Author's Note: I had a dream last night that Ron Swanson won the Hunger Games. Sadly, I remember none of the details. But I just had to try and recreate such a world. NOT meant to be taken seriously.
Ronald Swanson is surprised to see that the Capitol hasn't sent Effie Trinket. But this year's escort, a middle-aged man who looks like he skinned a ferret and placed the fur atop his head, may be even more enthusiastic and pathetic.
"I am so glad to be here, District 12! I don't think - I know that this year's Hunger Games will l i t e r a l l y be the greatest competition that any society has ever created, ever." With a flourish, he pulls a slip of paper - not out of a clear glass bowl, but out of a certified, organic vase. "Ann Perkins," the capitol escort smiles, and searches the crowd for who to point at.
A petite brunette immediately starts crying. And up on stage, District 12's only living victor, a bubbly blonde woman turns pale. "Nooooo!" She shouts. "Oh please not Ann! Such a beautiful, naive, sophisticated tropical fish!"
But a victor, however treasured, doesn't have any say in the reaping. Young Ann, whom Ron knows as an aspiring healer - far from a killer, stumbles forward.
Yet, she only makes it a few steps. Another girl, even younger, glides to the stage, looking rather glamorous for her Seam upbringings with a tiny hat and a cigar. "I volunteer."
The district lets out a collective breath. This volunteer is extremely talented. Scandal erupted a few years ago after she convinced her own mother that she was adopted. She famously can sneak three dogs into a movie theater, and she once won a staring contest with a cat. Rumor even has it that she can tell instantly whether someone is fat or pregnant with 60% accuracy. Yes, Janet Snakehole is likely to do well in the arena.
So, it's on to the boys. "Benji Wyatt!" announces the escort. And this time, the crowd gasps quite audibly. At age 18, Benji is still eligible for reaping. But no one thought he'd actually get picked. After all, he's District mayor.
Once the shock settles, responses are mixed. Several people begin to cry, including Mr. Buckle who relies on Mr. Mayor for 90% of his income as a plaid shirt salesman. But others soon cheer. "You're going down, town clown! That's for Ice Town! Good luck nailing down the games' crown!" howls Councilman Howser. "Yeah, that's payback for the Low-Cal Calzone Zone, you idiot!" adds Hugh Trumple. One woman just tosses a claymation figure at him.
But Ron soon stops the nonsense. He's not a fan of nonsense. "I volunteer", he says, impressing not with his voice's volume, but with its power. A pair of peacekeepers nod and reach for his arms, but he quickly stops them with a simple "I can walk myself, gentleman." And so he does. Up to the stage. Up to the very real of possibility of death.
Ron has no regrets. As an 18-year-old, he always knew that he'd volunteer today. He can fish, hunt, communicate with birds by intimidating a saxophone, and sculpt a fatal sword with his bare hands out of a few twigs. Plus, he's won multiple sleep-fighting championships against the world's greatest competitor - himself. He can win this. Easily. Not that he much cares for fame and fortune. Not at all. But a secluded Victor's Village nearly to himself? Doesn't sound so bad. Plus, bacon ain't free.
The citizens of District 12 raise up three fingers in a salute to these brave and noble volunteers. Janet responds with a single finger of her own. Ron just chuckles.
As a goodbye to his mother, Ron offers up a handshake. But he holds onto the bare back of someone else for several minutes, kissing soft flesh and promising to return alive. The games may only last a few weeks at most, but he'll miss 'Lil Sebastian dearly.
On the train ride over to the capital, the chipper escort introduces himself as "Chris Panem's-Oldest-Human-Though-I-Only-Look-32 Traeger", then does something truly menacing - attempts to hug Ron. He's not successful.
Janet Snakehole whispers "You'll be fun to kill, Duke Silver." She winks.
It's a shame really, that she's his competitor. Janet is one of only a few people in District 12 that he doesn't utterly despise with every fiber of his being. Not to sound too sentimental.
Meanwhile, their mentor, Leslie Yup is addicted to drink. Maple syrup mixed with powder sugar and topped with whipped cream, that is. She spends the ride lecturing them about the great strategies of all past female victors, speculating if the gamekeepers "might finally deploy Dementor technology for mutations", insisting that finding a waffle maker in the arena is more vital than securing a bow and arrow, and singing a showtune about her beloved homosexual penguins back home. Ron's not sure if he wants to punch her, or dye her hair brown and invite her out to a buffet.
After eight hours, they finally arrive at the outlandish capital city. If Ron didn't have such a strong digestive track, he might vomit. Eagleton is despicable.
He's greeted by a heavyset woman with dark brown skin and long fingernails painted with the brightest of colors. As she plucks Ron's eyebrows, removes his vast array of nose hair and attempts to tame his wild pubescent back hair, she brags. Quite a lot. Ron doesn't care to catch all her words, but mostly she seems proud of her newest acquisition - an automobile from ancient 21st-century society, known as a Mercedes.
Next, he's introduced to an energetic little brown man. He wears glittered gloves, a skunk hat, and a perfectly tailored suit. "Sup, my new Deady, Deady Kiddo? That's what I call tributes. I'm Tommy Timberlake. I'll be your swagger coach. Pleasure to meet me."
Tommy dresses Ron and Janet up in all 14-carat gold, calling them "the boy and girl on fire-ah!" Again, Ron wants to vomit. He looks better in a red polo shirt. Or naked.
But the Eagleton citizens love it. Same with the other tributes. The District 5 male, Bill Dexhart, invites them into a 3-way.
Ron's interview goes about as well as expected. The audience applauds his confidence, and he's unfazed by Joan Callamezzo's ridiculous questions. She clearly just wants a good show. That's all she wants.
He does exceptionally well during training, showing off his natural strength and agility. He scores a 10 out of 12.
Janet earns an 11. Ron suspects she just walked into the room and stared the gamekeepers down. Her mentor bows his head and thanks the great g-d Zorp.
The night before the games, Ron has great difficulty sleeping, tossing about in his handmade bed. He finally manages to relax by counting slaughtered sheep and reciting his mantra - each step on his masterpiece, a personalized Pyramid of Greatness. This, he knows, will be the key to his victory.
But before he's managed to sleep-fight against a single person, Ron's awoken by a knock at the door. Then a harder knock. Then the door's kicked open.
A man in all white tries to yank him out of bed.
"Who the hell are you?" Ron asks.
The man puts on a whole show of removing his cheap sun-glasses. "I'm Bert Macklin. And I'm with the God-damn Peacekeepers. I'm here to take you to the start of the Games."
Ron doesn't argue, but Bert insists on giving him a free shoe shinning first.
His stylist Tommy hands him a simple black jacket, worn by every tribute this year. "Good luck in the the 74th Scary-Ass Jumanjis. That's what I call the Hunger Games."
The cornucopia looks much more sinister in real life than on TV.
"The numbers that I am about to count down...are a count down," begins the Game's ever-so-poetic announcer, Perd Hapley. "10...9...8...7...6...And the next number that I'm going to say is...5...4...3...2...and you guessed it...1!"
Ron isn't stupid enough to get in with the bloodbath. He sprints forward just a few yards to grab the nearest backpack, then takes off in the opposite direction towards the woods.
But during his flee, he can't obtain the one thing he seeks most out of life: Silence. Screams echo all around as kids begin to murder one another.
One dying sentence is especially loud and clear. Ron recognizes it as the boy from District 9, Carl.
..."AT LEAST I CAN DIE IN PEACE! I FINALLY SAW AVATAR AND I THOUGHT IT LIVED UP TO THE HYPE!"
He runs until nightfall, before finally settling in the branches of a tree, and cuddling up with a precious reminder of home that happened to be in the backpack. No, not a stuffed animal - a hammer.
But a few moments later, he's forced to relocate after another (idiot) tribute decides he can't handle the minor cold and starts a fire - directly underneath Ron's hiding spot.
The sky lights up with an announcement. 13 are already dead.
The next morning, Ron gets straight to work. He finds the perfect tree to chop down, covering up the sound of the chainsaw with frighteningly realistic bird calls. It takes just under three hours to hand-sculpt the wood into a canoe. He attaches it to his back with some rope and begins to walk, in search of water.
On his way, he spots a hamburger. Just sitting there! Platted! In the middle of the ground! Ron's mouth has never salivated quite so much; by his guess, it's been 28 hours since Leslie forced that final waffle down his throat.
Now Ron is not a boy who skips. Skipping's for sissies. But today he nearly does, to get to that burger. He picks it up triumphantly, and gives it a nice long sniff - treating it the way all burgers deserve to be treated.
Oh no! No,no,no, no, noooo! He has to hold down his own lips to prevent shrieking in horror. It's not a hamburger. No, not at all. It's some sort of...sort of...turkey burger! Perhaps even organic soy or veggie! Surely some sort of cruel trap set-up by the gamekeepers.
Close call. Ron moves on.
He finds water. Like any real man can easily do. He fishes, using his own spit as bate and natural materials as a rod and reel. All is silent. All is nice.
A blonde Career with an excellent set of watermelons, Brandi Maxxxx, comes running towards him, holding some sort of paper in her hand and shrieking. She foams at the mouth and drops. Dead.
Ron examines the body. He sees the paper - a Sweetums candy bar - and understands. It's another Gameskeeper trick. Brandi's life was over the moment the packaged diabetes hit her bloodstream.
Day 5. All but 6 tributes have died. There's no fish left in the tiny pond and Ron is starving. He's even starting to day dream about egg whites (egg whites!) He whips his head around to locate the nearest camera and does something that he knows will make fantastic television - pulls his own tooth out.
His mouth is full of blood and even democratic debates wouldn't give him such a horrendous headache, but the plan works. A small parcel drops down from the sky. He reads the attached note:
"Treat yo self! - Tommy Timberlake and Donnatella"
The bacon is perfectly crisp.
Night 8. Still 5 tributes alive. Joe from 11 (the district specializing in sewage) is the latest to fall.
Perd Hapley makes an announcement.
"I am about to announce something exciting. And that something is...that there will be a feast at the following location: the cornucopia, at the following time: tomorrow at noon."
He continues to say that the feast will be the tributes' final chance to obtain something they desperately seek. And Ron knows he must go. He hates admitting it, but he suspects he has a hernia. And he needs medication. In another day, he won't be able to move. And not being able to move means not being able to hunt. Or fish. Or build a better canoe out of mahogany. All of that means certain death.
At sunrise, he makes his way over to the cornucopia. No one else appears to be around, except for the District 4 boy, covered in blood and lying down at the very center. He yells out to Ron desperately, displaying a small knife. "Please, please! I'm already as good as gone. Just...just help me go."
Ron approaches cautiously and obeys, slitting the boy's throat. Ron usually hates quitters. But he's thankful for this once. "Goodbye, Mark Brandani."
The canon fires.
Ron stays at the cornucopia, hoping to already be there when the gamekeepers drop the feast items. Unfortunately, the district 10 boy (ridiculous hair, Ron's not sure of his name. Rean-Jalphio, maybe?) has the same plan. He approaches with a bow and arrow in his hands, and a ye 'ol tune from the ancient musician Puff Daddy on his lips.
He stares Ron down, and slowly pulls the bow's string back, aiming for his heart. "Yo, Ron Swan Song! How you livin'? Not for much longer. I said R to the O to the N, I'm sorry District 12, but your life has reached its very -"
Ron's hammer connects with the boys scull, and the cannon fires.
Judging by the sun's position, Janet Snakehole arrives exactly at noon. Unfortunately, the feast doesn't.
Instead, they're greeted by a massive swarm (hundreds!) of small, gray creatures. "Mutations," Janet informs him. "The capital used to call them 'gerbil hamsters.' Then they were renamed 'guinea pig chinchillas.' Now, they're known as 'mouse rats.'" She smiles at them. "I think they're awesome."
"Are they deadly?" Ron asks.
"I don't -"
Ron grabs one and throws it at Janet. It bites, she screams and the canon fires.
He may not have entirely hated her, but he cares about seeing his beloved 'Lil Sebastian again far more.
The mouse rats immediately disappear. But something far worse approaches the cornucopia. Ron blinks. It's...it's like staring into the eye of Satan's butthole.
There stands his final competitor - Tamniss Evermean from District 2 (the absolute worst district; specializes in library sciences). Ron's both terrified by her chances of murdering him, and delighted that he may well do the same to her. Every year of his education has emphasized the same thing: District 2 is the worst group of people ever assembled in all history. They're mean, conniving, rude and extremely well read, which makes them very dangerous.
"Hello, Ron," Tamniss says, slowly peeling away at a banana in one hand and letting down her braided hair with the other. "Is that stunning, long tool an arrow or are you just happy to see me?"
Ron doesn't flinch.
"Would you prefer I blow you away with a grenade or I blow you with something else?"
Ron continues to opt for silence.
Now mere inches from Ron face (and pants), Tamniss licks her lips. "Shall I feed you some Nightlock? Or wanna just show me your Night Co - ?"
Spotting the glint of a silver weapon that Tamniss is slowly pulling out of her back pocket, Ron grabs her neck and holds on. "We'll screw each other in hell."
He takes a moment to savor the feel of her bones beneath his skin. And when he cracks them, he swears he can smell a thousand overdue library books rejoicing in freedom.
A helicopter appears in the sky and he wonders how many old wooden sailing ships he'll now be able to afford.
When Joan Callamezzo asks for a lengthy, inspiring victory speech that doesn't skip on a single detail of his gameplay, Ron replies, "I won. End of speech," and requests his eggs scrambled.
He refuses to accept the Victor's crown (awards are stupid), and vows to seek revenge upon Seneca Crane by one day besting his facial hair.