That evening, I sit with Marlowe, covering up in the blankets we have. It just gets colder and colder.
A sponsor parachute floats down, and Marlowe gets up to get it. She opens a set of blankets and hands one to me. I smile and curl up in one, sniffing it. It smells a little like Dutch, which only makes me hold it closer. I miss him and Dad and Nick… I want to go home.
Marlowe curls up next to me, handing me a small piece of paper. I have to squint to see in the darkening sky.
I hate you so much. Idiot. You have to come home. I need you. I've been a wreck. Dad's helping me still. He and Nick said they love you too. Love, Dutch
"Can you read it?"
"Kinda." I put the note back in my pocket with the others as Marlowe starts a fire. The warmth feels great. In the darkening sky, we can see two other fires: one for Pomp, one for Lanchester. I know I shouldn't have an ally when it's so close to the end of the Games, but I can't leave Marlowe now.
I smile a little, thinking of the message, burying my face in the blanket.
Suddenly the Capitol Anthem starts playing and our attention goes up to the sky. Ratchet, his messy hair sticking up everywhere, his eyes having a deranged look in them, flashes across the sky. Then Glitch, with his copper hair sticking up in the back and his glasses and his silver eyes.
"He was so young," Marlowe whispers so quiet it's barely audible. After the Captiol seal flashes across the sky, she stares into the fire. "So young."
"Mhm," she says so quietly it's hard to hear her.
We sit in silence, the only sound being the quiet cracking of the fire. I try to think of something to say, but nothing comes to me.
"Tell me what happened, again, Os…" she says in a young, innocent kind of voice.
"Well, after you passed out, Ratchet was less-than-nice to Glitch. He tortured him pretty bad and let him die slowly. But… After that, I got mad so I stood up and threw a spear through his head and he died immediately. Then I picked you up and walked back to our hideout."
"It's probably a lot easier said than watched."
"I hope you never have to watch it," I whisper. I don't know if she could take it.
"If I live I'll have to," she says quietly. If she lives, I'll be dead.
For the first time in these weeks, I'm actually so afraid I could cry. I didn't realize how scared I am of death until right now. Both of us sit and stare into the fire. Something about the orange-red flickering and smoke and the sound of the cracking fire is calming to me. I have to keep going and win. For Dutch and Nick and my Dad.
"Too young," Marlowe murmurs beside me, "Too young. Too young…" I look up at her, finally, and how the firelight makes her face look a lot younger and rosier. I think about what Dutch wrote that nobody was supposed to see, about being careful what you say, and I suddenly change the subject, trying to get her away from that set of mind. She's right, but we can't say that out loud.
I don't want another Sampson. I don't know if I could take seeing Marlowe so mutilated.
"So, uh, want to get some more sleep?" I ask. She snaps out of whatever trance she was in and nods. "Sure." Frowning, she curls up, wrapped in a cocoon of blankets. I keep the fire going, and sit by myself.
Soon some flurries float down from the sky and the fire slowly dies away. Soon I'm left alone, in the dark, in the cold. I shiver and curl up, sighing quietly. I'm so homesick and I miss my family and all I want to do is be at home with Dutch.
It's going to be another tortuously long night.
"Why didn't you wake me up!?" Marlowe asks, eyes opening and squinting in the sun. She yawns and sits up, looking over.
I let out a large yawn. I'm so exhausted, and I probably should've awakened her, but I couldn't make myself do it last night. The snow slows enough that we're able to make another fire, though it's weak.
We cook some meat for breakfast, staying curled up in blankets as we eat. The meat doesn't taste very good, but it feels nice to have something warm in my stomach. In the dawn, we see the smoke of another fire in the distance. It's either Pomp's or Lanchester's. Or… Both.
What if they teamed up to take us out!?
It's unlikely. After all, Pomp shouldn't be trusting an ally after what happened with us. Besides, Lanchester was upset when we killed his first ally, Kara. I'm sure he wouldn't tolerate an alliance with Pomp either. But I guess you never know.
You get desperate when you're in a fight to the death, I guess.
"Why's there only one fire?" Marlowe echoes my thoughts.
"Either the other two allied, or one of them's on the move. Maybe one's torturing the other to death. Maybe one's getting eaten by mutts." I start listing off possibilities based on the Games I know well. Marlowe shudders a little, passing it off as a shiver.
"Don't worry. We'll be okay. One of us is going to win. I promise."
She swallows hard and nods. "Y-Yeah. Right."
I try a tiny smile of encouragement, and she tries to return it. We stay put, finishing our breakfast.
"Do you want to move today?"
"No," she mumbles, "I want to stay right here."
"Okay. Then we'll take a day of rest. After such a day of action yesterday, I'm sure the Capitol won't mind us taking a day off."
I hope Pomp and Lanchester will meet and fight today. One of them can kill each other, or both. Then the only barrier that will stand between me and victory is Marlowe. I can just outrun the mutts they send for us.
"Good. You. Sleep. Now."
I laugh a little, nodding. "Fine. But if you hear or see anything suspicious, wake me up. Okay?"
I curl up, laying down on the soft but freezing snow and closing my eyes. Sleep takes me very, very slowly.
I wake up with Marlowe hanging over me and hot tears pouring out of my eyes, whimpers pushing out of my throat, and taking sharp breaths.
What was I dreaming about? I don't remember. I just keep letting out the tears until I'm able to get ahold of myself enough to stop them. Marlowe looks deeply upset when her concerned eyes stare into mine.
"Os," she says quietly, sounding like she's about to cry, "Os, are you alright?! Os…"
"I-I'm fine," I whimper. My voice is scratchy like I've been screaming.
She stares at me, little tears forming in the corners of her eyes. "Os… You… You were screaming, you were thrashing, you were… You were… Crying, yelling out…" She helps me sit up and I shakily rub some snow on my sweaty face. "It's okay, Marlowe. I-I don't remember any of it."
"You don't?" She blinks.
"No. Not even a little." I try a little hoarse laugh. "Weird, huh?"
Shadows of Dutch, Chase, Glitch, blood, and gore run across my vision. I push them away, drying my eyes and enjoying the fire.
"We're going to have to go looking for dinner," Marlowe says. There's a hint of foreboding in her voice.
"How long was I out?" I ask.
"A while. Maybe… Two hours or two and a half. You started whimpering about an hour or so ago, and it escalated gradually over the course of an hour or maybe a little longer. I shook you as soon as you started screaming, but even then it took a while for you to wake up. I'm sorry. I should've tried harder."
"It's okay. Really."
"If you say…" She still sounds hesitant.
"Come on. Let's get some food for dinner."
"We shouldn't split too far apart," she says, "Or else the Capitol might try to separate us."
She stands first and helps me up. My body shakes a little from exhaustion, but as we put out the fire and start walking, it gets much better. I feel a lot more like myself again after walking for a while.
We walk together for close to I'd say a half an hour before we find anything salvageable. Marlowe pursues one of those rabbits carefully, and I watch on, hiding behind a bush.
Suddenly, a severe and intense pain explodes across my stomach. I let out a yell and shakily jump to my feet. At my yell, Marlowe immediately chases after Lanchester, who was previously running away, and buries her weapon in his chest, pulling it out quickly.
"Marlowe," I can barely make myself talk. My body is draining of blood and energy. Standing becomes too hard for me to do and I collapse backward on the snow, shaking as I reach out to remove Lanchester's spear from my stomach. The cold feels good on my wound.
Am I… Dying?
Marlowe comes running over, and she gently holds my head on her lap. The puffy snowsuit is a good pillow. I already feel so weak I don't want to speak, but I do anyways.
"Marlowe…" I force out. She starts shaking, sniffling, and letting out little whimpers.
"Please don't cry." Tears come out of my eyes as I struggle to take in breaths. "P-Please…"
"Os, I'm so sorry-"
"Sh. Don't worry about it."
Yes… I'm dying. My first thought is Dutch. I let him down. Certainly didn't make things better. I just made them so much worse. And Dad. And Nick. I'll never be able to make them smile.
"I'm sorry." I whisper with a shaking voice. I really am. Panic and fear builds in my chest, and I feel like someone is pressing down on it, harder and harder with each second. Sad tears stream out of my eyes, I'm becoming numb to the pain but the sadness is still there.
"Win." It's a command. She just nods, some of her tears hitting my chest.
"Smile," The word comes out of my lips before I think about it. "I don't want to die sad." It's a split-second decision.
Tears stream down Marlowe's face, she shakes, she whimpers, trying to stay strong, trying not to cry. Finally, she forces herself to smile a little bit. I smile back, allowing my last moments to be happy ones.
Light. I don't see darkness, I see light. Marlowe's whimpers decrescendo and I hear a loud but very pretty laugh echoing quietly from the direction of that bright light.
Breathe in… Out… In… Out…
Breathing suddenly becomes less and less important.
A beautiful girl with bright green eyes, curly blonde hair, and shiny little wings appears. She was the one that was laughing, and she continues to do so, though her eyes do look a little sad.
"I see her," I try to say. I'm not sure if any noise came out or even if my lips mouthed the words. My eyes slide shut, but I still see the light. It's overwhelming now.
Just then, the little angel holds out a hand to me.
And I take it.