“Annie, get up.”
She doesn’t move. She doesn’t even look up.
“Annie, we’ve been here for two days. We have to keep moving.”
She shakes her head and trails one fingertip through the dirt in front of her.
“At least eat something.”
Sebastian’s hands, rough but somehow still smooth, fold around her smaller ones. There’s bread in his hands. He’s trying to give it to her, but she pushes it away.
“I’m not hungry,” she says. She barely recognizes her own voice.
She can’t be acting this way. Not in front of the cameras, with the whole country watching. But, in the end, does it really matter? She’s going to die in here. She’s going to die surrounded by these trees and these people and then everyone will forget her. What does it matter if she’s a wreck? She could go out screaming or go out fighting, but, either way, she’s still going out. She takes the bread from Sebastian, though, and takes a bite. Anything to get him to leave her alone.
“I remember our deal,” he says, sitting next to her and pulling out his own loaf of bread.
“Top six, we split.”
She looks up at him for the first time in days. He looks so different from the glowing young man who cheered when his name was called at the Reaping. It’s been barely over a week, but his hair is just a little bit longer. He doesn’t smile as much. His glow is gone. He’s not excited anymore.
“Yeah,” she replies. “Top six, we split.”
“That’s coming up,” he says. “We’re in the Top Eight now.”
“Should we plan or something? Decide when to go, or where? Do we each pick a side and just walk in opposite directions?”
“I don’t know,” she admits. Take Sebastian and run, that’s what Hera said. But would he run with her? Would he insist on staying, or on separating from her? And why shouldn’t she trust the group, like Hera said? They listen to her. Why didn’t she explain what she meant? Why didn’t she let Annie help her? Why did she…. “I don’t know right now. Ask me again when we hit the top six.”
Sebastian nods and takes a big bite of his bread. Annie pulls off a little piece and nibbles at it.
“I’m sorry about Hera,” he says after a long time. “I know she was your friend.”
“How could I make friends in here?” she asks. “Hera was an ally. That’s all.”
Her heart aches just saying the words, but she knows it’s what she’s supposed to say.
“I think we’re friends,” Sebastian says. “Me and you, I mean.”
“Don’t say that.” Annie almost snaps, but he doesn’t flinch at all.
“I do. It’s really too bad we….”
“Had to meet here?” she finishes for him. He nods and takes another bite of bread. “Well, remember to speak well of me when you get home.”
“Let’s move,” Holiday calls across their little group.
After the attack yesterday, after Hera…. They went back to the Cornucopia. Holiday was awake at that point, and the five of them left, immediately, to find a better camp. One with better coverage that would be harder to attack. Sebastian killed the boy from 5, and Romana wounded another one, so it seemed unlikely that the other group would attack again, but they all decided they’d rather be on the safe side.
“The idea is to never be in the same place for too long,” Romana explained to them before they even left the Cornucopia. “This will all come to a big fight in the end, but I think we need a few days to recover first. We need to heal and we need to plan.”
They walked until dawn, and when Holiday collapsed, they decided to break. They slept in staggered, fitful bursts until the sun was directly above them. They stayed for several more hours, but they need to move on now. They all shoulder packs, clamber to their tired feet, and keep walking. They’re heading towards the dam. Annie isn’t quite sure what that means, but it reminds her of what Hera said. Her last words.
Blow the dam, mermaid girl.
She’s missed her opportunity for sneaking off, though. She should’ve run right after the cannon went off, but she didn’t. She stayed, and now it’s too late. Now the group has become a machine, and it won’t lose one of its parts without a fight. She’s with them until the end now, which may come sooner than she’d like.
It’s a strange thing, knowing she’s going to die soon. Everyone knows they’re going to die, but it’s a far away thing. It’s what happens when people get old. That’s how it should be known. She’s staring it in the face, though. It’s so close she can smell it, almost touch it.
And, now that it’s so close, she finally knows how she feels about it. She doesn’t want to die. She wants to go home. She wants to leave this Arena and go swimming in the ocean. She wants to see Finnick. She wants him to hold her, and she wants to hold him. It’ll never happen, though. Soon, her body will be pulled out of the Arena by a hovercraft. She’ll be put in a nice wooden box, and there’ll be a funeral. Her parents will be there, and Sebastian, and Mags. Maybe Twenny, the girl she volunteered for, will go. If she had just kept her hand down, she’d be at home right now. She’d be baking bread with her dad, or getting her hair brushed by her mom.
If she had kept her hand down, a 12-year-old girl would be in here. She’d probably be dead by now. Annie shudders.
No, she thinks. No matter what happens, I made the right choice. I saved a young girl from this. I did the right thing. Didn’t I?
Did she really save Twenny? Is there really a way to save anyone?
Maybe Finnick will go to her funeral. Maybe he’ll even be sad. He loses Tributes every year, but maybe her death will actually mean something to him. He did kiss her back, after all, on the balcony, the night before the Arena. He’s been fighting for her life almost more than she has. He’ll surely care when she dies.
They stop at sunset to eat something. Holiday leans against a tree. The venom is clearly still giving her some problems, though she’s not hallucinating. Annie understands though. Her own joints ache, and the muscles in her legs, and she still has a pounding headache. Holiday was bitten twice, though. It must hurt a lot more for her. Annie opens her mouth, hoping to give her some advice, but stops herself. What would she say, really, that Holiday hasn’t already heard? Drink some water, eat something, and rest. That’s all she can offer her, really.
After a quick meal (Annie only has a few bites of bread and half an apple), Holiday pushes herself to her feet.
“Let’s keep going,” she says. “The sun isn’t all the way down yet, we can still—“
She stops suddenly and touches her forehead. Annie tenses and reaches for a knife.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
“Rain,” Holiday replies, and it starts pouring down, like it was waiting for someone to acknowledge it.
“Looks like we’re staying here,” Sebastian says. He almost sounds relieved. He reaches into his pack and pulls out a huge sheet of plastic. “Someone help me with this.”
Romana helps him, for the next hour or so, try to put up the tarp to keep them dry, but there aren’t any low branches to tie it to. The trees are relatively smooth here, which makes it difficult to make any kind of shelter. For them, at least. We really should’ve paid more attention to the survival skills, Annie tells herself.
Eventually, Sebastian and Romana give up. They all move a little deeper into the trees. The rain still splatters them there, but the denser leaves make it a little better. Holiday starts shaking because of the cold, so Sebastian wraps the tarp around the both of them.
“The plastic will keep you dry, and I’ll keep you warm,” he says with a smile which she feebly returns. The day of walking has obviously taken its toll on her. Romana zips up her ragged jacket and crosses her arms. Ivory throws an apple to everyone, except Annie. He walks over to her, two apples in hand, and gives her one as he sits down next to her.
“I’m sorry about Hera,” he murmurs. “I mean, as sorry as we can be in here.”
Annie doesn’t say anything and takes a bite of her apple. It tastes like paper and mush, but she forces herself to swallow it and take another bite. The cannon rings, all around them. They look around the group at each other but otherwise don’t react.
“That would be my kill,” Romana says, almost smiling. “Looks like What’s-His-Name from Six couldn’t get any good medicine.”
Amory, Annie thinks. His name is Amory.
The rain stops pretty quickly after that. Romana tries to make a fire, but the rain soaked through every piece of wood around them. A few minutes later, a parachute floats down for her, containing a box of matches and a few dry logs. A few minutes after that, they’re all huddled around a small flame. The warmth from it washes over Annie’s face and hands. She actually sighs as it seeps through her skin and into her bones. Sebastian starts to pull away from Holiday, but she shudders, so he stays with her. Romana unzips her jacket. Ivory stretches out in front of the growing flames.
The Anthem starts playing. They all look up. There’s only one face in the sky tonight. The boy from 6. Amory. Romana was right. She even looks a little smug, like her one kill makes up for anything.
“That means there’s seven of us now, right?” Sebastian asks. Ivory jerks awkwardly next to her, drawing her attention. He’s buried his face in his hands.
“I’m just getting something from my pack. No, I’m fine.”
Annie turns back to see Holiday standing up and moving, delicately, towards her bag, which she dropped some feet behind their little circle. She wasn’t comfortable wearing it inside the tarp.
It takes her two heartbeats to walk to her backpack, and two more to find what she’s looking for. When she straightens back up, the fire catches something shiny in her hands. It’s long, and thin, and she carries it straight down. Her back is still to the group.
Somehow, Annie knows what’s about to happen before it does. She tries to scream, once, twice, until her voice finally lets her.
“SEBASTIAN,” she shrieks, pushing herself up, but she’s too late.
Holiday swings her arms back and then down. Annie sinks to her knees in the wet ground as Sebastian’s blood sprays across her face. His head drops right from his shoulders and lands on the moist leaves, rolling a few times. It stops on its side, his eyes staring at her, two wide, unmoving orbs made of glass. His body thuds to the ground right where it is. Holiday turns and flashes her a wide grin.
“Well,” she says, wiping her machete on her pant leg. “I guess that makes six!”