From Time to Eternity
Evander D'Avranches, Age 17, District Two Male Tribute
There was a weird collection of sounds that made up the Reaping process. Okay, so first there were footsteps, one two, one two, or shuffling. Then voices. And some crying. The noise from things being moved on-stage, the sign-in clipboards' pages being turned, Diamond Daize tapping the microphone for a sound check; the occasional jingle of a little kid playing with the ropes that divided off sections. But they all seemed quiet, muted.
Aurelia and I reached the space between the two seventeen-year-old sections. This was it. This was where we said goodbye, the acknowledgement that the next time we spoke, and every time, we would be enemies. "Bye, Ev," she said, already starting to be engulfed by the crowds.
"Bye, Aurelia," I whispered after her, turning away.
Anti-climatic moment much?
I slipped into the right section, slowly being filled up. Most of the kids I knew, from school or training or around town or even last year's Reaping. But I wasn't really in the mood to talk. So my thoughts went back to my sister.
We were inseparable for a long time.
When we were twelve, still desperately afraid of being reaped, terrified even, we both stood right at the edge of the roped-off areas, close enough that we could reach each other's hands across the aisle-way, clinging to each other like it would keep us here in District Two. The escort reached for the girl's name, and Aurelia's grip tightened. It wasn't her. We both exhaled, then tensed again as the escort moved across the stage to draw another name. It wasn't me. We let go of each other.
It was after that Reaping that the game, the child's play, was up. What was happening on the screen was real, and so were our odds of going into the Games. That was all the training was at first, a precaution—but then… then I noticed how Aurelia got so wrapped up in it, Games Games Games, Career Career Career, that's all I ever heard from her. I followed.
Soon, it wasn't a precaution. We weren't scared of being tributes. We wanted to be those kids plunging weapons into others on the screen, the ones all but idolized in our district. We wanted to be Careers. Our actions fit the role, and shortly after, our thoughts followed.
Sometimes it was easy to look at everything on the screen and tell yourself that it wasn't real, that nothing was happening, that those were tributes and characters and not kids dying, that everything was just okay. But it wasn't, not really, and it never would be.
There came a point when it wasn't just a game anymore. There wasn't any more "playing pretend", no more "second chances", no "there's always tomorrow", no rules. It got real, too real, and really, really fast.
My twin all but disappeared on me. I got glimpses of what we'd been like before the Games took over—when we trained each other in our best weapons (a knife for her, a bow for me), sometimes just doing homework in the same room that we both agreed was stupid, running to tell each other what was happening in the arena that day if we weren't watching.
It became clear that things had changed. We were not "those identical little redheads" that wrecked havoc on the neighbors on holidays, that walked home from school together and made up our own rules for the classic little kid games of the district. It didn't happen overnight, but maybe that had just made it harder. I started to notice it, ignored it, said I was getting paranoid. Then it got worse, and worse, and there was really nothing to do about it by then. One day, I woke up, and any connection of ours was gone. I realized we had completely different lives, different friends, different opinions. Aurelia was already in the Games, mentally. Already turning me, her brother, her friend, into just another kill for later. Just another cannon-shot. Just another last scream.
I would never be able to do that. Maybe I was just the weak one. And maybe, I shouldn't have been surprised, because really, that meant that I always had been, out of the two of us. I was just now noticing.
"—Welcome, welcome!" said our escort, cutting in to my thoughts. She seemed to be standing on tiptoe, even in heels, to be able to see over the podium. "Isn't it a lovely day for the Reaping? I absolutely love the June weather here… but enough of that. It's time for the story of our great country."
The Mayor stepped forward at this for the history-telling. I knew now that it was all wrong. But the Mayor was clearly interested in the false version, dragging it on and on and on. After, he gave his notes on victors—noting the passing of two in the past year, reading the list of all the names, and saying that Carter would be the only mentor for this year, which got some questioning looks from the crowd, but nothing too outright.
Clearly eager, Diamond rushed through her own speech, throwing in the usual "so happy to be here" and "what a great district to have to be proud of" and "the best of luck to this year's lucky, lucky tributes". She clicked her way towards the first glass Reaping ball.
Automatically, I started thinking, please not Aurelia, please, just this one year, please please please—oh. I remembered, startling myself so much that I flinched out of it, just in time to hear: "Fade Chase!"
I'd heard that name before, somewhere. Come on; think of it already. Last year's final eight family interviews, for the guy from our district. His sister, probably, or… ex-sibling? What did you call it when someone died?
"I volunteer!" yelled Aurelia, waving a hand as she shoved her way out of her section. All the cameras swung around at once to find her. She walked up to the stage, no one else stepping up. Last year, a lack of volunteers made sense for the Quell—but this year? That was a bit suspicious, all things considered. The odds of only the Capitol's "chosen ones" coming forwards in a huge Career district? Small. Very small.
I watched my twin introduce herself up on the stage, just as proud as always. She stepped off to the side to make room for our escort to reach the other side of the platform. Just a few more seconds.
A lot of the people in the area were looking at me, and probably had been for a while. Still going to volunteer? they asked silently, like I might not have known that my own sister would be jumping up for the same role. I was still looking at all of them, ready to say something, protest with I'm not the horrible person you think I am, I'm not going to murder my own sister when the guy's name came: "Evander D'Avranches!"
"I—" Wait, what? I stopped mid-sentence, realizing that I had gotten reaped, and was about to volunteer for myself. First thought: make something of this. "I volunteer!" I finished, somehow jokingly and scrambling for something to make it not look totally stupid. "No need to pick my name." I forced a laugh up to everyone on the stage, ending up choking on air. Carter looked distressed at this not-so-expected start, Aurelia scowled disapprovingly; Diamond and the Mayor seemed a bit shocked.
Yet again, no other volunteers surfaced. Weird. Beyond weird, actually, heading into "really creepy" territory. Seriously?
It took a few seconds for the realization to hit everyone, but not that one. The "oh great Panem look at that there are siblings going into the Games from the same district" one. Actually, scratch that. No idea how siblings could be from different districts.
"Oh, how interesting!" sang Diamond, clapping her hands a bit too close to the microphone, making the audience cringe. She moved on quickly: "But now for the Treaty of Treason."
Throughout the Treaty, I thought some more, feeling a bit awkward standing up near the front and middle of the stage but not being the "focus" of the audience. In fact, most weren't even pretending to look up at the stage at all. Even in Two, the Treaty was tedious. Another thing to be dragged on by the Mayor. So I went on with my thoughts.
I felt like our acting for the Games had now started, and it was clear, based on audience responses, that the angle to play was more about the two of us going in together. Presenting ourselves as Careers would be hard until we had training scores and interviews—based on looks alone, neither of us were that impressive looking, and most of the Capitol would have problems looking beyond that. Humor wasn't working, not like I was giving it up, but it didn't seem like it got much of a response. The only thing that did was "us". But for that, I'd need Aurelia onboard. I glanced over at her, and promptly thought that isn't going to work grimly. She didn't even look back at me, staring straight ahead seriously, unwavering.
I convinced myself, for one second, that it was because she hadn't noticed.
Abruptly, the reading of the Treaty ended—"It is a time for penitence, and a time for gratitude," and soon the anthem was blaring from every speaker in the district, crackling through the old sound system. I turned to stare at the familiar, red Capitol flag. It sagged, limp, the end probably only two feet off the ground.
"Our flag will raise above, Panem shall reign above, may our nation never fall!" Irony. But the energy of the anthem woke me up a bit. It would be one of the last times I heard it before entering the arena, where it'd be playing as they projected the faces of the dead into the sky to stare down on us. "Though dark may fall, through darkness light will shine, as they believe, the darkness is the light."
Well, that was pretty hopeful for a song played during an obituary.
As the anthem ended, I wondered about the other Careers' Reapings. Would there be no other volunteers in One, Four, just like here? How strange was that…. I thought of what we'd learned of our allies from Carter. From what I'd heard, I could easily imagine Sage, the victor's daughter from One, pulling out a sword and beheading anyone else who dared to step up—
"Come along, shake hands," said Diamond. What a name, even for the Capitol. Just thought of that, must be slow today….
Aurelia and I shook hands, rather un-dramatic for the ending of the Reaping and all. She let go quickly and turned back towards the audience with a practiced-looking smirk. Not effective, since some people were already edging their way towards the exits. They didn't care. It was just another year for them, just another Reaping, just another pair of kids.
They knew nothing. They understood nothing.
Peacekeepers came up to the stage, escorting us into the Justice Building.
Soon we would be gone, faces onscreen to root for in the Capitol, kids fighting for another day of life in the Games. They would sit around television screens and comment on our opening ceremonies outfits, our training scores, our interview angles, and ignore the fact that at one time we went to school with them, shopped in the same stores and trained in the same gym.
They would question our choices, every step we took in one direction or another. Will you go hunting with the pack tonight? Betray the alliance soon? Would I? Would I betray my own sister, my twin?
. . . . .
Disclaimer: I don't own the "Horn of Plenty" lyrics.