Author's Note: Welcome to the threequel, everyone. I know I said this wouldn't become a trilogy, since I thought I had completely run out of characters with which I am familiar. I still technically have, but I'll give it a go anyway.
Thanks to the support of my BDDSG'ers and to Pceluvmusicart for meeting my demands to make this story possible. (And thanks to Socky for ruining the surprise, nya.)
So. Let's get going.
Shiran Kirkland, District 5
"Are you sure you want to go?"
Sighing at my mom, I fiddle with my hand-me-down tuxedo's collar. "I went last year, and I'll go this year."
Mom isn't convinced. "Because you know we could always pay—"
"Mom," I interrupt. "We can't afford that much of a fine anymore." I look at the floor. "And it's not like it'd keep me from being reaped, anyway."
With worried eyes, Mom nods shakily and finally lets Dad and me out the door.
Even after we've arrived at the town square, it takes another long minute of convincing before Mom lets me go to the thirteens' section. She was this bad last year, too. I don't remember her being quite so crazy about turning Igris loose the first few times. But she has her reasons.
I find a relatively uncrowded part of the section and stand alone. It'd be great to hang out with friends like most of the people here, but, y'know. We've always been rich, nobody likes us, yadda yadda yadda. You get used to it. Especially... Especially when you have a big brother to annoy.
The mayor steps up for his yearly blather. I try to listen, but it's impossible to not zone out when he speaks in such a boring monotone.
I wish I were back home, in the backyard. I can always entertain myself somehow there. Just run around or something, you know? There's a lot of room—Mom was going to try and sell some of it, along with a bunch of other things, when prices got too high to keep sending Igris things, but Dad made her stop—and it's just really nice to be outside, I guess.
But I won't be going home just yet. Have to sit—well, stand—through all of this for a while longer.
After what seems like a really long time, the mayor backs down and the escort takes his place.
Just when I thought I'd be relieved the blabber is over, I feel my heart rate go up. The escort's about to pick names. He's going for the boys' bowl first.
Okay, okay, calm down. You didn't get picked last year, and... Well, my name's in there more than last year, but we still haven't quite been pushed to tessarae, so...
...We didn't have tessarae when Igris got reaped.
But that's... He was older. And I'm still thirteen, so... Thirteen-year-olds get picked, too. But...
Oh, I'm driving myself mad! Just stop it! Has he picked the name yet? I hope he picked the name, because I didn't hear mine, and...
Even though it feels like I've been fretting for much longer, the escort has only just reached the bowl of slips.
Oh, be over already! I can't stand this! Hurry up! Just don't call me! Please don't call me! Please don't call me...!
The escort finally takes a slip out agonisingly slowly. He looks at the paper and squints at it for too many nerve-racking seconds. After the recognition of the letters dawns on his face, he finally opens his mouth to announce. The sounds proceed in slow motion.
My name starts with a "shi"! My name starts with a "shi"!
A little gurgling sound comes up in my throat, but in a second, the only thing I can hear is a scream of "No!"
As Mom keeps howling, I find myself staggering up to the stage. My throat stays partly closed and achingly dry as I finally mount the steps.
"You can't take him! You can't take him...!"
I finally figure out where Mom disappeared to—because now she's shoving through the crowd to get to me.
"M-mom!" I get out, taking a small step toward her. "S-stop... You can't..."
"They can't take you, Shiran!" she continues, choked by sobs more of fury than fear. "They can't take you!" She keeps forcing her way forwards until some Peacekeepers finally get in her way.
"Back off!" she shrieks, shoving one aside and stumbling once more towards me before her arms are forced behind her back. Unable to continue, she just kicks vainly at the Peacekeepers surrounding her and wails my name. I can only hear her a moment longer before the Peacekeepers pull her back from her spot, a metre in front of the stage. She finally gives in and lets them drag her away.
I just watch, air caught in my throat, until I finally seem to realise where I am. Onstage. At the reaping. Exactly where my brother was three years ago.
It must look eerie. I bear a strong resemblance to him. That must be part of what made Mom freak out... The exact same thing happenening all over again...
Will I die, too? Neither of us had ever done real work or training. He could have won, though... He really could have... But I'm not him. I'm younger. I don't have a super-rich family to send me things. And I'm... just not him.
I don't know what's going to happen.
I'm just scared.
Wy Micra, District 5
I haven't been paying any attention to the reaping.I don't want to get stressed out or anything, and it's easy enough to distract myself here at the square. Plenty of buildings and trees and clouds... They aren't that interesting at first, but if I look at them like I'm going to paint them, I can get carried away in seconds. Thicker dabs here for the clods of dirt on the bricks, thin paint over the skies for just the right pale grey, quick and delicate jabs for those bright leaves in the distance... Although it gets me itching to run off and at least grab a sketchpad, I manage to anchor myself here.
I like the way the tree branches of the background zigzag to meet the leaves, the birds darting between trees so fast I can't get a grip on their forms, only their colours.
I'm not sure I'd want to paint all of the people around me, though. I've never been that good with crowds; I always want to make everyone individual, but I can't squeeze much into a centimetre-tall expression.
But maybe the stage? It's not bad, just a black metallic thing beneath its decorations. It has a few clumps of rust or something, and I sort of like how the tops of the stairs catch the light.
There aren't too many people up there now, just the mayor, the previous Victors, and the escort. The escort would be fun to paint if I only do the stage. His crazy looks would completely clash with all the nature around, but it'd certainly be an adventure just to mix up the right hues for his two-toned hair.
I like the poses he strikes, too. They're perky, and joyful poises are so much better to paint than slumping ones, like those of some of the Victors. Now he's holding his hand over one of the bowls and reading the bright white slip. A boy right next to me, with clean blonde hair and wonderfully bright sea blue eyes, takes jerky steps towards the stage and up the stairs, casting shadow over the gleams.
He seems familiar for some reason... He was standing almost right next to me, but he didn't strike up a conversation or anything, so... Huh...
Well, whoever he is, he just got reaped...
But anyway! I can reflect on that later! I have this scene before me for only once in my life, so I'll get everything out of it I can!
Um... Well, the escort's strutting over to the other bowl now. The bowl catches the light in a nice way, I think. I've always liked the shine marks on glass and things.
The escort dips his hand in the bowl, causing some slips to flutter and flicker away from the glass. A single slip, a bit off-white—maybe Isabelline?—reaches his hand, and his bright yellow-painted lips move strangely to read off the name.
The escort looks around the crowd, about to call the name again.
"Um, I heard!" Still in a faint state of shock, I make my way towards the stage quickly and take the three steps by twos.
I... What? O-okay, this is bad. This is... bad. Okay, I'm still jarred from this, and... Okay, just take deep breaths. Nothing's really happened yet. Just stay calm.
Just stay calm and take a good, long look at the things you may never see again.