Maia Kentner, 16, District 5 Tribute

I stand there, horrified, as the knife digs into my flesh. I can feel the blood pouring down my face, but I'm in too much of a state of shock to do anything. We're the final two. Me and Afya. The last remaining tributes in the arena. This fact only came to light less than two minutes ago, but already, Afya's turned on me.

"Afya, what was that for?!" I screech, ignoring the blinding pain as the knife falls to the ground. Considering the situation, it would probably be best if I pick it up, but I'm paralysed by the shock of all this.

"Look, Maia," Afya says coldly as she retrieves her knife, "I don't know about you, but I want to come home. And we both know the only way home is to kill the other. Please don't take this personally." As she finishes that statement, she rushes at me with the knife, and I turn and run, tears flowing down my face.

This can't be happening; we're allies. And close allies like that. I glance behind me, and see that Afya's catching up with me with remarkable ease.

"No!" I cry as she attempts to plunge the knife into my back. But before I am caught by the knife, I throw myself to the floor, barely avoiding rolling down the mountainside to my certain doom. I quickly scramble to my feet desperately, and sprint forwards once more, Afya right behind me. I can't keep running forever, though, and looking at the continually increasing amount of flowing rivers of molten rock that run around like veins on the mountainside, I won't have many places to run to.

Suddenly, a brassy sound explodes throughout the arena, and I duck to the floor in terror, thinking it's the volcano exploding once more. But a melody echoes out, and an eerie light shines down on us, contrasting from the glow of the rivers. It's the anthem of Panem, and I turn to look up to the sky. It seems that Afya's doing the same, which makes me safe for the moment, but I gape in horror at the amount of tributes that perished today.

Both from 1, both from 2, the girl from 3, the boy from 4, both from 6, the boy from 10, and the girl from 12. Eleven. Eleven of us have died today. That's more than the bloodbath itself, and by sunrise, a twelfth face will join them. But I don't know which face will be joining them. I don't want it to be me, but the thought of Afya dying does not sit well with me.

I hear the sound of footsteps rustling the grass, and turn to see Afya running towards me. I don't have the time to escape from her grasp, and I'm thrown to the ground. But alongside my fear, a crushing feeling in my heart is also prominent. She betrayed me.

"We were friends!" I yell at Afya as she pulls out her knife, and begins to press it against my throat. Wasting no time, I headbutt her, and she recoils in pain, rolling off me. I quickly climb to my feet, looking at Afya. But I feel immense guilt from doing this to her, and I have to bite my tongue to stop myself from apologising. Instead, I remorsefully look away, and run down the mountainside, towards the trail.

As the soft grass becomes hard stone, I begin to realise something that I never in a million years thought that I would think of. I have a huge chance of coming home. But at the same time, there is no way that I could ever kill an ally. It's just wrong, and I don't think I would be able to live with the guilt.

Taking one last look at the mountainside, I notice Afya running down. My eyes widen in horror, and I begin to run down the trail, extremely thankful that she doesn't have her bow any more. If she had that, I would have been dead the moment the last three cannons sounded out. Picking up my pace, I run down the path faster, when I notice a corner. Quickly, I dart around it, and to my surprise, find a small cave.

I leap inside the small cave, and curl up at the back as Afya walks past it. She didn't notice me. I let out a sigh of relief, but as soon as I do, she's at the mouth of the cave. She runs in, and pushes me to the back wall, tears staining her face. I struggle to pull out my knife, but when I finally get it out, I slash it across her arm. She screams in pain, and staggers backwards, and she draws her own knife, swinging like a maniac as she tries to get me. I nearly get out of the cave when she slashes the knife across my back, causing me to fall to the floor in agony. I can actually feel the blood pouring from the wound.

But I waste no time in rolling to the side, and using the wall of the cave to climb to my feet. The enclosed nature of this space makes it a virtual impossibility to just walk out, which means the only way to escape is to take Afya down, but a deep reluctance is stopping me from going all out on the offensive. I slowly edge around the cave, Afya watching my every move closely. However, this gives me an idea. It's a risky one, but it might allow me to get out of here alive.

"Why are you doing this?" I ask, louder than usual. This catches Afya off guard; she hasn't seen me being deceptive before.

"You know exactly why, Maia." She replies, her knife still aimed at me. I take another step around the cave, and she inches closer.

"No need to do that," I say as I continue to edge towards the exit, "What am I exactly going to do? Wander closer to you?" Afya opens her mouth to reply, but no words come out.

"Well, I can't have you running." She says, pointing her knife in the direction that she assumes I'll go to.

Suddenly, I run to my right, and draw my knife. Afya stares in horror as I leap onto her, and dig my knife deep into her stomach, causing her to cripple over in pain. I leap up, and back into the corner of the cave as Afya charges at me, her knife in hand. But she hasn't noticed that the exit to the cave is now wide open.

I run forwards, and slash Afya's arm as I run out of the cave, and down the path. This part of the mountain doesn't have the lava to light it up, meaning that it takes a while for my eyes to adjust. I can only hope the same is happening to Afya. I lean against the wall of the mountain, and draw my knife. Fear is coursing through my veins, causing my heart to beat rapidly in my chest. I clutch the knife harder as the sound of panting fills the air, alongside footsteps. I blink a few times, and notice the figure of Afya running at me.

My eyes widen as she leaps at the wall, digging her knife into the wall, missing me entirely, but she knows where I am.

"That was a dirty trick, you know." She says to me as she walks towards me. I back away slowly, inching towards the wall of the mountain again; I can't have her throwing me off the edge. "I didn't see it coming." She doesn't sound like herself at all; her voice is hollow, lacking the compassion and emotion that I have grown to associate with Afya.

"Then it worked." I reply, holding my knife close. At any moment, she could attack me. I am still slowly backing down the mountain, and keeping my eyes on Afya. But when I look at her again, she does something I didn't expect to happen.

She runs straight at me, letting out a war cry, knocking me to the ground. I look up in terror as she pins me down.

"Thought you could run?" She says, breathing heavily, "Well, I'm not that stupid, Maia. Think before you do such things. You got lucky back at the cave, and that's it." Everything about Afya is now terrifying me, and I realise that she's cracked under the stress of having to kill an ally. Which hopefully means the Afya I grew close to died with the cannons. Knowing this makes it easier to attempt to kill her.

"Are you sure about that?" I taunt back at her, "I think you're just peeved off that I had the upper hand for a moment." This sparks fury in her eyes, and she loosens her grip on me to get the knife. Perfect.

Taking advantage of the lack of grip, I suddenly roll to my side, causing Afya to smash into the wall. Once she's off me, I climb to my feet, and back off down the path, before sprinting at full speed.

"Get back here!" I hear her cry, but I don't stop. I look back, and notice her running at me, faster than before. I draw my knife, and swing it at her as she runs at me. The force of the blow causes it to sink into her arm deeper than normal, and I struggle to pull it out. Just as I do, Afya slashes her knife across my stomach, causing a searing pain. But I try to ignore it, and back off into the wall. From here, I can notice something in the distance. Near the Cornucopia, there seems to be a massive raging fire, and from the looks of things, it's spreading to the rest of the forest. That would probably result in a fire that would put the Career-caused one to shame.

Looking back at Afya, I duck as she runs at me with the knife. As I sink down, I swing my leg out, kicking her, and tripping her. She falls to the ground with a cry of pain, and I stand over her, knife in hand. It would be so easy right now. Just one strike, and she'd be dead. But I can't bring myself to do it.

This brief hesitation is enough time for Afya to leap to her feet again, and nearly knock me down. I prepare to fight back, but she rushes at me quicker than she has been. Before I can even react, she's plunged her knife into my chest. It hasn't yet pierced my heart, but she keeps pressing harder. I can't let her kill me.

With a cry of determination, I lift my knife up, and slash it across her shoulder, causing the weapon to be stained with even more blood. It does the trick, and she pulls the knife out of me, causing blood to spurt out of my chest for a moment, before it stops. Not skipping a beat, I lunge at Afya, and bring my knife up to her face. The blade makes contact with her eye, and after enough pressure, a sickening squelch sounds out, and I see blood and other fluids running down her face from the hollow cavity where her eye was.

But instead of doubling over in agony, like I expected her to, Afya continues to stand, probably driven by sheer adrenaline. She lifts her own knife up, and even though she's half blind, stabs my shoulder. She then begins to drag it down the length of her arm, but before she can get to any major arteries, I punch her nose. Acting out of reflex, Afya recoils, but I don't let up this time, and continue to stab her repeatedly with my knife. Eventually, she collapses, and I look on in horror as a pool of blood pours from her wounds. But I don't stay, and run further down the trail, stopping after I've leapt down a ledge.

As I lean against the ledge, I become aware of the agonising pain all throughout my body. But it would be a futile exercise to try and patch myself up; before the night is over, we will have a victor. It's inevitable, and every fibre of my being wants it to be me that gets out of here. But to do that, I'll have to defeat Afya somehow. And I know that I won't be able to do that during straight forward combat. So how?

The smell of smoke suddenly reaches my nose, and I realise something about it straight away. It smells different to the smoke that was in the tunnels. I turn to look at the forest, and notice something. The fire at the Cornucopia has spread to it. As I look at the slowly burning forest, an idea comes to me. I can use this to take out Afya.

Just as I think of this, I hear the sound of running. and realise that Afya must be back up now. I run down the path a little further, and look back as Afya leaps over the ledge, heading right for me. I can't stay around and fight her now; I need as much strength as possible to lead her down the mountain, and to the burning forest. The fire is now casting an eerie glow on the mountainside, illuminating everything with a flickering orange. It also casts massive shadows, and I notice a shadow rushing towards me. Afya.

I duck to the ground, tripping Afya up, and climb to my feet again, running faster down the hill. I don't look back this time, since the only thing that really matters right now is getting Afya down the mountain, and to the forest. However, I begin to notice that Afya's running is getting louder, and I realise that this must mean that she's catching up.

Suddenly, extreme pain courses through my leg, and I collapse to the floor. I look up, and see Afya standing over me, her knife digging into my thigh. I grab my own knife, and dig it quickly into her foot. She screams in pain, but I don't stop, and continue to dig harder and harder. However, she then lifts her other foot, and kicks my face.

I'm temporarily blinded by the pain for a moment, and when I regain my vision, the first thing I'm aware of is a stream of blood flowing down my face coming from my nose. I don't even attempt to wipe it away, and I look at Afya. She's now holding my arm in one hand, and her knife in the other. I don't quite understand what she's doing until she begins to dig it into my wrist.

"Stop!" I shriek as she continues to press into my wrist. Blood begins to spurt uncontrollably, and after a few seconds, my left hand has been completely severed. I scream and wail in agony as copious amounts of blood shoot from the maimed stub. I begin to feel light headed, and I soon realise that I am slowly bleeding to death.

With a burst of energy, I kick Afya, knocking her off me, and I stand slowly to my feet. As I stand here, I come to the sudden realisation that it all ends here. The Gamemakers set up the fire, and Afya cutting of my hand helped to make this the final stage for the Games. The closing curtain, so to speak.

"You want a final battle?" I ask her as I hold my knife with my only hand, "Then it's a final battle you'll get."

"You know," Afya says as she also draws her knife, "I always had a hunch you were a warrior at heart. And this just proves it."

"I guess so," I reply, suddenly letting out a laugh at the absurd nature of this conversation. Less than two minutes ago, we were fighting to the death. And now we're talking like none of this ever happened, like we haven't just been subjected to more death in the past four days than people have in their entire lives. I know that everyone's forced to watch the Hunger Games, but it's more like seeing a horror movie than anything else. Sure, it might be someone you know from your district, but the other twenty two kids pretty much mean nothing to you at all.

"And," Afya continues, "I am truly grateful that you will be my final opponent." The way she says that catches me off guard. Her voice breaks as she speaks, and tears begin to roll down her eyes. It might be me going delirious from the blood loss, but I truly think Afya is upset about all this.

It's in this moment that I realise the one thing I never wanted to happen happened; the Afya I've grown close to has resurfaced. I feel my own tears threatening to spill out, and a strange urge to be sick fills me as we look at each other. No matter what has just happened, we're still close friends. Afya takes a step towards me, and wraps her arms around me. I flinch in response, but notice that her knife is on the ground. Feeling guilty, I drop my own knife, and return the affection, despite my damaged state.

"I'm so sorry about trying to kill you." I say softly to Afya as the tears spill from my eyes, and I take in Afya's warmth. The lack of blood is making me go cold, and I realise I don't have much time left. But as a final act, I can guarantee Afya's survival.

"But still, only one of us can make it out alive." Afya says weakly, before looking at me with her one eye, "And I want it to be you."

I can't say anything at this moment, or do anything but cry. Tears and sobs overtake me, and I fall back against the wall, overcome by raw emotion. We both want the other to come home, and we both know it.

"What do we do?" I ask Afya, as I begin to find it hard to stand. A pool of blood is now covering the ground, some mine, some Afya's. Suddenly, she runs up to me, and gives me a light kiss on the forehead.

"You stay here," Afya says, walking towards the edge of the cliff. I try to move, to stop her, but my body is weakened from the fight and blood loss to do anything. "Thank you, for making my last few days alive truly special." And then, she jumps off the cliff.

"Afya, no!" I scream as I scramble to the edge. I collapse to my knees, and watch as she falls towards the burning ground below. It's like in slow motion, and I can see her face clearly as she shuts her eyes, and a smile grows on her face; she's embracing death. I let out one last sob as she disappears into the burning foliage, and vanishes from sight forever.

BOOM!

I'm shaking as I realise I'm the last tribute left alive. I crawl up to the edge of the wall, and curl up into the fetal position as I watch the charred remains of Afya be lifted up into the sky by the hovercraft. As soon as the hovercraft disappears, a booming fanfare echoes out, and I see my face appear in the sky.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!" I hear the loud voice of the announcer of the Games, Claudius Templesmith, echo throughout the silent arena, "Congratulations to Maia Kentner of District Five for a marvellous victory, and becoming the victor of the sixty eighth annual Hunger Games!" I begin to cry again as the sound of the Capitol citizens cheering fills the melancholy silence. Afya's dead. Alanna's dead. Scott's dead. Everyone that went into this arena is dead. Everyone except me.

"Why?!" I cry out to the sky, and as if in some sort of response, the hovercraft appears above me. I feel extremely weak, and lay down, growing colder. A beam of light shines down from it, and I'm vaguely aware of being lifted up. And then, as I'm slowly raised into the air, everything goes black.