Chapter 29: Stella
Chapter 28: Stella
The first thing that hits me is the humidity, the air is so thick it feels like it’s pressing down on me. Next is the smell of filthy water and decay. But the sound of croaking frogs and buzzing flies fills this place with life. The little trees roots reach down into the green, muddy water which will soon have red running through it.
So here we are, in the place we've prepared weeks for: the Arena. We've had six days to come to turns with our situation, but it still doesn't feel real. Even the Careers have a flicker of fear in their eyes as the sixty second countdown begins. Just sixty seconds; that's all that remains until the blood shed begins. The Capital will be watching eagerly as we entertain them with our deaths. But for every cheer, somewhere, there will be a life lost.
I have to block out the image of my father looking at the dusty TV screen in the shop, along with Tia and Brendon trying to comfort him as he witness a loved one battle for their life once again. I push the fear clouding my mind to one side and focus on the Cornucopia, even from where I stand I can see it’s packed full of everything from swords to sleeping bags. But there are also a few things scattered around it.
One of these items is a backpack; it's only about fifteen feet away. With my speed, I could reach it in seconds and put the blood bath completely out of sight in two minutes. An insect buzz's in front of my face, intending to distract me. I swat it away and cannot help but watch its zigzagging path as it flies past Jed. Jed!
I can't leave him, I hear myself think. We've never said we'd be allies in the Games, so technically this boy is nothing to me. I could run away and never look back, and most people wouldn't think the worst of me. I remember Cole's tears this morning and how he vowed he'd help both of us. If I left him here I doubt he'd keep that promise and even if he does how could I take a sponsor without feeling guilty? We also said we were friends, that truly meant something to him and it must have meant something to me too otherwise I wouldn't even be looking at him right now.
He sees me staring. Precious seconds rush between us, we have to use them to think of something. I nod to the back pack and point to me, praying nobody else is looking. Then I motion towards him and in the direction I plan to run. He nods nervously, understanding my message: I'll get the back pack; you run that way and I'll follow.
"Ten, nine, eight . . ." Less than ten seconds until we’re running for our lives. I take a deep breath and get ready, poised to run, shutting everything out except me and my target.
"Four, three, two, one!" The gong vibrates across the Arena as I jump off the pad. Mud and water sprays out as I dash to the pack. I'm the first off. By the time I reach my destination, there is a cluster of tributes heading my way. The battle has officially begun!
The next few moments are a blur as I swing it onto my shoulder and take off sprinting. Then the first scream pierces the air somewhere behind me.
As I dash for the forest, I make the mistake of angling my head back towards the scream and watch as the girl from 12 crumples to the ground. Her is blood dripping from Kayden's axe. This horrific image allows me legs to move faster, propelling me into the shelter of the trees. I race through the swamp for a while, over soft ground and many debris. Once deep enough in the swamp, I lean back to catch my breath, slowly taking in my surroundings. Soon, I realize there is something missing: Jed is not with me.
I force myself to turn back towards the bloody scene once again. I head back, and when I reach the scene, for a moment all that meets my gaze, is the bodies. Some striking others, some fleeing and a few that just lie there, their souls gone. Then I see him, being pinned to the ground by the gigantic boy from 10. The boy holds a knife above his neck. As he brings it down, Jed grabs it, trying to push it away from him. The weapon remains in mid-air, clasped by two pairs of hands fighting for control of it. But it's clear who going to win. If I don't do something in the next few moments, Jed will be dead.
Hurriedly, I glance around my surroundings, searching for something, anything, that can help him. I lower my gaze up, and around, then finally towards the ground, and my gaze lands on a round object lodged in the soil; a stone. Yes, a stone! I lean down and grasp it, coiling my fingers across the smooth surface and aim for the monstrous boy's head . . .
I can hear the impact from where I stand. It was heavier than it looked, and has the desired effect. The boy from 10 falls to one side temporally stunned. Jed pulls the knife from his grip and looks desperately in the direction the rock came from.
"COME ON!" I yell, waving. I realise this is a bad move the moment the words leave my mouth. Jed spots me but so do Kayden and the boy from District 1.
"AFTER THEM!" They chorus, grinning menacingly as they run after him as he follows my fleeing figure.
They chase us through the bog, carrying an axe and sword. We only have a knife; all we can do is hope to out run them. The screams and clashes of metal fade away as the pounding of their footfalls behind us grow louder and louder.
We jump over a root without thinking about it. But they’re too caught up in the hunt to watch where they’re going. A second later there are two huge splashes. Seizing the precious seconds this gives us Jed grabs my arm and pulls me into some shrubs. We lie there not even daring to breathe. They're feet run straight past us.
"Where are they?" Kayden yells angrily as they come to a sudden stop, releasing we're nowhere to be seen.
"I don't know, they must have out run us!" The District 1 boy snaps.
Kayden's jaw clenches in frustration as he stops to think for a moment, meeting eyes with the boy from 1. "The others will still be at the Cornucopia, so we should head back. I can't believe we let those District 7 morons distract us from the action! This is your fault, Chase! You just want to kill that girl because she showed you up in training!" Kayden fumes.
"Hey, you're the one whose hell bent on getting the victor's son!" Chase argues as their voices trail away from us, making their way back.
It's another three minutes before we think it's safe to come out of our hiding place. But we're not really safe; there's no such thing as safe in the Hunger Games.
We keep running away for about an hour until we allow ourselves to collapse against a tree. The only sounds now are the buzzing of the insects, splashing of water and our heavy breathing.
"I guess this means we're allies then," Jed pants, smiling wearily. It's the first thing he's said since we were delivered into this nightmare.
"Well duh, I saved your sorry butt from 10!" I surprise myself by laughing, but the laugh hurts my rusty throat. I could really do with a drink.
"Yeah, you did! But you got those goons attention!" He tries to be mad at me but he can't stop grinning with pure relief that he's still breathing.
"I know, that was pretty stupid." I shake my head at my actions. "Why do think you're Kayden's prime target?"
He shrugs. "Beats me. Maybe he thinks I'm threat because I got nine."
The sound of a canon firing blows apart our thoughts. It fires six more times before the sound of the swamp is all that can be heard again.
"Seven gone," I say becoming, serious.
"That leaves 17, including us. That's a lot, usually about half die at the bloodbath." Jed frowns.
"I guess it's because two of the Careers were chasing us. Now the Careers have ended their killing spree they'll be setting up camp. That gives us a few hours to find a good tree."
"Let's get moving then; we can hunt for a river while we're at it. This water's far too dirty to even consider drinking but it had to came from some were fairly clean," Jed says, walking on.
It takes another six hours or so to find a tree that's big enough to support our weight. We still to find the river or sea that supplied this place with water. Once we're up there, I open the back pack to see what we've won from the Cornucopia.
"Right, we've got two packs of beef jerky, an apple, two packets of dried fruit, a little box of matches, some rope, some wire, a blanket, a bottle of iodine and an empty water bottle. It's not much for the two of us it's better than nothing and I can make some weapons." I say as a rummage through the bag.
"I guess so . . . hey look at that!" Jed points to the distance at a big grey rectangle that towers above the tall trees beyond.
"I think it's some kind of building." I say, squinting at it. "Wonder what's inside."
"Knowing the Game Makers, it's probably bad," He muses.
We have two slices of apple and three strips of jerky as we survey the rest of our surroundings. The swamp continues for another seven or eight kilometres before the taller trees take over, judging by the humid climate we decide it's most likely to be rainforest, a place that's teaming with food and water. Tomorrow we'll trek through the bog and hopefully reach it by sun down.
As the Sun sets our nation's anthem is played across the Arena. The Capital seal appears in the sky followed by the faces of those who died.
The first face to show up is the girl from 5, which means all the Careers are alive, no doubt getting ready to hunt right now, this thought, sends a shiver down my spine. But this also means Attie the District 3 girl I made snares with is alive too, I feel strangely comforted by this. The boy from 5 is next, followed by the boy from 6, the girl from 9, girl from 10 and both from 12, their controversial costumes being all for nothing. So the stone didn't keep the giant from 10 down for long.
"I could have so easily been up there today. You saved my life, Stella. Why?" Jed says quietly, turning to me in the rapidly growing dark.
"We're friends, and friends don't leave each other to die," I reply instantly, he smiles at this and closes his eyes, fatigue claiming him. I sigh, knowing this friendship can't last forever.
Last edited by TheFoxFacedOne
on Mon Apr 30, 2012 7:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.