A/N This is the final chapter. What happens next may shock you or surprise you. Or maybe you were expecting it the whole time. Either way, there will be a lot of action so be prepared to read carefully!
Wow. The last chapter. Pretty incredible, huh?
Katerina Nikolina's POV
The first thing I notice when I wake up is that it's hotter than hell.
But I've gotten used to that. Now I'm eleven days into this thing and the heat hardly bothers me anymore. It just feels like someone threw a blanket over me. I can live with that. I've grown used to the feeling of my hair sticking to the back of my neck and my ponytail hanging limp. I know that the little breeze I'm hoping for probably won't come and I've come to terms with that. Drinking warm water doesn't even bother me anymore.
At least it's water.
The second thing I notice is that I am completely and utterly alone.
I never thought it would be like this. By being alone, I thought I would feel relief. It means I'm getting closer to the end of all of this, right? Wrong. How could I possibly have thought I knew anything, when I've never even been alone before? Not really, anyway. In a house with two younger sisters, that was already difficult. Tesla and Maxi were constantly barging in just as I was perfecting my throwing technique. Or my father would come in and nod gruffly and watch what I was doing. Or my mother would drift in like a leaf, silently and only for a little while. Then I would shout at all of them to just leave me alone. I made Tesla cry a few times.
Now that I really am without any company, I feel like I'm being smothered in silence.
As soon as the hovercraft took Adonis's body away, I did panic. He was really gone. I don't know how I fell asleep last night but I did.
And now that it's morning, I have to face all of this again.
I have to face another day of waking up full of pain. I haven't slept in a real bed in well over a week. The constant gnawing at my stomach is still just as prevalent as ever. That meal from the sponsors feels like years ago. Okay, so that's that then. It looks like I've found my first priority.
Take things one step at a time. First I am going to scavenge for some food. Berries, nuts, fruit or whatever. I'm sure there is a lot of fruit in swamps. Granted, I know nothing at all about swamps. Here comes the part where I start to kick myself for not allying with an outer district kid. At this point, Violet would've been wise.
No. I was just too stubborn. I had to ally with Careers. They've probably never been hungry in their lives, nor have they every scavenged.
Looks like Violet has that fact working for her. She's the only one out of the four of us left who knows the terrain well and is familiar with finding food in swamps. District Five doesn't even have trees, let alone huge forests of the huge ones covered in vines like here.
That's all that's really working for Violet, though. Although we really are just a few months apart, she still is the youngest. And considerably smaller than I am. I could take her down in a fight for sure. I just don't think I will, though.
There. That can be my strategy for the remainder of the Games. Let Shimmer get to Violet and Casper first. Whatever happens there happens. When the maximum number of tributes have died, then I'll jump in and kill whoever is left.
Well, I have to get my hands on Shimmer.
Namely, around Shimmer's neck.
I stand up and stretch out. This is going to be a very long day. And by the end of it, who really knows what will have happened? But I've been training for this for as long as I can remember. And I can't forget what Adonis told me, either. I won't ever forget that. I can't afford to doubt myself. I won't doubt myself because Adonis told me not to and he was completely right. Why should I?
Though I could really use some more of Adonis's words right now.
Damn. There I go being helpless again. I hate that. The feeling of being helpless is surely the worst of all and I have always gone out of my way never to feel it in the slightest. I do not need anyone's opinion to tell me what I should and shouldn't do.
So why have I suddenly become desperate for Adonis's?
Ah. Maybe it is because I am so used to only hearing the negative opinions of others. A girl training for the Games in Five? Highly taboo in a place where the Capital is cursed under everyone's breath. Sure, there were cruel looks. But I shot back ones that were twice as cold anyway. I didn't have to take their shit. I never did.
But now I was getting a positive opinion for once in my life.
I guess I can't live without that.
Adonis is gone, though. He had to die so that I could win. I knew that from the start. Still, there is so much unexpected relief in me that his death wasn't at my hand. This is confusing. I walked in here expecting to off as many as possible. Set a knew record, even! Go down in history as one of the cruelest competitors these Games have ever seen. And then Adonis came. With his kind words, words that had never fallen on my ear before. With his soft grin and shocking un-Career attitude.
Wipe it away, Kat. It's over now.
There's bound to be some relatively clean water around here somewhere. I wipe the sweat off my brow and begin walking as quietly as I possibly can. Which isn't very quietly. It seems every time I try really hard to walk quietly, I end up stepping on twice as many twigs and crunching on twice as many leaves as before. I curse under my breath with each noise. So a lot.
Find water. There's the trickle of a stream somewhere nearby but Adonis and I had never ventured over.
The heat was making us so lethargic all we could bear was sitting limply. That and our hunger. So we ended up just sitting for hours with glazed over expressions until a sponsor felt enough pity to send some food so rich it gave me the most intense stomach pain I've ever felt.
I mean, it's basic nutritional knowledge. When someone has hardly eaten anything for over a week, you don't thrust a plate of duck and noodles in wine sauce or filet mignon (whatever that is) at said person and expect them to be fine. Start with oatmeal or just bread or something.
Yeah, thanks for that.
Slowly, I take a sip of my water. It's hot by now, of course. My throat doesn't mind that anymore. It kind of tastes like tea, actually. Now I'm remembering the taste. My mother used to make tea at home all the time. When I was little and I'd been crying, she would make it. Or if I felt sick or just wanted to spend time with her. I will say, the kitchen, with its white tablecloth and sunlight streaming through the window, felt cozy and safe. She hasn't made me tea in a while though. I'm not a little kid who cries all the time anymore at all. I don't cry ever. And even if I feel sick, I won't go whining to anyone about that either.
I don't need my mother or her tea anymore. I have myself and soon, my fame and fortune. I'll have a house of my own and I can pay my family goodbye.
But man. She did spend a lot of time for me getting that tea just right.
My feet trail in the mud slightly, thinking about my family. Every time their faces enter my head, I feel such a range of emotions that I can't even think straight. I have to sever that bond I have with them, whatever is left of that, right?
Or maybe, just maybe, I don't have to do that to win.
I've already done enough of that, haven't I?
Suddenly, I spot a bush thick with berries. Well, I guess my luck has taken a turn. I crouch down to get a closer to look at the fruit. The mud squelches beneath but I don't cringe in the slightest. Honestly, it's just wet dirt. Funny to think that a little over a week ago, the mere sight of mud would turn my nose up. Hardly anything can now. I kneel in the mud and grasp of branch of the berries. They're blue in color and the same shape as blueberries. I've never really eaten blueberries, though. Just seen pictures. I pluck a berry and peel the skin off with my finger. It's a pale yellow color. If it's not bright red or anything, it's probably safe to eat and not anything poisonous.
I pop one in my mouth.
The juice seems to explode. A mellow but sweet flavor lands on my tongue. Blueberries for sure. Oh, it's so good. I can't help but smile. A real grin. It looks like two things can trigger a grin out of me no matter what. Adonis saying those things he did and blueberries. Fresh, sweet blueberries.
I'd be content to sit here by this bush for the rest of the Games. Never having to whip my knives out from their safe little place. But I will have to.
Might as well be ruled up when I do.
I'm so busy enjoying my meager little meal that I don't even hear the voices.
Then, a male's voice, deep and low, brings me from my state of calm. It can only belong to one person. Somehow, there is only one boy in the final four and that's Casper Monroe. He talks in that slow, calm way of his to someone next to him.
And they're right in front of me.
How could I not have seen them? I've been sitting here for at least ten minutes. They can't be more than eight or ten feet away from me. There's Casper sitting on a boulder, talking in a low voice to his ally. Violet sits on the ground, in the process of skinning a frog. She's so small compared to him.
Yes, she'll go soon. But Shimmer will take care of that without my having to lift a pinky finger. What's the point of moving now? They haven't seen me yet so they probably won't anytime soon.
I'm so unsure with what to do with myself, I just sit on the ground eating more berries like an idiot. It's a fight to the death that I'm supposed to win. All I can do to survive is kill and kill I must. I have to get out of here alive. This is literally life or death.
And all I can do is sit and eat blueberries.
I sigh to myself. There really is no point in a surprise attack on the two of them. If Shimmer comes to kill Violet, then Casper may very well kill her. He's been getting lucky with that bow, so why not? There is a chance. Besides, these Games have proven themselves to be extremely unpredictable. And if Casper kills Shimmer after she kills Violet, then all I have to do is kill Casper.
Now that won't be a challenge in the slightest.
I listen for a little while at the banter going on between Violet and Casper. It's not like they're making strategies or anything. They're only talking about Markus, who as I remember was the boy from Four. Violet's going on about how she'll try to remember him and all.
Why would she want to do that?
I can't think why one would want to remember the tributes killed here. It would be so much easier to forget. Besides, they're dead and that's that. They lost.
Time to focus on winning.
And here comes Shimmer. Right on time.
She walks slowly out of the trees, seemingly coming from nowhere. Her platinum hair is what I first notice. A grin is plastered on her face and one hand is holding onto a machete that's stained dark red. Hmmm…wonder what that could be. She walks toward Violet and Casper who stupidly still both have their back turned to her.
I wish I could say that I'm relieved by her arrival.
But as soon as I see her, it feels like my heart just skipped several beats and has now ended up in my throat. I take a deep breath to calm myself. It doesn't matter what happens to Violet or Casper. They are not my concern. It doesn't matter.
I try convincing myself of this. And yet I still want to look away so badly.
Violet finally gets a glimpse of blond hair from her peripheral vision. She lets out a shout. No words. Just a single staccato shouting sound. More of surprise than anything. Like her brain hasn't even registered that it should be terrified yet.
Casper sprints over, determined to get between Shimmer (who has the clear advantage, being both taller than Violet and standing upright) and the still-crouching Violet. He doesn't even have a weapon. Stupid idiot. Who does he think he is?
Shimmer is so surprised by his rush at her and his arms moving towards her face that she doesn't even raise her machete.
She just punches him right in face. Then, she actually stumbles back in surprise at what she just did. Her fix was moving separately from her body, clearly. She stares at her fist, which I'm sure must be throbbing, for just a split second.
Casper wobbles on his feet and falls into the grass, gasping and clutching the area right under his eye. He's not seriously hurt. It's not like she punched him in the temple or even particularly hard. But the winds knocked out of him now and he's probably in considerable pain, even if it isn't fatal. While Shimmer didn't hit him hard enough to brake anything, that still must've hurt a lot. And in the time he spends catching his breath from shock, Shimmer has found her window to Violet.
I try to peel my eyes away. Probably because I just don't want to see any gore everywhere, right? It's not like I feel any actual connection to the little girl about to die. It had to happen anyway. So that I might win. It's all a chain reaction to work in my favor.
I cover my eyes with my hands. But that doesn't stop me from seeing the flash of metal plunging down. And a single spurt of deep red rising up.
Then, a hair-easing shriek cuts through the undergrowth.
And one roar follows it, more animal than human. That was Casper. He shoots up and looks down at his little ally, rage pouring into his face.
Violet is curled on the ground, a pool of blood steadily growing beneath her. She's writhing slightly and her eyes are wider than they ever were in her life. She pants and raises her hand up. Why is she doing that? Her fingers grasp the air, like she's trying to find something to hold onto.
A hand. She wants someone's hand to hold.
Oh no. I feel the emotions rush into my head. A thud of black colored knowing sinks into my chest. This isn't right. None of this. This little girl, worthing in pain on the ground at the hand of Shimmer…there's no honor in that. Shimmer just killed someone far smaller than herself. Just a little girl. Little girl's should't be murdered. There is no justice in Violet's writhing form. No glory in her pain-filled eyes, the life slowly draining from them.
There is no pride in her cannon firing, either.
Now I know. My not wanting to kill Violet wasn't pure strategy. That strategy didn't even make sense, anyway. What if Shimmer had chosen to go after Casper? I'd already considered that, somewhere deep down. And in that same deep place, I didn't want to kill Violet because I saw myself in her.
Adonis. Now I can't stop thinking about him. And maybe that isn't such a bad thing, either. What he said yesterday enters my head, his words cutting me quickly and sharply as one of my knives. He said he would never those smaller than him unless he was in danger not to. Because there is no glory in that. He won't be celebrated for that. I'm sure Kaja told him those words. How strange to think that the girl from One who I thought of as so useless is now influencing the very thoughts I think. She did that through Adonis. And he did it to me. He taught me. My eyes are open and I can't close them now. True honor comes from killing worthy competitors.
Shimmer is no Victor. She is an unstable monster with no single thought in her head at all.
But I? I am so, so much more than that.
Now all I can see is red. Shimmer has spent these Games killing tributes left and right. But there was no reason to it. No strategy. She did it because there is a void in her she has to fill. She wants others to be pleased with her. To worship her. And most of all, to be afraid of her.
What she doesn't realize is she can't fill the empty place in her lives with the stolen lives of others. They aren't hers to take.
I'm not afraid of her. I am Katerina Rebekah Nikolina. I'm not scared of anyone.
I charge out of the bush. The briars on it catch my sting and I feel a sharp pain there. I pay it no mind. The mud beneath me doesn't even sink as I run through it, I'm going that fast. I can't even think right now. All I see is red, red, and still more red.
"Die, bitch!" I roar and tackle Shimmer to the ground.
She's surprisingly light. I came to fast for her to resist. She falls under me, her ankle crumpling slightly beneath her. I wrap my hands around her neck. Her face widens in pain. My hands are getting tangled up in the mass of blond hair that is hers and I have to shake them free. Steadily, I trust my heels into the ground. Shimmer isn't going anywhere. She's mine now. I've got her in my grasp and I'll do with her as I please. And I'm sure the entire nation has a pretty good idea of what that might be.
Casper stands up in shock at seeing me come out of nowhere and shakily grabs his bow, one hand still on his throbbing eye. But he doesn't put an arrow in just yet. He isn't sure who to hit. So he stands there, watching us in silence. His face is still etched in grief from seeing his ally die.
I wrap my hands tighter around her neck. Shimmer reaches up with both hands and attempts to pull me off of her. Poor skinny Shimmer. I only dig my heels further into the mud. "I'm not going anywhere and neither are you," I growl softly into her face.
She tries desperately to squirm free. Her machete clattered to the ground when I tackled her. It now lies a good four feet from her hand. She must have flung it there in shock. It's too far for her to reach. Shimmer's face strains with effort. Then, her hand falls to the ground. She knows it's hopeless.
"Fancy seeing you again," I smile slightly down at her. "It's been a little while, hasn't it?"
Shimmer stares up at me, her ice blue eyes burning with hatred. Good. "I didn't bother to remember you." She spits out.
My eyebrows raise. "Oh, you didn't, did you?" I look down at her pale face, with the small nose sitting just center. It's so unmarred, like the first snowfall. Someone may as well step on it soon. "You didn't remember little old me, huh? Big mistake."
She tries to twist away one last time.
I go for my knife. It sits patiently in my upper right pocket. It's been waiting the entire length of these Games to do just this. The job it was created for. Because this is my honorable killing. This is the one I do for a reason. And damn it, I'm going to do it well.
But in the time it took me to bring my arms up to get my knife, Shimmer had time to reach away and grab her machete.
I don't even pay it notice.
There is only one thing on my mind.
With every ounce of strength I have left in me, I plunge my knife straight into Shimmer's chest.
Casper Monroe's POV
Katerina's knife enters Shimmer.
Shimmer gasps. She blinks once. Twice. Then, she coughs up a single spurt of blood. Her head rolls back and hits the muddy ground. Where it belongs. Her platinum blond hair sinks into the mud as well, the gold color of it becoming quickly stained.
Her blue eyes are still open.
A single cannon fires. It booms through the trees and the vines. I can hear it more clearly than I've ever heard anything in my life. I didn't hear Violet's. It was only a muffle, a vibration beneath all the rush of emotions that was going through me. But Shimmer's? Hers is clear as day.
What I first feel is a sinking relief. For some unknown reason, Katerina from Five has just avenged my ally's death. Shimmer is dead at her hand. Violet will be able to have a much more peaceful rest because of this, I'm sure.
Then I only feel another rush of grief.
Because as Katerina was pulling her knife from Shimmer's chest, Shimmer's machete, maybe triggered by a reflex from Shimmer's hand, had somehow found its way into Katerina's stomach. It hit her without a sound, penetrating her small body silently. All I could see was the flash the metal made in the sun. The same flash it made just before Violet's death.
Katerina slowly stands up. She looks down at the blade. It seems to take her eyes a moment to realize that it's her body that machete is sticking out of. She lowers her fingers onto it, curling them slightly around the metal. A shudder racks her body. She presses her hands to her stomach and pulls them away so slowly it all seems like slow motion. They come away sticky with blood.
For a fleeting moment, her eyes meet mine.
And I can see nothing but the whites of her large eyes. How brown the center of them looks, with the pupil widened as far as it will go. She looks to me almost expectantly. I lower my bow quickly. There's no reason to go on carrying it. Does she want me to come over to her? To speak to her while she lies dying? Surely she doesn't want this. Not Katerina, the stone hard Career.
Then it hits me. No, she doesn't want that. She was expecting me to grin. To sigh in relief or throw my hands in the air in celebration. Because if that blade really did hit as deeply as it looks like, I will be the victor of the very first Quarter Quell. I will have won the Hunger Games.
But I'm not going to smile. I'm not insane or sadistic. It's almost sad, how distorted her view of the world is. There's nothing I can do to fix that. Really, all I can do is stand right here. Give her some space. Katerina looks up then down. And back at her stomach.
She crumples to the ground. Her chest heaves up and down as she pants heavily. Now I can't help it. It's just an impulse. I drop everything and run over to her form in the mud, which lies not a few feet from Shimmer's body. Violet is still lying silently a few yards away, in the shadow of the boulder.
Katerina's body curls, one hand still stick on the metal of the machete.
I bend down close to her. She looks up at me with wild eyes. Her dark hair falls into her eyes. Now I know she's really hurt. There's no way she'd ever stand her hair being in her eyes or anywhere else besides her immaculate ponytail otherwise.
Kat stares up at me. "What are you doing?" She chokes out. "If you're making sure I'm dead or something, I'm not done yet." She winces heavily as she tries to breathe. Her breath comes out very shallow. Only a moan escapes her lips.
"No way." I say truthfully. "I'm not here for something like that."
Her eyes cloud in confusion.
"I want to thank you. For what you did for Violet. And for me. And even Aya, too. You may not have known it, Kat. But you did kill Shimmer. You finally did it. And in doing so, I think you're going to make Violet's and Aya's rests a lot more peaceful. Besides, you saved my life by killing her. Know it or not, you did a real big thing for all of us."
Kat meets my eyes. Her strong gaze is powerful even as she lies on the ground, clearly dying. She takes a shallow, shuddering breath.
"Oh, I knew." She says very, very softly. "I knew."
And with that, her body suddenly goes rigid. Her spine stretches and her eyes widen again for just a split second. She gasps slightly. And I can't help but grab her hand. Just to give her some reassurance. Someone is here for her. It's the least I can do for the girl who just saved my life, and gave Violet and Aya justice for their eternities.
"You can go now, Kat. You don't have to keep holding on. There's no reason for that."
I bend lower, so I can whisper so quietly only she can hear. "You were always far too good for this Game anyway."
She smiles. It's a smile so soft one might not even notice it. Just a ghost of a smile, really. But there it is, etched on her face. Her lips curved up and an expression of peace on her face. She found it. Katerina's breath leaves her body. I can feel her hand go limp in mine.
A lone cannon booms. The last cannon.
I stand up slowly, my knees shaking hard against each other. The arena is completely still. Not the kind of stillness that came heavily in the air and hung there through the past week. Nor the kind of stillness before a storm arrives or another death comes or an enemy sneaks onto us. It's a complete and utter quiet.
The breeze is gone.
I back away from the bodies. What now? My brain isn't racing wildly. I'm not full of adrenaline from the fight or even grief from the death around me. I feel nothing at all. Only the stillness that is pressing down. My feet shift in the mud.
I did it. I'm the last one standing. There really is no one left but me.
I'm the winner of the 25th Hunger Games.
Somewhere close by, a whirring sound stores up the leaves on the trees and the reeds on the ground. The whirring of a hovercraft. I've become familiar with the sound. During the past eleven days, so many came to get bodies that my allies and I had begun to take no notice of them. Their whir was a constant background noise, a sign that no one is invincible and death was always lurking somewhere near. We had come to block out the whir of the engines.
But this hovercraft is different.
This one is taking me home.
It floats up above me. By now, the engine is so loud I have to cover my ears. Trees been away from the craft. It looks so odd and foreign, a technological metal thing here in the wilderness of the swamp. The shadow created by the massive thing turns the ground dark.
A ladder is slowly unfurled. It uncurls itself and drops down to meet me. I catch it in my hand somehow. The rope feels rough against my fingers.
"Need help getting up?" A voice calls down loudly from the door of the hovercraft, which has been lowered as far as possible. The sound of the voice seems to hit me. It just sounds so strange. Why? Because it's a man's voice. Not a boy's voice or a screaming little girl or anything like what I've been so used to hearing.
"No!" I call back up. "I'm fine!" What a terribly wrong choice of words there.
I set my leg on the first rung of the ladder and begin my slow descent up. I'm suddenly conscious of cameras leaning out of the door to the hovercraft. I stop mid-climb to take a deep breath. It's the least I could do. This way, Ellie will see me looking calm. Ready to return to her.
As I climb up, I realize how sore my legs feel and just how exhausted I really am. Mentally and physically. Just when it seems I can't climb up any further, the entrance to the hovercraft is right beneath me and I'm standing inside.
A crowd of people, all clothed in blinding white, flock to me. I have to cover my eyes away from the brightness of it, as my eyes are so accustomed to the dim colors of the arena. One woman rushes towards me as if to hold me up. I let myself lean against her as people push me through the metal room of the hovercraft. Then, a man walks up with a needle. He walks up and, before I can move away, jabs the thing right into my right arm.
I feel a pinch where it went in.
Then, nothing at all.
I'm in a haze of warm, unfeeling-ness. Everything about and around me is numb and dimmed to the point of nothing at all. But slowly, feeling returns. There is a bed beneath me and I begin to feel and hear the sheets rustle beneath me. I'm resting against a pillow and there is a thin sheet above me. I force my eyes open.
When I finally come to, I see that I'm in a small, begin colored room hooked up to a few different beeping machines. There's a needle in my arm right under where the sedative went in, but this one is in a vain, with a string going to a dripping bag on my side. The floor is tiled white and there is a plain metal door with a window to see into the hallway, where the occasional person dressed in white walks by, obviously very busy. No one even stops to glance at the young man lying in the bed who has just come back from an eleven day long fight to the death. No one even pauses.
A bearded face leans down over my bed, bearing into me with cold blue eyes. Thalus. My mentor.
He clears his throat gruffly and watches me shift myself to sit up on the bed. He sits back in his chair and crosses his hands on his lap. Being from the Capital, as Eight had never had any victors before me, he's dressed in a very elaborate suit. But his face seems simple somehow. That's how he's always seemed. He stares down at me, studying me.
"Well," He says at last. "Welcome back, Casper. You're the first victor your district has ever had. Congratulations." He shakes his head slightly, sighing. "Sedative felt nice, huh? That was a lovely little touch which I myself requested just for you. I figured you might need it. You're in the Capital now, in the same place you got 'remade,' if you recall. The doctors looked you over. The good news is that, besides some nutritional deficiency and some basic dehydration, plus a large amount of scrapes and bruises, there's really nothing wrong with you."
I nod. I'm exhausted. But I seem to have escaped the usual life-threatening injuries the Games always seem to cause.
"The bad news?" Thalus suddenly says.
"What?" I ask groggily,
He smiles a tight-lipped, sarcastic smile down at me. "That sedative didn't last forever. It's time to wake up now, Casper."
"When can I see Ellie again? Have you heard anything about her?" My words come out in a rush. "Is she okay? Please, if you've heard anything at all, you have to tell me."
Thalus smiles, but this time it's much more sincere. "Of course you're thinking about Ellie, aren't you? Ah. Well, as far as I know, she's just fine. You should have seen her on those interviews she did! Oh, she was excellent. She made people think. She really did. And that's all you can do, in a place like this. But she said just enough. She's smart, that girl. You'd did well." His voice drops considerably until it's just a whisper, but he winks at me once.
"Y-You're a rebel?" I splutter.
He raises his hand to shush me, an alarmed look on his face. Thalus looks wildly around. But no one is near us. No one heard. His face falls in relief. "Why else do you think I would have chosen to mentor a district like Eight? Casper, I knew that it is the rebels' haven." His expression turns serious. "Sometimes you will find that the people who are actually on your side are the ones you least expect."
I pause to let his words sink in. "I can't believe this." I say quietly. "This whole time…"
Thalus nods at me. "You're a Victor now, Casper. Things are very different. President Snow may be knew, but keep in mind that his father was president before he was. He knows what he's doing. And what I mean by that is that he's keeping tabs on you. Victors are far more susceptible to becoming rebels after all they've seen and gone through. I know that it's no different for you. And coming from an already rebellious district? I wouldn't be surprised if the man starts tracing your every move."
I practically hurl myself out of the bed. "And what about Elorica?! Or the baby? He better not touch her!"
"Not if you don't get on his bad side, he won't. You've got to be very careful in all the interviews to come. All the public appearances you'll have to make. It won't be easy. But you're alive. And that's really something, isn't it?"
My head is starting to pound. "Sorry. It's just that it's so much in such a short time." I sigh. "To be honest, I really do just want to go home and see my Elorica again."
He gets out of his chair. "Of course. I should probably be going anyway. I'll let you get some rest. After all you've been through, you need that more than anything. Just sleep."
"Just let me know when I can see Ellie again, okay? Tell me how long I have to wait. I don't think I can wait another minute, but I guess I have to." I've won. I am now a Victor.
Thalus laughs lightly. "You really are in love, aren't you?"
I manage a small smile. "That's sort of all I've been thinking of for over ten days. Seeing Ellie again. I never even considered it, though. Just thought about it. I didn't consider winning, Thalus. Not once did it cross my mind that I could've won. Not even on that last day. And now that I'm here, I'm starting to realize just how rough this is going to be. But I'm trying to focus on seeing Ellie again. Because that's all that matters. Now I get to be a father, too."
He suddenly leans closer to the bed. His face is right in front of mine. "It isn't going to be easy, Casper. But I think you already know that."
He sighs. "Trust me. It's much easier to try to forget. I can't say, as I've never seen what you've seen, not really. But I imagine it will be difficult. Try not to think about it too much, okay? It's over and it's done now and there is no point revisiting it. Just try to push yourself to let go."
At this, I stand up. My feet hit the ground with a thud. "Let go?!" I shout. "Let go? You think I'm just gonna let it all go? The hell I am! You think after all I've just been through, the easy thing would be to try not to remember. The easy thing is hardly ever the right thing, Thalus. For the rest of my entire life, I will do everything I possibly can to remember. To remember these kids and what they were fighting for and why each and every one of them mattered. They were. They existed. I will never, ever forget any of them."
I pause so my voice will sound loud and clear.
"I will always remember."
A/N That is all.
Shimmer's song is Fighter by Christina Aguilera. This song really embodies Shimmer. She thinks she has it all and that she's tough enough to take on the entire world. She doesn't care what people think. And there is a certain kind of bravery to this. Thank you to sc148 for created a truly memorable character. Here are some of the lyrics.
After all that you put me through,
You think I'd despise you,
But in the end I wanna thank you,
'Cause you've made me that much stronger
Makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
It makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter
Never saw it coming, all of your backstabbing
Just so you could cash in on a good thing before I'd realize your game
I heard you're going round playing the victim now
But don't even begin feeling I'm the one to blame
'Cause you dug your own grave
After all of the fights and the lies 'cause you're wanting to haunt me
But that won't work anymore, no more,
You tried to hide your lies, disguise yourself
Through living in denial
But in the end you'll see
You thought I would forget
But I remembered
Katerina's song is Take the Heartland by Glen Hansard. The lyrics make me see her in that fearless, slightly unstable way she was. She's going to do anything to get to the top. But look more closely. The lyrics say that, in the end, we all die. Katerina did, at last, learn this. Thank you to drinkthatliquorstore for Kat, who was certainly one of my favorites.
Im gonna hide my heart behind the peacocks fan,
And keep my friends real close, yeah, this is how its gonna go.
Im gonna find my knife and run it through those stitches,
Throw my friends down in the ditches before they even know
what Ive come here for.
Take the Heartland with a sense of revenge
Take the Heartland and make it look easy
Take the Heartland- youll die in the end
Take the Heartland
And Im gonna grant my folk my lifes one last wish
and Im gonna take their life with a knife
and Im gonna sit and wait, not fall
Should I kill you with my sword, yeah?
Or should I kill you with this word?
You say go, you say sit,
And you sit and you watch us all.
Should I kill you with my sword, yeah?
Or should I kill you with this word?
Take the Heartland
Take the Heartland - your sense of revenge
Take the Heartland- you make it look easy
Take the Heartland
I set myself by the west, by the watch, by the wall,
I set myself by the words, by the voice that I heard.
Violet's song is Kingdom Come by the Civil Wars. This was my favorite song on the soundtrack because it's just so haunting. Look at the lyrics. It's like she's calling for Victor, the only living member of her family now, to come and join her and their parents. It'll give you goosebumps. Thank you to A Bookworm Named Steph for this amazing character.
Run, run, run away
Buy yourself another day
A cold wind's whispering secrets in your ear
So low only you can hear
Run, run, run and hide
Somewhere no one else can find
Tall trees bend and lean pointing where to go
Where you will still be all alone
Don't you fret, my dear
It'll all be over soon
I'll be waiting here for you
Run fast as you can
No one has to understand
Fly high across the sky from here to kingdom come
Fall back down to where you're from
For you, for you
Don't you fret, my dear
(Don't you fret, my dear)
It'll all be over soon
(It'll all be over soon)
I'll be waiting here
Don't you fret, my dear
It'll be over soon
I'll be waiting here for you
I promise to remember Kaja's bravery and pluck when life gets tough to bear.
And Adonis comes to mind when I open my eyes and finally start to care.
I'll picture Julian's face when a strong person shows some sensitivity.
Shimmer will echo when I decide I want more than what's given to me.
Aya will always be special to me, showing that courage can come in the most ordinary ways.
I won't forget Jace, or his determination and hope even alone and on the worst of my days.
I'll channel some of Violet's toughness no matter what tough stuff life has to bring.
And reading about Markus had made me realize that family is the deepest thing.
Katerina reminds all of us that not everyone is who they appear to be.
Jimmy's strong morals teach that there is always brightness to see.
I know Anna shows that those who seem the coldest are really broken up inside.
I'll remember Jake whenever I see that even the toughest have at one time cried.
Whenever I feel joy I will picture little India's smile and her unfailing trust.
Raen makes me think our minds must be stronger than the rest of us.
If I'm in a hard place, I'll remember Keira and her determined freckled grin.
When I come in first, Casper reminds me of what it really means to win.
Underestimated Thorn will remind me that no one is just pawn.
Gavin's stoic ways will come, when I realize I have to move on.
My life will never be as hard as Howl's, but even she found her light.
I promise to be like Oak, in making the lives of others a little more bright.
Velvet's face will come to my mind when I know I'm different than the rest.
Gav taught me that true loyalty, to family and friends, rises above any test.
I promise to remember Jezebelle and that strength comes even in the most small,
And I won't forget Cadence's calm ways nor his steady empathy for all.
Yes you and I must promise to keep these characters in a safe place inside.
I know I will because, thanks to you, this has been one amazing ride.