Paislee Tomasik – District 5
I sit up, sweating all over. What a horrible nightmare. In it I was picked for the Writer Games and had to leave my family, something I could never do, not even if they gave me a million dollars. I look out my window and see the bright sun shining reassuringly. It was only a dream, I tell myself, over and over again. Only a dream…
I get up and walk out the door, running into my mother. She looks panicky.
“Hello, Mother. What’s the rush?” I say in that melodious, gentle voice of mine. I hate that voice. Ever since my friend, Haley, said it made me sound weak, I’ve been trying to make it sound stronger, more confident and self-assured. So far my efforts have come to nothing.
“Rush? Paislee, dear, today is The Day.”
“The Day?” I say, confused. “What day?”
“Reaping number twenty-five!” Josh says, bouncing into the room. At least he’s young enough not to be worried. Then my breath is sucked out of my lungs. Joshua bouncing into my room ... it’s just like in my dream, except today I’m not going to be picked like I was in my dream. That was a comforting thought at least.
“Paislee, you’ve gone pale. Are you alright?” Mother says, wearing a concerned look on her face. I know she’s busy, I don’t want her worrying about me.
“Mother, you’ve got other things to worry about, and I’m fine, anyway.” I try to smile reassuringly at her, but I’m not sure whether or not it works, because the smile she gives back to me seems uncertain.
“If you’re sure, honey…” she says, then briskly walks away in that business-like manner of hers that she uses whenever she’s stressed or busy.
“Mummy says she isn’t going to worry about you being picked,” Josh says, smiling a huge smile at me. “She said she’s just going to prepare your dinner as usual, because you’d never get picked, anyway.”
“Yeah, probably because they think you’re too weak to put up much of a show,” Tristan says, coming into my room. He’s already wearing his good clothes, even though he isn’t even going to be one of the ones going into the draw. He misses out by one year. Lucky, lucky.
“Tristan, you know that the tributes are picked from a draw,” I say. He shrugs. That shrug is annoying me. Tristan always shrugs. Shrugs represent carelessness, something that people of this era can’t afford to have.
“You better get ready. You don’t want to be late,” Tristan says.
Actually yes, I think, yes I do want to be late. Maybe then I won’t be picked. I knew it was an impossible thought, but I thought it anyway, just to make myself feel better. Maybe if I feigned sickness…
“Yeah, you don’t want to be late,” Josh says, mimicking Tristan.
“Don’t listen to him, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” I say, glaring at Tristan. He shrugs again. That shrug is really bothering me…
The crowd is silent as the woman who’s always there, drawing out the names of the unfortunates who have to participate in the Writer Games, walks up to the stage.
"Welcome, everyone, to the twenty-fifth Writer Games that is here with you today because of a large dispute that erupted between the top 24 writers. Each writer has been chosen to create a character. You, my dears, are these characters. One of you lovely young females and one of you handsome young males are to be chosen to decide the best author. Best of luck to you all, and may the odds be ever in your favour."
She steps over to a clear bowl on her right. I remember this bowl from last year. It is the one that she puts all the names into. I swallow. The Games seem just that more foreboding now that I’m here, in the town square where the names of the two tributes are picked.
“Ladies first!” she says, as if it’s such a great and exciting thing that the girls are picked first. “Before I pick a name from the jar, first thing’s first. Any brave souls who’d like to volunteer?”
There is a pause, and no-one declares themselves as a volunteer. There is an air of disappointment in the crowd.
“Very well then,” the woman says, putting her delicate hand in the jar. When she withdraws her hand, the crowd’s breaths are held. She opens the slip of paper with a flourish.
There is a collective sigh of relief from the girls’ side, but my own mind isn’t so happy. It’s panicking, racing with a billion thoughts at once. One thought screams louder than the rest. No. No. No, it couldn’t have been me. I must have heard wrong. Not me. No. Please not me. It was a mistake, it must’ve been. Not me…
“Paislee Tomasik,” the woman sings, her eyes scanning over the crowd. I hear my mother give a cry, and quickly glance over to see Father rushing to comfort her. He himself has tears in his eyes. He raises his head to meet his eyes with mine, and gives a small nod. I feel my mouth pulling down at the edges, a sure sign that I’m about to cry. I close my eyes and try to take a deep breath, but my breath snags on the lump in my throat. Before I know it, I can feel the dreaded tears escaping from my eyes and spilling, hot, onto my cheeks. So much for making an impression. A good impression.
“Come on Paislee,” the woman on the stage says. “Someone every year has to be picked, and this year it just turns out to be you. It’s nothing special. Don’t go getting too full of yourself and drawing attention to yourself. Many others have gone before you.”
It’s not that I feel special! It’s because I miss my family and I don’t want to die! I want to yell at her, but the lump in my throat is stopping any words getting through, and I’m too busy sobbing to get any words out.
“Come on up Paislee Tomasik,” the woman says, her voice now tinted with impatience. “Before I have to drag you up here.”
I slowly walk up to the stage. I’m still sobbing and my eyes are red, making me feel like a fool. I probably look like one too.
“Okay, onto the males,” she says, wanting to move on. She doesn’t even look at me once I’m on stage. “Volunteers? Anyone?”
There are no volunteers for the males, either.
“I shall pick a name,” she says. “Cade Cyr!”
I feel the air still around me. I have no idea who that is, but I imagine that he’d feel what I had felt. A boy walks up to the stage to join me. He has brown hair falling in a sleek curtain over his eyebrows and a thin frame. His actions are quick and jittery, but his face shows nothing but calm acceptance.
“Go CC!” I hear someone in the crowd yell. He turns back and flashes a quick skittish smile into the crowd.
“Say your hello’s to each other,” the woman says. I quickly wipe my eyes on my sleeve, feeling the sting that makes my eyes hurt when something rubs against them after I’ve been crying. Then I turn and smile nervously at the boy, knowing what had been going through his mind. I hope I don’t look too dishevelled. He smiles back at me.
“Nervous?” he says.