That night, I climb a tree and sit there, feeling odd. I know that Jazi is dead. But why does that seem unreal? It’s almost like she will appear on the ground, laughing. It just happened too fast. Two days ago, I had two allies and a cave to call home. Now… Nothing. Well, I still have one ally but I have no idea where he is. I know I can’t go back to the cave. The memories there are too sharp, too real. I will go further in, towards the cornucopia. Closer to the Careers. It’s bad, I only have five arrows, a bow, four knives, and a sword, water is fine, but food? I only have the dried apples and crackers left. I need more. It’s about a day’s journey to the cornucopia so I will need more supplies. By the time the anthem starts I have set two snares and shot a small snake. I also spotted a few bushes with berries that I recognised, blackberries, delicious. I also decided to light a fire to roast the snake. I figured the Careers would be too far away to care and the other tributes? There are only eleven of us left. Me, Dean, the five Careers, Sara, Thren and the girl from 11. Not many. The snake is good, roasted with some roots on top and it goes well with the berries. It’s a great dinner. I just don’t enjoy it.
As the anthem plays in the cold night air, in my sleeping bag, I grow restless, I need to move. I can’t just wait for someone to come kill me. And I can’t shake off the feeling that something is waiting for me at the edge of the woods. So I pack my stuff and get down off the tree. First I check my snares. Nothing. No meat. I then start off. Crushing pine needles under my feet, towards the cornucopia.
I reach the edge of the woods just as pink strips of light begin to break across the horizon. As cover, I shelter in a small clearing about an hours walk from the lake. I walk around in circles in my clearing, trying to figure out what to do. I need better cover, now. Or someone or something will find me here. I slowly start to walk around towards the frozen lake when I hear voices. I dive into a scraggly bush as footsteps draw nearer. I’m pretty certain there are two people. I take out a small knife and get ready. I could take them out but I can’t be sure if they have weapons too. I freeze, hardly even breathing as the feet enter the clearing.
“Where could she be?” Asks Shine’s voice, “She can’t be in the mountains. Not after the lava.” A second voice whispers something.
“Yes. I know she could be anywhere, but it’s a lot harder finding anyone since Izack broke the Alliance. ‘Go in your district partners’ he says. But I don’t have a district partner. But then I found you.” So the Careers have broken their Alliance. Into district partners. But Shine doesn’t have a district partner. Kenji is dead. I should know, I killed him. So who is she with? Not Thren surely. I come to the right conclusion just as Shine and Dean enter the clearing.
A sort of groan escapes my mouth, I had forgotten how tall Dean was, how he smiled. Before I can stop myself, I jump out of the bush.
I instantly regret my appearance.
“Willow!” Dean shouts, “we were just looking for you!”
“Yeah, I heard!” I reply, unsheathing my sword. I don’t know why they are here, “So what have you been up to?”
“I’ll tell you after we find some shelter,” he replies. “We’re allies right?”
“My last alliance didn’t go so well,” I say, considering the fact that one of my allies died because of me and the other is currently missing.
“You had an alliance?” Asks Dean.
“Yes,” I reply “And now I have another one”
I sheath my sword and hold out my hand for him to shake. “Allies?”
“Allies,” Shine replies.
We walk out of the clearing, looking for some form of shelter. Shine suggests we keep going towards the lake so we start that way. By the time late afternoon has come, we have arrived at the icy start of the lake. I test the ice with my foot.
“This should be alright to walk on, but why have we come over to the lake? There’s nothing useful here!”
“Wrong,” says Shine. “There’s that.” She points out into the centre of the icy water. There is a small island. “I thought we could go to that.”
“Won’t we slip?’’ I ask.
“No,” she replies, “See your boots? The bottoms are spiked,so we can walk on the ice! Shall we go?”
Dean and I agree so Shine steps out onto the lake. I can’t stop myself from hoping that the ice breaks. She makes it so I jump down eagerly as well. We walk out onto the lake gingerly and soon make it to the island. It’s small, with a few trees and a small hill with a large cave made of rocks. The downside to this is that if any tribute came to our little island they would see us. But we would have the high ground. High ground is a great place to be in a fight. I tiptoe up to the cave, it’s dark and I can’t see to the back.
“Hey, Shine,” I call back, “Do you know where the other tributes from your alliance went?” I figure calling them Careers might have a negative reaction so I don’t. That bit doesn’t go to plan.
“You mean the other Careers? I saw Izack and Coral going in the direction of the forest. Venia and Abbot ran to the mountains.”
“The Careers?” I ask, “You call them the Careers?”
“Yah,” she says “It’s what they’re called… so?”
“I was just surprised.” I say, lighting a match, “There isn’t anything in the cave, you two can come in.”
We sit and arrange our packs so they are easy to get if in need. Shine has her bow, six arrows, and a pack. I give her my four arrows, making a total of ten. Dean also has a bow, a quiver of eight arrows, a knife, but no pack. Shine tells me that she and Dean have been in alliance for a while, so they’ve got a pile of nuts and squirrels to contribute to our food. I put in the six pieces of dried apple left and the five crackers. They also have one sleeping bag.
First, Shine tells me all that she’s done in the arena, from the moment the gong sounded, to now. Next Dean explains how he’s been hiding out in some distant corner of the arena, surviving on snares and his bow, he had a good time, lighting small fires, not getting wet, and watching faces in the nighttime. Then Shine came, wet, cold, alone. So he helped her, he saved her. Then it’s my turn. I tell them about my time. Mostly Dean really, as Shine was there for most of it. I tell him about the mountains, about the alliance with Jazi and Thren, about Jazi’s death, me killing Kenji, the lava, and finally, Thren’s disappearance.
“And then you two showed up,” I say, “That’s really all that’s happened… What?” I look up and find Dean staring at me, fascinated.
“You’ve done more in a day then I have the whole time!”
“Oh shush!” I say reprimanding him, as I lay down on my stretched out sleeping bag. “I’ll take the first watch. You two go to sleep.” I say.
I can’t help thinking how different this is to my mother’s games. She only had one ally, a young girl named Rue, and she didn’t really have much of a good time. I have had it reasonably easy compared to others. Without the minor fact we are all ATTEMPTING TO KILL EACH OTHER WITH WEAPONS! IN AN ARENA! FOR A TV SHOW! Yep, really feeling the love Erika. I mean, she could stop this, all of this! But she doesn’t. She lets it all happen.
I look in my bag and find the night vision glasses. Putting them on, I can see every leaf on the tree next to the cave. I put a dagger in my hand and eat a cracker. Lovely. I lean back on the floor as the anthem starts. Thinking. I really only allied with Dean and Shine, one: because they would probably kill me if I didn’t. Two: It would provide better protection and three: I was kinda happy to see Dean. I mean, the careers are out there, with supplies and everything. No deaths today. The audience will have been fine, knowing Thren is missing. Me becoming allies with Dean and Shine. Hopefully.
I must have dozed off because when a cannon bangs it jerks me awake.
“Who would that have been?” Asks Dean. He’s awake and sitting by the front of the cave wearing my glasses and with his bow ready.
“I’m guessing it was either Sara or Mici,” says Shine. I hadn’t noticed her at first. Sitting by the front of the cave, as if she’d just got back from something. She’s holding a dead rabbit. Breakfast.
“Who’s Mici?” I ask, interested.
“The girl from 11,” she replies.
“Why do you think it was one of those two?” I ask defensively, “It could have been anyone.” She sighs.
“Those two are the only two who don’t pose much of a threat, I mean, sure they do but they aren’t in the same league as the careers.” She does have a point there. Abbot, Venia, Coral, and especially Izack provide a bigger threat.
“What’s our next move?” I ask “If we stay here the Gamemakers will surely drive all of us together or kill us.”
“I agree” Dean says, “We should have a plan.”
“We need food before we devise a plan,” reprimands Shine, I glower at her but the rabbit, when it’s skinned, roasted and sprinkled with herbs, does make me a bit less needy for action. But not much. I lie on the floor of the cave and stretch. Still, even after the rabbit, I need to move. I get up and walk to the pile of gear in the corner of the cave. I grab my belt and my backpack. I sling the belt around my waist and hitch the pack up on my shoulders. I walk to the edge of the cave and look up at the sky. It’s getting dark. That didn’t take long. I stay put as a drop of rain hits my face. Then another. I stand still, thinking. I haven’t got anything from a sponsor. There must be someone willing to send down a small gift. Anything. Sure we aren’t exactly in need of them but it would be good to think that there is a world beyond the arena. Then I think about my allies. I could kill them in their sleep. Yes, I know that is despicable but I don’t really have another option. But then there’s the big question. Could I do it? Yes I killed the girl from 5, and Kenji, but I was sort of caught up in the moment and if I hadn’t done it they would have both killed me. What would you have done? For now, I won’t kill them.
Happy with my decision I walk back into the cave to see Dean and Shine sitting next to each other. Bit too close for my liking but I brush it away.
“Tomorrow,” I say, “I’m going for a walk. When the weather is better.”
“Ok,” Dean replies. I take my pack off and lay it back in the pile of gear. Then I dig in it. Dragging out a cracker and a piece of dried apple. Great, I’m starving. I cram both of them in my mouth and relish the taste on my tongue. Taking a sip of water, I walk over to them and sit.
“I guess it’s just us then,” I say to them both. I mean, I still hate Shine, even if I spared her life, but there is something about her warm body next to me that is comforting.
We all look at each other, surprised as the familiar sound of the Panem anthem begins. That was quick. Well I suppose the Gamemakers are keen to get these games over and done with. With Dean and I as tributes, my dress at the interview and above all, me surviving this long. Looking up, I see the girl from Eleven shining. ‘Mici’ was it? Anyway, I lay down as the rain pours down harder and drift off to sleep.
I wake to the sounds of screams echoing across the forest.
Lots of screams.