District Ten Male, 18 Years Old
"May I present to you the victor of the Twentieth Annual Hunger Games – Asher Hadamik of District Ten!"
I lay back, allowing the pain and delirious thoughts consume my body. Everything goes black, the only thing I'm able to feel is the touch of clamps of some sort. They go around my wrists and ankles, the touch of the ground on my back disappearing. It feels like I'm flying now; my mind drifts off, not thinking about anything that just happened.
It all feels so dream-like.
As the clamps bring me higher into the air, I begin to hear voices, but no voices that I know. Everyone seems to be in a rush; there are constant and upbeat noises, frantic voices, and without being able to do anything about it, I can feel a bunch of hands touching me.
I manage to open my eyes for one last moment, the bright light above me blinding me. Turning my head to the side, trying to not look at the light, I can see more people. None of them seem familiar, and once they see me looking at them, they walk over, bringing a tray of different needles and tools.
"This won't hurt, Asher."
This time around, I have a new prep-team and stylist. In a way, I wish I had the same people as before the Games, but the Capitol probably wouldn't allow that. They all swarm around me, fixing me up and making me look pristine. I let them do what they want, mostly because I don't want to resist anymore and I just want to relax.
I just want to not have to worry about anything for a while.
"You look great!"
"Boy, are you handsome!"
"I could just eat you up if I had the chance!"
"Don't say that, Agatha! He just came out of the Games!"
"Oops, I meant, I could just eat you one piece at a time if I could!"
I let out a laugh, genuinely amused by all of them. All they've been doing is talking about me while I'm right here, but the funny thing is, they're trying to be careful of what they say. They don't want to trigger any thoughts in me or make me uncomfortable in any way. It's understandable, but I just don't understand why.
I have some self-control.
The main stylist comes through the doors, with the final piece to my outfit. It's a ribbon, with the words "Victor" on it in a bright color, while the ribbon itself is a dark color. It seems so trite, the ribbon. I don't really understand it, but I don't care. I'll give the Capitol what they want now and I'll try to look my best for them.
Besides, I should look my best for what's coming up; it's the Victor Interview.
"You'll do great, Asher," my stylist says, taking his hand away from my jacket where the ribbon now is. "Perfect!"
"Thank you," I say, speaking to all of them. They all gush over me, giggling and whispering to each other.
Is this how it's going to be from now on?
Is this how I'll be treated by everyone?
Is this what my life will be like now?
Walking down the center aisle, I pass by all the Capitol citizens, their whispers and murmurs all audible to me. I can hear them commenting on my appearance, the way I walk, how they remember me from the Games. They all gawk at me, turning back to their peers and putting their hand in front of their mouth to hide what they're saying. But I hear it.
I hear it all.
Every comment and every word.
As I approach the stage, the anthem begins to boom, my ability to hear everyone lessening. I can only hear the anthem now; all the different musical instruments and sounds that it incorporates. The interview, Cicero, greets the audience, the uproar of screams and hollers following his words. I continue walking, slowing down a bit, taking in my surroundings.
Everything here is just so foreign.
At least back in District Ten, I could connect to things, understand them on a different level, and actually enjoy my surroundings. Here, everything makes me feel superficial and uncomfortable.
I walk up the stairs, one foot at a time, looking up at the big screen behind Cicero's position. There, the Reapings, the events in the Capitol, and the Games will be replayed there. They will all be replayed, mostly starring me, all for the Capitol's entertainment. To see my development, how I've changed, and where I will go from here. They can all hold this against me… all of it.
"Welcome, Asher Hadamik of District Ten!"
Cicero holds his hand out to the side, pointing towards me as I reach the stage. I walk forward, holding out my hand to greet him, and he shakes it with a firm grasp, putting his other hand on my shoulder. He lets go of me, gesturing for me to sit across from him in a large, red couch. I sit down, adjusting my suit, unbuttoning the bottom button. I look back up at him, realizing that the whole audience is staring at me. I shift a little, trying to perch my body towards the audience.
"We'll save the conversation for after the recaps," he says, looking at me. "Is that okay with you, audience?"
There's another uproar from the audience, and I shrink back a little, getting comfortable in the couch. Soon, the couch begins to swivel, turning towards the screen. Cicero's does the same thing, and he can see the perplexity in my face from the technology. I'm still not used to things like this.
The lights begin to dim, all of the faces from the audience disappearing. I look at Cicero one more time, who is already staring at the screen, his hands shaking and his jaw agape. It's better off if I do look. That I do remember what happened, that I do keep the memories with me, that I don't push all of this down.
This is a part of me now; and there's no turning back.
The anthem plays again, and the words "Reapings" appear on the screen in big, white font. The letters are all designed in some way, a way that I really can't explain. They're sugar-coating everything, trying to make it seem that everything would be okay then. That nothing would happen after the Reapings.
They're trying to take away from what's actually going on.
District One flashes before my eyes, the sight of a boy running to the stage and the girl getting called up. Before I can take in District Two, it flashes again, going through Districts Three, Four, Five, and so on. It comes and goes so quickly, only showing them walking up to the stage for a quick second. When it gets to District Ten, it slows down, showing every moment and action from Lyra and I. Lyra is called up first, the hesitant and shaky movements in her emphasized. The whole video seems edited somehow, to show the vulnerability and innocence of everyone.
I barely even remember the Reapings; those were, and still are, the least of my worries.
Then, my name is called. The name still rings through my ears, and even after I've won, it still doesn't seem like reality to me. But, it is. This all is now. I step up onto the stage, shaking Lyra's hand slowly, my face expressionless. Then, that's it. It switches to District Eleven and then to Twelve.
Seeing everyone's face again just makes this feel more real.
After that, it switches to another event, to another moment in the past few weeks, to another time where the only thing everyone was looking forward to was the Games. The words "Capitol" come up on the screen in the same font as the other words. Now, none of that mattered. Several images and videos of the trains zooming through the forests and over bridges flash on the screen, and I have no idea what District is which.
It stops at one train, and from the farms and open fields we pass, I know it's District Ten. There I am.
The anthem begins to play again, the video shifting to the Chariot Rides. It's all segmented, only showing the tributes in their District pair, not covering much. All of the tributes pass by so quickly that I can't really take in any of their outfits or the way they looked before they entered the Games. The last part from the Chariot Rides is where all the chariots are surrounding the alter where the President is standing, looking down at all of them.
How could he live with himself?
The next segment is about the Training Days. They show quick segments of each tribute, all using different weapons or at different stations, showing any random thing they've done then. Then, I pop up on the screen, hanging around the sword station. Of all times, they use that. I didn't even use a sword in the Games; probably because there weren't any in the arena until later on. It might not mean something, but I'm sure the Capitol thought it would be a good idea somewhere along the line to show me using a sword.
The Private Training Sessions pop up, not showing any individual tributes. They only show the tributes sitting in the long hallway, all of us looking towards the door where we all entered and exited from. I find myself, sitting next to Lyra and the District Eleven boy. To me, I looked completely different. My body, my face, even my hair. Everything.
None of that seems familiar to me anymore.
After the Private Training Sessions, came the interviews. One by one, the tributes are shown, each only allowed to say line from their interview. Some of them are memorable than others, like what the girl from One said, or like how the girl from Two acted, and even how the girl from Seven acted and talked because that is nothing like I remember her to be. Then, I come up, and I can barely look at it. Here I am again, sitting on the same stage, looking nothing alike and acting nothing alike.
I'm a different person now.
The hovercraft appears on the screen, the one we took to the arena location. It goes inside of the hovercraft, the camera floating around the hovercraft. It covers all the tributes, showing some more than others. Even then, we all looked differently. Especially the tributes that I actually had a close up with in the arena, like Robin, Seer, and Amelie. After a minute or so, the screen goes black.
And the next words are what resonate with me the most.
"The Hunger Games."
On the screen, it shows the vines that showed how many seconds are left. It starts from five, going down to four, three, two, and the one. The camera zooms out, showing an overview of the Bloodbath. Everything looks so much more detailed than what I remember. Well, at the time, I wasn't worrying about seeing what everyone else did. But, now, I am. It shows the District Twelve male getting eaten by that large plant, getting swallowed whole, a piece of his suit falling to the ground.
Then, it shows the District Two female, Olivine, sitting near the District Nine male. In an instant, she grabs his throat, her nails digging into it. She scratches it altogether, the blood squirting and leaking out profusely. She stands back up, and as she turns her back to the camera, the image switches to another part. It's much darker now, probably at night on the First Day, showing the District Twelve female bringing her weapon down on the District Eleven male's head.
But, there aren't any cannons. Just the lingering images of their dead bodies.
The morning of Day Two starts off, the camera showing different angles and spots of the arena. First, it shows the boy from One killing the boy from Eight in that weird tunnel, and then it goes to Velour and Olivine.
It's interesting, in a way. Now, I can see how everyone died. It gives me some type of closure.
After one mouthful of some type of fruit or plant, Olivine falls to the side, her body beginning to change. The skin, the mouth, and everything else all look deformed. It switches to a spot in the arena where Ivonette, Harley, and Mariel all are. Ivonette kills Mariel quickly, while Harley just stands there on his own.
Seeing all of this makes me want to know more.
I remember that Day Four had a lot of deaths compared to the other Days. First, it shows Robin killing Adam, and then Velour killing Minx. Amara is next, and what she does confuses me. She commits suicide, right in front of the Careers. Before I can see how the Careers reacted, the video switches to Cove, Tobias, and Seer. Tobias kills Cove quickly, and before I can interpret all four deaths, it goes to Day Five.
Day Five only has one death, I remember that too. It was such a sudden change compared to the day before it. Seer pops up on the screen, with Tobias hanging in front of her. See, she wasn't who she said she was. She's a freak. Seer had to have something wrong with her. As she plunges the weapon into Tobias' stomach, it all makes sense why she was the way she at the Finale. She was messed up.
That was the day that Amelie and I allied too. Just thinking of her makes me uneasy, so I push the thoughts aside for the moment. It'll only make everything worse for me.
But, aren't we all messed up in some way or another?
Velour, Nero, Ivonette, and Harley, are all on the screen now, all standing a few feet from each other. Velour goes towards Harley, while Ivonette goes towards Nero. There are two different fights going on, and before I know it, Velour slits Harley's throat. As Velour turns around, Ivonette kills Nero, both of the girls left staring at each other.
Everything makes so much more sense now.
A peculiar feeling arises in my stomach as I know what day is next. The day where we encountered Lyra. Where she was dying, and I just let her die. I did nothing. But, I do know how she died now; from Cama. They fight, both of them wounding each other. I guess Cama died from inflicted wounds too. But, the next thing they show stops my world.
It's Amelie and I.
It's our kiss.
The audience gasps, and from the corner of my eye, I can see Cicero looking at me. I ignore them all, trying to push back the thoughts of her some more. If I start thinking about her more now, her death will only ruin everything. It'll make me want to stop, drop onto the ground, and stay there for a while. I'm here now, as the victor, and that's what I'll be for the rest of my life. I have to be strong for her.
I have to be strong for everyone.
Then, it's Day Eight.
The sight I've been dreading. It was only after our kiss, too.
Of course, Amelie was the only death that day. It shows her, lying on the ground, the water surrounding her. Then, it shows me, standing there, trying to escape. I didn't turn around. I didn't turn around because I thought she was there behind me. I thought I felt her hand on me, but I didn't.
I made the mistake of not looking out for her more. It was my entire fault.
Just like Lyra's and Robin's deaths.
They change the scene quickly, making me feel even worse. That might be the last time I can see her face, unless I watch these Games again at home. All I have now are the memories of her and me and what I remember from right now. I won't be able to feel the warmth of her on my skin anymore, the look we exchanged every so often, and the idea that she was all mine.
Amelie was everything I could want.
It's Day Nine now, and the scene is in the arena location where we were all transported towards the end of the Games. They are standing near some oasis, with a chair and palm tree next to them. It doesn't even look like an arena there. It looks like it could have been the backyard of a Victor's Village, if anything. They fight, and just like Cama and Lyra, they basically kill each other.
They took each other's lives, which I'm grateful for. That was one less person I might have encountered.
Here we go.
The sight of me, Seer, and Robin standing in that small, square area of hedges pops up. This was after the vines attacked us, seeing as Robin is now untangled from Seer and has a weapon. I'm still not sure how it happened, which is one of the many things I wish I could have seen.
I see Seer coming right at me, trying to kill me first. It's so obvious now; to her, I was the bigger competition. Robin could have done more, couldn't he? Why didn't he try to kill her? It's not that I'm ungrateful for winning, but Robin could have taken out Seer, and then me. Anything could have happened then.
Once I break out the blow torch, everything changes. Robin dives off the cliff, Seer stumbles on her own feet, and from that moment, I was a killer. I see me, holding the blow torch over Seer's face. From this angle, it looks awful. It looks like I'm some deranged psychopath, but that's not who I am.
I had to kill.
It was so I could win.
But, after Seer is dead, I didn't stop. I wasn't thinking much then, the only thought of winning in my head. I was flustered then, unsure of my actions and words. Nothing made sense then, and the image of myself doing all of this just makes me hate victory even more.
The hedges are all ablaze now, and as I walk over towards where Robin was, the angle changes. I see Robin on the bottom of the cliff, his leg and a few other bones broken, but that's not the only thing. There is some type of insect swarming him, eating his skin alive, making him break out in some rash and bleed. That's what happened to him down there. After I won, I thought about it. There was no way that much damage could have been done just from Seer and from the fall.
There's my closure.
The last image is of me sitting near Robin, watching him die slowly. Some people in the audience are crying now, the noise clogging my mind. It reminds me of all the crying and screaming I've heard in the arena. As Robin closes his eyes, the camera zooms in on him, going right into his eye. The video ends at the same as Robin fully closing his eye, and the last thing is what kills me the most.
It's a cannon.
A cannon to represent all twenty-three lives that were lost.
As one last memory of the Games, all of the tributes flash on the screen. They are the same pictures that were used for the Training Scores, with them all looking pristinely and all uniform. But, as each picture appears, they change. The pictures seem to morph into what they looked like as they died.
I watch every picture, at first looking normally, and then change. Some are more graphic than others, like Olivine's or Seer's, and then it's over.
The video's all over.
Every image, video, and snapshot of the past few weeks is all gone now.
That doesn't mean I'll forget it, though.
You can never forget things like this.
They will always be sketched into my mind.
And no matter what I do, they will always be there.
Until the day I die.
The sight of the trees, random barns and shacks, the random people, and the random flashbacks zooming by put me in a trance. I drift my head towards each one as we zip past them, my head snapping back to follow the next object moving by. It goes on like this for a while, until the sound of the door automatically opens snaps me out of it.
"Asher?" The person speaks, but my head continues to go back and forth between an object that's zooming by and an object that is only coming into view.
"Asher?" Another voice is in the train cart now, and I still give it no regard. I place my finger on the window, pretending to touch one of the many barns we pass, but I just feel nothing.
I only feel the cold glass on my finger, the touch sending a chill down my spine.
"Asher?" The two voices speak now, this time with a little more edge.
I finally turn my heads towards the voices and in front of me stands Wolfram and my escort, Phoibe. Wolfram is standing there, a plate of food in one hand and a beverage in the other and next to him is Phoibe with a different cane than she usually had back in the Capitol. I look down at it, and Phoibe thinks this is some way of me showing that I have interest in it.
"It's new! I got it personally from the President!" Phoibe shrieks, pointing the cane at me.
Wolfram laughs, walking in front of her, blocking her from my view. He looks down at me, handing me the plate of food and the drink. Wolfram glances behind him, gesturing for Phoibe to leave. She doesn't really get the hint for a while, though, since she just stands there. After a few more head nods and waves, Phoibe leaves, the sound of her cane tapping the floor getting stuck in my head.
Wolfram waits for the sliding doors to close behind Phoibe, and once she's gone, he sits down across from me, looking out the window I was just looking out of. He taps his foot on the floor, the sound also getting stuck in my head. I try to eat the food he gave to me, but all of it goes down my throat awkwardly and it doesn't feel right. I try to take a sip of the liquid too, but once again, it doesn't feel right.
Still, none of this feels right.
"Is everything alright, buddy?"
"I'm fine," I answer him, setting down the fork and the glass.
"Look, I know it can be a lot to take in," he says, still looking out the window. Before he can speak again, I repeat myself.
"I'm fine, I said."
Wolfram turns his head, looking directly at me. "Asher, please. Just let me speak."
I raise an eyebrow, gesturing for him to continue speaking. Recently, I have an interest in just letting people talk. I like the sound of people's voices, especially people that I'll see again. After the Games, I realized that something like someone's voice is something not to take for granted. Hearing a voice makes me feel familiar with my surroundings and it calms me.
"Just a year ago, I was in the same situation, you know that? So, if anyone should know how you're feeling, it should be me," Wolfram begins, tapping his finger on the window. "Like I said, it's a lot to take in."
"You aren't kidding," I murmur, which makes Wolfram smirk.
"But, look how far I've gotten. It's my first year of mentoring, and look how well I've done," he says, the smirk getting bigger on his face.
"Where's Lyra, then?"
"Don't do that, Asher. You can't blame me for that, and you know it," he says, his smirk fading away. "I can't bring just anyone home."
"So, what made you want to bring me home?"
Wolfram sighs, pulling his finger away from the window. "Asher, I know you. You don't want to know any of these questions; you're just saying it to prove a point."
"It's not that, Wolfram," I say, my voice shaking a little bit. "I just don't know how I'm going to do it. To mentor like you are."
"It's not as easy as it looks, I'll give you that, but you can do it," Wolfram reassures me, making me feel a little better. "Besides, you won't be alone. I'll be right here, mentoring alongside you."
I nod, taking his words into consideration. "So, what happens next?"
"That's not up to me, Asher. I can't mentor you after this."
"What do you mean?" I ask, a little taken back.
"I'll still be here, but you're on your own now."
And, even though I don't want to admit, that's the truth.
I really am on my own now.
Stepping out of the train, the familiar District Ten breeze whips across my face. It makes me smirk, feeling much more comfortable. I'm home, now. And I don't want to leave ever again. In front of me, it looks like all of District Ten is here, all clapping and cheering for me.
Only if they knew.
Only if they knew what I went through.
I step down from the platform, beginning to walk through the aisle in the center of them, the feeling of a few patting my back and reaching out to touching me making me feel a little better. I'm slowly feeling better about everything, but it won't stay that way forever. The Games taught me that happiness doesn't last.
The Games taught me to take life as it comes.
At the end of the aisle, I can see familiar faces. I can see the faces of my whole family and friends; my mom and dad, my brother, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, everyone who ever liked me – all of them. I rush through the aisle some more, preparing myself to embrace them all. It's this type of feeling I've been longing for.
My family embrace me first, the sight of all of them making me tear up. I push back the tears, taking in the moment whole-heartedly. I can hear some of them say "We're so proud of you!" or "We're so glad you're back!" But, I push all those comments to the side, letting the touch of them being a good enough complement and good enough satisfaction.
All of this remembers what I fought for.
I fought to come home to my family, my friends, to District Ten.
These are the things that kept me moving. The things that reminded me of the reason I got so far in the Games.
These are the reasons that I'm where I am right now.
And nothing can take that away from me.
Not even the Hunger Games.