Out on a Limb, on a Wire, By a Thread You Collide
Gale force winds swirled. Strands of hair flew around her face, heavy from the unforgiving rains. Every time she caught her footing, a puddle or slimy patch of moss made her slip. The storm had dropped the arena temperature enough to make every inhale feel like a breath of razors.
"You can't run forever!" She heard the voice through the squall taunt, followed by ghostly laughter.
With all the chaos and darkness Meera had no sense of direction. All she knew for certain was that the lighthouse was to her back and she needed to get as far away from it as possible. Blood coursed, warm and rapid, through her veins. Every muscle in her body was on edge. She wanted to cry and give up, but every time she told herself to slow her instincts kicked in again. They were urging her to keep running, keep fighting for life.
Something whistled past her ear and sent her staggering. She gasped and bit her lip. An arrow plunged into a heap of decaying growth. It had missed her head by inches. If it had been broad daylight the point would have probably nailed her right in the neck.
Blue light lit up the sky with a roar. For a split second everything around her was illuminated. She whirled around. The Careers were gaining on her.
A quaking breath lifted into the air as she dug her boots into the ground and bolted forward. As long as she ran they wouldn't catch her, she was too fast, but the landscape was slowing her down. Blood still ran down her fingers from clawing at the wall and windows. In the training room Meera had won a score of 7, but that was all based on agility and speed—flight was her solution, not fight. The moment they pinned her down or cornered her she was done for.
Another arrow soared through the air.
Keep looking forward. You're almost there. Only she didn't know where there was. She tasted the rain and hooked left hoping to lose them in the darkness, but a steep and rocky slope caught her off guard. With a yelp she started falling, tumbling. Some of the ground had softened from the rain but most of it was made up jagged stone. It cut and pummeled her as she collapsed and slide.
Another flash blinded Meera just as she saw a giant waves rolling towards her. She was on the beach again, her body strewn on the shore. Salt water burned her eyes, rivers of it mixed with the rain. Her boots filled with the ocean. The salt stung her open cuts and gashes, making her wince.
Somehow, unexplainable, Meera heard the distinct sound of footsteps over the pandemonium. She tried to pick herself up but her limbs went loose. The peddled shore cut through her trousers and hands. It was at that moment that she felt her body finally give up. There was nothing left of her. She wondered where the cameras were, if they would be there to document her death as efficiently as they had everyone else's.
Confusion heightened. Her breathing shallowed. Stars swirled. In a daze she tried to get up and turn around again, but her clothing felt so heavy. Her body hurt.
"Look what we have here…"
A female voice.
Through the agony Meera flipped over and scooted backwards. Another wave rained over her.
Livia, she thought. But the shadow didn't match up. The proportions were all wrong. It was the female tribute from District 1. Dawn Wallace. Her golden hair was stuck to her face. Even in the muck of this storm she looked beautiful. In Dawn's hands was a bow, but it dropped as a smile rose on the girl's face. Meera tried to get up once more, but her feet wouldn't listen.
She's alone, the others aren't here yet. It was only a small comfort and it didn't last long.
As soon as the sky went dark again Dawn dashed forward. Meera screamed as she felt the girl crash into her. A hand gripped on her throat. Suddenly they were rolling, fighting, scratching. Dawn was bigger, stronger. Each time Meera tried to get the upper hand she would feel a bony fist smack her in the stomach or face.
"Berris!" The girl called. "Berris!"
Blood filled Meera's mouth. Her hands moved for the knife at her belt, but as she felt for it her eyes widened. She had left the knife back at the lighthouse. No weapons. Not a single one.
Suddenly she felt the girl climb to her feet.
Seconds later a cry of pain rang out of Meera's battered lungs as Dawn grabbed a handful of hair and started to drag her.
The rocks. Get a rock.
Her fingers sprawled out. She felt the edge of something in the blackness and reached for it. It was heavy and that's all she cared about. Clumsily Meera gripped Dawn's wrist and contorted her body around. The first hit didn't do much, it was weak and awkward, but the second one smashed the rock right into the girl's knee.
The girl screamed. Her hand let go of Meera's hair.
Immediately Meera started to crawl away, but she had only traveled a few feet when she felt the girl pull on her leg.
She tried to kick but the girl put her weight on Meera's legs.
Rain poured. Waves crashed.
Meera gasped in terror as she saw a flash of silver. Dawn had dropped the bow but she still had arrows. The metal point gleamed, menacing and sharp.
"No!" Was all Meera could shout as the arrow came towards her face. Dawn was using it like a knife. With some unknown instinct Meera grabbed the girl's wrist. The arrow was only an inch from her neck. She bared her teeth as Dawn put more force into her arm. She couldn't hold on much longer.
I'm going to die, it was the only thing she could think, I'm going to die for nothing.
The lightning revealed a grotesque smile on the girl tribute's face. She was enjoying this. Meera winced. She could feel her wrist giving up.
"Let go now and it can all be over!"
That made Meera angry. She narrowed her eyes and growled. With a distressed yell she spat blood into the girl's face. "Go to hell!"
But Dawn didn't seem bothered by the blood that was now dripping form her face. She laughed and pressed her knee into Meera's chest, the one that the rock had busted open. The pressure was so sharp that Meera couldn't hold back the shriek that came next. She tried to reach for the girls face, to push her off but her arms couldn't reach.
Suddenly her hand slipped. She saw the arrow slash forward and managed to draw back, but not enough. Pain burned in her throat. She felt it slice against her neck, all the way from the bottom of left ear well past the middle of her throat.
"Help me!" Meera shrieked to no one in particular. It was instinctual scream, the kind of exclamation that a child shouts when they are defenseless and scared. Even the shrillness of Meera's plea was child-like.
She struggled on the ground. Her hand clasped around her neck. She could feel blood gushing, see the glimmer of satisfaction in Dawn's eyes. The girl had slit her throat, but it was a shallow cut. Her head was spinning. Not a death wound, in a way she was disappointed and even more terrified. She wished it could all be over.
I'm still alive.
A cruel laugh echoed. Meera's vision was starting to falter. She blinked her eyes and peered up just in time to see Dawn pull a knife out and shift it between her hands. Meera's body twitched under the weight of her opponent, chaotically thrashing. The Career was torturing her. To Dawn Wallace this was fun, to Meera a hellish agony. She dropped her hand from her throat and let the blood run down her long neck, thick and crimson. Meera saw Dawn posing with triumph, a delvish grin on her beautiful face. Everything coalesced into that one moment, to that image. If Meera survived, which could never happen, she would remember that grin for the rest of her life.
"Stop!" She wailed. The muscles in her neck tightened and the thin slice across her throat stiffened with pain.
"Sorry, District 5. I guess this is the end, huh?"
She hated herself for begging, but she was no longer Meera Eastwood from District 5, a fighter and an orphan. She was a horrified little girl with a bloody throat who was at the end of the line. Meera grabbed a rock and tried to smash it across the girl's face but a steady hand caught her wrist in midair and forced it out of her grasp. It made Dawn laugh, how inexperienced and vulnerable her prey was.
Meera thought about all the people she would never see again. Zara, all the kids at the orphanage, Glade. She was about to join her parents and rest of the fallen tributes. No one would remember her. Time would go on and she would be rotting in the ground. A whimper shook her lips followed by a mournful roar that echoed through her entire body.
That was when it happened.
A shadow, lean and tall, came running from the darkness. Before Meera could construct a coherent thought the shadow smashed into Dawn and sent her flying. The weight lifted and Meera cried out. She flipped onto her stomach and started to shuffle away, only to realize that she wasn't moving at all. Her eyes lifted as the lightning lit up the sky.
"What are you doing!?" Dawn screamed.
The shadow didn't reply. It moved forward, sword in hand.
I've seen that sword before, I know that sword.
Despite the urgency of the situation her head slumped back onto the rocky shore. The pain in her throat was unbearable.
Her eyes widened as her gaze followed the shadow. The sword lifted and when it came slicing downward Meera's ears filled with someone else's terrified scream. A wave of blood sprayed. A cannon sounded.
She tried to slink back but found herself frozen. The shadow's footsteps weren't rushed, they were slow and steady. It wasn't until it knelt that she saw the face. A part of her knew it was him all along. The tribute that had terrified Meera the most was standing over her. In the storm his velvet brown eyes looked like sparkling jewels.
"Rillian—" her voice was raw.
"I told you to run, not to fall. Get up!"
His mop of black hair was dripping water into his eyes. He almost looked boyish for a split second as he knelt to the ground. She tried to listen but her head rolled back again. Dots formed in her vision.
"I can't—move—I—my neck—"
Fresh blood was oozing from the thin cut. Rillian lowered his eyes. It wasn't going to be a pretty scar, she could tell that much from his expression.
"Dawn?! Where are you!?"
Meera clutched a handful of Rillian's coat and shook, "They're coming—I can't—I can't move—help me—help—"
She couldn't form words. She couldn't form thoughts.
"Don't talk," He growled. "I tell you to run and this is the best you can do?! How the hell did you get a 7?"
She had no clue. No answers. Instead she closed her eyes and arched her back with a cry. "Everything hurts."
"Shut up! They're coming."
For a heartbeat Meera thought he was going to leave her, but then she was in the air. He was lifting her up. Rillian slung her over his shoulder like it was nothing at all. Her auburn hair fell over her face.
She felt her body go limp, felt Rillian's arm around her, holding her body in place.
One glance at the ground was enough to tell Meera that he was running. Her hands clawed into his back. She could feel the blood rolled down from her throat to her chin.
Just before she fainted she thought she heard Rillian speak, but then quickly realized it was her own voice. "Don't let me die," she moaned to no one in particular. "Please, don't let me die."