Chapter 1: Reaping
Solemn silence hung in the air as the citizens of District 12
shuffled their way to the Hall of Justice in the main square.
Finn was squeezing his hand tightly.
"No fear," he told his brother, trying to keep his own voice straight.
"No fear," Finn replied, giving a broken smile.
He felt proud of his brother, but said nothing of it.
Earlier that morning Finn was a shaking mess in the house, but the second they stepped out onto the porch, he had taken a deep breath and drew his face blank before they started walking.
He'd taught his little brother well.
"I'll meet you after, alright?" he said as they got in line to check in.
"See you," Finn said quietly after the Peacekeeper pricked his finger and confirmed his identity.
"Next!" the Peacekeeper said in a deep and loud voice.
He stepped forward, looking around at all the same solemn faces around him. His left eye twitched as his finger was pricked and drew blood. The handheld machine beeped and the Peacekeeper nodded, waving his hand to make him move away as he said "Next!"
Haymitch shuffled along and found a kid in his class, Wallace, to stand next to. They weren't really friends but they occasionally talked about the Seam where they both lived, compared how many times they had entered for tessera, and what animals other than the stray dogs - which were considered as pets - they could easily catch and kill for food. Wallace was always admiring the fact that Haymitch went as far as the Districts boundaries to hunt. The boundaries that were lined with electric fences and occasionally patrolled by peacekeepers; and if you were caught too close to the border, it was only trouble that followed.
They stood side by side, giving each other silent company as they waited for the rest of the children and teenagers to file in. Haymitch glanced around the crowd and caught sight of Rose.
Her eyes widened when she saw him. She looked down and muttered something to a girl next to her, who looked up and sent a glare his way as her mouth moved, probably trash talking him for Rose’s comfort.
Haymitch had broken up with her after the Quarter Quell announcement two months ago. District 12 had gathered then, similar to now, to watch it. Haymitch remembered watching President Snow pulling the envelope with a clearly marked 50 under The Capitol seal from his suit jacekt before clearing his throat and announcing the Quarter Quell’s theme:
"On the fiftieth anniversary, as a reminder that two rebels died for each Capitol citizen, every district will be required to send twice as many tributes."
Haymitch blinked, drawing himself back to the present, where he needed to be.
"All the other guys thank you, actually," Wallace said, his eyes moving to where Haymitch’s gaze was, moving back and forth between him and Rose, "We've been waiting for her to leave your stupid ass."
Haymitch rolled his eyes as he shrugged.
Juvenile drama still reigned, even in such a horrific time as this.
"Can never be too careful,” he muttered, shuffling his feet, his hands curling into fists at his side, “And it wasn't even going anywhere. She's a merchant's kid, yada yada, we're from different worlds…" he drifted off, not even sure if Wallace was buying his lie.
It was true, they were from different parts of the District, but that didn't stop Haymitch from enjoying her laugh, liking the feel of her hand in his, and the comfortable silence they shared as they lay next to each other in the grassy fields near the border, talking about anything but their own lives. And it didn't hurt that his mom adored her. He was surprised his eyes got wet when he told her they couldn't see each other anymore. With the possibility of his name being drawn doubling for the Quell, he didn't want to take the chance of a more dreadful goodbye.
They were too young for that foolish stuff anyways.
They were kids. With the possibility of being sent to their death.
The doors at the Hall of Justice opened, and the elder council came out and took their seats as the crowd grew restless. Among them was someone he had never seen before at the Reapings. She was in a purple pinstripe suit that showed her feminine curves, but her black hair was shaved in a buzz cut and she held a scowl on her face, not even glancing at the crowd.
"Who's that?" Haymitch muttered.
"The new appointed mentor for the tributes. Thor Chadwick kicked the bucket a month ago, remember? He was from the 11th Games, it was about time," Wallace explained,
Haymitch let out a hmm, nodding as he vaguely remembered the District's last victor; an introvert, only coming out to buy food in supplies in bulk before disappearing into the Victor's Village where he lived alone. In the District it was always known but never spoken of that each night shouts, yells, screams, and sounds of destruction were heard from his house.
"Hello and welcome!" Clara Fiore, the escort and host of the Reaping each year announced as she tapped on the microphone on the stage, breaking the hum of the whispering crowd into a static silence.
Her voice was so whiny it seemed like she was always asking a question. She could probably stop wars with that voice; the sides would retreat just so they didn’t have to hear her voice. That, and the more atrocious fashion choices she made. Even at District 12 were the word ‘fasion’ was moot because it’s citizens were more intent on feeding themselves rather than care what they looked like, the imfamous styles of the better off Districts weren’t unkown.
"Here we go…" Wallace sighed.
"Welcome, and Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!" Clara announced as she did each year since Haymitch could remember. He wondered if she even aged but figured that The Capitol probably had something for that.
"Unless we decide to send you to your death… then not so much," Haymitch muttered. Wallace scoffed and smiled.
"Now, before we start, we have twovery special videos! Brought all the way from The Capitol, our first video starring our own President Snow!" she said.
This announcement was met with silence from the crowd.
Clara put her hands forward and started clapping quickly. There was a moment of silence, but then the Peacekeepers started clapping too. All of a sudden, the crowd was giving a weak and mandatory applause to the President as he appeared on the screen amongst the musical tones of The Capitol anthem echoing throughout the square. It was the same video from two months ago: announcing the theme of the Games for the Quarter Quell.
After that, the "War, Terrible War" video came on, now just a bother since it played each and every year. Haymitch could even mouth the words as it played, not even looking at the screen. As they did each year, the crowd talked over it, and the Peacekeepers all yelled for silence. They had to draw their weapons for the square to finally fall silent again.
"Well, this shall prove to be quite a year!" Clara said as the video faded to black and The Capitol Seal showed on the screen, "Now, on with the Reaping! And as always, ladies first," Clara said as the crowd fell deadly silent. If the species were still alive, crickets would’ve been heard.
In a bright white dress with a knee length skirt that bounced in an unnatural way, Clara shuffled her heels to the bowl on the right of the stage. She stuck her hand in, reaching to the bottom, her hand immersed in white paper with kids names printed on them. She pulled out two pieces of paper before she shuffled back to the microphone and opened and read them both before clearing her throat.
"The two female tributes are Margaret Carto and Maysilee Donner!"
Two female screams emitted from the far back where the other citizens could stand to watch the reaping. The crowd of kids and teenagers fell still as the names were called. On the left side of the square, where the girls were, all moved slowly to make room for the two new tributes to pass through.
They were of the same height as they walked towards the stage. One had brown hair in a short ponytail, the other with long blonde hair braided straight down her back. The sound of the hard boots of the Peacekeepers stomping on the ground as they led the two girls to the stairs broke the silence, but no one made a sound as the two girls fumbled and grasped each other's hands as they ascended the steps together. Clara grasped the hand of the brown haired girl and pulled them both to the microphone.
"Who is who, dears?" Clara asked.
"I'm Mar- Mag- Maggie… Carto. Maggie Carto." The brown haired girl was shaking.
"Then you are Maysille Donner!" Clara cried out too happily, holding her hand out to the blonde. She gave a short nod, glaring at Clara, who either didn’t notice it or was too good of an actress as she smiled brightly.
The blonde girl stood stock still while the girl in pig tails was shaking, as though her body was shivering.
Clara smiled all the same as she spoke into the microphone again.
"Well then, now to the boys," Clara said before she shuffled on her heels towards the second bowl on the other side of the stage.
Haymitch's heart was beating rapidly. His fingers twitched and he ran his shaking hand through his hair, drawing his other hand into a shaking fist.
The animals he was able to catch for food had their seasons. Finn, only nine years old, was still learning. He hadn’t really done so much to help during their hunting sessions, but he was vigilant and dedicated enough to make Haymitch proud. However on the off seasons, Haymitch was entering his name at least four times a week to help feed his family.
Clara drew two names from the bowl and went back to the microphone amid the new silence from the crowd, all waiting in anticipation.
"Dylan Triop-" Clara said first and Haymitch couldn’t help but let out a little bit of his held in breath.
He looked for Finn – during the Reaping kids were sorted in the square by gender and age - and found his gaze again. He smiled and nodded, assuring him it was going to be okay…
"- and Haymitch Abernathy!"
Finn's face distorted into pain and he started to run but the boys around him managed to stop him. In the distance Haymitch heard a man scream, a sound he wasn't sure he'd heard before. That was the last thing he heard, other than a high-pitched ringing in his ears.
He wasn't sure what to make of it.
He wasn’t sure to make of the estranged faces around him, all staring, all still.
He felt someone touch his shoulder and he jerked away, startled. He looked over to see Wallace, still hearing the ringing in his ears.
Wallace was looking at him with… pity. His eyebrows were furrowed, and he shook his head.
"I – I'm so sorry."
Haymitch halted in his breath, barely hearing Wallace as he looked around. And only then did it finally register in his mind; his face twisted when it finally hit him, like a punch in the gut.
Everyone was staring at him.
Because his name was just called; he was the final tribute.
He stumbled forward to the center aisle, his path made clear by the others. Once he could breathe freely a Peacekeeper instantly grabbed him and led him to the stairs with a tight grip on his arm, where the other kid - he couldn't even recall what his name was – was waiting at the base of the stairs.
They didn't hold hands as they ascended the steps. The other guy was the one dragged onto the stage, Haymitch numbly following.
"Dylan Triop," he said into the microphone with a whisper.
"Then you must be Haymitch Abernathy!" Clara said, and Haymitch gave a shrug of his shoulder. He meant to nod, but he wasn't sure his brain was really working at that moment.
Clara spoke again… and he heard faint applause.
Then he felt someone grab his arms from behind, and he was being dragged into the Hall of Justice by a Peacekeeper. He was pushed into a small room that was empty except for a desk with a chair and a sofa.
"Holy Shit," he whispered thing his motor skills were back.
He rushed to the window and tried to look outside but the glass was distorted and gave him a smudged and blurred view of dark movement. He sighed, and then sat on the sofa. He looked down at the material he was sitting on, a nice intricate design. He wondered how much this sofa had cost to even be put here.
He let out a yell and punched the cushions next to him.
His damned name, in that bowl more than sixty times.
He yelled out again and delivered more punches to the sofa.
He was going to die soon.
He screamed and punched the cushion two more times before he heard the door swing open. He brought his hands up as he looked to see who it was.
A flash of brown curly hair came towards him and he felt his brother's arms wrap tight around him. He heard the soft voice of his dad call out his name. He lumbered in and sat next to him as the Peacekeeper left.
Haymitch pulled Finn back and his younger brother sat between them and curled into his side. His father reached forward and settled a large hand on Haymitch's shoulder.
He turned to look at him, surprised but quick to hide it that his matching grey eyes were freely spilling silent tears down his rugged face. For once it wasn't dirty with the sut from the mines. He'd washed up for the reaping, donning pants and shirt instead of the usual work jumpsuit.
When their mother died, he'd stopped going to work.
That was until a teacher privately approached him and noted that Finn and Haymitch were pounds thinner and had no clean clothes. After that, he went back to work, climbing up to supervisor, keeping his head held high among the whispers and gossip of his cowardice after being widowed.
Haymitch sat there, staring at his father, and for once he couldn't say anything.
His wife was killed as a standby casualty in a Black Market fight gone wrong. And now, he was going to lose his firstborn son in the Games.
"Haymitch," he grumbled, and squeezed his shoulder, "I love you, so much. I know we're not that kind of family... but I do, and you have no idea," he said, and Haymitch looked away, not willing to handle seeing his father cry. "I know you'll be great, just come on home, okay?"
Haymitch took a deep breath, and brought his hand to cover the one on his shoulder, squeezing it, looking back at his dad to give a weak smile.
"I love you too, dad," he said. More tears appeared and his dad used a cough to cover his sob as he looked away.
"Finn," Haymitch said, looking down at his brother before hugging him tightly. "Stay in shape. Keep running like we used to every week. Work on catching more animals, but don't make trouble. Don't enter your name unless it's life or death, you hear me?"
At that, a Peacekeeper swung the door open, barging in. Haymitch stood up while still hugging his brother.
His dad stood up with a growl, his hand coming around haymitch's shoulder once again. Finn looked like he was going to cry, but he could tell he was trying not to, for him. Haymitch smiled, trying to be comforting, and Finn smiled back.
Haymitch only watched as the Peacekeeper took his family away.
"No fear!" Finn cried out, his face twisted, tears streaming down his face, his cheeks bright red.
The door closed, and he was alone again.
"No fear," he whispered, shaking his head, holding no more belief in the saying.
No hope was more like it.
Nobody else came to visit him. Not even Wallace. He even had a sliver of hope that Rose would come to see him, so he could have one last goodbye, but she didn't come. And in a way he understood.
He was going to be murdered for entertainment soon. There really wasn't that much left to say.