“You missed. You consider yourself a good archer?"
“Haymitch. That was a deer. Deer are swift, fleet-footed animals. When was the last time you could hit a barn door from 50 yards? Better still, when was the last time you could hit any part of the barn?”
Haymitch eyed Mark warily. In the distance, a faint thwip echoed, followed by the cries of a deer. Haymitch mimed hearing something, mockingly.
“Wait, did you hear that Mark? Sounded like my trap. With your deer caught in it.” Haymitch taunted.
Mark laughed. He was a tall 16 year old; chestnut hair, brown eyes and a friendly look. He went over to the tree, and withdrew his misplaced arrow from the bark, before depositing it, back into his makeshift quiver. He gazed into the forest. It was definitely the deer he’d miserably failed to hit.
“You think we should get it Haymitch? It’d be a bit of a waste,” Mark called. “ A fox could eat it. I saw the trails.”
“Getting dark. We’re not meant to be here anyway; this whole thing is pretty illegal. Best to leave it.”
“It’s for a good cause.”
“ Just because our families would be even more hungry if we didn’t bring back extra food, doesn’t make anything more or less legal.” Haymitch pointed out. “Look, the Peacekeepers could…”
Mark interrupted. “Haymitch, it can’t only be us who hunt here. It’s pretty obvious: go through hole in fence, then hunt in forest so there’s more food in stomach. It’s not complicated. ”
“Yeah, but it takes bravery. If we got caught…” Haymitch sighed, deeply. “Look, this really isn’t important. Let’s go.”
Swiftly, the two boys gathered the gear they’d left out, before fleeing the forest. The forest was outside the boundary fence of District 12, the district where the boys lived. It was a coal-mining district, and relatively poor, compared to the other eleven districts.
Mark realised it first.
“The Peacekeepers… they’re going to be pretty confused when they see the deer hanging out of a tree. Not sure a squirrel could trap it like that.”
The silence hung around like an unwanted relative, just there, waiting for you to make the first move.
“Yeah, well, what can we do about it now? We don’t have a torch. It’s too dark to go back.”
Mark notched an arrow into his bow. He roughly knew where the trap was. He fired an arrow into the darkness. The deer thudded to the ground as the vine suspending it was split.
Haymitch stared at Mark in disbelief. Mark grinned.
“Skill and luck. All it takes.”
“To split a vine from here? We’re 25 metres away. In pitch-black darkness.”
Haymitch smiled. “If you’re that good a shot, maybe when you hunt you could kill the creatures a bit less painfully.”
“Deaths aren’t painless.” Mark replied. “They’re painful by nature, no two-ways about it. All we can do is not enjoy it. It’s not like I enjoy the killing aspect of hunting. ”
Haymitch surveyed Mark, solemn and quiet. “The Capitol enjoy killing though, don’t they? They just lock kids up then make them fight to death. I mean, ten out of ten for cruelty. But we’ve learnt our lesson from the war. I have and I wasn’t even there. Why keep punishing us?”
“I don’t know Haymitch but I don’t think the Capitol knows either.”
“Mark? Mark? Wake up! Today’s the day. Remember?”
Mark was awake. He had been for hours, just sitting there, bolt upright in his bed, listening to his mothers cries and singing gently to himself. He enjoyed singing and sung extremely well. His voice…wasn’t like a bird’s, as beautiful but stronger and with more depth. His grandfather had taught him how to sing when he was a little boy. He had always told Mark that technically, he was extremely talented, but that singing is about expressing emotions.
I’m just not naturally an emotional person. Mark thought, reflecting on his grandfather’s tutelage. It’s not like I don’t have emotions. I just don’t have sophisticated moral issues with stuff, like hunting. That’s probably why a few people think I’m mean. Mark sighed. However, the problem is the Capitol don’t have issues with killing…
“Mark! Get up now! The reaping is in 10 minutes!”
Mark sighed. Slowly, he got out of the bed.
The day of the reaping was easily the worst of the year. Basically, every 12-18 year old’s name in District 12 was entered into a lucky dip. Or an ‘unlucky’ dip. Whoever’s name was drawn, here, in the district centre, were entered into a mad free-for-all for the entertainment of the Capitol. This was called The Hunger Games and this year was the 56th anniversary. The Capitol ruled over all 12 districts.
Mark stood next to Haymitch, who was yawning loudly. He casually grinned at Mark.
“The whole district can gather to send children to hell, but we can’t muster more then twenty people for Christmas dinner,” Haymitch whispered. “Heh, the irony.”
Mark smiled and glanced upwards at the stage. District 12’s escort was there, a woman named Sylvie. She had a haggard, tired expression on a face that was relentlessly attacked with make-up and lipstick. Usually, the districts previous victor/s would be up there too, but District 12 had never had one.
“Excuse me, is everyone ready to begin the reaping? As I’d like to get this done quickly and efficiently. I’m sure the Peacekeepers agree.” Sylvie announced. The Peacekeepers were the Capitol’s elite police force.
Sylvie looked slightly upset, like she did every year. Some people said it was because she wanted to be the escort for a successful district. Everyone else knew it was because no-one likes sentencing the dead.
She tottered over to a glass bowl containing the names of all the girls.
“Ladies first,” She said, attempting to smile. A painfully long pause fell over the entire district. “And it is… Holly Adams. My apologies and condolences to her family and friends.”
A choir of cries and sobs erupted opposite Mark. The girl tearfully took her place on stage, as the Peacekeepers ruthlessly tore her clutching friends and family away from her.
“And now the boy,” Sylvie sighed. There was another long, harrowing pause. “…Haymitch Abernathy. My apologies and condolences again.”
Mark felt as if he had been forced on to his knees, and shock, and sadness, and sheer annoyance engulfed him. He was stunned. He stood there, immobilised by shock. He was ,frankly, astonished that Haymitch of all people, was reaped. Mark then noticed out of the corner of his eyes that everyone was watching him. He gulped, re-locked his feelings and leisurely rose his head. His eyes were dry, although they hadn't been very wet.
Haymitch had been watching Mark. He bit his lip, out of habit. His face gave away nothing.
Sylvie was gazing at them,anxiously,from a distance.
“Um, excuse me boys? Haymitch needs to get on the stage now.”
Haymitch placed a hand on Mark’s back, then left to take his position on the stage. The Peacekeepers came once again, to escort Haymitch to the edge of the stage. Mark had a sudden impulse to shoot both Peacekeepers, but he didn’t have any arrows. Besides, he wasn’t stupid.
Once he got on stage, an ear-splitting static tore through the crowd, who all immediately grimaced and frowned. Sylvie nervously smiled, apologetically.
“Sorry,” she called. “The microphone’s having a few issues…”
“Hurry up.” A Peacekeeper grunted, raising his gun at Sylvie. “Stop stalling.”
Sylvie gulped quietly. “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you…the tributes from District 12!”
“They’ve rigged this.”
“Haymitch, it was bad luck. You’re being way too paranoid about…”
Haymitch stopped and scrutinised Mark. “You don’t believe that. I don’t.”
The two boys were in a room in the town hall, where all the tributes went to say goodbye to the people they cared about. It had been a few hours since the reaping.
“Look Mark, we both know it’s illegal to go in the woods. Yet we’ve been hunting there, for a long time. The Capitol has eyes everywhere. They’re warning us not to do it again.”Haymitch sighed deeply. “I’m going to die within the first half hour. I’m not tall or fast or strong. I’m going to be useless. Absolutely useless.”
A thought flashed past Mark.
“Haymitch listen. Look at these,” Mark pulled some berries out of his pocket and his voice dropped to a hushed whisper. “This is nightlock. You can tell it is by the stem. It’s poisonous.”
“You carry poisonous berries around in your pocket?!? Why the…”
“Hunting. It’s good bait,” Mark interjected . He then brought out some more berries, that looked identical to nightlock. “This is daylock- different to nightlock. It’s safe to eat. You can tell because of the stem as well.”
“This has nothing to do with anything we’ve been talking about.”
Mark sighed, heavily. “Haymitch. If you want to survive the Games, without a mentor, then use these.”
Haymitch glared at Mark. Surprisingly, it was a venomous glare that shuddered through Mark like a chill.
“You said nightlock was poisonous. Didn’t you?” Haymitch inquired, seething.
“Yeah.” Mark said, cautiously. He didn't understand why Haymitch had become so furious so quickly.
“You expect me for one to smuggle an illegal substance in the arena,” Haymitch paused for a second. “That I would probably do. But kill people with it? That’s cruel and heartless and malicious and evil. That’s giving the Capitol what they want! They want kids to die, Mark. I would never kill. I didn’t think you would ever kill children either. ”
Haymitch was fuming. Mark was silently looking at Haymitch.
“I would.” Mark finally revealed. “I would kill them to save you. It’s like… the logic behind hunting. Random deer and rabbits and gazelle you find in the forest… they don’t really mean anything to me. They’re food. My life wouldn’t have dramatically changed if I hadn’t seen them. But you’ve been my friend for as long as I can remember.”
Haymitch’s expression softened. He started to smile, slowly. Then Mark said this:
“I don’t care what happens to the other people in there. As long as my friend is safe. ”
Haymitch was enraged by that.
“Well then Mark, why should anyone care about you. Get out!!! Now!!!”
A Peacekeeper came in, alerted by the yells. “Everythin’ alright? You still have a minute.”
Haymitch turned away from Mark. “Goodbye Mark.”
Mark left, dejectedly, saddened that his last time with his friend had ended in a fight. “Goodbye Haymitch.” , he whispered softly.
The 56th Hunger Games was won by Haymitch Abernathy, the first victor to come from District 12. He won controversially: some tributes cause of death was revealed to be nightlock poison, though nightlock wasn’t in the arena.
However, soon the Capitol’s president , President Harrison Snow, discovered footage which showed Mark giving Haymitch the nightlock berries, which was illegal. Knowing that Haymitch was already broken as he had killed other tributes, Snow focused his revenge on Mark.
A few years later, Mark became a miner. He had a family and carried on illegally hunting in the woods. He didn’t talk with Haymitch, because when Haymitch became a mentor, he had to train all the tributes from 12, all of whom died horribly. Haymitch turned to drinking to try and dull his pain. Besides, Haymitch never spoke to Mark again after he was forced to use the berries.
It was at this time that President Snow decided to enact his plan. There was an explosion in the mine, killing 742 miners. Mark Everdeen was one of them. He left behind his wife and two daughters, Primrose and Katniss.