"Try not to stand on it," I say making my way over to her.
"Wait!" she shouts, "Are we enemies? Are you going to kill me?"
"Of course not," I smile, "Just relax, there is a lot to catch you up on. Here," I say handing her my flashlight. "When I first found this place I thought it was a trap, and it's sort of is, just not the kind I thought. When I got here they sealed me in and I thought I was as good as dead, but then a few hours later I got a note, right in this slit in the wall, along with some food and an eight of clubs for some reason." I pause and glance over at the hole. "See this place, this trap was put here by one of the gamemakers, he did it to smuggle tributes out, alive."
"That doesn't make any sense!" Violet yells, "Why would a gamemaker want to smuggle us out?"
"Well technically speaking he didn't always want to smuggle us out, as in you and I, it was supposed to be you and Brooklyn, but then…." I see tears in Violets eyes. "After Brooklyn didn't make it out of the bloodbath I found this place by accident and the gamemaker decided to save me. He's doing this all on his own, none of the others know about it."
She shakes her head, "People in the Capitol aren't like that; they don't care about us."
"I didn't believe it at first either, but just hear me out." I tell her everything I've learned from the notes. A gamemaker named Virgil had this place built, and to all the others it was just a trap, but he had it secretly installed with; a way to communicate over printed messages, a food supply, and ventilation.
Only a few others know about the plan, like her mentor Edmund, an undercover peacekeeper, and our contact in our new home, Brooklyn's sister. "Virgil thought it would be a good idea if we could watch over Brooklyn's child, not too closely at first to prevent suspicion of course."
"How would we do that?"
"We can't go home, it would be too dangerous, we're going to be placed in 6 and given new identities. They'll change our faces so that no one will recognize us, which is fine for me, I'm pretty scarred up and not that pretty to start with, unlike you." I wink and give her a reassuring smile.
"So…we'd have new lives? What about the people we love back home?"
"Well," I say a little gloomily, I won't be seeing anyone from home for the foreseeable future. You however…"
The look she gives me is one I've seen maybe once in my life before, she is so hopeful and so genuine, and I get to give her good news. "Lysander will be coming too." Violet instantly reaches for me and hugs me tight, like I actually had something to do with saving her and her boyfriend. "Alright," I pat her on the back, "Careful with that leg."
"Alright," she nods whipping tears from her eyes, "What about our trackers?"
"That," I say going over to pick up a knife from the small slot in the wall, "Is what this is for. We pop out the trackers, put them back in the slot and it sends them to our coffins and no one is any wiser, but… it hurts." I rub my arm remembering what it felt like.
"I think I can handle it," Violet laughs, "After what I've seen in the arena." Poor Violet, I was only there for a few days, I don't know if I could have lasted so long without going crazy like she did. "So how do we get out of here?"
"See the bigger slit in the wall?" I ask pointing to it.
"Well we climb in there, and get shipped to the Capitol disguised as a crate of trash from the games, then we get transferred to a train to 6. It'll be crammed, and bloody and pretty gross, but it'll be worth it."
Violet smiles, "Yeah, it will be."
When Aly first told Lysander and I about the plan I was pretty skeptical. A rouge gamemaker installing a fake trap to get a few extra tributes out of the games alive? It sounded pretty ridiculous. Even the other undercover gamemaker and the rest of the rebellion didn't know about this, he was acting on his own. The only other people who knew anything about it were; Aly, Lysander, me, her mentor, and Jasper's family.
It was definitely risky, if anyone got wind of this we'd all be killed for certain. The escape plan wasn't to make a statement or weaken the Capitol; it was just to save the lives of a couple kids. After Violet's "death" Lysander supposedly committed suicide, which anyone who knows him would deem pretty out of character.
In reality he was snuck out of the district to get reconstructive surgery to make himself unrecognizable so he could go off to live with Violet in 6 happily ever after. I'm glad the two of them got away, but I don't think they'll be joining the revolution anytime soon. That's fine I guess; they've been through a lot. We told Lysander's family and Zane about the plan, but other than that everyone thinks he's dead. I wonder if I'll ever see them again.
Something tells me I won't. I'll never be allowed into 6 while the Capitol is in control, and even if I was I'd risk everything just by talking to them. If the Capitol falls one day then I can find them, but I don't think I'll make it through a rebellion alive. I need to make something of my life, I don't have anyone like Lysander with Violet or Dale with Azeika, I'm alone. So I'll make something of myself and topple the Capitol when the rebellion comes, even if that means taking dangerous missions and putting my life in danger.
I can't let others die for me any more I have to be brave. Lysander was right about everything, I know that, but it doesn't change anything. I hope he and Violet have a good life.
"The Victor of the 71st Hunger Games, Chel Byrne!" Caesar announces me as I walk onto the stage. It doesn't seem real. I can't really have won, a part of me really believes I'm passed out on the arena floor losing blood and this is a dream or a hallucination. "So," Caesar smiles that famous smile of his at me, "How do you feel?"
What a question. The adrenalin has worn off and I'm not sure I really even understand my own emotions right now. "I feel great Caesar, I'm a Victor now!" I lie, I don't feel great, I'm confused, I need time to process all of this.
"You are the first victor District 9 has had in quite some time, but, there was almost a different victor from 9 wasn't there? Of course we all were rooting for you!" Caesar says with a good natured laugh. I awkwardly laugh myself. "How did you manage to beat Cal? He always seemed a step ahead of everyone?"
"Well…" I begin, "The sponsor gifts definitely helped." My first minute of being a victor on television and I'm already pandering to the crowd. "Other than that I just had to look at how he had gotten so far and beat him. I had to think like him," I almost shudder when I admit it, "I beat him at his own game."
"That you did!" Caesar congratulates me, but I've made myself feel much worse. Caesar and I continue to playfully banter for a while, the whole time I sit there I dread what's about to come. The recap. I don't want to see any of it. Living through the games was bad enough. After a few more minutes of idle conversation it starts.
We all are raised up on our platforms into the arena. I'd forgotten what some of the tributes even looked like, and there are a few whose names I never even learned. Some look astonished at the arena, others seemed determined, but almost everyone is scared. It starts and I see the tributes from 3 die, followed quickly by Aiden from 10 and Arto from 7. I don't even remember what I was thinking back when that happened, it seems like it was years ago.
Marly and I both go for Aiden's bag and I cringe as I watch myself kick her in the face, a moment I've played over and over in my head a million times. I remember trying to rationalize kicking a young girl in the face and breaking her nose at the time, my first step to becoming the kind of person who could win the Hunger Games. I see myself run away and they focus on the rest of the bloodbath.
There are all kinds of fights going on, the guys from 8 and 11 are in a fistfight while Rook jumps on little Reed and stabs him. How can people enjoy watching this? I see one of my eventual victims, Cal, sneak up on the other, Rook. Just when he's about to kill him the girl from 4, saves Rook. Her name was Maya, or was it Mina, I always got them confused. I'm ashamed of myself for not even being able to remember which was which.
Rook abandons his savior leaving her to fight Cal alone and Rook shoots Brooklyn with an arrow. What happens next is even worse. I see Marly trying to escape when Baron corners her and finishes her off without any hesitation or remorse. Why would Baron spare me and kill her? She was just a kid.
That crazy girl Leighann charges at Violet and I cover my mouth with my hand. Even though I know Violet makes it out of the bloodbath I'm still nervous. She dodges Leighann's attack but Charlie isn't so lucky. The pair run off into the arena. I bit my lip; I know what is about to happen to Charlie.
Chaos erupts with everyone still in the bloodbath, people start running into each other, Ivan punches the girl from 8 in the face and Safyra stabs her in the neck. Meanwhile Kayde strangles the male from 12 with a whip. As all this is going on Cal is squaring off with the career girl from 4. When I see how Cal kills her I feel like I'm going to be sick. He backs her into the spikes impaling her, just like I did to him. I really did learn to think like him.
Jasper escapes and so do the anti-careers. The careers remain at the cornucopia but they start bickering almost immediately. We cut back to Charlie and Violet and hear his moving last words to her. It depresses me even more; she won't be able keep her promise to Charlie and get back to Lysander.
Over the next few minutes it becomes clear what theme the gamemakers are going for this year. Rivalry. There's the careers and the anti-careers, Darcy and Terya and, of course, Cal and I. It's horrible. While most tributes are starving or scheming, Jasper finds something in the ground. After a night of working at it he finds a way in. He must think he's found some hidden savior but it's a trap and he's dead in a few hours.
Leighann is busy trying to poison the rest of the careers, because apparently that's what you do when you're insane, but Jasper's cannon wakes everyone. Perfect timing really, almost like someone planned it. Leighann only manages to kill the other girl. Rook runs off after some poison splashes his face. Too bad she didn't kill him there and save me the trouble. Baron and Kayde manage to kill Leighann, and bond talking about things like honor. Maybe that's what made Baron decide to spare me. I'd owe Kayde a thank you if he were still alive.
They splice in a lot of footage of me looking heroic and brave, along with Cal looking nefarious intermittently. They're trying to build up our rivalry and make it look like good vs. evil. It was a lot more complicated than that though.
Terya and Darcy finally meet up, and it's a pretty brutal battle, Terya ends up strangling her. I see the same hate in her that I felt towards Cal. Rook finds me that night and I can barely watch. I'm not sure which is harder for me to watch, him almost killing and violating me, or myself becoming a murderer.
The careers meet up with the anti-careers and the crowd oohs and awes at every blow. They are still so entertained by kids killing each other. Two more die and Baron flees. Then Terya, obviously overcome with guilt takes the coward's way out. I didn't know she killed herself. The competitor in me is glad she did, but I'm still angry with her for giving up on herself.
Violet finds that weird rock and I see her freak out, the gas making her hallucinate her worst fears in the smooth surface of the stone; her friends turning on her. It's just like she described it to me. I watch myself go to sleep and soon enough Baron finds me, just as I thought. He looks like he is about to kill me at one point but seems to change his mind and runs off. I almost wish he had just done it.
Soon after Cal betrays Safyra and I wake up. It doesn't take me long to find Violet, just like Baron found me. I'm disgusted with myself when I see how close I came to killing her. I watch as I look into the smooth stone imagining myself as a Victor. My deepest fear. While Violet and I become friends Baron finds Cal, and instead of stabbing him in the back he fights him honorably and dies. If Baron had fought dirty, like Cal and I, I'm sure he would be sitting in this cozy chair now.
It follows Violet and I once more and I have to watch her die all over again. I barely spend any time mourning her death before I go running off determined to kill Cal. I see how cold and ruthless I've become. Every time the crowd cheers for me I feel shame, but some awful part of me loves their approval. A part of me is proud that they love me. The worst comes at the end when Cal begs for his life, to just live a little longer, and I kill him without a second thought. This receives the biggest cheer of all.
When it's all over Caesar quiets the crowd down and asks "Well, what did you think of that?"
"It's pretty amazing," I answer him, "Seeing everything play out on that screen," I let out a depressed laugh, "I guess I really did deserve to win."
It actually worked. Right now Violet and Jasper are on their way to the Capitol and soon they'll be safe in 6. I'd preferred to move them to 13, but without anyone on the inside there to help, it would have been impossible. I couldn't have done any of it without Aly and Edmund. Now two more children are safe.
Only two, and twenty-one are dead. I didn't even mean to save Jasper; he found the hatch by accident. I evaluated the situation when I first decided to sneak two out and I passed over him as a candidate to be saved. He was aggressive and violent; not worth saving. What right do I have to say someone else is more deserving of life than he is? Every tribute in the arena this year, Cal included, should have been saved. But I just chose two to be safe. It had to be small and secret, both the Capitol and 13 kept in the dark otherwise they'd have killed me; both Snow and Coin would want me dead.
I'm no better than them; I put my own life ahead of others. I guided Violet to safety, but not before I tormented her psychologically and led plenty of others to their deaths. I bury my face in my hands. I should have done more.
My self-loathing is interrupted by a knock at the door. "Go away!" I yell. I'm in no mood to be congratulated by someone telling me how well the games went, and how spectacular I did orchestrating all those deaths.
"Open the door or I will break it down; this is a peacekeeper!" Suddenly my worst fears have been realized, the Capitol must have figured it out. Why did I think I could get away with it? Now everyone I've involved is going to die. I open the door and a peacekeeper in her late forties has a gun on me. She looks like she's been crying.
"Shut up!" she yells, "Do you know who I am?"
I've never see this woman before. "No," I answer simply.
"You killed my son."
"I don't understand…"
"Kayde Roberts! You were the gamemaker who led the careers to him; you rearranged the arena so that deranged boy Cal could find him!" She's right, I adjusted the arena that day; it was my call. She isn't her on Capitol orders because of who I saved; she's here on her own because of who I killed.
"Yes," I sigh, "I'm responsible." I hear a loud bang followed by a terrible pain in my chest. It's what I deserve for leading her son and all those others to death. Saving two children doesn't make up for the dozens of deaths I've cause over the years. I fall to the floor; it's all over.
As lay dying I see her put the gun to her own head and pull the trigger.