"One lives in the hope of becoming a memory." - Antonio Porchia
Saskia deValier, District Two Female.
Lochlan scowls the moment I pop my head round the door, peeping down the corridor. At the crack of dawn, Lochlan seems the type to glower and sulk around the place, meanwhilst I am very much up and ready for the day.
"Morning one and all!" I bounce along the carpet, my feet kicking up little tufts of cream fabric.
"You're certainly happy today Saskia, too much sugar last night?" Faustine smirks and pours herself a nice, steaming cup of hot chocolate. Lochlan's bed-hair is hilarious, the moment he plummets to his seat, I laugh and join next to him just to further irritate him.
He hates me, I generally don't care nor dislike him. He does what he does, I do what I do.
"Not enough Faustine. I'm just looking forward to training." I honestly am, part of the whole Saskia-deValier-package is a whole load of energy, people don't get nowhere sitting idly by, hating the world – people like Lochlan – and neither do they get by through hiding what they can do. There's more to arrogance than simply believing you're better, you have to be skilled to back it up. I know I'm better, why hide it?
"I certainly hope you're ready for the other careers. They won't take too kindly to you asserting yourself as leader in a matter of minutes." Faustine lowers the cup and stares at me, serious face now on. I admire her for her ability to drop one mask and put another one on. Tarquin is all work and no play, and Lochlan is neither of the two. Faustine and I are on the same wavelength, she knows that I like to have a little bit of an adventure and tease, and also remain constantly vigilant and aware of what my limits are, what's required of me, and what the ultimate goal is.
I nod and bite hungrily into some sort of weird twisted bread. Instantly, my mouth floods with sultanas and sugar and I grin, wolfing it down until the last few crumbs fall to the place mat. Lochlan rolls his eyes, Tarquin continues to read the Capitol's favourite newspaper, and Faustine and I lock onto one another.
"Well, me old pal Lochlan won't even be with us so that puts one person out of the picture," Tarquin briefly grunts, dissatisfaction flooding through the air at such a simple gesture. Neither two are happy, but I can't blame them for exactly being so disappointed. Part of the idea of having Training Academies is that we produce the best and a considerable amount of Victors. Two and Four are on equal numbers with not only each other but other Districts too, it's embarrassing that One is carrying the Career torch for us. Without them we'd probably be dropped down on the ranking, maybe an Academy or two taken from us. Really, I should be angry with Lochlan and the idiots who never bothered to volunteer. When I get home, maybe I can impart some of my actual wisdom on how things should be run.
Not saying these two aren't doing a bang-up job themselves, maybe it's that Valeria's fault. She's the complete opposite to Tarquin, too much fun and absolute no work whatsoever.
"The pair from One shouldn't be too difficult. Shine's been bragging that yet another girl from One will be taking home the prize, apparently Calliope has 'the whole package'," Faustine scoffs and I can't help but replicate such a notion. Seriously, the blonde girl from One? She's supposed to be worthy competition, she looks like the sluts who hang around street corners, not a potential Victor. If it's an angle, she's pulling it off well. "And the boy from One is just as bad as Val', he can't stop bouncing around the place. No I think you'll be fine there."
Lochlan leaves the table at that, without so much as a goodbye or a general acknowledgment of our existence. I salute his retreating back and Faustine's lip curls up. Training starts in a few hours but all three of us have been programmed over the years to wake up at such an early hour, I'm guessing the Clarington household is a lot more lenient on its bedtime hours. Early night, early morning. Though sometimes we go a few weeks without much sleep, helps us prepare for long days and short nights during the Games.
Sometimes I really do wonder why Two doesn't have all the Victors. We know what we're doing.
"I think Four will be the real problem. Megaera's a funny one, I haven't quite worked out what she's up to or if there is in fact some secret Megaera we're not seeing."
Megaera seemed to get along well with Alistair yesterday, especially before Lochlan exploded and stormed off in a tantrum. Maybe I can exploit that relationship, after all I'm not just experienced in how to use a weapon, I understand strategy and how to build up a steady game-plan. Tarquin and Faustine are both heavily induced into Training regime, Tarquin the master of all things intellectual and Faustine a bad-ass bitch with a blade. No, Megaera could be a real issue though. A nice little chew toy will keep Alistair calm, Calliope only needs a mirror and she'll be kept quiet, Megaera may need a little more convincing to step down and allow me to take leadership.
"Matteo on the other hand, he's a real charmer. He has the looks, the suave attitude, the I'm-so-amazing step to his walk. He's more leader than Megaera, though she has the potential to be a right bitch when it comes to organising the pack's structure. Mastermind, do you have any suggestions?"
Tarquin from the other end of the table, grunts and pokes his nose over the grey smattering of text. A blazing fire burns from the rather drab tabloid, some sort of disaster in the central square.
Interesting stuff, won't help me win though.
He clears his throat and looks straight at me, dark stormy eyes narrowing. "I do not suggest Saskia takes the role of leader."
Cutlery jangles, a bread rolls falls to the carpet and an Avox dives to catch a falling glass. Faustine's temper is another thing unrivaled, Tarquin the fool, has decided to unleash it.
"What the hell do you mean? You're off your rocker."
As much as I'm confused about his proposal, I can't help but debate his advice. The issue with District Four isn't something that's going to go away just because I want it to. Those two are going to be the catalysts that explode the Pack from within, if I'm the leader that might result in...
"I agree." I state, smiling gently in the direction of a bright red Faustine. Her grip relaxes for a brief moment, then her eyes narrow and she groans.
"I'm sorry Faustine. I'm better than Four, we both know that, but let's allow them to kill themselves off when they decide the Pack is too much for them."
Tarquin nods and resumes reading. There's no smile or smirk of pride, but I know it's there within those eyes. He picked me out as a sixteen year old volunteer for a reason, I don't doubt his decision for a moment.
"The Pack relies on a strong leader, but its members have to be resolved in dedicating themselves to ensuring it remains together. Megaera is too unreliable, and Matteo has the potential to be a right pain in the ass. I say, let Meg be leader and watch her tear it to pieces, hopefully taking down blondie from One, Matteo and herself." Faustine's face dulls down to a pasty white again, and she nods. "I'll take care of Alistair, he won't be hard to pick off."
I don't doubt this plan for a second, I can't. Doubt leads to possible problems arising in the future, and I already have such a problem in the form of District Four. I'll play along, smile and train to protect them, but it won't stop me from driving a knife in their back when it comes down to it. Six careers – or five in this case – volunteer to be in the Hunger Games, and we all know only one can leave alive. I don't doubt for a second that it will be me, my victory's been inevitable from the moment I picked up a sword.
Ward Bingham, District Six Male.
The moment the Head Trainer instructs us to form a circle, I take a back step and observe. Fear is a predominant emotion amongst them all, some are easier at hiding it than others, some not so much. There's a twitch here and there, a sweaty forehead or bunched up fist tapping away at their side. I note them all, eying everyone who could my potential murderer, potential victim or potential companion in this Game.
The Head Trainer is brusque and crude in his approach, everything he says I absorb and pay attention to. Though there's no real point in putting much stock into his advice. His role is pure intimidation, make the careers and their arrogance swell, whilst we non-careers are swept aside and realise that this isn't our game whatsoever.
Tatum looks over at me for a brief moment, the Trainer calling out each different station in turn. She doesn't smile but there's nothing hostile either, I nod curtly and turn back to face the man in front. I have no problem with Tatum, or anyone here for that matter, but nobody came here to make friends and have a good chat. Being here is the last thing I want, but it's foolish to wish otherwise when there's nothing you can do about your fate. I've accepted the fact I could die, but I'm going to do all I can to ensure such a thing doesn't happen.
If it does, it does. If it doesn't, then it's because I didn't try to sugarcoat anything. Everyone here, from the boy from Seven smiling and coddling his little district partner, to the boy from Four, staring at the front with the traces of a smirk on his face. They all have the possibility of becoming a killer, and so do I.
"Spend your time wisely, you may go."
He flourishes his hands and we part, the careers already gathering together and the others splitting by themselves. I do the same and immediately point out a station to the far left, bits of wood and rope spread around a mat.
Next to it, I see the glint of a machete and note that down somewhere in the back of my mind. Whilst I've been bombarded by the most superficial of beings since I stepped off that train, I've been strategising how this is all going to pan out. First of all, survival skills are a must have. Anyone can pick up a weapon and at least attempt to hack at their opponent, if you don't know what you're doing when it comes to making a fire or shelter, then there's no way you're going to actually have a shot at doing such a thing.
"Greetings." The little trainer claps his hands together when I reach the station and grins at me. He barely reaches my chest in height but that doesn't deter him from closing the gap and reaching for me. I brush him off and take a seat on the mat, the sticks and rope and everything else required to make a shelter laid out in front of me. He looks defeated when I stare back up at him expectantly, his chest deflates and he steps back to his initial place.
I don't understand these Capitol folk, their weird mannerisms and tendency to overstep boundaries. It's not something I'm very welcoming to, neither here or in Six, it makes me uncomfortable and detracts from anything I'm attempting to achieve. Today being training for the Hunger Games.
"Would you mind doing your job and showing me how to build a basic shelter?" I ask, courteously. He narrows his eyes, like I've done something wrong, and nods his head. The moment he bends down on his knees and picks up two of the thicker lumps of wood, I hear footsteps behind me before the gentle thud of someone landing on the mat to my left.
I make no sound to give away my disappointment, and turn to face the new arrival. The trainer immediately resumes his jovial self and steps up to the new face, the boy from Five. Cynder, I believe his name to be, waves him off just as quickly as I stepped aside and smiles in my direction.
"Bit clingy isn't he?" he jokes, the trainer hearing every word and growing a deep shade of scarlet. There's nothing to really say in response, it's not so much a question than it is a general statement to this absurd trainer's behaviour. Though he is here for a reason, that I'd rather know sooner than later.
"Was there something you needed?"
He exhales a short, breathless laugh and picks up a twig from the mat. "We're allowed to train where we want? Or did I miss that bit?"
"Yes, I just assumed tributes weren't necessarily going to go up to a station occupied unless they were aiming to arrogantly show off their skills, something reserved for the careers usually, or to ask something."
Out the corner of my eye, I see the trainer walk off to the nearby station. Abandoning his post is unprofessional but I doubt it really matters right now, my mind's wandered off from shelter to this strange young man.
"That's true, but maybe I'm not scared of people and don't mind sharing a station."
"I'm not scared of people," I raise my voice a tad to stress my point and Cynder simply shakes his head and laughs again.
I open my mouth, a word, question or something trying to form in my head. When nothing does I close it again and look down for a brief moment. What does he mean prove it?
"Prove you're not scared of people, Ward Bingham from District Six."
"What do you mean?" My entire strategic basis for training has gone out the window, my mind now completely perplexed and curious at this person's attitude. Really, I didn't come down here to speak to anyone unless it was completely necessary. It would probably be in my best interest if I stood up and left right now, leaving Cynder to his own devices and try to find a spot more secluded away from petty distraction. I am not scared of people, I've just never been so good at opening up to others. It's difficult for some people, whereas there are others who tend to find that characteristic odd. I wonder where Cynder stands.
"Be my ally. I think that'll prove you aren't scared of people."
I blanch, mind reeling. Allies? Already...?
"Training only started five minutes ago, it's certainly very early to already be creating alliances when you've had no time to scout out those with skills."
Cynder scratches his head and nods, the twig he picked up twirling between the fingers of his other hand. He places it back down quickly and shrugs his shoulders.
"I think you're the right ally to have, call it intuition."
He extends his hand, face serious but a certain gentle touch to the light smile and the way he looks at me. I'm not sure, I've never been sure about the idea of someone approaching me out the blue and asking me things about myself or to help them with something. It's not me, but with Cynder and where I am, the situation is different.
I don't have to like him after all, and within a week myself, him, or both of us could be dead. There doesn't have to be a connection larger than an alliance that mutually benefits its members. Maybe it can work.
"Alright," I meet his hand and shake it once, affirming my position. "I'll be your ally."
Ada Bertrand, District Three Female.
"I feel bad for her, maybe we should go up and say hi."
The obsessive girl from Ten continues to prattle next to me, this particular time her eyes gazing over attentively on the blonde-haired, sprightly girl from Five who appears surprisingly downtrodden. I follow her trail of sight and notice her District partner engaging with the pale guy from Six.
A single tear reflects back the light and I stare sullenly at her, a prickle of sorrow somewhere within my chest. I don't know her, I don't care much for her or her situation, but there's a tiny amount of sympathy I can shed. She must have thought they were allies, and as quickly as they cemented such a friendship, he took that hope from her.
Maybe that's why I want this bubbly, irritating young girl to leave me be. Maybe I'm just worried of her not liking me if I attempted such a thing as a proper conversation.
I twiddle the berry between my fingers, focusing on the teary-eyed girl, then back on Raelyn Houchens, who frowns and stares at me. Her face is covered from chin to forehead in bright, blue berry juice. A giggle passes her lips and she scrapes a gloop off, licking it tentatively and swallowing it whole. Thankfully, those aren't poisonous. Otherwise the consequences could be... well, what we're about to face real soon.
"Do you want to move on Ada?" Raelyn pokes me in the knee and laughs, squeezing a berry between her fingers. More juice splays up and she continues to fidget besides me. If anything I want her to leave and move on, why she's so imperative in the fact that I'm the ally for her, I can't fully understand. Out of the blue she hopped on up to me and proposed that we become friends... not allies, but friends. And I only stared at her, shrugged my shoulders and bolted back to where I've been since the morning.
It's not that I find Raelyn naïve, I just find her unrealistic. She's smiley, too smiley. Her happy-go-lucky nature is reminiscent of a past life only one of us can return to. I'm adamant that I have the potential to achieve victory if I focus one-hundred percent of my attention, and personally that doesn't stretch so far as to accept a person such as Raelyn. She's a nice girl, chirpy and sweet, but like a little toddler screaming in your ear for attention.
She only takes my cold, distant approach as affirmation that we are friends. In what world that constitutes as friendship I'll never know, but unless I'm direct in saying no she'll never leave me. And I can't do that, because I don't want to hurt her feelings, I'm not cruel like the boy from Five.
"Girl, are you positive that these are the berries that are fatal, and these are the-" I look up at the trainer's Capitol drawl, then watch with silent amusement when her mouth circles and eyes glide over the mess Raelyn has made. I don't condone immature behaviour, and Raelyn didn't do it to spite the Capitol, but her reaction earns a twitch from my lip.
"I'm super sorry Miss." Raelyn giggles with a horrified expression, mixed with an amused one. She manages to somehow pull off such extremes of emotion, something I've never been good at, and gets away with gently touching the world around her. The trainer sternly berates her, but when the mess is cleared up and I receive a perfect score, I see the same smile on her face when Raelyn hoists me up by the shoulders.
There are people like Raelyn in this world, and people like me. I've just got to try and not let her get to me, if I do that then things will be alright. I'll remain comfortable in my own skin and Raelyn can proceed to light up the world like the chipper little chipmunk she so proudly seems to be.
"Where next Ada?"
I stand still for a brief second, observing each station. The careers are milling around the weapons stationed, ogling the others as expected. The girl from Four briefly gazes over me and I avert eye contact immediately. It's better if I don't provoke some sort of reaction out of them, staying under the radar is the only chance I have and inciting a fight with such a person will only snatch such hope from me.
The weaponry stations on the other side remain unoccupied. A multitude of small silver objects, such as knives for throwing and stabbing purposes, along with other blades and knick-knacks attract my attention. Raelyn already begins bounding along towards the stocky young woman, like she can read my mind.
"Dibs on the knife!"
I roll my eyes, the trainer chortling as Raelyn picks up one of the hundred knives littering the shelf.
"I think there are plenty of knives little one." The trainer sweeps her fringe and adjusts the way Raelyn's fingers curve round the handle.
"I'm sixteen I'll have you know," she dramatically sighs and stamps her foot, proceeding to completely mess up her grip again and throwing the knife at the target. The trainer shrieks and I watch, once again with amusement, at the knife soaring above the spot her forehead was seconds ago.
Someone laughs to my side, the girl from Twelve clutching a sword in her hand and going for the target. I immediately look away. No more Ada.
Raelyn is enough for me.
Does that mean I want her as my ally? Am I willing to open myself enough for the chance at being with someone in the Arena?
"Raelyn," I call, my volume barely above a whisper. She catches it and turns to face me, the trainer shrieking at her for yet again failing at another station. This has next to no effect on her, which only adds to my need to be with her. She doesn't care what anyone has to say, words slide of her skin like protective armour is shielding her from harm.
If only I was so confident, so pleased with who I am.
"Yeah Ada? Did you see my knife," she slaps her knee and guffaws. "I don't think I'm cut out for this fighting stuff, you know. Ah well."
I continue to stare at her, the request or... statement, whatever it is, creeping up my throat but dancing at the tip of my tongue. This will be me opening myself up, allowing vulnerability and the chance to care too much for another person. What if it ruins any shot I have...?
What if it saves me?
"Raelyn, I'd like to be your..." Ally? That's what I want, but it's not what she asked. She saw something in me, something no one else probably does. Tyndall doesn't understand, neither does Dessa or Adelie. I shouted at Dessa because I was angry, and I apologised because I don't like to be rude towards people. But Raelyn, she smiles and laughs and cheers. The kind of things I want to do.
I need someone like that.
"I'd like to be your friend."
Whether it works out, that doesn't matter. Here and now's what counts, maybe I can learn to be me without caring, maybe I actually stand a chance at loving me for me.
Calliope Cartier, District One Female.
"A little bit of input would be nice Calliope," Saskia sneers, pulling up her sword. Her eyes dart between myself and Alistair, who per usual stands twiddling a piece of his shaggy brown hair, staring off into the distance with wild bemusement. Alistair is amusing, somewhat of a distraction from the seriousness of what this entire procedure entails.
"Hey, earth to blondie." The clicking of her fingers draws me away from my District partner and I turn to face the girl from Two, who smiles at me. What are they asking of me? To decide who should be leader? Saskia for whatever, unearthed reason, decided to step down and allow Four debate it between them. Something's up with Saskia, but there's always something up with everyone, little lies here and there that especially careers know how to work into anyone.
Four can have the role of leadership, the position leads to more trouble than its worth.
"I honestly do not mind Saskia," I state calmly and politely. The girl rolls her eyes and lets the sword hang limp, sharp edge glistening in the overhanging light. The other tributes have decided to stay well away from whatever area we're occupying; a good choice on their behalf. None of them have any clue whatsoever about what we careers know, and I'm not one for mercifully giving them a chance. I take what I can, after all volunteering wasn't for me to just give up and die. I'm not here to necessarily take a life, but I'm not here to let a bunch of children escape from a fate they unfortunately had no say in.
"That mean's the draw is tied. Myself voting for Megaera, Alistair voting for Matteo. Come on Calliope, make the call!" She grows flustered for a second, pretty little face blossoming bright red.
Honestly I've no idea what plots and plans brew in all their arrogant heads. Megaera only smiles brightly when a question or conversational topic is directed her way, and Matteo ever the speaker only engages positively with whoever steps up to initiate a discussion. Although, I find that endearing, he's only one of those classic careers smiling to hide a sinister truth.
I've watched too much Hunger Games to let myself fall for the standard traps these types of people set; though if they're so oblivious to what other careers can do that makes it all the better for me to get one over them.
As I've always been, I'm not here to make friends. I'm here to stand still, apparently play the pretty blonde without the necessary naivety to the role, and kill.
Matteo chuckles deeply and wraps an arm round Meg's neck. Her eyes narrow for a split-second, something only I manage to pick up on since I'm well tuned into observing the smallest of details, but they relax and she squeezes into his friendly gesture.
"Come on Calli', we need your help here. Meg's all well and good," he squeezes her gently and laughs, the other girl only grinning wider and sinking deeper into his side. "But it's me you want."
I keep a blank face, betraying nothing of the emotion that races through my head. Honestly, I want neither. Matteo's charisma is charming, Megaera's warm-hearted nature positive and welcoming, but I don't want them. I don't want Saskia either, she's a little devil waiting to take out those in her way.
I'm not here to pick and prod at their personalities, or tell them what they're doing wrong. All that I keep well within my system and let it grow, occupying my thoughts but staying within. My own judgmental attitude is none of their concern. I've been on the receiving end of cruel words and that's only built up my barriers to the point of me holding off such outside forces.
"Come on Matteo you big meanie, let's allow Calli' to choose for herself."
I could be quick and easy with my decision, this is painful standing idly by and not training for what we actually volunteered to do. In a sense, there's a mild fascination in watching them prickle and heat up at my indecisiveness.
Let's have a bit of fun, I think.
"I vote Alistair," I plaster a smirk on my face, the first real act of anything other than calmness I allow to show to the others. Matteo bursts out laughing, but it's the reactions of the two girls that really pique my interest. At last, a little honestly pouring through the cracks.
Alistair blinks and turns at me, stunned into silence.
"Huh?" his lovely little eyelids open and close, rapidly blinking as he stares between the four of us. They settle on me at last and his mouth curls into a lopsided grin, pure innocence radiating from his face. He's adorable in a sense, the only person here I truly believe isn't holding malicious thoughts away from the group.
"I said, I vote Alistair."
He scratches his head, not quite understanding it yet. Of course, Alistair is incompetent when it comes to this sort of stuff. Megaera, Saskia and Matteo all have ulterior motives and hidden agendas but I suppose they're actually good at what they do. Me, I refuse to put myself forward when there's already two candidates holding off from ripping the other to shreds over this position. Alistair is a more appealing option.
"You've got to be kidding me," Saskia says, sighing and rolling her eyes. Alistair blinks again and shakes his head, mumbling something under his breath.
"Oh no no no Calli'. I can't be the leader. I voted for Matteo."
"That's true you know," the boy from Four quickly inputs, stepping back when I turn to stare at him. He smiles awkwardly and stares down at Megaera. Her face has taken a rather hilarious red tone, her ears an impressive brightness.
Whatever, I know how these three work. I'll drop it for now.
"Fine, sorry Alistair I was only kidding." I turn to face the two from Four, waiting giddily for my judgment. Either choice is horrendous, either leads to catastrophe for us. Doesn't matter, I'll be out of their reach before it all collapses in on itself.
"Matteo," the boy's face swells up and he steps forwards, expecting the best. "I don't choose you."
The moment his chest deflates, Megaera beams and skips towards me, enveloping me in a hug.
"I choose Megaera."
Honestly at this point, what's the use in all this? I'm here to kill them all, whoever decides to lead this alliance doesn't change that fact. Nothing can, nothing will.
Sabrina Calladine, District Eleven Female.
The three vials are placed linear on the fold out mat, equal distance between them. Varying liquids shimmer within the glass: one a purely transparent, one murky white and one jet blue.
"Which one produces the quickest death?" I ask breathlessly. My chest burns from over-exertion, apparently bows and arrows aren't designed for easy usage. Who knew?
I laugh to myself, it took a lot of skill to be overly bad at pulling a string and shooting an arrow. I'm pretty sure my own actual aim is perfectly average, but wrapping my fingers round one end the wrong way, loading the arrow incorrectly and holding back real embarrassment in savour of fake embarrassment, is a pretty tough task and act to pull off.
All I have to remember is it's for the good of myself, the worse the others see me, the higher my chances are of making it out the bloodbath alive. It wasn't an act I was going to truly cling onto, I'm not the wildest, most vicious girl around but I can hold my own. Though the moment I instinctively burst out crying at the reaping, it was either turn my public image around and paint a huge target on my back, or play up on that and continue to be portrayed as the average, annual weak tribute from Eleven.
Whatever helps me win, I suppose.
"All three can be applied by injection, however quickest way is through consumption. One drop of all three will provide death within mere minutes, it's the transparent one," the trainer gives the vial a gentle tap, a ripple shuddering the surface, "that kills your victim in less than thirty-six seconds. Pretty deadly."
Poison, a woman's weapon I've heard. All the boys are so into their heroic and foolish acts of swinging a sword and competing with one another. I truly do believe that there are quicker, and cleaner ways of dispatching of someone. Not that I'm a killer, I've never thought about taking a life until I was on that train and my blurry eyes and shattering mind finally started to cease and patch itself up. I may be one to show off, hence the reason it's so difficult to not rectify my previous mistakes with weaponry, but I'm not here to cause too much suffering.
Thirty-six seconds is good enough for me, not a drop of blood either.
"Does it cause much pain?"
The trainer lady sighs, like I've disappointed her with the question. I knew these people were sadistic, but seriously? I only keep a steady gaze, not a smile or frown, and wait for her response. She picks up the transparent poison's vial and swirls it around, her eyes maliciously following each and every turn the deadly liquid makes. It's fascinating and totally insane how these Capitolites can be so invested in such morbid topics, though the Hunger Games only make sense when you couple it with their sadism.
"If you're going for a painless death, poison shouldn't be your first option. Though this produces a quick and clean death, your victim will suffer for around twenty or so seconds. The poison produces internal bleeding on a massive scale, impressive for such a dainty little thing, don't you think?"
I mumble something, hoping to satiate her bloodlust and move on as quickly as possible. There's only so much time I can spend around person, soon they dry any enthusiasm or interest I have in whatever it is we're doing. I suppose the same could be said for my fellow tributes, all of them from the careers pompously ambling around the room, strutting their stuff and showing off, to the non-careers attempting to piece together some sort of meaningless hope that they have a chance.
All of them aren't people I can associate myself with, part of the whole distancing process that will help block out all sense of connection with people who have to die for my survival, and also the fact none of them look worth my time. They're either too quiet, too loud or too babyish. If it takes my poison, maybe a dart or something to shoot from a distance if it comes down to that, to push myself through the competition than it's imperative I forget the fact that these are... human beings. I'm not a bad person. I'm not. But this is something I have to do.
"What do you suggest is another alternative to poison that provides a clean but merciful death?"
"Well," she sighs, again, "there's strangulation, it's not too painful, however the torture is in the person feeling their life fade from their bodies. Look, kid I'll be frank with you. The ways that keep the blood from falling are usually the ways that hurt the most. Sure you can gut someone slowly, disembowel, cut them apart limb from limb, all that's much worse and takes forever. But an arrow to the head, a knife through the throat, blood is all part of the Game and those sort of methods are the only way you're going to get that painless death you're going for."
I frown, the first time I show her some sort of emotion regarding the topic of killing. The left side of her mouth curls up and she puts the vials back into the tray by her side. "Honestly, you're only a little girl. Doesn't mean much when it comes to your chances, little can work well for you, but when that gong goes off and you're running for your life to gather as much supplies as possible but to also avoid being on the receiving end of another tribute's weapon, a vial of poison is a lot harder to spot than a sword or spear. Think it over."
She places her hand on my shoulder, comfortingly... maybe? It's hard to tell. It instantly makes me feel awkward, the gesture disturbing to say the very least. I allow her to carry through with it and manage to plaster a weak grin on my face, just to show her I can be appreciative. Fake, of course. I don't care for her, only her knowledge, but whatever gets her away from me now.
I'm done here.
I bid her a quick goodbye and stand up, doubling back to the arrows but continuing swiftly onwards to the rack of swords. The careers stand only a few stations to my right; the girl from Four catches my eye and winks. Not wanting to waste an opportunity, I let my face crease and shiver, absorbing the act of terror and listen to her laugh.
I'm not strong enough to tackle a career head-on, but smarts can be better than brawn. A strategy deadlier than a sword if in the right hands. How I kill, depends on the situation, but my own survival is possible if I try hard enough to outsmart the people who believe they have it all, those trying hard to hope, and those giving up completely.
It is a game after all, I've always been good at games.
Graeden Peltz, District Seven Male.
The descending sun casts an orange glow through the glass window. I smile and draw my fingers through the sparkle of artificial light the skyscrapers beam through. Swirls of dust are caught in the glow and I trace them along with my fingers, mesmerized at the brief beauty sunset brings.
It fills me up from head to toe, a warmth tingling every nerve and I relax into the plush, velvet cushions of the couch. Soon, the radiance vanishes and night sweeps through the city. In mere moments it will burst alive in fireworks, explosions of colour and noise as the Capitolites celebrate the Hunger Games.
Celebrate us, and our arriving demise. In a world such as ours, people only expect pain, and that's all they feel. I see a different side, the party-goers aren't as bad as we make them out to be. Only delusional, and all that takes is for the delusion to be eradicated. The Hunger Games won't last forever.
"Daydreaming?" The quiet but stern voice cuts through the haze and I smile brightly up at Delphine, Tirzah's mentor who throws herself into the opposite armchair. Her hair is disheveled, frayed at the edges and eyes blue-rimmed. She isn't in the best of shapes for her age, though I'm sure she'll pull through. People usually do.
"Admiring the view," I tilt my head in the direction of the window cast behind the television set, stretching from the carpet to the ceiling, a sheet of glass for us to admire. Delphine chuckles lowly and sweeps her tattered fringe from her eyes.
"Not much of a view, there are better things to admire."
I shake my head, adamant, never letting go of this warmth inside my chest. "I disagree. Say what you will about the Capitol, you can't deny the beauty of the city."
"You see beauty, I see deceit and evil."
"Let's agree to disagree," I smirk, squeezing up to one of the feathery cushions. Oren soon arrives, joining Delphine on the arm of her chair. She shrinks under his intense gaze, the only person able to cut through her wall and it's the very tribute who she mentored to victory. Oren is my mentor, technically, and whilst there's never anything in a person you can't fix with a little bit of dedication, he's unsettling.
As Victor of the first ever Quarter Quell, he went through hell and came out burning. His new skin is realistic, you'd almost believe it was him if it wasn't for the pictures you saw before his Games, you can tell the difference only slightly. He was a criminal, voted in because of his actions. No one knows why he did what he did, only that he can't keep a straight face, laughing randomly and coddling anyone he comes into contact with.
There's a thin line between comfort and creepiness. I do my best to manage that boundary, Oren fails to see.
"Your Tirzah's a real killjoy, tried talking to her about her day and she only mumbled and walked to her room."He snickers and places a firm hand on Delphine's shoulder. I see the confliction in her eyes and a lurch in my chest urges me to bat him away and protect her. Impulsiveness isn't my thing, but when it comes to people like Delphine relenting under the gaze of someone who should look up to them, protect them... it's uncomfortable.
"She's a nice girl, just a bit troubled," she mumbles. I smile at her and stand up, working my way across the milky carpet and towards the pair of them. I'm tall, but not as tall as Oren. The moment he grins broadly and steps up to meet me, he towers over me, looming like a giant. I don't like fear, but it's hard right now not to feel a twitch in my face.
"Got a problem buddy?" he tenses, though the smile is rooted into his expression. Over his shoulder I see an Avox getting to work on our dinner, hurrying around and scrubbing things down. I make a mental note to clean up straight after dinner tomorrow, it's not fair they're forced to slavery for what are probably the most menial of actions. Rebellion, they call it. I only see it as a step in the right direction.
"No problem Oren," I laugh brightly and place my own hand on his shoulder, broad, rock-hard like a block of concrete. "Just wondered if you wanted to chat about my own day, leave Tirzah to herself."
Poor Tirzah, I tried comforting her today, even offered an alliance and she only muttered something and wandered off. She's a nice girl, but like Delphine said, she's troubled. We all know the Ovata family, we know of their secret little daughter who only comes out on reaping day.
Oren makes a joke of it, Delphine and I try to work her out her shell. It'll only help when it comes to survival.
"Sure pal," he takes a seat on the arm of the chair, attention now completely gone from Delphine. I see the slight nod in her head and smile gently. I only do what I know is right, no thanks is necessary.
"So," he clasps his hands together, clapping out loud. "Made any new friends?"
The way he says friends is chilling, something he'll never know or understand. A concept lost to such a person. I wish I could help him, somehow, but I doubt there's much I could do for someone like him.
"I'm in the process of looking for someone. I asked Tirzah but she's not up for it, give it tomorrow and I'll have an alliance."
Oren's shoulders bob up and down, the chair shaking with his weight. "Oh Graeden. You're so cute," he makes a high-pitched, almost baby-like squeak and bursts out laughing. "For a tribute, you're too happy."
"For a victor, the same could be said of you."
Oren straightens his back and for a second, his eyes narrow and lips purse. But the same shift in everything he does wipes his face clean, and then his skin lights up, face blossoms and he leaps up, enveloping me in a rib-crushing embrace.
"Good luck tomorrow, Grady. I'm off to bed."
He rubs Delphine's scalp with his knuckles, and off he goes, disappearing round the corner. Delphine immediately releases the most pent-up breath I think she's ever had to hold, or I've ever seen. The pair of us exchange something without need for words and then together, we start giggling. It's short-lived, sleep calling me. But it means something, laughter always has.
Maybe I'm being silly, pinning my hopes on the idea that there's such a thing as taking the Game seriously but without having to lose a sense of humanity, where you can still joyfully laugh and smile. Perhaps that is foolish, a pipe dream. But it's all I have, the ability to smile and see the good in others. I can't lose that, it's the one part of me the Hunger Games won't kill, the one part that will stay true, even when I've been forced to move on.
Apologies for the late update, no real excuse except I put this off until later in the week. Hopefully I can go back to writing regularly and keeping with my weekly schedule. Training's begun, alliances are coming together. Over the next two chapters the rest will form and they'll be posted on the blog.
For now, we have:
The Careers (excluding Lochlan)
Ada and Raelyn
Cynder and Ward
Favourite out of the six and why?
As of now, who in the career pack do you see making it the furthest?
Curious really for that last question, the answers won't mean anything for the actual outcome. Next chapter will be the first half done, all tributes with a POV and I can set up a poll. Next up: Training Day Two!