The golden sun illuminates Terlums features, his green eyes sparkling with gold speckles decorating his iris. He smiles that ever hopeful, childish grin and laughs. I look around and see that Leigh, Terlum and I are all sitting cross-legged, wearing bare white, cotton clothes, in the centre of a vibrant meadow. The hum of life around us harmonizing with the song of the mockingjays, chirping contentedly in the tall willow trees lining the meadow. I pick up two white daisies, snapping their stems from the root, twirling them between the soft pads of my fingertips, before passing one to Leigh and the other to Terlum.
“A gift of friendship,” I say, as we all laugh.
I pick up a third daisy, for myself, admiring its delicacy, when suddenly, it disintegrates in my hand. The silky white petals now grey ash, residing on my palm. I look up at my allies, begging for reassurance. I’m not crazy, am I? I begin to ask if they saw the strange occurrence when my words are locked behind my teeth, catching in my throat as the sight before me makes my heart-rate hasten.
Terlums flesh melts from his bones, dripping and oozing down the front of his shirt. The sun clouds over, streaks of grey and black now spreading in veins across the previous baby-blue of the sky. I reach for Leighs hand, trying to comfort myself, but it only breaks off with my touch, crumbling to dust between my fingers. I look back at Terlum, his eyes now sagging out of their sockets, his tongue lolling out of the cage that is his milky-white teeth. I spin my head to look at Leigh, but the sight I see is not her. Not human at all. Her skin has been replaced by dark green scales, her warm friendly eyes now fierce yellow slits. She hisses at me and I scream, turning my head to hide from it all but instead running into Terlum, his face fixated in an eternal, bony grin, no longer masked by his pale skin. Suddenly another hissing sound reverberates through the meadow as two smaller snakes surge past Terlums eye-sockets, darting at my face.
I wake with a scream, tears brimming over my puffy eyelids. I take sharp, jagged breaths, trying to compose myself to no avail. Leigh rushes to my side, placing a hand on my shoulder and comforting me with soft coos, as I would to my sisters.
“Shhh, it was just a dream,” she whispers, stroking my hair.
“Terlum…” I murmur, rocking back and forth as I remember the vivid nightmare I just endured.
“I know,” Leigh breathes “We’re going to be alright though, ok?”
I nod, opening my mouth to agree, but am cut off by a booming voice shaking the Arena.
“Announcement: all water sources have been suspended until further notice. If you don’t have water supplies, you may have to fight for them. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.”
My eyes widen as I look up at Leigh in shock. They can’t do this can they? I race to my pack, grabbing out the flasks in a frenzy. “They’re all filled to the brim after yesterday. And we have Terlum’s as well. This should last us three days,” Leigh assures me, ever the voice of reason.
“I can’t take this anymore,” I confess “When will this end?” dejectedly, I lean back against the spongy damp bark of the tree. Leigh looks at me with sorrow, but smiles as she tells me; “Soon. We’ll spend today gathering our strength and training. Tomorrow we move to the Cornucopia. There are only a few of us left now.”
She’s right… Only a few left. From having my name drawn at the reaping, thinking I wouldn’t make it part the first night, coming to this stage of the games is a dream. Or a nightmare. I can’t really tell…
I start to pull out some of the food we still have stored and assemble a quick but sizable meal for Leigh and I. We quickly finish eating and gather our belongings, I take Terlums spear and Leigh grabs his pack. We set off into different directions, deciding that it’s better to split up, doubling our chances of finding another tribute.
As I amble through the jungle I start to twirl the spear around, first just with my hands, hearing the soothing whistle through the air, then I start to throw it. My target, a mockingjay, resting upon the bough of a tree. I pull by my arm and release, the spear spinning through the humid air, colliding with the birds chest. Blood sprays over the bough as the mocking jay falls to the jungle floor making one final chirp before it dies. The spear clatters to the ground as well, and I race to pick it up. For the rest of the day I practice spear-throwing, using my crossbow and sprinting for long periods of time. At this stage in the games, my training in combat is better late than never.
The blue sky begins to fade to pink, then orange, then blood-red, signaling to me that my fun is over, and I must go back to meet Leigh.
I arrive before she does, resting against the base of our tree. Leigh shows up, looking exhausted, but still smiling. We each grab hold of the tree and start to clamber back up to our last resting place. I prepare a quick meal, passing it to Leigh and eat some myself before settling in for the evening. I lie on my side, huddling into Leigh for warmth as the temperature in the arena declines rapidly. I stare up at her face, her eyes fluttering slowly shut, and wonder… Will I have to kill her? I’d rather die than do that. Literally.