Repost: I originally posted this story in 2013. A few weeks ago some kind of spam-bot mucked it all up, so I had to delete the original.
After having seen Catching Fire, I exited the theater with a strange, disturbing thought inextricably stuck in my mind. It was awful, but it made so much sense that I just couldn't shake it. Warning, this story is quite dark.
You wake up early in the day of the Reaping. Your bare feet are silent on the equally bare floor as you step into the child's bedroom, shake her gently by the shoulder, wake her with a smile that falters on your lips. She is warm with sleep. You've never seen a child so beautiful.
You dress, layers of washed-out grey. Below the last layer, cold against the stretch-marked flesh of your stomach, you've strapped a knife. You don't – can't bear to justify why, to put words to the unthinkable. 'It's just in case', you tell yourself, not answering the small voice that begs, 'in case of what?'
Standing in the square, amid the crowd, you remember your first Reaping, twenty-six years ago. As a child, there was a glimmer of excitement buried in your fear. 'What if they pick me?' you would wonder, with fear and secret hope. Now, as you learned in your first Reaping as a parent, there is only fear. You stand perfectly still and grip your child's hand. Don't take her, don't take her, don't take her.
There is a moment of tension that lasts a thousand years. A name is called, syllables shattering over your head. It is your daughter's.
You have only five minutes to say goodbye, five minutes for last embraces. You hold her close, pull her in as if to reabsorb her, to pull her back to where she was safe inside of you, and, as you do, you slide the knife between her ribs. You do it with love, which is more than she will get from any of those people. Your baby will not die alone and gasping, brutalized and frightened in a wood or a desert or a swamp. She will stay here, in your arms. She is yours and they can't have her.
Thanks for reading. Please tell me what you think.