Word Count: 1800
Dust blew across the arid land in tiny twisting vortex's as Silas walked towards the rusted chain linked fence that separated District 13 from, well nothing imperticular really. It separated a parched hellish dust bowl from an even bigger parched hellish dust bowl. Once upon a time Silas thought it must have been used to keep the people penned in; but now it just sat a distant, rusting, reminder of a Government that had long abandoned this place to the wild. District 13 sat near the equator, smack in the centre of the massive supercontinent of Pangaea, Silas wondered if it ever looked any different than it did now. Probably not. He said to himself as he passed a sun bleached human skull half buried in the sand. A blood red smear was breaking across the horizon slowly reaching up to the dark velvet sky that sat against Silas's back. He had to hurry. If he didn't get through the fence by sunup he'd risk setting off the camera sensors. Speeding up to a jog the dead birds strapped to his belt bounced up and down against his thigh, his heavy footsteps cracking the dried clay like ground with sharp snaps. His kills today were only two ravens. They wouldn't sustain them for long, but it was more than most got around here.
Finding the huge black slate rock that stood out so prominently against the red earth Silas kneeled beside it and heaved it open. Revealing a special dug out he'd made several years ago to hide his spear and knife, wrapping the flint bladed weapons in their scraps of cloth to protect the precious stones razor sharp edge he bundled them into the hole before hauling the flat rock back over them. Protecting them from being found by anyone else. A golden lip broke the rugged horizon. Sunrise...bugger! Sprinting now Silas thundered across the land. A huge dust trail kicked up behind him as he ran. Back in the days that 13 had been a prison it was fitted with the highest quality solar powered cameras, that had been decades ago and Government hadn't every upgraded them. There was no need for cameras to work at night when all the prisoners would be locked into their cells. The sun rose with uncharacteristic swiftness. Every inch would be charging those robotic sentries into life. Come on Silas! Run damnit! He thundered to himself rubbing one of the dozens of charms that was laced into his dreadlocks. Experience told him he had three minutes, maybe less.
Calf’s burning. Thighs chaffing against the rough hand cut leather trousers. Sweat beading on his head and chest. Heart thundering in his chest. Fifty feet. Thirty! Come on come on come on! He chanted. The sun was about to lift off from the horizon. Out of instinct he found the hole in the fence. Ten feet. Dropping to the floor he skidded through the hole. Rusted links scratching his face as he flew through. The sun lifted itself into the sky just as Silas slid onto his feet, panting, sweating, bleeding, he looked to one of the small metal camera's that sat atop every fence pole. Its red lens flared as it sucked in the suns light, lifting its robotic eye up to the horizon to continue its perpetual lookout. Smiling cockily Silas whistled through the inner dust bowl that was District 13. Small shanty towns dotted the barren land like bacterial growths on the corpse of a rotting beast, then the huge prison block broke into view. Long since overrun by its inmates the huge imposing structure was now home to the Districts gangs. Only the incredibly deadly or the incredibly good brownnosers lived in that colossal structure. Hitting the first of the shanty towns Silas never seemed to acclimatise to the sight of the dead or dying littering the makeshift streets.
Feral dogs fighting over their bones or best hunks of meat. Death was so common here that they had long ago stopped burying bodies. Bodies brought carrion birds, birds were good eating in this place. The people were just waking from their night’s sleep as he passed. Cast iron walls barely concealing their dignity as they dressed themselves in whatever war torn rags they had, drinking from water distilled from engine coolant, eating whatever foods they had. Concealing the birds he carried beneath his shirt Silas started to take notice of the people around him, starving people with nothing to lose often went to extreme measures to feed their families. 'Help me...please...help...' wheezed a man who lay slumped against the wall of one of the tiny shanty homes. Silas looked down at him. Bald, frail, with skin as thin as paper yet the colour of good leather, his lips split and cracked horribly due to dehydration. Tears stinging his eyes Silas made himself move on. If he didn't he'd either give his man his water rations or snap his neck to give him the mercy of a swift death, what scared him most was he really wasn't sure which one he'd do. Passing a large stretch of open land before he reached his village Silas was all too aware of several men following him.
Speeding his walk up he dared a look back. They followed him like jackals. Eyes glinting with ravenous hunger. 'He's got food he 'as!' crooned one.
'Gerr 'im!' shouted another. Silas bolted like a startled rabbit. Fitness and conditioning made him fast but he couldn't be sure that the promise of food wouldn't make these people faster still. Just on the outskirts of his village a skeletal like hand gripped his ankle, tripping him mid stride. Crashing to the ground Silas rolled immediately onto his back in an attempt to one, get into a position to defend himself, and two, to protect the food. The frail husks were on him instantly. Impossibly thin fingers grabbed his arms and legs as he trashed out.
'Get off me!' he roared kicking one in the jaw. A terrifying roar cut through the wind as a colossal mass of muscle and rage thundered into the fray. Fists the size of anvils lashing out at the living dead, smashing skulls as easy as Silas would crush an ant. The others released him and were soon barraged by stone missiles fired from slingshots. Splitting flesh and breaking bones as the man-jackals retreated back to their own villages.
'You alright boy?' Titan asked looking down at him with a small smile. 'I thought I taught you how to fight.'
'F*uck off.' Silas said taking Titan's hand who hauled him up with a laugh.
'If I did that who'd be here to protect you, huhhh?' the huge man said with a cheeky grin. Titan, as his name suggested, was a herculean man with skin as dark as night, eyes the colour of coal and arms as thick as most people’s legs. Wearing his animal hides and lion tooth necklace he looked every bit the tribal leader he was. His words dripping with the flowing accent of the people that were native to this land.
'If you did we'd save tonnes on ration packs.' Silas jested jabbing a finger into Titan's ever expanding paunch. Running away with a laugh as Titan lunged for him Silas saw Sketch, Mouse and Trunk all sat on the roof of his home, rolling their leather sling shots into tight balls. The triplets were all pale, thin, ginger and had the same maddened grin. 'Good shooting guys.'
'Thank Silas,' said one of them.
'Like you can talk you missed!' Said another.
'Did not!' Their squabbling died away as Silas walking into his home. It was a tiny six by six box of tin and iron. But it was better than nothing. A small bundle flung into his arms as his sister lunged from the floor, wrapping her arms around his neck and squealing.
'Thank god! I was so worried!' she said kissing him on the cheek.
'I'm fine Eliza.' he smiled hugging her back and putting her down. 'Look,' pulling the, slightly crushed, ravens from his belt his saw his sisters eyes light up.
'Great!' snatching them from his hands she studied each of them. 'I'll...EW EW EW!' dropping the birds she shot backwards. 'Plague! Plague!'
Stifling a laugh Silas played along. 'Where?'
'On the eye! The eye! Ew I touched it Sy!' noticing his smile her face fell. 'What's funny!'
Picking up the bird Silas held it in front of his sister, indeed the eye was swollen and oozing puss, 'It had conjunctivitis.' her face dropped before she smiled.
'Oh!' she said taking the bird back.
'Pluck them and we'll have them on the fire by noon.' Kissing her on top of the head Silas fell onto their bed. Sitting around their fire as the sun rose to its highest point in the sky Silas sat beside Eliza and Titan. Everyone else from their small village was their passing roasted raven bits around the fire. Other members included Thunder, Crow, Annex, Melody, Truck, a heavily pregnant Bellatrix and another small girl a similar age to Eliza named Phoenix. Laughing and joking amongst themselves the village, as one, turned when the huge holo-screens blinked into life in the sky. It's time...Silas breathed deep as the computer generated woman appeared on the huge, blue tinted screen.
'Greetings occupants of District 13,' her animatronic voice spoke over the dry land, echoing in the distance.
'Get 'ur t*its out love!' shouted Crow which sent a ripple of laughter around the fire.
'It is finally time for the annual Hunger Games competition, as I'm sure you all know two members of each district will be chosen to compete. Creating twenty-six total competitors, thirteen male and thirteen female, to compete in a winner takes all Games.'
'Yeah we know! Get on with it woman!' Truck roared to the heavens. Eliza grabbed Silas's hand as they waited.
'It is time to select from random this year’s competitors,' A roller wheel appeared beside the computerized woman. It's thousands of sides covered in a picture of a member of District 13. 'The woman competing this year, is...' the wheel spun. And spun. Faces whizzed around at blinding speed. Then it slowed. Eventually, it stopped. 'Cynthia Bowden!'
'Fox?' coughed Bellatrix. 'Oh no...' All eyes turned to the pregnant woman when Silas suddenly remembered, Fox was her niece.
'The man competing this year, is...' a second wheel replaced the first and began to spin. Silas couldn't tear his eyes off it. His heart thundered in his ears. Eliza squeezed his hand tightly. He saw Titan's face, Mouse's, Truck's, Crow's. And still it spun. Before it slowed onto Thunder. The massive man froze. It passed over him. Silas sat, stunned. 'Silas Alberec!'