"Once in a while, in the middle of nowhere, love gives us a fairytale."
Perdissa Heavensbee, Assistant Gamemaker
Llori is late. Again.
I fiddle with the buttons on my jacket idly as I wait for her in a dusty lounge of the Capitol Library. It's so empty nowadays, what with the recent shift to online resources. The dark oak doors, the marble arches, are too grandiose for this silence, too much a remnant of a past world.
But Llori wanted to meet here, where we wouldn't be overheard, so here I am.
Time slips by, and I find myself opening book after book, wondering at their yellowed pages and the heavy weight of leather on my palm.
Most of the books are boring, administrative ledgers so I head over to other shelves. Soon I'm just pulling out books at random and flipping through until my hand catches on a book that's slightly smaller than the rest.
A copy of literature from before the Destruction of North America: entitled Grimm's Fairy Tales is what the title reads. It's so different from the content of previous books that I'm taken aback.
I giggle at the old language, the Once upon a time, and start reading the first story. It's called Cinderella.
My breath catches in my throat as I'm sucked into the world of magic and happily ever after, so different from the real one that's grounded in logic and limitations.
I'm not sure how much time passes before I feel a hand on my shoulder. I whirl around, surprised at how engrossed I was in the story.
"Perdissa. What in the world are you doing?"
I turn to find Llori standing behind me, her ordinarily neat hair disheveled, smudged makeup not quite hiding the dark bags underneath her eyelids. She looks tired.
"You're late," I say, smiling up at her.
"I know," she says, and I pull her into a hug before she can say more.
"What held you up?" I ask.
She rolls her eyes. "You don't want to know."
I'd ask more, but it's clear she doesn't want to talk about it.
"Anyways," she says, eyeing the mess of scattered books surrounding me, "maybe we should get cleaned up, and then we can talk."
I dutifully help her pick up the books, glancing over at her periodically. Her exhausted state worries me.
"Issa," she says suddenly. "What's this?"
I look over. She's holding the book of fairy tales.
"A book from before," I answer. "Isn't it neat? It's a collection of stories called 'fairy tales'."
"Fairy tales, huh?" she muses. "What are they about?"
"Oh, they're wonderful! So romantic and pretty. Lots of brave heroes and wicked witches; brutal fights and daring escapes. Isn't that cool?"
"'Brutal fights and daring escapes', huh? Reminds me of the Games," Llori says. "I wonder if we could incorporate elements from these old stories, surprise the audience?"
I laugh. "Of course you would say that. Do you ever talk about anything else?"
"Just proposing a possible idea for the next arena. It is my job, after all."
"That's not actually a bad idea, what with all the candy houses and giant beanstalks and tall towers…"
"If you like it that much, let's do it," Llori says suddenly. "Let's draw up an arena plan."
"Are you serious?" I ask. "What about considering the demographics and the logistics and—"
"Ah, it's okay. What's the harm in just submitting an idea?"
"But you always have everything planned out."
"Oh, hush. I'm trying to do something nice for my girlfriend. If it pleases you, it'll please everybody. You never like Games related ideas."
I blush. "This is unexpected."
"Anything for you, Issa," she winks. "Come on. Let's make it happen."
Llori Rosethorne, Head Gamemaker
The president's door comes quicker than I expected; not that I'm scared in the least. Still, the hall is silent and Perdissa is still in the library, fawning over her fairytales. Sometimes I think she's just too innocent for this world, like she belonged somewhere else but got lost on the way.
She'd like that if I told her. It's mystical, which is her specialty.
It's not mine. But she's given me an idea. And I'm not the type to toss ideas carelessly aside.
My hand finally meets the textured wood of the door to President Rosensteine's study, my fist connecting three times before footsteps approach on the other side.
The president looks dashing as usual, his sandy hair combed neatly and his cane resting casually against his shoulder.
"How may I help you?" he asks, voice smooth and easy.
"Good afternoon, Mr. President. I was speaking with one of my assistants just now, and we've settled on a promising idea for the next Games."
No stuttering. No hesitation. Just firm confidence and unyielding resolve. It's the only way to survive.
"Oh?" The president has memorized my voice—I'm fairly sure he knows every voice in the Capitol, though he'd argue otherwise. "Would you like to come in?"
"No, thank you, sir," I say, my tone perfectly detached. The only person I can truly be genuine around is Perdissa, and I can't even tell her everything. "I won't take up too much of your time."
"If you insist. Be quick about it, then."
I catch myself before nodding, and instead let the plan that's been building ever since I saw that book spill out, my thoughts overflowing.
It's a plan quickly constructed, and quickly spoken. I've never been one to dream, but I've always been able to scheme. And I can tell, as though I can see into the very tapestry of the future itself, that this will be the most spellbinding Games Panem has ever seen.
"Mr. President," I say casually, a prelude of things to come, "have you ever heard of fairy tales?"
Hey guys! Miri and I are collabing on a fairytale-inspired SYOT! This will be a partial; we're going to be accepting around 10-14 tributes. The form and stuff is on my profile. The deadline is July 18. We hope you enjoyed this chapter!