This is my first foray into writing something of substantial length and substance. I have most of it written, but I will upload it a few days at a time as I'm writing the rest. My first child is on the way, so this seems like an excellent way to pass the long nights that are sure to come.
All reviews are appreciated. Thanks.
Tech Narrows was over District Three.
Tech hadn't been allowed to be himself for his entire 15 years and he was growing weary of the constant façade; but D3—as he preferred to call it as he felt it gave the sleepy district some edge—wasn't the kind of place that was open to embrace varied interests.
The Hunger Games were instituted over twenty years ago. In those twenty-some years, District Three was consistently the poorest showing district; their kids were eaten alive—often times, literally, as they were too focused on hiding from other Tributes or formulating overtly complex plans to notice the mutts hiding around them. Over forty kids lost their lives during the span of the Hunger Games in embarrassing, soul-crushing fashion.
The issue is, outside of the families of those Tributes and Tech himself, no one in D3 seemed to care much. It was a foregone conclusion that the Tributes of Three were goners and the citizens of Three were far too submissive to do much about it, and it was their passive nature that kept the slaughter going.
In District Three, it is intellect that is valued over brawn, the spirit of discovery held in higher esteem than the spirit of competition, which is how Tech found himself to be the outcast of his family, peers and community. Tech was as intelligent, if not moreso, than nearly all of his classmates. He excelled in the valued subjects such as math and science and consistently felt one step ahead of the others in nearly every assignment and project. This alone should have made Tech the model D3 student, but that was the only element of Tech—outside of his ridiculous name—that fit the mold.
Tech was handsome, square-jawed with an effortless charisma that he constantly kept reined in. Though it wasn't a significant achievement due to the timid, meek, unatheletic genetic code in Three, he was still taller than every other boy his age, as well as many of the 16s and 17s. Further, Tech had found himself cursed with a competitive nature, a desire for victory, which separated him so distinctly from his district counterparts that he made the conscious decision from early age to repress his desire to pursue greatness.
In D3, greatness was mediocrity.
For Tech, mediocrity was grating and difficult.
In secret, Tech was a law-breaker in such an unprecedented way that he wasn't even certain what the penalty would be if he were to be caught.
His father, Mica, was an engineer, diligently working on designs for household technology so luxurious that it would never been seen in the homes of the impoverished D3 residents. Slaving away for weeks straight, Mica created some of the most popular pieces of technology in the entire Capitol: automatic combs, customizable ice machines for refrigerators, coffee mugs with the ability to change colors as to match the garish outfits of the Capitol elite.
However, it was his discovery of wide area tattoo needles which had allowed him to make a real name for himself. Tech's father adapted a collection of smaller needles to form one large mechanism, which allowed to the "fashion-minded" citizens of the Capitol the ability to dye the entirety of their epidermis. Soon after, he created an add-on which could painlessly erase these large-scale tattoos. While the allure of the creation was beyond the grasp of Tech, these tattoo guns became an absolute Capitolian necessity and earned Mica far-reaching acclaim.
This success occurred near Tech's eighth birthday and was celebrated with a lavish-by-the-usually-low-standards-of-District-Three party in the industrial office where Mica worked. As Mica's only child, Tech was expected to be present and on his best behavior. Tech's parents had always been extremely distant from him.
The Narrows' didn't "do" affection.
But they were going to "do" this party, so a nearly 8-year-old Tech begrudgingly put on his very best clothes—the ones typically reserved for viewing the Reapings he wasn't yet a part of—and headed to the one of the dozen or so multi-storied buildings in D3's meager "downtown" area.
Tech was immediately introduced and ignored while Mica soaked up the semi-jealous praises of his coworkers.
"Cool", Tech thought as he discreetly moseyed out of the large cafeteria, "I can take off this stupid tie."
He wandered down the dreary stairwell, wondering what life had been like in this building during the Dark Days. As one of few remaining structures from that time period in Three, the building had a distinct aura about it, a unique mysterious quality Tech was always drawn to. His curiosity took him to the slim corridor in the basement behind the "EMPLOYEES ONLY" sign. Adorned with only a series of low wattage, sporadically flashing lights due to what Tech could only assume was poor wiring, the hallway appeared abandoned, forgotten and dangerous. It smelled of moisture from water leaks long ignored and he could hear the fevered scurrying of rodents somewhere deeper down the hallway.
Regardless, Tech never got to experience danger in his uneventful existence in Three so, at nearly eight-years-old, Tech went exploring. Breaking rules under the newer, more vicious Capitol regime was rare and a much younger Tech enjoyed his little private rebellion.
It was particularly lackluster excursion up until its conclusion.
However, near the end of the corridor, Tech found what must have been a break area for the janitor of this building during the Dark Days, as absolutely none of the equipment in this room was the least bit recognizable. Tech played with the large bag hanging from the chains, pushing it and then dodging it as it swayed on its axis. He tried to pick up the heaviest ball he'd ever seen, only to end up trying to balance on top when his attempts proved futile. He was exhausted, but Tech loved every second of it.
On the ground, Tech found what would become the center of his existence for the next eight years, a magazine simply titled "Boxing." Stuffing it in the back of his pants and then retucking in his shirt, Tech rushed back to the party unnoticed.
Tech snuck away every chance he could to study the monthly, cover to cover. He read about an activity so outside his realm of understanding that he nearly convinced himself that this magazine was documenting some sort of fictional sport.
These people fought, but not to kill. Tech could hardly wrap his mind around it.
Boxing took the brute combat he had been forced to watch in the Hunger Games and created something precise, structured and technical. There was strategy and technique which reminded him of chess, except the stakes were higher and poor defense meant "chin-checks" (which was Tech's favorite term from the magazine) instead of checkmates. Fascinated by the analysis and information within the pages of this magazine, Tech could not resist sneaking back into the lower corridor, floors below his father's workplace, to utilize all of the foreign objects he now had names for.
Over the next eight years, Tech trained.
The rickety speed bag he repaired and mastered.
The full-size punching bag.
Sprints up and down the corridor.
Pushing himself because there was no one to compete with using a sport and methods from a time that no longer existed and would never exist again.
He mimicked the pictures in "Boxing" and memorized the tips given on every page and, as he grew up and strengthened himself, he adapted the strategies and created his own workouts. His poorly wrapped hands developed blisters and eventually calloused, giving him a resistance he never thought possible. Using his standard issue school shirt, he kept his sleeves pulled onto his hands whenever he felt the need to be conspicuous during school or at home.
One hour, each weekday, before school or whenever he could sneak in, for eight years, he trained diligently. He felt free and he never felt too nervous; he wasn't even sure there was a rule that forbid boxing, there was just a general disinterest in all things athletic across D3. The office employees never noticed him sneaking in and out of the sidedoor of the building and his parents had a natural gift of treating him with indifference so, subsequently, they weren't much of an issue. His classmates, however, provided their own conflict.
The boys in class had developed and focused a rather severe jealousy on Tech. He was smarter than them, which he tried to hide by purposely answering the teachers' questions incorrectly to take away the focus. However, when the teacher sang his praises for his flawless test scores or compelling projects, he was on the radar for all of the boys in his class. Had he known it would be mentioned aloud, he never would have done well in the first place. Tech wanted to box, he didn't want focus because it may cut into or, even worse, expose his boxing.
It was inescapable.
He was also the subject of adoration for nearly every girl in his class. Again, the competition wasn't to fierce, but Tech found himself cornered, talking to girls he had minimal interest in, while his small, freckled classmates burned with envy.
He didn't want to be selected to represent his school in the District-wide science fair.
He didn't want to win and now be the focus of intellectual hatred among the brightest students in all of D3.
All he wanted to do was box in his maintenance closet and pretend he was from a time where his hobby was celebrated, not contorted into a disgusting, barbaric mockery with weapons and marketed to the masses as the Hunger Games.
Tech was, simply, naturally disliked.
A Quarter Quell, Tech found as he was watching the mandatory presidential telecast on his government issued television over dinner, was to occur every 25 years. The Quells were to remind the citizens of Panem how entirely defenseless they were against the tyranny of the Capitol by making the Hunger Games somehow worse than they already were.
Tech had always hated the Games despite his intensely competitive nature. He wanted his physical victories and losses to become part of his own record, not as the end of someone else's life or his own.
This thought lingered in Tech's head as he half watched the president, an imposing mountain of a man named President Clemens, announce that districts would have the honor (it was later revealed that this "honor" was mandatory) of voting in the male and female tributes from their district.
The president gave a remorseless grin, the television feed cut out, and the whirlwind began.
All voting occurred the following day, a Tuesday, and everyone over the age of 12 was required to cast a ballot, which conveniently listed the names of every eligible candidates in the district.
Check a box, send a couple of kids to their deaths, then get back to work. Painless.
The votes were tallied nationwide in a machine designed by Mica, which was ultra efficient and would have the final count verified by the Reaping on Wednesday.
The pageantry of the Reaping was toned down quite a bit, Tech noticed as he stood with his fellow 15s. There were no random names selected, just the escort, Revere, standing essentially alone on the stainless steel stage under the perpetually cloudy afternoon sky, flanked by a few Peacekeepers in case the elected Tribute decided to make a run for it.
District Three had no mentors because it had no winners. However, in the eyes of their home nation, Panem, D3 had the smartest population; they could figure it out.
Tech snapped out his private, cynical world as the escort, a noticeably understated-looking middle-aged Capitol man named Revere, was finishing up his scripted telling of the Hunger Games' origin.
There was no boy within five feet of him. In fact, all of the boys his group were comically crammed on their edge of their small patch of asphalt. He caught a couple of them giving his a sideways glance, but not the resentful sort he was accustomed to when the intelligence he consistently tried to hide presented itself.
These looks were remorseful.
These kids looked guilty.
As he looked in front of him at the two older sets of males, he saw a few kids quickly turn their heads back to the stage.
"No," Tech whispered in a moment of enlightenment, before turning his focus back to Revere.
"…as selected by the largest percentage of District Three citizens, your 25th male Tribute, Tech Narrows."