I do not own the Hunger Games.
The arena seemed to have suddenly halved in size.
Certain paths and hideouts had simply disappeared right off the map, drawing the tributes closer and closer to one another. I wondered if the Gamemakers were planning for the last and final bloodbath to add to the excitement of this year's Hunger Games.
Twenty-four tributes were reduced to five. Cato, Thresh, the boy from 8, Rei and Peeta.
I sit in the meadow, my history text in hand, desperately trying to concentrate on the chapter assigned.
Panem was created from the ashes of North America it says. Greed, over consumption, privatization and income disparities between the rich and the poor are listed as the root causes of the ultimate destruction of society.
I find that quite ironic.
History repeats itself, it says. The First and Second World War were fought over ideological differences, the final and fatal War, the one that destroyed majority of the world population was fought over water. Environmental degradation and pollution along with over consumption severely diminished the remaining supply of fresh water globally. The Third World War inevitably destroyed the United States of America and from its ashes, Panem was created.
The chapter then goes on about the dark days and District 13 and their rebellion. The ungrateful nature of the population of Panem (all but the Capitol citizens of course), and that was why the Hunger Games were created, as punishment. As a reminder of our ungratefulness.
Disgusted, I toss my book aside and curl myself in a little ball on the grass bed right in the center of the meadow. I close my eyes and imagine a world where children are safe, and there are no Hunger Games, no Capitol.
I fall asleep and dream.
I dream of a place where Peeta's children are happy and free.
I make my way home before sunset and take a seat by the kitchen window. I watch as the sun retires for the day, the sky turning pink and orange, inviting the moon and the beautiful purple, blue and black nighttime sky.
I watch as the miners file their way back through the Seam. Some head in the direction of the Hob hoping to get a hold of whatever Ripper was selling that day while others make their way home to their starving family.
Among the tan, olive skinned men with grey eyes and dark brown hair, I spot a lone blonde with tired blue eyes. I watch as he steadfastly follows the other miners, his one hand clasping a beat-up hard hat, the other holding a safety light.
Overcome with curiosity I step out of my house and begin to quietly follow the man. I tap him on the shoulder just outside the Hob, grabbing his attention.
"Katniss… Hi." Alec says, running his fingers through his matted sweaty hair, unable to meet my gaze.
"What are you doing?" I ask after taking in the sight of his disheveled clothes and coal smeared face.
"I work in the mines now." Alec says, stating the obvious.
"No, what I mean is what are you doing working in the mines?" I ask again, my patients wearing thin.
He was a merchant. The privileged son of the butcher, who was so afraid to loose his standing among his community that he sacrificed his relationship with Avalyn, ultimately killing her in the process. What on earth was he doing now here in the Seam, working in the mines?
"I know what you're thinking Katniss. Trust me, I know." He was referring to what happened to my father.
On that fatal day, our community had lost our fathers, our brothers, our husbands, our children. Everyone was affected that day.
"I was so afraid of this life. Of having to ride that lift that would take me deep down into the ground. I was so afraid of being judged by my friends, by my family." Alec says his hands becoming more animated as his voice begins to rise.
"I know there is nothing I can do to bring her back. But this is the least I can do. To cut myself completely from my family, the merchants, and immerse myself in the Seam community." He begins to walk to the Hob, ushering me to follow him along.
As soon as I walk into the Hob I see Cray near the back drowning in white liquor. Ripper fills his glass, as she knows that if she refuses, the Hob will be shut down by the Peacekeepers immediately, its consequences significant for those that rely on the illegal black market for subsistence.
I sit across from Alec and watch as he nods a nervous hello to the fellow miners. They are wary of him, and rightfully so. Merchants rarely, if ever work in the mines, but many pity his special circumstance and nod back, some even smile.
"Listen carefully Katniss," Alec says leaning across from the table, lowering his voice. "There are talks, lots of them, among the miners," he looks around nervously, before proceeding in a whisper, "About District 13, and a revolution protesting the Hunger Games and President Snow."
My eyes widen in shock, District 13 was annihilated over seventy years ago by the Capitol. There was no District 13. Revolution? My head begins to spin.
"They say the accident that killed your father, it was no accident," Alec emphasizes the word accident using his fingers to create quotation marks. "It was staged Katniss, don't you see? The Capitol sensed something and blew up the mines. The conspirators of this revolution, most of them died that day."
My father? A revolutionary? Impossible. I experience a flood of emotions and feel my body shake as questions begin to surge through my mind.
"Katniss, stay with me." Alec says snapping me out of my confusion, grasping my arm from across the table. "Peeta is stirring up some big controversy, on both ends of the spectrum." Peeta? I feel panic, why was Peeta's name coming up in this revolution talk. He was fighting for his life, a fight that will most likely end in his death.
"The revolutionaries see him as hope, as the person that can become a symbol of the revolution and resistance to the Capitol oppression. The Capitol sees him as a serious threat Katniss, do you understand me?"
I did. I understood very clearly.
Peeta was not coming home.
Later that night I swing by the viewing screens with Gale, we were still on edge around one another, and a part of me wanted the Games to end so that he and I could go hunting again. We always managed to have a good a relationship when we had a common goal, the protection of our family.
He suddenly wraps his arms around my shoulders. Surprised, I raise my gaze to meet his and he smiles.
"Are we OK?" Gale asks, his eyes pleading.
"We're OK." I respond without hesitation. Because I knew it was the truth, no matter what, Gale and I were always going to be OK.
He ushers me along, his arms still wrapped around me, protective. I lean into his warmth as we approach the screen.
"Aren't you scared?" Rei's voice rings through the viewing as the few present turn their attention to her. Peeta runs his thumb over the Mockingjay pin. His eyes find hers but he doesn't say anything back.
"My mom... she's pregnant." Rei says wiping a lone tear from the side of her face.
"I'm scared that when the new baby comes, they'll forget about me… that they'll move on, raise my little brother or sister… they might not even tell the baby about me." Rei begins to cry tears flowing out of her eyes uncontrollably.
"I'm so scared they'll forget about me... I don't want them to forget about me." She chokes out, as Peeta stands to join her on the rock she sits, his hands rubbing small circles on her back.
"Go to sleep Rei, I'll take first watch, you're tired." Peeta smiles at her when she raises her face to stare into his blue eyes. She nods and crawls into her sleeping bag, sobbing quietly in her hands as she desperately tries to muffle her soft whimpers.
Peeta makes his way over to the sleeping bag. He soothes her hair, trying to shush her to sleep.
"I'm scared," she says suddenly, her eyes filled with terror clutching Peeta's hand in hers. "I'm scared of falling sleeping… when I wake up… it'll be tomorrow. I think… I think I'm gonna die tomorrow."
I wake the next day fatigued, as I was unable to sleep after watching Rei breakdown completely.
Shaking the thought of her words out of my head I wake Prim up for school and begin to get ready myself.
Suddenly there's a knock on our front door.
Mayor Undersee has declared a mandatory viewing for the entire district. It was going to be an all-day affair starting in exactly an hour. The mines and schools were shut down for the day, all shops operated by merchants too.
The Game was going to end today.
Anxious, that's how I feel as I make my way to the viewing.
It's packed, we're one of the last families to enter the square, but Rory and Vick had managed to save us a spot near the center. We file our way into our seats and wait in anticipation. The screen suddenly displays the Capitol seal before it is filled with the smiling faces of Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith.
They express how excited they are for the Victor to be declared today. They warn of various twists and dangers that await the tributes. Show charts of how the betting is coming along in the Capitol for the tributes, Peeta ranks second after Cato as the desired and anticipated winner.
I chew my nails to its skin while I watch the two chat away on the screen. They ensure a bloody, but exciting final day of the Games.
Let the final day of the Game begin, they declare.
The screen first displays the boy from 8 cautiously make his way down from the treetop where he had slept for the night. He begins to walk through the arena, gentle on his feet; you can barely hear his footsteps as he makes his way through the woods.
He had stumbled upon his main weapon, his bow and arrow after the hovercraft had removed the emancipated body of Glimmer. He had tremendous upper body strength, and when he would release the arrow, it almost always hit its intended target.
I wondered if he too had been taught by his father to hunt. There must be food shortages at other districts as well. I remember watching the reaping of the other districts and the children looked just as starved as ours.
The display shifts to Rei and Peeta as they make their way aimlessly through the arena in a desperate search for food and water. A quarter of the bread Peeta had received from his father was the only food they had left to share.
The exhaustion is apparent, their pace now much slower, their footsteps heavier.
I can't help by smile to myself as I watch Peeta repeatedly shove his hand down his jacket pocket to reassure himself that my note was still safely stowed in there.
"Are you fucking kidding me!" Rei bursts out abruptly, suddenly coming to a stop. Her unexpected outburst startles Peeta. Distracted by the note, he practically bulldozes over her.
"If you look at that note one more time, I'm going to fucking kill you." Rei says, wagging her fingers in Peeta's face, the annoyance in her voice apparent. Peeta raises his hand in an apologetic gesture and spins Rei back around pushing her shoulder gently from the back to lead the way once again.
He smirks to himself before giving Rei a thoughtful look as she huffs away, still annoyed by Peeta and his fascination with my note.
I wonder what Peeta thinks of Rei. He owes his life to her; she saved him when he had drowned. She also helped him take care of Avalyn when she was frail and weak, and even went as far as trying to protect him by preventing him from going to the feast.
I remember overhearing a townsman say that the only chance District 12 tributes ever have of winning is by finding themselves a reliable ally and hoping that their ally gets taken out by another tribute near the end of the game so that they wouldn't have to do the dirty work themselves.
He went on to add that Haymitch, our only living Victor had managed to win the Games because he had found a reliable ally in Maysilee Donner, a fellow District 12 tribute.
That's exactly what Peeta had done during the Games. He found himself a great friend and ally in both Rei and Avalyn. With the latter gone, Peeta would eventually face the dreaded task of taking Rei out himself in order to come home.
Thresh is displayed on screen next, slashing through the arena with his sickle. Coming from District 11, he was much better suited for this arena than the other tribute. He had managed to stay strong by relying on his knowledge of the natural herbs and plants in the arena.
The screen finally displays Cato, who perhaps looked the most prepared for this final day. Being the favorite and the only remaining Career of this round of the Games, he was blessed with plenty of food and water through the sponsors. His backpack filled with the deadliest weapon one could fathom, from knives to swords, poisonous darts and ropes for traps.
I watch as Cato's nose suddenly begins to flare, his eyes widening at the realization of the source of the noxious smoke.
Right at the moment, the surround trees begin to explode one by one as he immediately bolts. He swiftly avoids the exploding branches and fire that seem to suddenly engulf him from all direction.
The screen then switches to display Thresh as he too runs away from the flames that engulf his path.
I realize this to be the first dangerous twist Caesar had promised. Cato and Thresh were running away from the flames, straight towards one another.
Cato and Thresh are lured by the flames that lick their feet as they both run towards the stage set for their duel.
I won't go into details because quite frankly, I can't stomach it myself. As soon as Cato and Thresh come face to face a cage drops on them, enclosing them in a confined space. They call this the "cage fight". It happened before, a few years back. They force two tributes in this confined space and the rules are plain and simple. Fight to the dead, literally. Only one comes out alive.
And so they fight.
It's physical. It's bloody.
Peeta and Rei are unaware of the shadowy figure that has traced their every step for what seemed like miles now. It must be their fatigue, because they are both taken back when a voice calls to them from among the trees.
"I was wondering how you managed to stay alive all this time Rei." The voice calls out to her from above but its source a mystery, obstructed by the long willow like branches of the trees.
Rei comes to a sudden halt, her face falls with what must be both fear and relief. "I thought we were too old to play hide and seek," she says in a hushed tone, a smirk now spreading across her lips.
"We are." The voice calls back, before a strong and muscular figure appears on the screen. He jumps right off the high branch and lands directly in front of Rei, only a foot away from her timid body.
"So, why lover boy from District 12?" The figure questions Rei as he steps even closer to the young girl.
"He's not a threat Zac."
"Everyone's a threat in this arena Rei. I'm a threat to you, and you're a threat to me." The boy from District 8 says, tugging on the back of Rei's blonde ponytail.
"Not to mention, he is a threat to the both of us." He says tilting his chin towards Peeta.
Rei yanks his arms dragging him further away from Peeta.
"Come with us," Rei stares into Zac's hazel colored eyes before placing her fingers on his chest. "Peeta trusts me, and if I tell him you're going to join our group, he won't think twice before saying yes."
"I don't need his approval." Zac diverts his eyes from hers, staring into the distance.
"It's not about approval Zac, it's a strategy."
Zac stares into Rei's eyes before smirking, and messing her hair with the palm of his hands in a loving and playful gesture, leaving her bun in a disheveled mess.
What was wrong with the tributes from District 8, they were so… odd.
"Please don't tell me you have a crush on him," Rei hesitates, her mouth opening and closing like a fish fresh out of water, gasping for air. "Oh for the love of God, you do!" Zac laughs practically howling as he bends down to place his hand on his knees unable to control his laughter. To this, Rei turns beet red and jumps on his back, trying to cover his mouth while shushing him.
He continues to mock Rei and quite frankly, I enjoy it. We could all use some comic relief once in a while.
Like two children caught doing something bad by an adult, Rei and Zac abruptly stop their play fighting instantly as Peeta clears his throat.
Peeta looks cautiously optimistic of this situation and rightfully so. Zac is strong and with him on their side, they may be able to hunt Cato and Thresh down much better than if it were just the two of them. But could he really trust Zac?
Rei jumps between the two and nervously introduces them to one another. She tries to convince both that their biggest threat were not one another but Cato and Thresh. So long as they were taken out, after that it was fair game.
Right at that moment, they hear a canon go off, Thresh's face plastered on the sky.
"Three to go." Zac quietly mumbles to himself.
AN: First and foremost I want to apologize to you all for taking so long to update. I thank all of you who took some time to message me (through reviews, and PM's). Your words helped me get through this chapter.
I look forward to the final chapter, and the epilogue. I promise that I will not take over two month to update the next chapter!
Please leave me a review, I'm really nervous about this chapter but very excited for the next one!
Also, I have a brand new story it's called "Two Broken Souls". It is extremely dark and heart wrenching and just fantastic!
Thank you once again, I missed this story!