The Girl's Games: the 71st Hunger Games
Chapter 1“Well, Lumina, who do you think it’ll be this year?” my best friend, Corona, asks as we walk to the square that made the middle of District 5 its home.
It really is time again for the Hunger Games. Every year they abduct two of us from each district, a boy and a girl. All 24 tributes enter an arena and battle to the death. It seems fair, but everyone knows that the kids from districts 1, 2, and 4 are trained their whole life for this moment. They want this opportunity. The oldest or the strongest or possibly both volunteer each year and fight for the honor of being a mass murderer. But that’s not how it works here. No. Here, we’re raised to be smart because if you don’t have a brain, you don’t have a place in District 5. We supply all of Panem with power and it takes everybody working together to accomplish such a feat. As soon as your twelve years old, you can get a job working at a power plant as basically an equipment runner and then you can slide up the ranks by proving yourself as an individual. I’m thirteen and I work as a system analyst. That job is normally given to 20 year olds. Corona always says that it should be expected from the top of our class, that I was the smartest of the smart, and that I could stand a chance at winning the Hunger Games with my brain. I think that’s unlikely. “It’s hard to say,” I answer, “I know Ross has been taking tesserae, so he might be in trouble.” She nods silently and I know what she wants to ask me. “Don’t worry, I haven’t taken any.”
“Neither have I, but well, you know the probability better than I do. There’s still a chance one of us will get reaped,” she says without looking at me.
“Corona, I’m not going to say it won’t happen but it isn’t probable. Our names are in there twice. That’s four out of the hundreds of kids in District 5,” I reply.
She goes quiet which is unlike her and I take the time to fix my clothes. My white sundress is slightly too small since I’m 5’ 7’’ which is rather tall for my age and sits oddly on me and my ballet flats are old and worn from my mother, their previous owner. She wanted me to wear her flats because she wore them for all of her Reapings and she was never chosen. To be honest, I don’t mind wearing the shoes at all. I tighten my curly, bronze ponytail and rub the tan skin of my forearm. I’m nervous. I know that I could be sent to my death today and that there wouldn’t be much point in trying to win if I did get reaped, but still, why did I set my TV to record all the Reapings?
“Corona, if one of us gets reaped, the other has to go to my house as quickly as possible, put the recordings of the Reapings on a CD, and give it to the other. Understand?” I say in a serious tone that I’m unfamiliar with. She nods again and we don’t talk for the rest of the way.
As soon as we’ve reached the intricate bricks of the town square, our fingers are pricked for blood and we find our way to the thirteen year old section. Each of the age groups have a roped off section for them to stand in. I guess it’s just to be a little more organized or something. Corona and I find a spot next to a few other girls from school and await the Reaping. I look over to the group of twelve year olds and find them fidgeting and shifting their eyes around as though they are watching a fly. I remember being there last year, shivering from anxiety and the cloudy day, watching the clear ball of names that sat on the stage like it might sprout legs and walk off, sighing out of relief when my name wasn’t called. But at the same time I sighed, I felt terrible, knowing that because my name wasn’t called, somebody else’s was. Both of our tributes died last year and the year before that and the year before that. Not many tributes from District 5 make it out alive. But there are a few. Enough for us to have mentors when we’re Reaped.
I take a look at my black and silver watch. 10 o’clock. As if on cue, the large television to my right flashes on and shows the video that we are forced to watch every year. It’s a video of the Dark Days and why the Capitol started the Hunger Games, but then it turns into a video of triumph and makes it seem like it’s an honor to compete in the Hunger Games. Ridiculous. Then the video fades and our famously bold escort hops on stage. Her name is Hestia and today, she sports a tight lavender dress that matches her artificial eye color. Her skin is paler than her eyes and her hair is jet black but with long white bangs. “Hello, District 5!” she begins in her cheery Capitol accent, “We all know this is a very special day. Today, one boy and one girl will be chosen to compete for the honor of winning the 71st Hunger Games!” I think she expects us to cheer and clap but nobody moves a muscle. Well, some people change their straight face into a frown. Hestia coughs a little and continues, “Let us begin then. For the ladies.” She waves her hand around in the glass ball and I think it looks like smoke. I close my eyes and inhale deeply. Faintly, I hear the flick of a paper and clack of her heels as she walks back to the microphone. “Lumina Harrow.”
My eyes shoot open and all of the air leaves my body in one big rush. Corona’s staring at me with wide eyes, but I find my courage and act indifferent. I step through the crowd of 13 year olds and allow the Peacekeepers to take me on to the stage. I keep my head up the entire time. “Here we are. Lumina Harrow, the District 5 female tribute, unless there are any volunteers.” I find Corona’s face in the crowd and when our eyes meet she lowers her head. She’s not considering it. She was, but she’s too scared. I’m scared too, honestly. More scared than I ever have been. I’m going to my death right now unless I fight. I might stand a chance if I fight. But could I really kill somebody? I don’t even notice when Hestia walks over to the glass ball with all the boys’ names in it and draws out another slender piece of paper. “Ross Stronghold,” she says. I expected that. Ross’s father was injured at a power plant and can’t work, so Ross has been taking tesserae to make up for it. I’m not sure I want to know how many times his name is in the ball. Ross looks scared as well, but steps out of the crowd and is walked up the stage next to me. “Any volunteers?” Hestia asks. Not one person budges. “Well, there we have it then. Our tributes for District 5!” And with that, she takes our arms and leads us behind the stage.
We’re taken into separate rooms and told that we’ll have a few minutes to talk to anybody who comes to visit. A door closes and I’m stuck in a room with green walls and carpet and dark wood furniture. My parents are the first to enter the room. Immediately, my mother bursts into tears and embraces me. She strokes my hair like she used to when I needed her comfort, but now it seems reversed. My father wraps his arms around the both of us and squeezes. After about a minute of solid hugging, my father pulls away and grabs my shoulders, looking me straight in the eye. “Lumina, you can do this. I know you can. You’re smart. Smarter than anyone I’ve ever known. Use that to your advantage and come back to us.” My mother looks at me through blurry eyes and nods, biting her lower lip.
“We love you.” That’s all my mother can say before the Peacekeepers drag her and my father out of the room and slam the door.
I sit on a green chair that faces the door and wait for the next visitor. I wonder who is going to come. Corona will for sure, but will anybody else? Does anyone really care besides my best friend and my parents? The door opens to show a morbid Corona. “Hey,” she says as she steps into the room. I say hey back and she hands me a CD labeled ‘REAPINGS’ in rushed handwriting. “What are you going to use that for?” she asks.
“To study my opponents. I want to see their reaction to being reaped,” I answer.
“But three of them haven’t happened yet. 3, 7, and 11 haven’t had their Reaping.”
“I’ll have to get ahold of it in the Capitol somehow then.”
She nods and blinks a few times in an effort to retain tears. Our eyes meet and before I can comprehend what’s going on, she hugging me and crying on my shoulder. “Promise me,” she says, “Promise me you’ll come back.”
“You know I can’t do that. The statistics-”
“I don’t care about the statistics!” she shouts, “Just say it.”
I sigh heavily and feel a single tear roll down my cheek. “I promise you, Corona. I will come back.”