Lisung Jarstova, 26;
June 17th, Lisung's birthday; 12:16 PM
It's not everyday that the President tells you that you've been appointed the new Head Gamemaker.
For average Capitolites, it was definitely a revered position, to say the least. But for Lisung, it'd been a passion since the early days of her girlhood. She couldn't remember a single night during highschool where she was doing anything besides studying her ass off, writing notes and personal observations about the Capitol's most esteemed reality TV show: the Hunger Games. Whether it was sticking her nose so close in written transcripts of past Games that she could smell its weathered "old book" smell, or watching recorded interviews with the Gamemakers themselves for so long that afterward her eyes would be swimming with technicolor floaters, it was no understatement to say that she devoted the majority of her youth delving into this passion of hers. She had spent lavishly, both time-wise and financially, on achieving qualifications that would shoo her through the Gamemaker examinations with flying colors.
A swell of pride surged through her that died as quickly as it blossomed. Hard to believe it hadn't even been a full year ago since she received her acceptance letter, inviting her into the elite group of Gamemakers… which only made this drastic promotion seem all the more wrong.
"I'm sorry," Lisung sputtered, vaguely making a mental note to wipe down her desk later. She started to feel very aware of the tightness of her pantsuit, the waist elastic digging into her midriff. "There, ah, seems to have been a mistake, sir." She considered launching into a series of explanations, but bit her tongue down.
"What makes you say that, Ms. Jarstova?" Lisung could practically hear his curious expression through the other end of the receiver.
"Well," she said. An barely-concealed inkling of incredulousness colored her words. "For one, there are plenty of other Gamemakers that have seniority over me." She tried for a joke. "Ricotta looks like he's been at it longer than I've been alive."
President Mahadio laughed, and she imagined it would sound a lot more hearty in real life. Only thing she heard from the phone was an abruptly fluctuating pitch of static. "Well, Ricotta and the other gamemakers don't exactly… how do I put this tenderly… they don't quite match up to your capabilities." If she had been talking to him in person, she was sure he'd have his leathery lips pulled taut against his teeth, revealing a substantial amount of gum. A rather disturbing excuse for a smile. "Or your enthusiasm, for a matter of fact."
Lisung said nothing. She made sure her breathing was audible through the other end to show that she was still there. It was a lot to mull over, considering that achieving the position of Miss Head Gamemaker was something she didn't anticipate until another five years, at the very least. When I'm Head Gamemaker this, when I'm Head Gamemaker that. During her teens, it was a conversation topic that dominated the dining table during suppertime, dominated small talk with fresh acquaintances, dominated the subject matter of her prospective career assignment essays; hell, she had even dreamt of it on more nights than not. Her friends and family had found her incessant rambling less of a charm point than she would've hoped, but nonetheless they would be ecstatic to learn that she had achieved her lifelong dream. Now, she was being presented the opportunity on a silver platter, but the moment was not at all how she had pictured.
She cleared her throat. "I appreciate your kind words regarding my talent, but it can't possibly make up for decades of experience. I've only been in the industry for a couple years at this point. It's…" Her eyes met briefly with those of the person hovering over her desk. They looked at her expectantly, and she averted her gaze. "Baffling, no disrespect. I can't imagine that my capabilities compensate so heavily for my lack of experience."
Another pitch in static. "When you get to my age, you realize how pretentious experience and seniority really are. No matter how qualified you are, if your opponent caters better to the populace, you'll be chucked aside quicker than District 12 kids can eat a loaf of moldy bread. It's about the novelty, Miss Jarstova." He paused. "And you're overflowing with it."
"I'm very flattered, President Mahadio. If you don't mind, answering one more question." Her heart felt abnormally still. "What of Head Gamemaker Jekyll?"
"Jekyll has had a long run. He's done a great job at satisfying the Capitolites the past decade, and he stepped down just a couple days ago. He has chosen for you to succeed him."
She suddenly felt very exposed with the other person's gaze still boring into her. The room was way too small. "...that's not the only reason, though, is it?" She shifted in her seat subtly, and her heart dully thudded in anticipation.
For the first time, the voice on the other end changes from colloquial to something more sinister. "Are you questioning Jekyll's authority?" It was bone-chilling. "Or is something about my assessment of you… objectionable?"
"No, sir." She shouldn't have pressed further. If there's a lesson she desperately needed learning, it's to not poke at the lion that paid your salary. Or the lion who could have your existence removed at a moment's notice... "I'm very grateful to be granted this opportunity, President Mahadio."
"I trust that you have no further reservations?"
"No, sir. It would be my honor to accept this with open arms." She took a breath. "I will impress you."
"Then congratulations, Head Gamemaker Lisung Jarstova." With faint relief, she noticed that his light-hearted tone was back. "I'm sure you will not disappoint me."
The line disconnected and the physical tenseness that struck her throughout the exchange was replaced with an overwhelming feeling of bone-deep tiredness. She placed the phone back into its slot with a dissonant clunk and stared back up at the person who had now made a home at the edge of her rosefir desk, perched snugly between the corner and a stack of files.
"Hmph. If I was anyone else, Kishor Mahadio, I'd be writing you off for unprofessionalism," Lisung said, but the disdain insinuated by her words packed no real venom.
The girl on the desk, Kishor, did not respond. Her eyes flitted anxiously between Lisung and the phone. "So…"
She offered an unsteady smile. "...so?"
"Well? What do you think? Of my… gift?"
Oh. A dull feeling draped over her. Just as I had suspected. It was confirmation that she wished she could relish. She tried to suppress her rising bitterness. "I'm, ah, not exactly feeling the most articulate right now. Come back in a few hours?"
Kishor frowned, and it was a delicate but stark transition; disappointment seeped every pore on her face. Lisung's dread turned into guilt. "Aren't you happy? It's what you've been raving about literally everyday since we've met, Lisung."
"Jarstova." She corrected. She chuckled but it was a sound that just chafed her ears. "Yeah, you're right."
"Then why..." Kishor started to raise her hand, but stopped mid-movement, resulting in a rather clumsy gesture. "I don't know. It's just not the reaction I was expecting."
"Apologies. It's, ah, it hasn't exactly registered in my mind, yet." Blasphemy. She knew exactly how she was feeling and excitement was the furthest thing from it. That proposal from President Mahadio felt ingenuine the moment it left his lips. And to know that Kishor bribed, or did whatever she did, to get her dad to grant the position to me… Well, it made her feel bitter, to say the least. Lisung felt like the ground was going to give out from under her.
This was cheating. She couldn't stand the idea of accepting a position, a privilege, anything that she didn't rightfully deserve.
"You... don't like it?" Kishor chewed the inside of her cheek the way she always did when she was anxious. "Then… are you mad at me?"
An unfiltered gaze, sweeter than sicklecrop, and skin more pigmented and radiant than the most refined gold in Panem. A perfect oil painting.
It didn't help that Lisung had had a crush on Kishor since grade school. Between all the academics and studying, it took years to build up the courage to have a conversation and years further to even be considered…. acquaintances.
When she graduated high school, she had fully expected for her childish pipe dream to fade. And it did. She had gone through university without eyeing even one other person in that way. There were casual flings and nights but the underlined word was casual. She had forgotten what it was like to feel her heart palpitate with anticipation. What it was like to have her breath hitch in her throat. What it was like to be tethered, all strings attached.
And if she was honest with herself, she probably would've been able to go through the rest of her life without feeling the same way. But last year, on the first day of her new job, she ran into Kishor and everything came flooding back, all at once.
It was futile to deny. Lisung was worse than ever.
It had been unbearable at first. (and it still was, in its own way.) She would purposely take longer and longer detours each day just to avoid Kishor's daily route. But with every passing day, exchanges became less tense and increasingly colloquial. They were friendly, perhaps, but friends was pushing it. Even Lisung could admit that they were closer than average co-workers. And she might've been secretly enjoying Kishor's company more than the job-description entailed. But it didn't mean that Kishor reciprocated the sentiment; no matter how affectionate she acted, Lisung knew it was purely business. So, she kept professional boundaries. Never chatted for too long. Never met outside of the office. Always referred to Kishor outside her head as Mahadio and insisted that the other woman do the same, no matter how much she insisted on using Lisung's first name, no matter how good her name sounded on Kishor's tongue.
Still, her heart couldn't catch up to her head, miles further into the horizon. On the surface, they were co-workers and equals. But Lisung knew that she was still in the vice grip of her silly girlhood crush. had her pinned against the wall, no matter how much she tried to deny it.
Which one outweighed the other? Her guilt for cheating at her dream, or the thought at disappointing Kishor, a co-worker? The answer should've been obvious. The dilemma thrashed violently in her psyche. Her heart ached from being gnawed at from two different seams.
She was really fucking whipped.
"I like it," she decided. She locked her eyes with Kishor's, hoping that the false conviction in her words translated even the slightest bit more genuinely through her eyes. Lisung tried for a cocky grin. "But, you know... I also like other things."
The sheen in Kishor's eyes subsided. Her lips melted into a coy smile, and it made Lisung's heart flutter. Eyes like cesspools of honey, she thought. She blinked again, and now she could only see a faint ring of the previous color on the outskirts of her irises. Her mouth went dry.
"Oh? What other things?" Kishor said.
Lisung leaned in the slightest bit closer, staring up at the girl perched on her desk. "Mm. If you wanted, I could… show you."
She laughed. "How about you show me in your brand new office, Miss Head Gamemaker?"
"Yeah?" Her voice came out a little bit coarse. Damn, this is getting kind of… a lot. "I might be able to squeeze that into the itinerary," With a little bit of effort, she resumed her normal pitch, and gave Kishor a business wink. That's… that's a thing, right? "But no guarantees. I've been incredibly busy since my promotion, as you know."
Kishor rolled her eyes and lightly punted Lisung's shoulders back with both her hands. "Okay, bigshot. You're so full of shit." In one fluid motion, she hopped off the edge of the desk.
Lisung placed her palm under her chin. Her eyes followed Kishor's shrinking silhouette as she sauntered across the room to the entrance door. "I'll, ah, see you at my ceremony tomorrow night?"
She got a smirk in return. It carried the same amount of confidence as her father's with none of the unsettling aura. "Wouldn't miss it, even if I could." Kishor stopped. "Happy birthday, Lisung."
This time, she didn't correct her. Lisung watched as her figure slinked through the narrow sliver of the doorway and out into the hallway. The soft click of the doorknob followed and Lisung's smile faltered.
"Head Gamemaker Jarstova." The title sat uncomfortably in her mouth. Her heart still felt taut, metaphorical sinew stretching in all the wrong places, but she'd made her decision.
Kishor Mahadio, 26;
Master of Ceremonies
June 18th, Head Gamemaker Coronation Party; 10:29 PM
It's hard to resist the temptation to look at one's reflection in the mirror. Well, scratch hard; maybe it was a misleading descriptor. It was more just like second nature to look up and catch a glimpse of the figure on the other side, but she'd made compulsion and instinct her dog long ago.
Kishor Mahadio had always been accustomed to the spotlight, as expected from the life of the President's daughter. If she spared a few seconds to gawk at her reflection in every shiny mirror she saw, in every polished floor she walked, in every oppressive rolling camera she passed, practically a decade would be shaved off her lifetime by now. Affluence and fame and eyes were as familiar to her as a mother to a babe, the sun to the sky. She didn't have the time or the mind to lose herself with every new lavish endeavor, but it wasn't as if temptation was even in the picture anymore. When you've seen something a thousand times, well- you've seen it infinite times. It hardly had any semblance of worth anymore.
So, instead of locking eyes with herself, she closed them and allowed her makeup artist to cover every crevice of her face with product. He had been going at it for a while now. The ring-light started to burn the back of her eyelids, and she could feel that her nape was slick with sweat. The mockingjay-feather brush felt more irritating with every passing second. The pressure of the stylist's hand felt outright oppressive.
"Mm. Can you… yeah, that's a lot better."
Kishor was no stranger to discomfort and repression. If anything, it came in tangent with living in fame excess; the richer you were, the more eyes that were glued onto your skin. It was a lot of weight to bear, and even heavier was the pressure to divide yourself into an infinite number of marketable personas. Do you see me in the cracks? Or do you just want to project your own reflection onto me? Her lifestyle would make anyone jealous from a superficial glance, but did they know how much it took to personally cater to the diverse palates of every individual in the audience? To fulfill every impossible expectation, to sacrifice every scrap of authenticity left in their bodies for the limelight they craved so much? Did they know?
It took her whole life to master. And now, she could play mannequin excellently.
But even though she knew what had been robbed from her, Kishor couldn't find it in herself to mourn its loss. In the absence of self, she had been given strings, and she could pull them to get what she wanted. She was content with that.
The pressure on her face ceased, and she squinted to make sure the onslaught was over. Hazily, she blinked a couple times forcefully to align her contacts. Her eyes flitted over the mirror.
It was true that mannequins only existed to serve outwardly. But in rare moments like these, the mannequin allowed herself to indulge. She drank in her appearance.
"Damn." She peered incredulously at her own reflection, wide eyes staring back at her. "You're a damn miracle worker. I seriously will never be able to get used to this."
A fine layer of bronze dust rested on her face. It served as the backdrop for the bold, metallic streak of gold that outlined her cheekbone and her jawline. On her eyelids were three small pearls arranged in a crown-shape and her frosted white eyelashes were almost long enough to touch them. The gold made her look sharp and fierce, carved straight from raw ore, but the lashes and the pearls added an undeniably feminine accent. A juxtaposition that was meticulous but not fussy. Kishor grinned, and so did the mannequin in the mirror.
The make-up artist's expression was unreadable, but she paid no mind to it, as she usually did. When she was finished admiring herself, she looked up at the Avox.
"You never come short of my expectations. I think this really screams host; it's perfect for the occasion," she said, and the Avox bowed his head in acknowledgement. Kishor got up and made her way to the dressing room in search of her stylist, and she pretended that she didn't see the almost-immediate ease of the Avox's shoulders.
After putting on her ensemble, Kishor left through one of the side doors to the main hall. Upon entering the ballroom, Kishor was greeted with an assault of gold. Gold glitter, gold velvet seats, gold dresses, and gold suits. The guests and the decorations struck a major contrast against the brilliant marble walls. It wasn't as if she couldn't guess the reigning colors based on her makeup and the outfit that had been specially prepared for her, but as with everything, it was just more impactful to see in person.
If Kishor had to assign a specific word to describe the vibe, it would be vitality. Not a single thing in the ballroom looked even the slightest bit aged: not the couture, not the venue, and most definitely not the partygoers, faces and bodies so full of silicon that she imagined it threatened to burst underneath their artificial skin.
"Miss Mahadio! So nice to see you," a voice said. She looked over and met the eyes of a handsome man with turquoise hair sporting grown-out, yellow roots. Tilting her head to the side, she beamed, and enveloped the man into an embrace. "Benedicte, it's always my pleasure," she exclaimed. "I hope that so far the event has been par to your standards."
"Oh, most definitely, now that I've gotten the chance to see you!" His eyes twinkled. "We have much to catch up on, really. But you shouldn't spend all your time on me. It would be selfish of me to steal you away from your other guests."
She pretended to be scandalized as he drifted off laughing into the crowd, both parts following the unwritten format of host-guest banter line by line. It was a familiar process and an efficient means of catching up with acquaintances. She was going to rinse and repeat the same exchange countless more times until she dropped dead, or at least until the time came for her to deliver the introductory statement.
Kishor burned through hurdles of more guests, and had her eyes set on one of the senior Gamemakers when suddenly, a firm hand grasped her shoulder and gently pulled her towards a group of people.
She looked up at the person whom the hand belonged to, and sure enough, it was her. "Lisung!"
The cut of the woman's suit made a blocky, domineering silhouette out of her, and yet she looked proportionate and undeniably magnetic. In stark contrast against the bright marble backdrop, she sported an obsidian blazer adorned with vertically-stitched, gold pinstripes. She bore a geometric corset around her midriff in replacement of a dress shirt, leaving a substantial amount of collarbone. And the dainty gold drop-chains on her neck did no favors in making her look any less enticing.
"Jarstova," Lisung corrected in the uptight way that she always did. She noticed Kishor's less-than-subtle onceover and rubbed the back of her neck subconsciously. Turning over, she presented Kishor to her party of two. "Hardly an unfamiliar face, but it'd be my pleasure to introduce you two to my… fellow associate, Miss Kishor Mahadio."
Fellow associate? She rolled her eyes internally, struggling to contain her smile.
Briefly, she observed the two other individuals in the circle. The first one had a bright pink mullet and tailless eyebrows. "Hayce Jansingh." She nodded and shook his hand.
Her counterpart flaunted a different aesthetic; she had a buzz-cut in a pattern that resembled leopard print and tiny crystals that dotted her teeth. "I'm Jonaitis, but friends call me Jon." She winked at her and held out her hand. Kishor took it, and in a distantly she noted how abnormally firm her grasp was. "Was about time we got to meet you. In high school, I was convinced you didn't exist." At this, Hayce chuckled and Lisung scowled, turning red. Quite the juxtaposition.
"It's really great to meet you both," she said with a smile. "How do you know Lisung?"
Hayce laughed. "We were friends back in high school. Could barely tolerate her back then, but looks like sticking out had its perks." He waved a dismissive hand at the ballroom. "Now she won't stop inviting Jon and I as side-pieces to her important-people parties." Hayce batted his eyelashes expectantly at Lisung, and her frown only deepened in response.
"Funny how she's never told me about you guys, then," Kishor looked over to Lisung, who quickly averted her eyes.
"There's no reason for me to disclose my personal life to you, Mahadio," she said, her voice shifting into a caricature of formality. She looked completely out of her element, so frazzled next to her, comparably, composed friends. So strange.
The four made light conversation for a little while longer before Kishor decided to take her leave. Seeing that it had reached the time for her official appearance, she gave a cursory bow towards Hayce and Jon before skirting around the crowd, muttering series of "excuses-me's" and "don't-mind's" through the rippling gold silhouettes of partygoers.
As she glided her way across the stage, she caught Lisung's eye from across the ballroom. Kishor shot her signature wink and carefully smoothed out her composure, limb by limb.
The click of her heels became louder as the noise in the ballroom started to subside. By the time she reached the podium, it was almost entirely silent save for a couple of fading whispers. As the lights started to dim, she hastily burned through her mantra: You're a mannequin. You're untouchable. You exist to market and manipulate.
"Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Capitolites. You're all looking incredibly youthful and timeless tonight." Insert a blindingly brilliant smile. "You might recognize me as the Master of Ceremonies of the previous year's Hunger Games. For those of you who don't know, my name is Kishor Mahadio, and I'm beyond grateful to be given the opportunity to be your host for such a momentous occasion tonight. I've been met with so much love tonight that I'm, quite frankly, feeling a little bit lightheaded."
She mimicked the gesture of a swoon, and it earned her a few chortles out of the audience. "But enough about me; tonight's a very special occasion, because it's not everyday that we get to coronate a new Head Gamemaker. She's been a good acquaintance of mine for years and has been an absolute joy to work alongside with."
"Panem, embrace Head Gamemaker Lisung Jarstova to the stage with everything you've got." She clapped politely and made her way towards the reserved seats, off to the side of the podium. Glancing up at Lisung, she mouthed, Whenever you're ready.
Lisung assumed her position at the pedestal and began speaking, her head tilted downwards elegantly. "Hello, everybody," she said. Her voice was deep and velvety, and it sent a small shiver down Kishor's spine. "It's an honor to be standing right here right now. Never did I anticipate such a warm and easy reception into my new title as Head Gamemaker, and it's still not registering, even as I stand here.
"My earliest and most precious memory is of the first time I watched an airing of the Hunger Games, with my parents. I was 5 years old at the time, breaching on 6, and it was the year of the 79th annual Hunger Games.
"Little me had been completely enraptured by the events portrayed on the screen, and ever since then, my only dream was to one day become Head Gamemaker. And to be where I am right now, to fulfill my life-mission so… early, well. I'm sure if my younger self could see where I was right now, she'd be over the moon with ecstasy.
"And as fun as I'm sure it is, to hear me preach about childhood dreams and gratitude—" the audience laughed— "I think I'd better get to what all of you are really here for. To thank you all for coming out tonight, I'd like to disclose a… teaser, if you will." She looked down at her card and began reading.
"Desire, and temptation. Lust, and obsession. The driving forces behind human nature." She glanced over at Kishor, her gaze lingering for half a beat too long, then turned back towards the crowd.
"Tell me, how far would you go for the things you desire most in this world? And how much of yourself are you willing to sacrifice in the process?
"We're going to be extracting the answers from each of our 24 hopefuls, this Hunger Games season. You'll get to know each of them intimately; their primal motivations, their deepest, most raw fears." A pause. "Where they shine the brightest, and where nothing but filth lies."
Lisung's assured expression invited nothing short of intrigue; it was clear to see that she had the audience enthralled. Well, I know where she shines the brightest, Kishor smiled. Leaning into the speaker, Lisung delivered her final request of the night
"Life's too short to suppress your desires. So, indulge like you'll never be young again."
The crowd was deafening. Too short to suppress your desires, huh? She closed her eyes and smiled. She'd have to keep that in mind.
a/n: hey it's brooke. so I reconnected with old friends like a week ago and it threw me for an absolute loop. i logged back into this account for the first time in years the other day and deadass cried bro. the way i looked at my old pms was probably how jesus felt when he was resurrected and went to go check up on his disciples. ok anyway i've decided that i want to write syot again. ok look i haven't written for fun in deadass 4+ years so kiss my ass if this is the crummiest thing you've ever read but it was fun…. i'm definitely not nuanced in the complexities of syot culture anymore so it's perfectly acceptable to treat me like i was born yesterday. if you're interested in submitting to my comeback syot the form will be in my bio!
disclaimer this is not first come first serve and i will close the entries whenever i feel like. also if i decide to take in your tribute i reserve the right to do whatever the fuck i want with them. may the odds be ever in your favor you sexy ass mofos
and lastly it would be grand if you let me know your thoughts on this chapter. one thing that hasn't changed since 5 years ago is that i'm still desperately horny for critique and validation. preferably in the same breath. okay thanks so much guys bye