I thought that I would not be able to fall asleep but it turns out I was wrong. It becomes harder and harder to stay awake. My eyelids are heavy; my mind drifts away into the world of dreams without me noticing. Time after time I wake up from this half-sleeping state with a jerk, wondering for how long it lasted. I try to force myself to focus in every way that I know of. I try to remember stuff, like the names of people I once knew and stuff we learned in school. When that does not work I start singing songs in my head and thinking about food. Nothing helps for long. My fight against sleep becomes more and more painful. In the end I decide to wake Melissa although only a couple of hours can have gone by. She is leaning against my shoulder, I only notice it now. I feel warm inside. I do not want her to wake up. I do not want her to move away. And it feels as if I am no longer about to fall asleep at all. Melissa. I lean my head against hers and imagine that we are not in the arena at all.
When it feels as if half the night has gone past, I nudge Melissa gently.
“Can you take over?” I whisper. “Half the night left, I think.”
She lifts her head from my shoulder. The branches creak around her as she moves. She yawns quietly.
I lean back and close my eyes, let myself drift off towards unconsciousness.
I sleep for longer than I have done all the other nights in the arena, I think. It is the first night that I do not wake up with chattering teeth. When I open my eyes it is already light enough to clearly distinguish the silhouettes of the trees around us. I find that I am leaning on Melissa as she was doing on me. Her body heat has helped keeping me warm. She is shaking my shoulder lightly.
“I'm going hunting”, she says as she sees that I am awake. “Maybe I will have more luck now, at dawn.”
I sit up and nod. Melissa takes bow and arrows and creeps out of the shelter, out of our little den. Without uttering any more words she sneaks away amongst the trees.
She used to be this really joyful little girl, back home. Kind of childish maybe. While the other girls were busy growing up, she never seemed to care. While the other girls started talking about boyfriends and parties, Melissa was playing child games with me and a few other friends from her school class. Unlike me she did have other friends, although I think that, maybe, I was still her best one. She had a sharp tongue and always seemed to know what to say. She teased everyone but never in a mean way. Now she has become so serious. This childish girl is grown up, in a way that the other girls of her age never were.
It has become light in the forest. A bubble has formed on the parachute. I poke it. It is heavy and full of water which must have dropped down from the trees around us as the snow melted on the branches. I realize that I am really thirsty so I move out from the den and drink as much as I can. It is unpleasantly cold to drink, in this chilly morning, but it is still wonderful to feel it rehydrate my body.
Melissa comes back around noon. She is almost running. When she sees me she just waves at me to follow her and barely even gives me the time to tear down the shelter and take the parachute. Together we hurry as fast as I am able to walk, further down into the valley. She puts an arm around me and steadies me so that we can move faster.
We reach a clearing. In the middle of it a huge and dark animal is lying on its side. It is at least the size of a horse.
“What is that?” I ask.
“Have these enormous things been roaming about all the time without us seeing a single one of them until now?”
“Of course. It’s just you who never notice anything.”
I give her an offended stare, for fun. One of those stares that I used to give her at home, when she teased me, since I never knew how to give her a good come-back.
Melissa’s expression changes and she is the serious arena-Melissa again.
“I am almost sure the game-makers sent it”, she says. “It would not have been any fun for the viewers to see another fruitless hunt.” She is quiet a little before continuing. “And also it gives us a dilemma.”
Melissa goes to the dead animal and kneels down next to it. Then she looks back up at me.
“We are hungry right? We need food. The game makers know it. But how long do you think it will take to eat this? Or at least prepare the meat enough to take it with us? It will take a while. And it is not as if we can hide our presence here with that thing laying here in the open. Who knows what might show up in that time? Other tributes maybe, or beasts which are drawn by the smell of blood like sharks.” She makes a pause. Then she says: “The viewers want action and the game makers will make sure they get some.”
We are both quiet for a while. Then I shrug.
“It’s not like we've got any choice.”
We spend the rest of the day preparing the meat and building a well-hidden shelter a little further away. Melissa insisted that we would use the parachute for storing the meat so we are back to an only-spruce-branches shelter. It feels like the wilderness equivalent of degrading yourself from a luxury villa to a little hut.
“Let’s build traps”, I say, when I am done with the shelter.
Melissa is covered in blood up to her elbows. She does not look up from her work.
“I built one before we met. I dug a hole with sharp poles at its bottom. I caught… something in it.”
“What?” She finally looks up, at least quickly, before returning to her work. It is the question I did not want to get though.
Melissa nods. “Ok, ok. I understand.”
“So, should we build traps?”
She shrugs. “We need to finish here now.”
I feel oddly disappointed about her lack of interest. The thought of Twelve-Twelve still makes me sick but at least traps are something which I know that I can do to improve our situation. Maybe I will ask again later.
I gather a lot of wood. Then I make skewers and prepare a fire-place.
Later I sit with the skewers over the fire while Melissa keeps watch. She sits behind me, on a little mound.
“Do you think my family is watching right now?” she says, all of a sudden.
I do not know why I feel so surprised about the question. Maybe I was not expecting her to open up and start talking about such things with me anymore.
“Of course, if there is nothing more interesting going on, somewhere else, which they are showing on the screens instead.”
Melissa is quiet for a while. Then she resumes with a voice that sounds overly flat and emotionless. I know that she cannot use any other voice because if she let the feelings come forth then they would carry her away like tide water.
“My parents came to say bye one last time, you know. Mom could not even speak. She just stood there and cried and then run away. That morning she had not even been afraid. All since I got old enough for the Games, it was the first reaping that she didn’t seem to be scared. She did not think this could happen to me. She was sure everyone loved me as much as she did. How could they not? she said.”
“Well, at least you had a mom that cared about you.”
“Yeah, but sometimes I wish that I hadn’t. It would all have been easier then.”
It must be hard to die when you know that someone will miss you, that you will ruin another life along with yours. I will not ruin any other lives.
“You should not have come.” I say to Melissa. “It was good we were chosen, me and that other girl. Can’t you see that? We were worthless anyway.”
I am so worthless that it almost makes me laugh. So ridiculously worthless. What would I even come back to, if I do come back? People who ridicule me as they used to? Now they can laugh at all the stupid things that I have done in the arena too, which they have witnessed from the comfort of their warm homes.
“Maybe this is how it was always supposed to end for me.” The words seem to leave my mouth off their own accord. “I always kind of felt that this world was not for me, after all. I never deserved it. Sometimes, when I saw things that were beautiful, like the mountains or the stars, I felt ashamed. Do you know that? I felt that they were not intended for someone like me. I felt that I was abusing something which was meant for others, for normal people, people who had families, who loved and laughed and had friends. Do you know how that feels?” The tears are coming back now. I have never told anyone about all of this.
Melissa turns and looks at me from her mound. She just looks at me, without saying anything. I look back at my skewers. One is ready and I hand it to her while averting my eyes. She starts eating. I hear her mumble something that sounds like:
“You are not worthless.”
Then we don’t speak any more and concentrate on eating.
When we are done Melissa goes back to work on the dead animal and I take the watch on the mound. I can see the mountain peaks through gaps between the trees. So tall and desolate.
Melissa walks up to me and suddenly she is hugging me, tightly. I hug her back. I wish that I would never have to let her go. Never ever. We sit next to each other on the mound for a while, staring at the peaks together.
“I was thinking”, Melissa says. “We could climb one of the mountains. We could make it all the way up to one of the peaks and admire the view. It must be wonderful. Do you think anyone has ever been up there?”
“Don’t know”, I reply. “But why should we do that?”
“It could be our goal. Something to live for. Every life needs a meaning, everyone needs a dream. This is something we could still do, even if they took everything else away from us. We could be the first humans to climb all the way up.”
I smile a little.
“You’ve always been a dreamer.”
She gives me a light shove.
“Look who’s speaking!”
I smile again and examine the peaks around us. Could we really do it? Is it possible? They all look so tall, so steep and rocky from here.
“And then what?” I say.
“Don’t know.” Melissa sighs. “Then nothing. Then we’ll end it.”
Maybe she is right. Maybe that is what we should do.
Melissa stands up and goes back to the carcass of the animal. It looks like a mess of blood, meat, bowels and bones. She closes the parachute around the cut-up meat that she has put in it.
“I need your help, Vitus. We have to hang this in a tree, where it’s safe from animals.”
I walk over to her and help her carry the parachute. It is really heavy. We bring it out of view from the clearing.
Melissa climbs a few branches up a spruce while holding the cords of the parachute. Then she pulls it and I push. The thing opens up and two slabs of meat fall down on the ground.
“Shit!” I try to clean the slabs from all the spruce needles and dirt that has stuck to them. Then we start all over again. This time we are more successful.
“This will do!” we exclaim contemporary. We look at each other and laugh.
We work for the rest of the day, preparing the meat and coming up with ways of storing it. As the sun is hanging low over the mountains we have finally finished cutting up the animal and eat a second meal. It is so wonderful to have the possibility to eat this much! We have all the food we could dream of. It is more than I had even hoped for. When we are done eating we purify water from the puddles on the ground by boiling it in the container which I had used for the squirrel earlier. Then we hide the remains of the animal as well as we can and kick up dirt to cover the blood on the ground.
“This won’t do for long”, Melissa says and sighs. “Not if they send beasts with fine noses after us.”
We go and sit down in the shelter, to wait for the night. The sky lights up and the anthem starts playing but there are no faces this time. Nobody died today. Well, our dear friend the huge animal did, but they don’t care about him.
I’m sorry, I think to him. You died for a good cause though.
Right before the last tones of the anthem have even gone quiet, the cannon fires and for a short moment I almost believe it is for the animal.
When the morning comes we do not immediately creep out from the shelter. We sit there for a while and listen to the forest. A light breeze whispers through the woods and makes the tops of the trees move a little, almost as if they were dancing.
“We should leave this place”, Melissa says. “We take what meat we can carry and leave.”
“But we might never find other food”, I say. “We’d better stay here a little longer. Also, we should build traps. All around the place.”
Melissa does not reply.
We sit still for a while more. Then we go and prepare breakfast. Yet another meal consisting of meat. I feel that my energy is returning already. It is strange how fast it comes back. What a wonderful feeling! I go to the mound and sit there for a good part of the day, admiring the landscape and picking my teeth with twigs. One tooth hurts. I remember now that it was hurting already before all of this started. I even had a dentist appointment booked. I must have been total nuts to book an appointment! What had I been thinking? Was it not obvious that I would be chosen? I wonder what the dentist thought as he read my name in the appointment schedule and crossed it out. If I do survive I will have to book a new appointment. It is so funny to think of such a think now, here. What did people do before dentists, anyway? Did they lose most of their teeth before they turned forty? And doctors! What did people do before them? People must have died of all possible small diseases back then. I wonder how it is in the poorer districts. From the looks of some of the tributes one would say that they do not have too many doctors there.
Melissa is saying something but I do not hear what. She repeats louder:
“I said: we should really leave! I don’t like this at all. They’re planning something, I feel it.”
I am a bit irritated. Of course they are planning something! They always are. But we do not know for sure that it is safer to leave than to stay here, do we? We have food here.
“I stayed in one place for several days before, and nothing happened”, I say. “I built a trap. I told you we should build traps! We will be safer then!”
“Stop talking about your fucking traps!” Melissa yells. “Go build them yourself then. I’ll leave and you can stay here and build all the traps you want!”
I am taken aback by her sudden anger. It hurts a little that she dismisses my idea in this way, as if it was stupid. Still I say:
“No traps then. But let us stay a little longer. Just a little.”
Melissa leans back against a tree and sighs.
“Ok. Just a little. Very little.”
I look away from her again and twist the twig around my fingers. I am scared too, Melissa. I am scared too but we cannot leave now. Not now!
Maybe she really should go though.
We are only six tributes left. It won’t be long now.
“Melissa”, I say. “I’ve decided I’ll stay right here. Can you stay with me just a little longer?”
I hear her sigh again. She sighs a lot.
“I won’t leave you like this. Not really. You know that.”
“No, but you must leave. As soon as we’re down to four tributes. When we’re only four left I want you gone.” The twig snaps in my hands. “Well, I don’t really want your gone. But you understand? Don’t you?”
She does not answer. Of course not. Always this quietness, Melissa! Always silence when I ask you things. You’re the one who’s good at talking! You should say something! But you have to understand me now. Now that you are here and have seen: how could you want us to be the last survivors? How could you wish for something so cruel?
A ladybug lands on my knee. It is the first one I see here. Its colors are so vivacious in the sunlight. When we were younger we used to go around and look for them. We used to collect them in a glass jar, I remember. One summer we had fifty-six. Eleven of them died though, before we decided to release them all.
We do not do much today. It is funny how I never used to think that it would be like this. When they show the Games on the screens they make it look as if there is action and stuff going on almost all the time. I am fine with how it is now but I see that Melissa is really restless. She would rather do something than just wait for whatever will come. Maybe she feels that doing things keeps her mind off what awaits us.
Time passes anyway. Even this day eventually comes to an end as all the others. Again we go back to the shelter. We lean against each other and wait for the anthem. I fall asleep before it.
Melissa is shaking my shoulder.
“Wake up!” she whispers. “Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” I say aloud, still half sleeping.
She puts a hand on my mouth.
“There is something out there!”
The forest is almost dark now. I listen with my heart beating fast behind my ribs. Nothing. Then I think I might hear a weak shuffling noise, like the sound of twigs breaking and of branches brushing against something. It comes from rather far away and could be anything, really. It is not very different from the noises I have heard each night. Melissa’s scared whisper was far more fear-inducing than the sound itself.
She puts her mouth to my ear: “Did you hear…”
Then the anthem starts playing and it drowns all other sounds.
Lionard’s face appears in the sky. First it puzzles me, because I cannot recall anyone dying today, but then I remember the cannon last night. I did not think that I would live to see his face up there. There were two youth gangs, back in his district. They committed crimes behind the peacekeepers’ backs and bullied people all the time. He was the leader of one of them. Too bad for him the rivaling gang was larger.
I feel Melissa leave my side. She bounces to her feet and crouches. She is a shadow in the ghostly light from above. Her bow is lifted and an arrow is ready. Right then her thoughts reach my own head as if they were radio waves. It is as if an electric charge goes through my body and I can feel my hairs stand on end. I know what she is thinking. I hurry out of the shelter and take my knife. This is their tactic! This is how Lionard died the other night, right when the anthem was playing and he could not hear his attackers approaching.
My back feels terribly exposed so I sit down back to back with Melissa and stare into the deep forest. The light that reaches down between the trees covers it in gray patches. My eyes dart from one corner to another. I lift my knife a little higher.
The anthem finally ends and the light fades away with it. It has ruined our night vision so now everything is even darker than before. We try to make our ears into radars, to map our whole surroundings with them. All I hear though is our quick and shallow breaths. We hold them back, from time to time, in order to hear better. Still there is nothing. I cannot remember the forest ever being this silent. We should have left as Melissa said! Why did I insist on staying? Please, let there not be anyone or anything out there!
I lose track of time as we wait. There is always a limit to how long you can go on being on your toes when nothing happens though and eventually I feel my heart beat slow down. The worst fear gradually leaves. What was the silliness that made us panic, after all? Just some noise and a guy who died last night. I sit down where I am standing. A surprising tiredness swallows me as the adrenaline-levels sink. I start to fall asleep. Then the thought hits me that maybe the ones out there have been waiting for us to relax before attacking. My heart immediately starts racing once more. Still nothing happens and eventually I calm down anew. As I drift away into sleep I see Melissa standing motionless as a dark statue besides me, gazing into the night.
The light through my eyelids calls me back to consciousness. I open my eyes, blink a few times and move my head away from the spot of light. Melissa is sitting against a tree, looking at me with an expressionless face. I can see that she has not been sleeping at all.
“It’s been a long night, huh?” I say.
She nods slowly.
I stand up and brush off some pine needles from my clothes. As if that would make them look cleaner.
“Let’s go eat some breakfast.” I suggest. “It’ll make us feel a little better”
She nods again and I take her hand and help her to her feet.
We walk towards our food-storing place. It is sort of fascinating how familiar places get after only a short time. This part of the forest could be our little home. We know it by heart now: the gentle slope towards the clearing, the muddy puddle that we walk past now, the rotten fallen tree, the small animal trail that turns before the rock and then goes straight out to the clearing. The clearing is our sun-drenched garden. There are even a few pretty flowers. We cross the clearing and continue in under the tall spruces. The parachute is not that far ahead. We can already see it. Just a few more steps and now Melissa is standing right under it. She puts the bow on her back and reaches out with her hands towards the tree.
He seems to materialize out of nothing. In one moment we are alone, me and Melissa. In the next he is there, flinging himself out from the bushes and onto Melissa with a sharp pick in his raised hand.
“No!” How silly that it should be the only word that manages to leave my lips.
I pull my knife out and rush towards him. I do not really think about what I am doing, just that I need to do something in order to save my friend.
The tribute turns his head and looks surprised at me, as if he had not noticed my presence earlier. His blue eyes widen. I recognize him. It is Natan, Prince Natan with eyes as blue as the mountain lakes and clear blond hair. He is much larger than me, almost a grown man in comparison, and he barely budges when I shove him. I bring the knife down on his shoulder and feel his muscles pose resistance to the blade. Still it slides in, as it is designed to do. He howls. In the same instant a pair of arms close around me from behind. I see Melissa on her hands and knees, too far away to reach. The arms squeeze into my stomach and hold me in place. Instinctively I try to twist free but it is not of any use so I slash behind myself with the knife. My attacker loosens his hold a little and I turn around. It is Ugly Timmy. I try to push myself free with a hand against his face and slash at his arm. Everything happens so quickly. I am not even sure of why but suddenly we both fall to the ground. We twist like angry snakes, fighting desperately. The only thing I know is that I want to stay alive. I know this with every fiber of my body. I pull my knife-hand free from Tim’s grip and stab him in the chest, in the shoulder, in his neck. I do not look him in the eyes, I just keep bringing the knife down on him again and again.
I feel that his grip on me has loosened so I roll off him at last and stand up. We are both covered in blood and there is blood all around us.
The cannon fires.
A feeling of utter relief washes through me. I’m still here, still standing up and panting and he is laying there in the dirt. I feel light, so light that everything seems funny almost.
“I killed him! I killed that bastard!” I exclaim. I turn the guy’s head with my boot. His empty eyes stare at me, still large with terror. Yes, it is Timmy indeed. Ugly Timmy! “No wonder that you got chosen. You must be the ugliest vermin in the whole of Panem!” I laugh a little.
When I finish laughing it gets quiet. Alarmingly quiet. I look around myself. So much blood everywhere. Where are the others?
My eyes find Melissa laying on her side by the tree. I forget about Timmy. He is gone from my mind. All that matters is the girl who is the only true friend that I will ever have. I want to run to her but I am too afraid of what I might see. So I walk and then I kneel down slowly beside her and pull her over to her back.
The cannon fires again.
As she lays on her back I see it. Even if I am prepared for it I still feel shocked. I avert my eyes and let go of her.
Well, Vitus. This is how it had to end. You always knew it.
A part of me wants to run away, just run blindly into the forest as I did when I found Twelve-Twelve. Another part of me wants to stay right here, wants to stay by Melissa’s side forever.
Look at her! Look at what is left of her! That is what happens to those who are your friends, Vitus. Even if you survive this hell, you’ll never find someone like her. You will never find someone who cares that much for you.
She sacrificed herself for me. It feels as if someone has punched me in the chest. She sacrificed herself for me. That is what she did!
A light breeze blows and the trees whisper around me. The sun keeps climbing on the sky as if nothing has happened.
I must find Natan. I must kill him. That is what you do to someone who has murdered your friend. That is what you do...
First I have to take the bow and the arrows. I hesitate a little but I know that I need them. I lift Melissa’s arm over the string and push her hand under it. Its unnatural limpness makes me cringe. It should not feel like that! Then I turn her back over to her side and pull the bow over her head. The weapon is slippery with blood and worse. I turn Melissa over to her other side and repeat the whole procedure to extricate the quiver as well. Then I examine the ground around us. Not after long I find a clear trail of blood stains that leads away into the forest and follow it with the bow ready in my hands. I was not very good at shooting with it at training. Actually, I think that I only got to try it for ten minutes or so. Now, however, I feel the power it gives me. It feels good, like having more control. I am a hunter. I sneak swiftly through the forest and my eyes notice all the blood traces. There are drops on the ground and on the leaves of the bushes. They go rather straight out into the forest for a bit and are easy to follow. After a while, though, they begin to turn to the left and then become fewer and fewer. Sometimes I lose them and have to turn back on my steps. In the end I accept that I am not able to follow them anymore. Natan could have gone in any direction from here. I stop and consider my options. My head feels empty, as if there was not one thing that I would rather do than the other. Anything is just the same.
Ok Vitus, I tell myself, first of all you need the meat in the parachute because you cannot go without food again.
Fair enough. I head back.
I do not even feel the time pass. When I am back at the tree where Melissa died I cannot even remember how I got there.
They are gone. Both Melissa and Timmy. Gone as if they never existed. Only the blood on the ground still witnesses of what has happened. Still for a little while. Soon it will be washed away too.
A feeling that should not be there fills me. Still it is there: relief. It is all over. I do not need to worry about Melissa anymore.
Vitus, how can you feel something like that? I ask myself. No, no! It cannot be.
I climb the spruce to retrieve the parachute. I feel the rough bark under the palms of my hands, just like she must have done in her last moments.
Here it all ended for you, my friend, at the roots of this tree. The emptiness and pain chokes me. Still, there it is: that other feeling too, that one which makes me feel ashamed.
The parachute is heavy and slips right out of my shaky hands. Some of the meat falls out as it hits the ground but I leave it there. I throw away some more meat so that I can tie the parachute to my back.
The last thing I do before leaving is to camouflage myself with mud again. I smear the brown goo on each single square centimeter of exposed skin; eyelids, ears and hands included. Let people laugh if they want to.
As I set out on the hunt again I throw a final look back. So this turned out to be the place where my friend lived her last few hours. There they are: the tree, the glade, the hill and the forest that had become like a home for a short while. Then it is all out of sight. I will probably never see it again.
I follow the blood stains all the way back to where I was before. Afterward I proceed more slowly, looking for signs which can confirm that I am going in the right direction: sometimes I find a broken branch, another time I see what could be a foot print on some moss. They could have nothing to do with Natan but there is nothing better to follow.
I hunt for him the whole day, only taking short breaks from time to time. Late in the afternoon I carefully chose a place where to build a well-hidden shelter and light a small fire. I light the fire first, to make sure that there is still enough daylight to hide it, and boil some water. Then I prepare a few skewers. I prepare enough of them so that I will have ready food for tomorrow as well. While the meat cooks over the embers I build the shelter between the branches of a spruce. I have become fast at it and the result is rather good. It looks sturdy enough to keep me dry in a heavy rainfall and it is almost invisible from only a few meters away. After having eaten a little I settle down for the night. The anthem starts playing at the usual time. Melissa's face appears first. She looks straight down at me from the sky. On the photo she is still alive, unknowing of how she will meet her end. Then she fades again as quickly as she appeared. Ugly Timmy's ugly face appears the next. He is dead because of me. But no, it is his own fault. He attacked me. Well, It is not even his fault really. It is the fault of the games. They killed him.
The next morning I dismantle the shelter and continue my hunt. I decide to head uphill, back towards the mountain which we came down from. The games are nearing their end and I would guess that Natan prefers returning to well-known territories, rather than wander off into unknown dangers. It is just a wild guess, of course, but as good as any.
Prince Natan from district one, he is a special one. He is not like the rest of us, common mortals. He was not chosen because his district did not want him. They chose him because they thought that he would have the best chances of winning. When his name was called, he accepted it right away. He even smiled a little as the camera zoomed in on his face. He seemed to know that it was his duty to go. As he walked to the podium people in the crowd were taking his hands, patting him on the back and shouting his name. Some even cried. He was a hero to them.
I keep going. The slope is not that steep but as time passes it still gets more and more exhausting to walk. Although the air is as chilly as always I am drenched in sweat. It would have been nice to have some dry and clean clothes to change into. I have been wearing the same ones for a week now. I have not even been taking my jacket or my shoes off. Maybe I should do that, this evening. I will take my shoes off, just for a little, and let my feet dry. Let's just hope that I do not get attacked while I am barefoot.
A cannon fires. Now there are just four of us left. Three more have to die. It is incredible that I have made it for so long. Who could have guessed that? It would be so easy to start hoping. I would so much like to believe that I will make it. I want to long for a time when all of this is over. But the last days of the games are the hardest, I know this. I must accept it so I do not delude myself. There will most probably not be any time after the games for me. Nothing will come afterwards. I will have no other days than these and I must try to appreciate them.
In the evening I reach the edge of the forest. I slowly sneak to the last, small, trees and crouch down in their shadow. A bit in front of me there is a rushing river, lined by pebble banks. I should probably not go any closer to it. This must be the river that is lined by the mine-field. Could it be that they have used the mines to mark the end of the arena? Is the land beyond it outside? Beyond it is an open grassland, similar to the one which I passed on the first day, but not quite as large. I do not see any movement on it. At its other end, before the cliffs start, there seems to be a lake. I cannot see much of it from here due to bulges in the terrain which partially hide it. The glacier is almost completely out of view as well. I retreat further into the forest and build my shelter for the night. Then I take my boots off, as I had planned too. It feels wonderful. I realize that I should have done it earlier. My feet are not very nice to behold now. At least I have been lucky enough not to get any blisters.
I think of Melissa. Two days have gone now, since she died. Maybe she has been brought back to our district already. Back home. Am I still relieved that she died? Well, it is good that we will not have to kill each other. Did I ever wish for her to win? Did I ever truly want her to live instead of me? If she really mattered that much to me, would that not have been the right thing to wish for? I tell myself that I am selfless but in the end everything we do is just for our own gain, even our apparently selfless acts. Do I not, deep in my soul, still value my life over that of others? I have already killed in order to save my own life. What had those others done that they deserved to die for? They just wanted to live too.
I take on my boots again. I do not dare to stay barefooted for long, in case I have to move. The feeling of the wet and cold socks touching my skin makes me cringe.
I wanted to use my life to do good things for others but how can I ever be a good person if I survive the Games? How can I ever insist on being selfless if I have proven my selfishness here, by killing others to save my own life? The games have brought forth the worst parts of my soul.