Intro, Part One.

Let It Burn
The 35th Hunger Games

Chapter I: The Depravity of Sin

Ariah Orsini, District One Female

With every crackle of lightning that illuminated the corridor briefly, Ariah sighed in relief, her favourite doll held tight in her arms.

Nothing scared her more than the dark.

The overwhelming, suffocating shadows that clung to every crevice, lengthening every wall, darkening every corridor—making her feel smaller and smaller as she crept towards the wailing sounds that tormented the mansion.

At the far end, the door to the library was cracked open. Warmth leaked into the darkness but so did the noise.

"Please, stop! You're going to wake Ari!"

A clap of skin on skin resounded, as clear as day, somehow louder than the thunder outside. The lump that formed in her throat was hard to swallow. Her feet stuttered, torn between wanting to continue and wanting to run. She was scared of what she'd find—and even more scared of turning her back to it.

"It doesn't matter," Ariah heard her Father reply, "In a few years, you'll be dead, and Ari will be sold off for the best price. I won't have to deal with either of you."

"You… you don't mean that…! She's our daughter, Alexei, a— and I'm your wife!"

Ariah paused only a few inches from the door. She held her breath, scared that they'd hear her. Her hands trembled as they held onto the doll, forcing it tighter into her nightdress.

She had heard her parents argue many times—mostly Alexei's raised voices—but she'd always been shielded from them until now. A part of it was naivety—that her Father was good and kind and loved them—whilst, in reality, Ariah just never wanted to believe it. A small itch that loomed at the back of her mind that she refused to scratch.

"Do you honestly think I care about you? About her? I don't. But you— with your constant whining and pleading and crying— it's tiring. Too fucking tiring."

Something compelled Ariah further. Her small feet crept across the hall, peering through the crack. Her eyes adjusted to the light as the scene unfolded… just as Alexei's hand came down onto Natalia's face, knelt down at his feet. Her cry of pain was muffled by the carpet as she hit it.

Ariah tensed as tears filled her eyes, watching Alexei raise his foot to Natalia's head, pinning her to the floor.

"You need to remember your place, slut…" Alexei whispered, "If you're so miserable, then you know there is only one way out for you. I suggest you take it."

Alexei suddenly moved from Ariah's view as he released Natalia. Urgency filled Ariah's body as she scrambled to move, climbing underneath a table that adorned the side of the corridor. The door swung open only moments later. Ariah held her breath as her Father disappeared from view, before her gaze fell upon her dishevelled Mother, curled up on the floor.

Ariah didn't think twice. She rushed into the room, dropping her doll in the process.

"Mom!" Ariah cried, tears freely sliding down her face.

"Ariah… what are you—?"

Ariah couldn't stop crying. Her bottom lip trembled. Her eyes quivered. Her hands shook as they cupped her Mom's horrifically bruised cheek, tilting her into the warm candlelight.

Natalia gently removed Ariah's hands from her face, "Ariah… you need to go to bed."


"Now—" her Mom reasserted, "—Before he comes back."

Ariah couldn't look away. She forced herself to take in every detail—the swollen eyes, the blood oozing from her mouth, the ugly bruising that careened from cheek to jaw, disfiguring the comforting, warm smile that Ariah needed when it got too dark. All at the hands of the man that was supposed to protect and love them both.

"Go…" her Mom said again, voice weak and trembling, "Please."

Silently sobbing, Ariah stood up, untamed hair falling in front of her as she found her doll, holding it tight as she was forced to leave.

It was the last time Ariah saw her Mother.

Ariah wasn't so much scared of the dark any more in that she thrived in it instead—she came alive amongst the shadows that once preyed on her.

When the sun fell into the horizon—and Panem was blotted out—Ariah made her move.

Over the last few years, she had mastered her technique for sneaking out. Each time, she felt invincible, sneaking out of the mansion and creeping back in, never alerting a single soul. And the rush of adrenaline… it was almost as intoxicating as Leandre's lips on her collarbone. It made the risk all the more worth it as she scaled down the ivy that clung to the mansion walls, feet hitting the soft dirt below. A few steps away, into the vast woodland that surrounded her home, Ariah melded into the shadows.

"Took you long enough, princess."

Ariah's face lit up as Leandre stepped out from the darkness. "It's always hotter to be fashionably late than on time, you know that."

"Oh, I do," Leandre smirked, pulling Ariah into an embrace, pressing his lips to hers. For a few, short seconds, the world ceased to turn. When he pulled away, Ariah had to forcibly peel herself from the moment. "Are you ready?"

"Absolutely," Ariah smiled devilishly, letting Leandre take her hand and whisk her through the trees.

At the far end of Fortunia, right on the bank of the Three Rubies, a manor lit up the night skyline in shades of crimson and mauve. The music was low, the atmosphere was heavy, and the stench of sex leaked out onto the pavement.

Inside, Ariah fully embraced the Cult of Phagia—a decadent club, only for those self-indulgent enough to give their all to it.

The room was filled with masked individuals, in various states of clothing, enjoying the delicate tastes of high-class food and an array of recreational drugs as they bumped and grinded to the low beats of the music. Ariah's arms were draped around Leandre's neck, eyes closed in bliss, feeling his heartbeat against her chest.

"I never want to leave…" Ariah murmured, writhing in the fantasy of stars and colours in her head.

"You never have to," Leandre whispered huskily, raking his teeth across her neck, "You can stay with me… here… forever."

Forever… It sounded so nice. An escape from her life. A world that didn't look to beat her down. Somewhere in the drug-induced mist, Ariah knew that she was simply running away from her problems. But it helped keep her alive. Every night with Leandre meant another day that Ariah could drag herself through, a step closer to freedom, a foot out the door from… him.

"Where do you think you've been?"

"Out," Ariah answered, jaw clenched and fists balled at her side.

"You can act as smart as you want," Alexei challenged her, "You're nothing but a spoiled, useless brat… no different than your whore of a Mother."

Ariah bit her tongue, as she always did. "I don't think I'm acting smart."

Alexei didn't respond. He eyed his daughter carefully, purposely, watching her body crumble as she tried to maintain her composure. He always did that—force Ariah to stand strong, barely holding on.

"Three more years and you'll be gone," Alexei coolly reminded her, "The first man to offer me the right amount gets you. Then, and only then, will you ever be allowed to do what you want… and if you want to follow your Mother's footsteps, just wait until my cheque is cleared first."

"Don't… talk about her like that."


"I… I said— don't talk about her like that," Ariah's voice trembled, gently tilting her head to meet her Father's dominant stare. She held her own, watching the fury fill his eyes as his hand struck out at her. Fire exploded on her cheek as her head snapped to the side. She bit down on her tongue until she tasted blood, forcibly stopping herself from crying.

He was not going to see her cry, ever. He did not get to see her vulnerable and weak and exposed.

She would be someone he couldn't destroy.

"Forever?" Ariah murmured, eyes full of tears, hidden behind the masquerade mask.

Leandre held her close with one hand, using the other to gently open her mouth. He placed the small, bright white pill onto her tongue, tilting her head back for her.

"Absolutely, princess…" Leandre whispered, "Whatever you desire."

The colours and stars began to change into music. It numbed away the pain that Ariah held buried so deep. The small, frightened girl slowly, simply, ceased to exist. As her tears disappeared, Ariah grinned underneath the smoke and lights.

Freedom. It tasted so sweet.

Ariah was awake before the sun had risen.

She watched sleepily as her room filled with the warm, morning glow, filtering in through the drapes. It etched itself across Leandre's back, setting his tanned skin ablaze, making Ariah smile to herself.

It had taken some time to get used to her 'new norm'—a life without Alexei, without control or command, away from the prying eyes of Audette and her husband. It was just her, alone in her family mansion, chasing away the ghosts to make room for her new future, Leandre at her side.

Leandre began to stir slowly, rolling over to face her. "Morning, princess."

Ariah hummed, "You're awake early. How come?"

"I felt someone watching me…" Leandre smiled sleepily, "Why are you awake?"

Ariah shrugged, "Today is the day. My last one."

Leandre grinned as he leaned up to kiss her, soft and gentle like the crisp, morning air. "And then you're truly free."

Ariah had been fortunate—most of One had. She knew from talking to Audette that the war was getting bad in many places, but you'd never know looking out across Fortunia and the neighbouring cities. An increased Whitecoats presence didn't even feel so out of place any more.

"I need to get ready," Ariah hummed, "Eden will be here soon. He wants to walk there together."

"Walk? My princess never just walks somewhere," Leandre chuckled.

"There's lots of things you still don't know about me, Leandre," Ariah leaned down to kiss his forehead, "I'll see you when I get back."

Ariah busied herself to look more presentable. Her signature look—untamed and yet perfectly coiffed hair—fell neatly down her back. It almost felt poetic, in a way. Chaotic but controlled. Drama hidden beneath perfection.

It was Ariah.

The door knocked once, twice, thrice before Ariah flung it open. Eden stood in the doorway, his face as stoic and untraceable as ever.

The pair of them couldn't be more different, and yet, they had been friends for years.

Ariah eyed Eden up and down, silently judging his confusing choice of clothes—a dinner jacket with slacks. "You look… cute."

"Thanks," Eden refused to rise to it, "Are you ready?"

"I will be in one sec…" Ariah leaned behind the door, yanking her jacket free from the hook. The patent leather was crisp and new—a gift for herself because why not? "I'm going now, Leandre!"

There was a small pause as Leandre appeared at the top of the stairs, practically nude. Ariah smirked as Eden looked away.

"Bye, my love," Leandre cooed.

Ariah blew him a kiss as she looked back at Eden, "Don't you want to say goodbye to Leandre too?"

"No, thanks," Eden turned on his heel, "We're going to be late."

He was already halfway down the garden path as Ariah blew yet another kiss at Leandre, closing the door behind them. She moved down the path fast to catch up with Eden who was, for all intents and purposes, storming way ahead like a man with a mission. Looping her arm into his, she smirked, eyes settling on the ground.

"My boyfriend is most definitely hotter than yours."

"My boyfriend is your cousin so I would hope you think so," Eden answered.

Ariah snorted, "Not the weirdest thing that I've thought, that's for sure."

As they meandered through the streets, kids from all across One began to gather. Many walked, some were driven, nearly all were accompanied by loved ones. For Ariah, her family was Eden and Leandre, and that was it. The two people she had chosen.

Not by blood. Not by obligation.

But through love—a love so strong that she would kill for them.

Silas Santisi, District Two Male

Silas' large, brown eyes stared up at the statuette that hung from the wall. The foreboding image of Limos—one hand open, the other wrapped around a set of scales—made him feel somewhat torn between adoration and anxious.

He had never known his Father. Not really, anyway. A man of Limos who broke away from the Church in order to have an illicit affair. He died shortly after Silas was born… as if Limos had struck him herself.

At least, that's what Silas believed. The deity that he was made to love—that he had always relied on—was still responsible for taking away his Dad.

A lump formed in his throat as he struggled to stop looking at the statuette. The metallic, judgemental eyes seemed to bore right through his skull.


His Mother's voice tore him away, "Yes?"

The domineering woman appeared in the doorway. Her hair was pulled tight into a bun, eyes caught somewhere between maternal and strict. "What are you doing?"

Silas felt a chill crawl across his neck, "I… I was just looking at Her… thinking of Dad."

He couldn't help it. His whole life revolved around a figment of his past that he never really knew. From the moment he could understand, Limos was all he knew. To atone for his Father's sins. To relish in Her teachings, to bathe in Her glory, to accomplish his Father's mission.

"We'll be late and that will not bode well for us," his Mother replied stoically, "It's a big night for you."

Silas bowed his head, ignoring the swelling that filled his chest, "Yes, ma'am."

He reached for his mother's hand, feeling her fingers hold onto him a little too tight. She had always been overprotective of Silas… but that was all he had ever known. Just him, his Mom, and their congregation. A childhood stolen—every waking moment devoted to strengthening his bond with Limos so he could one day ascend.


The walk to the meeting was surprisingly fast considering Silas hadn't realised he was dragging his feet so much, nerves bound in a tight knot, the hold on his hand becoming painfully tight.

Through the main doors of the building and down a flight of darkened stairs illuminated by candles, Silas found himself in the midst of his congregation—a variety of faces, young and old, dressed in elegance, watching as they walked in.

"I'm so terribly sorry for our delay. This one was too busy reading the manuscript before we left and we lost track of time," his Mother cooed, ruffling his hair… something she never did in private. "Say sorry, Silas."

"I'm sorry," Silas mumbled apologetically.

"It's quite alright, young man," their priest, Father Tibault, answered, "Are you prepared for your baptism?"

Silas silently took to the stage at the front alongside the other kids. He didn't know them—unable to have any friends his age—which only further isolated him. He wanted friends. He wanted more than just Limos. But… none of it mattered to anyone else but him.

"Thank you everyone for attending!" Father Tibault began, "We have gathered here today in order to baptise the future of Limos! As we all know, these are trying times for us. Heretics condemn our teachings. Traitors show blasphemy towards what we hold dear! We must preserve our way of life with the next generation—" Father Tibault turned around to face the children. Silas stiffened as he saw his Mother's stare amongst the sea of darkened faces, watching… "—let the baptism commence!"

Silas thumbed his pants pocket, nervous as Father Tibault moved down the line. He anointed the kids on their foreheads, asking them to repeat his words.

"Heavenly Limos. Give me your light and show me the way. Let me live through you. Praise Limos."

Taking a deep breath, Silas closed his eyes. He tried to find a little comfort in order to ease his concerns. Instead, he only found Limos—her expectations laid out.

"Silas…" Father Tibault whispered. As Silas opened his eyes, he felt the liquid touch his forehead. It was warm and sticky—a droplet careened down his nose. It smelled almost coppery.

"Repeat after me…"

"Heavenly Limos… give me your life. No, wait… light!" Silas' heart skipped a beat, the words strangling his voice. He tried to swallow but the anxiety continued to drown him. "Let me… uh… let me live through you. Praise Limos."

Despite Father Tibault's gentle smile, Silas knew that he had failed. The crushing, overwhelming defeat that stomped out any other feeling.

When he eventually found his Mother, she was surprisingly accepting of his missteps. Silas almost let himself sigh in relief until they had left a couple hours later, heading home. A few steps into the doorway, Silas turned unsuspectingly as a hand struck his face.

"Don't you ever embarrass me like that again."

With wide eyes that brimmed with tears, Silas held his cheek, looking up at his Mother. Her eyes showed no love any more—instead, they held nothing but shame.

It was the first time that she had ever hit him.

And it wouldn't be the last.

"Where are you going?"

Silas stopped at the door, head lowered down. Instinctively, he pulled his satchel around to his front, tucking it against his stomach. "There's a meeting tonight for the boy's group. Father Tibault mentioned it at the last one—"

"—Right," his Mother replied coolly, "Don't be out late. I expect you to be ready to cleanse tonight."

The lash against his upper arm throbbed, reminding him of her cruelty only hours prior. He refused to let her see him crumble, though—that would only garner another lash for being so weak. "I won't," Silas turned to smile, surprised at the amount of fiery hatred sitting on his tongue. It only seemed to grow every day.

As his Mother conceded, Silas moved swiftly out of the house and into the crisp night. Everything was so surprisingly peaceful. He stared up at the stars and the full moon, bearing down upon Two.

He sometimes wondered if he could escape.

A fleeting moment—one that he assumed most teenagers thought about every now and then.

He eventually arrived at the derelict building. It had once housed miners that traveled in from other towns but was the latest attack from mysterious, unknown rebel forces. Completely abandoned and left to fall, it became the perfect place to house meetings incognito.

Stepping through the side door, Silas entered the vacant room. A few sparse candles chased away the shadows that loomed but the overall darkness was needed for privacy.


"Ignatius," Silas smiled, "Did you manage to bring what I asked?"

Ignatius thumbed his own backpack open, passing Silas a battered book. The cover was worn and faded, but there was no mistaking what it contained—prayers and studies, warped over the past week through Ignatius' scrawl at Silas' command, "I sure did. Here. You can keep it, if you want? I don't really need it back."

"I need you to keep it," Silas replied, "My Mother can't find out."

Ignatius nodded, "She's still on your back, I take it?"

They can't know. Not yet… not now… "Don't worry about it," Silas answered instead, "Is everyone here?"

The small crowd of men seemed to gather around the centre, mumbling between themselves, passing a bottle of liquor between them. On the fringe of their church, Silas had found them all, one by one—confused, questioning, odd. Somewhere along the lines, they began to look to him for guidance.

Silas hadn't always been a leader. But as the welts across his upper arm began to swell—and the fire in the pit of his stomach grew hotter—he realised that his fleeting moments of escape were truly about escaping her, and taking back the control that had been stripped from him at birth.

He would save himself if nobody else could.

"Brothers. Thank you for coming tonight. I know this was very… short notice and a lot of you have questioning parents who want to know why you're out this late," Silas began, holding the book Ignatius had given him in his hand, "As you know, Limos has plans for everyone. For me, for you, for your loved ones… it is all planned. Father Tibault once said that whilst Limos plans our destiny, it is up to us to carve it out in Her blood."

"Praise Limos!" The boys cheered, passing the bottle towards Silas. He took it, inhaling a sip that set his throat ablaze.

"It is time that we, the outcasts and misfits, the downtrodden and overlooked, those consistently tossed aside for others—"

The rush of adrenaline through his veins was intoxicating. He had come a long way in such a short time. From a shy, bumbling kid, beaten consistently, forced to be more faithful, to be stronger, to be better… to a dangerous cocktail of power and anger lifting him high up into the clouds.

"—It is time that we take what is ours!"

Silas' eyes stared up at the statuette of Limos, hanging on the wall, illuminated by the faint moonlight that seeped in through the window.

Is this what you wanted for me? Silas found himself asking. He felt like a child once more, scared of the deity that he prayed to religiously, begging for answers and guidance. I'm doing exactly what I was told. Nobody is going to get in my way, any more… I can't grow if I'm being held back, living in fear.

Somewhere along the hall, the clock chimed for midnight, deafening the house.

Silas used that opportunity to unlock the door, masking his movement. The first shrouded figure entered, followed by three more. Under their hoods, however, Silas knew who they were.

"Brothers…" Silas whispered, eyeing up the street in search of prying eyes.

"We didn't pass anyone," Ignatius responded stoically.

Silas nodded, his jaw clenched. "Good. This way."

The stairs creaked as the fleet of boys carefully moved up them, heading down the far end of the hall to a closed door. Silas almost hesitated on the doorknob—fingers wrapped around the brass, unmoving—before he knew that he couldn't back out.

The fire in his chest needed to be quelled.

He swung it open, unafraid of the noise. His Mother made an audible gasp as the shrouded figures stormed in, quickly subduing the woman and pinning her to the bed as her cries for help were extinguished.

Silas entered last, keeping his head held high… even as his Mother's scared eyes found him, pleading silently.

"Myrinda Santisi. You are charged before the eyes of Limos' Brotherhood with counts of heresy, abandonment of the Church, and child abuse," Silas' voice did not waver… not even as he watched his Mother struggle, suddenly so innocent and small, calling out for his help. "In the eyes of Limos, there is no penance. The only way to absolve yourself of your sins is to bathe in the fiery depths of damnation."

His Mother cried, thrashing against the arms of the boys that held her down.

"I'm sorry…" Silas whispered, holding out his hand. The cool metal of the knife burned against his flesh as he moved around the side of the bed.

In that moment, he saw a woman he never knew—eyes full of tears, screams suffocated by skin, a weeping wail that begged for forgiveness.

But Limos no longer asked for forgiveness.

And Silas knew that, deep down, she didn't deserve it.

He had been through years of abuse. Unfaltering, unyielding, unkind abuse that tried to break him down into nothing. His only safety was the religion that shielded him as best as it could, and the brotherhood that he built to replace everything he lost.

Somewhere along the lines, though, Silas changed. The fire that burned in his chest, ruthless and furious, made sure to tell him so.

"May Limos save you," Silas mumbled, eyes void of emotion, hands unshaken as he drove the knife directly into his Mother's chest.

Gideon Ross, District Four Male

From his position amongst the choir, Gideon watched as the small room slowly began to fill with people. Every nook and cranny contained a pair of eyes that roamed the selection of kids up at the front, expectant and excited and proud.

And every time a pair of eyes found him, Gideon wanted to sink back further and further into the mass, desperate to hide away.

He had always hated being the centre of attention. It left him vulnerable and exposed, unable to hide away or shield himself, open to the judgements and ridicules from every person that stared at him—

Gideon took a deep breath through his teeth, stuffing his trembling hands deep into his pockets. Calm down. It'll be okay. It'll be okay…

His eyes nervously tried to scan the crowd. In the middle row, right in the centre—a pair of warm eyes and a smile so bright that it rivalled the morning sun—looked back at him.

His Mother stuck her thumbs up, beaming with pride from ear to ear.

It was because of her that he had even gotten into singing. Each morning, he'd wake up to her voice. The sweetest, softest melody that fluttered throughout their house, accompanied by the warm smell of sugared wheat and hot milk. He would often join her (though barely able to hold a note) as they pranced around the kitchen.

He took another deep breath and briefly closed his eyes, throwing himself head first into the warm memories, hoping they would melt away his nerves.

Sing for her. Sing for Mom and you'll be fine, Gid. You'll be fine…

"Welcome, everyone! Thank you all for coming," Father Jerome stepped up as the crowd fell silent. "As you all know, the last few years have been troubling for our country. But as with every ebb and flow, Limos stands the tide. We weather the storm as a community and help those navigate their way to salvation."

The crowd responded fervently. Gideon, himself, nodded as he thumbed the lining of his jacket pocket.

"To help raise the spirits of everyone, the youth choir has put together a performance for you all. It's not much… but these kids have worked so very hard in honour of Her, and we would like to share it with you."

As Father Jerome stepped off to the side, the choir took their place. Gideon nervously peeled himself from the crowd and made his way forward, meeting Heidi Issard—three years his senior—at the centre.

"You'll be okay," Heidi whispered, slipping her hand into his.

Gideon felt the sudden warmth in his palm, momentarily bolstering his confidence. He didn't even know Heidi very well, but the small act… it caused his nerves to wither.

The choir began their song with Heidi taking the lead. Gideon tried his best to keep up, unsure if he was even doing a good job, guided by the squeezes from Heidi to gauge his pitch.

The crowd adored it. Amongst the darkness, Gideon focused on his Mom and her big, bright eyes, urging him on.

You're doing this for her…

Not because you love it (which, you don't), but because it makes her happy and you love to see her happy. You're the only thing nowadays that makes her happy. You, Gid. Nobody else but you. Her only son.

As the song came to an end, Gideon choked. It was a blip—a frog at the back of his throat, his Mom would say—which, thankfully, Heidi covered by singing a little louder.

But Gideon knew. He knew he messed up.

You can't do anything right…

As the audience stood up and applauded, Heidi squeezed his hand again. "You did good, Gideon. You should be proud of yourself."

Gideon's cheeks burned hot as he looked down at the entwined hands, "Thank you…"

As Heidi pulled her hand away, Gideon felt the warmth ripped away from him. It was as if somebody had turned off a light, and his world temporarily fell into darkness. It was such a strong emotion—he couldn't help but wonder if it was adolescent infatuation, something his Mom prepared him for.


Gideon snapped back as his Mom bounced onto the stage, wrapping him into a hug that opened his world to light again. "Mom, I—I messed up—"

"Oh, baby, it's absolutely fine," his Mom pulled him in tighter, hands knitted through his curly hair, "You did so, so, so wonderfully good. I couldn't be more proud of you. Your first time at the front! My little lead singer!"

Gideon's heart raced, even as he smiled shakily, "You think?"

"Absolutely! You sang so beautifully with Heidi. A duet that was made to happen!"

The nerves ticked over into joy, "I… I think we did sound good together."

Gideon couldn't help but look behind him, stealing a glance at Heidi as she walked to meet her own overjoyed parents. He couldn't quite explain the barrage of feelings in his chest ranging from hesitation to excitement and everything in-between.

When Heidi looked back, though, he couldn't mistake the rush of adrenaline that pumped through his blood as she smiled. A glittering, wondrous smile that made thirteen-year-old Gideon realise that he had to take more chances if he ever wished to grow.

"Do… do you think I should sing with Heidi again?"

His Mom smiled, "I think you should always follow your heart, Gid."


Gideon blinked once, twice, thrice.


His heart hammered in his chest—so loud that he could only hear the thundering of his blood in his ears.


His fingers—trembling violently—turned over as the first signs of rain caressed his palm and the weight of the sea crashed into the pier.

Drip, drip, drip.

The light shower soon turned into a heavy downpour. Waves crashed up against the stone walls, battering the coastline, making the boards beneath Gideon's feet shudder from the sheer severity of the storm.

Somewhere at the back of his mind, he knew he had to do something… but it was as if that something had completely erased his ability to move, to think, to speak. It pressed down on his brain like a switch, turning him off. All he could feel was the weight on his chest that made it hard to breathe and the bitterness of the rain as it pummelled his back.

It had all happened so fast. Faster than Gideon could comprehend. Like a clap of thunder, it was all over in the blink of an eye.

Gideon instinctively took a step towards the edge of the pier.

Drip. Drip, drip, drip.

His hands reached for the railing that wasn't there any more. He looked down, as if in slow motion, realising that it must've fallen into the ocean below.

That's when his eyes—empty and void—found the blood blooming across the bottom of his once crisp, white shirt, now soaked all the way through. Dark, inky blood that couldn't be from him as Gideon wasn't in any pain… he believed, anyway.


The waves were merciless.

The downpour even more so.

He couldn't move, even if he thought he could. Eventually, though, exhaustion set in and his legs caved in on themselves, sending his body to the floor. What felt like hours later, his eyes—unmoving from the murky waters—eventually closed.

But it didn't stop him from hearing the scream, as loud as thunder, at the back of his mind.

When the sun began to filter in through the curtains, Gideon was already awake. He sat up and stared blankly at the wall ahead, gently sifting through the fogginess in his head.

"Gid! Are you awake?"

He never slept much any more. It felt almost impossible to rest… to ease his tired bones and switch off. The weight in his chest hadn't left since that fateful night. In a weird way, he had almost grown accustomed to the feeling of gentle suffocation and the haunting demons that toyed with him.

Silently, Gideon got dressed and headed downstairs, following the joyful sounds of his Mom singing.

She was busy in the kitchen, just like always—prancing from counter to table, setting up a glorious breakfast that stirred some warmth in Gideon's ever-so-tight chest.

"How did you sleep?"

Gideon swallowed thickly, toying his fingers together as he took a seat. He could feel the sadness, though. It hung in the air, even despite his Mom's attempts to masquerade it behind singing and normality and everything Gideon craved, deep down… but couldn't grasp.

"I hope you slept well…" his Mom took a seat opposite him, gently pushing the bowl of hot milk and sugared wheat towards him, "I was thinking that… maybe we should try to go to choir today…"

Gideon couldn't answer.

"Please, baby… look at me…"

He forced himself to look up, even as his nails dug deep into his palm to ground himself. The sadness was easy to swallow when it was just in the air. But… in his Mom's eyes… there was no escaping it.

"Say something, Gid… anything. Tell me to stop bothering you, or… or tell me a terrible joke like you used to, just… anything, please. It's been months since… since you came home that night…"

I can't, Mom… I just can't. The words died on his tongue.

It had been the same since that night. No matter how much Gideon wanted to say something, to cry and plead and bear his soul, he just… couldn't. The weight in his chest would grow so unfathomable that he was scared that a single word would cause him to explode.

He squeezed his eyes shut and pushed his nails as hard as he could into his palm.

The distant scream that rumbled the storm.

His eyes flashed once, twice, thrice as the blood blossomed like a flower on his shirt.

The pain behind his eyes. The acrid, briny air that swept up into his nostrils. The heartbeat in his ears. The poison in his head… the words against his skull… the weight of the world in his hands…


Gideon's breath came out ragged. He clenched his jaw, trying to compose himself.


He shook his head as he abruptly stood up, silently pleading with her to stop. No matter how much he wanted to, he couldn't tell her anything because he couldn't remember.

He didn't know why—why he couldn't piece the whole evening together, or explain why he was there, or the blood on his shirt that wasn't his, or why he had passed out in the middle of a storm, only inches from falling to a watery grave.

It was as if there was a wall that blocked him out. To protect him from harm or to protect him from the truth… Gideon didn't know that, either.

All he knew was that the wall stole his memories and his voice.

It had caged and shackled him up like a bird that longed to be freed.

A bird that might never be free… ever again.

w w w. panemwillburnhg. weebly. c o m

Hello hello!

So, we begin our intros with three characters whom all share a singular theme (as will all the others because I do that). The general idea of the intros for the tributes is three segments of history—child, preteen/middle and present-day. I don't have much to say except I hope you enjoyed these three for what they will bring to the table!