I'm headed upward for a fraction of a second before gravity pulls me back down. I'm falling quickly towards the world beneath me. I'm in the air for maybe ten seconds but time seems to stop. What if this is the last thing I ever see? The world around me is a blur.
I hit the water feet first and plunge deep into it. I'm gasping for air, but keeping my head above water is proving difficult. I struggle to get away from the falls, bobbing and choking on water the whole way. Any other tribute would be dead already.
I'm finally far away from the falls to be able to stay above water and I take a much needed breath. I keep swimming; I need to get as far from the pack as I can. I think I can hear Storm yelling on the cliff. Once the water has slowed enough I paddle to the side. The arrow is stuck deep in my arm. I take a deep breath, I know what I need to do.
"AHHHHHHHH" I yell as I pull the arrow out. I hope that no one is near enough to hear me. I feel like passing out, and I'm losing a lot of blood. Then, unexpectedly, I see something floating downward towards me. A sponsor gift, my first of the games. I grab the package attached to the parachute, inside is just what I need, bandages.
I grab them and quickly wrap them around my arm. I don't do a great job, I regret not spending more time at the first aid station. Still I've managed to stop the bleeding. I toss the arrow into the river. I swam pretty far, I don't think the carrers would be able to get down the mountain and find me anytime soon.
I still need to find somewhere to hide, I can't afford to just fall asleep anywhere like I did up by the waterfall, I need to find shelter. I'd better do it fast because the sun is almost up. I look over the horizon I see the woods. I can hide in there, maybe find some food. I didn't manage to bring Lolita's bag of supplies with me, all held on to was my sword.
I may not have spent a lot of time learning the medical stuff during training but I did pick up a few other things. I learned survival skills, things like hunting. I also learned how to blend in, camouflage myself. I won't need to rely on anyone else in these games. I made it away from the careers with nothing but a little hole in my arm.
I can disguise myself, blend into the dead trees, and avoid the larger groups with strong tributes. But, if a single tribute or a weaker group, say Q and A, crosses my path I'll send them home in boxes.
"Looks like we've made it to another sunrise," Lexeon cheerfully greets me.
"Yeah," I say gazing across the arena.
"That was a pretty close one don't you think, Allan really wanted to fight those guys." "Well, that's Allan for you, but I think we did the right thing," I respond.
"Yes, I'm glad I didn't have to fight Proxy, I imagine that would have been hard."
"Yeah…" I say somberly, "You must be glad Proxy is okay."
"Ashlyn, while we are on the subject of district partners…is there anything you want to maybe talk about? You know maybe something you might want to tell a friend. I mean I understand if you don't want to divulge certain things, I know that calling someone a friend in a place like this is-"
"It's okay Lex," I look over to him. "We are friends, I trust you." I know all of Panem is watching, but I'll probably be dead soon, so who cares if my conversation is overheard. Just as long as no one besides Lex in the arena hears.
"I am worried about Finch," I admit. "There is just something about him… I wish I got to know him before we got reaped."
"I'm sorry Ashlyn," Lex apologizes.
"It's not your fault."
"He seems nice, but a bit…distant." Lex's words reflect my own thoughts.
"Yeah, I got that too, I feel like…maybe I want to get to know him better, he seems hurt, and I don't know I was kind of hoping that he would maybe open up to me." I stop talking for a moment, I'm blushing somethin' awful. "I probably sound like some stupid little girl, letting my fantasies run wild, imagining some unrealistic scene because of a stupid crush. I'm sorry Lex." Now I'm apologising.
"No," he answers, "I don't think that at all, I think you may be right."
"I mean I'm the last person one should ask for romantic advice, but I think you are quite a good judge of character."
"You really think that?"
"Of course I do," he says with a smile. "Unfortunately," he continues as his smile turns to a frown, "In a place like this I don't think your chances of getting to know someone, or have a romance are great."
"Yeah, probly not, but it looks like Dale and Azeika are doing okay." I say a bit jealous.
"There is something going on between Dale and Azikia?" Lex asks shocked.
I actually laugh for the first time in days. "Yeah, it looks that way."
"Well, like I said I'm not quite as perceptive as you."
"It's okay," I say as I bring him into a hug. "You are still an amazing friend."
"What do you think is up with that?" I say pointing at our allies embracing. Allan just shrugs as he takes a bite out of some kind of bird Ashlyn managed to trap and cook last night.
"I guess some people are just that emotional," Allan responds swallowing his food.
"Well who can blame them, Lex almost had to fight his friend to the death," I say gloomily.
"Yes, well he didn't have to fight anyone," Allan says in a somewhat annoyed voice.
"Of course not, we can't afford to lose anybody, especially not when there are still five careers out there."
"So, if we met the careers we would have fought?" Allan questions.
"Yes, I think so," I answer.
"They would kill us." Allan's response shocks me a bit; he says it like it is a simple fact.
"You know we would have a chance."
"We had a much better chance against Proxy and the ones from five."
"Of course, but maybe if we wait then someone else will fight the careers, weaken them," I say with little confidence.
"Who? Finch, Q and A?"
"Proxy and the Fives, Lexeon, maybe," I'm struggling to rationalize our actions a bit now, "by keeping them alive they will help us later."
"So we are keeping them alive so they can kill our enemies while they die?"
"I think Lex may have been right, but he made the decision for the wrong reason. We are all going to have to kill if we want to succeed in the Games. It won't just be fighting the careers in the bloodbath."
"If it comes down to that, but what if it doesn't? Who knows how anything in these games is going to turn out?" I respond.
"Unfortunately, I think to live you have to be proactive, not reactionary." Allan says sounding depressed.
"So, what have you been planning?" I ask.
This seems to take Allan a bit off guard, for the first time ever he struggles to get his words out. "I…well…" He stops to regather himself and take a deep breath. "I plan to take this group of allies as far as I can," He glances over at Lex and Ashlyn, "And honestly if it comes down to it I trust you more than either of the others." How much of what he just said is true? Allan always seems to work his truths in with little lies, or maybe it's the other way around. Still, I know only one can win, and I can't make it back to District 8 I want my family to get any extra food they can.
"District 8 sticks together," I say calmly.
Since seeing my friend Lexeon last night, all the injustices of the Capitol have been stuck at the front of my mind. What if I had ended up in a fight with him? I would have just been doing exactly what the Capitol wanted. I got off this time but what about next time? What happens when I run into tributes that actually want to kill me?
Who is out there that would fight us? Lexeon group is not willing to kill us, and I doubt Allan will be able to convince them otherwise till the end of the games. Q and A are harmless and I think would just run away if we ran into them. The careers are the real problem, and except for Evander I don't have too big of a problem with fighting them. They are the ones who wanted to come here; they are blind to the injustices of the Capitol. Still fighting them would play right into the Capitol's hand, but I don't have a whole lot of choice if we run into them.
There are a couple wild cards out there that worry me a bit as well. Aaralyn may be alone, but she is highly trained and just as brainwashed as the rest of the careers, if not more. She might be a pretty good match for the three of us. The biggest question is what would happen if we ran into Finch, I never could get a good read on him. Something tells me he might hate the Capitol almost as much as I do, but, like Evander, values his life more than that. Even Allan seems very anti-Capitol, but I don't think I could trust him. After all he did just try to get us to kill each other.
I hope our luck doesn't run out anytime soon, that we can avoid other tributes, but I know that the Gamemakers wouldn't like that. No they need us to run into each other so that those Capitolites tuned in at home can enjoy watching children murder each other. The truth is that we won't be around to defy the Capitol much longer without weapons. I will do whatever I can to protect my allies and defy the capitol.
"Guys," I say finally speaking up.
"Yeah?" Dale asks.
"I think we need to head back to the cornucopia, or what's left of it."
"But Proxy," Azeika chimes in, "What about the careers?"
"I don't think they will have stuck around there with the place wrecked. They are probably…out hunting tributes," I say the last part with a wince.
"Okay, but why go back?" Dale wonders. "There can't be anything good left there.
"Maybe not," I shrug. "But there might be some weapons the careers didn't bother grabbing, and we need weapons even if they aren't that excellent. I'm pretty good with a slingshot, I doubt that any career would have grabbed one of those."
Dale and Azeika exchange a look. "Okay, what do we have to lose?" Dale agrees to the plan.
"Where the hell is everybody?" Acely yells in frustration.
"That's an awfully good question," I say spinning my scythe on the ground. It's true we have seen absolutely no one since the bloodbath. I'm glad we haven't run into Strom, but it surprising to think that we haven't run into anyone else. The only other group I could see giving us any trouble is Allan's alliance, and even then I think Acely and I would be alright.
The arena is pretty open, for the most part. I doubt all fourteen other tributes are hiding in the dead trees. "Maybe there is something out here we aren't seeing," I say scanning the arena. Strange rock formations dot the landscape, "They could be hiding in the rocks, and then heading out to the river at night to get water."
"Like cockroaches," Acely adds.
"There are a lot of rocks up by the waterfall up there; we might find some up there."
"Yeah maybe, do you wanna head up?" Acely asks.
I shrug. "I don't see any reason we need to rush."
"What about Storm, don't you want to get more kills than her?" she questions.
"Well…" I awkwardly scratch the back of my neck. I can't stand letting Storm have some kind of advantage over me, but this, it's just…not the same as a fencing tournament. "I'll let her have this one."
"Yeah, I get it." Acely responds. "It's not really the same, when it's real."
"Yeah," I agree somberly. "Still we have to do it eventually anyway, now that's why we're here…" But Acely and I are here for entirely different reasons. I agreed to come here, but Acely didn't have a choice. She might be a career, but she isn't like Storm and I.
"Did you train at all, back home?" I ask.
"A bit, of course I did it more for recreation you know, I didn't think I'd end up here."
"I almost didn't do it, volunteer I mean. But everybody was expecting me to; did you know my mom was a victor?"
"No," Acely says in a softer voice than I knew she had. "I had no idea."
"Yeah well, I had to go in, that's what I've been trained for my whole life."
"Why didn't you want to go?"
"My dad," I surprise myself by answering honestly. "He died in the games."
"I…I'm sorry Chace." I can feel tears swelling up behind my eyes, but I won't allow myself to cry.
"It was the games my mother won, she killed him. She found out she was pregnant a month later."
For a while Acely doesn't say anything, and when she does it surprises me. "I was supposed to be a twin."
"What?" I dumbly ask.
"I had a twin brother, but something went wrong when we were born and he died. I've always felt that something has been missing from my life."
Whatever animosity was between us before is gone. The two of us have just bared our souls. "How can we do this, kill children?" I ask.
"We don't have a choice," she says getting up. "If we don't we die."
"I know, I know," I get up too. "Alright, let's start checking the rocks for tributes."