Hello again everyone, its Paradigm of Writing here with the last, and I mean it, the last chapter of Capitol's Strike. You've read twenty six chapters of grueling games and other monstrosities as 24 original characters vied for the top spot in the accursed Hunger Games. I've been so happy to have created 27 characters you could of had the chance to fallen in love with and I hope this story has made a lasting impression on you. Some people I've had to say goodbye to in the games are still stuck in my brain, making me think far deeper than I want to. Like, what if Eve was in Cranston's position, or Pablo, or Jake, Mako, Birch, Rye, or even Rust. Heck, any of the main characters, what if they were put in his position? It's been such a long, grueling journey and I've finally reached the end of this. Just because Capitol's Strike is finished does not mean Cranston's legacy is finished. If things go according to plan, I'll be typing in around October the sequel to this story, Death Under the Sky. It'll yet again be another 24 OC character Hunger Games story, this time following the 2nd HG. These two stories are going to be one fifth of the series I'm creating- Behind the Monitor. In this series, it follows the 1st through the 10th Hunger Games, and their victors as they watch the games get worse and worse with each year. My twist at the very end of the 10th unnamed Hunger Games story, my twist ending will have you cussing and crying hysterically. I can't wait! But, still first... we have to do this ending of the 1st HG. I'm planning on a 5000 word chapter, but it just may be longer depending on how emotionally wrecked I want Cranston to be at the end. Please enjoy Chapter 27 of CS: And So Another One Goes...
Cranston Ervack: Victor of the 1st Hunger Games
The only thing I could focus on was the drumming sound of my heartbeat that echoed inside my head. My eyes were not willing themselves to open, and it would've been damn good to know where the hell I am. Could I possibly be dead and is this what death truly is when you experience it? If it is, it doesn't seem bad. I, however knew this wasn't death because there were two omnipresent voices talking above me, two voices I knew quite well. President Ammadeus Snow of Panem, and Head Gamemaker Jerald Donnor of the Capitol were the two people conversing somewhere around me. The same two people who put me in that arena, the same people who caused my victory, even maybe my death...
"Are you sure that when he wakes that he'll be stable?" Ammadeus asked Jerald from... somewhere.
"Nope," Jerald replied enthusiastically. "He can be completely insane, or stable as a rock. Hard to tell. Least I'm not the one waking him up."
"That's why I asked." the president grumbled back.
Sounds kept shifting towards me, a door opening then closing. That noise repeated, and my atmosphere added an extra person in my arena of darkness. A hand was placed on my shoulder, and gently rubbed it. Still, my eyes did not open. Then the rubbing slightly got rougher. My eyes fluttered open, and I met face-to-face with the vampire eyes of President Ammadeus. That meant I was in the Capitol.
I lurched upward, scaring Ammadeus out of his wits who jumped away from me with a manly squeal. I felt my body, feeling the coolness of my hair sliding between my fingers. Closing my eyelids and gently pressing them... I had still had two eyes. What color they are, I cannot tell. Instead of that horrid training outfit, and the even worse arena outfit, I was clothed in a simple medical dress... I think. The only true description I could give it was that it went down to my bare knees, was the color of talc, and it had a hole for my arms and head.
Ammadeus recollected himself, and went to the foot of the bed I was lying in, blocking me from Jerald's view. The entire room was white, and Ammadeus's was in a flashy cherry red suit, and matching smoky gray dress pants. The red was a sight for my sore eyes, it reminded me too much of the blood that splattered my fingers in the arena, the gray representing the eyes of a foe that caused the latter part of my arena stay to be a disaster, the web of lies that had tied me closer till I choked.
"Where am I?" I whispered, lowering my arms down to my sides.
"How are you feeling?" Ammadeus asked.
"Good. Now tell me where I am." I said sharply, giving the president an icy glare. He shuddered slightly, and bringing his knuckle to the glass that separated me from a viewing room, rapped his knuckle against it.
Some movement inside the viewing room happened, and then Jerald... the man who designed my own doom stood in front of me. "You're in the Capitol Mr. Ervack. Do you remember why?"
"Because I'm an ass?" I answered, wanting to see if this was at least partly true.
Ammadeus laughed. "Well, you came here originally because of that," Jerald flashed his superior a glare, and Ammadeus wised up. "But, now you're here for a different reason. Remember the Hunger Games?"
This time the laugh came from me, like a billowing ash cloud escaping my from lips. I curled my body inward, wiping a tear from my face. "Are you kidding me sir? Who can forget the Hunger Games?"
"Then you must remember Eve Gladius, Rye Henderson, Jake Quipp, and all of the other tributes." Jerald added, putting his hands at the foot of the bed.
"Eve died... Rye died... and Jake-" I started, then my lips lost the ability to help me talk.
"What about Jake?" Ammadeus quipped.
"Where is he?"
"He's-" Jerald began to say.
"Where the hell is Jake Quipp? Are you keeping him somewhere? I want to know where he is!" I screamed, slamming my hand against the covers of the bed, then falling back against the pillow, tears starting to stream down my face.
"He's emotionally unstable," Jerald whispered to Ammadeus, before turning to me. "Mr. Ervack... Jake Quipp from District 10 is dead. You shot an arrow into his chest, if you can remember that. You are the very first victor of the 1st Annual Hunger Games Cranston. Out of the 24 that came in... you were the only one who came out. Jake is not here in the Capitol alive, at least."
The tears dribbled onto my neck, then onto the medical dress. A clotting dark spot dotted the tip of the dress at my neck hole, soon growing into a line. The two Capitol men leaned in to me, staying at my side. Ammadeus pressed a gentle hand onto my head, slightly ruffling my hair. I swallowed the breath I didn't know I was holding. "Something's wrong with me. I can sense it in me. I'm not the same person I was before entering that hellish arena."
"We can't explain it either," Jerald apologized, patting my hand. "The only thing we can do is ask you to get dressed. There's someone here to meet you. There's also someone here to see you."
I frowned. "What's the difference?"
Ammadeus shrugged. "One person you haven't met yet. The other person... well, he's very important to you."
The two didn't say another word, and filed out of my hospital room, leaving me in stunned silence. They did tell me to get dressed... but I couldn't find any clothes. As soon as I thought that, a nice pair of underwear flopped down from above me, landing on the bridge of my nose. Disgusted, I pulled the clothing item off of my nose and flung it to the floor. Standing up on the unstable bed, I saw that my outfit was on a shelf that overlooked my bed. Grabbing the shirt, I let the material slide through my fingers. It was velvet, the smooth fabric feeling like heaven. The pants were a slim and sleek grey, the clouds of a thunderstorm. Taking off the medical dress, I looked at my naked, pale body in the mirror.
Hollowed out eyes stared back at me, and I felt like some sort of alien. My ribs were definitely more prominent than before, and running my fingers over them felt like I was running my fingers over the metal bars of a train track. My limbs, especially my legs were pencil thin. I could enclosed my hand around my arm till I hit my elbow, the extra added bone and skin preventing me from going any further. I was skinny as can be.
Throwing on the underwear, the feeling of this fabric didn't feel foreign to me. Slipping on the dress shirt, however did. For a moment, I let the cold chills sliver down my body and spine, shuddering slightly. The shirt was a deep maroon, with pallid white buttons. My favorite touch about the shirt was that the name Cranston was stitched in with silvery thread near my collarbone, announcing that this outfit belonged to only me. The dress pants were the same material, frigid to the touch. Swirls of deep navy and glistening gold collided near the hems of my waist, and fell down the front side of my leg like raindrops of sapphire and halcyon. Running a comb quickly through my mop of still mahogany colored hair, I felt presentable at least.
Inching towards the door, I grasped the handle. Holding this door handle didn't feel awkward either... for how often I had to hold the shaft of a metal weapon left me assured with the smooth yet coarse feeling of iron. Turning the handle downwards, a soft click sounded out from my room, telling me the door was open. The lobby of the Capitol hospital was far more festive than my room. My bare feet itched at the feeling of carpet, a gorgeous pattern etched out on the cloth. Ammadeus and Jerald were sitting at a table with another man I did not recognize, this table being in the center of the room. A fourth man who looked strangely familiar stood close by, checking his watch every few minutes.
The man had turned his face towards mine, and my breath hitched. I immediately started running across the lobby to him, a smile forming at my lips. Jerald stood to formally introduce me to the man, but I didn't need that. I knew him well enough, I saw him everyday before getting shipped out to the arena. I threw my arms around my father in a hug, who was surprised to even see me.
"Dad..." I whispered comfortingly, squeezing my father tighter.
"Oh Cranston, my boy!" my father said, allowing the embrace. He ran a hand through my hair, the faint smell of maple syrup and factory smoke combining as one to form a hickory scent. Oh, how I missed the smell of District 8, my nostrils being infiltrated by artificial and engineering scents.
"I missed you so much." I replied, releasing myself from his body.
"Me too son." my father, Herschel Ervack smiled back, his hand still atop my head.
My father still is the same old man I had before I left. His twinkling hazel eyes reignited with passion, matching the grand grin that decorated his face. His moustache was still straight as ever, but now my pop was getting some facial hair down his chin and up to his sideburns.
"Dad... are you growing a beard?"
"What if I am?" he challenged, his eyes glimmering with playfulness.
"It doesn't matter to me," I decided. "All I care about is that you're here with me."
Jerald clamped a hand on my shoulder. "I'm afraid you'll have to do some catching up later, Cranston. You'll get to see your father after we talk."
My father's eyes narrowed to slits, and he nodded sullenly. "Of course, I forgot about that. Sure, I'll let you attend and tell him whatever needs to be said. I'll see you later Cranston."
He gave me one final hug, before walking out the front entrance of the hospital, into the glowing haze of the outside Capitol area.
"Where's he going?" I asked, looking at the Head Gamemaker.
"Your father is off to customs, the Capitol airport. When this day is over, he'll get to take you home. We won't have you take an unbearable ride on a train all the way back to District 8, for the Midwest is far from here," Ammadeus explained. He motioned me to a chair, next to the stranger I have yet to meet. "Please sit."
Jerald released his grip, and I sat down. Ammadeus folded his hands together, while Jerald pulled out a folder from underneath his chair.
"Now, Cranston, you do realize you are a victor." Jerald said, opening the folder.
I nodded. "Yes, winner of the 1st Hunger Games and all of that jazz. Yadda yadda. I've heard it ten million times from you in the past hour."
"Along with the title comes something we think you should know." Ammadeus whispered, looking up from his lap.
"And that being?"
"You're going to have to become something called a mentor." Jerald added, placing a paper in front of me, full of typed up words.
Ammadeus sighed. "You'll have to be someone who coaches the upcoming tributes from District 8."
"I... I don't understand." I said, looking down at my hands in confusion.
"Cranston," Jerald warned, lowering his voice to a dangerously calm level, "Being a mentor means this... you'll have to come back to the Capitol each year and be as a guide for the two District 8 tributes you'll receive each year."
Jerald's words sunk into my brain slowly, like a sponge absorbing water. It hit me, a ton of bricks being dropped on my body. I... I would have to be forced to return to the Capitol each year till the day I die and act as a leader for whomever I'd get on my team for next year. This really would drop the ball on me because now it would be up to me to bring someone home each year... and if I didn't... it means I let down my district and had two young lives on my hands.
"We've also had to add some extra... stuff into these Hunger Games," Ammadeus said, continuing the conversation by pulling out another stack of papers from the folder. "The Capitol audience has become bored with what the games brought to the screen. These people we govern were literally falling asleep in their asides to us, for how the games played out were exhaustingly tiring to watch. Same old they said!" by that point the president was screaming.
Jerald admonishingly placed a hand on his superior's shoulder, before turning to me again. "When you came from District 8, Ammadeus and I picked out random kids, with a few inputs from the populace. It simply was just bad luck that we landed on your name out of the twelve or more children that are sons and daughters of the mayor of their district. We're now having to pick our tribute by a process called Reapings. There are two large bowls, filled with slips of paper. One separate bowl for all males, and one for the ladies. What did you notice when you arrived here, specifically something about everyone's age."
I racked my brain for possible answers. "The youngest tribute was Rye, at age thirteen. The oldest tribute was Mako and Wake who were eighteen."
Ammadeus nodded. "Precisely. This reaping will call for every boy and girl, between the ages of twelve to eighteen to be called to the town square and be roped off. The head Peacekeeper of the district will require a small blood sample to initiate a loading process that recognizes that this child is in attendance. The boys will be sorted by age division, younger ones in the back; the older males will be in the front. Same for the ladies."
Jerald picked up from where Ammadeus left off. "There will be a person who has to reach into these bowls and grab one slip of paper. That is going to be your job... till we can find someone else who is willing to go to all twelve districts and do this for us. Do you have any idea how many twelve to eighteen year olds live in your district?"
I shrugged. "No idea."
"Roughly four to seven thousand," Ammadeus answered. "That's a lot of names and children to pick from. We have to encompass all of these kids, which seems to be a daunting task. The Capitol, to be fair wanted Jerald and I issue a simple system that draws the top of the pack from the rest. When you turn twelve, it is the first year you are viable for the reaping. You have one slip in the bowl of your gender, mixed with all the rest. When you turn thirteen, an extra slip is added on and so forth. When you turn eighteen, there is a maximum of seven slips in the bowl with your name on it."
"Doesn't seem that bad." I commented, digging my nails into the wooden lines and crevasses of the table.
Jerald laughed a little, a weak and demoralizing chuckle. "Not so fast Mr. Ervack, not so fast. That is where the loophole comes in. For an odd reason, many people in the districts are quite poor and do not go around making much of a living for themselves. The citizens of the Capitol graciously, and I use that word as loosely as possible, added something called tesserae. Tesserae is an extra supply of whatever resources you need, allotted up to a pound in weight. For exchange however, because the citizens of the Capitol hate when things go to waste, three extra slips with your name on it get added into the bowl."
A hand went to my mouth, to keep me from screaming. My brain exploded in fury. "That just adds more names to the draw, heightening the unbearable chance that someone can be picked. That's awful."
"There's even more," Ammadeus said, flipping to yet another page in the folder. "Probably the most rewarding, and satisfying thing about the whole reaping system is the process of volunteering. When a name is called, any boy or girl given the gender of the tribute, can volunteer to take his or her place. This is definitely a blessing in disguise, but these chances of it happening seem very rare in itself. You, as a mentor just have to hope and pray that you get tributes of an older age group, or a tribute that looks as if they can manage a fight."
"Wouldn't we all want that?" I asked nonchalantly, picking my gaze up to stare deep into Ammadeus's eyes. The president shuddered slightly, he wasn't ever truly going to be used to the fact that people resented him, far worse than what any Capitol citizen would dare say or do.
"There are a couple more things to go ever." Jerald announced dully, clearing his throat and straightening his tie while doing so.
"Oh joy." Ammadeus and I both groaned sarcastically, the president opting to even do a eye roll only using one eye.
"Tribute parades are probably the most confusing addition to the entire grand scheme of things," the Head Gamemaker droned, pulling out one last sheet of paper with even more writing on the page. "You come from District 8. As you know, each district has a trade or several business markets they operate on. District 8 is textiles, or clothing production."
"Yeah... what about it?" I questioned, leaning back in my chair.
Ammadeus rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, squirming slightly in his seat. "My citizens... the abominations that I govern like to dress up in these ridiculous and outlandish costumes. Some dunderhead somewhere in one of the upper sectors of the Capitol decided to create something called a tribute parade. There are 24 tributes selected each year for the Hunger Games, two from each of the twelve districts, one male and one female. Each district represents a trade, yours is textiles and clothing. The tributes would be dressed up in these costumes created by someone called a stylist. The tributes would be put on twelve chariots pulled by horses, and the chariots would come down the city lane up to my mansion, where crowds would adore you and shower you with whatever ridiculous gift they think is suiting. It'd be the first time most of the citizens of the Capitol got a close enough interaction with the tributes, which would sway their decisions in sponsoring a certain tribute."
"It's like a puppet show," Jerald commented, shivering. "Imagine a buffet line and you tributes were the appetizer, entrée, and dessert. Every one of your 'adoring' fans would be actually just lustfully waiting your death. It is a sickening prospect to think how someone finds entertainment of human death on screen, let alone children participating in the sickness."
"There isn't much change, except now the citizens would like to have little to no interaction between tributes as possible. We held parties for you all the night you got here, and the night before leaving into the arena. We wanted you all to try and form bonds that wouldn't be able to be broken, so there could've been less bloodshed. Clearly it didn't work. The private sessions, training, and interviews would happen like normal. When Jerald will announce the scores, the tributes will have to be on their own respective floors, not all down in the lobby. The alliance rule still exists, which is the only good thing I can find in all this evil." Ammadeus said, closing the folder.
"Any questions?" Jerald asked, and then he burst out laughing. I could sense why he found it funny, but I personally found it very rude.
"One question," I admitted, then I jerked my thumb to the man who had been sitting next to me the entire time. "Who is this guy?"
Ammadeus blinked, he must've forgotten all about the stranger on my right. A warm smile etched onto his lips. "I am so sorry Cranston, I completely forgot to introduce you to this lovely man. Cranston, this is Caelan Escorath, our new Interviewer. He'll be... filling in for Haddison who left that spot vacant."
Caelan finally turned to me, and my heart stopped beating. This man was gorgeous. He had campfire red hair, neatly combed atop a pale and ghostly white complexion. His eyes were the color of fireflies, a seemingly genetically muted orange and yellow, crackling like the wisps of a flame. As I shook hands with him, even the feel of his skin was lovely, my hand perfectly sliding into his. "I am so getting in those pants of yours later on Mr. Escorath." I thought dirtily.
"Nice to meet you Caelan. I bet you'll be a fabulous Interviewer! Haddison was... distasteful." I complimented, shaking his hand heartily. Man, I don't even know the guy and I already want to strip him of his clothes that clung to his body. They were practically screaming at me to take them off. Hopefully he wouldn't catch on to my... fantasies I so wished to execute.
Caelan smiled warmly, bringing me in to a hug. "Nah, you get up close and personal," he said sweetly. He then leaned into my ear. "I know exactly what you're thinking. My room, twelfth floor afterwards?" he whispered, running a chilled hand down my neck.
I retracted away, blushing as bright as a beat. Jerald and Ammadeus locked eyes for a moment, a small grin peeking at Ammadeus's lips. He reached down into Jerald's lower area, clearly knowing exactly what Caelan and I were discussing. Jerald griped the president's wrist, stopping him from going any further. I don't think I've ever seen Jerald so angry before, his eyes replaced by a fiery rage.
"Not now." the Head Gamemaker hissed. He tried telling Ammadeus that in a low tone, but my ears catch everything around me.
Ammadeus's grin grew larger, before turning to me. "We need to know one thing. Are you ready for what comes next?"
"What comes next?" I asked nervously, clutching the sides of the chair in anticipation of some projectile being thrown at my head.
Caelan stood. "This is probably the least fun you'll have with this entire day... and I can't blame you. I have to interview you on your time in the arena."
"That doesn't sound too bad."
"No, it's worse than you'd ever imagine," Caelan shot back, tenacious venom dripping off of his words. "You'll be forced to sit with me and talk about the other tributes, one by one. Your life back home, what's it like being a victor. The worst possible thing about the entire interview is that you have to see a rerun of your Hunger Games in it's entirety, so the audience can see your reactions on everything, not just what you say. You have to sit between the announcing of the scores, some backstories of certain main tributes... ugh... it goes on and on. You'll be given a day-by-day replay of the games."
The oxygen left my lungs in one full scream, I didn't even comprehend what was happening to me. I jumped from my seat, pushing the table back with all my might. Ammadeus and Jerald cautiously stepped back while I sunk to my knees, hugging my body tight. The tears wouldn't stop falling down my face, and if I tried to stop, I only cried worse. Reliving these games is insane in its own right. I'll have to relive Birch's death, Eve's death, Velvet, Flint, and Violet's deaths. I'll have see me shoot Jake in the chest, see myself kill Mako due to an order. Probably the worst part of it all is I'll be seeing Rye, alive and well on that screen; till the moment comes when I had to toss the axe into his chest. I should've just let him kill me when he had given me the opportunity. I wouldn't be reliving this hell on Earth now.
What did I ever do to deserve this cruel fate? Not everything is fatalistic, but it seems as if fate is just throwing huge hurdles in front of me. I keep on tripping over them.
Someone placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. It was Caelan. "I don't want to ruin your grieving Mr. Ervack, but we do have a job. I'm required to interview you in five minutes, back in the same room when Haddison issued you all your deaths on a silver plate. Ammadeus and Jerald will be in the audience, as well as your father should you lose your bearings. Don't forget, I'll be right next to you the entire time."
Caelan was right. I needed to act like the sixteen year-old guy I was, and suck up my pitiful tears. My friends and family back in District 8 will understand, but here in the Capitol... the citizens here are denizens who have no emotion, they live artificial lives. I willed myself to step up to my feet, although my legs felt like jelly. Slightly wobbling, I propped myself against Caelan, looping an arm in his. I hardly know him, and he's already trying to become my best friend. He... he could be the next Rye. I'll just hopefully see to it that he doesn't die in tragedy.
Jerald and Ammadeus moved the table back to its original position, before turning to me with grim expressions. "Caelan will be next to you on that stage the entire time, while Ammadeus and I will be in the first floor down on ground level. If you ever need for the interview to stop, let us know. You'll have to watch the entire Hunger Games though, so this process might take a few days." Jerald told me, shaking my hand once more, before turning around and exiting out the front door of the hospital.
I locked eyes with Caelan. He eyed me with concern. "Are you ready?"
I nodded weakly, slugging him in the arm. "Always ready, always prepared. I guess my question to you is, are you ready?"
Caelan shook his head in digress. "Nope," he replied enthusiastically. "I will never be fully ready! But, that adds to the prospect of new horizons. We'll just have to let this play out, okay?"
I smiled, before hugging the Interviewer with all might. "Sometimes I need that, just the knowledge of letting something play out."
Everyone needs that. If you didn't need that... you weren't human.
You wouldn't be human.
The deafening roar of the audience when Caelan took the stage was my first hint that what I was about to get myself into was some deep level shit. He is hardly even a face of the 1st Hunger Games, he just got the interviewer position yesterday. The crowd already loved him this much... then how would they react to me? Being a victor has its props, but you can't help and remember the faces who flash by yours. Rust's coldness, Eve's calculations and golden hair, Violet's stubbornness, Culliver's will and desire to knock Violet down, Flint's determinism, Jake's leadership, Mako and Nydia's love, Rye's innocence... they will never make a reappearance in my lifetime, only in dreams. Haunting memories of them flood my consciousness now, and I have yet to sit on the stage and witness my games all over again.
Once the crowd settled down, Caelan took to his job, guns blazing. "Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, citizens of the Capitol! I am your host, and new interviewer Caelan Escorath! Today, President Ammadeus and Head Gamemaker Jerald have a special surprise for you all," he said, sucking in the attention of the bemoaning groups of people seated in the amphitheater. The noise level rose back up to intense heights, and I covered my ears to not let the bloodthirsty shrieks and cries invade my hearing. Caelan drew everyone back in with a soothing shhhh sound of his voice. It made me want to sleep.
"Today, in the wings, Cranston Ervack, your winner of the very first Hunger Games is here tonight. You watched him battle the odds and be pitied against his fellow peers and even fellow allies. He managed to topple everyone off the pedestal, till one remained. You saw several relationships bloom on screen, some ending in sheer depression and calamity. Warriors arose from the bunch, only to be brought down by their own pride, biting their tongues and allowing their tails to sift between their legs. Cranston did not let that happen with his mind. He persevered, he willed himself to make it home alive to his family in District 8! Let's get him out here, shall we?"
The rest of Caelan's words were cut off by an explosion of cheering, whistling, and other miscellaneous noises that collected to form a symphony of disarray and chaos. I must be held up as a god to these people, for how barbaric they are. I slowly crept my foot up to the first stair, then willfully carried myself the rest of the way up to Caelan. The lights hit me, to reveal that alas, I was real. A blinding surge of white and yellow blocked my vision, obstructing my view of the audience. These lights were much stronger than the ones used on Interview night. Caelan met me with a hug, and as we sat on the two chairs situated in the center of the stage. Caelan gave me a reassuring squeeze on the hand, and then silently motioned that the headset microphone strapped around my left ear was turned on. He tapped his own microphone, registering a sound check.
The crowd hushed within a matter of seconds, as if their off button was flicked off.
Caelan leaned back, his chair able to recline. "Hello, Mr. Cranston Ervack. How are you feeling?"
"Stunned," I replied honestly. "Afraid. Worried. Stupefied that a measly boy like me is now the winner of the first ever Hunger Games."
"That's perfectly fine," Caelan smiled, patting my hand. "I assure you that everyone in your position would be feeling the same exact way. Now tell me, what was running through your head the moment you fired that last arrow, the one that ended Jake's life? After all, this arrow shot was the one that claimed you your rightful victory."
I blinked, unsure of what to say. He just jumped a whole twenty questions. Caelan is supposed to ask me about my district, what do I do on a normal day back home. Stuff like that... not my emotions in the games. Those types of questions were to be set for after he viewed the replay of the arena, and all of its atrocities. I licked my lips, trying to not show my nervousness. "Um... I actually had stopped running because I was tired of it. I was tired of running from my problems and having someone else solve them for me. I didn't have anyone else left in to confide with on my problem with Jake, no one could've ended his life except for I. After I released my arrow, I simply gave up. I didn't think my arrow would even hit him, let alone kill him. As you saw, I pushed my head into the grass of that stinging needle bed. Had my arrow missed, I would've let Jake run through me with his sword and let him claim victory. That arena sucks everything you have that makes you a person, and chews it up; you are chewed up and spit back out. By that time, there is nothing of your old self left. I know I'm Cranston Ervack, but there is something about me that's just not settling in with me, there's a new trait within me that my body is fighting off."
"Do you have anyone at home you are excited to see when you get back to District 8?"
"One person," I admitted. "But, I've already seen him. He was my remedy to all of this insanity. My father, Herschel Ervack was in the hospital with me this morning. I said hello to him, hugging him tighter than I've ever hugged anyone else before. My father is the mayor of District 8."
"You're the mayor's kid?" Caelan repeated, astounded. The audience gave a slight gasp, my father really isn't a revered figure here in the Capitol. That's what Ammadeus and Jerald told me at least.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I am. I don't know how you all feel about him, but he's the best dad in the world. He's the greatest father you could ever have."
Caelan smiled again, letting the audience swoon at my honesty. "I'm sure the audience would love for you to talk more about what happens outside of here, but this is more of a reciprocation on how you're feeling since the arena. Courtesy of the Capitol presidential staff, we have the entire 1st Hunger Games on film, and it has the event in its entirety. We will play the entire video, for Cranston to se what he went through just a few days before. Mr. Ervack, are you ready to see your games?"
I nodded, wiping my palms off on my pant legs. Sweat pooled underneath my fingers, my body temperature rose. I might be showing external signs of readiness, but my internal part of me just wanted to crawl up into a ball, hide in a hole, and then seal off the hole with a boulder so no one could find me. Caelan patted my hand, reminding me he's always going to be my side throughout the entire event. He made a thumbs up to someone up in an outer loft of the theater, someone I couldn't see.
The lights of the theater dimmed, and trumpets blared. An insignia of the Capitol logo, and an golden emblazed one appeared on the screen, followed by the words 1st Hunger Games in cursive writing. The words were replaced by greenery, and a golden ovation blocking most of the screen's outer view. A lump formed in my throat, this was the Cornucopia. They jumped straight ahead to the arena, forgetting all about the interviews and training scores. My last glimpses of a few people will be their deaths, and it will haunt me to no end.
Yep, I saw myself... and I don't even look the same anymore. Their faces flashed by. Jake, Mako, Rye, Eve, Ryder, Nydia, Birch, Rose... my allies are all dead, and I get to relieve those horrific moments. The timer continued counting down, and the camera panned over everyone's face. The dialogue, our words were barely audible... the killing hadn't started yet. The transition from six to five on the timer caused me to jump in my chair, just like it did back when this actually happened. Instead of it being a ticking noise, some voice had screamed five at the top of their lungs. On screen, Opal shrieked. The female from District 1 had teetered over in the slightest, and had she fallen any more over, she'd have been exploded from her pedestal. Then, a reverberating gong rang out, and the plain had exploded into action.
Jake and Mako were the only two had done anything, both of them stocked fully with supplies. Jake had turned around, screamed something at us, and then we had all started moving. The audience made a low whine when Jake's sword entered Ellen Dosse from three's chest. That had caused Ryder to lose his freaking ape shit, and he tried carving Jake into a pig. Flint had come over, knocked the poor rat from three off of him, and then proceeded to bear his weapon down on my old ally. Jake had dodged, and then knocked Flint to the ground. Lilianna saw Jake lose his marbles on the male career from two, and she tried stopping him. He had turned around, slicing Lilianna in the chest. I'll never get Jake's surprised face out of my head, the look of pure horror that he committed the death of his own partner.
Eve had stabbed Rust in the throat when he tried advancing on her, and that prompted the Careers to chase after her. Culliver jumped in Flint's path, and down the male from eleven went, a sword slash rippled across his now bleeding face. I blocked the rest of the cornucopia out, now lost in my own thoughts. Had Eve not killed Rust and ran away from our alliance... would the course of the games have been different? Would Rye and Eve's battle for supremacy have completely botched itself and not of happened? Would I have not had to kill Rye, cover it up and then watch as the rest of our alliance burned in pity? If Eve hadn't killed Rust on that day, would the games have gone a totally different way from it's original course. Now it's too late to wonder on that assumption, but it's a fun one to point out.
Rye and I formed the Lone Hunters, and Jake went out on his own. The video switched to Pablo, and my heart skipped several beats. This was where he killed himself, the depressed and suicidal male from District 5 offed himself here at this exact moment. He and Marie were trying to bash in some rock, trying to get something shiny from within the crevasses. The sword Pablo had in his hands had shattered in two, the sharper broken piece flying back to the bedrock below. Marie instructed Pablo to get the sword chunk, and as soon the male from five touched the weapon, I knew exactly what happened. I did all I could to not vomit as I watched Pablo send the sword chunk into his neck, the blood spewing out like a geyser. Marie's scream echoed in my ears, as she tossed herself at her district partner to check if he was alive.
Day two didn't seem to be going any better. While our alliance had sat and done nothing except watch Mako and Nydia make out, Jake was out exploring the arena. The Careers had indeed met with Ryder, and he had laid out what his plans were on how to find our alliance, the same group he'd be joining within a few days. It's quite ironic how I even trusted the little bugger, for he seemed to lie through his teeth. Eloquent guy he was however, getting under all of our skins. Jake had stumbled across Marie, and the two discussed about maybe she could join up with us. That's when the intruding wolf Korrith made his first grand appearance in the games. The wolf bounded over Jake's strike, and Jake's sword went straight into Marie's chest, pinning her into the tree that she had been standing against.
That's how she died... Jake did indeed tell the truth.
The rest of the games I simply tried forgetting. Angelina went down by Ford, her poor partner having to end her life from an allergy that was slowly sapping away her strength. I couldn't even bear to witness Pearl and Wake's demises, the acid rain had eroded their skin down to the bone and you got to see all the lovely parts inside the human body become exposed to the outside air. Ryder had fled from the Careers, joining our alliance. I can't see how Ryder's inclusion in the Lone Hunters hindered us, for he was a great tribute and amazing fighter. His death happened only because Mako saw him as an obstacle further on.
Rose was mauled to death by a tiger. How... wonderful. Birch went bat crap crazy at that point, falling into fits of rage and tears. Our first ally went down that day, day six into the Hunger Games. The first haunting memory came into play, Rye and I's first kiss with each other. His lips linger on mine still, a pleasure I'll never have the luxury of receiving again. I highly doubt Caelan can fill in those shoes. It seems highly impossible anyone can fill Rye's shoes. Flint got bestowed the death shield, that one item caused the rest of the games to play out worse than before. The feast still is one of the worst things I've ever been a part of. My arrow in Birch's neck... Velvet's hanging threat. I then got a full eye view of Eve's descent into madness, and from that day forward... the games would never be the same.
Had Flint not received that shield, had Birch not shown up to the cornucopia... could these games have ended differently than they did? It's an answer I'll never know. I can't rewind time and change events. The wolves made their second reappearance in the games... which resulted in the loss of my ex-girlfriend, the head honcho career, and some random girl named Violet.
I miss Velvet too much. I let my own district partner die in my arms, I wistfully held her and saw the strength be sapped out of her. Those wolves... it pleases me to no end to know those things are dead, their carcasses being nice ornaments for the ground. Eve and Ford's deaths were still as haunting as ever, and then came for the day that killed my true self.
I closed my eyes, and let myself sleep. I didn't want to see the end, I didn't need to replay in my mind Rye's death, Mako's betrayal. I didn't need to relive my victory either.
The video must've come to a close, as clapping ensued, and Caelan rubbed my hand to wake me. I opened my eyes to see that the entire audience was standing on their feet, cheering. A few whistled, some were leaping up and down, some were crying. This audience disgusts me. Caelan quieted everyone down, and turned to me.
"How do you feel about all of that Cranston?" he asked.
Swallowing my fear, I let my emotions take control of me. "Unsure of why I'm here. It makes me regret every decision I've ever done in my life. I don't know what I did as a child that caused me to deserve going in that arena. How can I possibly see the world as anything else now, but a complete mess and absolutely f***** up society?"
The audience murmured to themselves, disapproving of my usage of foul language. Let them do with that what they will, I don't care anymore.
Caelan frowned. "I guess it makes sense, for those games looked highly traumatic. Now, I want to play a game. I'm going to say a tribute's name, and I want you to tell me how you felt about them. It's almost like a last goodbye of sorts. Can you handle it?"
I nodded. "Come at me." I laughed weakly, trying to bring light into the situation.
The first name did indeed come rolling at me, and I was hit by a ton of bricks. "Mako Narcis."
Mako... the man who nearly ended the games due to his insanity. I lurched forward in my chair, the memories of my arrow in his flesh bringing the bile back up my throat. "Mako was one of the largest threats the arena ever had. He only killed people towards the end... those being Diamond and Ryder. I... I can't say that I regret killing him a couple of days ago because had I not, I may as well be dead instead. When Jake wasn't around, he was the leader of the Lone Hunters. He was stronger than Jake actually, physically and mentally. I can't possibly see how he held his emotions in that long. I wasn't there originally to witness his sudden descent into madness, but I had a feeling it was there all along."
"Ah, Opal Swener," I recalled happily, one of the better tributes out of the group. "We called her crazy knife girl, for she always had this maniacal look on her face; a knife clutched in her left hand was always ready to be thrown. My interaction with her was minimal, I never got to know her. She seemed to be the most level headed of all the Careers, and I can't lie to you when I tell you all that I felt saddened by her death. She killed herself, and I'll never know to true extent why."
And so the names continued on coming. Culliver's was next, followed by Rust. Pablo, Ford, Violet, Diamond, Nydia, Rose, Pearl... I had to tell the audience about everyone I came in contact with. For some reason, Birch, Ryder, Nydia, Jake, and Eve were mulled over, and I wasn't allowed to say anything about them on my behalf.
Caelan had one more card left, and I knew exactly what name was on it. It had to be Rye, for the way Caelan breathed in heavily and flipped the card over after reading the name. When he spoke, my thoughts were correct like I assumed.
"Please tell me what you thought about Rye Henderson."
My heart panged at the mention of his name. I was expecting it, but hearing those two words still has some riveting affect on me. "Rye Henderson was the best person I've ever met in my entire sixteen years of age I've had so far. What can I say? He stole my heart, although I put up resistance on it for the longest time. He and I kissed on Interview night, and it's one of the only things I've done that I have yet to regret. Rye was what I wanted in a person, regardless of the age matter. I had to deal with him anyways, we were part of the same alliance. Truth be told, we didn't speak to each other till the day of the feast. He and I strayed away from each other as possible, but during that time I let my own thoughts wash over me. Rye clearly loved me, I could see it from a mile away. We kissed for the second time that day. I had nothing to lose with me falling in love with him. He became my boyfriend, whether my alliance liked it or not. Rye was the strongest of all the tributes in the arena, in my honest opinion. He didn't break till the day I had to end his life... and I commend him for staying that strong while everyone else crumbled around him. He saved my life by taking up the offer to battle Eve that day she captured us all. I didn't have it in me to stop him, for I believed Rye would win that battle and convert Eve back to her normal self. You all saw what happened, and that wasn't the case unfortunately. On the day Rye asked me to throw that axe into his chest, I had awoken and thought to myself that something bad was indeed going to happen to me, but I couldn't place what it was exactly. You can't imagine how I felt after he kissed me and then went to his death spot. I should've just refused to throw the axe at him, but I didn't. That led to one thing, which led to another and now I'm sitting here on this stage because of it. I'll never forget Rye, he'll always be a part of me."
The audience stood to their feet once again, to applaud my heart wrenching and true confessional. I didn't care about any of them, only the ones that are no longer with me. The ones that stay in my heart. Caelan led me to my feet, then swung my hand and his high above my head, parading me like a champion to these people.
"Give it up for Cranston Ervack, victor of the first Hunger Games!" he screamed at the top of his lungs, wanting to be heard over the calamitous crowd.
I didn't wait any further for Caelan, Jerald, or Ammadeus to let me go. Dropping my hand from Caelan's grip, I raced off the stage, flying into the wings.
I'll have to wait for next year, when my time comes to reappear in the Capitol limelight.
To anyone who'll be becoming a tribute in the next game to come, realize this good and well that the Hunger Games are not what they make themselves out to be. The Capitol swallows you whole, and educes every moral fiber out of you. By the time the Capitol is finished, the person standing there in your spot is no longer you, but a reminiscent zombie, someone you won't recognize.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
If you don't heed my warning, don't say its my fault.
Just remember that as you lie dying.
You'll be caught in your fantasies of battle, and then its too late.
You'll already be dead.
Interviewer Caelan Escorath P.O.V
Caelan shut the door to his apartment quietly, not wanting to awaken the newly made victor from District 8 on his bed. Tiptoeing over to his dresser by his bed, Caelan opened the third drawer to the left. Reaching deep inside the wooden structure, he clawed around in the darkness till he seized what he was looking for. Once grabbing the handle of his mysterious item, he wrenched it out of the dresser; the object scratching and knocking against the wood.
A smile tugged on Caelan's lips as he stared formidably at the gun now placed in his hand.
"Ammadeus and Jerald have made the worst mistake of their lives, accepting me into the inner circle of the Capitol government. I'll make sure they never forget the name of Caelan Escorath. All of Panem will remember the name Caelan Escorath, I'll see to it." the interviewer thought to himself, before turning around to the occupied bed.
Laughing with a stupor like no other, he squeezed the trigger.
Coming October of 2015
Book Two in Behind the Monitor Series: Death Under the Sky
DUN DUN DUN!
There you have it folks, the ending of the 1st Hunger Games story of 10 in the Behind the Monitor series. Capitol's Strike has come to a close with this monstrous chapter, this 9,000 word monstrosity. It's the largest story I've written by far, and this chapter is the longest chapter I've ever written by far. I may have more OC centered casts in the future, due to having nine more Hunger Games to write... but none of the other casts of characters I think will come close to the originals.
I apologize for this cliffhanger, but if you've read the summary of Death Under the Sky, you can rest assured that the person Caelan just shot is not Cranston. I'm not that evil to my characters, at least not yet anyways.
Thank you all so much for reading, and for the ones who stuck by my story since its little beginnings in November of 2013, I say thank you with a heavy heart. I'll have a hard time letting go of these characters, but I can't hold on to them forever. I have some questions for you all if you review.
1) Who was your favorite character in all of Capitol's Strike, and why?
2) Who was your least favorite character in all of Capitol's Strike, and why?
3) What was your favorite part of the story? What was your least favorite, and why?'
4) Did you like Ammadeus or Jerald better as a character?
5) Before the Cornucopia chapter, who was your predicted top eight if you had any? Who did you decided was going to be the victor?
6) Will you be reading Death Under the Sky when I post the first chapter sometime this fall? *Be honest! Your opinion won't hurt me unless you don't tell me the truth*
If you can answer these in a review, it will mean the world to me. Capitol's Strike will forever be the story I'll remember from my 2014 season, just watching the story grow and evolve from what it used to be is astounding. Thanks so much for reading my stories, and I can't wait to see you all again on my next project, Storytellers! Love you all!
~ Paradigm of Writing