We are in a decade of Bad Ideas—Donald Trump, man buns, ombre lips, and Asian fusion restaurants, just to name a few. I thought we’d hit a peak, and then a friend drunkenly informed me there would be a Hunger Games theme park built in the next five years. She was drunk, yes, but the Google never lies.
Coming 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, The Hunger Games Theme Park.
You would think a park based on the premise of kids killing kids wouldn’t be associated with family fun, but you’d be DEAD wrong. (See what I did there?)
Because I care here at The Dark Side, I’ve decided to imagine a day at the park so you don’t have to. If and when it opens, we’ll take a field trip and see how right I am. (Spoiler: I’m always right. When I’m not, I’m still right.)
Get comfy. Grab a drink. Here we go.
There are a dozen parking lots. You panic and choose the path leading to the parking lot labeled District Twelve. You smile, though, because the heroine is from District Twelve in the novel. You take it as a good omen. You’re obscenely optimistic, which makes people uncomfortable. That’s why you’re here alone. Sad.
It’s a long, painful trek to the ticketing booths. Unlike Disney World, there are no pastel-slathered trams to escort you to the gate. No buses, or even a wagon pulled by a bum trying to make a buck or two. It’s your preparation, you think, the world of The Hunger Games series taking over your mind like a kind of virtual reality. It’s your training, you think, and hold your head high.
Every booth attendant wears a foot-high Effie-style wig and bright-colored lipstick. Not all of them are female. You approach the bullet-proof glass and grin. The Effie-clone points to the ticketing board. There are several options for different experiences. Spectator is the cheapest and most boring of the options, limiting the ticket-holder to a kind of voyeuristic experience from behind the scenes. You haven’t come here for that; you’re here for the full experience. For the drama. And maybe, in your deep, dark little heart, to find your Peeta.
It costs eighty-nine dollars plus tax to volunteer as tribute.
Included in the cost is a Made-In-China plastic bow and arrows with sharpened tips. You hope you can learn to shoot by the time you pass through the gate, but let’s be real. You can’t even swim in the shallow end of a pool without hurting yourself. You’re doomed and you reconsider this whole trip, but the cost is nonrefundable. You have to go in.
The arch is basically one large sign that spells out LIONSGATE, which doesn’t make sense to you because there were no lions in the books. Workers greet you with the three-finger salute, their faces painted with slashes of red and black. There are thousands of others just like you, bows slung over their shoulders, picking through bins labeled Offerings. Most of them hold bits of broken plastic, while others are filled with canteens, Power Bars, and extra arrows. There’s no need to rush because the bins are constantly replenished. You stock up anyway. You can never be too careful in the Games.
A sign at the center of a roundabout directs you to different sections of the park: The Thirteen Districts, The Arena, Training Central, Tot Town, Food Court, and (coming soon!) Twilight: The Experience.
You notice most tributes heading for Training Central, but decide you’re not going to follow the crowd. After a quick visit to the restroom (decorated in District-One-style gold and silver with special toilets for purging after your meal), you march toward the Arena.
There’s a line that snakes around the side of the massive building. Peacekeepers standing on either side of the entrance allow twenty-four people in at a time. You do the math to see who you’ll end up fighting against. You blanch as you realize you’re the weakest in the group. A sitting duck. An idiot with a bow. This was the worst idea you’ve ever had—except for that questionable fish taco the guy served from coolers in his trunk somewhere outside Omaha—but you have to see it through. You sweat in places you didn’t know you could sweat. A hulk of a man in a District Two Foreva t-shirt meets your gaze and smirks. He grins, revealing a row of shark teeth. You can’t tell if it’s real or part of the costume, but it doesn’t matter. You’re properly freaked. You start to wonder about that form you signed at the ticket booth—was it really just a credit card receipt? Or a waiver? Can they actually kill you in here? What happens if you get in and change your mind? Are you trapped? Should you call your mom to make amends, even though she was totally in the wrong this last time?
Before you know it, a peacekeeper ushers you through the doors of the Arena. It’s a jungle—all palm trees and tall grass and flowers so big and bright they could probably kill you just by smelling them. You keep your arms stiff at your sides, not touching anything, as you move away from the group to make a quick getaway once you’re released into the Games.
“Welcome to the Hunger Games,” a bored announcer drawls over the loud-speaker. “The rules are simple: shoot your opponents with your park-approved weapons. Any other weapons or unsanctioned use of the bows will result in expulsion from the Games, the Park, and possibly your insurance company. Referees will determine fatal blows and eject tributes accordingly. You have exactly twenty minutes.”
A thick silence falls over the tributes. You take a step back, shielding most of your body behind a tree.
“Oh. Yeah.” The announcer huffs. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
And with those magic words, the crowd erupts into chaos. You resist the urge to scream as you run for your life. The other tributes already pegged you as the weakest character and mow each other down for the chance to kill you. You’re out of shape—you keep telling yourself you’re going to join a gym or go running or at least get up from the couch every once in a while—and get winded after only a couple hundred feet.
Shark Teeth leads the pack, and he has you in his sights. You have a hard enough time not tripping over tree roots, let alone think about trying to shoot him before he shoots you. You consider climbing one of the trees, but there are signs posted all over the Arena—No Climbing, For Your Safety. Angry tears sting the corners of your eyes as the first arrow pokes your right butt cheek. Another hits the back of your knee and you cry out.
“Oh, come on! That was totally fatal!” Someone yells behind you.
You frantically search the edges of the Arena for an exit door, but nothing stands out.
An arrow flies over your head. Another grazes your shoulder. They’re getting closer.
Finally, you stop. The crowd rumbles to a halt behind you. You turn, arranging your face into something resembling bravery. Katniss wouldn’t run. She would fight until the bitter—
“Ow!” You scream.
An arrow stabs you in the eye, which immediately waters and you think for a terrifying second that the liquid pouring down your face is blood.
A referee emerges from behind a tree, dressed in jungle camouflage. “Dead,” he yells.
Shark Teeth raises his arms, victorious.
Out of spite, you pick up one of the arrows and fling it at him. Everyone is surprised when it hits home—leaving a small, red mark at the base of his throat.
“Dead,” the referee yells.
“The hell?” Shark Teeth rubs his throat. “She was dead!”
The referee shrugs. He isn’t paid nine-fifty an hour to care. You and Shark Teeth are both escorted to the exit, hidden behind a plastic-sheet waterfall.
Despite the pain in your eye, you smile. You went down in a blaze of glory, killing one of the most fearsome tributes to ever enter the Games.
You retire to the Food Court, where you dine on a warrior’s meal of chicken fingers and soggy onion rings. You text your mom: Ready 2 apologize? And head for the gift shop.
Katrina Monroe and the Dark Side of Fiction
A Day in the Hunger Games
Katrina Monroe is an author, mother, and professional haterologist. Her favorite things to hate include socks that fall down, grape-flavored anything, and the color 'salmon.' Grab her books here.