The First Annual Hunger Games

"Panem, this is an announcement from the Capitol." Our president is addressing the entire country, "The rebellion has finally stopped, the gunfire and violence ceased. District 13, the main threat to the everlasting power of the Capitol, has been obliterated and nothing remains. This shall stand as showing how truly powerful we are here in the Capitol." He is speaking of the rebellion that began years before I was even born and ended just a year ago. "Because of the rebellion, we could excecute you all, but we have decided to be generous. So tonight it is decreed that each year the 12 Districts of Panem will offer up one man and one woman from the ages 12-18 to be trained in the art of survival and fight to the death in the Hunger Games." My eyes pop wider than tomatoes and my mouth drops open. Fight to the death?! What is wrong with these people! Although, in my mind I can hear the Capitol people cheering in their scary makeup and dramatic outfits. "All the information on these Hunger Games will be sent in the mail. Thank you and goodnight Panem." This absurd news sinks in and my family turns to look at me. "What?" I ask. And then realization sinks in, I am between the ages of 12 and 18...

I can hear someone screaming, I think it might be me, but I faint before I can pin down the owner of the voice. I wake in my scraggly, warm bed with matted hair and the feeling that I've been sleeping here for a long time. I stand and my arm has lost feeling from my sleeping on it. As my hand regains feeling and a tingling sensation overcomes it, I remember why I passed out in the first place. Suddenly the room is spinning and I need to sit on my lumpy matress so I don't injure myself. Alright, I think to myself, All you have to do is make it through the day, it won't be so hard. But I know I am lying to myself. I stand anyway and stumble to my tiny kitchen where my mom, dad, and brother Matthew are waiting for me. I get a sideways smile on my face and I say, "Hello," and try to act like it's any other day, but I soon collapse and my brother comes to my rescue and brings me to the table. I begin to eat what my mother has placed in front of me, not even noticing what it is. "Has more information come been mailed here yet?" "Yes, it came in the mail while you were asleep." Suddenly, what appears to be a huge cake plops in front of me. It takes me a second to realize that it is a thick folder which, I assume, holds information about the Hunger Games. "Mom, I'm feeling more stable now that I've eaten and I know that Elise will be a mess, can I go to her house to review this information?" My voice sounds strangled and formal, but my mom eyes my pale face and slowly nods and closes her eyes, "Yes you can sweetheart, but we don't know how much longer we have until they choose the kids to go into this thing and I cannot bear to lose you, so please do not be gone long." "Alright, Mom." With that I tear out the door.

The pine scented air of District 7 helps to clear my over stressed mind and I bolt across the 50 foot distance between my house and Elise's. I see her sitting on her porch with her head between her knees and taking deep breaths, like I've seen her do many times before. She is good at making herself worked up about nothing and this overwhelmed me, so I cannot understand how she has kept together this well. "Elise!" My voice comes out like it did when I spoke to my mom, hoarse and unrecognizable. Her eyes widen as she spots me, "Rita!" She calls out, "Rita," Her voice softens and I see more tears welling in her eyes and spilling over her face, Elise is beautiful with her bronze locks of curled hair and her deep green eyes. I am not nearly as pretty. My eyes are an ugly mix of green and grey, and my hair is a plain brown. I sit beside my friend. "Elise, Lise, c'mon. It'll be alright." I hope, "C'mon lets open these packets and see what we're up against. We both break the seal on our packets and pull out large booklets of information. Inside is much information on the Hunger Games. (At this point I'm hoping all readers know what The Hunger Games are and how they work so I will just move on.)

After we finish reading Elise breaks into tears again like I knew she would and I say," Elise I know how hard this is on you and how worked up you can make yourself, so take some breaths and calm down. Now, I'm going back to my house and I will call you sometime in the next two days, I promise, now you have to promise me something. Can you do that?" Elise nods and I continue on, "Promise me that you will relax and keep your self sane for me, because it is even harder on me to be the one always calming people down and being brave. I will make you another promise too. If you get called at the reaping," Elise gasps and flinches away from me when I say that word. I repeat myself, "If you get picked at the reaping, I will volenteer for you, I swear, and if i get picked I promise you that I will come home. If I end up in that arena whether it's for your sanity for my own bad luck, I promise you that I will come back and we can be friends again, just like we always were." Elise squeezes her eyes shut and more tears come, "Thank you, I can't promise you that it will let me sleep at night, but now I know two new things. I have the greatest friend in the world, and that I can be sure I won't end up in the Hunger Games. thank you so much for that. You know I cannot ask you to do this for me and if you don't come back then I won't know what to do. I-I love you Rita, your like the sister I never had." I smile to my mest ability and turn with my own tears beginning and I run back to my house, trying to be brave and thinking about what I just offered myself up for.

I throw the manilla folder onto the coffee table as soon as I walk in the door. In the kitchen I smell freshly baked muffins, but see no sign of my family. I sigh and take a muffin from the tin on the table and nibble on it as I sit on our couch. A couple minutes pass by and in walks my mom. "Hi, I am back, you can have the information now." "Alright, I'm gonna review this with your brother and father." "Ok mom." My brother, the lucky one, he barely escaped the reaping, being 19. "Oh, and sweetie, there's a follow up broadcast on The Hunger Games, it would be a smart idea to watch it because you never know what will be helpful. Besides, it's mandatory, like all the other Capitol broadcasts." I nod and flick on the tv, hoping to find some sort of distraction. I wonder why this stresses me out this much, I haven't been chosen yet, I'm still in the safety of my own home and what are the odds that I will be chosen? There are thousands of I us in District 7, if we had any less people we would fall behind in all the demands of lumber we recieve each day. I haven't started working in the lumber yards yet, although I know how to work an axe with expertise, naturally, from living here. Speaking of school, we go back tomorrow, but I have the feeling that no one will be very social. Suddenly, the Capitol seal flashes onto the screen and I call in my family and fall silent. My small family files in and solomnly stare st the television. I can tell that the message has been previously recorded, of couse President Moyer would never stay up late for his country, not even to tell the rules they must follow in order for their children to die.

"Panem, you have all recieved manilla folders that hold important information about The Hunger Games. I am here to give a little more information regarding these games. Firstly, we have decided to add a Quarter Quell, a Quarter Quell is a twist to the Games that we will make for the duration of one Hunger Games every 25 years and every time it will be different. Secondly, the Hunger Games are to be treated as a festivity and celebrated. That is all, goodbye Panem." Soon we were watching our regular programming again, when the Capitol sea flickers again, again it is recorded, "I'm sorry Panem, there is one thing that I left out. The reaping is this Saturday. Thank you." This Saturday?! But that's so soon! Clearly they've been planning this for a long time, perhaps even during the rebellion. My brother is rolling his eyes and I am even more pannicked. "Matt, can I talk to you in the kitchen please?" "Sure," In the kitchen I sit facing North and he sits opposite me. "Matt, what am I going to do?" I ask. "I don't know," He responds,"But one thing that I do know is that there will be 12 year olds who are even more frightened of this than you are, and they are doomed to the same fate as 23 other children in that arena. Death. You are strong enough to handle this, I know that you are, so if you end up in that arena by some cruel fate, just remember this. Play your personality for all it's worth, people are naturally drawn to you." I had noticed that before, but I didn't know that I was that potent. "Listen, for your strategy, either go in as a wimp and come out as a fighter, go in as a figther, or go in as a kindly girl who's fate had not smiled upon her and try your hardest. And remember, everyone loves an underdog, but they also love a winner." I smiled, for my brother's sake as well as my own, but it was a fake smile that I have the feeling I will be wearing a lot in the next few days to come.

I am laying face up and staring at darkness. There's hope in me that sleep will come before dawn. Tomorrow I will have to face school, I have the feeling that I won't see Elise there tomorrow. My stomach churns and I roll onto my side and close my eyes, exausted but knowingly unable to sleep and just as I predicted, soon the sun in coming up over the horizon and my family is rising from their beds. When they finally make it to full conciousness I am in the kitchen eating another muffin. "Oh Rita," My mom says, her voice taking on a pitiful tone, "You look terrible, couldn't you sleep?" I shake my head, "Alright," She says, "You're staying home today." It is Tuesday morning, we would have had school yesterday, but with the huge announcement, it was called off. I mumble something close to the word ok and slump to the couch. I do something close to sleep, until the nightmares come and I am forced to wake, too scared to go back to sleep, I lay trying to keep my eyes open, with my mom beside me. It won't help ur financial situation that she took the day off of work, but she insists that it's no problem to be with me today. I love my mom so much. The rest of the day passes in a flash and my dad and brother return from the lumber yards, eat dinner, and soon enough I am back struggling to let my mind rest, but fighting sleep because of what I might see in my dreams. Again I stay home from school. Two sleepless nights. Finally, I give in and sleep, my mind is so exausted that there are no dreams, just peaceful rest. When I wake my mom gives me a bowlful of roth and I choke down as much as I can. When my father and Matt come home we all eat dinner as a family, then fall asleep, this time the nightmares do come, but I don't remember them in the morning. Today I decide to face school, but it turns out I wasn't missing anything, all they did was teach us about the Hunger Games and it was all I could do not to look around me and wonder which two kids will be sent to their deaths tomorrow, and will one of them be me? We are eating dinner on what could be the last night we will have together as a family when my mom suggests that I go to Elise's, I am hesitant but go anyway. We go for a bike ride and come across the square, I haven't been there since I was last at Elise's, but it has changed drastically.

A huge stage, a microphone, four mammoth tv screens, 50 spotlights, a podium, banners, and boarded off sections by age have all been set up for the impending Hunger Games. I feel a sense of doom, I see Peacekeepers wander around, watching our every move. Elise and I are mesmerized until I finally suggest that we return to our families. Back at home I relay back all that I saw at the square, and then it happens, I break down, I am so terrified and I go into hesteria and black out. My nightmares don't do me any favors tonight, in my dreams I am being carried from my place in the crowd by 4 people in white. I am being dragged from my family and i can't figure out why so I start fighting and kicking but there's not use to it all. Then I remember what I had justs heard, Rita Millinger, no way, there's no way that they called my name, but still I'm being dragged up to the stage and forced to look at the crowd and shake hands with an enourmous boy who I'm soon being told is ny District partner. I start to panic and wake up in a sheen of sweat. When I remembered what had triggered my nightmares, and what I was in store for today, I panic all over again, I have to tell myself over and over again that I haven't even been picked yet and that there's no reason to worry But what really calms me down are Matt's words a few days ago about how others will be in as much fear as I'm in.

In the living room my family is gathered around the television and the Capitol is buzzing about the start of the Hunger Games today, Of course they are. My family turns to look at me, but none of them say a word. On the tv they talk about the reapings which will be staggered throughout the day so that anyone watching full time can see all of the reapings. District 1 will be reaped first naturally, but I don't have the stomach to watch the whole day. Our reapings will begin at 12. I eat as much as I can manage, which still isn't much, then give up and just sit and think about who's twisted mind could possibly think up something as horrid as this. But 12 comes too soon.

I walk to the square slowly with my family, I see a line forming beside a table with Peacekeepers taking blood and checking IDs. Then they move to their designated area. I join the line behind a girl with dark pigtails, and a tiny figure. The Peacekeeper at the table is female and looks bored, although she it eyeing each kid with a glance that makes me positive that she came from the Capitol. Soon it is my turn at the desk, I walk up and in the same bored voice that I have heard her use with the others she says, "Hand please," I do as she says and she pricks my finger, ouch, "Thank you, Happy Hunger Games, move to the spot marked off with your age."

I glance at my family and they just watch me, I move to the section labeled "Girls Age 13". My eyes automatically lock on Elise, "Elise!" I shout and rush over. She looks as if she hasn't slept in days, red rimmed eyes with purple spots underneath. "oh Elise," I say, "I know I'm a wreck!" Her voice breaks at the end, "Elise listen, right underneath the surface of my expression is a meltdown like no other, If u cry it'll break free and bring misery," Elise nods and sniffs. Right then the reaping begins, "Hello District 7!" exclaims our mayor, "Welcome to the very first reaping for the Hunger Games! We are all making history by being here today!" The mayor gives a very long speech about the rebellion and how much we owe the Capitol. Next we watch a short video and a woman named Liddie Ariana steps up. "Hello and Happy Hunger Games! I'm here to pick our lucky tributes today!" this lady looked like a maniac, purple streaked green hair and blinding yellow lipstick, wait did she say HAPPY Hunger Games? LUCKY tributes?! What world does she live in?! Maneuvering swiftly in her deadly six inch heels and way too short dress, she digs deep into the crystalline ball and pinches her manicured fingers around a two inch slip of paper and walks back. She rolls her weight so she is standing awkwardly on mostly one foot, my stomach rolls and I retch on the ground, the group of tightly packed 13 year olds separates and they all stare at me.

Then the name is read and just like I had hoped, it isn't me or Elise. I let out a long sigh and smile, "Bristly Grande" Liddie trills out. And then the tiny whimpering 12 year old girl steps from the crowd crying and wiping her nose on her hand. Suddenly, something my brother said days ago runs through my head, "But one thing that I do know is that there will be 12 year olds who are even more frightened of this than you are, and they are doomed to the same fate as 23 other children in that arena. Death." Right now I immediatly know what I will do, I am going into the Hunger Games in place of this little girl no matter what. By this time, one of the Peacekeepers has carried the poor girl up to the stage and is forcing her to stand beside Liddie, Liddie's face is solemn, knowing this girls fate already. "Are there any volunteers?" I know that this is my only chance and, somehow, my feet move me to the center isle and I can feel everyone's eyes on me. I open my mouth, but no matter what my feet had done my mouth remains uncooperative, I close my eyes and will myself, "I volenteer," my voice breaks at the end anyway but the point came across and there is no backing out now. "Well, Well, Well!" Liddie smiles, "Come on up!" then she turns to Bristly and plants a kiss on her head, Bristly flinches away, "Thank you darling," Liddie says sweetly,"You can return to your place now," I am up on stage before I know it, "And what's your name?" I suck in a breath through my teeth, "R-Rita Carson" Liddie takes on a playful tone, like a mother talking to her child, "Well R-Rita Carson, y-you just c-couldn't stay out of a f-fight, now could you?" I squint my eyes at her and my tone turns bitter, "I could Liddie, it was more that I didn't want to see that poor young girl go into it!" I know what I said was risky and I would pay for it later, but I also know that I could give the Capitol people a show.

Liddie looks dumbfounded and moves on to the boy, "Ashton Girden," Ugh he is a mammoth! There is no way he is going to be helping me in the arena! He comes up on stage in his jeans and holey t-shirt, he towers over Liddie and her eyes pop wide, "Well we got ourselves a fighter don't we!" "Yeah" Ashton says plainly, we are forced to shakes hands and he nearly brakes my fingers, then Liddle says "District 7, our tributes!" The audience breaks into scattered applause, my mom breaks into loud tears and I just have enough time to mouth, "I'm sorry," Before they drag us into the looming Justice Building.

I have been in the Justice building before, but the inside has clearly been redone for this "splendid" occasion. We are led into separate rooms. Mine has a plush green and brown couch, of course, and a platter of cookies and an assortment of drinks. I sigh and pour a glass of water, but when I begin to spill it due to my shakiness,I set it back down and settle for a soft cookie. I take a bite, but don't taste a thing. In walks my first visitor, my brother. "Where's the rest of the family?" "We decided to come one at a time, so that we could have more time seperately. But just listen, remember what I told you a couple days ago. You are gonna be the first victor of the Hunger Games I promise." I smile and hug my brother, we just sit like that until he is forced from the room and I can still hear him down the hall, "You'll be the first victor! I promise."

Next, my mom walks in crying. "I'm sorry mom, anyone that looked at that girl would have known that she was doomed to die in these games, I didn't have an option! I-" My mom cuts me off, "I know Rita, I am so proud of you for saving that little girl. But you do have to promise me something. Don't make anymore sacrifices for anyone, in the arena it might mean death. You can win this, I know you can, good luck." Again, I hig my mom until she is forced to leave, but she goes much more easily than my brother did, When y father comes in again I have to promise that I will win and we hug and he steals a cookie from the table, and hides it under his coat as he walks out the door. My next visitor is someone that I am not expecting, it is the little girl that I volenteered for. "I cannot thank you enough!" She says. Her eyes are puffly and her cheeks are stained red from crying. "I was so terrified, and that crazy chick has some nerve." It made me smile when she said that, truly smile for the first time since the announced the blasted Hunger Games. "Yeah she's crazy, I really don't want to have to put up with her." I gave Bristly a short hug and then they were escorting her out.

Soon after they came to get Ashton and me to take us to the train station. Outside the Justice Building they leadus through a throng of people with video cameras and microphones. I maintain an indifferent expression and Ashton looks bored. They are asking all these questions, but I just try to keep my mouth shut until I hear what they are asking: Are you excited? What is you strategy? Yep, the Capitol people are going to love this. A small smile spreads across my face and I feel my eyes grow dark, I now know my strategy, killer. They cram us into the limoand we drive through the wilderness of District 7. All the animals scurry as we fly by the wall of trees constantly surrounding us. At the train station there's even more people. One of the many camera crew follows us into the train, I assume to see our reactions to it all. The train is furnished with beauiful red and deep blue couches and a buffet so large that it needs three tables to hold it all.