Chapter 1-District 2
My knife soars through the air hitting straight through the dummy, exactly where the brain would be.
Another knife, sharp, pointed, spins dangerously towards the target sticking straight where the heart would be.
"Again!" Another knife goes through the air, and another, and another, all hitting the necessary targets until the dummy is covered in knives, each one positioned over one of the organs. Lungs, heart, brain, all of them have been hit. Not a single miss.
Again, again, again that's all I ever hear, the trainers are never satisfied, especially Enobaria. After half an hour of throwing knives, retrieving them and then throwing them again, the trainers finally call us to a stop telling us that at least it's time for lunch. 40 minutes, then it all starts again.
"Hey Clove!" I spin around at my table glaring until I realise that it's only Cato.
"Knife throwing any better yet?"
"Excuse me?" I raise an eyebrow at him spinning my knife in one hand, my fork perched in the other. "I never miss."
"I know I'm only kidding jeez." He smirks playfully at me and I release my knife, embedding it in the table a mere centimetre away from him. He picks it up and sighs at me, as I raise my eyebrow he simply smiles and says "You missed."
"Oh shut up." I reach over and grab one of his pieces of bread before eating it like it was mine all along.
"Oi! That's mine."
"Why you little..." In a flash he's jumped over the table, but too late, I've already rolled away and back on my feet, now laughing as Cato flies through thin air, and then lands in a heap. I walk over calmly and look down so my head is directly above his. "You missed."
Before I know it I'm on the floor as a thick hand has clasped itself around my ankle, Cato has pulled me down before I even blinked, now he sits on my legs holding the knife pointed at me, the bread in his other hand.
"You got lucky"
"Clove! Cato! Get you asses back in the training room this instant everyone else is already in! 5 laps now!"
Shit. I look at Cato and bite my lip trying not to laugh as he gets off me and I quickly scramble to my feet before heading into the training centre to start jogging around the room, never straying more than a metre from the tall, dull, grey walls, though Cato stays beside me. Once done, we separate once more, he to his swordplay and me towards the knife station where Enobaria stands waiting for me.
"Clove. Show these idiots how to properly throw a knife. Now." I nod once, sneering cruelly at the bunch of ten year olds who obviously have no experience in combat and probably don't know much more than how to do a few press-ups and hold a knife let alone throw it and actually make contact hit the target.
I shrug on my knife jacket, already equipped with twenty ready knives and pull out two, holding them carefully in each hand, before lowering to my usual stance.
"Right you lot. Watch and learn." The ten year olds nod obediently though I'm not surprised, no one dares to cross Enobaria, ever.
She walks over to a small podium and presses the green button, causing the grey doors, practically disguised amongst the tall walls, to fling open revealing a small track as targets shaped like human cut-outs begin to make their way forward. And so it begins.
One. Two. Two knives, two targets already down, both of them headshots. Three, four, five, six, seven, another five targets down, two headshots, two to the heart, one to the jugular. It continues again and again until I have used up all my knives and all the targets lie 'dead' on the ground.
"Good, so you can be useful." I look to Enobaria and nod respectfully back, sarcastic and rude I may be but not even Cato and I would dare cross her. "Go to the wrestling mats." I nod once more and turn to leave.
"Right then! Your turn." I hear Enobaria shout to the ten year olds as I walk away, smirking when I see Cato up ahead waiting for me, his arms crossed, an identical smirk upon his face.
One, two, three hits, an uppercut, and my sword is pointed at his chest as he lays on the floor, already out of breath. The trainer presses a button as a quietened sound of a cannon is played, symbolising my victory. Honestly he calls himself a district two? This idiot would barely make it out of the blood bath. Pathetic… absolutely pathetic, I'm 18 in just a month, still old enough for the games which I've trained for my whole life, and this is who I'm meant to be challenged by? Pathetic, even Clove could thrash him, and she's awful with swords, plus she's 16.
"Well done Cato, you're doing well with a sword; move over to the wrestling mats now please." I chuck my sword on the floor and look cruelly down at the boy I've just 'killed', of course I'm doing well with a sword, it's what I'm best at, before nodding at the trainer and heading to the mats where 3 other pairs are already wrestling, trying hard to pin each other for longer than ten seconds.
"Someone for you to wrestle with will arrive soon." A trainer informs me as I arrive, so I stand, and I wait. Which idiot will I have to fight today? My eyes look around the room at the different stations, archery, swordsmanship, heavy lifting, running, the agility course, but the only one that catches my attention is the knife throwing station, or more specifically, Clove.
A group of kids are stood around the station, probably ten or nine year olds, usually they would train in a separate area of the building as those younger than 12, or rather, those not yet old enough for the hunger games, don't come to our area, unless they want to watch an expert at work, which they are currently doing (though I hate to admit that Clove's an expert at anything).
I watch as each one of her knives is thrown, each one hits its target. She's right, she never misses. Enobaria looks at her approvingly, nearly smiling, and that's saying something, a couple of people from the other stations seem to glance at her and nod approvingly, trainers and those being trained alike.
Once she's out of knives Enobaria nods at her and directs her to a different station before turning and shouting at the group of kids. Then I realise where she's headed, my station. This… will be fun.
Clove smirks as she spots me, obviously thinking the same thing and I stand with my arms folded; smirking back right back at her.
The trainer comes over and smiles at the pair of us. "Ah good, Clove, I'm glad that Enobaria sent you over. Right then you two, usual rules, no getting off the mat, no breakages if possible, first to be pinned for ten seconds loses. In the event that the spar lasts until the end of the session, or both competitors are no longer able to continue, a draw will be announced. Ready?" We nod.
We take our stances and slowly begin to circle each other around the large, round dark blue mat, neither of us wanting to be the first to make a move.
"Why bother Clove? You know I'll win."
"Oh you're so full of yourself Cato."
"Am I really?" I sneer at her tauntingly and she simply smiles sweetly back, before I lunge, going for her left arm. She sidesteps quickly to the right and darts behind me then rushes forward and flings her arms about my neck. My arm goes up immediately, nearly naturally, and grabs hold, stopping her from getting a proper grip. I spin and then release, forcing her to fall back and perform a backwards roly-poly before she lands with one knee bent and goes to swipe her spare leg under me.
I jump quickly and then spin around and send a punch towards her stomach. She sidesteps but it makes contact with her side ever so slightly, causing her to go a little off balance, perfect. Immediately I take the opportunity and dart forward, swiping for her arm, gotcha. I spin her around, but wince and let out a whimper of pain as her foot makes contact with my… special area. My grip slackens and she darts behind me sending a kick to my rear.
I fall forward but manage to do a roll out of her way and scramble to one knee as she darts towards me yet again. She feints a left punch but I know she's going for a snap kick so immediately I force myself backwards, even if I'm not that flexible, and grab her foot as, just like I knew she would, she kicks at me. Obviously surprised, she's caught off guard and this time I pull hard causing her to fall to the ground and then, tired and exhausted, I throw myself on top of her, one hand on each of her wrists, a knee on either side of her waist. "Loser"
"Oh really?" Her leg comes up and I crumple to the side. Seriously, twice? What's she trying to do castrate me?
Before I know it she's on my back holding my arms behind me firmly in her grasp.
"1!" The trainers shout aggravates me.
"I don't know how to lose Cato."
"2!" Eight seconds to get her off me? You're kidding me!
"C'mon get off me Clove, you win." Please work.
"I think I have 6 more seconds until victory Cato" I don't even need to look at her to know that she's grinning happily down at me.
In a flash I've flipped, released my hands, and punched her in the stomach, winding her, and then pushed her to the ground, and am now sitting in the middle of her back, my hands holding her arms high above her head.
"Ow ow ow! Cato you bastard no fair!" For the next ten seconds she struggles but for the life of her she can't escape my grip, I'm not one of the strongest people in two for nothing.
"10!" Ha! I win. I clamber off of her flexing my muscles victoriously; did she seriously think she could beat me? I hold my hand out to her and go to pull her up but she just yanks me back to the mat before getting up herself and then brushes a few stray pieces of hair out of her face.
"Pfft, mardy much?"
"Oh please, I let you win."
"Suuuuureee. Whatever you say Clove."
"Cato!" I spin around at the sound of my name, as does Clove. A group of peacekeepers are walking over to me, one of the victors, Jyro, in the lead. He won the 45th Hunger games; he was 18 at the time. With the 74th Hunger games now coming up he's just 47 now and although he isn't the youngest of victors, other than Enobaria, he is one of the most highly respected people here.
"Yes sir?" Clove stands stock still as I straighten up to look at him, trying hard not to be disrespectful. What do they want me for?
"Come." I nod and walk towards him as he turns and heads back towards the door. I look back at Clove confusedly yet she just shrugs and nods her head telling me to get going before she heads off to the agility station herself.
We walk into the lobby of the building and then I'm taken to an elevator. It takes us up to the top floor and then Jyro and the peacekeepers take me into an office with his name on a metal plaque in the centre of the door. "Go." The peacekeepers nod and quickly take their leave, leaving the two of us alone.
"Sit." I do so.
"Cato, as you know all the training you and your fellows do is training for the Hunger Games. Your parents paid quite a fee in order to make sure you began training when you were merely 8. Correct?"
"As you also know, we are a proud district and take these games very seriously, and expect a winner nearly every year, hence why many of our victors are unable to live in the victor's village, nearly all the houses being occupied."
"Yes." Is this going where I think it's going?
"Well then young man, the fellow trainers, victors, peacekeepers and I have been watching the progress of many of those training here, and this year you will be our male tribute."
Ah so I was right, that is what he wants. Well I admit I'm honoured, thrilled in fact, I've been training for this for 10 long years, hoping that I would be picked. It's well known in our training centre, in most of our district in fact, that the victors pick who will be volunteering that year, they pick whoever performs best and who they genuinely believe will win the Hunger Games, rather than wait for the reaping, they want a victor.
"Well?" Oh yeah, my reply.
"Oh. Right, that's great I'm honoured."
"Good. You may return to training, on the day of the reaping, regardless of who is called, you are to volunteer and take your place on the stage with your fellow tribute, whoever that may be."
"Has a girl tribute been told to volunteer too?"
"No Cato, not this year, we can only have one victor after all, no point picking two of our best fighters when one of them is sure to die. Whoever is reaped will go to the games, no volunteers." In other words, no 18 year old girl has proved herself able to win the hunger games, as they never choose anyone younger than 18 unless they're genuinely exceptional.
"Ah. Of course."
"Yes sir. Thank you sir."
"Peacekeepers will be outside ready to return you to training." I nod before standing and walking out of the door. Two peacekeepers then begin to guide me towards the elevator, down to the ground floor, and back to the training room. They push open the door and let me walk in, before returning to their posts, wherever that may be. Clove is still at the agility station and she smiles when she sees me but I simply smirk weakly before going over to the swords again… this is just too weird.
I beat three opponents before all of us are told that training is over and that it is time for us to return home and to report again at 6 O'clock the next morning.
Clove instantly comes over to me smiling and I nod at her though I don't tell her what happened yet.
"So? What did Jyro want?"
"Not here." I look warily at the others as they leave and don't speak again until we're out the building and heading back towards our street, I don't really fancy the idea of everyone knowing that I've been picked and they're not actually meant to know until the day of the reaping. No-one outside of district two is meant to know that we train for the Games, let alone that our previous victors and the trainers choose who is going to go into the arena regardless of who is reaped. Conveniently Clove and I have lived on the same street for about a year now, her parents decided to move closer to the training station last year so we walk to and from training together every day now.
As we turn into our street she looks to me and raises an eyebrow expectantly. "So?"
"I'm going in the hunger games this year."
"Oh cool, you've been chosen to volunteer? That's great!"
"Jyro told me I have to."
"Weren't you going to anyway?"
"Yeah I guess… but I wanted to do it on my own terms I guess. That's all."
"Hey, don't worry about it okay?" I smile weakly as she playfully punches me on the shoulder. I guess I can be myself around Clove, she's just like me, messed up family, and a kick ass opponent, though I might never see her again after the games begin… "They're not making a girl tribute volunteer right? Not wanting to waste two great fighters and all?"
"Nope. Seem to think one will be enough. Anyway I best be getting home, see ya Clove"
"See ya Cato."
We go our separate ways and I can't help but sigh as I reach the door to my apartment. I turn the key and walk inside. My family is already sat at the table eating and my mother turns to me instantly. "Well?"
"I'm going into the hunger games this year."
My little brother looks down a little sadly, our elder brother died a few years ago in his hunger games after he was chosen to volunteer and my brother fears I'm going to die as well, though my mother just grins wickedly and my father smirks. "You better win, I want a bigger apartment, you hear? Don't you dare be an idiot and die like your older brother."
"Your mother's right, you win, we haven't spent our hard earned money on you and your siblings to go train just for you to enter and then lose the hunger games."
"Have some dinner and then go to bed." I take a seat beside my brother, he's only 8 and started his training this year, ever since brother died he's been getting quieter and quieter and now he's practically silent, though he's still the sneakiest person I know. My sister on the other hand smiles at me, she's 13 and reminds me so much of Clove it's scary, except for the fact that her hair colour is blonde like mine and is always loose, flowing down her back, instead of Clove's dark hair which is always kept in a ponytail, no matter the environment.
I eat quickly before heading to my room and settling on my small bed. I'm going into the hunger games, what I've trained for my entire life, I'm going in, and I'm going to win, no matter what.