The Reaping (For The Italian Mockingjay Rebel's Story Contest)

This is for the contest proposed by The Italian Mockingjay Rebel. Please enjoy and let me know what you think. Thanks to the Italian Mockingjay Rebel for such a great contest and story idea!

Chapter 1

The Reaping

My name is Calantha Dacey. I live in a poverty-stricken slum of District 7. Collapsed trees, debris from wrecked houses, and scattered stumps scorn my home. My land. The place where I have always found little comfort. My mother, Floria, is readying me for the Reaping. Today is the day where 24 tributes will be selected to participate in the 73th annual Hunger Games. On the inside, I am shaking with nerves. My heart feels ready to explode. I am beyond terrified. The escorts each year assure the honor it is to be a tribute. I do not see much honor in being killed for people's entertainment. You are left at the mercy of unmerciful people. Offered up to die without a second thought. I am running across the stumps of fallen trees carrying a bundle of lumber in my outstretched arms. The wood will warm us tonight while others shiver with fear, knowing their children are being sent to their deaths. My twin sister, Peony, sits on the deck outside our small cabin. A flower sticks out from her tangled black hair. Flowers are quite significant in my family. Peony, Floria, and Calantha are all names of the beautifully blossoming plants. My mother claims that we are named after flowers because flowers bring hope and the promise of spring. That the dark cold winter has passed. But despite the expiration of the snowy days, Reaping Day brings nothing but iciness. A cold terror pounds across my head as I clutch Peony's hand. The odds have never been exactly in our favor. Our sister, Violet, was murdered five years ago in the 68th Hunger Games. A rough tribute named Gloss took her out. My beautiful sister, killed by a victor. Maybe that was where my resentment towards those who prevailed came from. She was so close to returning to this place. To District 7. To our log cabin where, that night, my mother, Peony, and I gathered, holding hands so tightly that our blood flow was restricted. The final two emerged, battered and bloody, both wishing nothing more than to end the madness: Gloss, a vicious District 1 tribute whose sister won the Games the year before, and Violet, a kind, gentle soul who had survived on instincts. The battle was short. I watched in agony as Violet collapsed to the ground, the knife's blade still wedged in her chest. Violet was special to me, named after the unique purple tint that colored her irises. She held me when the Murder Men scanned the woods for victims. These men were refugees from District 10 who prowled the roads to kill those who refused to supply them with lumber. Those who complied were scorned as fools and traitors. Those who refused were dead. My father was killed by the men when he was out chopping wood one night. He left me his sharp bladed, silver axe. It became my life. My mother was strong and helped us along but shortage of money plagued my tiny family. The only promise was on Parcel Day, after the 69th Hunger Games had concluded. When District 7 got its first and only female victor. Johanna Mason, also my first cousin, had won. I remember watching with pride as the district 7 girl prevailed. This was the only time I truly felt Violet had been avenged. Because Johanna loved her too. My steps are shaky but steady as I gather in the square with the other seventeen year old girls. Peony catches my gaze as I nod, to reassure her that we will be fine. Penelope Strift struts across the stage, her golden eyelashes catching the glint of the sun perfectly. Her lips are dyed gold and everything about her radiates the sun. She smiles overbearingly and without a word, sends her hand into the bowl. We wait in silence as she studies the lone slip of paper. "Peony Dacey!" My heart stops in those moments. I watch my sister, who was always stronger than I, made her way to the stage. Her golden eyes met mine and I stepped forward. "I volunteer as tribute!" Peony stares at me with desperation. "No," she mouths at me, eyes wide with realization. She is carried away by Peacekeepers as I am guided onto the stage. Penelope squeezes my hand and smiles warmly. I can easily detect the fakeness behind the gesture. She pulls a slip from the boy's bowl. "Woodruff Shardon!" The stocky boy walks slowly to the stage. He is dazed by his name being pulled. "I volunteer as tribute!" a loud voice bellows from below the stage. Mazar Deruy materializes and steps onto the stairs adjacent to him. "Two volunteers!" Penelope cries, pleased incredulously. I stare into the eyes of my best friend and shake his hand firmly. My smiling face does not reveal my true feelings. I am dying inside.

We are hurried into the Justice Building. I want to scream at Mazar, to curse his kindess and impulse. But I know it is no good. The Reaping is officially over. My head is spinning as Peony hurries into my room. She embraces me tightly and strokes the dark hair out of my eyes. "I don't know why you did that Cal, but I am not going to argue with you. We don't have much time." My sister's voice is strong but behind it, incredible pain is masked. She is a bull and I am the red blanket. Wave me in front of her, and she is bound to charge. "They cannot hurt you, Cal. You use the axe better than anybody. You know that. You can win. I really know you can." I stare at my twin. We are so alike yet so different. She is tall and muscular. I am slight. Yet I know we are the same. "I am with you," she says, unlatching a necklace from her neck. A locket. Her axe blade locket. She locks it around my throat and smiles. Her golden eyes are glassy but she holds back the tears. "Win, Cal. Please win." I hug her close and promise that I will. The Peacekeepers drag her away before I can tell her how much I love her. My mother dashes in next, her skirt flying behind her. She grabs me. "Oh, daughter. I can't imagine-" she blubbers, choking on tears. "Thank you for being so compassionate mother, but I will be fine. I will come back to you." She studies me with dark eyes, her pupils enlarging with fear. "Alright. I love you, sweetie." "I love you too." The guards carry her off. My eyes are puffy with tears by the time my last visitor arrives. Her short brown hair is moussed from raking fingers and her brown eyes, much like mine, are ignited with anger and hatred. Johanna Mason, my cousin and victor of District 7, stands before me. The glory has left her face and she is cursing crudely. "I hate this!" she yells, kicking a vase nearby. It shatters and the glass crystals fly aimlessly around us. "You can win," she insists, gripping my shoulders tightly. "You can win and live like I do. You are strong." Her eyes are crazed with anger and I hold her steady. "I know, Johanna. I can win." The words take a while for her to sink into her mind, but Johanna nods, and without another word, she exits the room. I sit on the velvety seat across from me, so different from the non-luxuries we had at home. I think of all the promises I made to my visitors; all the same. That I will win. I think of that difficulty as the guards come to retreive me. My heart is sinking with realization. One of us will die, maybe both. Mazar and I cannot both prevail. I think of Violet, killed by Gloss, my father destroyed by the Murder Men. My angered and ruthless cousin, Johanna. And thinking of them, of their huge loss and little success, I know I must win. Against all odds.

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