1 How it Began (Talon)

I laugh nervously when she asks the question during our little game of Truth-not-Dare when we're camping together. "My first kiss? Why do you care?" I say, not wanting to speak of it to her. She won't let up, insisting that I tell her all about it. I think of lying and saying that the first kiss we ever shared was my first one ever, but she won't believe that. She knows all about my history with other girls. There's absolutely no way that I can talk out of this, because this is Mari I'm talking to. Even if I managed to avoid the question now, she'd ask it again later and I'd be forced to answer. I know that I have to follow the rules of the game and tell the truth.

After a reluctant sigh, I begin weaving the tale. The scene plays in my mind like a movie clip, except I'm seeing everything from my eyes. Her straight, brown hair that glistened in the rain. Her black-brown eyes, inviting me toward her. Freckles that reminded me of the bright stars that lit the night sky on a clear night, unlike the stormy skies above us then. Her name comes back to mind, and I realized that I haven't thought of Cianna in months, maybe years.

I don't want to mention all of that to Mari though. Although she hasn't admitted it, I'm pretty sure that I'm her first love, and I want to also be her last. She doesn't like to think of the other girls she knows that I've dated, and so for her sake, I keep the story to a simple description. 

"It was a rainy day. After school, I walked her home, saying that it was just so that I could use her umbrella, although she knew that was a lie. We kissed just a few paces from her house, and when I put my hand on hers, she dropped the umbrella and let the rain soak our hair and clothes."

She doesn't seem pleased at me recalling the memory, not liking that I've ever loved anyone besides her. I have to say, it was a pleasant memory, but the memory of Mari's first kiss is much fonder. I tell her so, and she kisses me briefly, making the memory of that kiss wash over me like a wave.

She had fallen asleep next to my friend Marek, and I was thinking it would be funny to show him how close she was getting to him later, so I got out my phone and started taking pictures. It was downright hilarious, until she woke up and saw me. She chased me down the hall, yelling curse words that were aimed at me, but I was running too fast to try to figure out any sort of reply. Eventually I came to a dead end, and she pinned me against the wall, demanding that I give her my phone so she can delete the pictures, but there was no way that was going to happen. She knows I'm too stubborn for that now... but now I wouldn't have taken the pictures of her in the first place. I felt her body pressed up against mine, and I swear, shivers ran down my back. I looked down at her face, turned on, and kissed her. She tensed up, surprised by this, but when I wrapped my arms around her she seemed to melt into me. We could have stayed that way forever, or gone a little further and had some fun, but Luna suddenly appeared next to us, looking enraged. That's a story for a different time though.

Mari clears her throat, bringing me back to the present, and asks what the question she has to answer is, and all of my thoughts of epic kisses leave me.

2 Darkness (Danica)

Everyone always asks about my story. "Danica, why are you always so mean? Danica, how did dying feel? Danica why do you hate Excel so much? And why would you like Nick of all people?" Well, you people can shut your bratty little faces. I'm writing it down, so no one will ever ask again. If you do.... just don't.

It all started a long time ago...

When Aven was reaped, my family fell apart. My mom was suicidal, Talon, Terri and I had to work overtime at the Slaughterhouse and my Aunt got sick. Really sick. Watching Aven, my only sister, die sent me into a state of depression. I could barely get up to eat, much less go to school or have a social life. I saved up my energy for weeks so that I could go to the reaping, only because I knew that I had to. I'd always been some what talented at acting, so it was easy to appear sweet and charming like my old self. No one had seen me in a while, so all of my old friends were really chatty. It didn't matter that much though, because they were also really nervous, so the moment our Escort stepped up onto that stage they all shut their mouths. When my name was called, my mask slipped for a moment, but luckily it wasn't long enough for the cameras to find me in the mob of people. I stepped forward with a stony expression, ready and actually a little excited to take out my anger on actual people, and get over with this depressing thing called life.

Everything was a drag (minus the Chariot ride incident... now that was interesting, but it has nothing to do with anything) up until the training sessions. I remembered from the last Pain Games that Aven had allied with the boy from District 11, so out of curiosity I studied the boy that was reaped this year. He was handsome, I'll admit, and I found out that he was actually a close friend of the boy that avenged and died for my sister. I became more interested, and I got up the nerve to actually talk to him. He was like me, sullen, mad, and ready to avenge his friend Ford. We agreed on an alliance, to honor the one our loved ones had last year, and surprisingly, many other people wanted to join and we acquired quite a large group. I found myself getting myself up in the morning instead of being dragged, and my thoughts turned to Nick often, but I dismissed it. Who knows, maybe the sugar in my food's lifting my spirits?

We trained together often, and I realized that if I was going to die, I was glad it would be by Nick's side. I still wasn't planning on going back home, but I was warming up to that thought. After all, that is where all of my loved ones live, right? Suddenly, I had motivation besides anger and revenge. I had hope, which was much more dangerous then anger and revenge combined.

The games started and everything went pretty smoothly for a while. It felt good to be outside in the fresh air instead of locked up in that musty old training room. Nick and I spend every moment together, and when the alliance split, we went our separate ways together. (If that makes sense) At one point, Nick and I tracked the Careers for a while and I killed one right before he was about to stab my friend and past ally, Mollaine. The fight heated up fast a-and... N-Nick jumped up to tackle Excel... but Excel st-stabbed him... and h-he could barely m-move. In that moment I knew how much I loved him, so I rushed over to his side but was relieved when I saw he was just wounded. That night, we got some medicine for him from a sponsor, and if it possible for me to love the Capitol, I did then. 

The volcano erupted the next morning, and even though Nick's leg was still wounded, we all ran through the forest as fast as we could. Mollaine was sprinting and she was yards ahead of the two of us. I ran slower to try to help Nick, but with his wound he couldn't do it. He fell to his knees, literally crawling toward us on the beach. I tried to go back to help, but in that instant Mollaine fell, staring at me with the blank grey eyes that will haunt me forever. Cariettum was standing behind her with a malicious grin on her features, and she threw a knife back at Nick who was engulfed in lava before the knife had a chance to end it for him. 

Enraged and heartbroken by watching my love die so terribly, I took out my knives and threw them all with deadly accuracy back at the girl who had just destroyed my allies. Head, chest, and neck, and then it was all over for her. At the time, I'd wished the same for myself. I'd come into these games ready to kill and be killed, but meeting himchanged everything. A-And now.... he's gone....

Only 3 people left though. Myself, that random guy from 8, and Excel. I knew Excel because he was the smallest Career I've ever seen, and his features were almost permanantly twisted into either a scowl or an unnerving grin. He was friends with the bitch that killed him. He has to die. 

As all of these thoughts were passing through my head I was running as fast as I could, away from the dead bodies of my friends and enemies. I ran until I collapsed onto my knees, and finally the tears started coming. I couldn't get the image of his face while the knife was flying towards him and his legs were being eaten by liquid fire. He seemed to be trying to call for help, but most of all he looked scared. Scared of the pain of being turned to ashes, scared of leaving everyone he ever met, scared of dying. My thoughts accompanied this image of him with pressing thoughts. He's dead. He's dead and you didn't save him. You didn't even help. 

I cried myself to sleep, knowing that I had to win, for him.

The next morning I wandered around aimlessly, wondering when they would get bored and send in something else to torture us. I realized that now I was the only girl left, which could be good or bad. It could be good sponsor-wise, but if the Gamemakers try to single us out for differences then I'm pretty much screwed. 

Suddenly, I heard a rustle in the bushes. I approached it, knives drawn, expecting it to be one of the other remaining tributes. Instead I was staring back at the all too familiar grey eyes of... Mollaine? I let a small scream escape my lips, which I instantly knew was a mistake. My enemies are searching for me. The creature reveals itself by screaming along with me, and now I can clearly see that it's a monkey in Mollaine's likeness. It tilts it's head, not looking at all hostile, but I'm not about to take my chances. I don't have time to do anything though.

The boy from 8 jumps out of the bushes, ready to attack. I realize that I'll have to kill him now and tears fill my eyes, because then Excel or I will have to live and neither seems like a very good option. I throw a knife at his heart, but my vision was clouded with tears and it misses his heart by inches. I shake the tears out of my eyes, knowing now is not the time for them. He charges toward me with a sword and I let him get close enough to touch before I plunge my small concealed dagger into his heart and he falls to the ground, stunned and lifeless.

I didn't even have time to step away from the body before I heard a slow, almost mocking clap. District 1 thinks they're so great. I whirl around do face him, ready to be over with this. Either way, I'm fine with the outco-

An Image of Aven appears in my mind for the first time in months. It makes me want to avenge her, so she didn't die pointlessly. Then Terri appears. She's so kind, she has the weight of the world on her shoulders, and no one else to help her carry it without me. Talon now. He got in fights often even with my supervision & advice, so now he'll constantly have bruises, maybe scars. Cathy. So tiny and naive, too young to understand that her family has all been sentenced to death for no reason except for what our ancestors did, too young to realize that we lived in horrible conditions and to realize that Aven is never coming back. And now... if I lose... neither am I...

A burst of strength surges through me. I have to win. For all of them. And to avenge Mollaine and Nick.... just thinking of his name makes me warm but at the same time makes me want to collapse and cry. I can't though, because the cameras are all trained on me. Weakness isn't an option, so I stand up straight and look Excel in the eye.

"Very good. Now its just you and me, Cowgirl." He says with an evil glint in his eye. What nerve! We're the last two people in the whole arena and he didn't even bother to find out my name. "My name is Danica." I say, and I grab the dead boy's sword and charge at him, wanting his body dead at my feet. 

The battle started -and... I-I can't tell this story any more.... most of you know what happened anyway...

3 I can't believe myself... (Talon)

What did I just do?!

I knew I shouldn't have talked to Annabeth. She reminded me of Mari too much, too much...

And now she's gone. Not Anna. Mari.

Her lips felt so good against mine, so right. They felt like Mari's and I hadn't felt her lips in so long. Or seen her...

I drove her away. I knew she would leave if I said the words but I said them anyway.

What is wrong with me!? 

I don't know what happens. Whenever we argue... I just... something happens to me.

Maybe it's a medical condition, and fighting with her makes me sick.

Either way, that's how I feel now. Sick.

I'm afraid I've gone too far now... That everything combined is too much for her, for us.

It very well might be. I left her, watched her 'die', then didn't help her when her mind and actions were being controlled by them, and then I left her again. And when she finally came to join me here, my lips were on someone else.

I would hate me too.

No, not everything's my fault. I left her for her safety. She didn't really die, just got halfway to Albion before she got captured, altered, and brought back to me. I couldn't have helped her if I tried, and I tried to get her away from the danger by coming here, but she didn't come with me. I didn't realize she wouldn't come until I had already jumped and she was left behind by her own actions. I didn't choose to put my lips on to Anna's, her's met mind and they felt so much like Mari's that I couldn't pull away...

Until Mari was there.

Her hair was blowing in the wind from the sky deck but her expression shot daggers at me. If looks could kill, I would have died that day. She held a vase and asked me for a good reason not to smash it over my head. I had none, but I was so glad to see her that I just kissed her, and she dropped the vase, taking the kiss for an answer. 

She still wanted to kill Annabeth though, who hadn't done anything wrong. I told her to quit it and it escalated to the point of her storming away, and I hvent seen her since.

Why did I do that?! I spoke the words with the intention to hurt her. She deserves someone better then me...

4 Breathe (Aven)

It's official. I've gone insane. There's no other explanation for my thoughts. It's understandable that I miss him, but this has gone too far.... 

I sigh and stand up, crumpling the piece of paper I was writing on and throwing it into the fire. Anger-writing is a fantastic stress reliever. After scrawling on that paper and pouring out my emotions, incicurities, fears, losses, frustrations and everything in between, I feel much better. Still, something remains. A feeling much like dread and loss that I don't think will ever go away.  

I collapse onto my bed and ask myself the question for the millionth time; Why? It must've been my fault. Maybe it was the argument we had.... It seemed like he'd gotten over it at the time, but maybe he was still mad. Nick did tell me he was suicidal and I didn't even know it, so he could have easily hidden anger from me.. 

I'm mad. Furious. Enraged. I mean, he didn't tell me, out of all people, that he was severely depressed!? I mean, I knew his life was sad, but the way he acted, it seemed like he was fine. Why wouldn't he tell me!? I is, or was, his girlfriend, for crying out loud. We spent enormous amounts of time together. I should've known. I feel terrible that I couldn't even figure it out without Nick giving it away. He said Ford didn't die just because he missed me, but because he didn't want to face the world any longer. Considering his background, I don't know if I can blame him for that, but I sure as hell can blame him for not telling me the whole story. 

These days, even saying his name is hard. Whenever I hear it I think of the questions, the wonders, but even worse, I remember the time we spent together. Visiting our homes. Kissing. Dancing. Going out to eat. That is the Ford I remember, and is the Ford I'm still in love with. That's the Ford I will always be in love with. 

There's another bothering scenario, aside from the times I spent with him. You see, he was one of the four past tributes who were voted to be brought back into the realm of the living and to participate in the 3rd Games, and I've been watching them. My sister and my cousin are both in them as well, along with some good friends, so I'm not watching them only to see Ford, but that's mostly why. I nearly drowned in my own tears when he died again, but I wanted to snap Fili's neck at the same time. She mourned for him only in the way a lover could, and since I'm not actually alive, there's nothing I can do about it. 

It makes me sick. 

None of those reasons account for the hole in my chest where my heart should be. Oh no, that wound was created when Ford left. One day, just out of the blue, he was gone. So was all of his stuff, and his close friends, Nick and Jarred left too. I want to believe that something happened to them, that they just couldn't make it home one day and that they'll be back, that they're safe, that they're on their way, that Ford misses me, but I don't believe it. I know in my hole of a heart that he's gone, and he's not ever coming back. 

I roll over in my bed, pressing my face into the pillow. Maybe I'll get lucky and it'll suffocate me. That'd be a quick, painless way to die. I don't think I could handle much more pain. I shake my head at myself and allow myself to breathe.





I keep having thoughts like this one. They're not rare occouraces. I don't know what that means, but it's not good. It's not like me. I'm not like me though. So much has changed. So much change, I feel as if I'm drowning in it...

I have to remember to breathe.

5 Nightmares (Talon)

I pace around the room, not knowing what to do. Mari, the love of my life, has been having flashbacks. From her childhood. I start hyperventilating, the nervousness that comes with me not being able to help her almost choking me.

Now, most people would think "Oh, that'd be great! I'd remember days of basking in the sunlight and skipping around, playing dumb games. Not her though. I've only known her for a few years, but she's told me enough about her past for me to know that it wasn't pleasant. In fact, bad would be a gross understatement.

My past was pretty bad as well, and I haven't even told her my whole story. I feel like it's a burden I need to carry alone.

Anyway, the flashbacks have been haunting her lately. She goes into an odd, other-worldly like state that exists in the part of her brain where fear dwells. I can sort of tell what she's reliving whenever she goes into that place. Her mother's death, her reaping, Cirena's death, Her own death, my death, my leaving her alone in that area, and even more stuff after she was resurrected. Killing my ex out of jealousy. Being raped by Excel. Tortured by Troy. Hurt even more in District 10 because she was pregnant with my child. I hate myself for causing her so much of this pain.

Suddenly, she opens her eyes on the couch where she's laying. There's a lot of sweat on her forehead. I wipe it away and lean close to her, trying to stay calm, and reassuring her that I'm still here. She reaches out for me and I take her hand, holding on to it with a reassuringly firm grasp. She opens her mouth to say something, but before the words can escape her lips she returns to the state of fear she's been living in. Her body shakes violently as she thrashes around, trying to escape her own mind. I wrap my arms around her, keeping her still, and press her against the soft cushions of the couch, preventing her from accidentally hurting herself.

I curl up against her, wishing that she was really here. My own memories are returning and a single tear creeps down my cheeks without permission. I've gotten so good at forgetting over the years, but this just brings it all back. I press my nose into Mari's hair, and the smell helps bring me back to reality. I can't abandon her now. I have to help her as much as possible now.

She twitches again, and I'm gone too. I 'm lying on the ground of a field, but it's prickly instead of soft. I try to open my eyes, but I can't. My eyelids have become far too heavy to open. I feel a warm, soft hand on my arm which I instantly identify as Mari's. The warmth of her hand makes me notice that my usual warmth has been replaced with cold. I'm so cold. Why am I cold? I hear sobs and realize that Mari's crying. "No. no. Please no." she says.

She must be crying because I must be... d-dead.

I hear a laugh and Mari shouts "You... Y-You did this!"

"No, you did. All by yourself. Must I say, you've made a mess. Truly your dream escape isn't all you wanted, is it? "Maybe you should re plan your next dream escape better." the other person replies.

My head's spinning. Not literally, but you know what I mean. I'm inside of her dream? No, he said dream escape. What does he mean, she made a mess? Surely she didn't kill me. If she did, why would she be sobbing over me now? She wouldn't. The guy must be misinformed. God, I wish I could see.

She screams, and I wish I could comfort her. I hear a thud and start to panic, worried that something happened to Mari, when my limbs start moving. I'm relieved at first, glad to be alive again, but it's back to panicking when I realize I still have no control over them. It's like I'm possessed. All I can do is think.

Someone else laughs, and I recognize Cianna's voice. Why is she here? It must be because Mari's guilty about killing her. The laugh turns into an agonizing scream and then ends with a thud.

Suddenly, my eyes open, and I get to take in my environment. The field's brown, and there are bodies everywhere. They, like me, are all getting up from the ground, like zombies. Mariette, beautiful as ever, throws knives that appear our of nowhere at each and every one of them. I struggle to run over to her, but I can't. I just watch as she kills them all off, one by one, and then turns to see me. I want to run to her, to touch her, to kiss her. I wait for the knife to reach my body, to die once again, but it doesn't. Instead Mari looks at me as if I'm an object that she dearly wants but can't have.

My lips move and words come out without my permission. "What's wrong, afraid to kill me?" I ask snidely.

She tries to drop the knife, but it's as if it's attached to her. It won't fall to the ground.

"Running away doesn't help Mariette. It makes it worse. Leaving me to lie is just as bad as running away. Why don't you just kill me? Get it over with" I say.

"N-No... I can't..." She says, looking scared. Of herself or of me, I can't tell.

I struggle to break free from whatever is possessing me, but it's near impossible. I fight it and fight it, and suddenly, it looses. I run forward and kiss her, pulling the knife out of her hand, remembering how she had tried to drop it earlier. She kisses me back in that moment, and I loose myself in her eyes, even though they're closed.

In that exact moment, whatever possesses me returns. It takes the knife and stabs her in the stomach. I want to cry out, to help her, but it's much stronger then me now. It looks down at her and says smugly "Should've killed me when you had the chance." It turns me around and begins walking away. I hear Mari grab something behind me and feel a sharp blade digging into the base of my neck and I want to scream and cry, knowing that I'm going to die yet again. Red fills my vision, then black.

I wake up, breathing hard, and see that Mari's still locked away in the other dimension in my arms. I jump away from her and race downstairs, my death too fresh in my memory. I know she killed me, and I understand why, but it's still a lot to take in.

Mari will have to deal with her nightmares by herself for now, because I feel some of my own coming on.

6 Visions (Talon)

I smile as I feel Mari's soft touch on my skin. She's wrapped around me, and I'm wrapped around her. We hold each other together. She buries her head into my chest in her sleep and I stroke her hair, loving the smooth feel it always has. 

She twitches slightly and suddenly, it's not Mari I'm holding but Cianna. I remember her forceful touch, the roughness of her skin that formed after growing up in the rough part of 10, even the way the light danced on her eyes when she gave me her seductive look.

The memory is so vivid, so real, that I feel almost trapped within my own mind. It makes me wish for things I'm no longer allowed to want. 

Cianna twitches and now I'm sitting next to Macey. She was never one for cuddling or kissing, so we just sat on a fence most of the time and talked. In this memory, she's laughing at me, her hair flowing to her left because of the breeze. 

One by one, they all come back. It's not as many as people say, but there's still enough to keep the memories flowing. Even Seb and Saffron are there. Once they all run out, I prepare to re enter reality at last and return to my Mari, but they don't stop. Now, I'm entering a daydream.

I'm lying on a grassy hill, when I hear shouts in the distance. I get up and run toward the mob of familliar faces, sensing something's wrong. Once I'm a bit closer, I can tell that my exes are all surrounding a post, screaming nasty things at the person tied to it. I push through the croud, trying to figure out what's going on, when I see Mari's face.

Her eyes are squeezed shut, tears forming a steady stream down her cheeks. Her arms and legs have red marks on thema where she's gotten rope burn from pulling so tightly at her bonds, and she's bleeding openly.

I try to reach her, to free her, but the shock from seeing her in the state she's in sends me hurling toward the ground. I look back and see that I tripped on Saffron's outstretched leg, and she smiles ominously down at me. I push myself up off of the ground, struggling to reach Mari, when straps erupt out of the earth, pulling me downward.

I can only watch as my former lovers beat Mari to a pulp.

I fight for a way up, but more straps leap out of the ground, not allowing any movement whatsoever. I feel my immobile limbs being kicked, but it doesn't cause any more pain then watching Mari's blood drip on the ground, on the flowers that dot the meadow, on my face. She screams my name desperately, but I cannot call back with the mix of her blood and tears filling my mouth, suffocating me. 

Suddenly, It's not her being beaten on a pole, but me. I watch as every one of the people I once loved hit me so hard my vision goes red, sending scarlet liquid squirting everywhere. I can bare this part far more easily than I can watch Mari get torn to shreds, so I just face forward and accept the wounds.

Everything is fine until Mari joins them. She grins maliciously, tracing my every feature with her razor sharp knives. Pieces of my flesh litter the ground and she pulls out a lighter. I scream in terror, my voice sounding not unlike a wounded animal's as she slowly burns me. My feet curl and crumple, flaking to the ground as ashes. She moves the fire up my body slowly, seeming to enjoy the twitchy spasms that consume my body. I thrash around viciously, hoping to free my self, but to no avail. Even if I did manage it, it would be pointless. I could never get away from her.

She wraps her legs around my ruined being, causing daggers of pain to shoot through me. She bites my lip the same way she has many times before, only this time she doesn't let go until I no longer have lips, seeing as they've been ripped away. She grins down at me evilly and burns my face. The only sound I can hear is a long, drawn out, inhuman scream, which I vaguely think might be coming from what used to be my face until black consumes everything and the pain drains away.

My eyes open once again, and instantly I know that I'm not yet awake. This place is too perfect for the waking world. I'm on top of a beautiful mountain, with the prettiest view that I've ever had, stretching miles in every direction and the most perfect sunset streaks the sky with colors like orange, purple and pink. I sit on a rock and admire the scenery for a few minutes when I hear heavy breathing. Cyan blue nails that connect to a perfect, tanned hand appear on the edge of the mountain. I peer over the edge and find myself staring into the blue-green eyes of my one and only love. 

I surprise even myself by crushing her hand with the heel of my foot, remembering only the Mari who burned.

Without a handhold, she topples head over heels down the mountain. Rocks open gashes on her legs, chest, and face. I flinch when I see her eye beginning to bleed, the crimson liquid staining the rocks around her. She looks up at me, eyes pleading for help, and all I want to do is dive down the mountainside to save her.

I feel claws on my neck and head that stop me from jumping. Instead, they shove my head down, closer to her, so I can watch her suffering. "Enjoy it while it lasts.* a voice whispers into my ear. I recognize the voice as my own, and something down inside of me forces me to obey. My features settle into a grin as I recognize the evil gripping my heart but that's not even the worst part.

The worst part is that I love it.

I'm back in my room, holding Mari again. For a moment, I can't distinguish if this is reality or yet another vision, so I tense up, afraid. After a few quiet moments I realize that I'm awake, and Mari is safe, and my body is intact.

I tremble and release Mari, feeling the emotions that were disturbed by the visions beginning to boil over. I bite my lip to contain a sob and close my eyes to trap the tears that threaten to spill over. I feel my defenses beginning to break so I shift, making it so Mari will have a hard time seeing my face if she wakes up. I feel a smooth hand on my shoulder and realize that she already has.

"Talon? Talon, why did you let go?" she whispers, sounding sweeter than ever.

All I want to do is turn around and embrace her, apologizing for all of my twisted thoughts. Instead I bury my face in the pillow, hoping she doesn't notice my trembling hands and tensed body. 

She doesn't keep asking, instead massaging my shoulders and pulling me closer to her. I feel her hands reach for mine and I clench them shut, trying to control the uncontrolable shivering in them, but to no avail. Mari holds both of my clenched fists in her hands without attempting to force me to unclench them. All she does is hold me, unsleeping, for the rest of the night. By the time light begins to stream though the windows and I feel myself slipping into the clutches of a deep sleep, she utters 4 words that I know will repeat themselves in my dreams.

"It's okay to cry."

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