The 76th Hunger Games

     "Grandma?"
     "Yes, dear?"
     "Are you trying to say that we are going to be part of those games?"
     Katniss hesitates for a while, she shakes her head no but looks down so she won't have to look me in the eyes. "The odds have never been in our favor, Noah." | Note: The story follows from the third book of the series, Mockingjay. Also, this is my very first Movellas, and I'd really appreciate if you would leave a comment giving me constructive criticism or simply to tell me what you think of the story! Thank you!

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3. Memories

• Hello, dear reader, I must inform you that I've made some minor changes on the previous chapter for the benefit of the story, I apologize for the confusion. Quick warning that the facts mentioned in this fanfiction might not perfectly match the original series. Also, I annoyingly beg you leave a comment bellow telling me what you think of the story. Constructive criticism is always very welcome. PS: I also apologize for the late update, I was on vacations and it was surprisingly hard to find time to write! I am deeply sorry. And  for this annoying note. Have a nice reading!

     “Memories,” Peeta says, nodding.

    I don’t understand the purpose of sharing the memories of your past after receiving such news. I want to know about the Hunger Games. Pria and Kasius talked about them as if they were common knowledge. Return, it was said. And I've never heard of those games. There is nothing else that could possibly interest me right now. If my name is going to be in that pool, I want to know what for.

     By the look on her face, Jo and I share the same feeling of confusion and curiosity. Except, she seems to have ignored the news completely. She stares excitedly at the box in our grandmother’s hands.

     Elliot pays attention to neither the box nor the recently announced and unknown games. He yawns and tries to keep his eyes open while he pretends to be paying attention to what’s happening around him.

     But still, none of us object. And Katniss takes our silence as a sign to proceed, and so she does. She opens the small wooden box. I see random items sprawled all around inside it. A book, a small silver parachute tangled around a spile, a golden locket, a mockingjay pin. And even though small enough to pass unnoticed, a pearl.

     I open my mouth to ask Katniss what those things are but she starts to talk before I can form the words.

     “It’s time to tell you. You have the right to know if there's a chance that you—”

     She pauses for a brief second, picking from where to start.

     "Around a hundred and fifty years ago, there was a rebellion in Panem. District 13 was destroyed. The Capitol won and, as some kind of punishment for the districts, created the annual events you now have been introduced to as the Hunger Games. The games in which kids from 12 to 18 years of age from all the 12 districts would fight to the death in the arena.

    "The Capitol people loved the games. Sitting and watching, betting on tributes, fussing  about it, celebrating it! Of course. It wasn't their children that had to kill each other. Those weren't their names extra times in for the reaping in exchange for grain and oil because it weren't their families that were starving. They didn't live the life the poorer districts did. And neither did Districts 1, 2 and 4, known to have the career tributes, who had trained their entire lives to volunteer and come back alive to the glorious life of a victor. The games had always been like this. Until the 75th Hunger games."

     She puts a hand inside the box, trembling a little, and picks up the mockingjay pin. It lies flat on her palm, the bird inside a golden ring, its gold slightly faded from time.

     “This pin-”she starts, turning it over and over in her hand. “It followed me through the games. I got it from a friend as a symbol of District 12, right before leaving for the 74th Hunger Games.”

     “Wait, you were in those games, grandma?” Jo says, sitting bolt upright in her chair, her eyes wide with shock.

     “Yes. And Peeta was too.” Katniss gestures at Peeta.

     Peeta wakes from his daze at the sound of his name, looking confused, and turns to Katniss. “I was in the Hunger Games. Real or not real?”

     Katniss puts a hand on his knee and looks him in the eyes. “Real, dear. With me.”

     “Right,” he says, and goes back to staring at nothingness. “Real.”

     My grandfather often has lapses of memory, it happens quite often now as he gets older. Sometimes he is just fine, and sometimes he is not. He questions my grandmother about facts, asking her if they are real or not. It’s easy to tell when he is in his right mind or not, because he wears a blank, confused expression, his eyes seem unfocused as if he was staring at something no one else could see but him. And it’s just how he is now.

     “You two were in the same game?” Jo seems electrified by this conversation. It starts to interest me, too.

     “My little sister, Prim, was chosen as the female tribute. She was just too scarred and too young, only 12. And I was 16, already taking care of my family since 11. I loved her too much to let her go. So I volunteered to take her place in the games.” Katniss says, now squeezing the pin in her hand. “And Peeta was chosen as the male tribute.”

     “But how did you two made it out alive?” Jo continues with her questions. “The woman in the Capitol message said only one tribute could get out alive! But they said the rules have changed. Did they allow two victors back then?”

    “No.” Katniss says. “The rules have always allowed only one victor. In the games we acted our love as a strategy of survival, to get sponsors. Well, I did. So they played us into thinking that both tributes from the same district could be crowned Victors, and so we thought. I found Peeta badly ill and took care of him. At the end I killed the only remaining tribute from another district, and they announced that only one of us could get out alive.”

    “So how did you do it?” Jo says. Her eyes even more electrified.

    “One of us would have to die. So I had the idea to poison ourselves with nightlock at the same time. They needed a victor, and it was two or nothing. So they stopped us.

     “We chose to die rather than to be without each other. Or at least that’s how the Capitol people saw it. But the president, Snow, saw it as an act of defiance. And he was right.”

     “We weren't just pieces of their games.” Peeta says, apparently coming back to himself. "By the way, I never told you kids how I lost my leg," he tapped his prosthetic leg with his hand. "My leg was seriously injured in the games."

     He have indeed kept that from us. It's not that big of a deal but as curious kids we have all eventually asked grandpa why he had a fake leg. My father would scold us for asking while Peeta would ingeniously change the subject, or would sometimes ask Katniss if that was true and check his leg to be sure. As the years went by we learned by heart what was classified as an untouchable subject. The games were a subject so untouchable we didn't even know about it. But now the subject has been intimately touched, you could say.

     Katniss squeezes the pin so hard that her knuckles are white and veins show in her skin. She opens her hand and the pin falls to the ground. A drop of blood shines on her palm.

     Jo gets up quickly and gets a piece of cloth in a drawer in the kitchen cabinet, soaks its tip on water in the sink and hurries to clean Katniss’s hand.

     “Oh, dear, it’s fine!” she says, flattening her palm so that Jo could clean the blood. “You don’t have to bother, it’s nothing serious!”

     “No, no, grandma, let me help you!” Jo protests.

     “You're just like her,” Katniss murmurs almost to herself.

    “Who?”

     “Prim.” Katniss sighs. "Prim would have been the first one to rush to clean a wound or a simple scratch. Not to mention you look just like her, I like to imagine that's what she'd look like if she had gotten to live till 15."

     After cleaning the blood on Katniss’s hand, Jo picked up the pin from the floor, handed it to our grandmother, and sat back down in her chair waiting silently for the story to continue.

     Katniss takes another long look at the pin and then gives it back to Jo. “Keep it. I want you to have it. To carry with you as a symbol of our family.”

     “Thanks, grandma.” She smiles and pins it to her shirt.

     Katniss smiles in return and goes on.

     “The president was right. It was, unknowingly, the beginning of a revolution. And as an attempt to stop it, they put the victors into the arena again on the third Quarter Quell. Their intention was to show that not even the most powerful citizens, the victors, could defy the Capitol.

     “Your grandfather and I knew we wouldn't make it out alive this time, and it was what Snow hoped. But we didn't know that the rebels had a plan to overthrow the Capitol, a plan that involved us. A plan that involved me.

     “The second arena was a clock. Every hour something would happen on one of the sections of that clock. At midnight the lightning would hit the tree. On our last night in the arena, we and our allies had a plan to take the remaining tributes. The plan was to electrocute whoever was at the beach by connecting a wire from the tree to the water. Your grandfather and I had to split up for the plan. 

     "It didn't work as planned. And as I remembered something I was told, that the real enemy was the Capitol, I connected the coil to an arrow and shot it at the force field that enclosed us. I didn't know yet that Beetee's goal was actually to destroy the force field, and I had just done that. The arena burst into flames and fell apart. I didn't know then, but it was the date the rebels would rescue us. I was rescued along with our allies, Finnick and Beetee, and we were taken to District 13. While that, the Capitol took Peeta and Johanna, and I found out later, bombed our entire district.

      “As I said, I was part of the rebels’ plan. The mockingjay pin was my token, and it became a symbol of this rebellion. The mockingjay was the hope of the rebels. And I was their mockingjay.

      "We used our time in District 13 to make strategies, propos, and weapons, and that was part of our plan of attack. And there we also met commander Paylor, she was the leader of the rebels in District 8. The leader of 13, president Coin, wanted Snow dead and wanted to become the president of Panem. But she also wanted me dead, as I posed a threat to her power.

      "Eventually a rescue team from the rebels was sent into the Capitol to bring Peeta, Johanna and Annie to 13. I knew that none of us would ever be the same after being part of those games, but what they've been trough during their time being tortured at the Capitol was a lot worse than the games. They were not the same. Peeta wasn't the same." Katniss lowers her head to avoid our eyes.

     Katniss sighed, stretched her hand a little and took the book my aunt handed her moments later from the table. “I would like to show you some things while we finish telling you the story.”

     "This is Finnick," she pointed at the handsome man drawn so realistically on that page it was hard to tell it wasn't a photograph. "He was our ally and friend."

     She turns the page, where there’s a picture of a baby with a beautiful woman. “This is Finnick’s wife, Annie, and their son."

     "He never got to meet his son, tough.” Peeta says, touching the photograph.

     “He died during our last mission.” Katniss says.

     “This is Johanna.” She turns the page again and now points at the drawing of a woman. “Johanna was our ally too, and Beetee. But I never figured out if she really hated me after all.” She laughs a little.

     “Finnick was the one who told me to ask if things were real or not,” Peeta adds.

     “But why do—" Elliot corrects himself as he pauses for a yawn. "Why would you have to ask that, grandpa?”

    “Right. As your grandmother said, I was tortured by the Capitol. I had my memories hijacked using tracker jacker venom. That is, they made me confuse memories with fear. They did this many times until it actually worked. And when it did, I—" He pauses, his eyes are teary but he doesn't allow himself to cry. "It was really hard to tell what was real and what was not.” Peeta looks down at the floor. “I even tried to kill your grandmother.”

     “Why would they do that?” Elliot insisted.

     “To break me, as I was the mockingjay.” Katniss says, looking up at Elliot and Peeta.

     After a minute of silence in which Jo and Elliot decided not to ask any more questions, and I to stay quiet, Katniss went on with the story.

     “As I said, the rebels had a plan. And after going from place to place and making propos, our next mission would be to enter Snow's mansion to kill him.” She said.

     Each of us seems unable to make a comment. The more of the story Katniss tells us, the more grief and sadness hover the air around us, adding to the tension we feel. She turns the page again.

     A flower lies there, flattened by the weight of the many pages on top of it. It’s thin, dry, and fragile, but I can still picture the beauty it once had. I recognize the flower. Like every other in their house, it’s a primrose.

     Katniss skims the flower with the tip of her finger, caring not to crush it. “We failed to get inside the mansion but—" Tears start falling on her cheeks. “The rebels threw bombs in front of the mansion. Many children were there. My sister was there, taking care of the wounded ones.”

     She says nothing else, and she doesn't have to, we understand. We grew up facing loss, pain, and grief. I guess those feelings are familiar to everyone in this family. In different ways, I know what it feels to lose somebody. The difference is that my sister left everything she knew and everyone that loved her by choice. Primrose didn't choose to leave Katniss. That choice was taken from her.

    “It’s ok.” Peeta says as he puts both hands on Katniss’s face and brushes the tears off with his thumbs. She gives him a shy smile.

     “Did you win the war, after all, grandma?” Jo says, wearing a glum look.

     “Yes. We won.” She turns to Jo, Elliot, and me again. “But before that, Snow was going to be executed, and I was the one to do it. I had my bow and arrow set at hands, ready to shoot, when I remembered that the bomb that killed Prim was not thrown by the Capitol. It was thrown by the rebels, under Coin's orders."

      Jo's chest is puffy, holding her breath in mad excitement and thrill for the story.

      "And at the last second, instead of shooting Snow as I was supposed to, I shot Coin." As Katniss finished her phrase, Jo exhaled heavily. "Snow was already dying and it wouldn't take long until it happened. He deserved that. But he didn't kill my little sister, Coin did."

     "Finally, after all that, Paylor became our president and abolished the Hunger Games." Peeta sighs as he finishes. "Only it didn't last forever." 

     Katniss and Peeta continued to flip through the pages of the book they called the memory book, stopping here and there to show us the people in it, also drawn by Peeta, mostly everything was. A woman called Effie, with pink hair and eccentric appearance, I assumed was from the Capitol. A small girl with dark hair and skin called Rue, who was our grandmother's ally in the 74th games; Katniss cried once more when she told us about her. And a drunk and dirty looking man called Haymitch, their mentor in the games, and friend.

     Katniss eventually closed the book and moved on to the items in the box that was still on her lap. She showed us the spile and the parachute; said sponsors send you those kinds of helpful things in the arena, if you get any. The book in the box showed many plants, their uses and which ones to avoid; Katniss said she made it with her family. The locket contained a picture of her mother and sister on one side, and a picture of Katniss’s friend and hunting partner Gale. The pearl and the locket were both gifts from Peeta in their second time in the arena; Katniss said that’s when she realized she loved him back, that it wasn't just an act.

     "As a prize we got for being the Victors of the 74th Hunger Games, we won a lifetime supply of food," Katniss says. "And even when Paylor became our president, she continued to give us our winnings. And now you know the reason why we've been experiencing poverty ever since she died.

      "This very house we are in, and yours too," Katniss says. "Were also prizes for our victory in the games. This one was mine, and the one you now live in was Peeta's. Haymitch left us his house, we gave it to your aunt after he passed but she didn't want to leave us."

      Victor's Village. I thought it was just a random name for the small village in which we live. The evidence that the Hunger Games have indeed existed have always been right in my face and I was too naive to even think that  the existence of something like those games could ever be possible. My own grandparents have been in those games, and their victory has not only provided us a home when most of our district doesn’t have the privilege to have one, but led to a revolution which if not for them would be just a distant dream. And suddenly, I feel ridiculously stupid and ungrateful.

     It fits. It all fits. Peeta’s memory issues. Peeta's prosthetic leg. The painting of Primrose in an explosion. The rebellion. The bombing of District 12. Paylor becoming our president. District 13. Every previously unanswered questions in this family and the little I knew from school about the rebellion fits perfectly to what I've just been told, confirming that this is no joke. The games are real. Every bit of hope I had that those games were some sort of hallucination are gone. They are real, and no one is safe. And apparently, not even my family.

     “I guess now you’re wondering why we showed you these things, although I’d say you figured it out own your own.” She says, putting the items back into the box, closing it and resting it on top of the table again.

     I look at Elliot, who now sleeps deeply with his forehead rested on his hands, he grunts and mumbles in his sleep. Then at Jo, who stares stunned at the floor, and I have the feeling that she is thinking the same thing that I am. Only, she doesn't say it.

      "Yes," I tell Katniss. "You told us about the games because..."

     She doesn't interrupt me, she just looks at me, waiting for me to say what she has really been trying to tell us.

     "Grandma?"

     "Yes, dear?"

     "Are you trying to say that we are going to be part of those games?"

     Katniss hesitates for a while, she shakes her head no but looks down so she won't have to look me in the eyes. "The odds have never been in our favor, Noah."

 

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