Scars by Papa Roach.
Scars Part One.
And our scars remind us that the past is real. I tear my heart open just to feel.
Only Human - The 150th Hunger Games.
Chiffon Poiter, District Eight Victor.
The house feels empty without them all.
It's good, though, and sometimes, it's bad. Everything feels like it has happened in this house. Ones that both shaped and broke the people I call my family.
The first night Velvet returned and broke down in the middle of the room, and the sleepless night where I cradled her crying body, rocking her back and forth. The silence as we went years losing tribute after tribute, reliving our own painful memories.
The sheer joy at saving Darek, only for it to be clouded by Velvet's illness sparking back up.
The constant sight of Pippin at the house, youthful and spirited, right up until he, too, entered the arena and returned a broken boy. The first day that he was whisked away by the Capitol and returned with bruises and electrocution burns. The fury in Darek's eyes. The anguish in Velvet's eyes. The sorrow in my own.
Darek fixing Pippin as best as he could. Mending ourselves together, as a unit. Looking after Velvet and getting her medication. When Darek's house flooded, and he moved in with Pippin whilst it got fixed. Sunshine and happiness in the brief moments between the Hunger Games. Me and Darek taking the mentoring to spare Velvet and Pippin anymore pain.
Seeing Tweed return. On the same night, when his abusive parents arrived, broke down my door and beat Tweed senseless, and everyone rallied around him like a protective flock of birds. As Velvet held his bruised body and screeched as Darek backed his Father away, receiving a black eye in the process, and me getting a good smack in Mrs Rayon's ungrateful face.
Over time, where Tweed felt more comfortable with us, even if he psychologically chose to distance himself from us.
Darek's message of hope. The place where the rebellion idea was crafted.
Where Pippin agreed, even though Darek was against it.
Where I promised to protect my family.
Because even if I couldn't have children - couldn't be a Mother when I couldn't promise that child a future in a corrupted world - I would always, always protect my own. And Velvet, Darek, Pippin and Tweed are my own.
I would die for my family.
"Nicolet has some interesting news," Darek muses, sitting down onto my couch. I hum, stretching my creaking bones. "She says that Esmeralda has had her own death sentence handed to her. A month, they reckon."
I hum, holding back the smile. "Nicolet's source is truly wonderful."
"I'd love to know who he is," Darek laughs. "He'd be a great asset to our side."
Despite age capturing us all, it's like we're still young. Ignoring the wrinkles and aging bodies, everyone acts the same, through the pain and happiness, mixed together to forever trap us in a time where we were both victims and murderers.
Velvet creeps through the door, long, blonde hair masking her face. "Morning," she mumbles, taking small strides to the kitchen.
"I've made coffee," I answer. Then Darek gives me that look, and I scowl. "I may be old, but I'm not useless, so stop looking at me like I'm a vulnerable, little old lady."
"You're turning eighty next year," Darek reminds me. "You need to slow down and..." he trails off, the obvious reminder that I'll soon be dead. Honestly, I do wonder where he gets his remarkable charisma from.
"And rest. I do know, dear," I smile sadly. "I haven't got much time left."
I'm pretty lucky compared to many of the people I grew up with. Many younger than me have died of illness or been cripped by disease. Somehow, these old bones have kept me upright and as fit as a fiddle. Darek doesn't understand that, though. He assumes that each year makes me more vulnerable and weak. Sadly, I have to remind him that I'm the same as him, a Victor above all else, a constant victim and sign of death.
And age will never change that. Never.
After an awkward round of silence - and as Velvet retreats into the study - Darek smiles coyly. "We should act soon."
"It'd be wise whilst she's in her state," I nod along. She's finally going to perish with the rest of us. "Do you even know what's wrong?"
"Brain tumor," Darek smirks. "The irony in that, right?"
"You shouldn't talk so loosely about death," I reply, even though it's on my own mind and I'm a hypocrite, but Darek doesn't need to know that. "It doesn't matter who she is. Illness isn't a light subject."
Darek shakes his head. "Sorry. But either way, we should act when we're in the Capitol."
"And everyone agrees?"
"I'll get the message to them through Harley," Darek answers. Harley, our corrupt Peacekeeper who, against all odds, is our messenger between districts.
"Including the Careers?" I turn my voice lower.
Darek only proceeds to nod. "Aphrodite, Carnelian, Ajax, Amity and Gemini," he reaffirms. "They're all on board, as are the rest. Even Crispin has agreed, as long as we keep Saskia out of it."
"Very well," I smile ruefully. "Let the true Hunger Games commence."
Four days later, the message has hit everyone. Harley passes along the confirmation from each of them, and before we know it, we have at least a person in every district, two in the majority.
The plan is set in motion.
As Harley hands over the last letter, Darek grins, turning to Pippin. "You hear that? Serena's message has arrived. That's everyone."
"...great." Pippin smiles tiredly.
"No-one suspects a thing," Harley confirms in his rough, raspy voice. "I guess this means it's over for me, right?"
"You've done us proud," I smile at the man underneath the visor. "I promise that your family will see the benefit of your dedication to our cause.
Harley removes his visor, revealing that kind, unearthed smile that he's famous for. "Thank you, Chiffon... I wish it wasn't like this at all... you guys don't deserve it..."
We all know that. After so many years, you learn to live with the outlandish, pitiful looks and words of both sadness and gratitude.
"Hopefully, after this, no-one else will suffer." Darek beams, turning back towards my house. Pippin takes me by the elbow and leads me after them. If everything works out, then nobody will. And the many doting Mothers out there - both soon-to-be and current - can breathe, knowing their child is safe and sound from here on out.
Two weeks pass, and the Quell announcement draws closer and closer, only a day away.
As the night approaches - and Darek hasn't returned all day - my heart hiccups in my chest as I sit down into the seat, still clutching the letter.
"They'll be no ball this year?" Pippin sounds incredulous, but there's a tone of happiness underneath.
"I guess not," I shrug, my bones creaking once more. My breathing come out strained. "I've never known for it not to happen. It's a tradition."
I can feel it in my gut. It churns and somersaults, instincts that have never failed me in the past. Every time it happens, something strikes. Something terrible.
It's then that Darek enters the room, completely pale, bar the violent, purple bruise on his jaw. "...something isn't right..."
My heart hammers even more. "What isn't right?"
Darek looks up, eyes on the verge of tears. "...Harley...he was executed..."
The world slows down, time halting in the presence of us all. Pippin falls pale against the seat. I lean forward, confused and torn, but something keeps me in my seat.
The overwhelming sickness.
"Darek..." I whisper, just as my front door is ripped off of the hinges, and a barrage of Peacekeepers storm in.
Shouting and screaming hits the air. Darek struggles and fights against one of them, but he's quickly whipped across the face, forced onto the ground. I move as fast as my old bones will carry me, but another one hooks me by the elbow, slamming me into the nearby wall. My head snaps against the brick, turning my vision dark, but not before I see them haul Pippin out of the chair, kicking and screaming and fighting with all of his might.
"Pippin Halland, I am arresting you under the conspiracy of terrorism against the state of Panem." A Peacekeeper chants, pushing Pippin's smaller body into another Peacekeeper, who proceeds to smack the heel of his gun against his skull. Pippin crumples, voice crying out for help.
I briefly hear Tweed shouting and Velvet shrieking, but it's lost to the overwhelming maternal instincts that I've always carried with me.
"It was me!" I shout, words breaking through my lips. "I was the one conspiring against her! It was me, not Pippin!"
The Peacekeeper turns. "Are you pleading your own guilt to it?"
I swallow, freeing myself from the brutal man holding me against the wall. "Yes," I growl, seeing Pippin look at me with his misty eyes. "I am pleading guilt. You leave them alone this instant, and take me instead."
The Peacekeeper concedes. "Take her away!"
Rough hands grab me again, shoving me out of my house. Darek shouts and Pippin cries and Tweed argues and Velvet screams as the cold air bites my brittle skin, feet being dragged along the cobblestones.
My home, where so many memories were crafted, falls into the distance as I'm pushed into the vehicle.
Deep down, I know I won't return to it.
It doesn't take long for them to believe me.
After telling the truth - from plans to conspire and murder the President, to gaining Harley's trust to help us out in our plans for reconnaissance - they finally force me into a cell. The cold, iron bars are a strange sense of comfort, one that reminds me that I've spared Pippin from another round of painful torture.
I drift in and out of sleep for what feels like most of the night. It's only when I hear footsteps and wheels that I perk up, curious.
I tense, forcing myself up off the floor. "Madame President," I answer politely, but it comes out more cold than anticipated.
Her strange, sadistic smile is bright in the dense room. "You saved him."
I tighten even more. "I did nothing of the sort. I admitted my own guilt."
"Please don't mock my intelligence, Miss Poiter," Esmeralda coos. "Age might not have been kind to either of us, but we both know that you simply protected Pippin. You couldn't have orchestrated an elaborate plot."
"And you believe Pippin did?" I snort. "You obviously don't know the boy well enough, considering how times you've no doubt locked him in this here cell."
"I know that, underneath his innocence, charm and fragility, Pippin is what I like to call an 'Unintentional Rebel'. He might not realise it, but he has the making of a strong symbol, one that people would easily adore and follow," Esmeralda continues. "You see, when he tried to commit suicide and deem no Victor, he lit the match that would forever be the fire he plays with. Everything he does only makes it worse. This is no exception."
I walk towards her slowly. "I told you, it was me. You leave Pippin out of this." I warn her lowly.
"You don't scare me,"
"And you don't scare me," I laugh ruefully. "I don't have many years left. I fear nothing after what your Father made me go through."
"That's what I like to hear," Esmeralda nods. "Fine. If that's the way we are playing it, then so be it. You have one last chance to name every single conspirator."
I grit my teeth. For my family. For Velvet, Darek, Pippin, and Tweed. For the people that made me love and learn and age in the comfort of having someone, rather than no-one.
"Never." I whisper.
Esmeralda smiles. "Very well then. You're so determined to die for your rebel allies? Then so be it."
Before I know it, the door opens, and a burly Peacekeeper comes charging in, a needle poised in his hand. I try to fight him, but I'm easily overwhelmed and trapped, as the needle sinks into my arm, and turns everything dark.
The cold cement is harsh underneath my bare feet. My eyelids flutter as I try and adjust, but whatever they did, it's made me nothing short of woosy. That's when I realise that there is a sack over my head.
The Peacekeepers continue to drag me, never easing up. I try and squirm to free myself, but it's hopeless, and their grip only tightens.
"You're about to see what happens to traitors," One of them laughs.
"She won't live to tell the tale anyway," The other responds.
My heart picks up in my chest, beating harder and harder. Slowly, my ears pick up on the noise, slow-building clapping and cheering that only increases as I near it. Then, it finally dawns on me.
The Quell announcement.
My feet hit some steps and the cheering echoes in response. I struggle to regain my footing, still being dragged completely blind.
I'm on the stage.
I let out a short cry and try to fight it again, desperate and pitiful, but I'm pushed up onto something, like a large box, and my limbs lock into place. The cheering softens until everything is deadly silent.
A microphone is tapped twice.
"No," I cry, but my throat is tight, and the poison or whatever is still making everything feel too heavy to focus on.
"Every year, two tributes from our twelve districts hand over their lives for the sake of society," Esmeralda's raspy voice speaks. "They fight and compete for the right to survive, for the sake of fame and fortune. Every year, we fall in love and feel the same pain as the families do when our favourite tributes die. This year will be no exception. This year will be our seventh Quarter Quell!"
The crowd bursts into hysteria.
Esmeralda lightly laughs, cruel and unforgiving. "And, as you can see, I have some special guests with us to celebrate the announcement."
Guests? Plural? My heart quickens. Not them! Please, not my family!
The bag is suddenly ripped from my face. The harsh light is momentary, before everything begins to make sense. The Capitol citizens seem in awe, pointing and jeering. I turn my head to the side, and I don't know whether to sigh in relief, or cry in knowing that everything has fallen apart.
Zeke Wallace stands by my side, eyes blown wide. My eyes fall down to the rope attached to his neck, and my heart pauses in my chest. Past him, Amity Argo and Mako Twittle wear stoic expressions. I turn to my other side, frantic, meeting Maple Palmer and Lorcan Trump, the latter seemingly high.
"These Victors, the same ones that we loved and adored, spent our money on and prayed to win... have all become traitors to our great nation," Esmeralda's voice turns harsh. The cheering turns into booing and jeering, the mass faces of angry civilians who follow the pack. "And I could only find it fitting for this to happen on this day."
In the silence, Lorcan laughs abruptly. His bouncy smile turns into a scowl almost instantly. "Fuck you all!" Lorcan screams, spitting at the nearest Capitolites. "I hope you all fucking die! You bunch of monsters! Fuck you! Fuck you all!"
Maple, on the other side on him, smirks. "He couldn't have said it better. Fuck you all."
A confused, tearful smile spreads on my face. We all stand together, despite our different homes, backgrounds, and goals.
We stand to fight against the people that have made us.
"Colourful," Esmeralda coos. She holds the paper up, smiling behind it. "On the Hundred and Fiftieth anniversary, as a reminder to the rebels that the years will not clear their sins, and they will forever be criminals to the Capitol, the two tributes will be reaped from pools of children with criminal convictions to their name."
The crowd erupts into cheers. Lorcan proceeds to swear and curse, but his voice is lost to the overpowering sensation of hate against us. Esmeralda wheels herself around to a podium, one that contains a button.
She slams his fist into it.
Mako shouts, just as his box disappears, and the rope snaps his neck. Everyone tenses up, visibly afraid, and my heart slams into my chest until I feel sick. Amity tenses as the button is hit again, and her body falls briefly, head whiplashed to the side like Mako.
"Fuck you all!" Lorcan screams, as the bloodcurdling snap beckons in my ears, and Maple swings like an abandoned marionette. "Fuck you all! Fuck you all!" Lorcan chants, as the button swiftly takes his box away, and his body pitches with a muted thud. Lorcan goes limp, eyes lifeless and staring at me. My heart quickens. Zeke whimpers, struggling in his confinement, but when I look at him, and he looks at me, a quiet strength emerges as the button is pressed and I close my eyes, unable to look.
Surrounded by five deceased Victors is me, alone.
I stare straight at the nearest camera, seeing my tearful smile and kind eyes reflected back at me.
"I love you," I whisper to them all, tears streaming down my face, as the button is pressed, hot fire erupts around my throat, and everything turns black.
I would die my family.
And I'd do it again if it means their safety, their future.
So, we're here. This is the eighth and final instalment to the EsmeraldaVerse. And this is more than likely my last story, or at least SYOT (I don't entirely know yet, so shh). If you're not familiar by now, then I guess it's too late for you...but my other stories are there and the Collection of the Damned is pretty much the summary to all that is Snow.
All deaths will be based on realism, story arcs and whether or not the submitter is reading the story. Obviously, reviews let me know this, and if said submitter chooses to not review, I have no idea if they're reading the story, and therefore, am more inclined to keep other tributes over said submitter's tribute. Each decision is painstakingly hard but must be done. Everyone knew the odds when they created a character. I would hope you stick around, but if not, I understand.
Open Submissions. It is not first come, first serve.
As per usual, the form is on my profile for submission through PM. Please read the rules there, too. If you don't want to read them, then don't bother to submit at all. It's crucial for them to be understood. I'll also note how many submissions I get.
I'll say this here, though: I do not want a bunch of murderers, psychopaths, serial killers etc. They are not good. They are hideous, boring, and make both the author and the submitter look entirely ridiculous. So, yes. If I see it (without creativity and good reason), I will seek you out and destroy you (or simply ignore your form entirely).
As always, a review is appreciated. ;)