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HG: The End of the World, Chapter Ten - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
HG: The End of the World, Chapter Ten
There is ART! Maysilee in her slutty miner costume, from The Tesseract Wrinkling Time/Silly Little Things! Yay. :excited:

I was going to do an interlude chapter, but it just wasn't working at all in this voice. So I'll do outtakes.

Meanwhile, Maysilee and Haymitch have both gotten high scores. Now, it's time to get ready for interviews.


Part Two: Allies

Chapter Ten
"I'll see you one at a time," Drake says over breakfast. "It'll take as long as it takes. Tomorrow, you'll be with your prep teams and stylists, getting to look good on Caesar's show. Today, we're going to make sure you don't come off as idiots anyway -- at least if we can. I'll start with Callan. Then Berryhill. Neither of you should be too difficult. After that, Donner. See if we can get you not to slap Caesar Flickerman. Then Abernathy. I anticipate that taking a while. Whoever's not with me is with Pelagia, learning not to slump around like cavemen. If it's possible." He shakes his head, obviously having already made his mind up on the possibility. "Callan!"

Gilla stares at her plate.

"Callan, do you have a problem?"

"What does it matter?" she asks.

"It probably doesn't, but let's make an effort. Come on."

She sighs and follows him into the other room.

Gia gives us all an awkward smile. "Now, I know most of you haven't had much of a chance to behave in formal settings. Have any of you been to a formal dance?"

Even Maysilee hasn't. Formal dances aren't exactly common in District Twelve. We dance a fair bit, but it's barefoot in the summer, usually with someone's fiddle or dulsy for a melody, and everyone clapping to keep the time. I have a feeling this won't be a useful experience for television. I can't say I've ever seen anyone go out on Caesar's stage barefoot.

"All right," Gia says. "Albinus will go over content of your interviews. I suppose he knows that considerably better than I do. Let's talk about being graceful and well-mannered…"

And so we begin another session of manners training. This one, at least, seems more useful in everyday life than the forks… if such a thing as everyday life is ever going to happen again. Maysilee gets the brunt of it -- she will need to be in high heels, so Gia requires her to move around in them all day today. She's coached much more severely than Beech and I on how to properly sit, as well. Apparently, girls are expected to know these things better than boys. Beech and I are allowed to sit comfortably, though not to slouch. Gia shows us tricks to make it seem like we're deeply engaged in whatever we're saying. She also shows us a movie about a formal ball, and has us mimic scenes from it.

Gilla comes back and Beech goes off to his session with Drake. Gilla doesn't need to wear heels, which Maysilee considers highly unfair. Gia instructs her to be cheerful and bouncy, which is about as far I can imagine from the frightened, withdrawn girl I see in front of me. This is a girl who's already given up.

"I can't," she says.

"Of course you can. Just think about it like… like…" Gia sighs. "Honey, you need to make an effort."

"Think about Sae, back at the Home," I suggest. "She'd want to see you fighting, right?"

"I guess."

"So this is just another way of fighting."

"Thank you, Haymitch," Gia says. "And he's right, honey. You give this your all."

So Gilla Callan spends what's likely to be one of the last days of her life pretending to bounce around, like she's so excited to meet a famous Capitol man that she can barely contain herself. Oddly enough, this seems to actually cheer her up.

We practice our smiles. Gilla's is supposed to be sweet, and mostly succeeds. I can't seem to get one that Gia approves of. Maysilee is shown pictures of actresses in magazines.

"Why am I supposed to be acting like... like…" Maysilee makes a gesture at the magazine, where a young actress is flirting heavily with her co-star. "Those girls don't exactly look like they'd last long in the arena. Not a very good bet, if that's what the sponsors are after."

"It sells," Drake says, bringing Beech back. "Everyone wants to feel connected to the good-looking ones. Good-looking people look like winners. They can imagine you on their television screens."

"They don't have to imagine me. I'll be right there."

"Stop arguing with me, and don't start with Caesar. Your turn."

She heads away.

"Hey, Maysilee!" I call.

"What?"

"Those spike heels would make handy weapons."

She grins. "Trust me. I'm keeping it in mind." She gives Drake a smile that is distinctly not like one from the magazines.

Drake flares his nostrils and makes a disgusted sound as he leads her into the practice room.

Maysilee's session takes much longer than Beech or Gilla's. Gia has us practice walking, and takes pictures of our facial expressions so we can see when we look silly.

I have seen maybe eleven photographs of myself -- one every year in school (Mom doesn't buy these, and I try to avoid them), then the one they showed on television last night. Add that to the parade shots, and that's more or less all the visual evidence I have that I exist. The pictures Gia is taking are silly and funny and I actually laugh at them. "Do I really do that thing with my nose when I'm thinking?" I ask, pointing to a weird sort of wrinkle. "Does it really look this dumb?"

"It doesn't last as long as the picture makes it look," she says. "But you probably want to avoid it, if you can. That'll be the exact frame the try to freeze on."

Gilla asks to have her picture taken more, and our prep session momentarily turns into goofing around, trying to make Gilla laugh. Beech picks her up and spins her around. I pull on her pigtails. We wrap her up in expensive clothes and she pretends to be a silly Capitol model.

"We do that sometimes at the Home," she says when we dump her onto the couch, wrapped in silk and draped with Gia's pearls. "Me and the other girls. We pretend we're having a fashion show. Digger painted my lips with berry juice once."

"Oh, you should tell Caesar about that. That will go over very well."

"Am I allowed to talk about Haymitch's girlfriend?"

"If she's your friend, I don't see why not, unless Albinus told you not to talk about your friends."

She shrugs. "He said I should talk about whatever might make people feel sorry for me. What about you, Beech?"

"I'm supposed to talk about my strategy," he says carefully. I'm not sure he knew the word before today. "You know, how I'm stronger than a bunch of people I trained against, and stuff like that."

Since having the ability to toss people around like rag dolls isn't exactly a strategy, I guess he still doesn't know what it means. Beech isn't going to be much of a competitor. I hope he doesn't try anything stupid, like getting in the way of someone who may actually have a strategy. There's no way he'll get through the arena if he does that.

And that's when it really hits me: If Beech lives -- or Gilla, or Maysilee -- it means I'm dead.

It's not that I hadn't thought about it before, not that I didn't appreciate it in theory. But for the first time, looking at empty-headed Beech stumbling over his "strategy," and at Gilla wrapped up in her finery, it really hits me in the gut. If I want to live, all three of these people have to die, and Huller and Cotton, and the giant crazy girl from One. There's no way around it. Forty-seven people are going to cease to exist.

"Haymitch?" Gia says.

"I hate this Game," I say.

She looks away from me. "Let's work on your posture," she says.

Drake keeps Maysilee for well over three hours, and when she comes out, she doesn't look pleased at all. I don't have a chance to talk to her about it, because he crooks his finger at me, looking like the weight of the entire universe has just fallen on his shoulders.

I follow him into the other room.

"Sit," he says.

I sit on a hard-backed chair that looks like the ones in Caesar Flickerman's show. Drake circles around me, giving me hostile glares.

"You're never going to pull off charming," he says.

"I wasn't going to try that."

"Oh, you already have a plan. Without the advice of your mentor. Why am I not surprised?"

"I don't have a plan. I just know I'm not charming. Can you see me trying to kiss someone's hand? I'd look dumb."

He circles a few more times, then sits down across from me. "Fine. What's your strategy?"

"How can I have a strategy before I see the arena? Won't it pretty much have to change if the arena's something I'm not expecting? Or if I don't get any weapons? And even if I did have one, telling the other tributes wouldn't be very smart."

"The only thing you've got going for you is that over-active brain of yours. You're not stronger than most of them. You're decent with the knife, but you're not brilliant. The reason the judges gave you that ten is… I don't even know."

"It's because I know how to react when someone grabs me. And because I stole their steak knife."

"The point is, it's not because you're the most proficient. It's because you're clever. If you don't impress them with that, you've got nothing."

"Impress who? You already told me you're not going to get me any sponsors."

"I don't have any choice but to get all of you any sponsors I can. But I mean the other tributes. I haven't had any alliance offers for you yet."

"I don't want allies."

"That's how the Games are played."

I shrug. "I don't want to play the game."

"Then enjoy a painful death."

"What would they do? If I just… didn't play? You know… if my strategy was to stay away from the other tributes and live as long as I can."

"There are a few every year who try it. They'll force it. And if you don't play along, they'll just send something to kill you. Probably in some horrible way that they'll show live to your mother and your girl back home. Got it?"

I look away. I hadn't thought about that, either. About Mom watching me die, the way I've been watching her die for the better part of two years. About Digger seeing my body torn apart.

At least Lacklen won't see anything. Unless he's sitting on top of the television, he'll be able to just remember a red blur.

"So, in other words, I better look like I'm doing something."

"In the arena? You better actually be doing something. But we're not there yet. Let's talk about Caesar. He always tries to drag tributes around into something personal -- I have no idea why -- but you only have three minutes, so don't waste them being maudlin."

"What should I waste them being?"

"I have no idea. I've been talking to the production team back in District Twelve, and the only people who have much to say about you are your family, your girl, and the baker's kid. Seems you don't make a lot of friends there, either."

I'm somehow not surprised that the friends I've been spending time with this spring haven't exactly been coming out of the woodwork. Most of them are Maysilee's friends first.

Drake rolls his eyes and goes on. "Of course, no one's saying it outright, but the team is getting the idea that people think you're big for your britches. I guess we could use that."

I shake my head. "They don't like that I take poetry classes. Do you want me to recite poetry?"

He leans back as if I've struck him, and I think he actually almost retches. "One stanza, and I'll kill you myself."

So we start our back and forth on just what I am going to spend three minutes with Caesar Flickerman talking about. Drake nixes anything at all from home, unless Caesar absolutely won't let it go, and then I'm supposed to twist it into how I'm smart enough to beat anything. Somehow. I can talk about adapting to the arena. It might even sound threatening after the better tributes have given actual ideas about what they're going to do, though Drake doubts it.

I have no idea how long we've been at it when he finally decides that he can't do anything with me, and I'm on my own. My stomach is full, so it doesn't rumble to remind me of the time. It seems to be late, by the sun outside the windows.

The servers set out another fine meal, but I think everyone has finally reached the same conclusion I did. Getting ready for Caesar is somehow making it real.

I go to bed early and watch television with Beech. It's all Games news. People are talking about the scores, mostly. The real nonsense hasn't started yet -- the stuff they put on every year, where people wear tributes' faces on tee shirts and make up songs and dances for their favorites. Last year, there was a dance called The Brutus -- there was even a special song for it made up after the Games -- and they show Brutus himself dancing it in a Capitol club with his fans. They cut to an interview with him, where he's nearly jumping on the furniture, talking about how "primed" his tributes are, and how anyone with sense will bet on District Two early this year.

There's some talk about Maysilee and me. It's weird for District Twelve to get high scores. There's no talk about Beech or Gilla, and I decide to turn it off before it becomes too obvious that there won't be talk.

Beech manages to go to sleep, but I lie awake in the dark for a long time. I wonder if I will end up killing Beech. I don't think I could kill Maysilee or Gilla, unless I go crazy in the arena. I wonder if they could kill me.

I mentally go through the tributes I've been watching. I will steer clear of Filigree from District One unless she's seriously weakened. I don't want to kill Chaff's tributes, so I will steer clear of them, too, and hope someone else does. I think I could take the boys from Four, who are too cocky for their own good.

I decide that what I told Mom at the Justice Building is probably true -- if I start hunting people, I'll get killed.

I think about what Drake said, about them killing me with mutts or some other disgusting thing if I don't play along. I can kill mutts. I'm pretty sure about that. If I look for mutts, maybe they'll think I'm playing and not bother me with anything else.

It's not much of a strategy.

I go out a little after midnight. The television is on in the living room area. Maysilee is on the couch, watching it numbly. I sit down across from her.

"They keep showing us in the parade," she says, pointing at the television. "That stupid outfit. What's my father thinking now?"

"That you're still alive," I tell her.

"I guess." She picks at the edge of a throw pillow. "Haymitch… Drake told me to try and seduce Caesar."

"I think Caesar probably gets that so much he won't even notice."

"I don't want to. I want to talk about the shop. And the way things are in Twelve. About how I wish we weren't against each other."

"We are, though."

"I don't mean in the arena," she says. "Though I wish we weren't against each other there, either. I just… it's the last chance I'll have to say something. I wanted to be mayor so I could say things. I want to say that we shouldn't be arguing with each other all the time, and everyone should be able to do the kinds of jobs they want. And take the classes they want."

"Nobody makes us like that, Maysilee. That's the way we decided to be."

"That time at the school board meeting, when I spoke and said you should take our classes…"

"Um… thanks for that."

"It was my parents' idea. They thought everything sounds more powerful if you can get a kid to say it."

"Oh."

"Not that I wouldn't have, if I'd thought of it. Or that I didn't really want you in classes. I like having you in class. But come on -- what ten year old actually says, 'I'd like to address the school board now'? It doesn't work that way. Even if they've managed to convince themselves of it, it's really some grown-up pulling the strings." She sighs. "The point is, my parents aren't making me talk now. And I'm not going to let Drake pull my strings, either. What are they going to do… kill me more?"

"They could withhold food. They could make the mines around your platform malfunction so you die as soon as you step off. They could freeze you to death. They could keep you away from water. They could --"

"I get it, Haymitch." She watches quietly for a few minutes. They show us in the chariot. She wrinkles her nose. "Drake said he'd keep me fed through the Games if I went to his room tonight."

"You should have put one of those heels through his head."

"I would have if he'd tried to do more than talk about it. How do you like that? Four weeks ago, I was talking about nonviolence. Now, I'm figuring out how to kill people with a pair of expensive shoes."

I smile. "Maybe I should be glad you won't have heels in the arena. Unless it's a formal ballroom. I don't think they've done that. Put everyone in a big ballroom in tuxedos and gowns, and see what we can do to each other without ever being rude."

"I'm not going to kill you, Haymitch," she says, apropos of nothing.

"What?"

"That's just a given. I'm not going to kill you. I promise."

"I… I probably won't kill you, either. But what if it comes down to us?"

"It won't. Not a chance." She grins. "A ballroom arena, huh? 'Oh, dear, pardon me for just a moment while I borrow the salad fork to kill the other guests. Hors d'oeuvre, darling?'"

"Oh, I couldn't eat another bite," I say. "I wish the orchestra would speed up. This slow tempo doesn't make it easy to stomp people to death. Especially since we don't get the heels."

"Well, I'm sure they'd give you watch chains or something. And you could use the bow tie as a noose."

"And we could hit each other with gloves, like in Gia's movie."

"Dip them in poison first, for the Games."

"Right."

She smiles wearily. "Do you think they'll show interviews from home?"

"Not where we can still see them," I say. "I bet they're showing everywhere else, but this is a separate feed."

"How do you know?"

"No commercials."

"Oh. Right."

We don't talk more. She falls asleep on her end of the couch and I fall asleep on mine, and when we wake up in the morning, we're both too stiff to properly walk around in our formal clothes. Annoyed, Drake orders up people to give us massages. Maysilee waggles her eyebrows like this was all in some plan.

While we're doing this, the stylists meet up with Beech and Gilla and send them on to their preps. They come back dolled up like rich Capitol kids. Gilla's in a fluffy silver dress with sparkly black stones on it. Beech is wearing a sharp suit a black velvet jacket. Both of them have the lamplights from our miners' hats on the costume somewhere -- Gilla's is on a bracelet, and Beech's is a lapel pin. The lights don't look any less stupid in this setting.

Maysilee and I are whisked off for prep next. I get another thorough washing, though not as painful as the first one. About halfway through, Lepidus arrives, looking alarmed, and experts are called in to look at my mouth. Three of my teeth are declared too revolting for national television, and someone comes in and pulls them, replacing them with new teeth. This is apparently nothing unusual. My mouth is numbed, making me worry about talking, but as soon as they're done, they shoot something else into me, and everything works fine, though my jaw is killing me.

Once this major crisis is averted, they return to moisturizing and make-up. I'm dusted with some kind of powder which will keep me from washing out under Caesar's lights. Igerna tells me that it's harder with boys than with girls, because they have to make sure we don't look like we're wearing makeup, even though we have to if we're going to be seen at our best.

They present me with a suit that looks different from Beech's. No velvet for me.

"Everyone just loved that shirt you wore for the reaping," Fabiola says. "It's outdated, of course, but we can play with the form." Lepidus has created a black silk shirt for me, high-collared like Dad's, with buttons made of shiny black stone. "And here," she says, putting a string tie around my neck. "It's indigo. To go with your district token."

"I'm surprised Drake didn't tell you to hide it."

"He did," she says, and winks.

Medusa does something with my hair. I don't know what, exactly, though she declares herself transported with joy over the effect. I don't really see much difference in the mirror.

"Your girl was on television last night," Igerna says. "She's cute as a little button!"

Fabiola clears her throat and Igerna quickly retreats.

"I'm sorry," Fabiola says. "We aren't allowed to talk to you about what's on television. Igerna knows that."

I stare at myself in the mirror. "Can you just tell me if they talked to my mom? If she's coughing, or if she looks all right?"

Fabiola looks around carefully. "She seems okay. Don't you worry about her."

I don't ask any more questions. I don't want to get them into trouble. But I want to know more. I think abruptly of home -- of Lacklen and his traps, of Mom up all night coughing, of Digger kneeling in front of the fire at the Justice Building.

I understand why they're not supposed to talk to us about this kind of thing, why it's not on the feed into the training center. I want to get out of the fancy clothes, go into my room, and hide until everything is over. Maybe take some of the wine they're not bringing to the table anymore, and just go fuzzy-headed for a while. I wonder if that's how Dad felt sometimes. Better to be fuzzy headed than to see straight on -- the cough that's getting worse and worse, the sons dragging themselves to school in rags…

I shake my head. If I'm ever going to get home, I can't afford to think about home. Not if it does this.

They finish with me. Instead of going back to the apartment, we go to the lobby in the training center. It's already quite crowded, and I see white-uniformed Peacekeepers standing by. I wonder if someone's afraid we'll all get together and make a run for it. Given that they've been training us to kill people for a week, we might actually be able to do it, with all forty-eight of us.

Not that anyone seems inclined to do it.

The preps bring me to the District Twelve team. Everyone is dressed up now, even Gia, Drake, and the stylists. I guess I remember seeing the mentors and stylists in shots on television before, though I don't usually pay attention. Maysilee, thankfully, is wearing a perfectly normal dress -- shiny blue. Kind of tight, but nothing bad. Her pin is on the cowl. Drake is frowning at it, but doesn't say anything.

The cars are waiting in a line by district, so as usual, we're last. Gia makes a point of waiting for Drake to open the door politely for her, and we take the hint. Making a fuss over the girls is at least something to think about.

The ride is not long. In fact, I see some of the mentors, including Chaff, walking along a guarded path parallel to us. We are not given such a big chance.

The Capitol is twinkling around us at twilight, big screens playing our departure live. I watch our car as it moves along beside the screen I'm watching it on. We're high up in the city, and as I look down, I can see other huge screens dotting the cityscape. We're everywhere.

The car ducks down beneath what I guess is the studio, and we're let out. They explain the procedure to us -- three minutes each with Caesar, don't interrupt each other. Anyone who tries to make a political statement will be cut from the order and lose a chance for the sponsors to see him.

Maysilee pulls her hair over her pin.

We go up to the stage. The show is starting.
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Comments
sonetka From: sonetka Date: August 15th, 2013 07:06 am (UTC) (Link)
A ballroom Games? That could make for some interesting promos: "Tonight ... Maysilee Donner administers the cut direct to a rival!" I'm really curious about what Maysilee will say during her interview, and Gilla and Beech also -- poor kids, it's pretty obvious even to them that they're not the D12 kids anyone will be interested in. How awful is it when you don't even get a starring role in your own death?

I kind of saw where Drake was coming from at first, but trying to get Maysilee to sleep with him for food ... ugh. I wonder how often that kind of stunt gets pulled. Of course, Drake's probably been on the receiving end of some pretty bad business himself.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 15th, 2013 08:24 am (UTC) (Link)
When you really get up to speed in Polka or Quickstep, collisions can cause a decent amount of damage!

Drake has been in the system for a while. While it's obvious these people have few moral qualms about the rampant sexual exploitation of children, I wonder if any of them even comprehend that this is even a subject about which qualms are had. How many people, other than Snow and the victims themselves, recognize that these children are harmed in any meaningful way? I suppose that if the _murder_ of 23 children on national television is the Television Event of the Summer, mere child prostitution must not merit attention.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 16th, 2013 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)
There's a point where I don't think they do realize that there are qualms. Katniss is more annoyed than outraged by the way Cray treats girls in 12, and I think she's mostly outraged about Finnick because he's not given a choice.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 16th, 2013 02:38 am (UTC) (Link)
It would certainly give a whole new meaning to "cut direct," wouldn't it?

I'm guessing that Drake probably figures he's had to do this bullshit, so everyone else should, too.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 15th, 2013 01:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
This chapter breaks my heart in so many ways. Gilla and her certainty that she is about to die and the others trying to make her laugh. And Beech's cluelessness, which is going to get him killed. And the friendship developing between Maysilee and Haymitch. And Haymitch's grasp of the awful reality of the situation. You are doing a great job of showing how Haymitch becomes the person we meet in Suzanne Collins's books. Your stories are canon to me to the point where if I'm talking about the books with someone else I sometimes have to stop and ask myself if something is from your stories or the original books.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 16th, 2013 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)
The two "extra" D12 tributes are hard to write, because I know they don't get far, but they're real people, as much as any of the others.
beceh From: beceh Date: August 16th, 2013 02:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah same, I was re-reading Mockingjay a few months ago, looking for the part where Peeta talks about watching Ceasar's brains get splattered... oh, that was Fern :)
redrikki From: redrikki Date: August 15th, 2013 01:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really liked the parallel here between Haymitch's interview strategy session with Drake and his later one with Katniss. Nice touch that. The rest of this is just heartbreaking, far more so than Katniss's version of the run-up to the games, if only because Haymitch is far more aware of what it really means for the other kids in a way she never was.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 16th, 2013 02:40 am (UTC) (Link)
I was getting leery about how close it was coming out, but then again, those two share a brain, so it was bound to be pretty similar.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 16th, 2013 10:46 am (UTC) (Link)

Ummm...

I twigged to that as soon as Drake called Maysilee "Sweetheart."

Sara Libby
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 16th, 2013 10:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ummm...

Rats, on re-reading that for the fifth time, it seems you mean that Haymitch and Katniss share a brain rather than Haymitch and Drake. My bad. Still weirded me when Drake did that -- not because he was being creepy to Maysilee but because he sounded like post-games Haymitch.

Sara Libby
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: September 5th, 2013 07:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved the D12 kids playing dress up with Gilla. At least the poor thing got to laugh on her last day of life. Maysilee should have stuck her heel through Drake's head . . . what a jerk.

I feel for Haymitch. He's realized the worst part of the Games. Even when it isn't a Peeta/Katniss situation, the kids from the same district know each other and usually probably like each other. *sigh*
12 comments or Leave a comment