The night whirred in a blur of black and many, many white dots. I had stared up at the ceiling for a while, my heart pounding with deafening vengeance in my ears. There was too much happening in my head and it echoed with each resounding beat of the heart in my chest.
Clove had gone to bed surprisingly early, telling me that she was tired. Lyme, of course, hadn't been there to tell us much. Just to be prepared to do what we had to.
I couldn't even force my eyelids to shut for a while but I'm still not the least bit sleepy. I eventually had gone to sleep, and the slumber was deep, with no nightmares about anything. There were no dreams at all, none that I could remember. But the sleep was restful and I'm awake, energized. The rapid thumping of my heart hasn't seemed to stop.
The shower I take is quick and meticulous. I'm dressed and out of my room in less than twenty minutes. I look around for anyone and with no one there, I plop onto an armchair. The sun is barely rising over the horizon in the distance. The glass, the background dark, reflects my image. The expression on my face is serious, as it tends to be when I'm focused but I notice the slight grinning grimace on my face, something I didn't even feel.
I am tense. I can't deny that. The world will be watching us all, will be watching me, and wondering if I'm capable of winning.
I am, also, generally pumped. I'm ready to get out there, my heart racing.
The sun is a little higher now, light splayed on buildings and even with such minimal degrees of reflection, it's still slightly blinding. I rise and walk over to the table, munching on the food there without really tasting it. I just need to get out of here and go.
Clove and Lyme both come in much later now. The Games don't tend to start early because of the Capitol citizens being more inclined to sleep in later than the Districts—I've had more than my fair share of sunrises. I wonder if these people have ever even really seen one just because they can.
Clove comes up and immediately aims for an apple, gathering up some other fruit and scarfing it down. Lyme just sits quietly. I can't help but peer intently at Clove for a little bit. The dark circles under her eyes don't concern me much, since she, I, and the other attendants of the Academy are used to rising at raw and ungodly hours; not even being commanded to head to bed at early times were helpful: for those of us who helped our folks in the mountainsides, sleep was a luxury and add to that the bruises, lacerations, rugged training rituals and all the other crap that we endured, well, sleeping could even be painful when all your sore spots were being pressed against. Not even the softest pillow could ease anything. But we never complained and we didn't now.
What concerns me is how quickly she's eating. She's not going to choke on her food—Clove missing a methodical chew is laughable and my giving her the Heimlich maneuver more so—it's just the faster pace. As though she can't process what's going on.
There's a part of me that wants to touch her shoulder, tell her everything will be alright. But that's not the truth, and I may lie if I have to, but I won't—not when the truth is inevitable and there staring you in the face.
And there's no camaraderie right now. We can't.
I can feel her eyes on me though. I'm tempted to glance over my shoulder at her but I look out the window, staring at the city. I try to focus on the people who will be watching me today. There are bound to be sponsors for me, I proved myself and it'll be enough. I know it will be. It has to be.
Lyme comes for us eventually, taking us to ready ourselves. The journey is brief but it takes forever.
My heart continues to pound.
I watch the citizens of Panem looking at our vehicle with interest, waving and throwing us kisses, wishing us luck. I wave back, wink at a few of them and smirk as some women fall. Maybe they know powerful sponsors.
Lyme escorts us to an open space, a large hovercraft in the distance, ominous and calling to me. Clove and I are some of the first to arrive. There are no words exchanged with our mentor, nothing except a blank look: that we need to always react fast and first; no excuses.
I walk up to the hovercraft, Clove behind me. I take a seat in the farthest corner, away from the door. Clove sits on the same side as me, but several seats away. She won't be near me and she doesn't face me. It's good this way. She and I are thinking on the same page.
"Hold out your arm," I'm told, coming out my thoughts.
I hold out my right arm, and the woman pulls out a large device. I don't wince as she sticks it deeply into my skin. But the faint blue glow beneath the flesh catches my attention. I glance up at her.
"It's just your tracker,"
I look away. Wouldn't want to lose us. Smart.
I see Clove flinch in the corner of my eye. The woman is gripping her arm a little tighter than necessary. When she pulls away, Clove sticks out her foot, tripping the woman a little, who turns around and glares. Clove smiles sweetly—damn that's scary—and pulls off a sincere face, "I'm sorry."
I chuckle beneath my breath.
It takes a while for the other tributes to arrive and soon all of them are sitting in the two rows of seats. I watch each one when the woman walks up to insert the trackers. Several of them wince; a few hyperventilate. The tribute from 11 is quiet, face stern, though he clearly showed animosity toward it. The boy from 12 narrows his eyes, touching his forearm with an almost quiet acceptance; then he looks up, across the way and I turn my head to see the object of his attention.
She's holding out her arm as well. It disappoints me a little that she flinches slightly too, even if it's only in the face, the faintest flicker of her eyes. It shows to me that she is sensitive—to emotional or physical pain, I'm not sure yet. All she did was ask what it was, no complaint.
I'm leaning forward, my elbows on my knees, hands clasped loosely together. And it faintly comes to me that no one else is—all are sitting rigidly up, even Clove and our allies.
Huh. I guess I'm the only one who isn't nervous. Figures… but this a good thing: fear is a downfall.
The hovercraft lifts into the air, silent and heavy, whisking us to the next area where we'll get ready.
When I walk into the room where I'll change into the outfits all tributes wear, I'm alone. The pile of clothes lies apathetically on the bench. I pick them up, feeling the material. It'll be warm enough but if the nights are cold, they may not be. I shrug. Fires will have to be built and it's not like I'll be risking my safety. Who would approach me?
I remember that, including Clove, I have three allies already lined up. This fact still pisses me off—I was prepared to kill everyone, whether I knew them or not. Admittedly, however, I am hoping Clove will get killed by someone else so I won't have to do it.
That's too much to ask for. It'll take a miracle for an event that will kill the girl I've known for so long.
Pulling on the shirt and pants, I stretch my muscles as I do so and then a little more afterward. I pull on the jacket and give myself a swift cursory glance, thinking of methods, strategies. I'm ready.
I pause, looking at the ceiling, waiting for the voice.
I walk forward to the tube. It shuts instantly. It's just me and the air I breathe.
The ground beneath me moves, carrying me upward. I'm agitated, remembering the mines that will be below me, but remain perfectly still.
Then there's light—the hot bright sun; the white world recedes into green and then it melts, showing to me the tributes around me.
I notice the clock, counting down.
My heart pounds faster; my fingers are cold; I grin. Everyone looks so scared.
A blare of sound. I'm rushing out.
There's a glint on the ground—a weapon. I dash for it. Feel it curve into my palm. There are footfalls behind me, thundering, rampant, animals.
I turn and slice.
And that's something I'm not ready fort: the red.
It's a boy that had come up behind me, loud and clumsy, and the machete I hold goes through his abdomen, and some of his intestines spill out onto my clenched fist. Blood is coughed up onto my face. He should've known better. I drop him, his face falling onto my foot. I kick him aside. My fingers are getting warm.
My body is moving on its own, arms extended, cutting through figures I don't know, faces of the enemy and everything is swift. The blurs are black, with various colors of skin and hair, but they all look the same—they're the dead I have to get rid of because they have no chance against me. There's an adrenaline I've never known going through me, an exhilaration: I can finally show everyone that this is what I've been trained for. That I'm the best. That I'll be the one to win! I continue to go through them all. I've prepared for this all my life, yet it's different.
The weapons I used make noise when in contact with objects but it's all so… fleshy.
There's squirting sounds; shallow gasps when the bodies thump softly on the grass; there's a faint coppery scent in the air; there's nothing but the strong bold color of crimson, staining the ground and my skin. And because I'm hitting sinew, tissue, skin, the weapon cuts oddly, and my opponents are moving, so the slices aren't neat anymore. They move and they scream and the noises from their throats bother me—they're too loud and quiet at the same time and I end them faster by shoving the blade into their necks, cutting their cries off because, damn it, I'm good at this and my triumphs must be a reflection of that. My kills don't cry out; they meet the end perfectly.
The quietest one is the boy I slash through last, small and tiny and lifeless.
He was blocking my view and now I see the broadsword behind him. I stare at it for a little bit then drop the machete and reach out to take it. It feels better.
I walk over his body and take the bag he was holding, yanking it from his hold. His fingers were holding on tight.
Coming out the Cornucopia, I survey the area, counting the bodies as I do. Many of them are dead, many of them by me. I look up at the sky and grin, a shout crowing from my throat into the sky.
How's that for getting sponsors?