A/N: "Hunger Games" belongs to Suzanne Collins. All of my characters in this story are original so I claim them only. Enjoy!
Side Note 8/5/13: there used to be only 3 chapters (Part 1, 2, and 3) but just divided it into chapters (1-33).
"On the twenty-fifth anniversary, to remind the rebels that their children were dying because of their choice to initiate violence, each district will hold an election to select the tributes that will represent it."
I realize my mouth is opened slightly as the words sink in. It's not enough that we have to send twenty-four kids into an arena to fight to the death. Now we have to choose which children to send into that hell. Anger isn't a strong enough feeling for what I feel right now.
The rebellion that President Galba spoke of ended before I was born, yet they still punish us for it. Every year one male and one female between the ages of twelve and eighteen from each of the twelve districts have been sent into an arena to fight to the death. So far no one from my district has come back alive.
"Falon?" Jay's voice stops me.
"Just going to the backyard," I reply.
I climb up to the tree house my father built for me a few months after my mother died in childbirth, my baby brother only surviving a few hours before joining her. Every night after we finished it, we would climb up there to eat dinner and look at the stars. Since his death it is one of the few places I can go to feel calm.
I spend an hour up in the tree just thinking, before Jay calls me down. With both parents dead at the age of fourteen, I guess I was lucky not to be left to fend for myself. Instead my father's best friend, Jay, took me in. We've been happy in our own little way over the last few years, but I can't help thinking that soon he'll be gone also and I'll be alone again.
He gives me a reassuring hug. "Go get some sleep."
"Just play along."
My father's final words to me, that I can remember, echo in my head.
I think back on that day. Twenty years since the rebellion ended and we were still picking up after it, we still are. Father started taking me with him on these clean up trips once all the human remains were buried. We were working where the houses furthest from the plant used to be collecting objects that survived, tossing everything into a pile that didn't and burning it to ashes.
I was down in one of the many craters in the area from a bombing when I heard the first screams. Under the screams was the unmistakable buzzing of hornets. The swarm took half of those working with us before the remaining people ran to the pyre to try and fend them off with smoke. Smoke was the only weapon we had that day to fight those things. But it was too late for those there.
The instant someone shouted "Trackers," my father shoved me back into a crevice and used his body to cover the hole to protect me. His last words in this life were "Just play along sweetheart."
Everything that happened from that moment until I woke up in my bed a few days later was a jumble of reality and the effects of tracker venom. Despite my father's sacrifice, one tracker managed to find me. The nature of the venom is to attack the place where a person's fear dwells bringing the most unspeakable horrors to the surface. When you think that it's finally over, another assault of nightmares begins.
The venom eventually worked its way out of my system. I knew enough about the venom's effects to know what I had experienced was only my imagination, nothing more. But when I woke up, I learned that more than one part of my nightmares were true. No matter how badly I wanted it to be just one more layer of the venom, that all of it was just a bad dream, I have to accept the screams of those with me were real and that all of them, including my father, are dead.
The nightmares still come to me, but not in the rich detail the venom was able to ensue. For the next couple months, Jay had to hold me every night just so I could sleep. And when the nightmares came, and they always did, he'd rock me and repeat my father's words to 'just play along.'