Stars Can't Shine Without Darkness
A girl lost in her struggle to survive
Chapter One: The Reaping
When I wake up, all I see is darkness. The stars have already faded but the sun has not yet made its bright appearance in the sky. As I get out of bed, I turn on a few lights and turn to look at my mum, who is still fast asleep. She's making little noises in her sleep and seems so calm and peaceful. Looking at her, I suddenly feel a twitch of guilt. From this day on, she probably won't sleep this peacefully anymore.
I know this because I am about to volunteer in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
At school they tell us that Panem was long ago built on the ruins of a nation called America. The thirteen Districts of Panem were forced to obey the Capitol and so it went on for centuries. Then came the Dark Days. Together the Districts formed a rebellion against the mighty Capitol. Unfortunately, the Capitol regained control of the Districts and completely obliterated District 13.
As a reminder of these Dark Days, every year each District is represented by one boy and girl in the Hunger Games. The twenty-four boys and girls are all between twelve and eighteen years old and are called tributes. These tributes are then placed in an arena, every move being closely monitored. Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death.
I live in District One, the District that provides the Capitol of luxury goods. My District is one of the wealthier Districts, which means that even though we do not get to eat whatever we want, we still have at least two good meals a day. The other relatively wealthy Districts are District Two (Masonry) and District Four (Fishing), but I only know this because these Districts provide the healthiest, strongest and biggest tributes for the Hunger Games. Although it is against the rules, our Districts' boys and girls are all being trained for the Games since the age of seven in special Academies.
The tributes from our Districts are expected to form an alliance during the game and, eventually, it is most likely that one of them will win the Games.
I am now sixteen years old, trying to volunteer is now expected from me, and although I know representing is a great honour, I am afraid. Afraid that the unthinkable will happen to me, like it did to my sister, Charm. Two years ago my sister, who was seventeen years old, volunteered for the Games. I remember how exited she was to see the Capitol and to enter the Games. It all went wrong. She fell in love with the boy from District Two and when she was weakest, he killed her. Shortly after that he was killed by the girl from District Four, who liked to play with her prey before she ended them. I know it isn't fair, but I already feel a deep hatred towards the upcoming tributes from District Two. I want to be the one who kills the boy. It is something I have deeply desired for the past two years. I am not eager to volunteer, but I am determined to bring pride to my family and my District, to avenge my sister.
Two hours later all the twelve-to-eighteen-year-olds of District One are lined up near the Justice Building. I try to ignore all the other sixteen-year-old girls, who are all talking about their favourite Victors and arena's. Normally I would join them, but I have to focus. I want to be the one who boards the train. I want to be the one who wears the nicest costumes, wins over the Capitol crowd and beats the other tributes in the arena.
Vibia Fairbain, our District's escort, walks up the stage on her incredibly high heels. I've worn heels sometimes, but these killers seem to come from a world without gravity. Vibia taps on the microphone and everyone falls silent. We all know this is being broadcasted all over Panem, it's time to make an impression.
"Welcome, welcome, District 1, to the public Reaping for the 74th Annual Hunger Games!" Vibia exclaims.
Everybody claps and the fifteen-to-eighteen-year-old potential tributes grin excitedly. As one of the camera's turns to my direction, I smirk and flick my long, golden blond hair from my shoulders. Take that, future opponents, I think.
After a long story about the foundation of Panem and the Dark Days, Vibia walks towards the big bowl filled with thousands of girls' names. I prepare myself to volunteer as tribute. Should I ran forward, screaming or should I just raise my hand? Suddenly I can't remember how the volunteering process works. What if they won't let me? I only have two more years left after this.
Vibia opens the little piece of paper and reads:
I smile as I realise I don't even have to volunteer.
Fighting is the only thing I know how to do. In District Two every year multiple people try to volunteer, just like this time. I'm standing amongst the other sixteen-year-old boys from my District. They are all eager to volunteer, but no one wants to be in the Games as much as I do.
I want to bring pride to my District and entering the Games is the only way how.
My parents put me into the Academy of District Two's Tributes when I was only seven years old and I have barely seen them and my little brother Titus since. My other brother Bise, who has just turned twelve and attends the Academy with me, is standing with his friends in the front.
I don't have to worry about him. Even if he does get picked, a lot of boys, including myself, will try to volunteer.
I am not afraid of losing the Games, as I have trained for it my entire life.
Swinging a sword is a second nature to me and I am the best of the Academy in hand-to-hand combat.
I hold my breath as our District's escort Savera Galloway mounts the stage. Girls are always first up. After the long and dull talk about the Dark Days or whatever, Savera gets to the girls' bowl.
I smirk as I look at the girl named Clove. She walks up the stage and no one volunteers, because they all know participating in the Games must be this girl's dream. I recognize her from the Academy and I know she is the best of her year, very skilled with a knife.
Then I realize this girl, only fourteen years old but incredibly strong, will now begin to plan how to end the lives of the other tributes, including me.
She has the ability to kill me with one of her knives when I am off my guard, but she won't be able to kill me if I kill her first.
Bise turns to look at me and I give him a reassuring smile. Not my usual smirk, but the smile only my little brothers get from me. Bise looks worried, but I know he has nothing to worry about.
Then I realize, he is worried about me. The scared look on his face tells me he doesn't want me to risk my life for our District.
Savera takes out a piece of paper and reads:
A thirteen year old boy walks up the stage, not even a little bit scared because he knows people will volunteer. They do.
Several boys shout "I volunteer as tribute!" but I am first.
I run up the stage and shake Clove's hand, giving her my famous smirk and looking her right in the eye.
You better prepare yourself, girl, I think. The Games are about to begin.