Prodded to Drown
I was screaming. I was screaming and screaming and screaming and I couldn't stop. I think I screamed for an eternity. Or at least until I was all screamed out. And then, I was running.
And now I'm in a cave. Curled up on my side in the foetal position, the stones leaving a jagged imprint on my bare arm and on the side of my face. I can still smell the sickening metallic scent of his blood that splattered all over me. My heart is thumping in frantic rhythm against my ribcage. I can't shut my eyes, so they stay open. Wide and unblinking and staring at nothing. Because I fear what I might see when my eyelids close.
I'm shaking all over and I start to rock myself gently because it's ever so slightly comforting.
It's the moment two loaves of bread appear that I realise I'm crying, my body racking with desperate, hysterical sobs. I throw one loaf away and press the other to my cheek, hugging it close and trying to use it as a sort of pillow. It's still warm. I try to drain some affection out of the thing before I remember that it's an inanimate object. I'm getting the crust soaked with my tears, but I wouldn't be able to eat it anyway. The other loaf was meant for Lance, whose name now only brings to mind the image that shattered whatever sanity I had left. Him, slumping to his knees and then falling headfirst into a shallow pool of water. We used to hunt for barnacles together in the tide pools of the beaches back home. Now his life was leeching into the clear spring water and turning it a deep, blood red.
But he didn't quite fall headfirst, you know, because the problem was the head. It rolled three metres and came to a halt right at my feet.
His light golden eyes met mine. Drained of life, mouth half open in surprise, he stared unseeing into my soul. That's when the screaming starts. As it turns out, I don't need to close my eyes to see his death all over again. Now it's all I can see. Before long I've crushed the bread to crumbs in my fists.
I can feel my mind breaking into pieces and there's no way I can stop it. I'm trapped. Not just in this cave, not just in the arena, but inside my own head.
I need to get out.
And, so, I crack. The last moments of my life are beautiful dreams: a bed of sparkling jewelled crabs replaces a jagged stone floor, and the cave fills with beautiful, pitch black bats. I gorge on a meal of soggy bread with Finnick, my lost love, and when the waves crash into the cave and throw my lifeless form spinning against the rocks, I'm actually grateful. After fearing water for half my life, I welcome the rolling sea into my little dwelling. It reminds me of home. I see sparkling lights underwater, a city of mermaids and shiny silver sea bass. And as the flood rushes around me and engulfs my brain, I finally feel free. I'm the little boat, floating gently on the crests of the waves. I've found my peace. Now there's nothing to fear. I swim towards the light — happy, elated. I can finally let go.
My name is Annie Cresta, and I died in the 70th Hunger Games.
… But the more time passes in this dreamland, the less sure I become.