Chapter 18: The Games, Day 10
The branches got thicker and thornier as they continued. They hacked away at it with their knives, but they were too small to really do any damage, which slowed them down. They opted to climb over it, using the blankets to cover the thorns as they edged along.
The brush abruptly stopped, and all surrounding forest and life stopped at an eerily straight line as they stepped down and into a large dirt clearing, ending at a cliff up ahead. Beyond was all barren; just dirt, dust, and jagged rocks.
This was it. The end of the Arena.
They both stood there, catching their breath, eyes wide at the sight, such a drastic change from the forest setting for the past couple of days. The sun was bearing right down on them, not hindered by the trees. Haymitch had to blink to adjust his eyes.
"Well," May broke the silence with a sigh, "that's all there is. Exciting stuff. Let's go back," she said, turning to climb back onto the brush.
"No," he said sternly. She stopped to turn back and stare at him.
"We don't even know how far down that drop-off is; this might not even be the end of it, it could just be..." he faded off when she shook her head, taking a small step back.
"There's only four of us left," her voice broke.
He frowned. He knew that.
He just didn't know what to do with the fact.
He took a step towards her but she shook her head, holding up her hand.
"We should say Goodbye here."
She turned away, her voice as shaky as her outreached palm.
He took the final steps to reach her and grasped her hand, bringing it to his chest.
She closed her eyes, but turned to face him.
"I don't... I can't have you dying for me."
"May," he said, squeezing her hand tightly, catching a quick glimpse of her wet eyes before she blinked and shook her head, looking away from him yet again.
She stayed silent, her arm falling limp in his grasp.
"May," he said again, trying to find other words to say. She pulled away, and turned to the side, looking away as she raised her head, steadying her shoulders, setting them straight.
"I can't do this. With only a few left," she said, a fake hardness to her tone of voice - it was still shaky.
He shook his head and opened his mouth to say something, but as though on que, a cannon blasted.
He stepped forward and used his thumb to wipe a tear from her cheek. Her body was shaking.
"Let me go, Haymitch."
He let out a grunt followed with a string of curses.
"You need more darts, we can-"
"No, I have to-" she started.
She shook her head.
"No. Mitch. I like it."
She gave him a broken smile.
"Goodbye, Mitch," she said, tears now streaming freely down her face, she wasn't bothering to hide them anymore.
"Bye, May," he whispered. She gave a final nod before she turned away and climbed over the brush, taking the blanket with her, all the while being silent. He grinned at that. She'd learned.
He watched her as she went out of sight, and then he watched some more.
He sighed and looked back out at the cliff, taking deep breaths to keep in control.
It was for their own good. Including himself, there were four tributes left in the Arena. What would happen if they'd stayed together and the other two killed each other off, leaving them? Would he turn on her - wanting, needing to get back to Finn and his dad? Would she turn on him, needing to get back to her twin sister, her family?
At first he thought it was sick of him to think so, but figuring the situation he was stuck in now, he couldnt help but think that he'd be glad if any of the remaining two found her, or even him. In the history of the Games, District 12 barely lasted the first few days, nonetheless the final four. It said enough, and it would bring his district recognition. He surprisingly felt pride at that but then shook his head. The Games had gotten to him.
His face twisted in disgust at the thought and he shook his head again, focusing on the drop off in front of him. His hands tightened around the straps of his backpack as walked over, skirting against the edge of the cliff as he looked down.
It was an abyss, the edge clearing into a dark nothing. The darkness was a couple yards wide, but then it turned back into the dirt and rock wasteland beyond.
There was an edge. An edge to keep the tributes in. This Arena was somewhere in the uninhibited wasteland of Panem, but like he had predicted, there was an end.
He felt an unexpected stab of pain in his leg, the cut was still sore but he had pushed most of the pain to the back of his mind. His leg buckled but he caught himself, gasping and pulling back, stumbling and falling down as a small chunk of the cliff he was standing on broke off, falling into the darkness.
He sighed, and shook his head, calming his rapidly beating heart - that was close.
However, this was disappointing. He didn't really know what he was expecting in the first place, but this was so... underwhelming.
He heard a large sucking sound, making him falter as he stayed still, unsure what was going on. Then there was a small beep, and a gust of wind that blew on him. Suddenly the chunks of the broken cliff flew back up, as though thrown. The rocks and dust scattered around him as he brought his hands up to shield himself against the larger pieces.
A last rock hit his hand, bouncing off and landing on the ground near him. Stunned, he sat up and grabbed it, tossing it over the edge as he sat and waited.
Sure enough, a few seconds later, the sucking sound came back. Another beep, another gust of wind, and the rock reappeared, flying straight at him. He brought out his hand in time and caught it, wincing at the pain - the rock had been propelled back at a fast pace.
He stared at the rock, then to the edge of the cliff, and started laughing in triumph.
So it wasn't so underwhelming after all. This was something he could use.
This is why he was here - his gut was right. There really was something at the edge of the Arena.
He nodded to himself, a smile creeping in as he looked around, grabbing a few more rocks over to double confirm his theory.
The noises echoed with each other and after a large gust of wind, the rocks were flying back at him. He ducked in time, laughing.
He stood back up, shaking his head of the small rubble, and took a step towards the cliff when he heard a scream.