By: Cody Chapman
Based on the trilogy by Suzanne Collins “The Hunger Games”
Panem, the name given to the once known United States of America, now only resides 12 out of 13 districts of people living across the nation under the control of the once known government, now calling themselves “the Capitol”. Ran by a devious, evil yet genius man, President Snow lived through the rebellion of the United States against the government. Ever since the rebellion came to a halt, and the Capitol was victorious, it was decided that each year for the rest of time, an annual “Hunger Games” would take place, sending in 2 tributes from each of the 12 remaining districts, a boy and a girl, ages 12 to 18 to fight to the death. Making the total amount of tributes 24, a public “Reaping” will be hosted in each district to decide which children from each district will be chosen to be casted into the deadly arena made by the clever Gamemakers, known for their brutal and exciting ideas that come to life in the arena to cause the deaths of the tributes and to create said arena, ranging from a cold, wintery landscape to a raging hot desert, to a deep forest, for the tributes to find various ways to survive during the Games. Anyone willing to rebel against the Capitol to keep the Hunger Games from returning annually will be held subject for execution in front of their whole district, and on national television so all other districts can set an example for the nation to never rebel against the Capitol again.
I was sitting in my basement watching the news, while my mother and father were upstairs making preparations for my mother’s birthday party, which was to be held this Saturday at my grandparents’ house. She was turning the big five O’, and I was only 18 years old, only one more year of being legible to participate in the sickening Hunger Games. My sister, Sara, being 15 years old, had 3 more years to go until she was free of guaranteed death. Fortunately for me, no one in my family has been sent into the Games yet. My closest cousin Clarice is 17 years old and has been dodging the Games just like I have been since we turned 12 years old. My youngest cousin Brenna is 11 years old, so she still has one more year of peace before trembling in her bed, sweating, dreaming about being sent into the Games. Putting your name into the Reaping ball more times gives your family more food, depending how many times you wish to re-enter it, which my family and I could use. We live in District 12, which is the poorest district to live in. Our other family and friends live in the other districts, so we don’t really see much of them. Which in this case, is a good thing. If I were to see my family every day and then had a family member I was close with sent into the Games with me, I wouldn’t be able to kill them even if it meant them killing me and bringing honor to our family. Even though cousins of mine living in other districts wouldn’t bring much fortune to my family living in District 12, it would still bring our name fame and hope if one of us were ever to be sent into the Games once again.
I was just about to flip the channel when I saw the preview movie for the Hunger Games yet again. The Capitol has been playing it every day for the past two weeks, since Games season has started. Everyone has been on edge, but we pull each other through every day and ignore it. There surprisingly haven’t been any executions from any of the other districts due to the fact that it’s also very early yet before people start getting anxious. But can you blame them for acting out in such way? What the Capitol is doing is terrible, and worth fighting for. But here in District 12, there really isn’t anyone who could lead a rebellion and gain the power and trust from all the other Districts to lead a charge of fire against the Capitol. Besides, with all the weapons and force the Capitol has against us, we wouldn’t last a week without more than half of the Districts being blown to pieces in a matter of days.
About 45 years ago when my mom was just five years old, a rebellion started in District 7. Till this day, no one forgot how the 12 year old girl from District 7 was brutally betrayed by a girl from District 1, who so happened to be a Career. A Career is a boy or girl who is raised in the more wealthy districts such as Districts 1, 2, 3, and 4. They are brought up training for the Games and as soon as the Games come around each year, when they are of age, they “volunteer” to go into the Games, already fully trained and ready to kill and bring fame and fortune to their district. It’s sort of sickening; really, that their parents allow them to train with real weapons and fight against one another in a training academy, only to be killed themselves in the arena. As tough as Careers may be, normally they all die because they are too over confident and underestimate all of the other Tributes fighting against them in the arena. When the girl from District 1 slit the 12 year old girl’s throat in the arena while she was sleeping, District 7 never forgot and never forgave District 1 for being so cruel and cheering on the Career girl from District 1.
Before I could turn off the Capitol’s message explaining why there is a Hunger Games each and every year, my sister, Sara, came downstairs.
“What are you watching?”
I clicked the power button and looked at her, ready to tell her exactly what I was watching, but decided I probably shouldn’t since it would cause her unrest for the next week and a half until the Reaping was over. I was a very good liar, which would be a great help if I were ever sent into the Games.
“Nothing, just the news cast for today. There was a uprising in 7 again, they keep trying to overthrow District 1 and make them never forget what happened 45 years ago. Kind of stupid really, half of the people who were alive during those Games are now dead. I guess it’s just their way of having hope…you know?”
Sara, even though she was only 15 years old, could read people very well. But luckily for me and my brilliant lying skills, she could never penetrate my wall of lies that I was forced to tell her by choice or when it was demanded by my parents to protect her sanity. She was completely against the Games, and it upset her every time she saw the video the Capitol would play in honor of the Games.
“Oh, well yeah they probably should just forget. It’s not worth starting a rebellion again; it would just draw us into it.” She said, pulling herself away from trying to read through my lie and opened the small fridge that we have to grab her glass of water from this morning’s breakfast.
“It’s warm…the fridge isn’t working again.” She said, still gulping down the remaining drops from the glass. “Do you want to come with me to the river and get more water? Mom asked me to do it earlier but I was too lazy to do it myself. I’ll give you some of my candy bar that I got from school yesterday.”
I smiled, “Yeah I’ll go with you, but no I don’t want your candy bar. You keep it, you earned it. Besides, you never know I might need to be on a good diet if I were to be…”
I stopped myself right away. The words I was about to say would have just upset her so I pretended to cough for an extended period of time, trying to act as if I was choking on my own spit.
“Sorry,” I said looking at her while pretending to wipe my “teary” eyes after coughing so much.
She just laughed and continued her way upstairs. She shouted to our parents that we were going to get more water from the river and asked how many buckets we would need. She found my parents in the living room, still trying to figure out party arrangements for my moms birthday.
“Just bring home about four big buckets, two from the each of you. We could each have one until this weekend where we will need to get more.” My dad said, pointing to the corner of the room where there were already four empty buckets waiting to be refilled with fresh spring water.
“You keep an eye out for your sister, okay?” My dad demanded to me, waiting to speak until my sister was out of the room. “You know what next week is…people are going to start acting out and doing stupid things. She needs to be kept safe because if something happens to either of you two, the Capitol will think that me and your mother did it to…”
I rolled my eyes, “I know how they work Dad, I’ve lived through the Games for eighteen years now. She’ll be fine.”
With that, I walked out of the house telling my sister to stop so I could catch up with her. We walked outside of our house and followed the long dirt path to the edge of the forest where the path continued down to the river. Each part of every district has five different paths to the river, so people far away from the paths that weren’t near the homes could have a shorter way to get to the river for fresh water.
There weren’t hardly any people outside today. It was already five o’clock anyway, so people were probably eating already. If anything, there were usually a few younger kids outside playing football or soccer, or practicing for the arena in a small fenced in area made of wood, where we could practice sword training, archery, survival skills, and other fighting techniques. No one really uses it anyway, because we try not to be like the other districts that crave the sight of their kids being sent into the Games to represent their district and their family. Besides, usually the only people if ever that go are the older kids, who just want a good work out or truly want to know for a fact that they have a chance in surviving the Games.
“Do you think you’ll pass through again once more this year? It is your last year you know…you’re lucky.” Sara said, breaking the silence as we walk past the training arena where there were four 17 year old boys practicing sword fighting with their fathers.
“I don’t know, Sarabear. We’ll just have to see, won’t we?”
Sarabear. That was her Codyname that my mother gave her when Sara was just a kid. It was because Sara was always like a stuffed teddy bear when she was just a baby, she never moved but she always showed so much love and always wanted to be held.
“Yeah…I guess so. But you might have a chance of winning if you get picked…you are really good at archery. Everyone knows it!”
I laughed, “That doesn’t mean there aren’t better archers in the other districts. But thanks Sarabear.”
We stopped talking about the Games after that. I could already tell that talking about me going into the Games was upsetting her and so I decided to bring up a topic that would most certainly change her mood.
“So, how are you and Anthony?” I asked, causing an immediate reaction on her. She smiled big, obviously trying to control it.
Anthony was also 15 years old and in Sara’s class. They sat next to each other for the past 3 years now in school, which was different than it was before. As soon as you turn 16 years old, you turn to your family for work and payment, if any was offered. Like my sister was saying earlier, I’m good with a bow, so I occasionally will go out into the restricted part of the woods where all the best game lives, such as deer, rabbits, squirrels, birds, and sometimes even bears. If I were to ever get caught, I would be immediately executed. I’ll bring my game, if any, to the market where I can sell it for money to buy more essential things. But you have to be careful, because if the Peacekeepers or the C.E.L.L. operatives, (Capitol Enhanced Lethal Lieutenants) notice you bringing home all these new things and adding additions to your house, they’ll inspect you and keep a close watch on you and your family and friends.
“He’s good I guess.”
I looked at her and noticed that the smile on her face was slowly fading, and asked her what was wrong. I know that Anthony was never really in the best of spirits when Games season approached, but judging from Sara’s face, something else was happening.
“He’s moving to District 10. His family finally found enough money to find a home there and start over.” She said, becoming sadder by each moment that passes.
I didn’t know what to say that would help her cheer up as much as I would if it was something not relating to Anthony. It was good that his family could finally move higher up in society, but I could see that Sara didn’t want to wish them that gratitude.
“You’re happy for him and his family, aren’t you?”
She shrugged, but then nodded her head. “Yeah I guess, but I won’t ever see him again. And the only time I’d be able to see him would be during District trading day when him and his dad come back to District 12 to collect food and family heirlooms for their new home. Which would only be once every five months.”
“Yeah, that’s true…but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop liking each other. The thought of you and him together could bring you guys hope, which in this case now with what the world has become, isn’t such a bad thing you know.”
She nodded again, but didn’t continue the conversation. We were almost at the river when we spotted a bear a few yards ahead of us. Sara shrieked and I pushed her against a large enough tree to drown out the shape of her body.
“It’s okay, don’t worry. They’re just passing through, there’s a hole in the fence leading off to the woods I hunt in. They’re probably just searching for new food or a cub that might have gone running off.”
It took a few minutes for the bear to move. I took a stone large enough to create a loud enough impact sound so the bear would be startled when it heard it. I threw it and it hit another tree many yards down and caused a fluster of birds in that tree to fly away, creating a sound containing all their wings together when they flap them to fly. The bear was startled and moved away from the path.
“That was close.” Sara said.
I laughed, “Not really, you’re just a chicken. You should see them when they’re only inches away from you.”
She laughed, knowing that I had many close encounters with dangers such as bears when I went hunting. One day I went hunting with Clarice, who’s trained with daggers, or small knives. She can throw them very well, and when it comes to close combat, she’s almost unstoppable. Sometimes there will be small “Twelve Games” where we mimic the Hunger Games to test out our skills as Tributes. Against 18 year old boys with swords, she can take them down in a matter of minutes and still win. When we went hunting, I was cornered against a tree by a bear and I didn’t have enough arm and elbow space to draw my bow, and right before the bear could attack me, a knife found its way through the bears skin and pierced its skull. I looked over and saw Clarice laughing at me, as she came over and drew her knife from the bears head. If it wasn’t for her constant training and winning in the “Twelve Games”, I probably would have been killed or greatly injured, possibly leading to death. I could never participate though, because I use a bow and arrow as my weapon of choice, and you can’t really train against people with that, so I join hunts with other district boys and girls using the bow, and we see who can hit the most targets within a certain time range. I’ve never gotten lower than 3rd place, which brought a loaf of bread to my family’s dinner table before.
“Look, there’s Clarice and Brenna!” Sara shouted, pointing down at the river. Indeed, there they were. We walked faster down the path which was now slanted on a hill, and found ourselves next to them.
“Oh hey guys, getting water too?” Clarice said, lifting her second bucket out of the water and planting it close to her feet. “We were about to eat dinner before we noticed that our buckets were empty. My dad was supposed to get them but he took a nap instead. He was up all night working on the house.”
“Why did he have to work on the house?” I asked, confused. Normally people have to fix up their houses after a Capitol bombing or if a wild animal attacked it late at night.
“Some jerks picking up coal from District 5 last night threw these huge rocks at the house and it put a hole through our windows. It shattered everywhere during the night, we thought an animal was trying to find its way into the house. Then Brenna didn’t sleep for the rest of the night because she was startled and had night terrors about…well you know. It just wasn’t a good night I guess.” Clarice said, bringing Brenna’s bangs behind her ears since they were covering her face when she got up with a full water bucket.
“You know how this week affects me Clarice! It always has, and don’t say it shouldn’t because I’m only 11 and not able to participate yet! They’re night terrors about you!”
Brenna began to get really upset and trailed off onto the path by herself with the two buckets full of water in her hands. Clarice huffed and picked both her buckets up, then looked at me with some annoyance and tiredness falling over her face. “Gotta go, my mom will be pissed if we’re not back soon with the water buckets for dinner. Wanna meet at the training arena tomorrow? I want you to judge me and see where I need improvements.”
I nodded and agreed to meet her there tomorrow at 12, where I would also practice shooting. Clarice normally throws up old chicken breasts that no one ever ate and has me shoot them at different angles and heights. We figure it’s better than just shooting at targets, because penetrating skin and foam are two very different things. And if I were to get picked this year to go into the Games, I’d need every skill and lesson I can receive.
Sara and I filled our buckets up with water and trailed off into the forest on the path, all the way till we got to the house and walked in the door with the fresh water, seeing dinner was already placed onto the table. But only this time, there was someone else joining us.
When my sister laid her eyes on Anthony there was no emotion. I was waiting for a “Hi” or “Hey” but nothing came out, from anyone. It was really awkward, because I think my sister was the only one who didn’t know the real reason why Anthony was joining us for dinner. But I didn’t think he would be leaving until after the Reaping, not so soon. Finally, Sara said something.
“What are you doing here?”
Well, it was a start. I think she was starting to catch on that he was leaving tomorrow by the looks of my parents and the way Anthony looked at her and responded to her question.
“Sara…I’m leaving sooner than I had thought. My parents were told we have to be moved out and leave before the Reaping. Capitol rules I guess.”
Sara set down the water buckets right where she stood, almost carelessly to the point where some of the water splashed out and went onto the floor. The dinner table was set up with a nice dinner of chicken that I had caught when I went hunting the other day, corn, beans, and a few cranberries. It wasn’t much, looking at it, but it would have to do for tonight. Especially since this was going to be Anthony’s last home cooked meal for a few days, my mom figured that cooking him our good food was the least we could do not only for him, but for Sara as well. To have a happy, and good memory before Anthony leaves.
“But you said you wouldn’t be leaving until…” Sara began, but my mom had stopped her with a glare meaning, “Accept it for what it is, and move on.”
Sara nodded and said, “Of course, I don’t want you or your family getting in any trouble.”
With that said, no one spoke of Anthony moving anymore. It was a good dinner, as usual. It’s very rare that we have these sorts of dinners, maybe once every two months. Usually it’s just whatever we can find in the house because whenever I go hunting, I always sell it in the market for other essential, more important goods. It was nice to know my hard work paid off in some sort of way.
After dinner Anthony and Sara went off for a walk before it got dark and then Anthony had to go. I sat at the dinner table talking to my parents when she came in and sat back down, without Anthony. She began to get really teary eyed, but didn’t want to cry in front of us so she decided she could release all her sorrows later.
“He’ll be okay, hun.” My mom said, rubbing Sara’s back. “Be happy he’s moving to a better district. 10 is known for keeping out of trouble. He wouldn’t be as safe here than he would be over there.”
Sara got up and started getting angry. “I don’t want to talk about it! I’m going to bed, leave me alone until tomorrow morning. I don’t feel like talking to anyone.”
She stormed up the stairs and went to bed. Since our house was made of wood you could hear her creaking through the floor boards. I decided it was time for bed too, since I had to wake up around 10 tomorrow and fix up my bow before I went to meet Clarice at the training arena. My guess is she would be there early, to practice before I evaluated her on her throwing skills with her knives.
I was right. The next morning when I woke up I walked downstairs, got breakfast, strung my bow up tighter, sharpened my arrows, and walked over to the training arena around 11 where I found Clarice throwing knives left and right, over her shoulders, twisting and throwing in all directions. I was sometimes even afraid to match her up in a fight with a sword, let alone knives. She was one of the best fighters in the district, but there were others just as good as her. Clarice just always had a way of doing it all better and making it fancier.
“Knew you would be out here practicing before I got here! How do you think you’re doing?”
Clarice jumped because she didn’t see or hear me coming, and when she did she almost threw a knife right at me which I swear would have hit me square in the face. She turned around and didn’t answer me, too engaged in her throwing. When she lifted up a knife to throw, I quickly loaded my bow, pulled the string back, and when she threw the knife I released my arrow and saw it soar in the air, making contact with the knife and watched it take the knife to the center of a target.
“You sure you wouldn’t want to just volunteer for the Games? I’m pretty sure with skills like that you could seriously win…” Clarice said, walking over to the knife and arrow cobab. She pulled the arrow out and caught the knife which dropped as soon as the tip of the arrow came out of the blade. She threw the arrow back at me and I caught it, stringing it back up in my bow. I looked over my shoulder and saw a haystack underneath a pavilion and shot my arrow directly into the target. It was going so fast it must have went directly into the haystack whole, because I couldn’t find it when I went over to look for it.
“In all honesty, if I could avoid being in the Games one more year, I’d take that over any skills I may have with a bow. It isn’t worth it.”
Clarice laughed a little, “Yeah I guess you’re right. I sometimes just feel like it’s a waste that we train so much for nothing. I want my training to pay off, you know? Hunting is getting old…speaking of, after we train, do you wanna go hunting? We haven’t gone together in a while and besides, real moving targets is good practice for you instead of me always throwing up these dead chicken breasts.” She said, walking over to me with a white bucket full of bloody chicken breasts. “I carved them this morning before I came to the training arena. They should be pretty fleshy, so it’d be good practice in case you ever have to…you know.”
In case I ever had to kill someone. She was right, the fleshier the skin the better, because I can find out exactly how strong my shot has to be to do some real damage to someone. Hoping it never has to come to that, I tell her I’m ready to evaluate her.
“How do you want to do this? Any suggestions?” I ask her, and watch her walk away from me while pacing back and forth, thinking of good training strategies.
“I want you to set up the targets behind me. And when you do, don’t tell me where they are right away, and then I want you to shout the direction of the target. Not exactly where, just say like left, right, above, you know, things like that. Okay?”
I nodded and watched her walk away towards the fence where her sharpening tool was. She sharpened her knives while I set up the targets. When I told her I was done, she walked backwards until I told her to stop. I pulled up a haystack to sit on and made sure no one else was around just in case things got a little crazy. Not seeing anyone in targeting distance, we began.
“Left.” I said simply, and watched as she whipped around faster than I had expected and saw a knife fly from her hand and directly into the middle of the target. She threw it so fast and hard that the target fell down.
“Perfect, just like hitting an actual person.”
I laughed and shouted, “Right!”
Again, the same thing happened. Knife hits the center of the target, target falls down, repeat. This went on for about a half hour until she was satisfied with all of her throws. Now it was my turn to be evaluated. Clarice pulled the bucket of fleshy, bloody chicken breasts and told me to close my eyes and draw my bowstring loaded with an arrow.
“I’m going to throw up the chicken breast and when I do, I’ll shout go. You’ll open your eyes and shoot the breast. Got it? The trick is you won’t know where it is until you open your eyes.”
Challenge accepted, I thought. I nodded and loaded an arrow on my bowstring. I closed my eyes tightly and felt my hand holding the arrow and the string together touch my chin. I lifted the bow and waited for Clarice’s command. As soon as she said “Go!” I opened my eyes and found the chicken breast lower to the ground. I shot it and got a direct hit, and watched blood spurt from the breast as the arrow pierced its skin.
“Wow, nice!” Clarice said, impressed. “I honestly thought you were gonna miss that, normally I start with ones higher in the air.”
I laughed, “No I’m glad you’re switching it up, who knows maybe if I get sent into the Games someone will come up from the dirt…” I said, teasing her.
She lunged and threw a chicken breast at me and I took an arrow from my sheath and pushed it forward, stabbing the chicken breast and feeling the cold, bloody skin against my hand as it slid all the way down the arrow shaft near the feathers, where my hand was holding tightly onto the arrow.
“Hey! What was that for?”
Clarices turn to laugh and tease. “I was testing your reflexes.”
Fair enough. I never thought of it that way. I closed my eyes again and waited for her go. She yelled “Go!” and I opened my eyes and found the chicken breast to my far right. I shot my arrow and watched as it only skid the side of the chicken breast, taking only a little meat with it.
“Still count or no?” I asked, sort of ashamed with myself.
Clarice shrugged, “Well, you still hit it so that’s good. It wouldn’t kill someone, but say they had a weapon in their hand, you might have just disarmed them.”
True. She yelled “Go!” again and I opened my eyes and got a direct hit this time, watching as the arrow flew right into the chicken breast and took it soaring in the air and right into the pavilion. It stayed up there and looked sort of like a decoration for the training center.
“I think we should just keep it up there.” Clarice said, and watched as I nodded and closed my eyes again. She threw the chicken up but this time didn’t say go, but the sound of her movements made me open my eyes and I shot the chicken breast square in the stomach, and watched it soar past the fence and into the cropping fields.
“Testing my senses that time?” I asked, and watched Clarice nod.
“Yeah, what if you’re sleeping and you hear someone coming at you. If you combine what we just did, you know how to hear something with your eyes closed and as soon as you open them you’ll be able to spot them sharply enough to get a direct hit.”
She was smart, I’ll give her that. I never thought of any of this until now. She was being completely serious about training me for the Games. Everyone started approaching the training center and just watched as go back and forth, shooting arrows and throwing knives until it was time for someone else to come in the training center and take their turns practicing with their weapons.
A twelve year old boy came in with a sword made of wood, and led his dad into the arena with another wooden sword in his dad’s hands. They practiced slowly and then as they progressively got better, the twelve year old boy was actually pretty good. He was fast, agile, and could counter any move that his father had made.
“Reminds me too much of a Career, glad to know he’s in our district though.” Clarice said, leading me away from the arena. “Ready to hunt?”
I nodded and we made our way to a secret path that lead us to the forbidden part of District 12 where we would hunt. We hadn’t been back there together in a while, so it was sort of nice to be hunting side by side again.
“Don’t get attacked by a bear this time okay?” Clarice teased as we were walking into the forest now, not quite at the fence yet.
“Yeah I won’t.” I said laughing, and then started double checking my sheath to see how many arrows I have. There were eight in my sheath so that means depending on what I get, I’ll have to limit them. I could use a single arrow for squirrels, maybe two for deer depending where I hit them. If I hit a deer in the face, than it’s an automatic kill and only one arrow would be necessary. But if I miss the face and hit the body, two would be needed to take it down. Birds are too risky because they fly away as soon as they sense something, and I would be wasting every arrow I shoot if they are in packs today. A bear would need three to four arrows to take down, so I’m figuring that if I see one today, I should probably have Clarice try and stick a knife or two in it, and then I could make for a head shot with an arrow. We’d both conserve a lot of energy and ammo that way. After I told Clarice all of these strategies, she agreed and then pointed ahead of her.
“There’s the gate!”
There was something wrong though. It looks as if the gate was fixed, and the hole that we usually climb through wasn’t there anymore. And considering this is an electric fence now, we could be electrocuted to death if we stayed onto it for too long trying to climb over.
“Is there a power box nearby?” I asked, and saw Clarice look around as I did the same. We walked a few yards along the fence, trying to remain near the forest just in case a Capitol ship flew over us and saw us. If that were the case, we might as well just volunteer into the Games because we would be dead in an instant if they were able to get a clear shot at us.
When we continued walking, we finally found a tall pole in the forest where the fence was still going, and found the power box all the way on top of it. There was a ladder, but the pole was on the other side of the fence.
“Stand back.” I said, pushing Clarice behind me. I took an arrow from my sheath and loaded my bow. I aimed directly at the power box where the lock was and shot my arrow after taking a deep breath. The lock flew off its hinges and the power box door flew open. I shot another arrow at the controls and watched it spark, and after a few shorts seconds, we could no longer hear the electricity running through the fence.
“You just wasted two arrows on a stupid power box.” Clarice said, sort of jokingly but I still heard the seriousness in her voice.
“What other option did we have?” I asked, making my way towards the fence with her beside me.
She laughed, “Maybe walk away and not do something illegal.”
We both laughed and disagreed with each other on the thought of not doing something illegal, especially since things that are illegal are the only way to have fun now a days in this society. The Capitol made sure of that, taking away all sporting events, movies, music, and anything that would be considered fun for kids and adults. They were all about the Games and work.
When we hopped over the fence I made my way up the ladder and to the power box where I took my arrow out of the control system. The tip was burnt just a little bit, but it would still puncture skin. I lost my other arrow when it took the lock for a trip in the air through the forest.
“One casualty saved.” I said when I made my way down the ladder.
Without saying another word, I loaded my bow and Clarice got her knives ready. We walked slowly, and carefully in the forest, not wanting to alert any animals or make ourselves noticeable to any animal. Clarice spotted a few squirrels and threw her knives at one of them, catching it right in the middle of its body. She took her game back, walked over to it as I shot another directly in the face, and we skinned the animal until all we had was its fur.
“Do you want to save the meat for dinner for our families tonight?” I asked, because sometimes we just discard the meat and keep hunting for more fur. But considering this was free meat for a dinner, we decided we’d take the meat back to our families after making a trip to the market to sell the fur for money or essential items. I took my arrow and cleaned it with a cloth I brought, clearing off all the dark spots of blood from the tip of the arrow and some of its shaft that got bloodied.
“That was a messy kill; I need to aim more carefully before it just explodes the next time I shoot one.” I said, making Clarice giggle a little.
“I’m surprised my knife didn’t cut it in half when it penetrated the little thing, look how small this one is!” Clarice said, holding up the fur and then the skin in the other hand. We designated two cloth bags for the meats and the skins and continued on into the woods.
We kept striking down squirrels at every opportunity we made, which was easy because the sun was now pouring into the forest through the tree tops, causing the ground to be lit immensely.
Before we could make another shot for more squirrels, a deer pranced its way past us and stopped perfectly enough for me to get a shot to its head. Clarice made actions out quietly telling me to breathe in and out and be calm before I shoot so I shoot straight. I knew all this already, of course, but she wanted me to be sure because if we caught this deer, we could possibly use it for dinner for my mom’s birthday party this Saturday, in two days.
I drew my arrow and saw as Clarice got ready to throw a knife just in case something went faulty during the shot, this way we’d still have a chance in hitting it. I took a deep breath and stared the deer in the eyes, even though it wasn’t looking directly at me. I released my arrow and the tip of it found its way through and into the neck of the deer, where it fell over dead instantly.
“Awesome! Venison is on the menu for Saturday!” Clarice shouted, running over to the deer and began immediately carving it. We had to work fast just in case something went down or we were caught by the Capitol. Chasing us in the trees would be hard for them to do, but if they were to drop hounds onto the ground we would be dead in minutes because the Capitol created these mutts to never stop running until their prey was dead. So in reality, we would give out before the mutts would by miles.
When we had our meat and skin ready to go, we placed it into the bags and made our way further into the forest. We were able to get more squirrels and surprisingly a fox, and were satisfied with what we had gotten.
“Alright, I think it’s about time we head back.” I said, carrying the meat bag since it was a heavier weight than the fur bag that Clarice carried. I put my bow across my body with the string in front and the bow shaft behind me so I didn’t have to carry it. When we found our way to the fence, we stopped immediately when we found a body of a boy singed on the ground near the fence.
“Oh my god!” Clarice shouted, but put her hands over her mouth as soon as she had done so. If the Capitol was here and had fixed the fence before they got back, how come they didn’t come searching in the forest for us?
“I must’ve only hit a minor power cord with my arrow…maybe the backup generator went on or something. But there isn’t time to figure out who this kid is because the Capitol is probably…”
Before I could finish my sentence the ground started getting gusts of wind soaring across it and the trees began to move side to side faster than a normal wind storm would have caused them to do. We looked above us and saw a Capitol ship flying above us, and quickly ran towards a bush and crouched down. Luckily, the only thing that happened was two claws were launched from the bottom of the Capitol ship and found their grasps around the dead body of the kid, and lifted the body all the way up inside of the ship. We recognized the 15 year old boy to be the son of the baker in the market town. What was he doing all the way out here? Surely his father would be put out of business now, or possibly killed for the minor trouble of trying to get food for their starving family. The 15 year old boy’s weapon of choice was a spear, which the Capitol left on the ground.
“Do you think they’re going to come down and investigate?” Clarice asked nervously, and saw me shrug my shoulders.
“No I don’t think so, I’m sure this happens almost every month in every district where kids are trying to go hunting for food. They won’t waste their time, especially when they are preparing the Reaping and the Games next week. It would just be a setback to investigate the death of the boy.”
When the Capitol ship had flown far away, I climbed up the ladder and turned the power off for good. We climbed over it and saw blood stains on the steel cords of the fence and when we dropped down onto the ground where more blood was located; we saw the wooden spear with a sharp metal tip laying on the ground, ownerless. I picked it up and we walked towards the path without saying a word.
“We’re taking this back to the kids father, and letting him know what happened so the Capitol can’t make up some bull reason why his son was killed. We’ll give him the fox meat in return for our condolences.” I said. I didn’t have to worry about Clarice disagreeing because she was thinking the same thing.
“Poor kid…” She said, not being able to come up with any other words to sum up how shocked she was feeling.
We made our way onto the path to lead us home and walked in silence all the way until we made it out of the forest and back home.
I still had the spear in my hands when we approached my house. Conveniently, Clarice’s parents were also at my house, talking with my parents. They seemed frightened. When we walked in they saw that we had our game bags filled with meat and fur, and we also noted to them that we had venison and that we’d like to cook it for our meal this Saturday for my moms birthday party. They completely ignored our comment about the venison and immediately began yelling at us.
“What happened out there!? We know you went to go hunt! The Colins told us they saw you leaving the training arena and walking towards the path that leads to the forbidden part of the forest where you two outrageously like to hunt! Than what do I notice all the sudden? A dead body being lifted into the air by a Capitol ship! It almost gave all of us a heart attack!” Clarice’s mom shouted at us, seeming to take the words right out of all the other parents mouths.
“To be completely honest, we didn’t know that anything would happen. The fence is usually untouched and broken, but when we went it was fixed and they changed it to an electricity powered fence. The boy who was killed by the fence was the bakers son, in the market. This was his spear.” I said, holding out the spear to them.
My dad got up and tried making a movement to take the spear, but I stepped backwards, shoving the spear behind me so it was out of his reach.
“We’re taking this back to the boy’s father, along with fox meat that we got. To show some respect for his son’s death. That is, if he hasn’t been already killed too…or captured. Either way, we’re going. We have to go to the market anyway to trade all these furs and meats.” Clarice said, trying to back themselves up against their parents so they understand more clearly.
My mom was not in the slightest bit happy. It looked like she had been crying earlier; she must have thought that the body was either mine or Clarices since from afar you wouldn’t be able to tell if it was a boy or girls body that was being lifted into the Capitol ship. Although they wanted to put up more of a fight against us going into the market, they knew that we needed the money and materials that we could get from our game that we hunted today. They weren’t so skeptical about us taking back the spear to the father, but they allowed us to do so anyway, because it seemed like the right thing to do.
“Be careful you two, I wouldn’t bring your weapons with you either. That’d be too obvious especially with the amount of meat you have in your bags. They’d know you went hunting almost instantly, the Peacekeepers and C.E.L.L. operatives that is.” Uncle Brian said, mainly to me since Clarice could hide her knives easily, but I can’t really hide a sheath of arrows and a bow completely out of sight from the Peacekeepers.
“Okay, agreed.” I said, dropping my bow and arrows onto the floor near the door. We laid the venison on a plate that my mom had gotten from the cupboard. They decided that we would eat it for her party.
Walking out of the house was also awkward, considering they just stared at us the whole time. We saw Arabella and Brenna running up towards the house, clearly oblivious to everything that just happened. Arabella also seemed very upset still, which was why she was probably with Brenna, so Brenna could offer her some words of comfort. Which was a good thing, because they would be running waters down their cheeks if they had seen the body and didn’t know whether or not if it was mine or Clarice’s.
“Where are you guys going?” Arabella asked, Brenna trailing up behind her. “We were just looking all over for you!”
Luckily, they still hadn’t said anything about the dead boy from the market. We tried avoiding telling them we were going to the market, because we didn’t want them to create any attention to us while we were there.
“We’re going back to the training arena,” Clarice said, not thinking clearly since we didn’t have any weapons on us.
Brenna got annoyed, “Seriously guys? No you’re not…you don’t even have any of your weapons on you.”
Clarice opened up her leather jacket and there was an arsenal of knives inside of it. She zipped it back up and smiled at Brenna, in a teasing “I told you so” sort of way. I didn’t say anything because I thought it would be better if I didn’t add anything to it, because asking why she had the weapons would only cause her to have to explain herself which could lead to them knowing where we were really going.
Before Arabella or Brenna could answer back to Clarice’s jacket display full of knives, my mom called them inside. They rolled their eyes and slowly walked towards the house, not looking back.
“That worked out perfectly…and I told myself a few seconds ago I wasn’t going to ask you about that nice little arsenal of knives you have, so should I keep that promise to myself or do you want to tell me why you’re a walking knife stand?”
Clarice shrugged her shoulders, “Just as a precaution I guess. We might have gotten recorded on camera back in the woods, so if the Peacekeepers try to arrest us at least one of us can put up a fight before they take us away.”
Even though fighting wouldn’t really help our cause that much considering the Hunger Games were already next week, I figured we had nothing to really lose. We walked a half a mile until we were only a couple yards from the market where all these wooden and hay stands were made, where the sellers of their products would stand behind, shouting deals and prices for their products out at everyone who walked past their stand. Our first objective was to reach the bakery, so we could drop off the spear. The ground was completely made up of dirt and hay from all the stands and people walking through, and of course. There were two packs of Peacekeepers here today. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all…
But still, we continued to walk. “What are they going to do, arrest you for having a wooden spear? Anyone could make one of them. For all they know we just practiced in our training arena back home. We’re fine.”
Before I could reply, we walked further into the market and turned the corner where we would find the bakery. It was on fire.
“What happened!?” I shouted, running through the crowd and asking the same question over and over.
“I knew it! I knew they were going to punish his family!” I yelled at Clarice, who seemed just as worried and angry as I was.
Truthfully, it didn’t come as a surprise that they were going to burn down the bakery. But, it was a surprise when I saw the boy’s father standing outside of his bakery, tears streaming down his face as he watched his pride and work burn to the ground. Everyone else that was standing near him didn’t know whether or not they should comfort him, because he had just lost his son and also his only thing he had left, his workplace. His wife had died last year, when the Peacekeepers stormed the bakery when they were drunk. His wife tried kicking them out, and one of the Peacekeepers had shot her down, multiple times and then pleaded to the Capitol that it was “self-defense” and that she was always a dangerous, and troublesome woman and that by killing her he had rid District 12 of “another crazy”.
Right when I was about to approach the father, a voice, a cold and evil sounding, yet mighty and powerful voice spoke out of the speakers that were surrounding the market on top of poles. It was President Snow, addressing the situation with the boy who was hunting in the forbidden part of the woods.
“Citizens of District 12, I’m going to make this short and simple. You know the rules of your district, for there are truthfully only a few. No one is to hunt for meat or game in the forbidden part of the woods, and to retaliate against this act of punishment you are angered by will be considered treason and you and whoever else helps you to try and infiltrate the Peacekeepers stationed in the market will all be nationally executed on TV, as another precaution to the other districts thinking of rebelling against a government that so dearly cares about their greatest interests and well-being.”
Without saying another word, the speaker went off and the Peacekeepers started to form a line to push back all the angry citizens away from the burning bakery.
“How are we going to feed our children without any bread!? If we can’t go hunting there is nothing else to use to feed them! You monsters!” A woman shouted, and was immediately arrested and taken back behind a shed where a gun fire was shot multiple times.
I looked at Clarice and we both decided that to give the spear to the father would only cause him more unrest, so we approached him with the fox meat and gave it to him, saying and expressing our deepest sorrows for him and his family.
“Thank you, kids.”
It was all he could muster, which was completely understandable. He was standing in the same spot ever since the fire had taken ahold of his bakery; his second home, and did not move once. Something surged through me, like hot liquid fire, and I walked over to the Peacekeepers and threw the spear down onto the ground in front of them. I could tell that they knew exactly whose spear it was, and after staring at it, glared at me. Before anything could happen, Clarice grabbed my arm and we walked away from the scene, where the Peacekeepers decided to stay and not follow.
“Not what I was expecting. Let’s trade our stuff and get out of here.” Clarice said hastily, stopping at the clothing stand, dairy stand, and the food stand. Our deer fur got us a basket of apples, two knitted shirts, a pair of pants, and two cartons of milk.
“Thank you.” We both said to each stand as we proceeded away from the market.
When we got back to the house we told our parents what had happened, but left out the part where I threw the spear down. We thought it would upset them and ruin the mood that everyone was in when we shared our new belongings with each other. We had dinner together and played some trivia afterwards, and then Clarice and her family left for the night.
Time passed quickly and Saturday finally came. My dad was busy running around the house making sure we had everything packed for the party so my mom didn’t have to worry about doing it herself. I got ready and dressed and walked downstairs. Clarice had stopped over yesterday night before she went to bed and told me to bring my bow and that when everyone was just talking and the kids had time to do whatever they wished, we could train at the training arena.
“Don’t go hunting again or I’ll be the one to kill you both!” My aunt shouted after us, right when we got through with greeting all of our neighbors, grandparents, and other random people that came over to my grandparents’ house for my mom’s birthday party. “I’ll call you in when it’s time to eat and sing happy birthday!”
With that all said me and Clarice walked over to the training arena which was only a couple yards down from my grandparents’ house. Some of the younger kids wanted to come watch us, and we didn’t have any problem with that. We didn’t get into any extensive training, we just sort of did our own thing and shot and threw at the targets. We nailed them every time, so it got kind of boring after a while. We went over to the pavilion and sat down in between two high stacks of hay and sat our weapons down beside us and just talked.
“So tomorrow they place the names for the Reaping into the glass balls. Then Monday is Reaping day.” Clarice said, playing with a stick and running it through the dirt on the ground, making random shapes and signs.
I looked up at the sun and blankly said, “Yeah…do you feel good about it this year?”
Clarice shrugged, “I’m not sure, I don’t think anything is going to be any different than what it always is. It’s just always nerve racking the day it comes. Isn’t it for you? Arabella, Violet and I get to stand together and you’re by yourself with all the other guys.”
“Eh, I don’t mind. Jake and Alex will be there tomorrow, so I’ll stand with them.” I said, realizing that my two friends were also 18 and this was going to be their last year of being Reaped for the Games. It was exciting in some way, to finally be able to live a life other than that over weighting anxiety of whether or not you’ll be picked to participate in the gruesome Hunger Games.
“I just don’t like the way the Peacekeepers looked at us yesterday…like they recognized who we were.” Clarice said, still looking down and playing with the stick in the dirt. She had her chin in her knees now and sort of wondered off in her own imagination.
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused. I clearly must have missed these glares that we were receiving from the Peacekeepers.
Clarice lifted her head and looked at me, “When you were approaching them they sort of looked at each other and then back at us, and laughed. It wasn’t like a laugh that anyone else would make if we thought something was funny; it was like they know something. I don’t know, I could have been just imagining all of this stuff because of how chaotic everything was, but you never know.”
If this was the case, then Clarice was probably wrong to be second guessing herself. The Peacekeepers are always hinted things here and there when the other ones hear things, and if they were truly looking at us and laughing in a matter that was nowhere near good, something was up.
“I wouldn’t worry about it too much, if they wanted to do something they would have already. What’s the worst they could do anyway?” I asked, hoping to God I wouldn’t regret just asking that question.
Clarice shrugged and the conversation ended. Clarice’s mom fetched us and the other kids for dinner and cake, so we dragged up our weapons and walked towards our grandparent’s house. We sang ha
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