Chapter 10

Collin's sword is held high above his head, ready for attack. I point and shoot an arrow at his head, but he anticipates the obvious kill and ducks right underneath it. He's only ten yards away. I pull another arrow back to my eye and shoot it directly at his heart. Dodge that one Collin. But he does. He twists his body just enough so that it shoots right by with no damage done to him at all. The darkness of twilight makes it difficult to see and anticipate his next moves. He's on top of us now and swings his sword downwards right at my head, but Lana holds her spear out and blocks the attack. Before he can retaliate she swings her spear back at him and slices his forehead open. Blood pours out of his open gash and into his eyes. Now is our chance. I sprint for the measly bag of fruit while Lana runs to the edge of the island to search for the Careers, but Collin hasn't given up.

As soon as my hand closes around the bag he tackles me at the waist and I go tumbling down into the grass. He still has his sword and I can't do much with my bow at this angle. I reach for my knife still belted to my hip, but he pins my hand to the ground. He's way too strong for me to get free. He attempts to drive the sword into my throat, but I roll my head out of the way just in time as the blade sinks eight inches into the soft earth. Lana carefully aims and launches her spear towards us. It hits him directly in the liver and he goes flying off of me. Blood pours onto the grass around him as he shouts in pain. He's bleeding severely and it's obvious he won't live from this injury, but he gasps in pain and pleads for sponsors to give him some sort of medicine. I feel sorry for him. He was my friend in District 7. Lana hurries to my side and watches in horror as Collin rips the spear free from his side, causing more blood to gush from his side.

"I love you, Clare." He says to the sky.

I don't want to see him suffer any more than he has to. I pull an arrow free from my quiver and pull it back to my eye. A cannon booms as the arrow pierces his skull and his misery is put to an end.

I walk back to the table and grab the bag of dried fruit before retrieving my arrow from Collin's body. I still have sixteen arrows. Lana and I walk back to the edge of the river. Just as I take my first step onto one of the rocks all five Careers wearing large backpacks from the Cornucopia burst through the trees at the opposite end of the island. As soon as they spot us the chase is on. They run around the edge of the river towards us, but Lana and I are pretty quick. We rush into the forest away from their cruel weapons. From what I saw, there's the girl with her white bow, the boy with his axe, another girl with a silver perfectly balanced katana, the boy who almost killed me at the bloodbath with several spears in hand, and finally a boy with a curved sickle. The odds are not in our favor today. The betting going on at the Capitol must be intense now. Any sponsors we could have gathered before are gone now. Nobody is betting on District 7 to win this year, but I am. We're maybe 150 yards ahead of the pack when it hits me so suddenly I have to dig the heels of my boots into the earth to stop. Lana realizes I've stopped and runs back to my side.

"COME ON WE'VE GOT TO GO!" She screams at me.

"Lana, listen to me. Climb that tree and don't come down for anything. If I'm about to die, you stay in that tree and you stay hidden. This is how we win." I explain. She pauses for a moment, but nods her head, scrambles up an ash tree, and conceals herself in the large leaves with her hand firmly grasping her spear. Here goes nothing. I turn around with an arrow already pulled back to my eye and the first Career to fly through the bushes fifty yards away is the girl with the graceful looking katana. Before she even realizes I've stopped running an arrow is protruding from her eye socket and she falls to the ground as the cannon booms. The pack of tributes is only forty yards from me as I draw a second arrow back to my eye and take several steps backwards. The boy with the sickle weaves back and forth through the trees making it harder to pin him down, but when he's only twenty yards away he too falls as another arrow strikes him in the heart. The girl with the white bow has an arrow nocked to the string of her bow and is carefully aiming in my direction. Adrenaline is surging through every part of my body and every sense is heightened to extreme levels.

The remaining three tributes are only ten yards from where I am and I can't just stand here or I'll surely die. I turn to run, but a searing pain erupts in my right shoulder. I turn to see a pearl white arrow protruding from my shoulder blade. I'm crippled from the pain, but if anything I'm mostly motivated by it. She dies next. I sprint around to the other side of the ash tree that Lana is stationed in and see that I'm well concealed by some very large hedges. Another idea comes to mind. I grit my teeth as I rip the white arrow free from my shoulder and nock it to the string of my bow. How poetic. Warm blood drips down my back. First around the corner is the tall girl with the silly pink hair and the white Recurve bow. Goodbye.

I release the arrow and she ducks her head down low, but I anticipated this. It makes a repulsive crunch as it enters her brain and she collapses. Only two left. I can do this. I take a step backwards to ready another arrow, but the pain and blood loss the arrow to my shoulder has created causes a sudden wave of dizziness.

I fall onto my back as the world fades to black, and I can't do anything to change it. No matter how hard I try to focus, I can't. This can't be it. Not when I'm so close. But the one silver lining to this is that, while I might die now, Lana only has two tributes to contend with to win. Perhaps I've done all I can. My vision returns briefly as I feel a heavy tribute press his weight against my chest. It's the boy with the spears. He smiles sadistically as he holds a spear above my head ready to plunge it downwards through my face. The other boy with the axe stands and watches from a distance. I notice he is sizing up the Career on top of me. Even if I were to die right now, the Career that was responsible would be dead in a matter of minutes. Their alliance is over.

The boy with the spear takes a deep breath and raises the spear a bit higher. Suddenly I'm blinded with blood again and I wipe away the red liquid to see that Lana's spear has skewered him. I look up and see Lana descending the tree to assist me and retrieve her weapon. The boy with the axe is slowly climbing his way towards her. No Lana stop! Just stay there and let me take care of him, we're so close. I push the dead tribute off of me and reach for my bow lying a few feet next to me. I don't dare stand quite yet, but get on my hands and knees as I crawl for it. Time is running out and I need to act quicker to save her, but I can't. This injury is more crippling than I thought it would be. I hear the sound of somebody's boot breaking a bone as I finally grasp my bow. I pull an arrow free and point it to the top of the tree just as I see Lana's left arm being sliced off.

The boy with axe is bleeding profusely from his nose, but he must have taken one clean swing which hit her arm right at the elbow. It cut straight through the bone and ligaments into the wood of the tree. Lana doesn't shout out in pain or call my name. She just falls from the tree without a sound fifteen feet to the ground. This isn't happening. I can't have come this far, just to lose her now. I managed to kill three Careers in under a minute just so the last Career standing kills her but lets me live? I let the arrow fly and it finds its target. The boy falls from the tree limp, like a rag-doll, and lands in the tall hedges next to me.

I stand and sway uneasily as blood continues to pour from the gaping wound on my shoulder. Lana twitches as more and more blood gushes from the arteries in her amputated arm. I make my way to her and see the damage is too extensive. She'll be dead in a matter of minutes. I failed. I volunteered to save her from this and I failed. My wound is painful, but I'd live as long as I could stop the bleeding. Her wound is something else entirely. If I could even stop the blood with my shirt or my jacket, the shock she's going through could lead to death as well and there's no way for me to prevent infection. Only the advanced medicines and quick treatment from the Capitol can save her now. Then I realize what I have to do. They need a victor. Always. If I die before she does, then they'll find a way to save her. Over at least fifty of the victors from the Hunger Games were seconds from death when they won. They can save her. They have to save her, otherwise they'd be humiliated. The entire purpose of the Games would be defeated. All I have to do is die.

I lift my head up high and say what I've been planning to say for quite some time now. I've been rehearsing this since I volunteered. It's not much, but it's what I need to say.

"I love you, dad. When mom died, I know it was hard, but you were always there for me. Thank you. I'm doing this to give her a good life. All I ask you to do is to make sure she's always okay. Keep her safe, like I've tried to now." I say with tears welling up in my eyes. No need to hide my "weak" emotions for the camera anymore. I'm dead anyways. I pull the sharp knife from its sheath and hold it firmly in my hand. I'm shaking so hard from my injury and fear that I nearly drop it. I lean down and kiss Lana on the forehead.

"Goodbye." I whisper in her ear.

I take the knife with two hands and point the tip of it at my chest. This is going to hurt, but shock will set in after just a few moments and then I'll be dead in under a minute. I lift the knife up above my head and plunge it into my heart. The pain is excruciating at first as blood spills from my fatal wound. I rip the knife free and tear what was left of my heart to shreds, but a warm tingly sensation begins to take over. The pain comes in waves and I slowly lie down onto my back looking up past the green leaves into the night sky. The warm sensation spreads across my entire body and the pain has subsided mostly now. My vision begins to fade and the leaves and stars go out of focus. This isn't so bad. Sure it's painful at first, but now it's like falling asleep after a long and hard day of hunting. It's too bad I never got to hunt in my final days. It would have reminded me of home. As soon as I fade away, they'll come down and save her. I didn't fail after all. She'll live. She'll find a husband, and maybe have kids. She'll be rich from the victor's money and she'll never be even the slightest bit hungry again. If she's lucky, she'll repress any memory of me and these Games all together. I don't want her to remember this pain, but I suppose that'll be hard to do when she's reminded of it every day because of her arm.

My heart beat slows down and suddenly the warm sensation fades and everything gets cold. In the end this is what really matters. Protecting those who you love. The last thing I see is a shooting star flying past in the night sky.