Surprises: The 68th Annual Hunger Games

For 68 years the Capitol has held the Hunger Games to keep the rebellious Districts in check. This year will be full of surprises and shocking twists that nobody could have anticipated. So watch as the 24 tributes battle it out until one remains in an arena guaranteed to surprise the entire nation of Panem.

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3. Beauty Is Pain

April Holme, 14, District 12 Tribute, Capitol Train

I stare out of the window as District 12 grows distant. My parents, my friends, all gone. I stay there until the last of the woods have completely left my sight. When the last trace of home has vanished, I move from my spot. I take in the sight of the train cart. It puts even the justice building to shame. The large table is piled with foods that smell so divine, I think I've died and gone to heaven. I grab a silver plate, and fill it with a sweet spongy food drizzled with a delicious yellow sauce. I make my way to the dining cart, and see my fellow district partner, Tobias, feasting on a steaming leg of some bird. Since he's also from the Seam, it's likely the closest he's ever gotten to this meal back home was killing one of the many wild turkeys that roam outside the fence of the district. Our escort walks in, her puffy blue hair slightly off. As I guessed earlier, it's definitely a wig.
"I apologise, but your mentor won't be joining us for dinner. He's more concerned about his liquor than the welfare of his tributes." Tobias begins to chuckle,
"What's new there?" For some reason, his laughter is contagious, and I begin to laugh too.
"When I signed up to become an escort, I at least expected to be treat with some decency. I didn't want to be avoiding the spray of vomit that came from his mouth!" she covers her mouth with her hands, and vanishes into the next cart. Tears are streaming down Tobias' face, and my laughter escalates too, until we're both howling hysterically.

"Did you see her? I can't believe how flustered she got over that! After all, she's seen enough of him on television to know he's constantly drunk." Tobias begins to control himself, and I do the same. Well, at least it's not all bad. I tear a chunk off the delicious meal on my plate, and as it passes my lips, our disgruntled escort returns. When she sees me eating, she nearly drops her plate.
"Oh my. Aren't you aware that you eat sponge cake with a spoon? I hadn't realised how uncouth District 12 really was." She presses her lips together, and hands me a spoon. I thought that spoons were used for soup, not cake. I scoop up a loose slice, and shove it in my mouth.
"Better," She says, "but you still have room for improvement." She sits down, and begins eating some colourful dish with feathers sticking out of it. Suddenly, something foul permeates my nostrils. It smells like alcohol mixed with vomit. Our mentor.

"Ah, Haymitch. Decided to finally join us, hm?" Our escort glares at him accusingly.
"Sorry, your highness, but I just came to see the charming faces of the next two corpses before they're dead," he slurs, eyeing both me and Tobias up, "It's a little something I like to call common courtesy." He says that last sentence in the same accent as our escort. I can't help but suppress a laugh at this statement. "Well, I'm just going to get another drink and-" He trips, hitting one of the tables, its contents falling all over him. Any laugh I was suppressing has slipped out; I'm now laughing harder than I thought possible.
"Well, that's what you get for drinking all day," Our escort turns her nose up, literally, and looks at the clock, "The recap of the reapings is about to start. Come on, we don't want to miss anything."

We walk into the main cart. There's a bar of sorts at the back of the room, and a massive television on the wall. We sit on the massive red sofa, and our escort presses a button that switches it on. It shows the seal of the Capitol, and the anthem is playing in the background. Once the song has ended, the announcers appear.
"Hello, and welcome to the 68th annual Hunger Games!" One of the announcers, a woman with bright orange hair and purple skin, cheers. "Tonight, we get to meet the tributes for the very first time!" the screen cuts to what appears to be District 1. Both tributes from the district are volunteers, quite obviously Career tributes. It's the same story for District 2 as well, both districts providing menacing Careers. District 3's tributes are like most of us; innocent kids that won't last very long. District 4 produces another glamorous tanned duo. The rest of the reapings seem to repeat themselves, two kids being almost forced on the stage. The only notable thing is that for the first time in ages, District 6 hasn't coughed up a drug addict, just two really young kids. It then shows our reaping, and how both me and Tobias walked to the stage, devoid of emotion. After all, crybabies tend to be first to die.

"Well, I don't know about you, but the Careers look as strong as ever." Our escort seems to have forgotten that she's supposed to be on our side for the games, not the Careers'. "Well, it's getting late, and we don't want to be tired for our grand entrance to the Capitol, do we?" We're practically forced into our rooms by our escort as she also enters her room. I slide into my bed, and look out of the window as the occasional light flits past my window. It's probably the other districts as we shoot past them. I can't help but wonder which district we're passing. 4? 7? Whatever district it is, they've also lost two more kids. Eventually, the light passes, and sleep overcomes me.

"April! Get up, it's a big, big day!" The incessant rapping at my door stirs me awake. The sunlight streams into my eyes the moment I open them. Another bright day. I dress myself in a simple outfit, and walk out of my room. The scent of breakfast reaches my nostrils and, drawn by the delightful aroma, I make my way to breakfast. I grab a plate piled high with toasted bread, and begin to devour the meal, but my stomach isn't used to such extravagant food, and I'm full after the second slice. I try to ignore my now aching stomach as our mentor stumbles in, clutching a bottle.
"How wonderful. Today, you'll get your first glimpse of the hell-hole that rules this stinkin' country." He takes a swig of the bottle, and throws himself on a chair. He grabs a small pastry, and begins to eat it.

"So," I begin, "when do you begin to give us life saving advice? You are our mentor, after all." He looks at me for a moment, and takes another swig of the bottle.
"You want to know how to save your sorry self? Go back in time, and prevent the misfortune of your birth. That good enough, sugar?" he begins to laugh uncontrollably, nearly dropping his liquor.
"Haymitch, how rude of you! The young lady asked a question, and it's only polite to give them an honest answer." Our escort berates him, and he just laughs more.
"Well, your highness, it's true. If she was never born, she'd never have to worry about a thing. Maybe you should do the same. I'm sick of you already." He belches loudly in her face, and she lets out an unnaturally loud squeal.
"Well I never, you put the slight flaws in these two to shame with your appalling manners!" she motions to me and Tobias, "You should be ashamed!" Suddenly, everything goes black. My eyes have just adjusted to the darkness when we exit the tunnel.

Giant buildings line the outside of the train, their big windows staring right at us. Then I see the city. Every colour imaginable pops out, making for an explosion of colour. One building even looks like fire itself, constantly weaving and flickering. We enter one of the streets, and thousands of banners adorn the buildings. At first, it's like a faint whisper, but as we move deeper into the city, the screaming grows louder.

Thousands of people, each one dyed a different colour, cheering and blowing kisses to our train. And every one of them seems to have some animal feature. Cat whiskers, tails, feathers. And this one woman who wore this chicken outfit. The crowd's cheering grows louder as we hit a main street, and balloons begin to attack the windows. I look ahead as we slow down, entering the massive golden glowing station. The train draws to a stop, and we make our way out. As soon as I step on the solid gold pavement, I'm blinded by a million cameras. I look behind me. It seems Tobias is also suffering from the lights. I continue to walk forward, until we reach the doors of another building. We all walk inside, and the assault stops. The building's a brilliant white, and it smells sterile.
"This way you two." Our escort guides us to an elevator. She presses a button, and we shoot upwards. This fills me with excitement as the Capitol people become tiny specks that remind me of the jelly beans I sometimes see on the cakes in the bakery. The elevator comes to a sudden stop, and it jerks me slightly.
"Isn't this exciting? You're about to meet your stylists! Oh, I wonder what outfits they've come up with this year!" our escort does a little clap, and shoves me into a small room. Everything's white, and seems so clean. Suddenly, three women come in, all green.

"Hello there. We're your prep team. Our job is to make you look presentable to Floria." One of the identical women says. Because I'm obviously not presentable. Without warning, they strip my clothes off, leaving me standing there naked. Instinctively, I cover myself as they observe me. Then, they collectively gasp as they see my legs.
"Oh. My. Gosh! This simply can't do. Get the wax! Quickly, I can't stand to see this much hair!" They look as if they're about to vomit. I don't understand what's to vomit at. It's just a little bit of body hair. And besides, I have better things to be doing than worrying about the hair on my legs. But to them, it's obviously a massive deal. They strap me down on a seat, and begin placing strips of wax on my legs. They pull it off, and I let out a yelp at the pain. I look at my leg, where there's now a pink and sore rectangle. They continue to do this to every hair on my body that isn't on my head. When they're done, my body's left feeling sore and exposed. They put me in a tub of some pink liquid that stings, and rub me with a blue liquid. Once that's done, they begin rubbing some red hot lotion into my hair, then rinse it out. I'm left feeling raw all over, and they closely examine me once more.
"Much better. Now we can get Floria!" They all giggle and walk out, to get this 'Floria'. Hopefully she's not as crazy as these people.

When she finally walks in, I begin to miss my prep team's slight quirkiness. Floria's dyed a bright orange, with blue hair that curls out in all directions. But what is really horrifying is her rear. It's a massive bulge, the size of her torso, and rounder than her entire boy. It's barely covered by a sand coloured skirt. I pray I never have to see her from behind.
"Hello there, darling. My name's Floria, and I'm your stylist. What that means is that I'll be making all your outfits before you go into the arena." She says this very slowly, as if I speak a different language.
"Look, I'm not an idiot, so don't treat me like one. You're lucky I'm even letting you near me." I snap at her, anger slowly building up. I bite my lip to stop myself from yelling at her.
"Oh my, aggressive and idiotic! Why couldn't I have gotten a better district, " she sighs, "Well, let's get this over with." She pulls out a silver can, and sprays it at me, dying my skin pitch black. Of course, my chariot outfit would have something to do with coal. Once I'm entirely black, she leads me into a larger room, and puts something over my head. I feel something cold and heavy cover my body, and when she uncovers my eyes, I look like the biggest fool I've ever seen. I'm a giant black boulder, my head, hands and feet sticking out. I can barely move in this outfit, but Floria begins to push me towards the elevator. We barely fit in together, and I'm grateful when we reach the bottom, and I'm rolled out. I continue to be rolled towards my chariot, and see the other tributes laugh as I'm pushed onto my chariot.

"Well, this makes my outfit look completely fine." I turn my head and see Tobias. He's almost naked, save for a miner's hat and a tool-belt placed in such a way it conceals his groin. He's also holding an unnecessarily large pickaxe.
"You're right. I'd rather me a naked miner than a lump of coal any day." I groan as the chariot begins to move. Since we're District 12, we're the last chariot out. When we finally get outside, the noise from the crowd is deafening. I try and smile, but one glance at the screen tells me that they wouldn't see my facial expression, due to the make-up. And since I can't move, I just have to sit there like the lump of coal I am. The cheering dies down slightly as we're put in the limelight. Then again, I wouldn't cheer for an outfit as horrible as mine. We eventually reach the end of the ride, and the chariots are arranged in a circle. I look up, and see the platform across from me. The cameras focus on it, and President Snow stands.

"Welcome, tributes. Welcome, to the sixty eighth annual Hunger Games. We honour your courage, your bravery, and your sacrifice. May the odds be ever in your favour." The crowd goes insane as the chariots begin to move down a different street, an ominous building at the end. The training centre, the last place most of us will spend alive before the games. The last place could spend alive.

In that case, let's just hope the odds will be in my favour.

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