A/N: Thanks to mangesboy01, RealFiction, Jemmie, Fillius Flickerman, PrincessLyoka, coolcattime and Oxenstierna D. Yuki-Rin for reviewing! As ever, the support is appreciated :)
This chapter's one of my own, and I think it's something a little different. I hope you all enjoy reading it :)
P.S. By means of a disclaimer, I should state that the lyrics quoted in the chapter itself are quoted from Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collins' original novel The Hunger Games.
"They're gonna clean up your looks, with all the lies in the books
To make a citizen out of you
Because they sleep with a gun and keep an eye on you, son
So they can watch all the things you do
Because the drugs never work, they're gonna give you a smirk
'Cause they got methods of keeping you clean
They're gonna rip up your heads, your aspirations to shreds
Another cog in the murder machine."
- Gerard Way, 2006.
The 105th Annual Hunger Games
Marvel Naughton (17), District 1 Male
My Chemical Romance - Teenagers (2006)
"Come on, Marvel," Lucas urges me. As District 2's male representative in this year's Hunger Games, he's got that sort of confidence in himself that I'm sure all of Two's tributes have, indoctrinated into them during their time in their Training Centre and also by their mentors. Naturally, Lucas thinks he owns the place, which is about as far from the truth as it can be.
"The others will be hoping for us to return to camp before dawn." Begrudgingly, I grab my spear from the ground beside me and rise to my feet as Lucas stamps out the embers of our fire beside us. We're meant to be patrolling the arena, but we both know that no-one will dare travel within a couple of miles of the cornucopia, and after a few hours of patrolling our borders, we grew tired and set up a campfire for ourselves to keep warm and conserve energy. Now, an hour before sunrise in this arctic wasteland, we must up ourselves and find our way back to the lake that holds the cornucopia at the centre of the cornucopia.
The arena itself is a frozen cauldron, five miles wide and ringed by unclimbable mountains. The bowl itself is filled with sparse coniferous woodland, almost uniform in distribution, with a central clearing holding a frozen lake, and a small rocky island at its centre that holds the golden horn of the cornucopia, glistening white in a sheen of ice. Radiating out from the cornucopia are twelve strips of land connecting the island to the mainland like the spokes of a wheel. All in all, the arena seems like a frozen, dead variant of the one used in the Third Quarter Quell three decades ago, back when my father was a teenager.
Even the Gamemakers have kept up their side of the bargain, so to speak. We found out the hard way about the scheduled traps when we walked straight into the poisonous gas of the two o'clock sector on the second night in the arena. That was back when three of us patrolled the area around the lake, and three of us guarded supplies at the cornucopia. I'd been out with Lucas and the girl from Four that night when the fog had snuck up on us. Being the tallest in the arena this year, I had little problems escaping the deadly clouds, and Lucas was hot on my heels, but the girl from Four wasn't so lucky. I remember watching her being enveloped by the fog, its droplets contorting her body before leaving it crumpled on the floor.
Thankfully, her end was quick.
Since then, we've been patrolling in pairs, taking care not to get caught up in certain sections of the arena, always keeping track of the time. Which reminds me...
I realise that I've been subconsciously following Lucas down the slope towards the lake for a few minutes. I've been following twenty yards behind him, an electric torch in one hand, my spear in the other. I holler down the hill towards Lucas, calling for him to stop, and he turns to face me.
"What is it?" he asks, bewildered.
"The time," I say. "Any idea what it is?"
Lucas looks up to the sky, and my eyes follow his gaze upwards, towards the sky. We've worked out that the sun rises just after five every morning and sets just before the death recap at seven-thirty. Looking into the east, we can both see just the faintest of glows along the horizon.
"I bet it's around five in the morning," Lucas says, and I nod back, although I'm not sure if he sees it in the dark.
"Know where we actually are?" I ask again. We've been walking straight down the hill since leaving our fire, and we must have been there for at least two hours. We started in the twelve o'clock sector and walked clockwise, so this must be no later than the six o'clock sector. Considering we haven't yet encountered a Gamemaker trap tonight, the continual cycle of horrors can't be far from us.
Lucas and I look down towards the cornucopia together for confirmation of our position, the tail of which points directly towards twelve o'clock, where blizzards strike up every day at midday and midnight without fail. That means that at six o'clock, we can see directly into the open end of the cornucopia. While we can see into the cornucopia, our angle towards it is slanted, as though we haven't quite reached six o'clock. I'd say that we're at around five on the clock, which means that-
"We need to get out of here right now!" Lucas exclaims, wasting to time in planning his escape. No longer running down towards the cornucopia but at an angle downhill diagonally, hoping to move around the clock at the same time as descending to the frozen lake. My mind flits back to the Quell fought in an arena like this, from which many of the traps have remained the same, or have been adapted to suit this year's frozen arena. However, nothing of the sectors from four to eight on the clock remains in my memory. I guess we'll find out what we're up against if we ever have to meet it.
Suddenly I'm aware of the danger I'm in when Lucas crashes to the floor in front of me, his hands reaching to his shoulders, rolling in the snow on the floor. I look up from watching him at just the wrong moment as I crash into something as visible as the air but as solid as a face smashes into something and I reel backwards, cursing in pain as I cup one hand beneath my nose to catch the blood now streaming from it.
And suddenly I know what I'm up against.
As I turn around, I'm not surprised to see a small bird, white-crested with black feathers, waiting for me on a low branch of a nearby cedar tree. I'm bracing myself for the torture that the jabberjays may bring, raising my spear to strike when the small bird suddenly starts singing.
"Deep in the-"
The bird topples backwards from the branch, collapsing into the snow with my spear still embedded in its chest. It quivers once on the ground then lies still.
I stand over the dead mutt, pulling out my spear from its body, visibly shaken. Of all things for the Gamemakers to torment me with, they choose that song...
"A bed of grass-"
The second bird falls as quickly as the first, but I can see more circling overhead and I know that I won't be able to hold them off for long.
"Lay down your head, and close-"
The third bird puts up more of a fight, taking a spear and continuing to harmonise as I rush over to it and thrash at it with my knife, holding back tears as the bird's voice finally ceases. It's the voice of the Mockingjay, an old recording taken from her Games over thirty years ago, when she won with Peeta Mellark, the man who fought with her to begin the road to rebellion. It was a traditional song from her doomed district, sung to young girl from Eleven after my uncle speared her. To the rest of the world it spoke of defiance and unity, but to my family the song has only ever been my uncle's funeral music, the first of thousands to fall at the hands of the Mockingjay, thirty-one summers ago. My mother's only sibling, she insisted that I was to be named Marvel after him. Especially now that I have replicated his trip to the arena, I feel as though the young man I never met is as much a part of me as anyone else I know.
I sit back on my heels in the snow, my head bowed, resigned to defeat against the jabberjays. Somewhere behind me I can hear Lucas screaming, pounding against that invisible wall for release, but I find that I no longer care about him as the birds begin the second verse of their infernal chorus.
This time there's nowhere for me to hide, and I find myself in the shoes of that dying boy, his wrecked body no concern to the able-bodied girl twenty yards away, content to see his blood spill into the dirt around him. For the first time, I begin to doubt that I made the right decision by signing up to District 1's Training Centre to emulate him. I've killed dozens to get this far (including four of the sixteen casualties so far in the Games) and soon it could be my turn to lie bleeding out in the snow.
For the first time, I feel almost apathetic at my voluntary position, and then extremely angry at the Capitol, who not only do nothing to stop the Games, but are crucial to the Games' survival.
And people like me - the Careers - get the worst of it, spending their young lives being prepared for slaughter in the arena, made to look their best so that the Capitol can enjoy watching them die. Sure, we're better than most of the other tributes and one of us wins roughly every other year, but that still puts my odds of victory at one in twelve. Not much to go for, really.
And it doesn't really matter what I do, because the Gamemakers have so much control over who lives and dies in the arena. If they don't like me - or any other tribute, for that matter - it would be easy enough to kill them off. Remember what they did to that cannibal Titus around half a century ago. Took out three innocents to make sure he didn't become a victor. Even the actions of others around you could condemn you. In the arena, the Gamemakers are always watching, and you are never safe.
And after the arena, you never properly make it back home. A part of you stays in the arena, a lost soul forever. Look at those victors that have turned to substance abuse for escape; it doesn't work, just makes them worse. Why else would they continue to search for peace?
And at the end of the day, who am I? Some kid from District 1 who wanted to make a point. Who wanted to avenge a fallen family member. Who wanted to prove his worth to his relatives. In the grand scheme of things, I am nobody. Just another source of entertainment, when my time runs out and the people of the Capitol cheer at my death. I am not essential, just a small part of the Hunger Games; a disposable part, a part designed to be broken.
I begin to think that maybe the rebels were the one's who had it right thirty years ago, but I stop myself short, cutting off my thoughts as the jabberjays' song fades out, offering a brief rest before it strikes up again, and Isure as hell know that I can't go through that again. The re-emergence of years-old nightmares is the last thing I need in the arena.
My hand tightens around the shaft of my spear lying in the snow by my side.
I'll do anything to escape it.
That morning, Lucas was killed by Marvel while off guard in the hour of the jabberjays, a spear plunged through his stomach in a fit of rage, the boy from District 2 being left to slowly bleed to death in the snow.
As Marvel returned to camp alone that morning he lied about the cause of Lucas' death and stayed with the Careers that day before abandoning them that evening. He killed both his district partner and the girl from Two in their sleep, cutting the number of tributes left alive to four and escaping the cornucopia well-stocked with supplies.
At 10 am the next morning, exactly a week after the tributes first entered the arena, the Gamemakers activated all of their traps at once, making the entire arena excluding the frozen lake extremely dangerous to all tributes. The boy from District 4 was killed by a pack of mountain wolf mutts in the 3.00-4.00 sector, and the girl from Seven was killed by the poisonous gas in the neighbourig sector, but Marvel and the girl from District 14 managed to reach the frozen lake and the cornucopia for the final showdown of the Games. In a short battle, Marvel disarmed his opponent before ramming his spear through her throat, crowning him the victor of the 105th Annual Hunger Games.
A/N: I'm not sure about how this one turned out... Please let me know what you all think via review. As ever, constructive criticism is welcomed :)
P.S. One year ago today, I posted the first chapter of my first fanfiction, Second Time Unlucky. In the 365 days since then, I've managed to post 14 stories, containing 237 chapters and over 460,000 words, and have received 38 author alerts, 46 author favourites, 162 story alerts, 148 story favourites, over 100,000 views and over 1,100 reviews, which is simply incredible. I'd just like to thank everyone who has contributed to any of this during the last year - whether you've read one of my stories or taken the time to review every chapter, post a chapter for competitions or community projects, or give me vital suggestions that have helped me to plan my stories and inspire me to continue writing - and I hope that, with all of your help, the next year will be even better than the one that has now come to pass.
Thanks so much, everyone :)