Before the Spark

We’ve all read the story; completely mesmerized by the emotions of a determined boy and girl who desperately, but bravely, put their own lives aside to save each other. Yes, the star-crossed lovers from District 12. However, was that the only story? No, it wasn’t. It wasn’t just District 12 who was condemned to poverty. It wasn’t just Peeta who felt so much for someone; asking for nothing in return. It wasn’t just Katniss who had to face the wrath of President Snow. No. There is much more to tell. Let’s start from the beginning, before the 74th Hunger Games, in a lowly grain field of District 9. Alright, stop looking so confused as to why I chose District 9 for the setting of our story. I’m not sure why either. It just seemed like a good place to start. Besides, not many of you know much about District 9 anyway so, why not? Well, that's my piece. Why don't we continue on with the story? Shall we?

Sincerely,
Christine D.

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1. Broan

Beads of sweat trickle down my cheeks as I work laboriously in the shimmering golden field of grain under the keen eyes of the Peacekeepers.

“Put your backs into it men!” I hear our Peacekeeper, Lennex, command. “We still have an hour of daylight left! Let’s not WASTE IT!”

You say ‘we’ as if you were working too, I remark to myself as I slice away bushels of grain and pile them into my basket. I wince as the basket of grain weighs down on my back, but I don’t mind the pain, I’ve gotten used to it. Rubbing my calloused hands together, I grip them around my dull scythe and begin to cut more bushels of wheat. It's been several months since I first started working in the grain fields and I’ve gotten used to all of the labor the Peacekeepers make us do. Being a sixteen year-old boy, you would think that I would be defiant and rebellious about working like this, but I’m not because I can’t afford to be like that under the Capitol’s rule over District 9.  All of the boys in District 9 who turn fifteen are forced to work in the grain fields; girls who turn sixteen get forced into the factories where the grain is packaged and sent away to the rest of Panem. The rest of the Districts’ younger inhabitants usually start working around the age of eighteen, but our district is less populated than the others, so kids work at an earlier age.

The setting rays of the sun crawl across the field of grain changing it from an ordinary yellow to a graceful shade of orange. This is my favorite part of the day because the setting sun signified not only the end of the day , but the liberty to do as I please.

Occupying myself in the last few hours of the day is usually spent on time with my older brother, Nate. We play cards, waste what little spending money we have on sweets from Tyla Suppton’s shop, or go out to the hill near our withering house and gape at the stars. Although, it’s not very often we get to see the stars nowadays because of the new security system spotlights that the Peacekeepers received a month ago. They seem to white out the stars, leaving them nowhere to be found.

District 9 has its moments of beauty at the rise and setting of the sun, but during the day it beats down on us with its stinging rays of light, like the Capitol. Do I agree with their laws? No. No, I don’t. For the longest time, I’ve hoped that someday someone will stand up to the Capitol and not worry about the belligerent past of the Dark Days. Fantasizing about that day possibly nearing soon gives me hope, but it just reminds me that the Districts’ peaceful fantasies are overpowered by the Capitol’s cold-hearted reality.

I may only be fifteen years old, but I still think about important things in life.

Getting along with other people is not one of my strong suits. Nate is the closest thing I have to a friend and family. My father is pretty distant, but I’m okay with it. He tries his best to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table, whether it’s substantial servings from town or scraps from generous workers of the grain fields down in the sector where my father works. My mother stays at home from work where she can to take care of my six year-old sister, Everietta. We’re a functioning family, when it comes to survival, and we’ve lived that way for almost 10 years now; it’s become a routine.

Dropping off my tools at the field exit, I start to head home. As I make my way to the square of District 9, I see the usual bustle of people making their way into shops for supplies for the arriving fall. It’s only July, but supplies can run out quicker than you expect them to and then you’re fighting for survival through the brutal winter. While I ponder at the crowded shops, my eyes spot Nathan coming out with bags full of food, bundles of bandages, and a large medicine kit.

What is he doing?! I wonder. This must of cost him a fortune!

Nervous as I travel toward him, Nathan goes wide-eyed and starts to jog out of the square. Confused I try to catch up with him, finding that each time he looks back at me he picks up the pace. Nathan’s frightened jog now turns into a wild sprint. My legs start to quiver in pain from trying to catch up to him, but I keep going.

“Nathan!” I yell “What are you doing?”

He responds “Go away!, if they find us they’ll find you too!”

Then he took off without another word.

                                                                 ❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊

Reluctantly returning home, I resolve that Nathan will just come back sooner or later, I hope.

I find my father sitting on our makeshift couch--a worn mattress--reading today’s newspaper he most likely got from a friend down at his sector of the grain fields. My mother is sitting in our small, wooden rocking chair with my little sister, Everietta perched on her lap and playing with her beloved doll. When Everietta sees me at the doorway, she tumbles out of my mother’s lap and runs toward me with outstretched arms.

“Broan!” she yips as she wraps her thin arms around my legs, “I missed you!”

I lean down and give her a quick squeeze back, sighing

“I missed you too,”

Turning away from my happy sibling, I gaze at my father with a concerned look.

“Nathan’s run off,” I say “He had a lot of supplies with him too. It looked like medicine and food that could last at least year. I tried to follow him, but he sprinted off before I could catch him,”

My father looks a bit appalled at what I’m claiming; his eyebrows furrow as he lets the information sink in.

I continue “Do any of you know anything about this? Has he mentioned anything about leaving?”

My mother’s the first to respond.

“Did he say anything before he took off?”

“Yeah, he did,” I answer “He said that if I kept following him that when they found him, they would find me too,”

What was he trying to run from? At first, when I was attempting to catch up to him, I thought he was abandoning us like mom and dad did several years ago. But before he sprinted away, what he had said, it seemed like he was running from something or someone. Someone terrifying and dangerous.

Someone like the Capitol.

I should have known. He wouldn’t abandon us like that, he had to be getting away from someone and there’s no one else better to stay away from than the Capitol. Any sign of rebellion or disorder and the Capitol is on the move. But, what did Nathan do? He must of done something pretty illegal to receive the Capitol’s unmerciful attention.
After my sudden realization, I hear the familiar squeak of the front door behind me. I turn around and discover my brother, Nathan, exhausted and empty-handed; panting as he quickly closes and locks the door behind him, his face full of fear and desperation.
“They’re coming...” he pants “...Peacekeepers,”
Hearing the faint commands of the nearing Peacekeepers, I hold onto my frightened brother and back him away from the door. Like a flash of lightning, the wooden door swings open with a loud BOOM revealing an armed mob of Peacekeepers.

“Nathan Vurbank,” commands one of the Peacekeepers “You are under arrest, for assisting an intruder into District 9 without lawful permission. Your punishment may not be as severe if you reveal to us the location of this person. But if you fail to do so, prepare yourself for extreme consequences,” As the Peacekeeper put his hand on his armed belt leading the whole room into complete silence.

My head gives a nervous glance over to my brother, who seems to have swallowed his anxiety; giving the Peacekeepers a daring smile as a response.

“Never. I will never give into your intimidation again,” Nathan says defiantly “You’re nothing, but a horde of cowards. Always giving into the Capitol’s commands. You. are. weak.”
Yes. Finally, the day I’ve been waiting for. A day where someone tells the Capitol what to do. I give a little smile to my brother who undoubtedly just stood up to the Peacekeepers.

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Bang. Bang. Bang. One for his leg, his shoulder, and his heart. Then with pride puffed in their chests and satisfaction in their evil sneers, the Peacekeepers left. Nathan lay motionless on the floor, pale and empty. I can’t help feeling the same way, pale and empty. Kneeling down next to him, I reach out and put my trembling hand over his eyes to close them. My mind is blank. I can’t hear my parents’ helpless sobbing or my sister’s screams of terror. I can’t hear anything, but those last fatal sounds.

Bang. Bang. Bang.

Surges of resistance cause my legs to move slowly as I make my way to my bedroom.

 

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