I can't seem to face up to the facts, I'm tense and nervous and I can't relax.
I can't sleep 'cause my bed's on fire. Don't touch me, I'm a real live wire.
Aldo Conaire, 60, District Six Citizen/Rebel
Another year, another pamphlet.
I settle down in my easy chair, smiling over at the sleeping image of my wife, Marissa. Her greying hair, her laugh lines near her thin lips, her wire-framed glasses, everything about her is still as attractive to me as she was when we first met.
But I can't focus on my beautiful wife right now. I have a paper to write.
Thanks to Dalton Chroma, a victor consumed by morphling and his own demons, we've been able to invite him over to dinner. Squeeze confidential Capitol information out of him, because, for some reason, some idiotic citizen from there thought that it was a good idea to trust, of all people, a drug-addicted victor. He's on some board that discusses the differences of districts. A representative, if you will.
It's been easy to lure the secret information out of him. A drink here, a little allure from my daughter there, and boom, we've gotten all we needed.
Dalton's a mere pawn in our master chessboard.
The information we've received from him has been jotted down in my mind, and then on a weeknight before the Reaping, I write it all down and my son delivers it to the rebels that reside in Asper. Asper's the poorest of the poor communities in District Six – can barely stride past without flinching at the putrid smell of death or drugs. The Peacekeepers have long since stopped arresting people for possession – the jails were packed to the brim, people mingling and exchanging diseases and needles like animals.
I'm not sure what the rebels' main plans are – I'd assume that, since my role is mainly for extra information, not at all along the lines of any master plan, they'd use my writings sparsely. But who can be too sure?
They could never trace it back to me. The one thing I have, besides my mind, strong still in my sixties, is the ability to alter my handwriting. Silly, stupid, almost, but beneficial.
Once I am done with my writings, my son, Dell, and his little pale partner in crime – girlfriend? – Kaziah will venture out to get the information to Asper. It's better to do it at night, as to avoid all people. Curfew is a thing here. Though the risk of being caught is high, it's not as high as during the daytime – Peacekeepers do searches even in daylight. They swarm the streets, poking through purses and pockets. I've seen them tear open personal letters. Swipe toys from babies that seem suspicious. They have no shame.
At least at night, they retreat to their usual posts, set throughout the district at opportune points. Dell and Kaziah have figured out the perfect route to go where, if they move quick enough, they won't be seen at all.
But it all has to go perfectly. Otherwise, something… not so nice will happen.
Without another thought, I pick up my silver pen, and place the nib down on the creamy canvas of my notebook.
District One is fueled by its recent reputation to bring home not older victors, but younger victors, such as Lincoln Albea and Pelly Harrequin. It was believed that perhaps District Six might follow in their footsteps, as with their new twelve-year-old victor, Felicity Thymas, winning last year. But ever since Pelly Harrequin won his Games, this district has seem to run dry, victor-wise.
They have multiple training academies, but none are the so-called 'official' academy, so to speak. They're as popular as schools, I hear – for every thousand students, there's one or two academies, stocked to the brim with teenagers aching to become trainers or tributes. Some leave their formal educations at schools, others run away from their homes. District One is a district full of extremes, it seems, and not to the better.
All in all, this district really hasn't changed much over the years. Maybe a few more academies were built, maybe some people got richer and some poorer. Precious resource mining remains the main source of many people's incomes.
I swivel my hand around on my wrist for a moment, allowing the ink to dry, before picking up the pen for round two.
District Two, however, has changed significantly. From being the almost timid district that offered up volunteers sparsely, now, a year without a full stampede of people wishing to throw themselves at death is unheard of. Rowdy and loud, the Reapings are packed full of tensions and high-strung emotions. Some cry if they don't get in, some cry if they do. Despite this, District Two has run like a well-oiled machine.
The victors are often close with the top trainees of the academy, picking out their favorites, though, at times, an unheard name will slip through. Such is the case of Lance Lemier, the most recent victor. Blessed with white hair and a dreamy smile, he slid right onto the stage without a second thought, and killed with that same unnerving smile. Rumor has it he's murdered his own parents in cold blood. But who could trace it back to him?
District Two is the pride and joy of the Capitol, closest in ties with it than any other district. Masonry and carpentry are the main exports of this region, and for a good reason, too – brute force paired with a hard work ethic produces merciless tributes with eyes on the prize.
Ah, District Two. I smile, eyes flickering over the page. No secrets. Everything is perfectly in the clear. I sometimes wonder why the rebels ask me for these pamphlets – I never question them, though.
District Three has sprouted from a tiny seed to a full-fledged tree. From being an underdeveloped, scrawny district whose main exports were simple electronics, we have truly grown. More jobs have been offered up, either for heavy lifting or manufacturing, not just technological careers.
The tributes that come from this district, though, have remained fairly similar to other years – either dumber than a box of rocks but strong, or measly, but intelligent, the previous years have offered two breeds of tributes. It's rare to find an attractive tribute who's dim, but it's happened, like a jewel in a mine of coal.
But, as with any district, there are surprises – those three are just the norm. Last year we had a young male tribute who was very striking with appearances, and sly to pair with it. Shame that he had to get in the way of the dagger of the other boy – he had sponsors lining up for him, I heard. Disasters can happen. Remil proved that.
District Three – also transparent as a window. The first couple districts are like that, though – no secrets. Open books.
Known as the third official Career district and barely landlocked, District Four could be viewed as the less ominous one. Sometimes opting to venture off on their own, District Four tributes are very contrary to the ordinary molds of what makes a Career, a Career. They can be solitary loners, or they can band up with the pack, or they can form their own separate alliance. They don't conform to typical standards.
The Reaping in District Four is rather polite and organized, compared to the unruliness of Two. Though not as systemized as One, perhaps, since there is clearly still room for improvement, being animalistic is not one of this district's traits.
The academies sparsely scattered throughout the district are available to a select few who can afford it – lesser important academies and afterschool programs are accessible by the lower classes, and those are usually overshadowed by the bigger ones. Training academies usually have a limited array of weapons, consisting largely of tridents, hooks, spears, and the 'norm' for District Four, toolwise.
The main Career districts are done being described – and the most prideful, too. Maybe I connect with the outlier districts more because we are humble, down to earth. Most don't know where their next meal comes from. Most are poverty-ridden. Deaths lurk around every corner. District Five happens to be a great example of this.
What once was a much more wealthy district, is now reduced to the poverty of previous District Twelve. District Five is ridden with homeless people who lost their jobs in the great economic crash five years ago. Only the better-off kept their jobs, and even the upper middle class was impacted. When you stroll down a street in Five, I've been told that you'll smell the sweet, putrid scent of death and hear the withering moans of soon-to-be-corpses.
Volunteers from Five are scarce but not unheard of. Most of the volunteers are kids too scared to commit suicide, but looking for a way out of their unfortunate situation. They're usually early deaths, though one or two have been known to slip past the bloodbath. The Reaped tributes are none the better off, either – almost no wealthy kids get chosen. Personally, I haven't seen one picked since before the crash.
All around, District Five is one of the poorest districts in Panem at the time. Where there was once riches, is deficiency. Dearth. Death. A general lack of everything. Oh, how I pity the Five citizens…!
A sigh escapes me as I turn the page, shaking my head at the misfortune that the poor district faces.
District Six, however, has only flourished, economy-wise. Those who stay away from the binding clutches of morphling stay intact in their work and lives generally. For the upper crust who don't give into drugs and addictions, life is good – no poverty on that part at all.
But the lower half. It's worse than Five. Corpses litter the grounds of the ramshackle, derelict neighborhoods, making the entire place reek of dried blood, morphling, and flesh decay. Insects swarm about, clinging to the sweaty, ruddy faces of those struggling to inject themselves with the godly substance. Many turn to prostitution to pay for their morphling, or sell themselves out as general slaves. This is the half of the district that the mayor prefers to keep under lock and key.
The tributes for Six usually follow in the footsteps of where they came from – normally, the tributes will come from the slightly larger majority of the upper class, and they're normal in the Capitol, smiling and waving like good lapdogs. Those who come from the run-down neighborhoods, like Checkdamp and Asper, are forced out of the spotlight, their mentors pushing the more privileged tribute in front. It's hard to notice, but once you do, you can't get the image out of your mind.
How terrible it would be to be a morphling addict, even if some of the rebels have to pretend to be one as they reside in Asper. I stare at my written words once more, shake my head with an air of finality, and turn the page once more.
District Seven – where to begin? In a district full of clean air, as an aftermath of all the trees, there lie numerous secrets, darker than their marred hatchets. Their victors may have rigged their Games. Who would have expected Kaniva Croix, of all people, to come out on top, anyways? The red-haired weakling with family issues, somehow coining more sponsors than ever thought possible. Who else would be to blame but Basil and Obsidian Krane?
Volunteers in this district used to be plentiful – some even thought that they'd be the fourth Career district. But for some reason, those volunteers have all dried up like dirt with a drought. They're scarce now, much like in other districts. The tributes that are Reaped get a good variety amongst them between weaklings and stronger ones, but no volunteers. No victors aside from Kaniva, either.
District Seven has never had the closest ties to the Capitol, which may be why they could be a beneficial ally in the revolt against them. Stirrings amongst the district, however, have allowed the Capitol to place a giant target on their backs, which is a serious con to this effort.
I peer out the window, then glance at the clock. If my son, Dell, is going to deliver this to the rebels in Asper before morning, he'd better hurry. My writings are going to get shorter, much shorter. It's nearly midnight. Perhaps I'd better just write brief summaries…
District Eight – bad for ties with the Capitol (past history of revolts has made the Capitol weary of them), good for tribute alliances, open about rebellion. Low volunteer count. No academies.
District Nine – good ties with the Capitol, to be avoided at all costs. The "snitch" district. High volunteer count, small training group powered by the victors trying to become fourth "Career" district. Two alive victors, Roland Sanders and Olivander Wheaten, both struggling with morphling, the latter more prone to it.
District Ten – high revolt count, but huge target on back. Openly rebellious, perhaps the most unruly district, despite its high wealth. Low volunteer count, no new victors to speak of since Dalli Revere.
District Eleven – just above Five and Twelve, poverty-wise. Just earned a new victor, Serine Nevera. Occasional volunteers, mainly to escape the binding restrictions of working in the fruit orchards. Neutral in ties with the Capitol, may be susceptible to change.
District Twelve – lowest poverty rate besides District Five. Rebellious streak has been quelled ever since their so-called Mockingjay, Katniss Everdeen, bit the dust. Now neutral in ties with the Capitol, but tentative. No volunteers whatsoever for years, but a new victor has recently been unveiled six years ago – Destyn Odana. To be avoided, due to shaky conditions.
My writing finishes up just as a knock patters gently at the door. I stand up, peer out the window, to see my son's slim, short frame. Moving to the front door, I open it cautiously.
"Are you being trailed?"
"No, Father," he answers. His hand extends out for the envelope. "I don't have much time. I was waylaid by a suspicious Peacekeeper who thought I was out after curfew. I managed to convince him that I was merely out late at school…"
I manage to look not so grim, lightening up with a small smile. Dell is so smart – something he inherited from me, seeing as Marissa is, well, at the mental capacity of a twelve-year-old. "Did you bring Kaziah?"
"She's waiting behind the tree," Dell says after a moment's hesitation. He turns, makes a sort of soft clicking noise with his tongue, and a pale hand juts out from behind the tree, waving softly. He motions to the envelope. "May I have it, now?"
I pause, gritting my teeth and taking a good look at my son. Brown hair slicked back, brown eyes, slight traces of acne. He's barely a man. I hate having to do this to him, but every time, he's accepted with a willing attitude and motivation. "Here, son," I say gruffly, thrusting the envelope with the writings into his outstretched hand.
He accepts it with a slight smile. "Thanks, Father."
"Don't get caught," I warn, a catch in my throat as I shut the door on him.
They won't catch him… will they?
A/N: Psycho Killer by Talking Heads.
Look who's back, with her fifth SYOT - nevergone4ever! Or Kelly, or Sophia, or whatever name you have stored up for me. ;o
Yeah, pretty much everybody here knows the deal - the form is on my profile, no reviewing in your tributes, and.. yeah. It's always nice to see some new faces, though, so tell your friends! And message me if you ever need help on something. I'm surely not gonna turn somebody away because they're confused or in need of some help.
Can't wait to get down to business, though. :) Who knows if this is my last SYOT? Maybe? Maybe not?
On any rate, I'm definitely finishing this one - I've made it my personal duty to finish each story I commit to. It's only fair to all of you.
Yeah, I'm done ranting. There's no set deadline, but.. I kinda wanna get the tribute list kicked out before May.
Dropping a review would make you an instant bae! :)