If you create an act, you create a habit. If you create a habit, you create a character. If you create a character, you create a destiny. - Andre Maurois
The Stone Cries Out
I'm quite sure I was born bloodthirsty; or, at least, very violent, compared to most children.
I've been told that all my life: when I was born, my parents saw something great in me, that I will be able to survive whatever the world decides to throw at me. Maybe it's because I'm their only son; maybe it's because of our circumstances. But I know this: it's why they did unthinkable things to gain prowess in the world of gray we live in; why their ancestors forged their own names into the stones, carving out their places, making their thrones among the poor and the weak.
They did it. They managed to make it out unscathed and they swore to me that I would have the same advantage: I will be entrusted to the best mentors for battle. I will learn how to defend myself.
I was born a man for sacrifice—I will not die a child.
There is no room for the young and innocent here.
I walk into my home, finer than the other houses in District 2 but nowhere near as regal as the homes that are nestled in the place the Capitol deems as the Victor's Village. My mother has always dreamed of living there. I would catch her staring out the window, hair softly going down her back and she'd sigh a long wistful breath.
By the dawn tomorrow, it'll be time for the Reaping.
My entire family is thankful for the fact that I've never been called out in the four years since I became eligible for the Games. I've always been rather eager, almost frighteningly so to them, to participate but they all made me see the rationality of waiting until I was strong enough to win, not just on the Capitol's terms, but on my own.
I hold my favored sword in hand, clutching the hilt. It's comforting. I don't really understand what my instructors say when they tell me to use it as an extension of myself. Some kind of old teaching or something. All I know is that it's good for killing people; frankly, that's all I need to know. Mystical bullshit has never won in combat before and it's certainly not going to start now.
I lay upon my bed, staring at the ceiling, not thinking of anything.
A knock on my door pounds my head. I prop myself on my elbows, irritated.
My grandmother, frail and small, pushes her face past the door. "May I come in?"
I nod, smiling a little.
She sits beside me, patting my hand as I lay back down.
"Are you getting anxious?"
She beams at me, "There's a boy,"
I smirk and she ruffles my hair good-naturedly.
They have total confidence in me and that's good. I feel perfectly confident in my own abilities. They've had sixteen years to beat any weakness out of me and to build up my strengths. I'll survive.
Dying is the last resort of those who refuse to cling to life. It's no one's fault but the one who dies.
I wait in the darkness, listening for virtually everything but, of course, nothing comes. It's always quiet here where I live. Not much life among people who live in dirty and solid mountains.
I get up and look out my window, down at the empty square where we'll all get together.
A grin spreads along my face as I get ready for the Reaping. I just feel so ready!
The shirt my mother picked out for me is peculiarly tight. I just think of it as an added bonus—it's taken years to get these muscles and if showing them off makes me a potential candidate then it's alright with me. It doesn't hurt either that I'm rather good-looking. We're all pretty grateful for that; the Capitol is a vain and collectively shallow city.
There are no traces of tears or sadness in the eyes and faces of my family. We said all we needed to last night at the farewell party they threw for me. By the standards of the district, it was extremely lavish and we enjoyed every bit of it. We all know that this is what I must do, and they're proud of me. I will make them prouder because I have to.
Giving me a kiss on the cheek, my mother straightens the collar of my shirt, both of which surprise me a little. I haven't been given either in a long time and I almost shrug her off, push her back; however, I decide to allow it.
Heading out together, I stand among the boys my age, some more fit than most. A boy next to me puffs out his chest, trying to appear impressive. Dark eyes glance at me and narrow, derisive. I cross my arms over my chest and ignore him, jutting out my chin. He looks at me for a while. Then his chest lowers, dejected.
Yeah, I thought not.
A man comes forward and presents the film of our nation, Panem. I daze out and look around at the other competitors for the spot in the Games. There are a lot more that are readily capable besides the moronic big shot next to me. This shouldn't be a concern to me but the amount is a little disconcerting. I have the full ability to fight; however, it doesn't mean that I may be the one to get the chance.
I come back in time to hear the girls being called out.
The females don't usually wait to be called out however it's rather quiet on their side of the line. I tilt my head back, checking out the area over there. Before the name on the slip of paper can be called, a girl with dark hair steps forward, small, with the walk of a predator. I almost cry out in cheer—it's Clove! I knew she'd go for it.
She walks up, shoulders squared and mouth set. I notice that she's shaking a little bit and I mentally slap her. She knows better than to show weakness. Perhaps I'm overreacting but we are televised and not all the people in the Capitol are so blind.
It comes to the men and the paper isn't even drawn.
My voice rings out with six others.
"I volunteer for the Games!" it's the boy that stood next to me.
I roughly shove him aside, my stance ready, glaring at the Capitol citizen before me. "No, I do!"
I get pushed back by the same boy and my fist is clenched before I stagger a step back, my knuckles making a lovely crunching noise as they crush into his nose, red warmth spluttering onto my fingers. He falls backward, holding his nose and some tears leak out of his eyes. I snort.
There's no room for the weak here.
The other five continue to squabble and I immediately dart up the stage. A hand grips my right leg. I don't even turn around to look at them as my left foot collides with their fingers. I double check their grip will be loose by digging the heel of my shoe into their hand. They cry out.
I smirk, wide, triumphant, as I stand next to Clove. I glance at her and she winks.
She and I both knew who would get the spot.
No one bothers to stop either of us as we're declared the champions of District 2, the sound of my people ringing into my body, deafening my ears until it drowns out my fast beating heart. Excitement stirs.
There was no doubt in my mind that today is my day.
I'm not a child anymore.
I never was.