Why did he want that backpack?
Disclaimer: I don't own the series. I think you all know that by now.
A/N- This is a completely random fic...
The Boy From District 9
I loved my district. I loved my family. I loved my life.
Then the Hunger Games came in and stole the show.
I had a name, yes. I had a family. That's the thing that the Capitol doesn't want to admit. They don't want to tell themselves that they're murdering innocent children with perfectly good lives; they explain it as being our punishment, but it's really just for their sadistic entertainment. I was just one of their pawns, one of the pieces of a big picture that I never fully understood. I thought I was safe from the world; I thought I was insulated from those Games, and that I would be free to live my life out as a hardworking citizen of my district. I have never hated Panem. It's what the Capitol does that sickens me.
I grew up in a normal, working-class District Nine family. I learned about our district's industry; I was cared for as best as I could be by my loving parents. I was the luckiest kid alive, I thought, to be born into such a kind and complete family. There were too many orphans in our district for me to not appreciate what I had, even when I was young.
When I was five, my sister Rali was picked as tribute to go into the Games. It's hard to say how I felt. At the time, I thought that the Games were all one big show, a funny little play where people pretended to die and then came back home. I didn't know why people in our district shed tears for their family members when they faked their own deaths on the TV. In fact, I think I laughed when Rali was picked. I told her to try to die laughing, because it would make the Capitol people happy.
I didn't get it at all when everybody in the room started to cry.
The next few weeks following her name being picked, we followed her on the television. We watched her as she was made beautiful by her stylist; we listened to her familiar voice at the interviews, her painfully sweet answers and her yearning for home that was all too clear. By that time, I was really missing her and I just wanted her to pretend to die already so that she would come back.
Then came the day of the actual Games, when they released all the tributes into a flat grassland arena. I remember watching the screen with my mouth hanging wide open, staring at the beauty of the multi-hued grass and the clear, crystalline blue of the sky. The golden Cornucopia, with all of its sunlit glory, glowed like a desert mirage in the center of a ring of tributes. A bright sun shone in the clear sky, winking its blinding eye as the gong sounded.
My sister was first off her plate, I think. She sprinted for the Cornucopia. I remember I cheered for her as she grabbed a pack with a sleeping bag in it, a transparent backpack that showed clearly what was in it-
-then my cheers died in my throat as a huge, vicious boy ran up and stabbed her from the back. She was the first to die. But now that I was actually paying attention to what was happening on screen, I saw that her body, slit with gashes and streaming blood, could not possibly be faked. It was all real. She was actually dead.
After that I began to scream, to cry, to beat at the worn floor I sat on. Here the tears that everybody else had shed were flooding out of me. My parents rushed into the room, but they could not calm me. They could only watch as I dealt with the horrible truth.
The next few weeks, the Games played out. I watched them with a dead sort of countenance. I couldn't believe that anybody could possibly do such a thing. When Rali, my sister, was delivered back to us in a coffin- stone dead- I was forced to accept it. We buried her body in a small patch of green grass, below a bush with orange flowers. Bright, vivid orange flowers. I cried. Orange always was Rali's favorite color.
As life went on, things began to change, to smooth over. I never stopped feeling sad over Rali's death, but it became more normal. I started to understand the Games a little more, and I started to accept them. I never thought to fight it- I knew I would be crushed if I tried. My parents delivered to our family another child, a little bundle of a girl that they named Sarika. I loved Sarika with all my heart, because in her I could see the spark of Rali that the Capitol had crushed.
I turned twelve and I was entered in my first reaping.
I remember that reaping as clearly as crystal: my thudding heart, the noise of the crowd as the mayor and the escort conducted it smoothly and flawlessly. I felt the relief sag in my chest as the tribute was picked- and I remember both the guilt and the sweet realization as I thought, It isn't me.
But I did not celebrate that night. Because I knew the pain that the families must have been going through.
I guess that first reaping really sealed my thoughts of indestructibility. If I wasn't picked one time and Rali was, I reasoned, then the Capitol had no reason to pick me in any of the following years. Right? This was my shield against the fear of being picked, being torn from little Sarika, being killed in the Games like my older sister was... that is, until I went to my fourth reaping.
That year, the year preceding the Quarter Quell, everybody was anxious. The crowd noise was even louder than my first reaping, so much that the mayor had to put some decent effort into getting us to quiet down. I was still happily in my shell of denial, defiance of being picked. There was not noise as the escort read my name in a flat voice into the air, but in my mind, I could hear my shield shattering into a million shards. I was not in my own body as I walked woodenly onto the stage. I did not hold anything against those who did not volunteer... I held no ill thought towards anybody but the creators of the Games.
Even that hate was mild compared to the one thought dominating my mind: Why me?
I knew my district partner, a girl who seemed like she had even less of a chance at survival than I did. She had a name, too. She had a life. She had friends. Another thing the Capitol does not want to acknowledge.
My goodbyes with my family were bitter sorrow. My parents could not stop crying. Little Sarika did not tell me to die laughing. I felt ashamed of what I had said to Rali those years ago when Sarika told me, "I love you."
Why didn't I ever say that to Rali?
The question haunted me while I was launched into the dizzying Capitol world. I saw everything from feathers to flame while we were made over by our Capitol prep teams, and then I saw more fire as the most dazzling District 12 tributes I had ever seen rode behind us on their chariots. I could only think of Rali, the whole time... I thought of her while I watched the little District 11 girl in training, and I though of her still as the interviews proceeded a few days later. I remembered her sweet and yearning interview, and I vowed that I would speak about her, to make her death remembered.
I broke my vow a few minutes later when my throat got too choked up to speak.
My interview went down in flames. I was noted, not as the gallant brother set to avenge his sister's death, but as the quiet, forgettable boy from District 9. I listened in shell-shocked shame of myself as the other districts went up- I listened to the declarations of determination and love, all the while thinking that it should have been me saying those things.
I couldn't sleep that night for nightmares of Rali. Rali, being stabbed to death and being buried, stiff as a plank, under a bush with tiny, bright sunset orange flowers. Orange, her favorite color, contrasting so much with the dark murder buried underneath it.
The next morning, we were dressed and taken to the arena. I stared at the windows until they blacked out, which was what suggested we were nearing the spot where we would be released. Where all but one of us would die. For Rali's sake, I pledged that it would not be me that died first.
We were brought into our separate Launch Rooms and put into the tribute tubes. I closed my eyes as we ascended, remembering watching Rali as she had risen out of the ground into that grassland heaven. I hoped that I would be put somewhere as beautiful as she had been, and was not disappointed. The hopeful, fresh scent of pines and water blew from separate directions; as I opened my eyes, bright sunlight, not too different from what Rali had died in, streamed into my brain, stunning me with light and memories.
The golden Cornucopia, not too far away, repulsed me. I would not go near the place where my sister had died- the mouth of the golden horn.
I did not pay attention to Claudius Templesmith as he announced the beginning of the Hunger Games. Instead, I looked around to see who I was lined up between. I saw the girl from District 12 and the girl from District 5, one distracted, the other wary and tense.
The gong sounded and the redheaded girl from 5 shot off, snatching a pack and running into the pine forest.
My eyes settled on a backpack nearby and shot wide open. It was Rali's favorite color- neon orange- and it was a pack that was not too different from the one that she had died grabbing. That's mine! I thought as both the District 12 girl and I lunged for the backpack at the same time. I stared into her gray eyes as we tussled for the pack, each wanting it, though not for the same reason.
I screamed my sister's name in my head as pain exploded in my back and I fell forwards, coughing blood.
The girl from 12 tugged the backpack free and cast a panicked glance behind me, where I heard a girl laughing. I think it was the one from 2. I'm not so sure. By that point, my world was going hazy, my heart thudding slower and slower, my brain shutting down.
I hoped that Sarika wasn't too sad about this. I remembered how I had struck the floor when Rali died. But I also found comfort in the fact that Sarika was much smarter, much more contained than I was. So I let go of life with my worries eased, a smile on my face.
I thought I could see Rali looking down on me, holding the orange pack with a sad look on her face.
I guess we were both destined to die first.