You can't be too careful anymore;
When all that is waiting for you;
Won't come any closer;
You've got to reach out a little more.
District Two Reapings
Declan Rift, 18 years old
There's always a different role to play, always a different mask I can put on and be whoever I want to be. It's not just about changing who you are on the outside though, the true skill is changing everything you know about yourself on the inside to truly capture the role you're playing. That's why, if I do say so myself, I am the best of the best at this – not many could pull off what I do and still get away with it after all these years.
The training hall is tightly packed with anyone young enough to want to practice their skills in hopes of volunteering another year, or those wanting to volunteer this year. A few of the other trainers around me as they pass give me the you-don't-belong-here stare, but I simply smile at them and they do nothing to ruin my character.
Truth is I don't always enjoy what I do, the truth is I only do this because out there in the real world the real Declan Rift has no life that she can be happy with. The real Declan Rift lost it all because of the two people she loved the most and still loves. The false Declan Rift is who she had to become.
I'm not a trainer of course, at eighteen years old the only trainers are the past young Victors who have a certain power to them that allow themselves any job they so desire. People here think I'm twenty, the people in this sector of the District.
If I was to play this part somewhere else people would recognise me from past roles I've had to play. I'm not stupid, I know that to fit the character and make it believable the audience have to be newcomers – what kind of moron would play a new role in front of those who have seen you before as someone else?
I like being a trainer because not only do people respect you, you get the first class gossip. With a hall full of teenagers all ready to knock skulls together for the top prize each and every one of them have their secrets and each and every one of them has a story to tell. Sometimes I can use it against them if the safety of my identity was ever at risk, other times I can try to help them should a problem arise.
Today however I'm a trainer for the sole reason that I am about to pull off my biggest risk ever and become a character I never thought I'd become. A tribute for the Quarter Quell.
When I was growing up I never wanted to become a tribute, all the gore and death on the screen was very off putting and me and my parents would cuddle up together and exchange stories about our day and anything else that came to mind. Now though, ever since my life got turned upside down, a role as tribute sounds appealing. If I die I have nothing to lose, my life here despite the characters is worthless. I've lost what it is to be my true self and knowing that I'm false almost everyday is too painful most of the time. But if I did win somehow then my life would become so much better – I'd finally be able to move on and become someone of worth. Not just someone without a true identity.
That's why today I get to scout out those who might put a stopper in my plan. Sure there are plenty of other academies full of ready to go teenagers who are just so eager to stab some kids and win the glory that goes alongside the Games, but there will still be some who come to this academy and over my time here I've come to know quite a lot of those who might very well be accompanying me to the Arena. Of course, when everyone sees me on screen and people shout out ten different occupations they know me from, my cover will have definitely blown well and truly forever. But I'd be in the Arena so what the hell can they do?
"Declan, as a trainer you're supposed to help those who call for assistance."
A pair of fingers snap in front of my eyes and I focus on the man standing in front of me. Reo is one of the youngest trainers and probably the most bitter man in the entire country. He didn't get the chance to go in the Hunger Games so he thought that coming into the Academy and working with children who are fulfilling the dream he could never accomplish was a good idea... some people really don't make much sense.
Still, he's my superior so I must do what the great Reo says.
"Sure, sorry, stuff on my mind."
"Well clear it, these kids are riled up and ready for their chance and one of the trainers ignoring them is not going to help."
Looking around it doesn't look like any of these brutes actually require any assistance considering they're either mutilating dummies till there's nothing left, or insulting one another, but I smile and nod my head. I fight back when I have to, everything I do is planned to help me get on with my life, and arguing with Reo is not on my to do list.
I begin circling the hall, staying towards the edges and away from the chance of getting a knife thrown at me 'accidentally'. These kids may not have anything personal against me but some get a little bit carried away.
In the middle of the hall the little crowd surrounding the most popular trainers are doing their usual 'oohing' and 'ahhing'. Each academy has their stars who are the most likely candidates for the tributes but there are always the underdogs. Those tributes who shy away from the public eye or aren't known to be vying for a spot in the Games so they go unnoticed completely. That's me. Many people may know a character they believe I am but they don't know that this is my only shot at a new life.
And believe me, I'll stop at nothing to achieve it.
Kenzall Remohauven, 18 years old
Everyone has expectations of you, expectations that you may or may not live up to.
As I sit with my back slouched against the chair, almost in a dream my fingers trace up and down the burns on my arm – the burns that healed but left the scars that will forever be a part of me. They say that your biggest fan in a career district are those closest to you, those who build all these expectations up because they believe you have it in you to do what they want from you. If that's the case I'd live with my parents who always believed I'd be great one day... but I'm not. I live with my friend because my parents proved to be the sort who's expectations twisted into something parents should never do.
Whenever I'd say I wasn't good enough or moan or cry about the pain my father used to put me through with the rigorous hours of training he'd burn me.
'Fire is the worst pain Kenzall. Master the pain of a burn and you'll master any pain.'
Somehow that was supposed to justify what he did to me? I was supposed to take the lighter to my arms without a single word of protest. And I did like any obedient son would because I loved my father. I really did. But that's all in the past now. I know that trust and love are meant for the stories and if you want to get anywhere in life it's up to yourself to make it happen.
Tim and Amy are the only people who can worm their way into my presence and actually not have me lash out. If it weren't for them I'd probably be sitting at home with a lighter to my flesh right now, keeping in the screams because I had to, it was the only way to prove myself.
Well, today I have a different way of proving myself.
"Kenzall, you have to get ready."
I look up at the door and pull my sleeves down to my wrists to conceal the hideous scarred skin. Tim frowns but perks up almost instantly and throws a bundle of clothes my way. He laughs and I manage a weak smile. It's not something I do – smile, laughing, cheering; all of it just doesn't program well with me.
Unless it's with Tim and Amy.
Tim doesn't know that I plan on volunteering today. I don't think he'd understand because after all I went through he'd think I was crazy for doing what my parents originally burnt me for. But just because they melted away my skin doesn't mean I didn't want this. I just didn't want to volunteer with those two still in my life, now I can prove to them and everyone else that I can do this regardless of what people think of me.
I'm a monster to some people. A hideous burnt monster who never cracks a smile and lashes out at anyone that tries to get close to me. Maybe I am but the scars are living proof as to why I am this way. Can you really blame me? I should hold a lighter to all those who hurl insults my way and see what becomes of their life after their skin has become nothing but a mesh of scars and ruined tissue.
Life is simply full of disappointment and pain and suffering and people still expect something out of me other than anger and bitterness towards those who have always had it handed to them on a silver platter.
At least I have Tim and Amy, that's what I have to tell myself each and everyday. At least I have two people in my life, two people who mean more to me than a whole bunch of friends or loving relatives could ever hope to achieve.
The outfit Tim's mum has given me for the reaping today is definitely tight, most likely an old outfit of Tim's. They aren't the richest family around and usually I always get whatever Tim no longer needs or on some occasions has grown out of. I'm taller and larger than Tim so that's a bit of a struggle but who am I to complain? If it weren't for this very family I'd be out there either by myself or still gritting my teeth to the flames.
"Come on, you're so slow Kenzall." Tim knocks about twenty times and I can hear him laughing. Something stirs inside my stomach and it makes me smile and slip my feet into the worn boots waiting for me at the little desk by the side of the room. It's a strange feeling but I enjoy being able to break out of everything that I am accustomed to, I like to be able to lower my defences from time to time because the second I step out of that door everything changes back to how it always is to the public eye.
I open the door after quickly looking myself over in the mirror and give Tim a light punch to the shoulder which makes him dramatically sway on the spot and cry out with fake agony. I laugh before I even realize I have and the slight feeling of warmth intensifies until I'm laughing the whole way down the stairs and to the front door.
His mother says goodbye at the doorstep, she's allowed to stay home because at the very back of the house Tim's grandmother is on the verge of death. Yet this family is still as positive as I remember them always being. In some ways I guess I hope that the positiveness could sometimes rub off on me so even when I'm outside these walls I can try and attempt a smile.
But it's hard to accept that, because a smile encourages strangers and I can't let my guard down. Not for a single moment, especially where I'm going.
"Let's go get this over with." Tim leaps out the door and shaking my head I follow on. If only he knew what I was about to do, would that make Tim a little more like me?
Mercury Wolfe, 18 years old
"This is it Merc, ready for this?"
"Ready's my middle name."
I wink at my best friend Marcus as we walk closer and closer to the Square. You'd think that the two of us would be nervous and practically pissing ourselves with anxiety but truth be told I couldn't be happier. Sure, both of us are planning on volunteering and only one can come out of this alive but me and him, we're like brothers, we're the laugh of the District and we'll sure as hell give it our all and have a joke along the way. Of course, best friend or not I plan on winning. I'm sure Marcus feels exactly the same.
"I'm going to miss you two when you're in the Arena. Who will I have to tell me how beautiful I am every five minutes?"
Cornelia my girlfriend giggles and I can't help but laugh as well. She's not my ideal partner, in fact I really don't know what I'm doing with her but having a beautiful girl by your side seems to go well with the rest of the guys and helps them know I'm superior to those that a) have no talent and b) don't have a beautiful blonde with them 24/7.
"Chill out babe, you've got our little mouse."
I try to repress the chuckle that goes alongside every mention of our little stalker. Gaius is his real name but even he doesn't seem annoyed when we call him our mouse. Marcus and I aren't exactly a hundred percent certain when he decided to tag along but he did and ever since then he just seems part of the gang. Me, Marcus, Cornelia and our little mouse. Life couldn't be any better.
I ignore anything the little voice inside says, life is good. As good as it possibly could be. I am not going to focus on that – never again, I have all I could possibly want and after the Games I'll have even more. There's just no point dwelling on it.
"Look it's that stuck up bitch Celia." Cornelia's icy tone and the way I feel her body tense up against mine makes me laugh even more. Seriously the fight in girls and their bitchy ways is more hilarious than anything. Maybe that's why I'm with Cornelia, not just for her beauty but because she's widely loved and also hated by a lot and the mixture of the two brings about even more fun. And really that's what I like in life, a bit of fun.
"This is it."
I let go of Cornelia so we can form an orderly queue in front of the table with the Peacekeeper waiting with the needle. When he pricks my finger I give him the most childish grin I can and step through to the roped off area of the Square. Marcus and I leave Cornelia and our mouse to find our own section. A lot of those that pass us give us the usual claps on the back and the high fives that go alongside our popularity in the District.
Everyone knows that we're best mates, the jokers of the District and the two most talented and everyone thinks that because the two of us are volunteering together that the Games will be even more special. They're right of course, with the two of us I really don't know how the other two tributes think they'll stand a chance.
I elbow Marcus in the ribs as the Mayor comes on stage and he instantly shuts up. It's not that I think listening to the Mayor is important in any way but I want to make sure I know exactly when to run out and volunteer. I really do not want to miss my opportunity. Not like he did.
My stomach tightens even thinking about it so I start tapping my foot and thinking about the Games and how much fun I'm sure they're going to be. There's a certain beauty to the sight of blood, the red tinge and the metallic taste. I'm in it for the end result of course but who's to say I can't enjoy myself with a little bit of fun during the process. I'm a man of fun and games after all.
"District Two! How very good to see you all!"
The Mayor has left the stage to be replaced by our usual escort Wendy Witchet. She's much more of a formal lady than the usual monsters you see from other districts. Her voice is a little over the top but her oddly plain dress is rather beautiful. Still, she doesn't hold a candle to my Carnelia.
"I know you must be as excited as I am to see who will represent District Two in this year's Quarter Quell. So let's get to it then. The girls first!"
A lot of the girls in the older sections seem to get ready for this. There's usually some kind of system, whoever the trainers deem ready enough and the most talented volunteer, but this year is a Quarter Quell and no one is going to miss out their chance at participating.
There's a deep intake of breath as the slip is drawn from the bowl and some of the girls look as if they're about to explode at how red their faces have gone. Finally the name parts her lips and all chaos breaks loose.
A lot of the kids in the younger sections are thrown about as a stampede of angry girls with sharp nails and high heels clacking against the concrete charge to the stage. I burst out laughing at the sight of Carnelia getting swept away, she didn't even want to volunteer but seems like those wanting to are dragging her along involuntarily.
The first girl up on the stage is definitely beautiful with brown hair that slowly changes to a blonde the colour of Carnelia's hair and she definitely seems familiar. A lot of people seem to be shocked as she walks closer to the front of the stage.
The second girl goes the opposite way to the pack of girls and climbs her way up the other end of the stage. Both seem able enough but of course not a problem for me and Marcus.
"Ladies, what are your names?"
"Declan Rift." The first girl announces.
"Cora Winter." The second girl says in a much more confident way. This Declan girl seems almost nervous at being up there.
"Now for the boys."
The girls who were unlucky return to their section with heads low and hands clenched into fists. Carnelia looks as if she's about to faint, when she catches my eye she can barely manage the weakest of smiles.
Another stampede breaks loose and although I'm one of the shortest guys here earning me a lot of whispers behind my back, I'm easily the fastest. I make it up without even breaking a sweat and the two girls seem to almost take a step away from me.
"Hello ladies, lovely to see you here."
They look repulsed as I turn to see Marcus get thrown away and another boy walk up next to me. Marcus catches my eye and starts punching the ground but I look away and stare at my newest district partner. He's no Marcus but I guess he could be fun.
"And your names?"
"Mercury Wolfe ma'am." Playing up the formal character is a lot of fun, I bite my tongue to keep the laugh in as her face goes a deep shade of red.
Never heard of him. Never heard of any of these people except that Rift girl who seems quite familiar. This really will be a walk in the park for someone with my talents. As long as I can have a good time and eventually win I cannot wait. Although why show any doubt – the obvious outcome is that I will be victor. No question about it.
Cora Winter, 18 years old
Being a tribute in the Hunger Games always felt like a dream when I was a little girl. Everyone in the District was devoted to the Hunger Games and watching our tributes fight it out, and a lot of the time one of our tributes actually did return home. For them the fame and glory that went alongside transformed their lives. As a young girl with such famous icons living around you and seeing day to day how their lives had transformed after their victory, it became my dream to volunteer. I never thought I'd ever get the chance, and I never truly anticipated how many girls would try to steal the spot from me. It was truly horrible being pushed and shoved like one of the dummies I'd stick and stab over and over again and when Declan reached the stage I really thought I was screwed.
But the other side of the stage was empty – it just made sense for me to go that way rather than lose the race with the other girls.
Now that I am a tribute I feel like I'm in that dream I always had as a young girl. Growing up you hear tales of how terrified they are in the other Districts but here it's just become a way of life. Training and getting ready to fight other kids to the death is tradition and to the other Districts we may very well seem like monsters but it's just how we live here. You can't change it.
Now that my goodbyes await and I'm about to leave I feel slightly nervous as well as at an all time high. I've always been one of the popular kids because my parents had enough money to get me into the best school and the best academy. With my skills people were drawn to me and I never had to suffer as a child, in some ways that might be a downside when I go into the Arena because I won't be used to hunger and people trying to hurt me. But I've prepared all my life and with popularity comes envy and those trying to take you down.
I've had my fair share of fights and run ins with those who try to stop me and I've adapted. Sure, I'm still the sweet girl that everyone loves with determination and an almost childlike fairytale essence to her, but I'm also a fighter and if someone gets in my way I will take them down. I take no prisoners because in Two that's how you get ahead.
Finally the doors open and I stop feeling so nervous. The sight of my friends running into the room and surrounding me is enough to boost the excitement brewing in my stomach. Snow with his whiter than white hair, Zoey and her childish giggling and Regina and the intimidating mask she puts on only to hide the true kindness behind her.
In some ways we're always going to be that little gang of kids that grew up together and even now I feel so much younger than my eighteen years. A part of me doesn't want to leave them, there will always be that inner feeling of doubt eating away inside of me that I am not good enough. But the dream has always been with me since I was six years old and a little girl's dream doesn't just vanish because of some inner turmoil going on within. This is my year and having friends who may be nervous for me but are undeniably on my side is more than enough.
"I can't believe the amount of people that tried to get to that stage." Snow says, his cheeks flushed red looking ridiculous against his white hair.
"Well it's always been like that in District Two. Last year was no exception."
"Yeah but Regina this year it's the Quarter Quell and there was a whole lot more running today." Zoey laughs and pulls me up from the chair and into a hug. Snow and Regina soon follow and once again I feel like I'm a little girl again. Invincible and popular. I hope Declan is at least approachable, it'll be good to have a friend to help me in the Arena until we have to fight. I know there seemed to be some confusion going on when she volunteered but personally I have no idea who she is. The boys... the less said about them the better.
Everyone knows Mercury and Kenzall just looks unstable.
The hands on the clock tick away as we chat about the past and what awaits me in the future. No one brings up the fact I could very well die which I'm glad about. The last thing I want when I'm about to go into the Arena is a reminder that by the end instead of coming home victorious I could be coming home in a wooden box, cold and dead to the world.
All three of them give me an individual hug when the door opens and they leave to be replaced by my parents. My mother and father have always supported me but always ensured that I was happy. They'd seen what other kids my age had become with parents who's dreams for their own children possessed them into acting out of the way a parent should. They ensured me that would never happen and it didn't. I've had a perfect relationship with my friends and a perfect relationship with my family. It's all I could ask for.
If only you were a little more skilled. Then maybe you won't die.
The second my mum wraps her arms around my neck and my dad begins patting my back I forget the little voice in the back of my head. Both of them act like my friends, dismissing any sort of doubt whether or not I could succeed and focusing on the fact that I will win this.
It's scary that I'm about to leave them. I've always had people to support me and now it's time for me to support myself without any help. Sure I'll have the careers, but what will the careers be like this year? A pack of twelve seems a little excessive.
"Whatever happens Cora. Whatever you have to do in the Arena to win remember how proud we are. Remember how much we love you." They both leave when their time is up without so much as a word of protest to the Peacekeeper.
I slump back into the chair and allow myself to smile. It's now time to go and sure out there the world is big and scary and I'm losing all security I've had over my eighteen years but it's my time now. I am eighteen years old, not a little girl anymore, and I can fulfil the dreams I've had since I was six years old.
Cora, you can do this!
Careful by Paramore
Author's Note: And here's our second career district! XD
First things first I'd like to say that if there is ever anything a little different or something I've added to your tribute's history for example it's only because it made more sense for that to happen. For example Kenzall's history was that his parents abused him and he has pyrophobia so I made the connection between the two. I think it works out better that way xD
Another thing is of course I won't mention everything about one tribute in their POV, so if things are hinted at or I miss stuff out don't worry they will be mentioned at a later date!
Oh and those who have the reaping POV are most likely to have the longest POV so sorry to those who have shorter POV's than the others. With the reaping I have to get the tribute's personality across as well as the actual reaping so it takes up more words! :D
Anyway, two questions for this chapter so please leave a review with what you thought of the chapter and your answers. Thanks for all the support! It's a big ask but can I get 100 reviews by the time I post D3... let's see ;)
Out of these four, who is your favourite and why?
Overall do you prefer District One or District Two?
Thanks guys! Maybe if I don't put writing off until around Tuesday I can get an update to you sooner ;D