Monday, November 18, 2013

The Fourth Hunger Games Chapter 4: Solitude

Chapter 4: Solitude

I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude” - Henry David Thoreau

Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” - Aristotle

Cassidee glanced over at Jaylon as they went their separate ways at training. She'd felt horrible explaining to him that she thought it would be best if they trained separately, but she really did feel as if it would be the best for both of them. This way they could each train in what they were good at without weighing the other down. The boy had looked slightly forlorn but had agreed readily, which only increased Cassidee's unfortunate fondness for the boy that she was beginning to see even more as someone she needed to protect.

Not wanting to wander and seem completely clueless, Cassidee headed straight for the nearest station, not even looking to see what it was until she was standing right in front of it. Plants. Well, Cassidee figured she might as well. Growing up in the district responsible for the Capitol's power had left her pretty clueless about both plants and animals, and she'd have to find something to eat in the arena.

Cassidee didn't pay much mind to the younger girl already present at the station until the girl spoke up.

Um, hi,” Jocelin spoke softly to gain Cassidee's attention. “I'm Jocelin, one of the District 9 tributes.”

Cassidee stared at her for a moment in surprise. Then again, Cassidee reminded herself, Jocelin wouldn't be a career. Neither one of them wanted to be here.

Cassidee. District 5,” she muttered before turning back to the screen full of pictures of various plants. “Not to be rude,” she spoke again after a moment. “But why are you at this station? District 9 is grain. Don't you already know about plants?”

Jocelin laughed for a moment. “I know about grains, sure, but the only thing I know about wild plants are the weeds that grow up in the crops, and those are only there until we kill them. I may be better off than you in this particular area, I guess, but not by much.”

Oh, I'd never thought about it that way. I just figured it was all basically the same thing.”

Jocelin shrugged. “Nope.”

The two girls fell into an awkward silence as they continued looking through the long list of edible and poisonous plants.


Kahner had abandoned her. That was all Chloe could focus on as she halfheartedly worked on a snare. It had been difficult for her to process. The two had been friends for so long, and he'd just declared out of the blue that they were better off staying as far away from each other as possible. Chloe had already lost almost everything, but she'd thought she'd at least get to keep Kahner for a bit longer.

She glanced over to where her former friend was attempting to wield a trident. She scoffed, something she didn't usually do, but she couldn't be bothered to reel in her anger. What was the likelihood of the arena having tridents? And even if it did that boy would never be able to wield one correctly. She would have told him that if he hadn't blown her off so cruelly.

He your boyfriend or something?”

Chloe looked up to find a small boy standing a few feet behind her. It unnerved her that she hadn't noticed him there. That was obviously something she needed to improve. He looked maybe two years younger than her own age of fourteen, which meant it had probably been his first reaping. She pushed down the sympathy she felt.

No,” she replied shortly. “But he used to be my friend.”

The boy looked somewhat longingly at an older girl over at the plant station. “These games kind of kill friendships don't they,” he muttered quietly.

Chloe willed herself not to get emotionally involved in this conversation. “They kill everything, kid.”

He snorted quietly. “I'd quit calling me a kid if I were you. It's harder to kill a child. You'd be much better off thinking of everyone as equals. That way you don't get too stuck up, but you also don't feel as bad when you kill someone.”

Chloe couldn't hide her shock at the boy's words. This kid was far too wise for a twelve-year-old. He was right. As the boy had said, she needed to stop downgrading the competition when they could have surprising advantages.

What's your name?” She figured getting as much information as possible could only help her.

Jaylon,” he responded. “District 5.”

Chloe,” she stuck out her hand to shake his. “District 6.”

The two young children proceeded to work quietly on their snares. Neither one dared to strengthen their acquaintanceship into something far more dangerous.


How Emilia had found herself at the shelter station she wasn't really sure. She'd wanted to be at a station far from the others, and it had been deserted and tucked somewhat into a corner far enough away from the action for Emilia to pretend that she wasn't being watched. It was odd to feel so alone when her every move was being tracked by at least one person in the large gymnasium.

No one approached, and Emilia was left to learn in peace with no one but the trainer placed at this station. She focused as much as she could. She knew nothing about finding shelter, but she knew that it was fundamental to survival. Food wouldn't be difficult for her to get, so Emilia figured if she could work on the shelter stuff she'd be a lot better off. As long as she forgot about the murdering part.

Whispers pulled her attention away from the trainer and towards two younger children that had come closer to the station. At eighteen, Emilia was one of the oldest tributes that would be going into the arena. These two looked to be the same age, probably thirteen or fourteen. One boy and one girl. She couldn't place their names, but she knew they were from Nine and Four. The District Four girl was even a career, which made it a bit odd that she was with a boy from Nine. It unnerved her how often they glanced her way as they talked. It wasn't the first time she had felt like prey, and she assumed it wouldn't be the last.


Cassidee scowled at the tribute she could hear laughing from across the training center. He'd just ran a dummy through with a sword, which was something Cassidee didn't find nearly as hilarious as he did. Jocelin had wandered off to another station and had left Cassidee to her own devices at the plant station. Cassidee still wanted to figure out more about these plants, as she figured it might be useful, and she had to admit to herself, she was kind of reluctant to head to any of the weapons stations.

The District 5 tribute startled as someone appeared beside her.

Jumpy,” the District 2 male tribute, who appeared to be about her age, commented with a smirk.

Cassidee rolled her eyes and turned back towards the quiz she was trying to take. She didn't want to give this guy the time of day. Instead of taking the hint, he leaned on the wall beside her and watched as she touched various plants on the screen.

I haven't seen you over at any of the weapons stations,” the boy smirked as he crossed his arms across his chest.

Haven't gotten there yet.” Cassidee's heart thumped heavily in her chest as she tried to come across as calm.

Well,” the boy's smirk widened. “We'd love to see you over there if you ever get the time. It's only fair for us to see how good you are after you've seen all of us.”

What makes you think I'm even paying attention to your little pissing contest?” Cassidee snapped.

The boy appeared slightly shocked by her words. “Because that pissing contest could be what keeps you alive.” He watched her closely for a moment before moving to whisper in her ear. “We all need to know how to fight each other, and you need to know how to use weapons. It's a beneficial situation for us all so just think about it.”

Cassidee shivered as the boy stalked off.


Kendrick knew he was making a fool of himself. He hadn't been expecting to be able to handle the weapons, but he knew that this would be his only chance to learn. The snickers he kept hearing only hardened his resolve. He'd chosen the knife station because it was the most light-weight of the weapons, and he wanted something that he could wield easily even with his lack of strength. Still, working with knives required one to be extremely agile because of the close proximity required to use them, and Kendrick had never realized just how hard it was to move quickly and with precision. Maybe he would be better off yielding a heavy bow. He had time to try and build up his strength, and aiming from a distance had to be easier than this jumping around business he was currently trying to master.

Another outburst of snickers from somewhere behind him made Kendrick growl in frustration. His thoughts had made him lose focus, and he'd paid the consequence in his fight against the trainer. He got back up, not willing to leave the station after such a humiliating defeat. He had to prove himself at least a little bit before he let himself give up. Kendrick wasn't letting these assholes think about him as if he was a piece of meat they could kill off that easily.


The spear hitting the target caused Coale to smirk. He'd never used weapons before, but Coale was learning that they were really useful for releasing some of his anger about the situation he'd been forced into. Still, they were only releasing some of his anger, and the boy wasn't sure he would ever be entirely free from the emotion that now fueled his entire existence. He would die hating everything and everyone because weren't they all responsible for this horribleness to some degree? They could be angry at the Capitol all they wanted, but everyone here was going along with it. They could have agreed to not become murderers and just let the Capitol murder them themselves, but they wouldn't. Because in the end, they all wanted to live. They were all monsters really. And the fact that he was a monster pissed Coale off more than anything.


Ezra watched Coale strike the target with fear. There were so many tributes who could handle weapons, and every single one of them looked capable of murder. Very few seemed as terrified of killing another human being as Ezra was, and that was one of the single most terrifying realizations of his life. He was going to be slaughtered just like the cattle that his family raised. He couldn't trust anyone because they were all cold-blooded murderers. All of them except him. He wouldn't become like that. He wouldn't.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Fourth Hunger Games: Chapter 3: Puzzle

Chapter 3: Puzzle

A good puzzle, it's a fair thing. Nobody is lying. It's very clear, and the problem depends just on you.” - Erno Rubik

I don't think there is a hidden purpose to the universe that you have to puzzle out.” - Robert Fulghum

Boston Jacobson,” Tiara smirked as the two tributes were ushered towards the train that would take them to the Capitol. “I haven't seen you around the past month or so.”

Tiara King,” the older boy mocked. “I haven't had to put up with you for the past month or so.”

Tiara laughed, not bothering to be offended by the obvious insult. “You know, it's kind of hilarious how an eighteen-year-old like yourself could so obviously be taken down by a fourteen-year-old like me.”

Boston ignored her taunts as they reached the train door.

You don't stand a chance, Jacobson. You should just admit defeat now.”

Funny,” Boston threw a quick glance back at her as he entered the train. “I don't remember ever claiming I even wanted to win these games.”

Tiara was left gaping after the odd boy as he sauntered off into the train.


Huntur nudged Alissah's shoulder as they walked side-by-side towards the train, while smiling and waving at the cameras as they passed. “Excited?” he asked.

Of course,” Alissah laughed, sounding genuinely happy. “I've been waiting for this for years. It's going to be so much fun.”

The two teens glanced around the train as they entered. Alissah let out a little sigh at the beauty of the compartment. “This isn't too bad either,” Huntur breathed.

Almost makes me want to avoid the games,” Alissah smiled as she plopped down on the most comfortable couch she'd ever seen.

It'll just make us fight harder.” Huntur took a seat beside his fellow tribute. The two watched their other traveling companions flitter around the compartment.

Of course,” Alissah smiled up at him. “District 2 is going to have a victor this year.”

Well, don't be too confident about my chances just yet,” Huntur smirked. “We haven't seen the competition yet.”

Alissah let out a snort as she aimed a kick at Huntur's shin. “I didn't mean you, asshole.”

Huntur shoved her shoulder jokingly as he laughed.

They continued on with their banter over who was going to win. Being competition didn't mean they couldn't be friendly. After all, they'd been competing with each other for years.


Do either of you have any talents that will be useful in the arena?” Their so-called “mentor” looked upon Jocelin and Etin with cold eyes, as if she already knew the answer.

None,” Jocelin mumbled quietly from where her head rested on her arms at the table.

Etin shook his head to show he was in the same boat.

Their mentor sighed and shook her head. “There's not much I can do,” she voiced what they already knew. “Just hope for the best. Try your hardest, and try not to die too gruesome of a death.”

Jocelin buried her face in her arms to hide the tears streaming down her face. Etin turned even paler. Their mentor almost looked sympathetic before she left the two children alone.

Some help she is,” Etin muttered, unsure whether or not Joceline was listening. “I bet she doesn't care at all to help us figure out what to do. There has to be some skill we could learn. It can't be that hard to throw a knife or something.”

He glanced over at Jocelin expectantly, but the girl was still crying softly. With a sigh, Etin wandered off to his room where he could puzzle over his future chances alone.


Brianne didn't bother more than a quick glance at her surroundings as she entered the train. Her parents' tearful faces as they said goodbye to the daughter they had tried so hard to protect were still vivid in her mind. All she could manage was to ask where her room was in a tearful voice before she rushed off towards it.

Troy sneered as he watched her go. Brianne was the most pathetic excuse for a career that he'd ever seen. It both angered him, as he knew how much potential she had if she would just get over it, and also excited him. After all, he would no doubt have District 1's united support. No sponsors would dare support such a wimpy girl who did nothing but cry even though she'd volunteered. The thought made Troy smile as he found his way to his own room.


Chloe's first view of the Capitol brought a familiar tune to her head, and she couldn't stop herself from singing along softly. The song was one that she'd learned from a man back in District 6 who'd fought in the rebellion. Apparently they'd sung it a lot back in the day to make fun of the Capitol. Chloe thought the Capitol citizens surrounding her probably wouldn't be too happy with her if they heard it, but it brought comfort to her as memories entered her thoughts.

Kahner's frown only deepened as he realized just what it was she was singing. He'd been strangely distant the entire train ride. He stayed by Chloe's side often, but he never spoke. Even now he was standing quietly by her as they watched the large city come into view. Chloe wanted to reach out and take his hand in comfort, but the look on his face scared her. So she stuck with her singing.


Nobody bothered to really explain what was happening to Emilia and Ezra. The two District 10 tributes were ushered off the train and off to this strange room where people began poking around their bodies and doing the strangest things.

Emilia had seen a couple of the slightly better off girls in District 10 wear make up before, but she wasn't even sure if the things being put on her qualified as make up. The people surrounding her had so many different tools designed to make her more beautiful, and she didn't have a clue what most of them did. All the eighteen-year-old could do was watch them work in amazement. Even after seeing the Capitol citizens on television all of these years, she'd never known that this was how they altered their appearances so significantly.

Ezra wasn't as cool and collected as his prep team prepared him for what was to come. The young boy squirmed as they brought make up to his face, not wanting to be covered with the foreign substances. The people were forced to hold him down and apply it by force. Not only was Ezra going to die, but apparently he was going to do so as an entirely different, much too "perfect" person.


Tifanee stuck close to Demetrius' side as their stylists put the finishing touches on their horrendous farmer costumes. Tifanee thought they looked like one of those ridiculous scarecrows that people people in the past were convinced scared away birds, but she didn't say this out-loud. She didn't want to get on anyone's bad side.

She hadn't left Demetrius the entire ride to the Capitol, and it had been difficult to hold back the tears when she was forced from his side upon reaching the city. Demetrius seemed to understand. At any rate, he didn't seem bothered by the younger girl's presence, and he had almost seemed relieved when they were reunited just moments ago.

Demetrius didn't like the fact that he was letting himself get attached to Tifanee. Sure they'd known each other before, but they'd never been particularly close. One thing was for certain though: neither one of them was cut out for this. They shouldn't have been here. He may have only been one year older, but Demetrius wanted to help Tifanee in any way he could. He just wished it wouldn't come back to haunt him.


You better not panic on me,” Coale growled at Fayth as they were ushered onto their chariot for the tribute parade.

Fayth wanted to glare at him and make some snappy comeback, but her trembling hands and nauseous stomach didn't exactly up her confidence. “So many people,” she whined too quietly for the cold boy to hear.

It was hard for her to climb up onto the chariot with her sweaty palms slipping across the metal, but somehow she managed it with no help from her district partner. They were dressed as coal miners, and Fayth wished she could go hide somewhere before she looked even more like a fool after her panic attack at the reaping. There was no way this would help her get sponsors. She was doomed. Why couldn't they just let her hide until throwing her to her inevitable death?

Coale didn't seem happy about this either, but at least he was handling it better. Fayth had no doubt that some sponsors would appreciate his ever present frown. It was much more threatening than her own terrified expression, even if it didn't inspire warm feelings in audiences.


Her connection to Jaylon was a weakness. Cassidee had known that from the moment his name was drawn. It would have been far easier for her to shove him away now instead of pretending like she could protect him from everything in the arena, but she couldn't. Every time Cassidee looked at the younger boy all she could think about was how he was her little brother's best friend. She couldn't think about Ezekiel's face if he thought his sister had been somehow responsible for his best friend's death. And for that reason alone, Cassidee gripped the young boy's hand tightly as their chariot rolled past the vast crowd of Capitol citizens.

As usual, their costumes were horrendous. District 5 didn't really give its stylists much to work with being the district in charge of power. Cassidee and Jaylon were clad only in leotards with a jumble of different types of electrical cords wrapping their way around their bodies.

Jaylon was stiff next to her, and Cassidee could feel the sweat on his palms. She tried to appear open and friendly as she waved at the people around her. Jaylon just looked like he was about to puke. Despite her gut telling her it was a bad idea, Cassidee squeezed his hand in the most reassuring way possible. The least she could do was make the boy feel as if he had some companionship in the last few days before his inevitable death.


Ahnette knew what Gerald was trying to do, and there was no way she was playing along with it. He'd hardly said two words to her during the train ride to the Capitol, although she'd caught him staring several times. That was nothing new. Ahnette was used to boys staring at her. As soon as their chariot had come into sight though, Gerald was suddenly looking at her with an odd look in his eye.

Ahnette had a few hazy memories of two tributes trying to play the “hopelessly in love” card during the second games, and she was not going down that route. She thought they'd looked more ridiculous than in love, and she was not going to look like an idiot in front of all of Panem. Gerald ignored her glares during the parade, even being so bold as to reach for her hand which she'd instantly jerked away.

Leave me the fuck alone!” she screeched as they finally left the spotlight. Ahnette knew that Gerald had no choice but to be in her presence at the moment as they were being led to the apartment where they'd be spending the next several days, but it felt good to let her anger out.

I'm trying to save us,” Gerald growled. “The lovers story could work if you just gave it a chance. It's not as if it'll be hard to pull off. You're attractive enough that no guy watching is going to doubt that I'd want in your pants.”

Any tiny bit of Ahnette that may have been softened at the compliment immediately hardened again at the phrase “want in your pants.” “Jerk,” she muttered angrily as she pushed past Gerald to walk beside their escort, who was doing her best to ignore the teens' argument. It was going to be a long few days.


Here's where you'll be staying during your time in the Capitol,” the escort trilled as he led them through the doors.

The two District 3 tributes stared around in wonder. Even coming from one of the wealthier districts, neither one of the teens had seen something like this. Kendrick, always eager to learn more about electronics, was drawn the the high-tech television taking up a large wall that was one of the first things noticed upon entering the large apartment. He had seen these being prepared in a factory before, but he'd never been able to actually use one. Kendrick immediately set to work discovering everything it could do.

Mina, much less intrigued by the television but not having anything else to do, took a seat on the sofa to watch her older district partner at work. This grew frustrating, however, because the second she started to figure out what was happening on the screen, Kendrick had hit some new button just to see what it would do. Growling in frustration, the young girl went to investigate her bedroom instead.


I'm not killing anyone.” Joelle turned to glare at Bryan, who had snickered upon hearing her words. “I'm not,” she repeated firmly. “I'd rather die than become a murderer.”

Whatever you want,” Bryan shrugged. He sent her a smile that Joelle figured would probably have most girls bowing to his every whim. “One less tribute for me to worry about.” He smirked at her for a moment before adding, “Although, I'm not too sure that'll be true.”

What do you mean?” Joelle snapped.

I think you'll kill or at least die trying.”

I'm not a sick monster!” Joelle rose to her feet in fury.

Neither are any of us,” Bryan leaned forward and looked Joelle in the eyes. “But you get in that arena, and your survival instinct takes over. You're not an angel, Joelle. You're a human like the rest of us, and humans, like every other animal, do what they have to in order to survive no matter the costs. Some people like to pretend that the brain's something complicated that can be puzzled about for days, but when it comes down to it, the brain has a pretty simple function: survival.”

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Fourth Hunger Games Chapter 2: Last Hope

Chapter 2: Last Hope

You don't forget the face of the person who was your last hope.” - Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Optimism is inevitably the last hope of the defeated.” - Albert Meltzer

Why? Why did you do that?” Mrs. Abercrombie seemed unable to stop her incessant questioning. The same question was repeated over and over, not even allowing Brianne enough time to answer.

We wanted you to be safe if you were forced into the arena,” Mr. Abercrombie spoke over his wife's ceaseless mutterings. “You were never meant to volunteer!”

Brianne knew that her father's anger came out of his worry for her. He knew that he'd just lost his daughter for good. Brianne wanted to curl up in a ball and just die. It was destined to happen later anyway. She couldn't handle her parents' reactions. Even though she'd seen this coming, she hadn't been prepared.

I'll have a word with the man.” Brianne knew that her father was speaking of Kodanda. “This is all his fault! He will pay for this. I'll see to it. That man had no right to suggest anything to you when we forbid him from doing this. No right!”

Brianne knew that her father's threats were useless. Kodanda was well respected for his status as victor. He had plenty of students under his control. Nothing Brianne's father could say about the man would change anything, and Brianne's death would bring nothing to Kodanda except a brief disappointment that the current victor wasn't one of his students.

So caught up in their emotions were they that neither of Brianne's parents were able to say goodbye before being whisked out of the room by peacekeepers. Brianne was left utterly alone without one ounce of comfort from either of her parents..


Troy expected the cold firmness of his parents' dispositions upon being allowed to see them. They'd resigned themselves to what he must do long ago. Troy figured his mother had held onto a small bit of hope that he wouldn't go through with it, but she was too proud to reveal this now. She offered nothing more than a stiff hug and a warning that he'd better do his best. His father wished him luck and said that he knew he would win. "There is no competition really."

Troy wasn't sure if his father really believed this, but he figured he was better off not questioning it. He would win. Troy was sure of it. He'd been well trained, and he had no intention of letting his parents or the district down. He dismissed the wishes of good luck. Luck was useless. Things like hope and luck would get him no where. But he had the skill to win. He knew it. For that reason, he allowed himself no tears while bidding farewell to his parents and the select few friends who had bothered to come. There was no need. He was determined to see them later, and sadness would do nothing but hinder him.


Mom!” Alissah exclaimed as the woman, with tears flowing down her face, smothered her with hugs. “Calm down.”

I can't help it, Alissah!” The woman's voice was full of emotion. “Losing your father during the rebellion was one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through, and now you're going off to fight in these games. My little baby girl.”

Mrs. Vasser went to wrap her arms around Alissah again, but the girl wiggled her way out and exclaimed, “Mom!” yet again.

Dad was loyal to the Capitol until his dying breath,” Alissah reminded her mother. “He fought hard for Panem, and I don't intend to let him down. I'm doing this proudly. I'll fight just as hard as he did.”

Let's just hope for a better outcome then,” Mrs. Vasser sobbed as she finally got her arms around her daughter and refused to let go.


You'll do well, son,” Mr. Sherman clapped Huntur on the shoulder. A bit of sadness shone through his eyes, but the man seemed determined not to crack in front of his son. He knew that this was his son's dream, and he would never think of stopping him. Still, he couldn't help getting a little emotional. Mr. Sherman had a lot of faith in his son's abilities, but a father had to be a little worried about whether or not his son would make it.

Mrs. Sherman wasn't faring quite so well. Silent tears were streaming down her cheeks, but she seemed determined to ignore them. Instead, she stepped forward and embraced her son tightly.

You'll do well,” she spoke in a tight voice. “I know you will.”

You'd better.” Mr. Sherman's words were full of emotion, as if he was losing his battle against tears.

I will,” Huntur assured them while forcing himself to stay positive. “I promise.”


No words were exchanged as Mina said goodbye to her friends and family. Her mother and father looked upon her with tearful looks that were impossible to hide. She wasn't coming back, and they all knew it. Her two closest friends were a bit better at hiding their emotions, but Mina could tell by a certain look in their eyes that they knew she wasn't coming back either. Embraces were exchanged. Words seemed useless. There was nothing they could do but offer false comfort. Mina was doomed, and her friends and family were helpless to save her.


You'll have to outsmart them.” Mr. Jobs spoke matter-of-factly with only a hint of emotion showing through his voice. “It's the only chance you've got.”

Kendrick's family didn't handle emotions well. It wasn't that they were ashamed or anything. No, they were just a bit awkward about affection, and comforting each other wasn't really something they did. Now Mrs. Jobs was sobbing on the other side of of the room, and Kendrick was at a complete loss as to what to do. His father seemed determined to ignore her, at least for the moment, as he hid his own emotions by talking instead of Kendrick's chances like they were discussing a random tribute from a past games in their living room. If Kendrick hadn't known that rational discussion was how his father kept his emotions in check, he may have worried that he didn't care.

It was far too soon when a peacekeeper entered to take his parents away. Mr. Jobs' emotional wall seemed to break slightly as he embraced his son in a tight hug. Mrs. Jobs rushed over from the couch she'd been crying on to join the family embrace. It was the only time Kendrick could remember getting such physical affection from his parents. He just wished it wasn't going to be the last.


Tiara's father had always been a rather stern man, at least as long as Tiara had known him. Tiara had heard time and time again that he'd been much different before her mother died, but Tiara would never know for sure, since she hadn't been around back then. She was pretty sure that he blamed her for her mother's death, and to be completely honest, she didn't resent him for that because she blamed herself too.

Dying during childbirth wasn't an unknown occurrence in Panem. There wasn't a hospital that you could rush to in District 4 if things went wrong. It was just unfortunate that Tiara's birth had been one of those where things went wrong. She'd been told over and over again that it was just bad luck, but both her and her father knew better. Tiara knew she couldn't have done anything to save her mother as a helpless infant, but the fact still remained that, if she wasn't here, her mother would be. Maybe it was that thought that drove her to train for the games. The thought of dying didn't phase her the way it apparently did others. She might as well go out with a bang, especially if the reward for staying alive was as great as it was.

Her father had been rather uncaring when she asked him to pay for the training. Mr. King had grumbled about the expenses, but they were well enough off that they still had enough to live off of in relative comfort. Tiara got the feeling that her father actually liked the idea of her going into the games. The money and glory of her winning would help ease the pain of having a daughter who had murdered her mother, and if she died, that wasn't of much concern to him anyway.

Tiara's suspicions seemed to be confirmed as her father came to bid her farewell. A stiff, awkward hug, and a “good luck” where all that she received. She almost called out to him as he went back out the door, not bothering to wait for a peacekeeper to fetch him, but she quelled the temptation. She had even more resolve now. She would win, and then her father could surround himself with riches to forget that his daughter was a killer.


I'm not expecting to win this, Dad,” Boston snapped at his father. He didn't want useless words of comfort. He was going to die, and it was better that he just accept that now.

You don't know what will happen,” his mother implored with a distressed expression marring her face. “What about that one year where that little girl made it through? She didn't have many skills at the beginning, but she made it.”

Yeah, because no one wanted to attack a twelve year old girl,” Boston rolled his eyes. “It won't be like that with me. An eighteen year old boy? Everyone will be going after me.”

Boston leaned back against the wall and buried his face in his hands. Neither of his parents said anything, but he soon felt his mother wrapping her arms around him.

Just try,” she whispered. “That's all we ask.”


I don't want you to go in the games!”

Cassidee's younger brother had latched onto her the minute he was through the door.

I have to, Ezekiel. They drew my name. You know I have no choice.” Cassidee knew that any comfort she could offer her brother was useless. The twelve-year-old couldn't be reasoned with, and nothing she could say would change the fact that he was about to go through his worst nightmare. He continued to wail into Cassidee's chest, and she made no attempts to calm him with words. Instead, she wrapped her arms around him and let him cry. She knew it would be the last time she was able to hold him, and that thought made her relish the moment.

Neither of her parents said a word. For a few moments they just watched their children from afar with utter sadness showing on their faces. Then, Mr. and Mrs. Powers wordlessly stepped forward and wrapped their own arms around their children.


You'll be with Cassidee,” Mrs. Arlington assured her son. “She'll protect you and keep you safe. I know she will.”

Mr. Arlington looked disparagingly as his wife. Not bothering to shield Jaylon from his words, he spoke, “Don't give him false hope! That girl may try to help at first, but she wants to win just as much as everyone else. Besides, what good will she do. We both know she's not going to be the victor!”

Shut up!” Mrs. Arlington exclaimed as she pushed her husband to the side and turned her attention back to her son, who had been watching the exchange with fear in his eyes. “You'll be all right, sweetheart. Just stick to Cassidee and try your best. We love you, okay?” It was then that she dissolved into tears and gripped her son tightly. Jaylon buried his face into her neck and began crying as well. Mr. Arlington's tough exterior finally evaporated as he took his wife and son into his arms and his own tears began to escape.


Mrs. Faden gripped Chloe tight. “I love you,” she whispered into the young girl's hair. Chloe responded with the same words but was unable to speak any more as the tears bubbled over. She began struggling through a song Mrs. Faden had sang to her when she was small. The same song that had been running through her head during the reaping. The familiar lyrics caused Mrs. Faden's grip on Chloe to tighten. The small family stayed in their embrace until the peacekeepers came to take Mrs. Faden away.


Promise me you'll try your hardest,” Mrs. Kid pleaded with her son. “And stay with Chloe as long as possible. You both need a friend now more than ever.”

Kahner turned angrily towards his mother. “A friend!? I can't have a friend now. That privilege has been taken from me. Everyone in that arena will be my enemy, even Chloe. I don't care about past friendships. If I don't kill her first, she'll kill me.”

Mrs. Kid looked sadly at her son. “You've been forced into a terrible situation, but don't let it turn you into a monster, son. There's a difference between cold-blooded killing and surviving. Remember that.”

Kahner turned away from his mother, not even looking back at her when the peacekeeper came to take her away.


Joelle discreetly glanced up at her mother, father, and siblings as they prayed. It was traditional to keep your head bowed at such moments, but Joelle wanted to memorize her family before she was taken away forever. Prayer was typically when Joelle felt most peaceful, but today the faces of all those around her were marred by grief. How many times they had prayed just like this for an end to the games, and now one of them was going into the games themselves.

Lord, please bless Joelle.” At the sound of her name, Joelle tuned back in to what her father was saying. “Help her stay strong in faith while in the arena, and guide her and help her achieve her purpose. We know that there is a reason behind her reaping. Help her discover what that is.”

Tears began streaking down Joelle's face as she silently agreed with her father's words.


I have no doubt that you'll be able to get sponsors,” Mr. Kennedy lectured his son as the sat in the Justice Building. His arm was around Bryan's shoulders, and he looked sadder than Bryan had ever seen him. “Sponsors are helpful, but they aren't the only key to winning. I think your best bet would be to join an alliance. You make friends easily enough. Get people willing to help you, and only leave the alliance when you think you can make it on your own. It's your best bet.”

Bryan nodded woodenly at his father's words. He appreciated the advice, but he didn't want to be talking about this. He didn't want to be in this position in the first place. His mother was sobbing horribly at his other side, and Bryan had a line of friends outside waiting to see him. For the first time in his life, he didn't know how to handle the people around him. He didn't know what to say.


Mr. Phyrne spoke no words as he stepped forward and embraced Ahnette. It had only been the two of them since Ahnette's mother died during the rebellion, and now Mr. Phyrne was losing his daughter as well. Ahnette sobbed into her father's shoulder. No words were spoken until the peacekeeper came to take Mr. Phyrne away.

Good bye, sweetheart,” Mr. Phyrne whispered as was pulled from the room. Ahnette sobbed even harder.


I'll try my hardest, Mom,” Gerald murmered to his mother as he gripped her tightly. Mrs. Chayse refused to let go of her son, even to let her husband say goodbye to him. Mr. Chayse contented himself with patting his son on the back as he tried to control his cries.

Mr. Chayse had always been awkward about physical affection, but Gerald appreciated the effort his father was making. It wasn't a crushing hug, but at least his father was there and cared. This was the first time Gerald had ever seen his father cry, and that was a sight he could have lived his whole life without seeing.


All I've been raised to do is harvest wheat!” Jocelin screamed at her shell-shocked parents. Her two younger siblings had been cowering behind their parents since they entered the room and heard Jocelin's screams. Mrs. Aurora could do nothing but stand in shock and fear at her daughter's screams. There were silent tears streaming down her face.

Why did you have us!?” Jocelin accused her parents as she gestered to herelf and the two younger children that were staring at her in shock. “You knew this would happen!”

Jocelin collapsed on the couch with her face in her hands. “I'm only thirteen! Thirteen! This isn't supposed to be happening. It isn't.” Her screams got softer, but were no less filled with emotion. Mrs. Aurora took the opportunity to step forward and hug her daughter fiercely.

I'm sorry,” she whispered into her daughter's ear, and for the first time since entering the room, Jocelin didn't bother to respond.


Etin had never seen his father look so shocked in his life. As far as Mr. Faal was concerned, this wasn't supposed to happen to his family. They were too good for the games. It sickened Etin. He'd watched his father observe the games with no emotion for the past three years. It wasn't his family being punished because Mr. Faal had remained loyal to the Capitol during the rebellion, which had led to his relatively wealthy lifestyle. His children wouldn't be chosen in the games. The games weren't his problem.

Now that feeling of security had been taken away from him, and Etin was watching his father's beliefs come crashing down around him. The very Capitol that Mr. Faal had trusted to keep him safe was now taking his only son. Etin wasn't stupid. He knew that his father had always favored him over his sister. Only Etin could carry on the family name. Etin figured that as soon as they watched his death from their comfortable home, his parents would begin work on having a new son to take Etin's place. After all, it wasn't him they'd be missing. It was their familial namesake that they wanted.

Etin clenched his fists as fury filled him. His only comfort being his older sister's soft hand on his shoulder. The only one who was hopeful for Etin's return was the girl sitting beside him, and she was the only thing that made the boy want to push to win.


People aren't that different from animals really.” Emilia wrung her hands as she paced back and forth. Her father was watching closely from several feet away.

I suppose that's one way of looking at it,” Mr. Arnout spoke softly.

What other way am I supposed to look at it!?” Emilia suddenly cried as she whirled around to face her father. “I have no choice but to kill now! How else am I supposed to look at it!?”

Mr. Arnout looked shocked at the outburst, but once Emilia had collapsed on the floor in tears, he kneeled down to wrap her in his arms.

Just think about it that way, sweetheart,” he whispered into her hair. “Just think about it that way.”


Ezra could tell that his parents had no hope of him returning. They'd always been slightly ashamed of him. It was one of those things that Ezra had always known on some level, but it had taken him until he was eleven to fully realize it.

Ezra Barton who tried to nurse a bird back to health when none of the other kids cared. That was what he was known for in District 10. A boy too sensitive for his own good. He'd grown up caring far too much for the animals they had to raise for slaughter. Even at fourteen, he was unable to watch the slaughterings because he couldn't stomach it. How was he supposed to kill people when he couldn't kill a simple animal?

Mrs. Barton wrapped an arm around her son's shoulders as he cried. Mr. Barton stood above them, looking as if he wanted to protect his son from what he must face but not knowing how. Mr. Barton has always struggled as to how to handle Ezra. He'd never seen a male child so shaken by suffering, and now that very same child was going to have to become a murderer or be murdered.


You can't pull any more stunts like you did earlier during the reaping,” Mr. Timotheus preached to his daughter, who sat wimpering in her mother's arms.

I won't, Dad,” Tifanee cried. “I was just scared. It won't happen again.”

Mr. Timotheus' stern facade vanished as he looked down at his tearful young daughter. He took a seat on her other side and rubbed her back to offer her any ounce of hope that he could spare. Her face remained buried in her mother's neck, not once looking up. It was as if she was trying to escape the cruel world that had thrust her into this position, even though she knew that it was useless.


Ms. Iver wasted no time in throwing her arms around Demetrius as soon as she was allowed in the room. Tears shone in her eyes, but she was successfully stifling them for the moment.

Do what you must,” she muttered into her son's hair. At the age of fourteen, he was just beginning to surpass her in height. Demetrius' growth had been a bit dismaying to her as she watched him gradually become a teenager. Now she was forced to think about the fact that he would never grow any taller. “But don't lose yourself. That's all I ask.”

Demetrius tried to reply, but all that came out were sobs. He forgot all attempts at speaking as he broke down in his mother's arms for the last time.


After a while it became increasingly obvious to Fayth that no one was going to come see her off. It was to be expected. She'd never had any family, let alone friends. Having every one of your family members die in the rebellion and having to grow up in an orphanage didn't exactly help you make friends. On top of that, Fayth had been living with panic attacks for as long as she could remember. No one wanted to associate with someone who regularly panicked over seemingly nothing.

Fayth didn't blame them really. If she was one of those other kids, she wouldn't have befriended herself either. She heard the whispers. Kids at school, and even in the orphanage, were always joking about, “that Ammadon girl.”

Maybe being sent into the games was a good thing. She would have lived her life alone anyway. This way there would be no more panic attacks. No more getting made fun of by others. No more suffering. If she could just get through the next few days, it could all be over. Fayth thought she might like that, and for the first time since she woke up that morning, she didn't feel like panicking. She just felt calm. Hopeful almost.


It's what you've always wanted,” Coale grit out at his father. “One less mouth to feed. Less tesserae to take.”

Don't talk like that!” Mr. Marcellus yelled at his oldest son. It was silent for a moment before the man continued in a choked voice. “I know that you're angry, and you have every right to be. But I didn't ask for this. I never wanted you to have to go into these games.”

You did though,” Coale stared at the ground. “You asked for it when you had me and the others.”

There were no games when we had you four,” Mr. Marcellus was pleading with his son, not wanting their last conversation to be a fight.

As if living in District 12 before the rebellion would have been much better,” Coale snorted. “Why aren't they here now? Don't want to send their big brother off to die?”

I thought it would be better if they didn't see you like this. I don't want this to be their last memory of you.”

Coale finally looked coldly up at his father. “Just make sure this doesn't happen to any of them. They'll have watched both Mom and me die now. If you let anything else happen to them-”

Coale was silenced by his father firmly gripping his shoulder. They were silent for a moment before Mr. Marcellus pulled Coale to his chest. Neither one shed any tears, but Coale could just barely make out the, “I love you, son,” that his father muttered before being pulled from the room.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Fourth Hunger Games Chapter One: Drowning

Chapter 1: Drowning

When you're drowning, you don't say 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me,' you just scream.” - John Lennon

Today, human civilization is drowning in a sea of lies.” - L. Neil Smith

For the fourth time in her sixteen years, Brianne Abercrombie found herself amongst the crowd of children waiting to discover who among them would be sent to certain death. It was just four years ago that Brianne had experienced this for the first time. When she should have been celebrating her newly found teenager status, her parents were sneaking money into criminal hands in the hopes that a little training would protect their newly endangered daughter.

Brianne didn't like the training. She didn't like the violence. Over the course of the four years that the Hunger Games had taken place, Brianne had watched her district become more and more entrenched in the violence. Daily, she watched as her fellow career trainees became more and more consumed with a hunger for the “ultimate honor” and less and less with just staying alive if forced into a deadly arena. What had started as a way for parents to try and protect their children in horrible circumstances had become an apprenticeship with eager tribute hopefuls.

District 1 had produced two of the three previous victors after all, and that track record must be retained. One of those aforementioned victors just so happened to be Brianne's trainer, and Kodanda considered Brianne his best student. This wasn't because of her violent nature. In fact, compared to her peers, Brianne was as pacifist as they come. Kodanda had once likened her to a trained guard dog, something that had really angered her at the time until he explained what he meant. While most of his students tended to behave like wild animals, always ready for a fight, Brianne was as friendly as could be most of the time, but when she or someone she cared about was threatened, she could turn deadly in seconds.

Brianne looked up towards the Justice Building where Kodanda looked down at her. He shot her a quick wink, and Brianne knew what he expected. Kodanda had expressly forbid any of his other female students from volunteering this year, as he felt Brianne held the best chance at winning. Should any of them disobey, they would lose their position as his students, and should they successfully enter the games, Kodanda would refuse to help them, favoring the male tribute instead. It was an order that would no doubt go heeded. Kodanda was one of the most sought after trainers in District 1, and no one would dare do something to lose their precious position as his student.

Brianne took a deep breath as she prepared herself for what was to happen. She didn't want it. The so-called honor and glory, none of it interested her. The thought of becoming a killer just to gain money when they were already so much better off than the other districts was sickening to her. But she would be shunned if she didn't volunteer, and for that reason, she'd taken to justifying it in her head. If she were to volunteer, it would save another girl in her district's life. Brianne would fight yes, but not as vigorously as others would, she knew that much. She had no desire to live as a killer after the games.

So when the call for any female volunteers came, Brianne Abercrombie almost felt detached from herself, as if she was hearing her voice from somewhere underwater, as she shouted, “I volunteer as tribute!”

Troy Camoys smirked as he watched Brianne walk forward. That girl couldn't hurt someone if she tried, career or not. He felt a burst of confidence. For the first time he was sure of his decision. His friends had regarded him as crazy. His mother had burst into tears that hadn't stopped since he made the announcement. But he could do this.

Even his trainer Nashida, one of the two District 1 victors, had advised him against volunteering. Everyone knew that each trainer wanted their physically ablest to go into the games. If you could get a victor, you got more students. It was as simple as that. Even Nashida, with her own victor status making her popular, wanted that. he would not be happy with Troy for what he was about to do. He would prove them all wrong.

Troy knew he could do it. For the past three years, since he was eleven years old, Troy had watched the games in awe. It took a year of begging for him to get his parents to send him to Nashida. They were completely against the games and claimed that having an untrained son was better than having a killer no matter what the risk. It took Troy threatening to volunteer, training or no training, to get them to agree. Troy had lived and breathed the Hunger Games for the past three years. He knew what to do. He knew all of the stupid mistakes tributes made to get themselves killed. That was all it took really. Sure, there might be a bit of luck involved, but if you were skilled enough, you didn't need much luck at all to win.

He'd prove them all wrong. Troy was determined to be the youngest victor in history. He'd be looked at with honor for years to come. Everyone would look up to him: the boy who managed to win the Hunger Games at the meager age of fourteen.

Troy paid no mind to his mother's loud gasps and cries that drowned out every other noise amongst the crowd as soon as he proclaimed, “I volunteer as tribute.” He didn't bother to look at Nashida's scowl or his friends frightened faces. As far as Troy could tell, his district seemed to be looking at him with pride. He wouldn't let them down.


Alissah Vasser offered Huntur Sherman a small smirk as he took his place beside her to face the people of District 2. She knew him well, as they had been training together for the past three years. He would greatly decrease her chances of winning, but she couldn't help but be slightly thrilled at the same time. Alissah would be lying if she denied that she was attracted to the slightly older boy. In her 16 years, she had never seen someone so attractive as the blond. It was merely a physical attraction, although one that could have quite possibly become romantic under different circumstances. If it came down to it, she could bring herself to kill him. The only thing that bothered her was Huntur's strength. She'd struggled against it many times before, only managing to outwit him slightly less than half the time.

Unbeknownst to Alissah, Huntur had also found himself attracted to the girl over the years. She was the toughest girl he'd ever met, which held a lot of weight with him. He'd always been a bit of a charmer, but he'd refrained from pursuing Alissah because he knew how likely this outcome would be. No need to make things messier than needed. Huntur just wanted to win the games as quickly and efficiently as possible. He was in this for the honor and money, not the satisfaction of killing. He wouldn't mess around with a girl only to quite literally stab her in the back later. No, Huntur just wanted to get through these games so he could start his life as the newest victor.


Mina Murdoch!”

The thirteen-year-old froze as she heard her name being called. No, this wasn't supposed to happen. There were so many girls in District 3. So many who would put up a better fight than she could even dream of doing. Mina wasn't good at anything. Coming from the district expected to produce technology for the Capitol, Mina had always felt like a slight outcast because of her complete lack of ability to understand anything with an electrical charge. Now she would be cast off into an arena where she would again be an outcast because of her lack of abilities. This time because of physical limitations. And this time the result would be deadly. She stood woodenly as she faced the crowd with a frozen look of terror upon her face.

Kendrick Jobs!”

Kendrick made his way up to the stage to join Mina. He was a scrawny boy, far more interested in gadgets and electronics than anything physical. Fear gripped him as he looked out at District 3. He wasn't prepared for something like this. He was smart, yes, but not about anything that would help him survive.


District 4 wasn't really full of intellectuals. Most of the citizens didn't really see the importance of books and history. That wasn't to say they were dumb. They just had different kinds of smarts.

Boston Jacobson was different. He lived and breathed history. It was the most fascinating thing to him. His access to history books was limited, but whenever he found something new, he devoured it.

Unfortunately, a love for books didn't exactly lend the eighteen-year-old much advantage in the arena that he had just discovered he would be competing in. Boston knew that a few kids in District 4 had begun training in secret, but apparently there were no boys willing to take his place this year. It wasn't as if he was entirely hopeless. Boston had grown up on fishing boats and considered himself a strong person, but there was no telling what he would be up against, and all he wanted was to observe history being made from a far. He didn't want to be a part of it. He didn't want to be one of the names read off in history books about past games, but it seemed as if that would be his destiny.

Tiara King watched Boston come forward and join her on the stage with a smirk. She knew of the boy. He was big and foreboding at first glance, but she had been trained to fight against boys with his build. He would be simple enough to take out.

She was only fourteen, but Tiara was prepared for this. She would be her district's pride and joy. The past three years she'd trained non-stop to be in this position. She was ready. She would win.


Cassidee Powers!”

The seventeen-year-old held her head high as she calmly made her way towards the stage. District 5 was a relatively small district, and because of that, Cassidee had almost expected the worst. As one of the older children, and one who had been forced to take tessarae at that, it didn't come as a shock to her that one of her own slips had been chosen.

Cassidee heard her younger brother call out, but she refused to acknowledge him, too afraid of the tears that may have followed. She tried her hardest to come across as calm and collected, not proud to be shipped off to these games, not defiant of the Capitol, but most certainly not a scared mess. Already she was thinking of the impression she would give her fellow tributes. It wouldn't be in her advantage to come across as weak, even if she was. Fear was gripping her more than she'd ever imagined possible, but Cassidee was already resigned to her fate.

Cassidee went through the motions, knowing just what was expected of her, but she did so halfheartedly. Soon it was time for the male tribute to be chosen, and Cassidee held her breath in a somewhat foolish fear that her brother Ezekiel, with just one slip in, would be chosen along with her.

Instead, “Jaylon Arlington!” was called, and a twelve-year-old boy froze from his spot a few people down from Cassidee's brother. Cassidee sucked in a breath. She knew the boy. She knew him well. He'd been running around with her brother since they were five.

Jaylon had to be pushed toward the Justice Building, but eventually, he was making his way towards Cassidee and their escort. Cassidee saw the fear that flooded his face and knew he would be an easy target. She wanted to protect him. It was what Ezekiel would expect of her, but he would be a hindrance and she was already weak. Still, she wrapped an arm around the boy's shoulders as he made it to her side. Cassidee hadn't thought about the gesture beforehand, whether or not it would show weakness, but when she saw how thankful the boy seemed for the affection, she squeezed harder.


Chloe Faden remembered the first games. She had been eleven, and the entire thing had been terrifying as she knew that next year she could possibly be chosen. She'd made it through two reapings without her name being drawn, but now her luck had run out. As she stood before the Justice Building of District 6, she took in the terrifying sight in front of her. Her entire district seemed to be looking at her with sadness, and that may have been more frightening than the large amount of peacekeepers stationed everywhere.

Sneaking a glance at Kahner Kid, she saw that he was looking out at the crowd with a blank face. He'd always been braver than she was. Although Kahner was a year older, Chloe had known him since they were small. Chloe wondered if it was good or bad luck to be reaped with a friend. Probably bad in the long run, but for now she felt slightly calmed by his presence.

A melody began to run through Chloe's mind. It was difficult to keep herself from humming outloud, a gesture that would comfort her but look strange to the people staring.

As they were ushered off stage, Chloe tried to catch Kahner's attention before they were separated, but he only looked at her with a cold indifference before following one of the peacekeepers in the opposite direction. Chloe's shoulders fell. Yes, being reaped with a friend was definitely bad luck.


The prayers that Joelle Parson had been muttering under her breath during the entire reaping only increased once her name was called. Religion had been widely abandoned after the disasters that led to the creation of Panem, but they'd been free to practice what they wished until the rebellion. Joelle had been ten when the games had started. It was around that same time that the peacekeepers had really started cracking down on the tiny church Joelle had attended with her family in secret. Now, they were forced to gather with one other family in complete secrecy. Joelle's own family and the Shepards were the only two families left in District 7 that worshipped. At least as far as they knew.

Joelle's prayers stayed quiet as she stood before the crowd.

Even in her fervor, she was startled upon hearing Bryan Kennedy's name called. Bryan was two years younger than Joelle, but even at the young age of twelve, he had quite the reputation among the District 7 citizens. The boy was a charmer and very used to getting what he wanted. Joelle had seen him use quite a few people, but they still seemed to bow to his every whim. That would work to his advantage in the arena, and the thought made Joelle sick.

Bryan was having similarly disdainful thoughts about Joelle. Before he was reaped, he'd been quietly laughing to himself about the odd girl being gone forever. Joelle wasn't well-liked, as she had a tendency to act in very peculiar ways and had been spotted on more than one occasion muttering under her breath, although no one knew what she went on about. As Bryan took his place beside her he could hear the low murmur of words, but was only able to make out “please.” That was one word he couldn't blame her for. Bryan felt like shouting it himself. Instead, he squared his shoulders and did his best to look impressive. He'd be one of the youngest in the arena, but having a confident image would never hurt. Winning people over was his only chance.


Ahnette Phryne!”

Ahnette held her head high as she made her way towards the stage. The fifteen-year-old had no particular talents that would help her in the arena, but the one thing she did have was beauty. Most of her peers were still stuck in their awkward phases, but Ahnette was different. People were always commenting on her beauty, and beauty was one of the things most prized in the Capitol. Ahnette herself had never put much stock in it. What difference did it make whether she starved pretty or ugly? The people of District 8 had more to worry about than physical appearances. Now though she was being given a use for her beauty. It was the only chance she had of gaining sponsors, and she planned to use it.

Gerald Chayse!”

Gerald admired the girl, though she was two years younger than him, as he took his place beside her. Even in such a serious situation it was hard not to be enamored by her. He figured he could kill her if he had to, but he prefered not to be the one to do so. Gerald didn't think he'd have much problem killing in the arena, not if he had to in order to live. He was strong at seventeen, and he figured he was more than capable of taking down quite a few of the other tributes. If violence was necessary, he had no intention of holding back. You have to do what's needed to survive. That's more important than anything else.


Jocelin Aurora had expected to have a normal life. Or normal by District 9 standards at least. She'd attend school until the age expected of her to learn things that were, for the most part, rather useless in her district, and then she'd go to work in the fields planting and harvesting grain just like her parents. It was a large district, and Jocelin had honestly not expected her name to be drawn, especially not at the age of thirteen when her name was only in twice. Her family wasn't well off, but they had managed to avoid taking tessarae.

When Etin Faal joined her, she was shocked yet again. The boy was only a year older than herself, and his family was one of the richer ones of the district. His name couldn't be in more than the mandatory three times. He was as privileged as it got in District 9 unless you were a member of the mayor's family or a peacekeeper. Still, the young boy didn't appear surprised.

Etin knew there was no getting out of this. He'd had few friends growing up because the other children were jealous of his family's relative wealth, but Etin had tried his hardest to make friends in spite of that. Over the past few years, he'd worked hard to be an amazing friend to the few he did have and keep his pride up no matter what he faced. This would be no different. He didn't expect to win, but he would die knowing that he'd done everything he could to die with honor.


Emilia Arnout held her head high as she stood in front of the people of District 10. It had been her last reaping. She'd been so close to being safe. There was no turning back now though, and she wanted to believe that she had a decent chance. She'd spent her entire life in a butcher shop. Sure it was all domesticated animals, but surely that would be of some help in the arena. She knew how animals worked, and most importantly, how they died and how to cook them. Emilia had to believe this would help her. It was the only thing she had.

Ezra Barton liked helping people. It was just who he was. His parents sometimes made remarks about how sensitive he seemed for a fourteen-year-old boy, but he just didn't like seeing people in pain. He always wanted to help. Ezra didn't like seeing people suffer, but living in District 10 he'd had no choice. The games were an annual experience that he dreaded on many different levels, and now he was going to be forced to actually live through them. He couldn't stand to watch others be hurt. How was he supposed to kill?


She was panicking. Every muscle in Tifanee Timotheus' body was itching with the adrenline rushing through her. The only thing her brain could think was “run.” So that's what she did. The peacekeepers snatched the young thirteen-year-old girl up as if she were a cardboard box. She probably weighed just as much as one. Tifanee was deposited quite unceremoniously on the stage in front of the entire population of District 11.

The peacekeepers now formed a barrier between the girl and any means of escape. It was as if Tifanee had gone from average girl to criminal in minutes. She wasn't though. She wasn't a criminal. She'd done nothing wrong. Her entire life she'd managed to maintain decent grades in school while also working as much as she could to help her family. She'd done everything in her power to do what was expected of her, and now she was being thrown into an arena to be killed. It wasn't fair. The tears poured down her face as she wept openly on the ground in front of all of Panem.

Despite being a mere year older, Demetrius Iver was much more collected as he took his own place in front of the district. The only hint of his true fear was in his shallow breathing, but Tifanee's sobs drowned out everything else in the square.

The boy looked down at the pitiful girl at his feet. She had no doubt ruined all chances at getting sponsors, and her chances hadn't been all that great before. Demetrius felt sorry for her though, and he couldn't stop himself from kneeling down and placing what he hoped was a comforting hand on her back. The girl shied away, no doubt thinking he was a peacekeeper or someone else meaning her harm. The boy persisted though and pulled her gently gently to her feet.

The girl didn't resist, but she was limp as a doll in his arms, which forced Demetrius to keep his grip on her. Tifanee quickly buried her face in his chest as their names were announced once again to all of Panem.


Fayth Ammadon!”

The thirteen-year-old had to be lead towards the Justice Building by straight-faced peacekeepers as she refused to leave the grip of her friends. All of District 12 looked on with sympathy. Everyone knew of the kindhearted girl. They cringed as Fayth stood before them. An arena was no place for someone like Fayth. It was only moments before it hit her. It seemed instantaneous to the crowd, but for Fayth it had been building up since her name had been called. A panic attack. Just one of the many that had pained her through the years.

It all rushed through her head. The games. The Capitol. Murder. Everything that would be expected from her. She'd never see home again. It was too much. Far too much. The escort looked on in fear as the young girl broke down in front of the entire country. Fayth could just hear the mayor whispering, “Agoraphobia,” in the woman's ear, as if one simple word could actually convey the terror currently coursing through her.

The escort seemed determined to ignore Fayth's break-down. She breezed through the familiar motions of the ceremony as if there wasn't a hysterical girl beside her. No one made a move to help Fayth.

Coale Marcellus!”

Coale was Fayth's complete opposite. He made his way to the front of the crowd with his head held high. He was averagely sized for his fifteen years, and anger was the only emotion visible on his face. His fists were clenched tight, and the stiffness of his movements was noticeable to everyone. He made no move to comfort Fayth either. The district that had looked on the girl with sympathy now stared impassively at the boy who did nothing but glare back at them. His stare seemed to blame them for his predicament.

Quite a pair the two made as they were announced to the district once more. Fayth a hysterical mess. Coale an angry but composed boy. Two very different children with two very similar fates.


Twenty-four children from across the country. All being lost to their districts forever. Sure, one would make it back in the physical sense, but they too would be truly lost. Drowning in their own despair for the rest of their lifetime.