As Seen on TV
I wake up early the next morning; sleep wasn't kind to me. In the Games I didn't dream. Maybe it's because I was too exhausted every night, maybe because I never let myself relax enough to dream. Whatever it was is over now; I dreamt all night, and all night I endured nightmares. Events in the Games replayed, people I knew, sick versions of things that happened. It was miserable and I'm worried it's a sign of things to come. The first of my 'winnings' I suppose.
I take a shower in the absurdly complex and luxurious shower (I can't help but wonder if my house will have one, even if it is a rather silly luxury), get dressed in some of the few normal clothes in my closet and head out to get breakfast. I find Glimmer already there, dressed in what I suppose is normal for her. Short skirt, tight top with the plunging neckline and high heels. Yeah, seems like exactly what Glimmer would wear normally.
We exchange greetings and I can see she had the same sort of night as I did; there's a weariness in her eyes, the same sort I saw in the mirror a few minutes ago. By the time I get some breakfast and sit down to eat, Cinna has arrived. "Good morning. Has Haymitch told you two the basic plan for today?"
Glimmer and I both shake our heads. "Ah, that's fine. This will be your last day here in the Capitol. The recap show is this afternoon; it's live with Caesar. You'll watch a several hour recap of the Games, then the interview, finally the president will crown you each Victors and you go home afterwards. It's a busy day, and we should start getting you ready soon. So Katniss, that means you'll be with your prep team in your room, Glimmer, yours is downstairs."
"Seriously?" Glimmer's doing that thing where I can hear how blonde she is again." "I never wanted to go down there again. Why do you think I brought a bunch of clothes up here?"
Cinna shakes his head, but I can see a hint of the smile he's trying to hide. "If you insist and Katniss doesn't waste time I think her prep team may be able to take care of you as well."
"Great, thanks!" Glimmer smiles. "And Katniss will be fast, right Katniss?" She looks at me. Yep, no doubt she's getting her way on this one.
"All right, let me just finish eating." I sigh for effect.
My prep team are chipper to the point of being hyper; apparently working on a Victor is a big deal. Guess now that I'm not just some girl from District 12 I'm much more prestigious to work on and rate better treatment. But different mood or not they aren't any harder to tune out. I notice they seem happy with the Capitol's polish or whatever they called it. It doesn't mean a whole lot to me when they say it, but when they don't have to poke and prod and yank little hairs I decide I like whatever the heck it is too.
Whatever the Capitol did in that hospital, be it medicine, weird technology or some sort of black magic, it gets me through my time with my prep team faster than I've ever escaped them before. I'm not sure if I've ever thanked the Capitol for something before, but today I will.
After I've been poked and prodded, had my makeup put on and hair done my prep team finally leaves and Cinna comes in with a dress over his arm, hidden inside a garment bag. (A few weeks ago I didn't know bags for garments even existed. The things you learn in the Capitol…) "Hello Katniss." he greets me.
"Hi Cinna. More flames?"
"Something like that." he smiles. "Close your eyes." I dutifully comply and feel the dress put over me and step into heels that are quite a bit higher than I'm used to. He carefully walks me across the room and finally stops me. "All right, open your eyes."
I open my eyes and see the room's huge mirror in front of me, showing a shimmering dress that goes from burgundy to a bright orange, depending how I move and the light hits it. It's more low cut than I'd usually wear, and the bright red heels are certainly higher than I'm used to. Cinna absolutely went for a sexy look, and to my amazement I think it actually sort of works for me. "Wow. I didn't think I could actually pull off a dress like this. This is amazing, Cinna." I move around a bit, watching the colors play across the gown.
"I'm glad you like it, Katniss. Since you'll be up there with Glimmer it was rather obvious I would have to go in a somewhat more aggressive direction to fit in."
"Ah, that explains the heels." I muse. Cinna simply chuckles.
Katniss' prep team is pretty similar to my original one; weird people some of whom barely even look human and chatter on about things I could care less on. Don’t get me wrong, they know how to do their jobs, but they're just too weird for my taste. Odd fashion choices are one thing, but there's looking weird and not even looking human anymore. Fortunately my natural beauty doesn't need much work and they're gone quickly enough.
A few minutes later Cinna comes in carrying my outfit for today. "Hello, Glimmer. I have your dress, though I must admit I didn't think you'd actually so dislike your situation that I'd be your stylist, so I'm afraid the best I can do on such short notice is to reuse the dress from your interview. Not at all original, I know, but your stylist is rather upset with you. He wouldn't even give me your measurements to try and work something up in time."
"Geez, bitter much." I mutter. "It's fine, Cinna, thanks. I know I didn't give much notice. I just didn't like their attitude. It's like I didn't earn the win or wasn't a real Career as far as they're concerned." I roll my eyes. They're lucky we weren't in the same arena; I'd show them real fast who's for real and who isn't.
"I understand. I'm glad you're able to find a home here, temporary as it is. And I'm glad you get along so well with Katniss. Friends are important in life after all."
"Yeah, they are." Cinna smiles and hands me my outfit for the night. I get dressed (which considering this outfit doesn't take long at all) and head out to the living room to meet Katniss.
Katniss is in a dress I never thought I'd see her wear; it's shiny and captures all the colors of fire as she moves. It definitely fits the theme she's had, but also is sexier than I've seen her wearing before. "Wow, looking good there, Katniss. I'm impressed."
"Um, thanks." She answers, trying not to blush too much. I'm guessing it's not just me, no one's ever seen her looking like this. "That's a sexy look for you, though the blush is kind of cute…"
"Oh shut up." she replies, blushing more.
"All right, listen up." Haymitch interrupts. He's in a suit, actually clean shaven and his hair looks like it actually can be shown in public. He must have spent all day with his own team of stylists. Maybe more than one team actually… "Here's the drill. We all go downstairs; the show's in the same place the interviews were, out front. First they'll introduce the prep teams, then the stylists, escorts, mentors and then finally you two. You just sit on stage, smile, and try to be charming. It'll be a few hours of recap of the games, then an interview. Finally Snow comes and gives you your crowns. Any questions?" Seems simple enough to me; everyone else too, since there's no questions. With the explanation out of the way, we get into the elevator and head downstairs.
We reach the ground floor and find several people already there; from the look of them I'm guessing they're Glimmer's old prep team, her stylist and mentor. The prep team seems similar to mine, which is to say weird looking Capitolites that are freakish and colorful to me. Her stylist has greasy hair in a comb over style and wears clothes that are far too tight and garishly colored. The overall effect is pretty effeminate; I think he's what Gale would call a 'girlie man'. Glimmer's mentor looks in a lot of ways like an older Glimmer. Tall, well endowed, blonde hair, hazel eyes, but her attitude is where the difference is. Her smile feels fake; the whole demeanor seems like the act of a person who isn't nice, but wants to pretend they're friendly and happy; there's no doubt this woman was a textbook Career.
They look at us, the stylist and mentor obviously don't like us. The stylist sneers as us, but it's not as intimidating as he wants it to be; after all, I can beat him up, so he's just not scary at all. Glimmer's mentor gives us this malicious smile that reminds me a bit too much of how Clove could look when she was really being herself. It's no wonder Glimmer decided to stay with us on the 12th floor rather than these people.
The few minutes before the show feel like an eternity. These people, especially Glimmer's mentor (who I learn is named Cashmere) just creep me out; I don't want to be around them without a weapon in my hand. Eventually (though not as soon as I'd like) they start the show and people begin their entrances to the stage. The waiting area empties until at least it's just Glimmer and I here. Our names are called and we start the walk on stage, Glimmer taking the lead.
The lights are blinding. I may have been here before, but I feel the same grip of fear as I did last time. Glimmer has a glowing smile and waves to the crowd, totally in her element. I nervously make a small wave, which doesn't go unnoticed; I get a subtle but firm elbow to my ribs from Glimmer. I take the hint and do my best to match Glimmer's grand friendly gestures and the same sexy walk she has (I think the waves work, the way she struts across the stage I don't think I'm up to par with).
We make our way to two throne like chairs facing Caesar's own. He stands, also waving to the crowd and greets us with a grand warm smile. "Glimmer! Katniss! Welcome, and congratulations!" The crowd applauds and cheers for a very long time, even after we reach our chairs the roar of the crowd continues to crash over us. It takes more than a minute for the crowd to calm down and we can finally sit.
When the crowd finally quiets down, we all take our seats (or thrones in Glimmer's and my case). "It's wonderful to see the two of you again." Caesar smiles. And odd as it sounds, I actually think he means it. "Just a few short days ago the idea of two victors would have been unthinkable, but now I don't believe any of us could imagine of these Games ending any other way. A brilliant twist by our beloved Gamemakers, don't you think? So popular with the fans too."
"Well I certainly liked it." Glimmer pours on her own charm to match Caesar's.
"Yeah, I certainly am glad it didn't turn out some other way." I know, it sounds lame, but I have to try and keep up in this interview too.
"I don't think anyone can." And there's Caesar helping me out. Just like in the first interviews, he's always helping out nervous kids who need it, and just like last time, I'm very glad for it. "But we can talk more about that later. First, I believe we have a recap to get to!"
The lights drop and a huge screen comes to life. It starts with the reapings, with special attention paid to Glimmer and Marvel in 1, Clove and Cato in 2, Finch in 5, Rue in 11 and Peeta and I in 12. Afterwards comes clips from the Tribute Parade, with heavy focus on Glimmer and I, and some training footage. Next is the interviews, with Glimmer, Peeta's and mine are shown in full. The training scores are the last thing they show before starting in on the actual footage of the Games.
Seeing the countdown before the Games is odd; seeing myself and the other tributes, nervous, poised to move. Even sitting in this cushy throne I can't help but feel some of the same discomfort that the Katniss on screen is feeling. The countdown reaches zero and on screen Katniss makes her move. She gets a pack, she has a knife thrown at her by Clove; she manages to block it and scamper away into the woods. I have an empty feeling deep in the pit of my stomach. I'm powerless to help Katniss on screen, and even though I know she'll be ok, I can't seem to convince my nerves of that.
The action cuts to Glimmer now. She runs for the Cornucopia, being a good Career still. Along the way she runs into the girl from 6 and they grapple for a bit before Glimmer grabs a knife off the ground and plunges it into the girl's chest. Again and again the Glimmer on screen stabs the girl. The Glimmer on the throne next to me shifts in her seat a bit and I can see the barely masked discomfort on her face.
Her first kill over with, the Glimmer on screen moves on to her next prey: the boy from 5. He's pinned against a crate and killed just like the girl from 6: knife to the chest; this time it's just a single thrust. Obviously Glimmer's getting a hold of all the adrenaline now and her training is taking over.
Finally near the end of the bloodbath Clove calls to Glimmer that there's a tribute trying to hide in the Cornucopia. Glimmer advances on her prey, and the poor girl from 9 tries to run, but she barely makes it a single step before Glimmer shoves her against the wall. She hits hard and an instant later the blood soaked dagger is in her back.
Twelve tributes killed in the bloodbath, and Glimmer killed three. I knew she'd done it, she told me, and she wasn't exactly proud of it, but seeing it is so different. I don't think I would have teamed up with her if I'd seen this at the time. She was absolutely brutal, especially the first kill. She said she wasn't proud of it, and looking at the Glimmer sitting next to me I can see that's true. I'm still glad I heard about the bloodbath rather than seeing it. Things could have gone very differently.
Now it's Peeta joining the Careers, telling them he can help find me, that his love story was all just for the cameras and he's in it for himself. It doesn't look to me like they buy it much, but they wind up taking him along anyway.
The footage cuts to the first night's hunt by the Careers, the crowd loving how close to finding me the Careers came. Glimmer looks over at me and whispers "Wait, we walked right by your tree? We actually stopped and talked right under where you were?" I give her a slightly guilty smile and shrug.
Soon enough it moves to the fire (I hate fires. And yes, I know fire is my theme now and I see the irony. I still hate them), to being treed, and to escaping with Glimmer. By now I know all the rest of what happens, and I honestly wish I didn't have to relive it. I may have had a bit of morbid curiosity about what happened to Glimmer before we teamed up, but I've seen that all now.
Watching the Katniss and Glimmer on screen meet Rue is hard, because I know what's coming next. And even though I was there, even though I was prepared, seeing her die is even harder than I feared it would be. The Capitol audience may love this show, but I'm absolutely convinced it's cruel now.
They're showing matters with Finch now. The meeting, the catapult building, speculation on what it was and if it would work, and then the firing. The crowd absolutely loves this part; I guess it was all dramatic, some golden moment in television and Games history or something. They eat up the battle right afterwards too. They even show Glimmer's kill of Clove in slow motion (Ok, that was kind of impressive in a grim sort of way, but still. I just want all this to be over.)
They don't show Finch's funeral, they didn't show Rue's either now that I think about it (and I was trying very hard not to when she was dying on screen.) I guess that's the sort of thing that wasn't too popular with the local crowd here.
There's more than a half hour of Glimmer, Peeta and I; how we got along, and how we argued. Now it shifts to things I hadn't seen: crowd shots. Haymitch wasn't kidding about the size of the crowds, and the flood of merchandise. Thousands upon thousands of people, and all with Cinna made shirts, flag, banners, accessories. It's amazing; all that for the three of us.
Honestly I'm sort of curious now. Just what is the Capitol like? What kind of city produces people like this? They're so willing to redesign themselves, not just haircuts, but color, even mutating (well more like mutilating) themselves and then there's this. So many of them just throwing money at anything to do with these Games; not just bets, but merchandise. And they go out in public and watch and cheer. Are they really that bored? Don't they have anything better to do? Do they have jobs? I wonder if they even have parents. I know no parent in 12 raises their kids to be so lost about if a thing like the Games are right or wrong; we have a better idea of what people should look like and what's attractive too. It's weird, like they aren't even the same race of people as we are anymore.
I suddenly realize I'd zoned out for most of the final battle. I'm quite glad for that; in fact; I wish I'd zoned out longer. The Katniss on screen fires her final arrow of the Games, putting it through Cato's eye, into his skull and just slightly out the back. Maybe I should feel bad for him, but I don't. There's such a thing as good kills I've learned, and he was one. After on screen Glimmer buries her sword in Cato's skull and he finally falls it's on to Peeta's final moments, yet another part of the Games I have no wish to ever relive.
Of course they play Peeta's last words in their entirety; I should know better than to expect mercy from the Capitol. I suffer through Peeta's death again, and then suddenly it's over. The pause before declaring us Victors is gone in this replay. The lights come up and the crowd applauds. I force a smile to my face before people can see me on the now brightly lit stage.
"What an amazing conclusion to a Games. There were so many memorable moments in these, surely one of the greatest Games in recent memory, and two amazing Victors!" Caesar works the crowd, dragging out the applause. Finally he sits and turns to us. "Glimmer, Katniss, so much has happened since you were last here with us, I hardly know where to begin. I suppose the most obvious place is that night with the tree. After all, you two and Peeta were all there together, just like it would be in the end. Now we all know that Glimmer had a bit more to her than she let on in her interview, so I have to ask, did you two plan all this out in advance? Were you just waiting to meet in the arena to team up, or was it as spontaneous as it looked?"
"It was totally spontaneous, Caesar." Glimmer answers. "As much as I'd love to take credit for a grand master plan, I really was just winging it there."
"Ah really. Well Katniss, we thought you may team up with Peeta after the interviews, but you're obviously more of a lone wolf than a team player. So I have to know, had you considered teaming up with Glimmer or anyone else before that night?"
"Um, no…" Great Katniss. Way to show everyone how nervous you are. I look out at the audience, and just like in the interviews, I find Cinna smiling at me, waiting for me to say more. "Actually, I hadn't talked to Glimmer at all. I thought she was just some jerk Career here only for sex appeal. Basically I totally bought into her act." I blush. The audience laughs and seems to like it.
"I think it's safe to say we all did." Caesar agrees. "Now Katniss, I have to ask you about Rue. It came as quite a surprise to us that you allied with her, and her death hit you hard. What was it about her that touched you so deeply?"
I probably should have known this question was coming, try to have some answer ready. Good job, Katniss. "Um, well, it's just that she reminded me of my sister."
"That would be Primrose? You volunteered for her, correct?"
"Yes, that's her. Rue just had this innocence to her that was so much like Prim; kike she was in this place that she should think is so horrible and terrifying but it didn't affect her at all. I tried to put home out of my mind while I was in the arena, just to stay focused on where I was and what I was doing, but with Rue it got so much harder… And when she died it was like every fear I'd ever had of my little sister dying come true. I just… lost it."
"Yes, it was a moment that touched us all. There's no doubt some people are special and their loss affects everyone." Caesar smoothly agrees. "Now moving on to the trebuchet, I have to say, it was a subject of truly fierce speculation here as to whether it would work at all. After all, no one has ever so much as attempted anything like that in the Games before, yet you both readily agreed when Finch suggested it. What was the thought process there?"
"Well, she seemed really sure it work, and we didn't have a plan of our own, so I thought it was worth trying." I answer.
"I just thought it sounded really cool and I wanted to see if it would actually work." Glimmer chimes in with a smile.
"And work it did." Caesar agrees. "And in one of the most dramatic moments we've ever seen in the Games, the land mines which we had all thought were an absolutely brilliant defense were turned against their owners. Truly an image that will stand among the greatest in any Games. The battle in the immediate aftermath was an impressive one as well. Though I must say Glimmer, both slitting Clove's throat and stabbing her in the heart? A bit of overkill perhaps?"
Glimmer looks just the tiniest bit humble, but I know her well enough to know humility isn't among her real emotions. "Well Caesar, that actually wasn't exactly how I planned it. That first swing was just meant to make her stop short and create an opening for the thrust; I never actually thought she'd just keep coming and the swing would land."
"Ah, I see. Sometimes stubbornness can be a virtue, sometimes clearly not. But as great a victory for the both of you as it was, it did not come without cost. You in particular Glimmer seemed hard hit by the loss of Finch. Why was that?"
"Well, Caesar, she wasn't exactly what I expected." She isn't really showing it, but after talking about Rue, I know how Glimmer actually feels: this is not a question she likes at all. "At first I thought she was just this helpless tribute, the sort who dies in the bloodbath usually, but she actually had guts. She didn't know how to use weapons or things like that, but she used what she did know, and like you said, no one had ever tried that before, and she did. And she actually made it work."
"Yes, she proved to be far more than any of us expected. And I appreciate your thoughts on such an obviously difficult topic for you. But the difficulties didn't end there. Very soon afterwards came the now famous rule change and the encounter with Peeta. Your previous alliances were all rather friendly, but this one wasn't. Why was that?"
"Well Glimmer didn't exactly take to Peeta. And I don't think he really trusted her either." I offer.
"He didn't deserve to be with us." Glimmer states bluntly. "I know he's from Katniss' district and all that but he hadn't done a thing in the Games, and it was getting close to the end. And, well, honestly I didn't think he deserved to win. I like Katniss, I respect her and all that; winning with her is something I'm just fine with; she's earned it. But after seeing Finch die the idea that someone who did nothing could win when a girl like that was gone didn't sit well with me at all."
"So that's why you said if were to be you and he in the end you'd have made sure there was only one Victor?"
"Well, it may sound a bit bitter, but yes. I don't like the idea that people who worked so hard and did so much could not make it and a guy who did almost nothing, at least up till then could win. I know life isn't fair and all that, but there's knowing that and there's just watching it happen in front of you when you can stop it."
"Ah, I understand. But in the end Peeta did act, and he acted to save you Katniss." Caesar transitions.
"Yeah, he did." I nod, a tear in my eye. "He saved my life. I think he really did love me…"
"A remarkable sacrifice." Caesar agrees. "And because of that you were able to kill Cato, your last opponent in the Games, and after what clearly was a very difficult and emotional farewell you were declared a Victor, along with Glimmer. Now just moments from being officially crowned I think I speak for all of Panem when I ask what are each of your plans going forward?"
Glimmer and I look at each other. It's an obvious question, but neither of us has a great readymade answer. "I just think I'll try to get back to normal life, as much as I can. I know with the house and money and all that some things will be different, but I think I'd like to try and be normal again."
Caesar nods and turns to Glimmer. "Honestly, I haven't thought about it much. I spent so many years working and dreaming of this, I never thought about what happens when the moment's over and the glory's a memory. I don't really know what I'll do. I suppose I'll move in to my new house, eat a big meal, sleep in a comfy bed and then the next day, well, I have no idea." Glimmer smiles and shrugs, the same look she's done so many times as part of the sexy empty headed blonde act.
"I know all of us look forward to seeing how you both do going forward." Caesar stands and motions for us to do as well. He faces the crowd and raises his voice. "Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Glimmer Aurum and Katniss Everdeen of Districts 1 and 12, your Victors of the 74th annual Hunger Games!"
The crowd explodes, a thunderous roar breaking over us' it's like nothing I've ever experienced. Soon the applause and cheers evolves into chanting of our names. Again and again they scream out 'Glimmer!' and 'Katniss!' It's an awesome experience. Caesar moves near us and waves to the crowd. We take the subtle hint and do so as well.
This goes on for at least ten minutes before the crowd finally loses energy and Caesar raises his hands and asks for quiet. "And now to present the crowns to our two beautiful Victors it is my great pleasure to introduce Panem's beloved leader, President Coriolanus Snow."
The crowd applauds again (though not nearly as much as for Glimmer and I) and President Snow walks onto the stage, followed by two children, each carrying a glittering golden tiara resting on lush purple pillow. He walks to Glimmer, gives her a long look in the eye and then takes the first crown, places it on her head and congratulates her. I expect the crowd to applaud, but they don't; for the first time they are totally restrained.
Next he comes to me. I've never gotten a good look at the man before; just a few shots on TV or in the distance at the tribute parade. The first thing that I notice are the eyes; his eyes are cold, cold to the point of being dead; no warmth, no emotion, and no trace of humanity. He stares me in the eye, sizing me up as I do the same to him. This man is a predator, and an alpha predator at that. It's not often I'm intimidated but I have to confess, I find this man more than a little unsettling. He looks totally normal at first glance but this is the most absolutely inhuman being I have met in the Capitol.
He finally breaks eye contact with me and takes the Victor's crown, carefully placing it on my head. "Congratulations" he says to me, his voice completely calm. His breath reeks of blood, and even though the white rose on his lapel tries to conceal it, instead somehow only adds to the monstrously inhuman presence of the man. I don't even think of responding to him before he turns and walks away. Only now that he has completed his work does the crowd again come to life with their cheers.
"Thank you President Snow!" Caesar calls, enhancing the crowd's cheers. I feel like cheering as well, though not in support of the man but in support of his leaving. Caesar comes over and puts and arm on each of our shoulders as an army of photographers rushes the stages. He seems completely calm, so I assume this is planned.
We spend the next eternity being photographed (I think someone with a watch on would call it closer to an hour, but since I don't have one I'll stick with eternity). Hundreds of photographers, hundreds of cameras, every angle, front, side, high, low, several angles at once, they do it all. Glimmer eats it up, posing every time; she obviously knows exactly how to do it too. I try to match her, but I'm sure I look like a rank amateur.
Finally Caesar steps in to end it all. "Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us here today and all during the Games, thank you to President Snow and once again congratulations to our two amazing Victors, Glimmer and Katniss! And remember, they'll be backs here again in six short months for the Victory Tour and the reading of the Quarter Quell card! So I'll see you all again soon! Thank you and good night Panem!"
Caesar leads us off stage, waving. Glimmer smiles as brightly as I've ever seen, also waving. She's worked all her life for this, I can't blame her. I wave too with a genuine smile, though for me it's because I've just started my trip home. From here I go straight to the train and home; it's finally almost over.
We're backstage and about to go our separate ways (I even think Caesar plans to wish us well. It's odd, but I think he really would mean it too) when a Peacekeeper approaches us. "Glimmer Aurum. Katniss Everdeen. The president wishes to speak with you in private. Come with me." It's not a request. Glimmer and I look at each other and have no choice but to follow.