The frost has welded my eyelashes together, trapping my eyes behind a door of soft pink flesh. Eventually they ease open and I take in my surroundings, Leigh lies peacefully beneath the heavy blanket, a small smile crossing her features as she is taken away temporarily to a place far better than here. I move about and set up a hearty breakfast for Leigh and I, nudging her awake when it’s ready. We sit and eat in silence, the nerves paralyzing our will to make small-talk. I gave up at the sky, the light has returned but the air is still laced with a bitter chill. Pink and orange streak through the fluffy white clouds… Will this be the last sunrise I ever see? I take it in. Everything. If this is my last day, I don’t want to miss a thing. I turn to Leigh and grasp her hand.
“Thank you,” I whisper “For being here, for helping me, just… Everything, thank you.” she gives me a sorrowful smile and nods. We both know that we couldn’t have made it this far without the other.
We pack our things into our bags, and tension hangs heavy in the chilly air. I told Leigh about the two other tributes who died last night. Only 3 of us left now. I rise slowly and cautiously, still careful about being caught off guard. I keep Terlums spear by my side and my crossbow slung over my shoulder. I part the foliage we have been shrouded by carefully and step out. No one is waiting for us, thankfully. Leigh follows behind as we walk into the clearing of the Cornucopia.
I step through the melting snow over to the cornucopia, about to peer inside to see if any weapons have been left, but am met with an unexpected sight. Leefern, the girl from 3 springs out of the golden mouth of the Cornucopia, screaming angrily at me, wielding a sharp blade. She tackles me to the floor and pins me underneath her. I shriek violently and start to grapple with the girl, pushing her off me and jumping to my feet. She rises too, and I grab the spear, holding it in my palm, ready to strike at any moment. She twists the knife around her hand, smirking at me. I throw my spear forward with a cry, but she dodges it, leaving it to clatter on the ground. She picks it up and looks at it for a moment.
“That was a big mistake, 8…” she grins threateningly before lifting the spear above her head, in one swift motion she sends it propelling through the air. I squeeze my eyes shut as it comes closer towards me. I hear the whistle in my ear and a dull thud as it makes impact. I don’t feel any pain. A soft whimper fills the silence of the clearing. But wait… That wasn’t me.
My eyes open, widening in alarm as I twirl around in time to watch Leigh collapse to the floor. Her chest now staked on the gleaming silver spear, she pulls it out, with a soft cry. She lies on the white bed of snow and I rush to her side. The glistening red liquid trickles out of her chest and mixes with the snow.
“No…” I whimper, “No, it can’t be you, it was meant to be me!” I start to cry, shrieking frenzied apologies as guilt fills every crevice of my body. I grip her hand and stroke her face as a lone tear rolls down her soft cheek. Her eyes now set in a frozen stare beyond everything, towards somewhere that I cannot see.
I look back up at the girl from 3, venom piercing my gaze as I watch her laugh.
Doesn’t she get it? We are all on the same team. We may have been chosen to fight one another, but the true enemy is the Capitol. They have given us this destiny, we are left to fulfill it however we choose. If we do not fight, they have no games. Their power collapses beneath the weight of human emotion.
She doesn’t care. She watches me rise from the damp floor and raise my crossbow. Her eyebrows raise momentarily. I place the crossbow on the ground.
“The winner is never really a winner anyway,” I tell her “The nightmares, the dreams, the haunting deaths… They’ll stay with the winner for eternity.”
She looks back at me quizzically.
I continue “Kill me. I want to die now. Their games are meaningless if the deaths are by choice.”
She looks at me with confusion, then understanding, then sorrow.
She knows I’m right. The only way for any of us to really win is to defeat the capitol, not the other tribute.
“Go.” I utter. My final word.
Her eyes, like mine, fill with a shiny layer of tears. She raises her knife and steps back, poising to throw it at me.
A shaky breath enters my lungs as I take my last moments to appreciate the world. My family, my allies, the beauty of the dew glistening on the leaves of the jungle foliage.
She nods at me, and pulls her arm back when suddenly, her mouth gapes open, a red liquid oozing out as she splutters and coughs.
What is happening?! I run towards her but am instantaneously running back again when the large snake that killed Terlum slithers out from behind the stout palm trees, it’s pearly fangs glistening with what I can only assume is the blood of Leefern. The snake slithers past the cornucopia, not noticing me at all. I run to the girl and drop beside her, her neck now dotted with two fierce punctures. This is no coincidence, I think. Just as we have decided to show up the capitol, she is savagely attacked. I clasp her hand and whisper soothing statements to her. The pink in her cheeks fades away to a sickly grey as the life leeches out of her body, slowly. She pulls me in, and between splutters, she utters out;
“The kn… knife,” pointing towards the knife that now lays in the snowy sludge beside her. she raises a feeble finger and draws it across her throat. I know what she wants me to do now.
I look away as I grip my hands around the hilt of the knife, pulling it above my head, plunging it downwards with force as Leefern smiles at me.
I can’t look at her. She was my only real kill. I crumple to the floor, with a debilitating crippling guilt rolling in waves through my body. I start bursting into a never ending stream of tears as the final canon rings out through the rusty-scented air. I scream into my fist, biting down with all my strength.
“Citizens of Northern Ridges, I give you, the victor of the 27th annual Hunger Games.”’
I hug my knees tight to my chest, hoping that if I pull tight enough, I’ll fold into nothingness and not have to face the people that will celebrate the murders of my friends. I simply wail, grieving the lives of my allies, the tributes, even Mr. GameMaker… Their faces flash before my eyes, each full of despair and sorrow, lives cut short by the merciless hold of the capitol.
A victor is not really a victor at all, and I can say that with full certainty now.