Chapter Ten: Run Through The Jungle
I didn't dare look over my shoulder. I plunged into the woods, practically dragging Sam behind me, trying to put as much distance between Vanity and us.
I didn't know where I was going or care, for that matter, as long as we were heading away from the abandoned town.
Branches snatched at my clothes and scratched my face, fallen limbs threatening to trip me but I surged on, my grip on Sam's hand probably keeping him the only thing from falling.
I knew we wouldn't be able to keep this pace up for much longer and I was right.
I could feel Sam's hand slipping from my own and my brother called to get my attention.
"Dean! I can't run anymore!"
I stopped, panting and sweating. My brother leaned against a tree and dropped the backpack from his shoulders, digging around in it until he found the water bottle and held it out to me.
"Thanks Sammy," I said and took a quick drink, handing the bottle back to him.
"Do you want an apple?" he asked, plucking a piece of fruit from the pack.
I shook my head, "We should keep moving."
Sam looked up at me with wide, green eyes, a bite already taken out of the apple he had begun eating.
"C'mon," I encouraged and Sam straightened up, slinging the backpack over his narrow shoulders again.
"Do you want me to carry that for a while?" I asked but Sam shrugged, "I got it Dean."
We walked slowly through the bare woods, eyes and ears keen for the sounds of footsteps or voices.
I thought about what we had seen, Vanity with as black as coal and her terrifying ability to kill without even laying a hand on anyone. I remembered Azazel King promising that this year's Games would be one that everyone would remember.
Whatever had happened, there was without a doubt the Gamemakers had orchestrated it.
Perhaps the Capitol citizens were growing bored already. That would be a reason to start pulling out their surprises.
The sound of a tree branch breaking somewhere off to our right had both Sam and I frozen on the stop. I reached out my hand and grabbed one of the backpack's straps, ready to run if we had to.
The sound didn't come again and after a minute longer we continued.
We walked for hours, seeing no one. Finally we had to stop. The sky was darkening with night and Sammy could barely keep his eyes open. I found us a spot to spend the night; a tree had fallen at some point and its trunk hovered a foot or so above the leaf-littered ground. I dug away most of the decaying vegetation and formed a crude, shallow shelter. I laid the tarp from our backpack on the ground so at least we wouldn't have to sit directly on the dirt.
Sam didn't complain about the night's lodgings. He just flopped down on the ground with a tired sigh. I grabbed the black blanket from the pack and wrapped it around my brother.
I sat and Sam snuggled against me, rummaging around in the backpack for the water bottle and some food.
We ate a meager meal of apples and jerk beef, washed down with sips of water. Although it wasn't as extravagant as the dishes we had eaten in the Capitol, it was above par with most food in Twelve.
As it grew steadily darker it also grew colder. Sam and I huddled together for warmth.
I thought about how great a fire would be but knew that we couldn't have one. If there were other Tributes around, they would see the glow through the spindly trees and attack.
I rubbed Sam's arms, trying to use the friction to keep him warm. I didn't care much for myself. I would be fine. I was worried Sam would get sick if he grew too cold.
I leaned back against the fallen tree trunk and closed my eyes, hoping that sleeping would prevent me from feeling too chilly.
"Dean," Sam's whispered voice had my eyes open in a second, "What is it, Sammy?"
"Look," he pointed out ahead of us and a bit off to our left. I followed his finger and saw a faint orange glow.
"Do you think one of the others is making a fire?" Sam asked, face upturned to peer at me.
"Yeah," I said and wrapped an arm around my brother's shoulders.
"Don't they know it's dangerous?" He asked nervously.
"I bet they do," I told him, "But it is cold."
"I wish we could warn them," Sam said sadly.
I startled when the seal suddenly appeared in the sky and the anthem blared.
Helix's face appeared first and I felt a surge of furious satisfaction at the sight. Casey was next and I couldn't help but feel sad for the boy from District Four. He had helped us escape from Vanity and had died for it.
Surprisingly I didn't see the brown-haired girl's picture. She must not have been as badly injured by Casey's star-blade as I had thought.
Once the anthem played again and the seal disappeared, Sam and I relaxed, my eyes naturally drawn to that small bright spot of flame like a beacon.
"Dean!" Sam's urgent voice and tight grip on my arm woke me up hours later.
"What?" I asked stupidly, blinking in the darkness.
"Listen," Sam whispered and I stopped talking.
There was a distant sound of voices and footfalls. Whoever was approaching made no effort to be silent about their advance.
"We'll be okay," I assured my brother and reached out almost blindly for a handful of leaves I had moved out of the way. Working quickly and in near-silence, Sam and I piled the damp, decaying leaf-litter in front of our shelter, hopefully hiding it from prying eyes. I laid down on the tarp and Sam followed suit, curling up against me.
We listened in bated breath but the others never even came close to us. Instead, drawn by the firelight, they converged on the poor Tribute there.
Even far away Sam and I could hear muffled voices and the sounds of a struggle- with no insects or night animals, no wind, the woods was as silent as a collapsed mine shaft.
Sam clapped his hands over his ears when a single, female voice called out before it was cut off mid-cry.
Minutes later the familiar canon blast sounded and I knew that the girl who had foolishly started the fire was gone.
There was nothing we could do so I hugged Sam to my side and lay awake- alert- while my sibling quickly fell asleep.
As the sky was turning a dreary grey- promising rain- Sam and I woke up and began packing.
Once the tarp was folded and stuffed back in the pack, I kicked leaves over our hiding spot, trying my best to conceal the fact that we had been there.
"Are we going back into the town, Dean?" Sam asked quietly but I shook my head, "Not right now, Sammy."
I wasn't sure how many of our fellow Tributes were in these woods but I was willing to take my chances.
My brother nodded, hitched the backpack up his shoulders and followed me as I began to trudge through the undergrowth.
It began raining not long after we started walking. Not just a damp drizzle but large, fat, cold drops of rain.
Sam ducked his head; his sopping bangs covering his eyes. I wiped rainwater from my face and sighed.
"C'mon Sammy," I said, "Let's try and find somewhere to hide in town."
My brother nodded, his steps more eager as we turned and began walking in the direction of what I hoped was the town. I didn't know how big this Arena was but I knew that if we started to approach its edges, the Gamemakers would prevent us from reaching them. In the 74th Games, Katniss Everdeen had forced the Gamemakers to trigger a forest fire that nearly ended her life when she'd unknowing moved too close to the border. Sam and I wouldn't be able to see the Arena's edges, they formed of invisible force-field but everyone at home in Twelve could see the map of the area with the Tributes marked on it, courtesy of the tracking chips in their arms. I just prayed that we wouldn't get lost in the woods, afraid of what might be waiting for us.
1. Chapter title comes from a CCR song of the same name.
2. Thanks to L.A.H.H and SPN Mum for reviewing.
3. Sorry for the long wait. I only had two reviews for the last chapter and it kind of bummed me out. So, I am NOT abandoning this fic, I will keep writing for anyone who is reading but please, take a moment to leave a comment.