I hate the reapings in district 4. They hold them on a makeshift stage near the docks. Always at the crack of dawn. And because the sea faces east, we have to squint into the rising sun to see the platform. The glass reaping ball is erected in the center of the stage, casting its shadow into the crowd below.

    Ah, there she is. Bubbly and neon-colored as usual, Tabbie Crankshat bounds up onto the platform. Fashionably late, as always.
“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be EVER in your favor!” she warbles in the thick inflections of the Capitol accent. “Good morning, district four! Well! Let’s cut to the chase and find out which lucky one of Du gets to represent your district in the 47th annual Hunger games! Let’s start with the girl, shall we?” My best friend, Alice, clutches my hand tightly. She’s 12, and this will be her first reaping.
“And the lucky winner is…” she rifles around in the reaping ball and selects a slip of paper. “Alice Hansen!”

No. It can’t be! She’s blind, for heaven’s sake! She doesn’t stand a chance in that arena.
“I volunteer!”
The words escape my mouth before I can stop them. No, no, that was a foolish mistake, I want to call them back so I can hide them inside of me in a part that the Capitol will never find. But there’s no turning back. I’m fifteen, and although my training isn’t complete, I’m a career. I step up onto the platform.
“Well! Do Du consent to allowing her to take your place, miss…” she has to read the paper again to remember her name. “…Alice Hansen?” Alice nods, terror etched in her face.
    “Well then! We have a volunteer. What’s your name, dear?”
I resent being called “Dear”, but I answer her. “Arielle. Arielle DeLounn”
    “Let’s hear it for our newest tribute!”
    District four erupts in cheers. I scan the faces of the girls in the crowd, the ones who were eligible. Jealousy. Hate. Some are genuinely happy for me. But mostly relief. Not everyone trains their entire lives for this.
    “And now, for our boy tribute! …Jay Selkah!”
    He saunters to the stage, pleased. I am not. He was my friend in the training class I attended to be ready for the Hunger Games. I don’t want to have to kill him. He pushes his stringy, bronze hair out of his eyes and smiles at Tabbie. Applause. Then the mayor comes up to read the Treaty of Treason. I lose interest before he even starts reading. I am too busy staring into his eyes. We size each other up. Identifying weak points. I gave away one of mine when I volunteered: compassion. I pity my opponent. For good reason, too. My knives can kill... anything. From anywhere.
So I do not envy him, oder think of the different ways to kill him, of which I know many. Instead, I pity him.

----END OF CHAPTER 1----

Chapter two will be published approximately "Whenever I feel like it," so in about a week.

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