Day 7: Amber's POV
Agate didn't hear the bells. This is my chance. It's now or never. It's just one dart. If I fire it, I will be in the final 3. To correct me, a cannon booms. Elana's face lights up the sky. So if I can do this, I'll be in the top two. Agate looks so small when she's asleep. She's really very thin for a Career and rather short too. Her black hair frames her face in little wisps. Why am I noticing these things now? Maybe I'm stalling. Her tank top reveals a strange faint pattern of bruises running along her neck. In an instant though, she stirs and I send a dart into her throat. She shoots up and yanks it out. I fall backwards. I know she won't even have enough time to pick up her spear. I expect to see the last look on her face to be one of rage, but as she turns to me just before the poison reaches her heart, the only look on her face is one of confusion and genuine fear. "It's poison, isn't it?" Her voice sounds so calm. Why is she so calm? Now her lips curl up in a small smile as she lies on the ground, her face already deathly pale. "You know what everyone told me?" She looks up, her green eyes accented by the sick color in her face. I back away slowly. "They told me I had to win." She gives a very weak laugh. "Well, I guess they never knew I was playing another game." Her cannon makes me jump back. I quickly move away from the body. As I am about to enter the dense foliage though, something makes me look back. Agate may have been small in sleep, but she's even smaller in death. I never knew her story. I think that she'll always remain in my mind though. Not the way Hanna or Atom or Chase will, but I don't think Agate Harrow will soon be forgotten by me.
I need to think fast. I have one of the most deadly trained killers hunting me down. Think. Think back to training. What could Mason not do? Of course. Mason fights with a sword, so he can't really do any long range fighting. Really, it would be best not to get any fighting involved at all. In a matter of seconds, I have a plan. It's a simple one, but a plan nonetheless. I'll just wait him out and hide in one of the trees. I will be very easily concealed. Once I spot him crashing through, I'll simply send a dart through him. I go right to my fruit tree because it's the closest. I haven't eaten in what seems like a very long time and who knows how long Mason will take to show up? I climb the tree quickly, but once I'm at the top I can't seem to eat anything. I'm shaking with fear and adrenaline. Pull yourself together. I can see my family again after this. Isn't that all I ever wanted? Will they be devastated that their daughter has become a killer? I only ever wanted to be back with them. Maybe if I just think about them now, I will feel a little calmer. I need to remind myself that there are still good things left. It works. As the hours pass, I fill myself with memories.
It's the morning of my seventh birthday. The sun is streaming through my tiny windowpane. I'm old enough to know that my parents can't get me an expensive or extravagant gift, but I'm young enough to hope for one still. I swing my feet onto the wooden floor. Suddenly, beautiful music begins to play faintly from outside. I move to the window and see my father standing, surrounded by the amber grain for which I was named, playing his violin and grinning up at me. I thrust open the window. My father began to sing my favorite song. It was about how the stars were bright, but not as bright as his baby girl's eyes. He'd sung that enough times for me to know that I was his baby girl. We sang it together and I remember thinking that it was the best present anyone could get.
Now I'm nine years old and my grandmother, mother and I are all in the kitchen baking bread together. It's been a long time since we've had enough ingredients to bake with, so we're all very happy. Grandma has her hands rested over mine. "Now, it's just like this." She moves my hands in the correct kneading motions. I look up at her. "I like when we're together." She smiles. "I like it too."
It's the day of my first Reaping. My mother's hands flutter nervously as she ties my hair ribbon. I take her hand firmly, though I'm just as scared. "Everything's fine. My odds really aren't that bad." I end up saying that last sentence in a tone that makes my mother laugh. I slide off the chair and she squeezes my hand back. Even though I'm twelve years old, I hold her hand the whole way to the Square. The grain workers have returned from the fields and file next to their wives. The younger ones go over to the 18 year old section. I am making my way through my own section, frantically trying to find Sage. I shout her name over and over again until I feel her familiar fingertips on my shoulder. Neither of us says a word until Calcius reaches his hand into the bowl. My hands are twitching nervously at my sides and Sage's legs are buckling. The name called is someone neither of us knows. As we make our way home, Sage hugs me. "I was so worried." She whispers. "Don't worry, Sage." I whisper back. "I'm safe. We're together." "You and me, together forever," she smiles.
We will be together. I'm coming home. I know this as Mason comes crashing through the bushes, a wild look in his eyes. I pull the trigger. The dart whizzes through the air and finds its mark, right above Mason's heart. He pulls the little thing out and frantically looks around. He makes a sort of wild animal sound. I close my eyes just as I hear him fall. His cannon goes off. I am coming home. I only feel numb at first as two hovercrafts appear. One scoops up Mason's enormous body in a claw while the other one lowers a stretcher. I slide on and I'm raised up. As I am leaving the arena, it really hits me. I can see Sage again. Dad will play a song and Mom and I can dance all night. Grandma will bake with the ingredients that come from my winnings. I have a small smile as the stretcher goes up.
It's so bright and clean up here. A team of doctors dressed in the same blinding white rush to my side. They wheel me behind a curtain and undress the bandages. One pulls out a needle to numb me while another has thread for stitching it up. I don't mind. The doctors all seem surprised. Usually victors come out with their intestines literally coming out of them. No, there was no fantastic ending battle. It was all over with a single dart. The wound on my thigh is now healed up cleanly. One kind looking woman tells me to lay back and the doctors leave so I can sleep. I don't want to though. She gives me a small smile and places a tray of food on my lap instead. It only has a glass of milk and some cubes of warm bread, but it's more than enough. She smiles as I wolf it down. I haven't had bread in as long as I can remember. When I finish, I do drift off. Sometimes it's just easier to block everything out.
When I wake up, I'm in a larger room. I open my eyes to see Garner sitting in a chair next to my bed. Aluma has her hands on its back. Garner pats my arm. "Nice going sweetie." He smiles, his mouth full of yellowing teeth. Aluma looks at me with a concerned expression. "How do you feel?" I lift the blankets and take a look at my leg. Some miraculous Capital medicine has completely closed the gash left by Coral's trident. All that's left is a thin red line. "I feel fine." I answer. Aluma nods tersely and leaves the room. She knows that's not really how I feel and she's decided to give me some time to settle my emotions. Garner, however, doesn't seem to be able to take a hint. "You know they want you to be interviewed first thing tomorrow." I nod, thinking all the way back to my first interview. How long ago was I that sweet innocent girl who was thrown into this by some great misfortune? I would never be able to redo that angle, not after I have four children's deaths on my hands. As if to read my thoughts, Garner gruffly states "murderers aren't cute anymore, honey." As if I don't know. I sink back into the sheets and bury my head in my hands. By some strange strike of compassion, Garner pats my hand. "Don't worry. All you'll have to do is talk about home and how when you were in the arena everything you did was for your family." I can do that. It would be a lie though. As much as I hate thinking about it, it really is. Was I thinking about my home when I watched Dayta die that horrible, screaming death? No, it was pure impulse. For some reason, I have the urge to tell the half insane man sitting next to me this. So I do. "I wasn't thinking of my family when I made most of my kills at all. I was only thinking of much I hated my victim." To my surprise, Garner smiles again. "Well then, sweetheart, you've begun to think like a victor." With that, he leaves the room.
He's right. No one ever leaves these Games sane. I make a mental list to myself.
I am heartless.
I am ruthless.
I am cold.
I am unfeeling.
I am impulsive.
I am lethal.
I am a killer.
I am a victor.