Hey! Well... this is my first-ever one-shot that I haven't continued. Offer me some feedback, I could use it. :)
-I Can't Sleep-
The ceiling in my bedroom now is smooth. Not rough, like it was back in our old house. No, now I'm in Victor's Village. There's no cracks to study now, to see if they might form words or pictures. No chips in the paint that leave blank spots, like black holes in a starry sky. It's funny, how I focus on the strangest things. But it takes my mind off the Games... and there I go again. Thinking about the Games.
My head is spinning, and for some reason, a memory of the Games pops into my head...
The Careers tie me to a tree. Literally. The rope chafes into my wrists and ankles, making me wince. The light from their fire is laughing at me, or maybe I'm hallucinating. It has been a hard day, after all. No, I can tell. It's saying, "Ha ha. You got captured. You can't warm up in my heat, bathe in my light. You're going to die."
One Career tribute looks me straight in the eyes. "Now, listen, District Six Male," he barks. I want to say that I have a name -James Hemlock-, but I keep my mouth shut. "Since you're our hostage, you're keeping watch tonight." I'm opening my mouth to protest -dammit, they're so lazy- but he slaps me across the face. "Do what we say, or we kill you now."
I nod, and the burly Career nods, grinning. "I'll trade off with you in a few hours. Wake me up, remember. Can't have our new servant sleepy tomorrow, can we?" He addresses his fellow Careers with that last question, and they all laugh. "All right. Let's get some sleep. You-" He stabs a thick finger into my chest. "You, boy, you're staying up. If you fall asleep, you die. All right?"
I nod again, like a robot made to do the bidding of these upper-district thugs. And as they go to sleep, as the smoke of their fire curls up into the dark sky, I wonder about something. I've been at this for two days, trying to stay alive, and I haven't been able to sleep much at all. I've barely gotten in two hours total. It's weird. Even the stupid things that my mom and dad told me when I was little don't help. Counting sheep, picking flowers, running into darkness, counting the seconds that go by... fuck that. It's so full of shit that it makes me furious. I want to punch something. I want to steal a knife and stab myself in the heart and let the Careers' servant die. All because I can't sleep.
And even when I know that it's someone else's turn to take watch, I stay wide awake, just staring into space.
In the morning, all the Careers have gotten a good night's sleep. "You stayed up all night?" the leader says disbelievingly. "How the hell did you do that? And you're still wide awake."
I nod for what seems like the thousandth time. "I can't sleep," I say with a shrug.
It hits me like a slap in the face. The arena was just the beginning. But from there on out, I've been close to sleepless. I'm scaring myself with it, actually. I'm torn between just letting it run its course, or experimenting with stuff from the medicine cabinet.
I hear a soft knock on my door. "Come in," I mumble. I look up, shivering and pulling my comforter up as I sit. I'm half-expecting a scene from one of the nightmares that comes when I manage to sleep. But no, it's only Mom. Her hair is mussed from sleep, the faded-looking brown curls tangled. She rubs her eyes, flicking on the light. I blink, squinting. "James," she says sleepily. "You're still awake."
"Yeah," I mutter, yawning. Now I'm really getting to be afraid of myself. Why can't I sleep? There's something wrong with me. Isn't there? "Mom, I can't sleep."
In that instant that her eyes meet mine, another memory surfaces.
"Mommy?" I whisper, tiptoeing into my mother's room of our old house. My eyes are wide from the nightmare I'd had. I'm only six years old, but it isn't hard to understand that something bad is happening. My best friend's big brother is gone. I don't know where he went, but yesterday, I saw his parents crying and holding each other, staring at their television.
My mother rolls over, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. "What is it, sweetie?" she says gently.
"Mommy?" the little child that I once was whispers. "Mommy, I can't sleep."
And it's so ironic now. Everything reminds me of the Games that I won. And I'm left staring at the ceiling above my bed, wide awake.
I feel a sensation of pain. The next day, my mother explained about the Hunger Games, and how my friend's big brother was coming home -yes, he was coming home- in a wooden box. Dead. I squeeze my eyes shut. Too painful. I can't think about that. That just gets me thinking about how I killed that little twelve-year-old girl from my district. I try not to think her name, but it comes anyway. Annabelle...
My mom sighs. "Just try to sleep, honey," she says. "Or- no, wait." She gets up, coming back into the room with a pill bottle. "Take one of these every night," she says. "It'll help. This stuff's from the Capitol. Take with some water." I pick up the glass from my bedside table, placing a pill on my tongue and swallowing with the water. "Sweet dreams, baby," she whispers, giving me a good-night kiss.
Hours later, I'm still wide awake. So I figure, what's the harm of taking a couple more pills? I'll be asleep then.
It goes on this way for days. Years. And one year of mentoring, I think I completely lose it. There's this little girl tribute. Annabelle's sister, petite like her, with the same blue eyes and wispy, blond hair. She's so smart, so perfect. I have such high hopes for her. "Oh, I'll avoid the bloodbath and hide out in the arena," she says at the interviews, grinning. "Precision is the key to winning the Games. You have to plan everything right." And as I watch in horror, she steps off her pedestal early in the bloodbath and is blown sky-high. Suicide. It was a plan. She died on purpose.
That night, I can't sleep. I take one pill. One becomes two. And then three, and four, and five, and six... On and on. And pretty soon, the entire pill bottle is painfully empty. And I still can't sleep...
No, I can't sleep. But I can tell that whatever is turning everything black will take me into something that you can't wake up from. Death.
But before everything goes dark, as my eyelids droop, I whisper. "Night-night, Mommy." And then I can't see anything at all.