I always saw my life like a pattern. Correction: I saw life as a pattern. The same type of pattern I would print onto the vibrant colored fabric that would be sewed into a dress and worn by a stuck-up woman living in the Capitol. Because just like a pattern on a dress, the people of District Eight’s lives’ constantly repeated themselves. To grow up sewing clothes for your dolls, thinking it was just a game but eventually realizing that it was practice. Panicking every year that the Reaping may turn into your funeral. Then rotting away your life by drowning your mind in all things textiles, barely feeling the pricks of needles or the heat of an iron anymore. You have kids, and then repeat. Like a pattern. And I hated that I would follow the pattern too.
But it wasn’t until my fifth reaping that I realized there were two patterns of lives in District Eight.
I was sixteen. My family and I lived in the slums of the District for as long as I could remember. It was the same year Daddy died trying to fix a cotton picking machine. It wasn’t the slice taken out of him that killed him; It was the infection. It was also the year I started lining up with other women at the backdoor of one of the Peacekeeper’s house to sell the only thing I had left in order to help feed my brother and sister. It must have been the year my luck ran out because it was that year, the fifth year of my name being in the drawings, that the Reaping became my funeral. My life ended with a slip of paper with a name on it. Roosevelt Pype. And this was the second pattern of life I had always forgotten about. The life of a District Eight Tribute. And this was the life pattern that I had taken.
My Mother cried the entire time I was given with her, repeating the word no again and again. I don’t blame her; all District Eight tributes have died in the bloodbath. I held my little sister in my lap and kissed her forehead as my older brother stroked my hair and told me he was so sorry for not working harder because then maybe I wouldn’t have needed to also take tesserae and I would not be at my funeral. I wiped his tears away and told him to take care of Marcy.
I was dressed in maroon velvet for my interview. I wondered if my hands had ever touched the fabric before it became my dress. But I never dealt with velvet often, so the odds were slim.
My escort said “You look great in velvet Roosevelt!” and then as if in a eureka moment she gasped, “Roosevelvet! How cute is that?!” And she wouldn’t call me anything else after that, even when I demanded she called me Rosie.
My interview went so-so, and I bet waving to a nearby camera and mouthing the word goodbye at the end of it made me anything but likable. I got a training score of three with survival skills I picked up in training. My odds for the Games were grim.
While I stood on my metal plate, ready to rise into the arena, the Escort whose name I never learned came to wish me false luck.
“See you later, Roosevelvet!” was the last thing I heard before the plate started to rise. And I was horrified that the last thing I would hear would be a nickname I despised.
The arena was woods in the middle of a hard winter. The trees were bare and gray, the ground was covered in at least a foot of snow. No wonder we were given thick, insulated winter coasts and bulky boots with grooves on the soles. I searched for the District Four tributes and laughed out loud at their faces. Growing up by the always warm and sunny sea was no help to them today. I sighed, and thought of what a beautiful canvas the snow would be for all the red that would soon dye it. It would be like dying some fabric. Maybe even velvet.
And that was when a bell in my head went off, and I realized I was following the pattern of one of the patterns of life in District Eight. I would die in the bloodbath and be exactly like all other tributes of ours. I did not want to follow the pattern. I did not want my blood dying the snow.
So when the sixty seconds were up and the gong rang, I tried.
I ran for the barren woods, ran and ran in the bulky boots until my feet felt raw, and then I climbed as high as I could go without the branches breaking, and scanned the area. There was no concealment from the trees since they had no leaves, so I could see everything. I could even see a boy digging a hole into the frozen ground. I watched him dig for hours and then cover the hole with a some sort of flimsy fabric which he covered with a light layer of snow until the hole disappeared. And then he put his backpack between the hole and a tree in a way in which you would cross the hole to reach it. That is only if you didn’t know the hole was there. I climbed down the tree, nearly falling from it’s flimsy branches. Then I searched the snow for anything. A rock, a fallen branch. Something that I could use as a weapon. I found a rock, as big as my head, and heavy. I could barely hold it with one hand. I walked toward the hole, the rock sticking out of coat pocket that didn’t face the tree the boy was hiding behind. I made a big deal of being surprised when seeing the backpack and then I jumped over the where the hole was to get it. And I heard a frustrated grunt. The boy came out of hiding, a short knife in hand. He came towards me, jumped over the hole onto the small space I was on. And I was so scared and in a panic and I just pushed him really hard and he lost balance and fell into the hole. But that wasn’t before stabbing me. While he was on his back in the shallow hole, I jumped down and dropped the rock on his head. A cannon sounds. I pull the knife out of my side.
In the pack was bread, rope, a needle, a lighter, and a pair of gloves. So I decided to do what I did best, the thing the Capitol had forced my District to do; Sew. I unraveled a piece of string from my shirt, thread it through the needle, and put the tip of the needle in the flame from the lighter. I took off my jacket and pulled up my shirt, grateful for the cold to numb my skin. And I slowly sewed the gash from the knife up.
And I knew I already was out of the pattern. And I was proud. I knew I wouldn’t win, but I tried.
And when I did die, there were seven tributes left. A boy came after me with a branch he carved to have a deadly point, and even though I ran, he was faster. And the spear went through my shoulder, in a spot between my heart and neck. And I did what I did best, the thing the Capitol had forced my District to do; I dyed the fabric of snow maroon.
Submitted by “Dreamer”