Something whips Annie across the face, but she keeps running. She can’t stop now. She can hear someone calling her name. Ivory. He’s getting closer. She considers stopping to climb a tree for the night, but he would find her, eventually. She needs to think of a plan, but she can’t stop. If she stops, she’ll die.
In her mind, she replays the last few minutes. She skips over Sebastian, right to the part where Holiday looks directly into her eyes. Romana is closer, though, so she swings her machete straight down towards her. Ivory is still bundled in his knees. Romana brings her ax up right in time, shoves Holiday’s arms down, hard, and starts to attack.
And Annie runs, while she has the chance.
Holiday screams, “I’ve got this!” She screams, “You get mermaid girl!”
Something in Ivory must’ve snapped then, because he’s been running behind her, yelling her name.
The rain started pouring again, soon after she bolted. She’s making some nice footprints for Ivory to track, but she doesn’t care. She just needs to outrun him. She needs to be faster. That’s what matters right now.
The cannon goes off. Either Holiday or Romana must be dead. Annie hopes it’s Holiday. Anger bubbles in her stomach, and she stops running. She presses herself against a tree and stands, feeling her racing heart in her chest and letting the rain plaster her hair against her scalp and forehead.
“Annie!” Ivory’s voice, accompanied by squelching footsteps, comes to her through the rain. He’s still behind her. “Annie, where are you? Let me help you! That was all Holiday. Her crazy, stupid idea. I can help you, Annie, please, just come out!”
He sounds earnest, but she doesn’t move. Slowly, she slips out a knife from her belt. He’s stopped running. He walks right past her, but doesn’t look back. She crouches down, just in case, and starts to move after him. Her feet slip and sink into the mud, making her steps noisier than she’d like, but he doesn’t seem to hear her over the rain.
“Annie!” he calls out again. “We can take her down. Let me help you. She doesn’t deserve to win, you know that!”
He’s right, she tells herself, but she still walks behind him, as quietly as she can. After a few minutes, he stops completely. He rests his back against a tree and sinks down onto the ground. Annie tiptoes the short distance between them and crouches down on the other side of his tree.
He could be telling the truth. He could want to help her. He knows Holiday better than anyone. He said this was a plan. She was meaning to do this the whole time. She was waiting until the opportune moment. She was never their ally. Never really part of the group. Anger, hatred, and betrayal all boil through her veins.
Holiday doesn’t deserve to go home. The only two people who deserved to go home are dead. The least Annie can do, before she dies, is make sure the people who killed them don’t go home either. She pounces out from behind the tree and lunges for Ivory. He tries to push her away, but slips in the mud and falls. His sword is just out of reach, but it doesn’t matter much anyway. Annie straddles his chest, pinning him to the ground, and presses her knife against his throat.
“Annie,” he says, trying to stay calm. “You don’t want to do this. I’ve seen you. I know you. Y-you didn’t want to kill anyone, Annie. I know that. Put the knife down.”
“I don’t think so,” she replies, pressing it a little deeper. A pearl of blood appears under the point. He stops moving. “I have a few questions.”
“Did you know about this plan the entire time?”
“Fine, I knew.” His eyes find hers. She can’t make out the color in the dark, but she sees that they’re glistening. Rain smoothes his hair against his forehead. He’s not nearly so attractive at the moment. “I was trying to talk her out of it.”
“Why not tell the rest of us?”
“I wanted to, I did. I did! But she’s my District Partner. You can understand that, can’t you?”
“I can,” Annie hisses. I think we’re friends. She told him not to say that. She told him. “I really hope Holiday understands it, too.”
Fear fills Ivory’s eyes. He opens his mouth to protest, but Annie’s knife is already lodged in his throat. His blood seeps out over her hands, hot and thick. He grabs at her jacket, her arms, anything to make her stop. She twists the knife in place, and he coughs one last spray of blood across her face before he stops moving. A few moments later, the cannon goes off. She yanks the knife out of his neck, stands up, and keeps running.
Her breathing is more ragged than before. Adrenaline pumps through her body, driving her forward for several long hours. She can feel her hands shaking, then her legs, and then she knows she has to stop for the night. She’s far away from the campsite at this point. She doesn’t even know if Holiday is alive, but she won’t take the chance. She climbs up the nearest tree, as far up as her limbs will take her, and then collapses against the trunk.
The rain stops, at that exact moment, and Annie feels how tired she really is. The rain stripped away her skin and her muscles. She’s just a tired pile of bones, running from monsters.
“So why am I crying?” she asks herself out loud, and she’s startled to discover that she is. Her tears slide down her cheeks, leaving warm, salty trails over her cold face. Now that she’s stopped moving, everything hits her at once. She watches, again, as Sebastian’s head flies off his body. She feels his blood splatter against her. She sees Holiday’s smirk, hears her cold remark.
I guess there’s six now, she’d said. Well, now there’s four. In one day, they went from eight to four, and Annie cries harder for all of them. She looks down at her hands. The rain washed all the blood away, but she can still feel it. Ivory’s blood, Ivory’s scared face, Ivory’s frantic hands trying to stop her. She feels all of it.
A parachute lands on the branch in front of her, so suddenly that she jumps. She grabs the canister and looks up at the sky. The rain stopped, but the Arena is still cloudy. She must not have seen it coming.
She pries open the metal box, and sees a loaf of District 4 bread. It’s hot, fresh baked, and right out of the oven. She brings the loaf right up to her face and inhales deeply. Salt, and seaweed, and home. It must be from her parents. She looks back in the container, and sees a small piece of paper, folded over once, stuck to the bottom. She takes a bite of the bread, and starts to cry harder. It’s crusty and chewy, and just a little burned on the bottom. She takes another bite and pulls the note out to read it.
Don’t worry. I’ve got you.
She holds it in her hand, reading it over and over. She almost laughs, but stops herself.
“Thank you,” she says, out loud, looking up at the sky. She can almost see him, staring back at her. She can feel his hands, holding hers. She can feels his soft lips on her cheek. She can see his small smile, and hear him saying her name. She eats the rest of the bread and drifts into an uneasy sleep.
She dreams of huge waves. Her hands are covered in blood, and she wraps them around Holiday’s throat. She feels her nails digging into soft skin, and then a wave sweeps them up and away. It drops her on the ground, gently, and she goes home, stepping over Holiday’s twisted and broken body. Her pretty blonde hair is tangled and wet. Annie smiles as she takes Finnick’s hand and steps out of the Arena, onto another wave, and into the open arms of her home.
When she wakes up, she knows exactly what she has to do.
The world around her is eerily quiet. There’s no sign of life anywhere around her. She climbs down the tree and stretches out her limbs. Her back cracks, and her hips. Her legs are burning from her run through the rain, and her hair is a tangled mess. She pulls it apart and ties it back up. A pain in her stomach reminds her that she needs to eat before she does anything.
The sky is clear and blue now, and she sees no sign of a parachute. The sponsors probably didn’t like seeing her run away and cry. They want a big blow out. A fight. Something entertaining. She’ll have to fend for herself for a little bit.
She stops for a moment to take inventory. Luckily, she never took off her backpack yesterday. She still has all her supplies. The salve is almost out, but she doesn’t have any injuries. Two apples. She bites into one now, but only eats half of it. She doesn’t know the next time she’ll get a parachute. She’ll have to make these apples last. She also has a roll of wire, and a canteen. And, of course, her three remaining knives, still secured on her belt.
She tries to think back to training. How to make a wire trap for animals. How to survive out here without sponsors. She can’t remember a thing. She starts to walk and tries to think back to training days at school, to remember anything they may have said about wilderness survival. Nothing. All their training was centered around combat. Hera was good at traps. She didn’t think she would live long enough to have to remember how to do them.
“Stupid,” she mutters to herself. “That was stupid.”
She walks with the wire in her hands, practicing different loops, hoping to jog something loose. Nothing. As she gets closer to the clearing, though, she slips the wire into her pocket. She has to focus now.
She stops at the edge of the treeline. The Cornucopia sits, just in front of her, bright and glittering in the mid-morning sunlight. She sits and waits for a long time, half an hour maybe, and just watches the scene. Nothing moves. Nothing makes any noise, except for a few birds.
Even if she can remember how to make a trap, she doesn’t remember seeing any animals. She’s going to starve either way. Maybe she can end this first.
She takes a tentative step into the clearing and looks around, hand on the hilt of a knife. No other movement. She takes a few steps and stops again, and is rewarded with stillness and silence. She walks the rest of the way, glancing around every few steps. Her foot scrapes across one of the metal platforms that raised the Tributes into the Arena just over a week ago, and she crouches down by it. Hera said she would dig up the mines, but which side are they on? Or are they all around, in case a Tribute steps off to any direction?
Having no other tools, she digs her fingers into the dirt on the side closest to the Cornucopia. It cakes in her nails, but easily crumbles beneath her hands. In a matter of minutes, she has a pretty sizable hole. In a few more, she hits something hard and unearths a mine. It’s smaller than she expected. It fits snugly in the palm of her hand, just a dirty silver sphere. She fits it in her jacket pocket and moves to the next platform, and then the next one, and then again until her pockets are bulging with mines.
One of these things can turn a person into a swipe of blood inside a crater. Four should be enough to blow a dam. Plus, it feels appropriate. Four mines for four Tributes.
She shoves her hands in her pockets and jogs back into the woods. Once she’s in the treeline again, she relaxes a little.
Blow the dam, mermaid girl.
And she will.
She reaches the dam many hours later. The sun is lower in the sky. If she had to guess, she’d say it’s mid-afternoon. She buries the mines quickly, in four different places. She’s starting to feel good about her handiwork when she remembers that she has no way to detonate them. Hera was going to make a remote, but Hera died. She didn’t show her how to make one. She didn’t show her anything.
Blow the dam, mermaid girl.
She sits down right where she is, and eats the second half of the apple from this morning, even though it’s gone all brown and a little dry from a day inside her backpack. The sun goes down as she throws the core into the trees. The Gamemakers must be getting impatient. She still doesn’t move. It’s freezing, but she doesn’t light a fire. She sits and watches the sky until the anthem plays.
Ivory. Romana. Sebastian.
Holiday is still alive. She killed Romana, and she’s still out there, somewhere. She’s probably looking for Annie, hoping to kill her, but Annie won’t give her that satisfaction. She’s going to kill Holiday.
A bubble forms somewhere inside her. Annie feels it, and she feels it move up her body, until it’s in her throat, and she has to let it into the air. It starts as a scream, but quickly turns into a laugh, and then into sobs.
She couldn’t save him. She couldn’t get him home. She got so close, but he died anyway. She can’t save anyone, not even herself. She probably didn’t even save Twenny, back in 4.
She’s going to kill Holiday.
A twinkling star above her gets larger and larger, closer and closer. She doesn’t realize, until she’s reaching up to grab it, that it’s a parachute.