Running In the Ashes
Even though it’s minutes away from midnight the square is packed, you can barely move in the crowd without knocking into someone. But the dark night air is still, heavy with the anticipation of thousands, the heat of their bodies meets the cool breeze which breathes in-between the tight spaces. All their faces are illuminated by the light of the giant TV screen, which shows the reason why we’re all here. It shows Katniss, walking down the hill with Johanna unwinding the copper wire behind her.
This isn’t the first grand plan to take out the Careers, that’s not why we’re here. The entire district has pulled themselves out of their beds to see if tonight will be the night it begins. The night the sparks of rebellion come together in an inferno.
Little Posy yawns beside me, wrapping my jacket which swamps her tiny frame further around her body.
“Why are we up so late?” She asks me, her young grey eyes looking tiredly into mine; oblivious to what’s going on. I give her a nervous smile.
“Something very, very big is about to happen. We can all fee it.” I tell her.
No one knows why we feel tonight is the night; many just followed those who had the feeling in their gut, one of those people is me. I stand at the very front, my family staring at the screen sleepily with me.
“What, Katniss and her friends zapping the Careers, can’t we watch it on the highlights tomorrow? We all know they’ll do it, she never fails.” She says matter of factly. I smile at her faith in my best friend.
“I know she doesn’t.”
A low, dark laugh rubbles behind me. I turn around and automatically glare with hatred at the man whose responsible for the scars on my back: Head Peacekeeper Cray.
“No, Thawthorn. These people have all come to witness the bloody death of their pathetic hero, Katniss Everdean, in the hope that her demise will fill them with enough anger to begin the pointless rebellion they so crave.” He says to me, smirking. I grit my teeth to stop myself screaming at him in fury.
I’m more protective of Katniss than I show. I might not follow her around all the time, beating of the slightest sign of trouble because I know she’d hate me for it and I know she’s perfectly capable of looking after herself. But if she ever shows a hint of fear or sadness, I’ll rush to her side and help her defend herself. And I won’t stand by listening to someone insult her, not matter who they are.
“If you’re so sure of that, Cray, why are you here?” I hiss. He laughs again.
“Did my whip hit you in head or are you just naturally stupid? I’m here to crush any trouble her end might create. So if I were you, I’d call off whatever little riot you have with planned with your filthy miner friends. Unless you want to see their blood stains on my whip as well.” His last remark is the last straw. No one, not even the Head Peacekeeper is going to get away with saying those things. I punch him square in the jaw before he can give me another one of those cruel smiles.
He staggers back, a priceless look of shock on his face. But it’s quickly replaced with anger as he gets his whip out from under his clothes.
“You never learn to you, Hawthorn?” He growls as he poises to strike me.
I tense, preparing to feel its burning pain on body.
But a collective gasp from the crowd freezes him in his place. He turns to screen, my eyes follow.
Johanna has Katniss pinned to the ground. As her knife cuts into Katniss’s arm I nearly scream, as it’s my blood that’s flowing, not hers. Why didn’t anyone see this coming? Everyone knows Johanna Mason is ruthless and out to win.
She then lets her go; only adding to my confusion, and by the looks of it hers as she staggers up the hill.
The next couple of minutes are a blur of fear, tension and chaos as everything seems to turn into a free for all. But I don’t see much of it because I can’t bring myself to look away from the ground, too afraid I’ll see the girl I love die in front of my eyes. I’ve always thought she’d make it, through the first Games and this one, but seeing her truly afraid for the very first time, pours fear and doubt into my veins.
Blinding jealousy is added to the mix as I hear her call out desperately for Peeta. I haven’t felt it this bad since their first kiss in the cave. My nails dig into my hands, trying to distract me from all these horrible feelings, when a small had gently takes hold of one of them.
“Gale. Look.” Posy whispers. Someone I tare my gaze away from stone tiles and direct it back to the screen.
Katniss pulls back an arrow wrapped in wire. But she’s not aiming it at the sounds of Finnick and Johanna approaching, she’s aiming it at the invisible force field. She’s got the same look in her eye she had when she took out the berries. The atmosphere in the square is unbearably tense, just as it was then.
Then the lightning strikes the tree, lighting up the copper coils of wire around. Within a blink of an eye it’s crackling along the arrow as it’s fired through the air. The moment it hits there’s a blinding flash of light, followed by a massive boom which echoes around the square as the screen goes blank.
Even the crickets are silent for a few seconds as everyone stands in shock, trying to make what they’ve just seen sink in.
A quiet, slow clap begins somewhere in the crowd. It travels like wild fire until we’re all applauding as our minds finally process the unthinkable: the Arena has been destroyed; the 75th Hunger Games are over!
But a cold chill passes through me as I remember the night by the fire when Katniss told me about President Snow’s threat to kill everyone she loves, just for spitting in the face of his evil game with the berries. But this is much bigger than that, you could feel the grip the Capital has on the people shatter with the force field. This really is the begging of the rebellion. And we’ve all seen the smoking ruins of our former neighbour District 13, the centre of the last rebellion.
Suddenly I find myself barging my way to the stage, looking out at the faces of District 12.
“Stop!” I yell. To my surprise they do. Every pair of eyes looks at me with confusion, curious as to what I have to say. The words tumble out of my mouth before I even know what I’m saying. “Yes, this is the spark we’ve been waiting so long for, the dawn of our chance to stand up against those who have tormented us with the Games for so long!” A huge cheer rises up, along with some fists. “And we are ready fight! But so is the Capital! They might have lost their Arena but they haven’t lost their power, and they’re angry, they have been ever since Katniss pulled the berries out. They know rebellion is coming, and what the first thing they’ll do to stop it? Kill it at its source.
Remember how District 13 led the first rebellion? Now it’s nothing but rubble because of that. This time we’re the leaders, we’re the ones who created the girl who lit the spark. We’re going to be the example!” I yell, trying to keep the panic out of my voice.
There’s nervous murmuring all around me, some people look as panicked as I do, some just look confused, while others shake heads, thinking I’ve gone mad. Perhaps I have.
“What should we do?” Someone asks.
“Go home now! Wake your loved ones, grab whatever food and essential items you can and meet me at the fence. I don’t know what’s going to happen but you’ve got to trust me, it’s going to be big and it’s going to be bad! We have to get out of here!” The moment I the last word leaves my lips; a pair of strong arms hauls me up violently and shoves me back into the crowd.
Cray turns to the mass of increasingly panicked people.
“You don’t honestly believe this nonsense do you? An uprising is just rumours, and even if they were true who would honestly follow this poor little district into battle against the might of the Capital? This boy is no physic; he’s merely shaken from the drama of the night. There is absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Now go back to your homes, anyone still outside in two hours’ time will be arrested. Goodnight!” The crowd quickly disperses, many looking relieved, some even shot me annoyed glances at ruining one of their only opportunities to stay up all night.
I find my family and my mother hugs me.
“You were so brave up there, Gale.” She says proudly.
“But it was all for nothing, no one believes me.” I say gloomily.
“We do.” Rory seriously, the rest nod. “Come on, we have to hurry and get some things.” He nearly runs out of the square. We stare after him in surprise at his sudden take of charge. “Come on.” He shouts over his shoulder. “What are you waiting for?”
I stuff the last scrap of meat we have into my game bag just as there’s a knock on the door. Prim and Mrs Everdean walk in, an earnest look on their faces.
“We’re coming with you.” Prim says, with an air of determination I’ve seen more in her sister than her.
“You believe me, why?”
“Katniss would have.” She says with absolute certainty.
Sadness pulls at my heart strings. I’m finally doing it, running away to live in the woods, except it’s without the one person I’ve dreamed about coming with me: Katniss. What if I get to live out the rest of my days in peace of the forest, but never get to see her again?
Before I can let this question barrow any deeper into my brain a low rumbling pieces the air. We all step outside, along with the rest of the Seam to find out the source of that alien noise. The sky is illuminated with the bright lights from the bottom of hundreds of hovercrafts; they cover the horizon looming over us eerily.
The cold shiver of fear shots down my spine again, but this time it’s intense and ice cold. All my instincts screaming at me to run.
“Run.” I say, my voice barely a whisper as the very first bomb falls.
It hits the Justice Building, the explosion ringing angrily through the black sky. Scarlet Flames leap into the sky. I hear a scream, a girl’s scream. For a second I think its Madge, her broken body trapped in debris of the Mayor’s house next-door. But then I realise its Posy’s.
It sounds like the entire district as joined her terrible song of fear as the second bomb hits, taking out an entire merchant street near the bakery.
“Run! Run! Run!” I scream at the top my lungs.
We dash through the burning streets as the bombs come down like rain. Their sound battering our ear drums, their fire burning our skin and their ashes and covering our feet. Hundreds more follow us, as we head to fence, the explosions getting ever closer. But it’s not that sound which makes my very soul shudder, it’s the screams. Men women and children, crying out in fear, panic and pain as their homes are blown to a thousand pieces.
A house only twenty feet away from us is obliterated in a fiery mass of rumbles and wood. The blast nearly knocks us off our feet.
As I draw nearer I see a women’s body jutting out on the street, blood pouring down her back. They sound of crying makes me skid to a halt next to her. I lift up her head but find only a pair of dead eyes staring fearfully into mine, tears striking her dirty face. The screams belong to a baby wrapped tightly in her arms, saved by his mother’s sacrifice to shield them from the impact. A pick it up and keep running, ashes falling like snow around me.
When we reach the fence I find a group of about four hundred people, clutching bags and blankets to their chests. More have heeded my warning than I thought. They stare in transfixed horror at the burning District.
“Through the fence! Go, now! And don’t look back, don’t ever look back!” I scream at them.
“Who many?” I ask Mrs Everdean, whose tending to the wounded at our makeshift camp about four miles into the woods.
“About nine hundred made it out, thanks to your warning and leading people to the fence.” She somehow manages weak smile. I look up to see everyone’s staring at me expectantly.
“What?” I ask.
“Ummm…what do we now, Gale?” Delly asks.
That’s when it finally hits me: I’m their leader now, I have to keep nine hundred people alive in the wilderness.
I want to so deperatly tell them that I don’t know, I’m no leader. I’m just a hunter coal miner from District 12. I’m not Katniss. But looking at their lost, pleading faces I know I can’t do that. I feel the weight of their nine hundred lives on my shoulders, but I also feel their new found fight and hope, and if I runaway now I’ll extinguish that.
So instead I take a deep breath and summon every ounce of strength I have left.
“We’ll stay here, in the woods where it’s safe. Someone will find us eventually, they might have destroyed the mining district but the fire of rebellion burns strong, and this destruction will only make it burn brighter! The Capital has fired the first shot, and it will be heard throughout Panem! It will not be a warning to the districts; it’ll be a call to arms, a call to fight once again against the chains that bind us once again!
We have lost everything tonight. Friends, family and homes. But you know what that means? That means we have nothing left to loose, and there be nothing more dangerous than people with nothing to lose and everything to gain!
The people of 12’s sacrifice will not be in vain! If I ever get to go into battle with the monsters who slayed them so mercilessly, I swear to every last one of you, I will avenge them, every last one of them. Whose with me?!” A shout into the night.
Thom, my friend from the mines steps forward.
“I am.” He says.
Rory joins him.
Now everyone is stepping forward.
“I am! I am! I am!” They chant, pumping the fisting in the air.
District Twelve may be burning from the fire of the Capital’s hate, but the fire of rebellion burns even brighter in our hearts.