I do not own the Hunger Games or any of Suzanne Collins' characters. This is a series of one-shots telling the story of the 68th annual Hunger Games. Each chapter title will include a different aspect of the Games being covered along with a different POV. Of the 11 chapters, 4 will be OC perspectives and the other 7 will be canon. Enjoy!
To Die or to Kill
The Reaping: Wilbur Cotton – District 10 citizen
Something's different this year. I can't seem to put my finger on what it is.
As usual, the lucky families celebrate, while the less fortunate ones mourn for the children taken from their homes. However, there is an unsettling stillness left lingering in the air. A feeling of dread that tells me that our Reaping isn't over. I know I'm not the only one who feels it. Every nearby family that surrounds the old Townsend estate senses it too. Like me, they all dread the District 9 Reaping that will soon be announced.
Our tribute selection went by fairly quickly and without delay. It was actually one of the fastest Reapings that I have ever attended. There was very little enthusiasm displayed for the two who were chosen, but I'm sure most were just pleased that it wasn't their own children.
All emotions aside, our tributes are on the older side of the spectrum, so it's safe to assume they'll stand a better chance in the arena. Unfortunately that's not saying a whole lot.
The first one taken was the Rider's daughter. My heart shattered when I saw the look on her mother's face. All it took was a slip of paper and the girl was carted off to the stage without a word. I've met her before. Seventeen years old and she's already just as lovely as her mom. It's no surprise really. All the women in her family have been known for their beauty. But none of that will help her in the Games. If she's lucky, it could possibly get her a sponsor though.
Following her was the Coltrane boy. The crowd seemed relieved at the very mention of his name. Hopeful even. Though he's only eighteen, the boy is still stronger than most of the men in District 10. He's worked alongside enough of them for the majority of the District to know that it's true. If there was ever a tribute who stood a chance of winning, it would be him.
Now our Reaping has passed, and both of our tributes are long gone. Yet for some reason I can't help feeling uneasy until I hear those selected from 9. In my head I think it over and over, hoping I was wrong the first ten times. His twelfth birthday would have been a couple weeks ago. He will be standing out in the District 9 square today, just as I wait in the one we have in 10 to watch.
A cheerful assortment of instruments plays as they announce the District 9 Reaping. The screen lights up with thousands of faces of terrified children. All of the potential tributes. I try to scan for his face, but his is just one amongst thousands. Although it breaks my heart to see so many children forced into this situation, it reassures me to knowing he stands a good chance of not being chosen.
A fifteen year old girl is the first to take the stage. As she walks toward the center, she doesn't even bother to hold back her tears. It's obvious that she's already given up and accepted her fate. A fate that no child should ever have to face.
Ignoring the girl's cries, the man, who is the escort for 9, gives a long pause before attempting to select a male tribute. He stirs the bowl of entries with his fingers, for what feels like hours before he even attempts to grasp one. It's unclear whether he's doing it for dramatic effect, or his own sick amusement. Either way I hate him for it.
Ever so delicately a small slip of paper is selected before…
My heart sinks deep into my chest, as my own worst fear has been realized. The Townsend boy has been reaped. Right now the entire District 10 square has gone silent. What more is there to say after hearing another one of our own has been sentenced to death?
It wasn't all that long ago he was here. And with his parents too. I remember them well. They were some of the most caring and generous people you could meet. Wealthy, but you wouldn't know it. They were always giving their money away, feeding a great deal of our starving homes. They were always willing to give more than they had. Unfortunately that was also their crime.
The father died first. He took a fall into the bullpen and was trampled before he could get out. At least that's the official story they're going with now.
Once the father was gone, the Townsends' fortune was stripped away. Folks on nearby farms did what they could to help the widow and her son. Many were just returning the favor.
At the age of eight, little Henley would work odd jobs on neighboring farms in exchange for a hot meal, for he and his mom. In the mornings he used to come by early and help me collect the eggs in the chicken coops before school. I remember joking with him once that he had already mastered so many different trades that he didn't even need to go to school. It was the funniest thing. Little Henley sat me down as if I were the child and he were the adult, just so he could explain the importance of a good education. He wanted to be a doctor for animals. He was like his mother in that regard.
But it wasn't long before his mother became ill. And just like that the Townsend boy became the Townsend orphan.
There were several families who offered to take care of the child, mine included. But the Capitol wouldn't allow it. He was to be sent off to District 9. They say he has an aunt and uncle there. At least that's what the peacekeepers said anyway. Either way Henley was left with no choice but to pack up and leave District 10 behind.
Everyone assumed he would be okay. He was an oddly mature little runt. Most of his friends at school were at least four years older than him. But that's just how District 10 is. The older ones always look out for the younger ones. Even my own son once said he would volunteer if little Henley's name was ever drawn.
I suppose I should be thankful. Henley being in District 9 now means my son will never have to do such a thing. Not that Henley would have had any shortage of volunteers in District 10. However, it's clear that no one in 9 feels the same way. They're all probably just glad none of their own children were chosen. And I can't really blame them for it.
But I know Henley's name being called was no accident. Like the rest of his family he will have to pay for his father's crimes. However the Capitol deems fit.