone boasts the ability to carry an axe. Especially the ones from District 7, with huge, shining blades and feet-long metal handles.
“You’ve got to be quite strong to wield an axe, right?” Aloysius comments thoughtfully. “How do we know you’re strong enough to carry one of those?” Aloysius continues jokily.
“Like this...” I curl my arms. My muscles pop up like a jack-in-the-box. The audience gasps and I think I hear a few wolf-whistles from the ladies. Aloysius eyes widen, and he pokes the muscle.
“Damn!” He chuckles. “I could go to the gym for the rest of my life and not get my arms that big!” A few people roll their eyes. Jealous of me, I think. My cheeks stretch into a grin. “Well, we haven’t got a lot of time left, I’m afraid.” Aloysius hangs his head in mock disappointment. He stands up and I get to my feet along with him. There’s another applause to bid me goodbye this time. It’s not like the bland claps I got when I first came up. It’s a loud, cheering ovation, like everyone wants me to do well.
Like everyone wants me to win.
Sparks Edison of District 5
“Sparks, you look divine!” Cressa exclaims gleefully. She takes a step back to admire her handiwork and leads me down to the backstage area. Per usual, James is there first and is chatting merrily away with his own stylist. Our mentor is nowhere to be seen. No words of wisdom will come from him this evening. James looks at me for a moment and then goes back to talking.
He hasn’t said a word to me since we’ve been here. Not even a ‘hello’, or ‘good evening’ at the dinner table. No advice to help me at the training centre. I asked him if he wanted to ally, seeing as he had pretty much isolated himself, but of course, he said nothing and walked away. I assumed he didn’t want anything to do with me. Perhaps it would make it easier to kill me. “Sparks, your turn is next. Are you ready?” Cressa asks me, snapping me out of the memory.
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I reply with a smile. I can feel James’ eyes on me as my name is called, and that cold feeling returning to my heart.
I dash up the steps with such vigour I almost fall. Cressa gasps. When she realises I haven’t ruined my outfit, she seems to clam down. The stage is right in front of me. A huge screen towers up the side, portraying my face. I look so pale in my picture. At least I don’t look as small as I do in real life. I just hope that in these kitten heels I might look a bit older to the audience.
Aloysius is already sat down when I walk out. An absent expression is on his face, like he’s drifting off into daydream. Looks like me, during a tiresome math lesson. He quickly changes tone when the cameras focus on my outfit. The Capitol are whooping and cheering for me. He acts impressed by me, but I can tell his reaction has been feigned.
“Good evening, Sparks!” I outstretch my hand for a handshake, but instead Aloysius leans down to kiss it instead. I blush, even though it’s quite an awkward moment. Aloysius thinks nothing of it and lets me go. “Shall we sit?” I placidly nod in reply. I try to lean back as elegantly as possible, but it just doesn’t feel comfortable. I end up leaning forward in the chair. Not very ladylike, but it’s as good as I get. “Sparks, you are quite a young tribute, aren’t you?” Aloysius dives right into the interview. But I’m prepared for his questions.
“Yes, I am.” I can hear my sister’s voice scolding me. She told me that I was terrible at keeping a conversation going. It’s no different in this interview. But it’s kind of nice to see her face in my mind, even if it’s not in reality. My imagination is the closest I’m going to get to home until I can win these Games.
“I see you are wearing a locket,” Aloysius says, pointing to the silver chain around my neck. I bite my lip. I forgot I still had my necklace on. My fingers automatically go to touch the heart-shaped accessory. The metal warms in my hands. “Are there any pictures inside?” Aloysius continues inquisitively.
“Yes. It's my token. Would you like to see?” I offer, smiling sweetly.
“Do you want to see?!” Aloysius shouts out to the crowd. They cheer and clap, which is an obvious yes. Gingerly, I take off the necklace and flick it open. To see the faces of my family strikes hurt into my heart. I know I might never see them again. I lift the images to the camera, so they can see it back home in the Districts. Then I turn to the crowd, hanging it in front of me. “Are they your family?” Aloysius asks softly. I don’t know whether it was my crazy imagination, but I swear there was a hint of pain in his voice.
In response, I say nothing and nod instead. The crowd ‘ahhs’ in a strange chorus.
“These are my parents,” I explain, showing the camera once again. Aloysius leans forward, gesturing to the second photo.
“Who’s this?” He asks tentatively. A lump catches in my throat, and I have to swallow it down before replying. I blink the tears away and force myself to continue with a smile.
“It’s my sister.” I pause, brushing my thumb across the image. “Nina.” Aloysius reaches for the hand that holds the locket, clasping his and my fingers together. A warm buzz melts into my skin as Aloyisus looks directly at my face.
“You miss them?” He asks, not once adjusting his gaze. I feel so awkward but the crowd will like it.
“Very much.” My voice is quiet.
“Well... if you go and win these Games, you can go home to your family as a proud Victor,” Aloysius says, almost like a suggestion. The warm feeling disappears when he releases my hand and stares out into the crowd instead. It wasn’t what he said next that surprised me. It was the reaction from the crowd. “Who here believes Sparks can win?”
Booming applause thundered through the entire stage. A standing ovation rose in a sudden appreciation of me. Aloysius grabs my hand again, pulling me to my feet. The noise of so many supporters goes right through me. Tears are in my eyes because all this support might mean nothing. Then again, it might get me sponsors.
Aloysius finishes off the interview with one last line.
“Sparks Edison, from District Five everyone!”
Minutes after I come off stage, the crowd are still standing and cheering. It wasn’t till the next tribute walked on stage did they stop.
Bree Riverbuck of District 9
"Bree, darling, take a step back will you? You're crowding me," my escort says irritably.
"Shut up Aspen," Acacia snaps with a voice like acid. Aspen glares back at her with fire in her eyes. The two hate each other with a passion, but it's hilarious to watch their arguments over petty things. But Acacia's hatred for our escort doesn't help me very much. They spend so much time quarrelling they barely have time to get us ready for training. Aspen backs off and goes to talk to my District partner. "She's just delightful, isn't she?" Acacia remarks, grinning. Her sarcastic humour has been the only thing that's made me smile in the Capitol. "Anyway, don't forget to thank me for being amazing, alright?" Acacia jokes. I say nothing as Aloysius begins to talk about me to the audience. "Good luck," Acacia murmurs.
I have to hold the pearly silk dress up to stop myself tripping over. In these heels, it's hard to walk in a sleek dress but I make it work, according to Acacia. I couldn't tell if she was being sarcastic when she said that.
"Hello, Bree! You look beautiful this evening!" Aloysius says, taking my hand. He leads me to the chairs and we begin the interview fairly quickly. In the front row of the crowd, I can see Acacia take her seat on one end. Aspen looks for seats on the front row too, but the only free chair is next to my mentor. My escort gives up and sits four rows back, next to a badly dressed teenager. "Who has styled you this evening?" Aloysius questions blandly.
"Rebekah Ure has styled me tonight," I reply with a courtier smile.
"She's done very well! You look like a Capitol model!" My cheeks flush red at the compliment.
"Thank you," I murmur sheepishly. The girl next door. Those were the words that Acacia gave me to follow as advice before the interviews. I've got to be kind, sweet and average. To relate with the Capitol audience, as if I'm one of their own - that is my plan. Aspen reminded me that I'm not one of them, however. That sparked another argument between Aspen and Acacia.
"You'll distract all the male tributes!" Aloysius chuckles like an eighteen-year-old lad. He's thirty, so it doesn't really work. The Capitol audience seem to find it hilarious, so I give a girlish giggle to join in.
"Could I just say something?" I ask Aloysius after the crowd has calmed. My voice is quiet, like a mouse. He nods his head.
"Take the stage!" He gestures his arms at the entire platform. I smile in thanks and begin to speak.
"I wouldn't look like this-" I motion to my shimmering dress. "Without Rebekah and Aspen. They've done brilliantly with such a plain-faced girl!" I try to make it sound as if I'm getting emotional. I roll my lip and blink quickly, like I'm desperately blinking away tears. "Acacia really has become like a sister to me, too." My choked up voice makes Aloysius 'ahh' at me. The audience copies. He places my hand between his own for comfort. His hands are clammy but I don't pull away. I need to look 'down-to-earth' for the audience. "Her wise words will guide me throughout the Games," I continue, 'gaining' strength with every word. I can't have the Capitol thinking I'm so weak, can I?
I let go of Aloysius' hand in a split-second decision. My eyes search the crowd for Acacia, and I find her still in the same seat she found at the beginning of the interview. Her gaze is directly on me.
"I hope that I can prove to you that your hard work has paid off. I owe everything to you, Acacia. You're the best mentor and friend anyone could wish for."
The crowd 'ahhs' along with Aloysius for a second time. The cameras pan away from my face and onto a half-emotional Acacia. I can't tell whether she's acting, because she's so good at it. I don't know what her interviews were like for her Games, but I've seen her on Capitol TV recently. She's so calm and collected for the cameras.
"Well, I hope her hard work has paid off as well. The mentors all do their best for the tributes! If you win this, Bree, then Acacia will be the proudest mentor there is," Aloysius cuts in. He's said this a lot, to the tributes and mentors. His empty words mean nothing. "Here you have it, folks." Aloysius opens the interview out to the crowd. He doesn't stand up to finish our conversation, but instead completes it with a simple line.
"The down-to-earth, kind girl from District 9. Bree Riverbuck." I glance over at Acacia.
Misson accomplished she mouths. As I walk off stage, Acacia rises from her seat and greets me backstage before anyone else.
"Did you really mean what you said?" Acacia questions, her voice full of hope and humbleness.
"No." My curt reply is interrupted by Aspen.
"What's going on here?" She demands snappily. She's nosy like that.
"Nothing," I say clearly, my eyes averting Acacia's furiously disappointed gaze.
As we part to go the elevators, there is no guilt in my heart - even after lying to the entire country. They'll have to get used to back-stabbing girls, because that's exactly what I'll be doing in the Hunger Games.
Dipper Pines of District 9
"Say hello to Dipper Pines!” Aloysius calls me up. I can’t shake the feeling that I look badly dressed. My yellow suit doesn’t match anything to do with my district. My stylist doesn’t have a clue what to do with me. On the bright side, I’m awesome. So that should get me through this. My suit scratches against my arms as I stroll out in front of the cameras. They trail me like dogs. Aloysius’ face looks shocked. He must be shocked at how amazing I am. This suit doesn’t do me any favours, but I definitely make it work. Nobody else could pull off such a challenge as a yellow suit.
“Rebekah has styled you this evening, has she not?” Aloysius says as we come face-to-face with each other. I sit down and Aloysius looks surprised at my sudden movement. He bends his knees and leans back in the armchair opposite me. I slouch back in mine, getting comfortable. The whole audience has raised eyebrows. They don’t hate my outfit, do they? Of course not. I'm Dipper Pines.
“Yes, she has. Done a good job too, right?” I reply confidently.
“Of course, she always does,” Aloysius comments uncertainly. Now I’m pretty sure that they hate my suit. But again, my confidence in wearing it should show the Capitol how strong I am. “You’re only twelve years old. Surely you won’t be able to cope with the Games?” Aloysius continues, looking at the audience. They nod their heads and whisper to each other. Are they agreeing with him? Do they think I’m that weak? I’ll show them. I'll make them think otherwise.
“I can cope very well, thank you! I’m good with a sword,” I retort snappily. I can’t deny that I’m angry with him. He’s making me look pathetic, in front of the entire country. We can't have that now, can we?
“But surely you need survival skills, as well? There are tributes this year that are far more equipped and prepared for the Fifth Quarter Quell.”
“Excuse me? You don’t know how hard I’ve worked in training! I’ve gone to every station so far!” I yell back. Aloysius is laughing at me. I get to my feet with clenched fists.
“Calm yourself,” He soothes, gesturing to the seat. “Sit down.”
“I WILL NOT CALM DOWN. I WILL NOT SIT. Listen, and listen well!” I scream until my throat is sore. “I can use a sword. I train hard all day. I even put up with a crappy stylist, and make it work,” I say furiously. I’m still on my feet, inches away from punching Aloysius. My throat is dry from shouting. A scratchy feeling rises up the back of my neck. I can feel my knuckles going white, but I don't attack the interviewer. Not yet.
“Okay. Whatever you say,” Aloysius says tauntingly. I could beat him up so good if I wasn’t on television. The cameras zoom in on my face. Sweat trickles down my forehead. “Please sit down, now,” Aloysius commands. He can’t control me. He never will. Nobody can control the magnificent Dipper Pines.
“You can’t order me about.”My voice is so full of rage that Aloysius looks scared. He’s leaning his head back, away from me. But I can see the fear in his eyes. A thirty-year old man afraid of a twelve year old! Shows how pathetic he is, right. Aloysius says nothing to reply. “That’s what I thought, granddad.”
It's not me that delivers the final blow. Someone knocks my head with such force things go hazy. I lose my balance and topple to the cold stage floor. The curtains draw in to hide the platform. The crowd yelp and gasp as the projection lights disappear. Arms grab my shoulders and pull me off stage. Hurried guards jostle around Aloysius and makeup artists reapply foundation that’s been sweated off his face. I try to escape the Peacekeeper’s grip, but as I get dragged offstage, I see electric fuzz of a tazer.
And then things go black.
Amaryllis Skylark of District 12
“You made quite the impression at the Reapings. We want that same fire and strength in the interviews. Could you do that?” Rosa asks just before the interview. Peacekeepers drag a screaming boy past us, still in a sickly yellow suit. “I wonder...” Rosa begins, but she stops short when a tazer is revealed from a Peacekeeper’s pocket. “Never mind.” She turns her head away like nothing is happening. I’m lead down a corridor by my escort and up to some steps. The zap of the tazer burns in my mind. “Anyway, Aloysius will call your name in two minutes sharp. You’ve been dressed gorgeously so make sure to show it off. You looked naturally pretty at the Reapings but now you need to prove you’re more than just schoolgirl delightful.” Rosa tells me the truth, which is what I like about her. She sees things as they are, and how they will be.
Like me, she won’t sugar-coat things. She won’t create a fantasy for anyone but the audience.
“One minute to go,” a backstage worker calls out to us and Rosa pats me on the shoulder gently. She fixes a pin on the front of my dress to give it that extra sparkle.
“Break a leg,” she says encouragingly.
“Pardon?!” My throat scratches when I say this. A headache is pestering me and refuses to go away. As much as I hate to say it, I think I’m coming down with something.
“It’s a phrase. It means good luck,” Rosa explains happily, laughing it off. I frown but before I can say anything more my name rings in the air. Aloysius is welcoming me to the stage. My vision won't focus as I begin the end of my Capitol journey.
I take one step up. The entrance is right before me. It seems simple just to stroll out. Just like going to the shops. Right? Wrong. My feet are stuck to the ground with glue. Rosa’s urging me forward, ushering me with her hands. Her face is becoming desperate but I can’t move. My body racks with nerves. How am I supposed to face Panem? How can I do this? Aloysius calls my name again, expectantly. He sounds almost embarrassed. Why is he the humiliated one? “AMARYLLIS! MOVE!” Rosa hisses at me, making sure her voice doesn’t echo in my microphone. Her hands push me forward and I stumble out onstage.
I feel myself falling but Aloysius grabs my arm. I stabilise myself and laugh. The crowd are looking a bit awkward, like they’re embarrassed for me. Aloysius is chuckling. I follow him to the seats, making sure there’s nothing in my way to trip up on. That would really be disastrous.
“So, Amaryllis, you seem quite nervous?” Aloysius states openly. People in the crowd nod their heads in silent agreement. I can feel myself flushing red; I suppress the hotness in my cheeks.
“Yes, I am. I’ve never been on television before,” I explain rather sheepishly. My body is riddled with nerves, but I try not to let them show. Aloysius is laughing. I don’t know whether to laugh with him or not. Is it a good thing he’s chuckling? Or is he laughing at me?
“Of course you haven’t! It’s okay; you’ve got me to help you!” I think he’s joking, but I can’t tell. His humour is difficult to understand. Especially when he jokes with the Gamemakers about the tributes killing people. That’s basically impossible to find humorous.
“I’ve watched you for years on the big screen, back home,” I say quietly. A wrenching pain tears in my heart when I think of my loving family. My loving family that has a huge gaping hole tearing it apart and we don’t know why.
“Really?” Aloysius sounds hopeful, like he’s kind of impressed and proud to have me watched him prance about for years, chatting with people like they’re not about to die at all. In a way, he’s helped them. Helped the tributes to forget their fate, and like they were still normal people and not just pieces to play within the Games. But they were. And they confronted it as their cannons blew off.
“Yeah. You’re a lot smaller than I thought,” I reply simply. I try to make it look like I think nothing of the insult I’ve just given him. Bad move. The crowd laughs, however. Aloysius is going red in the cheeks; only slightly, because most of his ‘blush’ is covered up by makeup. Perhaps that’s why he wears it, to cover up as much real emotion as possible. Perhaps.
“Oh dear. I watched you at the Reapings, though. You made quite the impression, I must say.” He brushes off the insult like I never even said it. I guess you’ve got to deal with much more difficult tributes than me. Some are ‘surprisingly’ vengeful that they’re about to fight to their deaths.
“Did I?” I reply innocently. To be fair, not many tributes grab the microphone and shout out the truth about their lives; instead of covering up their emotions for the cameras, I mean. I think that’s why Rosa and I get on well. We both speak the terrible truth. The terrible, hurtful truth.
“I didn’t think such a pretty schoolgirl could have such an attitude!” Aloysius is firing back at me. I’m not shocked at all by his words. Half the District gasped when I threatened to beat the whole of Panem to the ground. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that, but at least it makes conversation in the interviews. Although Rosa warned me of the President’s wrath. He’ll probably just poison my dinner if I say anything outlandish tonight. I guess I’ll have to heed my escort’s warning.
“You can understand why I was so angry, can’t you? I just got reaped to participate in the ‘Games’ where I have a ninety percent chance of dying.” The words come running out my mouth. I bite my lip, nearly drawing blood. I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have said that at all. No. What’s wrong with me? Nope. This isn’t happening. I didn’t just speak the truth. The terrible, dangerous truth.
“Let’s wrap this up shall we?” I’d forgotten about the earpiece Rosa had given me. Only some of the tributes have them, but mine was for safety. In case the freaky District Nine boy decided to wreck my interview like he did with his. “It’s okay; we can sort this out in private training.” Rosa’s noticed my mistake. But her positive words seemed feigned. They don’t quell my fear at all.
Aloysius has not said anything back. His hands are shaking and his body is tense. His face is pale, but his smile doesn’t disappear. He’s holding onto this interview as long as he can. The quicker he subdues my rebelliousness, the longer her probably has to live. Lucky sod. I might be dead tomorrow.
“Thank you, Amaryllis for appearing tonight,” Aloysius suddenly says, his words rushed and mixed up. They’re not his words, though. Someone’s talking to him through his own earpiece.
“Thank him and do a little curtsy. Keep your innocence if possible.” I follow Rosa’s instructions to pinpoint accuracy. I dig my nails into my wrists as I walk off stage. Curse me. Curse me and my stupid, blabbering mouth. I’m screwed.
Private Training and Rankings
Each tribute will be dressed differently according to their gender and district. Each district will be assigned a colour theme for their uniform:
District 1: Dark Blue
District 2: Burgundy Red
District 3: Green
District 4: Purple
District 5: Fuchsia
District 6: Orange
District 7: Chocolate
District 8: Charcoal
District 9: Yellow
District 10: Silver
District 11: Cream
District 12: Teal
District 13: Terracotta
Male and Female Tributes will have different uniforms, pictured here:Girls: This outfit has been designed for running in both hot and cold climates. The coat has layers to keep you warm when the cold weather sets in. The colour of the coat changes depending on the colour of your District, e.g. teal for District 12. However, if you get too hot, the sports vest can be adjusted to a sports bra (as shown). The gloves are simply to keep your hands warm in the cold environments. The bottoms are tight-fitting and designed to ensure manoeuvrability, in all circumstances. The shoes have special gel-soles for comfort, and the laces, if done up correctly, can be tucked into a side pocket to reduce the risk of tripping up. They are firm and will not wear down. The colour of the s
hoes, vest top and jacket all correspond to the District's colour. The leggings stay black.
Boys: The men's outfit is designed to perform exactly the same as the women's. The coat has layers for the cold, and the T-shirt underneath down
to a male's vest top. The running shoes are exactly the same - with similar gel-soles and lace pockets. Men are also offered the options of gloves. The coat changes on the district's theme colour, as do the shoes, laces and jacket. The trousers stay black also.
Neither uniforms perform better or worse than the other. They have been designed to create a fair game.
The Bloodbath - Day 1
Marsh Steel D4
Sliding doors contain me inside a clear glass tube. Almost like a mouse in a test-tube. My stylist waves me a half-hearted goodbye and the lift begins to slide upwards. A huge gaping hole in the ceiling opens up, flooding the cylinder with bright light. It takes a few seconds before the lift halts in its movements. Before me are the Cornucopia, the other tributes popping up on their platforms and, of course, the entire Arena. The glass that cages me in does not slide away to reveal me to the currently tranquil setting. But I'm glad of it. Gives me more time to think - to plan how I might want to survive this massacre. The countdown, unusually, starts from two minutes instead of one.
Maybe the Victor-come-Gamemakers took pity on us. Or maybe they're just being nice to give us something to hold onto before we all get slaughtered.
The thing I notice first is not the two tributes either side of my eyeing me up like dinner. The thing I take most notice of is that the Arena is cut distinctly into four sections. Towards the North West, lakes and mountains stretch into the distance. Water source: check. The North East holds a similar environment, with flat land diseased by ordinary-looking crops that suddenly cut off into knife-edged mountains torn apart by deep, black caves. Food source: check. The South West looks fairly ordinary. And safe, mainly. A dense forest with a sharp timberline stands behind me. No movement from there, by the looks of it. Shelter: check. The South East seems the most menacing. A terracotta-coloured canyon rips through the ground, slicing into various shades of brown and grey rock. Circular tunnels lead into an endless maze of stalagmites and stalactites. Hiding place: check.
Looks like I'm all sorted: water, food, shelter and a hiding place. That's exactly what I need. Exactly what all the tributes need. It seems to perfect to be real. Way too perfect. Along with the glorious sunshine and pastel blue skies, the idyllic setting will soon be ruined by the screams and torture of twenty six children.
Sparks Edison D5
My mind flashes from spectator mode to attack mode in the flick of a switch. As soon as the gong sounds, the doors slide open. The sunshine glares in my face but I make a break for it. Instead of running towards the Cornucopia, I try to sprint towards the mountains. My legs are sluggish and refuse to go faster than a weak jog.
"Sparks!" Electra shrieks my name, her voice gargled and tense. My head whips around, my feet solidly planted in the soil. My ally's face is slowly turning a shade of violet, her eyes bulging and the last slithers of blood shooting across the whites of her eyes. It takes me a moment to realise what's happening. He's strangling her. Out of sheer instinct, I dash towards Electra with such speed and power I'm unable to slow myself down. I knock the boy from 12 to the ground and he begs for mercy. He didn't give any to Electra. He doesn't deserve mercy. My boot collides with his throat, pinning him to the floor.
He falls silent instantly. But he's alive. I can feel his artery pulsing through the sole of my shoe. I must have broken his vocal chords. Electra catches her breath back, all the while regaining a grip on the situation. Her faces goes back to ordinary colour, the blood flooding into her rosy-red cheeks. "Amaryllis?" She asks hopefully, her voice still cracked. I shake my head. Her eyes immediately begin to scan the huge group battling outside the Cornucopia. The other tributes are dashing for weapons. No deaths yet. Some kids are already armed and are clearing off, disappearing into the undergrowth. Most of them are loners with no allies to wait for. With no weapons to kill this boy, I've got only one option.
I have to break his neck. I sit him upright, his face glaring up at me with hatred. A flicker of hope zips across his eyes, but his face falls when my fingers curl around his chin and the bony back of his neck. I twist his head round. One defining moment, and it's all over for District 12's male tribute. Electra gasps at me in horror. She's got no time to exclaim or scream. Amaryllis comes charging up behind us - armed with two backpacks and a few thick-edged knives. I'm astounded as to how she managed to get these. Half the tributes are still struggling to get a simple water bottle.
"Lucky, I guess," she explains before we even have time to ask. My ally glances at the lifeless body lying beside me. I realise I've still got my hands around his cold neck. "Let's go." I nod in silent agreement and we make a break for the North East.
Alexandrite Bohamia D1
I make it to the Cornucopia first. I slip inside, the darkness enveloping me in a safe blanket. A small tunnel at the back of a huge room leads underground. I creep down the narrow passageway and skulk into the darkness. From the little light down here, I can tell that this underground area is an armoury and a bunker. I've no idea what the Gamemakers have got planned for us, but I'm pretty sure we're going to need this place to survive. I can't keep the Cornucopia held out myself - I need to wait for Marsh and the others to get here.
The girl from twelve tiptoes silently inside the armoury. I can't risk her killing me now. I don't want to get into any fights. Not so early on. I duc behind a huge shelf of axes, my entire body concealed in the blackness. She runs off with two backpacks and some knives by the looks of it. She must have been a fast runner to beat my allies here - but she makes her exit quickly. Just in time, too.
Marsh parades down the tunnel, shouting my name. I'm relieved to hear Ajax's voice too. I hate being with Marsh alone. I don't trust him one bit. And Ophelia isn't exactly reliable either. I appear from behind the shelf, but Marsh doesn't see me. The tunnel echoes my movements instead. My ally definitely hears me emerge from the blackness.
"Look's like the team's all here," he says triumphantly. I can barely make out his face, but I can tell he is grinning. Ajax somehow finds a gas lantern somewhere around the walls of the armoury, and switches it on. The tiny fire-lit lamp illuminates the whole cave with golden light.
"What about Ohpelia?" I ask worriedly. Has she been killed already? Or did she escape and leave us behind? Marsh seems to have completely forgotten the fact she joined us in the first place. He didn't want her in the group anyway - somehow she convinced Marsh into letting her become a Career. Marsh laughs at my question, pulling a sword off the rack. He examines it carefully, and nods proudly. He makes a couple practice moves.
"She's just coming," Ajax says through gritted teeth. I can tell someting is wrong. They're hiding something from me. I barely have time to think when a creature comes staggering into the tunnel. Ajax hangs his head, his face paling. He holds the lantern up in the direction of the animal.
But it's not an animal at all. It's a battered Ophelia. Blood dribbles down her chin, a huge gash ripping across her forehead. She's limping. Her tribute uniform has been torn to pieces by God knows what. Marsh is glaring right at me.
"Want to finish her off?" He asks darkly. I put a hand over my mouth to stop myself from screaming. I know I can't object. Marsh is the leader of the group. He makes the decisions. If I argue now - he might plan to finish me off as well. I shake my head and he tosses a newly-polished spear to Ajax. My ally hands me the lantern. It swings dangerously in the air, shadows flickering and crawling over the walls. Ophelia is slowly hobbling towards us. Her whole eye socket has turned a sickly yellow-purple colour. Blood is now smeared across her face, neck and hands like she's bathed in the blood of her fellow tributes. Her eyes roll around strangely, like she's searching for something but doesn't know what she's looking for.
Ajax lifts his arms and the spear sails through the air.
It lands solidly in Ophelia's heart. Her eyes fix on my for a moment. When she realises my "innocence", her gaze jumps over to Ajax. He's staring at the ground. Marsh, meanwhile, is smiling.
Her cannon sounds.
That's when I realise this alliance won't work at all.
Ruby Burn D6
The Cornucopia seems miles ahead of me. Most of the other tributes have made it there, dropping, hiding and running to avoid getting attacked. Few have died yet, though a couple of cannons have sounded. As I run, a lifeless body sprawls on the ground. The District 12 boy. I bite my lip and keep moving. Don’t feel guilty. There was nothing I could have done for him anyway. Up ahead, Sunny is tearing weapons off the wall of the Cornucopia. She holds an axe for herself. Her eyes are frantic as she edges alongside the walls of the small building. There are little weapons left. A few daggers hang perilously here and there. I need to get one.
I’m not going to make it in time. The District Partner alliance has made it there and Sunny is completely alone. Euan is nowhere to be seen; Dipper has vanished too. If I don't get there soon, it'll be too dangerous to grab a weapon.
Sunny spots me sprinting. Alarm reads clearly in her eyes.
“GO BACK! RUN! Into the forest!” She screams desperately. A boy runs up behind her, and she swings her axe. It misses the first time. She saw him coming and was trying to warn me. There is nothing I can do but keep running until I get a weapon. I don’t care if she told me to flee. I have to help her. We’re allies after all, right? The Cornucopia has to be at least two hundred metres in front of me. The task seems daunting. The odds definitely are not in my favour. “RUBY!” Sunny yells out my name just as the boy grabs his knife and holds it to Sunny’s stomach. He's taunting me with the slim chance that I could rescue my ally. But how am I possibly supposed to save her without getting attacked myself?
My legs shoot forwards, a burst of speed surging me onward. I make it to the wall in the nick of time, slipping a dagger into my palm. It’s cold against my hand, but warms as my grip locks onto the handle. The boy’s knife edges ever closer to Sunny’s skin, like he’s taunting me. Somehow, she’s lost her axe and it’s been tossed a few feet away. He sees me with my raised dagger, but his emotions don’t change. He’s in control here. And there is nothing I can do about it.
As the bloody scenes unfold around us, it seems to be Sunny, me and him locked in a freeze-frame.
“I will kill her,” the boy says blatantly. As soon as that gong sounded, all his humanity diminished into nothing. He’s from District 2. I can tell by his horrid uniform, the burgundy red of his jacket the same colour as blood. I can tell by the look in his eyes that he knows he’s got the upper hand. If I make any move to attack him, he’ll simply knife Sunny and run away. But if I don’t do anything, he’ll kill her anyway. Somewhere in the back of my mind, a small etch of hope still remains.
“Don’t kill her,” I say blandly. I take a step forwards, and he backs away slightly. Sunny's eyes flicker to the axe that now lies very close. The boy's eyes stay secured on mine. He doesn’t even noticed Sunny moving her leg to pull the axe towards her. “You’re better than this,” I continue quietly. He says nothing. It seems as if he’s ignoring me. The District 2 boy is almost nervous about talking. Sunny kicks up the handle of her axe and in a split-second move, smashes it into the boy’s leg. He jumps back, yelping in pain. His knife flies in the air as he crashes against the ground.
“Let’s go!” Sunny orders loudly. She yanks her axe out of the boy’s leg. Blood lines the whole blade; shards of bone have left deep scratches on the metal. I dread to think how much pain the poor boy must be in. He cries out for help, tremendous amounts of blood seeping into the soil around him. His allies are only a short distance away. They seem too afraid to make any attempt to help him. I don’t hesitate to leave when Sunny starts heading towards the woods. She keeps her eye locked on the trees and doesn’t look back.
I make the terrible mistake of taking a last glimpse at the Cornucopia. I should have done what Sunny was doing. My eyes immediately find Dipper. Across his throat are the deep wounds of a dagger, blood running freely down his neck. Bree Riverbuck stands over his paling body. Her gaze catches mine. Cannon.
Watch it, she mouths at me. She doesn’t mean it to be cruel, that's obvious. It’s a warning.
Artemis Moonsilver D11
I tear a bow off the wall, hastily getting into position. Orlando flicks some knives in his palm. "Do you want to wait for him?" I ask, looking around. At the back of the Cornucopia, all the other tributes seemed focused on weapons. Eric is missing. I didn't even see him on the podiums. Orlando nods firmly. They have a weird friendship, but I don't trust Eric. I give a slight sigh. I don't want to wait here any longer. It's too dangerous.
I hear the laughter of a Career inside the Cornucopia. They've got hold of the entire building, and probably most of the weapons inside. There are a few on the walls of it, but most have been stolen by fleeing tributes. Maybe Eric decided to nick some arms and run away, not giving a second thought about us. I might distrust him, but him doing that sounds doubtful. I can feel fear in the air. We're not going to last much longer if we stay here. Tributes will be on the hunt for anyone to kill.
Almost on cue, the zip of a spear sails past me. It plants itself solidly vertical, metres away from us. I jump back, glaring upwards. I knew it couldn't be long before someone confronted us.
The boy from my district. He's standing on top of the Cornucopia, a fearsome glare in his eye. But he's unarmed now. His shoddily thrown spear landed nowhere near me or my ally. But he doesn't seem to care. He stands straight. He glances at me. I start to pull back the bow string, but my hands are shaking. He shrugs. How can I kill him? He came from my District... but he attacked me.
Before I can even get a clear shot, Orlando catapults his knife through the air. It punctures the boy's chest. Right on target. A pain in my heart makes me drop to my knees. He's all I had left of home. His body leers forwards, having only moments to realise it's over.
I turn my head as his feet give way.
A thud on the ground, and the crack of a dead bone. The morbid screech of the cannon. Each sound chips away at my soul.
I don't look at his corpse. I swear I feel the heat escape from his body, a choked breath squeezing out of his lungs. Orlando places a hand on my shoulder.
"Let's go," he decides.
Ajax Orbit D1
I wipe the bloody spear on the ground, leaving a smear of red on the grass around Ophelia's body. Marsh hauls the lifeless corpse of our ally onto his shoulder, carrying her out to the open where the airships can find her. Alexandrite sits in the corner. She's mapping the Arena, slowly cutting marks in the walls with a knife. We've filed through the Cornucopia's contents, but there are no maps. Weapons, food, water, medical supplies and hunting equipment, but no maps.
I consider talking to Alexandrite. Maybe ask if she's alright, if she's okay. But my nerves get the better of me and I sit in silence with her instead. She doesn't move, but she makes a long, white cut in the stone. She's drawn a rough circle, sliced into quarters. At the centre, she's engraved the letter 'C', presumably for 'Cornucopia'. She draws four small crosses around the letter. That's the same amount of cannons we've had today. Alexandrite continues to engrave a small 'O' by the cross closest to the Cornucopia. Ophelia.
Guilt sits in my heart, but Marsh is the leader. He knew it was for the best. If I could explain it to her, she'd understand. But Marsh warned me not to tell her anything. Neither of us like talking much. I'm not sure Alexandrite would want to know. Ophelia betrayed us. How can we trust someone who does that? I'd rather Alexandrite believe she died a good person.
"AJAX!" Marsh yells my name. At the entrance to the Cornucopia, Jayson Huff is throwing punches at my ally. Marsh blocks him and lands his fist directly in Jayson's stomach. The boy keels back, giving Marsh a chance to thump Jayson around the cheek. Automatically, I grab my spear, tossing it in the air to warm my muscles up. It's still slightly heated from when Ophelia betrayed us.
Jayson throws a punch at Marsh, his aim perfect. Marsh's noice cracks sideways. He coils backwards, his hands to his face. Blood trails down his palms, soaking the cuffs of his jacket. Jayson heaves a heavy sigh of pride. I dig the spear into his chest, not so much to stab him, but enough to stop him fighting. Enough to draw some blood.
Marsh tries to wipe away his own blood, but it refuses to cease in bleeding. A steady stream flows down from his nostrils. His entire nose is covered in red.
"END THIS!" Marsh shouts through gritted teeth. His voice is angry, impatient almost. He's furious about being made weak. It won't be enough to kill him, but a broken nose isn't helpful. I drive the spear into Jayson's chest. Blood sprays in my face. Alexandrite emerges from the tunnel just as Jayson's cannon sounds. Her eyes are wide with horror and tears. "What are you gawping at?" Marsh snaps, wiping the red on his trousers. We've both got blood all over us - the marks of a murder.
"Alexandrite..." I begin slowly. She turns her head and begins to walk towards the bunker.
"I thought you were better than that." She pauses. "Obviously I was wrong."
Marsh breathes heavily. "Come on, let's get him out of here," he cuts in. If anyone was insensitive, it'd be him. Or maybe he just doesn't understand Alexandrite. Perhaps he just has no regard for anyone else's feelings but his own. My ally drags the dead boy further out onto the flat grass. Things have calmed, most tributes have gone. I hear a few wails behind the Cornucopia. "Keep watch," Marsh says. I wrench the spear from Jayson's chest, and raise it defensively. Marsh struggles to heave Jayson's body, but he does eventually. We make a hasty escape back into the Cornucopia. There are still people stalking around. I don't want to have to kill anymore today.
We head back into the depths of the bunker. Alexandrite is nowhere to be seen.
I glance over at the map. A clear 'J' has been scrawled next to a fifth cross on the stone wall.
Amaya Selene D8
We take cover by some bushes on the outskirts of the Cornucopia. We're in the South-West Zone - it seems like the best hiding place. The overhanging trees and constant gloom of the forest easily conceals us. Henry is tapping his foot on the pinecone-littered ground, almost paranoid. We haven't had a chance to get any weapons. After Gideon went, neither of us could face the Cornucopia or the tributes swarming around it. We managed to steal a backpack on our way out, but no weapons. Henry isn't happy with it.
"We need to get in there, somehow," he whispers quietly, only in my hearing. A Career emerges from the Cornucopia, pulling a dead tribute in his wake. I don't know the corpse's name, but I'm certain it's the boy from seven. He's got the right uniform for it. The Career dumps the body and skulks back inside. "They're not coming out any time soon," Henry explains calmly. "Come on, we've got time," he says quickly.
We get to our feet and survey the area. With no weapons, we've got to get the timing right. The Careers are still inside and the Cornucopia looks empty. I start to sprint, with Henry in a slow pace behind me, the backpack safely on his shoulders. I'm naturally the faster runner and Henry begins to tire too quickly. He's not a natural sprinter and his speed gradually grinds to a halt halfway through. He hasn't even made it one hundred metres from the bushes.
"Henry, come on!" I hiss sourly, slowing down just enough for him to keep up. If he doesn't stay running at my pace, I'll leave without him. It's too dangerous to stay in the open. I'm not having a weak ally either; I'd rather be by myself. He'll only drag me down, giving us both death sentences. I'm not ready to die in these Games. He can die, but I'm not planning on doing the same.
"I-I can't—" He stutters breathlessly. "I can't go on." Fine, he's made his decision. It's either kill or be killed. If he's not willing to try and get weapons, he can go and die in a hole. I start running again and I don't slow down, no matter how many times he calls my name. I don't want someone hearing us and tracking me down.
I make it to the Cornucopia by myself and I don't look back at Henry. The whole area appears to be deserted, with a few measly bits of equipment on the wall. I take whatever I can get. A backpack here, box of matches there, the occasional rope or sleeping back. I stuff it all inside the pack. I sling it across my shoulders. The weight slows my running down slightly, but not enough to stop me like Henry had. I won't be that weak, that pathetic.
It's a dog-eat-dog world, survival of the fittest.
A scream from the timberline interrupts my sprint. Henry has the District 3 girl by the throat, her ally either dead or knocked out on the ground.
"HENRY!" I yell. He glares at me, but beckons me to come over. He releases the girl just as her face begins to turn a shade of purple. She drops tot he ground and chokes in air to her lungs. "Henry, what was that for?" He was always a generous person, always full of sympathy for the poor. How did this happen? "Henry..."
"He just started attacking me." He's still got the first backpack. Lolita, the girl, is choking on the ground. Her lungs expand and shrink in a rapid pace, like she's having a fit of some kind. I leave her to it.
"Finish it then," I say blandly. If he wants to start the killing, I've got no problem with that. I kick my boot against the boy. His eyes flicker under his eyelids. He's not dead, just passed out. Henry must not have the gut to kill him. Or maybe he didn't have the time before Lolita started attacking him too. Either way, he needs to finish them both off now.
"No," Henry argues firmly. The girl lies flat on the ground. Her 'fit' has stopped. Her breathing has returned to normal, but she's not making any attempt to fight. We'd win anyway, and she knows it. "Let's just leave them." I roll my eyes. I should have known he'd be too pathetic to finish what he started. "They've already got an injured one." He glances over at the Cornucopia, where one boy squirms on the floor, helpless. Kristoph Inferno, from District 2.
"Fine," I agree at last. If we can't finish them off, having to drag around a half-dead boy will definitely be the end of them. But we should kill them here. The boy would die naturally and we'd be free of it. Somewhere, though, Henry's words have stopped me from slaughtering anyone. I knew these Games would change me, but I didn't think it would change me neough to let tributes live.
Kristoph Inferno D2
Jem comes breathlessly running up to me. She's unarmed. "Kristoph, come on! We've got to go!"
"No. It's too late Jem. Look." I gesture to the bodies around us. The Careers have taken the Cornucopia for themselves and have fought off anyone who gets near. They've got a clear advantage. Anyone that dares go inside has been ambushed and slaughtered. Jayson Huff made that terrible mistake during the Games. And I'm injured. I have been since the start. No amount of medicine is going to help me. Even the sponsors can't save me. Searing pain has stretched up my entire leg. I feel like it's been torn to pieces. Shards of bone have splintered in my flesh.
I'm bleeding from the inside.
"I-I can't," I protest. "Just go." Jem looks at me sorrowfully but says nothing else. She calls the others over, who are recovering from some sort of defeat. Jrue has a knife, but he's got a head wound. At least the girls might be able to bandage that up for him. He must have taken a pretty heavy hit, though. The girls are without any weapons. They won't be able to protect themselves, let alone each other. "You're all unarmed." Jrue and Lolita exchange glances, but Jem doesn't seem to care that they are vulnerable.
"No. I won't leave you here," she insists defiantly. Her voice is strained and weak. She's running out of energy for me.
"You will die if you stay here, Jem," I retort. The truth hits her, the skin over her cheeks beginning to pale. "Go." Jrue stands beside Jem, Lolita keeping watch. Purple marks stretch all over her neck. She's obviously taken a beating as well. We're reasonably safe here now, but the Careers will find us eventually. They'll find me eventually. "Jrue, give me that." I point to the knife. Jem gasps in horror.
"No! No you will not. You can't. You can't kill yourself—" Jem cries desperately.
"Why can't I?" I snap back furiously. Why can't she understand that we'll all die? Why can't she understand that she will die if she stays with me?
"You're the only thing I've got left of home," she sighs softly. Jrue and Lolita stand back, letting Jem have her moment. I don't want her to get attached. Not so early on in the Games. "Please, just stay with us a little longer?" She asks me hopefully. Jrue and Lolita are getting agitated. I can hear voices from the Cornucopia. The Careers will be out hunting soon, and with my messed up leg, there's only a slim chance we'll make it out without them finding us first.
"Fine. Help me up." Jrue and Jem take an arm each, with Lolita keeping her eyes out for the other tributes. With my one good leg, I hop towards the North-East Zone. The fields and mountains appear to be the perfect place to find food and shelter. But I don't want my allies to hang around and get weighed down by me. I don't want to be the reason they die.
"The Bloodbath was a success," Akumai announes proudly. He taps a few buttons on the screen and Aloysius' commentary begins to play. Beemo looks down on the group from the balcony, her eyes catching Odin's. But she's not allowed to show her feelings here. Not when President Rome is the Head Gamemaker. Crimson emerges from the back of the control room, his face grave.
"We've eliminated all the weaker tributes," he explains sadly. Among the Fallen was his own tribute, Ophelia. She was so innocent, in a way. Her mental disability put her at a disadvantage. Crimson knew she wouldn't last long - especially in a Career pack. The thing that made her death heartbreaking was the fact she was betrayed by the only people she could have called 'friends'.
"And they were?" Beemo asks heartlessly. Her eyes skip across the screen, running through lists and statistics. Death rates and illness percentages. A huge flow of bets by Capitol citizens has started to come through. Most of them are betting on Marsh Steel and the larger alliances.
"District 12 male, District 13 female, District 9 male, District 11 male and District 7 male." Crimson winces at the mention of his tribute. None of them deserved to die. Not like this.
"Predominantly male. Surprising. The girls seemed weaker this year," Beemo comments drily, her voice staying monotone, escalating in neither volume nor pitch. "Any injured?" Beemo continues placidly. Crimson sits down in his chair, focusing on a newfound task. One of the Careers was investigating the underground back wall of the Cornucopia. Odin also was confronted with a rummaging tribute. They were making their way into a spider's spawn area. Not the smartest idea.
"Yes, but only one. Kristoph Inferno, District 2." Lyra sighed in the corner. Up until now, she'd been absolutely silent. She'd been given a miniscule task - the weather control of the Games - but somehow she was always working.
"Run diagostics," Beemo ordered firmly. Akumai hurried off to his post and up appeared a summary of Kristoph's deadly injuries. Akumai sighed disappointedly. There was no way Kristoph would survive to win these Games. "So, a shattered leg and split blood vessels all over the place." President Rome strolled in on-cue. He was wearing a blood-red suit; maybe to match today's events. Or maybe he simply liked the colour. Beemo greeted him with an emotionless hello, to which she got no reply.
"I trust that the Bloodbath ran smoothly?" He said drily. Nothing in his voice gave away any emotion. Beemo was becoming more like a high-placed politican as every second passed. This Gamemaker position had given her power. And the power had rushed straight to her head. Maybe she needed to change if she wanted to survive in this dog-eat-dog world.
"How are things going to pan out this evening?" The President continued. The Victors hadn't yet made any plans for the tributes tonight. They had wanted to give them a last night to contemplate their reality, before they faced a whole lifetime of mayhem and torture. Their lifetime was not going to last very long, but the Victors knew better than anyone how horrific even one day of the Games can be. Obviously the President didn't want the tributes treated nicely at all. He wanted to cause panic and death to whoever he met.
"We haven't yet decided. However, Odin has made some fantastic mutations to spice things up slightly," Beemo replied, her voice rising in pitch. Her nerves were beginning to crawl up her arms. Odin had created monsters. They'd both planned to only use a few of them, none of them if possible. But Beemo had taken a lot of convincing by her fiancee not to include them. "Would you like to see?" Beemo managed to smile, but it didn't seem fake.
"Yes. I'd like to pick one out for tonight's showing," the President agreed happily. Odin shuddered as the dictator made his way down the steps and to his work station. Odin projected his list of creatures on a holographic image. The President flicked through them happily. But he paused on one in particular. Odin's blood ran cold. He'd never planned to use this mutt, ever. It was just for show, just an idea that hadn't been properly planned out yet. It could cause the deaths of hundreds if let loose in the Districts. Who knows what devestation might follow it in the Arena?
"Sir?" Odin looked up at his leader. "Have you chosen one?" Odin asked shakily. The President nodded.
"Tonight, you will let him loose with the tributes," the President commanded. "I want to see that you have total loyalty to me, and not to the tributes." What Rome was asking them to do would involve taking away all their emotions, all their humanity. Odin would be starting from the bottom - it'd take years before he got over murdering the tributes. But Beemo? She was already halfway to becoming President.
|Gideon Gleeful||12||Broken neck||Sparks Edison (5)||26th|
|Ophelia Zigler||13||Speared in heart||Ajax Orbit (1)||25th|
|Dipper Pines||9||Slit throat||Bree Riverbuck (9)||24th|
|Tobias Drew||11||Knife in the chest||Orlando Johnson (6)||23rd|
|Jayson Huff||7||Speared in chest||Ajax Orbit (1)||22nd|