Well, here's the last chapter. Thanks to everyone who's read this story, and kept up with Sol. I love you all! :)
Sickened by the thought of a city- any city- I refuse to look out of the window for the hovercraft ride back. The Capitol attendant says that I am the first victor who hasn't passed out within the first five minutes of the flight, but the word 'victor' grates harshly on my ears. Sure, I survived, but at the price of twenty-three other lives. Twenty three kids who had many years yet to live, with families, friends, and maybe even girlfriends and boyfriends at home. Some of their dreams were shattered by the two hands and the staff that lay on my lap. I think of Jayre's last words. So close… almost home, and I end up disappointing the Capitol attendant four and a half minutes into the hovercraft ride.
I curl up on the soft bed and bury my filthy face in the down pillow that was mine for a week. I get less than ten minutes of peace before Fali bursts squealing into the room. She strips off the arena outfit that I've been wearing for ten days off my emaciated body and shoves me into the shower. As she scrubs the many layers of dirt and several layers of skin down the drain, she seems to bounce between two personalities. "I can't believe they still aren't giving us help with this," she mutters, "the stylists' job is to design, not wash!" Then she brightens- "Five finally has a victor! Maybe I'll get promoted this time!" I sit patiently until she deems me fit to dress for the final interview. I learned patience in that stupid, hideous arena? What a lesson. What a cost.
Another dress makes me cringe as Fali shoves it at me ruthlessly. If I won the Hunger Games, why am I still being treated like an animal led to slaughter? Finally, I accept the dress and wriggle into it. It takes a lot of wriggling to do so, as the garment is very snug. I thought it would be loose; most final interview outfits don't account for the weight loss in the arena. Fali is smarter than her Capitolized appearance makes her out to be.
The thing has a soft gray skirt that has wisps of silver cloth trailing from it, mimicking the mist of a geyser. The part that squeezes my torso is sleeveless and one half is patterned as ocean waves and the other as if in a fiery furnace. My face is streaked with coal dust like war paint, and my hair is wind-tousled.
I shoot through the swiftest elevator I've yet to ride in into a small room in a tall tower that overlooks all of the Capitol. Only a small crowd sits in the audience of the room, and most of them are cameramen and reporters. Most citizens, even those of the Capitol, will have to watch this event on television.
Pairo slaps me on the back as the elevator door opens, almost making me collapse. My broken ankle isn't entirely healed yet. My mentor apologizes and gives me Falcon's staff to lean on while I walk to my seat. I perch on a solitary chair that sits on a slightly elevated platform. Across from me is Sunsh- Caesar Flickerman. In the first row of the audience are Pairo, Fali, President Snow, and Head Gamemaker Julius Goldyn. The last two are the creators of my misery and mental torment. I hate them with a burning passion. Flickerman starts the ball rolling almost immediately after I sit down.
"So, Sol, what did you think of the arena this year?" I see Julius Goldyn smile slightly.
"It was… interesting," I stumble over the words, my tongue feeling a foot thick and seemingly only able to speak vulgar words readily, "I don't think anyone expected it, and it certainly had the potential for elaborate obstacles.
"What was your key to winning?"
"Well, I made sure all the tributes knew me at least a little bit. I thought it would be harder for them to kill me if they knew me."
"Did that make it hard for you to kill them in return?"
"Yeah- I couldn't kill Blossom, and I wouldn't have been able to kill Leris, Azalea, or Falcon."
"Ah, yes. Your district partner. I believe that's his staff you're holding?" I nod. I sincerely hope he doesn't ask any deep questions about that guy, because eventually it could get awkward. He always manages to embarrass victors about their district partners. I can just imagine Sunshine Face saying 'So what happened on the rooftop that night?' Luckily, the man goes off on a different tangent, about the power of a single weapon in the hands of multiple people. Real deep, Flickerman. Just like three years back when the boy from One stabbed his girlfriend with her own spear. I just wait for him to get back on track.
"Which kill was the hardest, Sol?" asks one of the reporters, yelling over Happy Face Man.
"The first and the last. The first was the one that messes with your mind, but the last has all the other kills pile don top of it and you know it's gonna be your last either way, so you're really stressed out." Flickerman has gotten back on track now, and pats my hand sympathetically. I automatically pull away. Another Capitol person takes the opportunity to yell out.
"I liked Falcon better! Why couldn't you have died?" I almost laugh, but it hurts. It's not as emotionally painful as murdering someone, but it sickens me to realize the cruelty of the Capitol. I wonder if the girl who screamed when Falcon was reaped ever thought the same thing.
Caesar comes to my rescue with a hurried, "Let's get these recaps over with, folks!" I slump down in my seat as the light flicker off, wanting to disappear.
I try not to pay attention to the three-hour recap, but some things catch painfully in my brain anyway. Some things are new to me: I see Chas barely escape from Jayre, Taylor slide halfway into a pit of acid, Gentia befriend the dog pack, Falcon discover the outer wall, and Karic try to catch pigeons before he knew what they could do. I see Hector follow Ashe's parachute and wonder for what must be the hundredth time, what was that girl planning? I see my hand falter as I stand over Blossom with the poison. I see Leris, Azalea, Vecarn, Gentia, Chas, Taylor, Scythe, and Falcon collapse dead.
Over and over, I see myself plunge Falcon's staff into Jayre's heart.
BOOM. Every time a cannon fires, I'm back in that arena. Then the video is over.
The next morning, I'll be headed home, and I can't say I'm quite ready. In fact, I'm dreading it. Sure, I get to see my mom, dad, Bright, and home again, but there's a little bit of a problem with the ride there. All the tributes are riding on the same sleek train.
Is it still OK to say R&R? I guess so. Well, R&R, everyone! And don't forget to use the Oxford comma!