A wheezy gasp of air enters my lungs, ripping them apart as I heave inward. My thoughts reverberate off the walls of my mind and I can’t think straight at all. I open my eyes and immediately regret that impulsive decision, as I spin violently, plummeting towards the spongy earth. What is happening? A low buzz drones through my ears, a monotone blur of words. I steel my mind and focus, trying to catch every syllable.
“Announcement: Oxygen levels have been depleted throughout the Arena. If you want to survive, get to the Cornucopia as soon as possible. This is where the most oxygen is. Also, water supplies are slowly returning. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favour.”
Leigh, where is Leigh? I find her and try to tell her something, “Cornucopia…” i mutter, the words trapped behind a swollen lump in my throat. Leigh understands though, and she nods as we gather our packs. I wait for Leigh on the ground as she stumbles about the tree, making her way down slowly. The world before me spins around violently and I reach for something to steady myself. Suddenly a crash from the tree pulls me eyes forward, trying to focus on the source… It’s Leigh, she’s fallen out of the tree. Her eyes flutter shut slowly. I’d love a nice nap too actually… Wait! If we fall asleep, we die. I stumble over the underbrush to Leighs side, using what paltry reserves of strength I have left, I pull her up. “Cornucopia…” I tell her again. She nods in agreement. If we stay here, these games are over for us. I amble forward, in an oxygen deprived stupor, every step unsteady but a step closer to oxygen nonetheless. It could have been minutes or hours, but we begin to reach the Babassu palms lining the edge of the Cornucopia clearing. I start to breathe in again, this time properly. The air is still thin and cuts my lungs, but I’m not as dizzy now and I start to clear my thoughts, assorting them into organized lists.
We huddle behind the Babassu palms, vigilantly watching for any other tributes. the coast is clear. I turn to nod at Leigh, raising Terlums spear above my shoulder as Leigh puls out her long serrated knife. I stay low to the ground, but move swiftly past the trees into the clearing. Leigh follows along and I turn to look at her. She nods, signaling that the Cornucopia is currently threat-free. The tension in my shoulders fades away a tiny bit.
I rush to the Cornucopia, wondering if there will be anything useful left inside, but am surprised to find it nearly fully stocked, but with items I wasn’t expecting.
“It’s full of winter coats and snow boots,” I tell Leigh, showing her a thick, fur-lined overcoat in confusion.
“I’d say this is a clue about tonight’s events,” Leigh says. Suddenly the sunlight filling the clearing disappears in a flash, a dark velvety cloak of black shrouding the Arena. Not seconds later, I feel my teeth start to chatter as a thin veil of frost covers the dewy grass of the clearing.
The temperature has dropped drastically, filling the blackened jungle with an inescapable biting chill.
Behind me, the Cornucopia begins to light up, radiating light and warmth through the clearing.
“Oh no… ” I say in realization; the GameMakers are trying to pull the remaining tributes out of the jungle using their primal need for light and warmth to lure them. Like moths to a flame.
“This place is going to be flooded with tributes soon! We have to grab what we can and run,” Leigh shouts, her body now visibly shaking. With numb fingers, we haul winter coats, blankets, oxygen canisters and whatever else we can carry from the Cornucopia. I nod at Leigh, signaling that its time to go and we run off with our loot back into the jungle. A small flake of ice lands on my nose. Snow? In a jungle? The GameMakers must have fun with all these neat little tricks.
Once we’re back deep enough into the jungle, Leigh and I start to stumble over rocks and vines. I grip onto her arm, trying not to lose her in this black haze. I raise my hand in front of my eyes and begin to panic when I realize that I cannot see something mere centimetres from my face. We’re sitting ducks right now.
Leigh tugs on my arm softly and pulls me to a small patch of bushes at the edge of the Cornucopia clearing.
“We can’t stay here!” I hiss, “It’s way too risky!”
“We don’t have a choice!” Leigh shivers “We’re just going to have to pray that we don’t get found.” She pushes her way into the middle of the thick foliage, placing her pack down. I hesitate and then realize the truth of Leighs words. We’re probably safer here than anywhere else in the Arena now. We both wheeze from the exertion of the run and the lack of oxygen that still debilitates us. I grab the oxygen canister, pulling the mask to Leighs face then mine. We curl up in a ball, trying to absorb each others body heat as flakes of soft white ice spin through the black air, falling on our frosted faces. From our position, we can see the glowing cornucopia and watch on, our breathing paused, as the remaining 3 tributes trudge over the carpet of white snow to claim the items from the cornucopia. As soon as they have gathered enough, they steak away into the blackness of the jungle. So three there… and two here… Five. Five tributes remain.
I pull one of the thermal blankets I procured from the Cornucopia out and lay it over the two of us. I huddle beneath it but my skin is still burning from the icy temperatures. Leighs eyelids drift together, but I stay awake. I think about how much longer this will go on. I really just want it to end, either way. In the distance I hear a clatter of hoofed feet and then a shriek followed by a loud BOOM. The canon. 4 tributes remain. I drift off for a little while, thinking about how for Leigh and I have come. It’s strange to think that from having a 1 in 26 chance, I’m now 1 in 4… BOOOOM! Another canon.
Make that 1 in 3.