House of Blood
By Akira Eliza
Mattia Linker beckons me to the stage. I slowly make my way towards it, well aware that every eye of District 7 is watching me, and selfishly thinking that they are glad it wasn’t them. How I wish to be among them.
I climb the steps one by one. I think I’m going to collapse any minute now. Come on Willow. One foot in front of the other. That’s it. Think on the bright side.
What bright side?
At least you won’t have to go through this again. One way or another, you’ll soon be freer than you have ever been.
Ha. That’s how I comfort myself. I’m losing my touch. But you know what? I’m right. I’m not expecting to win this, but this is going to be the first and only time I have to be at the reaping. And my brother too. He’s 17. Next year he’ll be 18, and he will never have to face the risk of going into the arena himself. I’m glad.
Mattia totters over to the boys ballot. I don’t know how she can even walk in those. She calls out a name. I let out the breath I didn’t even know I was holding. It’s not him. It’s not Josef.
What! No, Josef, no. Don’t be stupid. You’re giving up your future. I know what you’re doing. You have no intention to survive. You’re throwing away everything. For me. Why Josef…
We are lead inside the Justice building, where they lead us into a room. I gasp. It’s more beautiful, more luxurious than anything else in 7. The sofas are covered in a soft velvet, the carpet thick and fluffy. It isn’t right. Isn’t right that this building is so much more fancy than the rest of the district, when at least half is starving from not enough money to buy food.
Usually we are allowed visitors, but no one bothers to come. Why should they? Instead we talk to each other. I immediately round on my brother.
“Josef, you shouldn’t have volunteered. You were free from the terror of being picked and you threw it all away.”
“I had to, to protect you.”
“But Josef, I don’t need protecting. Because I’m happy. One way or another I’ll never have to be at the reaping again. And I was happy about that. Until you volunteered.”
“I couldn’t just leave you to face the arena by yourself.”
And suddenly I was angry.
“JOSEF, YOU CAN’T JUST THROW AWAY YOUR WHOLE FUTURE. NOT FOR ME. I DON’T CARE WHETHER I LIVE OR DIE, BUT I CARE ABOUT YOU. AND THERE ARE 24 GOING INTO THAT ARENA, AND YOU AND I BOTH KNOW IT’S NOT GOING TO BE EITHER OF US. SO I WISH YOU’D NEVER VOLUNTEERED, BECAUSE THEN I’D BE ABLE TO DIE IN PEACE, WITH THE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOU’LL NEVER HAVE TO GO THROUGH THIS!”
I took a deep breath, then said: “I care about you Josef. Your life means more to me than my own.”
Josef was sitting speechless throughout me yelling at him. Now he turns to me, his face streaked with tears and sorrow and regret. But still he doesn’t say anything.
I think I’ve made him angry. I’m so sorry Josef. But I’d already accepted my fate, but now you’ve made bearing it worse, knowing I’ll lose you too. I love you too much to lose you.
Our hour is up, so the peacekeepers usher us onto the train. I take one last look at District 7, drinking it all in, then Josef takes my hand and pulls me on board. It’s only when the door closes that the realisation fully hits me that this is the last time I will ever see my home.
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