In the parcel of land once known as North America, ravaged by drought, storms, floods and war, a new country is born. It is called Panem, and in it lives a teenager faced with an impossible decision. There are few other options. The government has seen to that. Every year, two children from each of the 13 districts are chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. Your name is called. You go...unless someone volunteers to go in your stead.
A week ago I was dead.
We should have recognized the omens the night we cruised into Santa Fe. When snowdrifts obscured the friendly signs and covered the windows of strangers that would normally welcome visitors like us; when blizzard-like conditions caused every automobile to creep along the interstate in fear that an overcorrection of the wheel might fatefully crush metal and bones upon impact with red rock encased in ice; when we finally arrived at our hotel room, exhausted after twelve hours on the road, and it appeared as though a drug dealer or wild animal had inhabited the place for months -- crooked picture frames and dank, mustard-colored sheets left behind as ruffled remnants of his nightly terrors, induced by bad trips, bad dreams, or bad luck.
"My life closed twice before its close; it yet remains to see if immortality unveils a third event to me, so huge, so hopeless to conceive, as these that twice befell. Parting is all we know of heaven and all we need of hell."
The pungent, stinging stench of tea tree oil diffuses rapidly in the stale air of the cramped apartment. I study the little bits of stray matter highlighted by the ray of sun beaming through the window, imagining them choking and coughing on scent. Is it possible to die from a smell? It's supposed to kill lice with its antibacterial properties; does that go for all insects? I'm going to have to Google that. The steady hiss of the shower abruptly shuts off. I hear whistling and the vinyl snap of the shower curtain being flung open, and then the slap of wet feet hitting the linoleum floor. He must have shoved the bathmat against the door again.
In us resides the power of creation, for better or worse. Every decision we make changes our history. Those extra minutes we search for our lost keys might very well have saved us from the accident on I-80. For all the time we spend studying for our lives, it is that random bit of trivia that one picks up from a game show which breaks the ice with our future spouse.
I'm punched red as the green hills watch. They roll on in silence, echoing the red fists that work my face into bulges and gashes. Carl used to strike me pink with love. But these days, it's with fists.