Hello hello. Sorry it's taken me so friggin long. The soccer season is so busy, it's ridiculous. Still, I only have a few weeks of it left, and since that's about how long it takes me to update anyways... well. :)
I tear down the hallway of my apartment building. My limbs are still heavy with exhaustion, but I run anyway. A strangled sob issues from my throat; this is the second time in two days that I've been running for my life like this.
Except, this time, it's not one lonely mutt. It's a crowd of them. And they're terrifying….
It's the people of the city. No longer are they docile inhabitants who merely populate the place, paying us no heed. No longer do they look like anyone I might see on a street, somewhere outside of the arena. They've become monsters. Their eyes are wide, their mouths are gaping, and they're chasing me. They've only got a few patches of hair, and their skin is hanging from them in ragged folds and strips, showing raw… I don't even know what to call it… this gross red and grey stuff that I'm quite sure isn't under my skin. They've rotted from the inside out, and the bloodlust is written in their eyes.
I guess they're sort of like some of us.
Not that that helps me much. They're all lurching after me at an extremely surprising speed. I don't know whether I've gained any distance on them at all.
My breath is getting progressively more ragged. Out in the street now, I see that dusk is approaching quickly; the sky is a bruised color of deep purple and grey. The wind has picked up since I was last outside, and is now whistling through the empty streets, blowing empty cans and food wrappers along the sidewalks. I blink as a raindrop splatters my face, and then another; a heartbeat later, water is steadily pouring from the sky, hissing on the streets. I narrow my eyes and press onwards.
I turn a corner sharply and risk a glance behind me. The mutts are far closer than I imagined. I clench my teeth until I hear them creak, and glance to my left. A huge pair of thick double doors looms ahead about fifteen yards away. I feel my hopes rise up in spite of myself; the mutts wouldn't stand a chance against those heavy things.
I put on an extra burst of speed to get a step ahead. Wrapping my hands around the handles, I tug the doors open, slip through the crack, and slam them behind me with a feeling of intense satisfaction. I turn around and survey the room I've entered. It's very dark- there are no windows. I feel along the wall for a light switch. My fingers fumble for a moment, and then I find one and flick it on.
When I see what I've done, I don't even scream. Ignoring the tight feeling in my chest, I simply pull on the door to leave.
I feel the first hand on my shoulder. That's when I scream.
I grin as I turn the key in the lock. Nice. I couldn't even see who went in there through the massive crowd of mutts following them, but I know it must have been a Career. Who else would be out right now?
I must say, I'm lucky these are muttations and not real people. The moment the tribute slammed the door on them, they turned in unison and went back to walking down the streets. Of course, I've attracted their attention now, but that's fine. My door has a lock. I turn and dash back to my building. That's when I hear the first scream issue from behind me.
I wander through the building dejectedly. The rest of my depleted alliance and I decided to move house once the mutts started getting nastier- the hotel was just too full of them. Now we're in some sort of empty warehouse that I guess the mutts- or the Gamemakers- decided wasn't worth staking out. Because honestly, there is nothing here, not even rag piles. We're lucky we thought to bring some food from the hotel.
I hear a door slam in the distance. I hold completely still, holding my breath. It's got to be another tribute- no mutt would slam the door. And if it's another tribute, chances are it's a killer. Everyone else is sure to be hunkered down somewhere safe if they've got half a brain.
Suddenly, I hear a shrill scream. I stiffen. A girl. The possibility of Ace doesn't even cross my mind. I just think of Arella and Marigold- I mean, Marigold's not that bad, for a Career.
I tear through the hallway in the direction of the noise, and stop when I hear another yell issue out from behind the double doors to my right. My heart thudding painfully, I turn slowly… and pull the door open.
Just in time to see it. A mutt- an elderly man, or what used to be one- is standing over Arella, who is hunched on the ground. He's holding a shovel in his hands. He raises is slowly… and brings it straight down into her chest.
She screams a scream like none I've ever heard as the rusty tool slices into her rib cage. Then, as I watch in frozen horror, another mutt- this one a child- holds up her arm and sinks his teeth into it, tearing at her flesh. Arella, still alive, can only moan.
I scream. The little boy looks up at me, blood smeared on his smooth skin. The mutts surge forward, hiding Arella from my view. I slam the door and stagger backwards into the opposite wall. I turn and walk back the way I came, still leaning on the wall. I don't make a noise until I'm knocking on the door of the large office that my alliance has made their home. Tork opens the door, smiling when he sees me. That grin slides off his face very quickly, though, when he sees my expression. "Naspa? What's wrong?"
I grab him by the shoulders, digging my fingernails into his skin. His eyes widen, and he pulls away back into the room. "Naspa? Naspa!"
I've sunk to my knees in front of him, bowing my head. My mind is pounding, and all I see is the image of Arella being stabbed, then eaten alive… replaying over and over again in my mind's eye.
I feel someone grab my chin and tip it up, and then I'm looking into Jasmine's frantic eyes. "Naspa," she says firmly, trying to be calm, "You've got to tell us what happened."
I swallow, and take a shaky breath. I look into her wide eyes, and I smile. "Jasmine, he ate her. The little boy went insane, and he ate her. Now she's gone. Now we're all going to die."
Jasmine says slowly, "Who's gone, Naspa? Who was eaten?"
I take the leather tricorn off my head, and flip it onto the floor. "Arella Collins. Is dead. Eaten. Gone."
Jasmine draws in a sharp breath, and I hear Tork sit down heavily behind me. I trace a pattern on the office floor with my index finger, frowning. The more I think about it, the more this can't be real. Little girls don't get stabbed by shovels and eaten by toddlers in real life. I ponder the absurdity of this for a moment, and then I begin to laugh. I laugh, and I laugh, curling up in the floor as tears of mirth stream from my eyes. Jasmine, worried, reaches for my hand. I pull her down close to me. Still gasping with laughter, I whisper to her, "Kill me, Jasmine. Please. I want my reality back."
Tears in her eyes, Jasmine whispers, "This is reality, Naspa."
I smile at her. "Not anymore."