Sadly enough I do not own the Hunger Games, they belong to the wonderful Suzanne Collins and are not mine.
"Shut up Marlin!".
This is the sound that pulls me out my dreams back into reality, and not the nicest reality either. My best friends Nymph and Marlin are once again locked in a bitter argument about nothing-in-particular. I would roll my eyes but even that requires too much effort today.
Because today is reaping day.
I make a non-committal grunting sound and roll onto my side away from the arguing couple. Not that they are a couple. Or maybe they are. I'd be the last to know. A spray of stone interrupts my musings and I splutter and, regretfully, return to the land of the awake. Nymph seems to have passed straight through the phase of arguing and shouting, and has moved onto the stage before physical violence, death by sand.
"What. The. Hell Nymph?" I shout this through a mouthful of sand, and she looks momentarily bashful, before replying with a whiney
"He started it!"
Marlin grins at me and I summon the energy to roll my eyes. "What did he do this time Nymph? Did he insult your reaping clothes? Did he them stupid? Because that's not an insult you know, that's the truth."
This little nugget of wisdom earns me another mouthful of sand and I conjure a mouthful of sand and spit in my mouth and return fire. Nymph shrieks as golden globs of spit splatter her silver-mermaid dress.
"A-a-l!" She moans looking down at her dress "That cost me two Carps!"
I roll my eyes again (this is the most exercise I get on reaping day).
"Well then you were ripped off, weren't you?" I reply, irritated.
My own reaping dress is currently at home, stuffed into a draw somewhere. It was a minor miracle in itself that I managed to get out the house this morning without my step-mother ramming it over my head. Nymph seems ready to explode, she has a hot temperament on a normal day, and this is not a normal day by anyone's standard. Sensing the imminent eruption of the volcano 'Mt. Nymph Odair'.
Marlin interrupts "Nymph, Calm down, it's only a dress, and it's not like you're going to be reaped anyway, Aal, stop being so violent and aggressive. If you feel the need to let out aggression, just volunteer for the unlucky girl who's reaped and you can let out all the aggression in the world."
Nymph still looks murderous, but then again, she always looks murderous on reaping day. Me and Marlin are both offspring of merchants, and so our name is only in the orb-of-doom seven or eight times. Nymph does not have this privilege, and so her name is in the orb almost fifty times. Tesserae may save you from dying of thirst in District 4, but it leads to death in other ways. Other more bloodthirsty ways…
"Are we going to fish or what?"
For the second time today I am jolted awake. It is so easy to fall asleep by the sea in District 4, and I seem to have fallen for the sleepy-spell of the sea again. Nymph is getting out her rope-y thing that could just about pass for a net. Marlin is standing over me, rod-bag over his shoulder and inquisitive expression on his face. I groan and stand up, muttering curse-words under my breath, even though I know Marlin's right. If we don't fish in our free time, how are we supposed to survive? Even with the income from our parent's businesses', we are barely getting by. It's even harder for Nymph, who has to work hard all day at the fisheries to be able to buy fresh water, and then be unable to eat that day. In District 4 it is customary for people to have large families so your children can work and make more money, even if it makes keeping all your children alive is Nye on impossible. The poorer families tend to have more children; Nymph has 8 younger siblings, as well as an older sister who lives away from home now. I'm supposedly from a richer family, and I have two older sisters, a younger brother and 4 younger step-siblings, all of which are extremely irritating…
"Anyone there?" Whoa, I am sleepy today; it seems that I have drifted off again. Marlin's expression is changing rapidly from bemusement to concern. "You OK Aal?" he asks.
"Yeah" I say, yawning and stretching at the same time. "Didn't get too much sleep last night, my little sister spent all night crying, and I have to share the bed with her."
Marlin looks at me curiously, and cocks his head to the side slightly. I love it when he does that.
"She's 12" I inform him, and he nods knowingly. The youngest age of entering the Hunger Games. Reason enough for nightmare
"You two coming?" Nymph yells from the sea, her red hair blowing freely in the coastal breeze, dress now sitting on the beach next to Marlin.
I subconsciously run my hands through my hair, disappointed by it, as always. Mine is a dirty blonde, same colour as most in my district. Marlin's is a rich brown and Nymph's, well Nymph's is just amazing. Dark, red curls the colour of sunsets, like no-one in our sector of District 4, except maybe her brother, Poseidon.
Mine is shoulder length. It used to be longer, a lot longer, straight down my back until Marlin dared me to cut it all off and, well, the result was not after 5 years, I still haven't grown it all back, due to my father feeling I should still be punished for the aforementioned hair-cutting.
I reach down for my spear and pick it up. My step-mother gave it to me, as a peace-offering I think, not that there was any tension between us anyway. I got along with her better than my father. He re-married after my mother died giving birth to my little brother Raym. I don't even remember it, so it doesn't even make me feel sad anymore.
The spear, my spear is about the same height as me, almost 6 feet long, with a long oak shaft and a leather handle which has softened over time, and now is moulded to my hand. The spear-head is made of sharpened stone, but it could pass for iron at a distance. At the other end is a badly drilled hole, where a long strand of woven seaweed hangs, so I can retrieve the spear after throwing it. I still have no idea how much it cost my step-mother, but it has paid for itself ten-fold over the years.
I absent mindedly watch Marlin take something from off his shoulders and…
"Is that a fishing rod?" both Nymph and I ask at the same time. Fishing rods are rare in district 4, and only the rich actually own them, because of the cost of the components and the way that a rod catches fish better than both my precious spear and Nymph's put together.
Marlin looks sheepish before saying "Yeah, Kerri gave it to me. You know Kerri right?"
I do not dare myself to answer, I know Kerri like I know my spear. Kerri's the daughter of our local peacekeeper and spoilt to bits. Only she could 'give' a random (if attractive) boy a fishing rod. I roll my eyes (they get a lot of exercise these days) and dive into the water. Here it is quiet. I look about, my eyes used to the salt-water already. I see a small Minnow skulking near the sea-floor, it's blue-silver skin sticking out from the dull brown of the sea-floor. I swim up to the surface, raise my spear above my head and *WHAM*. I throw it hard and dive down to check, if I could laugh under-water, I would. The spear has missed the inch long Minnow and embedded in a large flounder, hidden at the bottom. I swim up grinning and show the fish to the other two.
"Howzat?" I ask them, still grinning.
"Nicely done" Marlin comments, now casting the bait into the sea. "Now, were you aiming for that or did you hit it by accident?"
"Are you doubting my word?" I ask him, pretending to be offended, before breaking out in a smile.
I glance out to the sea, too tired to do anything but sit next to Marlin on the beach. I see Nymph almost 20 metres out, net in hand, before she dives down and comes up empty handed, net now placed on the sea-floor. She starts to swim back, while I yawn and look up at the sky.
"Nearly midday" I tell him "We should start to get back, so I can sell this fish before the reaping".
He glances up at the sky and says, in a half-joking, half-serious way "I haven't had a chance to test this rod, thanks to your urge to sleep all the time."
Nymph finally comes out of the sea some time later, and reaches for her dress and starts to pull it back on.
"You really need to change" she informs me, and I look down. I am currently in a wet, muddy and blood covered top, with the same theme of disrepair continuing with my tracksuits. I groan inwardly, and put my spear back in its sheath and put the fish in my bag and make my way along the thin coastal path back to the main road.
Our region of District 4 is the central one, so we don't have to walk far to get to the reaping area, so I have longer to look respectable. I see our house, the general store beneath it, and I take off my battered shoes and attempt to sneak in through the front door, if my step-mother sees me then…
"Aalgae!" I wince slightly at the sound. My step-mother may be nice to me most of the time, but when it comes to how I look, or to be more precise, how I don't look, she becomes a fully-fledged monster.
Then again, I can be a stubborn arsehole a lot of the time, refusing to admit that I'm wrong even though everyone, including me realises I am. I can never admit when I'm wrong, and I'm wrong a lot of the time.
"What has happened to you? You look like you've already been through the Hunger Games. Twice!" I roll my eyes for the fourth time today and attempt to reply
"Meena, I could just wea…"
"No, Aalgae, you couldn't just wear clean clothes. You are wearing that dress, it cost me good money and I am not going to just let you go dressed as a tramp."
She goes over to the table and picks up a short, green dress.
"You are wearing this if I have to knock you unconscious" she threatens me, and sensing that this might not be a joke, I take the dress and carry it up to the room I share with my step-sister Movii, who I send scuttling out before changing into the dress. Once again, my reaping dress is too short, due to my (mostly) above average height.
Muttering dark things about District 8, I pull on the dress and brush my short hair. I then go downstairs to find the rest of the family already gathered there, the same sombre expression on each of their faces. I feel my face muscles contract, then realise my expression is mirroring theirs. My father has his hands protectively around Raym and Movii; Movii looks like she might faint, as this will be her first reaping year. Raym is 15 now, old enough to get by without the comfort of a parent's arms, but he stays there anyway. We stand there awkwardly for what seems like hours before Meena says
"Right, should we…" Father nods and we make eye contact for the first time in ages. She opens up the door and we all trudge out. As I walk along the District 4 main road with the inhabitants of most of our region, the fear hits me for the first time in a year. I block it out mentally as I see the Justice building leering above me…
Hey people! So, how do you like it? I'll try and add another chapter next week when I get back from Holiday! If you have any ideas, PM me, and if you like it, review and favourite this story. There will be more!