Author's Note: Well, everyone, this is it. I thank you all so much for reading and reviewing, and I'm sorry there's nothing more to this story to give you. You may like my other works (this story has a sequel, as well as a few tie-ins) or my favourites—or you may not. Either way, I am glad to have entertained you.
For those of you who are interested, here's a compressed compilation of the deaths:
Tiee Bongiovi D6 14 (Lude)
Maria Carriedo D3 15 (Corianne)
Eudocia Conc D10 13 (Corianne)
Philan Visce D11 15 (Chia)
Chia Mendel D4 16 (Philan)
Peyton Unbi D11 15 (Vivi)
Franse Bonnefoy D5 16 (Alf)
Wynd Blune D5 15 (Alf)
Poal Feliks D12 13 (Pony)
Ukraine Bragins D9 18 (Japan)
Corianne File D2 15 (Gil)
Toris Lithu D12 14 (Russia)
Ciano Idalya D6 15 (Lude)
Vivi Daley D1 15 (Thew)
Alf Meric D1 16 (Japan)
Japan Hond D4 17 (Alf)
Austria Edel D8 18 (Gil)
Gil Prus D10 17 (Veta)
Lude Ermany D2 17 (Russia)
Thew Canda D3 16 (Switz)
Switz Wingly D7 18 (Russia)
Liet Wingly D7 12 (Russia)
Russia Bragins D9 15 (Veta)
Sadik Ottoman, District 8
Of the few things I was expecting to happen this week, getting reaped and thrown into the Training Centre was not one of them.
I can't say the odds were in my favour—I'm 17, after all—but... I don't know. This just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that should happen to me.
But it's happening. To me as well as to my 16-year-old districtmate, Greis.
...She definitely won't be an ally of mine. She might be the top of the class in math and philosophy, but any advantage that might gain me is more than countered by her pseudo-narcolepsy. Because when you're nodding off every few minutes, you're not going to be that useful in a survival situation.
Weird to think I'm already trying to figure out a strategy for this. To figure out how I want to kill people.
My thought process unnerves me, so I turn my attention back to the dinner table. While I lost count long ago what course we were on, it looks like it's time for dessert.
I can only pick at what's on my plate, even though I usually really like sweet food.
…I can't believe I'm going to be in the Hunger Games. I had tried to ignore them before now, but… Kind of hard to once you're in the middle of it.
I blink and look up from my plate to see the escort staring at me.
"You could at least pretend to pay attention," the escort tuts, crossing her arms.
I subconsciously glance over at my district partner. Yup. Asleep. Funny how I have to pay attention, but she doesn't.
"Sorry…" I finally respond, not sounding the least bit apologetic.
"Hmph!" the escort sighs. "Well, I was just asking you what you thought about our Victor's Games two years ago."
I look over at the only remaining District 8 Victor—the one before her apparently got killed in a freak train accident—and see she's already staring blankly at me. I turn away awkwardly.
"Um… Yeah. It was a… pretty stunning victory," I cough. Honestly, I don't remember much about her Games… Just something about a psycho from 9 and a frying pan.
The escort frowns. "You don't remember it at all, do you?"
"Huh? Yeah, of course I do," I retort defensively.
"Please." I almost jump at recognising the apparently-awake Greis's voice. "I bet you don't even know her name."
"I do, too!" I take a bite of my dessert to buy a little bit of time. "It's Veta… Ungar, right?"
The escort suddenly grimaces, and I only get a moment to wonder why before I catch Veta's livid glare.
"That," she starts in a terrifyingly low voice, "is not… my name!" She abruptly stands up from her chair, making it loudly grind backward, and slams her napkin on the table. I can only watch bewilderedly as she flees to her room.
"…Well, looks like you screwed that one up," Greis comments drily.
I glare. "I bet you just made me do that because you didn't know her name yourself!"
"I'm perfectly aware of her name."
"Then what is it?"
"What you said."
I stare blankly. "Then… You're just making it up now! I—"
"No, she's right," the escort interrupts, her voice lower than its usual shrieky octave. "Our Victor's name is Veta Ungar… but…" The escort sighs dramatically, putting a hand to her forehead. "She'll go crazy if you call her that."
I'm dangerously close to replying, "No, really?" but I decide to keep my mouth shut.
"…And why is that?" I end up prompting.
"Well, since you apparently don't know anything about her Games…" The escort shakes her head in disapproval. "Long story short, she 'married' the other tribute from 8 that year, so she insists that she's taken his name. She wants everyone to call her Mrs. Austria Edel, even though the wedding was far from official."
Austria Edel… Sounds familiar for some reason…
Oh! I remember. There was a short district meeting when his coffin was sent back here—apparently he didn't have any sort of family left to bury him.
I think that old man that lives next door took him. The guy owned some store… Art, or music, or something.
I kind of preferred not to pay attention to the whole ordeal.
"Oh, okay…" I poke a spoon around in my dessert, but I'm still not that hungry. Setting the silverware down with a soft clink, I stand up. "I'm going to go ahead and go to my room."
"All right," the escort responds. My district partner says nothing—she's probably fallen asleep again.
I pad back to my room. While I did get a brief peek inside on the drawn-out tour of the floor, this is the first time I've actually gone inside. For a guy who doesn't mind being in the lap of luxury every once in a while, it's pretty amazing. A huge bed, unearthly amounts of electronics, buttons lining the walls, and still enough space to stand up and stretch out anywhere in the room you go.
I wander around the walls for a while, trying to figure out some of the buttons. One arouses a technologic view of the Capitol, another some sort of interactive menu, and another interface that must be a video game. As I progress around the room, I eventually summon some sort of keyboard out of the wall. Curious, I jab at one of the shiny, white keys. A low piano tone resounds throughout the room until I take my hand back.
After a few more minutes of goofing around with the thing, I've discovered some sort of recording device incorporated into the keyboard. I record myself banging on the keys for a few minutes, then poke around the interface to figure out how to play it back. I find my recording and listen—although it's definitely not anything remotely resembling a masterpiece. Cancelling out of my recording, I notice another one saved here. It's dated two years ago, so there's no way I did it. Inquisitive, I pull up the file and listen.
This I would call a masterpiece. The kind of thing I couldn't play in a million years. The kind of thing I wouldn't even expect to hear in a million years.
I find myself traipsing over to the bed and seating myself as the music continues. It's a bit hypnotising—so much so that I barely register the furious knocking on the door. I slip back off the bed, and, not wanting to shut off the recording, go straight to the door.
I've barely opened it a centimetre before the shouting begins.
"Turn it off right now!"
The door swings open to reveal a very distraught-looking Veta.
"Wha—" is all I get out before she cuts back in.
"Turn it off—now—or I will refuse to mentor you!"
Realising the sudden gravity of the situation, I hurry over to the keyboard and shut off the recording. With another button push, the keys recede into the wall.
I turn back toward Veta, who's still standing in the doorway panting.
I wonder what she must have against that music, to come sprinting down here to stop it—not to mention threatening to refrain from teaching me as well...
Veta's breaths slow, and she slumps over a little. She rubs her forehead with a sigh.
"Do you... mind if I come in?"
"Um... No, not at all," I respond, a little confused by her sudden withdrawal of authority.
She totters in and takes a seat on the foot of my bed, and then motions for me to do the same.
I settle next to her before noticing a little smear of blood near the edge of her shirtsleeve. It's like she accidentally nicked her wrist on something. But if that were the case, some of the sleeve would be damaged, too...
I'm grateful for her interruption.
"...I know I have my foibles, but... I got through the Hunger Games, you know? I'm about as broken as they come." She laughs humourlessly. "So... Try to cope with my insanity, and I'll mentor you the best I can. Deal?"
I nod. "Deal."
"All right, good," she sighs, standing back up. "I'll, uh, see you tomorrow, then."
She exits the room without another sound. I sit silently for a minute before getting up and closing the door.
...All right, then... What now? I guess it's almost late enough to go to sleep.
...Might as well. Go to sleep, wake up...
And start the whole cycle all over again.