Peetal reaches out and tries to pry the crown off the Cornucopia, without success. He drops his hands, forlorn.
"Katnit!" he whines. "What do we do?"
Suddenly there is a rumble of thunder, and I feel raindrops start to fall. One falls on my face, right on the tip of my nose. I lick it off.
A gust of wind sweeps by, stinging my eyes. Peetal screams, terrified, as lightning streaks across the sky and thunder booms. He clutches my shirt.
"It's okay." I tell him. "God is just bowling, Peetal."
The Gamemakers have never been subtle people. One second the sun will be shining, birds and chirping, and people are dying. The next second the sky is stormy, the wind is howling, and people are still dying.
Really, they're almost too predictable.
Around us, the wind is picking up and swirling faster and faster around us. Peetal clutches tighter to my shirt and buries his head in my stomach—which can't be comfortable, I have rock-hard abs.
Flecks of rain pelt my face harder, and I can't see anything but Peetal and the Cornucopia and the Special Crown of Wonder! beside us. But then, almost as soon as it came, the swirling winds dies down, revealing a totally new scene. A gray, foggy world. The field and forest around us have disappeared, and I poke Peetal until he withdraws his head from the concave wonder that is my stomach.
"Peetal!" I said. "Look!"
He peers around, then looks over my shoulder and screams.
"What?" I turn. When did that mountain get there? In the absence of… more forest, a huge, hulking gray mountain floated in the mist.
All Peetal could do was stare pathetically back and forth at he mountain and the Special Crown of Wonder! "What do we do now?" he asked me. But he had stuck his head back in my stomach and it sounded like "Wawee hoo how?"
"We climb the mountain, Peetal," I said. "With the Special Crown of Wonder!" Resolved, I stood—knocking Peetal into a somersault and leaving him lying on his back, legs curled in the air—and decided how best to pry the Crown away from the Cornucopia. Here's what I tried:
I think I loosened it a bit, but I can't be sure. As I left the Cornucopia with my dignity to go cry at the foot of the mountainside, I felt Peetal lay a hand on my foot and pat it.
"There, there," he said softly. "We'll just push it, Katnit."
I look at him incredulously. "Push it. The whole thing?"
"Sure, why not?" He smiled, and as he pushed himself up I saw muscles bulging under his shirt. "We can manage it."
Twenty minutes later, it became clear that we could not manage it—and that the muscles I saw rippling on Peetal's arm was just food he had stuffed up his sleeves in case he got hungry.
Currently, I was pulling the Cornucopia from the front and Peetal was pushing on it from the back. With some rope we had found stuck in the point of the horn, we had tied it around the Cornucopia so it would be easier for me to pull. Every twenty minutes or so, I would shout "You okay, Peetal?" And he would reply with a moan or a groan. Lately he'd been replying with intelligible words, and I grew suspicious. I turned around…
To see him sitting in the Cornucopia, pulling apples from his shirt and munching on them.
"Peetal!" I shrieked. "You're supposed to be helping?"
He looked up at me with puppy-dog eyes as apple juice dribbled down his chin. "What about lunch break?"
I tried to coax Peetal out of the Cornucopia through a variety of ways:
Hiding (It made him feel scared and alone, but wasn't enough to draw him out.)
Pole-dancing (I had to use a very thin tree. This failed; it only terrified him more.)
Fake-tipping over the Cornucopia
All of these failed, and eventually I was left to continuing the long walk up the mountain with Peetal in the Cornucopia. He was starting to feel safer now that I had tried my best to get him to help and failed.
"Mush!" he yelled, and threw an apple core at my back. It missed; he's an awful shot.
"Peetal!" I screamed, jerking on the rope. "Stop that!" He moaned and threw himself backwards onto the wall of the Cornucopia with a loud, clanging noise, and then moaned once more in pain. I stooped, picked up a pinecone, and chucked it over my shoulder.
"Potty break!" he yelled, about twenty minutes later.
"No, Peetal," I said defiantly. "I'm the one working here, I'll call the shots."
But as it turned out; Peetal's bladder was the one calling the shots. After he leapt off and raced into the woods, I was forced to wait for him.
With each passing minute, the peak of the mountain seemed farther and farther away—I was going to collapse from fatigue. Actually, not really. But it makes me sound more attractive—a brave heroine dragging her not-so-brave, heavily snoring companion up the mountain side.
As I listened to Peetal breathing—which cut off occasionally to deep gurgles, making me wonder if he had that one nasal disease (I'd check that out later)—I tried to make the motions of walking up the mountain so instinctual that I could take a nap as I walked.
It almost worked; I drifted off, but then tripped over an acorn and fell to the ground as the Cornucopia started to slid backwards. I woke up when Peetal started shrieking.
That night, Peetal and I curled up in a sleeping bag we found wedged into a corner of the Cornucopia. After I zipped us uncomfortably in, I broke apart some weird leaves that looked weirdly edible and split them between Peetal and I. He took a bite and spit them back in my face, but I didn't mind them.
"That was gross, Katnit…"
"That's all you're getting!"
Peetal had to resolve to chewing on a corner of the sleeping bag, while I took a pack of Juicy Fruit out of my pocket and snuck it into my mouth while he was sniveling. I never shared my gum. Sharing was a sign of weakness.
Peetal quickly fell asleep against my side, his head nestled in my armpit and his hot breath conveniently blowing my bangs out of my face. Foolishly, I fell asleep soon afterward.
It was a bad idea.
Here is a list of the things I should've been concerned about:
Spiders crawling into my mouth
Peetal stealing my gum
Spiders crawling into Peetal's mouth
The next morning, Peetal and I were awoken by the sound of trumpets playing, and the sound of a loud voice shushing them.
"No, no, stop, you fools! Nobody's won yet!"
I nudged Peetal and he jerked upright, spitting some fluff from the sleeping bag out of his mouth. When he saw me, he squealed, retreating deep into the covers. I lifted to my hands warily to feel that a huge zit had popped up on my face that night.
Darn it. The Capitol had confiscated my Proactiv, so I resolved to keep a hand over my face to detract from the second head developing on my nose.
"To the remaining tributes of the Games!" the loud voice had cried. I recognized it as Clyde Churchpith. "If you're listening, know that you're one of the last three in the Games!"
Announcers often showed up at the final three to give tributes a heads-up. They used to do fake cannon-fire noises, until some newbie thought they meant real cannons, and killed a tribute on accident.
He got decapitated, but that's another story.
"You may have noticed a change in the arena," Clyde said smoothly. "That was due to a slight malfunction in the Gamemakers' control room. The person responsible has been taken in for a" –here he coughed— "cup of tea."
This was Capitol code for 'we decapitated him.'
"Either way, continue playing as normal, and remember that the Special Crown of Wonder! is needed to win, as well as ten items taken from individual tributes. Thank you."
With a loud burst of static, Peetal and I were left in silence. I realized I had momentarily forgot to cover my pimple and jerked my hand back up again, startling Peetal. I turned away and squirmed out of the suitcase, knocking him on the head on accident.
"Get up!" I said, stumbling to my feet and fluffing my hair. In the arena, I had been going for a rockin' beehive hairdo, or at the very least something similar to those feathered bangs they wore in the ancient days. But after they both failed, I had been sticking with the let-it-do-whatever-the-heck-it-wants-to-do-because-you-don't-have-a-comb-anyways style.
Peetal and I played an intense game of Paper, Scissors, Rock to see who would do the Cornucopia pulling for the morning.
He lost, all seven times (because he chose rock, every time, and then couldn't figure out why I kept winning), but threw enough of a fit that I finally let him sit in the Cornucopia and I pulled up the ropes.
As I dragged the Cornucopia up the mountain again, with Peetal humming idly to himself behind me, my list of Worries-I-Should've-Been-Worried-About came into play. Just to refresh your memory:
Spiders crawling into Peetal's mouth
Spiders crawling into my mouth
Peetal stealing my gum
First, a spider fell on top of my head and toppled into my open mouth as I walked along, and fifteen minutes later I had to tie the Cornucopia to a tree to console Peetal when he accidentally ate an apple that happened to be occupied by a spider.
An hour later, I reached into my pocket to find my pack of gum missing.
And around late afternoon, we had an unfortunate encounter with the remaining tribute.
A/N All right, so here's the story. The reason I haven't updated since late October:
I got into a terrible car crash, went into a coma, and just woke up yesterday. I'm perfectly fine, but the first thing I said when I awoke was 'Get me a pen and paper. I need to write my next update.'
No. That's not true. The last seven words were true, but all the rest is baloney. Anyways, I'm sorry for the freakishly long wait. I'm a huge procrastinator, and I'm sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry. I'm not even sure if anyone's been waiting on this chapter, but I do know I've gotten some reviews during my long absence. So, like, whoa. People are still finding my story, reading it, and bothering to review. That's what pretty much made me get my crap together and get out another chapter.
This is seriously hot off the press. I just finished it, and haven't even bothered to edit it. That's because I'm lazy, but you already knew that. I may edit later, but if you see any dumb, glaringly obvious mistakes, just lemme know.
Anyways, enjoy. You can shame me in reviews for being a horrible updater, if you want. Do it, actually. I may update faster.
This story will. Be. Finished.
SIDE NOTE: Oh, and my friends and I made a blog. If you'd like to see some dumb stuff, check it out. dingpoproth (dot) blogspot (dot) com. We made it yesterday, so it has nothing on it but 1 post, two pictures, and the lyrics of a beastly song, but we're just getting started. I'f you're dying of boredom, go check it out. Even so I can just see the viewing stats go up. LOL.