Thimble Thursday: Chapter 3 – Thimble & Jack open up to Panem

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Chapter 3 – Interview

Thimble Trickson Family/Friends Interview: 

Reporter: I’m proud to welcome a friend from District 8, Jack Topper! Jack, how do you know Thimble? 

Jack: I work with her at the sewing factory. We met when I was seventeen and she was eleven. 

Reporter: That’s quite an age gap. Do you see her as a younger sister of sorts? 

Jack: Absolutely. It gets repetitive, standing in one place all day, sewing the same uniforms over and over again. That’s why you’ve got to make friends.

Reporter: Are people friendly at the factory? 

Jack: Mostly. The factory owner, Frank, definitely is not, so we try and make up for it by being nice to each other. It makes the days go by easier, you know? 

Reporter: A smile is all it takes to brighten someone’s day, I agree. Tell me, what was your first impression of Thimble, all those years ago? 

Jack: When I first saw Thimble, she had a needle stuck in her finger, and for a second I thought she’d passed out with her eyes open because she completely froze for almost a minute, staring at it.  I used to stab my fingers by accident all the time, so I thought it was rather comical. She didn’t appreciate me laughing though. I think her first impression of me was pretty low.

Reporter: And how did that transition into a friendship? 

Jack: I think that shared experience brought us closer together. Good bonding time, you know?  I told her ‘a little blood never hurt anyone’, and she brightened up a bit. Feeling like you’re alone is the worst thing, but having a friend makes it much, much better, even if you are stuck in a sewing factory for twelve hours a day. 

Reporter: You speak very fondly of Thimble. Can you see this ‘friendship’ ever turning into something more? 

Jack: I’m an in-the-present kind of guy, and that question relies on a bunch of variables that I have no control over right now.  Our relationship has never gone close to that direction, but in the future, when we’re both older, you never know what could happen.

Reporter: You speak of the future confidently, like you know Thimble’s coming back. Do you think she’ll be able to overcome the odds and come home as victor? 

Jack: That’s another complicated question. I believe in Thimble 100%, and I know she’ll do whatever it takes to succeed. And that’s all I let myself think about. 

Reporter: If Thimble were to win, do you think things would be the same as they were before, or do you think she would be different after having experienced the Hunger Games? 

Jack: Every victor has to face their own demons, and the road back to normality is a treacherous one. I wouldn’t be surprised if it took a while for her to re-adjust to regular life. But I know Thimble really well. And that’s never going to change. 

Reporter: Are you close with Thimble’s family? 

Jack: Yes, I know her mother quite well. She’s a lovely woman. 

Reporter: How about Thimble’s late father?

Jack: I didn’t meet Thimble until after her father had passed away. But she’s told me all about him; I feel like somehow I’ve always known him. 

Reporter: I realize that you’re 19, and beyond the age limit, but if you could have, would you have volunteered for District 8’s male tribute in order to go to the games with Thimble? 

Jack: I ask myself that question every night. And the answer is ‘yes’. Thimble and her mother are the only family I have, and I would have done everything in my power to protect them. 

Reporter: What happened to your family? 

Jack: They died when I was very young. I grew up under the care of an old woman who lived alone in the corner of town. She passed away two years ago. 

Reporter: And now you live alone? 

Jack: I did, for a while. Now I live with Thimble and her mother. 

Reporter: So you’re actually like her adopted brother.

Jack: Exactly. 

Reporter: I can see how a potential romance could be awkward. 

Jack: Yes. I love Thimble as a sister. And her mother is like my own. 

Reporter: If you could say something to Thimble right now, what would it be? 

Jack: *smiles* go kick some ass. 

Reporter: Thank you for your time, Jack. It was a pleasure to meet you. 

Jack: Thanks. 

 

 

 

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Caesar:  Let us Welcome district 8’s Thimble Trickson!  Tell us, what is something you love about being the in the Capitol?

Thimble: I love the novelty. In District 8, I work in a factory sewing peacekeeper uniforms. I do the same thing every day, but here, I never even wear the same clothes twice. Everything is new and changing and exciting.

Caesar:  You are one of the youngest people in this competition.  Does that create any anxiety at all?

Thimble: I’ve realized that if I focus on all the things that create anxiety, I’d probably have a panic attack before the Games even started. I know I’m going against the odds, but I’m not counting on the odds. I’m going to do what I can do because that’s all I can do. Sometimes it’s comforting to know that there are things that are out of your hands. You’ve just gotta do your part and leave the rest.

Caesar:  What do you think your strengths are that will help you to possibly win this competition?

Thimble: My mentor made me swear not to reveal my strategies on live TV, but I think the fact that people don’t know what to expect from me, or don’t expect anything at all, is an advantage for me in itself. I’ll just leave it at that. 

Caesar:  Who do you have back at home rooting for you and counting you to make it back home?

Thimble: My mother works at the same factory I do, and I know she’s watching right now. She’s always been there for me, encouraging, supporting. Thinking of her makes me feel stronger, even though I’m so far away. And all of my friends, who I consider almost family are there as well.

Caesar: We’ve been briefed about your family, now you father is no longer with us, do you remember much about him, and if so, what would you feel he would have advised you to do in this situation?

Thimble: I was nine  years old when my father died, but I still remember him like yesterday. He had smiling blue eyes, and he would always tell me: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” And I think that’s exactly what he would say today.  

Caesar:  Did anyone visit you before you left to come here and did they give you any advice?

Thimble: My mother came to visit before I left.  She told me she was proud of me for who I am, not for anything I have to gain in the arena.  And a couple of my friends came to say goodbye.

Caesar: Now we all heard your outburst after your reaping, can you explain what was going through your mind to be so bold to instruct your district to spit on the ground instead of clapping for you?

Thimble: If I die, I’m going to go out with a bang, and the reaping is no exception. The districts can’t stop the Hunger Games, but we don’t have to support them. It was an impulse, what I said, but it’s true. We shouldn’t have to pretend we like this. And we’re sure as hell not giving up.

Caesar:  Is there anything else you’d like to say to anyone back at home or possible sponsors?

Thimble: Thank you for listening to me. And to everyone back home, thank you for believing in me. I’ll fight for you with everything I have.

 

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Ned Rickman: Chapter 3 – The Interview

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Chapter 3 – The Interview 

(Caesar Flickman’s questions provided by the judges of the writing contest) 

Caesar Flickman: Welcome, Ned Rickman! How are you?

Ned: I’m great, thanks. 

Caesar: We’ve been learning as much as we can about all of our tributes, and you are one of the most surprising tributes,” Caesar says. “You’ve got an excellent job and career ahead of you, and yet you volunteered. You don’t seem to be a reckless decision maker; can you tell us what made you decide to volunteer? It’s not common from your district to see a volunteer.” 

Ned: I’ve always been a very careful person. You’re right in thinking I’m not a reckless decision maker, and volunteering at the reaping went against everything I believed in. But something in me urged me to do it, and I obeyed, even if I didn’t understand why. Yes, I have a good job and future ahead of me, but if I can’t even live up to myself, how can I do anything for my district? I believe that everything happens for a reason, and if I survive the Hunger Games, I will come back a changed man, a better man. I will know reason, but I will also know risks. I’ll understand caution, but I’ll also understand cost. And I’ll be stronger; we all will.

Caesar: Did anyone come to visit you before you came to the Capitol, and did they give you any advice?

Ned: My parents came to say goodbye. But they never said ‘goodbye’. They believe in me, and that’s more encouraging than any advice I’ve received.

Caesar: With such a great career ahead of you, you are sure to have a girlfriend, am I correct?

Ned: You’d think. But, what people don’t realize is that my job actually consumes all of my time and energy. I’d feel sorry for any girl who had to go out with me.

Caesar: You’ve been regarded as a genius! I’ve been told that President Snow has even said that you may be able to be head gamemaker one day. How do you feel about this?

Ned: Honoured, to say the least.

Caesar: Do you have anything you’d like to say to someone back home or to someone who’d like to sponsor you?

Ned: I’d like to say thanks to everyone who’s supporting me. It makes a huge difference, not only in my head, but also in here. *puts hand on chest* 

Thimble Thursday – Chapter Two: Breathe

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Chapter 2 – Breathe

I can’t breathe. The air smells like perfume, thick, smothering perfumes that forces itself down my lungs and settles in my stomach like a disease. I gasp and bolt upright in a bed that’s too soft, too cold.  I huddled sideways at the foot of the bed, gold, swirls of silky blanket tangled on the floor. I can’t stop shaking, and there’s this feeling in my stomach like I’m falling down a deep, empty well.  Hollow echoes crowd my mind as the room begins to spin, and it takes everything I have not to scream. 

That’s when the door open and an Avox comes in. Last night when I first saw her, I was speechless–just like she will always be. She looks barely older than I am, with wide blue eyes and a soft curtain of dark hair.  She used hand motions and nodded to me encouragingly, but all I could do was gape at her mouth, frozen by the thought of the Capitol ripping out her tongue.

The Avox seems genuinely concerned for me, which I can’t understand.  If I were her, I’d probably want to die. She comes over and sets down a tray, steaming with tempting smells.  I’ve barely eaten since I got here; everything tastes like sawdust. I don’t care if Hutch tells me I’m going to starve in the arena. I just don’t care.

The Avox is still looking at me, then glances at the tray, questioningly. 

“Thank you,” I manage to squeak out. 

She walks around the bed and picks up the blankets, wrapping them around my shoulders.  She smiles at me as she leaves.

I force myself to eat.  I think these are called pancakes–I’ve never had them before. They’re sweet and gooey, and the meat is crunchy. If I had this meal at home, I’d consider myself a queen. But here I feel like less than a slave. I try not to think about home, Mother, with tears leaking out of her eyes despite her greatest effort to hide them as she hugged me goodbye, Father whispering that he loved me, the Peacekeepers pulling them away, me screaming and kicking and clawing like a wild animal. Animals–that’s what we tributes are. And now it’s time to feed us so we’re fat and pretty before we die. 

My mentor, Nickie Nannite, is the tinniest woman I have ever seen. I’m taller than her, and I thought I was short.  She won the games when she was sixteen. Her blond hair is always frizzy, and there’s fire in her voice when she talks. She really believes in me, and the other tribute, Jose. She says we can do anything we set our minds to. Her confidences is almost discouraging–mostly because I’m lacking it completely.  The other mentor, Jackson, talks more with Jose. I don’t talk much with either of them. 

I’ve been dreading meeting my stylist. I’ve heard his work is some of the finest in all of Panem, but I don’t want to see him, or meet him, or talk to him. And I definitely don’t want to be naked around him; I want to go home.  I promised myself I wouldn’t resort to whining, but my heart is pounding in my head, and I feel like I’m about to meet a sword-wielding Career from District 2 instead of my stylist. That’s the thing about the Capitol. They turn everything upside down and make it all unnatural and uncomfortable. 

A different Avox leads me to the small, yet spacious room where I shed my clothes and sit on the table, wrapped in a pale white towel. You’d think that this being the Capitol, they’d have nicer looking towels. Especially for the stylists. 

I almost stop breathing again when he comes in. The first thing I see are his eyes, orange balls of fire, hooded by long dark lashes. His blue-black hair is slicked back into a pony-tail, and his skin is covered in spider-web-like brown tattoos, which contrast against his light skin. He can’t be more than twenty-five, maybe less. He doesn’t look me over like some piece of meat, like an animal waiting to be butchered. Instead, he looks me in the eyes, like a human being. And then he bows.

“Thimble,” he says, in a deep, soft voice. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. My name is Tobi Raballos.” He smiles.  Not the way other Capitol people smile, like Kiran Hutch, jeering at Jose and I across the table, or even Nickie’s overzealous grin. Tobi’s smile is calming, somehow. It reminds me of home. 

“Hi,” I almost whisper. I don’t know what else to say, except that my heart has stopped pounding. 

“How do you feel?” he asks, still holding my gaze. 

Lonely. Scared. Empty. “I don’t know,” I reply. I don’t know what he wants me to say. 

“You don’t have to be afraid,” he says, taking off his gray wool cloak. “You’re safe here.” 

“I took the word ‘safe’ out of my vocabulary as soon as my name was pulled from that bowl.” 

“Well, it’s nice to see you’ve still got your grit and determination,” Tobi says. “Why don’t I brush your hair and you can tell me about it?” 

I pull my towel tighter around me and nod. 

“Close your eyes,” he says, and I do. “What do you fear the most?” Tobi asks. 

Dying. No–deep down, somewhere, I think I’ve already accepted the fact that I’ll probably never make it home alive. Dying slowly. I’ve seen some pretty horrible deaths on my family’s television at home when we’re forced to watch the Games each year. Except this time I won’t have Mother with me. Or Jack. Did they accept the idea of my death when I left? Do they expect me to live? Will they look away at the death strike? 

“I’m afraid of letting my family and my friends down,” I say simply. “I can’t win for them.” 

There is silence for a second, and I feel the soft, coaxing rhythm of the brush in my hair. It’s a soothing feeling, despite the turmoil raging within. 

“Why are you scared?” Tobi asks. 

“Because I’m not strong enough,” I say slowly. “I don’t have any skills. I can’t win.” My eyes suddenly fill with tears, and I face the realization out loud. “I’m going to die.” 

Tobi stops and comes to stand in front of me. He puts a hand on my shoulder. “Look at me,” he says. “Look at me.” 

I sniff. Tributes shouldn’t cry. It’s a sign of weakness. But I never claimed to be strong. 

“Do you know what ‘unconditional’ means?” Tobi asks. 

I nod. “It means ‘no matter what’” 

“Exactly.  It means they’ll love you no matter what, even if you screw up, even if you’re scared. Even if you die.  The Capitol thinks they own you because they’ve stolen you from your home and trapped you in an arena to fight to the death. But do you know what they can’t do? They can’t take your passion, or your hope, or your love.  And at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what you do, it matters who you are, and what you stand for. Your mother will love you, no matter what. And the Capitol can never take that away.” 

He keeps brushing my hair, stroke by stroke. I don’t say anything, but I close my eyes again. My tears still streaming silently. Maybe it’s okay to cry. Maybe it’s okay to be afraid. Because that means you have something to fight for, something to live for. And even if you don’t live in the end, it’ll always be there, your love, your family’s love, untouchable, unstoppable.

For the first time, I feel at rest. 

The rest of the week passes in a dream. I begin eating my food, enjoying my meals, training with Nickie, even though we still don’t quite click. In the training room I visit nearly all of the stations. I’m good at the target practice and the trap making. I learn about how to gather food, tie knots–knots that result in human traps that can string people up by their ankles. And every day, I think about my family. Mother, and Father, probably worried sick about me back home. And it gives me strength, and hope.

“Thimble,” Nickie hisses. It’s almost midnight, and tomorrow is the Tribute Evaluation. 

I pad across the scarlet carpet and open the door. There are large, purple bags under Nickie’s eyes. “I want you to know something,” she says softly. “…after I won the games, I thought my life would be perfect. I thought I’d live like a queen for the rest of my life.” 

I don’t say anything, sensing a negative turn in the story.

“But from that moment on, my life wasn’t my own anymore,” Nickie says. “The Capitol told me where to live, who to live with, what to do. It drove me crazy, and I hated them.” 

This came something as a shock to me. “You haven’t stopped smiling since you got here,” I say. “You’re so positive it’s painful. And you say you hate them?” 

“A smile can mean many things, Thimble,” Nickie replies. “Some people smile because they’re happy. Some people smile to hide the pain. And that’s something I never want you to experience. Don’t let them control you like I let them control me, Thimble. Fight for what you believe in. Fight for all the people who can’t.” Nickie may not be the best mentor, but being a mentor isn’t the best job. I know how she feels, what it’s like to have your life fly out of control.

“I will,” I say quietly. 

Nickie touches my arm. “You’re a fighter, Thimble. I can see it in your eyes.” And then she turns and walks silently back down the long hallway.

The next morning, I’m standing in a room full of tributes, nervously shifting my weight from one foot to another. When it’s finally my turn, I don’t let myself think about it. I just act. I go from station to station; I show the Gamemakers my human ankle traps, my slingshot practice, my camouflage. I may not be tall, but I’m strong. I may not be skilled, but I’m smart. I might not win these Games, but I’ll never give up. And no one–not even the Capitol, can take that away.

Sunday Night with Ned Rickman: Chapter 2 – Goodbye

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Chapter 2 – Fear

Some things hurt right away, like being force-fed your own personal slice of hell.  You think that once it’s down, you’ve survived. But that’s only the beginning. Now it’s part of you; now it’s killing you from the inside out. The worst things are the ones that hurt later. 

 

The whirring sound of the train is lulling me into a restless nightmare.  Every time I close my eyes I see hers. I didn’t want her to come say goodbye to me. I didn’t want to see her at all. But I can’t stop thinking about it, over and over. Mom and Dad were saying their goodbyes after the ceremony before she came in.

 

Mom and Dad looked more flustered than I did. As soon as I saw Mom’s face, I knew she wanted to scream ‘why?’. She wanted to tell me that it wasn’t worth dying for a girl I would probably never live to love. But she didn’t say it. She wiped her tears, her mouth a thin, tight line and came over to hug me. She kissed my cheek. They both said they were proud of me, and they loved me.

And then Dad pulled all three of us into one big hug. That’s when the door cracked open, and I saw her long, dark hair swishing through the opening. Her eyes were bright, timid. 

“We’ll see you soon, son,” Dad said, turning away so I couldn’t see his face, taking Mom with him. 

Suzie stood in the doorway, wordlessly. For a second we both just stood there looking at each other.  Her eyes were still red from crying, and her dress was a pale blue. Part of me was screaming; this might be the last time I would ever see Suzie again.  What if I died before I ever told her? What if she never knew? What if she did? What would happen then? 

“You didn’t have to come,” I finally said. The seconds, which had been tripping over each other in their hurry had now slammed to a complete stop, leaving me hanging in the moment, squirming. 

Suzie took a step closer. She looked at the floor. “I’ve never talked to you before,” she said quietly, “and yet you just saved my brother’s life…I had to say ‘thank you’” 

Silence flooded the room again.  My brain was jumping like it was getting electrocuted, so many thoughts were pulsing through at once, sentence fragments, explanations, whole novels in my head I wanted to tell her. But I was mute. 

“Why?” she almost whispered. “Why did you volunteer?” 

Because I love you. There is only one answer for that question. Wasn’t it obvious? 

She just looked at me with those big eyes, a thousand different shades of green. 

“I…I just did,” I said. “I felt like it was the right thing to do.” 

Suzie sucked in a breath.  Her lips pursed in thought, and I fought the urge to pull her against me and kiss her. 

Her eyes flitted back to mine, and she threw her arms around my neck, reaching up on her tip toes. “I don’t want to be the reason you die,” she whispered, her voice cracking. “I know it’s a horribly selfish thing to say, considering what you’re doing, but I’ll never be able to live with myself if something happens to you.” 

I pulled back and looked into her eyes. Could she sense what I felt? “You won’t be the reason I die,” I said. “You’ll be the reason I live.” 

For the quickest instant, a smile hovered on her face, lighting up her eyes. “I’ll never forget you, Ned Rickman,” she said. “I’m indebted to you forever.”

And all too quickly, the clock jumped back into play as the seconds zipped away again, out of my reach. Suzie’s dark hair swished as she pulled back towards the door. Just before she got there, she paused. “I believe in you,” she said. And then she was gone.

 

“Morphling. You ever heard of it?” Lyda Humphrey asks, blue eyes hard, grey-streaked red hair pulled back in a tight bun. I’d never met her before this morning, but I heard that she won the games twenty-two years ago when she was eighteen by setting death traps for her opponents in the arena. After coming home, her fiancé disappeared, and she got hooked on the drug, Morhpling. 

“Of course I’ve heard of it,” I reply, sitting on an orange leather couch, the pounding in my chest dulled to a slow death march. 

“A victor’s best friend, I’m telling you,” she drawls, sitting at the dark oak table in the centre of the cab, forking a piece of stake. “Want some?” she adds, pointing to her plate. 

“I already ate.” One last hurried meal with my family–the last meal I might ever have with them.

“Not like this you haven’t,” she says. “One good thing about getting reaped is they treat you like a king before sending you to the slaughterhouse.” 

I’m glad Humphrey has such high expectations for me. “What happened to your fiancé?” I ask. 

The grin evaporates from her face, and she stops chewing. “Kenneth and I were going to get married. Screw everyone who said seventeen was too young–we knew what we wanted. But then his father got hurt–accident at the Hub–and the medicine he needed wasn’t available. But Kenneth got it; he never told me how. He was brave, Kenneth was. The bravest person I’ve ever met.  The Reaping was coming; we were going to get married the week after…” 

For a  second, Humphrey looks younger. The ghost of a girl, the one she used to, be breaks through the narrow lines of her long, worn face. And then the bitterness returns. “But I got reaped,” she says. “And I thought I’d never see him again.” 

“How did you do it?” I asked. “Did knowing he was waiting for you help you in the arena, or did it just make things worse?” 

“Love makes you crazy, boy,” she says. “I’m sure you’ve heard of those death traps I constructed; they weren’t a pretty sight, but I did it because I had to. And it paid off. I won.  I got back home, and there was a huge celebration. But Kenneth wasn’t there. He’d been taken to the Capitol for questioning about stealing the medical supplies that’d saved his father’s life. I never saw Kenneth again.” 

“Why?” I ask softly. “Were they trying to get to you?” 

“They’re always trying to get to you,” Lyda says, stabbing her steak with her knife. “The Capitol will take everything you have. Even if you beat them in the Games, they’ll break you. Because once your will is broken, they own you. And you’ll never step out of line.” She looks up, fury in her eyes. “So I had my Morphling to make it better, to make the pain go away. But it  only made it worse. I saw Kenneth in my head, heard his voice. If I didn’t get off the stuff, I would’ve gone crazy–crazier than I am now.” 

She sighs and pushes her plate away. “Point is, don’t let them know your weakness. You’ve got a girl, don’t tell them. You’ve got hopes and dreams, keep’em to yourself. An awful lot of people spill their guts to Ceasar Flickman, and it always comes back and bites them in the ass.” She looks at me. “You’ve got a girl, don’t ya? That brunette who was squealing all over that boy you volunteered for?” 

I nod. “I did it for her.” 

She clicked her tongue. “That’s a problem.” 

“What do you mean it’s a problem? It was my choice.” 

“It’s your weakness,” Humphrey says, “just like it was mine.” 

“You didn’t go into the games to save someone you loved.” 

“But I had someone I loved, and it nearly drove me mad.” 

“But you won.” 

“And I lost myself. If you want to win you have to forget the brunette, forget everyone. You have to do it for yourself.” 

“I am doing it for myself.” 

Humphrey looks at me. “So if the Peacekeepers attacked her house and killed her and her family this instant, you’re saying that you’d still be just as thrilled about winning the games? You’d still have a drive to live?” 

“First of all, I was never ‘thrilled’ about the Games,” I reply. “And yeah, I’d still fight. I’d win so I could get revenge. What do you think I’d do–roll over and die?” 

“I dunno. But love makes you crazy, I’m warning you,” Humphrey says. “I don’t know what’s going through your head, but I know what went through mine.” 

“What did you do when they killed Kenneth?” I ask. 

“Morphling. I told you. If my family didn’t force me off it, I would’ve been dead–brain dead at the very least.” 

I look over to the other side of the train where Nevelyn, the other tribute, sits. 

Humphrey notices my gaze. “I sure hope she’s not in love,” she says. 

Nevelyn’s bright red hair falls down her back, and she sitting on a chair talking to Wril Meggo, the male mentor. Despite the fact that he’s sixty-two, his face still looks young, and almost happy, with laughing blue eyes that have obviously never seen Morphling. His wispy grey hair goes down to his shoulders, and he’s eating a muffin so big it shouldn’t be allowed to exist.  Meggo won the games when he was only fourteen. I’ve been told he was a skinny kid, and nobody took him seriously. He surprised them by jumping down from trees in the middle of the night and stabbing the other tributes to death. 

I lean back against the couch and focus on breathing, maybe even sleeping. I’ll need all of my strength. But as soon as the room starts to dim and slow around me, I see her eyes. I feel her breath on my neck when she hugged me, her voice in my ears. In my dream she’s begging me, “Don’t go. Don’t die.” I’m holding her so close I can feel her heartbeat. And then she melts in my hands, staining my skin red. In an instant she’s gone, and only a puddle remains, dark red, bubbling around my feet, burning me. The flames lick my bloodstained clothes, and her voice whimpers from the ground, “Don’t go. Don’t die.” But she’s dead, and I’m burning alive. 

* * * 

A bead of sweat rolls down my back, and I feel a cramp coming on. But I don’t loosen my from grip from the handle. I hold the pickaxe tighter and bring it down on the wood again and again, harder, faster. With every slice, every satisfying split of wood, I regain strength.  I won’t stop until all that’s left is wood chips, ashes. I’ll destroy it all. 

Some of the other tributes have paused to watch me, but I don’t care who sees me. I don’t care what they do, and I don’t give a damn if Humphrey thinks I’m weak. This is who I am; this is how I feel. Deal with it. 

The knots, pressure points, and trap-setting stations aren’t nearly as interesting as the pickaxe one. I also enjoyed the knife session. I feel like there’s a beast inside me, clawing to get out. Maybe Humphrey was right. It hasn’t even been forty-eight hours since I left District 6, and I already feel like someone else. 

Meggo tries to flag me down after my shower, but I ignore him and let Eliana usher me off to meet my stylist. She’s a tiny girl, Enriqua Songlasia, with hazel eyes as big as hour glasses and pixie-short hair, bright pink. 

“Get it over with,” I say, dropping my clothes, waiting for her to turn me into a zombie replica of myself. That’s what people in the Capitol are–aliens. No one here looks normal. It’s as if humanity wasn’t good enough for them so they decided to cake it with face paint and hair dye to cover everything up. But that’s just the it–some things can’t be covered.

Enriqua begins her work. She doesn’t talk very much, so I’m surprised when she actually speaks. “I know you hate the Capitol,” she says softly. 

“I didn’t say anything.” 

“You didn’t have to,” Enriqua replies. “But I’m not going to make you like them. I’m making you into a finer version of yourself. And in the end, you decide who that’s going to be.” 

Her voice is inspiring, full of life. But her eyes are large and sad. It’s a deadness, a subtle pain that she can’t quite extinguish from her face, even beneath the layers of black makeup. Something horrible happened to her; I just know it.  But I don’t ask. I’ve been through enough today.

 

Nevelyn and I are showered in food every minute we’re not training or sleeping. Like Humphrey said, you really do get treated like a king. Eliana follows us around like a body guard, gushing about how lovely everything is. It’s at times like that when Nevelyn and I look at each other, and I know we both want to strangle Eliana. No one should be so happy about the Hunger Games. 

“Ned,” Meggo calls, right before I head upstairs for the night. I’ve been dodging him all day; I’ve started to think I’d get on better without my mentors than with them. 

“What?” I ask. 

“You’re afraid, son,” Meggo says, the blue light gleaming in his eyes. 

I spin around to face him. “Afraid of what?” 

“Suzie.” 

“Huh?” 

“You can’t tell her how you feel, and I know that’s hard,” Meggo says. “But I think it’s deeper than that. I don’t think you’re afraid of coming here and risking your life in the Games, or being broadcasted live across Panem. I think you’re afraid of going back to District 6 and actually talking to this girl.” 

For a full five seconds, I’m speechless. “Why would you think that?” 

Scars and wrinkles line Meggo’s face, but his eyes still look young. “Because all of this is under your control, to some extent. You choose who you fight, and how. You take your own chances, you reap your own rewards. But with this girl, you’ve got nothing. It’s beyond you.” 

“That’s not true,” I say, gritting my teeth. 

“Then why did you wait so long?” Meggo asks. “Why didn’t you tell her before?” 

Because I was busy. Because it might not work. Because I was afraid. 

“You’re trapping yourself, putting your mind in a cage,” Meggo goes on. “You have to free yourself. You can’t control her emotions, but you can control yours. It’s all in your head.” “What do you want me to do?” 

“Don’t win the Games for her,” Meggo says simply. “Win them for you. You can love her after. But she doesn’t determine your fate. You do. Now go get some sleep. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.” 

* * * 

“District Six, Ned Rickman,” a nasally voice says, announcing me into the training room for my evaluation.  I got up at 5am, refreshed after a dreamless sleep. I stand before the Gamemakers, eating their banquet at the table. I don’t know how to impress them, so I don’t even try. Instead I fall back into my old routine. I close my eyes and think back to District Six, in The Hub. I hear the whir of the train, the sound of metal against metal, the hum of the engine, the murmur of conversation as the workers take their morning break. I can almost feel the breeze on my face. It’s familiar to me, and it’s calming. 

And I begin writing on the ground, in the sand. Math is my strength; I write out a long and complicated equation that the judges probably don’t even understand.  And then I act it out. I take the ropes, which I contort with fine knots, the dummies for the knife-throwing practice, the traps for the animals. I put them together in a mathematical equation that defies both logic and gravity, that sends the knife spinning through the air, drops the rope, pulls the trap, strings up the dummy and stabs through its heart. 

I walk out the door and don’t look back. 

“This is for you, Suzie,” I whisper. “Even if I never get to tell you. Even if I do.” 

Thimble Thursday: Chapter 1 – Drown

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Many apologies for the late post–pretend it’s still Thursday–here is Thimble’s first chapter! 

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Name: Thimble Trickson

District: 8

Age: 14

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Chapter 1 – Drown

They call me Thimble. Maybe it’s because I’m small. Maybe it’s because I’m quick.  I make more uniforms than anyone else on my floor. Maybe that’s why they make me do more work. I spend more time at the factory than I do at home, but I don’t get paid very much. I’m only 14. They don’t have to give me full wages. 

My mother has worked at the factory for 27 years. Her eyes are still as sharp as when she was a child, but they’ve lost their sparkle. She looks much older than she did five years ago when  Father died. Now she doesn’t smile anymore. But she tells me one day things will be better. One day we will be free. 

 

“Thimble!” Mother cries out. I see her through the crowd. I catch her worried eyes through the bodies. We’re surrounded by stomping, talking, whispering. Everyone is fearful. Nobody is quiet. I stop where I am and wait for Mother to catch up. We both wear white. White is what you wear at weddings. But today two children will be selected to die. 

Last year was my first Reaping. I was so scared, my pounding chest woke me up in the middle of the night, and I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t sleep. Every time I shut my eyes I saw Thorn–the boy from District 8 the year before, get stabbed through with a double edged blade by a Career from District 1. Blood spurted everywhere. This is what the Hunger Games is, killing and dying.  Everywhere I look there is death.

All the factories are closed for The Reaping. School is cancelled. The people from The Capitol come and talk to use like they’re doing us a favour, like we want this. But we don’t. We hate them, just like we hate the Peacekeepers, whose uniforms we have to make every day. Tina Lesgarbes, the Mayor, is speaking into the microphone now, trying to quiet the crowd. There are many of us, spilling out over the town square and down the street past the houses and into the backyards.  The sun shines dimly; even it is afraid to show its face. 

“Citizens of District 8, please welcome Kiran Hutch!” 

Nobody claps for the tall, twig-like man who ascends the platform. His hair is dyed silver, as if he is trying to look like a robot. What he really looks like is an middle aged man with a poor sense of style. Or a poor stylist. 

“Ahem,” he says, clearing his voice into the microphone. It sounds like he has phlegm in his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he says. “You are a noble people for a noble game. And you will fight with heart and valour. Today we will band together. Today we will make our mark on the world.” 

I frown. If Hutch’s going for the robot look, he’s definitely aiming for a smooth-oiled speech. But it’s not working. I see people rolling their eyes. The Hunger Games is anything but noble. it’s a cowardly act of cruelty from The Capitol. It’s murder. 

“Let us begin the days affair with a quick recap of the glory of former days,” Hutch says, and then we are forced to watch the same video as last year, and the year before, about the ‘glory’ of The Hunger Games. We watch Threadbare, our fifteen-year-old male tribute from two decades ago, sew a raft of leaves and twigs together and sail to victory. He was the last remaining tribute in the flood that the Gamemakers tortured the tributes with that year. Threadbare commit suicide two months after he was crowned victor–the video doesn’t show that part. 

“And now, to the good part,” Hutch says when it’s over. he snickers to himself and dips his hand into the brimming bowl. “Girls,” he says, nodding. And then he opens the piece of paper he has selected and reads.

Not me, not me, not me, not me–If I think the word over and over enough, maybe it will come true. A bead of sweat trickles down between my shoulder blade. Mother squeezes my hand. 

“Thimble Trickson”

I have never drowned before; but I’ve heard what it feels like. Your lungs scream for air. Even in ice cold water, you feel like you’re burning alive. You thrash and tear at the water. And then your eyes glazes over, and the life ebbs out of you as your spirit fades away. That is when the water claims you. And then you float to the surface, after it is too late. 

I am drowning now. 

Mother is gasping. She’s trying not to cry. My heart is pounding again. I think it’s going to pop right out of my chest. My sweaty hands are shaking. And before I know it, my feet are moving. The crowd parts in front of me. Annie Xander, from school, lowers her eyes when they meet mine. Jose Alvarez, whose brother was killed in last year’s Hunger Games, pats me on the shoulder as I go by. I don’t feel anything. I am on fire. I am burning inside. 

“Thimble!” Hutch claps a hand on my back as I step up onto the platform. I don’t know how my legs are still supporting me. I feel like I’m about to fall down. “You’re a brave one, aren’t you,” he says. 

I never noticed how large his eyes are. 

“You’re going to make us proud; I can just see it,” he says, then chuckles as he turns to the crowd. “How about a round of applause for Thimble!” 

The crowd is full of eyes. Eyes flooded with pity. Eyes beaming with relief. There is a second of silence. Clap for me? What, so they can send me off with a joyful noise to my death? Like this is a celebration? It might as well be a cemetery. 

Without thinking, I grab the microphone from Hutch. “Don’t clap for me,” I snap. “Spit on the ground. Spit at the Capitol. We came from the ground, from the dust, and dirt, and when I come back to this district, I might be in the ground. The Capitol can kill me, but they can’t make me clap. We’re not their puppets; we’re people. We are free.” 

And then I see something flash through their eyes, for the quickest second–hope. And I can’t hear the chaos in my head. I can’t hear the sobs building up in my throat. All I can hear is spit hitting the ground, and the silence that’s more thunderous than a sea of applause.

 

Hunger Games Fanfic – Ned Rickman: Chapter 1 – The Reaping

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As promised, here’s Ned Rickman’s first chapter from the Hunger Games Fanfic competition! 

Name: Ned Rickman

District: 6

Age: 16

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Chapter 1 – The Moment that Changed Everything

My brain works like a machine, click, click, click, and everything falls together. That’s why they put me on the front lines up here, designing the transportation system. In one minute, I can do more complicated calculations in my head than it takes five men all working together for half an hour. My boss, Big Silver, swears that one day I’m going to create my own race of super robots and take over the world.  That sounds like a cool idea. But any smart man knows better than to try and take over the world. The people who try always get killed. Me–I plan to stick around for a while.

Mom says I’m a gift from heaven, a walking, talking calculator. I’ve never seen a real calculator before, but I hear they have them in the Capitol. They’re for lazy people who can’t do math in their head. That just goes to show what the Capitol people are made of. 

 

I like things that make sense. The square root of 289 is always 17. The formula for surface area is always length times height divided by width.  Unchangeable things are things that can be relied on, things that will never fail.  Life is made up of logic; that’s what holds it all together. But even though I finished school when I was eight, and I designed the electronic synapse on the transportation system when I was thirteen, there is one thing that still has never made sense to me. It defies logic, gravity–it’s love. 

Maybe you think I’m too young to know what love is. And you’re right, I am. But I’m too young for a lot of things. I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t mean for it to happen. I was just standing there in the marketplace at 2:15 on April 27th, three years ago. I was picking up eggs for Mom for dinner. And then I saw her, Suzie McNicoll. She lives eight houses down from me on Scavenger Lane. I’d known her since I was four, and for my entire life, she was just Suzie, the girl with long brown hair and grass-green eyes. On April 27th, she was still Suzie–but something was different. I can’t tell you what it was because there’s no formula, no equation that can accurately express it in words. It’s not even a feeling, because feelings definitely change and are in no wise reliable. 

It’s a fact. It’s a fact that Suzie is Suzie, and that I would do anything for her. Anything to make her happy. Anything to make her smile. For three years, I have held this fact inside me.  I don’t know what it is about love, but there’s something that makes it difficult to say. I’m only sixteen. I’ll tell Suzie one day. But right now, I’ll wait. I watch. And then I won’t tell her; I won’t need words because they never helped anyone anyways. I’ll show her what this love means.  There might not be a formula, but there is an effect, an effect that cannot be ignored. 

 

Suzie is at the Reaping. She’s here with her mother and her father, and her older brother, Wilson. I do not have any brothers or sisters, but my parents are here, wearing black. Mom is shaking, so Dad wraps his arm around her. They are in love. They’ve been in love for the past twenty-four years. 

I hear the sound of The Hub, the transportation system that zooms by from the crest of the mountain, through the districts to the centre square of the Capitol. And then the microphone comes alive, overpowering it. 

“Greetings, District 6,” Anton Brugue says. He is the mayor of our district. He’s a fat, balding man with dimpled cheeks and grey speckled hairs that occasionally sprout from the top of his shiny head. He always speaks in a formal voice. And he always has enough to eat. So does my family–because of my well-paying job. But I can’t say the same for other people in our district. I can’t say the same for Suzie’s family. So I help them–secretly. 

“Let the festivities begin!” a short woman named Eliana Nian exclaims. Her hair sticks up, stiff with brightly colored dyes from the Capitol. Her voice is jumpy and explosive. People call her ‘The firework’.  

 

The Hunger Games is another thing that does not make sense. Children fighting children, children killing children. There is no logic, no purpose but to torment, to terrify. The Hunger Games goes against everything humanity should stand for. President Snow has visited our district several times to view my work. He says I am coming along excellently. Maybe one day, if I continue to progress, I will be able to be head Gamemaker. President Snow smiled when he said this, the creepy kind of smile that makes chills run down my spine. He said I should be honored. 

President Snow doesn’t know that I’d rather die than construct his deathtraps. I am not a killer. But I’m a fighter.

 

“Girls, girls, girls,” Eliana says, her excitement spilling over into the microphone and evaporating in the crowd. Dull eyes, scared eyes face her, including mine. The papers crinkle as she slides her hand around the bowl, and then traps one in her hand, pulling it out. 

I want to shut my eyes, but I hold them open, one thought blazing through my head: Not Suzie, not Suzie, not Suzie.

“Nevelyn Rivers,” Eliana says, and I breathe a sigh of relief before looking at the girl, a redhead with braids and pink ribbons, standing, paralyzed, in the fourteen-year-old section. Despite my relief, pain shoots through me. Nevelyn has just been sentenced to die, realistically speaking, and Eliana is clapping as if Nevelyn is the new Victor. 

“Congratulations, child!” she exclaims. 

I clench my fist. I think of all the planning that went into the designing of the transportation system, the same kind of planning that went into the construction of the Hunger Games, each trap designed to kill and torture and draw the tributes together to fight for the death, just so President Snow can get his fill of blood. This is wrong. This is so wrong. 

“I know you’re excited boys, so let’s get down to it,” Eliana says, jamming her hand back in the bowl. She pulls it out and reads off the name before I even have time to think. 

“Wilson McNicoll,” she says, her cheery voice chirping like a robin, like the robin that got caught in the energy bubble and was fried alive last year when we were working out a problem at the Hub. 

I look at Suzie. Her face is drained of all color, stark white; she stares at her brother. And then she dashes towards him throws her arms around his neck, screaming. Her hair tumbles down out of the bun her mother must have arranged. Her soft green eyes fill with tears and her shrieks rend the air. People look down. People look away because no one can bear to watch. But they’re going to watch. They’re going to watch Wilson fight to the death. They might even watch him die. 

 

Actions speak louder than words. I feel my hands begin to shake. I close my eyes; I open them. Three years and I have done nothing. Now it is time to act. 

I fight my way through the crowd, refusing to look back as Mom tries to call me back. I make it to the platform. Everyone is looking at me now. Suzie freezes. Her large green eyes are teary. Her eyelashes are long and thick. And then I feel it. I don’t know how to tell you what it is, but it’s worth it. If I die, it’s worth it. Maybe the thing that keeps the world going isn’t logic, it’s the defiance of logic. It’s fighting against what shouldn’t be, what holds back and restrains. It’s this. 

“I volunteer,” I say. “I volunteer to be tribute.” 

“No–Ned, No!” Mom is screaming now. Dad’s arm is still around her shoulders, but now he’s holding her back. 

Eliana looks at me, little explosions going off in her eyes. “What’s your name, boy?’ 

“Ned Rickman,” I say. I stand tall; I refuse to think. I shouldn’t do this. I’m being stupid. But it’s the right thing to do. It’s the only thing to do. 

A smile spreads across Eliana’s face. “What a brave boy, Ned. Congratulations!” she holds up my arm like I just won a wrestling match. “Let’s hear it for our new tribute, Ned Rickman!” 

There is silence. 

Suzie is death-white. She looks as if someone just shot her in the leg and she hasn’t realized it yet. The tears are still on her cheeks, but she’s not crying anymore. She’s hugging Wilson like she’s trying to strangle him, small as she is. When she turns and looks at me, her eyes are full of gratitude. But she can only hold it for a second before her eyes are swimming again. The relief is gone, and I see fear, fear for me. And devastation. 

 

If I make it back alive, if I survive this, I’m going to tell Suzie. I’m going to tell her what I can’t explain. Because I love her. And no matter what happens, that will never change. 

Meet Ned Rickman & Thimble Trickson from the 70th Annual Hunger Games!

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I’m excited to introduce my two tributes from the 70th Annual Hunger Games!

Meet sixteen-year-old Ned Rickman from District 6: 

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Description:

Smart. As in genius smart. Ned Rickman is a child prodigy, a calculative mastermind. But he doesn’t want glory. He doesn’t want to take over the world or become Head Gamemaker. He wants to win Suzie McNicoll’s heart. With dark, tussled hair and hazel eyes, Ned is a tall, lanky sixteen-year-old trying to make sense of his life. But that’s just the thing; it doesn’t make sense. 

 

and fourteen-year-old Thimble Trickson from District 8:

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Description:

My eyes are brown. But if you look at them in the light, they look golden, with a hint of blue. My eyes are sharp; they can see you long before you can see me. When I’m at the factory, I tie up my long brown hair and put it in a bun on my head. I may not be very strong, but I’m smart. Mother always said I made up twice for wit what I lacked in strength. And you need wit to survive in this world. I don’t give up easily, if you’ve noticed. And if I think you’re wrong, I’ll tell you. Just because I’m small, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a big attitude. I was raised to be my own person. And no one is going to stand in my way–not even you. 

 

Starting next week, I will be posting chapters from my tributes’ stories from last year’s Writing Fire: The Hunger Games for Writers, which took place on Figment: http://figment.com/books/607452-The-70th-Annual-Hunger-Games

At first, my reasons for joining the contest was to give myself a reason to write. I have a lot of ideas, but I rarely finish what I’m working on. Entering the Games forced me not only to create compelling characters, but to stick with them until the end. 

But the more I wrote about Ned and Thimble, the more alive they became. They weren’t just shadowy half-shaped ideas in the back of my mind, they were walking, talking, feeling people who had real lives and unique personalities, and I became attached to them.  I never considered writing fan fiction before, but it was a great experience. Writing within the already existing framework of The Hunger Games freed me from the stress of having to create my own world and plot line and allowed me to focus exclusively on the characters. I learned a lot while writing about Ned and Thimble; they practically clambered their way out of my head and onto the page. They captivated me, and I hope you find their stories just as intriguing as I did.

 

Each Sunday evening, I will be posting a chapter from Ned’s story, and each Thursday I will post one of Thimble’s.  Stay tuned for the Reaping next Sunday!

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