Author: St. Elsewhere PM
"I hate that they did the Reapings in June." For Whisp's D14 prompt, 'Nineteen.'Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Angst - Other tributes - Words: 1,517 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 1 - Published: 07-21-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7204376
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This is written for Whisp's prompt "Nineteen" on District 14. (Yeah, I'm continuing with my very original naming scheme)
I also 'borrowed' one of VividlyVisceral's ideas. Hope that's okay, Vivid!
They always did the Reapings in June.
It was unfair, that such a horrible event could happen in such a beautiful month, when the air was heavy with the perfume carried from the trees, and bees and other small insects flew lazily in the air.
District 11 had always been my home. The eldest of three, I'd had to take care of my siblings for most of my teenage life. My mother had died giving birth to my youngest sister, and my dad had found one of the left over Tracker Jacker nests in the fields one day. As such, from the age of thirteen, I was all my little brother and sister had in this world.
We were lucky, really. The fields and orchards and vineyards had always provided a rich crop, with enough left over that most days, none of us went to bed hungry. I heard horror stories from other Districts, especially 10 and 12, the former of which was close enough that on days when the air was dead silent, you could hear the sounds of cattle and rough human voices from the edge of 11.
I lived in constant fear of the Hunger Games. All of us did. I wasn't the only one, who looked on in fear as the Capitol man swept electric blue hair out of his face and picked the names out of the glass bowls. Many of us had similar stories to me: older siblings looking after younger ones. Most weren't as well off as I was, but still, if I were picked for the Games, what would happen to my siblings? I'm sure my brother could take over the reins, just like I did for dad. But I didn't want the responsibility to have to fall on his shoulders.
Then there was my own, more selfish, reasoning. I did not want to go to the Hunger Games. I was terrified of them, of the blood and gore and the way that these people, who looked so human during the Reapings and interviews, could turn into such remorseless killing machines, utterly cold. I never wanted to place myself in that situation, and every year, I crossed my fingers and hoped it wouldn't be me.
My twelfth year. The two tributes, I didn't know either. My dad was still alive, then, and I saw as he watched from the sidelines, breathing out a huge sigh of relief as some nameless, faceless-well, to us, anyway-nobodies were chosen. He'd died, delirious and screaming, two weeks after that.
The same happened in my thirteenth year, and my fourteenth. And then, on the fifteenth, the Hunger Games affected me in the first real way. My best friend, Samitha, was chosen for the Hunger Games.
She was standing next to me, as she always had, rubbing my shoulder for comfort. The Games didn't terrify her life they did me-she saw them as an unavoidable fact of life, and always stared unswervingly forward at the stage as the Tributes were chosen, or at the television, when they tore each other apart.
When I heard her name, it took me a second to react. I half-turned, my mouth open, but she was already gone, striding steadily up to the stage. She didn't cry. I did.
She did well, that year, too. She made it into the top four, something 11 rarely does. I covered my eyes as a Career from 1 bashed her skull in with a spiked mace. He won that year. He got riches and fame. We got a simple black casket with her mangled body inside.
My sixteenth year passed smoothly, but I was even more terrified than usual. This time, it was a classmate of mine, someone I knew, but not well, and a small twelve-year-old boy who lived in the wealthier part of town. Neither of them made it through the bloodbath that typically happens at the Cornucopia.
My seventeenth year, I stared at the ground as the two tributes were chosen. I knew neither of them, but when it finished, and the crying parents had been shepherded away, I walked down the silent street to our little house with my head held high.
There was one last Reaping for me, and then I'd be free. I wouldn't have to clench my stomach as it churned in fear in that small circle with the other girls my age. Never again would I have to live in terror of my name being picked. One more year, and I'd be done. I would, of course, still fear for my siblings, but it wouldn't be the same. I'd know, one way or another, that I was safe.
My final Reapings was for the 39th Hunger Games.
It was a beautiful summer day, like God had pulled out all stops to try to make this horrible day slightly better. It was pouring sunshine, the air was thick and sweet, and birds and insects and other animals called out to each other in ecstasy, having not a care in the world.
My brother was sixteen, standing tall and proud in the ring with the other boys his age. My thirteen year old sister stood with the others in her age group. Her first Reapings had been last year, and she'd been so nervous that she'd vomited. I don't think she'd do that this year.
Our Escort mounted the stage, along with the Mayor. He was new, and this was his first year. His hair was deep blue-black and his eyes were an antifreeze green. Apart from a piercing in his nose, his face was unmarked.
After the Mayor read out the Treaty of Treason, it was time for the Escort to step forward and draw out the names. A wind had sprung up, which was welcome because it was hot in the square, surrounded by all the other children from the ages of 12-18 in District 11. He reached into the bowls and rifled around, drawing up the slip of paper right at the bottom. As always, my stomach clenched as I thought about this year this year this yearnotmeplease.
With the piece of paper in his hand, he stepped up to the microphone, unfolded it, and began to read.
"Gra-" And my stomach was already unclenching, because I didn't know anyone whose name started with Gra. My relief was short-lived, though, because the piece of paper was plucked out of his hand by a particularly strong gust of wind, and went sailing into the crowd of parents that stood silently around the edges of the square. The Escort nearly fell off the stage trying to catch it, but straightened himself with a frown, smoothed down his hair and turned back to the mic.
"Sorry about that, folks. I'll just draw out another one."
No, no! Why couldn't it have been that one...
I tried to control my breathing as he plucked another name from the bowl, crushing the piece of paper into his fist as he neared the microphone. With two hands, he unfolded it, read out the name, and then brought his mouth to the microphone.
"And this year's girl Tribute for the 39th Annual Hunger Games is...Rowan Bluebell!"
Time slowed. It sounds cheesy, but it really did. I glanced around as the people who knew me glanced in horror, and the ones who didn't looked bored. I could see my brother, his mouth open slightly, staring at me. My sister wasn't looking at me. She was crying into the arms of her best friend.
Because that was my name. I was going to the Hunger Games.
Hands pulled me forward as the others in my age group parted before me like the Red Sea before Moses. Our District's Escort looked around expectantly, searching for me.
He smiled slightly as I mounted the stage in total shock. I think it was empathy I saw in his eyes. He said nothing though, only stepped aside as I shook the Mayor's hand and he asked for volunteers. There were none, and nor had I expected there to be. The Victors from previous years, only five, all looked at me in sadness.
I don't know anything at all about the male Tribute, only that he wasn't my brother. I couldn't think of anything else apart from the fact that on my final Reaping, I was picked. They bundled me into the car with my District Partner, and together we were whisked away to the Justice Building.
I turned nineteen the next day. My birthday was always the day after the Hunger Games.
I hate that they did the Reapings in June.