A/N: Apologies for a mistake yesterday concerning the tribute, Iris Stephenson. She was from District 2, not 4. I've since gone back and edited the chapter.
On a more positive note, thanks to Mrs. KiliMellark, richards25, RandomTeddyBear, charliesunshine, Burningbrightforyou, mangesboy01 and My Haunting Melody for reviewing!
The arena for this chapter was suggested by an anonymous guest reviewer, but if they are reading this, then I hope they like it.
Here's another Career for you. I hope you enjoy the chapter :)
"If I struggle a lifetime, what would my body be?
An empty shell on what a demon fed.
Could be a heavy burden to stay true to your words
Speak up, I want to silence everything!"
- Anders Friden, 2010.
The 35th Annual Hunger Games
Gloria Blair (18), District 2 Female
Pendulum feat. In Flames - Self vs. Self (2010)
I don't think I've ever been so unsure of myself before.
My whole life has been planned out. In retrospect, my parents might have been a bit more than pushy in getting me to sign up to District 2's Training Centre, where young wannabe-Careers are given their chance to learn. Seven hard years of work, from eleven until eighteen. Around twenty boys and girls in each year. Only the best ever get to compete in the Games.
My dominating parents had my elder sister and I train for the Games. We never wanted a part in it; neither of us were physical wonders, and I wouldn't bet on intelligence saving us either. I may be smarter than my sister, but I'm no genius. Even though they knew we wouldn't be likely to survive, we were pressured into it. They just wanted the glory and respect that would come with being the parents of a victor. I can't say that we get on. I don't think anyone so selfish could ever expect respect, especially when it costs me and my sister pain.
But I tried hard; there's no backing out of the Training Centre, you're in it for life. Literally.
Of course, when you get to eighteen, the best eligible trainee will step forward to volunteer for the Games at the reaping. How they choose this volunteer, I don't agree with. To give their tributes a good shot at the real Games, District 2 holds a mock Games, just as the other Career Districts do. Trials to decide who the greatest of us is. All the eighteen-year-olds are forced into the arena (which is a separate part of the Training Centre that none of the trainees ever see until their trials. And it's not just for show, either. The weapons are real, and each year, only one boy and one girl comes out of the arena alive, having earned the right to fight for their District in the Games. Every volunteer that District 2 has ever sent to the Games is already a murderer by the time that they arrive on the stage at the reaping.
I was certain how my teenage years would be spent. Training hard, preparing for the time when, in late May, six weeks before the reaping, I would have to fight for my life to earn a spot in the Hunger Games. Not much of a prize, I know, but all of us knew what we were getting ourselves into when we signed on at the Training Centre.
When I came to my trials eight weeks ago, I had it easy. There were only sixteen girls in my year; already the amount of competition was to my advantage. Five or six less than most years. Even so, the trials were the most traumatic four days of my life.
Ever since we first entered the Training Centre, the few deluded trainers who still cling on to the idea that becoming a victor brings eternal glory have been trying to indoctrinate us with their views. I have to admit, some of me believed them. I could understand the thrill of a fight, the triumph of a kill. But in the trials, where I was faced with fifteen other girls of my own age, all of whom I knew, my mind began to question my ideals. I had always resented my parents for forcing me to train, but I never quite understand how much I was going to suffer.
I was fine for the first two days; I avoided anyone that I knew that I was too friendly with to kill them. Eventually, I settled on my first victim - a girl that I had never really spoken to in years - and managed to kill her with a mace. But instead of the promised sense of triumph, I felt only emptiness tinged with disgust at myself for what I had done.
And I realised that all the trainers were wrong. There was no glory in killing another person. But by them it was too late; I had committed my life to getting through the Games. And so I continued my path of destruction in the trials, regrettably killing six before being let out, confirming my place as the volunteer for District 2 in the 35th Annual Hunger Games. I still hate what I have done, though. I see the faces of my victims in my nightmares every night. I'm not like other Careers. I genuinely care. I was never mean to be here.
But now I am in the Games, and I am a tribute of the Career Alliance, of which five remain. I have to get rid of the other four if I want to survive, but for all my training, I never want to kill again.
The voice is that of my district partner, Dorian. Six foot one, strong as an ox, holding a spear over his shoulder, a stereotypical Career. He's pointing down the row of abandoned shops to a small boy who looks nervously in our direction before attempting to sprint away.
The arena; a large abandoned shopping centre, is probably one of the smaller arenas seen in recent Games. Half a mile across, no more. But the six storeys of shops connected by stairs, unpredictable escalators and lifts make it a real pain to find others. There are so many places for tributes to hide. In a way, I'm glad. It stops me form having to kill anyone else. I really don't want to relive that again. I know that eventually I will have to if I want to survive, but the longer that I can afford to leave it, the better.
"Parkes! Blair! After him!" Orders the boy from District 1, whose name is Justin. I know he doesn't like me, so I'm not surprised that he wants me to do all the work for him. Just because I laughed at his name. I was expecting it to be something stupid, like Sparkle or Gloss, you know, what's they're all called. I think I insulted him because I was surprised he is so... normal. Most District 1 tributes are good-looking, strong and, most of all, arrogant. But Justin is alright. I think I offended him by judging him by the stereotype.
I realise that I've paused for a moment, and Adrian Parkes of District 4 is shouting at me to keep up. I set off, sprinting after him in chase of the young boy.
Please don't make me be the one who has to kill him.
He must die, of course. I just don't want to have to cause him any harm. I've already done enough killing so far in my life. I haven't even struck out at anyone since the Games began. I had the skills to get me an eight in training and book me a place in the Career Alliance, but since I have joined, I've done nothing useful.
Now that we have gained on the boy, I can see that he is only thirteen or fourteen, and I vaguely recognise him as being from District 7. He's sprinting up a set of escalators, hoping to evade us on the floor above. s soon as he reaches the top of the escalators, the Gamemakers change its direction, turning it into a down escalator, not only slowing our progress but causing me to trip after losing my balance due to the sudden change in the movement of the steps beneath my feet. My head smashes against the metal steps hard. I have to focus to get past the pain in my chin, but I know that there won't have been any permanent damage.
Belatedly reaching the top of the escalators, Adrian Parkes sports the boy forty yards from us, and has his spear poised in his arm, ready to throw. As he launches the projectile, I watch it fly through the air and land in the young boy's back, just below his shoulder blades. The wound will not be fatal, but it is enough to send him to the ground, screaming and writhing in pain.
We've on him within a moment. He's bleeding, but not badly enough for it to be fatal, despite how much I wanted it to be. I just hope that I won't have to finish the boy off. I want anything but to kill again. Looking at the boy from two metres away, he looks even younger than I had previously presumed. He might even be twelve.
This isn't right. Twelve years isn't a life. We don't have to do this.
But we do have to kill him. If we want to escape the arena, at least.
Adrian stares down at the boy intently for a moment before backing away from the boy, who is clearly going nowhere with his injuries, picking up his spear as the other Careers arrive, led by Dorian. I turn to find the other Careers all looking at me expectantly, Justin holding out a dagger towards me.
"You finish him," says Justin demandingly. "You've been a dead weight all week. It's time you did something useful."
No. I won't do it.
"Alright," I say, snatching his dagger. I know that this is wrong, but I have no choice. If I disobey Justin and the others, I'll have severed the strings attaching me to their alliance. And the Careers aren't known for letting their opponents get away lightly.
I can't do it. Remember what happened to Rose. And Maria. And Rowan. I swore to myself that I wouldn't kill again.
But this is the Hunger Games. It's kill or be killed I have no choice.
But would I rather die with dignity now or in forty years as a murderer?
It's too late for me now. I'm already a killer. And this is a matter of survival.
I look down at the crying boy beneath me. Maybe it would be kinder to put him out of his misery than let his suffering continue.
Yes. This is a mercy killing. I'm actually doing this poor boy a favour.
I kneel down beside the boy, turning the dagger over and over in my hands for a few seconds before slashing it through the boy's throat.
The Games were relatively short. The arena was slowly shrunk down in size as many shops in the lower floors had their shutters closed, leaving only open corridors with no protection on the lower floors. By the time that the Career Alliance had disbanded and there were only five tributes left alive, only the highest floor, floor six, was accessible to the tributes. Aside from the shops, there were four corridors extending outwards at right angles from the central atrium, which was a glass-roofed circular opening that housed the escalators, with a view down to the bottom floor. A perimeter corridor that connected the four that extended outwards from the atrium was the only other passageway in the arena, and when the outer shops finally close their shutters, the three remaining tributes (Justin, Gloria and the boy from District 10) were forced into sight of each other.
Charging into combat at the atrium, the boy from Ten was killed almost immediately by Justin, who threw a spear into his neck that Justin had stolen from Adrian's dead body. Left to fight Gloria, who was armed with the dagger that Justin had previously given her, Justin retrieved his spear from the boy from District 10's body, but his second throw was poor, and the spear flew past Gloria and fell through the circular opening in the atrium, clattering down the escalators to floor five. Unarmed, Justin only had one choice; charge at her.
And that he did.
However, Gloria was a match for him, dodging Justin's run so that he ran straight into the waist-height barriers that prevented tributes from falling all the way to floor one. But Gloria knew what she needed to do.
Before Justin could turn round to confront her (he was struggling to keep his balance; his momentum had almost taken him over the edge), she'd pushed her dagger between his shoulder blades and sent the boy from District 1 tumbling to his death, making Gloria Blair the victor of the 36th Annual Hunger Games.
A/N: Nearly half way though the series of oneshots now!
If you've enjoyed this chapter, please review! Need I remind you that I welcome constructive criticism? :)