A/N: Well, here it is, everyone. The end. I thank you all for sticking around, and I'm glad I have been able to entertain you. :) May the odds be ever in your favor...
Back in school, there were always I few things I never understood. Things like the Pythagorean Theorem, or how a little flap in my ear is supposed to make electric signals.
Another thing I didn't get was how people way back when were so sure the Earth was flat. It seems like such a silly concept, especially when we now know it's round.
But back then, they didn't have things like satellites taking pictures, or records of systems linking all corners of the planet. After all, if you don't have any way to know it, how are you supposed to know it?
But now, I feel like I've just found out the world is round. Like I've just found out the Hunger Games may not be so abject for me after all. After being so very sure I wouldn't survive the first day, the second, the third...
And now I've gotten all the way to the final three. Just two others left. Two competitors keeping me from my home, my dad, my mom, my friends, Iah...
I've got a weapon. I'm in pretty good shape; though I'm not going to be running any marathons, I've still got my legs, one good arm, and another arm that can still move some.
And, I can get donations now. Twig's dead and gone—I still can't help but be slightly pleased by that—so there's nothing standing between me and a little sponsor assistance now. Maybe I can get something to eat, or a lighter weapon... Anything would help.
But no parachutes have come floating down from the sky just yet, so I'd better stop sitting here daydreaming.
I know Kyta's close, so she's a natural first target. I'm really not that confident I could take her out, but she'll be a whole lot easier to find than Shaw, who could be anywhere.
The axe slides into my grasp again, and I take a moment to locate the Career tunnel before setting off.
As I come closer and closer to the Career camp, I start to feel edgier and edgier. I really don't have much self-assurance in this matter; eliminating Kyta is going to take strength, speed, tactical acumen, and a whole lot of luck. I'm not sure I can pull all that off, but... I'll just have to.
The trees are thinning out here; one of the slimmer roots snaps loudly when I try to step on it.
Just great, I think. An admonition for someone who's already too prepared for me.
But if Kyta's noticed, she hasn't done anything about it; my back's against the final ring of trees before her camp, and I haven't heard her move at all. It's almost like... she isn't even there.
I snap to at this realization, and immediately run out toward the camp. I look around wildly, and find no allay for my suspicion—Kyta is nowhere in sight.
I don't realize what I'm doing until I step off the edge of the dirt and stumble into the water.
Snatching a brief gasp of air before I go down, I kick and splutter under the liquid. Panic creeps in, and my forever-hydrophobic mind starts to pull up all the drownings I've imagined myself in. At the bottom of an unknown dark ocean, or off the surface of the Gulf, or underneath a familiar fishing boat just moments too late for Dad to save me...
The warbled sun glares at me as my heels wedge themselves into the mud in the bottom of the pool. I wobble, trying to get up and out of this crushing azure before the little air in my lungs breaks free. All I really manage to do is flail my arms uselessly.
And now I start thinking I might actually die.
Isn't that funny? I get nearly all the way through the Hunger Games, and what kills me is something I could have found at home, anyway.
Such a... funny thought...
I continue to sink, drowsily watching little bubbles escape my mouth, when something taps me between the eyes.
I blink confusedly, waving my hands up to make contact with what just touched me.
It's some sort of string, and, not worrying to think about it, I automatically grasp the thing and start pulling on it.
It comes down easily for a while, but it starts putting up resistance soon enough—and when I keep reeling it in, it actually begins to pull me.
Just as my mind's gone hazy enough to block out my vision, my head suddenly splashes up out of the water, and I immediately start coughing and spluttering and gasping for air.
I open my eyes—apparently I had closed them when I came up—and when I'm done blinking the water out of them, I finally make out what I had been clinging to: the black strap to a lifejacket.
I cough a few more times and pull myself over the bright orange thing, noting the silky, white parachute attached to it.
So, I've received my first donation. I think it came in handy.
I lazily paddle forward, keeping an eye out for any other tributes but still seeing no one. My hands soon grasp one of the hard-packed dirt islands, and, slipping one arm through the lifejacket, I pull myself onto the land.
I just lay there panting for a few minutes, letting the water slide off my soaked skin.
So, I'm alive for now, after all. Those sponsors finally got to send something to me instead of Twig. And I kind of like it.
I sit up slowly, swiping the wet mess of hair out of my eyes, and put the lifejacket all the way on. It's not heavy enough to drag me down, so I might as well.
Standing up is the next step, but I'm quite wobbly, and at first I think I'm going to pitch over into the water again. I do manage to get up without that misfortune, thankfully.
So. Let's go find Kyta.
I shuffle my feet, not wanting to go too fast. But even at this snailish pace, I'm remarkably dizzied.
I guess I just don't have enough energy. I mean, I just battled for my life underwater, and I'm honestly not sure when the last time I ate was.
The last time I ate... I really wouldn't mind some food now... But I can't catch anything; I've lost my spear, and I don't think I could snag a fish with my axe.
Eyes flaring as I suddenly register the loss of my weapon, I instinctively look around to find it. But I know it's underwater, slowly sinking down into a deathbed of mud.
I curse at my stupidity and stomp the ground, though doing so makes my legs wobble. Just great! I accumulate an outright argosy of weaponry here, but every time I get my hands on something good, I just throw it away! Literally!
I'm about to go stomping on the dirt again when I hear a tiny, faint clink just behind me.
Slowly, I turn around. A billowing, white parachute is settling over its cargo on an adjacent island.
Could it be a weapon? Whatever's there is pretty small—the parachute's only about two square feet—so if there is something pointy and useful there, it's probably light enough for me to actually use.
I take an immediate step to the edge of my island, and, when it makes me dizzy enough to be unstable, decide to slow down.
My donation's little private island is a good jump away from where I am right now, but I can get there. And if by some chance I don't, I can just land in the water and float over there—though, admittedly, that would scare the crap out of me.
Holding my breath, I crouch down and spring for the parachute's island. My limbs flail through the empty air until my knees crash into the soil and I tumble over. I stop just as my shoulder rubs up against some of the white cloth.
I get up wearily, swiping some of the dirt off my knees, though I end up uncovering some scrape wounds in the process.
But I'm too excited about my donation for them to sting much. My hands shake as they lift the parachute gently, and I soon get enough of the ashen cloth away to see what I've gotten.
It's not a weapon, to my disappointment, but I realize it's even better.
A simple plate of cheese and crackers is lying on the dirt, and I pluck away the parachute quickly. Real food! Food I don't have to stab or cook or lose my weapons trying to get!
I immediately grab a handful of the stuff, not bothering to take the time to arrange it the way it's supposed to be eaten. All I care about is getting it eaten.
Though I do start to feel a little sick after devouring half the plate, I can't get myself to stop. It's too good, and it'd be useless to save, anyway; the Hunger Games will be over by the end of the day.
And when I've finished the crackers and cheese, I realize something I hadn't noticed on the plate before: a little square wrapped in something crinkly and off-white. I pick it up and finger it curiously before finally opening it. And I can't help but giggle when I figure out what it is.
Chocolate. My lovely Mim sent me chocolate.
It's gone in a second. But I very much enjoyed that second.
Feeling infinitely better with a full stomach and the lingering taste of chocolate in my mouth, I stand back up and look around. No other donations seem to be falling from the sky, but that's all right. I can wait...
My thoughts are interrupted by a sudden cannon blast, and I freeze. Someone just died. But who? Kyta? Shaw? Was the victim killed by the other tribute? Where was it? Please don't let anyone be near here! I don't have a weapon, and I'm not ready at all!
I look wildly about the area for a while, but luckily, I don't see anyone.
Heaving a sigh of relief, I set my sights for the land by the mangrove. After all, I doubt the other tribute left is in this dripping wet circle. If I head out toward the Cornucopia, I'll probably have the best chance of finding some—
Suddenly, I scream. Something's pierced my waist. When I look down, all I see is blood streaming out, and a streak of silver and crimson plunging into the water—an arrow bloodied from my own side.
An arrow? Then the other competitor must be...
Another sweep of the area confirms my suspicion: Shaw is slinking through the last of the mangroves, lowering his bow.
I subconsciously put a hand over my wound and stare him down. "So," I pant, "we're the last two, huh?"
"Looks like it," Shaw replies in a monotone, leaning his bow against his shoulder as he walks closer to me.
I glance back at the water beside me. My axe is definitely inaccessible now, and I don't think I could find Shaw's arrow... I cast a desperate look back up the sky, but there are no more parachutes.
"What'cha looking for?" Shaw's comment makes me jump and stare back at him.
"Nothing in particular," I lie, deciding I should keep the eagle eye on him from now on.
Shaw sighs, readying his bow and arrow. "Well, enough chitchat," he decides, taking aim at me again. "Let's end this, shall we?"
"Not just yet!" I jump out of the way when he moves his hand, and I land with one wobbly foot on an adjacent island.
Then I realize Shaw hasn't fired yet.
An arrow rips through my midsection as punishment. I start to descend backward, in slow motion, not completely registering what's going on until I hit the water.
And then I realize my what's happened to my stomach. I end up screaming at the top of my lungs from the agony, especially when my bloody puddle of a wound gets underwater.
But I don't care. I can't. I have to win this. I have to get back to my parents. I have to get back to Iah.
I have to struggle to get my arms up despite the lifejacket, but I manage to make contact with one of the islands. Hyperventilating from the strain and the pain, I still start to tug myself up.
I don't know how long it takes to get my dripping body on top of the island. There's just something about pain or adrenaline that completely annuls time, that warps the boundaries between seconds and minutes.
But however long it took, Shaw hasn't fired at me. I start to lift my face away from the puddle it's made in the dirt; I want to look for what's obstructed him.
But my head is immediately bashed back down.
I shout out in pain again, and struggle to turn sideways—just enough to make out Shaw's heavy boot over the base of my skull.
"So, looks like I win," Shaw comments. I only just make out the glint of one of his arrows. "Any last requests?" he asks arbitrarily.
I struggle, but it's useless. I have no weapons. I have no strength. I have no chance.
I'm going to die here.
"J-Just l-let me say a few things," I whisper, trying to locate one of the Capitol's cameras. My vision's too blurred by tears to see anything.
I try to inhale slowly, but I can't. All I get is a terrified, shaking gasp.
"D-Dad. M-Mom," I stutter, unable to talk clearly. "I-I love you. I-I'm sorry I couldn't come back h-home..." I gulp, hyperventilating so much I'm hardly able to. "A-And Laima. I-I know we're not the best of friends... But I'm s-sorry I didn't f-follow your advice about not getting killed..." I try to laugh, but it just comes out as a weak choke. "I-Iah..." I lift my hand up to wipe some tears away. "I-I'm sorry about e-everything... I-I n-never bothered to realize it, but I... I love you..."
And I can't say anymore. I'm just sobbing weakly as my blood, my life drains out from underneath me. Sobbing as I think of what could have been. Me and Iah. Our... grand marriage by the seaside. And we'd have to struggle after hurricanes, but we'd be all right. Because we would have a... lovely marriage, with as many children as we want...
But... If we had children... They may have had to go through this. And... I would be forced to watch, as their names are reaped, as they enter the Hunger Games arena, as they're torn limb from limb by a stronger competitor...
Maybe... Maybe this is better. Maybe... Maybe Mim was right.
Maybe I'm a lucky lady after all.
"You done?" Shaw starts.
"Y-Yes... Th-thank you for letting me say that..." I sniffle.
Shaw sighs. "I told you, I don't like being in debt. So... thank you," he whispers, leaning in to my ear, "for letting me win the Games."
And that's the last thing I hear.