This is a fan-fiction based on the character Annie Cresta from Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy. Something to be read if you wondered as I did about Annie Cresta's background. :)
Annie is eighteen years old and faces the last time her name will ever be inside that glass ball for the possible female tributes. It's the 70th annual Hunger Games and the odds just aren't in her favour this year.
I wake early just as the sun begins to rise and the light begins to crawl through the small window in my room. I didn’t pull the blind last night just so I could feel the warmth of the sunrise. Anything to make today a little better.
I can tell by listening through the paper-thin walls that my grandmother, Nana, is still asleep. Her slow, calm breathing makes me angry. I am only one month away from turning nineteen. One month away from never having my name entered into the draw again. If I was born one month earlier I would feel so much safer now. But I wasn’t and so I feel angry that Nana and anyone else over the age of eighteen can sleep easy knowing that they can’t be called to their deaths anymore.
I throw back my covers and get up instantly regretting my angry thoughts. Of course everyone will be worried. They might lose someone today, Nana might lose me. I pad to the kitchen and build up the fire. When I leave to change I can already hear lastnights chowder bubbling over it contently. I pull on the swimming clothes; a thin stretchy suit of cotton and some other material that Nana bought off a Peacekeeper from the capital for my last birthday. I pull on trousers and shirt over it and slide into my worn, leather sandals. That’s all anyone ever wears in District Four, sandals and loose fitting clothes. It gets so warm here that we have no other choice.
When I re-enter the kitchen Nana is up and spooning the chowder into two wooden bowls. She grins toothlessly at me and hands me a bowl.
“Happy Hunger Games Annie!” she teases me half-heartedly knowing this day could never be happy, “Your last one” Now I can grin back. If I can just make it through one last time… I take the bowl and gulp down the chowder.
“You’re going to half to wait an hour now before swimming” Nana says pointing to the strap of my suit poking out from my shirt.
“I’ll take the long way, it’ll be an hour before I get to the Strand anyway”
The Strand. A long stretch of silky white sand and the only place undisturbed this early in the morning. The Strand is where children first learn to swim and I can remember taking numerous class trips there to swim and learn the different types of fish. It’s a calm area that most of the older crowd avoid because there are hardly any large waves or fish to catch.
The Strand is boxed in on either side by two smallish docks containing a dozen or so boats with fishermen constantly checking their sails for tears or the boats for leaks. They have reason to; their boats are the key to their livelihoods. Without them there’s no food and no money. A fisherman without his boat is just a man and the world has plenty of them already.
I kiss Nana on the cheek and head out. Our house is one of a long line of identical houses that cover a large area behind the main square. There is only one road out and one road in. I follow the road past the quiet houses and out onto the square. A few people are decorating the stage and I can see a few technicians from District Three checking the wiring of the screens where we will all watch the Hunger Games. I steer clear of that side of the square and walk quickly by the row of shops until I’m out on the road to the docks.
District Four is shaped rather like a sector or a slice of cake. The smaller end points to the Capital while the rounded outside is entirely made up of dune upon dune of sandy beaches. We’re the only District with such a large access to the ocean. It makes me glad to be part of this District, even if the constant dinner of fish is somewhat bland.
Eventually I walk past the entrance to the lane that leads to the Victor’s Houses. From my position on the road I can just about see the rust-coloured roof tops of the three-story houses. Only two are occupied. The only victors we have alive are Finnick Odair and Mags.
No one really knows Mags official name she’s been called Mags as long as I can remember and probably as long as my parents could remember. She’s old in her late seventies like Nana. Both went to school together and both are part of the dwindling group of men and women who were alive for her Games. I’ve never seen either of our victors up close before, they're both reclusive and Finnick spends alot of his time in the Capital.
I’ve seen them of course, every year they sit silently on the stage not clapping or cheering like some of the Career families do when the tributes are chosen. They don’t cry either. They just sit and stare ahead, emotionless.
Finnick Odair is something of a celebrity not just in District Four but everywhere in Panem. He won the games at just fourteen years old making him the youngest ever victor. He has no end of admirers and it’s not hard to see why. I can remember his Games, I was only twelve and it was the first time my name was entered into the female tributes ball. Even at just fourteen Finnick was tall and athletic with a shock
of bronze hair and those famous sea-green eyes.
Our District’s people is known for having green eyes just like Twelve is known for their grey eyes but what the other District’s fail to notice is the varieties of green a gene pool can spawn. There are so many different colours in the ocean and each make an appearance in our irises. Finnick’s sea-green was not unusual by our standards but compared to the drab browns, greys and blues form the other Districts they seem exotic.
I can see the ocean now and it raises an overwhelming sense of pride in me. This ocean is our ocean. We learnt to swim there, and to feed ourselves and to lie half-naked on the sandy shores while the heat of the sun bakes you dry.
By the time I get to the Strand an hour has past and the beach is still completely empty. The sun still hasn’t fully risen yet so many people are probably still asleep or eating breakfast. A few fishermen dot the docks tending to their boats but I ignore them. I throw my clothes off and practically run to the water. It laps at my feet in icy cold waves and I shiver with the anticipation. I walk in feeling the cold waves foam around my ankles, my calves, thighs, hips until only my head appears above the water and soon that disappears too. I’m fully submerged. I open my eyes feeling the salt sting but enjoying it anyway. Seaweed rolls freely on the floor and I reach out to touch it. Slimy and soft like what I imagine mermaid hair to feel like. I float and roll with the water not disturbing the surface for trivial things like air. I can hold my breath for at least forty minutes if not more, I’ve never really pushed past that limit. Some of my neighbours can hold their breaths for up to an hour.
I feel like I’m flying. I kick my legs and propel myself further and deeper. It takes only two kicks and I’m out too far to even stand. I float a metre below the surface staring upward at the distorted sky. It’s like a pane of glass that separates the two worlds. I know which world I feel more comfortable in.
I shatter the glass and break through gulping in air and laughing. More of the fishermen have appeared on the docks and I guess it’s about time for me to leave the water. I follow the motion of the water and let the slow, loose waves guide me back to shore. I watch the fishermen work from my place in the ocean. The sun reflects off their bronze hair and shine it right back to the sun like individual lights. Most of the fishermen families have bronze or copper coloured hair and tan skin while the rest of us, the merchant families, make do with our dark brown hair and freckles. It’s so easy to tell which part of the district you come from this way.
I leave the water feeling heavy and lost and I collapse beside my clothes. Nana taught me a little trick for smooth skin when I was younger and so I grab a handful of sand and rub every inch of my body with it. Satisfied and mostly dry I re-dress and head back to the square. I pass one of the fishermen heading into town and grab a lift between the barrels of fish on his cart until I’m near enough to my house to walk again.
At home a tub of hot water waits for me and I feel a pang of guilt for my feelings of anger towards Nana this morning. I peel off my sandy clothes and scrap the layers of salt, sweat and sand off and try to wash it all out of my hair. Nana has laid out one of my mother’s old dresses for me. Blue and green with a hem of white lace like a cresting wave.
As I pull it on I try to remember my mother in it. I try to see her arms where my arms now and I try to imagine her fingers doing up the same buttons along the front that I am, but I can’t. I was too young when my mother died. I used to live by the beach with the other fishing families but when my father and mother disappeared into the water with their boat I moved into my mother’s old home with her mother. I was only two.
My father was a fisherman which is why, Nana tells me, that I have a soft sheen of red gold in my hair. I always laugh at that. My hair’s just brown. Like my mother’s and like my Nana’s used to be. I towel dry my hair and twist it into a tight knot at the crown of my head. Already wispy strands are coming loose. Even wet my unruly hair doesn’t want to do what it’s told. I tuck the spare strands behind my ears and pull my sandals on again.
“You look just like your mother” Nana says in the kitchen handing me a salty bread roll and a bowl of prawns. I blush a little and stroke the fabric around my neck. I compliment my Nana too. She is wearing an ankle-length dress in the darkest of blues with her black leather sandals and her string of pink shells around her neck. She unclips her necklace and hands it to me.
“Here, for luck dew”
I smile at the use of my old pet name. She called me that when I first came to live with her because she said I was so small and loved the water so much I was like a little wet dew-drop.
“I can’t take this Nana” I say and but she presses it into my hand anyway. I smile a thanks and clip it around my neck. Her warmth leaches from the shells into my skin and again I feel a pang of guilt. I start to apologise but she waves to stop me.
We eat our food in silence and when we’re finished Nana clears away our bowls and makes sure tonight’s dinner is simmering in it’s pot over the fire. I smell something other than fish and my mouth starts to water. Somehow Nana managed to get pork so as to make my favourite meal, Coddle, a stew of pork and vegetables with a spicy oyster sauce.
“Come on, I want to get there early so I can find a place to escape from quickly”
We leave the house and it seems that everyone else had the same idea as Nana because we join a crowd of people dressed similarly in suits, skirts, shirts and dresses in varying shades of blue to green. Attendance is mandatory and so I see people I don’t usually see in my day-to-day life like the Darya twins, two girls who rarely venture outside the house because of their crippled legs. Their younger brother who is going for his first reaping helps them along but they still move slowly.
The square looks almost pretty with the banners and flags bearing the seal of Panem and a salmon leaping from a stream to symbolize District Four. We file silently in and sign in with the Peacekeepers at the booth. I’m herded into an area closed off with rope where the other twelve to eighteen year olds stand. I’m ushered to the front with the other eighteen year olds.
I see Nana standing at the far perimeter a worried crease lining her forehead. She’s looking up so I follow her line of vision. She’s looking at the line of camera men along the rooftops waiting, like sharks, to start filming us. Around me I can hear people taking bets on who will be chosen but most of us, the ones who will be picked, stand in silence. I can almost hear the anxiety of the other eighteen year olds at their last Hunger Games too hoping their good luck streak will continue.
On the stage sits Mayor Una, who’s a short slim woman with dark hair and Raven, District Four’s escort, folded in a cloak of inky black feathers very befitting his name. He looks like a bird too with his beady black eyes, dyed orange lips and long fingers that end in sharp back nails. The two chat to each other Raven looking gleeful while Mayor Una looks morose. Finnick and Mags join them but ignore them completely. Raven doesn’t even try to talk to them anymore.
At exactly two the mayor steps up to the podium and begins to recite the history of Panem that we all learnt off at school. Some people even join in with loud droning voices.
She tells us the story of how Panem rose like a triumphant phoenix from the ashes that was once North America. She lists the disasters and wars that swallowed and destroyed the land leaving nothing but what we’re living on now. She tells us how the ancestors of the District Four populace were welcomed with open arms by Panem from the far reaches of a marshy place called Europe and how we adjusted and prospered under the welcome arm of the Capital. She mentions the dark days, when uprisings were common and always brought death and the result of these, the Hunger Games.
I know this speech off by heart so I allow myself to zone out and I start to think about this morning when I flew through the water. I rub my shell necklace between my fingers and watch as Raven claws in the glass bowl for a female tribute’s name. I feel calmness enter me and an oncoming sense of relief. My name is in there fifteen times and with a population of fourteen thousand the chances of being picked are so slim they are almost non-existent. Raven folds open the slip of paper and caws into the microphone.