Nothing to regret

You're grinning broadly as you're shaking Seneca Carne's hand. The Seneca Crane's hand. You've been dreaming for this moment as long as you can remember. And now, after years of training and longing, you finally made it, you're one of the gamemakers – well, at least one of their assistants, ready to learn, waiting for the day you join their ranks.

There are dozens of people around you, all busy with the last preparations for the upcoming games. You hurry to a man waving at you. In less time than 24 hours this years tributes will arrive in the arena and there's still so much to learn. Excitement takes over and you throw all your strength in your task.

The bloodbath is over and you're a bit disappointed because you were too busy to watch it in all details, but then there will be a lot more chances to do so. When you get the order to coordinate the needed hovercrafts and transports for the dead you accept with a grin. You never see one of the bodies but all the paperwork alone leaves you without breath for a short moment. Somehow you never realized that the bodies are returned to their homes. For you – and everyone else outside this room – they simply stop to exist after being loaded into the hovercrafts.

But now you fill the orders that they're to be washed and stuffed into the already waiting coffins. You label them like packages and send them off into their soon to be forgotten graves. Only that you don't forget. You somehow feel obliged to remember them, if only you arranged their way home. You call yourself silly and move on. After all, that's all just part of that job you've been dreaming of for so long.

The first time you kill someone – a girl, barely 14 years old – you do it by accident. You're asked to take over a place at one of the consoles, "just for a short break" and you're happy to oblige, because now you can finally examine your future workplace. When the signs begin to blink it's just like you're back in training. Your mind is blank when your hands find the controller. And when you find your target, you press the button, waiting innocently for you. The shot meets just the right place, triggering a whole load of stones to break free and crash down on the earth around them.

All around you cheers erupt, someone pats your shoulder. "That'll have them walk all the way back, right into the arms of the Careers", another shouts. "You're a natural."

It's so easy to join their laughter, to bath in the momentary respect. You nearly miss the familiar sound of the canon. Another round of cheers. "Sounds like you got one."

You never saw someone on your screen. You didn't want… The others stop your thoughts with their chatter and when a round is ordered you forget about them.

When it's time, you're allowed to put the tribute's picture at the sky – your tribute, they say. With your colleagues around it's easy to smile and nod – and to blame the upcoming nausea on the alcohol.

But at home, when you lie in the dark, her eyes are watching you, full of raging darkness and broken dreams. This night you wake up screaming as you see her buried by an avalanche, you feel her body being crushed, her blood on your face. The cramps don't stop until morning brings new light into your world that turned dark so suddenly. But even when your breath is starting to calm down, your tears don't stop to fall.

The games end without you causing another death and when Crane tells you that next year you're going to have your own monitor, your own control panel – due to you good work earlier – you're happy. In the broad daylight it's easy to ignore the worry that's building slowly in the back of your mind. You're afraid of even more eyes joining those of the little girl, who's still watching you every night. But those thoughts are futile. You know there will be others. And you know this sentimentality will cease with time. This is, after all, your job.

Your second victim – in lack of a better world, because you aren't really responsible for those deaths, are you? – dies because of some muttation you send after him.

The third you strike down with a well aimed lighting right into his heart.

The fourth and fifth die of thirst because you let a river dry out.

The sixth you burn with a ball of fire.

The seventh falls of a cliff when you tried to bring him near another tribute.

The eighth kills himself after getting horrible sick from those tracker jackers you send after him.

The ninth gets poisoned when you present him a fake sponsor's gift.

Ten to fourteen get killed by those bear-like muttations you help to design.

The fifteenth suffocates after you block the entrance to the cave she's hiding in.

Someday you stop counting – the statistic doesn't but you block that out. Their faces and names and deaths all blur into one nightmare that starts to fade when you get too numb to still care. You joke with your colleagues, not noticing what your hands are doing. When you read the numbers you shrug and smile, saying absentmindedly: "Why so surprised? You said yourselves that I'm a natural." Whenever you see your tribute's eyes, you shut her out, telling yourself you're only doing your job. And you do still like it – today probably more than when you began, because now you don't take those images home with you.

When Seneca Crane is replaced you don't bother to mourn your one-time hero. He had a job to do and failed. There's nothing more to it. Besides, you have other problems, with your colleagues-turned-friends throwing a party because you hold once again the record for the most killed tributes. 78 in 15 years. If you count those you lured into traps.

You're wondering for weeks now, what to wear, concerning your fresh dyed hair – blood red, you always were one for the dramatic appearances. You have to be breathtaking, so no one gets the idea to tease you again for missing that Katniss girl with your fireball. You had trained for hours after that to not embarrass yourself again this way.

The arena for the 75. Hunger Games is your baby. You worked so hard and it truly turned out to be perfect. You can't explain how everything could turn into this nightmare. The tributes fleeing, using your work against you, and successfully so. You really hope that old bastard from district 3 didn't survive his meddling with the lighting – your lighting. But if he did, you may have the chance for payback when all this is over…

But there are other things that need your worrying. Not everyone escaped and you have always been good at finding the right trigger to break someone. So you're more than happy to destroy those who destroyed your Games.

You almost aren't surprised when the man calls your name. Since the fall of the Capitol and President Snow, your nightmares are back. Dozens of long forgotten names and faces, blaming you for their deaths and whenever you shout at them that you only ever did your job – oh and how you loved that job – she's there, your tribute, hovering over them all, always present. And when your name is called, she smiles.

You're going to die, you know it and for the first time you can remember, you don't have the complete control over your life – and those of others. There's no control panel for you, no button to save you. You wonder if you'll be killed by one of your own instruments. Hysterical laughter rises up in you and you're wondering if you're already going mad.

But in the end, it's not that. In the end you're killed by one of your colleagues-turned-friends-turned-enemies. He doesn't hesitate, doesn't wait for you to fall, eager to save his life. But you can't flee, you're trapped in your dying body. With your last breath you're whispering: "I'm sorry," not knowing if it's for the faceless mass of children you killed or for the first one, who's still smiling down on you, full of righteous anger, or if it's for yourself.

You did, after all, just the job you always dreamed of.