The Winner and the Survivor
There was nothing left to do but drown.
After she let her arms sink, her bones leaden and her fingers stinging; after her legs refused to pump her further onward or upward, she found comfort in the fact that she would die in the sea. Even if it wasn't the brilliant blue waters of her youth, or the harsh swell that she and Myrna used to play in as children, it was still, even for the briefest of moments as her eyes finally closed and her lips sunk into the frigged grey murk, a bit like her district—her home.
She couldn't say, afterward, how long she floated beneath the surface. Though she was sure she never fully lost consciousness. She remembered seeing Ril's face, frozen in a gasp of horror before the blade sunk into the back of his neck. Before his blood flew warm and blackish blue onto the rocks where he had been forced to kneel, and then later, when the second blow struck him and another hot spray slapped her across her own face, and she could taste the salt of it on her chapped lips. By then Ril was dead, his skin was ash white in the glow of the moon which was unnaturally big and full over his shoulder and his mouth was stretched in an unnatural oval—a scream of shock and pain.
Somewhere, wherever she was now, floating in the icy water, she thrashed. She could hear noises. Voices and bangs, and in her panic she couldn't tell if it was the sound of bones and skin ripping apart or her own scream afterward as she ran through the tree line to save her own life. Her terror was a thick rope tightening around her neck.
She wanted to sink further.
She wanted it to be over.
When the first cold grip of metal clamped around her she screamed, though the water took it without sound and her lungs were finally, finally, empty. The weight of the metal arm clawed at her, but as she tried to dart away, her instincts raw, but still working, she felt a second stretch of fingers encircle her, tugging tight until she was trapped.
There was no more air. When her lips parted to protest, her mouth filled with the icy black water all around her, weighing her whole body like a midnight veil. Opening her eyes she saw only shadow and death.
It was a shock when she hit the surface. The air was frigged and it hit her like a thousand needle points over her exposed skin. Gasping, she flung her head back. Her first surprise came with the floodlights which tore through the darkness, exposing her to hovercraft that was pulling her farther up out of the water and quickly into the air. The second surprise was the announcer's haughty and exalting voice echoing all around her, though she couldn't be sure of what he was saying. Behind her gasping and the ringing in her ears she could only make out every other word.
She coughed and spluttered, letting her head loll to the side to expel the water that had so quickly filled her. Blinking, she could see she was farther into the air, just feet away from the hovercraft.
"Anne! Ladies and Gentlemen," the announcer bellowed. The voice sounded like it was coming from all around her now.
Her eyes were stinging and she closed them against the garish light; her entire body was quaking with the exertion of her coughing and the pain of the metal claws grip.
With a sudden gust and burst she felt hands pull her into the aircraft, and the restraining grip of the metal claw released her. She hit the floor with a hard slap, and suddenly so many hands were on her. She screamed and trashed but there were too many and when she opened her eyes she could see they were all around her. Their strange broken faces and their vacant, dissociated stares. They tried to pull a mask over her head but she growled and managed to free one arm enough to tear it off and fling it aside.
"She's fine." The voice was calm. Smooth as one of silken gowns that Virgilia and the rest of her team had dressed her in before the games. The reassurance of his statement seemed to appease the others around her and their grips slackened.
Her heart was pounding and once she was free she crawled crab-like into the corner where the light couldn't touch her. She felt alien to her own self, her thoughts racing, and her panic building like a cauldron about to boil over.
"See," he said. In control of the conversation like he always was. "Give her some space. She'll be fine."
When she opened her eyes she could see Finnick fully in the doorway to the cockpit before her, but he didn't come any closer to her than that. He held his palm up, placating. "Annie," he said slowly, keeping her eye contact, making sure she was alert and that she could understand him. "Annie, everyone else drowned, you won…"
She slammed her palms against her ears and screamed.
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