Ceasar Flickerman P.O.V
For the first time in two weeks I had a free afternoon. I got into my car and my chauffeur drove me to my villa outside the City. My main residence was in the Capitol, but the Head City was kind enough to offer me a brand new house. I must admit, it was pretty impressive.
I told the staff to leave me alone with my glass of wine. I would do nothing but relax, watch some television and prepare a bit for tonight's party. While I made my way to the drawing room, I noticed the Head City was kind enough to decorate the walls with many pictures and posters – me while presenting a show, me with almost every living victor, me with any important person. You could literally see my ageing. Luckily it wasn't as bad as it should be because of the excellent plastic surgery here. I was almost seventy years old, but I looked like forty.
I sat down and turned the TV on. It was the same as always. Some repeats of shows I did earlier, lots of programmes on the finale. I stopped at a channel where they broadcasted all semifinals deaths. I was most terrified by Matilda's, but Masons amazed me the most. What a shame, what a tragic ending to the arena romance. He and Poppy were swimming together, but suddenly she hit his head with a heavy rock. He seemed unconscious, but when she was looking for something to finish him off, he opened his eyes, put his hands around her throat and tried to strangle her. She freed herself, hit him again and this time he really passed out. She knew they had only minutes left under water – their breathing time was almost up. She hit him again, this time a little blood was on the stone. She probably hoped that he wouldn't wake up before they ran out of breath, so he would drown. She kissed his forehead, looked like she was about to cry and swam away. And that's how it ended.
It was just surreal. They had been a couple for so long, in Game terms. And one hit of a rock caused them to turn against each other. They probably realized this alliance wouldn't last any longer. However, it really seemed like they were regretting it. Well, it was all said and done and she made it to the finals and he didn't.
We had interviewed Masons parents a couple of days before the semifinals. His father said he couldn't be more proud of his son and his little brother said he wished to volunteer if possible as soon as he was sixteen. And they were both convinced they would see him back.
Well, 160 pairs of parents were at the beginning of the Games. I wasn't sure I wanted to host the Games again next year. Probably yes.
The party was hosted by one of the richest men in the Head City. Almost every important person would attend it, including the president and the president of Panem, Snow the second.
A servant led me to the VIP section, where I sat down on a soft couch, sipping from blue drink an avox had served me. I shook many people's hands. They asked me about my thoughts on the finale, who I thought would win and more. Two impressive portraits of Poppy and Indiana decorated the walls. The music was loud, the people happy. Everyone was happy.
'Flickerman, how good to see you!' said a familiar voice. It was Snow the second.
'President' I said 'It's a privilege to see you too. How are you?'
'Great, couldn't be better. I can sit down here, I assume? I brought some people.' He announced. Our president Bustach stood behind him, and head Gamemaker and Secretary-General Pillano too. I greeted the last one a bit colder than I normally did.
'What a wonderful evening' said president Bustach 'great party. I really enjoyed your show yesterday'
'Thank you' I said 'We're expecting around two billion viewers around the world for the finale. Most from Panem and our Continent, of course, but I've also spoken to the president of the survival project in New Asia. They've recently discovered a way to get electricity and they will be watching two.'
The survival project was a cooperation from the Head City and the Capitol, to repopulate parts of the world again. Up until just month ago it was a huge failure, simply because survival in New Asia wasn't possible. However, they've recently made big progress.
We were silent for a while and stared at the party people, until another familiar face appeared.
'Johanna Mason!' I said 'lovely to see you! You travelled all the way from Panem?'
'Yeah' she said. She was a woman in her forties who had once won the Hunger Games, when they were still popular. 'You know, I thought it would be very interesting to see what the finale will be like. I think-' she started whispering 'that Indiana girl is using my tactic to win. Act weak, and reveal yourself in the last phase.'
'Oh, I don't know' I answered 'but it's possible. Please sit down.'
She greeted both presidents and the Head Gamemaker and sat down. 'So, awesome Games so far, isn't it? I can't wait for the second edition!'
'We're already working on them' said Pillano 'We've already notified the Districts about the reaping day, it will be in ten months from now.'
'Good. And what do the arenas look like? Are you going to change any rules?'
'I can't tell you, ma'am' he said politely. Johanna sighed disappointed.
'So, are you going to bet? I'm putting all my money on Indiana.' She announced.
'It's going to be surprise' said president Bustach.
'Well' Pillano said slowly 'I receive regular reports on the tributes' state of health. Poppy's not well. She doesn't want to eat and is physically and mentally weak. She has to pay the price for that whole relationship-thing.'
'It's not good to fall in love when you're in the Games.' Said Johanna, shaking her head 'It ended badly for those two from the 74th Games too.'
'So, how are the odds?' I asked 'who's first, who was first in the semifinals?'
'Mason' said Pillano 'two to one. Poppy on two, three to one.'
'Emmerick was three, wasn't he?' asked president Snow.
'No' said Pillano 'Stavros. Emmerick and Matilda were fourth place, tied. Indiana was last.'
Johanna looked surprised. 'And now?'
'Poppy's still number one, but more and more people are betting on Indiana. She's rising really fast.'
I stretched. 'Tomorrow's going to be a long day. We might have a victor by three o'clock.'
The others agreed and started a boring conversation about District 26, the only unpopulated District because it was hit by a catastrophical flood some years ago. I offered Johanna my arm and together we walked through the space, receiving loads of handshaking and stuff like that.
I was exhausted the next day. After the finale there would be numerous interviews with the winner, so it wasn't time to rest yet. I had to focus, because the finale would begin in an hour. The control room was crowded and the ambiance was very tense. The Head City was exploding with excitement. Everyone was celebrating. Indiana and Poppy were in District 15 again, because the finale would be in the first arena, but they only had access to a small part – the Cornucopia field and a small part of the forests. There would only be one weapon in the whole arena – a bow, which laid on top of the Cornucopia.
The situation in District 4 was tense.
While I was reading Capitol Couture, more people entered the control room. I recognized District 4's escort and mentor, Euphoria and Chase. They sat down next to me.
'Flickerman, old friend' said Chase. I could smell his breath – he had been drinking.
'Hello, Chase' I said 'Euphoria. It's a pleasure'
'Oh, I'm so excited!' she said 'Isn't it fabulous, two of our tributes in the finale? Who'd have thought that? The legendary first victor will be from District 4!'
Chase stared at her, irritated.
'Whatever' he murmured 'I hope Indiana wins. It cost me too much effort to find sponsors for her instead of Poppy. Is there something to drink?'
I pointed to an avox in the corner of the room.
Euphoria started chatting and chatting, about the journey by train and their stay at the Head City. The information was probably useful for the interviews, but I couldn't bring myself to listening. I was nervous. I pushed Capitol Couture on her lap, so she would be distracted.
Chase sat down again with a glass in his hand.
I can remember his interview, twenty-five years ago, very well. He was somebody to remember: a dark, depressed and mysterious boy. Not a victor, but a decent tribute.
'I…that whole mentor thing is a bit too much. I think I won't mentor here again next year. It will be Poppy's or Indiana's job from now on. These Games are not my thing.'
'Ah, yes' I said.
The finale would start in thirty minutes.
'So, aren't you supposed to host a show or something?' he asked.
'No. After the finale it's my turn.'
Finally, five minutes before the gong would go, the Gamemakers took their seats and the cameras switched to District 15. A windy, empty field with the Cornucopia in the middle. It was the first arena. There were no objects on the ground, just a bow with some arrows, on top of the Cornucopia, like I said before.
'And…we're live!' shouted someone. The two finalists were probably waiting in their tubes. I concentrated on the screen. A Gamemaker pressed a button and two heads popped up in the field, followed by their bodies. The finalists stood on their platforms and were both staring at the Cornucopia. They looked ill and tense. The countdown began from sixty to zero.
Thirty seconds. Twenty. Ten.
'Three….two….one…GONG!' screamed the Head Gamemaker. As soon as the gong went off both girls jumped off their platforms and ran faster than I'd ever seen them do. They both started climbing the Cornucopia – one on each side. I heard some sighs of relief when Poppy did it fast. They feared she would be such a wreck that she wouldn't be able to climb the Horn. She was the one who got the bow. Indiana stared at her, angrily, and didn't move for a moment. Poppy clearly hardly knew how to manage a bow, and in the few moments she took to grab an arrow Indiana jumped on top of her and pushed her off the Cornucopia.
I sat at the tip of my chair while Poppy fell off. She bumped on the ground and groaned.
'Her leg is broken' said a Gamemaker. Chase, Euphoria and I stood up at the same moment to get a closer look at the screens.
When Indiana jumped down and took the bow from Poppy's arms, we knew we had our victor.
I hadn't got the slightest idea how I was supposed to feel. I knew it was the best idea to do it quickly and without much thought. When we were in the hovercraft, she said to me:
'I think our roles turned around. You are just as much a victor as I am.'
I'd been her friend for long enough to understand that without Mason, without Annie and without us, she would collapse as soon as she got home. And dying in the finale, with glory, was like escaping a long day by falling asleep. She needed the sleep.
I walked away, angry about everything. However, our fight was caused by both of us. When you are in these Games, it's your own decision: do you want to be friends or not? We chose not to. And no matter what she'd done, we were both multiple murderers. Now there was just one thing left to do.
Finish this. Finish this journey to 'eternal glory, wealth and fame'. Pass the finish line.
It was just one more kill.
Poppy looked at me for the last time. I looked back. I could see the faces of her victims in her eyes. Gabriella, Sophie, Annie and Lisa, who were somewhere.
'Come on' she said 'Do it. It will be a victory for District 4. That's the most important.'
'No, it's not' I said, while tears came up.
'You're a good person.' She whispered.. She was helpless and left by everyone who loved her, whether they died or not. When I looked at her leg, which was covered in blood, I knew I had to do it.
My hands were trembling when I took the bow. I never shot an arrow before, but the distance was only a few meters. I took an arrow and out it between my finger. If I shot, I would be the winner. The only survivor.
She closed her eyes and immediately I couldn't remember what color they used to be. A few weeks ago we didn't know what was going to happen to us. We were best friends. And now the Games destroyed it all. I recalled all our moments together, the sleepovers, the cakes we used to bake. It was all gone, past. Nothing would ever be the same.
I pointed the bow. Damn, how did she kill Annie? How did she manage to do it? We were both murderers indeed, but killing a friend was impossible. My hand was trembling when the arrow slipped out of my fingers and flew away.
That moment seemed to last forever. I just stood there, with my feet planted in the ground, eyes closed and listening to the birds. I didn't feel the pain anymore, which I had felt since the maze. The cannon went off and my knees became weak. I kneeled and sat down in the grass.
She was gone, because of me. I was crying. I was the victor, but I paid an horrible price.
I forgave Poppy for everything she'd done. I was just as bad as she was. Now I finally understood what she meant by doing everything to survive. This was everything.
I peeked at the body. It looked smaller than I remembered. She would have turned fifteen in January, which was probably only days away. Maybe it was Christmas by now.
I crawled to her, pulled the arrow out of her body and broke it in two. I threw it away and laid down next to her in the grass.
As soon as I came home, I would write down all the names of the people I knew in these Games – Emmerick and Lex and Peter, the boy from the puddle…
When I heard a sound I looked over my shoulder. An entrance to a dark corridor opened inside the Cornucopia.
I stood up, turned my head away from my former best friends' body and held my head up.
I had to continue living, but never forget. There was blood on my hands and I would never be able to wash it off. I had changed, I felt like thirty years old when I was only fifteen.
People were probably celebrating all over the world. Back in District 4, my family and Alex would be so happy. I thought about Poppy's family. They probably never wanted to see me again. Every step in the direction of the corridor the Cornucopia revealed became heavier. I saw every tribute's face – Rebecca, Stavros, Jiska, Wolgar, Irina, Giovanna, Liam. Every step I became closer to the press and the fame.
When the Cornucopia's shadow fell over me, I remembered something Lisa had said to me a long time ago.
'Life will always be a game, but only a true victor will understand.'
And now I understood.
And this is where it ends. In Word, this document is 64 pages long, but the original Dutch story was 144, so I left pretty much stuff out. I wanna thank the people who reviewed me - not many, but I liked your reviews. Strange though, I got loads of views but only 12 reviews.
I've already begun writing a sequel, but I'm having a writer's block, so it's only 5 pages long. I'm planning to continue working on it, but it will take at least a year. It centers around the 15th New Games, when District 4 will have a second victor and Indiana's her mentor.
UPDATE November 25th 2012: The 15th Games idea is (for the time being) cancelled, because I'm working on the 2nd New Games! I'll probably upload the first chapters by Christmas this year, so in a month. This story will be following the next victor, who will come from District...we'll see on December 25th :)