of the people who care if I live or die
chapter 1 - roll the dice
David just loved the feeling of sitting up high in one of the many sycamore trees on the outskirts of his district. He loved the sound of their leaves rustling softly in the wind, their sweet smell of nature and the gentle beams of light tingling on his skin shining through the crown. When he let his legs dangle and looked at the nearly idyllic scenery of the riverside some long-legged storks fished in peacefully, he almost forgot about the world he was living in.
But then again there was this awful fence,
this district with peacekeepers patrolling the streets up and down,
this haunting, living nightmare known as the Hunger Games.
And suddenly forgetting was impossible. He tried anyway.
Normally other people wouldn't show up since they were afraid of the humming fence and the signs threatening death to anybody who dared passing the obstacle, so David was pretty much alone.
He sighed and pulled out a pocket knife out of his denim overall he then wiped on the fabric.
It kind of became one of his favourite hobbies to just sit in trees and carve little wooden figures when the Games were broadcasted and over the years he actually got pretty skilled.
Nevertheless he could never make a living out of it; district 5 is responsible for the electricity industry and generating power for the entire nation. He'd probably end up as some maintenance engineer like his father, trying to make the best out of his miserable life.
David didn't even realize how much time passed until he managed to slightly cut into his thumb. It was a little upsetting to see drops of blood filling the grooves he carved in so carefully into his cute little owl, however he was relatively proud of his creation: Since days he's been just working on the feathers alone and to see his small bird in all its glory made him relieved.
The relief was over soon when he realized he was late.
He immediately packed his things, slid down the tree and in the second his feet touched the warm ground, he started running.
In the evening he and his friends would always meet when they're done with their own work, so David felt a little bad for making them wait. Since he's the youngest he was still in school unlike them but keeping in touch was really important for their little group of three. David loved them unconditionally.
"Shit, David, what's it with you and those trees?", Gwen greeted him when he came running towards them panting and already apologizing.
Gwen was the mayor's daughter and David's friend since, well, diapers. In David's eyes she was amazing; she was a brilliant young woman in the process of becoming a nurse, funny, honest and her beautiful bronze skin was so pleasantly different from the other citizens.
He was pretty sure in another life he'd have the biggest crush imaginable on her, but to be honest David never actually found himself liking girls in that way. There sure was some form of aesthetic about females and their attributes, but until now he found his heart only skip a beat thinking about men smirking at him. About how deep inside he just wanted someone he could hold and be held by in the night, someone with a big strong chest he would bury his face in and-...
"I'm really sorry, guys!"
"Don't worry about it, Davey, Gwen doesn't actually mean it!", Jasper said, "I'm sure you carved one of those beautiful little things again, didn't you?"
David's face lit up in excitement.
His other best friend, Jasper, was a unbelievably kind and nice person, selfless and altruistic. Jasper would always have an ear for David's dreams, thoughts and worries and would always take him seriously even with them being three years apart. Sometimes David thought the world actually didn't deserve people like him - or needed more Jaspers in it.
At first he and Jasper never spend that much time, even though Jasper has always been kind to him. His constant and exaggerated enthusiasm was weird to the young David, who sure couldn't find one positive thing about living a life of permanent fear back then.
Then Jasper's younger sister was chosen at the reaping.
And suddenly he admired his strength to somehow stay this confident and happy for the rest of his family and the district.
"Actually, yes! To be fair, I'm really satisfied with-...heck."
When he reached into his pocket he found nothing but emptiness.
"I must have lost it while running" David pouted.
"What a bummer! But hey, I'm sure you'll find it again and if not there's nothing those magic hands couldn't create again, even better this time!"
"Oh Jasper, you always know how to cheer me up!"
"Sorry to interrupt your flirting, but have you heard the news?"
David felt a nasty sensation creep up his spine, otherwise he surely would have gotten really red.
Gwen gave him this one look and to his dismay he actually didn't have to ask, so there was just a slight croak.
"One of those sick shits from district 2 killed Katie. Just beheaded her like she was some kind of animal. Hell, even an animal shouldn't be treated this fucked up."
They went quiet for a short time. Eventually Jasper sighed deeply.
"That means he's coming back."
Both immediately knew who Jasper was referring to.
District 5 never had many victors. Considering Daniel Hubbard being one of them though, some citizens actually thought it'd be for the best.
Gwen chuckled cynically. "Well yeah, he sure got nobody to mentor now. To be honest, I'd rather go through this hellhole on my own than I would let myself get mentored by this sicko."
"You don't even know him personally, Gwen. Maybe all of those stories are just rumours after all."
Jasper gave David a shaky smile. "Well, you know, I also normally don't go around and accuse people of crimes just because everybody does, but you have to admit...It is suspicious that those people go missing since he is back from the arena. I'd totally understand if he went insane in there. One the other hand you have to understand that the people go insane with a potential sociopath living here."
Three years ago Daniel won the 53th annual Hunger Games. When he was only 15 years old, he managed to nearly poison all of the remaining 9 tributes, including 5 Careers although he was half-dead at that point.
David could remember himself watching those Games; it was somewhat scary and also impressive how Daniel clung onto life like a tick sucking every littlest drop of blood out of a organism.
He saw all of the interviews, all the recaps and reruns. The redhead would never admit it, but there just was something with Daniel and his piercing blue eyes that made David feel his breath become heavy.
He murmured frowning. "It just doesn't feel right to me. No wonder nobody ever sees him; if I were him I wouldn't show up here too. He must be really..."
"Anyway" Gwen distracted and smiled warmly, "how's school, little guy?"
"Surely not the same without you two."
"Aw, well, cheer up! You're almost through, Davey!"
"Yeah, but they still don't look for any new teachers..."
It has always been a dream of his to work with children. Their precious and naive nature just had a similar effect on David like the sycamores.
Hearing them laugh so carefree sometimes made him imagine living in a world without the government's
gentle reminder that their ancestors fucked up badly .
"I just know that someday they're going to finally see your full potential!" Jasper lifted David's spirit.
Gwen joined in. "You're right, there's no one who could do it better than him! I already talked to dad about this and he said he's looking for what he can do."
His heart started racing. "You're amazing, guys."
Jasper then put his arms around his two friends and David giggled a happy laugh.
"And I mean even if not, working at the power plant ain't that bad actually" Jasper joked a little aside, "we could go on shifts together and have lots of fun together."
"There we go again" Gwen laughed, "just ask him out already."
"Hahaha, Gwen, stop playing around!"
"Sometimes it's funny how oblivious you are, David."
David still laughed while Jasper only joined him nervously.
They continued chatting about rather random and unimportant stuff concerning their daily life, gossip about authorities and made plans for the upcoming weekend as always. David could never imagine losing this, his friends, a hint of nonchalant youth.
"I really don't want to be the one to say goodbye but I gotta go. It's Robin and Rita's birthday!" David said.
His siblings would never forgive him if he wouldn't bake them their dry, tasteless birthday cake. It had some symbolism after all.
"Right! Tell the twins happy birthday from Gwen and me!"
"Those little worms are getting 12 already, holy shit."
"Yeah!" David exclaimed like the big proud brother he was.
Their parents got to go work a lot to provide for their little family of five so it often comes to David to care for Robin and Rita but he would never complain. They're literal angels. Well, most of the time.
"So, see you guys!" David pulled them both into a quick hug and then he started jumping off again.
"Take care of yourself!" Gwen shouted behind him but he actually didn't hear them anymore.
As happy as David might was about his siblings turning 12 and entering a new life stage, their new age would come along with many responsibilities, new problems and...worries.
Twelve's the magical morbid age every child, from any of the 12 districts, has its name put in the Reaping balls. The chances to win the Games at this age, competing against nearly fully developed teenagers, were zero.
But they wouldn't be chosen.
David made sure the eventuality was kept as unlikely as possible.
Considering the river and their meeting point being on the whole different end of the districts residential area David had to cover quite a distance. He missed out on the rush hour of all the tired workers walking back home, so the streets were empty and quiet. Only one old man in front of him and the humming of the many low power poles accompanied David.
Right now where the Games are in full swing, the Capitol needs the power more than ever and because of this the capacity of the electrical lines was totally overstretched.
Once he heard that some of the outer districts wouldn't even get any power most hours of the day while the Games were taking place.
However, David reached the main road of the district soon, which led one the one hand more into the district's centre and one the other into the residential zone. The more he moved away from the centre the more shabby and tightly built next to each other the houses got.
He didn't know why, but somehow all the buzzing seemed to become louder and obnoxious, causing a headache. Looking up to the wires everything seemed alright though.
When he could already see the rooftop of his own house, it happened.
One street ahead a rusty, ancient looking power pole suddenly started smoking, together with an ear-splitting bang, right next to the old man David earlier just noticed in passing. And before he knew it, before he could run, the pole gave way to the whole force pushing it down.
Everything happened way to fast. David's whole body tensed like he himself was electrified. Realizing the massive pole buried the weak old man underneath it, he started running towards him. The whole panic made the man almost unconscious, shivering and crying for help. At first David didn't even know what to do until he threw himself on his knees onto the ground, screaming, yelling and pulling on the heavy pole. His heart jumped a whole marathon, his face heated up for heat and fright and in the end his movements were just panicky shaking.
"MY LEGS-...I'm so...hel-...HELP!!!"
"I'm tr-trying! I'll get you out of here!" David tried to calm down the man, but he seemed like he didn't notice him. When he dared try looking at the man's legs, he felt sick immediately. His kneecap was showing out of his mushy leg that twitched on the bloody-wet grass.
With all his strength he tried to lift the pole or to just move it a little bit. His teeth slammed on his dry lips. It made no sense. He just wasn't strong enough.
But giving up wasn't an option, so he tried again and again.
Crying out he gripped the pole one last time, every little cell tensed up.
All of the sudden the pole lifted itself, it felt like flying. In his whole delirium David didn't realize how other men had come to help him. He couldn't witness how the other ones got the old man out, how they stopped his bleeding wound. David just knelt in the grass, panting and trying to keep himself from vomiting.
And then there were piercing blue eyes .
"Are you okay??? Sir?"
Strong arms tried to help him up and shook him then gently, but David's world just seemed to turn upside down.
From all people he could meet in a situation like this it had to be him .
He that his friends earlier talked about like he was some kind of nasty bug.
"Can you hear me?"
David gave him a small nod, still numb.
The blond man holding him smiled in an awe.
"You're a hero, pretty boy."
This time, David just shook his head, more vigorously. Everything was too much.
"Hey, you should rest a little, that just was pretty dangerous."
David didn't have the strength to respond. He freed himself from the grip, from fucking Daniel's grip, and started running without looking back.
This all is just a weird, weird dream. It must be.
He collapsed behind his own front door.