|This article, The Price/1, was written by The Inceptionist. Please do not edit this fan fiction without the author's permission.|
Chapter one of The Price.
Today is Reaping Day. Every Reaping Day I've ever been to has been mostly the same: show up, listen to a speech, pray to God you aren't picked, go home. But this year's Reaping Day is different. I won't be going home this afternoon. It is the day I have been picked to compete in the 72nd Annual Hunger Games.
As I stand rigidly on a tall concrete stage, thousands upon thousands of District 11 citizens stare at me. The mayor has just finished his routine speech about Panem, and his words ring in my ears. On the side of the stage opposite me, a girl my age is looking just as mortified and uncomfortable as I am. The burning sun casts its sweltering rays on me, and a bead of sweat trickles down my face. The only distraction from the heat is the voice of District 11's utterly annoying escort, Sandra Cruz, who is adjusting her blindingly yellow dress as she speaks into a microphone to the massive audience. Her mild Latina accent booms across our city square.
"Congratulations to this year's District 11 Hunger Games tributes, Dante Kopersmith and Ticia Wilcrest!"
The crowd stays silent, unwilling to cheer for such an unjust occurrence. The mayor claps and plasters a fake smile on his red, scrunched face. "It truly is an honor!" he says, breaking the uncomfortable silence. The mayor passes a quick glance at me, but I can't read his expression. Anger, or annoyance, maybe. Probably, he's just trying to get this reaping over with as soon as possible. It can't feel good to send two innocent kids from your district to their almost certain demise for others' entertainment.
"Happy Hunger Games, and may the odds be ever in your favor!" Sandra flaunts a dramatic goodbye wave to the crowd of staring people. She looks at me, a huge, red-lipstick smile across her surgically-corrected face. I know from this moment on, I don’t like her. I don’t like any of the Capitol people. While they sit around in million-dollar homes eating exotic dishes, unfortunate kids like me have to brutally kill each other for their entertainment. How can Sandra possibly find this event to be decent in any way? How can she congratulate us? I’d like to throw her into the arena and see what she thinks of the precious Games then.
Sandra disappears into the deteriorated Justice Building, and I’m glad she’s gone for the moment. I can see Ticia relax a bit as well, though not enough. After one last shake of the mayor's sweaty hand, I am suddenly crowded by a squad of Peacekeepers. Ticia, broken out of her frozen, terrified stance, is ushered towards me by another pair of Peacekeepers. For the first time that day, I meet her eyes. I stare into them for a moment, so silvery and innocent and full of expression. It is hard for me to believe that I will have to end her life in a matter of days.
Ticia blushes and looks away. I look away and stare at the concrete below me. In a matter of seconds, Ticia and I are hastened off the stage and onto a gravel path. The squad of Peacekeepers flank us in every direction as we shuffle woefully in the direction of District 11’s Justice Building, where our loved ones will be permitted to say farewell.
When I enter the building, I am pointed to an expensively decorated room, devoid of any people except me. I find a black leather seat with velvet cushions and slump into it. In a few minutes, anyone I know who might possibly care about me will burst through the wide mahogany doors. They'll hug me and cry for me and tell me they love me. But I don't have any parents, and my drugged uncle could care less about my well-being. Since no one else I know really cares about me, I'll probably be sitting here for the next hour in an uncomfortable silence. To my surprise, I see the door slowly swing open as someone enters. It is my neighbor, Roy. He has been one of my closest friends for five years. Clamped between his fingers is a polished buffalo tooth, an item he and I found one day in the wide fields of our district.
“Hey, man,” he says with a smile, though I can hear the anxiety overtaking his usually steady voice. “Thought you might want to have this as your token.” He holds out his hand and places the tooth in my palm.
“You don’t have to give me this, Roy. You’re the one that found it.”
“No, Dante. It’s yours. Something to remind you how life used to be, before…all this.” Roy dropped his gaze.
I clutch the tooth tightly. “Thanks.”
Roy looks at me, and for a moment, we stand in silence. “Try and make it out of there, man,” he finally mutters. “You’re strong. I know you can make it.”
“I will,” I answer, though I doubt the possibility of my success. I give Roy a brotherly hug and we pound fists, an ancient historic gesture of friendship popular in the country that existed before Panem.
“See you, Dante,” Roy said as he opened the door to leave. The door shuts, and the room floods with silence once again. I slip the buffalo tooth into my side pocket and find my chair. No one else comes to visit me. My conversation with Roy echoes in the back of my head. I think of the last words he said to me: “See you, Dante.”
No, Roy, you’re wrong, I think. I doubt you’ll ever be seeing me again.