The Conspiracy

Chapter XXVII: Lost

I spend what feels like several hours curled up with my back against a tree, trying to breathe over the sobs that subside only for a few minutes at a time. It will take more that a couple of days to accept what happened, so sometimes, I'm able to manage and stop myself crying. Sometimes I stop because I can no longer breathe and my body is forced to calm itself or risk passing out; other times, I forget exactly why I'm so upset. Those times are when I can best pull myself together, but they are also the hardest to recover from. If I forget why I'm crying, I stop, and then sit for a minute trying to remember why and it's then that I come closest to accepting that it's real.

I don't know how long it takes before I find the strength to do anything again. When I finally begin to move, I decide to search the packs. 22 got weapons. All he needed were weapons! I'd have given them to him if it would have kept him away from that feast. I fight tears again and push the pack away. Inside our pack are the axes she talked about wanting. I pick one up and hold it in my hand as if to throw it, aiming at the trunk of a tree. If I throw it, I know I'll miss. I'm still shaking so I set it and its twin on the ground beside me.

Next is something neither of us expected, though, after the incident in the lake, and judging by the scratches I'm now starting to notice from running through the woods and the field after 22, and considering that 23 seems pretty good with her arrows, probably well merited. Full body armor. Lightweight but probably the indestructible kind. My throat tightens again, threatening to choke me until I remember that this, which covers me only from neck to ankles, would not have saved her. As I change, my hand runs across the little tin container on my belt. The one from that very first night in the arena.

I fold her armor and set it on the ground across the roots of a tree. I lay her axes on top of it and kneel there, staring at it, remembering. Probably, I'm crying again, but silently this time because all I notice is that my eyes sting and my cheeks are wet. Everyone in 2 will hate me for this, this shame I'm bringing to them, this weakness, this humanity. But maybe it's balanced out by how very inhumane 22's death was. She might not have approved, having always been so quick, but after what he did to her... He paid dearly for it and District 2 is probably at least glad that I can't muster sympathy for 22.

Sympathy is different than guilt though. I have no sympathy, but guilt is creeping in on me as I realize that killing him isn't bringing her back down here to me. She brought 23's arrows out of the arena and they'll probably bury her before I get home if they haven't already. I'll never see her again.

I find myself speaking aloud, as if to her. I use the word 'aloud' loosely. My voice is still quiet and choked. "You wanted me to go home, right? Should I have taken this?" I'm still gripping the container of nightlock. "Did I mess up?" I could still take it but then I left her there for no reason. No. I won't take it. I will go home. It's the promise I made to her when I stood up. I will win these Games. No one wants to be alone as they die, but she made sure she was by telling me to go. She didn't want me to stay. That must mean she wanted me to go home. Or maybe I'm too cowardly to take the poison. That could be. I was too cowardly to stay beside her and hold her as she died; that's for certain and she knew it, or she wouldn't have told me to go. But I tell myself it's not the case here and vow that the Capitol will remember her. Most tributes are forgotten if they go home in coffins. Not Clove. They'll remember her because I will not allow them to forget. "I wish you were here. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I let this happen to you."

I sleep with my head on her armor. It's all I have. Tomorrow I'll find the others.

Not find.


I don't know how long I've slept, but when I wake, the sun is high. The downpour must have stopped while I slept, but I didn't notice. The Gamemakers are changing the weather on us, but I can't think why. I'm hungry. The Capitol took my spear away with 22's body and I won't use her axes so I cross to 22's pack, open it and tie some of the knives to my belt. There's also a metal spear, collapsable with the push of the right button, very high tech, very expensive. I wonder what he did to deserve all this and who with enough money sympathized so wholly with him. It doesn't matter. I extend the spear, take a look at Clove's armor and axes, mouth, "I'll be back soon," and head deeper into the forest to find something edible before I go hunting for the last three beings in this arena who will set off canons.

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