Macy rolled over in her sleep and onto her back, a single arm hanging over the edge of the bed. As she breathed out the tip of her middle finger lightly brushed the carpet and in the windless dark of the night this single calming, repetitive movement continued unheeded for several minutes. The trees didn't rustle and the dogs didn't bark. As usual, the moon slipped across the sky, highlighting the ground with eerie silver.
On a night like this Macy would normally sleep silently for hours, with no sign to acknowledge the passing of time as she lay perfectly still. But tonight, as the atmosphere in the room changed subtly, Macy's slumber would be disturbed.
Without the tell tale warning of creaky floorboards or a moaning stair somebody appeared at the door. Macy didn't wake. Light footsteps tapped slowly across the floor and the silhouetted figure crouched down next to the bed, taking Macy's hand in his. His fingers gently caressed her palm whilst her eyes slowly fluttered open.
"Who are you?" Macy whispered, calm in her short, waking confusion.
The crouched figure on the floor smiled and introduced himself:
"I'm The Gamesmaster." He said.
Macy laughed scornfully and rolled over, snatching her hand out of his. "There is no 'The Gamesmaster', only hundreds of gamesmasters." Macy didn't think about what she said she just spoke words she had thought many times over her life. "There is no end of you and yet none of you have earned the right to be 'The'." Macy stared at the ceiling in contemplation for a short, but deep, moment.
Finally awake, Macy realised that this was the second time that she'd been visited in the middle of the night by a mysterious Gamesmaster. Most people were only graced once, if at all, and hers had been many years previously. Perhaps, she thought, it accounted for why she still lay calm.
"What do you want?"
The Gamesmaster took a deep breath and jumped straight to the point. "We need your help. You have to play again."
"I'm not doing it."
"You have to - let me explain."
"I left, and I won't go back. That's explanation enough." Macy sat up.
The Gamesmaster looked at Macy's set expression and her crossed arms. "The Games are changing." He said.
Macy didn't move. Only a slightly raised eyebrow showed that she was listening or interested. Their eyes locked.
The Gamesmaster leaned forward and flipped up the collar of Macy's pyjamas. She made no move to stop him. There, underneath the thin layer of cool material the brands, patterns, logos and tattoos stood out, dark against her skin. Each separate sign took up approximately a square inch. There were about twenty two in total, the marks overflowing off her shoulder, down her arm and across her back and chest.
Macy shrugged, as if to ask why the Gamesmaster wanted to see her brands. As she moved the moonlight flowed off, on and over the puckered skin of burn scars and old tattoos, causing them to dance and shimmer disconcertingly, seeming to waver in and out existence.
"You seem confused." the Gamesmaster noted; he seemed suddenly quite confident.
"You won't be when you come back."
"Why do you need me?" Macy asked; her expression changing slightly as curiosity gripped her.
"You'll find out when you come back."
Macy's face darkened again suddenly.
"I'm not coming back."
The Gamesmaster smiled.
"I'm afraid you have no choice,"
"I always have a choice," Macy scoffed, "and I choose to stay."
Slowly, carefully, the figure leant across and laid a finger gently on one specific brand: an ancient sun with lance like rays.
"You see…" He said, showing her a much more colourful and complicated one on the back of his hand, "we own you. And when we want you back, you have to come."
Macy knocked his finger off the mark and laid down her collar, whilst the Gamesmaster stood and walked to the door, pulling his sleeve back down over his hand.
"Come." He commanded. "You are needed."
"You see…" came a voice from behind him, stern and commanding, "I say nobody owns me. I say I have lived my life for the Games. I say I am free and most of all I say that I shall no longer have to obey anyone. And what I say, I get."
The Gamesmaster turned - Macy looked up. When they stared hard into each other's eyes the Gamesmaster appeared to admit defeat.
He shook his head. "When our heroes desert us what are we to do?" He turned and walked out the door, calling out as he went: "Come on Yellow Cat, we're leaving…alone." He flashed Macy a dark look.
Macy ignored him. "Yellow Cat?" She asked herself. "It couldn't be."
Macy had to try.
"Puss!" she called, rushing to the door and wrenching it open. There, at the top of the stairs, stood a tall, slender, fair haired sixteen year old girl. At the moment she looked years younger than Macy, who felt suddenly tired, but Macy knew that if she chose to follow the girl their ages would, once more, realign and Macy would get back all the strength and vigour that had slowly been sapped from her.
"I can't believe you, Red Phoenix," the girl almost seemed to spit the name, "I thought you promised me that together we would do anything for the sake of the Games."
"Red Phoenix?" Macy whispered sadly, "Please Puss, it's just Phoenix. You always used to forget the formalities of family titles."
Yellow Cat turned and stalked away head held high, but Macy, leaning in her doorway, still saw the tears running down her face.
"Phoenix," Macy whispered. She pinched the bridge of her nose, remembering the past she'd hidden deep within herself, "I was Phoenix."
Macy turned back to her room trying to quell the dark clamouring guilt awakened in her stomach by the words of her nine year companion.
Macy lay on her back in the half-light of her bedroom, with a single hand brushing the carpet, eyes wide open. Behind them her mind rushed past years of Games: fights, challenges, stories, excitement, friendships, terrors… and promises. And then, when it had flown past that, it caught onto her current life – the monotony of constant boredom.
Hours later, when the dawn light had just begun to brush the edges of the horizon, Macy finally decided to give up on sleep.
"Stop it Mace." She told herself, pushing herself away from the wall and off her bed.
"You've got to stop thinking like this, it was a dream, and it always will be a dream."
As she spoke, a surreal susurrus passed through the room but Macy didn't appear to notice.
It passed again, stronger this time, stopping the clock and dipping the lights. A sigh rippled through the air and a dark figure stepped out of the wall behind Macy. A muscled arm wrapped firmly around her neck and she was dragged forcefully through the wall.