Chapter 8: The Games, Day 1
Mackie was the one to wake him up.
She didn't say anything as he got out of bed. He looked over to see that Dylan and the bed he slept in were gone.
She held a package wrapped in plastic, resting it on the now empty bed before unwrapping it, the plastic crinkling making the awkward silence even worse.
She turned her back as Haymitch changed into the underwear. Haymitch gave a grunt to signal it was clear, and she turned back and handed the garments over, still silent, which was unlike her.
He pulled on khaki cargo pants with a belt and multiple pockets. They felt light, which he liked. He then put on a white tank top, and eyed the dark grey shirt.
"Usually its navy or black; why grey?" he asked.
"Maybe the Quell has that color; I've only done this a few years. Here are the shoes; they're top notch this year."
She was right. He smiled as he strapped up the black boots that had a light feeling, springy yet large and sturdy soles and small straps all around to hold weapons, he assumed.
"Time to go," Mackie said.
"He went earlier. Already on his way," she said, and they walked out to the main room of the Penthouse, where Cassie was waiting for them.
Mackie stopped him with an arm to his shoulder, and he turned towards his designer, the woman that helped transform him - materialistically - for the Capitol.
"You've got... drive. You're a smart-ass, but the first word of that term is 'smart' for a reason, kid. If I ever sunk so low to place bets in these games, this time around, I'd put money on you," she said softly, keeping his gaze.
He blinked, but nodded, surprised yet humbled and even driven by her comments.
"Thank you. Really. For everything. I'd never worn a suit before," he said.
At that her eyes got wet.
"Jesus kid, you can't say things like that," she said, her voice shaky but she smiled anyways and lightly slapped his cheek as a mother would, which had his heart skipping a beat.
"Go get 'em."
He nodded and walked towards Cassie who wordlessly turned and they boarded the elevator, the doors closing behind them without it's usual 'ding'.
She pushed against the wall, a small flap popping open. She brought out what looked like a regular key and inserted it into slot, opening yet another small flap, which revealed a button. After she pressed it the elevator finally made a 'dinging' noise and instead of descending, he felt the cart ascend at a rather rapid speed - unusual for an elevator.
The doors soon opened to sunlight, and Haymitch followed Cassie's quick steps towards a hovercraft, powered up but grounded as it took up most of the space on the roof.
"Haymitch," Cassie said, turning and grabbing his shoulders.
He looked up at her, anxious for her last words to him.
"Why are you fighting?"
He blinked. He wasn't expecting this.
"Why are you fighting?" she repeated, "When that gong sounds, you're fighting for your life. Why are going to fight?"
He tucked his lips in, setting his mouth straight.
"Finn, my dad."
She nodded, and reached up to grab his head, her palms closing over his cheeks, holding him tight.
"Remember that, Haymitch. Focus on what keeps you alive. Good luck."
"Thank you," Hamyitch said, nodding as she dropped her hands.
Cassie only gave a short nod back.
"Time to go."
He straightened his back and walked the rest of the way onto the hovercraft alone, turning as the back hatch closed, his vision of Cassie standing on the roof, hands in her pockets, staring right back at him, until all he could see was a black metal door.
A Peacekeeper barked at him to sit down and he moved to the only empty seat available as he stared at his feet, barely awknolwedging the other Peacekeeper than came and injected a tracker into his arm.
He didn't feel the pain, only the cold hard metal agasint his skin.
He didn't hear anything except the humm of the Hovercraft's motor.
He didn't feel anything except Cassie's last words to him.
'Focus on what keeps you alive.'
After being led down a hall that had seemed to last forever, the two Peacekeepers on guard who flanked him soon came to a stop before a door with a large '12' painted on the wall next to it.
They stood still, unmoving and silent, and he turned the knob, his hands shaking as he entered.
It was a small, light blue room with a large glass cylinder in the middle - the platform that would lift him up the the Arena.
The platform wasn't a surprise - however the person waiting for him in the room was.
"Hey, Hay" Leo said, faintly grinning, his hands in his pockets. The name was a joke between them ever since Haymitch introduced himself. It was a small joke between them.
"Hi," Haymitch replied slowly.
He honestly didn't know who to expect when he opened the door, he actually thought he would be alone.
He was glad it was Leo there. During training, Haymitch had made sure to end his days at Leo's station. ANd while he learned how to create makeshift weapons, and destroyed the provided mannequins with the provided spears, learning all the while about stance, balance, and the right arc for a throw and the pivotal moment of release for hitting a target - Leo and Haymitch had somewhat became friends. Haymitch didn't really know the concept really, but he wanted at least one friend before he died.
And he was here.
"Uh, here's your jacket," Leo said, turning and taking the said jacket off the hook. It was black with a green lining, had a box frame buckle attached, a hood with cords, and even more pockets.
"Is there going to be snow or something?" Haymitch asked, ignoring his own shaky voice as he slipped it on, feeling warmth even though it was light fabric. He clicked the belt closed, making it snug but not tight.
"Let's hope not. Don't want to be mauled by a yeti in the first few hours," Leo replied. That got a grin from Haymitch.
"Prepare for launch," a female voice filled the room. Then it started counting down from sixty seconds.
"Head up, kid," Leo said, stepping close to him.
Leo nodded and Haymitch turned and walked towards the clear cylinder with the platform.
"Any other last words?" Haymitch asked as he stepped in and turned around. The cylinder closed around him and he restrained from putting his hands against the glass.
"LIVE!" Leo yelled, but Haymitch only heard it faintly. The scared look Leo had didn't comfort him; then suddenly, Leo smiled, and nodded his head.
Haymitch wanted to ask what the hell that look was supposed to mean, but couldn't find his voice.
There was a click, and then the ground was moving beneath him, rising. He gave a last glance to Leo, who was still smiling. The look on his favorite trainer's face was the last thing he saw before there was complete darkness. A few more seconds, and then he felt fresh air.
He took in a deep breath as bright white light surrounded his senses, his sight, touch, even smell - it all seemed so... white. Bright.
The platform stopped moving and he blinked, his vision coming into focus as he breathed in the fresh air, such fresh air he'd never breathed before.
He heard the Head Gamemaker's voice announce the Quarter Quell, but he was still trying to adjust his eyes. It only took a few more seconds.
The first thing he saw was the Cornucopia. His eyes grew wide at the sight of the golden structure that sat in a green meadow with wildflowers all around. Inside and even at the mouth were weapons, packs, backpacks, everything needed to survive in the Games. All there, ripe for the picking as soon as the countdown ended.
He noticed one or two different packs that he would try to get. Cassie had said not to try the Cornucopia - that it was suicide - but Haymitch was a fast runner and he knew he would be able to make it out of there alive as long as he got his hands on something. He looked around, keeping the seconds being counted off in the back of his mind.
Thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight, twenty-seven…
The field was endless. He looked around, noticing that the tributes were spaced a little closer than usual, but not close enough to give too an unfair advantage. But if the boy on the platform next to him wanted to run and attack him when the countdown ended, it would only take a few running strides. Though with the odds doubled, Haymitch doubted anyone would be that stupid.
However the boy on the platform next to him seemed distracted. He was sniffing the air, and looking at the bright blue sky full of big white clouds. He was still blinking, shielding his eyes from the bright sun.
Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen, twelve…
Haymitch looked around and saw that most of the tributes seemed disoriented; still blinking at the bright sun or staring at the snow capped mountain in the distance. Others just seemed dazed, mesmerized by the sight. He frowned, confused.
Ten, nine, eight…
His gaze flickered to Maysille, who had her eyes square on the Cornucopia. She was squatting slightly, as though ready to jump from her platform.
That's when it clicked - were the other tributes so unused to this environment? Fresh (more than normal) air, trees, grass... was that the reason for their delayed reaction?
Haymitch glanced around at the other tributes and saw both Dylan and Maggie, both unperturbed by their surroundings, both looking around just as confused as he was at the other Tribute's reactions.
He shook his head - time to focus on the now - and stared at a large backpack that was bulging, the zippers barely holding it together, leaning against the mouth of the Cornucopia.
A large gong sounded, reverberating through the ground, and Haymitch was off - sprinting straight towards the backpack, keeping his eyes on the target. He knew he was faster and had at least a few more seconds on the rest of the tributes during their distracted state. That was all he needed.
And even though he knew there were three other tributes that weren't as affected as the others - he didn't pay attention to it and instead kept his mind on one goal: get whatever he could and then get the hell out of there.
He grabbed the pack and kept sprinting to the weapons, taking a risk to enter the Cornucopia itself. He grabbed a spear and a large knife as big as his forearm that had its own strap and buckle. He grabbed two smaller knives he tucked into his left boot, and ran back to the entrance. The others were now closing in, the Careers in the lead.
He gave smile and a wave to Remy who let out a scream and tried sprinting faster; but she was far enough for him to get away as he ran straight to the woods to get some cover.
He stopped a short while in and started climbing a tree; wanting to find out if he could watch the bloodbath, find out his competition beforehand. He stopped when he got near the top, and squinted as he raised a hand to shield his eyes from the sun and looked towards the Cornucopia.
He already saw a few bodies in the grass, and more Tributes were fighting. They were too far away for him to notice who was who.
He did notice others running away from the Cornucopia. None of them, or the bodies on the ground that he could notice, had the same colored jacket from his district. He sighed and turned away, resting his back on the trunk of the tree, catching his breath.
He wanted to smile at such a victory - that he was lucky enough to reach the Cornucopia to retrieve the necessary supplies and weapons to give him a fighting chance... but he couldn't bring his lips to move from their perpetual frown.
He waited a few more seconds before he climbed down the tree, slipping once or twice but eventually finding his feet on the ground. He ran for a count of ten minutes in his head and then switched to walking. After the rest of a slower pace he switched back to running and then stopped near a flat rock that he climbed and sat on, giving him partial high ground, setting his spear next to him in case he needed to reach it easily.
He uncurled his arm from one of the straps of his backpack, bringing it to his lap as he opened the zippers and started inspecting the contents.
The smaller front packet held a small flashlight and a box with gauze, bandages, and ointment.
The next pocket had two thin blankets rolled tightly, the material seeming waterproof. There was an extra pair of socks and a shirt, bags of dried fruit and beef, and a pack of crackers; an aluminum bottle filled to the edge with water - which he took a generous sip of before twisting the cap back on - and a leather water skin that was empty. The last he saw was three more knives. He kept two inside the backpack, and added the third one to his right boot.
He took a deep breath in and stood up as he let it out and grabbed his spear.
He then started jogging. He had a higher possibility of crossing paths with other Tributes if he stuck around close to the entrance of the woods - which he didn't want. He figured the more he avoided the others, they would take care of each other, lessening the number of tributes that he had to eliminate - if he even made it that far. Even he knew so early on that any plan was only wishful thinking.
He was at least fifteen minutes in when the first blast of the cannon surprised him. He tripped, catching himself on a nearby tree.
He straightened and waited as he counted each blast until it was silent again.
That meant twenty-nine left.
He decided to rest and sat on the ground, sticking the spear upright next to him and resting the backpack on his other side. He took another sip of water, and felt the weight of the bottle after. He would have to ration until he could find a source, or until it rained. He felt hungry, but knew he could last until morning for food.
He hadn't crossed any critters yet, but he heard the songs of birds, which meant there had to be more animals. He would hunt later. Tomorrow.
He knew he would survive until then; in fact with his pack, he could survive at most a week if he didn't run into anybody else. But even if he did, he hit the jackpot at the Cornucopia; if he missed with his spear, he had all the knives he could need.
He was still worried about what it would be like to kill... but pushed it to the back of his mind.
He sighed, and stood up again. He needed a plan.
He heard a rustle nearby, and dropped to the ground, hidden behind a bush as he looked around.
A young girl with wavy red hair came into view. She was holding onto her right arm, blood spilling out from beneath her fingers. She was shaking, and by the color of her skin and the flow of blood from her wound; she was dying. She was just a girl, he estimated maybe ten years old.
She looked around, cried out as though in pain, and disappeared to the left.
He stood up and ran the opposite direction from her, eventually slowing to a jog.
The canon blasted a couple of minutes later.
Switching between jogging and walking, he waited until twilight to stop and take a rest at a clearing, finding his resting ground.
He spared himself a sip of water before he brought out his knife and hacked at as many branches he could find or reach. He piled them all on a cluster of large rocks, and crawled on top of it. He lay his spear and backpack behind him, keeping an arm in one strap as he brought the branches up and over him.
He had just closed his eyes when he heard the anthem.
He sat up, pushing the branches away as he looked up at the Capitol Seal floating in the sky.
A picture appeared, a boy from District 3, followed from a picture of a girl from the same district. The pictures kept coming, one after the other. He watched it all, until the picture of a girl form District 11 disappeared from the sky, fading into the Capitol seal before the anthem stopped playing and the picture faded.
He grabbed the branches and lied down again, bringing the branches on top of him, hiding himself well.
So Dylan, Maggie, and Maysilee were still alive. He hated that it made him relieved.
Even worse, he fell asleep with the image of Maysilee on the platform at the Cornucopia. The look on her face how he felt: ready to die, but not without a fight.