|This article, Training (Crippled Series), was written by Necterine411. Please do not edit this fan fiction without the author's permission.|
Training is the fourth chapter of Crippled.
I wake up in a big huddle of blankets. I almost don’t want to move. I see a simple outfit, purple tank top and athletic shorts, hanging on my door. It looks a thousand times more comfortable than the outfit I was squeezed into last night. Better yet, there’s not a fake leg in sight; only a single crutch. I smile, ready to face my first day of training. Since my strategy is basically to appear weak, I just have to spend the day learning how to survive. It should be interesting. I take a quick shower and put on my clothes. I have a little trouble putting on my pants, but I’m able to get them on eventually. Looking at the digital clock mounted on the wall; I have plenty of time before I have to go to the dining room for breakfast. I pick up a brush and sit down on my bed as I carefully brush my short black hair. It’s nice to be able to take my time getting ready; instead of just throwing on whatever clothes I can find and going to work at the crack of dawn. I’m glad I can enjoy a few moments of luxury before my death. My heart beats a little faster, thinking about how I’ll die. I haven’t given up; but I need to prepare myself for the likely possibility of me being murdered. I have to be ready.
I hear a knock at my door. I yell for the person to come in. I’m a little surprised to see that’s its Nathan. After yelling at him last night I figured he’d be avoiding me. Nathan walks up to my bed and sits down. I open my mouth to apologize; but Nathan just starts to talk.
“Look, I can understand that you got mad at me last night; you were under a lot of pressure. I just need to know if we’re still allies.” Nathan waits for me to nod before continuing on. “I’m just going to explain my strategy before we go to train, so there are no misunderstandings. I’m going to go up to the Careers and ask to ally with them. I’m handy enough with a sword, so hopefully they’ll let me. That way, during the bloodbath I’ll hopefully be able to convince them you’re not worth chasing down. On the first night, I’ll sneak away and find you. Just stay hidden near the Career camp. Then we’ll ally until you want to break it off.”
I’m struck silent by his plan. It’s a risky and dangerous plan for him, if he gets caught he’ll be killed by the Careers, but he’s doing it to protect me. I start to nod my agreement; but end up hugging him tightly instead.
“Thank you,” I say “You’re like a brother to me, I hope you know that. Stay safe and good luck.”
I glance once more at the clock, and see it’s time to go. I walk to breakfast with Nathan, wiping a few stray tears away before entering the Dining room. Nathan is the brother I never had. As long as he lives, I have a family. If he dies… well, then I’ll have lost my family again.
Lexi is alone at the table. I don’t have to wonder where Lucy is; because Lexi immediately tells us.
“You’re mentor decided that meeting up with some guy was more important than helping you guys. I swear, some guy just showed up, gave Lucy a piece of paper, and she left shortly after reading it. Don’t worry, I know a little about mentoring tributes. I’ll help you while Lucy’s gone.”
Lexi begins to talk about strategies and sponsoring; but I just pick at my pancakes. I’m dreading going to training now. I know I’m going to hate watching Nathan try to fit in with the cruel Careers.
Lexi walks us to the elevator; but doesn’t ride down with us. She wants us to look independent and tough; not like little kids being chaperoned. The doors slide smoothly open and Nathan takes a deep breath before striding out of the elevator to find the Careers. He doesn’t look back at me once. I hobble slowly and shakily out of the elevator. After a couple of curious looks, nobody looks at me twice. I can tell they don’t think I’m a threat. Some guy talks to us a little about all the stations we can go to, and then we’re set free to go anywhere we chose. I take a good look around before finding the edible plant station. I figure that station will be the most helpful in the Games. I shakily walk to the station. When I get close I trip on purpose, and flail helplessly around on the floor until the station leader helps me up. She kindly offers me a chair, and I sit down and listen to her as she speaks.
I spend the whole morning learning what I can eat in nature and how to cook it. After the edible plants station I went by the edible bug station and learned how to start a fire. When it’s time for lunch all the tributes are led into a cafeteria. There are 24 square tables, so no tribute has to sit with another. The Careers and Nathan move tables together and sit with each other. I guess he was accepted. I take my tray of food and sit down at an empty table. The deaf District 9 girl sits with the blind girl to eat. They move, twist, and tap their fingers into each other’s palms. I realize they’re communicating through their fingers when both of the girls laugh at a joke one of them made. They seem friendly for people who will fight to the death in a couple of days. Maybe they’ll be allies. The tribute with no hands comes up to my table and sits down. Instead of the meal of roasted chicken, green beans, and baked potatoes, he has a single glass filled with soup. He sips it through a straw before speaking.
“Hi, I’m Jay Wayland. It’s an honor to meet you, and talk to you.”
He’s so heartfelt, so nice, I know he’s being sincere. So I put on a smile before speaking.
“My name’s Evi. It’s great to meet you too.”
We sit in a friendly silence for a little. I eat most of my food and Jay sucks down his soup. Why is he here, does he want to be allies? If he does would Nathan be ok with it? I should tell him I already have an ally. But he seems so nice; I don’t want to hurt his feelings. His arms are cut off at the elbow; I can’t ally with him I’ll die! My thoughts go back and forth until I have no idea what I’m going to do. Jay sees my expression and finally speaks.
“I don’t want to ally with you. I just want to be your friend. My arms are cut off at the elbow, I can’t hold a weapon much less fight, and I have to eat through a straw or be fed by someone else. Jay’s voice is hushed, but filled with emotion and I can tell Jay’s struggling to hold himself together. “I’m going to die. I’ll be lucky if I get past the bloodbath. At night I lie awake wondering if I should just give up at the beginning and blow myself up. Sorry, I don’t mean to alarm you. I’m going to die; but I don’t want to live my final days not speaking to anyone because they’re planning to kill me. Evi, I don’t care if you plan on killing or helping me in the Games. But will you please talk to me before the Games?”
I’m speechless. I’d thought about dying; but Jay knows for sure he’ll die. I find my voice and begin to tell Jay about myself. I’m saying anything to fill the silence, anything to distract Jay from thinking about death. I tell him things I’ve never told anyone. He learns my exact feelings when my parents died, my struggles at getting a good job so young, the cruel whispers I’ve put up with, my District’s heart-breaking betrayal. By the time I’ve finished lunch time is over, and we’re led back to the training area. Even then, I don’t break away from Jay. We walk up to the knife station and I pretend to be weak while I learn about all of his troubles. He tells me about the accident in the coal mines that crushed his hands and part of his arms to the point of amputation, how his little sister eats grass from the meadow to help fill her always empty stomach, his mother’s shriek when the escort called him up. I hear his misfortunes, and he hears mine; and for the first time in my life I know for sure that I am not alone, that others suffer just as much as me. Nathan looks over once at me and Jay, before leaning over to whisper something in another Career’s ear.
Training day ends, and I give Jay a big hug before saying goodbye. He told me that he’s going to find someone else to talk to tomorrow, because he wants to make as many friends as possible before he dies. I watch him disappear as the elevator doors close. Even before the Games, I feel like I’ve gotten my first taste of death.
I walk slowly to my room. Nathan will be coming soon; he went on the elevator with the other Careers. The elevator door dings and I turn my head to see who it is; but it’s only Lucy. She looks awful and tired, and I see her clutching her pill bottle in one hand and her water bottle in the other. Even if I’m frustrated with the fact she just abandoned us today, I can’t help but feel sorry for her. I guide her to her room; and she lies down on her bed. I throw a blanket on her and turn to leave when she grabs my crutch, almost tripping me. Her eyes look wild and bloodshot, and they stare into mine with an uncomfortable intensity.
“Don’t win the Games, you’re better off dead.”
Has Lucy finally gone crazy? Are the drugs making her say this?
“DON’T! No Evi, don’t win. It’s not a victory, it’s a curse. It’ll never end, never.”
I back slowly out of the room as Lucy continues to sob and ramble on. Lucy was the most focused I’ve ever seen her. As much as I want to blame what she said on the painkillers, I know it’s not true. But what did she mean? How could not dying, getting a free house, and receiving food and money be a curse? I get to my room, and Nathan’s waiting by the door. I’m tired and I want to go to bed; but I’m too curious about hearing his progress with the Careers to not invite Nathan in. We sit in the chairs arranged in the corner of the room as he talks.
“The careers don’t expect a thing. I showed off my sword skills, and they let me join. They’re not too bright, I’m sure our plan will work. So umm, what were you doing with that one guy today? Do you want to ally with him instead?”
Nathan looks worried as he speaks the last two sentences. As always, his angelic face makes me hurry to correct him.
“No, no, he’s just a friend. He’ll probably die in the bloodbath actually. He wanted someone to talk and listen to him, and asked me. I liked his company, but he’s going to meet someone else tomorrow. Speaking of which, I need to get some sleep for tomorrow, I'm exhausted.”
Nathan thanks me for my time and leaves, but I can see the look of relief on his face. I wonder how insecure he is. I crawl into my fluffy warm bed, thinking about all the new problems I have. I can’t help feeling bad for Jay, I need to make sure I keep Nathan from worrying about our alliance, and I’ve been told that I should die rather than win the Games. As comfortable as I am, it takes me a long time to fall asleep.