By Super Thunder
It’s a typical day in District Five. I stand in the clearing next to our house. Mother is inside with father, worrying over me, and as usual, I don’t do what they expect me to. Instead of crying my eyes out inside, like my sister Danielle, I’m simply enjoying the sweetness of the air. My lungs fill spectacularly, taking in all the scents together. To a stranger, the smell would be odd. But to me, a true citizen of District Five, it is the most homey smell I could ever find. My brain detects the overpowering smell of smoke. This alone smells nice, but it’s the other smells that compliment it. Because, right under the smoke, the sweet scent of a berryelle fills me.
Berryelles were discovered by my family line. When, I’m not sure, but ever since then, everyone in my family has had elle in their name. My sister is Danielle. My mother is Gabrielle. And I am Elle.
Under normal circumstances, I would be, perhaps, at school. Now I would be sitting with Wendy and Anthony, my forever friends. But today is, even among the most powerful days, the day of the reaping.
A small shudder runs through my body at the though of the reaping. Mallory, the representant for District Five of the Capitol, calling off a name written on a piece of paper. Danielle would have signed up for the tesserae, but she’s nineteen, now. And I’m eligible, as the twelve year old girl for my family. I had to take the tesserae for mother, father, and Danielle.
The day is going by quickly, as if it can sense my nervousness. I close my eyes, take one more deep breath, and go inside before my mother begins to call me.
I walk in the door, and mother quickly embraces me, and drags me to her room. Despite my obvious indifference to dressing formally, she has already started my bath.
I quietly slip out of my clothes, and submerge into the warm water. My gaze falls on the light bulb flickering weakly from the ceiling. It’s perfectly light, so I can see without it, but I think mother wants me to calm down. And she’s right. I do calm down. I always have, at the sight of any source of power.
I soak there, trying to not think about the reaping. But, of course, if I try to not think about the reaping, that is absolutely the only thing my brain will allow me to think about.
What if I get called? Would anyone volunteer for me? Or what if Wendy or Anthony got called? Would I volunteer for them? Or would I stand there, silently in shock. My terror breaks through in the form of water. I’m shocked to wipe the small tear of my check.
It’s all right
, I remind myself. Your name is only in there a few times. The chance of you being chosen is extremely small. You could never be chosen.
After a while, mother comes in and helps me out. She wraps me in a towel, and I quietly tip toe to her room, where she has laid my clothes out.
I try to mask my groan with a sigh of pleasure. But it’s no use. Mother has seen my frown, the unhappy pulling together of my eyebrows.
“It’s only for today, Elle. Only for today.”
I nod, my teeth clenched together tightly. Only for today. Only for today. I don’t resist as my mother pulls the tight evergreen dress over me. Once I am in it, she clasps her hands of ether, and begins with the happy talk.
“Oh, you look so beautiful! My little girl, all grown up! I just bought it, with the money your father an I have saved up for over a year. I can’t believe it!”
She drones on, now taking my hair and pulling a brush softly through it. Despite her loud voice, she is surprisingly easy to tune out. Involuntarily, my eyes flit over to the clock. We have three hours to get to the town square, to await the reaping.
Danielle walks in, holding a little bowl of berryelles. The side of my mouth twitches up. But Dannielle’s doesn’t. She is surprisingly child-like, for someone who is nineteen.
“If they call you?” she whispers, ignoring my mother, who is now saying that she has two lovely daughters. It is easy to tell that Danielle is more frightened than me. So I have I convince her that I will be fine.
“They won’t. They can’t, Dani. My name is only in there five times. I’ll be fine.”
To my surprise, she buries her face in her hands, and a sob runs through her body. Immediately, I am sitting beside her, hugging and comforting her. “It’s okay,” I murmur, stroking her back. “They won’t call me. They can’t call me. My name is barely in there.”
She nods, though I can tell she’s still hurting. And I don’t want her to be. Two o’clock seems so far away! Three more hours.
My mother pulls me back and keeps on chattering aimlessly. I can tell she’s worried, too. I can see the glances she shoots at Danielle. Because even one slip of paper, if there was anyone with enough money as to not take tesserae, is a lot.
Finally, my hair is done. I don’t bother to look at it, because I hardly care what I look like. But the clock has barely creeped to twelve.
With a shake of my head, I stand up and go outside again. My ballet evergreen shoes feel nice under my feet. They are already walking, to where I usually go. The power center, where I sit for for hours on a swing and watch the electricity dash through the thin wires. But I don’t want to go there today. At least, not now. Instead, I force my feet to walk to Anthony’s house.
My breathing accelerates a bit. The sight of Anthony always makes my heart beat faster. I scowl at the ground, and break into a run. If I don’t find Anthony, if I don’t have time to hold him before the reaping…
And suddenly, I gasp. I don’t know if he’s seen me, but I don’t care. I whirl around, and dart to the trees, a tear already streaming down my cheek. I angrily rub it off, running quickly. Before long, I reach my swing, where no one can find me, and I can watch the power.
The day seems to be taunting me. It’s a beautiful blue sky, with the grass under my shoes the same color as my eyes. And there’s big white clouds, blissfully dancing through midday.
I’m crying, but no sob escapes me. I’m grateful for it, and I cry myself out, and watch the last clear tear fall into the grass an become no more than a dewdrop.
Usually, when I feel sad, I go to Wendy. She smiles with dimples, and suggests we bake cookies. We laugh it off, and afterwards, I feel great. But I can’t do that now. I can’t do that ever. I had confided in Wendy what I felt about Anthony. I trusted her.
But not anymore. Or ever. Because, sitting at the pond outside of Anthony’s house, Wendy was curled around him, kissing passionately.
Eventually, I realize time is passing. Numbly, I turn to look at the electricity run through the power lines. What I wouldn’t give to run with them, to escape Panem, to live in a world with no troubles. But, by judging where the sun is, I can tell that two o’clock is here. My feet push themselves up, and I break into a sprint to the stand with the rest of the twelve year olds. Everyone is already there. I swallow hard, and shove past people. “S’cuse,” I mutter, and I hear them mumble annoyingly.
I stand next to Johnny, a boy who has always been quiet and doesn’t speak up much in class. I give him a tense nod, and he blushes looking away. My eyes sweep through where I am standing. In the sea of nervous children, I spot Wendy, looking dashing and beautiful in an ice blue dress. A lump forms in my throat, and I turn away quickly. I know that if I see Anthony, I will burst into tears.
Quickly, I compare myself with Wendy. She’s the same age as me, but by all means, far more beautiful than me. Her hair is pale blond, unlike my dark red. And her eyes are the same color as her dress.
Wendy is the daughter of a Peacekeeper, so naturally, she would be exotic and wealthy. She never told me which district she came from, or if she came from the Capitol. That’s because she doesn’t know. Her father never told her.
At the thought of Wendy’s father, the image of my family comes into my mind. I wonder where they are now, how Danielle is feeling. Maybe I should have stayed with them, but I needed to go see-
, I remind myself firmly. You’re not here to fall in love and have children. You’re here to hear someone’s name get called, and then to celebrate at home.
Finally, I see Mayor Drumwell walk up. He can’t possibly enjoy giving up two children from his district to see them get slaughtered at the Capitol, can he? My stomach turns as he taps the microphone and begins speaking.
It’s the same speech as always. He’s speaking about the Dark Days, when thirteen districts fought against the Capitol. Twelve were defeated, the thirteenth was obliterated. So to remind us that violence is not the answer, they hold the Hunger Games. In other words, they’re saying “We take your kids and kill them, and you have to celebrate it.”
Finally, after what seems like forever, Mallory Grace takes the microphone and speaks in a high pitched voice. “Have a good Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!”
I cringe as she walks to the girls’ reaping ball. Inside I see a jumble of tiny papers, and I know that a few of them are mine. A shudder runs through my body.
Mallory puts in her hand, and takes out a simple piece of paper. The crowd is so silent, you could hear a pin drop. Her brow wrinkles as she speaks in her high voice. And the name comes out clearly.
At first, I don’t comprehend anything. Then, it hits me like a pile of bricks. She has called me. Mallory Grace said Elle Raise.
I stay standing for a minute, in complete shock, and then someone pushes me from behind. I don’t bother to look at who did this. I just stumble forward, and make my feet move. With each passing step, my heart feels heavier. But there’s a feeling if relief in the air. It’s so strong. It would be, naturally. Many girls have been spared for another year. But in between all the sighs of relief, and the cries of joy, there’s a cry of pure pain. It’s so loud, and so powerful, that’s hesitate. Then slowly, I turn around.
Danielle is there, tears streaming out of her eyes. My heart cries out, longing to go comfort her, to tell her it’ll all be all right. But I can’t tell her that. She knows. She knows that I just just got called to my death.
I can see her running toward me. I quickly debate inside my head. Do I run and hug her? Or do I go to the stage. But Dani, looking so broken, wins me over, and I embrace her.
She’s telling me no. She’s saying she’ll volunteer. But we both know she can’t. She’s nineteen. I inhale her in. I inhale her berryelle scent. With a sob, she lets go of me, and meets her green eyes with mine. They’re so tear filled, that I almost give in to her. But I clench my teeth, pull her hand off, and go to the stage.
Mallory gives me a warm smile which I do not think about. I just go stand next to Mayor Drumwell. Despite the mean set of his brows, I know he’s not angry at me. I was right. Part of him defies the Capitol. His brows get even closer as he sees Peacekeepers dragging Danielle off.
I stand there, watching Mallory reach inside the boys’ ball. A million thoughts run through head. Who am I up against? Where will the arena be? And most of all, when am I going to die?
Mallory, with the same voice she used to announce me, announces Herman, a seventeen year old boy. I watch him numbly as he makes his way to the stage, looking somewhat disturbed.
But my thoughts are elsewhere. I see the crowd, standing in front of me. I see their eyes sigh, as they take me in. A mere twelve year old girl, sent to her death. Before I start crying badly, I turn away. They’re filming me, I know, but I don’t care.
Surprisingly, the mature part of me comes out. “Now, now,” it tells me. “Stand up straight, shoulders back, and put a small smile on your face.” I obey it, only because I know it’s right.
Then, Mallory smiles a big, bright smile, and says “Well, there you have it! Our District Five tributes!” Instead of applauding, they all watch me with tormented eyes.
Then, with a steel hand, Mallory leads me into the Justice Building.
All I’m aware of is my body sitting on a couch, and my eyes are looking forward blankly. In a few minutes, Dani, and mother and after will come. And maybe Wendy and Anthony…
To think my biggest trouble this morning was Anthony! My head shakes a little, and I straighten my green dress. I need to pull myself together for Dani.
As my eyes scan the room I’m in, one side of my lip turns down. District Five is one of the higher class districts, but still, only those who are Peacekeepers tend to have money in their pockets. Just like beautiful Wendy.
Suddenly, the door flies open, and I’m facing Dani, and she’s sobbing. I stay there, stiff as wood, and she tells me to win. And what can I say? So I whisper “I will.”
And then Dani is gone.
In her place, stands mother and father, both with tears streaming down their face. I embrace them, and they caress my hair, and tell me they love me. I tell them I love them too, but what will this do to make them feel better after I’m dead?
Mother tells me to remember that I can do it. That I’m Elle Raise. I nod blankly, an then turn to father who whispers in my ear “You’ll win. You’ll win. You’ll win.”
And they’re gone. I sit, expectantly, waiting for Wendy and Anthony. But they never show. My confusion turns to panic as my hour ends. Train time.
A Peacekeeper escorts me to the train, where I am taken to my room. The Peacekeeper says “An hour to dinner”, and he’s gone.
Quickly, I tear my dress off, and jump in the shower. This is something I always do when I’m agitated.
So, the Hunger Games. I’m in them. I remember that just this morning, I was inhaling berryelles, and then the tears start falling. I feel sorry for myself. I feel that this isn’t fair. Why me? Out of all in the reaping, why was it me? It could have been anyone. Anyone. I only had my name in there a few times.
“Uuuuugh!” A sound escapes my lips, and I bang my hand against my head. Why me?
Although it seems impossible to think of anything right now, I turn off the shower, and step outside. I slide my undergarments on, and then step into the closet. It smells of a fake scent, something not natural. My nose wrinkles in distaste.
I scan the clothing, and I settle for black leggings, and a green shirt. Then, I put my hair in a ponytail, and look at myself in the mirror. I look just like I did in the morning, only different clothing. With a quick sigh, I go to dinner.
The train is very Capitol-ish. Very automatic, and with a jolt, I realize we’re moving. Shaking my head to clear it, I walk to the dining table, where I find Mallory and Herman.
Normally, a mentor would be sitting here, helping us, but there’s no District Five winner alive. And so, Herman and I are on our own for winning.
Mallory claps her ridiculous blue hands together, and a few servants dressed in white come out holding a yellow soup with pieces of chicken. Although I’ve been through a lot, I realize I’m ravenous.
I eat it quickly, just as fast as Herman did. His eyes meet mine for a second, and we both smile, before remembering the situation we’re in.
After the soup comes a pasta in a white sauce which I eat just as fast as I did the soup. Then dessert, a delicious white liquid in a bottle, which I take to my room to watch the the reapings.
I don’t know about Herman or Mallory. Herman was still on his pasta, and Mallory… Well, she can be anywhere she wants, I think sourly. She isn’t imprisoned.
A TV implanted on the wall on the opposite side of my room flashes on. I’m sitting on my couch, with my hair still wet, and sipping the drink.
The first, from District 1, volunteer of course. As do those in District 2. My nose wrinkles in distaste again.
Then I see those in District 3. There’s a particularly tall girl with uneven brown hair and glasses who scares me, and my eyes widen. Next come those from four. A whimper escapes me, as a little girl like me is called. She looks scared and frightened.
Then there’s me and Herman, Dani’s scene, and my heart tightens.
There’s many, and some stick out in my mind. A thick necked boy from six. A tall, athletic girl who looks a lot like me, only older. Two boys, muscular. A girl, small and scared. And a volunteer from twelve, which surprises me. Twelve has alway been one of the laughingstock.
The television shuts off, and I sit there, staring into space. Since no one needs me any more, I climb into bed, and wonder about all those I will need to face. A small tear falls down my cheek as I think about the little girl, the strong boys, the bird-like girl. I cry for me, for them, and my hatred towards the Capitol doubles.
Don woke up, his head pounding. Although he had awakened, he didn’t open his eyes. If he could freeze time right now, lie warm and protected, safe and sound, he would. No question. But he couldn’t. He had to get up and face the day after the reaping.
He still couldn’t believe that he had even chosen. But after all, a small part of him had always told him he would die young. But… But what if, what if he actually managed to kill some, enough as to he would live…?
No, he reminded himself firmly. You are not going to live. So snap out of it!
He replayed the scene of yesterday in his head. His name, pulled out, him walking to the stage…
A shudder ran through his body. This… Wasn’t something he expected. That Margarita Jones girl, the other one from his district, hadn’t seemed scared at all. In fact, she looked so excited as she jumped up, and ran to the stage excitedly. How could some people expose such excitement to a cruel game like this?
He quickly ran over the other people he though of. Those two young girls from four and five. That muscular boy. That tall girl. That volunteer from twelve. And that beautiful girl from from eleven. With the fluffy brown hair. He’d memorized her name. That Aderyn girl.
He opened his eyes to find sunlight streaming through the window. For a few moments, he took in everything, and then sat up.
With a quick look at the clock on his nightstand, he discovered it was seven. Don trudged towards the closet, pulled out white pants and a blue shirt. That was good enough. And then he showered.
With his blonde hair dark gold from the shower, he pressed a button and one of those mute servants, an Avox, brought him his food on a platter. He recognized the eggs, and the orange juice, but nothing else.
With one agonized look out the window, at the train speeding across mountains, towards plains, he stabbed his fork and began eating. He had no desire to see anyone today.
I nervously wait for my stylist, a man who I had heard was called Jared. The prep team, which consisted of three women with purple skin, had smothered me with lotions and ointments. My hair has now been put in red curls all around me, making me appear bubbly and bouncy. And subtle hints of green here and there compliment me, as I never though makeup would. And I sat here now with a thin, white robe, and nothing else. This troubled me very much.
This morning, I had unwillingly gone to breakfast, where Mallory was annoyingly cheerful. She wouldn’t let me grieve in peace. “Elle, are you excited? Elle, I can’t believe it! Elle, can you wait?” And finally, I had snapped “You’re wearing out my name!” and left. An hour later, my prep team, Kendall, Fabia, and Waterlee had come squealing to me.
My thought is interrupted by a man who comes in. It must be Jared. He looks in his twenties, with dark skin, gold eyes, and close cropped hair. I stand still as he surveyed me. Then, he finally says “You’re beautiful.”
“Thanks,” I mutter, looking down. He’s not as bad as I originally believed him to be. He dressed modestly, in all lime green.
“If you could step into the bathroom, and put this on.”
Obediently, I nod, and take whatever he handed me and step into the bathroom. Then, I take off my current clothing, and state at what he have me.
My first assessment is shock, because I don’t understand. But then I realize it is only the undergarment.
I strip myself, and slide into a white bikini. It’s soft and velvety, and I step out feeling self conscious.
But Jared nods, and says “Perfect. Now… Let me help you.” He turns around, and takes an outfit covered in a black protector off, and then tells me to close my eyes. Curiously, I do, and then I feel him as he leads to the mirror. Then, he says “Open.”
I open my eyes. And at first, I can’t believe it. It can’t be me, can’t it? Because that person in the mirror… She’s tall, and beautiful, innocent , but powerful.
The hair and makeup now make sense. But the main exhibition is the dress I am wearing. The white bikini is no longer visible. Instead, I am wearing an evergreen dress, completely the same, yet completely different to the one I wore yesterday.
It’s short, only reaching to my knees. And it has thin straps around my neck. But the shape is stunning. Tightly fitted at the top, and comes to a poof at the bottom. I look… Like a fresh meadow. It’s evergreen in color, true, but has dozens of tiny sparkles, reflecting all the colors of the rainbow. My mouth opens in shock. “I’m… strong,” I say, still staring at myself.
“Yes,” Jared agrees. “Innocent and pure, a green leaf. Light, District Five. And color, a girl of the sky. Good luck, Ellie.”
A smile, for the first time, breaks through my lips, and I thank him. How stunning I look!
But then fear settles in, as I remember I have one hour until the chariot ride.
The chariot ride is the official entrance to the Capitol. All the tributes ride in, and make the Capitol audience theirs.
“What do I do?” I whisper, suddenly trembling. Jared, noticing my distress, tells me to sit down. I sit, and breathe in deeply.
“You just have to stand, Elle. Stand in the chariot, and do whatever you feel is right. If I tell you what to do, then it won’t be right. So just calm down.”
Listening to his soothing voice, I nod, and clench my teeth to keep them from chattering.
An hour goes by so quickly, I’m almost positive the clock has broken. But indeed, I am taken off the train, and I’m grateful that Jared has given me ballet flats, matching my dress, and not torture devices.
And then, I take a deep breath. Because I’m about to see the other tributes, face to face.
I walk in, and there’s about a dozen people waiting. And they all look marvelous. I almost run back to the train, but I remember what Jared told me. I toss my shoulders back, and walk to the other side.
I can feel the others’ eyes on me. Tearing my eyes from the carpet, I take a look at everyone.
I easily have one of the best outfits. The other person who I feel might be a threat is the other little girl, with dark skin, and luminous brown eyes. She’s wearing an angel costume, white with a gold sash, and pure white wings. With the pink lips and cheeks, she’s the complete package. But despite looking powerful and cute, she just looks like a scared eight year old girl.
My eyes wander around the room, and immediately zero in on Herman. He’s wearing something similar to me, only much more toned down. A black tuxedo, with a tie made out of my material. But that’s it.
The other tributes begin to arrive, one by one. There’s a boy in an ice blue tuxedo. The girl who looks like me wearing a long, green dress. A girl dressed like a bird. And then they’re all lining up. It takes me a moment to realize the rides are starting. District 1 is first. Strong, beautiful tributes, as always. The audience cheers. It all goes that way until four. I begin to hear a chanting. It sounds like… I strain to listen. “Kail-lee! Kail-lee!”
I don’t know who Kail-lee is, but I do know I’m next. Herman gives me a small smile which I return warily, and then we climb in. The chariot begins to move.
The crowd goes wild. I don’t know, but suddenly, I unfreeze. Now is the time to make an impression. I smile, and begin to wave. This causes mayhem, and so I twirl on the chariot. I trip a bit, and then laugh it off, as the audience laughs. Herman is stiff at my side, trying to smile, but not pulling it off. I feel like a bit of an idiot, standing there, and giggling, but I realize it will be the difference between life and death later. I’m so relieved that the Capitol laughing with me, and not at me, that I don’t realize the ride has stopped. I give off a big kiss, which everyone strains to catch, and I hop off the chariot, smiling.
Now their chanting “El-lie! El-lie!” I shoot a grin at Herman who looks like he’s trying not to laugh. But despite his amusement, I can see pain in his eyes. My grin fades quickly. I didn’t mean to make him feel insecure. Quickly, I say, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to.. I mean, you did gre-”
“That’s nice, Elle. But there’s only going to be one winner. And it’s not going to be me.” With that, he walks off, and my face is threatening to crumble. Closing my eyes, I remind myself, Dani, I promised you I’d win. I will win. I’ll come home. For you.
I stand with the others in a line, who shoot dirty looks at me. The tall one from three lets a laugh burst through her lips, and I smile at her. She gives me a small, sad smile, before looking away. I lower my eyes, wondering how I can be so insensitive. here I am, smiling at the other tributes, who will shortly be killing me, unless I kill them.
It goes on. The only ones who stick out are the boy in the blue, a bird like one, and the naked, coal dust tributes from twelve.
I’ve obviously made an impression, and I try to hide my smug smile. But it breaks through. What must Dani be thinking right now? What must Anthony be thinking now? Am I finally prettier than Wendy? Or am I still inferior?
Mallory comes to meet Herman and me. Quickly, she congratulates me on a job well done, and I can’t help noticing that she doesn’t give on look at Herman. My guilt rises. She leads us to the place where we’ll be staying, to the fifth floor. We get in an elevator, and it’s a fun thing to ride.
Our floor is big, with a kitchen, servants, and seven rooms. Two for me and Herman, one for Mallory, two for our stylists, and two for the mentors who would be here, if we had any.
I walk into my room, and it’s marvelous. Big, white, and velvety. I jump on the bed, and I realize it’s a water bed.
Maybe, just maybe, I’ll enjoy the last days of my life.
Don lay in bed, after dinner and all, in his pajamas. His blue eyes reflected off the moonlight.
He knew he was one of the favorites. It had been obvious, the way the crowd had cheered for him. But he wasn’t the only one. There was that Kelly and Elle. Those two, he’d seen, had had their names’ chanted. And he couldn’t blame the crowd. Kelly, in an angel dress, Elle, in a green rainbow dress. He had to watch out for those. Though probably not strong fighters in the arena, he acknowledged. Maybe even allies, just so the others wouldn’t kill him. Yes, that was an idea. A group of three didn’t sound so good though. He’d befriend them both, and arrange for one to “accidentally” be killed off. He’d have to see how they did in the following days. A two person partnership is always best, after all.
And there has been the little birdie, Aderyn, from eleven. He smiled, as he clung to her face and drifted off into sleep.