The Stone Cries Out

Moss Agate

Moss Agate

The hours drag in slow crawls. She remains up there while the rest of us set up camp below. Even when I'm doing something else, my eyes refuse to leave her for too long. Above us, she is both vulnerable but unpredictable. During the time we've been here, she scaled the tree a little higher, perched delicately on a branch. It hasn't cracked beneath her weight and it's not that unbelievable.

Despite her influence in the Games, when I get a good look at her, there just seems to be…not so much.

She's scrawny, a little hunched into herself too when no one else is looking; even after being in the Capitol for two weeks, she barely filled out at all. I still haven't seen her eyes.

The sun sets and I watch as the rest of us huddle around the fire. Glimmer pulls out the food from a pack and evenly distributes them in small rations. Clove thanks her with a nod of her head and I bite my tongue. I glance at the boy farthest from me, leaning against a fallen log and looking up at the tree, trying to peer into the shadows. I do the same, although it's for completely different reasons.

Marvel plops next to Glimmer and sips out of the water container, "Nice night out,"

Completely casual as always; I know he does take the Games as seriously as the rest of us, but there are times when his laidback demeanor almost feels out of place here. Ironically, it can be a little refreshing…though not for long.

Glimmer smiles, "Yeah, there's more stars out than usual. I wonder why that could be,"

"Maybe the Gamemakers are in a good mood," Clove comments.

We're rewarded, I think, with a shooting star that suddenly passes by. Glimmer giggles and Clove polishes her knives with a loving, possessive expression.

"We didn't see very many stars back home," Glimmer states.

"Why's that?" inquires Clove, glancing up from her work.

"I'm not so sure. The nights could be pretty clear, but for the most part, it was just sky. Although, it wasn't too bad; our jewels that we make and collect are as bright as stars."

"Diamonds don't shine," I suddenly say, "They reflect light."

The three look at me, since I haven't said anything too much lately. Glimmer just shrugs and grins, "I know that, but you understand what I mean. It's rather fun being able to play with all the different gems, being the Luxury district and all,"

Marvel snorts, "Yeah, if you're into that sort of thing,"

"So what would you do?" Clove interjects. Marvel blinks; she rarely addresses him and he her, though there'd never been animosity between them.

"Well, I would work in the factories and handle the larger equipment. It was just what I found more enjoyable than looking at tiny stones all the time; and besides training for the Games."

"Oh, kind of like how Cato and I would occasionally work in the mountains."

"You'd work in the mountains?" Marvel asks, turning to me then back to her, "What's that like?"

"I would only be there some of the time," Clove explains, flicking her knife experimentally, "Since women are smaller, we tend to do the more flexible or delicate work, like going through really small crevices and seeing if we can find anything in the walls; since we're lighter too, we'd scale to the tops of the caves,"

"That doesn't sound delicate to me," states Glimmer, nibbling on a piece of dried meat.

"No, it definitely wasn't," answers Clove, "While we share the same line of work, it's just that the men were too big to handle it. They were in risky situations too, of course, but when it came to handling the more…detailed jobs, the women would be called in."

"Were the women nurses too or something?" Marvel says abruptly. The two girls look at him; he shrugs but there's a blush creeping up, "I mean, that usually seems like a detailed job and you get emergencies down there, I'm assuming—not much oxygen and all deep in mountains."

Clove shakes her head, "No, not usually. While we were allowed to do some of the harder work, men were usually the medical practitioners. It's one of those sexist things—that men handle science better."

Glimmer snorts, "That's stupid,"

"It's one of those progressions that hasn't changed so much yet,"

"Why? We have female doctors back home; hell, so do the rest of the other districts. Why are you the only ones stuck in the past for that?" Marvel looks baffled.

"All districts are different in some ways,"

"I guess," Marvel says, "Kind of like how we don't have trees back home,"

Clove looks at the two of them, "You don't have trees?"

"No, we're nothing but buildings. We just get the jewels from the Capitol or even from some other districts and turn them into fashionable wear. This is the first time I've seen an actual tree besides textbooks and pictures."

"That makes sense. Cato and I didn't see too many trees either, growing up, aside from scraggy looking things."

Glimmer is chewing methodically and swallows slow, "I'm happy from where I'm from though. I can't imagine living in the outer districts."

"Why, too much dirt?" Marvel teases, nudging her arm with his elbow.

She smiles, waving him off, "No, I just feel like that's where I belong, you know? I hear that district 4 is really beautiful—there's nothing but water there and it just stretches on and on. It's even been said it looks like a jewel. I think that would be the only thing I'd like to see: an ocean."

I take a firm bite out of some dried fruit, my eyes flicking back and forth between them all. It's odd hearing them talk like this—like people with aspirations and wants and independent mindsets. Even Clove has spoken a little more of what I never thought she'd voice. But it's slightly unnerving and I try not to look around for the cameras playing our conversation, the Capitol listening and wondering if this conversation is dangerous. I'm about to open to mouth and suggest we all rest when the boy speaks out of nowhere.

"I've never seen jewels until the Games."

We look in the darkness where the boy said his one, lone comment.

Glimmer peers at him intently, and her voice is too soft for comfort, "No offense but your district is kind of…dead."

He laughs quietly, not taking it personally. "Can't argue with that; we're one of the poorest districts,"

"That's true," I reply, letting my answer hang them for a few seconds, "Also, I highly doubt that you had training like we did,"

"Correct again. But I don't think it's too bad,"

"You don't think it's too bad?" Marvel is looking at him like her grew a second head, "You don't think advantages are good?"

"I didn't say that. I'm just saying for the most part, it's not too bad."

"You're fucking crazy," Marvel exclaims.

"How? I thought you all wanted to be here—that doesn't make you crazy?"

The three look at him with hostile glares, but mine is the only one looking at him with something different. I don't know how he does it; where he's meek and gentle but then he speaks with such honesty that you wonder if it's better when he's closed or open.

Clove, in a moment of resignation, throws her knife one last time—hitting an insect's midsection—and sighs, "It's late. We should probably sleep so we can get her,"

It doesn't take long until their all sleeping, the fire dead and not flickering in the moonlight. Only he and I are awake. His breathing hasn't evened out; it's harsher than usual, a panic tone taking each shallow breath.

Turning on my side, my eyes turn up to the tree. I try to listen for her but nothing comes.

I should sleep. But I don't want my guard to be let down. She could do anything from there and we wouldn't know. It doesn't matter how well we think we've trapped her. She's someone who thinks if she has to, that much is clear.

So I try not to be asleep, but everything's so dark I might as well be.

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