Darkest Before the Dawn: The 71st Hunger Games

Sundown

PART I: THE SELECTION

One Day Before the Reaping

District 2

Leeylla Roberts

"Hey," I greet Chace as he walks out of his house in the Victor's village. I know he doesn't like being around this place unless he's indoors so we are quick to head to the town square. The past few years have been tough for Chace, and who can blame him after the things he told me about the games. He has tried to distance himself from them as much as possible, which is why what I'm about to ask him is going to be so difficult.

I remember the conversation I had with Chace three years ago, begging him not to go into the games, but now in some cruel twist of fate I need to ask the opposite. "Chace," I begin, "I need to ask you to do something for me…"

"Yeah, what is it? Whatever ya need." He says with a smile.

I sigh. "You need to mentor this year." I don't know what to expect Chace to say, he certainly wasn't expecting me to ask something like that. I am more against the games than anyone.

"No," Chace says simply. I know that I'm not the first person to ask this, the Captiol has been pushing for him to do it for years, he a popular victor and the job would be his if he wanted it. Of course there is nothing he wants less, and I don't blame him.

"Chace, liste-"

"There are plenty of other victors in 2," He cuts me off "I'm not going to do it, do you know who else is mentoring this year?"

"Yes," I answer. The Victor of the 64th Hunger Games, Glorianna Shields, is mentoring again this year. She was also the older sister of Storm Shields, killed by Chace in the 68th Games. Chace grew up next to the Shields, their whole family is made of victors, and he is the daughter of one. They don't blame Chace, after all Storm wanted to kill him just as badly, but they can't hide how much they miss Storm. In the village he can stay in his house, or run to the square, but if he mentored with Glorianna they would need to work together to keep their tributes alive. "Chace, you don't understand," I add sadly.

"You think I don't understand? I know that I should have never gone into those games, I should have listened to you, but I didn't!" The stress has been getting to Chace, I've been his confidant, he's told me about the rebellion and how he doesn't know who to trust anymore. I might be the only one he does trust and now I'm asking him to relive his darkest hour.

"Chace, it's Kayde, tomorrow he is going to volunteer, he needs someone good to watch over him…he's…I can't" I feel tears swelling up behind my eyes.

Chace stops and takes a deep breath. "Have you tried to talk him out of it?"

"Yes," I respond, my pleas to Kayde to keep away from the games were just as unheeded as they were to Chace before his games.

Chace closes his eyes and slowly says "Alright."

"Thank you, Chace." I say simply. I can't imagine how difficult it will be for Chace, but I need him now, I need him to make sure my brother comes home alive.

District 1

Safyra Hope

The bell rings dismissing us from class, and I gather my books. I can hear the giggling of the girls at the back of the class and I see one of their bony fingers pointed at me. When I turn my head towards them they erupt into a fit of laughter.

I just need to get through one more year of this, then I'll volunteer for the Hunger Games and escape these awful people. I can live in the Victor's Village, far away from the girls who have tormented me for so many years. I know a lot of people do it for the riches, but I have no need for any of that. My father's jeweler business gets a lot of business both here and in the Capitol. No, my reasons for joining the games are more personal than financial.

"Hey Safyra are those new shoes?" I hear someone yell in a mocking tone. I ignore them; I've learned just to shut out them by now. "Whoo, little pretty miss perfect, didn't you hear me, or are you too dumb to answer." I don't give them the satisfaction of responding. They always have assumed I was just some dumb blond because of my looks, but I get better grades than any of them.

"Don't worry about them they are just jealous of your beauty," I hear a familiar voice behind me. I turn to see a face I can't place immediately.

"Do I know you?"

"Yeah," he smiles, "My dad is in charge of overseeing the exports to the Capitol, he's very important, I've met you and your dad a couple times."

"Oh," I say as my memories of this rather arrogant boy swim back into my mind. "You're Rook Delacroix, right?"

"The one and only, and you…" I feel his eyes move up my curvy toned body, "Are Safyra Hope, I wouldn't forget someone quite as stunning as yourself."

"Yes, well…." I say crossing my arms over my chest, "I've got to be going."

"Too bad, maybe we'll see each other sometime soon…"

"Maybe," I say as politely as possible before practically sprinting away.

I hear someone running behind me and I think that Rook is trying to catch up, but then I hear the familiar sounds of the screeching harpies taunting me. "Was that your boyfriend, the pretty boy? Ohh, why aren't you special." I just keep walking, my frustration is building, but I can ignore them. "What's the matter, princess?" Okay, I'm done ignoring them.

"What did you call me?"

"Oh I'm sorry, princess," she emphasizes this word; she knows how much I hate being called princess. "Will you ever for-"

Her sarcastic rant is cut off mid-sentence as I punch her in the face. "Don't call me princess." The girls look at me with sheer terror.

"Yo, you'll pay for ttthat…." The girl on the floor stutters whipping blood from her chin.

"No, I'm leaving, for good." I walk away from the confused girl. I can't handle another year of this, I've trained enough; I've learned all I can. No point in putting it off any longer. Tomorrow I'll volunteer for the Hunger Games.

District 6

Reid Meyer

I am usually not outdoors like this at sunset, however tonight I have decided to make an exception. This might be my last night here and I want to make sure I at least one final District 6 sunset. Perhaps I can draw some inspiration for some of my stories, the view is quite breathtaking. People often only associate District 4 with the ocean, but we have a coast in 6 as well. Our coast isn't used for fishing however, our industry is oil, and the ocean here is filled with oil derricks.

The lights on them turn on around this time; the people on them work into the night, but I also think they're there in case some fishing boats get off course, that way they don't crash. I wrote a story about a lost fisherman from 4 once, Captain Jacobs. He was this cool sea captain who crashed into a reef and ended up on a desert island.

That story was always one of my mom's favorites, she always like to listen to my stories. I think it helps her feel better, she has been really sick for almost a year. It truly is a shame; my father has to work a lot to pay for her medication, if it wasn't for that it would be much worse. Unfortunately this means I don't often get to see my father.

I walk to the end of the pier and cautiously lean over to look into the ocean, holding my glasses to my face to ensure they don't fall into the water. They would be expensive to replace, I know because they were broken once before. Sometimes the kids around like to pick on me, they call me a little girly boy. I suppose they do have a point my figure is somewhat feminine and I am short, but luckily I don't have to go to school where they could tease me further. My mom teaches me from home, I like it; we get to spend time together. Tomorrow could be the last time I see her, my name is in the reaping bowl a large number of times, I've had to take tesserae a lot. I wish the Capitol could find a more peaceful way to deal with the Districts, I believe that violence is never the optimal answer.

The sun has set now, the lit up derricks really are a sight to behold. I imagine myself on one working every day. I think up a story about the crew finding buried treasure, but we have to hide it. This will be my next story. I escape into my head for about an hour before I decide to head home. It's getting very cold.

District 8

Ivan Hill

I can hear the fight from here. I miss it sometimes, hell I'm miss it most of the time, including right now. There's noting like the feeling of punching a guy in the face, breaking his nose. I don't enjoy putting dudes in pain or some crap. I'm not like those psycho careers; it's just that fighting feels good. It's an awful good outlet for my anger; I've got plenty of that.

Whatever, I gave that junk up, and I'm not the reminiscent type, I don't like all that emotional crap. I've got someone besides myself to look after, and I lost track of that for a while. Then I got older and I got smart. I walked away. Someone has to look after my little sister. My brother Ly helps her more than I do really, but without both of us I don't know what would happen to her. That's why I quit, I can't risk it, getting hurt or killed; she needs me.

I get a drink from the bartender and sit back to watch the fight. I don't think I'll be home tonight. Ly is used to that by now; sometimes I'll just be out on the street for a week. That place never was my home, and it's sure as hell not now. We inherited the place, our whole family used to live there. Me, Ly, my sister Lily, Mom and Lily's dad. Me and Ly have the same dad, but he split a long time ago, he was a deadbeat. So then she meets some new jerk, only good thing about that was we got my sister. We played happy family for a while, when that didn't work he left too. Then Mom killed herself. I guess it was because he left, I don't know. All I have of her now is a stupid diary. Thing makes no damn sense. I've read it over and over.

"STOP!" The loser of the fight is lying bloody on the floor, begging for the pain to end. It's a little pathetic. He should show some dignity in defeat. I got my ass kicked plenty of times here, and I took my beating. His friends go to pick him up and I see money exchange hands. The winner's friends give him some liquor. Good for him.

I haven't had the luxury of friends, I don't know why. I don't let anyone here or anywhere else know how being alone that makes me feel. No one can know that. There is only one person who understands me, Lily. Even Ly acts a little weird around me. I don't know, I just can't read people. I don't display my emotions, and I don't understand other's emotions. Maybe if I did I'd know why Mom killed herself.

I pay my tab and walk out of the bar. I change my mind about going home, I'm not sure why. The reaping is tomorrow morning, but I'm not worried about being reaped, my chances are too low. My sister is safe too; it's her first year, just one slip of paper. She hasn't taken tesserae, and she never will. I haven't had to take much either, only once or twice, and this is my last year. Ly is definitely safe; he's old enough to be ineligible.

"Hey" he says when I walk in the door.

"Hey," I reply.

"You're home…." His voice trails off as he says this.

"Yeah, I am."

"I'm glad your back…." He smiles at me. I'm happy to see him, but I'm not big on smiling, so I just nod back. I really am happy to be here. I think he knows that, but I'm not sure.

"Goodnight."

The Capitol

Virgil Williams

The new head Gamemaker has drilled the nightmarish details of the games into my head over the past few months. He got the job because of a single idea. Last year the games weren't going well, the career pack was weak, the tributes from 4 weren't even involved. One of them, the female, went insane when the male died. Crane wanted to spice things up, so he suggested flooding the arena.

I don't think he knew how important that idea ended up being, it showed that the Capitol was willing to choose a victor. There was a rumor that the Capitol wouldn't intervene in a final battle since a tribute tried to pull something like that a few years back, before she killed herself. The flood showed that the Capitol can choose to kill whenever wherever, that the tributes are not in control, and neither are the districts.

It's been difficult working undercover these past few years; I've questioned my morality over and over. I've done horrible things; I don't know who I am anymore. I come up with horrible ways for children to die, and I try to tell myself it's alright because I pass little tidbits of information to the rebellion.

I want to do more, do something, anything, they keep telling me it takes time, we need to build a stronger rebellion, they tell me that District 13 is still too weak to fight back and the Districts need a "spark" to wake up. I don't understand how two of their citizens being sentenced to death every year isn't enough of a spark. The powers in charge of the rebellion say that the twenty-three who die every year are not a big enough number to be immediately concerned about. The hundreds of thousands that will be saved with the rebellion are the ones we need to be worry about.

So I keep on designing death traps to kill children, every year. I put them in situations I know that will lead to their deaths. I engineer vicious mutts to devour the children. I do it all with a smile. We pop champaign while watching children being killed. I feel like I'm going crazy.

Pluarch doesn't even seem bothered to do it. He loves building all those traps and devices, he loves all of it. The stress is getting to me; I need to take pills to calm my nerves. I have to make myself numb, turn off my emotions. Snow can't be allowed to suspect me at all; I have to stay alive to be able to make a difference.

The games are almost here, tomorrow is reaping day. I've already had too much to drink tonight. I stare at my lavish fireplace, I'm alone in my huge house. One of the many benefits of being a gamemaker, I suppose.

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