Chapter 8 – Day 1 – 24 Tributes

The bright sun blinds my vision, so I blink and rub my eyes to try and see better. When I finally regain my vision, I can see everything around me. There is a forest on either side of me and a long patch of grass running right through the middle, splitting the arena into three strips: forest, grass, forest, all running parallel to each other, straight down a few hundred yards until a huge lake stops the land from continuing. I turn around and see the same thing behind me: the strips of forest, land, and forest, and the huge lake. The Cornucopia opens just to the right of me. Its mouth points somewhere between the right forest and the area of grass. I can see about a hundred items. Tons of spears, swords of all shapes and sizes, a of couple bows and arrows, some food rations, a clip of throwing knives, a few book bags, a tarp—wait, throwing knives! They're right there, at the left of the open mouth of the Cornucopia. It is so close, only a few seconds away if I run. I vacillate between going for the knives and leaving them. While I think, I look around at my competitors. All of them wear the same clothes, but our jackets are different colors. The Careers stick out to me, I see all of them in an instant. The rest of them are an amalgam of teenagers, afraid of dying. I see a dark mop of hair and I realize I've found Billee. He's standing about a quarter of the circle of tributes to the right of me. He catches my eye as well and begins motioning to me. I guess he does want to be allies after all. From what I can tell, he wants me to run around to him and hide in the forest with him, forgetting about the weapons. I point at the knives but he shakes his head no. I don't care, I'm going for them anyway, they're right there, it would be the biggest missed opportunity; it might mean my life or death.

I look over to the left and see a new set of eyes on me. It's Portia. Her brown eyes are fixed on me. Her hair is tied up in a high ponytail that whips around in the cold wind. She flashes her teeth at me in a malicious smile. I stare at her silently and then she turns away and looks at her district partner.

Looking back at the timer above the Cornucopia, I realize I have ten seconds left. I never look back at Billee, but I know I'm getting those knives, no matter what he has to say.

10…

9…

8…

7…

6…

5…

4…

3…

2…

1…

The gong rings and everyone sprints towards the Cornucopia. I only see about two or three people run towards the forest, but I don't know whom they are.

As I sprint down to get my throwing knives, I witness the first death. The Munstead already has a sword that he stabs right through the District 8 girl. Shaking the image from my mind, I reach down, about to get my throwing knives, and an arrow flies past my forearm. I look down the side of the Cornucopia and see Portia with a bow and arrow pointed at me, wearing that same smile she had before. I dive to the left as she releases another arrow from her bow. Barely dodging that one, I bolt at her as fast as I can. Before she can send another arrow flying, I knock her down without falling. She begins to scramble up but instinct kicks in and I kick her in the face while she is still on the ground. She lets out a bloodcurdling scream and clenches her face with her hands. I can see a little blood from her nose let out before she can cover her face completely. Then, a hand grabs my shoulder and I turn quickly and throw a punch. I see Billee and he catches my fist before it makes contact with his face.

"Come on, let's get out of here!" he shouts at me over the other screams we hear from the other dying tributes.

I look back at the throwing knives that still sit there, and before I can make another move to get them, Billee pulls me along.

We took about three steps before Tonee from District 4 grabs Billee by the shirt collar and throws him against the metal of the Cornucopia. I hear a loud clank before I turn around sprinting, in fear of the other tribute.

How can I just leave Billee like this? I'm running, safe, and he's back there, probably getting beaten senseless because I'm too selfish to try and help him. "It's all because he wouldn't let me get those knives." I tell myself. But I know I'm wrong. It is still because I'm selfish.

I keep a good sprint towards the forest that was originally to the left of me. I run right through the action, getting blood sprayed at me from several different people. Finally, I dash through the trees and take a couple of branches to the face. Then, out of nowhere, the ground heads down on a sharp angle, and I trip and fall. Down that hill I tumble, hitting logs and rocks and dirt. After about a minute of rolling and falling, I hit the ground at the bottom of the hill. I lay there for a minute without the strength to stand. I can still hear feint screams from those still at the Cornucopia.

Then, I get up. Nothing broken, just a few bruises and a small cut on my forehead. I'm still able to walk, which is good. Looking behind me, I see the hill that attacked me. It is definitely steep, and definitely long. I'm surprised that I got out of falling with no injury. Finally, I walk in the opposite direction, hoping to find some sort of food source. No, water was the thing Garry told me to look for first. So, I keep a good pace, looking around for any signs of water.

The forest is definitely meant for hiding. There are hollow logs, piles of branches, bushes, and little hills and boulders everywhere. Yet, there is no mud or moss, no sign of water. Looking up, I find that the trees that blanket the forest are tall, very tall, with no means of climbing them, either. "I guess the fighting will remain on the ground." I think as I keep walking.

After about two hours of walking, the cannon booms, signaling the deaths of tributes. It always takes a while for the cannon to fire after the Bloodbath since there are so many dead to count. Nine booms I count, nine people dead within the last two hours. It's weird to think that a handful of people that I had seen only a little while ago are gone, away with the hovercrafts to be sent to their districts in a wooden coffin.

Another hour or so passes and I hear another cannon fire. The Careers had probably found a hopeless tribute and tortured them before killing them. That was always the way of the Careers.

During the rest of the day, I walk, looking for mainly for water but keeping an eye out for berries. It isn't fun having no tools or weapons to hunt with. A source of protein is good to gain strength and energy, so nuts and meat would be a priority. But, with the luck I have, I can only find berries. Thinking back to what I learned in the Training Center, I can easily remember the berries that were edible and the ones that were not. By nightfall, I have a little meal of berries for dinner. I rest against a tree that is surrounded by bushels of edible berries in case I get a little hungry after I eat, and I get started on my dinner. On my twelfth berry, I hear footsteps crunching the dead leaves that cover the forest floor. The person whose footsteps they are aren't too far away, but it's getting dark, so they probably couldn't see me in my plum red jacket. I scurry under some of the bushes and wait for the person to get close enough. When they get closer to me, they stop, and look in my direction. "This is it," I think to myself "I'm about to die."

To my surprise, the tribute isn't looking at me, but at the berries, which I find out when they take one of them and chew on it slowly and cautiously. It is obvious that this person can't tell if they are poisonous or not but is dense enough to take a chance with them on the first day. The tribute then proceeds to work on a portion of the bush with a knife, hoping to get a good amount of the bush to carry with them and eat along the way. It is all too tempting, an unsuspecting tribute with a knife, having no idea that I'm there, in the exact bush they are taking berries from. As the tribute saws their knife forward, I grabbed it and yanked it out of their hand. They are so unsuspecting of a person in a bush, so it's easy to take their knife. A searing pain burns through the palm of my hand and I quickly realize I've cut it on the blade. I hear the tribute let out a shriek of surprise and I jump out of the bush. I can barely make out a braid coming from the tribute's hair, so I know it's a girl. She throws her fist at me angrily, letting out a grunt along the way. Using my right hand, I catch her fist and jab her in the chest with my knife. She screams at the top of her lungs in pain and she collapses on the floor, twitching and holding her chest. I bent down and stab her in the throat, hoping to kill her quickly rather than let her suffer, and hoping to get her to shut up before anyone else hears her. After a few more stabs, her cannon fires, signaling her death. I can't see her face very well, but I can see the silver district number on her sleeve that looks bright in the moonlight. District 11.

I sprint some distance away from her body before the hovercraft picks her up and carries her away. The Careers love to hunt at night and love to look in the area that a hovercraft was most recent to find the person who killed the other tribute. Therefore, I get a few miles away before sitting against a tree to sleep again. When I sit down, I zip up my jacket and notice some dried blood on my hands. On my right hand, the cut goes right across the entire palm of my hand and a little on my fingers. When I notice the wound, it begins to grow painful again, throbbing as much as possible. I bite on my cheek so I don't let out any sound of pain. At midnight, the Capitol seal lights up in the sky and the anthem rings, showing the fallen tributes. The boy from District 4, the girl from District 6, both from District 7, the girl from 8, the boy from 9, the girl from 10, both from 11, and both from District 12. Eleven down in one day, not bad. From now on, though, the deaths would be less often. I set my priorities for the next day: find water and learn to use this knife well. It's not a throwing knife, but it'll have to do. Billee is still on my mind, but I knew I already set myself too far away from him to find him again easily. At least he hasn't died yet. He will just have to wait for now.