in protest of this peace
The first ten years of the Hunger Games doesn't go off without a hitch.
The war nearly started again.
From the moment the announcement went on air, rippling through the Districts, there was dissent. Despite the heavy yoke that feel on their necks following the defeat, outrage and disbelief exploded forth in the rhythm of a thrashing staccato: desperate, angry and successive. Violent with makeshift molotovs and anonymous assaults. Drawing of names was done with a full entourage of armed guardsmen, had to be done again and again because a proper census had yet to be taken and cold-eyed escorts kept calling names of men already dead. Tributes were plucked from the arms of their massacred families, dragged to Hovercrafts, secured in militaristic straitjackets, screaming in animal vowels. In the primordial Arena, nobody moved for the kill, the history of the Dark Days too fresh in their mind; tributes clawed and spat at the ground and in the face of the Capitol, too united in their mutual anger. The Capitol, caught in a feral rage itself, its citizens no less convoluted from the war, executed them all.
Interlude: Tall borders were built between districts under the shifted gazes of an unquiet crowd. The filmed destruction of District Thirteen dominated the media.
The second generation was not to be outdone; they had lost neighbors and brothers and friends and lovers, they had to watch it all until a braver citizen threw something at the screen – a rock, a cherry bomb, in District Eleven a bushel of rotting fruit – their eyes peeled open as shots rang out from the hollows between trees and gunned down children. Their hatred was colder, more calculated, more terrifying for it. Older tributes walked coolheadedly with their escorts, their anger burning distantly like the heart of stars – carefully pried themselves from their families with barely a hug, merely nodded goodbyes to their silence-stricken Districts. Once in the Capitol, as if by agreement, they took a bloody stand at the stadium circle, slashing and killing their handlers until they were caught and collared and tortured and sent into the Arena already an inch from death.
Interlude: The Treaty of Treason was finalized. Rights were revoked, quotas and fines and penalties drafted and ratified, military power eliminated in all but the Capitol. Whatever communication left between Districts killed. Any form of expression and education became heavily controlled. Most importantly, each District was imposed a single industry to build their lives around.
Punishment came swift and bloody for the bloodbath perpetuated by the second batch of tributes. Military incursions was common and occassionally bloody. Food and medicine were seized and made scarce, hard labor imposed on men and women who grew less able-bodied with time. Illness ran rampant that entire populations dwindled, teetered over a razor edge into extinction. During the reapings, people from the Capitol wore biohazard masks over well-fed, healthy faces and distanced themselves from the District beggars in disgust and scorn, as though visibly seeing the disease that sang within their veins and poured out with each heaving breath. Tributes were emaciated before ever coming near the Arena, bags of skin and bones and debilitating need rather than humans. They ran away from escorts. Jumped off rooftops. Gorged themselves on food and drink and anything they found in their bathrooms: drugs or soap or bleach. Several had to be replaced and, even then, more died in the arena by their own hand than any other means.
Interlude: The Capitol announces tesserae and prizes and to the victors, belong the spoils.
Maybe the incentive proved effective, because in the next Games, a fifteen-year-old from District Two became the first tribute to intentionally kill his opponents. He was young, much too young – perhaps, much too sheltered – to remember the face of the true enemy. He won without much resistance, ended the first bloodbath in Games history, but made for a disappointing show. There were no fierce melees or epic showdowns or even a primitive trap to show working intelligence, only weak parrying with weaponless opponents, their eyes an eternal accusation: You sold out. You sold out. You sold out.
Interlude: In the Districts, parents stop naming their sons Victor. It was just tempting fate.
Tributes, faced with their own mortality, were infinitely more selfish, the event of the past year gave consent and opened the floodgates to anarchy: betray, kill, save yourself. Hyprocritically enough, the first death was from Two, a girl all of twelve, who was made to pay for her predecessor's compliance, for allowing Capitol desires to take them all over. Vengeance had twenty hands and onscreen, the child's frightened face disappeared behind a wall of bodies too thick for cameras to penetrate, sceaming and screaming. She was made to pay, regardless if it was just. Viewers in the eleven Districts turned away in shame. The tributes didn't know what to do afterward. Like bodies without a light, they ran blindly and fought blindly; it was human nature at its most unpredictable and when they pulled the Victor from the arena – a moving train – he was still fumbling around like a madman.
There was fighting, there was better strategizing – District partners allied, hiding places, camouflage – but however much they tried to rig the reaping, they were still too damn many pregnant girls. Three of them, two blatantly showing, one only slightly so. All from Districts where the population was severely diminished and in dire danger of extinction. One of them was fourteen and the Capitol murmured barbaric and savage and what did you expect under their breaths. They waddled through the Arena in nameless fear while stronger males pretended not to notice them stumbling through the undergrowth, or else avoided them whenever they came to the streams in desperate thirst. They became such nuisances and objects for pity-parties that eventually the Capitol set several traps for them to wander into.
Interlude: In the Districts, Victor's Villages were built on lands seized from entire families. Rebellion flared – and some houses were vandalized, trashed or burned down – but weakened, disarmed, it sputtered out like candleflame in a cold wind.
They chose their tributes from the patently virginal this time, but this year's crop was a generation who'd escaped the worst fo the Dark Days, who'd had their eyes covered during the uprisings and the brutal Capitol assault. They were softer than those who came before, their bravado less of numbed resilience and more of a strange, flaring hope. There was a boy who spouted speeches endlessly – brotherly love, reforms, democracy, shared humanity and other such nonsense – as though words would make a bridge across their differences, until he couldn't be dismissed, until he couldn't be objectified and used for bloodsport. There was hissing in the Districts, clenched and angry. The Capitol razed him in a flood of fire and everyone associated with him – his parents, his unwitting teachers, his friends – were also made example of.
Reapings became more peaceful as people grew weary and complacent in their defiance, slowly huddling back into the bustle of their own lives in their own Districts. Divisions dug further into the fabric of Panem; solidarity stripped away, integrity lost. Tributes became softer still, confessing to their own weakness, and degraded themselves and divulged their humanity – their dreams and desires and pasts – as if it were an offering, desperately hoping the Capitol would see themselves in them, and grant mercy in turn. It wasn't enough to save them – it's drivel and melodrama and not novel enough – and one tribute – the bride and mother of two – had given a last bitter gash of a smile at the cameras and her words reverberated throughout the country and irreparably damaged the resistance as no Capitol broadcast could've: it's no use. It's hopeless.
The District Three tributes sabotaged the Games by hotwiring nearly all the cameras and communication devices in the Arena and using the remaining one microphone to broadcast information about the Capitol and the Games for all to know: about the Dionysian rot in the Capitol, the greed and shallowness, the silent slaves, the tours of previous Arenas and execution grounds, pods. Don't give up– ! Don't let them win– ! And then a hysterical warning - something's coming! - animal snarls, an electical snap, then static. Capitol military was ordered into the Districts again to quell whatever the consequence of the broadcasts. The number of disappearances climbed. Suspected rebels were tried and executed, whether guilty or framed or wholly innocent. In the Capitol, the youth grumbled about missing the exciting dissolution of the alliance between Four and Seven because of cameras blacking out.
Interlude: The Capitol announced glittery changes in the Games: stylists, interviews, sponsors. It's no longer about revenge, but entertainment. Somehow, it's worse.
The Games followed through without disruption. Except for the cannibalism.
In the Districts, the only things that are unquiet are the graves. People blind their eyes and deafen their ears to injustice, because breaking the peace seemed to have too high a price.
Until fifteen years later, in the first Quell, when the President would bring out a box with stacks upon stacks of cards and hints the entirety of Panem to how long the Games will run (forever), and announces a voting for the tributes.
Until eighteen years later, when the Games would be held in the harshest Arena ever realized, everything viewable through a haze of red, and tributes went insane as though they were shot directly to hell.
Until thirty-four years later, when the Games are down to a last fight, when a boy of eighteen with a short sword and a Career's predating lope will look to his visibly-shaking District partner, raise his blade and scornfully ask: you still don't get it, you stupid girl? And jaws would fall when he plunges the blade into his own chest and the cameras would freeze the moment his brow would fall on the girl's – the Victor's – shoulder, he's embracing her and there's a horrified grimace that's almost a smile.
Until forty years years later, when the Capitol would asked for twice the number of sacrifices.
Until fifty-two years later, when they would pit brother against sister and make sure it would come down to the two of them, driving one to suicide.
Until sixty-four years later, in the seventy-fourth Games, when there would be a girl on fire who would remind them all that some things are worth fighting for.
Until sixty-five years later, in the third Quell, when things come full circle, and war would break out again.
"An unjust peace is better than a just war." - Cicero.
Maybe, maybe not.