"Shhh" I whisper to Mandius, I don't need him giving up our position to the peacekeepers before the opportune moment. I've gotten plenty of whippings for playing pranks on the peacekeepers before and I don't need any more on reaping day. This admittedly isn't my most ingenious trick, but I want to get one in before the reaping just in case.
I can see the peacekeeper, just a few more steps and he'll be in range. Annnnnnnnnnd now! I chuck the rock at the peacekeeper's head and it makes a satisfying thud on his helmet. He is disoriented and in the confusion Mandius opens the cage filled with the mockingjay's we spent the day gathering.
"Ahhhhhhhhhhhh" I shout in a very annoying tone. Almost instantly the mockingjays repeat it. The peacekeeper gets hit bearings, but he has no idea where we are, our noisy escape is masked by the screeches of the jays. I hear him swear as he frantically searches for us. For a second there I thought he had a concussion, but he recovered too quickly. I know the signs of a concussion well, I've had a couple in my time, things like that happen when you get into fights, and I don't back down from a fight.
Me and Mandius slip back into the town and no one is the wiser about our little excursion. Mandius, short for Ozymandius, has been my right hand man for years, and a good right hand man he is. We walk through the town and flirt with just about every girl we see. I do love the ladies.
"Where have you two been?" I hear a familiar voice behind me.
"Hey Toyin." Toyin is the only girl that I wouldn't think of flirting with, not 'cause she isn't cute, she is with her freckles and green eyes, no, we're just too close, she's practically my sister. We've know each other since we were babies.
"So what were you doing?" She prods.
"Oh nothing…" I say with my lopsided smile, "Just throwing some rocks at the peacekeepers, that's all."
"Always the rebel, you plan to start a new rebellion?"
"I told you, I'm not pretty enough to be the face of the rebellions," I laugh. Scars and cornrows aren't exactly the look of a leader.
Mandius heads over to the sixteen year old section, while Toyin and I meet up with her brother Caelus and the others in our fifteen year old section. Caleus is bit overbearing following us around and all, but he's saved our skin on a few occasions. He's a wreck right now. "Welcome everyone…" the escort has grown less and less enthusiastic every year. He doesn't even bother to say anything before reaching into the bowl and grabbing the first name, "Leighann Ash." I hear an insane laugh from the eighteen year old section and a taller girl with about twenty earrings and a tattoo over her left breast goes to the stage.
The escort doesn't introduce her, he just moves on to the boy's bowl. "Jasper Jarrah." I become rooted to the ground, and I guess a few minutes pass because they send some peacekeepers to grab me. I try to fight them off, but I don't do well. They stun me and drag me to the stage, propping me up next to Leighann.
Leighann turns to me and whispers, "You've got some fight in you, don't get in my way or I'll have to kill you in the bloodbath."
Looks like a District 11 alliance is out of the question.
"Hey Isabelle, I made you some dinner," My brother Noah points to a plate on the counter.
"Thanks," I answer, hanging my apron on the coatrack.
"How was work?" He asks as I pull up a chair to the counter.
"Pretty easy," I answer before digging in to the food.
"How about you?"
"Oh not too bad, had some peacekeepers complain, but that's usual."
"Guess that happens when you're a chef, someone will always complain, but," I take a second to swallow, "They don't have any real reason to, this is great."
"Yeah well you should know about dealing with complaints, I'm sure the Victors give you plenty of grief."
"They are actually pretty nice, for the most part." Cecelia's tips alone have been a major source of income for the family. Between Noah's job, my parent's jobs at the factory, and my job we haven't had to take any tesserae.
"Yeah well, they have seen things that would mess anybody up," Noah says sadly. Noah is always a bit sour about the Hunger Games, a couple of years ago his friend got reaped and didn't make it back. Neither of us says much until it's time to go to the reaping after that.
Soon enough I'm in the town square and the mayor has given his speech; I can see the familiar faces of the victors up on the stage. Their names are read off by the mayor, as well as the two long dead victors. "Now," out escort walks over to the reaping bowl, "Time to find out who will be heading to the games." She crosses to the bowl and plucks out a name. "Isabelle Catcher!"
There has to be some sort of mistake, I don't take any tesserae, my name is only in there a couple times, this isn't right. It hits me like a brick wall, I really am going in. I'm on the verge of tears as I walk up; everything around me is so silent. The escort introduces me and moves on. It's eerie standing up here; the only sound is the escort speaking on the loudspeaker and the howling wind.
"Ivan Hill." She's read the boy's name now and I see him walking toward the stage. He is tall with bronze hair, his face completely emotionless; his blue eyes stare ahead at nothing. He doesn't say anything to the escort or to me when we shake hands. It's very intimidating.
I'm lead away to the justice building and instructed to wait for people to come say goodbye. I finally break down; when my brother comes in I'm a complete mess, tears streaming down my face, my nose running. He doesn't say a word he just sits down next to me and pulls me close to him. I cry and howl as I lay my head on his shoulder, we both know I'm going to die.
"Shhhh…" I whisper to Emma stroking her head, "Everything is going to be alright, you're just going to be with Auntie Beatrice for a couple hours, then Mommy will be back." I carefully hand Emma over to my sister, "Beatrice, thank you so much."
"It's alright, you know how much I love my little nice," she says holding Emma close to her.
"Listen, I need to ask you for something important," I say as casually as possible. My sister stares at me, I know she can tell what I'm about to ask. "If I end up-"
"You're not getting reaped," she cuts me off.
"I know that a one year old is a huge resp-"
"Brooke, you know it's not that, if it came to it I would take care of Emmilne, but it won't," she says sternly.
"It's just you're the only one who-"
"Listen, nothing is going to happen" she interrupts me again "…but you know if it did I would be here for her."
"Dad wouldn't be happy to hear you say that," I say with a little smile.
"Yeah well, Dad wasn't too happy about me letting you and Emma move in here, so who cares what Dad says."
"Thanks," I say sheepishly. After I got pregnant, and decided to keep the baby everyone abandoned me except Beatrice. The whole rest of the District turned their back on me, my dad, Emma's father, and worst of all was my mother. My father hasn't spoken to me since she slit her own throat.
I say goodbye to Emma and Beatrice, and find my spot with the other seventeen year olds. The Mayor gives a speech and then the escort goes up to pick the names of the two children who are about to die.
"Alright…" she sighs, she doesn't seem any happier to be here than any of us, "First the girls…."
I hold my breath, this is it. She awkwardly opens the slip of paper and calls out the name, "Brooklynne Satire," my name. I feel like crying, and I almost do. I see the hateful judging eyes look at me as I walk to the stage, but I don't care about that, all I care about is that I won't be there for my daughter anymore.
I get to the stage, still barely able to hold back tears. The escort heads over to the other reaping bowl and draws a name, "Ried Meyer." I scan the crowd till I see him in the fifteen year old section; he is some short kid with glasses. Reid gets to the stage and stands there nervously for a second before he pukes on the escort's shoes, they don't make us shake hands.
I can hear a woman weeping, and I see a man console her, they must be his parents. She reminds me of myself a little, she is obviously much older, but I feel her pain, she is being separated from her child, a child who I will have to outlive if I'm going to see my own child again.
"SCREW YOU TREE!" I shout throwing my knife at the dumb tree. It sticks in the tree, I hate trees. I hate District 7. I hate my stupid drunk dad. I'll never be a dumb lumberjack. Chopping down these dumb trees and sending the wood to the capitol to do whatever the hell they do with it, I dunno, building gazebos, or using it in their big fancy fireplaces. Whole thing sucks.
The only thing I like about wood is that I can widdle it. That's the only time I don't feel like killing myself, when I'm carving something cool. I grab my knife from the tree and a branch lying on the ground. I know I won't have time to finish it, the reaping is in just a couple hours, but I need to do something to keep my mind busy.
I know that I won't be back to finish it later because I've decided to kill myself by volunteering for the Hunger Games. I have nothing left to live for, so I'm just gonna end it, it's not like anybody will miss me. I don't have any friends or brothers or sisters, and the girl I like doesn't know I exist. Dad doesn't care about anything since my Mom died, she was the last person who cared about me. So I decided to kill myself, what better way to do it than to sign up for the Hunger Games? This way I know I'll die, plus I'll get to save someone else. Maybe then people will stop thinking me of a weirdo and think of me as a hero, like that kid from 5 a few years ago. That would be cool.
Soon enough it's time for the reaping, I toss my half-finished carving back in the woods and stick the knife in a tree. I won't need either anymore. I got caught with a knife once before, I have to carry a special permit saying I need it for widdling, I sell some of my stuff. If any peacekeepers found out I was tossing it around, even just at trees, I'd be in big trouble, well, not anymore, after today nothing matters.
It doesn't take long to get to the reapings; I sign in and take my spot in the sixteen year old section. The crowd around me is muttering but I don't hear anything they are saying. I'm sweating and nervous, I almost want to back out, but I can't freak myself out now.
"Welcome everyone," the escort says over the loudspeaker. "I'm so excited to announce our two lucky tributes, may the odds be ever in your favor." Will this idiot just shut up; can we please just get this over with?
"Alright, now it's time to choose out girl…." She reaches into the bowl and grabs a name. "Terya Wylie." I hear a murmur and a girl from the sixteen year old section making her way to the stage. I recognize her, she has light brown skin and black curls, she puts on a brave face as she walks to the stage. I'd seen her around. She has gotten picked on too; she is one of the few worthwhile people in the district.
"And out boy is….Kalen Ram!"
"I volunteer" I say practically in a whisper. A few people hear me and look at me strangely. "I volunteer!" I say louder this time and the escort hears me. I walk slowly to the stage, I did it, I was a little worried I would wuss out, but I did it. When I finally get to the stage the escort turns and asks me why I volunteered. "To die," I answer.
I shake Terya's hand and go into the Hall of Justice. They tell me that now is the time when my friends and family will come and say goodbye. Sure, that would be the case if anyone cared about me, but then I wouldn't need to kill myself. Suddenly the doors open, and at first I think there is a mistake, that someone was looking for Terya's room, but then I see who it is, my dad.
"Son…" He stumbles over to me obviously drunk.
"What do you want?"
"I'm surry" he slurs his words, "Eye syuda bin there wen yur muther died. Now I'm lusin yu too."
"What?" My father has completely ignored me for months and now he says this. I don't have a chance to say anything else 'cause he passes out, and the peacekeepers drag him away. This doesn't change anything, it doesn't matter.
The door opens again, this time it's someone even more unexpected. Kelly Horace, the girl I'm in love with. I can tell she's been crying. "Kelly….what are you doing here?"
"Arto!" She runs over to me and hugs me. I've never been held like this before, like she actually cares about me. "What is going on?" I ask.
"Why?" She asks hitting me on the arm.
"I…I don't…didn't have anything worth living for."
She looks really hurt when I say this. "What about us?"
I stare in shock for a minute, "But…you….you like me?"
"Oh, you're such an idiot." She grabs me tight and kisses me on the lips. My first kiss. "Promise me you will try to come home," she says.
"I will…" I say hugging her back. It looks like I actually have something to live for, and I'm only finding out after signing up for the Hunger Games.
It's been three years, and things are finally starting to get back to normal. Well, definitely not normal, things never can really return to normal when two of your best friends are killed in the Hunger Games, but I'm beginning to learn how to come back to reality. There were six of us back then; me, Azeika, Dale, Lysander, Alex and Zane. Dale and Alex both loved Azeika, but Alex was always better with girls, so they went out, well for a little while. By reaping day they had split, while Dale was still too nervous to tell her how she really felt. Everything changed when Azeika got reaped. Dale volunteered to try to protect her, and they both died in the games.
After that we all lost ourselves for a while. Alex blames himself for everything; he's been getting more and more rebellious and we are worried about what he will do next. Zane tried to deal with all of it with humor; he was like Dale before the games, very logical and intelligent, but he doesn't take anything seriously anymore. Lysander has been the one to keep us sane and together, especially me. He reminds me of both Dale and Azeika at times; he has the best of both. I'd always had a crush on him, and after the Dale and Zee went into the games we grew even closer. We're engaged now; at first my parents were concerned about me an eighteen year old girl moving and preparing to marry someone who is himself only twenty, but they came around. They know that he is the reason that I'm beginning to be my old self again. I'm finally starting to escape the nightmare.
Today is reaping day, a day that always brings back horrible memories. I have to go to the town square and watch as two of our citizens receive a death sentence. I'm alone in the reaping section, all of my close friends are too old to be reaped, but I see a few familiar faces in the fifteen year old section. I see Azeika's younger twin siblings, Harry and Hayden, as well as Blaine River, the kid Dale volunteered for. Blaine was just twelve back then, he really has grown up a lot.
I get so lost in thought about the past few years I hardly notice that the escort is already picking the first name, "Charlie Watsen!" I see Charlie walk to the stage, and the horrible memories of Dale and Azeika going up there flood back into my mind. "So Charlie," the escort asks him as he gets to the stage, "are you excited to represent your lovely district in the games?"
"Yeah, can't wait for the fun to start," he says very sarcastically.
"Uh…yer...very well," the escort awkwardly moves on to the girl's reaping bowl. She draws a name and clears her throat. "Violet prior."
It can't be happening.
No, no, no, no, I….I thought I'd left the games behind. It's like a horrible dream, I watched as my friends were murdered three years ago, but I thought I was done with the horror of the games.
Now I'm going in.