When I'm Gone by Simple Plan
Another day, another casualty.
And that won't happen to me.
Ave Chassing, 17, District Seven
Just the sound of the speakers crackling sends chills running down my spine. These never end well, no, the announcements never bring good news. They only bring another twist that for some brings our paths closer to the end and for others closer to their coffins.
"I want to extend my most sincere congratulations to the four of you who remain."
Is that all? Is there really only four of us left in here? It must be true if he I telling us this, but it still feels like the very beginning of the Hunger Games when I had 23 tributes after me. the fact that now it is only three brings me very little comfort.
"However, there is little time for formalities because, for each one of you, the 90th Annual Hunger Games ends now. Fight hard, tributes, and may the odds be ever in your favour."
The speaker crackles once again into silence and I am left to ponder the announcement. A sweet trio of chirps echoes in my ears and then suddenly I am watching the ground explode around me.
A tube very similar to the one at the launching slips up from the ground to cover me just in time to block the explosion. Grass flies around me at first, followed by dirt and mud. Stones ricochet off of the plastic tube and a scream rips through my ears as I feel myself being raised up higher and higher. Around me I can see nothing through the thick layer of mud that coats the outside of the tube.
My heart skips a beat when a familiar mechanical voice fills the air around me. "Three. Two. One."
I gasp in the fresh air when the tube collapses into the ground. The space around me is a ruin of what I know it used to be. My neighborhood in District Seven shaking on its eaten supports behind me. Standing, tall and perfectly white, in front of me is a porcelain fountain spouting out water in clean arcs and looking about as out of place in the ruins as an escort in District Seven.
I take this all in within seconds before my body is overwhelmed with the tantalizing feeling that someone is watching me. once I spot Talus standing wide-eyed amidst the wreckage of what I presume to be a chunk of District One, I am able to spot the other two far more quickly. District Eight, Lillith I remember, is squinting at me from behind the fountain and the Capitol boy, Rosario, is standing blankly to my right. All of those still alive are here and the announcer's words pulse in my mind.
"For each one of you, the 90th Annual Hunger Games ends now."
Lillith is the first of us to move, wind whipping her blonde hair into her eyes as she runs back towards the houses behind her. She hits one of the far doors with a thud, hands fumbling for the knob. Before her fingertips can even brush over the door handle there is a loud, collective click. We all realize that that doors have just been locked.
She runs quickly to the windows, dark even in the bright sunlight, as the three of us watch. She doesn't even dare another step as every window of every building explodes with light that soon blends into lightning fast flashes of images I am unable to make out.
Soon enough, whether because the images have slowed down or possibly due to some kind of hypnotic concentration, I am able to see each one in detail. The little District Three boy with fresh bruises covering his cheeks and blood matting his blonde hair. The strange girl from District Five, her legs pulled up to her chin and red trailing from her eyes, nose, and mouth.
I feel entranced by the images, alternating between photographs taken at the Tribute parade, the interviews, and even the Reapings. Smiles, sparkles, and sliced throats. Glitter, glamour, and ghostly eyes. I can't seem to peel myself away until one image brings me to my knees, bile spilling past my lips.
Cosette, exactly how I left her. Her eyes open wide and lips pursed, still in mid-scream. I can remember the terrible sound. The horrible convulsing as her hands tried to pry at the knife in her chest. Why didn't I end it quickly, or better yet why did I kill her at all? It was just too much, maybe before I could block it out but that... that picture. It reminds me of how much I made her suffer. The closest thing I had to a friend in here. And I did that to her.
I can feel my entire body shaking and it feels like the temperature has dropped thirty degrees even as the sun still beats down on us. I fall to my side but do I imagine the arm that catches me? Is it just the hand of a ghost that grabs my chin and pulls it skyward? When I open my eyes for one last second, how can I be sure that I actually see the green hair glinting on the metal surface in front of me.
By the time I realize it, it's too late to try and so anything to stop him. I feel the sharp sting at my throat and I can't help but remember what the announcer promised. For me, the Hunger Games are finally over.
Talus Vixent, 17, District One
I drop the District Seven girl and wipe the sword off on the side of my pants, leaving behind a trail of red. I thank myself for the clean cut, the quick death for the girl. I had to make the first move, I'm the only true Career left. Sure Rosario was with us for a short while but he was never truly one of us. HE couldn't hope to be.
If it was going to be any of the Pack left with me, it should have been Estee. She deserved it far more than he ever could. I fight to suppress the anger, telling myself that now is not the time to feel it. When I actually have to fight I'll need it, this singular easy kill won't be near enough to grant me the Victor title.
I shake the dead girl's hand off of my foot and glance around to see that the other two tributes have vanished. I curse myself for not watching where they went but reason that I couldn't have risked taking my eyes off of Seven. Sure, she appeared to be an easy target with whatever mental fight she had gotten into. But if Estee taught me one thing it was that even the weakest looking can be threatening. I will not make the mistake this late of underestimating any of my opponents. They made it here for a reason and I cannot allow myself to assume that reason was luck.
I decide to find Rosario who I think I can fairly believe to be my biggest competition. The District Eight girl didn't necessarily prove herself to not be a threat, but her show earlier told me she likes to be in control. I firmly believe that she will not allow herself to be found unless she wants to be.
I keep my back touching the walls of buildings as often as I can to minimize the chance of being ambushed from behind. The areas don't appear to be that big, my own was only the ruins of my house along with the two beside it, as well as four more similar streets. Rosario's seems to hold a similar number of buildings. I am drawn to one in particular and I allow myself to follow the instinct. Truly enough I don't have much else to go on but my gut feelings.
I stop in the pathway leading up a smaller grey house with conservative decoration. A white birdbath is the centerpiece of the lawn, the only thing untouched by the wreckage it seems. Just like the fountain in the middle of this thing t appears out of place but in place at the same time. I think once this house must have been grand enough to warrant the beautiful decoration.
Footsteps cut through the silence like butter and I turn slowly towards where they came from. When I see nothing I begin to get anxious, turning my back against the side of the house. The next sound I hear is from my right and I inch along the wall towards the corner. Again no further sounds sends my heart racing. He has to be here. He must be. Or is it possible that all of these noises are nothing but my imagination acting in hyper drive.
Acting solely on instinct now I turn around, just in time to see Rosario racing towards me with hands raised high above his head and a thick knife between them. I am quick to react, shoving my sword between us just seconds before he is to knock into me. Unfortunately he is just as quick to compensate, lowering his knife just in time to knock away my sword and tackle me to the ground.
Thankfully I am able to keep my sword clasped in my hand as we fall and, before Rosario is able to make a move, I slap him across the jaw with the side of the blade and he is knocked to the ground beside me. I quickly pull myself up and am on my feet, kicking him hard on the chest when he tries to sit up. I stab my sword down in a missed attempt and Rosario dodges even the smallest nick. He grabs at the sword and pulls himself up by it, disposing of it quickly by tossing it into a nearby tree.
It takes me just a second to react, throwing myself at him and grappling him for his knife. I make a good grab at it and nearly take it from his grip, but as soon as he gets it away from me again he sends it flying towards my sword.
"Great job, idiot," I say between heavy breaths. "You really think you can take me this way?"
"I'll do my best," he says, a grin creeping across his lips.
I throw myself at him again and a in control within seconds. My feet pinning his arms to the ground easily and my hands at his throat, squeezing just enough so I know he can feel it. I can't help the smile that comes over my face. "I knew you weren't a Career. We should have left you long before we did."
What happens next is so quick I am unable to react at all. In a quick burst of strength, Rosario frees one arm and punches me so sharply in the face that I am sent sprawling to the ground near his feet. I wince as I get up, my jaw pulsing with pain all the while. Suddenly I see Rosario, but he isn't on the ground anymore. He is running.
I am up on my feet a second later, but it's too late to do anything as Rosario spins around with my sword locked in his arms. With one long movement of his wrist the sword is flying towards me and I realize I'm far too slow to dodge it. The pain as it impales in my shoulder is enough to drive me backward along with the sheer force with which it was thrown. Rosario is on top of me and my vision is too blurry from the earlier punch. I send my fist towards him but only hit air. I hear him laugh hollowly before pain explodes in my chest. Then I feel nothing.
Lillith Tavern, 18, District Eight
My heart is racing a hundred miles an hour as I look around the area, checking for any sign of the other four, or three I guess if I consider the earlier cannon, tributes. A mane of red hair catches my eye but I understand that no threat is held in it. Ave Chassing, District Seven, was the cannon from earlier. I guess there's some irony in the fact that she died in front of her own neighborhood, but I don't really want to think about that right now.
I knew that the District One boy would be the first to make a move. He is the last one left from a Career district which just in itself tells me to look out for him. I can't ignore the narrowing of his eyes when he looked at the rest of us, either. Like he knew he was going to win this and we were nothing but little animals to nuisance him until it happens. It gives me shivers to even think about it.
I made a safe bet that he would be the attacker, not the one to wait until someone came to him, by hiding in his area. I figured that Rosario and Ave would be more likely to lean towards a more conservative tactic, or at the very least not seek out the biggest threat. I was right, so far no one has even entered the District One area that I know of.
Another cannon shakes the ground like an earthquake and I steady myself on a bare support beam of one of the buildings. It passes after a couple seconds and brings with it the realization that now there are only two of us left. Me and one other tribute. One of us is going home, very likely in the next few minutes.
Along with this hopeful revelation is the smothering fact that the other one is going to the same place that every other dead tribute is going. Second place doesn't matter in the slightest. Twenty-fourth all the way up to second means absolutely nothing. Each and every one of them is still just as dead. First is the only option if you want to live. I want to live more than anything right now. I just want to live.
I whirl around when I hear the smack as shoes hit concrete. As soon as I do I can see Rosario standing there starring at me and I can't help the fear that pulsates through my bones. It's him, he's the only one left. Me and him. One of us is going home and the other one is going to die and be buried six feet under our home. It's not fair, he'll always have the advantage. He's at least a few inches taller than me and probably weighs twice as much as me. It's not fair.
My body shakes with anger and I can feel tears slipping down my cheeks. I resent that I'm weak enough to cry in front of this boy, the one that is going to finally murder me. I stare at him as steadily as I can even as tears blur my vision. My cheeks flush with heat and I can feel raindrops fall against my skin.
Rosario looks up and rain spills across his cheeks like the tears that fall against mine. Then he turns back and looks at me. Where before I remember his eyes were void and calm, now they are framed by eyebrows creased with worry. I almost don't catch the smile before it plasters itself across my lips.
"Please don't," I say, allowing my voice to crack as the words fall out. I half-straighten my back in a show of shaky courage and let my arms come up to hug my chest. "I don't want to die, please."
I can see my words hitting him like poison, planting themselves in his mind like seeds of doubt. I notice the blood dripping from one clenched hand and the dirt that has settled against his clothing. The fight between him and the District One boy must have been fairly one-sided, else I would expect him to look far worse for wear. But emotionally and mentally he looks drained. All of the color is gone from his cheeks and all the light vanished from his eyes.
I drop to the ground, hugging my body in tight to make myself look smaller, more vulnerable. He reacts exactly how I expected him to, by taking a couple of tentative steps closer to me. He drops to his knees a few feet away from me, still careful not to get too close to me whether for his safety or for my comfort I do not know.
I welcome the tears that continue to collect behind my eyes. "I just want to go home."
I can see the words hit him hard. He swallows thickly before finally speaking. "I know how you feel. You're scared, alone, like you have nothing left in this place to help you."
I nod but say nothing, allowing him to continue to speak. "You feel like you've lost so much more than you can even think about, and you probably have. I know I have. You're hurt and now there's a chance to go home but only for one of us."
This time it is his words that leave an empty feeling in my stomach. I push the emotions down, knowing they will do me no good now or ever. The truth is that I feel everything he has described, but none of it is new or because of the Hunger Games. Just the thought of those words brings me back to the early days, to times when Mother couldn't provide anything more than empty words telling me that she would be home early that night. They bring me back to times I swore I would never relive even through memory.
"I know exactly how you feel." He says again and a flash of anger hits me again, working its way through the hurt that old memories bring me. He knows nothing about me, nothing about what I have been through or how I've lived. He doesn't even know anything about what I have endured in these past few weeks. He's just using empty promises, just like Mother would do in some stupid effort to save my feelings. But I'm grown up now, I don't need anyone to sugar coat anything. I have fought for so much and accomplished so much through it. I will not let one single person stand in the way of getting that back.
As his head turns upwards once again to look at the cloudy sky I begin to work the thin blade out of the back of my belt. As soon as I have it free I pounce on him resulting in a satisfying cry of surprise. I don't waste a second of time knowing full well that I would never be able to outdo him in a fair fight. I stab the blade down towards him, aiming straight at his heart. It enters cleanly and, to his credit, Rosario doesn't even scream out. His eyes only stare down at the knife and then up at me. A look that tells me that in some off, backwards way he knew this would be how it ended.
Blood begins to pour out of the cut, coating the handle and my fingertips in crimson paint. I pull my hand back in disgust and stare down at him. This is the first one that I actually got to look in the eyes as they died. I thought that I would feel more remorse than I do.
"You know nothing," I say plainly. Standing and walking back towards the fountain as the cannon sounds behind me. A sense of calm washes over me as I allow the water to run over my hand, taking away the red from my skin and tainting the water below.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to present to you the Victor of the 90th Annual Hunger Games- Lillith Tavern of District Eight."
Ave Chassing, District Seven
Talus Vixent, District One
Rosario Saturn, Capitol
The artist theme for this story will be Simple Plan.
Song: When I'm Gone
The blog for this story can be found on my profile. Deaths will be notified here.
I loved Ave, Rosario, and Talus so much. Each of them had a point in the last couple months where I chose them as the Victor. Ave would have been the come-from-nowhere victory, but I didn't know if I could make her different than the other Victors I have chosen over my other stories. Talus was the love story survivor victory, but I wasn't sure if I wanted one of those because there is such a limit on what I could do with that. Rosario would have been the rebel victory, and he was going to win for a while. Lillith snuck up on me though, but once I thought about it she was just too perfect. I have so much I can do with her, and I hope you all approve of my choice.
Well the story is over now, after over a year it's finally done. Well the Games at least, I will still post a chapter after this with some post-Games stuff from Lillith. I might also post the graveyard, but I will see. I have two choices for a story to come after this one and I am having difficulties choosing between continuing my SYOT verse and starting in a whole other fandom. You'll see what I choose within the next few weeks when my decision is posted.
Thank you to everyone who read, reviewed, submitted, or was otherwise involved in the story. Special thanks to Acereader55 who submitted Lillith to me all that time ago and for urging me to keep writing this story.
Like I said, another chapter will be posted soon(ish) as well as another story eventually. Even if it isn't in the same fandom, I hope you all will consider submitting to it (it would be a SYOC type story). Thank you, thank you.