Riley [Hunger Games Fanfiction]

A one-shot from the point of view of Arrian Rider, mentor of District 7 in the 36th Annual Hunger Games, after losing his tribute, Riley, in the arena to his other tribute, the cruel hearted Otto.

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1. Riley

I couldn’t move. My limbs refused to work. The whole time I lay there in my bed, Antonia tried to coax words out of me. But my tongue was knotted. I was helpless, I was tired, but I refused to allow myself to sleep. I knew that if I did, I’d dream of her.

 Riley…

 A sob wracked my body. Every limb on my body, every heartbeat I had, every breath, hurt. It was as though someone was ripping me apart. And the whole time, I couldn’t take Riley out of my mind. I saw her falling, forever falling in the arena and I couldn’t breathe, my chest crushed, my heart collapsed. Antonia gave up eventually, just lying beside me, her hand in mine. I closed my eyes, willing the pain to stop. I wished I’d never met Riley Swan. I wished I could take back all the amazing memories we shared. Because losing her completely was better than losing her after having spent time with her. I’d had a taste of the Whirlwind’s world, and when she was gone, it left me wondering how I could ever have been happy before I met her. I wanted to be numb. But I felt. I felt a lot.

 There was a knock at the door. When I failed to answer it, Antonia got up to open the door. She made a quiet exchange with whoever was there and then shut the door. When she returned to my side, she had something in her hand. An envelope.

 “Arrian? You might want to see this. It’s from Riley,” she said. I stiffened. Her name was like a stab the heart. An image of Riley flashed to my mind, of her lying in the mud in the arena, Elianna coaxing her to open her parachute. I felt the pain she’d experienced. But I allowed Antonia to help me sit up, my body heavy like I was soaked in water. She opened the letter for me, my hands trembling too much to do it myself. Then she stroked my hair lovingly.

 “I’ll wait outside, give you some privacy. Call me if you need me,” she said softly. She kissed my head “I’m sorry,” she said. Then she left, and my eyes managed to focus on the paper. It had huge scrawled writing on it and took up several sheets of paper due to this. Riley’s handwriting was so indicative of her personality, practically leaping off the page. I smoothed out the paper on my bed and began to read.

 My dearest Ari,

 If you’re reading this, it means I’m dead. Pow. That wasn’t a nice sentence. It feels strange, writing this, not knowing if you will ever read it. I don’t want you to be reading this. But if you are, I thought I should let you know that I love you. My brother. My friend. My mentor. If you’re reading this, I don’t want you to blame yourself for my death. Chances are I will die being too reckless, or at the hands of someone stronger than I, and that isn’t your fault. I want you to remember me fondly, how I was when we were together. We had fun, right? It’s been great. And I can die happy in the knowledge that during my time in the Capitol, I discovered how to make the most of what I have. I fell in love (if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m head over heels for Milo. Paws off, that hottie is mine) and I made friends in the most unexpected circumstances. Isn’t there just something so magical about that?

 Time is short, my friend. I hope that should you read this, you will find some way to celebrate my passing on. Go start a rebellion for me. And if Otto is alive, make sure he pays for being such an evil little bastard. OK? And another thing. Don’t you dare let Pandora go. You’d better marry her, hang on to her, because I want you to be happy. And I know she makes you happy.

 Remember me, yeah? I’ll be watching. No, scrap that. I’m going to haunt you for the rest of your days. You’ll be seeing a hell of a lot of me. This isn’t over. Not until the fat lady sings, eh?

 Remember. Riley Swan will have the last laugh.

 Love from The Whirlwind, Destroyer of Worlds.

 

 Destroyer of worlds I thought that you are, honey. That you are.

 I held the letter and read it over and over. I folded it. I unfolded it. Thumb marks formed on the side of the pages and the ink mingled with my tears. The words smudged, but the words were inked into my heart. I held on to those last words as though they were a lifeline. The pain lessened a bit. And I could feel her watching me, willing me to act. And I knew what the first thing I had to do was. I found strength, drawing it from her memory, and stood, leaving the room. Antonia saw me leave and watched me go in surprise, but she didn’t pursue me. She knew me well enough to know when it was appropriate to stay by my side and when it was appropriate to stay behind.

 I was going to see Otto. I was going to see her murderer.

 Straight after the Games, when the Victors are a butchered slab of meat, they have operations to put them back together, stitch their wounds, make them presentable for the cameras again. The mentors, for some part, have a role in deciding what operations need to be performed on them and which do not. And I planned to stop one operation in particular.

 I was almost too late. I burst into the operation room, pushing past doctors to see what condition the boy was in. Most of him was patched up, but his face was still disfigured, melted by the lighter that Riley had used to set his face aflame.

 “We are about to perform the face surgery,” one of the doctor’s said touching my arm “You should clear out.” I shook my head.

 “No. Leave it.”

 “Mr Rider, it is-”

 “I said leave it!” I shouted. He looked taken aback, and it took me a moment to calm down “Leave it,” I repeated. “The audience will like it. It shows his primal, rough side. They already think of him as more beast than human. It is necessary to maintain that image.”

 “If we are to do it, we must do it now. Otherwise, he will look like this permanently.”

 I took a disgusted glance at Otto, sleeping on the operation table “I can live with that,” I murmured. “No one touches that boy’s face!” I said with authority. Then I left the room and Otto was taken into recovery.

 When Otto woke up the next day, it didn’t surprise me that I was the first person he went looking for. I was re-reading my letter from Riley when he burst into my room.

 “You,” he snarled, “You told them not to operate on my face. I know it was you!”

 I stared at him, taking in his shrivelled face “It suits you,” I said decisively.

 “I’ll tear your throat out,” he warned.

 “I’d like to see you try,” I replied, my voice calm “Because if you try it, I’ll have Antonia slice you up into a thousand pieces and ship you home to your parents in a box.”

 Otto blinked, and for a moment, I saw a boy. A boy unsure of his mind, lost in a world of cruelty, twisted by his misfortunes. But it only took a blink of my own to remember who he was, what he’d done. And I loathed him. It took all my strength not to kill him there and then.

 “Go,” I told him, turning away slightly, but keeping my eyes on him. I knew he was capable of killing me if I let him out of my sight “You have an interview to attend.”

 He waited a moment, hesitant, before leaving. Perhaps if he hadn’t killed Riley, I could have found it in my heart to forgive him. Then I remembered Milo. I remembered the boy from 12. I remembered Cassia and Summer, and all those lives he’d ended. And somehow, though I never thought it possible, I achieved in hating him even more.

***

 Several days passed in a blur of interviews and Hunger Games recaps. Marcia, the escort, insisted it was all part of the fun, but I saw her tear up as we were forced to watch the recap of Riley’s death. The crowd was hushed and reserved, no longer rabid, and no more did they cry for blood to be shed. Perhaps they’d all realised that the Games weren’t just Games. Twenty three children had lost their lives. It wasn’t something to be celebrated, and the novelty of Otto’s win had worn off. They could see his true colours. They could tell that he was more monster than boy.

 Then we were bundled onto the train. It was a long journey, of course, but though I slept a little, I spent most of the time sat alone on the train, looking out the window as the scenery passed us by. Memories of Riley bounced off the walls, almost echoing. In my mind I could hear the thuds of her footsteps as she ran around, a cackle of laughter tumbling out of her mouth. I heard the clink of glass against her teeth as we drank whiskey together. If I concentrated hard enough, I could feel the fuzz of her hair beneath my fingers, see the teeth that made her smile so crooked, smell the aroma of trees and baking bread that I associated with her. But if I opened my eyes, all of it was gone. I was back in the real world. And Riley was not. I tried to tell myself that I should be glad Otto had lived. With Riley and Otto originating from the same District, their final showdown had ensured District 7 a winner. I tried to persuade myself that it counted for something. Everyone in the District would benefit from his win. As a mentor, I’d succeeded in producing a victor. But somehow, it wasn’t enough for me to feel gratitude. He’d killed my best friend.

 As we neared District 7, Otto joined me by the door. He was dressed handsomely in a black suit, and as he stood next to me, I could only see half his face. It was like he was back to normal. I wondered what he was like when he was younger, or even before the Games. Perhaps before the reaping, he was a perfectly lovely boy. It’s strange how much the Games change you. I wanted to believe that once he was a nice person. Because right at that second, I was stood beside a psychopath. He looked at me with a grin.

 “I’ll be welcomed home like a hero,” he whispered. I don’t think he was addressing me, really. Just voicing his thoughts aloud “Yes, they’ll all love me. I did them a favour, getting rid of Riley. She was so disgusting. So very unnecessary-”

 “You shut up now,” I growled.

 “-and everybody hated her. Yes. They love me. I brought them victory,” he said. His tongue darted over his lips, the habit of his that I’d learned to loathe. Antonia joined us, her face hardened.

 “If I see that tongue of yours again, Otto, I’ll rip it out,” she said. Otto ignored her, basking in his imaginary glory.

 “I can’t wait to see their faces. Look, I see them now! Adoration on every single face in that crowd!” he said. And I knew at that moment he was absolutely crazy. Because the train had drawn into the station and the doors opened. And not one of the faces in the crowd had a trace of adoration. Not one. They all stared at Otto stonily. But he seemed oblivious to their hatred. He stepped off the train, his arms spread wide as though he was embracing everyone before him.

 “I am home!” he announced. Some people were muttering, nudging each other, looking around. Something was wrong. Something was going on. Otto walked further towards the people, and they parted, until soon they were circled around him. In the crowd, I saw Riley’s eldest brother, Jordan. I saw him raise his hand in the air, like he was answering a question in class, and the other citizens watched him do so, so in awe as he gave them some sort of signal. It had to be a signal. Because when he silently let his hand drop, the crowd surged. The mass of people swallowed up Otto, and I heard him cry out in surprise. I craned my neck, still stood in the doorway of the train, to see what was going on.

 “What are they doing?” I asked Antonia. She was calm, but the smile on her face was wide.

 “Something we should have thought of ourselves.”

 “What?”

 Antonia simply smiled “They’re killing him,” she said. In the sky above, thunder clapped. It was as though Riley herself was commandeering the clouds. As lightning struck in District 7, the people moved as one to destroy Otto for good. I heard his screams, but couldn’t find it in me to pity him. Though fists beat him and blood was shed, I couldn’t help thinking he was getting everything he deserved. I slipped my hand into Antonia’s as the first splash of rain hit my nose.

 “She’s having her last laugh,” I whispered. And as I looked up at the sky, I swear I saw her face, her crooked smile and the freckles that mapped out her face. I saw her wink as thunder clapped and I smiled.

 When Otto lay dead in the square, the people scattered. He was a mangled mess, but the rain washed away his blood, cleansed him of his sins. With the peace restored, someone went to see to the mess.

 All was well.

 Perhaps I should feel guilty for enjoying his death. Perhaps I should be ashamed that I enjoyed watching a child die, just like the people of the Capitol. But, hey. I guess the Games make monsters of us all in the end.

 

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