Psst...Please read the introduction if you haven't already. It explains everything...mostly. (:
Chapter 1: The Huntress, Brainman, and Scorpio
Primrose wasn’t keeping the bed warm for me. I mean, the girl is like a flaming cactus. I don’t need to keep the fire stoked with her around. In fact, I’m surprised she doesn’t spontaneously burst into flame, but does she stay and keep me, the girl who feeds and clothes her, warm? No! When she gets scared she runs to her mommy’s bed to tell HER about the bad dreams and keep HER bed warm. Just another reason to hate that whole reaping thing.
I roll my eyes and sit up to eye them angrily. Prim is so pretty and they both look so warm and cozy snuggled up together, my sister like a blossoming flower and my mother like a crumpled up, old, ugly rag; like one of those rags you use to clean up things you don’t really want to mention. At least she’s as ugly as me.
Well, actually there’s someone uglier than both of us; that mangy cat Prim keeps around, Buttercup. I wanted to eat him when she brought him home, but death was too merciful for the flea bag. Mom says she cleaned the thing, but I still say it’s gross. The cat doesn’t like me either so I feed her the worst stuff I can find and she tolerates me or maybe she’s planning to eat the worst parts of ME someday.
Anyway, I feed her the gross stuff and she shuts up. That’s basically my life philosophy.
I put on my man clothes, grab Prim’s sad little cheese thingy she left as a present and go outside.
Usually, my part of District 12, affectionately known as the Seam though it should probably be renamed “Stupid Black Slughole of Death,” is crawling with blacked, dirty miners right now doing the kind of things miners do, swearing, picking at their butts, the usual, but not today. Today everyone is being their true lazy selves cause they don’t have to do anything til two when the reaping starts. Sleep on fools.
Our house is on the edge of this stupid Death hole. It’s not far from a field which people call (in the most dramatic way possible) “The Meadow" though no one gives a crap about it. Between “the Meadow” and the woods is a useless fence which isn’t electrified because no one really has electricity here. Should’ve thought of that BEFORE they built it. It’s supposed to keep animals out, but it really it’s more to, shall we say, keep us in, which of course is why I don’t stay in. I always throw a stick against it to sort of mock it. “Haha! You’re so useless!” I scream before crawling under, ninja style.
On the other side I get my bow which is safely hidden in the most obvious log I can find just to mock the fence again. “Look at me! I’m on the other side and I’m going hunting! Take that sucker!” The fence hates me. I can see it all over his face. There aren’t any dangerous animals on the “safe” side of the fence and only a trained hunter, such as I, knows the perfect places to nearly be killed here in the woods. My daddy taught me that before he was killed in that dumb mining accident when I was eleven. I always thought he deserved better. Five years later I still wake up screaming for him to run to the woods where he could be bitten by a snake and die in a more awesome way.
I could be killed for standing in the woods with a weapon planning to kill things and junk. It’s kinda illegal, though anyone here would do it if they weren’t all scaredypoo. I have to keep the bow my daddy made safe so I can use it to shoot food and sell it to sucker dummies. Heck the “Peacekeeper” police dudes buy stuff from me. We’re all desperate, but not desperate enough to like, rebel or anything.
In the fall a couple of the sucker dummies sneak over the fence to pick apples, but they never lose sight of “The Meadow.” “District twelve,” I mutter, “The armpit of Panam where you’re only guarantee is that you won’t be eaten by wild dogs while you starve to death!” I glace around warily. If a squirrel heard and reported it back to the Capitol, I’d be dead meat. I used to scare my mother by saying the truth out loud like that. It was fun to hear her scream like a little girl, but eventually I realized how dangerous it was, especially with all the dumb squirrels around to hear me. I kill LOTS of squirrels. I’ve learned to turn my face into a mask, not like a Halloween one, but an indifferent one, so people and squirrels don’t think I care. Basically, I just blend in with everyone everywhere, so no one will know my secret. In the woods I’m really a squirrel fighting superhero called “The Huntress.” If that were to slip out and loud mouth Prim went and told the whole stinkin world about it, as she often does, where would I be? Where would the woods be without The Huntress to take down Scorpio the most evil squirrel of them all?
Waiting in the woods is my trusty sidekick, Gale, or as I like to call him, Brainman. He’s not as good as I am or anything. No one is as good as I am, but I can be myself around him. He says the only time I smile is when I’m in the woods. I let him think it’s him that makes me smile, but it’s really the smell of squirrel fear in the air.
“Hey Catnip,” says Gale. My name is Katniss, but he keeps getting confused because the first time we met I didn’t say it loud enough to hear (because I knew the squirrels would be listening) so he thought I said catnip. Then there was the time I was being stalked by Scorpio’s evil lynx, Battle Axe. Now Gale calls me Catnip all the time. I hated to kill that lynx. I enjoyed toying with its mind. Got a good price for him though, especially when I told Uncle Crazy Joe it was from Battle Axe. He couldn’t pay enough for the magical, golden carcass.
“Look what I shot.” Gale holds up a loaf of bread with an arrow stuck through it and I laugh because he’s just that stupid. Of course he didn’t get this from a bread tree in the woods unless he woke up really early this morning. It takes a few hours to get there. This is bakery bread for extra special occasions. I snatch it from him and pull out the arrow. I sniff at the bread just in case Scorpio's minions poisoned it. It seems clean.
“It’s still warm…” I say, meaning the dead carcass I noticed under a bush, but then my attention snapped back to Brainman. “What did it cost you?”
“A squirrel. I think the old man was feeling sentimental this morning. Even wished me luck.”
“Well, we all feel a little closer today, don’t we.” Inside I’m thinking, “SUCKER!” “Prim left some cheese.” Not that I couldn’t have gotten it on my own.
Brainman loves cheese. Kinda ironic. “Thank you, Prim.” He also hallucinates sometimes. “We’ll have a real feast.” Then he does his annoying imitation of Effie Trinket, the maniacally upbeat woman who leads kids to their deaths every reaping. “Happy Hunger Games!” He plucks some blackberries from a nearby bush and throws one up toward me. “And my the odds-“
I try to catch it but he’s thrown it way too far to the left. Fortunately for him, I am an excellent blackberry catcher. I catch it with my mouth to show off and finish his sentence because I’m just that awesome. “-be ever in your favor.” We joke about it because the other option is to be scared out of our minds. Besides making fun of stupid people is fun.
Gale begins slicing the bread with his clumsy hands. He looks like me, but we’re not related…at least I don’t think so. You never know in the Seam of the End of the Earth.
My mom isn’t related to miners because she was rich. That’s why she looks different and Prim too. She ran an apothecary shop with her parents before coming to this place cause my daddy told her to. I try to think of how hard it must have been when I hate her. I hate her for doing nothing while if it wasn’t for me, we would starve. I haven’t begun to forgive her.
Gale pretends he’s some sort of chef while I grab more berries. We settle in a spot where we can see the pretty valley filled with yummy stuff and evil squirrels. It’d be nice if this was a real holiday with presents and cake, but we have to go back to town for the reaping.
“We could do it you know,” Gale says quietly.
“What?” I ask.
“Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it.”
This is why I call him Brainman. All brain, no common sense, and a strong craving for cheese.
“If we didn’t have so many kids,” he adds quickly.
It’s a poor choice of words. He means his two little brothers and my sis. And then our dependent mothers too. They might as well be kids. We couldn’t do it. They would all freak out in the woods.
“I never want to have kids,” I say.
“I might if I didn’t live here.”
“But you do,” I say irritated. Braniman needs to learn to live in the real world.
“Forget it,” he snaps back.
Gee, who teeteed in his cheerios this morning? And where’d this kids stuff come from? We know each other too well to like, like each other.
Besides, he’s way too hot for me.
“What do you wanna do today?” I asked, hoping it would involve killing squirrels.
“Let’s fish in the lake. Get something for tonight.”
Please note, all grammatical errors are 100% intentional. Thanks for reading!
Originally published on January 10, 2013.