Kae held onto the pale hand, hoping beyond reason that Sketch would survive their wounds. But reality couldn’t be ignored so easily.
As blue eyes dulled, they fixated on Kae. Their lips molded around words that would never escape them, as death slackened pale limbs.
Kae closed her eyes, regret flooding her.
This was her fault.
Sketch was a part of District Six. They had a father who worked with trains, and an absent mother.
With all of their issues they were breaking under the pressure.
Most of their District were addicted to painkillers, as many of them often got trapped underneath the heavy equipment they worked with and got injured in the process. Looking around the District you could see many people with missing limbs.
It was easy to ask someone for painkillers, saying it was “that time of the month”.
Getting addicted was the easy part.
Stopping had never crossed their mind. And it never would.
“So, I’m the designer for your costumes!” He said, glancing at the two of them. “I’m Evan!”
Evan glanced towards them, suddenly serious. “District 6, known for transportation…” He began walking in circles, looking towards them occasionally.
When he finally began designing the costumes, they knew that they’d be uncomfortable in them.
Kae noticed, soon after meeting Sketch, that they always hid themselves somehow. Whether through covering clothing, or a hood to hide in.
“Make allies,” Ani had said. “Make them love you.”
She wondered, would Sketch be a good ally? Would they be dependable, not double-cross her?
Watching as Sketch popped a pill into their mouth, Kae didn’t know.
Chev and Sketch were addicts, but they were addicts with a friend. They had each other, and no one else.
They were able-bodied teenagers who could be helping, should be helping, to the adults. But they were also children who shouldn’t be playing with dangerous equipment.
They were in the area between adulthood and childhood.
Though, both of them had few memories of their past. The painkillers had a side effect of memory loss.
Not that they minded, the numbness, and dissociative qualities of the painkillers were heaven to the duo. They didn’t have to pay attention to their world, and the world didn’t matter.
Except for the one day a year.
When they’d dress up like they meant something and stand in a crowd of hundreds, hoping to blend in for one more day.
“If they choose you, I’ll volunteer in your place,” Chev had promised.
Though neither expected Chev’s declaration to happen, the world had a way of making unprecedented changes to their world.
“And our first representative… Sketch Belair!”
Some of the most intense feelings Sketch had felt in months. It felt like Sketch had been living in a bubble their whole life.
It had been filled with pain and pills, but now it had popped.
“I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!” The words were like a scream to Sketch.
As the blonde teenager limped up to Sketch, a meek smile on their face, the next announcement broke their relative peace.
“Well! Since we have two capable people to compete we shall be going!”
Chev has sacrificed their life for nothing.
“Sometimes, sometimes I forget about my leg,” Chev whispered. They had taken the pills awhile ago so they had probably started up by now. “I forget that when I stand up I’ll fall over for a second before righting myself, I forget that my leg will always be a disability.”
Chev had been a child when they had gotten the injury. Their father had brought an engine to work on at home and Chev had wanted to help. Unfortunately, the engine fell onto their leg, shattering it beyond repair. So Chev had to live with the injury for the rest of their life.
The limp followed them eternally, in their every step.
Sketch, flowing in and out of their dissociative mood, took a second to respond. “I get that, Chev. Sometimes I wake up and think, maybe today everything will be okay! But then I go downstairs and find out that today I have no appetite!”
Sketch looked off towards the smoke floating above the buildings surrounding them. “So I starve that day. And the next. Until my appetite comes back.”
Chev smiled, as they both linger in the pain-free existence the pills give them.
Sketch and Chev were from the same page, lived similar lives, yet were very intrinsically different.
Sketch took painkillers to be able to disassociate from reality.
Chev took them because they needed to. To ignore the chronic pain in their leg, the pills were the only answer.
Chev wanted to live and be happy, while Sketch only wanted to survive.
Sketch knew how they would die weeks before it happened.
They had been addicted to painkillers for so long they could barely feel it if someone stabbed them.
As they spaced out during the training, not even trying to survive anymore, they didn’t feel watchful eyes on them.
They only had eyes for Chev as they bonded with those from other districts, learning to hide rather than hunt.
They hoped Chev wouldn’t die like Sketch would.
They knew it’d be unpleasant.
Chev didn’t deserve something like that. They deserved a beautiful death. To be surrounded by flowers.
The people in District 6 often wore dark, skin-tight clothing. But no one in the capital ever tried to make them feel comfortable.
They were wearing bright outfits, it seemed as if the stars wound across their shoulders.
Though the clothing looked good, it felt bad to them.
It was hard to sit through the introductions.
On the second day of training, Kae decided to approach the loner.
Sketch wasn’t even trying to survive, were they? They had already given up, even before the games had started.
As Kae sat beside them on the bench they had planted themselves on, she noticed they didn’t seem to notice her, with eyes only for the other tribute of their District.
Overlooking the teen’s profile—which was half covered by their hoodie. A few strands of dark brown hair snuck out of the hoodie’s grip. Freckles dotted across the youth’s face, contrasting with the light blue eyes that seemed emotionless in the light.
“Hello?” Kae asked pensively, wondering how the tribute would react.
“Oh,” they looked over at her, seemingly uncaring of her presence. “Who are you, again?”
Kae could tell they didn’t truly care about her. “I’m Kae, from District 12, you?”
“Sketch, District 6.” District 6, known for transportation, and their addiction to pills. Ah. So that’s what they were taking on the first day.
No other words were spoken between the two of them, as Sketch gazed off.
“Sketch,” Chev greeted them as they entered, a stern look in their eyes. “We need to talk.”
As they sat opposite of one another, Chev sighed. “We both know how the games will end, Sketch.”
They nodded, “We will both be dead.” That was the cold, hard truth.
“Yes,” Chev agreed. “We will be, but you shouldn’t try to increase your chances of death, Sketch!” They argued, “You should collect allies! Die surrounded by your friends!”
Sketch’s eyes softened, looking at their friend as emotion overtook them. “I promise, Chev. I promise I’ll try.”
(As Sketch’s gasps for air slowed down, so did their ability to tell what is and isn’t real. Tears cascaded down Kae’s cheeks.
They knew this was coming.
But they didn’t know if they had died surrounded by friends or not. Kae was here, and they were friends, but were they surrounded?
As they let out their last breath, they knew the answer.
They had kept their promise to Chev.)
The next day Sketch was much more open to Kae. They tried to hold a conversation, at least. And they tried out some weapons to see what worked for them!
It was a large contrast to their behavior the day before, Kae had been expecting a much harder exterior to them than they were showing now.
Kae decided to spend the day with Sketch, testing out weapons.
Kae was proficient with throwing knives, but skilled with a bow. Meanwhile, Sketch was better at hand-to-hand so was good with knives.
They made a good team. Kae for distance, and Sketch for up-close fights.
Sketch and Kae spent their days training up until they finally had to impress the judges.
They didn’t pay any attention, however.
Sketch had ignored it and done adequately on the dummy.
Kae had taken it as an insult and fired at the judges.
She had won a 12 for her effort.
Sketch had only gotten a 7.
During the interviews, the light was on Kae.
“Make them love you.”
She needed to take that advice to heart.
But instead of normal questions, they asked about Sketch. About her friendship with them.
She assured them Sketch was just an ally, if they died Kae wouldn’t care.
That… may have been overkill. She probably shouldn’t have said that.
Chev looked over at her ally, Peb. They were a loner like Sketch, but much more physically strong. They were from District 7, which worked with lumber.
Peb was best with an ax, able to throw it accurately at long distances.
And Roy, the other District 7 tribute, a natural leader.
The three were a perfect team.
Chev had created a circle of allies to help them survive. Even with their limp, they were still strong. They found people physically stronger than them, and united them.
They hoped Sketch had been able to do that too.
Before it was too late.
As they rewatched all of the interviews, Sketch paused on Kae’s.
Chev, beside them, took notice quickly. “You don’t have to watch if you don’t want to, Sketch.”
A sigh rattled in their chest, “I know.”
“But you’re going to watch anyway.”
“But I’m going to watch anyway.” As the clip began Chev could see all of Sketch’s habits. How their hand twitched by their side, how their eyes kept wandering from the tv only to return back seconds later.
They were anxious.
Chev hoped Sketch was reassured of their importance, but that hope was soon broken.
“They’re just an ally, I wouldn’t care if they died.”
Kae looked around for her friend the next day, not seeing them waiting for her.
She went up to Chev to ask where Sketch was, only to be surprised.
“They stayed up in our rooms because your interview upset them, now,” Chev glared up at Kae. “Go away.”
So Kae went away.
After finding her way up to District 6’s rooms she found her way to Sketch.
Looking upon the mess she had made of her friend, guilt welled up in her throat. They laid in their bed, facing away from where Kae stood.
“... Hey, Sketch,” Kae began. “I heard you saw the interview, huh?”
A quiet shuffle, Sketch whispered, “I saw.” They sounded dejected, as if Kae had taken something precious from them.
“It… it was an act.” She felt like that needed to be stated, that none of what she had said was real. She hoped Sketch had realized it.
“... Really?” Sketch sounded skeptical, as if they had reason to not believe her.
It took a long time, but eventually they managed to repair their friendship.
With their friendship repaired, the duo watched as their time with one another dwindled into nothing.
Within days trackers were placed within their arms, and they were set to start the games.
Stepping into the tube, Sketch gazed off. The world blurred around them as they lost focus.
They knew Chev had many allies and would survive longer than the first day even with their limp. With that knowledge, Sketch calmed.
They knew Kae would likely go into the cornucopia first, try to get a weapon. There was a high chance she would be killed by the careers if she went that way. Sketch planned to wait near the edge of the forest (if there was one in these games).
As they were lifted into the light, they were blinded for a moment. Lifting their arm above their eyes, they looked around the area. The 24 tributes were in a circle, as was the norm in these events, Chev was to their right.
Meeting eyes the two quickly looked away to begin searching for their allies.
Sketch spent precious seconds searching for Kae with their eyes across the grassy land. Once finding their friend, they calmed slightly.
Kae was staring resolutely at the cornucopia, steeled to run. Would she really sacrifice her life for a weapon?
She knew what she was risking. The cornucopia was where most tributes died, and she wanted to run there for what? The chance of finding a bow? What if there were no arrows? Was she ready for the disappointment?
She didn’t have long to think about the subject, as the countdown began.
She got ready to run.
Looking towards Sketch, she saw them staring back at her. Hope was in their gaze, making Kae smile.
Sketch believed she would survive.
She had to live up to their expectations.
Kae remembered Ani’s words.
“Kae, whatever you do don’t go into the cornucopia.”
But Kae needed those weapons.
Kae quieted her mind.
She wouldn’t have time to think soon.
She took off towards the cornucopia.
Sketch sprinted towards the tree line, frantically reminding themselves to not look behind them. To not see the carnage, not see kids younger than them killing one another.
To not see Kae die.
The first cannon sounded.
The first tribute had died.
As they reached the tree line, they looked behind themselves. Quickly, they noticed how most tributes had gone into the cornucopia. They couldn’t see Kae in all of the carnage.
One of the tributes from District 7 was attacking another tribute from District 5. Blood coated the ax they were using as a weapon, as it splattered across their body. The blood already over their clothes told Sketch that they had already attacked someone earlier.
They felt the next cannon in their bones as the tribute stepped away from their dead enemy.
Sketch watched as they ran towards Chev and the other tribute from District 7, all of them carrying packs. They must have been Chev’s allies. As they ran into the tree line, Sketch heard two more cannons roar.
Glancing back towards the cornucopia, they quickly noticed a tribute from District 2 running towards them with a sword.
They sprinted into the trees, and quickly realized their mistake. They had depended on Kae too much for supplies. They should have tried to grab some kind of equipment, anything would have been useful right about now.
Leaves streamed past them as they ran, desperate to live for a few more precious moments.
After the footsteps died off from behind them, they quickly hid under a tree to regain their breath. Taking notice of their surroundings, they knew instantly that they were lost.
Standing up, they cautiously walked forwards. Trying to walk quietly, they slowly walked out of the undergrowth.
By the night Sketch had not found Kae, but had found a water source. A small lake that was surrounded by thickets, so it was very challenging to get into.
Sketch climbed a nearby tree to prepare for the night.
As darkness descended upon them, they knew they weren’t ready. Not in the slightest.
One tribute from District 1 was dead. She was around Sketch’s age, dark brown hair, she was probably popular.
Sketch wondered what she’d been like.
One District 3 tribute.
The guy from District 5 they had seen the District 7 tribute kill showed up.
Both tributes from District 9 were dead.
And the final was from District 11.
Kae and Chev were still alive.
Sketch closed their eyes to get some sleep.