The first time I saw my brother’s face appear on the television set in our district’s market square, I fell to my knees.
I knew this would be coming. I knew his name was chosen and that I’d have to watch him struggle through The Games. The Capital makes sure we’re always watching, meaning there was a strong possibility I would have to watch him be killed, live on television.
Champions from District 11 hardly ever win.
I was twenty, too old to participate in the Reapings any longer. I was never chosen, but I knew of so many who had been: the quiet girl who sat in the back row of my class, my friend’s cousin, my old neighbour, my uncle.
The Games had claimed them all. And when I first saw Rowan on that screen, I knew he would be next.
The day of the Reaping, he was dressed entirely in white, like an angel. He was only seventeen; he was so close to becoming like me, free of The Games. If I could have volunteered, I would have. Years later, a girl became famous for first volunteering for her sister from an outskirt district. I could never realize why this wasn’t a more popular occurrence; it’s not like we have much to live for anyways.
When I first saw him on the screen, it was an accident. I had been carefully avoiding any television set with my eyes. It was like walking on glass, deciding not to watch The Games. I had a choice of knowing what was happening, however terrible, or knowing it was happening anyways and suffering from curiosity. I chose the later, because at least then I could fool myself into believing it wasn’t that terrible.
I heard news from town as to what was happening. The girl from our district, Sandy, had been killed in a fire that spread through the forest arena only two days ago. I heard her mother’s cry from the street over and I knew what it meant. I wondered when I would be hearing my mother’s own cry, or my own.
I was in the market buying fish for my family’s dinner when I heard a sound come from the television that made me look up. It had been a cry, and my first thought was that it was Rowan.
I was right.
Rowan stood on the screen above my head, poised over a girl with a rock in his hand. He looked surprised as the rock slowly slid from his grasp and rolled along the ground beside him. The girl’s head had been crushed to a messy pulp. It looked to be the young girl from District 12. She was only thirteen when The Games claimed her life.
I say The Games, but it was my brother who had killed her.
He dropped to his knees the same time I dropped to mine. Our cries were almost identical, but his was filled with more pain. Tears didn’t just roll down his face, they tumbled and I know that he hated himself for what he had become. I know this because I hated him too in that moment. He killed an innocent child. And another “innocent child” would probably kill him.
Rowan knelt there for only seconds but it felt like hours to me. “Run you idiot,” I thought to myself, unable to speak out loud because my tongue had turned to sandpaper. “Someone probably heard you.”
“Excuse me, are you going to buy that?”
I tore my eyes from the screen and watched as the woman’s eyes widened as she recognized me as Rowan’s big sister. “Sorry,” she mumbled and ducked out of the line.
My eyes snapped back to the screen just in time to watch Rowan flee from the girl’s body as the canons were fired. Part of me was glad to watch that girl die. It meant my brother was one step closer to coming home.
The screen changed to the District 4 pair running through the woods, away from some creature or other. I lowered my gaze and bought the fish I came to buy. I could not watch anymore.
The worst part is always the waiting. I’m waiting from my brother to kill or be killed.