My name is Pittman McClark and I am absolutely sure that my mother is just as disappointed now as she was when I was born. She already had two sons and was hoping that I would be her one little girl. Sixteen years later she still holds that grudge like its fresh and takes her frustration out on me daily. As if it was my fault. Like I had any say in being born another son in her house of boys.
At least if she married us off she would have grandchildren and daughter’s in law. But, no. Deep in her heart my mother would prefer that none of us bring our spawn into the world. Not this world. Not as it is now.
I live in a place that is a glorified factory for the country. They have us divided into about a dozen or so regions and each region has a job to do. That’s what we get for having a civil war.
Most of the old records have been destroyed, but from what I was able to procure as contraband that I would surely be shot on site for, are a few books from a long time ago and an era where civil war brought progress. The government could still be won over by the people and the people could choose how they wanted to live.
Somewhere along the line, the powers that be said “Forget that” and decided to go along with the other dictators of the world taking away what was considered basic human rights.
Along with those rights was a war on the people. A slow terror. An unspoken horror. We can kill your children when we feel like it. And they do. Every year in fact. And if that wasn’t bad enough, they do it Roman style. Child Gladiators in an area fighting to the death for all to see. A glorious event for them and the slow fear that engrains itself in the fabric of our very being to ensure that there will never again be even the fantasy of civil war, civil unrest but no war. Poverty without end. A sentence of death on us all.
We starve. While we sit around longing for enough food to stay alive, they show these fabulous feasts on television. It’s sickening to watch the rich fat faces on there, plump and full with the glow of proper nutrition, knowing that they used goods from my region to make themselves comfortable while we starve.
Then to top it all off they send our starving bones marching to our deaths and call the lone Survivor a hero, give them a decent place to live, and enough food to ward off hunger. Only, by then the Survivor has been so scarred that they give in to vices too unholy to mention.
And that is what was running through my brain as I stood in a crowd of my peers praying that my name would not be called. A lottery of sorts is what chooses the unlucky victims. I don’t have to have my name played more than once a year as my family pulled together some time ago and was able to scratch out a semi-decent living selling homemade goods, mostly from an oven.
I went to school. I had friends. I tried to live without fear and like I wasn’t going to be sent off to die for a war the government won’t even let me read about. My brothers have their names in there too, but they’re twins and this is the last year that they have to survive the Drawing to be safe for the rest of their lives. They will be 19 in two weeks. I on the other hand, have this year and two more afterwards to avoid by some miracle not finding myself on the same podium with Tiffie Braclet.
She looks like a flower in a field of gray here. Bright and misplaced. They played the video on why this is happening to us with mild violence and the deep introspection of why we as a people had been so wrong to revolt against a government who was abusing their people only to turn around and show us what real suffering looked like, so should we ever return to the original mistreatment we would be grateful.
I looked around at my grief and fear stricken friends who barely breathed waiting for the girls to have their name drawn. And then I caught sight of the girl I hoped one day would realize that I was alive. To say I knew almost everyone in school, I think she puts special effort into avoiding me. Cadkiss was always my favorite. She was different and not ready to live by the rules set before us. She got food for her family the only way she could… illegally. I respected that.
She looked nicer than I had ever seen her with her hair in an updo instead of a normal pony tail and a pretty dress instead of the almost boyish clothes she would normally wear. She didn’t notice me of course. She was looking across the town square at her best friend Dale and doing what I should be doing… paying attention.
They send two of us you know. A guy and a girl off to war to die. A war of the government’s making. President Stow saw to it that we were heavily guarded so that we could only die on national television in the worse possible way instead of in peace with some dignity. Why not just randomly pick out two of us every year and shoot us in front of our parents? At least we could die at home and hopefully in the arms of someone who loved us instead of some strange place we’d been carted off to filled with fear and rage and…
Cadkiss just fainted.
I couldn’t quite figure out why just then. I thought her name had been called. But then, I saw her sister with her small blonde frame walk up to the podium shaking.
Holy crap. She fainted. The love of my life just fainted and her sister is standing up there alone without even one soul to volunteer for her.
“Cadkiss get up,” I whispered under my breath hoping the soldiers standing menacingly by did not hear me.
They left her on the ground and Tiffie made her way uncomfortably to the drawing bowl and called out one name. I felt such dread spread over me. How could they have heard me telling Cadkiss to get up?
It was only when the boys immediately near me made a hole to show that I was set apart that it truly hit me.
It was me. My name had been called. I was being sent to die with Cadkiss’s little sister on national television… and no one would ever have known that I was alive. Not really. Who remembers a fallen Regional once they’re gone unless their death is particularly gruesome?
I walked slowly up to the podium, almost sure they were going to tell me to turn around. That I heard incorrectly, or at least ask me if I was trying to volunteer for someone. I would have volunteered for Cadkiss if I thought I had any chance of winning The Tournament and then she would have to date me. The thought of volunteering also crossed my mind when Cadkiss fainted and her sister’s name was called because I would forever have made an impression on her and stolen her heart away.
But, boys can only volunteer for other boys. And now I have my own problems.