Deep in the Meadow

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Chapter 7

I awake to Effie calling through the door โ€œWake up. Itโ€™s your first big, big, big day!โ€ I groan. I step out of bed and look in the mirror. I see a girl with puffy hair, red eyes and a face with a long scratch down one ear. I trudge to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my hair. I look much better after that. I look at the cut, it must have happened as I hit the force field. I open a door in the mirror and find a paste that I apply on my ear, ouch it stings. I close the door and walk away from the mirror. I slouch to the bundle of clothes by the door. It is a black jumpsuit with red stripes down each side. My training outfit. I step into it and walk out the door, my ear still stinging.

Right as I walk out the door Effie bustles towards me, saying happily as she does so, โ€œWeโ€™re on schedule!โ€ She shoves me towards the elevator, saying that Dean is already down there. As we ride down I expect to stop at the ground level but we go down even further, bypassing the ground and going towards the center of the earth. I look up, hating the levels of ground and concrete separating me and the sky.

We are not on schedule. As I walk in I can tell they have all been waiting for me. I go to stand beside Dean as Alta, the training lady starts to explain the procedure and the rules. No physically injuring each other. There are dummyโ€™s controlled from the walls, and no hitting anything that isnโ€™t a target, like all the fancy tech. I look around, fascinated, there are bows, arrows, swords, knives, hammers, spears, whips, and tridents. A pang of loneliness goes through me as I see the tridents. Finnick. The tridents he bought with his victorโ€™s money were made of real metal and he used them when we hunted together. How many times did I watch him take down a bird or a fish with the sharp ends of it. I look towards them and take a deep breath. Finnick and I are done. We are not friends anymore. And I will never see him again so what is the point of missing him. I do miss him, as a friend and a bit more. Honestly, I donโ€™t know what I feel for him because I never really could be bothered thinking about that kind of stuff. Lately thoughโ€ฆ My feelings have been a bit muddled up. Averting my gaze from the tridents, my eyes slide to the knives. Oh, they are so beautiful. Iโ€™m being modest if I say I can throw well. I can really throw. I donโ€™t want to today though. Everyone would be watching.

Unfortunately the knife throwing bit doesnโ€™t go as planned. As soon as I have finished at the fire starting table, someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn and I am staring into the icy-blue eyes of Coral.

โ€œWant a knife throwing contest?โ€ She asks with a smirk โ€œI want to see if you are all you are expected to be and if youโ€™re that good you could beat me, but Iโ€™m the best.โ€

โ€œNah,โ€ I say, shaking my head. I donโ€™t want to make myself even more of a target.

โ€œOh are you chicken?โ€ she says, making chicken sounds. That sets me off.

โ€œI am NOT chicken!โ€ I say, my face reddening. The one thing I can not stand is being called scared. Iโ€™m never scared. Ever.

โ€œWillowโ€ฆโ€ Says Dean cautiously as he places a trembling hand on my shoulder. I shrug it off and storm over to the knives. Coral takes three. So do I. She throws first. Well, she hasnโ€™t been lying, she does have good aim. But hasnโ€™t she got a surprise coming. Coral hits every target on the bullseye. Then itโ€™s my turn. I chose a human shaped dummy. Walking a few paces away I turn around. Facing the opposite wall I throw over my shoulder. I do it with each knife. I turn to find all twenty four tributes staring, agape at the dummy, with one knife where itโ€™s brain would be, one where the lungs would be, and one where the heart would be. I look at Coral.

โ€œLucky shot,โ€ she says aghast. The gamemakers are looking at me too. I begin to feel a bit more hopeful. I walk over to archery, where Dean is. he mutters,

โ€œYou shouldnโ€™t have done that.โ€ Then fires an arrow. So do I. Soon the instructor starts to give us better targets, not just the typical bullseyes. As training finishes we have both advanced to human dummies that move. As I head to the elevator I think that it wasnโ€™t as bad as it could have been though there were a few times when I caught Dean staring at Shine, and not in a good way. I decide I hate Shine.

The next day is roughly the same, I go to the camouflage, knot tying and poisonous food stations. The test of plants, I sweep through, getting every answer right. At knot tying the trainer shows Dean and I simple but efficient snare set for birds. Dean easily and enthusiastically finishes every knot and excels. I catch the Careers sneaking hating glances at us about every five minutes. Jazi and Thren slip in and join us from time to time. Jazi is incredible at archery and is great at spotting things others donโ€™t. Thren can just about climb anything and can hit the target every time with a blowgun. Quite good for tributes their size.

The next day, I am slightly nervous, tonight is my private training session. Thirty minutes of time to show the gamemakers what I can do. At training, everyone is distracted. The girl who I think is from District 5 almost kills Thren by throwing knives and the boy from 3 just lays in the corner and rocks up and down repeatedly. I go to the knot tying again and mainly just turned the rope over and over in my hands, before I realised that this is my one chance to learn skills to survive. I then left and went to the knives. I threw a few to calm myself down and, way too soon in my opinion, training is over and I am sitting on a bench before going to see the gamemakers. As the girl from 12, I go last. When Dean leaves the room I am completely alone. Then my name is called. Training is a different story these days. About 10-5 years ago they came up with a new idea. Now they turn on a simulator that sends you to an arena-like place, except it isnโ€™t real. They send in things that try to kill you, like fellow tributes, mutts. Anything.

I stand with quivering legs. I walk out of the room. I step through the door and see the Gamemakers on the stage. They have food but not wine, that was removed about 10 years ago so the gamemakers would pay attention to the tributes. They look at me expectantly. I am in a spotlight, the one light in the room. I gulp and walk over to the swords. Ohh the swords. There are ones with carvings and even ones with cruel looking curved blades. I select a straight silver one with diamonds on the hilt. I test it in my hand. Perfect. I also take a handful of knives.I do a thumbs up sign to the gamemakers. They turn it on.

I am in a forest, with birds chirping, leaves rustling and thousands of frogs. I cautiously walk backwards a few paces, listening for anything abnormal. I lean down to examine a frog. Then, an arrow lands directly in between my fingers. I turn to see Dean advance from the trees wielding a bow. Naturally I throw a knife. As it hits him he disintegrates. I run forward, trying to leave. Itโ€™s like Iโ€™m already in the arena. But I canโ€™t leave. Not until the Gamemakers want me to. I hear howls in the distance. I turn as a huge lion enters my clearing. It is obviously a mutt. Though I have never seen a lion, I am pretty sure they arenโ€™t two meters tall, and with claws thirty centimetres long. It advances, I wait. It gets ready to pounce, I wait. Then it jumps, and I move. I dive out of the way as it hits the tree behind me, temporarily knocking itself out. For the moment. I thank the tree and stab my sword into the lion as the frogs attack. I noticed them at the start but most mutts attack at the beginning. I take down about fifty by swinging my sword and take down five more with knives. Suddenly they stop attacking. I stare around for a few seconds then a Gamemakerโ€™s voice fills the forest.

โ€œWell done and we hope you enjoyed it.โ€ The voice says before Iโ€™m back in the training room. Back with the spotlight on me.

That last sentence really set me off. โ€˜We hope you enjoyed itโ€™? What kind of brainless berks are they? Nobody likes the Hunger Games, no one except the Capitol. It really made me see red. I took the last dagger from my hand and threw it up, hitting the spotlight and showering me with sparks and bits of glass. Then I walk straight out of the room without even glancing at anyone.

I walk to the elevator and go to my room. I donโ€™t cry, I just stare into space. What have I done? I never really stood a chance, being Katniss Mellarkโ€™s child and all, but I at least could have tried. Now they will just blow me up the second I step off my platform. Oh well, I never really believed I could win, maybe a quick death would be better.

When Mum calls through the door that dinner is ready I decide to go. Really, I might as well spend as much time with my family before I die. I find my way to the dining room and settle down on a chair. Racheal, Catiena, Effie, Grandpa, Mum, Dad and Dean are all there, I donโ€™t make eye contact with any of them, especially not Racheal or Dean.

โ€œSo,โ€ says Catiena โ€œHow did it go?โ€

โ€œNot badโ€ says Dean โ€œI just shot some things and painted myself into a tree.โ€

โ€œWhat about you Willow?โ€ says Mum.

โ€œI broke the spotlight above me.โ€ I say in a shallow voice.

โ€œOhhโ€ฆ Donโ€™t worry, we know it was an accident.โ€ says Mum.

โ€œNo,โ€ I retort โ€œNo, it wasnโ€™t an accident, they said something stupid and I got mad so I justโ€ฆ threw it.โ€

โ€œWow,โ€ she replies, โ€œthatโ€™s almost as bad as me shooting an arrow at them.โ€ Then she starts to laugh.

โ€œThe girls of the Mellark family,โ€ say Dad, also laughing โ€œTut, tut, tut.โ€ Everyone snorts in their food. Then Effie cracks up, but her laughing is so strange that everyone else starts to laugh as well. But not just a short laugh. We laugh for the whole rest of the meal, trying to stop.

โ€œWell,โ€ says Effie, wiping tears of joy from her eyes, โ€œshould we watch the scores?โ€ Everyone agrees, me a little faintly and we are bustled to a maroon coloured velvet couch to watch.

The Careers get predictively high scores, the highest is Izack, with a 10. Then Jazi, with a surprising 9! Then Thren, with 9 as well! The small girl from District 9 with the black hair, who I learn is called Sara, gets a 7. Then, from District 12 there is Dean with 11! Dean gasps and everyone congratulates him with cheers and shouts. I squeeze his hand as well done. Then there is me. Everyone is silent, then there is the number 12 glimmering on the screen. 12! The highest score possible! I turn to Dean, he is staring at the screen looking flabbergasted. He turns to stare at me. I sort of feel uncomfortable, heโ€™s done well but Iโ€™ve done better. What does this mean for our chance of survival? I quickly shake his hand and walk out of the room with a chirping Effie behind me.

I lie on my bed to sleep, the number 12 shining in my brain. Now the only thing I have to worry about is the interview, and the actual games. Rolling over I sleep instantly knowing Effie will be here immediately in the morning, readying me for the show. I smile at the wall before realizing that in three days Iโ€™ll be in the arena...

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