"I haven't lived life; I haven't lived love."

Day Four Dusk

Leon McLeod, District Ten Male

It feels like a century before Keighly's cannon finally booms.

For one forsaken moment, I was both terrified and relieved in the absence of her cannon, and its arrival makes more or less the same feeling. If she hadn't died, I would've been relieved of this weight bearing down on my shoulders, but terrified of what she'd do to me if she found me. I chuckle to myself; who am I kidding?

If she was alive, she would expend anything to kill me. She's not the kind of person that would be rooting for me, not even for her own family's furthering back home. No, she'd be the first person in line to kill if she had the chance.

But she doesn't. Her death brings similar emotions, but for opposite reasons. I'm relieved that I won't have to face her anytime soon for what I've done, but the more I think about it, the larger the pit in my stomach grows. It's sickening, what I've done and why I did it. Terror seizes me more than I'd like to admit.

I guess that's the worst part. These Games don't leave a win-win option. There is always a fault, always a downside. To every single possible action left, there is always a sacrifice. I take myself back to Keighly's pleading eyes and the girl from Eleven.

There was a choice before me: Pomme or myself. Then, another choice: Keighly or myself. My choice isn't something I'm proud of. It's not something I would do two weeks ago. That Leon would've jumped to save Keighly. That Leon would've done his best to reason with Pomme.

That Leon is dead.

Aimlessly, I allow the low rumble of footsteps to guide me. I don't have to be a genius to know where my future lies: in the Cornucopia. Part of me wants to lie back as far as possible, avoid as much tension with other tributes as I can. If I know my competition like I think I do, Xander and Adrian will already be at the Cornucopia's outskirts, waiting to jump on the first tribute to show their face. That can't be me.

But after seeing the mutts devour Keighly piece by piece, I'd rather face off with any Career than take my chances with the mutts. Them, along with the constant destruction of the houses doesn't exactly spell anything except death.

I speak from experience, of course. Keighly is the only reason I'm alive now, as painful as it is to admit. Any time she could've caused me harm is forgiven and forgotten, all for one action of altruism. She had the choice to leave me choking under the debris. It was risky in the first place; her death was likely if she tried to help me.

And for all my talk about working together and playing conservatively, I couldn't pull through the one time she needed me. It's always been her choice in the dangerous situations. She chose to fight off Ceira, she chose to charge Sienna and Kyung. She made stupid decisions that put both of us in danger, but we lived through it all. Every awful choice she picked ended up with us still breathing.

The one time I had the power to decide, she's dead. I may as well be, too.

No, I think forcefully. It was the right call. It was then, and it still is now. Regret has always been a dangerous entity, but more so than ever, I can't look back on what I've done. Physically, I'll be the same, but if leave this arena, I'll never be the same in my head.

When I leave the arena, I correct myself. There is no if. I've given up far too much to return home in a box. But to get this far, the others must've sacrificed just as much as me. Firsthand, Chandler left Pomme the same way I left Keighly. Sienna killed Kyung to further herself, and even then, she died barely into the top half.

If a vicious girl destroyed her alliance to make the top twelve, what have the others done to make the top six? I never knew any of the others, but I saw them. Xander was reserved. Adrian, upbeat. Naomi was nothing short of cheerful. Chandler didn't have a vicious bone in his body. Krynne was the face of joy.

And I, I used to be something I was proud of. I used to leave a legacy I could die with, no matter how small the scope. I used to be human. Those people are gone.

In their place are tributes. Nothing more, nothing less.

Chandler Kennewick, District Nine Male

It feels different this time.

Twice now, Death has slain my allies before my own eyes, but the pang of guilt and remorse isn't as strong as it was the first time. It's not even there. With our combined forces, Pomme and I could've taken on Leon. It wouldn't have been pretty, but there is no doubt in my mind anymore; he would be dead if I would've stood by Pomme. Whether or not both of us wouldn't been alive is a mystery.

It would've been a chance, I suppose. Chances are a dangerous thing – with risk comes reward – but I wasn't about to put my neck out on the line for someone else's death. It's what we're supposed to do. Kill each other for our own lives. Gamble with our future just to cut someone else's short. It's tradition, and it's wrong.

Pomme would be telling me to shut up and get my head out of my ass, I think bitterly. She would tell me to focus on what's actually in my control and forget about what can't be changed. Any day before today, I would've quietly disagreed. Some things aren't meant to be allowed. Some things are meant to be fought.

But now, it's all I can do to recall these thoughts at all. All I can think about is home and escaping this arena. Because that's what it really is, in the end: escaping. Any of my old thoughts of reason and truth have been long disposed of. Pomme would've agreed with that. She would've congratulated me on finally starting to play the game.

The fact that I'm becoming a lesser version of her is more terrifying than anything else in this arena.

Every time I blink, the end comes nearer. Five competitors stand between me and home.

Twenty-three older, stronger tributes were out of control. Over half were at least twice my size, and those who weren't were intelligent beyond belief, cunning beyond their years. And I am just me. But I'm alive, and the others are on their way to the graveyard. Trained killers have fallen, and I have found the strength to live. The most brilliant tributes fell victim to these Games, but I am still here.

Eighteen tributes, stronger and smarter than I can ever hope to be, have died. What's to stop five more from doing the same?

The ceaseless footsteps take me away from my hopeful thoughts. The bitter cold nips at me from all directions. To go inside one of the huts is suicidal now since a single second of idleness will be enough for the crowd of mutations that lingers behind me to eat me alive.

So I continue on. The roads thin considerably, all leading up to the paths of the Cornucopia. The remaining size of the arena is hardly small enough to force us all together, but steadily, they're driving us together. These streets will only house six tributes for so long before six becomes five and fives becomes four.

I just need to stay alive until then. My frosty breath swirls in the air as I continue the long walk to hell, and the arena doesn't relent its fierce winds. The mutations gradually catch up and show no desire to stop anytime soon.

But how much farther can they drive us? To begin with, the arena didn't seem to be as big as they usually are, and the death count has proved as much. Every day has boasted at least two victims – usually more. Undoubtedly, the size of the arena had something to do with that.

Just as my legs are ready to give out and the cold morning air is about to freeze my brain entirely, the stomps halt. The arena is once again silent, save the occasional gust of frozen wind. I shiver as droplets of what appears to be snow dot my bare skin.

Quickly, I scope out the nearby houses and try to pick out the most inconspicuous one. At this point, any reasonable hunter would check the houses on the outskirts or the ones in large clusters, but there's no harm in trying to remain under the radar. Any effort at all is better than none.

I turn into another alley, swiveling further and further from the main road in an attempt to avoid as much conflict as I can. With my luck, a tribute wearily treks down the same road as me from the opposite direction.

But this isn't just any tribute. Naomi reaches behind her back and unsheathes a tomahawk twice as big as me. In response, I latch my silver dagger from my belt. My hands move as if in someone else's control, but I wouldn't back away if I had control. Against any other tribute – even the meek girl from Five or the now scarred boy from Ten – I would've attempted to flee.

However, this isn't against anyone else. This isn't even about Naomi anymore. This is about revenge.

This is a fight I'm meant to win.

Naomi Callahan, District Seven Female

I wait for him to run.

I wait for Chandler to turn heel and run away with his tail between his legs. He's done it before, and I figure people don't change from who they really are deep down unless they're hell-bent on changing. I have reinvented myself for these Games. I've given up everything I stood for just to get here.

Chandler has run through various terrains of the arena and lived off the success of his allies. I practically sold my soul to the devil to live, and he's had the luck of the draw bring him as far as me. That doesn't sound particularly fair.

But when has anything ever been fair? When has the Games ever truly represented just skill and stride? These Games champion luck more than anything else. Some people are born with it. Some people don't have to work for anything.

And some people have to give up everything just to stay afloat.

That ends now. I mask my bitterness and approach Chandler steadily. Any sudden movements, and I'm certain he'll be gone before I can reach him. "Where's your little friend?"

"Dead," he deadpans. "Where are all of your friends? Oh, right. You killed them all." I take a small step as he rants.

I raise an eyebrow, brushing off the blow. Compared to the rest of what I've seen in here, words are meaningless. Pitiful. "Am I supposed to apologize? You should be grateful. What I did brought you farther in the Games than you were meant to get to." Another step.

He laughs bitterly. "Yes, I should be thanking you, huh. Because you chose for me to be there with you, right? You chose for me to be at the front with you," he hisses, shaking his head. "If I'd stopped like the others, you would've killed me without batting an eye." Another step.

I steel myself, gripping my tomahawk with a scowl. "Some things never change," I barely whisper, launching myself into a swing before the words leave my mouth. Chandler narrowly avoids the blow. Following the swing, Chandler lodges his knife into my thigh, but it's blatantly obvious that he's uncomfortable with his weapon.

Despite the open shot, he chooses to cut through a thin line of fat, away from any major arteries or muscles. The grazing blow elicits nothing more than a slight hiss from me. I block out the pain, focusing on him, instead.

The second I'm in control of the pain, he's preparing to strike again, but I intercept him now. The tip of his dagger clangs against the head of the tomahawk, and the smaller of the two goes clattering onto the ground.

Chandler's eyes widen in fear as he dives for the knife. He scrambles on the floor, flopping like a fish to try to throw off my aim. I sneer, grasping the shaft of the axe and taking a deep breath before letting it fly. The tomahawk arcs through the air, barreling towards its target directly.

But he flattens himself entirely, flinching as the tip of the tomahawk just manages to brush his hair. Behind him, my weapon sinks into the already unstable building and smashing a window inward. Chandler rises from the ground leisurely and meets my eyes with only hatred.

"How does it feel, Naomi? How does it feel to be up against a wall from someone you thought you could trust?" he growls, a tone too harsh to be Chandler's.

I shake my head. "That's where you're wrong, Chandler," I say flatly, running a hand through my blood-ridden hair. At this point, I'm frantically stalling him, begging for an opportunity to show itself. As I meet Chandler's glare, my only hope becomes evident.

His hand trembles, and the dagger shakes with it.

"I never trusted you. I never trusted any of them. There is no trust when only one person lives. There's mutual understanding. I thought you all understood that," I murmur.

He fights off tears that well in his eyes. "Allies are meant to protect each other, not burn each other to a crisp!" he cries, swinging his knife in an emotional haywire.

I steel myself once more. "Sometimes, we need to do more than what we're supposed to survive. You understand."

Chandler's eyes widen as a lunge at him, striking him in the nose with a resounding crack. He immediately tucks his dagger into him and out of my reach, and I use that to the best of my abilities. Pinning a knee against his arm, I restrain the dagger entirely.

I reel my arm back and fire again, slamming my knuckles repeatedly into his eyes, then nose, then lips. Blood spurts from his every orifice, and tears intermingle with the slick streams of crimson. Even as his limbs lose control and the dagger loosens in his hand, I don't stop the constant swinging.

It's out of my control. Everything I've fought for, everything I've done – this is me locking it in. This is me ensuring my own victory.

This is me fighting my way home.

Day Five Dawn

Krynne Harper, District Five Female

The cannon shocks me awake.

"Welcome to the final five," Adrian murmurs nonchalantly, fighting off a yawn as he rises and stretches.

I rub my eyes wearily. "Who do you think it was?"

"I'm hoping it was Xander, but odds are it was either the little boy from Nine or the girl from Eleven. It could've been one of the kids from Ten or the girl from Seven, too. We'll have to wait for the anthem tonight," he reasons.

But if I'm frank, I don't think there will be a tonight. At the pace the Games have been going, there isn't much time left for any of us. The arena has shrunken to the size of an oversized walnut, and with only five left… how long will it take before everything comes crashing down?

Before, I would've been afraid, but now, I just want to be done with this. Whatever the outcome ends up being, I want it to happen now. Why suffer more than I need to? I'm done with playing mind games and being afraid to stay still.

I just want everything to stop, if only for a second. I want to be able to close my eyes and not be afraid of dying. I don't need everything to go back to how it was and I certainly don't need to be the girl I used to be. I just want a break.

As if on cue, Adrian offers that. "Go back to sleep," he begins, "we have a long day ahead of us." I can almost hear the smirk he wears as the words reach my ears, and I'm tempted to ignore it. Every part of me wants to say thanks and crash on the couch once again. What's the point of not doing it? If he wants to kill me, I'd be dead.

Yet as I turn to give quick thanks, his smile throws me off. Adrian isn't the same boy he was in the Capitol; I knew that. But I think I've overshot how altogether Adrian is. Although his smile is still as radiant and sincere as I remember it being in Training, the glint in his eyes doesn't comfort me.

"I think I've had my share of sleep," I respond as slothfully as I can muster. I follow his lead, yawning and stretching as I rise from the couch. "You need some, too. Can't have you keeling over, either."

Adrian hesitates for a moment, but relents. "Wake me up if anything happens. Anything at all," he says, suppressing a yawn in the process. He sprawls himself across the couch, and I sit on the kitchen counter in guard.

Only when Adrian stops talking does the brusque reality truly hit me. The final five. The final three or four are the finale, and now, I have the ability to take myself there. Now, the other alliances have probably split up for good.

The way I see it, I have options. I doubt Adrian will kill me; he sees me as an advantage, not an ally. Again, it's unlikely that any of the others have allies, but with his trusty sidekick at his side, Adrian is the superior fighter in the batch. We could go to the final two, and then?

Then I die.

My other option is now. To take action before someone else does it for me. Knowing the size of the arena and the competition, it's only a matter of time before my chance is gone. I have now to decide. The knife weighs in on my hands. The tip remains clean, or as clean as a wooden shiv can be. But not for long.

His breath thins and steadies in time, but I don't dare move a muscle until I'm absolutely certain that he's asleep. I shakily tiptoe over to his sleeping form, and I take one moment to look at him. Adrian curls into the pillow of the couch, snoring softly.

In his sleep, the malice and oddities I've come to think of him as aren't there. He looks, for the first time since I've met him, like his age. He doesn't look a day older than sixteen. His brown hair, slick with sweat and dirt, and his pale complexion… he looks like Sullivan.

My breath hitches in my throat as Adrian melts away and Sullivan appears, snoring into the pillow obnoxiously as he always did. His eyes shoot open, and he grins at me with that stupid grin of his.

"Krynny, what are you doing up?"

A sob bubbles up my throat, but I force it back down as I backpedal, leaning against the wall for support. No. This is not Sullivan. Sullivan died. I relive it every waking minute – how can I forget?

This is Adrian. This is not a sincere, teenage boy. This is a trained killer who will only stop when the rest of us have gone and perished under his control. I clutch the knife stiffly in my hand.

And this is Krynne. This is Krynne Harper making her mark on these Games.

The knife rips through the soft flesh of Adrian's neck.

Xander Lutz, District Two Male

The cannon echoes against the walls of the remaining houses. For a moment, only silence fills the arena walls. Not even the icy winds blow against us as they have done consistently for the past day. Nothing stirs. Nothing moves.

Then, the fires light.

In the middle of the street, I watch in both fascination and horror as every house around me combusts into flames with a resounding boom. My hands instinctively find my claymore before doubling back, but the mutts – dormant for a short period of time – have started their death march once again.

It sinks in with a bitter finality to it. This is the end. The Gamemakers call for the finale.

Who am I not to comply?

Snagging my jacket off the floor, I throw the loose material on and flip the claymore between my hands. I break out into a light jog, just enough to stay a good ways ahead of the mutts. I'd rather not tempt fate before I have to.

I hiss as flaming debris crashes to my left, just close enough for me to feel the heat of the inflamed wood. Veering to avoid the fallen house, I quicken my pace to a run, pounding the heels of my shoes against the dirt road.

The already small road thins still, leaving the pathway just large enough for me to run on it. The last house disappears in my periphery, and the bloody fountain comes into view. I hesitate at the outskirt of the arena, leaning behind one of the arena plates as cover.

But it doesn't take too long to figure out that I'm the first one here. Makes sense, I never did steer too far from the Cornucopia. Everyone knew this was coming. The farther I am before the finale, the more likely I'll die before I get there.

I have a handful of minutes to myself before the others arrive, so I prepare myself as best as I can. Immediately, I check my surroundings, and only then do I see it. The fountain, previously filled with the bodies and blood of fallen, young girls, is filled with someone else now.

First, the girl from Ten – Keighly – hangs by her throat from the gallows above the fountain. At first, I assume she's just died, but her body is stiff and pale past recognition. Her ears have been ripped straight off, and blood pours from every orifice. A weakness in my knees buckles me down to all four, but I can't stop staring.

Beside her, Briar from Nine, long dead if I remember correctly, hangs lifelessly. Similarly to Keighly, blood spills from her eyes, nose, and mouth. But her skin has been blackened, singed severely on every surface. Not one part of her has escaped the fire that devours her body whole.

To her right hangs Sullivan of Five, but he does so very loosely. His head has been decapitated, but thin slivers of his neck remain intact. The innards of his throat are displayed vividly, gushing blood from the open wound. A single dagger remains buried in his chest, protruding from the center of his ribs.

And lastly… lastly, Evangeline. A thin rope restricts her limp body by the neck. Compared to the others, she's hardly as physically disturbed. A single knife slices through the skin of her neck, narrowly avoiding the rope. Her skin remains largely untouched outside the thin cut. But even now, I can feel the hatred and betrayal from her.

Footsteps ring out from every direction, and before I can regain my control, the others have arrived. Leon from Ten. Krynne from Five. Naomi from Seven. And me.

None of their masks of determination can hide the terror that is displayed on each of their faces. Krynne fails to suppress a sob as she falls to one knee, and Leon unsuccessfully fights off his tears. Only Naomi keeps her composure, but even she is clearly thrown.

I shake my head. All the better.

Suddenly, all four deceased tributes' eyes flutter open, illuminated green. "You left us in our time of need. You let us die for your own survival. And now, you will pay the price."

My heart drops in my chest as I tremble, struggling to stay sane. Evangeline's death was necessary. There was no avoiding it; I was always meant to be here, and she was always meant to die. But seeing her now…

Their hands join together and rise mechanically. Too late I sense immediate danger, and true to their word, I pay the price. We all do.

The fountain explodes, hurtling chunks of stone and human flesh across the arena floor. The four corpses that hung from the fountain fling in every direction, and body parts are sent flying in every direction. Blood splatters rain against what little remains of the Cornucopia. Where the fountain once stood lies pools of blood and the remnants of corpses.

The chattering of footsteps behind me adds to the chaos. The mutts that drove us here line the outskirts of the arena, weapons raised in silent mockery. Their mute jeering is far too loud.

Limbs and skin litter the floor, but I don't let it faze me. I have a job to do. I raise my claymore up, ignoring the squelch of human flesh under my boots.

Naomi shakily follows suit, the first to wield her own weapon after me. Leon rubs his eyes of tears, weakly clutching at his pitchfork. Krynne acts last, trembling as she finally finds the strengths to raise her knife.

For a moment, no one moves. In the silence, I envision what's to come. To me, to them. To everyone. Someone will leave with their body whole, but nobody leaves with their hearts intact. But it's a price I'm willing to pay. I've worked my ass off for this moment. I trained for years for this moment.

I lived for this moment.

The Games have finally begun.

A/N: And with that, welcome to the finale.

6th: Chandler Kennewick, slain by Naomi Callahan.
5th: Adrian Clermont, slain by Krynne Harper.

Elim, Chandler wasn't a star character. He wasn't a fiery person, and he didn't go out and kill everyone with matches. But to me at least, he was far from dull. He was real and I always felt compelled to him. I'll miss him a whole bunch :/

Car, Adrian was... weird? Unique? Truly, he just wanted to be around other people. While he was with them, he was a chill person, and when he wasn't, he creeped me out! :) Still, thank you for submitting him. He was fun while it lasted.

Congratulations to Xander, Krynne, Naomi, and Leon for being our final four!

Who would you like to win?

Who do you think will win?

Leave your thoughts below!