Prologue: The Dark Days
The world is such a better place through the eyes of a child. My earliest memories took place during a time of war and destruction, but I was oblivious to it. I preferred playing with my homemade mermaid doll over watching the Capitol's broadcast. At night, my parents would sit together, worried lines forming their faces, as they watched the news and murmured things that made no sense to me. I did not know that somewhere out there, bombs were exploding and thousands were dying. I heard the word "war" frequently, but it meant nothing to me. I was far too innocent to understand the concept.
District Four was a fairly safe place to be during the first rebellion. I would later learn that there was some unrest, but it was nothing compared to the fight of the poorer, more oppressed districts. There were some killed, but the hordes of peacekeepers kept the conflict from escalating. War-time precautions were completely normal in my eyes.
My life was preoccupied by the care-free way in which children see the world. The beach was regulated by Peacekeepers who oversaw the fishing industry, but my father found a private part of the beach that we could escape to. We went almost every day, and it was exhilarating to splash around in the water and collect seashells around the shore. My father and I would take turns burying each other in the sand and spend the rest of the day making fish hooks. The rest of my free time was spent with my younger cousins. I had two at the time, and one was a baby. I was fiercely protective of them and considered them my siblings.
The first time I noticed something was wrong was immediately after the end of the war. I was five years old. A district-wide assembly was called in the town square. At first I thought it was some kind of celebration, but I changed my mind when I saw not one person was smiling. I squeezed my mother's legs as a large screen descended in front of the justice building and a man I recognized to be President Burns appeared on the screen. He had grey hair that was always slicked back, a full beard, and big yellow eyes. I wondered if they were real because I had never seen anyone with eyes of that hue, not to mention their unnatural brightness.
"We are gathered here today to discuss a punishment for the districts' failed rebellion. As you can see, the Capitol is much stronger than your efforts. All you have succeeded in doing is killing your own. Not just rebels either; innocent citizens died for your selfish motives. Because of your actions of defiance, District 13 has been obliterated," his voice boomed. I didn't know what he was talking about, but his words sent fear up my spine.
The screen now held a video of a burning place that was so destroyed, there was clearly no hope for anyone who lived there.
My small face was suddenly streaming with tears. "Why did they do that, Mama?" I asked desperately, peering up at her face through my tears. "What about all the people who live there?"
My mother lifted me and stroked my back as I buried my face into her shoulders. "Shhh, my little Mags. Those people will be fine. Don't worry your little head, my poor girl," she cooed.
It was the first time I ever considered my mother might be lying to me.
President Burns' voice was back again. "What a disaster this war has caused. Don't worry, the responsible people of the Capitol will see to it that this crime against humanity will never happen again."
At that moment, a strangely colorful man handed the President a slip of paper, which he began reading off of.
" This is the Treaty of Treason, which we will henceforth rely on to prevent another unfortunate uprising." He cleared his throat before reading, "In penance for their uprising, each district shall offer up a male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 at a public 'reaping'. These tributes shall be delivered to the custody of the Capitol, and then transferred to a public arena where they will fight to the death until a lone victor remains. Henceforth and forevermore this pageant shall be known as The Hunger Games."
I was beyond confused, but I could feel the tension in the crowd. I heard many people gasp as they realized the meaning of the words, and I looked up to see several were crying. Whatever the Hunger Games were for, they would only result in pain and death. I cried too, not so much over the President's words but their implications.
For once, I realized people weren't all friends and dedicated to helping each other. There were bad people who would kill and upset others just because they could.
The world was not the happy place I thought it was.