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Chapter 1 The First Reaping

Freedom, that's what we lost after the Second Civil War. I look up at the clear blue sky and to my amazement spot a bald eagle flying high above the city. I wish I was that eagle, so I could fly over the electric fence perimeter that now surrounds the city. I take out my lucky half dollar coin from my wallet and look at the bald eagle on the back of the coin. It looks fearless and brave compared to the real eagle. When I look up to see the difference, I see that the eagle has already flown over the fence. I look at the coin again and notice that this eagle is holding thirteen sharp arrows in it's right talon. I'm reminded of the terrible game that is going to take place soon in a few days. A game that I am forced to play, but not have any fun.

I return my attention to the noise below my feet. From up here on top of the City Hall building, I can see people from the New Capital setting up hundreds of chairs in the square. They are here to make sure that everyone in the city, now commonly known as District 13, is present for the first ever Hunger Games Reaping Ceremony.

The New Capital is forcing every boy and girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to attend. Those who are younger or older are also required to come and watch. I feel bad for those who are going to turn twelve soon, I unfortunately will not be eighteen for three more years. I'm fifteen but look eighteen to most people already. I wish I was eighteen now so I wouldn't have to be a part of this sick game. I don't want to play any game involving murder.

The New President calls it a game, but everyone knows that it's really a cruel and unusual punishment. If it wasn't for the rebellion that broke out ten years ago, none of this would be happening right now. I wouldn't be waiting for the reaping to begin, I would be waiting for class to start at my old school. Of course, I can't go to school anymore even if I wanted too, since it was demolished during the war. At first kids of all ages were happy they didn't have to go to school anymore. Today every kid wishes they could go back instead of having to attend the reaping. Especially me.

The City Hall bell rings from above and startles me by surprise. Much like a school assembly bell, it brings many children and teenagers together to one place. This bell however isn't a reminder to get to class on time, it's to send everyone to the vice principal's office. In this case the vice principal is the Vice President, and the office is The Reaping Ceremony. I'd rather get detention.

I stand up from the flat roof of the building and open the door that's behind me. I slowly begin walking down the white stone steps that lead down to the grand hall entrance. I should exit the building now, but I decide to go into the hall of records room one last time. I walk into the right hallway and open the door at the end, once inside, I lock door behind me. Ever since the war began, my father and I have been living in the City Hall building. Our home was burned down, and unfortunately my mother died in the fire. I remember she would bake the most delicious bread in the city. My father was running for Mayor at the time, so when his opponent died in the city riot, he became City Mayor instead. I'm going to miss living in the City Hall building.

I am going to miss the Hall of records room the most though. I've read most of the books in here. Many of them are about city property, but some are about past events in U.S. History. I pick out my favorite book from a dusty old shelf and sit down to read it one last time on a rocking chair near the window. It's about the American Revolutionary War of 1775. It's my favorite book because I enjoy reading about the old methods of battle tactics and weaponry. I also like it because it explains how the first colonists of America gained their independence from the British army. I wish every District could gain independence from the New Capital, but I really wish that the New President wouldn't force anyone to fight to the death. Especially kids who had nothing to do with the rebellion in the first place.

I was only six when the Second Cival War broke out between the fifty states and the tyranny of the Old Capital. My father tells me that it happened because classified information about the government controlling everything and spying on everyone in America was revealed in the media. When people found out they rebelled and started riots in every city. Then a team of rebels called The Freedom Fighters murdered the President and his family. That's when the Vice President became in charge and demanded those loyal to him in the military to put an end to the revolution. The military killed thousands of people and destroyed many cities all across the country. The Vice President declared World War III on any other nation that would intervene. It worked, no one came to the rescue. In the end, the Vice President became the New President and The United States Of America was renamed Panem, after President Maximilian Panem himself.

I hate that guy so much, so much that I'm going to risk my own life to end his. I am startled again by another loud sound, my father is knocking on the door. I unlock the door and return to my seat. My father walks in the room and locks the door again, making sure that nobody will hear us talking. He brings me great news, he tells me that the Vice President has allowed me to skip the Reaping Ceramony this year.

The news is so unbelievable, that I have to ask my father, "Why is he letting me live?"

My father tells me, "Because I paid him off."

"No! How much! You shouldn't of done that, you know we need every penny of our life savings!" I retaliate.

"I only gave him half son, I had to pay him in order to keep you safe from that evil game." He says patiently, trying to get me to calm down. My father has always looked out for me, even during the Second Cival War. I remember he once took a bullet to the arm for me. He is a kind but very brave man, unlike me. I lack the bravery and courage that my father has always had.

"Father, I appreciate what you have done for me." I say and then look outside the window. Yesterday I remember watching a few kids playing hopscotch outside, but today I see many children sitting and crying waiting to be called for the death penalty. What kind of role model would I be to those kids if I skipped out on the Reaping on the very first year? A very selfish and cowardly one.

I look back at my father and tell him, "Please watch the children for me, feed them when they ask you for food." My father is speachless, and he in return hugs me tight and also begins to cry. I can't help but shed a few tears myself, and then quickly wipe them off with my sleeve. I mustn't show any signs of weakness outside, I must be brave like my father.

I let go of him and unlock the door one last time, then my father and I begin walking slowly down the hallway until we reach the front entrance. I look at my father and he smilies back proudly. I open the two doors and step outside into the warm sunlight. I make my way down the steps of the City Hall building and raise my left hand high in the air, remembering the eagle I saw earlier this morning in the sky. I make sure everyone is watching. Every man, woman, and child. And when I'm completely sure that everyone in District 13 is watching me, especially the Vice President who is standing next to the microphone, I declare, "I am Marcus Mellark, and I volunteer as tribute."