My name is Effie

There is more to a person than meets the eye, and most of those people have hid the truth for the whole of their lives.

My entry for the 'Two Weeks in Panem' Hunger-Games short story.

The reaping.

The characters within this piece are the intellectual property of Suzanne Collins and The Hunger Games Franchise. I am simply playing with them.

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1. The Reaping

My nails tap repeatedly on the varnished mahogany table, the repetitive tapping the only sound in the silent compartment. There was a time when the silence of the train used to disturb me. I had been only thirteen when I took my first tour of Panem on the train and so when it had begun moving I didn't notice. I was unsteady on my training heels and I fell, landing awkwardly on my wrist. I cried without remembering where I was and I was quickly upbraided soundly and furiously on my failure at remembering basic social etiquette. I have disliked trains ever since.

I sigh as the reaping of District Two plays on the screen. I met their escort shortly before he left to take care of the reapings taking place there. Peridot Evergreen Sunmeadow, I believe his name was. He had gloated loudly about the honour of being the escort for such a 'distinguished District' and flaunted his permed evergreen wig in the faces of everyone present. Typical of a Capitolite.

I watch as a fragile looking boy is reaped and walks slowly up towards the stage. I lean towards the screen as volunteers are asked for. No one moves. My eyes widen as even the commentators become lost for words at the statues that stand at the reaping of District Two. Peridot turns away and I watch as the fragile boy places a fist in his mouth and tears begin to roll down his cheeks, the screen has zoomed in on his despair and even now I can imagine the Capitolites sat laughing with glee at his misfortune. 

A hand shoots up. A lumbering boy with blonde hair walks with a steady gait towards the stage. I roll my eyes in disgust as he pushes the boy out of his way to take his place as volunteer. A tribute that likes to plays with his food, this does not bode well for my District at all. As the camera zooms away from the girl and brute on stage you can see the district part like Capitolites before a fashion faux pas and I know that this poor boy will be shunned for his cowardice. He more likely than not will not survive this year.

A knock at the door alerts me to the horror I know is awaiting me. The Reaping. I swallow slowly against the lump in my throat and reach up towards my wig nervously. I tug on one of the hair sprayed locks and it doesn't budge. Perfect. Already I can feel any colour draining from my skin as nervousness takes its place. Of course, no one will notice anyway as my skin has already been powdered a waxen white colour to make the pink tones that I wear stand out in the darkness of District 12.

The train stops. I only know this because the avox that had knocked on the door has now entered and holds my pink parasol ready for me. I take my time to look at the poor girl. Her eyes are downcast and I know that she will not look at me no matter how long I stand here and so I walk over. As I take the parasol from her outstretched palms and she turns away and I drop my voice and whisper one phrase.

"Thank you."

She stiffens with her back towards me for a few seconds and then continues walking forwards so that she can open the door for me. As I walk out of the door I turn back to see it swing shut behind me and the avox stands there peering through the glass in the centre. Her mouth tugs upwards at the corner so fleetingly that I can't say for sure that she even did it, for within the next second she is gone. I turn myself back towards the open door of the train, and parasol aloft, take my first few steps into District 12.

 

---

 

Make-up artists and stylists dart around me as they quickly sort out any imperfections with my appearance. There aren't many. I stand before the large wooden doors inside the Justice Building that lead out onto the stage and as people talk around me and yell instructions at one another I can see only their mouths moving at the corners of my vision. The fluorescent lights hanging from the walls do not blind me and only one thing holds my attention.

The doors.

In a minute I will have to walk through them, smile, speak and swoon over the benevolence of the Capitol and how forgiving they are in front of hundreds of children. Hundreds of children who like me can hear only their heart hammering away in their chest. Like me, they will only have thoughts about who will be reaped today. 

But unlike me, it could be them.

A tap on my shoulder alerts me to the presence of a blue-skinned technician from the Capitol. He holds a small translucent disc in a small velvet box. I know instinctively what this is. I pull off the glove on my right hand and pass it to him to hold. I turn my palm downwards and press my index finger onto the disc in the box. It sticks to my finger instantly, and even now I can feel the wrongness that is this device taking a hold on my thoughts and making me feel so dirty and tainted. A cheat.

I slip the glove back onto my hand and I smile my thanks at the technician. He seems appeased by my cheerful smile and so backs off happily. The smile falls from my face as soon as his back is turned.

I hate this.

And just as I am sure I can no longer do this the large wooden doors swing inwards and cast me in a pool of light. Thanks to the technology of the Capitol and their contact lenses I am not blinded by the light, instead I can see clearly that the Mayor stands waiting at the podium to welcome me onto the stage.

It's time.

I can feel my mouth stretching into an exuberantly happy smile and I straighten my shoulders. I take one last look around the dusty room I stand in and then I totter out onto the stage to stand at the microphone. I breath in once and stare out at the crowd, blurring out their faces so that I can't see the expressions that line their faces. Worry, anxiety, anger.

Fear.

I bring my heavily painted lips towards the microphone and sweep my hands out to the sides with gusto before speaking brightly to the crowd.

"Welcome! Welcome!" I chirp.

"Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor!"

 

---

 

I don't pay attention to the video as President Snow's voice rings out clearly across those assembled. Instead I stand serenely off to the edge of the stage and direct my eyes into the bright lights around the stage. It doesn't take long for my eyes to water and as the video finishes a tear drops from my eye. Perfect. I move back to the podium and stare out at the crowd.

"I just love that!" I squeal, wiping the tears from my eyes. 

My heart is fluttering nervously now. It's time to call out her name. The one they've chosen to die this year for reasons I haven't been told. All I know is that she will be picked, and I'll be the one to pick her. 

I take a small step towards the bowl to my left and breathe in deeply. 

I hate this.

I hate it all so much but there's nothing I can do. Today I will choose two children and send them to their deaths. I must smile and preen and cajole them into doing their bit for the Games. I will support them and advertise them to the people sponsoring their deaths.

I will kill them.

I take off the glove on my right hand and survey my index finger. You can't even see it. 

I look out towards the girls as they stand stoically and silently in their pens, caged like animals for slaughter. 

"Now, as usual, ladies first!" I say, as I reach my hand into the bowl.

This is when it happens. My index finger tingles slightly as a bit of paper attaches itself to the circle on my finger. This is the one. This is the one they've made me choose to kill.

I lift my hand out of the bowl with the slip of paper in my hand. I step towards the podium, lift my lips towards the microphone and yell out the name.

"Primrose Everdeen!"

No body moves for a few seconds. My eyes dart around quickly as I look to see where she is. I can't see her.

"Where are you?" I call out towards the pen that holds the twelve year olds. I know she's in there. I watch as the crowd of girls split slowly before her and allow a small figure to pass. Primrose Everdeen.

Even from here, I can see her lips trembling and yet she lifts her head towards the stage and stares at me, her hands rolled into fists at her sides. I swallow past the lump in my throat and extend my hand to beckon her forwards, my gaze captivated by the innocence displayed on her face. She's going to die.

"Come on up, dear." I cajole.

She takes a step forwards and then all hell breaks loose.

Screams from a pen behind her force the girl to turn back to see an older girl, her brown hair pulled back in a plait, wrestling with two of the peacekeepers guarding her pen.

"Prim!" She screams, "Prim!"

My heart stops at the sight of the girl yelling for tribute. And yet , the show must go on. Prim turns away from the sight behind her and takes yet another solid step towards the stage.

"I volunteer!"

 

---

 

Silence falls over the square as the older girl pushes past the peacekeepers to stand shaking in front of them.

"I volunteer as tribute." She repeats.

This was not the plan. Primrose Everdeen should have been the one to die. Not this girl. And yet I cannot help but smile at this change of events.

As I stare at the girl who now kneels in front of Prim in an attempt to quiet her and send her away from the reaping, my smile widens. Her face is set in stone and even from where I stand I can see the strength and pride that she holds herself with. She's a fighter.

"Well, it looks like we have a volunteer!" I call out with joy. 

She stands in front of the stage now, her face impassive to the screams of the girl behind her as she is carried away in the arms of an older boy. I extend my arm yet again to beckon her up onto the stage. I place my hand on her back and smoothly guide her over to the right hand side of the stage. 

She stands tall in front of the microphone and her gaze is flat, staring away from the sight of her sister crying in the arms of her mother at the back of the crowd. Her chest rises irregularly as she calms herself and yet her expression doesn't falter. She doesn't cry and she doesn't show her fear. She's strong.

"What's your name?" I ask her with a gesture towards the microphone.

She stares at the microphone with confusion for a second before her pushing her shoulders back and breathing deeply.

"Katniss Everdeen." She says.

And as I congratulate her and call for a round of applause no one moves. My own solitary claps echo out across the square and I panic. Am I wrong about her? Is she not as strong or as liked as she appears?

Arms slowly raise into the air as salutes are aimed at the girl who stands by my side.

I smile as I turn away from the scene to head for the other bowl but I look back at the girl who stands so quietly and intimidatingly in front of the crowd.

Katniss Everdeen, her name is.

We may finally have a winner.

I may no longer be a killer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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