If only it was possible. Possible to just sleep on my bed forever and never to be awakened. I would have perfectly enjoy the everlasting rest. Sadly, the day of the one thing that could make it happen, only the hard way, calls.
The reapings. I never get tired of watching the replays it has to offer every year. Oh so dramatic, sad and heartbreaking for each district. When it comes with the other districts aside from Districts One, Two and Four, almost all poor people would mourn for every tribute that would represent their area and that was reaped for the games. These are the moments where humans, like me, get so weak and crippled because of their emotions. To be honest, I wish I wasn't born this way, like, with no feelings and emotions.
For this year's reapings, I wore plain white ruffled blouse, polka dot skirt and knee high socks. I clipped my hair to one side to show my face. I felt and looked awfully a lot like a child. Every year for the reapings, I color code with my dad. Right now, somewhere outside the square, my dad is standing waiting for the event to begin and get this over with with his yellow t-shirt too.
A clump formed in my throat as I lined myself up the row along with other fourteen year olds exactly when the clock hit one thirty. I didn't know why I've been acting so nervous for the first time and this feeling hadn't reached me for the past two years. Usually, since I was like twelve, I always felt at ease because of the fact that younger ones usually gets saved for the later games by older kids when they are ready and prepared for the games. That's a common culture here in District Two as our district's one of the Career districts, meaning we usually career the games by training at home even before the games start which is against the rules, but who cares?
I had this quirk that when I wait, I observe things. Like that I spotted the camera crew perched above the buildings that surround the district square, probably adjusting their equipments to get better views and angles. One thing I hope is for the camera not to focus on my face. Surrounding the square are the people, including parents of the children within the square like my dad are waiting for the event to begin. Actually, you can tell that our district has a lot of population since we're even crowded here and I'm very scared with closed spaces (don't ask why). Attendance is a must, you see and here we all are many as ever.
On the stage, a varnished wooden podium stood waiting to be used. Engraved on its center is the Panem symbol with District Two's. On the center stage, there sat two glass bowls - one for boys and one for girls - with thousands of paper slips inside and one of which has my name, Castriel Altaier, written on it. On the far side, sat the chairs. One for the district mayor, one for the escort, and the rest are for the past victors all waiting to be occupied.
For years since I was like seven, I already began my training for the games with changing strategies each year. My father urged me even train at such a young age but it was worth it. I mastered the art of knife throwing or fighting, either of that, throwing darts and shurikens, any projectile weapon at all with ease. Aside from combat, I garnered great intellect from my father, a highly skilled and cunning strategist. No one would question that. He specially trained and prepared me for the games itself including the means of survival when ran into situations like that. He would tell me to watch the games for they may help. I carefully study, spot and observe each tributes' strategy, moves, skills, abilities cleverness and lie accuracy.
From the corner of my eye, Elizabeth Grylls, or who prefers to be called Ellie, my former best friend, looked at me apologetically as if saying, May the odds be ever in your favor. That's our way of saying good luck. When we were once friends, we would make another meaning for the sentence or word more like we make codes when we were friends. I ignored her because she'd just avert her gaze from me.
I don't care whether I get reaped or not. If I don't well, my life continues until I get reaped. I made a silent vow to myself swearing that if ever I get reaped, I won't let anyone volunteer for me. I think I am ready for this. I don't want to get humiliated by getting saved by someone who volunteers to take my spot. Never ever. I can do it, I can survive. Even if I won't, there might be good effects of it. Never again to be disturbed, never again carry the burden I had on this miserable human life. It had never made me at ease.
I don't want fame nor glory, all I want is a peaceful life. No more wars, no more hunger, no more poverty, no more bloodshed although the Capitol people would love that. Just seeing their faces makes me wanna rip their hair off. They always make fun of us, even though they favor our district, I don't care. I hate them. I mean, who do they think they are to force us to play in their? We're not puppets and they're not puppeteers! Do they underestimate our abilities and what exactly we are capable of? They just don't know, and never will they know. What I can say, is that they're better off to be killed in the games.
When the district clock exactly struck at two o'clock, when the mayor, the escort, the past victors and everybody arrived, Mayor Woodcrest, with his gleaming sky blue eyes, brushed semi-blad gray hair, blue striped tux and shiny new shoes, stood from his chair and went to the podium. He went on to tell the story of how Panem had rose up from the ruins on a place that was once called North America after numerous hurricanes, tsunamis, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other natural calamities that had definitely obliterated the place. He continued with the hideous tale about how the Dark Days happened when the thirteen scattered districts far and wide the country had rebelled against the Capitol and how they were finally defeated. From that moment on arose the terror of the Annual Hunger Games.
Hunger Games is typically a game that shadows the Ancient Romans' Galdiator fights with many improvements like the arena and muttations to make the show more amusing to watch however, the goal is simple - stay alive to win fame and fortune otherwise, get killed on many horrible deaths. Please the crowd. The Games were set for the rebelling districts to pay for what they've lost. To show that the Capitol is stronger than them that no one can overcome them ever. The Capitol keeps them in line by forcing their children to fight violently with each other to survive. Get what I mean why I hated them most?
Afterwhich, they showed a few clips about the games. I never questioned to myself why I, myself would find pleasure in these games of brutality? Why I, myself would be one of those monsters that kills children like myself? Why I, myself would play into the Capitol's hands? I never had the feeling to answer without guilt.
Kylie Summers, our district escort, bubbly and cheerful as ever, stood up abruptly to the podium and said, "Happy Hunger Games!" Now, I'm kind of getting icked up with her appearance. Her long, flowing yellow tinted hair, her pale blue dress that hangs at her knees. She looked very young and I'm very sure that it dealt with probably medicines or cosmetics or whatever they call them to make people look young. But this one's unnaturally or probably natural young. Not sure. Her blue eyeshadow, thick black eyeliner and mascara, and faint pink lips. Her slight tan color made me almost tripped to my knees and her intense emerald green eyes that stares at us creepily. A Capitol product. Ugh! All of which made me so disgusted with not only her but with the Capitol, too. She went on and on about how honored she truly was being here and to serve as an escort for the tributes later.
"Ladies first!" she said cheerfully. I don't have the slightest idea why I get to have this feeling but I'm getting tense and nauseous. I don't want to get humiliated when someone saves me by volunteering, that would make me look weak when I get reaped. That's our culture. Those who are ready and willing to die. . . or get eased up at home, always volunteer.
Let's get this over with, I thought trying to shove off my stupid thoughts of getting reaped. Kylie swept her hands over the slips of paper and caught one deep down. I swallowed hard as tensions built around the square hoping that she'd get their name. "And your female tribute is. . . Elizabeth Grylls!"
The drum rolls stopped and quickly changed into applause. I almost fainted. Every muscle in my body stopped functioning except for my tongue which I bit to awaken me from the shock of disbelief. Was it Ellie? No, it can't be. I'm sure I haven't heard that right but I was proven wrong when I watched as she walked the aisle that was parted for her with an expressionless face. And before I even knew it, my feet ran and my arms started to shove the crowd.
I ran after her screaming frantically her name. I don't want my friend to get reaped unless I wanted to take her place. "I volunteer!" I cried panting as I grabbed her arm. There was it again, my reflexes, acted without my mind's notice. Why had I done that? Can't I just let others volunteer for her?
"Don't steal the fortune and glory that awaits me!" she seemed to be scolding me like as if I'm a bad child shaking, trying to get free from my grasp. "No!" I shouted at her. "I'm stealing the humiliation and death that awaits you!"
"Well," Kylie Summers said looking confused as she twiddled her hair. She turned to Ellie who went silent and calmed after what I said. "Would you allow her to take your place?"
Ellie looked at me apologetically sending another silent message, Then come back alive, Cast. "I trust her," she finally said. Her voice quivered. I sent her a hopeful message too, For you. Yes, these messages are silent as if we use telepathy but only both of us can understand it well, but for now, I'm not quite sure if we got it right. "I allow her to take my place."
There was a loud groan from the crowd. I know what that meant. Maybe they wished they had that chance to volunteer. Now, I'm quite stupid for not waiting, for being impatient enough to let time pass and let them save my former. . . or perhaps friend. I can't just step down now, not in front of the cameras. My face will be known to the whole world. I classify that this reaping is a dramatic one.
"What's your name, my dear?" Kylie asked me. "Castriel," I said with an awful voice on my throat. I cleared my throat and said gritting my teeth, "Castriel Altaier."
"Well that's the spirit of the games, chap, chap, let's proceed," Kylie said gleefully. She grasp my hand and hold it out on thin air for everyone to see. "District Two, your female tribute!"
The square had echoed the applause and cheers by the crowd. I felt rather awkward and stupid that I wanted to dig on the ground and burrow myself inside and hibernate for a thousand of millennia. I watched as Ellie went back to her line trying hard not to cry nor meet my eyes.
Kylie took time in picking for the boys' and finally, she picked out the paper slip by the side of the bowl. There was the drum roll again making everything so tense and exciting. "District Two, your male tribute is. . . Croydon Mansford!"
Mansford? Not quite familiar but his looks, yes. I think I've seen him carrying heavy loads of sack that's why he's so bulky and muscular - probably a real threat or probably not with his glasses. He wore a what seems like a little shocked expression but quickly changed into relaxed. He had black pants and white shirt.
As soon as his name was called, he put on his glasses? I don't get it why a tribute from two would even wear glasses? Still, I would never be deceived by looks alone. I studied him carefully through a glare trying to detect any sign or flicker of fear, weakness, his physical structure, his body composition and any sign of strengths. Apparently he has, probably strength is his power, but this requires further investigation on how I may kill him.
Kylie waited for half a minute for someone to volunteer but no one would dare. "District Two, your male tribute!" she said and raised his hand the same way as she did with mine.
Time had slipped too quickly. Reapings are done and my life just couldn't get worse that the, oh so dramatic Justice Building goodbyes. The Peacekeepers herded us towards the building each in a separate private room for our confidential farewells by our loved ones. Of course, without another second, my father cam barging in and hugged me tightly that it could've broke my rib cage. He smelled a lot like nutmeg and this hug was the first time ever he had hugged for the last few years of my miserable life.
"You'll survive," he said as soon as he broke off from me. "I watched you train for years and observe how highly skilled you are. Probably the best knife thrower I had ever seen. Castriel, you are the Albert Einstein in this generation." True enough, he does acknowledge and praise me for every achievement I had done but I think that was just rather an encouragement or a lie.
"Perhaps," I said although I'm not quite sure. "If they won't drain the life and hope in me." I was holding back tears. My dad was making me cry since those tears that are dripping off his cheek are so contagious.
"You can do it, kid," he said shaking my shoulder to wake me up from my dream of doubtfulness and pessimism. "Just remember your trainings and the lessons that I taught you. I promise that I know you won't fail, not without your great wisdom and intellect you have there. You will succeed as long as you have a goal in mind, so remember those things because that will keep you alive."
"Dad," I said but my voice quivered. I sniffed but I'm not crying. The words he had just said made me believe that these could happen. That I can still come back alive. "Please, don't make me cry."
He chuckled and nodded in understanding. For the rest of the remaining minutes time has to offer for us, we stood there face-to-face, eyes closed with hands clasped with each other.
When his time was up, the Peacekeepers immediately pulled my dad away from me. "Visualize that I'm still alive and healthy at home eating carrots or something!" I said my last message without another moment of hesitation and my dad smiled masking the sadness in his face as if this would be he last time ever we will see each other again, but I'll prove that wrong.
I leaned against the wall with a violent impulse to wreck the wall into pieces out of anger, frustration and despair. I was about to yell to myself when Ellie came and ran to my arms and hugged me tight like she'd never want me to let go. "I suppose I had a debt that will soon be never repaid." she whispered to my ear. Her voice told me that she cried hysterically for my life.
"It doesn't matter anymore," I said trying hard to sound brave and confident. "As long as you'll be here. Protect my father and take care of him when he gets old if ever I won't make it back here."
Ellie broke up. "Don't talk like that!" she scolded me. "You are a Career. Most Careers make it back alive."
I swallowed hard trying not to pop Ellie's bubble. "Well, let's trust time." I said. I don't want to spill out the negative possibilities that can make things worse for her.
"Here," she said removing her Mockingjay bracelet. "For you, to remind you of home, of how much we loved you, and to keep you alive." I know what she meant about how it can keep me alive. A reminder of course, to keep a goal in mind.
"Thank you, Ellie," Was all that I could say. I couldn't help myself anymore, I broke into tears. I dug myself into Ellie's chest and she patted me gently. This is so touching. I've been so cruel and so cold. Such a coward who is really afraid to give in into weaknesses. I've never been so vulnerable like this all my life but I guess I can hang on it for a while.
She bit her lip and smiled for encouragement. "I know you can win. Win the games for me, Cast."
Now, I'm very speechless for the first time in my life. "The moment our friendship broke," she began. "You never knew how painful it was to hear the hearted you had for me. It was so painful that it had pierced my heart and I didn't even expect you'd volunteer for me. I thought you would be so happy."
"Hey," I said pulling my wits together and wiped a tear. Ellie's eyes had grown red and puffy from crying. "What are friends for?"
The following seconds were like the end of our world. I had to let go. I had to let the tie of our hands go. The Peacekeepers are rushing it through dragging Ellie out breaking our clasped hands. I had to show no fear now, no weaknesses. If I had to, I should mask it now, that I'll be facing some cameras soon. Of course, I'll be going out for the train now since no one else will be coming for me, not even my brother. He'd be so much delighted seeing me die at the mercy of other tributes' hands. I had to focus now that these heartbreaking farewells are over. It had made me so weak to my senses but at the same time, it had made me stronger and more aggressive. Guess who I am angry at.