The door to my house creaks shut behind me as I step inside for the first time in well over a month.
What little remains of my family isn't here. Although I got to see them both at the train station, my brother had to head to work, and I'm not sure where Dad headed. But that's okay. I'd rather not be around Dad if I can help it, and I can wait a while to catch up with my brother.
So I get the house all to myself for a while. I guess that's kind of nice.
Not sure what to do—on weekends like these, I'm usually doing schoolwork or hanging out with my brother—I just pace around the living room for a while. Inadvertently brushing my hand against the beat-up, dirt-brown fabric couch, I'm suddenly acutely aware of the empty space behind my ring finger. I stop pacing and examine my hand.
Everything's normal until where the pinky once was. There, the skin dips down to cover just below the bottom knuckle as well as a small portion of missing hand on the side.
I kind of wish I got the prosthetic, but... Apparently, my finger was cut off at such a place they couldn't give me anything I could move. If I wanted to have a movable pinky again, they would have had to, er, r-replace my whole hand.
And I'm all right like this. It hasn't affected me much—of course, I haven't done that much without it just yet—and... I don't know. I'm scared that, if I replace it, I might forget. I'm fine with forgetting V-V-Vahn, but there's no way I could let myself forget Amer and Eston. I probably wouldn't forget them, anyway, but it's nice to know I'll always have some sort of reminder.
—I jump about five centimetres when someone knocks at the door.
Tripping over my feet, I regain some composure and slowly start back for it.
Who could be here? It's still mid-morning, so my brother won't be on lunch break or anything. And Dad's not the kind to knock. He usually just barges in and scares the living daylights out of me—I've gotten more and more certain it's completely intentional—so it can't be him.
Well... I-I guess I should still open it...
Quivering a little harder, I click the sometimes-dysfunctional lock unlocked and pull the door toward me carefully.
"Hello!" The Capitol accent makes me cringe before I even set sight on the visitors.
One, who just spoke, is a woman in her early twenties with an almost-natural orange skin tone; she's dressed kind of normally, but the unnatural way her eyes slant is frightening. The other, behind her, is a grinning man with dark black, stencilled glasses and sloppy, violet hair; he's dressed in a nice suit, but his skin is a much more outstanding shade of red that seems terrifyingly close to the colour of blood.
"H-h-h-h-h-h-hello?" I respond, standing in the same place since I'm not comfortable with letting these people inside but don't know if I'm able to turn them back.
"I'm Albina," the woman continues, holding out a hand to shake, which I'm scared to touch, "and this is Faustus."
"A-a-a-and I'm Raivis?" I respond, a little bewildered still.
Albina giggles loudly before nudging the door open to come in. Intimidated, I just get out of the way.
"We know who you are, silly!" says she.
Faustus follows her inside, a folding computer or something in his arms. Albina frowns a little at the poor accommodations before directing Faustus and me to the couch.
"First, may I say I'm honoured to meet you!" Albina continues, looking at me with what would be a wonderful smile if her eyes didn't make her look malicious. "It's so amazing to see a real, live Victor—in person!" she continues, in her excitement embracing me before she even notices what she's doing. Flustered, I just stare back at her not knowing how I'm supposed to respond.
"Oh!" Albina starts, covering her mouth to stifle the newest wave of giggles. "I guess I should get to why I'm here! So," she says, crossing her legs since the couch is barely wide enough for the three of us, "you know that whole thing where, uh, Amy? Ay... Oh! Amer told you to turn around so you wouldn't have to see that whole business?"
Not knowing what this is leading to but feeling rising terror nonetheless, I nod.
"A-well," continues Albina, stretching her arms, "the Gamemakers I work for decided that wasn't a proper victory for you. They said all of the Victors deserve to see their accomplishments! Which seems kind of weird to me, 'cause that wasn't really an accomplishment on your part, but you're a Victor, so it is, and I'm getting off-topic." She clears her throat. "So! We've decided to show you your victory on this thing!" She motions to the technology Faustus is setting up. "We couldn't get the most advanced sound tech, but the picture's so great it'll be just like you were really there! Well, you were, but it'll be like it again!"
I stare dumbfoundedly, aware my tremors have crept up to a much stronger level.
"Wh-wh-wh-what?" I finally croak hollowly.
Albina giggles again at my reaction. "You're going to get to actually see your victory, silly!"
I jump up from the couch and start backing away. "N-n-n-n-nuh-uh! I-I-I-I-I'm not w-w-watching th-that!" My voice rises to a strangely high pitch. "I'm n-n-n-n-not watching th-th-that!"
"Yes, you are!" Albina sings, still giggling a little. "C'mon, it'll be fun!"
"N-n-n-n-no! I-I-I-I won't! I... I-I-I'll close my eyes!"
"Oh, come on, Raivis!" Albina slides up next to me and grabs my shoulders. "You don't think we can't prevent something like that, do you?"
With a strangled cry of fear, I try to squirm out of her grasp, but she easily guides me back to the couch.
"Now, don't close your eyes, Raivis," she beseeches as Faustus presses a few buttons. "I'd hate to have to pry them open on a cute little guy like you!"
Too scared of receiving this treatment to defy her, I just whimper in resignation as Faustus's device flickers to life, submerging the room into gravel and mountainside. The image swallows the Capitolites but leaves me standing right in the spot I occupied then.
"Now... T-turn around, Raivis. You don't need to see this." Amer's voice makes my breath catch in my throat, and he looks straight at me with such brotherly love I feel tears spill down my cheeks.
Amer looks back over at Eston, the other me apparently having turned around. Were it not for the threat of prying my eyes open and surely other, worse things, I would turn around here, too. But I'm frozen to this spot, unable to safely make any motion other than shaking.
"You're sure... You're sure you want to do this?" Amer quietly asks, the sound hauntingly the same as what I couldn't keep from hearing the first time. Trembling, Eston doesn't even try to form words, only nodding and lifting his hood over his head and eyes.
I find my hands travelling to my own eyes, but with strain stop them. I-I don't want to see this, but it can't be as bad as what they would do to me... And I'd still have to w-watch it...
Trying to take a deep breath but crying too hard to do so, I watch Amer shakily stretch his glove tighter over his hand. He hesitates, just sitting there sobbing for a moment, before clenching his teeth and slicing open Eston's throat. Just as the pain registers on Eston's face, Amer claws through his own neck.
The screams of pain, the choking, I thought were the worst things I would ever experience. But I'm hearing them again, paired with the images of the blood rushing out, the weak thrashing, Amer still sobbing until the last trace of life leaves him.
Just as they both lay still, the cannons fire. Next I know is the announcement of my victory, but I don't hear it. I'm screaming too hard. I don't notice the image fading back to my living room because my eyes are closed too tight.
I don't know how long I'm like this. I know Albina is grabbing at my arms, telling me to calm down, but I don't obey. I know it's a very long time before I can ease out of it the slightest bit.
By then Albina and Faustus are already gone. It's just me, grabbing the sides of my head, trying to find reason not to lapse back into screaming and coming up blank.
I don't even know what's going on. I just want it to stop. But how can I stop this? That, the two of them dying painfully, the two best friends I've ever had dying, dying, dying...!
I don't know exactly when I stumble off the couch, but I know I'm trying to find something. I don't know what, I just know I can't do this. I can't do this. I have to make this stop. How can I make this stop?
I shake too hard not to trip every step as I frantically go about the house.
What am I supposed to do? There has to be something, something—!
I knock my shin on a knob for a low cupboard. Mildly distracted by the pain, I glance down. The door has swung open a little, revealing several rows of clear bottles with clear contents.
This is Dad's... vodka... That helps people forget, doesn't it?
Dad would kill me.
But I really don't care.
Flinging the door wide open in urgency, I grab the closest bottle, rip off the cap, and start chugging.