Jonathan considered ruining his grandmother’s television. He could hide the remote, but then she would try and get up. He could sabotage the television itself, but then she would try and fix it and might end up getting hurt. He wished he had enough money for sleeping pills, but they were really expensive, and he could barely keep his family from starving. Today was the reaping and he didn’t want his grandmother watching in case he was chosen. The last thing he needed was to watch him if he broke down, like last year’s tribute. The last tribute had started screaming, begging for someone to volunteer. No one did, and he was one of the first to be killed.
Jasa might have been young, but she understood what could, and probably would happen today. She was wearing a dress that almost made Jonathan want to smile, but he was too sad. Jasa’s cute dress was ruined by the fact she had been crying all morning.
Jonathan knelt down to her level. “Hey, stop crying, all right? You’re too young to be chosen, you have nothing to worry about.”
Jonathan’s heart lurched as he realised that in only seven years, she would be old enough to be chosen.
Jasa shook her head, tears still flowing down her face. “You could be chosen,” she chocked.
Jonathan plastered a fake smile on his face. “That won’t happen,” he said soothingly.
He hated lying to her. But he did it with almost everything. Their grandmother, the Games, how they would be alright. How their parents died. He didn’t want Jasa thinking it was her fault that their mother died. It was a bad feeling, Jonathan knew. He knew what it felt like to have a death on his conscience. He had caused one.
Jonathan walked Jasa to the town square. He held her hand tightly, not even realising it. Jasa was squeezing tightly back. Kids all around them were looking nervous. Parents looking frightened. Peacekeepers were everywhere, more of them than usual. Tensions were running high. To Jonathan, everything was a blur. He hugged Jasa, and she went off. Everything after that point was hazy, until the district escort was on the stage.
“Welcome to that 103rd Hunger Games,” he said, smiling. His name was Nafe, and he was like nearly every district escort. He believed it was a huge honour to be chosen, and couldn’t understand why so many feared the day. Jonathan tried to listen, he really did. But the heartbeat in his ears seemed to block out all the noise. Nafe continued to talk, and Jonathan started to inspect his hands. He had no idea how long he was looking at them, but he noticed everyone stiffening and he looked up.
Nafe was standing beside one of the balls filled with slips of paper, smiling widely. Jonathan began to shake.
“Let’s pick the boy first, hey?” he winked out into the crowed, as if they should be overjoyed at this. The boys certainly weren’t.
It seemed like Nafe took forever just to reach down and pick up a slip of paper. Jonathan wished he would take longer, but it was only a few seconds before Nafe was holding up a small slip and peering at it.
“Ah let’s see… Looks like we have a Jonathan Maywood.”
Jonathan almost sighted with relief before he realised what was said. He stiffened, having no idea what to do next. The whole crowd looked at him. A thousand thoughts raced through his head.
He was chosen? How could he be chosen? As much as Jonathan feared it, some part of him never thought it would actually happen. What would happen to Jasa? What would happen to him? A cold feeling of dread ran through him. He had no skills that would be useful in the Games. He didn’t want to die.
“Jonathan Maywood?” Nafe called out. “Please step forward.”
With trembling legs, Jonathan stepped forward and drew the attention of the peacekeepers and Nafe.
“There he is,” Nafe said, smiling broadly. The peacekeepers stepped forward to Jonathan, surrounding him, making sure he didn’t escape.
Even though a thousand thoughts raced through his head, not one helped him in the slightest. He felt shocked, like he had no idea how to feel. He blinked back tears coming to his eyes. He wouldn’t cry when everyone could see him. He wouldn’t.
As the peacekeepers walked towards the stage, Jonathan walked too. He was trembling so much that every so often he would stumble, but he was too scared to be embarrassed. When he got to the stage, Nafe beaconed him over. When Jonathan got there, he had no idea what to do. He swallowed several times, looking at the crowd. Some of the faces were sympathetic. Most were relieved, and from the girl’s side, he only got blank stares. They were still worrying about themselves. Jonathan looked right at the back, behind all the boys and girls that were of age were. He was looking for Jasa, who would be there with Kenisdra, but they were too far away. Nafe gripped his shoulder tightly. Jonathan spared a glance at where the mentors were sitting. There were two of them. One of them would help him survive. One of them could save his life.
Nafe smiled at him on more time, before going over to the other ball. He reached into it and drew a slip of paper. He looked at it for a second, and then smiled, calling out “Feles Salico.”
Jonathan knew her, not personally, but by reputation. So was what several called a district 3 career. She had no family besides her mother. She had no talent for engineering, so she mostly trained, in case she was ever chosen. She was seventeen, and very strong. She was also more likely to win then Jonathan, so he knew that she would get the most help. Jonathan lost all hope that he would survive.
Nafe smiled at the crowd, most of which were just looking relieved that another reaping was over.
“Well, this has been exciting,” he said. “Happy Hunger Games. And may the odds be ever in your favour.”
And with those words, Jonathan’s fate was sealed.