Hey! This is for the monthly one-shot challenge at the Caesar's Palace forum. Prompt: "When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose." -from the song "Holes" by Passenger. Which I don't know, just know the quote. Don't kill me if I mess anything up. :)
When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose.
- "Holes" by Passenger
It was raining the day that Sage lost everything she had left.
The whole District Nine would have been happy. They hadn't had rain for over a month, and the fields were dry, not much hope for a good crop that year. Everyone would be outside in the fields, happy about their work for once. The little children would have been excited, their parents' joy rubbing off on them, and the streets would be full of little kids splashing in mud puddles and running through the rain, squealing with joy.
Only, it was reaping day. The reaping of the 67th Hunger Games. And the districts was too preoccupied with the fates of their children to care about the rain. And the ones that noticed only knew that the sky was crying too. Just like them.
Sage was only ten years old. She didn't understand why her Sissy was so sad, why there wasn't any work that day. But she liked seeing Amber, dressed up in an old, faded blue blouse and a skirt. The fabric of the skirt was such a pretty blue, and she wanted to run her fingers over it. She was playing marbles with her sister, a simple little game to keep the girls occupied before it was time for the reaping. Of course, their marbles were only little balls of wood, worn down from years of use. And of course Amber won. She was eighteen, and Sage was only ten, barely getting the hang of the game.
"It's not fa-air!" Sage was whining, stamping her foot on the ground angrily. "I don't wanna play! You always beat me. Every game we play!" A sudden stroke of inspiration hit her brain, making her twice as mad at her sister. "You'd even beat me in the Hunger Games!"
For a second, Amber went silent, and Sage saw her bite her lip, wiping at her eye once, blinking and looking down at her scuffed shoes. That was when Sage remembered that it was Amber's last year in the reaping. Sage didn't understand that much, but she did know that something was going on. Something that made her Sissy sad, and she didn't want to make her sadder than already. "Sorry, Sissy," she whispered, and Amber turned away.
Sage knew that she shouldn't have said that, after it had slipped out. After all, Amber had raised her. Around a fourth of the district's adults had died or were severely injured in the fire that had ripped through the fields of crops eight years ago. Her father burned to death right away, but it had taken her mother a few days for her wounds to kill her. At least Sage didn't remember them- it must have been ten times as painful for Amber.
So, as they walked to the square, Sage was thinking of ways to apologize to her.
But Sage heard the fancy, scary, neon lady at the reaping call her sister's name. "Amber Hemp!" she trilled, after pulling the slip out of the reaping ball.
That's my sister! Sage thought in a panic, but by then, Amber was already walking up to the stage. Ashen-faced, stumbling a little, eyes wide and filled with tears. It was too late. Or was it too early? Because Sage knew that in a couple of years, she'd be able to take Amber's place. But she couldn't.
And when Sage went into the Justice Building solemnly and silently, and handed her crying sister one of the wooden marbles -the one that had made Amber win-, she knew that she was going to be alone.
And as Sage watched the recap of the bloodbath, she barely caught a glimpse of her sister. But she saw enough. The blade, drawing a thin but deep line over Amber's throat. The huge boy from District One laughing maniacally, leaving her sister limp and dead in the grass. So thoroughly dead.
From there on out, Sage didn't care about who would win the Games. She just cared about the fact that her sister had died within the first five minutes, and they'd never get to play marbles again.
For some reason, that made her cry even more than the realization that she'd probably starve. Because at that point, she cared about her sister more than herself.
Only a few months later, and Sage had ran out of money. The shivering eleven-year-old girl stood on a victor's doorstep. Ringing the bell over and over, pounding her small fist into it. It was sleeting, and she was unbelievably cold. The slush that soaked through her shoes made her toes numb. "Please," she whispered, her words almost lost in the wind. "Please, please answer the door-"
The burly man opened the door, shocking Sage for a second. He was at least six feet tall, and very muscular. Like he could snap the poor, starving girl in half like she was nothing but a useless twig. "Little bitch," he snarled. "I'm absolutely sick of you little poor brats coming to me for money, begging with nothing to offer." Sage backed away, terrified, and a little daunted by the stench of alcohol on his breath, cutting through the cold air. Then his face twisted into a smile. No, a sneer. A smile was too nice. "Unless, of course, you'd be willing to offer... something."
She didn't like the sound of that, but she'd do anything... Then her innocent brain processed what he was saying. "All right!" she begged. She didn't want to get on a victor's bad side, after all. "Please. Just a little bit of money."
His lips curled up even further, making him look even more scary to Sage. She was ready to run, and hide, and whimper in a corner, and cry herself to sleep... but she couldn't.
"No payments in advance," he grunted, pulling her by the arm into his house, making sure that her shoulder smacked into the door frame and that she stumbled on the curled-up carpet. "And I'll expect you five nights a week. Five hours a night. And I decide the prices."
On the reaping of the 68th Hunger Games, Sage was too miserable -too tired, too sore, too pained- to remember that next year would be her first reaping. And she'd have to face it alone.
But the next year was so much different. Sage was dead on her feet, sleepy and feeling purely awful. So it took her a second to hear...
"Sage Hemp!" the Capitol woman squealed, the name echoing across the square. Sage could see her lips curl up into a smile. Just like the victor's lips did when she came by for another night. Only the woman's lips were painted bright green, and her clothes were a hideous neon orange-
Wait... that's me, Sage realized, horrified. Her hands were shaking, and she fisted them around handfuls of her skirt. She was only twelve... it wasn't fair... her sister was already dead because of the Games... "No," she half-whispered, half-moaned, squeezing her eyes shut. But then she felt a Peacekeeper's hand on her shoulder, dragging her up to the stage roughly. Roughly, like the victor that beat her five nights a weak. For barely enough money to make it by.
All of District Nine -no, all of Panem- saw her standing on the stage, trembling. Her vision wavered with the tears in her eyes. Her skirt was unwashed, ripped at the knees. Her blouse hung loose on her starved frame. She knew that everyone could see her blackened left eye, the dark circles underneath both of her eyes, the way that she hung back from the front of the stage, scared to death.
She knew. And she didn't care. She'd stopped caring long ago.
It was funny, in a sort of dark way. Sage knew that no one would say goodbye to her, but the harsh reality of sitting alone in the Justice Building, crying all by herself, was almost too much for her to take.
But she did the only thing she could think of: cry. And cry. And cry until she could barely produce another tear.
"So, Sage," Caesar Flickerman said as a greeting to her. The Capitol crowd cheered, clapping, throwing flowers at the stage. Sage just shrank back away from Caesar, feeling exposed in a short, light blue dress. She was so shaky on her feet that she almost fell over, teetering on her silver heels. "Planning on avenging your sister, Amber?"
Sage was silent for a second. Her hand went immediately to her side, forgetting that she was in her interview dress and not her training outfit. Because she'd kept one of her and Amber's marbles -her district token, just like her sister's- in her pocket, all the time. On her nightstand while she slept. Within her reach almost all the time. It was a piece of the sister she'd lost, and no one could take it away.
But they'd taken Amber...
Sage found herself shaking her head. "No," she said quietly. "I just plan on doing what I want for myself. That's all. Avenge her or not, I'm going to do what I want to happen."
Why bother to survive when you've lost everything?
Truly, Sage didn't care about the arena. She stared around at the other tributes, at the Cornucopia. Shivering again. The Gamemakers were making it rain, adding some difficultly to the bloodbath. It reminded her so much of the day that Amber had been reaped, and she had to suppress the sobs that wracked her body as she squinted around at everyone else.
In her fingers was the marble. The beautiful wooden marble that her sister's fingers caressed years ago.
And as the seconds ticked by, she thought about everything that had happened. No parents. Just her sister to raise her. And then the Capitol had taken that away from her. And then she'd had to sell her body to a victor that beat her and barely gave her any money for it. And now she was a tribute. About to die...
But she wanted to die on her own terms. And she knew exactly how.
I have nothing left, Sage thought. So what do I have to lose? She answered her own question, her lips forming the word, barely a breath coming out of her mouth. "Nothing," she said softly.
The marble slipped from her fingers, onto the pedestal. And Sage Hemp became a pillar of fire, igniting into the sky, blown into thousands of pieces. Shocking the other tributes. Making even the well-trained ones from the upper districts look over, eyes wide with awed horror. Rubbing it in the Gamemakers' faces. And the talk going around Panem went on for months, how they'd had to scrape bits of the little girl off the ground.
But she died on her own terms. Because she didn't have anything left to lose but herself.
So this was about the girl from a Games sometime before the 74th, who dropped her district token before the gong went off. In case you didn't catch that.
Hope you enjoyed. :)