The Celebrity Games

"May good fortune follow you wherever you go!" The celebrity games, only one rule: Kill or be killed. When the royal family took over the world, region 13 of England rebelled and in consequence, got nuked within an inch of its life. As payment for this rebellion, the royals instated The celebrity games where each year a celebrity would be chosen and the country that they're from would have to produce two female or male competitors to compete in a chosen arena, fighting to the death. As a prize for surviving, they get to marry the chosen celebrity. But this year is going to be so different...

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4. The harvesting

I woke up bright and breezy on the day of the harvesting, only to be reminded what lay in store. Washing up and getting my hunting gear on, I decided to go to the forest again and try and get some last-minute training in.

Usually in region 12, the day starts at around 8am when the adults go off to work and drop their kids off at school; but today the harvesting starts at 1pm. You may as well relax and lie in if you can.

Running through the town centre, I could see people assembling a huge stage right in front of the town hall. I had only been in a harvesting once (two years ago for the prince, remember?) and it had been awful watching those poor girls get chosen. The looks of shock mingled with fear and horror.

People from our region never last long; they're usually get killed in the first ten minutes because they just don't know how to fight. Or they're just plain stupid. Either way, we never win.

"Hey, Fran! Where are you going at this early in the morning?" A friendly voice chirped behind me.

"Oh hey Jess, I was just going for a run in the forest. You know, train up my running skills." I laughed, turning around to face my closest cousin and partner-in-crime, Jessica Allit.

She's the same height as me, has dark brown curly hair, light green eyes and peachy skin. Everyone just calls her and I Jess and Fran; when everyone used our full names, it got really confusing because no one knew who they wanted.

"Yeah, good luck with that, we all know you hate running." She laughed, carrying on sweeping up the dirt from the pavement.

"Ha ha, Miss I-run-out-of-breath-in-two-seconds!"

"Well, at least you'll have that fittie you always hang out with to motivate you, you lucky little ginger!"

"Who, Matisse? Nah, he's just... A friend. Nothing else."

"If you say so..."

"I do! And anyway, its illegal to have a boyfriend until you're 18. If you have one then go in the games, what happens if you win? Or die?"

"Yeah yeah, but who said anything about him being your boyfriend?" She asked slyly

"Oh, shush. I'm going now, you have to sweep with the other slaves." I retorted, sticking my tounge out at her and turning to go.

"Tell your fit friend I said hi!" She yelled to me as I jogged away.

Shaking my head slightly, I continued on my way to Sherwood Forest, only stopping to get some food to share with Matisse then jogged on until I was right outside the entrance to the caves. Since it was the harvesting, the shop owner must have felt sorry for me because she gave me everything for half price.

"Hey, guess who!" I laughed, covering Matisse's eyes with my hands.

"Ah! Cold hands, cold hands!" He yelped, squirming a little. "Fran, you have something wrong with your ice cold hands. Seriously, they feel like ice cubes!"

"They feel fine to me..." I pouted, letting him turn around to face me. Drawing me closer to him, he held my face in his two, contrasting warm hands which were much bigger than my own and much more tanned. He planted a soft kiss on my lips, making me forget about the world for just a while.

But I couldn't forget that this was wrong. We couldn't be together, not until we were 19 and safely out of the 'danger zone' of the games. What if I got picked today? Either way, winning or dying, I wouldn't ever be able to be with him.

"What's the matter?" He asked, almost reading my mind.

"Its not fair..."

"What isn't fair?"

"That these Games will tear us apart. That the Royals and the royalists and the corrupt governments are doing everything they can to stop us being together!" I exclaimed, frustrated at the world in general.

"Well that escalated quickly. Fran, where did all that come from?"

"I'm just thinking that what if I do get sent into the games? We won't be able to be together then, whether I win or..." I paused for a millisecond to block out the thoughts that were racing through my mind, "or I lose."

"You won't get picked. Your name is only in there three times. You'll be fine." He comforted, stroking my cheek with his thumb.

"Well, I hope you're right... Oh, wait! I brought us some food. You know, for the last possible day of freedom!" I joked, pulling out from behind me a small picnic basket, full of cakes and bread and fruit.

"Fran! You didn't have to!" He laughed, accepting the basket and inspecting the contents.

"I got it all half price, I guess the lady at the shop felt sorry for me. Anyway, if I'm still here tomorrow, it makes a great picnic." I said, popping a chunk of bread into my mouth.

"Hey, Fran. Guess what?"

"What, Mattie?"

He threw a cherry from one of the cakes into the air for me to catch with my mouth.

"Happy Celebrity games!" He imitated, copying exactly the posh english accent all royalists speak with.

"And may good fortune follow you wherever you go!" I munched, having caught the cherry with my mouth.

It was good to joke about it, joking about it kept your mind off the actual thing. The alternative was to be scared shitless.

Running inside my home, I quickly got a shower. Washing my hair and body I finished, letting the remaining hot water run over my body before all we had left was cold, my mind on the same track it had been for the past two weeks. I wrapped a towel around me and hummed, silently stepping along the one metre walk back to my room.

As I walked though the doorway, I saw my mum had laid a beautiful light blue floral dress out on my bed, complete with white and blue slip-on shoes. You have to dress nicely for the harvesting, just in case. The whole empire would be watching.

Minutes flew past and before I knew it, it was already time to go. I felt sick to my core, my stomach filling with butterflies and tying itself into knots. Wringing my hands, I stepped up to the registration tent to sign in, which involved your blood being taken... It kills.

"Hand, please..." The bored looking woman ordered, sticking her own out to steady mine. I gave her my palm, distracted by the magnificent moustache she was sporting. Was that natural?

Zap! Ouch...

The scanner finished examining my DNA and I was checked in. I gladly left the tent, searching for someone I knew to sit with. I located Matisse and scurried over to him, giving his shoulder a light punch to let him know I was here. I couldn't do anything too physical here, the place was swarming with royalists and royal officials, not to mention the camera crews scattered about the place...

"'Sup, homie?" I laughed, grinning up at his bemused face. "What are you doing here, anyway?"

"Watching out for you, beautiful." He smiled, leaned in close and whispered in my ear, "I really wish I could kiss you right now."

Sticking my tongue out at him, I started to walk away to get a seat next to a girl in my art class.

"We'll meet later in our spot, OK? After this has finished and some poor sod has been chosen to compete." I called to him over my shoulder.

"I'll go with you, I'm only going to wait here until the end anyway." He replied, walking over to the other half of the courtyard where the spectators stood.

After a few uncomfortable minutes of twiddling my thumbs as people started to fill up the massive courtyard of Nottingham castle like a Lady Gaga concert, the international anthem started to play and everyone had to stand up to 'honour' our monarchs and welcome our local games MP. She strutted onto the stage, hand on hip and large square glasses resting on the bridge of her nose.

"Welcome, reigion 12! Welcome to this exciting event, the whole world is watching so give them a wave!" She cooed, smiling cheesily to the hundreds of cameras and giving them a cheery wave.

Lizzie Girdling was the queen of cheese. From her beach blonde hair to her award-winning smile, she had 'Miss International' written all over her. She was preppy and pretty and basically a spoilt little so and so. Having originated from America, she always lived in the lap of luxury in Washington D.C and when given the chance to move to England, jumped to it, thinking she was getting the big paid job of being games MP for somewhere like region 1 or 4, but ended with this dead end region. She was constantly trying to get promoted but to get promoted you had to have a winning contestant for two years in a row. Unfortunately, our track record is a little on the losing side, so she's been stuck here for nine years with no such luck.

"Today is a very special day when we pick out the two lucky competitors who will have the honour of representing their region in The celebrity games!" She chirped, basking in the few minutes of fame she got from doing this. "Now, without further ado, let's pick the first lucky lady!"

Beside her stood a white marble plinth with a massive golden bowl sitting on top of it holding all the names of every eligible girl here, some (like me) in more than once. Only three times, your name is only in there three times. I can't get picked, its one in ten thousand chance I'll get picked. That's the same amount as dying from falling down the stairs... Calm down.

Lizzie delicatly picked a sheet of paper from the middle of the bowl and opened it without a sound. It was so silent, you could hear a pencil drop from the other side of the courtyard.

"Jess Allit."

My heart literally skipped a beat. No, they couldn't have chosen her, it can't be! But yet, there she was, my own cousin slowly starting to walk up to the stage.

"JESS!" I cried, running out to her, not caring whether the whole of the empire was watching. Bodyguards flooded my view and started to force me back.

"Fran, Its OK. I'll be fine!" She said, stopping and turning to face me.

"NO! I WON'T LET YOU!" I screamed, pushing against the hefty men forcing me back. "I VOLUNTEER!"

"FRAN! NO!"

"I... I volunteer to compete." I shouted defiantly up to Lizzie, a look of shock on her perky face. The bodyguards stopped pushing me back and immediately formed a ring around me, escorting me up to the stage.

"Well, that was a strange turn of events, folks! What's your name, sweetie?" She asked, thrusting the mic at my face.

"I'm Francesca..." I managed to get out, still in shock.

Did I just willingly let myself into the hell-hole known as the celebrity games? You know, I think I did... Oh dear God, what have I done?

"And why did you just take Jess' space in the games? Why not let her just compete?"

"Because she's my cousin. I love her like a sister and I just don't want to see her go through this! ...she wouldn't last five minutes in it."

"Alright, region 12! Let's have a warm round of applause for your first EVER volunteer!" Lizzie yelled out to the crowd, flashing the cameras her best butter-wouldn't-melt smile as she did so.

But just like the royals, silence reigned until I spotted Matisse in the middle of the crowd of people, lifting his cupped hands to his face and blowing on them, making an owl noise. The owl, the wisest and possibly one of the most vicious of all birds.

Pretty soon, it had caught on and everyone in that courtyard from region 12 was simultaneously making our owl call. That call symbolised so much for me. Trust, safety, reassurance... It was just what I needed at that moment.

It went silent when I lifted my hands to my mouth, cupping them into just the right shape and blowing on my thumbs, but instead of blowing once, I blew twice. The return call. It meant that I was alright and I would be back soon, that I would definitely return, no matter what.

I don't know if the rest of them got it, but it was my promise to Matisse, that I would get back to him unscathed and safe. It was a promise I intended to keep.

"...Alright then!" Lizzie chirped, breaking the silence that followed after I had returned our usual hunting call, locking eyes with Matisse. "Let's move on to the next competitor!"

Opening the piece of paper, I caught a glimpse at the name printed on it. It sounded... Familiar.

"Nicole Bartlett!"

The crowd on the left parted and a small-ish blonde haired girl stepped out, a dead-pan look of panic flooded her face. Wait, I recognise her from school. She's that loner that doesn't talk to anyone... Strange. No-one volunteered for her. No-one stood up and went: actually, I'm not allowing this! I'm taking your place!

This time there was the usual light smattering of polite applause when ordered. We shook hands then were whisked off the stage and into the town hall to say our goodbyes.
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