The cannon fires, the single boom rings out across the arena for the twenty-third and final time.
I don't watch as the hovercraft lifts her body out of sight, out of mind, the flowers, tinted red with her blood, rippling in the wash.
I stare with a mixture of fascination and horror at her blood on my palms.
I scream. And I don't stop screaming until a Capitol worker jabs my arm and the world spins and all...is...dark...
I wake in a room with no windows or doors. My arms, one of which has a drip taped to it, are tied down. A tone sounds and I relax. The white walls are calm...peaceful...
When I wake again I'm no longer attached to the drip. In fact, there's no sign of it at all. Or of any of the injuries I received in the Games.
I have been wiped clean. My body betrays no sign of what has happened.
But it's still in my head.
My stylist comforts me, soothing, speaking quietly. She slips me into a dress which looks ridiculous when you consider that days ago I was covered in blood and dirt.
I wear it anyway.
I sit through the recap of the Games, all but alone on the stage. I watch the chariot rides, the tributes in their ridiculous costumes. The interviews, garish and ironic, most tributes vowing to win, twenty-three of them now dead.
I watch as the Games begin, as twenty-three children go to their deaths.
I see myself running, and hiding, but then finally forcing myself to kill. To win.
I watch as the girl from seven struggles and goes still. As the boy from four drops like a stone, my knife in his back.
And as the girl from District One bleeds out in front of me, her spear centimetres from her hand.
And I stand alone, the fourteen-year-old victor, tiny and fragile and deadly and terrified…
I return home and I find not hatred but indifference. My own district does not hate me for winning, but they take the food and goods that they receive as the victorious district without a word or a thought in my favour.
Life continues, and I am excluded.
The victory tour arrives, and once again I feel alone in a fancy dress. I feel the angry stares, especially in 1, 4 and 7. And each night I see their faces and I wake, screaming.
They are dead but not gone.
I sit alone in my house, where my parents scorn to go, preferring to pretend it does not exist.
I fear sleep, because if my eyes close I know I will once again see the meadow of bloodstained flowers.
But eventually, I succumb to tiredness.
And their faces and their blood fill my dreams…
I see my own face in the mirror, white and thin, dark eyes bright with fear.
And I can see the girl's blood on my hands again, but it is not hers, it's mine.
And I collapse, and as my life drains from me I wonder if they realise.
Twenty-four go to the Games. One comes home.
But twenty-four lives are ended.