I Won't Give Up.
I'm here to stay and make the difference that I can make.
Darek Jacquard, District Eight Male.
One Hundred and Fifteenth Victor.
Reality catches up with me fast. I can't stop the tears from spilling, freshly falling onto his face. My hand shakes and I lose grip of the sword momentarily, clasping back at it to keep my sanity rooted. Gently, I pull the sword out, the bloody tendrils clawing up to my hand. I killed him; I killed the best thing to happen to me in a long time.
The Mutts continue to hiss and claw, eager to snap away at me. I watch them with wary eyes, constantly blinking to help my vision. They're just there, watching with those beady eyes, making my stomach churn and somersault. I slowly pull myself to my feet, legs violently shaking, and back away. The sight of him brings about a twisted sort of pain, making my heart clench and palpitate, just like the time he kissed me. I'll never forget what he done, nor what I did to him.
The ladder drops to the side, green lights shutting off. Everything falls dark, a single white light showering the ladder and part of Jayden's bloody, beaten corpse. I can't pull away, his face peaceful and serene, as if he's just sleeping. That's what they say though, right? They say that when people die, it's like they're asleep. Wake up, Jayden... please.
I grip onto the ladder, the electricity freezing me in place. Slowly, I rise, descended from hell upwards. I can still hear their hissing. What about Jayden? My mind turns frantic as I'm suddenly in a room, glass walls and flooring. My eyes widen; you can see every single tunnel from up here, yet from down there, it's concrete and cement. Here, you can see how the maze spreads out and the murky, splashing ground. I can even see the faint drift of water, and when I trace it with my eyes, I see our weapons blocking up some large machine. So they were watching us, on their glass flooring, our cement ceiling.
A smile creeps on my face as I hand touches my shoulder. I flinch, pulling away and meeting the alert eyes of Chiffon. "Darek," she smiles sadly. "I know you're in shock, but please, you need to get cleaned up."
I vaguely remember the bite on my ankle, or the bruises and grime smothering my face. "W-What about Jayden?" I ask instead. I care more about his body than I do my hygiene.
"They'll collect him soon," she replies, voice soft and timid, as if she's worrying about breaking me with words. "They care more about you at this point, as sad as it sounds," when my eyes fall back down on the glass flooring, noticing Jayden's still half-illuminated body, she sighs. "The Mutts won't attack, if that's what you're worried about. He'll be fine."
"He's dead," I choke, my throat tightening. "He won't be fine, b-because he's dead, Chiffon..."
Her hand falls on my shoulder again but I flinch once more. No-one has touched me except Jayden and people out to kill me... I'm not used to it, not yet. In the corner of my eye, Avoxes begin to flood through the pristine white doors, pushing along a tray.
There's a silence, the only noise being the rattling of squeaky wheels. I just can't tear my eyes away, no matter how sick and dirty it makes me feel. "What now?" I finally break the silence again.
"They'll clean you up, take you home, let you have some rest before the recaps... and then, a Victory Tour," Chiffon replies. "Surely you know this?"
But, I don't answer. I have to forcibly pry my eyes away from their position, just to keep moving. Leaving him alone, down there, when he never left me... it isn't right.
I'm starting to learn that a lot of things aren't right anymore.
After a week of being in the Capitol, recovering from whatever imaginary disorder they've labelled me with, they told me I could go home. I'm happy, excited even, but the knot in my stomach is far too wide to even control. Chiffon's company doesn't make it much easy, what with her pestering.
"For the last time, Chiffon, I am okay," I repeat. We were at this stage before the Hunger Games, where I screamed and shouted about being average. I was so worried and apologised profoundly. Now, I feel stupid about it. Chiffon frowns, eyebrows knitted. "Honestly."
"Are you sure?" she continues to pester, leaning closer. She's a lot smaller and wiry, but she can be intimidating. "Velvet and me thought it might be a nice idea for us to sit and watch something, you know, to help make the journey quicker. It's been me and Velvet for far too long."
"I'm... I'm really tired," I make the excuse. "I'll come out later." I smile, gently closing the door before she can argue back.
I mope over to my bed, sitting to look out the window. The scenario blurs past, the trees and fields of District Ten just zooming by. My mind drifts back to Finch and his chivalry, on how he was willing to give it a fair fight until I jumped in. The lump forms in my throat; his family are out there now, grieving for a child that was murdered. They'll forever remember me as the guy who won, whilst theirs died. I didn't kill - I only killed my ally, of course, I think bitterly - and I don't know what to think about it. I could mourn for him...
The idea hits me. A hobby, Chiffon said I had to take. I move across the large room towards the table, opening up the draws until the stack of papers and pen come into light.
I'll write him a letter. I'm tell him how sorry I am, before leaving it in District Ten when I tour there. I smile for the first time in ages - not forced, at least - as I sit on the floor, spreading the paper out in front of me and testing the pen.
I'll start to write. I'll write about them, the deceased, and what little memories I have of them. I'll honor their deaths without ever knowing them.
District Eight doesn't feel the same. After the bombarding of cameras and the lack of visitors - which is easily expected - the sight is... different. Have I changed, or has District Eight always been this... tense?
A few children run pass me, their eyes full of light. One stops, his eyes bright and glassy. He looks full of innocence, a dirty ball tucked under his arm.
"Aren't you the Victor?" he asks, his friends soon gathering around him. Their eyes look up at me with awe and amazement, as if I'm something special. I nod, trying to smile. "My family won't go hungry this year," he smiles. His friends seem bored and quickly leave him. "Thank you, sir."
"I'm Darek. You don't... you don't have to call me sir." I laugh awkwardly.
"Come on Pippin, let's go!" one of them shouts in the distance, his matted blonde hair standing out.
The glassy-eyed boy looks at me, beaming. "I'll see you around, Mr Darek!"
I stand there, outside of the Victor's Village, completely stunned. It takes a few moments before I can move myself, returning back to the house that Chiffon and Velvet have taken up slight residency in. Well, Chiffon has, and pulls Velvet along whether she likes it or not. I push open the door, not surprised by the sweet smell of leak and celery. Chiffon's head pops around the door frame, eyes alight. "Your parents stopped by to visit, and your brothers picked their rooms," she smiles. Rules say that no family can move in until my Victory Tour, and in turn the recaps, are over. "I thought I'd make some breakfast for when everyone gets back."
"Don't you have your own family to look after?" I say, hanging my coat up. As far as I knew, Chiffon had family... at least, I think she did?
She frowns. "I couldn't handle a family when I returned. And my parents have since long died."
She returns to her cooking. I move forward, guilt building in my stomach. I see Velvet on the chair, fingers fiddling in her dress. "Hey Darek." she mumbles, still washing her hands.
"It's ready now, if you want some," Chiffon says, but my eyes are locked on Velvet, repeating those motions with frightful eyes. "Darek?"
"Velvet, are you okay?" I ask. Her eyes widen and her hands fall apart. She looks trapped, like she's caught in headlights and has no way out. I study her for a few moments before the pieces come together. "Velvet, do you suffer from OCD?"
"That's absurd," Chiffon interjects, suddenly by my side. "I practically spend all day with her. I would know. You're being ridiculous. Right, Velvet?" yet, Velvet stays quiet, eyes downcast. When she's rewarded with silence, Chiffon's mouth falls open. "No," she mumbles, stricken. "No, Velvet, you should have... you should have told me..."
"When?" I ask. It's probably not my place - their friendship is stronger, after all... probably like mine and Jayden's - but I feel like it needs to be said.
"A few months ago," she replies meekly. "It's no big deal."
When Chiffon sits down next to her on the wicker furniture, wrapping her arms around her hesitant friends, I feel out of place. I'll never have that again. I can't act the same with my friends. Jacob, Katie, Spencer, Alex... they might only ever see a boy pushed to the limits. How can I be the same person, when that person has changed? They might not see me the same; I might not see them the same either. I move out of the kitchen quietly, and when I'm out of sight, I run for the door and out.
I sprint through the small, near-abandoned village and onto the muddy streets, my heart hammering. Tears begin to lean on my eyelashes, legs burning and crying in pain. I stumble a few times - almost tripping on the loose pebbles - the whole image of the arena crossing my mind. Each turn reminds me of the tunnels. Each time my foot falls in a puddle, the flashback of the splashing water that lined the floor dominates my mind.
The park comes into view and I run faster, feeling compelled to go there. But, I freeze, noticing them in the distance, in our little area under the willow. I guess my mind was leading me there, where I would go when things were horrid at home; mainly when Nick had multitude of females around, and me and Grayson were forced away. I feel odd, awkward, staring at my friends laughing and talking, Alex's head laid gently in Spencer's lap. I liked her - she was my crush and I was smitten - and now, in my absence, Spencer has taken my place.
I'm no longer needed. They haven't even came to see me. Or, maybe they have, but I wasn't in. Maybe they're waiting, knowing that I might need space...
Each excuse feels wrong in my head and I turn, bumping into that same little kid. "Mr Darek!" he beams.
"...Pippin, right?" I choke.
"Pippin Halland," he grins. "I was just playing with my friends, but they've gone home now."
"How old are you and your friends?" I ask, mindless natter to help clear my clouded mind.
"I'm ten," he shows me the ball again. "Do you know how to play?" when I nod, his grin turns wider. "Can you play with me? As I said, my friends have gone home now..."
His eyes reminds me of Jayden's, glassy and full. I can't help but smile again. There's something about this kid, something that stirs me... "Sure," I smile. "But let's play somewhere different. I have a backyard, if you want to go there?"
"A Victor's house?" he gasps. "Hell yeah!"
By the time I'm back in the Capitol, I feel wrong. Despite the change, I've enjoyed the last few days. I spent more time playing with Pippin, using his innocence as an anchor to sanity whilst I showed him the wonders that I now had, something he didn't. He loved it, with wide eyes, and I constantly allowed him food, money and toys, whatever he asked for. He would only speak and I would see Jayden in him. I had to, as if, in some twisted way, I can honor Jayden's death by doing something good.
Once again, I'm on my own, Chiffon putting all of her time and effort into helping Velvet.
I liked the company that Pippin brought, now that I couldn't look my friends in the eyes. I liked being admired. Someday, it'd be nice to possibly have a child much like Pippin.
Grayson and Nick were just as good. They argued over their rooms, us triplets being inseparable but kind to one another. Triplet telepathy, my mother would say, seeing as how I knew them inside and out, even without having to know. I knew Grayson hated onions, even before he declared it to the family. Nick just nodded in agreement.
"How do you know then?" Father laughed over the table.
"I just... I knew." I shrugged with a smile.
"Triplet telepathy." Mother added, and the name stuck since.
The crowd soon erupts into cheers, bringing me out of my tranquility. The spotlight follows Hermes as he walks onto the stage, adorned in bright green. I can only assume it's a twisted joke, representing the colour of our bloodbath. I'm jittery, hands clasped in front of me. Chiffon is too busy with Velvet to even hand me a few tips.
"Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, please welcome the Victor of the One Hundred and Fifteenth Hunger Games, all the way from District Eight - Darek Jacquard!"
The crowd bursts into applause. At first, it shocks me; was I that much liked? But of course, the answer really is that they can't wait to relive the bloodshed.
I walk out onto the stage, shuffling in my lilac suit. I feel awkward, watched under the intense light. Before, it never bothered me. Now, I just want to go home... I hate the idea of being ogled. Hermes grins, teeth bared much like the Mutts. I take the seat, blinking at the intense light... just like the intense neon. No matter what, I'll never forget. No-one can erase those thoughts from my mind.
"Darek," he begins when the crowd has grown quiet. "Darek, Darek, Darek. Quite the little... story, you've weaved," he leans forward. "How are you feeling since you murdered your... best friend slash lover?"
My throat tightens but I ease it away. "He wasn't my lover," I say, despite my heart thinking otherwise. "We were friends, best friends... allies."
"Lovers," he corrects. "We all saw that kiss," he moves his hand behind the seat, pulling forth a white shirt, mine and Jayden's face stained on the front in a cartoon heart. "The Capitol went berserk. I hope you know how much everyone shipped you."
I nod. "I guess... I guess people enjoy budding friendships ruined."
Hermes' eyes widen. "Ah yes, a tale as old as time itself. Nothing better than watching something beautiful be crushed."
We talk for a little while, Hermes' questions increasing in bitterness and spite. At one point, he calls out my quick betrayal of Helene, how I moved on quicker than I should of, which left a sour taste in my mouth for the few questions after. I never betrayed her. I never... I fought for her as much as I could of. I needed to move on, otherwise I would've died next. I don't say that, though, and just continue to allow Hermes to batter me with insulting, prying questions.
Eventually, it's time. Hermes claps loud, giddy with excitement. "Let the recaps begin!" he cheers, the audience fading into the oncoming blackness.
I breathe hard, suddenly claustrophobic. I've never felt this scared before. The darkness looms over, smothering with black tendrils, before white static behind me casts some light. I lean around in my chair, needing to see it all. I relived as much of it as possible; Grayson said the best way to overcome something, was to face it head-on. I need to get over it, I suppose.
"Twenty-four tributes went in, whilst only one came out." a loud voice booms.
The white turns into a cluster of colours. Slowly, they fill out, casting out the lucid scene of grain and yellow grass. This must be District Nine, I presume. The escort bumbles on stage and picks the first name. Tambryn goes bright red as they find her in the crowd. She moves with tentative steps towards her eventual doom, whispering through parted lips. Big red, block letters pop up on the screen: 'Fifth Place'. Next, her district partner is called. Compared to Tambryn, Maxim doesn't look so accepting, walking with a solemn face. Again, like with Tambryn, his words place him in fourth.
The screen changes. When I see the trees and blue sky, I recognise District Ten. Finch is called forward and walks, face tight. Someone says something and he reacts, angry with hurt eyes. He mounts the stage and leaves it there, his future already sealed. Did he know he would make it so far? When I climbed onto the stage, I only ever thought about my death. It shifts again and my heart clenches. District Twelve is stone and cold, the air thick and the ground wet. My heart palpitates harder and harder, seeing Jayden in the crowd. He moves and time slows down, my memory replaying those fateful images of his eyes draining of colour and life.
It shifts again; District Eight still looks different in my eyes.
Helene is called. Her face goes from porcelain to green in seconds, puke flooding from her mouth. I smile; Helene was such a good person. Then, I'm called. The boy on screen moves forward at the edge of the aisle, his face taut and free. He doesn't look worried, but I'm almost sure you can see the fear in his eyes. I remember that, how terrified I truly felt. Who knew that I'd be here, alive.
The screen moves again, revealing the chariot night. Each section gets a few seconds and my eyes widen, watching the themes blur pass. The one that stands out most is Adra and Harlow from District Eleven, their fruit-themed costumes turned slutty. It's sad, their frightful eyes... just another reason to hate what the Capitol does; it ages us beyond our years. District Eight, of course, gets longer, and me and Helene stand side-by-side in a mix and match of tartan and wool. Nothing spectacular, not like the other costumes. It really hits me how average we truly were, like we could never stand out. The Capitol adored the Careers, the outer volunteers Nerys and Wisteria, the little doe-eyed children and even burly Finch. He and Helene and even Jayden, we all faded in comparison. We had no hopes of gaining sponsors and possibly surviving.
It moves again. The constant moves make my eyes hurt, blasts of colour shooting outwards.
The interviews come next. Once more, everyone will get something. It helps me solidify their memories and understand them, seeing as Finch, Jayden, Maxim and Helene's are the only letters I've wrote. How can I write for people that are dead, whom I've never seen after the bloodbath and who died without my knowledge? This will help me, in a sickening way, and Grayson's words echo vibrate through my mind as they travel through. Fedora Clos is cunning and smooth. Bliss Promenade is sweet and kind, gaining rapturous applause and being the only one to sweeten Hermes. Nerys West is chatty and confident, whereas Hamlet Althen is silent, being mute. Grey Slate gets slated, ironically, whilst Harlow Bellamy ends up shrinking into the seat.
It ends on me. I stare at the pale, round face and mop of brown hair, as if I'm not the same person. My angle? I was me, average, just like I had planned. Looks like it was the better choice after all, allowing me to fly under the radar.
Everything turns dark and my hands clasp together, fear burning through my veins. Here we go, Darek, it's time to watch no matter how sick it makes you feel.
"They fought to the death. They fought for the righted place as Victor."
The screen is still dark before a flash of neon green zooms across. The crowd move and chatter, their excitement building. The colours only make me disoriented. Then, it fills, turning full as the seconds reach zero and the blood is shed. Like with tradition, only the deaths will be shown, sparing me any longing pain.
Grey Slate falls first, head smashed in by Hamlet Althen. His lifeless corpse is the one of many to come.
Next goes Alder Hawthorne from District Seven, Bliss Promenade's sweet shell breaking, a murderous push stemming into her fingers and into the blade, plunging into his chest. My eyes wide and I hear Hermes giggle. She played the game. No-one can hate her for that.
Next falls Hamlet Althen, ironically. He targets Genevieve Arlen from District Four, but she powers back. She kicks into him and he loses his footing, falling straight onto the spear that pierces his throat.
Whose next? It's not Helene, surely? I gulp thickly, but it's okay, because Adra Church's name falls onto the grid below. His death is normal, nothing special, and as sickening as it sounds, I'm almost glad when he is finally killed by Magnus Croft, another Career. His life ended swiftly, and no matter what, it's better than being tortured.
Helene's name joins the bottom. She's next, and I hold my breath. They show the entire fight between us and the two warring Careers, until finally, Dione Martell pulls a whip around her throat and strangles her. My heart quickens and guilt floods through me, making my hands shake. It's only then do I realise that Magnus was pushing as hard as he could, meaning... meaning... my body willed me there when I could've saved her...
Savannah DeBeaux emerges through the tunnel with an arrow in her shoulder. She's caught by the Careers, though, and her ally runs when Fedora's arrow implants into her skull.
With that ends the bloodbath... I try and slow down my breathing, feeling the beads of sweat forming on my forehead.
They skip straight pass me and Jayden forming, despite our apparent importance. They don't even show anything until, suddenly, Nadia Halifax of District Six is running out, wild, eyes glossed over before Jayden's district partner, Wisteria, kills her. Straight after, Wisteria Arnette falls to Tambryn's stab.
They briefly show me and Jayden fighting off the Careers, coming off better than worse. When we hug, the crowd melts into gushes.
Dione Martell is next. For this, I don't feel guilty. I finally feel light and free, as I watch her fight and lose to Nerys, who proceeds to whip her into almost unconsciousness. Then, a taser is brought to life and falls into the water. Her body convulses and twists, screams piercing the screen and making even the hardcore fans recoil in disgust. Yet, I feel fine. She killed Helene, and she deserves this. She was willing to kill... she deserves fire and brimstone and more. She's one person who won't be receiving my letter, nor Magnus for that matter.
My heart lurches when they show Piper Oxalis from District Ten, running through the tunnels. An arrow finds her back, followed by another, before she finally calls. Fedora ends up quickly and my eyes snap shut, the image unbearable. Scratch that, Fedora isn't getting one either. All of those monsters don't deserve their lives honoured in any way, shape or form.
It's only then, do I realise, that the deaths are running quick. Why so fast? Maybe it's me. Maybe my mind is just seeing what it needs to see, avoiding the damaging evidence that could break me. A bead of sweat falls along the edge of my nose and I swipe it away, realising that I'm sweating out of every pore.
Disgusted, I start to wipe frantically, only glancing up when I notice the tunnel moving and the screams echoing out. I pay attention, seeing Fedora aim his pointed arrow between Harlow and Maxim. Eventually, she runs, and the arrow makes chase until she too falls onto the corpse grid below. Just another number to the Capitolites... but, Fedora doesn't shoot Maxim. The Careers walk and Fedora has every chance to wipe them clean, yet, he doesn't. Maxim scurries away with an unconscious Tambryn. For a moment, it lingers, until Fedora reveals a small pocket knife and begins to cut himself.
He did that, just so the little one could escape. I mentally put Fedora back on the list.
The other large alliance is next. Brigan, Bliss and Lux, gathered together. They talk, their faces turn red, before a heated argument is obvious. They broke, something I can proudly say that neither me nor Jayden ever did. We were compatible, that way... we were fools who didn't realise that the pain would be unbelievable. Bliss slaps Brigan and runs, vanishing into the black. But, the screen turns, revealing her perched against the curve, a bloodied knife held out. She looks cunning, those tears having been swept from her face. She looks monstrous, deadly, before she pounces out and strikes. Brigan falls unconscious after a few cracks against the wall, before Lux has the knife plunged into him. He dies, barely cold corpse splashing in the water. She nears Brigan, before the camera skips ahead.
The crowd groans. I snap my head towards them, feeling disgusted. Are they disappointed? Was Bliss' charade not good enough? I try and calm myself down, hating the anger that takes control. Violently shaking, I try and calm down, but the screen only returns to Bliss and Brigan. She toys with him, lips miming something. She snaps his head again, forcing him awake. Of course, she doesn't give him a chance, before she lunges and attacks.
But, I remember her face on the ceiling before him. I smile sadly when a weakened Brigan defeats her. I mentally scribble her name from my list... she was as bad as the Careers.
I try and control my breathing again, but the thoughts are clear. I can only see Jayden and his smile, his eyes, his charming personality that brought light into a darkened place. No matter what I do, I can never bring him back. I can never save someone who knew me better than I did. He understood me, put up with me and my slight self-deprecation, yet managed to bravely kiss me and defend me.
Magnus dies next. I tune out slightly. Well, he's not getting a letter, and I'd rather not see his death. Yet, I catch a peak of the fight after hearing a clash of metal and groaning. Genevieve overpowers him for a second, but it's Fedora who really subdues the beast, onto his knees like he forced me to do so many times when we met. But as a twist, the camera shows Genevieve nailing the sword through his torso.
I'm impressed. I nod thoughtful, wiping at my brow in an attempt to focus on something else. I'm surprisingly unaffected by some of these... deaths. I guess, because I stayed away from most tributes and killings, I can't grow attached or even feel guilty. I can only honor, which is what I plan to do... but it doesn't stop the Capitol from dancing on their graves. They won't be remembered because they're fallen, discarded because a new bunch will replace them.
It's the final ten now. The grid alters, placing Brigan's name. The screen chases him, but he's not even moving. My heart falters when you can see him bleeding out, dying and struggling and oh so alone... I just want to be there, just to help him. No-one should ever die alone. Bliss' body is nearby. The tunnels move. My breath hitches in my throat when it's clear that they plan on crushing him to death. What about his body? HIs family? Every part of me wants to scream in protest, as if saying it now might stop them.
It doesn't. With Bliss on top and walls pressed at the sides, both Bliss and Brigan's body were reduced into broken bones and cold organs, splattered.
Bile rises in my throat and I try not to gag, but the noise alerts Hermes, who leans forward, smirks with bright white teeth, before melting into the shadows once more.
Nerys is next. How does she die? The Careers are too fragile to kill anymore, you could see it in their eyes as Magnus was executed. Instead, it's Finch.
Something must happen, because one minute they're talking and then running, and then the next, Nerys is approaching him and forcing him into unconsciousness with the flick of her electrified taser. The crowd doesn't seem shocked; did they know this would happen all along? At least I know the outcome. I watch with wild eyes as Finch returns, almost bound, before they fight. Somehow, against all odds, Finch overpowers her in his weakened state and manages to straddle her. With a whip of his hand, he cracks her skulls a few times against the floor, before finally, you hear the pop and can see the blood spilling out into the water. Again, bile rises in my throat and I have to swallow, feeling the burn. Not long left, I remind myself.
The screen moves to the Careers. They all died one after the other... I guess they didn't last without a leader.
I can't tear my eyes away as the girls take on Fedora, pining him to the ground. Laise pours some white material into his mouth, and slowly, his chest stops rising. I take a deep breath, preparing myself for the next one. My whole body rises and falls with nerves, knowing that the moment this is over, it'll focus on us... I don't want that, I don't want to relive Jayden again...
Laise and Genevieve fight, but it's forced and controlled, like their puppets on a string and the Capitol has them under their thumb. Their fight extends until their respective blades take the other out. They lay there, bleeding. Tears lean on my eyelashes and I sniff, shaking from the emotions. I can only picture Jayden, faint and scared, whilst I had to be his executioner. Their hands twine together as Laise joins the number, shortly followed by Genevieve. My heart raises and I hear the audience sound in awe, their complicated friendship being something that captured their hearts. A sad smile breaks out on my lips, tears still cascading, realising that me and Jayden weren't the only ones going through tough times.
District Nine is next. The tears don't slow down and I resort to placing my sleeve at my eyes, just to soak them away. I can't let the Capitol see me cry; I can't let them have that as well. I deserve something to myself.
Tambryn and Maxim are watching us. That's the first thing I notice, how me and Jayden are picking up the weapons and ready to do our plan, watched and examined. But, Maxim runs, and Tambryn has to chase. They stumble and stagger through the tunnels, falling down before Tambryn knocks Maxim into unconsciousness, something a lot of allies have been doing to the other in an act of betrayal.
She scoops him up, her lips miming a single word that's hard to miss: sorry.
She carries him through the tunnels, back to the Cornucopia. The table rises and she freezes, placing him down and quickly discarded of the backpacks. Then, she grabs Maxim again, stringing him up in front of the Cornucopia. Disgust fills my body again, Maxim hanging there in a crucified position, eyes still closed. Was no friendships sacred? It does explain the ropes I saw when I tried to comfort his mangled, chewed body.
The Mutts attack though, not longer after Maxim wakes up. The audience becomes jittery, the rustle of their complicated dresses and suits filling the air. I start to shake again, flashbacks of the monstrous little creatures gnawing away at the poor little boy... they get Tambryn, however, dragging her screaming body to the floor before they smother her, the sound of saliva and chewing drowning out her cries for help Maxim looks horrified, terror clear in his baby blues, before they work on breaking him down. He falls hard, tries to run, but it easily overpowered and forced into a fetal position on the floor.
Me and Jayden arrive. My heart skips a beat at the sight of him. Jayden, so brave and valiant and... so perfect to me.
We fight and my heart lifts, tears drying out as I watch as I courageously fight to save Maxim. The Mutts pause, as if their button has been pressed, as I rock Maxim's bloody head in my lap. His cannon sounds, though, and my mind grows through the same emotional battering that briefly tortured me. Finch is nearby, though, the camera zooming out to reveal him sneaking along the wall, heading for the tail of the horn.
This is it. This is what I wanted to avoid. I don't need... I don't need a repeat of this...
My eyes snap shut. No-one can tell me to open them...
I hear the beginning of the fight. I hear our cries, our words being shared and I can practically feel the hope radiating through the plasma. I can't bear it...
A cannon sounds. That's Finch.
Jayden... I may never see him properly again... I peel my eyes open, the want and need justifying the action. Jayden is injured, head cradled in my lap. My fingers instinctively curl, wanting to remember how his hair felt, the way his body lifted and fell... the Mutts attack and fear takes over, gluing my eyes shut. I whimper, hearing their snarls and hisses. No, no, no, no...
My eyes snap open. I'm left there, knelt on the floor in his blood...
The screen turns black. "There we have it folks," Hermes cheers as the lights turn on. Instantly, I recoil, hiding my face behind my hands. "We've just got to relive each and every murder! Not to mention break Darek's sanity a little bit more, am I right?" the crowd roars in applause. "Precisely! So, Darek, care to retract your statement earlier? Friend or lover?" when I take to long to reply, he laughs. "Leaving those hardcore shippers on their toes is never fun!"
"None of this was ever fun..." I whisper back.
It all turns into a blur, answering Hermes' questions without emotion or thought. I just echo it out, like a drone or machine.
I have nothing left in me to say. Everything has been said and done. I'm broken, like the perfect Victor should be.
I walk through the streets of District Twelve, the bitter air blowing into my cheeks. I tug the fur hood over my head tighter, hoping no-one sees my face. I shouldn't be here, naturally. I should be on the train, in bed, ready to go back to District Eight tomorrow. Instead, I'm walking the cold streets in disguise, clutching onto the flimsy white letter as if it was my lifeline.
I avoid each lamppost, sticking to the ghastly shadows. I move fluid and quick, heading down the street with light steps, a smile on my face as I remember how me and Jayden had practiced our footsteps to match, just to avoid being caught. It worked well for us then, it should work well now.
Then, the sign comes into view, chipped and wrecked. Perona Sweet Shop, it says in bold letters.
I move faster, pulling the letter forth. The seal looks beautiful, something the family might treasure. I want them to know what their son did for me. How I'm going to live my life for him, because he gave his for mine. It might help them sleep at night. It might bring out an unspoken fire in their soul. It might not affect them. But, either way, they need to know.
I head towards the letterbox, carefully slipping the letter through. I stop, fingers hanging to the edge, as emotions flood my body.
Jayden's kiss. His hug. Fighting together until the end. When I punched him, and he laughed. Lips coated in sugary dust. A shaky hand holding a mighty weapon.
A friendship... a kinship... that'll last forever.
I push it through, a smile breaking out on my lips. The air breathes again, but it doesn't matter. I'm already slipping across town towards Wisteria's known address, thanks to Chiffon.
Each family will get something better to remember their child by, rather than the constant replay of their demise. It's the least I could do.
For the first time in a while, I feel hope. I feel like I could do everything impossible. I don't feel down and out, the guilt weighing heavily on me. I have hope, I have Chiffon and Velvet, I have my parents and my brothers, I have Pippin to care for like the older brother I can be... I have a life I need to lead.
And whilst I'll never forget, I'll never give up.
I'll make a difference, in Jayden's name.
I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz.
The obituaries have been posted named 'Remember, Remember'. Learn about all the tributes and what happened to their bodies. You'll notice that Darek doesn't have one, but that's because his future is unknown. Like tradition, he will appear in the next SYOT, Fight For Your Life as a mentor.
Now that's done, you have some more questions I'd love for you to answer:
-Thoughts on the obituaries?
-Did you enjoy Claustrophobia overall?
-Thoughts on the writing, plots, characters in general, arena in general, basically anything?
-Anything that specifically catches your mind as a stand-out moment (it can be anything!)?
With this ends Claustrophobia! After what I would say as my weakness with Wild One, I feel happy. I never once not knew where I was heading, and had everything planned from the start. Sure, I edited it as I went on, but I felt like my writing has never been stronger. This story - and the characters - will forever hold a place in my heart. Oh, and say hello to Pippin ;D
On that note, each character was amazing. I've never had such a diverse, interesting cast before. They all had their quirks, even the worse, from Bliss' psychotic relation towards her book to Nerys' sex addiction, from Tambryn's fate to Thy Holy Adra Church.
Lastly, a thank you to all the submitters for their wonderful creations, the reviewers for being non-stop support and guiding me unknowingly, the favourites, followers and readers, just for being that awesome. And, to my friends, you guys drive me insane, particularly Megan and her nickname trending... but you make this story even more real for me.
So with this, I bid goodbye to Claustrophobia! You've been wonderfully intense and dramatic.