2nd book of the 23 Ways to Be Dead series.

By Arti.

Prologue Edit

"Eric Franzel."

I freeze as I always do whenever I'm frightened. I don't care if I'm a burly 16 year old boy, if your name was drawn in the Reaping you'd be scared too.

I remember the fairy tales my mother used to read to Sarah and me.

"Once upon a time..." she'd say in her clear calming voice.

"There was a brave knight who went to war for his fair maiden, the princess!"

"There's not a princess in Panem!" my little sister protested.

"Hush, it's just a story." whispers Mom.

I listened intently without saying anything the whole story for every night. Then at the end, Mom would get up, kiss Sarah on the cheek and me on the forehead.

And every night she'd turn, blow us each one more kiss and turn out the lights. And every night, I'd always ask into the darkness, "Momma?"

"Yes honey?"

"Read it to me again...that last little bit."

She'd smile though I couldn't see it in the gloom.

"And they live happily ever after." then she'd leave. It was my light in the darkness. I don't care how girly it sounds, those words saved me from nightmares and the hardships I'd face everyday.

Happily ever after...

As I stepped on stage and looked at the cheering, rioting, boliling crowd yelling at me, I shuddered.

There would be no happy ending for me.

Chapter 1 Edit

I turn to Vanessa LasAngels. My District partner is the most sarcastic, ruthless, horrible person I've met since I came here-no, make that the most horrible person i've ever known.

"Good luck Live Wire." I grin weakly.

"Same to you Sparky." she smiles with a glint in her beautiful blue eyes. She does look like an angel, flowing dark hair, tanned skin, and blue eyes. But, as I said, spend five minutes with her....and, well, you'd understand.

I remember the famous costumes out stylists made. Her costume was the exact replica of a spark that a broken wire leaves. Mine was the same, but more fiery. They were supposed to represent District 3's industry, mechanics and building junk. Hence our nicknames.

That all happened before we were taken to our sperate launch rooms. I hurry a good bye to my stylist, Tigris and step onto the metal plate.

"Remember what Krissy said," she tells me, naming my mentor. "You're strong, you've got a fighting chance. Get to the Cornuicopia, get what you want, and then..." she grins, "How'd she put it? 'Get ther Hell out of there' I believe it was."

I weakly laugh and Tigris hugs me. "I'm gonna miss you little boy." she purrs softly. I nods, squeezing her hand, then letting go. A glass window comes down and shields me from the outside world now and I just wave as I rise, up, up up.

I gasp as the bright light temporarily blinds me.

"Let the 1st ever Hunger Games start!" a booming voice proclaims. I squeeze my eyes shut.

Happily ever after...

Chapter 2 Edit

I looked around the arena, knowing I had 60 seconds, a minute before it began. The ring of 24 tributes, all the same measure away from the Cornucopia. Some were crouched on their plates, eyes eager and alreayd on the stash in the big golden horn.

The weather was fair, like a usual summer day. Warm, but not sweltering. The sky was blue with puffy clouds dotting it.

The sand around the Cornucopia and the tributes was a curcle and beyond that the ground was rocky. To my left was a dense pine forest, the green s striking against the blue and white of the sky. Smoke was coming out of something in the midst of the forest and I desperately hoped it wasn't dangerous.

To my right were more pine trees. There was also what looked like a creek and plenty of flowers. However over on the right there were more deducious trees then pine. Straight ahead was a jagged mountain, icy and evil looking. Dark clouds circled the top.

Behind me was a sweeping medow. Golden and probably up to my head in height, it looked mysterious. I didn't trust the wild. In 3 we had hardly any plants. We worked in factories and there was too much pollution for anything beautiful to live.

I was suddenly reminded of the stories mother used to tell me about kings and adventures and dragons. This place looked just like it came out of a fairy tale. Maybe knowing those things, like about witches and swordfighting would help me in this arena.

Then I shake my head. In the Hunger Games, only one thing helps you. And that's survival instincts.

I have none.

Chapter 3 Edit

My plan formulates quickly. The things have been places stratigically so that you can't just hop throught them. You'd have to go around or climb things to get to the center. And probably fight a fair amount too.

My skill is fencing. Or fighting with a sword, whatever you call it. And mostly I learned that with sticks and from books back home. So by the time I got to the Capitol I was pretty good at fighting and strong enough to hurt someone. During my private training session, I decapitated all the training dummies. And then some.

So I knew that they'd be impressed and have some sword lying around here....there!

The hilt was simple, covered with leather. The sword though looked perfectly balanced and just right. It was near the edge of the pile. My plan had already formed.

I'd grab the sword-it should be easy enough. Then I'd run voer everything else, hopefully damaging some things so no one else could use them, and get to the mouth. I could get some of the better stuff, a tent, a backpack, food, water....and then get out of there.

I crouched on my plate, leaning on my front leg, ready to take off.

Then it sounded, the gong.

I took off.

Chapter 4 Edit

The gong sounds.

I've been ready and I spring to my legs, running so fast...

I reach out to grab the sword and my hands swing at nothing. I panic. Is is a hologram? Can the Gamemakers do that?

But finally I'm able to grasp the sword and I start running towards the center, the horn, the treasure chest. My sword drags on things, slicing open a few packs and damamging tarps. But nothing that can't be fixed. I don't care, just run, keep running.

I haven't payed very much attention to my fellow tributes. But I'm forced to look when something slams into my side.

The big boy from another District, I forget which, is towering over me. In one hand he holds a backpack. In the other, a pipe. Suddenly it clicks in my head. Forrest Hunter. Male tribute of District 9. Water.

I jump up right before he smashes the pipe where I had been standing. A packet of food burst open. My moment of aerial veiw lets me see most of the other tributes running into the woods. Most are letting the few of us fight it out, then will come out and pick off the rest. Cowards.

Forrest is getting his pipe ready again when I realize I have my sword. I grin and spin aorund, slashing.

His green eyes open wide in shock and hgis mouth forms a little 'o'. A gash in his chest, I don't know how deep or fatal, has been opened and blood spurts out. He backs away from me and I look around, breathing heavily.

I think I'm in the clear and have just bended down to pick up some tasty looking cans of soup from the capitol when a slight pricking sensation come from my lower left thigh.

I look down and see an arrow. A thin line prtrudes from it and I follow the line confused. A bow lies a little ways away, alone. But there's no doubt that the arrow came from there.

Bows and arrows? Wasn't that-

Then she hits me from behind.

Chapter 5 Edit

"Live Wire..." I groan. She hit me pretty hard and I guessed I had a concussion. Maybe two. If that's even possible. My thoughts are so muddled right now, and yet so clear, it's so confusing....

She smiles down at me. "No one ever said anything about us being allies Sparky, so don't look so shocked."

I hiss softly and try to get up but she plants one of her feet on my chest. I glare up at her.

Once upon a time...

"Your from my District." she says. "So it's kinda weird to kill you. But don't think I'll feel bad about it for a minute."

I don't.

There was a fair princess and a brave knight...

"So this is gonna be kinda weird for me." she hefts up her sheath of arrows, loads her bow and pulls the string back.

She's actually gonna kill me!?

"'Nessa, no...." I plead. There's a flicker of something in her eyes. Maybe an uncharicteristic sign of remorse? Or sadness? Even pain?

That extra moment gave me time to think about everything. I saw this from all sides I could. There was me thinking about my family and wondering if dying hurt. There would be Sarah, watching this on TV, praying, praying her brother was smart enough to get out of this and maybe come home. There was my mom who I could see trying not to cry. Not another one dead, not after Jack....There was Dad. Who was probably so intent on his inventions he just saw me as another machine. To be mourned for shortly, but then get to work on sometihng else.

There was my friends, who would be broken for a while. But they could be put back together. There would be everyone I had ever known in 3, watching me, praying maybe one of me or Vanessa got home. There would be someone else in another District watching and hoping we killed each other so their kid could come home. There was the Capitol, placing bets and yelling at the screens. There was Tigris and my prep team and everyone.

He fought valiently for what he believed in.

Why'd I have to come here to die?

Well I hadn't known I was going to die. I honestly thought I would make it home.

I was wrong.

He slashed his sword and bowed to the princess and saved lives nobely.

I remember my sword and grab at it, bringing it at Vanessa with all my strength. It gashes a cut in her cheek, but she wrenches it out of my grasp and tosses it away. I hope it hits someone else.

Once again she pulls back the bowstring and aims. I close my eyes, hoping it will be painless.

The knight rode off one day to fight again. But this time he didn' come back.

What is she waiting for? I hate her so much....

The whole kingdom was mournng, trying to find him. But they never did.

Finally I think she gets tired of making me and Panem wait. I open my eyes a sliver, then close them again. A small tear streaks off my face.

I hear the arrow fly, barely feel it pierce my skin before I know I'm gone. Vanessa's aim was true. I open my eyes. She scrambles away, grabs something and runs off. I can dimly see the other tributes running into the forest. Forrest is somewhere near the Cornuicopia.

Then I close my eyes. "Good bye..." I whisper, heaving my last breath. The last thing I think of.....those fairy tales with Sarah and Mother.
So much for my happy ending.

End Result of Eric Franzel, Male Tribute of District 3: Failure

Read the next book: The Cornicopia!