Final chapter of the 42nd. Enjoy.
For a few days, Channa remained under intensive treatment. Her wounds were closed up and her scars disappeared as if they were never there. She underwent surgery and had a bionic eye implanted into her socket. She was not allowed to see anyone until her big appearance on national TV. She endured these few days shrouded in loneliness, left alone with her terrible memories to keep her company.
She slowly came to accept that fact that everyone was dead. It pained her greatly to think of Hip and Cole…whenever she found her mind drifting towards them, she immediately forced herself to think of something else. At the same time, she braced herself for what lay ahead.
The big day came and her prep team whisked her away to get ready. They did her hair, makeup, and dressed her in a low-cut, deep purple gown. When she looked into a mirror, it looked as if nothing had changed. She had no scars, and her new eye appeared to be as real as any other. Even her nose was back to normal. She was Chanpagne Bordeaux once more.
She waited underneath the stage as Caesar got the crowd going. She took a deep breath and tried to smile. This was what she had dreamed of! She would put the Games in the past and embrace the glamour of the Capitol. The metal plate she was standing on began to rise, and Channa felt as if she were rising into the disastrous arena to compete in the Hunger Games once more. Her smile vanished and she emerged onstage with a wide-eyed, flustered look as the Capitol roared and confetti fluttered down from above. She quickly caught herself and beamed at the audience.
Caesar walked up, shaking her hand vigorously and congratulating her. It was always the same spiel every year—the victor sat down to a short interview with the host, and then they were forced to watch a recap of the Games. The whole ordeal lasted about three hours.
Caesar asked the usual questions. "So Channa…how are you feeling? Can you believe that you are the winner of the 42nd Hunger Games?" His voice rose in volume as he announced it once more, and the Capitol applauded.
Channa gave a light laugh and flipped her hair back. "Ohh, I'm feeling fantastic, Mr. Flickerman! I always knew I would win. I had the whole thing in the bag from the start." This was the answer she had imagined giving Caesar after she had won. But she felt disgusting for it, now. I was an arrogant fool. She thought despairingly. I never would have made it here if not for Hip.
Caesar asked her a few more generic questions, how she was faring, a few questions about her health and her new eye. Some inquiries as to how she felt when defeating the final tribute. The questions started to become more personal as they went.
"What were you going through when that tornado was raging around you, yet no hovercraft appeared to rescue you?"
Channa smiled, feeling embarrassed. "I was terrified, Caesar. I thought maybe there was one last tribute left, that the tornado was going to kill me and they were going to steal all the glory."
"Well, our Head Gamemaker has a bit of a flair for the dramatic…as I'm sure you've experienced."
For some reason, the audience chuckled at this.
"Now, I've been building up the courage to ask this, but…what was your relationship to that Hip fellow? And the other one, Cole?"
Channa almost forgot how to breathe. "Oh…" She said, a little shakily, "I know it's cruel of me to say but…I only used them to contribute to my own survival."
Caesar actually looked a bit disappointed. "Oh, yes? I see. Well, that's to be expected. I think we were all taken by surprise by that kiss at the end. But considering it was one-sided…well, at least you'll never have to go through the trouble of turning him down!" Caesar grimaced and added, "Sorry, I'm awful! I'm awful, aren't I?"
Channa stared at Caesar, outraged that he would say such a thing. But the Capitol was laughing uproariously. She felt sickened to no end. But was Caesar the awful one? After all, she had just admitted that she used them for her own survival. If anything, he was helping her image. She tried to push it behind her, and forced an amused grin.
Apparently, this was a good place for them to stop. Caesar directed everyone's attention to a large screen as the lights dimmed and the Capitol's anthem began to play. Here was the recap of the Games. Channa watched with wide eyes, dreading the fact that she was about to relive it all over again.
But one of the first things to appear was District 1 riding in on their chariot, accompanied by dramatic music. There stood Hip in his humiliating costume, winking at the crowd. Inside her head, she could hear him saying, "I was excited when they told me I would be half-naked, but they failed to mention that I was getting a new set of balls." Channa suddenly found herself laughing. She could see her reaction in a tiny box on screen and she looked like she had completely lost it.
Then came training scores and interviews. A quick shot of her dancing with Hip at the ball. Then the Games began. Pounding drums accompanied the Bloodbath—it was fast-paced and exciting, showing shot after shot of the defeated tributes. Channa watched as she stabbed Bassin through the heart. She had been a different girl back then.
This would be so much cooler to watch if it all hadn't actually happened… Channa thought, watching Carson take a flying leap on the carousel. She and Bridon quickly disposed of him. Every year, the recap had some sort of theme interweaved into it. In this, they seemed to make her out as some sort of conqueror. Probably thanks to that screaming fit she had at the end, when she had announced herself as the winner atop that ravaged hill…
"Good night, beautiful." Came Cole's lilting voice, and she watched him kiss her on the cheek. Just hearing him made it seem as if he were alive again.
Channa watched Sienna spear him through the heart and felt rage wash over her. She got to see many other deaths too, ones that she had not known about. She saw Olivia go down in the deadfall trap. She saw Sienna gored by Calista's axe and watched Frederick's body driven into the side of a building by the tidal wave. Her stomach roiled at the unsightly demises of Mitch and Chat.
Her throat closed as she watched Hip save her life twice, first from Abbadon and then from the Spider-Man. She couldn't help but wonder if he would've won, had he stuck to their agreement. His kiss and his death flashed by. The filmmakers wanted to get straight to the final fight. She watched with wide eyes at the gruesome murder of Calista. Watched as she clawed her way to the top of the hill and shrieked as if she had gone insane. The film ended there, and Channa felt mortified. Why would they end it on such a terrible spot?
But the Capitol was going wild. They loved every moment of it. Caesar helped Channa to her feet, and suddenly, President Snow was there. He placed a crown on her head and presented her to the world. The ceremony ended with a swarm of people, demanding to shake Channa's hand or get their pictures taken with her.
After what seemed forever, Channa was finally allowed to leave. She boarded a train and rode it back to District 1.
A month later, Channa was slowly trying to get over the trauma of the Hunger Games. Her family, meanwhile, relished her winnings. They moved to the Victor's Village and lived in a huge mansion. Her father expanded his vineyard, just as he said he would. Her mother couldn't have been happier, finally securing a tie with her beloved Capitol. She visited it at every opportunity and happily submitted to any kind of interview. Dionysus was overjoyed to see his little sister win, and even Chardonnay couldn't stay bitter.
Channa just tried to grin and bear it. She tried to lose herself in the perks that came with victory, but the thoughts of the others always invaded her mind at night. Sometimes she would abruptly wake up screaming, convinced that Sienna was standing over her, about to run her through with a spear…
At some point, President Snow came to visit her. He greeted her family quite cheerfully. Then he requested to speak with Channa alone. That was when he brought up the prospect of her future. What she would be doing the rest of her life.
"Of course, I'll expect you to serve as a mentor in the 43rd Games."
She stared at him, uncomprehending. "But…I'm not even out of school yet."
"Oh, my dear, education isn't of importance to you anymore. Not since you became the victor. You and your family are supported for life. In return, all you have to do is serve as a mentor to up-and-coming competitors."
Channa knew there was no point in objecting. That was just the fate of all victors. But that wasn't the worst of it.
Snow folded his hands, looking grim. "Although, there is something else I shall require you to do for me…"
He explained the fate that befell the most desirable of victors. How their bodies were sold to rich Capitol-dwellers. Channa was appalled that he would even suggest such a thing. When she told him no, he suddenly grew dangerous.
"You'll recall that I said you and your family are supported for life due to your victory. But it would be a shame if something happened to them, wouldn't it?"
That was all he had to say.
"…When do I start?" Channa asked dully.
President Snow stood up, concluding the conversation. "The next Hunger Games. For now, enjoy your winnings."
Then he left without another word, leaving Channa stewing in a renewed sense of misery.
Six months after the Games came the Victory Tour. Channa had recovered a great deal now, and would no longer wake up screaming or crying. In fact, she was a little bit excited for the tour. She had always wanted to see the other districts…of course; it would have been more enjoyable without having to see the dead tributes' families.
Their first stop was District 12. District 12 always offered the worst festivities, so it was usually first on the list. They would travel backwards through the districts, skipping over the one that belonged to the victor in order to save the best for last. This year, they needn't skip any at all since District 1 was the final visitation anyways. Then, they would conclude the celebrations within the confines of the Capitol.
In District 12, they held a small feast for Channa. Then she took to the stage and gave a small, prepared speech to the residents. They gazed at her with dead eyes and hollow expressions. She felt extremely out of place among their ranks. They were the poorest district of them all, and it certainly showed.
At the base of the stage stood the deceased tributes' families. Channa quickly glanced in their direction and then looked away. No one was there to represent Ellis, but she couldn't stand the sight of Carson's family. After all, she had assisted in killing him. She had laughed at his death and declared, "Plus one for Channa!"
His mother and his littlest brother were crying. The older one glared at her with stone cold eyes, unforgiving. She tried not to look at him, but was very aware of his presence. She couldn't have been happier to get off the stage.
It was the same in District 11. Caden's gigantic family had somber expressions, while Julia's family observed her with an air of hatred. She had also been partially responsible for Julia's death. But she put on a fake smile, waving to the quiet audience and uttering the same speech once more.
In District 10, Olivia and Shem's families glared at her with loathing. She couldn't help but wonder why. I didn't kill your child! She wanted to scream at them. But then she realized it was just because of her presence. She stood before them, instead of their children. Even if she hadn't killed them, she had stolen the victor's crown away from each and every tribute.
District 9 was a bit more bearable. She hadn't been responsible for any of their deaths. In fact, she had defended Drake against Bridon. Of course, she had also called him "Stumpy," which might not have gone over well with his loved ones. Channa spotted a boy and a girl holding each other. The girl was sobbing loudly while the boy looked greatly pained. She briefly wondered if they were mourning Cara or Drake.
Next up was District 8…Channa was dreading the sight of Abbadon's family. But they didn't show. Only a very sad family of Frustlocks were standing by the stage. One little boy peered up at Channa with the saddest green eyes she had ever seen. But at this point, she was becoming used to the grief that radiated off of the families.
District 7 was one of the hardest ones. Tasi's father seemed controlled, but Calista's family glowered at her with undisguised hatred. After all, Calista had only been one step away from victory. Channa stumbled through her speech, trying to ignore the many angry eyes in the crowd before her.
She couldn't have been happier to leave that district. She was in such a hurry to get to the train; she tripped right over something sitting on the ground. There was a loud yelp and Channa, flustered, turned to look at a surprised Golden Retriever. It was looking at her with a hurt expression, as if she had disciplined it for doing something bad.
"I'm so sorry!" She apologized to the dog as if it were human, and felt silly for doing so. She reached out and gave it a pat on the head. The dog immediately brightened up, wagging its tail in happiness. Then it slumped to the ground and rested its head on its paws, returning its gaze to the train. As if it were waiting for someone to appear.
Channa blushed, very aware that cameras were observing her and waiting for her to depart. Without a backward glance, she quickly boarded the train. A few minutes later, it took off, headed to District 6.
District 6 wasn't so bad either. Channa hadn't really had any connections to their tributes. The festivities were getting more elaborate, too. She spared a glance at the families during her speech. Two little girls from Mitch's family had tears rolling down their faces. But a little boy from Chat's family was holding his head high. His mother's face was tearstained, but she could see him comforting her. Channa suddenly felt a warm glow for his bravery.
District 5 was a sad one. Cassia's little brothers kept wailing like she had died yesterday. They finally quieted when a Peacekeeper threatened them. Cole's mother and his little brother had unreadable expressions. Were they angry that she had claimed she had used Cole? Or would they have realized that she really cared about him? Either way, she decided not to say anything about it. Sometimes, tributes would give extra speeches, particularly if they had allied with a deceased tribute. But she suddenly felt averse to that. And so the Victory Tour continued.
Channa enjoyed District 4—it boasted the best celebration yet. The party was held on the beach. It was pleasant, except for the gnawing fear that a tidal wave or a Spider-Man might come out of nowhere. Then it was time to give her speech once more and face the mourning families. She could see a girl, most likely Frederick's girlfriend, sobbing in the midst of the crowd.
In the middle of Channa's speech, Bassin's brother shouted out, "Traitor!"
She stopped, looking at him with a shocked expression.
"You heard me!" He roared, "She was a Career, like you, but you still killed-!"
"She was not a Career!" Channa protested heatedly, "She never trained!"
Before they could get into some sort of debate, Peacekeepers removed the boy from the area. Channa felt extremely embarrassed and mumbled her way through the rest of the speech. She was very grateful to be back on the train, headed away from District 4. Her mentors got on her about maintaining formalities and that she didn't need to justify herself to others. That they couldn't hope to understand.
Could they? She wondered, as they arrived in District 3.
The celebration here was definitely not as fancy as the one in District 4. But Channa could enjoy herself. She had nothing to do with either of the families here. As she scaled the stage, her heart nearly stopped. Gadgette was standing with her family. She was alive. But upon closer inspection, she realized that it was a boy that resembled Gadgette almost perfectly. Her twin. Aside from that, both sets of parents looked pretty darn miserable to be there. Channa sighed and got on with the speech, which she had quickly become sick of.
Here we go…District 2… She took deep breaths to prepare herself. She half-expected Bridon and Sienna's families to attack her once she took to the stage. But they remained in their assigned sections. Bridon's parents looked very upset, which surprised her. She had expected them to be as emotionless as their son. Sienna's father, however…
He didn't even look sad. He was looking at her coolly, as if he couldn't care less about what was going on around him. As if he couldn't care less that his daughter was dead. If she wasn't strong enough to win the Games, then she's not my daughter. He seemed to say. Channa looked away, disgusted to gaze upon this man for even a second. No wonder Sienna had been so twisted.
Finally, finally, she returned home to District 1.
Carnival rides were set up all over the place. A Ferris wheel, puny compared to the one in the arena, stood high in the town square. A carousel played zany, upbeat music. Children squealed from within a House of Mirrors.
Channa attended a feast, complete with the many delicacies of District 1. Then, everyone was called together for her speech. It was slightly different, since it was for her home district. She read it, trying to sound excitable, over the sound of cheering. The whole of District 1 loved her. Well…almost everyone.
"I'm so happy I was able to represent District 1 in the Hunger Games…I hope I made you proud!"
The crowd roared approval.
Channa smiled, feeling a bit more like her old self. As she were before the Hunger Games. "And I hope I can continue to make you proud when I take on the duty as mentor."
The audience was so loud, she felt as if her eardrums might burst. The mayor came forth and handed her a bouquet of flowers. She thanked them one last time before going off the stage. She hadn't said a single word about Hip. But that was what she had wanted…she didn't want to thank Hip when everyone but him was there to hear it.
Besides, it was time to enjoy the celebration. This was the final festivity of the 42nd Hunger Games.
Channa milled about in the crowd, wondering what to do while staring blankly at the many colorful stands that dotted the square. Every person she passed wanted to congratulate her for her feat six months ago. She nodded in thanks to each of them, but their words began to blend together and become meaningless babble.
Suddenly, she spotted a young man who looked very familiar. He had reddish hair and a face that Channa had seen on more than one occasion. He was staring straight at her—she found herself drawn to him. She approached him, tilting her head in wonderment. He blinked back at her, looking surprised that she would pay any attention to him.
"You…you look familiar." She said lightly, completely ignoring those that moved in to congratulate her.
The boy's face was reddening until it matched his hair. "I was by the stage during your speech."
He didn't need to say anymore. He was Hip's cousin—he had been standing in the area that was provided for family members. But that wasn't the only place she recognized him from.
"You were at the Reaping. You blushed when I…licked my lips at you." She suddenly felt awkward.
But Hip's cousin laughed it off. "Wow, you have some memory on you! Yeah, I'm not as smooth with the ladies as Hip is...was. Sorry for staring."
Channa smiled. "I don't care. I like attention. Or I used to. Err…I mean…" She searched for words, feeling flustered. "What am I trying to say here?"
"Don't worry about it. The name's Rhutter." He held out his hand to shake hers, but suddenly decided against it and scratched the back of his head awkwardly.
"Um, you're not…mad at me, are you?" She didn't know why she said it, but she did. Months later, she was still feeling pangs of guilt.
Rhutter laughed once more. "Of course not! If anything, I'm mad at Hip for getting himself into something he couldn't handle. He should have waited a few more years before volunteering. Plus, he left me with his spoiled rotten cat." Rhutter shook his head, looking disgruntled at some past memory.
Channa couldn't help but feel relieved. At least that was one less person that wouldn't blame her for winning.
"Y'know, I think Hip would be happy to know that you won." Rhutter went on softly, his eyes suddenly distant and sad. "Just don't feel bad about it, Channa. Everyone dies at some point...and we can't hope to control that, y'know? It was just his time."
"…I know. I'll…I'll never forget Hip." She admitted, months of repressed sorrow suddenly washing over her. Her eyes welled with tears and her chin trembled.
Rhutter smiled, his eyes gentle with understanding. "Let's not talk about sad stuff anymore. It's all in the past now. Wanna ride the Ferris wheel with me?""
Channa knew what he meant. They couldn't control the Hunger Games…they would continue on and on, into the future. They would create bloodthirsty Careers, raised to become victors. They would make the poorer districts suffer and keep killing their children. And now, Channa had become the Capitol's possession. She would spend the rest of her life, training these deadly Careers and watching these children die…
But there was nothing she could do about it. She just had to keep living through this endless cycle of love and loss.
Channa turned her gaze to the Ferris wheel. It was full of smiling children, some of them waving to her to join them as they rotated around and around. She smiled.
"Sure. Let's go!"
Long author's note time! In case you haven't figured it out by now, yes, this is a SYOT! I was just being careful about it on the first page because I didn't want it to get taken down again (but yes! I still followed the rules! I never lied about that). So let's give thanks where thanks is due…
First of all, a big thank you to everyone who took the time to read/review this story! And an even bigger thank you to those of you who made it happen by submitting a character. Here's the final placing of the competitors along with their lovely creators, some of which are my friends, some of which are site-goers:
1. Channa (The Head Gamemaker)
2. Calista (Brandi)
3. Hip (Me)
4. Abbadon (Brandi)
5. Cara (Squidie Fledge )
6. Chat (Alex/PinaColadaChan/My sister)
7. Bridon (livelovelaughmarie)
8. Julia (purplee uzumaki)
9. Mitch (Michele)
10. Tasi (RockSolid)
11. Frederick (justicesquad111)
12. Sienna (XTurtleInstinctX)
13. Cole (Brooke/Savannah)
14. Olivia (Shannon/russianthroughredsquare)
15. Carson (Elizabeth)
16. Drake (Nellie D)
17. Bassin (Twister Triste)
18. Caden (Janell)
19. Ellis (Emma Rizcool)
20. Ash (Hikari Darkness)
21. Shem (Andrew)
22. Gadgette (The Head Gamemaker)
23. Cassia (Nellie D)
24. Jack (Alex/PinaColadaChan/My sister)
If anyone was wondering, I picked Channa while I was still writing the Reapings. It had nothing to do with the amount of reviews (although Head Gamemaker left some pretty awesome ones!) or anything like that. I liked the character and agreed with HG that Careers need to win these things more often, since it seems that loveable underdogs always pull through. It also helps that I tend to favor jerkish characters over goodie two shoes.
Also, thank you to Alex, Elizabeth, The Head Gamemaker, purplee uzumaki, Hikari Darkness, Nellie D, Twister Triste, and Asami Sato for sponsoring Abbadon, Tasi, Mitch, Hip, Mitch (again), Cara, Channa, and Channa (again).
And last of all a BIG thank you to my sister for submitting awesome characters, editing the story for me, and helping me throw around ideas. You are awesome, Alex! This story wouldn't be where it's at if not for you. That goes for the next one, too.
Okay, I think I'm done here. I hope to hear from those of you that have had characters approved for the next one! If not, I hope the rest of you have a nice life. May it be ever in your favor. ;)
-Hipengy aka Hoprocker