01-Blind Faith

The marketplace was bustling with life. Traders of all sorts of wares shouted out offers at anyone they could make eye contact with, while all varieties of street performers showed off their craft, from incredible feats of sleight of hand to melodic, rhythmic beats of a conga drum. Every corner, every last tiny crevice was filled to the brim with liveliness. It was a sight that managed to bring tears to the eyes of those old enough to remember the times when such a place was just a fragmented dream, when places like this were but a shattered piece of glass that seemed impossible to ever restore to its true beauty. Yet here this street stood, a picturesque image, a mural of just how much progress had been made, a promise that even in the darkest times there is always light.

"Hey, okay, I hear you, I do, really. But. . . Biochem? I thought that you enjoyed life," with a quick laugh, and a radiant smile that seemed to hang in place indefinitely, a ray of sunshine that decided it would never set for the night, a young man hopped over a puddle on the sidewalk. A woman, hardly any younger by looks and somehow giving off a sense of maturity and wisdom that made her seem the older of the pair, walked directly through the puddle, scowling for just a moment as she felt the dampness fill the inside of her tennis shoes, soaking through her socks.

"Thanks for the warning, Socrates," she responded with a dryness in her voice that would be capable of evaporating the puddle if sound could do such a thing. "I would be enjoying life much more if my brand new socks weren't ruined, you know."

"Would it make you feel better if I gave you mine?" He teased, grabbing her by the hand and leading her away from a spilled over vegetable cart.

"Do your socks have baby chicks being attracted to magnets on them?"

"If I said yes, would you ever know?"

"Hey!" She responded with a mock loudness that managed to get a few odd looks from a few students passing by, though neither of them noticed, nor would either of them care if they did. "No abusing the blind, that's like, Philosophy 101."

"Ouch, got me there," he laughed, pulling to a stop and squeezing her hand to signal her to do the same. "If I buy you a super adorable scarf will you not tell on me?"

"I don't know," she drawled, putting her fist to her chin and scrunching up her face in dramatic concentration. "Professor Nixon would love to hear about this, better be a darn adorable scarf."

"It is very adorable," he responded, plucking a scarf from a rack and handing a lump of cash to the vendor, before he turned and continued leading Lily down the path, not giving the elderly woman a chance to hand him back his change. "Blindingly bright white-"

"Alright, sold," she giggled, yanking the scarf away from him and wrapping it around her neck, before she turned back towards him. "You losing your eyesight yet?"

"From seeing you wear a scarf in seventy degree weather? Most definitely, yes. Mostly just losing brain cells, though."

"Huh, didn't even realize that was possible anymore."

"Learn something new every day, at Winslow University," he chuckled, throwing an arm around his friend and hooking a sharp right turn, away from the busy and lively street and into a quieter, more peaceful walkway.

Lily frowned. "Why are we headed back to the village already? Not hungry for some churros?"

"I am. . . never hungry for churros," he emphasized with mock disgust. He paused for a moment longer, taking in the peaceful scenery while he could, memorized the colors so that they would always be with him. He never liked to get serious about Lily's sight, and she didn't either, but still the idea frightened him a bit, so whenever he had a moment of downtime, or a time where his thoughts wandered off into emptiness, he just took a minute to take everything in.

Once he had satisfied himself, studying every verdant blade of grass and every awkwardly shaped puffy white cloud in the sky, he let out a deep sigh, turning over to Lily. "Presidential announcement is in a minute."

"Oh," is all Lily said in response, a somber note taking over the pair. As quickly as it came though, it was gone. "Wait, you mean an actual minute?"

"Uh, yeah, pretty much," Matt shrugged, scratching the back of his neck. "We're almost there though, I took a shortcut."

"Uh huh," Lily replied with a tone of voice that brings to mind the image of a sarcastic eye roll.

"See? We're already at the gate!" Matt said thoughtlessly, motioning to the golden gate guarded by two Peacekeepers whom both Matt and Lily imagined looked quite bored under their faceless masks.

"The only thing you'll be seeing is me beating you up," Lily threatened half-jokingly, giving Matt a solid smack on the shoulder for good measure.

The gate swung open, and Matt gave the two Peacekeepers a friendly wave and a genuine smile as he quickly lead Lily through, making a mad dash for his home, which he knew had been left unlocked.

Lily followed along much less enthusiastically, stopping just short of kicking in her heels and dragging her feet as Matt lead her along. Still though, it didn't take long to reach the nearest of the grand total of two houses positioned in Victor's Village, and as soon as Matt swung open the door the two were met with the sound of the television on full blast.

"Alright," Lily said as the two walked into the living room and plopped themselves on to the sofa, side by side. "You're up, M."

"Never call me that again," Matt laughed quickly, before he turned his full attention to the pictures on the television. "Let's see, President Decoux is up on stage, has a fancy little golden box on the podium in front of him, must be about a hundred envelopes in that thing. Has one of the envelopes in front of him, cracked open, it has the number one-seventy-five written on it, big bold lettering, really aggressive. Uh, lots of people in the crowd-"

"I can hear that," she sighed, the roaring sounds of applause and approval ringing through the room before Matt continued speaking, blocking it out.

"Yeah, really wacky looking, as always. I think one of the dudes in the front row is dressed up as a pinata, so in other news I have a new hero."

"Alright, I get the picture," Lily said, stifling her laughter. "I think they're saying something important now."

"Unlikely," Matt coughed under his breath, though he quickly silenced himself, tuning in to the president as he silenced the crowd.

"It truly has been a phenomenal history that this country has had." The president began, speaking in a confident, assured manure that gave off the feeling that his words were fact simply because it was him who had said them. "A rich history that has been strengthened through the blood bond of these fine Games. A bond that has only been strengthened since the Capitol has taken its place not above, but beside the districts in this beloved tradition.

"For the past one-hundred and seventy-five years we have celebrated the unification of our nation through a celebration, once every twenty-five years. These celebrations have taken many different forms, but today is not meant for living in the past, but instead looking forward to the future. It is with that being said that I proudly announce that for the One-hundred and seventy-fifth Annual Hunger Games, and seventh ever Quarter Quell, to remind Panem that war tore apart entire families, the reaped tributes will bring all siblings of reaping age with them into the Games. There will be no change to the number of allowed victors. Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds-"

"Yeah, that's enough," Matt murmured, hitting the mute button on the remote. "You'd think after nearly two-hundred years they'd come up with a new catchphrase," he laughed humorously.

"Oh god, Matt," was all that Lily could come up with in response, a slight shake in her hands that she tried to mask by burying them into her lap.

"Just. . . try not to think about it," Matt sighed as he shoved his hands into his pockets. "We still got three more months."

"Entire families," Lily quivered in a voice just barely over a whisper. "I'm going to- we're going to have to look those kids in the eyes and tell them that even if they win, there won't be anything left for them back home."

"Hey," Matt said softly, his static smile dropping for a rare moment as he scooched up closer to her, awkwardly draping an arm over her shoulder and patting it lightly. "If we can get even one of them home, then that's a win. It may be tough, but they'll get through it, you just. . ." he stopped for a moment, staring off into outer space, his eyes an empty haze. "You just have to have faith that things'll turn out alright."

"Faith is cheap," she muttered, a bitterness seeping from her.

"Not for us," he sighed, pulling her in closer to him, forcing that everlasting smile back onto his lips. "For us, no. For us faith is impossible."

Lily's lip quivered, a shudder running through her entire body as Matt held tightly onto her, two people desperately clinging onto the other, the anchor that kept them tied down. "All we can do is try," she whispered, and those words seemed to echo throughout the cold and empty house, illuminating it with a false light.

A/N: Salutations true believers. . . wow that sounded even dorkier than I imagined. Well, this would be the prologue of my first ever crack at an SYOT here on this site. I've read through a few and have a basic grasp on it, but still haven't got everything down to a T yet, so you'll have to bear with me. I've done some writing before, but never anything this ambitious, mostly just research papers honestly, so hopefully this can be a learning process for me and I can improve throughout this in more ways than one.

I have the link to the form on my profile, I'm using google forms because it's nice and nifty and easy to use, but if you have any difficulties shoot me a message and we can work something else out for you to get a character in. So, in case you skimmed/skipped the prologue and jumped down to here, first of all shame on you, second of all, let me give you a quick idea of what this quell is, it's nothing too fancy, and I know people have done it before, but it seems fun to me. There will be 13 reaped tributes (1 per district plus 1 more from the Capitol, who have recently joined the Games), they'll be reaped normally, but they must then bring in all reaping age siblings with them. They have to have an eligible sibling to be reaped, and to save myself as a writer I'll put a soft max on 4 siblings, although if for some reason you need to do 5, send me a message and we'll work it out.

My Universe is much, much different than canon, so skim over my universe notes on my profile before subbing and feel free to ask me any questions about it. You can sub to 1 spot (plus a second if both are collaborations) total, and I think that about covers everything? If not, again, send any questions my way!

I look forward to seeing all of your wonderful characters, and I'm super excited to start this story up!