I, strangely, rise first, sliding up from my resting place. I take in the golden glow of the morning sun illuminating the jungle with warmth. I turn to Leigh and Terlum, rousing them out of their sleep.
“We should get moving,” I tell them as they wake “We’re getting close to the Cornucopia.”
Terlum sets up a small fire and Leigh and I both stroll over and begin to chat.
“How are your legs?” Leigh inquires.
“Much better, thanks. They don’t hurt anymore,” he beams, clearly glad he wasn’t by himself when the flood hit. the damage could have been fatal, left untreated.
He passes over a handful of roots to both of us and we chew in silence, every one of us observing the jungle around us. The light skims over the mossy carpet and the leaves on the many trees glisten, still damp from the morning dew.
“Beautiful,” Leigh murmurs, reading all our thoughts exactly.
We all smile and chuckle at ourselves.
“Come on guys, lets get going now,” I say with a smile. It’s so easy to forget that I’m in a specially-designed death-trap when I’m with my allies. They make it so easy to feel happy, even amidst all the horrors the arena holds. we stamp out the luminescent orange embers of our fire and collect our few belongings. We set off into the jungle, walking along for several hours, mainly in silence, sometimes stopping to gather more food or look at something. It isn’t until I drop one of my bows that I look at the moist jungle floor and see something intriguing. Two sets of footprints, imprinted in the soggy underbrush. I signal to the others and raise my eyebrows, eyes widening with excitement, we each raise our weapons and silently move along the trail of footprints, chasing the invisible people to the base of a huge fig-tree. The branches lie vacant, but the remnants of a small fire have been left not far from the tree.
“We’re getting closer,” whispers Terlum. We decide to rest for a while, plunking ourselves down on the thick roots of the fig tree and eating its sweet fruits.
Suddenly, a strange squelch, shatters the serene silence surrounding us. I jump to my feet and look around, my allies actions mirroring my own.
Terlum uses his spear to push two fern leaves apart to peer into a small clearing. In the very middle is a sinkhole, pulling its surroundings into it, dragging them down to the centre of the earth. It consumes everything next to it, and in a matter of seconds, the trees lining the small clearing are on the brink of the sinkhole.
“MOVE!” Leigh screams, and we all stumble backwards in a confused stupor, trying to comprehend this ridiculous turn of events.
We sprint ahead, back too our previous resting place on the fig-tree roots, I’m just about to snatch up my pack when, merely an inch from my foot, a new sinkhole bursts open the earth. I skid to an abrupt halt and nearly fall straight into it. I jump over the hole before it grows any more and seize my pack up, tearing away from the tree, back in the direction we came from.
We run for about a kilometre, until we decide that we will be safe for the moment. We pause for a minute and Terlum opens his mouth and gasps through ragged pants “What’s going…?” but is cut off but that familiar sucking noise as a new sinkhole germinates beneath my feet. The others jump to the side just in time but I had no chance.
“Help!” I yell, my legs being sucked down into the sinkhole. the others turn and realize the dire predicament I have found myself in.
“Hold on!” Leigh shouts, tossing a thick vine to to me and cementing her feet to the ground. Terlum stands next to her and holds onto the vine too. I grip onto the vine with every ounce of strength I have. They start to pull, but the resistance coming from the sinkhole is too great.
Wonderful. Death by dirt. What a great way to go…
But suddenly the sinkhole relinquishes my body, as I slide forward, gripping onto the earth around the sinkhole. Terlum and Leigh are there in a split-second to pull me to my feet, and without a moments deliberation, we sprint again through the jungle, much much further this time. I skid to a halt and the others stop behind me. We’ve been running for at least an hour, and the piercing feeling with every intake of breath hurts my lungs, but I’m just grateful I made it out of that sinkhole. We walk on for the rest of the day, thankfully without anymore signs of the sinkholes. Eventually we come to the line of Babassu palms that we used to cure Terlums poisoned legs. this means we’re close to the edge of the Cornucopia.
“Let’s set up camp for the night,” Terlum suggests, and with the sun starting to make its graceful decline to meet the horizon, I agree. We climb up a nearby tree, concealing ourselves among the foliage. We now have a fantastic vantage-point, looking out over our immediate section of the Arena.
I tuck myself in under my leaf-blanket and feel my eyes flutter shut, too tired to think, eat or talk.
“I’m going to stay awake for a little while…” I hear in the background as I drift off, simply humming in reply.