Dawn breaks on what I'm sure will be my last day in the arena. By tonight, I will be winging my way back to the Capitol – no longer a tribute, but a victor.
Twenty-one down, two to go.
Naturally, most of those twenty-one were killed by my hand, which is only to be expected from a District Two career tribute. The most recent kill was definitely my favourite so far, though. He put up a real fight for me, not like the bloodbath kids or the kid who rigged the bombs for us – I think he was from Five, but who really cares?
The Eleven boy was big and strong, but so am I, and he had next to no skill or finesse. His "tactic" was simply to swing his fists wildly at me, putting his full weight behind every swing. He got a few hits in, but nothing serious – rocks and fists can't compare to a sword, especially one wielded by someone as skilled as I.
I quickly realised that he was wearing some kind of body armour – presumably it was his prize from the feast (or my prize from the feast, which he stole). Observation showed me that the only areas not covered were his hands, head and lower legs; every strike to his torso or chest was deflected by it.
The ground was slick from the rain, which had been falling for hours now. One well-timed dodge from me and Eleven swung too far, overbalancing and slipping on the wet ground. Once he was down, it was only a matter of putting his hands out of action and he became easy prey.
I stared down the handless, headless body in a pool of rapidly spreading rain-diluted blood, feeling rather proud of my achievement. Aside from the Fire Girl, this guy had been my biggest competition and I took him down single-handedly.
Not far away, I found the pack with a number 2 emblazoned on it. I was glad to see that it contained similar body armour – I wasn't looking forward to having to peel the armour from the dead boy's body. I would have done it though; I'd be stupid to throw away the opportunity to have such a helpful tool in the arena. The bag contained a second, smaller suit of armour which I realised was probably destined for Clove.
I swung the pack up onto my back and picked up my weapon. Once I had my own armour, I had no use for anything District Eleven had on him, so I figured I might as well get away from the body so that the hovercraft could collect it.
Once I was a fair distance away, I stopped to put on the body armour and to watch the hovercraft lift away my latest kill. The skintight armour covered most of my body. With it, I am practically invincible, even against the girl with the arrows. If this armour can withstand my sword, there's no way an arrow will pierce it. I also take the time to investigate any injuries I received from the fight with Eleven. I lost a few teeth, suffered a split lip, what felt like a cracked rib and several bruises, but superficial injuries like that have never held me back before.
By the time I returned to the Cornucopia, it was the middle of the night and the storm has finally abated. I slept soundly all night, dreaming of my victory, which was so close I could almost taste it.
The next day, I woke up later than I had planned and headed out immediately to try and find the other tributes. Around mid-afternoon, I heard the cannon shot. Half of me hoped it was Fire Girl, since that would make my job so much easier; half of me hoped it wasn't because I wanted to kill her myself. A few hours later, the sky informed me that it was the redheaded girl from district Five who had actually died, leaving me and the lovers from Twelve in the final three.
After another good night's sleep, I woke up today at dawn. That brings us to the here and now – the last day. I'm sure the Gamemakers will be doing something today to bring the remaining three tributes together, so I might as well wait it out. I kill some time by sharpening my sword and my mind wanders to Clove, who was always sharpening her knives.
I'd never let myself get attached to Clove – or anyone else for that matter – but if I ever had someone I might consider a friend, it was her. She was strong and no-nonsense, not like all the other girls who seemed to only be interested in looking pretty and sleeping around. I'd been propositioned enough times myself, being one of the strongest and most attractive young males in the district, but I always turned them down – I had better things to do with my time, like training for the Games. Once I return, victorious, I'll have plenty of time to sleep with all the girls I want.
Once the rule-change was announced, I decided that being a joint victor with Clove wouldn't be so bad, in fact I almost started to like the idea. We'd be the most famous victors ever – the first joint victors in the history of the Hunger Games.
Since the age of six, I've been training for the Games and watching footage from previous Games to pick up on tactics and skills. After a while, you just get desensitized to the violence, death just becomes another part of life. Hers was the only death that has ever affected me. I'd just got used to the idea that we could win together, when she was taken away from me. Still, I don't need her to help me win – I'm the last career standing and the odds are completely in my favour.
It really should just be me and two of my fellow careers in the final three: Clove and the boy with the spears, or maybe the hot chick from district One. It's practically unheard of for tributes from Twelve to be in the final eight, let alone the final three. Most of them don't even make it past the first day! Although I've no doubt that if it hadn't been for the rule change, Lover Boy wouldn't still be here.
Sword successfully sharpened, I get up and stretch my arms and legs, wondering whether it's worth just heading back the Cornucopia and waiting for them to come to me.
I start walking in the right direction when I hear a noise behind me. It sounds like some kind of animal's growl: a low-pitched rumbling noise. I turn around and find myself looking into the eyes of a giant wolf-like creature, a mutt for sure. For a few seconds, or it could be hours, we both stand perfectly still and I stare directly into the wolf-mutt's eyes, which are strangely familiar. Then I blink and the spell is broken; the mutt leaps at me and I turn on my heel and run full-pelt away from it.
I don't know how long I run for. Sweat runs freely down my face and I can almost feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins as my feet blaze a trail through the forest. Branches whip my face and snag against my clothes, but I don't let them slow me down. Chancing a glance behind me, I see that there are now at least three of them following me and I realise, with a pang of anger, that I left my sword behind and am left weaponless against these creatures, or anything else I might encounter. I have one of Clove's knives, which I took from her coat after her death, but it's concealed in my boot and I can't get to it without stopping, which obviously isn't an option.
Finally, I reach the edge of the woods and see the golden glint of the Cornucopia ahead of me. It's about six metres high; the mutt's probably wouldn't be able to reach me if I climbed up there. I dash across the clearing and reach the Cornucopia, vaguely registering that I passed the two tributes from Twelve on my way. I struggle to find purchase on the hot metal with my sweaty hands, but manage to drag myself onto the top, where I promptly collapse onto my side and start gagging for breath. I don't know how far I ran, but it must be a long way as I've never felt this out-of-breath before.
I try to sit up but find myself crippled with cramps. Behind me, I realise that the two from Twelve are on the Cornucopia as well. They're my last priority at the moment though, as I'm still unsure whether the mutts are able to get up here.
"Can the climb it?" I cough, barely recognising the words myself as they leave my mouth.
"What?" the girl shouts back
"He said, 'Can they climb it?'", explains the boy.
I don't get an answer to my question but gather, from the fact that neither of them have been mauled to death yet, that the mutts can't climb it very easily. I can hear them sniffing around the base of the Cornucopia, scratching their claws against the side of it and making strange yapping noises. There's a moment of silence, followed by a hollow metallic bang which I assume is one of the mutts hitting against the side of the Cornucopia, causing the girl to shriek in fear.
There's a hideous squeaking, scraping noise of the mutt's claws sliding down the side of the Cornucopia. It seems as through they can't jump up here, or climb it either.
Shortly, I hear the girl freaking out, saying that the mutts look like the dead tributes. It dawns on my that the eyes of the first wolf-mutt seemed familiar for a reason: they were just like Clove's eyes. It's a weird thought, but I'm not as bothered by it as the others seem to be – it's not like they used the tributes real eyes.
I'm nearly recovered enough by this time to get up. A yell from behind draws my attention and I look around to see Lover Boy hanging over the edge of the Cornucopia, being pulled down by one of the mutts, with Fire Girl grabbing his hands and trying to keep him up.
"Kill it, Peeta! Kill it!" she shouts, stating the obvious really. He evidently does so, as she is then able to pull him back onto the top of the horn.
In the relief of escaping from the mutts, they seem to have forgotten my presence and I seize the opportunity, grabbing Lover Boy and putting him in a headlock, holding his body in front of me as a human shield – not that I need it, given my full body armour.
His hand claws weakly at my arm in a futile attempt to losen my grip. Needless to say, it doesn't work.
The girl quickly aims an arrow at my head, but I saw this coming. I'm holding onto her Lover Boy pretty tight; if I go over the edge, he is coming with me. I laugh and tell her so. The taught string of her bow slackens slightly as she considers her options. I can't help but do the same; we've reached a stalemate situation.
It doesn't take me long to work out my tactic. I don't have a weapon, but I do have something in my arms which probably weighs two hundred pounds: the Twelve boy himself. I tighten my grip around the boys throat, cutting off his oxygen even more efficiently; the clawing at my arms increases slightly but then quickly slows down as he loses his strength, from a combination of asphyxiation and blood loss from his mangled leg. It won't be long until he suffocates to death, at which time I can shove him towards his erstwhile lover, probably sending her flying off the edge – leaving me victorious, of course. I feel a grin spread across my face as I realise that I've found my out.
The boy's clawing at my arm stops completely, but I feel him slowly lift his hand to one of mine and draw a cross on the back of my hand. I realise, a second too late, what he's doing.
The girl's arrow pierces the back of my hand and reflexively release my grip on the boy. Time seems to move slower than normal as he slams into me, I slip on his blood around my feet and feel myself falling backwards off the Cornucopia.
I land on my back, the impact knocking the air out of me and it's only seconds before the mutts are descending on me. I fumble to pull Clove's knife out of it's hiding place in my boot, jump to my feet and begin the fight for my life.
It's not the end for me yet, though; I'm determined that I can handle these mutts. Some of them are already gone – killed by the girl's arrows – and I have the body armour to protect me and the knife to defend myself.
I don't know how long it is that I fight against the seemingly neverending pack of mutts. Every one I take down, is replaced by another before I have time to recover. Eventually, after fighting for what feels like forever, my legs collapse from under me – a combination of exhaustion and my injuries. Within seconds, the mutts are dragging my across the ground, teeth sinking into the stumps of my arms and legs, dragging me into the Cornucopia. My head knocks against a jagged rock sticking from the earth, knocking me out cold.
When I wake, all I know is the pain. I can't see anything but darkness; I can't hear anything but the sound of my own heartbeat resonating in my ears. I know there are sounds coming from me, but I don't know how or what they are. I black out more times than I can count, drifting in and out of consciousness until I don't know what is real and what isn't.
The last time I wake up, I can see something. Light, the tiniest amount of light, and a silhouette over the lip of the Cornucopia. The silhouette of a girl with a bow and arrow.
A sound escapes my mouth. I don't know what sound I make, but I know what I want; what I need. I can only hope that she understands me – I want her to finish me.
I know those back in district Two: my family, my mentors, Clove, would be disgusted that I took the cowards way out - we are trained to fight until out last breath – but I just can't bring myself to care.
I just need the pain to end. The girl, she who was always destined to win – I don't know how I didn't see it before – releases the arrow, and it does.