April 10th 3001, Australia
I grip onto Daddy’s hand as he leads me through the crowd. They’re all in orderly rows, like soldiers that I’ve seen in movies. There’s a bunch of men at the front, keeping them away from the coast; the only way out. The people are asking why they can’t leave. The men just shake their heads. Daddy holds onto his heavy suitcase, as I do the same with my smaller one. There wasn’t much to pack, after most of our things were burned. The same day, Mummy was taken away.
There’s a gap in between some of the men keeping the people in, but they’re replaced with a fence that reaches the sky. If you touch it, then you burn. I saw a man trying to climb it. He dropped and didn’t move after the first touch. We stop at the end of the fence, where there are not so many people. We walk over to the edge of the fence, where Uncle John, Aunty Cath, and my cousins –Susie and Nick- are waiting, along with a few other people I don’t know. They’re all carrying suitcases too. Uncle John drops down and takes out a big boulder from the fence when nobody else is looking, and pushes his suitcase through before he wriggles under, to the other side. I stare, wide-eyed, as everyone else follows him. A tunnel. They’ve dug a tunnel. Daddy motions for me to do the same. I slide my belongings under and push myself after it. I emerge the other end, waiting for him. A bag…then a head…the arms…body…and legs push through eventually. Uncle John puts the boulder back, and we turn to the coast, just before the frenzy.
After five minutes, we race to a boat drifting on the choppy Pacific Ocean. We haul ourselves onto the deck, then underneath. The boat sets off immediately; we must be in a hurry. Someone has brought a radio, and we all gather around it. There’s a crackling sound, then a faint voice.
“A wild crowd has gathered in Australia, hungry for the blood of others! The army forces of North and South America have set out on a mission to calm down the people. Or put an end to their voices…forever.
As a health and safety regulation, all contact and transport services have been shut down between each country. All countries will be sealed from one another to avoid any fights breaking out. I’m Amanda Tyler, have a good afternoon.”
“Lies!” A man jumps up from his chair. “They’re lying! They’re gonna shut off each country from another! We’re dead! We’re DEAD!”
“Hush, Isaiah” Says a wrinkled woman. “We’re only dead if we don’t find land and safety in the next week.”
“A week! Ha! If you think we have a week, you must be delusional!” The man –Isaiah- drops his voice low, as if there’s an enemy (or teacher) nearby. “I’ve heard rumours…whispers about these people. They dress and look absurd- frilly frocks and pink eyes- but they’re like ninjas. They sneak into your life and take over. Soon, they’ll dominate, soon they’ll rule the world.”
“Oooh, and I’ll have turned into a cow by then!” A man murmurs close to me, which starts a few laughs. I stare straight ahead. We’re going somewhere safe now. We’re going to have a new life…a new home. Everything will be back to normal.
And then the bombs start dropping.
April 12th 3009, New Firelock (Russia)
Another bullet comes sailing through the air at me. I leap over it and dodge another metal disk that comes sailing towards me. If my father was alive, I’m not sure if he’d be proud of me, or if he’d be yelling at me to get out of there. As it was, I ignored the reasonable part of my brain. The one that always says: “What would your parents think?” I can only hope they’d be cheering me on. At least they’re not shooting beside me, even if my cousins are. Another bullet. And another. And another.
I’m almost getting bored. It’s the same thing over again. Dodge, shoot, dodge, shoot… A hovercraft speeds towards me, its sides turning razor sharp before my eyes. Before it can touch me, I jump on top of it, crouching and opening the tiny box at the top. “Red wire, blue wire…” I chant softly, snipping the wires in turn. The craft freezes in the air, blades retracting, and then drops. Before it can hit the ground though, I leap off and catch it, grunting under the weight. There’s only one hovercraft left. The Capital must have decided to shorten the supplies going out to the Resistance. I lift my PDW up, and fire point-blank. It’s a lower level then some of the others, and zips through the air, before dropping. I haul the hovercraft I caught into what’s left of the forest. Following the river, I turn left, into a denser part of the forest, and drop it in between two pines. I bring out my “pocket tools”, as we call it, and twist the red and blue wires together. I tap the connection board once…twice, and pull out the green wire.
At first nothing happens. Then, with a tiny buzz, the hovercraft does a jump in the air. I jump up too, and cry out in joy, before doing a little dance around it. I’ve been practicing for a while now, trying to turn the enemy crafts around (not that I’m some sort of techno-genius or anything) and get them to work for us. All evidence of past experiments, I’ve dumped in the scrap-metal heap. Who knows, someone else might need it.
I turn back to study my work, screwing the box securely in place. It seems smooth on the outside, but I know that it holds secrets inside. There’s a blade for the sides, a pistol, and sharp metal discs hidden in the work. Maybe in time, I can try to access them too. “Erm…down, please.” I say uncertainly. How do you train a new hovercraft? Is it like training a dog? I never had a dog, even back home… I snap myself back before I start remembering everything. “Down. Now.” This time, I sound more commanding. It glides down, hesitantly. I place my left foot on top. Then my right. When I’m securely on top of it, I whisper. “Okay. Go!” It obeys. I race out of the dense forest, up into the chilly air of New Firelock. Then down, towards the twisting river. “Woah! Slow down! Slow down!” I yell, terrified I’m going to fall off. Immediately, it slows down, shuddering a bit, making me remember the unnatural earthquakes that the Capital had introduced to New Firelock. “Good. Now, left.” The machine drifted carefully to the left. We were flying smoothly now, the gentle breeze whispering in my ear. It was beautiful. I haven’t been so happy since…well, since ever.
After a few more minutes, we flittered back in between the two pines. I jumped off the craft and turned back. “Good…uh…thingy,” I’d have to come up with a name for it later. “Now stay here, and wait for me until I come back.”
I walk backwards; making sure it wouldn't attack me. It stays hidden between the pines. Finally, satisfied, I turn and head towards camp. I check the skies, to see if there is any sign of life. Once, these skies would have been filled with the proud cries of eagles and the songs of mockingjays- mutant birds that were a failure on the behalf of the Capital. But the enemy had long since obliterated the winged beauties, and even as my heart ached to hear them sing another person's song, they never flew, or showed themselves, ever again. I can only hope that one day they start to fly again.
My name is Jade-Nakoma. Jade means courage, and Nakoma means warrior; the fearless warrior. I guess my parents squeezed both names in, because they liked them both so much. My parents...God, they seem so far away now, drifting away with other people from the past. I can't remember much from those times, I was only six back then. But I've learnt the story of our world well, so I've just pieced the fragments of my memory together, trying to make sense of them. I repeat the simple facts, and go on from there...
My parents are dead. My mum died when I was three. Soldiers from the Capital broke into our house and burnt everything they saw, and then they took her away. The Capital had been brewing for a while, waiting and bidding it's time. And it decided to strike then. They propelled themselves forward, using their high-tec weaponry, and using their men like pawns. But they made a mistake; they misjudged us. The Capital targeted Australia, hitting us with everything they had. But we sensed the sudden threat, and soon, forces from America and England were lending a hand to our troops. The Capital sank down again, with all their men dead and their machines destroyed. But then, three years later, they attacked again. This time, everything fit into place for them. Antarctica was melting, the ice liquefying and the fauna dying. The water levels were rising dangerously, threatening to sink Australia. The Capital had spies working in other countries, working like any other regular citizen would. So they came back to Australia, sealing us off from everyone else. When we realized what was happening, it was too late. The Capital had surrounded us, waiting for the sea to overwhelm our country. The spies working overseas called the frantic crowds "mad" and "aggressive", and, using the people's fears against them, encouraged each country to seal off from one another. Then, the Capital hit each country with their machines, not their soldiers and taking the survivors back to North America, adjusting the name to "Panem". Even if they had known in advance, they wouldn't have stood a chance.
Meanwhile, Australia had been drowned under below freezing water; it's people with it. But we were long gone by then. "We", meaning my dad, my uncle, aunt, cousins, a few trusted friends, and me. We had cut a hole in the electric fence -providing an exit if we wriggled underneath- and had left an old ship by the docks. We set off North, to Russia, where some friends were- whether they were alive or not was another complication we would deal with later. But, somehow, the Capitol had found out. They sent out a hovercraft and bombed our ship, killing a quarter of its passengers- including my father. Out of all mixed feelings I now feel towards him, the strongest is guilt. He had been there for me when we knew mum had died, I only wish I could have been there for him when he did.
The survivors were left for dead, but the Capital made that mistake too. We grouped up- me, Uncle John, Aunty Cath, cousins Susie and Nick, and a few others. We rafted a boat with what was left, and paddled North- knowing turning back was not an option anymore. There was nothing left for us. We reached the shores of the Sea of Okhotsk, and went northwest from there, according to directions from Uncle John. When we reached camp, it was already burnt down. We began to despair and, in a final attempt of hope, followed the Lena River upwards. I was seven by then, even if I wasn't exactly sure of my birth date. None of us were sure about anything by then. We branched off to the right, into the woods that hadn't been burnt down. The rest is a blur, but I remember the first face I saw in the forest; Aloysha -defender of humanity. He led us all back to camp, where the people left from the bombing had set up once more.
We have stayed there ever since, trying to contact any other Resistances that might be out there.
I turn left, reaching the camouflage door that peeps out from a thick oak. The wood creaks in a comforting way, as if it's greeting me from my "small errand", as Aloysha would say in his thick Russian accent. But his face doesn't greet me when I enter camp; this time it's another boy- one that escaped with me from Australia. "Hey Jade," Israel says teasingly. "Didn't think it would take you so long to kill a few Capital crafts." I shrug it off, and push my way through. The camp itself is amazingly well hidden; built into adjoining trees. With different levels as the trunks wind up higher and higher... And, somehow, they have even managed to organize different trees for different activities. One is for training, one for the kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, and one for recreational activities and school. We even have a small pen for the animals we find: rabbits, hares and grouse. There is an amphitheater outside between the second and third tree that was used for council meetings and announcements. Sometimes, we have performances here on special days. But now most of our time is taken up training to fight the enemy, going to school, and surviving on what we can find. Usually vegetables and herbs we grow, chopped into boiling water from the river. We call it "soup", even though it's 3/4 water, and 1/4 whatever else we have. On very rare occasions, we find mammals crawling around the forest, and add them to our soup too. I believe that the wildlife of Russia is still out there. Maybe it's just a fantasy, a shred of hope to cling onto; just like how so many people wish for a savior to end the Capital.
It’s evening, and everyone is crammed into the dining room. Some are chatting casually, others fitting food into their mouths and some are huddled to a table, picking at their soup. I drift over to the counter, where the lady serving smiles at me, whilst offering a bowl of thin, watery soup. “We’ve got meat today,” she chatters excitedly. “Otter! Can you believe it? We found it by the stream, dead of course, but still fresh.” I smile back, and pick up my bowl, moving towards an empty table but an arm snakes out and grips mine. I’m steered away by an over excited Aloysha to a table holding Israel, Susie, Nick and a few others who I’m not familiar with. They all nod to us respectfully as we sit down- especially Aloysha. “What’s wrong?” I get into the topic, having no time for small talk. Aloysha follows my lead, gesturing to a boy opposite me. “This is Aaron. He escaped from Canada three years ago, on the way he picked up some useful information.” Aaron nods before breaking into his story. “We were hiding in an abandoned house, in the Capital, where we starved everyday. Eventually, we decided we couldn’t live like this anymore, and made ourselves look like Capital people- with fancy, colorful clothes and absurd face paint.
“We started living like Capital people, and eventually, some believed that we were Capital citizens. I couldn’t live like that, knowing what some of them did, and so I ran away, with some other friends” He motions to the unfamiliar faces surrounding his. “But we found out some useful facts before we left.” We all lean in, completely drawn into his story. “First of all, the Capital owns a division of districts from one to twelve. Each district produces something of importance to the Capital; like District Twelve represents coal mining, and District Eleven represents agriculture.
“There used to be a District Thirteen, but…”
“But they burned it down.” A hard-faced woman next to Aaron finishes for him. “The Capital burnt it and everyone living there as a warning to everyone else who dreamt of rebellion. The Districts became afraid, and made an agreement with the Capital. They keep a form of truce with one another, by annually sending one boy and one girl –from their early teen years to eighteen- from each District into a kind of reality TV show, called ‘The Hunger Games’.” Seeing the clueless faces around her, she sighs and continues. “Each tribute is presented to the Capital, then put into a mystery arena, where they fight until there is only one person standing. The reward is that if you survive, you get the life of luxury, safe from entering the games again.” We all stare at her, horrified.
“So…they keep a truce by sacrificing their kids?” Israel exclaims, the first to break the silence. “That’s…that’s barbaric!” The woman nods, a gold earring catching the light in the room. “Like I said, the Districts became scared. They’d agree to anything to save themselves.”
“So what do we do now?” I snap, letting my anger drive me instead of fear.
“We keep our heads down and survive.” The woman answers calmly, leaning back in her seat. “What?” Israel sums my thoughts up. “We can’t just lie here, knowing about that! We have to do something! I didn’t escape death just to see everyone else die!”
“So what would you suggest we do?” Aaron challenges him, smirking. He smiles back evenly. “I say we march into Panem and take the Capital down.”