I slip through the jungle as fast as I dare, but not loud enough for the leaves on the ground to create tons of noise that could wake the unsuspecting Careers who are now probably dreaming about my grisly death. How upsetting. I come to the river that seperates the arena in two, and sure enough across from the river are the five Career tributes who are all snoring loudly.
The river is wide, and unfortunately to get to the Careers I would have to swim across - but I can't swim. District 5 has no water to swim in, so if I attempted to cross the river I would surely drown. Besides, those fish in the river with sharp teeth don't look human friendly. Just then, I get an idea. What if I jumped as far as I possibly could, and pull myself out of the river on the bank? Well, that wouldn't work either because the sound of my body making contact with the water would surely wake them. So I'm stuck. What to do? I could leave their camp right now and hope they die on their own... but who else is left besides the Careers? I only count two. The boy from District 9, and the girl from District 7. I wouldn't count on any of those two on killing the Careers, so it's entirely up to me now.
I pull my dagger out of my bag, and I must attempt to jump across the river, even if it means waking them up. Because neither the boy from District 9 or the girl from District 7 will kill these five skilled Careers. Only I can. So, I take eight steps back from the river, and then run as fast as I can towards it. When I jump, it seems time slows down a little. The second I jump, I know that I'll miss the bank. But that is okay, because I never counted on making it in the first place. But this jump is worse than I expected, because I land just short of the middle of the river with a big splash.
My breathing goes up, and I'm shocked by the coldness of the water. As I struggle to pull myself forward in the water, I see that I have woken one Career because his eyes cautiously open. At that moment, I dive into the water, my entire body completely under so he doesn't see me. Stupid! Why am I so stupid!? Because now not only does that boy Career know I'm in the water, I can barely reach the surface! It takes me a minute, but the buoyancy of my body helps me reach the surface. I'm relieved when I see the boy Career fell asleep again, but I still have the problem of crossing the river. I kick with my feet (underwater so they don't make a sound) as fast as I can toward the riverbank, and I make it. Breathlessly, I pull my ice cold body to the surface, and see that all five Careers are asleep still.
I silence my loud breathing for one moment, and command myself to breathe through my nose. All the Careers have their own individual sleeping bags, each a different colour that ranges from scarlet to maroon. I decide I'll take out the boy who saw me in the river first, because he still might've seen me and accidentally let fatigue take him over. I carefully clamp my hand on his mouth, so he doesn't scream, and I see his eyes widen, and then I slit his throat. One down, four to go. I do this same act to some boy from District 2, until the remaining three alive Careers wake up, because the boy from District 2 forced my hand off his mouth, letting him scream. But he was dead before they woke up.
The three remaining tributes, both from District 1 and the girl from District 4, turn their angry eyes to me. I drop the boy's corpse, and realize the few options I have. Option One; I could battle the three Careers and hope that I will be victorious, but somehow I doubt that because they all have a spear in their left hand, and a knife in their right, whereas there's only one of me and I only possess a dagger. Option Two, I could jump across the river again, and hope to doggy paddle to the other side, but I know this won't work. I'll either drown or be taken down by the Careers' weapons or their own heavy bodies. I know that I'll have to pick Option Three. Option Three; run. I nearly drop my dagger in fright, but I hold onto it tighter once I realize it's unbalanced in my hand. I run alongside the river, and hear the two cannons for the boy from District 2, and the boy who I killed first who must be from District 4 as well.
They are really catching up to me, and the girl from District 1 throws her spear. It misses me by milimeters. Wow, these guys are good. Too good. Because I make a sharp turn to the right, and trip on an exposed root, and almost fall, but fail because the boy from District 1 slams into me, and knocks me to the ground. Sh*t.
"So," says the boy with a ghostly smile on his face. The girls stand a few paces back, watching in interest, as the girl from District 1 is tossing her curly blond hair back and laughing as she sees the agony on my face. "What should we do with you?"
"I know, Charming! You should torture him for killing Rex and Luther." Huh, so this boy from District 1 here is named Charming. That is not charming at all.
"Not a bad idea, Glamour." says the boy, and he pulls out a petite knife that looks razor sharp. I don't really care about any of their names, but Glamour --- uh, what kind of name is that? Well, they're about to torture me to death, so I force myself to think about the family I left to come here. My mother, who works so hard to keep our family feed. My brothers, Todd and Bronson --- oh god, I do not want them to witness my death. Hopefully my torture won't last that long.
"So? You think it's okay that you can just... creep on up to our camp, and slit two of our throats? Well, you're about to pay for that deed. What do you think of that?" Charming asks, shaking his knife as he speaks. The girl from District 4 sneers. That's when I say three words that I can't really say here, that ryhme with Jo Puck Lourself. He looks at me in disgust and brings the knife slowly to my eyes. Oh crap, he's probably going to cut my eyes out!
Just as Charming is about to tear out my eyes with that knife of his, Glamour screams. Confused, I look up at her. Holding a knife against her throat is... the boy from District 9?
"Let him go," the boy from District 9 says, and Charming gets up off of my body, but he doesn't let go of his knife. The boy locks eyes with me, and he pulls the knife across her neck, immediately killing Glamour. Her eyes roll until I can no longer see the blue iris of hers.
"Glamour!" Charming shouts, and the boy from District 9 and I make a great escape. The girl from District 4 doesn't make any attempt to capture us, she just holds Glamour's hand and tells her to hold on. This doesn't work because a third cannon goes off, obviously for Glamour.
"Thank you." I say to the boy who has just saved my life, and he nods. His ashy red hair glints in the sun. We're running as fast as we can, and I'm following this boy to wherever he may lead me. Is he leading me to some sort of death trap? Or a hiding place where we can both prosper? Well, I'm about to find out.
"Why did you save me?" I ask the boy from District 9. He stares at me for a minute, and then simply says,
"I have seen your ability with your dagger. You are well trained. And I have greatly needed an ally to defeat the Career Tributes. Sophie will most likely not work with me, so I chose you."
My dagger? Oh, right. I guess I am pretty good with the dagger. I can throw it from a great distance and still get a bullseye in target practice. I suppose he must've seen me throw my dagger at game.
"What is your name?" he asks. I blink.
"Chase. What's yours?" I say. He looks up at the sun.
"Tobias." he looks up at the sun, and we are silent for a moment. We only just sat down recently at this little camp we made, right by the pond. The log I am sitting on has been clearly marked by fire-ants, who must have eaten away at this log. Tobias has short red hair, and mysterious silver-grey eyes. His skin is pale, and he is way taller than me. I'm guessing he is eighteen, because it seems impossible he could be any younger.
"Well, Chase, we had better trap some game. And Charming and Nyla, if they are so stupid as to step into them. I would not be surprised if they did," he says with a light laugh.
"Nyla? Who's that?" I ask.
"The District Four female." says Tobias.
"Oh," is my lame response. We fill up Tobias's water bottles, and set off to trap some game.
"You have traps?" I say, and he opens his bag in answer. Oh, yes, inside his bag is one trap, that looks so much better than the three I fought for at the Cornucopia. Yes, it was worth getting a horrible cut (and scar) from that boy from District 7 to get it. I'm guessing I'll have that scar forever. The trap inside Tobias's bag is a foothold trap, that automatically snaps shut when an animal steps on it, preventing the animal from escaping. And then you have dinner.
I'm unsure if I trust Tobias even a little, but he seems to know how to survive. We venture deeper into the woods, and he pulls out a bow and quiver full of gold arrows, and shoots a squirrell that was unfortunate enough to wander into our path. We don't talk once during this, until I break the silence.
"Who's left again?" I ask him.
"Charming. Nyla. You. Sophie. Me." he says without the blink of an eye. Sophie? That must be the girl from District 7. I remember her being tiny, and most likely no more than twelve. Her straight brown hair went to her waist, and she looked very pretty with honey-brown eyes. Yes, now I remember a ton about Sophie. She got a five in training scores, and she was dressed as a humiliating tree during the chariot rides. During her interview, she played the innocent girl. Well, I haven't seen her once during the games, so she must be doing well.
Suddenly, Tobias looked worried. Then he grabbed my wrist, and without warning he shoved me and himself into the bushes nearby, so he and I would be unseen. Is a tribute walking by? Or is it something worse? I'm about to ask Tobias this but he puts his fingers to his lips, indicating to be silent. I'm down on my elbows, and desperately trying to see who is walking in front of the bushes that we're hiding in.
Turns out, it isn't a who that's passing by, it's a what. A pack of what seems to be tigers are striding by, but something is wrong with them. Their eyes are violet shade of purple, and their striped are white and purple as well. No, this isn't a tiger, it's a muttation. What tiger could have purple eyes, and those color of stripes? I count six tigers, and the one that appears to be leading them is the largest among them, who immediately lets out a roar, looking as fierce as ever. Do they smell us? Will they investigate the bushes, and find us?
Apparently neither of these, because the leader of the pack lifts his head and sniffs as if he smells something that must be very potent, and then lets out a yelp. This yelp is followed by many of the tigers, and soon all I can see of them is white and purple stripes disappearing in the distance.
"Hush, Chase. They may smell us and return," says Tobias, and he holds me back. We still haven't set our trap, and I'm famished. Why can't we just set the trap now? They're probably a mile away by now. Anyways, it's good to know that Tobias is looking out for me. I sort of trust him now... a little bit more.
"Alright, we may leave the ferns now." says Tobias finally, and we leave the bushes.
"What do you think they smelled?" I ask.
"I do not know. I suppose it could be anything," he responds with a shrug of his shoulders.
"Where should we set the trap? All we've got was that squirrell." I say, pointing to the squirrel in his hands.
"Hmm, how about right here? There is a great amount of game around." decides Tobias, and I carefully set the trap, and then I notice something peculiar. Something that doesn't really belong in a jungle. Tobias is looking the other way, so he didn't see it. If he had, he would've spoken up.
"Tobias? Is that blood?" I ask, pointing towards what appears to be red liquid on the ground a few feet away from us.
Tobias pales, which is saying something. He is so ghost white you'd think it would be impossible for him to pale, but he does.
"That is not blood," he says, and positions his feet as if he is about to run. "Those are blood ants!"
I don't see what the big deal is, and then I remember we're in the Hunger Games. Ordinary isn't the norm, so I'm guessing these ants aren't normal. Tobias flies through the jungle ahead, and I am forced to catch up to him. Yes, now I can clearly see that what I thought was blood is ants. They were so far away I couldn't tell. And boy, are they moving fast for something so small.
"Move faster, Chase!" Tobias calls from far ahead, and I do sprint faster, when I feel something crawling up my leg. And then a pinch. Still running, I pull my pant leg up and see that a fire ant has crawled up my leg, and taken a bite. I pick it up, and feel it bite again at the tip of my finger before I throw it.
Soon, the ants recede, and they're gone soon enough. The bite on my leg begins to feel a slight pain at first, but then it grows and grows before the pain is unbearable. The bite on my finger does the same as well, and before I know what's happening, I'm lying on the ground screaming.
"Did you receive a bite?" Tobias asks, and I'm aware he's standing over me. I barely nod my head. "Duh," I think.
"There is nothing I can do, then," says Tobias "blood ant bites are untreatable. The pain will slowly go away, but until then you will just have to bear with the pain. I am sorry, my friend."
'My friend'? Tobias thinks I'm his friend? Well, that's news. The pain on my finger and on my leg are so bad that I pass out from the pain, but not before I hear a cannon shot. For who? But before I could think of any possible answers, I am unconscious.
“Chase? Are you alright?” asks someone with something damp against my forehead. I open my eyes more widely, and stare at the environment around me. I’m in the middle of some sort of jungle, and there is a boy –– actually, he looks more like a man –– with red hair in front of me, with a cloth on my forehead. Wait, no. It isn’t a cloth. It must be some sort of leaf, then.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I say, and he smiles.
“Good. We caught a buck in the trap,” says Tobias. “It is now roasting on a fire. I want to lure Nyla and Charming here so we can pick them off.” Oh, right. We’re in the Hunger Games. And Tobias is my ally. Tobias steps back, and shows me what must’ve been a buck, that is now some nice meat. It’s almost night, so Tobias tells me that he’ll have to put the fire out soon. We wouldn’t want to fight them in the dark, since they have those interesting-looking sunglasses that apparently let them see during the night. Once the buck is ready to eat, we put out the fire and dine on the giant beast. We don’t talk, and that suits us both fine. Tobias isn’t the talking type, I can tell that much. When I hear the anthem, I remember something; before I passed out from all the pain from the “blood” ants, I remember hearing a cannon shot. But for who? It was either for Charming, Nyla, or that Sophie girl Tobias was talking about. Tobias must’ve heard it, too, because he is looking up expectantly at the sky.
The Capitol’s seal lights up the sky, and followed a few seconds later by the picture of… Nyla. It’s Nyla. But who killed her? It certainly wasn’t me or Tobias, and I doubt it was Charming, so that means it is highly probable that Sophie killed Nyla unless Charming somehow turned on her, but I don’t see that happening. All I remember of Nyla is her nice orange hair, which I’ll never see again.
“So, it was her,” says Tobias, and I nod.
“That leaves four.” I say, and Tobias nods back at me. We only have to face Charming and Sophie now… but I’m dreading the fact that we might have to fight tiny little Sophie. She seems so harmless and innocent, and I don’t want her to kill her at all. Maybe a mutt or Charming will get her. Just maybe.
“Would you kill Sophie?” I ask Tobias, and he hesitates. There is a longing look in his green eyes,
“Well, Chase… I would, even though I would hate to. I truly would do almost anything to go home to my sister, Wesla. She needs me, Chase. Do you share this feeling?” he asks.
I think about it. Yes, if it meant I could go home to my brothers, Todd and Bronson, and my mother, who are all probably struggling to survive without me. Todd and his big brown eyes, asking for more food when there is none to give. And Bronson, who is probably asking where his big brother Chase is right now. I could never leave them.
“Yes.” I respond. I would do almost anything to get home to my brothers.” I say, and he nods, and there is an unbreakable silence for a few minutes, except for the sound of us sucking the juices out of the buck meat. It’s good.
“So, um… Tobias?” I say.
“Yes?” he responds, looking up from his meat.
“Did you know your district partner?” I ask, and he stares at me for a minute, thinking up an answer.
“I would really not like to talk about that,” he says, and starts eating again, and I am puzzled by this.
Who was his district partner? I try to remember just who the District 9 girl was, and I think I have an image. She had standard dark brown hair to her shoulders, hazel eyes, and a nice warm smile. I don’t think she survived long in the arena. Maybe Tobias knew her, or something, I think, before I hear a loud, ear-piercing shriek. A girls’.
I jump to my feet, but Tobias wrestles me to the ground.
“Do not be so foolish, Chase! If she dies, we only have to face Charming, and then…” Tobias doesn’t finish his sentence. But I do want to save Sophie, even if it means I won’t go home to District 5. Won’t go home to Todd, Bronson, or my mother. I break free of Tobias’s strong hold, and run toward the voice.
I come to a part of the arena I’d never seen before. It is very swampy, and there are strange looking trees that don’t exist in District 5. In the swamp are some ducks and geese that are literally sitting ducks to any attack by a predator or tribute. There is a second shriek, and I know I’m getting close. I have my dagger in my sheath, and I pull it out, ready to stab whoever holds Sophie in their death trap.
And that’s when I see her.
She is as pale as a ghost, with her honey-brown eyes wide with fear. Her once beautiful, straight brown hair is now a rat’s nest, and her lips move as if to call for help once more, but he silences her by stabbing the knife into her throat.
A moan escapes my lips, but I know it’s too late to save Sophie. Charming lets her corpse fall to the ground, and I can see the knife piercing the back of her neck, meaning it went all the way through her throat. Charming’s now bloody knife is held in an attacking position in his hands, and he locks eyes with me. Sophie’s cannon shot tells me she is indeed not savable, and a hovercraft soon comes to collect her body. In that fast instant, Sophie is gone, and now Tobias, Charming, and I are the only three left in the arena. Only one can live, and I somehow have the feeling that at least one person will die today, and I don’t want it to be me… or Tobias, for that matter. I’ve learned to trust him completely.
“Good to see you,” says Charming. “I thought you’d never come.” he’s pacing sideways, with his knife still ready. Could that be his only weapon? Possibly.
“Good to see you, too. This ends today.” I promise him, and I know right now that one of us will die. Charming or I. But where is Tobias? Shouldn’t he be rushing to save me by now, or did I trust him too much as to think that he’d save me from the death I may face?
“You know, Chase, this never ends.” Charming says, still pacing. And he’s right; the Games never do really end. He’ll be haunted by Glamour’s death forever. The moment Tobias slit her throat will likely replay in his mind forever until his death. And Zaria’s death will always replay in mine… Zaria. My district partner.
I vaguely knew Zaria before the Games, as she was the top student in my class, in Class 7 with me. Miss Leone, our teacher, simply adored her. She was good at everything; history, math, school sprints… you name it. Her death was one of the most horrific I’d seen, because I actually knew her, unlike the rest of the tributes. A girl, from District 2, got to her seconds after the gong rang. I couldn’t save her.
And here I am, days later, about to fight the boy from District 1; Charming. And there’s no Tobias to save me this time. I cannot believe I ever trusted him! Well, I’m about to probably die fighting this guy, so…
“For Glamour!” Charming shouts, and he sprints towards me, his knife bared. I reach for my dagger, and unsheathe it. I’m ready. But what I’m not ready for is… Tobias dashing into the “battlefield” with a sword that I’ve never seen before. Wait, so Tobias was hiding a sword this entire time? Well, well. I’m getting very surprised about Tobias today. He charges towards Charming, and everything that happens next goes by so slow, it’s almost like time has stood still.
Charming sees Tobias, and they both become warriors in battle. Tobias raises his sword, and buries it deep into Charming’s chest. But at the same time, Charming’s dagger finds its way into Tobias’s collarbone and for a moment they are both still, connected by blades until they both fall to the ground.
“Tobias!” I cry, and make my way towards his body. His eyes are wide open, and blinking rapidly. He’s alive. But Charming––he is dead, or so his cannon shot tells me. I push his corpse away, and a few seconds later, a hovercraft collects his body.
“Tobias…” I say, unsure what else I can say. I never really completely, 100% until now––now that he has sacrificed his life for me. I look over uncertainly at the two pools of blood Sophie and Charming both made, and I don’t want Tobias to die. It just can’t happen.
“You have been a trustworthy ally,” says Tobias, obviously trying very hard to speak, and almost failing. “I will never regret doing this.”
Never? Is he lying? I mean, he could have only fought Charming because he wanted to win, not because he thought doing it would save my life. But somehow I doubt that.
“Did you do this to save me?” I ask, desperately looking for an answer. He nods. I am overcome with happiness. But then, I come back to reality when I see him in that Quickly, I try to think of any way to save Tobias. The cut on his collarbone is deep, and I don’t think he could last more than a few hours––or less.
“I know I cannot be saved,” says Tobias. “I will die nobly. And you will win, Chase! You will return to your loved ones. And… tell my sister Wesla to continue living after my death when you arrive at District 9 on your victory tour.”
“I will.” I promise, and he looks more relaxed now. I must have fallen asleep, because when I wake up the sun has risen, and I guess it is mid afternoon. I frantically look over at Tobias, and feel his body. It’s warm, meaning he’s still alive, but when I try to rouse him from his sleep there’s no response. I eat a few nuts, eight fish, and a groosling leg. I’m eating so much because I’m dealing with the reality of Tobias’s certain death.
Day falls to night, and I see Charming in the sky with his wavy blond hair and sparkling blue eyes, and Sophie’s honey brown eyes and brown hair. It’s difficult to believe they’re both dead. I never actually met Sophie, but I probably would have liked her if I had.
Tobias finally wakes, and his chest rises and falls very quickly, and his green eyes are wild.
“Wesla…” he murmurs.
“Shhhh––it’s alright,” I say, but he’s still in that scary frenzy. He appears to be having terrifying visions of mutts, Charming and Glamour, and something terrible happening to his sister.
Soon, Tobias’s chest stops rising, and his eyes glaze over. A cannon shot confirms his death. The tears come streaming down my face.
Claudius Templesmith’s voice comes on the speakers, and I’m startled by his intensity.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present the victor of the Fifty-eighth Hunger Games, Chase Egress! I give you––the male tribute of District Five!”
But I still hold on to Tobias’s body, so they don’t take it away. I won’t let them. They can’t take him away from me. Not after all that he did.
“Chase! Let go of the corpse.” says someone in the hovercraft above. Somehow they’d gotten their voice projected way down here so that I could hear it. But I know it’s not over, even though I am the victor.
The Hunger Games are never over.