Roketi Mauluga, 18
He blows another punch in my stomach and I double over. "Watch what you say, you little punk!"
I clench my eyelids together tightly, my breathing fast from the pain. I was used to it by now, but it was the second time in the week that he had hit me in the gut. The bruise was still there, and now I have to deal with the pain all over again. No matter how often it occurred, it never made the pain any more pleasant.
My father grabs my jaw and yanks my face up. His face is screwed up in a mixture of anger and drunkenness. I can smell the strong alcohol in his breath as he speaks. "If I hear another word from the Peacekeepers about my stupid goddamned son, I will murder you."
He pushes my face away as if throwing a piece of rubbish onto the floor. I sense his footsteps going towards his bedroom, and he shuts his door violently and loudly. I sit down onto the wooden floor and rub my jaw. The bastard.
I wait there for another five or so minutes, making sure that he's asleep before I go to my own bedroom. He's asleep, alright, and I hope he gets the worst hangover in history when he wakes up. I frown at his disgruntled position on his worn-out bed before going into my room.
I check my face in the mirror. The bruises aren't obvious yet, but I would need a bit of ice. I scowl deeply and clench my fists. The urge to break the mirror with my bare hands is strong, but I hold it back, saving it for something actually worth it. I run my hands through my black hair before walking away from my room and out the front door. I jog off, away from the house that was never really home. I didn't want to spend another minute in that hellhole.
The weather is gloomy and it looked like it was going to rain. I wouldn't exactly say it matches my mood, unless a horde of lightning was going to shoot from the sky and set fire to everything. That would match my mood. I don't stop jogging; I just keep going on and on, following the dirt track that would lead to wherever. As long as it would take me away from my father's house, I was happy.
District Eleven is, as far as I knew, the largest district in Panem. It was just my luck that I live more than ten miles away from the Justice Building in a completely different town, but it was also just my luck that the train station was nearby. Reaping Day has never been my favourite day, but I feel that this year would be different. It is my last year after all, and I've been considering the idea of volunteering.
I know what you're thinking. Volunteering? Is he crazy? Does he not want to keep living? To be honest, I don't care anymore. I've already seen everything, the cruelty of this world and the unforgiving people in it. What would an arena filled with teenagers destined to kill each other be any more different?
The train station is basically a group of two long buildings mainly made of grey bricks and wood. They are impeccably dull and crowded, but what other way is there to get to the District Square? Probably less than a third of the district has cars, and I'm certainly not one of them.
I push my way through the crowd and to the ticket counter, which had a long queue. I could wait, I think.
I do wait, and it's only half an hour later am I able to hop onto the people-filled train heading to the centre of the district. It was rather uncomfortable, being squished between bodies of people while trying to hang onto a metal pole, but thankfully the train was fast and we arrived in less than ten minutes. By now, we're probably late for the Reaping, but I hardly cared.
Breathing in the smell of fresh bread and fruit in the town centre, I started following the crowd towards the District Square.
Carys Rahn, 16
The hug that my mother gives me is embarrassingly long.
Her hands are wrapped around my shoulder blades and I lean into her chest. She naturally smells of oranges from harvesting them all day in the orchard. Her cheek buries itself into my hair, which makes it frizzy after I'd tried so hard to tame it down. For a while, it was nice, but then I realized she wouldn't let go and by now I'm pretty sure she was crying.
"Mom," I mumble. "Not in public. Not now."
She sniffles, and for a moment I feel that my mother is tightening her grip around me, but then she finally lets go and I can breathe. Though one of her hands is still on my shoulders and the other is wiping a tear away from her cheek.
"I love you, understand?" she says quietly as the people move around us. "I love you so much that you will never understand. Whatever happens, I will love you and care about you and never, ever forget you."
"Mom," I mumble, getting uncomfortable.
She laughs. Her laugh is like mine; soft and cheery but it has a tone of confidence behind it. "Go ahead now."
I force a smile one more time before turning around and making my way to the lines I was supposed to be in. Most of them were already standing in their rows and I quietly join the sixteen-year-olds, blending in with one of the lines.
My brain is scattered everywhere and I can't think. I'm too frightened and shaken up to really care about what others are saying around me. My name was in there twenty times. Twenty. The rich probably wouldn't even get up to half of that. Think of it, your name written in a cursive on twenty pieces of paper, all determining your fate. I didn't like how my fate depended on a stupid little piece of paper. Why did the Games have to be this way?
It was so unfair, as childish as that sounds. Your name would just by chance be called out by some strange-looking person from the Capitol and BAM! You're in a controlled piece of land fighting for your life not to be claimed by the Capitol. Why did they have to continue? You'd think that after ninety-nine games that the Capitol would have had enough, that they would just end the games and declare, "You know what? This is all a bit too much. Let's put a stop to it." No. The Capitol aren't like that. No-one is, really.
I frown as I watch the people prepare the stage for the choosing. They're just adding touch-ups before Mayor Castor walks onstage with a glum expression.
"Good morning, District Eleven," he speaks into the microphone. Lie. It is not a good morning.
He says a few words before continuing with his speech, in which I'm already tuning out of to try and calculate my chances of getting reaped. I know, I'm over-analyzing, but that's just how my brain works. If I have time, I will think, and more often than not, I tend to over think situations leading to who knows what kind of problems.
Mayor Castor wraps up his speech, and I realize he hasn't even looked down at his cards. He'd already known it by heart, which I find amusing, but then the video screen rolls down and the projector from the front of the stage plays the video of the Rebellions. There was never anything different, and I didn't even bother to watch. I'd memorized the story from hearing it so many times in class and in speech.
Then when the video ends, the national anthem plays. It's rather triumphant and melodic, ironic for such a depressing mood. The song ends and is met by complete silence. Mayor Castor walks offstage without another word and our escort walks up.
It's hilarious, to be honest. Watching such a… brightly lit person walk amongst dull and down-brought people. Maydi Parida was new to being an escort, being about twenty-something, and she was absolutely hideous. Her skin was dyed a bright neon yellow that hurt my eyes, while her eyes were a mix of green and yellow and rimmed with enough makeup for at least ten normal people.
"It's an honour to be escorting District Eleven this year," she exclaims. What an accent. "Let us start with the girls!"
I steady my breathing to calm my nerves as Maydi trots over to the girls bowl and comes back with a piece of white paper. This was it. It was the moment of truth. Either I go into the arena or I don't.
She opens her mouth to read the name, and I close my eyes, waiting for the answer.
My eyes snap open. I've… just been reaped.
Roketi Mauluga, 18
Everyone looks around for the girl who's just been reaped. There's so many people in District Eleven that even if you're good with names, you'll never really know much people outside your neighbourhood. There's a long pause before the escort reluctantly speaks into the microphone again.
There's another small pause, but then I notice a girl with frizzy dark hair step out of the sixteen-year-olds' line. A look of shock and confusion washes over her before she walks up to the stage. When she stands next to Maydi, the escort asks for any volunteers. None.
Then she walks over to the boys' names. Well, I guess this is it. My chance.
I decide to wait for her to read out the name; I wouldn't want to look so hasty. So she stands behind the microphone with the piece of paper in hand, and her lips begin to move to read out the name. My chance.
"I volunteer!" I call out. People turn. Who knows how long it's been since someone volunteered in District Eleven. Was it forty years? I suppose in about forty years' time another odd volunteer would be looking back at me, my strange sacrifice for a person I don't even know.
I step forward and the other eighteen-year-olds make way for me. It's almost dead quiet with the exception of muffled chatter and my footsteps on the stone ground. The escort is beaming in excitement as I make my way next to her.
"My, my, a volunteer! What might your name be?" Maydi Paradi points the microphone at me.
"Roketi Mauluga," I say.
Still beaming, Maydi swings her head to face the audience. "District Eleven! May I present you, your tributes for the 100th Annual Hunger Games, Carys Rahn and Roketi Mauluga!"
There's no applause; why would there be? I turn my head to look at the girl tribute, Carys. She looks shaken, but she wasn't crying. At least she's not weak.
A few peacekeepers walk next to me and lightly push me towards the stairs. We're lead through the doors of the Justice Buildings, down the dreary hallways and finally into separate rooms where I'm supposed to say goodbye to my family. But what family is there other than a father who I hate?
So I just sit down on one of the couches, unsure of what to do. I end up staring at a painting on the wall, surrounded by a fancy gold frame. It's a painting of a bowl of fruit.
Carys Rahn, 16
I've never seen my parents cry. I wish it stayed that way.
It was like my heart was shattering, one piece falling at a time. The choked sobs coming out of my mother's mouth made me regret every single rule I've ever broken. I should have done better, I kept thinking, I should have been a better daughter. I should have valued their love more.
My mother burrowed her head into my shoulder, tears seeping through the lacy sleeves of my dress. "Mom," I say. "Mom, please stop crying."
Her arms were wrapped around me and I hugged her back, but it was more like I was cradling her. She was so vulnerable, so fragile that she was like a child more than a mother.
"I'm sorry," she choked. "I'm so sorry for everything."
Then there was my father. He didn't even have time to come close to me when my mother smothered me. His face was buried in his hands as he sat on a lounge near the door, tears dripping through the gaps between his fingers. His cries were quiet, but nonetheless all of the grief in the room was like a train running on top of my body. I couldn't take it and it was as if it was breaking me
My mother pulls away and cups the sides of my face with her hands. I'm crying too, but who wouldn't be? Her thumbs wipe the water falling from my eyes and she forces a small smile.
"Be strong, okay?" she says, but in the middle of the sentence her voice cracks. I nod, just for her sake.
She stands up and walks up to my father. I follow her, and when he looks up, I throw my arms around him.
"I love you, Dad," I say. "I love you, I love you."
That's all that happens in the next minute; I'm hugging my father and we all cry and cry and cry until the peacekeepers come in and separate us. I watch my parents as the walk out the door, getting my last glimpse before I die in the hands of the Capitol.
Roketi Mauluga, 18
I gape at the sight in front of me as I enter the train.
It's so… extravagant. Maybe even overly extravagant. It's so brightly lit that I squint my eyes when I move to the living room. There's a woman sitting at the long dining table, flipping through a notebook in her hands. She looks up when I approach.
"Hello," she says. She doesn't smile. Her face is completely neutral, neither pleasant nor menacing. Her black hair is cut short and her eyes are a piercing grey. I feel like I should know who she is.
"I'm Helia Marquez," she says. Of course. She's one of the mentors for District Eleven this year. I'm not really sure what year she won, but she's in her mid-thirties.
"Roketi Mauluga," I say, before walking up to the table and holding my hand out for her to shake. She stares at me for a while and I wonder if that was right thing to do, but she takes my hand and shakes it firmly.
Helia's eyes travel to something behind me. I turn around and see the girl who's my district partner. So that's my so-called 'partner for life', and this is only the second time I've been anywhere near to her. Well, I guess two against twenty-two is better than one against twenty-three.
"Um, hi," Carys says.
"Helia Marquez," she says. "Your mentor. You're the tribute? Fantastic. We've got both of you here."
I pondered on whether or not she was being sarcastic.
Helia stands up, taking her notebook with her. "We have lunch at twelve o'clock and dinner is at six o'clock. You can have a rest now, but don't be late."
A few Avoxes come up to us. An Avox girl who was not much older than me led me to my room. Those poor people. Nobody deserved to have their tongue cut out just because they broke a law or two. I honestly think that we from the districts have it better than the Avoxes. We probably do.
Though when I get to my room, I don't think about Avoxes or allies or lunch. I crash onto my bed, and lying on my back, I say, "Free. At last."
FINALLY! The reapings are done with. Again, i apologize for the wait, but I totally forgot about the fact that I was writing this chapter and finally got around to finishing it. I'm not too sure about the ending, but you guys tell me.
So! I've started the sponsor system again. I'm going to put a question, maybe two, at the end of each chapter. if you answer one correct, you get 10 points. If you answer two correct, you get 25 points. Also, in the arena, for every day that your tribute survives, you get 5 extra points. You will automatically get 5 points for every review you write. To find out how many points you currently have, just ask me :D
That's it. Thanks for reading!