The Jabberjays' Lullaby

A story based on 'The Hunger Games' series by Suzanne Collins, specifically for the 'Two Weeks in Panem' competition.

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President Snow couldn’t sleep. Not a single wink. There wasn’t a fancy Capitol remedy that could ail his insomnia, no sheep-counting, nothing. It was rarely a problem, but when it was, there was very little that anyone could do to help- no matter what they did to solve it. So he’d sit up from the cocoon of lavish sheets he’d had prepared, pour himself a glass of warm-whatever-it-was, and stop. And think. Think of why it was he couldn’t go to sleep. Why it was so very hard to lie back, close his eyes and just let everything go for one blissful, earnest moment of peace. But it was all well and good to ask himself these questions, as if he didn’t know the answers. Because he knew that for him there would never be such a moment, peace being just another impossible pursuit that would elude him. For Coriolanus Snow there was never going to be such peace. Just the memories, the memories that played behind his eyes whenever they were closed.

   And the faces- Oh, the faces! The faces, so gaunt and… sad. Yes, sad. Why did they always have to be so sad?  And then the arena, where they weren’t sad but savage- but they were still children. Young and innocent and helpless and dead. So, so dead. Like the blood-spattered petals of the roses lain on graves, the blood on his breath as well as on his hands, the blood of children all young and innocent and helpless and dead. They were to him like pawns in a perverted game of chess, in which there would be no winners- just bloody roses lain on graves. A game was what it was, after all, though these children would fall down when the music stopped but not back up again. Yet, President Snow had always been good at getting back up again. He did it every Hunger Games, when new faces- still so gaunt and sad- replaced old ones. Until they were all just memories, all young and innocent and helpless and dead. Still so, so dead.

   But, as the years went on, he felt a change within him. A small change, but a change nevertheless. He began to enjoy it. Enjoying the tributes die, the blood on his breath savoured on his tongue, the blood smelling sweet. And it made him happy, to see them all so sad. It made him happy. And then they all tore at each other with weapons and hatred until there was one left and the whole thing would start again next year- that way, the faces merely blurred into each other and the deaths were numbers and not tragedies. But they were still there, haunting him. And they weren’t going away anytime in the near future.

   Whenever he closed his eyes, there they were, resplendent in the glow of memory. And yet still so dead. Oh, Lord, how dead they were! But then, but then… these faces faded to black and in their place came nothing, nothing but silence and darkness until. Until he could see the body swinging back and forth, back and forth, the body of Seneca Crane dancing like a marionette doll. It taunted him as it spun and twirled and pirouetted, the noose around his neck still there as clear as when he’d first had it put there. Dancing, dancing, dancing, tap-a-dee, tap-a-dee, tap… Ever dancing, like on strings that tugged at his limbs and the maniacal smile that played on his blue lips. He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead, he can’t come back, he can’t come… And then his train of thought was broken by a sound, harsh and discordant, ringing in his precious Capitol ears until he could take no more of the jabber jays’ screams. For that was what it was- just the mimicry of silly birds outside his window and inside his head, just mimicking the screams of others. But the screams were so real and horrible and they continued shrieking and yelping and screeching while Seneca Crane danced and twirled and spun and the dead tributes, poor dead tributes appeared as a reminder of the blood on his hands, the blood on his breath, the blood- spattered petals lain on graves… Dancing, screeching, crying, young and innocent and helpless and dead- so, so dead…

   President Snow sat up from the cocoon of lavish sheets he’d had prepared, poured himself a glass of warm-whatever-it-was, and stopped. And thought. He felt more tired than he’d ever felt before.

 

And yet he couldn’t sleep.

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