My name is Osmium.
Osmium Jericho Krietzer, if you want to get all nit-picky like that.
Secretly, though, I don't actually like being called by my full name. I'd much rather you call me "Os." Dutch used to call me "Ossy" before he went into the Games, which I don't mind, either.
I suppose I should introduce you to everyone before we go much farther, shouldn't I? Otherwise, well, this story's not going to mean a lot to you.
I'll start with my father, because I think that's always the place to start. His name is Platinum Krietzer and he's the Victor of the very first Hunger Games. If you can't tell by the names, we live in District 1. Anyways, he's not my real birthfather.
Next, you all should meet his sister, Paradise. She and the rest of his family shunned him when he came out as bisexual and the nation had a fit. She's my biological mother, as well as my brother's. She didn't want either of us when we came around so instead she gave us to her brother. He adopted us as his sons, even though we're his biological nephews.
Let's not forget Dutch. He's my older brother, and last year, he won the 20th Hunger Games. I really am proud of him… I'm glad for him, and I couldn't be more excited for him. But the Games destroyed him in a million different ways. Some of the ways are obvious. Some of the ways are those that my father and I can see from before his Arena. But I'm convinced there are some that not even Dad notices. He's my big brother. Mine.
Well, actually we're biologically half-brothers. We have the same mother, obviously, but different Dads. Dutch knows who his is. I think he's actually talked to the man before. Behind Platinum's back, of course. Nobody knows who mine is, not even my birthmother. And nobody except me has ever cared to know. I wish I knew who it was, more than everything, because I want to talk to him just like Dutch got to talk to his. Maybe it's better that I don't know him. I love my Uncle and brother more than I would ever love him, anyways.
Anyways, nobody knows Dutch as well as I do. No arguments, and no buts.
Then there's Nick. He's actually from District 2, but he comes to 1 a lot because he has no family back in 2. Well, he does have two parents, but they're unhappily married because he was just another accident, like Dutch and like me. They often fight about his spoils, he often says, and he spends more than a lot of his time here at District 1 with us. He's the Victor of the 16th Games, and he, Dutch and I became best friends. Nick is a spectacular cook and he often has to come make us food after Dad almost sets the house on fire trying to cook something as simple as scrambled eggs.
Believe it or not, that's all of the important players in my life that are alive. I've never really fit in at school because, though my father and best friend and eventually brother all won the Games, I still hate those dumb Games with everything in me. Maybe being friends with so many Victors is the reason I can't stand the Games. Because I've seen everything that the Games have done to them. It still makes me wonder why Dutch would even think of volunteering.
But we're not done with the character analysis yet. Because there are other people who have affected me that I've never even met before. Mostly because they passed on before I was born.
Champagne Walker and Drake Fellington were my Dad's allies in his Games. She was from One, killed by a boy from Six. Drake was from Four, and he was killed by a combination of impeccable fate and my father in the finale of the First Games. I've only ever watched them in the Games and heard the stories that Dad told about them, though. Elijah Crowly was the 13-year-old from District 2 who died in my father's Arena. Dad didn't kill him, though.
Ashley Duermin was an orphan that was manipulated by the Capitol when she was captured during the rebellion. She was put in the First Arena to manipulate the tributes and spook them, and my Dad killed her in the finale when she tried to torture Drake.
Before I go on, I'll talk a little about Nate. Nate McIalwain, Victor of the 2nd Games. Best friend of Elijah's, who I mentioned earlier. He knew Ashley, too. He won the Games and when he did he and my father became best friends. They survived everything the Capitol threw at them together, before he just had too much and killed himself. I really hate that, because suicide is something that I hate. All people are wonderful… Why would anyone think they weren't!? And why would they hate themselves so much it drove them to end their own life?
Priscilla Westfall and Brandt Manson were both friends, maybe more like acquaintances, of Nate's, and that's why Dad ever told us about either of them. She was a twelve-year-old that died in the 2nd Games by Nate's sword, and he was 18 when he died in the 3rd Games.
I've spent many long evenings in the library learning about each of them, as opposed to long nights at the Training Center at the Academy.
Now, now I've introduced everyone to you. Pick and choose your favorite characters. They're ALL my favorites!
Now, my Dad and Nate McIalwain put together a time-capsule with tokens from each of the deceased. That's why I ever cared to know them. After Nate died, Dad collected something for him, too. Dutch and I love that collection of memories, especially me. There's a ribbon for Ashley, a stone for Priscilla, a ceramic fishhook for Drake, a glass flower for Brandt, a stuffed cat for Elijah, a tin mushroom for Dad (even though he's still alive), and a necklace with a glass crystal from a chandelier, for Champagne. Now, Nick is Elijah's nephew. Elijah died when Nick was little. Dutch gave the cat to Nick and he's held onto it for a while. Sometimes, either Dutch or Dad will take something out of the box, especially Dad. As for me? I like to hold onto Champagne's necklace.
And there's a reason I held on to that chandelier crystal necklace, as opposed to any other object in that box. It's because I relate to Champagne in every way there is to relate to a person. Well, alright, maybe she wasn't pansexual like I am, and maybe she doesn't have a Victor for a parent, one for a brother, and one for a best friend, but I still feel connected to her. It's because she gets attached to people. It's because, from the limited segments of her life that I saw, I can tell that she loved people, like I do. And I believe that, like her, I tend to get attached to people quickly. Plus, both of us were outcasts that got bullied, but I was never one to pick out the negatives and I don't think she was, either.
But yes, I will say that I would be willing to die for Dutch, Nick, or Dad, any day. And yes, I'll say it loud and proud, every day for as long as any of us lives. And I believe that going into the Arena would be a dangerous thing for me because I would become attached to someone else, and then die for them.
No matter how cranky the three Victors get, I will always want to be there for them, and that's a promise.
I quietly slip through the door. "Dad?" I whisper.
He jumps and then turns around. "Osmium," he says in a whisper, "You scared me."
"Sorry Dad," I whisper. I don't mention it but I hate when people call me Osmium.
"What do you need?" he asks quietly. I notice that he's holding Nate's gemstone in his fingers.
"I came here to help you," I whisper, "I want to help make you feel better."
He freezes, and I can tell by the look on his face that he doesn't want me around. "Osmium," he whispers, "I'm really sorry but now's really not a good time."
"Dad, I don't like seeing you so upset," I whisper, sitting next to him on the bed, "Maybe if you talk to me, I can help you."
He shakes his head sadly, looking back at the gem in his hands. "I'm sorry, but things like this just don't work that way. I appreciate that you just want to help, I really do, but…" he sighs and looks up at me miserably, "You'll never understand." He looks back at the gemstone in his hands and fights tears away. My own eyes tear up sympathetically and I stand up. My voice cracks with tears as I whisper, "Sorry for disturbing you, Dad."
I leave him and walk over to the guest bedroom that's been claimed by Nick. He's curled up on the bed with his head buried in a pillow. When I knock, he yelps, "God, Osmium!"
I wipe my eyes and the tears are over: for now.
"What do you want?" he asks coldly.
"How are you-"
"Fine," he says forcefully, then he sighs and says, in a much softer whisper, "Osmium, I really appreciate your concern. But I really just need time by myself."
"Why do you always talk on that brick wall with Dutch?" I ask him, "What do you talk about?"
"The Games," Nick growls, "Which you wouldn't know."
"But maybe if you just talked to me about all this, I could help you. Maybe if you just-"
"I can't. It's just too hard. I can't even take these things in my mind, and I'll never say them out loud."
I break my gaze from him to look at the floor. "But you'll tell them to Dutch?" I ask quietly.
"Dutch already knows," Nick says, "He already understands because he's been through it, just like I have. But you? You never will."
"Fine. Sorry for disturbing you, Nick," I say, trying to cover the tears. I slip out of there and have to take deep, shaky breaths before walking out of the house.
I know my brother. No matter how close he gets to Nick, I'll always know Dutch.
I see him by himself, on the brick walls by the gates leading into the Victor's Village. I've often found him here, sitting on the wall, saying nothing but looking desperate for something.
Something that I don't know what it is.
Something that I want to find out.
"Hey Dutchy," I whisper. He screams.
"GODDAMMIT OSMIUM!" he yells, turning around to face me.
"Dutch, calm down. I'm really sorry for scaring you-"
"You came to cheer me up, didn't you?"
"You came to try and make me happy again. You can't always make everyone happy, Osmium! And you need to stop moping around about it, too!"
"But maybe if you just talked to me, I could help you!"
"Get it into that little head of yours, Os! YOU WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND WHAT I'M GOING THROUGH! NEVER!"
"Don't fucking call me Dutchy. I outgrew that when I won the Games."
The tears freely flow out of my eyes and I choke out, "Why do you hate me so suddenly? I only want to help!"
"BECAUSE YOU'RE ANNOYING!"
That word hurts. I make one last plea, "Dutch, I'm your brother!"
"YOU'RE MY HALF-BROTHER! I don't get why you can't understand this! Leave me the fuck alone until I want you again! Can't you even do that right!?"
This time when I say it, the tears are obvious in my shaky voice, "Sorry for disturbing you, Dutch."
I run upstairs and slam the door shut.
I have the lunchbox full of memories that my Dad made with his friend Nate. He has the stone that resembled the 2nd Victor, and Nick has the stuffed cat that was Elijah's. Other than that, everything in the box is untouched.
The whole Academy wants me to volunteer. In fact, I've been feeling the pressure to volunteer.
I take the paper out from where I had hidden it inside my pillowcase. My volunteering letter, addressed to Dad. I kept it here so long because I don't want to show it to him. He would never let me, anyways.
A tear accidentally drips on it. Darn.
I've kept it to myself because I'm torn on whether or not I should volunteer. Everyone at the Academy says I'm ready. They say that they can just feel it: three Krietzers are going to win the Games, two in a row. I hate them at the Academy. I don't understand why Dad sent me there, even though he never wanted me to volunteer. I don't understand why he sent Dutch there, even though he never wanted him to volunteer. I don't get it.
I sit cross-legged on the bed and pour out the lunchbox on the bed, examining its contents.
I remember when Dad told us about all this stuff. Dutch told me again when I was older.
I decide to see what the other tributes have to say about this. I mentally split the bed into two halves. I pick up the rock that belonged to Priscilla first.
You could be killed by the person you trust the most.
Dutch is the person I trust the most. And he's a Victor, and he's not a mentor this year. That's because the two mentors that are supposed to go this year need to go together because one of them gets a little delusional without the other.
I'm lucky District 1 has four Victors. That shouldn't be a problem. I place it on the half of the bed that I declare is the side pro-volunteering.
Next I pick up Ashley's ribbon.
You could forget who you are.
That worked in a good way for Dad, though. He was a terrible person before the Games, and the Games made him realize his error. Maybe if I won the Games I would finally stop being annoying. I've heard it too many times to count, even tonight, from my own brother. People think I'm annoying, and I suppose it's because I am. But if I won the Games I could change that.
I put the ribbon on the pro-volunteering side.
Next, I pick up Drake's hook.
You could fall in love.
It's possible. If the sullen, sailor-mouth from District Four who never loved a thing in his life until that District 1 girl can fall in love in the Arena, so could I. And I'm pansexual, which means I can literally be sent flying head over heels for almost anyone I meet in the Arena. It's possible. Then what would happen? I don't want to know.
Then I would die for them, I guess. I would never tell them how I felt.
I tell people I love them all the time, even people like Nick. Because it's true. He's like my other older brother, of course I love him. I say it all the time because I always feel so full of love to everyone. The thought of loving someone even more than everyone else is an exciting one, but if I happen to meet that someone in a fight to the death? It would most certainly mean that I would die. And my dying leaves all my loved ones here without me, feeling like it was their faults (because it was).
I struggle with this. Then I finally force my hand to put Drake's hook on the anti-volunteering side.
I pick up the glass flower next.
You could be humiliated in death.
I've already been humiliated in life.
But the problem is that, if I died… Dutch and Dad and Nick would be humiliated. I would, once again, have expectations to live up to that I would fail to succeed. Just like always. And then… Who knows what would happen to my family? They would be laughed at by everyone at the Academy. Their opinions wouldn't matter ever again, all because of their failure, Osmium.
But that's only if I lose.
If I win, all four of us would be showered with fame, fortune, and glory. We would practically be worshipped. Maybe Dutch would smile more often. Maybe it'd be easier to make Dad laugh. Maybe Nick's eyes wouldn't always look so heavy. I would love to live in that world.
I put the flower on the pro-volunteering side of the bed. Now it's three against one.
I close my eyes and imagine Elijah's soft cat. Nick has it now, so I'll have to pretend. I think of what Elijah would say to me, if he were here.
Your innocence will be destroyed.
I'm sick of being naïve, and I'm sick of everyone taking advantage of me! Maybe the Games will give me a backbone and I'll finally get some respect around here. Everyone knows that my brother and father are Victors, but they all consider me the runt. They make fun of me, still, because I spend more time in the library than the training room.
I'm sick of being disrespected. I'm sick of being bullied.
I want to be the underdog that everyone laughs at and then win these Games and come home, proving them all wrong. And then I'll come home and be a totally new, badass person. Dye my hair black like Dad. Right now I'm soft and my voice is squeaky and annoying and I let people push me around. And I let them take advantage of me, and I really hate it. If I have to survive the Games to get some respect and a backbone around here, well, so be it.
Elijah's cat goes on the pro-volunteering side, for sure.
Next, I imagine Nate's gemstone, how Dad was holding it in his hand so gingerly.
Your life will become hell.
Just like Dad's.
Just like Nick's.
Just like my poor Dutchy's.
But I would finally understand. I would finally understand what they're going through and maybe I could actually help them feel better. Maybe I could change them for the better. Maybe Dutch and I could rebuild the relationship we had before the Games. Maybe Dad would actually find someone and stay with them. Maybe Nick would finally face his father and reconcile with at least one of his parents.
Going into the Games and winning wouldn't only change my life. But it would also help me change theirs. And that's what I really, really want.
I put imaginary Nate's stone on the pro-volunteering side of the bed. Drake's hook continues to stand alone.
Next, I pull out Dad's tin mushroom.
Everything you thought you knew will be destroyed.
I'd be doing this for him.
I'd be doing this for Dad, and Dutch, and Nick. I want to fight for them. I want to understand, I want to know what they go through and I want to give them all the bright future they deserve.
Yes, the one they deserve. They're all such bright people and they all have so much potential to do wonderful things and pursue their dreams. But the Capitol cuts them off from all of it.
I'd let the Capitol take me any day so that they'd never have to go back there. I'd let President Augustus take everything I have and strip me of all my beliefs if it would mean that they never touched my family again. And yes, Nick is included in my family. I'd have rowdy sex every second of every day for the rest of my life if it meant that my family never had to sit in another Capitol bedroom again. I'd do it if I could, but I can't. All I can do now is try to understand. And, by going into the Games and winning…I could.
I add that to the pro-volunteering side.
Drake's hook is looking quite lonely.
There's one last piece left.
I reach into my pocket and pull out the chandelier necklace that used to belong to Champagne.
As soon as I look at it I finally burst into tears. My fist squeezes the crystal and chain tightly as I cry, engraving the design in my palm. If I volunteer, I'm going to have to leave this behind. My glasses will have to be my token. And I can't let this be buried. It's too special to Dad, and I didn't even know Champagne personally. But oh, how I wish I did. How I wish I had been able to talk to her. She and I are a lot alike. She's someone that would understand what I'm going through, to an extent.
You'll get attached.
I don't even think about it. I put Champagne's crystal with Drake's hook. I take off my glasses, which were blurred by the condensation of my tears, and bury my face in my knees. I was hoping I could talk myself out of it, but if anything, I just talked myself into it.
I have no other choice. Not now.
I have to volunteer tomorrow. I have to be the District 1 male tribute in the 21st Hunger Games.