A/N: Yeah, sorry about the delay again. Updates are getting slow. But hey, that's the way they're going to be from now on, I suppose. I guss on the third book I'm starting to run out of energy. And time. Gah, and I thought the workload couldn't get more. Ah well, how does that matter? Anyway, here's your chapter. ^_^
The moment light hits my eyes I jolt up, unable to quite process what I'm seeing. Light… hmm… light! I jolt up even further. I check my watch. I haven't slept in on the day of the games again, have I? With a quick glance at my watch I note in the negative. Okay, so I have an hour left. I guess that means goodbyes then. But somehow these goodbyes don't seem like they're just going to be a simple "donec eras", until tomorrow cover. Because unlike last time I know both of these two are going to die. Straight away. And it's not going to be pretty.
"Zap, what are you doing here?" I ask as I wrench open my door just to find Zap there, and it looks as he's been waiting out here for a long time.
"Oh, Kara," he says in surprise. He somehow doesn't look surprised now, so he has been waiting for me. "Fancy seeing you here."
"Yes, fancy seeing me outside my door of my room which I exit at this precise time every morning without fail. Wow, that's so unpredictable!" I don't mean for my words to come out of my mouth dry but they do and end up bitter on my tongue, leaving a lingering taste gnawing at my tongue. "What is it you want?" I snap.
"Oh, right. Well Kara, the thing is…"
"Kara! You're going to be late!" Ophelia suddenly charges in and tugs my arm, dragging me away from Zap.
"Oh, right…" murmurs Zap.
"Tell me later!" I call, then let Ophelia tug me off to wherever Renny and Heather are now. I feel my arm being dragged this way and that as I'm wrenched through a labyrinth of Capitol corridors, the blinding white lights and cheery colours contrasting so it seems I'm in a mix of a nightmare and a disco dance stage. Either way, it's far from an enjoyable experience.
"We're here!" Ophelia says, letting out a brief puff of air from her lungs and I see the door in front of me reading 'district eight female'. I know this room, I spent the build-up to a hunger games shivering in this room. This was where I could be me, not Clara. Kara. The proper one. The right one. This was my sanctuary, this is someone else's sanctuary and now I'm going to invade it with the horrible vision of the hunger games. This is where Heather is.
I barge into the room after Ophelia and almost crash into Heather as she's just going out as I go in. "Heather!" I squeal, then clasp her hand tightly. "You ready?"
"Yeah," she murmurs, all the colour drained from her face, leeched like her life force will be soon. She doesn't look ready.
"Okay," I say, squeezing her hand reassuringly. "You'll be fine, don't worry." I'm lying and both of us know it, but we ignore the fact and Ophelia chips in.
"Yes Heather, you'll be fine. Just do what you need to do."
"Water, get water," I say. I know listening to a girl who banded with the careers to win isn't helpful at all, but it's the best on offer. "Most of all – survive. Do whatever it takes. Even if you're…" I pause. "No longer yourself afterwards, just live okay?"
Heather's face turns solemn. "There's no point living if I'm no longer myself. I might as well have been transformed into a mutt, working for the Capitol."
I know the words of a soon to be dead tribute aren't meant to hit home hard, but those do. They really do. It sucks all the breath out of me as if someone has siphoned it off and all of a sudden I feel dizzy and find myself sinking down onto the bed that was mine and Indi's and Heather's and Lumina's and many other dead girls, my knees buckling under the weight of my heart.
"Oh, okay…" Ophelia says, then rushes out of the room.
"Tell Renny bye for me," I mumble. Somehow I don't think I can face Renny now, after having just seen Heather. She's bad enough. If I were to see Heather… I think I might just about start crying.
"Sure thing," mutters Ophelia and then slips out of the room, carefully and thoughtfully shutting the door behind her.
"Heather, come here," I say, patting the space of bed beside me. Compliantly Heather comes and sits.
"You won't know what it's like… until you're out there, until you're fighting for your life out there in the arena. And believe me, it's hard. But out there it's them or you. The victors are the ones that chose themselves, and the others… they're the ones that chose everybody else, they're the ones that are lining the graves in the districts as we speak, segregated from the other gravestones with a simple mark saying 'tribute', a mark that separates them from everybody else. So… you know what, I turned into a monster and I said I'd win, I was selfish and cared about myself rather than another very, very important person to me. Well, quite a few very important people to me. I was in there with my boyfriend, even my own sister. And you know what, that's who win the hunger games. People like me. No, monsters like me. And I'm telling you now – if you want to live you've got to become a monster. It's your call; just I'm telling you how it is."
There's a shallow pause in the air, a sort of choking pause as If time itself was holding it's breath, then Heather speaks up. "Okay Kara."
Then silence resumes, and we both search the room for something to talk about. I look Heather up and down. She's in her training uniform – she hasn't bothered doing anything but that. She'll be changing into her outfit for the arena soon enough. Her fists are clenched, and at first I think it's because she's scared, then I see a brown wooden ball clenched in her fist.
"What's that, your token?" I ask, gesturing at the ball.
"Oh?" Heather asks, looking down at her hand as if she just noticed it herself, "well, yeah."
"Oh," I say, and then after a pause, "I thought you didn't have a token."
"I didn't, but I-"
"Time to go!" Ophelia chips in, popping her head around the door. I nod at heather and manage to murmur a "good luck" before she leaves, off to the hovercraft, off to the arena. Well then, I better get to Cets, Zen will be waiting. And so will Heather and Renny.