Nightmares. Visions. Dreams of a twisted, terrifying kind. These are the things that occur every night, the things that pull me out of a sleepless haze, the things that terrify me more than anything in life.
Of course, they are always about the Games. What could scare me more? Every waking day is a nightmare in itself, oh, those dreary grey days in the training centre, reciting those endless speeches as practise for my interview, lying on my cushioned bed that I never would have had back home, wondering how I got here.
I try to work hard. I pull myself out of bed in the mornings, I train, I listen to Ellie’s rants and ignore Damon’s drinking and surly comments. I do everything I can to help myself, but it’s just not enough. I long to be back home, or do I? Even if, out of some small and miraculous chance I won the games, would the same person come out of the arena? I doubt it. Even if I did win, a killer would come out of the arena, not me, not Kat.
So I’m not insane yet. I haven’t let my situation get the better of me, yet. There’s this little thread of hope inside of me that I cling onto at all times, because even though it seems like it, I haven’t given up yet.
“Katalin Aideen! You are late, late, late! This messes up the whole day! Never in all my years have I seen such idleness!” This shrill call is what wakes me up each day. Reminds me I’m in this cruel world. “Coming..” I mutter, forcing myself out of bed and cursing Ellie under my breath. She knocks again. “I can see all your tricks, Katalin! Why oh why are you so, so..” I raise my eyebrows. “Deceptive? Cruel? Nasty?” I suggest. “Well Ellie, open up your eyes and see your surroundings. Am I still supposed to be jolly?”
Ellie frowns, then sighs. “Oh Katalin, just get dressed and come down for breakfast.”
I think she was attempting to be sympathetic, seriously. I went down anyway, it couldn’t really do any harm, and, if I was going to get my strength up, I might as well eat.
The breakfast table, as usual, is crammed with food. Eggs, waffles, bread, pancakes, jugs of milk and pots of tea, jam, croissants, butter, all sorts. Damon was gulping down coffee and scowling, as usual. “Right Catnip, get some food down you, we’ve got a busy day today.” I ignored his comment as I usually did, but filled my plate with hot buttered toast. “Today you’re going to meet your stylist.” Ellie told me brightly. “Am I?” I wanted to say, so badly that it hurt, but instead I just nodded briefly.
Great, I was already losing my spirit.
After breakfast, Ellie lead me through the many long, lingering hallways to find my stylist. I tried to picture them, perhaps silly and undermining, dressing me in the most flamboyant of clothes.
When we actually got there, I had pictured this stylist so vividly that the real person was disappointing. She was a tall, skinny woman with curly red hair and her dark eyes were outlined in black. Her lips were coated with black lipstick, but she didn’t seem all that intimidating. “Ah, so you’re Katalin?” She asked me, smiling. I nodded briefly. “Ok. I’ll take it from here Ellie. Toodles!” She gestured at Ellie to leave, smiling politely. Ellie seemed almost in awe. “I’m sure that isn’t.. Necessary. Well. I’ll let you both get on.” She said, sniffing a little and walking out.
The door slammed and instantly, my stylist changed tact. She loosened her bun so it was falling on her shoulders, shaking her head like a lion. Then she smiled and pushed me into a black chair. She assembled her tools (of torture) and opened her bag, bringing out a large mirror. I wondered how she fit it inside.
Firstly she stroked my straight black hair with a brush, teasing the strands gently. When it was tidy and she’d assessed every strand, this strange woman piled it up into an elegant bun, wrapping a white ribbon around it. I watched as I was transformed, as she applied smoky eyeshadow to my lids, lengthened my lashes, applied bright red lipstick to my lips.
Then it was onto my outfit. She rummaged in a large wardrobe and pulled out a beautiful black dress that puffed out at the skirt, and when I put it on, I have to say, I looked ok.
“Darling you look like a beautiful, elegant black swan!” My stylist told me, admiring my dress. I smiled wryly and patted the skirt of my dress. “Now for the shoes!” I widened my eyes in fear, thinking she was going to force me to clomp about in my interview with Ellie’s twelve inch stilettos. “Don’t worry,” She told me reassuringly, “they’re kitten heels.”
Indeed they were, but those black shoes with a small heel still looked daunting. I swallowed and pushed them on. I slowly stood up, taking the smallest step forward. It was ok, but I was still worried for the interview. “You’re going to be a star in no time, little swan.”
How right she was, just not quite in the way she expected.
“No you idiot, you’ve got to be charming. Or is that too hard for you?” Damon flung up his arms in a wild frenzy. “Perhaps you need to just play a different character.” Ellie compromised, perched on the edge of the mauve sofa. “Different character! We’ve tried funny, moody, brooding, sexy, charming, cheerful, everything, and no results. She’s about as characteristic as a piece of tarmac. I’m off.” Damon yelled, gulping from a flask and then storming off, giving me a last look of disgust. “Wait, Damon!” Ellie trotted after him, walking awkwardly because of her high heels. I sighed and lay on the sofa, rubbing my forehead. “Why don’t you try again, but this time, being yourself?” Came a sudden voice. I recognized it. My stylist, Luna. “I doubt it’ll work. Apparently Damon compares me to a piece of tarmac, personality wise.” I say, opening my eyes. “Listen to me. You have plenty of personality, let’s be honest- Damon is just a grump. Don’t believe what he says. Well, a majority of it.” Luna tells me, sitting down next to me. I sat up and sighed. “Ok, shall we practise?” She smiled, giving a small wink. “You bet.”
So we practised, practised and practised, and, eventually, a new me dredged itself up to the surface. A true me, a confident me. I had a little hope for the interview now.
For some reason, I enjoyed training. Maybe because it wasn’t too hard, maybe because I talked to the boy a lot. I still didn’t know his name. We talked about a lot, our past, what we want our future to be like, but of course, we always avoided the ghastly subject of the terrifying present.
More than a few times I just gazed at him, trying to work out who he is. “Hey Kat, do you know how to um.. Do this knot?” He usually asked me, breaking the haze and bringing me back to the reality. “Oh yeah.” I would almost certainly reply, tying the knot as a demonstration.
Sometimes I would catch him staring at me, his green eyes locked on mine. Sometimes I would feel as if our surrounding didn’t exist, as if it was just him and me that existed. I’d never felt this way before, not even with Matt. I should have felt guilty, but for some reason, I didn’t. I was probably going to die in a few weeks, so why couldn’t I be allowed to feel this way?
“You know,” he said one day, “If.. If you survive this, Kat, will you promise to go back to my family? Protect them? I guess it’s my dying wish.” I placed a hand on his shoulder. “Who says you’re not gonna win? You’re just as good as the rest of us. Yeah, if anyone should be making death wishes, it’s me.” I said, smiling dryly. He widened his eyes. “What? Kat, are you kidding me? I’m gonna die on the first day, I’m pathetic compared to the rest of us. I wrap birthday presents for a living, for god’s sake!” He said, a sudden rage in his eyes that I’d never seen before. Before I could reply, Ellie walked over to me. “Oh darling, darling, who is this?” She asked me in a high pitched tone, pointing at him. “He’s my friend.” I said quickly. Ellie looked him up and down, then frowned. “No, no, no! Absolutely not! Follow me now to the dining room Katalin, we shall discuss this.” Ellie told me sternly, not even saying why. The boy shrugged. “Just go Kat. See you next time- as a grave.” Then he walked off.
Ellie lead me to the dining room, and, when we got there, Ellie whispered to Damon and Luna in a hushed tone, before sitting me down on a seat. “Katalin. We forbid you to talk to that boy again.” She told me, fear in her eyes. “What? Why?!”
Damon glared at me, then spoke in a stern, moody tone. “Because he’s on the other side you fool. He’s a bad guy!” I raised my eyebrows, watching as Damon turned purple. “He’s a dark rider you dunce! You’re being trained to kill his kind, not have little girly chats!”
I took a deep breath and spoke calmly. “Well, I’m going to die soon anyway, so why can’t I make a friend before I do?” There was a clatter as Ellie dropped her cutlery, her mouth a wide ‘o’ of shock. “Katalin! Don’t say things like that!” Damon stared at me with a long, lingering glare. “Going to die! We’ve been training you to live, you damn fool! I’m sick and tired of you messing around, moaning to that boy, someone you’re supposed to kill!”
I expected him to stop there, but he continued ranting, purple in the face. “You think he’s so perfect, like he trusts you, but he’s just using you to know your tactics so he can turn on you in the arena!”
“I should have known you were stupid enough to trust him, hang about like a loony when anyone with any sense would be preparing for the arena!” Finally Ellie lost it. “Damon! Stop being like this! Katalin is working very hard, and of course she’s upset, she may die and she’s just left her home and family! She’s talking to that boy because he feels the same as her, and I don’t blame her for making a friendship! Go back to your whisky, Damon.”
I stared at Ellie in shock- and even Damon looked bewildered. He muttered something under his breath and walked out of the room, clutching his bottle of drink.
Ellie smiled at me. “That was amazing, thanks.” I said gratefully.
“No problem Katalin, he just went way too far this time.” She smirks, patting her wig. She nods one last time before leaving the room. I walk down the halls to find my stylist and prepare for the interview.
I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter xx