Title: Jessica vs Elizabeth
“Oh, Lizzie, isn’t it romantic?” Jessica squealed.
Elizabeth gaped at her twin. “They’re expecting us to kill each other.”
“Yes, but we get new clothes and we’re paired with a boy!”
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Notes: I am going to post this, unbeta’d as it gets written for NaNoWriMo2017. I will post a clean, edited (hopefully coherent) version when it is finished, but if you want to see the raw, error-laden process of my word-vomit, here it is.
Elizabeth took down Kimberley with the practiced ease of someone who had been killing regularly for three days straight. A simple slice of her knife across Kimberley’s throat cut off any protests that it wasn’t fair, and that she wasn’t Tamara Chase. She fell to the ground, and a cannon sounded above.
By the time she was done with Kimberley, Lila, Lois and Winston were long gone, as was Jessica. Still, there were still people in the vicinity. Todd, Ken and Patrick huddled together and when she locked eyes with them, Patrick and Ken pushed Todd in her direction.
He walked towards her with his hands up in a surrender gesture. “Elizabeth, come on, I know you don’t really want to hurt anyone.”
She faked a lunge at him, just to see him shrink back in fear. “I’m sorry,” she said, not sorry in the slightest – was this how Jessica felt all the time? “That was mean, I won’t do it again.”
Todd continued to use soothing tones. “It’s ok, Elizabeth, you don’t have to hurt anyone. You’re my sort-of girlfriend, and we should be together.”
“Ummm.” She nodded. “But I don’t think we’ve kissed since book sixty-six. Or gone on a date. This is not a very good sort-of relationship, is it?”
“I could pick you some flowers,” Todd offered. “Or get jealous and threaten to kill a guy for talking to you?”
Elizabeth paused and raised her eyebrows. “Would you actually kill him though?” She peered around him and gave Ken and Patrick a shark-like smile.
“Todd, how many people can win the Hunger Games?” she asked.
He paled. “One.”
“Start running,” she advised.
Belinda Layton slowed from the bone-jarring pace she’d kept up since the countdown reached zero, but still kept moving, dragging Ellen Riteman behind her. Ellen wheezed at her to stop, but Belinda didn’t until they reached a relatively safe space.
In the Hunger Games there was no such thing as a truly safe area, but she and Ellen had gained a good amount of height by running up the hill, and the trees were thick enough to give them a good amount of cover.
She pushed Ellen to the ground, and sank down beside her, and they both tried to catch their breath.
“Speak quietly,” Belinda whispered. “And if you hear anyone coming this way, don’t say a word, but grab my arm, ok?”
Ellen looked frightened as she nodded. “Who are we hiding from?”
“Everyone else, remember?” Belinda whispered. She knew that it had been a risk taking Ellen with her, but it hadn’t seemed fair to leave her to be slaughtered by Elizabeth. And if Belinda was truly honest, it was comforting to know that Ellen lacked the intelligence to betray her.
“Because they’re trying to kill us?” Ellen asked. When Belinda nodded, Ellen frowned for a moment. “When will they stop trying to kill us? When does this game end?”
The responsibility of keeping Ellen alive suddenly weighed heavy on her. “Until I say.”
“What are we going to do?” Ellen asked.
“We’re going to find or make a weapon – you can swing a tree branch, right?”
“I can do that. And we kill anyone who’s not us, right?” Ellen said.
Elizabeth dived on Patrick Morris’ back. The unexpected weight caused him to careen face-first across the grass. He cried out and Elizabeth giggled as they both tumbled to the ground. Patrick tried to scramble away, but Elizabeth grabbed him by the shoulder and flipped him over so he was lying on his back.
She straddled him and grinned down at him.
“Don’t kill me, Liz,” he begged. “We’re friends, remember? You told my parents where I was when I ran away.”
“It’s nothing personal,” she told him, as she wrapped her hands around his throat. “It’s just I really like to kill people. It’s more fun than writing.”
Patrick gasped and squeaked, and tried to pry her hands away, but Elizabeth wouldn’t budge. She had found her calling – to kill everyone in the Hunger Games.
As the light left Patrick’s eyes, and the cannon boomed above her, Elizabeth thought, Five down, eighteen to go.
She looked around for her next victim.
“So, three kills to Elizabeth, one to Jessica, and one dead by stupidity,” Beau said. “I must say, it’s been a very slow start to the games.”
“Well, Beau, that’s because it’s not the movie. It’s also because these kids have never done anything like this and they haven’t grown up with a totalitarian government.” Johnny beamed at the camera. “It’s entirely new to them, and they’re just finding their feet. Give them time and I’m sure they’ll wow us.”
“Still, Elizabeth has taken to it like a duck to water, whereas Lois has… what, run away?” Beau said.
“Lois saved her friend, and I’m very sure that a girl as resourceful as her has a plan,” Johnny said. “And I can’t wait to see what she does…”
Initially, Lila, Lois and Winston headed through the trees. Winston and Lois had briefly discussed it and decided that flat land would be easier to move on, and they may find a lake with drinkable water. Lila had tried to offer her opinion, but they had already decided long before she could come up with anything smart to say.
After about an hour of walking though, they came out on a beach with beautiful white sand, soft waves lapping on the shore and glorious sunshine beaming down.
“Now this is more like it,” Lila said. “If only we had a beach towel and some sunscreen, this would be perfect, don’t you think?”
“No,” Lois and Winston said at the same time.
“Why not? What’s wrong with the beach? We can be like Robinson Crusoe,” Lila said.
“You mean aside from the fact there’s no food, no drinking water, and no cover?” Lois replied. “Well, there’s also the fact that the beach is surrounded on one side by water, and trees on the other, which means we can be ambushed, and our only hope is to swim away before someone kills us.”
Lila gulped. “We should find somewhere else.”
“I think we should go up that hill,” said Winston. “It’s quite steep, most people won’t make that effort.”
“And trees are good, aren’t they?” Lila offered, eager to be of use. It had occurred to her that Winston and Lois were actually quite smart, and she didn’t want them to think they didn’t need her. “We can hide in them.”
“Yes. We’ll want somewhere out of the way, hopefully with a wall behind us, so we can guard in as many directions as possible,” Lois replied.
“So we’re going up the hill?” Lila asked. She didn’t want to. It looked incredibly steep, and Lila was pretty sure she would get sweaty. Still, she comforted herself, Lois would probably get sweaty too – and she was still wearing her ugly tightly braided hair style, so Lila would look prettier than her.
“We are,” Winston said.
Lila was conscious that they were being filmed, and being the whiny one wouldn’t play well with sponsors – even if she was guaranteed gifts from Melissa. “Ok, we can do that.” She smiled at Lois. “By the way, I can do your hair once we get there – something more flattering?”
“Oh god no, leave my hair the way it is, Lila. I don’t care how I look.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Lila offered. Talking to Lois was a lot like talking to Melissa. It tended to highlight anything she said in front of the Unicorns was offensive to any non-Unicorn. It was a bit of a minefield.
“I’m not offended, I know I look awful,” Lois said, falling in step beside Lila. “That’s fine. Over the summer I read To Kill a Mockingbird – there’s this character Scout and she asks Calpurnia to braid her hair when she thinks she’s going to get into a fight that day. It suddenly popped into mind when I was getting my makeover yesterday. Anything that makes it harder for someone to grab me is ok by me, regardless of how I look.”
Lila thought about that. “Can you braid my hair when we stop next?”
“And mine right after that,” Winston said in a low tone. “Now, let’s climb a mountain!”
Jessica was lost. She had used Kimberley’s death as a distraction to get away while Elizabeth was enjoying her kill. Unfortunately, she had run for several minutes before realising that she had not run in the same direction as Team Life.
She had noticed the slight downhill slope, but had only been thankful for the extra burst of speed it had given her. Once she realised she was going the wrong way, she tried to loop around, rather than retracing her steps directly, but the ground sloped more steeply the further she walked, and before long there was a sheer wall of rock and dirt to her left.
She wanted to cry, but she knew she was on camera. She took a deep breath and gave herself a silent pep talk. It would be ok. She was alone, she couldn’t hear anyone following her, she even had a weapon – admittedly, only a throwing star, but she had already removed Rick’s finger with one, so that was a plus.
Still, this wasn’t what she had anticipated the Hunger Games would be like. She had thought it would be mostly hanging around with her friends and occasionally killing people, using sensational moves like a superhero, and boys would watch and think how pretty she was when she killed.
The real Hunger Games featured a lot more being alone, being thirsty, and walking on uneven ground, while getting itchy from the dried blood all over her skin.
Suddenly, she heard a shout from up ahead. She flinched before she could hide it – she hoped the cameras were on someone else for her cringe. Should she follow the cry? It could be another one of Elizabeth’s victims.
The cry came again. It sounded like a male voice. It occurred to her that she might run into her sister, or someone else on a kill spree, and the sensible thing to do would be to go in the opposite direction. Then it occurred to her that Elizabeth was ahead of her as far as body count was concerned.
Before she could rethink the decision, she took off running. When the person cried out again, she turned slightly to the left and found herself in a small muddy clearing. In the middle of a pond was a tear-stained Bruce Patman.
His face lit up when he saw her. “Help me!”
“I’m not going in that mud,” Jessica said. “Look, there are little silver spangles on my purple stripes!” She turned to the side and showed off her uniform. It was much better than the non-Unicorns’ uniforms.
“I’m sinking!” he screamed. “Help me, Jessica!”
Jessica pulled a face, she really didn’t want to get muddy. But on the other hand, if Bruce was eaten by the swamp, it wasn’t like she’d get credit for it. And she was bored by herself.
And Bruce Patman was very cute.
“Oh, all right.”
“Hurry up, Jessica! I’m going to drown.”
Jessica rolled her eyes. The muddy water was up to Bruce’s chest by now. There were a few dying trees to the side of the pond. The nearest one was quite young and small, only a few inches wide at the base. If she knocked it down, maybe Bruce could use it as a kind of rope.
“Faster!” he yelled.
“Do you have any ideas on how to get you out? No, you don’t, so be quiet!” she snapped. There was a chance he would die, after all, so she didn’t have to be nice to him. And if he did survive, hopefully he’d be grateful enough to let it slide.
Delicately, trying to avoid the mud as best she could, Jessica placed a foot on the trunk, about two feet up from the ground, and pushed. The tree obligingly bent down. She pushed harder and the end branches landed in the water within an arm’s of Bruce. “Move slowly, you don’t want to tear off the smaller branches,” Jessica said.
Bruce sloshed towards the branch and grabbed hold.
“Not too tight,” she warned. “I saw on TV once that people sink faster when they panic, so go slowly. This guy was stuck in quicksand and he kept thrashing about – he died really quickly.”
Bruce inched forward at an angle until his hands were wrapped around a thicker part of the trunk. Once there, he pulled himself free with all of his might. With a great gross squelching sound he wrenched his feet free, and quickly dragged himself up the bank and on to dry land.
He looked disgusting. His neat left parting was skewwhiff, he had mud on his face, he was dripping wet, and he smelled absolutely vile. Usually he smelled delightful, as he strode past her in school, she would get a whiff of bodywash and a tiny hint of cologne, but now he smelled of dirt, rot and… worse things.
Jessica considered killing him. Surely the sponsors would be amazed at her cunning – to rescue a person from a disaster only to take them down once they thought they were safe.
She reached into her pocket for her throwing star, made by the famous designer, Shuriken. Maybe when she won, he would design her some kind of battle armour. She didn’t hold much hope for it hitting the target if she threw it, but if she drove it into his throat, he would die quite quickly. Maybe Shuriken would be so impressed he would sponsor her directly.
Bruce threw off her plans by dropping to his knees in front of her. “Jessica, you are a life saver – like, really. I know we’ve not always gotten along, I know you’ve always been heartbroken after that time we went out and then I left you for Veronica, but let me make it up to you. Nobody’s ever saved my life before. You’re really special.”
Jessica’s black little heart fluttered. Aside from the inaccuracies about him leaving her for Veronica (she was very certain she left him for Aaron), this was exactly the kind of declaration she had always wanted to hear. It was the kind of thing that Beau Dillon would say to the beautiful girls in his movies. It was the kind of declaration Connie Boyer received almost daily on All the World.
Still, it wasn’t cool to look too interested. “Tell me more.”
Bruce started to get up, but Jessica waved a finger at him. “And stay on your knees while you tell me.”
“Everyone follow me!” Janet bellowed authoritatively over her shoulder. She had amassed a small group of followers. Initially she had wanted to keep it Unicorns only, but after Kimberley Haver died, and Lila and Jessica both ran off, Janet decided that it was more important to have a group of people to boss around than what their social standing was. Her group comprised Grace Oliver, Sandra Ferris, Dennis Cookman and Peter DeHaven.
This was not how she pictured the Hunger Games. To be honest, she hadn’t really thought of the games at all. She had simply thought of all the pretty clothes she would get to wear in the lead-up (apparently one dress – that hadn’t been clear from the movie either), and then she and Denny would get married right afterward.
Now Denny was dead, and she was leading Grace and a troupe of nerds through the woods. Still, she was sure that viewers were watching her with awe. “There goes a born leader,” they would say to each other. “Look at her, leading everyone to safety! What a girl!” … “And so stylish,” others would add. “She’ll probably be President of the United States one day!”
Janet’s head was so filled with the assumed praise of the viewers, she didn’t notice immediately that Grace was tugging at her wrist.
“Janet!” Grace hissed.
Janet realised they were at the edge of the treeline. And dead ahead was the cornucopia.
“You took us in a circle!” Peter DeHaven said. “You’re going to get us killed!”
Janet took a deep breath. This had not been the plan. The thing was not to let anyone know that. Thankfully, there was no sign of Elizabeth. “Exactly!” She frowned. “Not the getting you killed part. This was all part of the plan, to walk in a circle, to draw away other tributes.” Yes, that sounded good. “It was a double-bluff!” She added triumphantly. She’d heard that in a spy movie, it sounded very clever.
“How is that a double-bluff?” Peter asked.
“Because we went one way, but we meant to end up here,” Janet explained. That was good, if they weren’t smart enough to keep up with her explanation, then nobody would ever notice this was a mistake.
“Isn’t that just a single bluff?” Peter pressed.
Janet waved him off. “We’re going to stay here, in the cornucopia.”
“What if Elizabeth is in there?” Grace asked in a soft voice.
“She’s not.” She couldn’t be. Otherwise this wouldn’t work, and Janet was sure that it would. “But we’ll send Sandra first.”
“Why me?” Sandra asked.
“Because I heard you say that you had a brilliant idea on how to beat her,” Janet replied.
“I did?” Sandra asked. “Yes, I did. I have the most brilliant ideas.”
Janet left a nice large gap before following Sandra across the clearing as they tiptoed towards the cornucopia. She was sure the viewers would be impressed with her tactical thinking. And she was also sure that nobody would really miss Sandra if Elizabeth killed her.
In the distance, there was a scream, and then a cannon sounded.
Everyone doubled their speed. Sandra came to an immediate halt in the mouth of the cornucopia and everyone crashed into her. “There’s no-one in here,” she reported.
Janet let out a quiet sigh of relief. “Good! Just as I thought. This is now our home. And we shall call it…” she trailed off dramatically as she came up with the most perfect name imaginable. “The Unicornucopia!”
Instead of the enthusiastic response she expected, there was a thoughtful silence. Eventually, Grace spoke. “But only you and I are Unicorns.”
“It reflects the leader, not the people,” Janet decided. “We’re safe here.”
“I think we should keep watch,” Dennis Cookman spoke up for the first time. “I’ve promised to keep Grace safe.”
“I was just about to say that.” Janet nodded and tried to look in control. “Come on everyone, pick a weapon and guard the Unicornucopia!”
Note: Raven said to me, “If you don’t refer to the cornucopia as a Unicornucopia, you’re a fool.” It hadn’t occurred to me. I’m a fool. Thank you, Raven.