"There will come a time," I said, "when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and though and discovered will be forgotten and all of this"-I gestured encompassingly-"will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be the time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that's what everyone else does."
Holly Grace Lancaster, "The Fault In Our Stars"
The death scene of Vaugh Shumway, District 11
In the seconds I rise above from the ground below, I feel mere moment of calm. My heart pace slows and the knots of my stomach relax. It is the moment, I believe, I was accepting it all. The fact my life hangs by the thinnest of threads and I was to die. Sixty seconds we were to stand on the platform, why am I considering the prospect of simply stepping off now and ending it all?
Focus, Vaughn, I think. I breathe in through my nose and slowly release it between my lips. Gradually, my eyes slide open, adjusting to the shadowed lighting.
For a moment, I'm actually relieved. The path ahead of me is shielded by a wall of hedges. Hedges, plants. It can all easily narrow down the fact there is a nearby water source and lack of open areas. My stomach instantly clenches back up and I literally smack myself for my own stupidity as I note how the path veers off in several spots. If it's a giant maze as it seems there will no doubt be some dead ends. Some very deadly ends. If I'm cornered by a Career, larger tributes, anyone with a knife, I'll easily be killed off.
I'm broken from my musings by the sound of a gong. This is it. The Games are beginning. The real Games are beginning. Not that I was ever a contender.
Still, one nervous foot steps in front of the other. I'm struck by the lack of tributes around me and casually begin moving forward. Should I just stay here? No, that'd be suicidal; I'd have to eat at some point. They can't expect us to stay here forever. This is a show, in a way, a story being played out. There needs to be a change in scenery, an interesting twist to it all.
My feet travel along the dirt paths. I'm gradually gaining speed with every new imperative thought urging me on. I had once read how you should always go left in a maze. If you were to hit a dead end, you would simply go back the way you came and find the last intersection. The right path, from the viewpoint you stand by, is now left, and you travel that path. I'm not sure if that is used in mind when mazes are designed or if it's simply something to consider so you don't get lost.
It's a good process. My head peers around a corner and I prepare to step out when a girl emerges from a corner. An annoyed red burns in her skin and I narrowly avoid being spotted as I duck back behind a hedge. The steady beat of her feet striking the dirt floor's surface draws me in. It's not quite as fast as my own racing heart at the sudden reveal of the tribute and it brings the realization of where I was back down hard; I was in the Hunger Games, fighting for my life.
I can barely take in the girl's details, only that I was pretty sure she was a Career and she could kick my ass if she wanted to. She glances back and forth at the end of this path, deciding to swing right. After a good thirty pounds of my heart in my chest, I creep out from where I was crouched down. I didn't even realize I had unconsciously been cowering with my arms raised over my head. On shaky feet, I rise again, breathing once before following the Career girl, instead turning left at the end. The movement is too sudden and a branch drags itself along my cheek. Tears spring to my eyes as the sting radiates through my skin.
Could people already be dead? Could Lilly? The idea of Lilly lying, mutilated, dissected, dismembered, decapitated, and literally unidentifiable jolts me to a stop, cutting my breath short. She's not dead. It's impossible for her to be dead. She has allies. She's strong and way too stubborn to let herself die…
I'm propelled forward as I trip over a pile lying on the ground. I face plant hard and my palms tingle from where they failed to cushion the blow. I spit, wiping uselessly at my tongue to clear it of dirt. The attempt only succeeds at me licking more dirt from my sleeve.
I peer at the supplies my feet had come upon. There's a pair of heavy gloves that could probably help moving through these hedges and…my eyes widen at the piece of metal and wood. I slide the little serrated knife out and examine its smooth surface and the rivets it diverged into. A warm feeling seeps down my face and I think I'm crying. My hand reaches up to wipe them away, but is instead smear whatever is there. Pulling back, I grow lightheaded at the sight. What I thought was tears are actually blood coming from a small cut on my cheek.
Instinct kicks in; I double over and heave what contents are in my stomach up across the ground. The blood's metallic taste runs into my mouth and it causes my stomach to convulse again until I'm left there dry heaving on nothing.
A shuffle of movement brings my head up. My body weakens suddenly and I allow a scared little "eep" from my lips.
Standing above me is the boy from Ten. The one who I managed to take note of at the interviews could tear me limb from limb. Standing right there with a big scary spear in his hand.
He doesn't speak a word as he levels it over his shoulder and aims for somewhere on my skinny body. I leap back instinctively and this movement most possibly saves my life. For now. The spear landed just where I had been standing a mere second ago.
In a desperate attempt, I swipe the knife I had found at the boy. He dodges it like it was nothing, swinging his hand and slapping it from my sweaty grip in a fast forward motion. Its metal slides easily away. I gulp, shaking violently.
The spark of fear wells up inside me and I back up into the hedge wall behind me. Branches grab at my clothes but I manage to get my feet moving and run away. A shrill scream vibrates through my vocal chords from a source deep in my lungs. My feet stumble once but I catch myself, flying around to the right. I am met by three domineering barriers of hedge with openings in each like a room. A fourth wall looms above me as I spin around. Every feature that had intimidated me at first is intensified. He is not some boy, guy, better term, from District Ten. He is a horrid creature spurted from the darkest realms of my fears, all based around the major idea that I, and possibly most beings, fear most; death.
One of his large, muscles hands shove me down like I was nothing and the wind is knocked from my lungs as I land on my butt. My eyes fly desperately about to find something, something to help me. I blink with wide eyes at the older tribute watching us from one of the four openings. It takes a moment for his face to register in my panicked mind.
For a moment, my stomach twists up in a knot. H-he can save me! He's not one of those bloodthirsty types! He's strong, he's from Four, he's trained, Lilly likes him; Moss can save me!
This small flicker of hope is instantly diminished as he whirls out of sight again. Of course he won't save you. What do you have to offer? That was stupid to consider. You're going to die.
I am going to die.
Boston's eyes gaze down upon me. He doesn't seem angry or smug which is one of those most daunting aspects. I suck in quick gasps of air. He plants his foot onto my chest and the constraint that already wound about my lungs tightens even more, leaving my vision swimming. The pointed edge of the spear hovers above my head, rising to strike down. Spastically, I flail uselessly, tears flowing down my face.
With this action am I able to dislodge myself from his heavy weight. The spear drives into the ground right beside my head and I crawl out from underneath the massive fighter. I glance to where Moss was again, and he's observing the scene again. His sea green eyes glisten hopefully, and he began to edge over to sprint across the clearing.
He may not realize it, but I'm shaking my head. He actually thought I could save myself?
Boston rips the spear from the ground, a little annoyed by how bothersome I was acting. I only manage to move my shaking limbs and try to, inch by inch. Could I? All I needed to do was stand. But I couldn't even do that action. All I could process was the impending figure.
"P-Please!" I blurt out. Tear and snot runs down my face and my words break away in frightened sobs. "Not n-now. Not so s-s-soon. Please."
Boston hesitates and I take in an awaiting breath. He's considering sparing me, giving me at least some time. But he presses his lips together, and with a note of finality says, "Sorry, kid."
The spear enters my body and my cells scream at the jolt of pain. It's an instinctive shock and I scream with an equal force used to thrust it in. The cold of the metal radiates out to the rest of my body, my life gradually seeping away with each drop of warmth bleeding out onto the dirt floor. There was so much blood slowly oozing. An odd sight, seeing the shaft dug into me.
I look at Moss one last time. His face is horrified. This is his first true dose of what the Games have to offer. Or is it? Maybe he had already seen a death not too far away. Or he managed to kill someone himself. Somehow that thought doesn't seem correct.
Boston jerks the spear up again and the blood spurts at in even greater amounts. I cough and more of the sticky red liquid covers my dark skin. The color in the world begins to fade, all except for the vivid red. I lock my gaze onto Moss and try to scream for him to run, that this was a chance to escape. To save himself, save Lilly, be anywhere but here.
"Lilly," I whisper as darkness overtakes my sights. Or maybe I just thought it. Because when I spoke, all that came up was blood.