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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8. Leaving Paradise For Death

Ebony Amaranth, 18, District 1 Tribute

I wake up, the sun shining through the window. I'm still in a good mood from last night. I received the highest score this year; ten. It'd be even better if I didn't have to share that score with Nick, but I'm happy I have a good score. It's much better than Cris' score in his games, he only got a five. I look at my bed, to find that the training outfit isn't there. Oh, right. Today's the day of the interviews; tomorrow the Games begin. It only feels like yesterday when I arrived here in the Capitol. Has it already been five days? I walk to the closet and pick out a simple outfit, then walk out of my room. I walk down the hall, and into the dining room, to the breakfast banquet. Emerald's sitting, eating some fruit, and Twinkle, Emerald's mentor, is drinking an energy drink.
"Morning Ebony. Any sign of your brother this morning?" Twinkle says, finishing her drink.
"No," I say, "He's probably still asleep, knowing him." She mutters something under her breath, before getting up.
"Excuse me for a moment." She walks out of the room, towards the bedrooms. I hear a loud banging.
"Hey, Cris! Get up, you lazy slob! You have to prep your brother for the interviews!" I can hear Twinkle yelling at him. Finally, a groan emanates from his room, and he stumbles out, wearing a bath robe. "Really?" Twinkle groans, "You could have at least had the decency to put some clothes on first."
"Oh, I'm sorry, am I bothering you again?" He says, letting out a chuckle.
"Just, get dressed, all right?" Twinkle snaps, "Or I'll ensure you and Ebony switch places in the Games. The two of you look similar enough, so they won't know the difference. Who knows, it may be funny watching you get skewered by a twelve year old." Twinkle chuckles herself at her statement. Sighing, Cris saunters back to his room, shutting the door. Less than a minute later, he re-emerges, looking like he just threw the first items of clothing he could find on, which he probably did.
"There, happy?" He says, glaring at Twinkle. I see Emerald suppress a giggle at the scene that's playing out in front of her. I don't blame her, it is funny.
"Alright, now down to business," Twinkle says, "The interviews. Both of you will spend the day with your mentor as they coach you for the interviews; Ebony, you're with Cris. And Emerald, you're with me." Of course. Of all people to coach me, it had to be my brother. I just sigh, and take a sip from a glass of water.

--

"Okay, so now to choose how we'll go about presenting you." Cris says, studying me intently. "You're not big enough for the intimidating angle; you have the wrong body type. The romantic angle's a no go, and the sympathy card doesn't work with a Career." he stops talking, and begins to go over something in his head. "That's it! We'll go for the charismatic, likeable guy look."
"Really? You've known me for eighteen years, yet you had a hard time figuring out how I should present myself tonight?" I say, in disbelief.
"No, it's just that," he trails off, his eyes darting around the room, "Never mind. So, let's see how likeable you really are."

We practice the angle, me cracking jokes, and flashing smiles, and Cris' hilarious impression of Caesar Flickerman. We continue for several hours, until I see Cris beginning to grow tired.
"Wanna take a break?" I say.
"Yeah, why not. Let's grab some lunch and try again afterwards. I don't know about you, but I'm starving." We walk out of the room, and head to the dining room. I sit at the table, and Emerald and Twinkle appear.
"So, what's Emerald's angle for the interview?" I ask.
"We're going for sly and elusive." Twinkle says, looking at Emerald. She nods in confirmation.
"Well Ebony's going for the charismatic appeal." Cris says.
"That's good. I can see him pulling it off well."
"Same with Emerald." The conversation dies out as we begin to eat lunch; A roast chicken with vegetables. It reminds me of dad's cooking, but this one's much more flavourful. Emerald's also enjoying the food; she's almost entirely gulped down the vegetables, but she's not touched the chicken. Probably saving the best for last, I suppose. Once I finish my food, a blinding rainbow appears in the doorway. Oh great, our escort.
"I need Ebony and Emerald to come with me. There's been a change in schedule, and the interviews are taking place earlier than planned. Come on you two!" She drags us out of our seats, and towards the hallway, Emerald's chicken untouched. We go into the elevator, and it stops as soon as it starts, taking us to the ground floor. We step out, and walk down another hallway to the main lobby. I haven't seen this place since the chariot parade. We walk across the shiny floor, and outside. The sun's blazing down, and the temperature's high. We walk down the street, the crowd going wild, and climb into a car.
"Now, you'll be having your interviews on the other side of town, so we'll have to get here via the car. Feel free to acknowledge the crowd, just don't get them too fired up." Our escort says as we drive through town. The golden buildings shine brilliantly in the summer sun, and the citizens cheer and wave as we drive by. I wave out of one window, and Emerald waves out of the other. After driving through several crowded streets, we arrive at a massive golden building, which looks like a larger, more extravagant version of the justice building. We stop outside, and we get out, walking on the red carpet into the building. The front room alone is larger than the whole of the training centre; you could probably fit it in three times over. Our escort takes to an elevator, and we go up. It looks like a replica of the remake centre, complete with twenty four rooms. I'm pushed into the first door on the left, and Emerald on the right.

I look around the room. It is exactly the same as the remake centre, down to the positioning of the items. The door opens again, and my prep team stumbles in.
"Ah, Ebony! We've had a sneak peek at your interview outfit, and it's marvellous!" One of them says, and they all clap. "Well, let's get down to business!" They pull my clothes off, and put me in a tub full of various lotions, which they proceed to rub all over me. It leaves me feeling as if I was pinched all over, which isn't the best of feelings. After that's over with, they walk out, and my stylist walks in.
"Good afternoon, Ebony." He says, holding a bag, probably containing my interview outfit. He puts it on the side, and begins to thoroughly inspect my body.
"Good, your prep team did a good job." He says, retrieving the outfit, and pulls it out of the bag. It's a midnight black suit lined with jewels. It's not as gaudy as the chariot outfit, but it's still a bit too flashy for my tastes. I put it on, and my stylist checks it for any flaws.
"Perfect," he says, "Now let's get to the interviews." We go into the elevator at the back of the room, and go down. I can hear the blasting fanfare that indicates the start of the interviews. Caesar Flickerman walks onto the stage, waving at the crowd. His hair's still the colour of stone, but with a bit of glitter and a different style, it looks like Capitol fashion.
"Good afternoon, Panem!" The crowd breaks out into applause, clapping and cheering. "And welcome, to the sixty eighth HUNGER GAMES!" He sits in the interviewer's seat, and grabs a microphone. "Tonight, we get to meet our tributes, so lets give it up for miss Emerald Glitters, from District 1!" The crowd goes wild, and Emerald gets out of her seat in the waiting area, and walks on stage, waving to the crowd.

"So Emerald, how do you feel about being one of the lucky district representatives for this year?" He asks as Emerald sits in the hot seat.
"Well, I have exactly one word to describe my entire experience from the moment I stepped on the reaping stage back home in District 1; Amazing! The Capitol's absolutely exquisite, and the training's been fabulous!" The crowd cheers.
"So I take it you're in with the Career alliance then?" Caesar asks her, still smiling.
"Yes, I may have gotten a low score, but I'm still an invaluable member of the alliance!" She's right. The Careers consist of me and her, our arrogant leader Nick, his sulky district partner, and the lovey-dovey couple from 4. Some great and powerful alliance we are.
"So, about that score. Nine's pretty high. So, can you let us in on what your special skill is?" Emerald giggles.
"Oh, Caesar, you know if I tell you, my super secret skill won't be a secret any more!" They both let out a chuckle, and a buzzer sounds, indicating that their time is up.
"Well, that's all for Emerald, but will her special skill shine through in the arena? Give it up one last time for Emerald Glitters!" The crowd goes wild, and she returns to her seat next to me.
"And now, for our next guest. Some of you may know of his family's legacy, but for those who don't, here's Ebony Amaranth!" I get out of my seat, and walk onto the stage. I face the cheering crowd as they yell my name out.

"Ah, Mr Amaranth. I'm okay with calling you that, right?" Caesar begins.
"It's fine." I reply, shaking his hand.
"So, Mr Amaranth. I can safely say we've been waiting since the sixty second Games to see you here!" The crowd nods in approval. "You do remember you brother's interview, don't you?"

"So, Cris. Being a victor's child surely won't go unnoticed in the Games. And since you already live a rich life, what are you fighting for?" Caesar asked my brother, flashing his brilliant smile to the audience.
"Well, there is my little brother, Ebony. He's twelve, and has just gone into Career training." Cris said, looking at Caesar, who was trying his hardest to suppress a laugh at Cris' ridiculous shoes.

"I do." I say.
"Well then let's repeat the question. Ebony, being in a family of victors means you're already wealthy. So then, is there someone back home you're fighting for?" I go over the list of people in my head. There's my family, but they won't be affected by my death, they've experienced it too much. Come to think of it, almost everyone I know is quite apathetic. Except for one person.
"Well, there is someone." I begin.
"Who?" Caesar asks, the crowd holding its breath.
"It's my training partner. We're very close." I say, and Caesar flashes a toothy grin.
"Close, eh?" Caesar says, too suggestively for my liking.
"No, not like that. She's more of a sister than anything." I quickly let out.
"So it's a she, is it?" Somehow, Caesar's grin has grown wider, and I can feel the blood rush to my cheeks. Thank goodness that I can't see Topaz's reaction. 
"Well whatever it is, you win, you go home, and you see her again. Simple enough."
"You're right Caesar, it is that simple." We shake hands one last time, and the buzzer sounds out. I get up, and the crowd cheers one last time. I slump back in my chair, and watch as the interviews fly by, everyone becoming less and less enthusiastic about them. Thank goodness I'm not one of the tributes from District 12. I watch as the last interview draws to a close.
"Give it up one last time for Tobias McHaden from District 12!" The boy from 12 walks back to his seat, seeming relieved that his interview has finally drawn to a close.
"And that concludes the interviews! Be sure to get ready, for tomorrow, the Games begin!" Caesar says, and the crowd regains all of its enthusiasm. The anthem plays throughout the room, and we all rise. Once it finishes, all twenty four of us are guided backstage, where we meet with our escorts. Me and Emerald quickly find our unicorn, and walk over to her.

"That was excellent you two! Emerald, so full of confidence, and Ebony, the secretive romance will ensure the sponsors flock by the thousands!" She kisses our foreheads, and leads us outside, to our car. Night has fallen, and the city is lit up by the millions of light from the various buildings. It really is stunning. I wonder why the Capitol doesn't let the victors live here. After all, we're obviously above the district citizens. I understand the victors with children going to the districts for the reapings, but those without kids, it's not like the victors are being reaped, now is it? We drive through the streets, loud music playing outside, and countless people throwing street parties. And to think, I'll be the one they're celebrating in a few days. A small smile slowly etches itself on my face. We turn another corner, and we're on the street with the magnificent training centre just ahead. We stop just outside it, and we climb out of the car. We walk through the main entrance, and to one of the many elevators. Other districts are also using the other elevators. We get to the last vacant one, when the escort from district 6 steps in at the exact same time we do.
"Do you mind if we share?" He asks our escort.
"Of course, it is proper manners, after all." The two from 6 step in, and the doors close.
"Hey!" I turn to see the brown haired boy from 6 poking me, a grin bigger than Caesar's on his face. "You're a Career, right? Is it like some club? Oh, can I join? I love clubs!" I clench my fists.
Not now, Ebony. Tomorrow, you can rip this kid limb from limb.
"Tyler, shut it. For the love of Panem, just shut your mouth." I see his district partner say through clenched teeth.
"But Alanna, they're in a club, and I'm not in! I was in all the clubs back home. There were only five, but that's beside the point!"
"Look kid, you'd better listen to your district partner, or you'll end up dying before we even get to the arena." I say, and I see his partner shake her head, and I actually feel sympathetic for a moment. I have no idea how she has managed to endure the past six days. I hear a beep, and a monotone voice speaks.
"You have now arrived at training floor one." I step out, followed by Emerald and the rainbow explosion, leaving District 6 alone. Thank goodness I don't have to hear that kid again. We make our way to the dining room, and I grab two full roast birds, and a bucket load of vegetables. Emerald also takes a large meal; two massive bowls of rice. I guess we both want to store as much food as possible for the Games. Once we've both finished, our escort tells us to go to bed.
"Hey, where are Cris and Twinkle?" Emerald asks.
"They're in the mentor control centre, setting up for the Games. They'll be here to see you off tomorrow, though." She says, and I walk off to my room. I close the door, pull my clothes off, and crawl into bed, suddenly exhausted from the day's events.

I wake the next morning, the sun streaming in through my window. I stretch, and get out of bed. I walk over to the shower, and turn it on, soaking myself with the soaps. I might as well make the most of it, since I doubt there'll be working showers in the arena. I step out, dry myself, and put on a simple t-shirt and shorts; the same outfit I wore before the reaping. I open my door, and make my way to the dining room. Everyone's present, but the mood is depressing. Of course, at least one of us will be dead within the next couple of weeks, and as awful as it is, I hope it's Emerald. I grab a chair, and begin to eat several slices of toast, and a massive bottle of water, to ensure I'm sustained for that little bit longer. We remain in silence for about fifteen minutes, until our rainbow unicorn escort stands.
"Well, it's time to go." She says, her usual peppiness all but gone. Me and Emerald stand, and Cris grabs my shoulder.
"Look, bro. Just be careful out there, and don't rely on luck to help you. And most of all, don't get yourself killed." I see a single solemn tear drip down his face. I pull him in for a hug, and he quickly breaks off.
"We have to go to our control room. Otherwise, you'll have a hundred undelivered sponsor gifts waiting for you." Twinkle walks out of the room, towards the main elevator, and Cris follows.
"Good luck," He begins, "To the both of you. District 1'd better have a victor this year." He says, the elevator closing, and he vanishes from sight. Our escort then takes us to the back of the room, and opens the elevator there. We step in, and it shuts.
"Now, the hovercraft that'll take you there is outside the back of the training centre. You'll walk under it one at a time, and you'll be pulled up into one of the twenty four sections, and given your tracker." I listen to the last ramblings of the unicorn woman that one of us will hear, and the elevator opens. I step outside, the sun blinding. I see the massive hovercraft outside, and walk under it. Emerald follows, and we're suddenly being lifted by two separate beams.
"See you at the Cornucopia." She says as I'm pulled in, a woman dressed in white helping me up. I take a seat near the window, and she jabs a syringe into my arm; the tracker. She pulls the syringe out, and walks through another door. I look out of the window. This'll be the last time I see the Capitol, at least until I return. If I return. The sudden thought that I might die sends a shiver down my spine. The hovercraft lifts up, and I look at the Capitol. It truly is a work of art. The hovercraft then moves forward, at an unbelievably fast pace, the magnificent city becoming a golden blur. I look as the rolling green fields below fly by. Which direction are we going anyway? It doesn't matter though, it won't affect the Games in any way. The windows suddenly black out. We must be close. The massive vehicle begins to shudder as it lands. A door opens, and I walk out. I'm met by my stylist standing in the doorway.
"I'll take you to the launch room, just follow me." He says. I follow him out, and into a room. It's small and grey, with a bench, countdown clock, and a launch tube. That is all. My stylist walks out, and I sit on the bench, watching the clock count down. Ten minutes to go. I watch two minutes tick away when my stylist returns, holding some clothing. The arena outfit.
"Put this on." He says, and I take the outfit, and put it on. A tight fitting short sleeved shirt, with black pants, and running boots. At least the outfit will give a clue about the climate. Probably anywhere from mild to boiling hot. A voice rings out.
"One minute to launch." I hand my other clothes to my stylist, and step in the tube.
"Good luck." He says, his voice devoid of emotion. The tube closes down, cutting me off from him. He then flashes me one last Capitol grin, and the platform begins to rise. This is it. Let the Games begin.

And may the odds be ever in my favour.

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