Solder Rye - 14 Years Old

District 9 Male

By the time we make it to the lake, my hands and legs start to burn like crazy.

The rough oak wood we've traversed across has sent deep cuts into my hand, turning the whole thing red. And the sharp rocks that litter the ground had bruised and pierced my feet. It thankfully doesn't hurt or anything, but it's just a little irritating. I don't mind it that much though. It's just a few bruises that will fade over time. Nothing to freak out over. What I should be freaking out over is if this branch is large enough to support both me and Sara's weight. While I'm barely making my way over to the end of it, she stands at the edge taking everything in, trying her best not to let go off the beam of wood supporting her. She has such a gleeful smile on her face, giddy full of excitement about what's the come.

Her excitement mirrors mine perfectly. Coming from district nine, there isn't much chance to do anything special. But today, all that changes. We're trying to get to Knobu lake. It's some ancient place that Miya Hort was talking up a few days ago. She says it's somewhere near the fence of the district, covered behind a patch of clustered trees and grass. If you follow the trail in this patch and climb a few trees to the top hills, you should be able to find it. Once you make it there, there's this hidden lake you can go swimming in. While not everyone at school believes it, me and Sara didn't want to take any chances.

So here we are, atop a huge tree with most of our clothes stained. We were lucky enough to dodge anyone we knew along the way to this supposed "paradise", and now we're almost there. Just one jump across this branch and we make it.

Piers is already on the other side when Sara makes a jump for it. She flies for a few seconds before landing perfectly onto the ground across from me. Piers cheers for her when she makes it, just like he always does.

"And she sticks the landing!" she calls out, laughing as she turns around.

Her clothes are in ruins now, the red blouse and shorts she decided to wear are stained in dirt and sweat. Fortunately for her, it's not her reaping outfit. That is tucked away somewhere in her closest safe and sound.

She brushes off some of the dirt stuck to her skin before looking up at me.

"You coming slowpoke?" she asks in an amused tone.

I squirm my way toward the middle of the branch where she is, trying my best not to look down.

"In a second grandma," I say in response, "I'm getting my footing just right to top that jump of yours."

She rolls her eyes but still laughs.

I look down again and breathe in. Just one shot. Don't mess it up.

I start by counting up to three.



"Well?" Sara says.


Before she can say anything else, I rush off the branch and fling myself off. For a second, there's no gravity. No restrictions. No laws. Just complete and utter freedom in my reach. And then reality sets in and I'm falling all over again. My feet crash onto the ground and I stumble into Sara's arms. She starts laughing as I do this, and so does Piers. And then suddenly I'm joining in because one of our laughs triggers everyone else's.

"Man, are you okay?" Sara says, swallowing in a few more giggles, "that landing sure didn't look okay."

"I'm fine!" I say cheerfully, "just a few scratches here and there."

"That was so cool!" Piers says, looking at us both in awe, "you looked like you were flying for a second!"

"Thanks, little man," I say, "you weren't so bad yourself."

"Really?!" he says, his eyes lighting up.

"Really," I say, quickly fist-bumping him.

His smile is so wide I can almost see his growing adult teeth. It's nice to see him like this. He's usually always quiet at school and in public, but whenever it's just us, he can be himself.

"Okay warriors," Sara said, "hold off the celebration. Let's wait until we find the lake first."

Piers and I brightly nod before Sara quickly takes the lead through this strange forest.

As we continue, I notice that the trees around us begin thinning out. So much so that I can see the sky above us. It's crystal clear, almost calming in a way. The shade of blue so distinct that I could never mistake it for anything else. It spans for billions of miles across the Earth, encasing everything in its blue glow. Somewhere far away from here, the stars replace this sky. But right now, right here, it's blue, and it's perfect, and it's amazing.

Somehow, it's all I can think about as we make our way over to the lake.

Before Sara even says anything I know we have made it to our destination. The air around us cools down, and the forest around us seems to come alive. It's lush, green, almost like a jungle. And in the center of it all is the lake. It's not as pretty as Miya made it out to be. It's still a lake, but it's mostly brown and foggy. A lot of roots from other trees dig into the center of the water, making the rest of the space small and cramped. There isn't much room to swim around in and it kind of looks like a waste pile

But I still smile anyway, because we found it.

"It's huge!" Piers says, running up to the edge of it.

"It's amazing..." Sara claims, running her hands across the surface.

"It's ours!" I yelled, rushing up the massive twisting roots entering into the lake.

For a long time, all any of us can do is smile and laugh at the discovery. The place is small and smells pretty bad, but it's so remote from anything in district nine that it's almost like discovering a long lost island. Secluded, alone, and almost paradise.

"We should mark it so others know we found it," Sara says, quickly picking up a branch.

She places it deep into the ground below us until it stays perfectly still.

"Now it just needs a flag," Piers says, "something bright so we can find our way back after the reaping."

He takes out a white handkerchief and ties it around the top of the stick. Because of the cool air silently blowing by, it begins to flap in the breeze, and it begins to glow in from the sun.

"Perfect," Sara says, "now this spot is ours forever."

"We'll come back after the reaping right?" Piers says.

As if the devil himself heard us, we hear the reaping bells start to play in the background.

"Oh no," I say," it's starting!"

"Mom is going to kill us if we don't make it back," Sara says.

"Then we better no keep her waiting," I say, "race you back!"

I quickly take off before Piers and Sara can even process my words, laughing as I make my way back to district nine. They quickly follow, and together, we head over for home.

Brianne Froyen – 15 Years Old

District 9 Female

Ms. Alba is out cleaning the flowerpots again.

She always does this during the week when she thinks no one else is up. So, every morning when the sun is barely above a sliver of light, she will go outside and start washing the pots from her garden. She tells my mother that she does this because she can't stand to see her lovely pots all dirty whenever she brings home new flowers for them, which doesn't make much sense to me. The point of flowerpots is to hold all that ugly brown dirt in it, so why clean it at all when it's the things job to be dirty inside? It's annoying to think about.

I'm thankful though that Ms. Alba does this though. Her routine has become like an alarm clock for both me and my mother. We never get to spend some alone time together during most of the day. We have to keep our distance from each other thanks to our situation. But whenever Ms. Alba's pots start clanking, me and mom get an early head start to do whatever we want. Of course, we would have to be quiet to not wake dad up, but it's still the best time of the day. I've grown accustomed to the sounds of running water and clanking metal that signal me our hour of freedom, so I'm already up and in the living room when our neighbor starts her routine.

None of the lights are on in the living room, and I don't dare turn them on since dad might wake up. He's really sensitive about everything, no matter what it. Lights being way too bright. The slight different taste in food. How someone sounds and talks to him. It's all just an annoyance to him he can't tolerate. Even my tan-colored dress that I have on could send him on a raging fit again if he so much as glances at it. But I can't help myself. It looks so pretty and perfect. The edges, the texture. Even the tan color brings off a soft glow. When the reapings start, everyone can see me in it, so I can't help but wear it.

The only imperfection I can find is the ones on my skin. The bruises that ruin the sight of the dress. They've started to heal since last week's beating, but they still hurt whenever I press too hard on them. It's bright red as well, and so plainly visible on my arm that it's grown to irritate me. I'm going to have to wear something like gloves that will cover those up during the reapings.

Just thinking about gloves brings me a sense of peace Gloves are nice and formal, they can cover up things you wouldn't want other people knowing while also looking amazing. Fingerprints. A gash or cut. Bruises. I'm thankful for gloves because now no one can notice them.

Footsteps suddenly sound from the hallway, and I look up to find mom wearing a nice-looking yellow dress. If it wasn't for the marks she has she would look so much prettier, but with the way our life is it's hard for her to maintain herself. My heart shudders whenever I see her sad, knowing what she goes through behind those closed bedroom doors. You could say at least I'm lucky. I get an entire separate bedroom from him.

Mom approaches me and hands me my jacket. I quickly put it on and roll down the sleeves so only my hand is visible. It's bright white ad a bit short, so I still look nice while we're out. When she's done putting her jacket on she quickly takes my hand. It hurts for a brief moment, but I ignore the feeling and exit out the back door with her as fast as I can. It's so scary, yet enthralling at the same time to be leaving the house without dad, since there are so little opportunities to even attempt it. The feeling of the wind, the smell of the air, my mother's hand holding mine. For the first time, we're both ready, and we run.

We pass by so many houses as we run in our boots, not even taking a glance at our home behind us. Dad won't be waking up for a while after last night's tantrum, giving us just enough time to have at least an hour for ourselves. That should be more than enough time for us.

Even as we run, we barely talk to each other, afraid that a single word might break the magical silence. We don't even say anything to Ms. Alba as we pass her house, although mom does give a small wave. I to also wave, but I have the strong urge to mouth a thank you to her. Even if she doesn't know, she's directly responsible for me and my mother's routine. And even if we never tell her, me and mom are always thankful. No matter what.

We quickly run away as fast as we can until we make it to the square, where we finally have to slow down. My breath feels like fire, my knees whine and groan, my arms begin to shake violently. It's been so long since I've run, and I love it. I love the feeling of pain not caused by someone, but by something natural. Not of a fist, but of my body just straining to keep up with the demands of blood and nutrients. It feels amazing to feel this way, even for just a moment.

I can tell mom is happy too, since she slightly smiles as she bends over panting. It's incredible how some days she changes like this. And whenever she changes for the better, it always makes me smile. For a while, she's okay, and I'm okay. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.

When we calm down, we begin our walk together. Hand in hand, acting like things are normal. We parade around the square, glancing at shops that are just now opening their doors to citizens like us. They all have the same worried look in their eyes as they begin turning their signs, showing clear fear for the upcoming reaping today.

I shake my head wildly. I shouldn't be thinking about that now. Today is just about me and mom. Us walking together through the streets as we contemplate life. A life that I know she desperately wants to escape from.

We don't even say anything as we walk. We just observe life. All around us, there is life. And it's sad to see it, while also good to know it's there. I feel like it's been absent so long for us that maybe just now it could bring itself together again. Maybe just for us.

There are days when I wish, pray even for a better life then I have now. Of course, I work for it, in large fields of soil and grain. I work for it everyday, mom does too. But it's hard balancing so many things on your shoulders at once. It almost starts to feel like a giant metal ball trying to crush you. And every day I have to juggle it, over and over again to maintain some sort of meaning with my mom.

People don't understand. They never do. No matter how many times they see us, all they can think of is a perfect little family. Just the type of people you can have a cup of tea with and have a nice chat over the weather. None of them know behind the perfect house and the perfect clothes is something else. Something else much darker then they'd first thought.

I look at the victors houses and see how cushioned their lives are in there. It must be amazing to be treated like royalty, never having to worry about anything again. Yes, there are those awful games, but if only for a moment could I dream me and my mother in those houses together. Far away from dad.

Suddenly, I find myself squeezing my mother's hand.

"I love you," I say to her.

And when I say that, she doesn't even hesitate to answer back.

"I love you too."

Solder Rye - 14 Years Old

District 9 Male

Everything feels different once the reaping begins.

When you're walking through the district, there's always a sense of energy present. Shopkeepers yelling, citizens chatting, kids running around. Things are usually brighter. Streets are a bit cleaner. People are always working everywhere. Sure it's a bit mundane, but that's what the district is usually like. However, once the reaping month comes, everything changes. The once pleasant atmosphere that surrounded the district turns cold, and everyone's moods shifts into a sour aura. The change is so noticeable that multiple peacekeepers are sent out to patrol the area, ensuring that no little rebellion or tricks are being pulled by any of the citizens. It's kind of scary, but no one comments on it. No one dares to disobey them.

While we walk, I notice that the peacekeepers are carrying around weapons three times their size, walking around groups and staring directly at them to instill fear into their hearts. I can already tell it's working because of how tightly Piers is holding my hand. This is his first reaping. Me and Sara have been doing this for three years, but this is Piers first time. He told me last night he wasn't nervous one bit, but I can tell his confidence is already fading as we start to get closer to the justice building. The place where dreams and actual life's go to die. I want to comfort him and say it'll be alright, but he's no fool. He might be quiet, but he's certainly not naive. No matter what I say, it won't change his mind.

Me, Sara, Piers, and aunt Juliet all walk together in a quiet union with the rest of the group. I would say something to break the silence, but there are certain times when silence is all that can be said in a moment. Even after that amazing time at the lake, all I can do right now is just walk with my family as we approach even closer and closer to the justice building.

When we arrive, I feel my heart stop. In front of us is the justice building, towering over everything like a mountain. In front of the justice building are thousands of kids waiting in their sections muttering silently. And then behind those rows of kids is the line where you get signed in. The peacekeepers wait there silently, weapons strapped and ready. They call each child up and quickly draw their blood before they rush into their section.

I already knew what was going to happen, but somehow the feeling of dread gets worse every year.

Aunt Juliet quickly stops us before we go in line, breathing calmly unlike the rest of us. She wears a long brown overcoat, and a black blouse, coupled with long pants and withered shoes. The nicest thing she can afford is the little hat she wears which is decorated a bit with flowers. Her hair is starting to grey between her brown locks. She looks so tired right now, coupled with the wrinkles on her face, and yet she's able to pipe up some sort of smile despite the situation.

"Listen, children, I won't be able to follow you when you head inside," she says, "so please take good care of each other and stay strong."

"We will mother," Sara says, hugging her tightly.

"Yeah, I promise mom," Piers says, hugging her too.

After Sara and Piers are done, aunt Juliet quickly pulls me into a hug and holds me tightly. I notice she smells like roses.

"Solder, once the reaping is done, you'll have to go home with your parents," she says, "the peacekeepers are checking each house to make sure every family is situated with each other, so we won't be able to see you right away until the inspection is over."

I feel a whine start to creep up out of my mouth at the mention of my parents, but I'm able to suppress it and nod.

"I know it's not ideal for you sweetie," she says, "but it's all we can do for the time being."

"I understand," I say, "I'll see you after the inspection then...?"

"Of course," she says hopefully.

She hugs me one last time before she starts to get situated into the adult's section. Meanwhile, me, Sara, and Piers quickly head into line with the other kids and quietly start chatting. It's mostly about our talk at the lake and the entire ordeal it took to get there, but even then we start to quiet down once Sara gets checked in.

"See you soon guys," Sara says before she's whisked away into the fourteen-year-old section.

Piers is the next to go and I give him a tight hug before he's taken away from me to.

"Everything will be fine," I say, "once all this is over we can go back to the lake."

Piers smiles a bit after I say that.

"I hope so," he says, hugging me tightly.

Once he's taken to the twelve-year-old section, I get my finger pricked and am quickly carted off into the fourteen-year-old section with all the boys. All of them are whispering to each other about certain things, something about a rigged game this year. I try not to dwell on their words to much and begin to make conversation with super twins Andrew and Hollen Wess. Their company is much appreciated and we begin to laugh over trivial things such as suits and masks.

"Attention everyone, this is your escort speaking."

I look up at the stage and begin to squint my eyes.

The escort has neon green hair slicked back into a long pony tail. It shines brightly in the square, actually lighting up some of the area like a Christmas tree. He wears a... interesting type of dark suit that is a clash between brown and dark green. He has somehow implanted gems into his cheeks, giving his face a thin and bony look.

"It's a pleasure to be acting as your escort for this year... I can't wait to see who will be representing this district in the games..."

Everyone is silent at his attempt of sarcasm. It's pretty clear he'd rather be anywhere else then district nine.

"Let's see who will be acting as the girl tribute for district nine this year shall we?" he says.

When no replies to his question, he just shrugs and rummages through the bowl. It's at this moment that I begin to pray with every fiber of my being that Sara is not selected. I couldn't bear to watch her ascend the stage to such a death show this year. I wait anxiously until he pulls one out, unfolds it, and then reads it off.

"Brianne Froyen..."

I sigh of relief escapes me. It isn't Sara. Which is perfect. She's thankfully safe for another year. But, who's this year's girl tribute? I think I faintly remember her from somewhere. I look out and find Brianne walking to the stage with a clear scowl on her face. She looks so disgusted and angered that even the escort looks a bit nervous. However, she presents no threat to the peacekeepers as they escort her up the steps and onto the stage. The second she does, I notice she starts to stare off into the distance.

The more I look at her, the more I wonder if I know her. I know a lot of people in the district. Andrew and Hollen. Miya. Sara and Piers. Ms. Alba. Ryder and his pals. But this girl is different. I feel as if she's somehow important, and yet I can't remember why. It's almost as if-

"Solder Rye."

I jump a bit when my name is called, a flood of shock and fear rushing through my body. Despite my attempts, I can't help it, it's almost impossible to even attempt to hide the fact I'm surprised.

My name... was called...

I breathe in deeply and manage to make my way out of the crowd. I don't know exactly how, especially since this should be a life defying moment for me. But as long as I look on the bright side of this, maybe I stand a chance. Although I can't find many bright sides, I have to stay positive in this situation. So I start to smile and walk over to the stage waving goodbye to everyone I ever knew. It's heartbreaking to see Piers and Sara's face as I make my way up the steps, but this is the best I can do for now. As long as I look into the bright side of things... maybe I stand a chance.

Planting my feet beside my district partner, I look her way and notice that she's staring right into my eyes. Maybe she wants to shake my hand?

I raise it out to her and smile.

"Nice to meet you," I say.

She stares at me dead in the eyes, a look of confusion and annoyance present deep within them.

"Wipe that smile off your face you creep," she says, and then she quickly looks away...

Welp, this is not off to a great start...

Brianne Froyen – 15 Years Old

District 9 Female

When the reaping starts, everyone begins to quiet down.

It's funny. Before the mayor comes out it's all sunshine and rainbows for these children. But the second he steps on the platform and grips the mic, that's when everyone realizes the situation they're in. It happens every year in the same way. Maybe it's because he's well respected in the community and capitol that makes them nervous. Except I know that isn't the case with him. It's when he reads the speech that everyone realizes it's time. That's when they pipe down and pay attention. It fills their senses and makes them nervous, paranoid, unhinged. And that fills them with total and complete fear.

None of them understand real fear. Or at least the type that I put up with every single day.

The mayor begins talking, the speech he's required to give playing out the same. I don't pay much attention since I've memorized the whole thing by now. It's filled with flowery writing just to drag out the hour until the "real" fun begins. As he does this, a chill enters the air as he does this, encasing the square in a sort of bubble of darkness I can't quite describe. Sure there is light, and maybe a bit of sun shining through the clouds, but no one is in the mood to celebrate such a natural thing. If anything, it makes the whole scene play out worse. The reaping, where two children go to die has such gorgeous weather taking place during it. What a joke.

Beside me are two girls who continue giggling about something insignificant to me. They both wear pink dresses and look the same. It must be twins. They both do have the same annoying laugh, so it would make sense. Despite the situation, they don't stop smiling at each other. They talk loudly. They snicker and snort. And whenever one of them makes a complete banger of a joke, they both begin to laugh loudly until they're back to talking about homework or whatever. The girls could be the end of me because I feel like screaming at them.

Yet, there's something oddly comforting knowing those twins have each other. Just like how me and my mom do.

"Attention everyone, this is your escort speaking."

I turn around a begin to gag. The escort this year is nothing like Reynolds from last year's selection, who was proper and well dressed. This year the escort has neon green hair slicked back into a long pony tail. He wears some type of dark green suit that appears to be a mix of mushed mud and crunchy vomit. He's implanted gems into his cheeks, giving him a sorrowful narrow look to his jawline. How anyone could find that type of fashion sense stylish at the capitol is beyond me.

"It's a pleasure to be acting as your escort for this year... I can't wait to see who will represent this district..."

The clear sarcasm and hesitance in his voice almost reminds me of myself. I start to cringe at that fact.

"Let's see who will be acting as the girl tribute for district nine this year shall we?" he says.

No one answers him, so he just shrugs and rummages through the bowl for any sort of slip he can find. I wait patiently until he pulls one out, unfolds it, and then reads it off.

"Brianne Froyen..."





Everything starts to slow down as I step out of my section.

It's colder. Way too cold now. It's like the chill air that was once present was sucked away and replaced with a bitter blizzard. That's how cold everything is. On the inside, though I'm hot. I'm boiling over with rage. I want to scream. I want to fight or escape from this hell that has dawned before me. But all I can do in the heat of the moment is scowl at the cameras. It's the most rebellious thing I've ever done in my whole life and I love it. It's the only flaw, the only imperfection that anyone has ever and will ever see. The only crack on this perfect smile of mine. No one will ever see this much of me ever again.

I make it to the stage, the scowl still deeply set into my face. I don't say anything into the mic when the escort asks, instead, I just look straight ahead. I have to start planning right now what I'm going to do. I have three options. One, try to run. Instant death if I do so it's an easy option out. Two, curl in a ball and cry until we get to the capitol. It seems understandable at the moment, but right now it's not what I need. What I need to do is follow option three. Plan everything out and win this thing. If I do, then I can come home alive. Alive and with my mother again. Hugging her tightly as we skip away into victors village. Imagine that life. Imagine a life immune from everything and everyone.

Just imagine...

I'm so deep in thought that I almost don't notice the boy tribute being called.

"Solder Rye."


It takes a bit of time, but eventually, the boy in question comes out of his section. He wears normal clothes. Just a grey pair of trousers with a white shirt and brown vest. Nothing impressive. What is impressive though is his attitude. The way he walks to the stage. It's... almost unsettling if I'm being honest. He has a slight skip in his step, smiling as if the situation doesn't phase him in the slightest. He manages to wave goodbye to a few people in the crowd as he makes his way up to the stage.

When he takes his place beside me, he doesn't hesitate to raise up his hand.

"Nice to meet you," he says, still smiling when he extends his hand to shake mine.

I stare at him dead in the eyes as he does this.

"Wipe that smile off your face you creep," I state.

I look away before I gauge his reaction. He's only a distraction at the real prize. Don't focus on anyone else but yourself. That's how you've survived all these years after all. Don't focus on anyone except you...

Introducing Solder and Brianne for district 9, submitted by haydesx and Pierana. I enjoyed writing both of these tributes, so I hope you also enjoyed their introduction! This chapter was supposed to be posted last week, however exams are coming up for me, so I took some time to study for those and managed to knock some out of the way. I have a bit more free time now, so I should be able to get out district 10's reaping next week, if not maybe early Sunday.