Paisley Flax – 16 Years Old

District 8 Female

I start gathering one side of my hair from the top of my ears to my temples.

When I'm done gathering it all to one side, I start loosely braiding the section of my hair. With a white ribbon my mother provided me, I secure it at the nape of my neck. I quickly tuck the ends so they're hidden well and don't stand out, and then I do the same thing for the other side of my hair. It's quite an easy and quick process that I don't have to linger on.

When I'm done with my hair, I look in the mirror to examine myself and see if I made any mistakes. Nothing appears to be noticeable at first, but the longer I look at myself, the more nervous I suddenly begin to feel. Maybe it's because the Reaping is today, or maybe it's because I didn't tuck in the loose strands just right enough.

It's weird to be doing my own hair now, I'm not quite used to the feeling of styling it with my own hands. It's like I've suddenly entered a whole new world of responsibility. I know it's just hair, but it's kind of weird for me to be the one caring for it.

When I was younger, my mom would do this for me since I didn't know how to style hair properly. I used to sit on her lap and sit as still as possible when she began her routine. Her hands were quick and swift, moving so fast that before I knew it she was already done. I don't know how she did it, but I think it's because she's been working with female clients for so many years in the shop that she knows how hair works just as much as clothes.

I think my mom enjoyed it when she did my hair. She was always humming to herself as she worked, smiling as she weaved my hair in and out with her hands. She seemed to really love doing it, which is one of the reasons I asked her to stop and let me do it this year. I still love my mother dearly, but sometimes she can be just a little bit too overbearing about things, especially when it comes to me and my brother Loden.

I stare in the mirror a little bit longer before gathering my reaping clothes and putting them on quickly. My clothes consist of a white cotton dress that falls to my knees, clinched to the waist and then flowing outward with puffed-up sleeves. I put on some nice-looking black flats for my feet, and my outfit is complete.

To be wearing something so formal right now, especially in District Eight where almost half the district looks like an ugly ruin feels odd to me. There's just something about standing there every year at the Justice Building wearing dresses and suits. Everyone stands out like a set of sore thumbs, glowing sore thumbs that shine in the sun.

Sometimes, when I'm really tired of all the smoke and smog in the sky produced by all the factories, I start to dream about living in District One. But then I always shake the thought away from my head because living in a career district sounds unbearable. Besides, I don't think Loden or anyone else in my family would be too happy living in a career district either. District Eight, whether I like it or not, is my home.

When I'm done getting dressed, I do a quick spin and inspect myself. Everything looks like it's in place. My hair's done, my dress is on. And yet I still feel like I'm missing something. I can't quite tell what it is, but I know it's something…

A stressed sigh escapes my lips as I quickly straighten everything out again. Despite my unease, I have to stay calm today. No matter how stressed I am, being worried during the reaping would put everyone into a heightened state of nervousness. I have to appear calm and collected, at least for my family's sake. I know mom would never let it go if she knew I was nervous…

Speaking of mom, I can hear her out in the kitchen preparing breakfast right now. The smell of whatever she's making is warm and toasty. It's entering my room right now, which means it's also entering my father's and Loden's rooms. Pretty soon they'll be barreling down the hallway trying to claim a seat at the table, and all of us will be joking around trying to lighten the mood.

I better finish up and get there if that's going to happen though,

After a bit more time, I finally finish up and enter into the hall outside. Everyone's doors are closed, but a nice snapping smell exits from the kitchen. I have no idea what mom is making, but whatever it smells amazing enough to make my stomach growl. She must be working hard on it since the pot and pans are clanking a lot out there.

I make my way out of the hall and into the dining room of the house, where I notice that the table has been already prepared with plates and cups for everyone. Nothing is on those plates yet, but they shine because of that. The dining room has a clear view of the kitchen, where I see a certain someone as the stove doing their best to arrange everything,

Instead of seeing the gorgeous brown locks of my mother flying around the kitchen, I see the clean wavy hair of my brother as he stands near the stove preparing… something.

I'm honestly quite surprised and amused seeing my brother attempt to cook. He's usually really smart, and can usually crack down problems like it's nobody's business. But give him a pan and something to stir the water with and he looks just as lost as a butterfly in a parade. He once tried to follow the path of being a chef a few years ago, and while the result of his meal wasn't bad, it was leagues under our mother's usual quality of food.

It's funny to see him attempt to cook, but also kind of touching when remembering what day it is.

Seeing him in one of his concentrated states, I attempt to back away back to my room when he suddenly turns around. I don't know how he noticed me, but he makes eye contact with me. His eyes widen at me before he quickly turns away to turn down the oven heat.

"M-morning Paisley!" he stutters, "d-did I wake you?"

His nervous tone almost makes me chuckle a bit in reply.

"Nope," I answer, "I just got up a bit ago from a couple of birds outside."

Even though he has his head turned around now, I can tell that he's rolling his eyes when I say that.

"You sure that was all that woke you?" he says.

"Well," I start, "if you're asking if your noisy cooking skills interrupted my beauty sleep, then no, Loden, they didn't."

My ears detect a quick sigh escaping Loden's mouth.

"Good, at least I can breathe easy knowing that now."

He quickly grabs a big spoon and starts to stir whatever is inside the pot. He focuses right back into it, without even blinking an eye. Usually with anyone else that would be a signal to end the conversation. But for me, I usually just ignore it and try to make more small talk.

"Did you sleep well, Loden?" I ask.

He barely bats an eye off of the dish he's making as he answers.

"Well, I slept as well as I could get knowing that the Reaping is today," he answers casually.

A slight chill goes down my spine from his mentioning the Reaping alone, but I attempt to pass it off as quickly as I can.

"At least it's for a day," I reply. "Then we won't have to worry about it for another year."

"There's still the games we have to watch though," he mentions, "not looking forward to that either…"

The same chill comes back again, only this time I can't suppress it and I start to shake in my dress.

"Yeah, that's bad as well," I say. "But at least it won't be us in there."

Loden stops stirring for just a moment before looking back at me,

"Well, how could you know that for sure?" Loden responds.

A bit of time passes before I respond, and it's honestly really difficult coming up with a reply. I'm definitely not sure if we'll be selected this year or not, but somehow, there's just a certain part of me that is sure we won't be.

"I just have a feeling, you know?" I explain, "Like a positive feeling that you know for sure is going to happen."

I look over to Loden to see him still stirring away in the pot, but now he looks slightly bit more relaxed.

"It doesn't sound too crazy, I guess," he responds. "So hopefully your feeling is right."

"You know it usually is," I say, beaming with a smile.

He rolls his eyes again before he finally finishes stirring

"Okay then, can you tell me what you feel about this dish?" he asks.

I happily oblige to Loden's request and move toward him to inspect the dish he's preparing for everyone. It's bright red tomato stew, which is filled with some bobbing carrots inside for extra nutrition.

Even though he's no cooking master, it honestly looks kind of edible. But of course I can't let him know that, so I take a cautious approach to it.

"It looks passable…" I say.

A confused look enters his eyes.

"Really? Is it that bad?" he says.

"Oh no, it totally looks okay," I say, "it's just that it looks way too red. And you may have overdone it with the carrots a bit. And there might be too much water in there."

Loden quickly covers his eyes with his hands and sighs deeply while shaking his head.

"Now I know to never take advice from Lupica Reeds cookbooks," he says.

Despite his answer, he grabs the pot and pours it into the four bowls nearby anyway. The red liquid rushed into the pans, as the carrots quickly disappear under its surface before bobbing back up again. The orange little bits of vegetables glisten in the stew, shining brightly as if they were cut recently.

"You think mom would approve it?" he asks.

We both stare at the steaming bowls for a bit before we start to giggle at the thought of mom seeing it.

Loden Flax – 16 Years Old

District 8 Male

I wake up as the sun's brilliant light shines through my window.

It's a magnificent sight, with the golden rays shooting through the glass, scattering all over my bedroom floor. Heat radiates off the light, giving me a pleasant feeling of satisfaction and comfort. In its light, I can see dust particles floating around, creating swirls of patterns and dances to keep my emerald eyes occupied. It truly is an amazing sight to behold.

Paisley would probably adore looking at this. Seeing the orange and gold of the sun mix together to shine inside my room. Sadly, she's stuck two bedrooms away from me, facing away from the rising sun. Her window points toward the backyard, while mine stares out into the front where a little row of houses stands. Some of the houses are our neighbors', and I know some of them pretty well.

Despite living in the smoggy-filled world of District Eight, the neighborhood we live in isn't too bad. The clouds are still brown and ugly, but everything else looks okay. From the green little plants that dot neighbors front yards, to the glistening paint on some of our houses, everything looks pretty good, all things considered. Staying in this place could almost make you forget you were living in a factory filled wasteland.

When I stare outside the window, I find no one else out greeting the day. Why would they during a time like this? They all must be dreading it just like me. When it's Reaping day, people my age usually always dread it since it could be their year. So everyone must be staying in until the "big hour" as my dad likes to say. If only that hour wasn't so horrifying for everyone.

No one else is up in the house yet, or at least, I don't think so. It's hard to tell with the thick walls we have between our rooms. Someone could be screaming at the top of their lungs, and in another room, it could sound like a tiny mouse squeaking.

I hop out of bed when I'm done staring outside and immediately start getting ready. The Reaping isn't until a couple of hours, but it's better to be prepared earlier rather than rushing at the last second. I head over to my wardrobe where my reaping outfit waits for me. I spent a big chunk of last night preparing it so no time would be wasted when I woke up.

It's quite simple really, just a white button-down shirt with ironed brown slacks. I also get a nice little bowtie that fits with the dark brown color of my dress shoes. There's no time wasted at all, and before I know it I'm already brushing my hair, trying to make it not look like a train wreck. It's hard to get it the way I want since there's always almost that one piece of hair that just won't cooperate with the brush. Eventually, it stays down and I move onto brushing my teeth.

Everything has to be perfect for today since it's the Reaping. We're essentially required to dress nice, look nice, and be nice above all else. If anything other than those three things happens during the Reaping then the peacekeepers are going to have some problems. I never would plan to break the rules in the first place, but the peacekeepers are inclined to remind us all the time.

Then, once they established their rules, we have to stand around for a bit as the mayor introduces herself and the victors. Then she makes a little speech before the escort finally comes out and reaps the poor unfortunate souls to take tribute in the games. Then it all ends, and we're subjected to watch it all on national television.

It's a sick twisted thing that happens every year, and yet there's no way we can stop it. It's upsetting, but what is there to do? Fight back? We tried that, but look what happened instead. Run away? We'd be hunted down instantly by the capitol.

I wish this wasn't our reality. But it is, and I live in it. My entire family lives in it. And there's nothing we can do.

I'm suddenly back in the real world when I feel my hands start to hurt from gripping onto the toothbrush. I quickly relax my hand and start washing away all the paste from my mouth and toothbrush. It takes very little time, and before long I'm simply staring at myself in the mirror wondering what to do now.

There's usually nothing you can do this early in the morning except sit around and marvel about how pretty the sky looks. But in this house there's always something that needs to be done. Like cleaning, or cooking, or running our shop.

Since the house is pretty much spotless, and the shop is closed for today, I think it's best to try and make some breakfast for everyone by the time they get up. I've got some experience with cooking, even if it is very minor and most of my family agreed that my mom should be the one cooking instead.

It's something to do, at least until the reaping bell finally tolls.

Paisley Flax – 16 Years Old

District 8 Female

Today, all the factories are shut down.

It's weird to see nothing functioning in the district as my family and I walk down the road toward the Reaping. There are no black pillars of smoke billowing out of the machines, nor are there any sparks or engine noises churning out behind closed doors. Everything is dead quiet as we walk, which is slightly uncomfortable for me.

Mom and Dad don't seem to notice how dead everything around us is since they both just talk to each other silently. Loden doesn't seem to mind either, as he walks along, humming the tune of a song that I don't recognize. He seems content singing it, which is good because the last thing I want for my brother to feel is stress right now. I wish I had something to calm me down, but the closer we get to the square, the more nervous I begin to feel.

We get closer to the square until eventually, the Justice Building comes into view. In District Eight, the Justice Building is a horrid sight, and not only because it's the place where the Reaping is held. The building itself is in better shape than the factories, but it's still quite dirty. Dead vines surround some pillars, and bits and pieces of grass grow in the cracks of the windows. It matches in nicely with the rest of the ugly scenes of the district, properly-being the mighty set piece of all of it as well.

There are a lot of families near the Justice Building waiting to get their fingers pricked. A couple of kids go straight in line when they arrive, while others mingle and chat with everyone else before the peacekeepers start forcing them to check in. Despite the current situation, everyone seems surprisingly calm.

I do a quick scan around the crowd, but find none of my friends are nearby. They either must've gone in without me or are hiding somewhere.

"Okay, so, Loden and Paisley, you know the drill for the Reaping right?" Mom asks when we get closer. "I don't need to remind you what to do?"

"Stick together and go to your designated sections when your blood is drawn…" Loden starts.

"Pay attention to the Reaping and then meet you guys at the shop when it's all done," I finish.

"Okay, good," she says, "Do you remember-"

"Mom, Loden and I will be just fine," I cut her off quickly. "We've been doing this for five years now. I'm pretty sure we can handle it."

Mom doesn't seem so sure, and only backs off when Dad holds her hand reassuringly.

"They'll be okay, honey," he says.

"We promise Mom," I say. "You don't have to worry about us."

Mom hesitates for a split second before hugging both me and Loden goodbye.

When we're all done, Loden and I quickly head into the line to get our blood drawn. It's a really long line, and it takes a full three minutes before me and Loden finally get to the front.

Before it's Loden's turned to get in, we both hug each other for good luck.

"See you soon," I say, "and stay safe or else mom will kill me,"

"I'll try," he says, "I tend to stay out of trouble anyway."

With that out of the way, he quickly gets his blood drawn and sent to his section. I quickly go up next and tell the very huge looking peacekeeper my name. They draw my blood then I take my place over with all the other sixteen-year-old girls.

No one talks for a while as we wait for everyone to file into their sections. I just stand there quietly while attempting to make small talk with the girl next to me, who seems even more freaked out than me. I teach her a little tune that someone taught me, and she and I sing it together until she's calm enough to breathe normally.

A few more minutes pass before Nadia Mormon, the mayor of District Eight, walks out. She does the normal introduction about how exciting this year's Hunger Games are going to be, and then she reads the required speech that almost every district mayor reads.

Then the victors are introduced, and everyone goes silent as they both stand up.

All eyes are on Calico Cruz, who stands there looking down on the rest of us. It's hard not to look at him if you're from District Eight and know his history. Even I know it a little bit too well if I'm being honest. I still remember his gruesome kills during his time in the arena. It makes me just shudder thinking about the things he did.

After the victors are introduced, they quickly sit down and the escort comes waltzing out. This year, it's a really tall thin man, who has wild black hair and wears a sparkly green suit. Honestly, he looks way more suited to escort any other district then eight, but he doesn't seem to really mind the district he's in and gives a smile as continues the Reaping.

"Hello, everyone!" the escort said. "It's so nice to be seeing you all here today! Especially considering how smoggy it is outside…"

Everyone just stares at the escort, which causes him to adjust his tie. Maybe he's nervous.

"I um, I-I guess we shouldn't delay now," the escort continues. "Let's get the Reaping started shall we?"

The strange feeling in my stomach returns again as I watched the escort sticks his hand into the girl's bowl. All of us were silent, holding our breath, waiting for the slip to be found. I think one girl beside me was holding my hand to maintain balance, and I didn't dare let go of hers either. It felt as if no one was breathing at all, even some of the boys weren't.

The escort found a slip. On it contained a name. Whoever's chosen will either be completely devastated or try to maintain their cool. I don't know if I could ever calm down if I was the one chosen, especially since-

"The female tribute for District Eight is Paisley Flax," the escort announced.

Everyone goes quiet now.

For a moment, I'm speechless. Which is terrifying because I always found myself being able to say something even in a horrible situation. My skin turns pale white, and everything starts to become blurry. I think the girl beside me has let go of my hand now, I can't really tell. Am I moving? Maybe, I feel my legs walking back and forth toward the stage.

I pass by so many people I know on my way up, even passing by some of my friends who all shoot sad looks for me. They can tell, right? I'm going to die. They all know that. That's why they're staring at me like that. I wish they wouldn't write me off so quickly, but right now I barely feel confident in myself at all. I'm going into the literal bloodbath this year.

I barely even notice that I'm standing on the stage until the voice of the escort suddenly booms right beside me.

"Does anyone want to volunteer?" the escort says.

No one even glances at the stage.

In this situation, the best thing you could do is try and stay calm. But right now I feel like throwing up, or passing out, or doing whatever other tributes do on stage when they're nervous.

My family can't be doing any better than I am. I bet my mother is screaming as Dad tries to calm her down. Loden must be shocked, or at least angry. I wish I was with them, but I'll have a chance to meet them again when we say goodbye. That will be the last time I'll ever see them…

"Let's see which lucky lad gets paired up with this young lady," the escort exclaims. "Boys, you're up next!"

My attention turns over to the escort now as his hand digs around in the boy bowl. Loden's name is somewhere in there along with all those other slips. Oh god, if he was chosen alongside me, I don't think I could ever forgive this world. Please, let it be someone else, anyone else but Loden…

The escort grabs a slip and quickly unfolds it. I try to see whose name is written on it, but he calls it out before I can register then handwriting.

"Oh wow! What an extremely lucky duo we have this year!" the escort says. "Loden Flax is entering as this year's male tribute for District Eight!"

And that's when time suddenly stops. For thirteen years straight I've sat through these Reapings, and the likelihood that a pair of siblings would be reaped together was always close to zero percent. Sure, sometimes other siblings volunteer to help their brother or sister, but they were never reaped! It was always a choice to join them, never a necessity!

Yet there I was, watching my pale-faced brother quietly climb the steps and take his place for slaughter.

"N-No!" I shout. "T-there must be a mistake!"

"The card does not lie, sweetie," the escort says. "Anyway, District Eight I give you your-"

"W-wait! You have to ask for volunteers!" I cry out. "Please! Someone, you have to volunteer for him! Please!"

I scan the crowd, looking for anyone who might be willing to volunteer and save my brother. No one even glances at the stage. Everyone looks away, either out of guilt or because they just don't care enough.

This can't be real…

"As I was saying," the escort continues. "I present you your tributes of District Eight! Paisley and Loden Flax!"

Everyone claps, but I can see in their eyes none of them really want to. They look like they're about to throw up right now, just like me. I think I might've to if it wasn't for Loden holding my hand and reminding me where I was right now.

Either one of us gets to go home, or we'll both die together in the arena. Both sound equally bad, but right now I can't think about that.

We'll both just have to take it one step at a time now…

Loden Flax – 16 Years Old

District 8 Male

Am I scared of the Reaping?

Well, yes but also, kind of no. It's not like I'm ever excited for it to happen, but I also don't painfully dread it like so many other people do. My sister is terrified of the Reaping entirely, but I'm not like her. I don't fear the Reaping. At least, not in the sense where I keep thinking about it over and over again. I like my mind to wander instead of focusing on one topic. And focusing on one topic like the Reaping can get really depressing sometimes.

Which is why I switch my train of thought to focus on my surroundings instead. I take a look around and find Paisley walking beside me, twirling her fingers around. Our parents are behind us, talking about our little celebration dinner. Around us are other families, each differing in size and members.

I don't know any of the families personally, but I make an effort to pay attention to any striking details they have. One family travels with four children. Another has a total of seven kids with them. The family in front of us has three teenage girls, all of them identical besides their hair color. Behind us is a dark-skinned family with a baby and what appears to be an eleven-year-old boy.

Despite the numerous difference, all the families have in terms of appearance, I know that all of them must be emotionally terrified right now. The feeling of terror must grow inside them when the Justice Building comes in sight. It looms there like a tomb, awaiting for any explorers who would dare enter it.

Everyone gets quiet as we make it to the big crowd waiting to get their blood drawn. There are hundreds of people here. Way too many to count.

"Okay, so, Loden and Paisley, you know the drill for the Reaping right?" Mom asks when we get closer. "I don't need to remind you what to do?"

"Stick together and go to your designated sections when your blood is drawn…" I start.

"Pay attention to the Reaping and then meet you guys at the shop when it's all done," Paisley finishes.

Mom has made Paisley and I memorize those rules so many times that it's practically imprinted in our brains.

"Okay, good," she says. "Do you remember-"

Before Mom can finish what's she going to say, Paisley quickly cuts her off.

"Mom, me and Loden will be just fine," she replies. "We've been doing this for five years now. I'm pretty sure we can handle it."

Despite Paisley's reassuring answer, Mom is still unsure if she wants to leave us alone or not. This happens sometimes when we're at the Reaping, with one of us eventually having to convince. This year, it's Dad who is the one to calm her down. Mom always listens to him, even when he sometimes, though rarely, is wrong.

"Just stay safe you two," Mom says, giving us both big hugs before she lets us go.

When we're done saying goodbye, we enter the line for the Reaping. There are a ton of kids waiting for their blood to be drawn, so Paisley and I talk for a bit and crack some jokes as the number of kids starts to get smaller and smaller. Some are young and put up a fight, while others are older and get by so fast that you question if they were even there.

When it's my turn to go up, Paisley and I share one last goodbye hug.

"See you soon," she says, "and stay safe or else mom will kill me."

The chances of Paisley dying by our mother's hands was probably ten thousand to one, but I guess anything's possible, so I agree.

"I'll try," he says, "I tend to stay out of trouble anyway."

She nods with a huge sigh of relief, which makes me smile a bit before I head on ahead to get my blood drawn. I've done this five times before, so I'm in and out like it's nothing and quickly heading to my section with all the other boys. None of them speak to me, and I don't bother trying to spark any conversation, so I just go on humming some tunes I learned to pass the time.

A bit of time passes before the mayor finally comes out and gives her the required speech. She talks about the history of the games, previous victors, the great war that happened hundreds of years ago. Her speech stays mostly the same as all the other previous years she's done this, and soon the surviving victors start walking out.

District Eight isn't the best place to look at when it comes to the number of victors we have, but we do still have a considerable lineup. Currently, they're three victors alive in District Eight, with the most recent victor being Poppy Hadley two years ago. Out of the three victors we have, Cecelia Sanchez is the oldest one alive so far. While the most famous victor we have in District Eight is Calico Cruz, who is mostly known for the amount of people he killed in a brutal fashion during his games.

All of them are completely different in appearance and personality, but somehow they all survived through each other's mentorship.

The victors then sit down once they're introduced and finally the escort comes out. He looks normal for the most part, but he wears such an off-putting green suit that it makes me want to gag. It shines in the sun, almost blinding me due to how bright it is.

"Hello, everyone!" the escort said. "It's so nice to be seeing you all here today! Especially considering how smoggy it is outside…"

Nobody says anything to his comment.

"I um, I-I guess we shouldn't delay now," the escort continues. "Let's get the Reaping started shall we?"

Everyone in the girl's section stops moving as soon as the escort puts his hand in the bowl. Slips fly widely inside it, each containing the name of a single girl. Once he takes a slip out, someone here is not going to be coming back. I just pray that it's not Paisley.

The escort grabs a slip. My throat starts to feel dry. As long as it's not Paisley, I'll be fine. Please, just let it not be my sister. As long as it's not her everything will be-

"The female tribute for District Eight is Paisley Flax," the escort announced.

I think someone just punched me in my face, because now I'm falling over in shock. It happens so fast that nobody around me notices until I bump into another boy behind me. Any air that was in my body is gone now as I watch my sister being forced to walk to her certain death. She's going into the Hunger Games…

I never thought I would ever be saying that sentence, but here I am.

The escort asks for volunteers, but no one steps up. It makes sense why they wouldn't, but I'm still horrified that not even a single girl looks my sister's way. All of them are either too ashamed to look or fear that looking at her might cause them to give in. No one, not even her closest friends say anything as the escort shrugs and start searching through the boy's slips

I'm not paying attention though, because all I can see is my sisters face. She's definitely horrified right now, but she's trying so hard to hide it from everyone else. I can see it though, the terror on her face. When you've lived with someone for sixteen years, you know when they're in distress from one simple glance, and I can tell that my sister is feeling more than just distress right now.

How in the world will I get through these few weeks without her? We've almost never been apart, and now she's going to go into the hunger games of all places! What kind of world-

"Oh wow! What an extremely lucky duo we have this year!" the escort interrupts. "Loden Flax is entering as this year's male tribute for District Eight!"

Twenty-three words. That's all it takes for my heart to stop beating, for my lungs to stop breathing. Everything in the world just stops, because of those twenty-three words the escort just said. Somehow, out of the hundreds of thousands of boys that live in this district, somehow I was the one that got chosen. Not to mention, out of everyone in this district, I got chosen along with my own sister.

The odds are so completely improbable that I didn't even bother to think of it becoming a reality. Yet here we are, with my sister on the stage, and my name being called.

Is it selfish of me to be terrified right now? Even though my sister is up there, is it so wrong for me to be more terrified of losing my life more than her? It's all happening so fast that I can't even question the morality of the situation, and yet I'm thinking of my own life rather than my sister…

I don't feel like I can move, but somehow I find the strength to make my way toward the stage. I can't even glance at my sister because I know she must be just as terrified as me. I think of speaking to her, trying to calm her down in some way, but nothing comes to mind at all. I have nothing else to say anymore.

But Paisley does.

"N-No!" Paisley shouts. "T-there must be a mistake!"

I can see the escort roll his eyes in annoyance.

"The card does not lie, sweetie," the escort says. "Anyway, District Eight I give you your-"

"W-wait! You have to ask for volunteers!" she cries out, "please! Someone, you have to volunteer for him! Please!"

I don't have to look at the crowd to know that nobody even attempts to raise their hand. They didn't for my sister, so why would it be different with me? It wouldn't, and now me and her are going into the games together…

"As I was saying," the escort continues. "I present you your tributes of District Eight! Paisley and Loden Flax!"

The crowd gives a half-hearted clap in response, but I don't pay any attention to them now. All I know is that me and my sister are stuck in the games, and there is no way out for us anymore. Either one of us win, or we both die. Both choices are equally bad in all honesty, but there's nothing else we can do.

I hold my sister's hand tight, and she grips onto mine as well.

We're both going to the games.

And those words alone terrify me.

Yeah... this update schedule is really inexcusable.

Sorry for being gone for five months. I was mostly preparing for High school, in which most of my classes require a lot of stuff. I'm going to try and keep writing the next reaping chapters, but with school starting, it might take even longer until the next update. Again, sorry for the absence. Honestly, I realize now that these authors notes are just me apologizing for my long absence. Man...

Anyway, I hoped you guys liked Paisley and Loden from call me calamity. This is our second set of twins, and I had a blast writing them! Our next stop on this freaking year long journey is District 9! See you guys then!

Take Care