Sayria Nell, District Seven POV
As dawn broke and I woke up, still wishing for more sleep, I saw Aubrie already sitting up and looking to the rising sun, drawing an "E" in the dirt.
"What are you doing?" I asked her, quite curious.
She turned around and dropped the stick she was using. "Uh…" she said, looking around. "Keeping a watch on our prisoner."
I pointed the other way. "The trap is over there."
"I know. But I could hear him if he wanted to escape. I'm fooling him." I could tell she was improvising.
"Aubrie, does the 'E' stand for Echo?"
"No!" she said immediately. "It stands for…East. That's what. Don't you see the sun? We should remember which way is which, just in case. That's all." she explained, with a glare telling me not to ask anymore.
I sighed and turned to our dwindling fire, throwing a small branch in and watching it splutter to life. "Do you want toast or toasted crackers? Or melted cheese on crackers?" I asked.
She shrugged. "I don't know. Whichever we have more of."
"We don't have more of anything. It's been two days already, and we didn't have much to begin with." I stated angrily.
"Then forage for something!" she said, finally giving up her position by the 'E' to walk over to me, an annoyed look on her face. "I have to take care of him." She jerked her index finger towards the hole, where we still heard moans and groans.
"I can't, Aubrie." I explained; my cheeks hot. "You know I'm no good at defending myself. I can't go out alone! You're the brawns, and I'm-" I cut off, realizing what I was about to say. "I can't."
She sat down on a log, huffing. "Then just make whatever we have."
I took out the crackers and managed a half a slice of cheese to be rationed between the crackers. "Enjoy." I heard my own grim voice say before handing Aubrie her cheese and cracker sandwich—or at least what we had to call a sandwich now.
Just then, a silver parachute floated down from the sky, and we looked at each other in amazement. I didn't know we had sponsors.
The parachute number said "8," and my heart fell a bit, realizing that it was meant for Aubrie. She quickly untied the bow and we found a loaf of bread next to a steaming hot bowl of eggs and a bottle of water. She laughed, giddy now.
"Here's breakfast!" she said, happy again. "We don't have to worry about that, then."
"And if we only eat half of them, I can heat the rest up later." I suggested.
"Fine, then. That sounds like a plan."
I smiled at her, but part of me inside realized how quickly we had just turned on each other for food. Did the arena rip apart even the closest of allies? But then I also realized that we didn't have much of a friendship base to go on. I smiled at her in a chariot out of pure sympathy for her horrible costume. Maybe we really didn't have too much in common.
In the quiet of eating sounds and groans, Aubrie spoke up out of the blue. "I'm sorry for snapping at you earlier, Sayria."
I shrugged, all earlier doubts gone. Aubrie was a good person. "That's okay. I'm sorry for snapping back."
We fell back into an easy banter, laughing about the most random things. The sun was almost at its peak before we fell back against a tree, tired. "I suppose I'll go check on Rilan." Aubrie said.
"I'll come with you."
"Okay." she said brightly, smiling and getting up, but not forgetting her blow darts, tucking them inside her jacket that she was lucky enough to swipe from the Cornucopia. We walked over to the hole eagerly, anxious to see our prisoner. Strangely enough, there were no more moans.
"Do you think he died?" I asked Aubrie nervously.
"I don't know, maybe." she answered, shrugging, but still smiling.
I was the first to reach the hole. "Aubrie!" I shouted. "He's not here! He must have escaped while we were eating."
Aubrie growled. "He won't be gone for long. He was bleeding out when we saw him. Look, he even left a trail for us. How nice of him." She pointed to a line of blood that looked like it had dripped out of someone onto the ground. I shuddered as Aubrie pursued it.
"Looks like he's really starting to lose a lot of blood…" Aubrie mused to herself, following the trail with one eye and keeping a lookout with the other.
I sighed. "Aubrie, why don't we just let him die on his own? Why do we have to follow him?"
She turned around and gave me a 'Seriously?' look, then went back to following the blood.
"This could be an animal's blood that someone killed, or another person, or a trap…" I went on.
"Yes, you're right. It could be. But don't worry, we already found your friend. He's bleeding to death a few yards away. But don't worry, we won't make you watch."
"D-don't worry?" I asked.
But I wasn't so sure, because the voice definitely did not come from Aubrie. The voice belonged to another female…and then she stepped out of the trees. The girl from District Two! Rose…Rose what's-her-name. I wanted to gasp at this twist, sort of like the old soap operas my grandmother told me that her grandmother watched.
The worst was yet to come, as the rest of the Careers followed behind Rose. "We knew we were going to hunt someone today, but look, friends, our prey decided to come to us."
"We aren't even close to the Cornucopia!" I protested. Aubrie took my hand and gave me a look that told me to shut up.
"Right you are, little one." the large boy on the right said. I identified him as Kale, the boy from District Two, also known as Rose's district partner. "We've been searching all morning, and here you come running right to us. Thanks." He grinned sadistically.
Adam, the boy from District One, sauntered forward and stood right in front of me. I quickly countered and stood left of him. He moved to stand in front of me and I went back to the right. He laughed and fast as lightning reached out and grabbed my hands. "Don't try that again." he said menacingly.
I nodded, too afraid to say anything. The only thing I could think of was that I hoped Aubrie could save us.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Aubrie make a lunge for Adam, but was immediately held down by Kale and the big, brawny one. Saul, I think.
The only boy not holding one of us down was the one and only one that I think I could never hate: my District partner, Stark. He was so young and innocent…how did he get in with the Careers?
He looked away a little bit when I tried to meet his eyes, but that only worried me for a second, because I had other things to think about. Adam was mad. "I told you two not to try anything. Are you going to save your little friend?" he asked Aubrie. I assumed he was talking about me, and I felt my eyes getting hot with held-back tears.
"There's nothing you can do about it." he said, smirking, and then a searing pain shot through my wrists as I realized that he twisted them 180 degrees. I gasped for breath. "Stop…please…" I didn't even know it was possible to have this much pain coming from a single part of my body. This was worse than every ache I'd had after chopping wood, every sorrow I had felt, every pain I've had in my life. And I had a feeling this was just beginning.
Rose Shea, District Two POV
I smiled as Adam, Kale, and Saul held down the two girls, and especially when Adam started to twist the small one's wrists. "Kale, Saul, tie her down." I instructed. They complied immediately, using a piece of rope that Stark had readily supplied to tie up Aubrie so they could focus on the tiny one.
"Hey, Stark, this is your District partner, right?" Kale asked, motioning to the small one.
"Yeah, that's Sayria." the Snake replied in disgust.
"Stark!" she said pleadingly. "Come on. Please, tell them to stop." Sayria begged. Now, Adam had begun to twist her elbows. His strength gave me a pleasant shock today.
However, we all looked at Stark, wondering if he would appreciate not being looked at as disgusting, but instead as a savior. He laughed coldly. "And why should I do that?"
"Because you're my…" she paused to cry out in pain. "My district partner, and because everyone back home is watching and waiting for you to do the right thing." She emphasized the last two words.
The Snake rolled his eyes. "The right thing isn't always a good thing." He waved his hands in a "go away" gesture. "She's all yours, Adam."
Adam grinned, and I could see his sadistic side coming on. I leaned against a tree where Rain had a hand to her forehead and Marissa was sitting down, looking bored, but staring intently at Aubrie. "Are you okay, Rain?" I asked her.
She nodded. "Just a bit of a headache." she said quietly. "I get these a lot."
I smiled at her and turned away. Something about Rain made me like her, made me not detest her apparent weakness. She was there when it counts, and that was what mattered. The way she killed that Alice girl was absolutely brilliant.
Adam looked back at me, and I nodded to him. I was ready to enjoy the show. "Kale, Saul, you can hold her down." The boys shrugged and went over to the giddy Adam and his prisoner. Kale held down her arms and Saul held down her legs while Adam strolled over to our weapons pile and carefully picked out an axe and a gun.
That was one thing that surprised me. Guns weren't used much in the Games, as a matter of fact they were hardly ever here. But Adam used one in his training session and the Gamemakers were so impressed that they made sure there was one in the Cornucopia.
"Let's get started, shall we?" he asked happily.
"Wait! Take me instead!" Aubrie shouted out. Adam didn't give her as much as a glance, but instead stood over Sayria, analyzing his moves.
"Get a move on, Adam." Marissa said dryly.
"Shut up, will you?" he said, turning around and walking over to her.
"Just get it over with. Kill them and move on. Too much liability to let them be for so long." Stark pitched in happily, sounding unusually chipper.
"You shut up, too!" Adam shouted, turning on the kid with the axe.
"He's right." Kale said.
"Seriously, just stop the drama, Adam." Rain said in a shaky voice.
"Adam, dude…" Saul said warily.
The once-happy sadist was now furious. I could see him stalking towards Saul, his mouth open to probably yell at him.
I huffed in frustration and stood up. "All of you shut up!" I practically screamed. There was silence over the clearing.
"Man, seriously." Kale said, rolling his eyes.
Adam growled and stood over Sayria. "I'm going to enjoy this." he said quietly, and then chopped off her hands. I saw Rain look away and Kale roll his eyes again as blood started to gush from Sayria's wrist stubs. She screamed. He laughed.
I sighed and examined my fingernails. Adam always did have a flair for the dramatic killing, if you will. I could see Aubrie squeezing her eyes shut and mumbling something.
I heard another scream, to find out that Adam had cut off her legs at the knee now. The guy was on a high, I swear. "Please!" she was begging. "Please! Stop it!"
Kale and Saul were trying to avoid getting blood on their hands as they looked at each other with sort of disgusted looks on their face. Adam was still laughing. "Stop? You want me to make it stop hurting, little girl?"
"Please!" she screamed in between her sobs. Aubrie had a few tears leaking out of her eyes.
"Alright." Adam said, shrugging. I raised my eyebrows. Was he just going to leave her here to bleed out? "I'll make it stop. You won't feel a thing." He paused. "Actually, you'll feel it a lot."
And with a flick of his wrist, he shot out her eyes with expert aim, and then quickly beheaded her with his axe.
"Oh my God…" Rain whispered.
A canon shot somewhere in the distance as all was silent, the screams gone forever.
Kale Solomowitz, District Two POV
I held out my hands in front of me as I assessed them. Unfortunately, they were dripping with blood. It was kind of nasty. I saw Rain cover her mouth, as if she was trying not to barf. I rolled my eyes yet again. I swear, this group is crazy. "Rain, get over it." I said.
Rose shot me a look. "Kale, be nicer. Some people don't handle blood as well as you sadists do."
"Oh, so now you're not a sadist? I thought you were the queen." I said mockingly.
She rolled her eyes. "I don't want to kill you," she said. "But I will if I get annoyed. And I bet no one here would stop me."
I looked around at our group, realizing for the first time that perhaps we all weren't quite as chummy as we looked. We could turn on each other at any time. It was only our need to survive that kept us together. But really, in the end, how many of us could be left? "Whatever." I countered quietly.
A sob broke into our conversation. It was the girl in the corner we had tied up. "Oh." Rain said, surprised that someone was still here.
"So what do we do with her?" Saul asked.
"I say we leave her with one or two guards while the rest of us go back and decide her future." Stark said. "Make her squirm." He laughed.
Rose smiled. "Sure. Kale, Saul, you stay." I sighed. I always get to do the dirty work.
"My vote is she dies." I volunteered. Saul grunted in agreement.
"We'll take that into consideration." she said sweetly.
I heard more muffled sobs as Rose, Rain, Marissa, Stark, and Adam left. I whirled around. "Shut up, will you? Or we'll have to make you shut up."
Saul snorted. "I'm sure the high and mighty committee won't mind. I hate how we're always the ones to do stuff."
I nodded. "I know. It's like we're her henchmen."
"We might as well be; bro."
"Whatever." I said, too angry at Rose to think about our prisoner's crying habits. Finally, she shut up. "Thank you." I said, letting out a huge breath.
"You're welcome." a clear voice said. Instantly, I could feel a sharp tip at my neck. "You move, I shoot, and you're dead."
Saul widened his eyes in surprised. "Whoa, dude. She got out."
"Yeah, thanks, Captain Obvious!" I shot back angrily.
"Chill. I was just telling you that it's her and not some other rouge." Saul said, obviously hurt.
"Now listen, Captain," Aubrie said mockingly. "I want you to go back to the Careers and tell them that I killed him. You will relay this message: I will take you down. You showed no mercy to me, and I shall show no mercy to you until every one of your canons has gone off."
He rolled his eyes. "That's way too long. Besides, this way it's two against one."
"If you don't leave, I'll kill you, too."
"Sure, right, whatever." he said.
Aubrie laughed coldly and the needle-like weapon was removed from my neck, replaced by fingers. "I learned pressure points in training," she warned me happily. With that wonderful thought, she shot Saul directly in his heart. He dropped to the ground like a sack of heavy gems.
I could tell he was slowly dying. "What did you do to him?" I asked. He was moaning loudly.
"Eh, just a little poison." she told me nonchalantly.
"Poison?" I asked, afraid.
"Yeah. Now, do you want to run back to your friends and tell them, or should I kill you, too?"
"What was the message?" I asked, not wanting to get killed, obviously. There was a beautiful girl standing behind me ticked off about something.
She laughed again. "Nevermind. You stood by while that monster killed my friend—in fact, you helped him. And for that, you deserve the same fate. Goodbye, Kale."
And I fell to the ground. A canon shot in the distance, and I vaguely wondered if it was Saul's or if I was having an out of body experience. Either way, I could feel the poison seeping through my veins, taking over my body and claiming it for its own. I groaned. Why did I ever volunteer? Mom…my sisters…Juno…they all needed me…and suddenly I regretted everything I had ever done in these Games. I regretted every mean action and word I had spoken. I regretted it all, but in my heart, I knew it was too late.
Three people, three tributes had died already today. Three lives had been claimed that probably regretted everything they had done. But it wasn't in our hands now. I prayed that whoever was up there had a lot of mercy. "I'm sorry…" I whispered.
But this time, I was looking at my own body as I floated up to the end of my life.
Jack Sandstorm, District Three POV
As the third cannon of the day went off, within a minute of the second one, I could see Juliette's black hair covering her face in a protective and sad gesture. Ivy was trying to comfort her, but I could see it wasn't working. I stood up, brushed the tree bark off of my pants, and went over to her.
"Hey," I whispered. "It's going to be fine…we won't let anyone get to you."
"Katarina…" she said. "And you, and Ivy, and Ben." She burst into sobs on the last name. "And me. We're all going to be dead. All of us."
"That's not true." I told her awkwardly. It was sort of true. One of us could live.
"Yes, it is, too!" Juliette flopped onto the ground. "It's useless."
I backed away to my tree, having dismally failed at trying to make her feel better. Ivy came to sit by me.
"Sorry about that." I told her.
She shrugged. "Juliette just really hates death. Poor girl." There was silence, apart from Juliette's quiet, foreboding sobs.
Ben returned from scouting the perimeter around our camp area, and saw Juliette. He looked at us as if to say 'What happened to her?' Ivy and I shrugged helplessly in synch, the only thing we seemed to be able to do.
He made himself comfortable on the ground, talking softly to her, and her cries eased up. The color slowly returned to her cheeks, and before long, she was mustering small amused chuckles.
Ivy sighed and proceeded to warm up a little chunk of bread and berry mush for each of us. It had been about five minutes before Juliette came up to the fire and began to help Ivy.
Out of the blue, we heard moans and groans of a pained person. Ben picked up his knife and Ivy hers. Juliette scrambled behind Ben as I looked at her. I wonder if she realized I loved her? Then I shook my head. This was life or death, and I was thinking about love.
Everyone stood as a boy, bleeding from an arm wound and favoring one leg, hobbled into the clearing. He looked up in surprise. "Help?" he whispered.
Juliette sniffed, and emerged from behind Ben. "Sit down next to the fire." she whispered back. The three of us looked at each other, astonished. Didn't she hate death? Seeing our looks, she shrugged. "If I can do something about it, I won't let him die."
The boy did, indeed sit down, nursing his arm. I noticed another small wound above his eye. "What happened to you?" I asked him; at the same time that Ivy asked "What's your name?"
"Rilan." he said to Ivy. "And I fell into a trap…literally. The Careers dug me out and gave me these wounds," He pointed to his arm and eye. "So I'd bleed out and—or leave a trail for them."
Juliette clicked her tongue disapprovingly. "Do we have a needle?" she asked.
"Erm…maybe. I think I saw one in the green bag." Ivy said, picking up the bag in question and searching its pockets. "Here's one, and some thread. But it's all we have." she added skeptically.
"Would you want someone to let you die?" Juliette countered.
"Burn." I said under my breath to Ben. He laughed quietly.
Ivy looked around. "Well, no, but…"
Juliette grabbed the needle and thread and wasted no time in putting some water and a piece of worn cloth over his arm wound. "Put pressure on that for a little while." she instructed.
I sat down. "Looks like you've got this under control." I commented. She merely nodded, distracted by her task. After about five minutes, she threaded the needle and took off the cloth. "You know how to do this?" I asked her warily.
She shrugged. "I sew things at home sometimes…well, I watch my mother sew things…so that should be good enough." I held back a laugh.
There was silence, except for perhaps the wind rustling through the tall grass. Juliette was biting her lip as her fingers slowly slid the needle through Rilan's skin. She winced once or twice, but for the most part there was no more blood. She lowered her mouth to bite off the thread, and gave a small smile. "Done."
Rilan sat up slowly. "Um," he paused. "Thanks."
"It was nothing. I hope it didn't hurt too much."
"My arm is pretty numb anyways."
Again, the silence prevailed, until Ivy sat down. "So…do we let you go, or are you staying?" she asked him.
Rilan looked too weak to shrug. "I was hoping you'd let me stay." he said quietly. The stitches on his arm were beginning to get red from the blood he was losing. As I looked around us, I realized he really had basically bled out on the ground.
Juliette, however, looked too happy that she had done something good to realize that Rilan was probably going to die no matter what she did.
Ivy nodded. "Okay." She made him up some mush, and we made small talk for the rest of the night; asking him what District he was from, about his family, and his friends—and he asked us about ourselves.
It was just about dusk when Rilan laid down. I looked at Ben, who was sitting next to me, with a look that said I was scared. Ben nodded.
"Grandfather?" Rilan asked, opening his eyes. His stitches were completely bleeding open now. "Is that you? Are you mad? I'm sorry. You can have your watch back. We'll just have to walk over to the hole to get it. Come with me."
He got up and reached out his hand to another invisible one. We all stood up with him, but he was unaware of us.
"It's just over here. Come on…"
Juliette's eyes were as big as saucers. "I…I fixed him…I was supposed to…" She followed him as he walked out of the clearing. "Rilan? Rilan! Listen to me!"
He turned his head. "Oh, hello, Juliette. Grandfather, this is Juliette. Juliette, this is my Grandfather. It's his pocket watch I lost in that dreadful hole."
Juliette's brow wrinkled. "Rilan, there's no one there."
"But of course there is! It's Grandfather!" His eyes flashed, and I walked up beside Juliette.
"Just let it go." I said quietly, leading her back to the clearing. She struggled.
"No! He's going to die out there!"
I swallowed hard. "Then there's nothing you can do about it." I took her face in my hands. "It is what it is. If he survives, you, and I, and Ben, and Ivy—we can't, Juliette."
Her eyes watered and she threw her arms around me. I hugged her, unsure what to say.
Five minutes later, a canon went off, and she retreated to her corner to cry.
"I was supposed to fix him…"
"You couldn't, Juliette." Ivy said. "You just couldn't."
"I could have!"
"You couldn't. Once a person has all but died…they are dead to the arena. Dead to the Gamemakers. Dead to the world."
"It's not fair."
"Life isn't fair."
I think a little part of all of us died today.
A/N: It is completely atrocious how horrible my updating skills are, but I did just start high school, and everyone knows what school in general does to your writing habits. (And I apologize in advance for this extraordinarily long A/N.)
I would like to thank every single person who reviewed, because you are the dedicated people who inspire me to do what I do! I tried to make this chapter extra-long for you guys. ;D I couldn't access the reviews at the time I wrote this, so all names will be listed next chapter.
Also, I published this quickly without beta-ing it so I could get it to you guys.
Sayria Nell~ I loved you, I really did. You were fun…but then how else would Aubrie have killed a bunch of people for you? I'll always remember you as that cute little wood sprite who got my most creative costume for the chariots ever. I loved you, truly…so maybe I'll write about you some other time. ;)
Saul Giovanni~ Thanks for being a cool character, and for bringing the Snake into the Careers. You were an integral part of the story, but this was your time to die. Have a nice afterlife.
Kale Solomowitz~ Maybe you should have decided to repent earlier, but, hey, not my problem. One less tribute. You were, however, fun to write, so I hope you have a nice afterlife, too.
Rilan Hemworth~ You were a nice guy, sure, but just be glad that I didn't make you die in the bloodbath. Albeit, you didn't deserve to die that way, so I hope your afterlife is happy with your grandfather.
Peace, Love, Happiness, Chocolate,