Hi, Zanzibar here. This is my first (Fanfiction) fanfic, and my first Hunger Games fanfic as well. Please don't be too harsh, because I'm obviously not the shimmering expert at the Hunger Games, but a big fan. Enough that I wanted to write this. I promise it'll (eventually) start to pick up as things move along. Feel free to drop a comment, it'd be much apprecited...
Chapter One: Shadow
And here we go...
Shaken from my deep-slumber state, my eyes blink open and glance into the darkness around me. Even in a room with no window, I can easily make out the shapes of the objects around me, concealed otherwise in the darkness. Despite the absence of light, I can make out the form of my little brother standing on the side of my bed. His twelve-year-old body is trembling like a child cast out into the ruthless District 7 winter, but it's early summer.
Propping myself up with my elbows, I grab one of his clammy hands with my own, pinching it for reassurance.
"Why are you awake, Hans?" I murmur groggily, reaching up to ruffle his flaxen hair. He pulls away, obviously not accepting my gestures of reassurance.
I already know his answer. It would've been the same answer I had the night prior to my first Reaping. Back then, I had cried for hours. Fear consumed every fiber within my twelve-year-old body then, and the only consolation I had found was vanishing that night in the darkness of the District 7 forest. I had more or less ran off the night before my first Reaping, only to return that morning, slightly refreshed and freed from my anxieties, despite the unchanging fate I would face if my name was chosen in a few hours.
"I don't want to go, Indigo," Hans said with an imploring tone.
Reaching over, I cupped Hans tear-stained cheeks with my hands. I press a soft, motherly kiss onto his cheek and smile. He probably couldn't see the smile. My room is so dark, and Hans isn't as adapted to darkness as I am. But it was the consideration that counts.
"Don't worry, Hansel," I whispered with defiance, "There's so many kids with their names in that bowl...and your's is only in there once. You'll be okay."
My mind considers the longshot chance of Hans being chosen. Although it was small, it still existed. But ignoring it for now could save Hans a good night's worth of sleep.
He doesn't reply, and I'm not going to let him consider the impending doom that tomorrow brings. I kiss him again before sending him back to his bed. I lay in bed, motionless, waiting for silence to creep back into the household before rising from bed.
Slipping my feet into my moccasins, I began for the door. In a matter of moments, I slip from the heat box my family's rundown house was and into the clear, cool air outside. My flesh prickles with goosebumps as I slip stealthily into the shadows of the trees. My navigation skills are unrivaled. I could see the fallen branch in the shadows of the towering maple trees, where normal people would stumble over them.
I was made for darkness, my father says.
He called me his little "Shadow."
Partially this was because I was inseparable from him in my younger years. Numerous times, I had left the house and followed him to work in the forest. Although he had not approved of this, I would show up at his work camp and hide away from him. When I got older, I became bolder. I would let my father be aware of my presence. The first few times he disapproved, saying the lumber camps was no place for a girl. But, eventually he caved to my resilience. As long as I in a safe area, I was allowed.
But there was another reason for my name. I was silent and stealthy, and my abilities in the dark were uncanny.
"You'd think you were a little bat," he would tease. "Seeing in the dark and such."
So I was Shadow. Silent and deadly.
My face bears a smile when my mind wanders across these thoughts. As I creep across the forest floor, quieter than the breeze that tugs at the trees. Hunkering lower, I am one of the shadows. I am nothing more than an apparition, slinking in and out between the pale-face moonlight and shadows.
Finally, I'm breaking out of the shadows and into a shower of silvery moonbeams. I stand at the edge of a cliff, gazing across the sweeping water below me. It's still and sleeps under the guardian watch of the moon above. A breathtaking sight, I still find my lungs lacking oxygen as I catch sight of it. Every night I had come out here for years, and every night it yielded the same effect on me.
Gazing across the moonlit water, I take a deep breath. Bathed in the twilight beauty, I'm at a loss of the things around me. Right now, I'm engulfed in the night. What worries me from before begins to dissipate.
My knees fold, and I'm sitting in slightly damp grass. For a while, I'm motionless. A little silhouette, crouched at the foot of the cliff, gazing out over serene waters. My mind begins to shake the numbness of thoughtlessness, and I'm drawn into thought. I'm drawn into the worries that plagued me from before.
Truth was, I was anxious to the bone. But four years of dealing with the constant dread of being chosen had hardened me. Mom death had absorbed me of emotion, too. I was devoid of all ability to convey my emotions. I was nothing more than a lost cause due to the hell that the Capitol subjected us to. I was one of many lost causes.
And so, the Capitol would go about their vicious game. They didn't care who we were, what mattered was the game. We were their dogs, cast into the pit for their entertainment. We were nothing more. And tomorrow, two kids would be selected, and they'd be thrown into this heartless game for their enjoyment.
Tomorrow, two kids would find a true reason to be anxious.
What if it was me?
What if it was me...
"If you don't sit still, I can't do much justice for you hair," I growl at Hans hours later. He's sitting on a stool at home, fidgeting like a worm. I'm biting my lower lip, trying to style his wily hair that's a bit overgrown and abused by his play in the forest.
Hans squeals softly when I jerk a bit of his hair.
I breathe. "I'm sorry..."
"Are you done yet?" Hans whines.
"Close," I promise.
"Why can't dad do my hair?" He continues to whine. I'm at wits' end with him by now, having lugged him around all morning trying to get him to look half decent. And what for? I secretly think, it's not like his name is in the Reaping bowl twelve times. I am. I have a higher chance of being selected than he. That's the price you pay for tessera.
As if on cue, there are footsteps rousing from the back of the house. I pause, looking up to see the silhouette of my father at the doorframe of his room.
"Dad..." I breathe. It's the only greeting I offer him.
He looks at me, blinking. I can tell his hungover. Just like every other morning. You'd think he'd have the decency to sober up last night so that he didn't look so disheveled and dead today. Maybe he'd clean himself up by this afternoon. But I wasn't going to hold him to that high of a standard. He's hardly been sober since mom died.
Hans lightens up, though, when he sees our father. Dad smiles softly for Hans's sake and walks over, ruffling his hair and ruining my handy work. I growl, giving up. Hans would've messed it up before we got to the town square anyway.
"Go get dressed, Hans," I murmur, pushing him off the stool.
Once Hans scampers into his room, I turn to face my father. My lips are taut and jawbone clenched with a wave of emotions. I admit the day was putting me on edge, and my father's lack of assistance was driving under my skin.
"You look like hell," I state with a tart tone.
"Feel like it too," dad's gravelly voice responds. He takes a the water pitcher and fills a glass of water, guzzling it down to tame his parched throat. I think of how many times dad has drunk himself into alcohol poisoning the last few years, and how many times I had to nurse him from the state.
The man could hardly contribute to this family.
I sigh, gritting my teeth. The words feel hot on my tongue, and suddenly I spew, "What do you do if I get chosen?"
Dad looks up at me as if I'm insane.
"Look at the odds, dad," I implore him, resting my hands on our makeshift dining table. They're shaking, and I'm trying to conceal how distraught I am. "If I'm chosen, what do you do? What will you do with Hans?"
"Indigo, there's hardly-"
"It still exists! And we can't go about ignoring the facts! If I'm chosen, you two are royally fucked unless you decide to pull yourself together," I snarl. Suddenly, I feel a burning sensation in my eyes that I fight back. I hadn't cried in years. Even when mom died, I didn't cry in front of my father. In my forest, I had. But not to him.
Indigo was a warrior. The Little Shadow Warrior her father had raised. She didn't cry. Not then. Not now.
Dad stares sympathetically at me, frowning. "Indi..."
"I'm getting dressed..."
Town Square was a homely part of our district. It was a well-manicured piece of property, with a stout oak tree in the center of it. Off to one side, a stage was erected for one sole purpose and that purpose alone had caused us to congregate here in solemnness.
I left my father and Hans, going to my section with same-aged children of District 7. The event is terse, and hardly anyone will exchange a word beforehand. And even afterwards, we tend to keep silent in a form of sympathetic vigil for the two unfortunate souls chosen. We stand in formal rows, watching the stage with gazes of dread. Who is it today? Whose brother? Whose sister? Whose child? Whose friend? If only we knew the answers now.
One of the Capitol's fluffed-up escorts struts onto the stage. Her name is Pipa, and she had been our district's escort since I could remember. Every year she was always a different color. Last year she dedicated her cause to neon green, this year she had chosen a light red. She looked ridiculous, but, then again, it was a social norm in the Capitol.
My mind blanks out for a while as the history of Panem is told. I keep sending prayers that Hans will avoid being chosen this year. I even offered myself up instead to the gods, whoever or wherever they were. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if Hans died in the games. I couldn't even volunteer for him, being a different gender.
Digging my fingernails into my palms, I realized I had worked up a sweat. Every fiber within my body was on edge as Pipa finally addressed us.
"And now what we've all came here for," she squeaks. How sick of her to sound so thrilled. She was sentencing two kids to their deaths.
Drawing her frail white hand up, she almost made a show of her lofty movements.
"This year's female Tribute," Pipa announces as she lowers her hand into the bowl to her side. She swishes the tiny pieces of white paper. Twelve of them are mine being tossed around. Twelve tiny slips of paper that could decide my fate.
Finally, Pipa stops and from the bowl, her hand emerges with a piece of paper between two crimson-tipped fingers. She unfolds it, reading the name and cracking a soft smile.
For a second, I'm expecting to hear someone sobbing. We would all turn and gaze at the newly-chosen tribute, feeling immense amounts of sympathy and sadness. But then my mind suddenly clicked. Everyone had, in fact, turned to the newly-chosen tribute. They had all turned to look at me.
My jaw dropped, and my blood ran cold. I wanted to believe that my ears had deceived me, that this wasn't true.
But it was true, wasn't it?
And now I'm trembling. Someone nearby nudges me forward, beckoning me to begin my journey to the stage. I flash a wary glance at everyone around me, as though I expected them to tell me it was a sick joke and start laughing, and that I wasn't going to the Capitol to die. But all I received was cold, stony gazes, mirroring my emotions.
There was sympathy in those gazes. Or maybe disbelief. Or both, I wasn't sure. By then, someone had actually shoved me along and a Peacekeeper grabbed my arm, jerking me forward.
On the inside, everything was going numb. My body made mechanical, forced movements to reach the pinnacle of the stage beside Pipa. In front of everyone, my insides shrank and I gazed at hundreds of bewildered people. Would someone volunteer now, and take my place in the hell about to come? Silence lingered. I discovered that my fate was no longer in my hands. In a few weeks, I'd be coming home in a body bag.
My stomach sinks, and I fight the urge to vomit, or collapse, or maybe start crying. It was the only strength I could muster right now, to protect my pride and my name. Otherwise, I stood motionless and painstakingly pale on the stage, looking like a washed up rat.
Then there is the next kid. Pipa calls his name.
My eyes find Anthony in an instant. A kid the same age as I walked shakily to the stage, his shoulders set back but his face deceiving him. He flashes a wild look at me, and all I can offer is a soft nod. A nod of confirmation, rather than assurance, because we both know this is the last time our district will see us alive and in the flesh.
Moments fly and my mind goes numb. They're congratulating us, but no one claps or cheers. Rather, the rest of our district stares on in agony. There goes two wasted lives, they're thinking. There goes Indigo and Anthony.
The room in the Hall is quiet and stuffy. I shift uncomfortably in the chair provided for me as I await my visitors. For a long time, I figured my father had decided I wasn't worth the hassle. He probably went back to his bottle, and left Hans somewhere to take care of himself. The notion didn't seem too appalling or shocking, it was just the type of standard I held my father to.
But they eventually showed up. I showered Hans with kisses, trying to tame the little tears coming down his face. There were hollow promises of my return, and then careful instructions on how to take care of himself.
Dad gave me the firmest hug. For the first time, I felt that he cared.
"Take care of Hans," I told him. The Peacemakers knocked on the door, warning us that we had only a few precious moments together.
Dad pulled away, looking me intensely in the eyes. "You'll come home. Tell me you'll come home."
It wasn't a promise I could actually commit, and he knew that.
"Just take care of him, dad," I sob, hugging him tightly as the Peacemaker pulls our embrace apart and yanks him towards the door.
"Fight, my little Shadow...fight hard..."
Author's Note: For all you curious, Indigo's last name is pronouced like Rick-sees. Thanks for reading :)