I slip back onto my branch, sickened at the sight. I then get into my sleeping bag and fall asleep.
I wake to a parched tongue and dry, cracked lips. I stumble out of the tree and hit the ground hard. I think I can make it to the mountains today. And if I can’t… I don’t know. I’ll just… die. Unless I find something else. I set off with one knife clasped in my hand, ready to kill. I walk for a few hours and relent.
I drink my sip of water. I make a tiny fire to cook the squirrel. I walk for a few hours, looking for anything. Anything that gives away water. But as dusk falls I know I am close to leaving the world. Suddenly I think of something. Mum! Dad! Grandpa! They could send me water! Have it delivered in a shining silver parachute any second! I look up, willing a parachute to fall. Willing for my life to be saved. It doesn’t happen. They can’t be letting me die! They would never do that! Or would they? I can’t tell. I know it could be anything.
I keep walking, knowing they can send a parachute anywhere. After one, two, three hours I reach the base of the mountains. I find a slim trail heading further up. Without hesitation I start to climb, slipping on the ice. I reach a good spot where I can see snow above me. But can I reach it? I will have to try. I place my hands on bits of rock that jut out. I take a deep breath then start to climb. I have almost reached the snow when I find a good sized ledge sticking out. It’s getting dark now, I should get to sleep. Placing myself and my pack on the ledge I take out my sleeping bag. Getting into it I snuggle down, grateful for the warmth. Up here in the mountains it is really, and I mean really cold. Trying to ignore the fact I am swallowing saliva I try to sleep.
I wake as the anthem begins. No deaths today. I go to yawn but stop just in time. I can hear voices. Tentatively I look over the edge of my ledge and see all six Careers walking up the path. I try to stop my heart from beating too loudly. I can’t just pick them off with arrows, one missed shot would mean my death.
“Ugh! Why do we have to trudge through all of this cold and slippery area!” A career says. It sounds like Venia.
“We have to find her.” says Izack. Her… he means me. The girl who defied them, the girl who got a twelve. The girl who is me.
“Yes but why here?” asks Shine.
“We’ve told you a million times,” says Kenji, “We’ve searched most of the arena except the mountains. She must be here.”
Yes, I am here. With a jolt I realise that if they go farther up the path they might see me. Then the worst thing that could possibly happen, apart from that, happens.
I need to sneeze.
Not a small insignificant sneeze they won’t notice. But a huge, loud sneeze that will bring an avalanche. Well probably not that bad, but loud all the same. Loud enough for them to hear, to climb and kill the tribute above them. I quickly gather my stuff, my bow slung across my shoulder. I feel a tingling in my nose, then it comes. A huge loud sneeze.
The careers eyes are on me like penguins to a fish. I see their scorning grins, their gleeful eyes. Except one. Shine. Shine is looking at me with pity, with sadness. I still hate her. I scowl down at them and start climbing further up the cliff. I hear Izack start after me, hear the others follow. It’s no use, they are faster climbers than me. I know that as the swishing of Izack’s sword getting closer to my heels. Gauging large chunks out of the ground. Then it happens. His sword catches the rock right under my left heel.
In shock, I let go of my hands. And fall. I feel the sharp metal of Izack’s sword slice through my right shoulder. I fall towards the ground. I am vaguely aware of someone screaming, probably me. A long, neverending scream that echoes around my ears, repeating, over and over. I hear a rumble. Then shouts from the careers. Something hard hits me. Throwing me down. Then I hit the ground, hard. And everything turns to black.