Clunk, clunk. My worn shoes plod down the expectant rows of children. Silent. Waiting. Dreading. I'm late, as usual. Well, I can't really say that yet, seeing as this is only my second reaping. That's right, I'm thirteen. And the ironic thing is that my birthday is on the last day of the two weeks of fighting, not that anyone cares when my birthday is. But let's get back to the reaping or I might miss the really exciting bit by day-dreaming and this whole story will never have happened. Not that that's a bad thing.
That's better. I shuffle into line and the watchful eyes are off me. Good. I can't wait to get back to my den, I'v spent enough time looking in through the school window to have learnt the basics of electricity so I have finally stolen enough to install a kind of heating for my band of rag-tag friends, although they're out of fashion now since one wire short circuited and blew up a power plant. The capitol sent no food supplies to shops for weeks. I mean the heating of course, not my friends! Ever heard of a short circuiting child? Well...
God do I go on, okay, this is all about me I suppose so maybe I could tell you the basics of my life so far. My name is Wulfrun (my friends idea, I never got told my real name) and I am 13 years old. I am an orphan. My Dad died joining two wires together (bang!) and my Mum went mad a few months later. My friends say I must have got the mad streak from her (wonder why?). I live in an old crumbling power supplier factory with a few buddies from rich families that like playing outlaw (I only let them stay because they bring me food). I think you'll pick up the rest as I go along. Oh good! I've missed the speech. I hate depressing stuff like that. In fact I'm very good at blocking it out. Oh dear... Here comes that video.
In fact the only time I ever remember being unhappy was this time last year. I know about the games now. And what they do. The girl they chose was right next to me! I'd never felt so guilty in all my life, watching her get killed. Right next to me. We even held hands (I remember the pain when she got picked- I still have a red mark...). I suppose if I had a Mum she'd cheer me up but I don't so I guess it'd be best if I were to get on with my life.
I can practically feel the tension building up like bricks forming a suffocating wall until my throat is so tight I can barely speak, let alone breathe. But I mustn't cough or draw any more attention to myself. It's bad enough being the district freak show. The mad woman's child, come to close and she'll bite you. F***ing hell. I swear if it was any more tense the glass bowl would crack spilling all the precious little slips of paper like raindrops, washing away the pain. The girl next to me is edging away, you see I've become a sort of bad luck charm since last years incident but she's probably getting paid to stand near me. What a nice thought to end the day. Or maybe my life.
She's pulling out the slip now. Her voice echos eerily round the gathering "Ladies first..." she calls, wetting her lips. Mothers start to cry, hands to squeeze, eyes to close. You could hear the crinkling of the paper as she opened it, scanned the words. Slowly, deliberately, she put her lips to the speaker. "Fiona Rite" Everything relaxed. Eyes started to scan the row upon row of children until a meek individual stepped out of line, self consicously tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear. Sobs rang through the crowds like some kind of death toll. I looked round, and I realized something. I hated it here. And no-one would miss me if I left.
It was in that second that I did perhaps the most stupid thing imaginable. "I volenteer." Eyes fall on me as the girl whirls round in disbelief. The sobbing stopped. Silence. Pure and unbroken apart from the ever consistant crackling of the speaker. Slowly, proudly, the girl, Fiona Rite lifts her fingers to her lips and holds them defiantly in front of her like some kind of barrier, I hear the rustle of a thousand hands mimicking her every move. But I don't turn round. Lowering her hand she strolls past, her movement rustling my crumpled clothes, she steps back into line. But I don't turn round.
It happened so quickly after that, on the platform, the camera's boring into me, sussing me out. The boy who is picked gave me strawberries once. They were the best things I ever ate. Eventually they usher us into the towering building and I find myself pausing by the door. But I don't turn round.
My name is Wulfrun.
I am 13 years old.
And I must be mad...