When it gets dark Pepper is shown in the sky. She was the tribute of district eleven and she was a rather pretty girl with dark-skin. She was taller than most male tributes. I think her district chose her because she was the daughter of someone whom people did not like. I am not sure of why.
Who is left then? Let's see... Except for me and Natan it must be... Elsie and Jeanne. So we are two guys and two girls. I have forgotten why Jeanne was chosen. I do not remember anything special about her. Kind of average face as well. I remember why Elsie was chosen though. She had murdered her own sister two days before the reaping. She was quite controversial. It was unclear if they would accept her as a tribute, considering that she was likely to be facing a death sentence anyway. In the end they accepted her since the trial for the murder had not yet been concluded. And now she is one of the last tributes alive. Killing really seems to be her thing. I suppose she has been doing a good deal of that since the games started. I wonder what her district will do if she wins and comes back alive. They cannot execute her then, can they?
I lay down in my little den. It feels so cold and lonely without Melissa next to me. If we had not been sent here, would we have kept together? I think that even people around us kind of assumed that we always would. They probably expected us to get married one day. It is strange to think of it. Could we really have been a married couple? I used to observe the people around me a lot. Mostly people of my age. It was interesting to see how they lived their lives. It hurt at times too, though, because it all seemed so much easier for them than it was for me. For them things seemed to float on so smoothly. There were many who had girlfriends and boyfriends. As for me, no other girls than Melissa even spoke to me if they did not have to. So I guess that she was the only hope for me, although she did have other guys who seemed to like her too. She had no reason to choose me, stupid and ridiculous me. So many made fun of me.
“Still playing war in the forest?“, they would say, for instance, with scornful smiles. “You're going to be a peacekeeper, right?“
I would try to ignore them but they would continue.
“Vitus, would you kill someone?“ Once someone asked me that. I do not know why I opened my mouth but I had been thinking a lot about it and, of some reason, I felt that I wanted to explain that there are times when it might be necessary to do it.
“I would if...”
“So you would kill someone?”, they interrupted me. “So you want to kill people!”
I lost my thread.
“Yes. I mean...” Words really are not my strong side. Have never been.
The others had expressions of fake horror on their faces.
“Vitus wants to kill people!” they exclaimed and everybody laughed. “Vitus is a murderer! He is dangerous!”
Those are the kind of things that would happened to me all the time. So it is not strange that people thought that I was an idiot. I was so easy to make fun of. Nobody wanted to be the person who others made fun of so they would do it to me instead. They always needed someone to be below themselves. I have never cared about who is below me and above me. I did not care about the fight for status and respect going on amongst the people of my own age. Maybe it is because I never had a chance but I would prefer to believe that it was because I did not want to sacrifice the one I was in order to be just like everybody else, to be popular or something. Not even to get a girlfriend. I wish that I could get rid of my weaknesses, though. They are too many. And I wish that I had had a few more people who cared about me. That is all. That is the thing that hurts the most: that the majority did not even choose me for the Hunger Games in order to be mean or because they hated me. They just chose me because I was the one that they would miss the least if he died. But whatever. There have been good moments in my life too. I do not want all the bad things that have happened to define me. I do not want the scornful smiles, the mean words, the votes with my name at the reaping nor the Hunger Games to be the things that describe my life, to describe who I was. If people were to remember just one thing about me let it be something good. Let it be my dreams or let it be the sunny days that I spent with Melissa or the evenings, when I was small, and listened to grandpa's stories from the past to make me sleep. Or my hikes in the mountains. There have been many good moments.
I keep going the next day. I continue along the border of the forest, only stopping once or twice to eat and drink. Still no cannons. Still no signs of Natan either. What are the chances that I am on the right track? Where would I have gone if I had been Natan? If I had been confident that I would win a fight I would have stopped and prepared for it in a good place. He must be suspecting that I am following him. Or maybe he is actively seeking out new victims alone. But what makes me think that he is alone? Maybe he is allied with one of the girls. Or both.
In the night I have problems sleeping again. I keep waking up in panic, convinced that the others are sneaking up on me.
The third morning after Melissa died arrives. It is another day of walking. The forest and the mountains are yet so still. From time to time I sneak up to the edge of the forest again and examine the land beyond with my eyes. I can see more and more of the glacier. The tall peaks are wrapped in fog today, the peaks that Melissa had wanted to climb. Now it will never happen.
In the afternoon I notice that the sound of the river has grown a bit fainter so I go to the edge of the forest once more. I see that the river has bent away from the tree-line. It disappears from view behind the edge of a ravine. I feel my skin tingle. Now I am at the mine field for sure. I look for the rock shaped like a shark fin, the one where those others died. There are many large rocks and I cannot make out any that is more similar to a shark fin than the others. I get a sudden impulse. I will examine the riverbank from closer up. I wait a while before leaving the shadows of the forest, making sure nothing is moving. Crouching down under the trees I choose the path that I will take. I look for places that can shelter me and hide me. Then I stand up and quickly move over to my first shelter, by a heap of stones. I continue to the next, and the next and the next after that, always moving short distances at a time. It is the first time that I am outside of the forest since the first day. I feel exposed but it is nice too see a little further too. It is a little windy. There are small clouds on the sky. Their shadows run across the ground as they move. I keep climbing further up, making sure to keep a good distance from the mined river-side.
I turn to see how far I have gone. The trees are small and far away now. Suddenly I see the shark fin-shaped rock. I do not have any doubts about which it is. Its triangular silhouette reaches above all the surrounding stone masses, about a hundred meters down from where I stand. I passed it without noticing it. I climb down a bit again to take a little closer look at it, and at the place where Melissa witnessed that horrible thing. Are the blood stains still going to be there?
A slight movement in the corner of my eyes catches my attention and I quickly and instinctively turn my head in its direction. There, far away though, are other tributes. I look for a hiding place but don't find any close one so I kneel down and stay still. Movement is what gives away.
The other tributes are gone from view again but I wait, without moving as little as a finger. I am a stone amongst all the others on the mountain side. There the others are again. They are just two. They walk slowly and from time to time they disappear behind the stones. They stay hidden a little before making their appearance anew and moving to a new hiding place. I am not the only one who tries to be stealthy. They should move quicker between hiding places though. They give me too much time to spot them while they are out in the open. Maybe they are tired. Or injured maybe even.
I have a bow in my hand. I am a hunter now. I should not let them get away like I am doing. Natan might be amongst them too.
I wait until they are out of view again. Then I take a few quick steps to a hiding place of my own. I wait again, let them move, and repeat the procedure again. When I do not make it to a hiding place in time I stay still.
You have already got the blood of two people on your hands, Vitus, I think to myself. This time you will not even have to look them in the eyes. It will be easy. Two more people will be out of the way and you will be closer to victory and to safety.
When I have reached them I will have to wait for the right moment, when they are still and in a position where I have good sight of them but they do not see me. The sound of the river has grown faint now. I try to make my steps lighter so that the others wont be able to hear the sound. Sometimes I think I hear their steps. Maybe the right moment will not arrive until this evening. They do not seem to have the intention to stop. Where are they going like that? From my hiding place behind some rocks I see them now again. I am quite sure it is the two girls. Yes, it must be. None of them seems to have clear blond hair. One has really long hair even, long, brown, hair hanging in a pony-tail down her back. It must be Elsie. The other one is short compared to her. It must be little Jeanne. I cannot make out much more from this distance. They have increased their pace a bit, I think, because I don't seem to be getting much closer.
What if this does not work out? I could miss with all my arrows. Or even just miss a few but give the others enough time to kill me first. My mouth feels dry. All my movements seem to cause such tremendous noise. I trip and scrape my leg on a rock. The burning sensation shoots up from the injury and I clench my teeth. The trousers are a bit torn and I stop a little to press down on the injury in order to stop the blood flow. Although it is just a little blood I do not want to risk leaving a bloody trail after me for any hunter to follow. When peeking over the rocks in front of me I can see the two girls continuing. Maybe I should let them get a bit ahead. If I do not kill them yet then they might lead me to Natan. He is the one I really want dead. Yes, I think that is what I'll do.
When the girls aren't but two dark dots that move across the stony landscape I resume following them, limping a little in the beginning but then walking quite normally after a while.They keep going and going without breaks. They must have a clear goal because you need quite a bit of motivation to keep moving like that in a place like this.
The sun is on its way down now. From here, outside of the forest, I can see the mountains around us clearly. They are dramatic and mighty in the vivid light of the evening.
“I just hope the arena will be beautiful this year. It would be kind of sad to die in an ugly place.“ Jeanne said that when they interviewed her in the capitol, I remember that now. It is one of the only things that I remember about her. She said it laughing, as if she was joking, and the audience joined in the laugh. Some made empathetic sounds and gave her empathetic looks, the kind of sounds and looks you make at a cute little kitten meowing for its mother. At least they did really give her a beautiful arena.
The girls disappear behind a bulge in the terrain. I am afraid that I will loose them and speed up a little. When I reach the edge of the bulge I see a small lake. It is almost perfectly round and its clear water reflects the cliffs around. Beside the lake is a small hut. It is so small and the wood that it is made of is so old and gray that I barely distinguish the house at first. When I see it I am astounded. I have not seen any real buildings since I entered the arena. I did not think that there would be any. The building does not have any windows on the side that I can see and the roof goes almost all the way down to the ground. A small, metal chimney sticks out through it. The girls stop outside the hut for a little and then one of them disappears inside and the other sits down on a rock, probably keeping guard. I wait to see if something is going to happen but it seems like the girls intend to stay in the hut for the night. It must be their shelter. They probably use it like a base, leave it during the days and return to it in the evenings. Good, now I know where to find them. However I should get back to the forest and build my own shelter before it gets too dark. The sun is already about to disappear behind the peaks.
When I get back in the forest it is rather dark already but I am so used at building shelters by now that it goes quickly non the less. It feels safer to be back in the forest. It is my home-environment by now. Still, the knowledge of the other tributes being there, so close by, makes me nervous. They are not that close, I tell myself. There is absolutely no reason for them to come into the forest at night and even if they would then the chances that they would find you are very small. You have built the shelter in a hidden place just as always.
No matter what, I still lay there with eyes wide open, tensed muscles and am unable to fall asleep. Grandpa should be here to tell me stories as he used to do when I was small and could not sleep. He had many stories to tell. I liked to hear about the war, when he was a police which I think was some kind of predecessor to the peacekeepers. He did not take part in any big battles but he did see some fighting in the cities and people dying. At some point he was in charge of rounding up rebels who were hiding amongst the civilian population. There was this specific story which is especially clear in my mind although grandpa did not tell it often. When he did tell it then he talked with a slow and thoughtful voice and he would look down at the floor while he spoke. It was about this spring and they were looking for the families of some known rebel-leaders in order to arrest them and get the rebels to surrender. They found out about a couple who were hiding some families in their own home. This couple were decent folks, apparently. No previous criminal records or anything. They were seemingly honest and well respected people, good citzens who had never done anything against the government before. Now, the punishment for hiding the enemy was death and everyone knew it. So grandpa went to their house and first they arrested the couple and then they went in and found the families. There were about ten people but the police had to shoot a few already as they rounded them all up because they were posing resistance. In the mean time the arrested couple was kept just outside, in case the two could provide any information, and my grandpa could not refrain from asking them why had they done it. Why had they sacrificed their lives for these enemies? They just answered that if you do not help other people in need then you're not really human. That was it. And then they were shot at dawn the next day.
They were brave, no doubt about that, but what was this thing about being human a thing to die for? Isn't every human really human? What did “being human“ mean to them? Us tributes, for an example, all killing each other brutally, and still we live, we breath, eat, sleep and poop just like everyone. We still look like humans. Skinny, dirty, bloody humans but still humans non the less. We are as biologically human as anyone else. It is not even our choice to kill each other. It is the government that makes us behave in this way. So is it the people in the government who are not really human? But even they are doing what they are out of a reason. And the rebel-families that those two were hiding? Those families were arrested in order to weaken the rebels and the rebels were not angels exactly. Far from it.
Grandpa told me a lot of stories and while I think about them, while I imagine his old voice speaking, I eventually fall asleep for some time.
The next day I dismantle my shelter and do my best to make the place where it was look as untouched as when I arrived. Then I head back up towards the lake and the hut where I am planning to spend the day keeping an eye on the two girls again and see if Natan shows up. The clouds are low today and as I get out of the forest it soon becomes so misty that I only see around a hundred meters in every direction. I don't like it. I do not like it at all. I am afraid that I might get lost or not see dangers in time so I return to the forest. I build up the shelter again and cook and eat some of the meat. The meat is almost finished now. Oh well. It is already getting old anyway and I cannot keep raw meet like this forever. Unless I want a quick way out of the arena through food poisoning. Didn't one of grandpa's old friends die that way? I only half remember hearing something. I will go hunting tomorrow.
There are lightnings further up amongst the peaks of the mountain. The light from the flashes reaches me through the mist and the forest. It is strange to think that it is only about a month ago that I was caught in a lightning-storm up in the mountains at home. I was hiking with Melissa and we were right in a large meadow. The lightnings were striking very close and we knew it was dangerous but the situation and the fear, or whatever it was, made us start laughing like fools. We just laughed and laughed and joked as we hurried down from the mountain. It was not the first time that we were caught in a similar situation anyway. We never respected the weather as we should. Luckily it always went fine. So we survived until we ended up in the Hunger Games and Melissa got killed by Natan. I wish there weren't any games. I know that they might be necessary but I still wish it. If there weren't any then there might be a war again. But who knows if it will not come anyway, eventually? Maybe it is just taking more time. If it comes anyway then we have all died for nothing. Maybe it should come so that everything can be settled for good. And I wish that there weren't any games also because they ruin us, they ruin us tributes and they ruin the viewers. In here it is everyone for him and her self. We all put our own lives before that of others. How can people grow up with the games, see them each year for their whole lives, and still believe in values like empathy, solidarity and self-sacrifice? I was one of the few who did believe in some of that shit before but now I have killed two people myself and caused the death of my only real friend too. How could I ever go back and be the person whom I wanted to be, even if I survive? Grandpa never seemed to like the games much either, although he never said anything straight out. He was always quiet when they were on the screen and his lips were pressed hard together so that many fine wrinkles formed around his mouth. I think he had many stories yet to tell when he died. I see him in my mind: tall and lean, always clean-shaven and with the tattoo of the snarling dog on his neck, still visible in spite of the faded ink and wrinkles.
I wait the rest of the day for the weather to clear up but it does not. It seems to me that it actually gets more and more foggy and it feels ominous. Are the gamemakers preparing something? I try not to think about it. I go to sleep early and hope to find clearer weather when I wake up but I do not. This definitely does not feel good. I will stay in the forest today too. Maybe I will go up to the lake if the fog clears later today. In the mean time I go hunting but I stay close to the shelter and move very carefully and slowly through the forest because it feels like the fog is concealing dangers. I doubt I will get any prey today either. It is not that kind of day. But the games might be getting close to the end anyway. I will not have to be hungry for long. There are so few of us left and someone will probably die today, that seems likely. So if no animal is killed then that is one death less and that is something to be happy about. It is kind of funny that we all need others to die in order to live ourselves. I mean: we eat meat and meat comes from other living creatures and those living creatures have killed other living things in order to live themselves: other animals or plants. And even the plants live out of the death of others: their roots grow in earth that is made of dead animals and plants. The whole world is one big arena. Does that make the Hunger Games more ok? Does that excuse me for having killed others so I could survive myself?
It is rather late when the fog does start to clear up and I am considering heading up to the lake when I feel the first snowflakes. I realize that it has gone pretty cold. The parachute is empty now so I clean it with some moss and use it to reinforce the shelter although I can still smell the blood. I make a small fire and heat some rocks. Then I put the rocks inside my little shelter, to heat it up a bit, and when I go to sleep I put one big rock inside my jacket to keep myself warm. I feel its heat against my stomach and it is like having an animal curled up close to me. A cat maybe.
Birds are singing. It takes a while before I realize how odd it is. Birds! I have not heard any during the whole time that I have been in the arena. Except for crows. I have heard crows but no birds twittering lively and melodically like now. I open my eyes and at first I think that it is just because of the sleep that still lingers in them that the world looks so strange but then I realize that it started to snow yesterday evening. The ground is white, except for right under the trees, and the branches of the trees are white too and so are the bushes and stones and everything else. But it is not too cold, maybe because there is no wind and because the sun is shining down, making everything sparkle and glitter.
I know it.
I don't really know how. Maybe because the bird-twitter and the snow and the strong sunlight are all so strange. Still I know that the games are reaching the end now. It is almost over. I feel calm. Right in this moment I am not afraid at all, as if I could not possibly understand the existence of fear on a morning like this. It is like some mornings at home, when I would wake up and find the sun shining in through the curtains and whatever bad that had happened before would be forgotten. I would feel happy and full of hope and enthusiasm for the future. Maybe I do not look upon the future with enthusiasm now but at least everything feels alright. I sit up in my shelter and, inside my jacket, I feel the stone which isn't warm any more so I take it out. I tear down the shelter and prepare myself for the day, just like usually, and then set out hunting again. I leave shallow footprints in the snow, which someone could follow, but there is nothing to do about it. When possible, I walk under the trees, where there is less snow. The forest smells fresh.
Two cannons fire.
The sound echoes between the mountains and lingers for a while before dying out completely.
The lake. I must go to the lake. If Natan is not one of the dead then maybe he is there. Him and me, are we the last two tributes? Or is it one of the girls? The murderer girl maybe? I go back to the end of the forest. Beyond the last bushes the mountain-side is blinding. The snow reflects the bright sunshine and makes my eyes water. It looks like the glacier, maybe even more stunning. I search for the landmarks which I passed on the way down from the lake and leave the forest. Many features of the landscape look very different under the snow but in the end I still find my way. I have the bow in my hands. The arrow with the sharp and deadly point is ready. I try not to slip and twist my feet in any of the snow-covered holes in the ground, while I move from cover to cover.
This is just like the war-games which you used to play, Vitus. A deadlier version, yes, but it is not that different. Think like that. I laugh a little in my head. I used to picture myself being a peacekeeper, fighting for the sake of good, so that the world could be a stable place where less people would suffer and die, where everyone would feel safe. I used to picture myself being someone who was brave, selfless and ready to sacrifice for others.
My eyes are burning now and I can barely hold them open. The house is there, down by the lake. When I squint my eyes I distinguish it as a small, dark spot. The lake dos not seem to be frozen, except for at the edges maybe. I cannot see anyone, either living or dead, so I take the risk and move closer. When I am quite close and everything still is calm and quiet I walk all the way to the little house. I can see how the years have worn its wood. It is full of fissures and the dark gray annual rings stand out where the softer wood between them has eroded. The wood between the annual rings is light gray, almost white. It is clear that there have been people here this morning because there are a lot of footsteps all around the building. Some are about my size, some smaller. They must belong to the girls because Natan is much larger than any of us. Then I find his footprints as well. He has been here! There are most footprints in front of the building. The smooth surface of the snow is all broken there and there are blood stains a bit everywhere too. In the mess of prints I can still distinguish the silhouette of a head and a shoulder. Footprints lead in and out of the hut. The door is ajar. I hold my breath, let go of the bow with one hand and give the door a sharp pull. Then I jump to the side while it swings open a bit, squeaking loudly. I cannot distinguish anything through the darkness inside. But nothing attacks me or comes flying at me, at least, so I wait just at the entrance until my eyes have adjusted a little and then walk inside.
I am almost sure that the door is going to close behind me and trap me inside but nothing happens. There is nothing in the room. It is completely bare. But when my eyes have adjusted a little more I see that the walls and the floor in one corner are all stained with blood. Quite a lot of it. It is not completely dry yet and it shines a little in the light from the door. Of course they must have picked up the bodies already. Two bodies for the two cannons. Who is still alive? I step out in the strong light again and look for footsteps that lead away from the hut. It does not take long to find them. They go straight out from the door and disappear into the whiteness on the mountainside. It looks like the person who made them did not even try to hide them. Not that hiding them would have been easy to accomplish. They are considerably larger than mine. Natan. I smile a little. So it really is us two then. The last two.
I follow the footprints. They lead me away in about the same direction that the girls came from when I followed them to this place the day before yesterday. I start running, or at least going as fast as the snow and the uneven terrain will let me. I will find him. He cannot shake me of his tracks now. They are clear as a railroad. I have my deadly bow ready. Then I remember this thing that I heard about somewhere. During the war, when people knew that they were being followed, they would make a wide turn so that they came up parallel to their original tracks, if possible on higher ground, with a good view of the tracks. Then they would wait for their pursuers to arrive and ambush them. I'd better slow down a little and look around a bit more. Especially keep an eye on the slope above me. There is so much white all around me, like an empty snow desert. It is as if someone has erased all the features of the landscape. Only across the valley can I see forests, meadows and cliffs but where I stand everything is blinding white. I wonder if this is how people before used to imagine that their heaven would be, where they would go after death and be close to God. It must have been strange when people still believed in God. All since the war we believe only in what we see ourselves, with our own eyes.
Me and Natan, the last tributes alive. Who could have imagined that I would have gotten this far? It is thanks to a lot of lucky circumstances, certainly. This could all be over before the end of the day. Before the sun is down I could be out of the arena. It is so hard to imagine but it is true. I just have to kill another human being first. Maybe it is ok. It is not really my fault that I have to do it. It is not really me who will kill him. We tributes never really have much of a choice. We just want to live, that's all. It is the Capitol that kills us. The Capitol killed Melissa too and she had to die for me to be alive now. And I am happy to be alive. It is ok. I want to be alive and it is good that she died because if she hadn't then I'd have to. It is all ok. It is all ok.
The landscape around me is so empty that I barely see that I am going forward. The arena this year has certainly been unusual. I wonder how it will look next year. If I make it out of here alive then next year I will watch the Hunger Games from the safety of my home. There will be new tributes and they will do this thing all over again. The years will go by and each summer there will be new Hunger Games and the people of Panem will keep believing in what they see. And what they see is blood, violence, death, hate, selfishness and betrayal. If that is what they see then how could it not be true? That must be how we all are in our hearts, they'll think. But isn't there more to it? Isn't there anything more?
I hear the river now. Just like the lake its waters aren't frozen either. The sound grows louder and louder as I get closer. I remember the rivers at home. Some of them were a bit like this. When we were smaller, me and Melissa and other children, we would build small boats and let them race each other down with the current. Those times are long gone but when I think about them I can still put myself in the head of the child that I once was and it all comes alive again. There were many good moments in my childhood. And afterwards as well. Sure, it was hard at times but there were still many good moments. There have been good moments in the Hunger Games too, like those with Melissa, in our little clearing in the forest or when we sat shoulder to shoulder in the shelters. She volunteered as a tribute to keep me company and protect me. It is such a great thing that someone should ever do that for another person. It should never be forgotten. They ought to build a statue of her. See, humans are capable of doing good things! Just like Melissa. Or why not that couple from grandpa's story? Or just the love that my grandpa always showed me when he took care of me, just loved me without expecting anything back. That must be the way that parents love their children. There are some good things in the human heart.
From up on a bulge in the terrain I see the river down in the ravine. It looks so violent, almost angry. It is foamy and white and its roaring noise is deafening. It sounds cold. I don't know how something can sound cold but this river does. Maybe because I know how cold the water that causes the sound is. Ice cold.
The tracks continue forward. He would not be able to get across the river, so either he has stopped before it or he is somewhere up or down along it. I look carefully but I cannot find him anywhere ahead of me. Then I look downstream and see a black dot that is moving. That must be him. I deviate from the footprints. He does not seem to be going very fast. Could he be looking for a way across the water after all? He would have to get across the mine field too. That seems like a stupid risk to take. Why would he do that? I am so close now that the black dot has acquired a clearly human shape. Sometimes it disappears behind rocks but it always reappears soon again. Could he be trying to get away from me? Maybe he is injured. He probably also understands that I have Melissa's bow now. There rarely is more than one bow in an arena and also the tracks from the fight around the little hut indicate that he did not have any weapons which he could use from far off. I did not see the girls having any such weapon either which he could have taken. So he knows that I can sneak up on him and kill him from far away, without him ever seeing me. Also, he does not know where I am or what I am up to. And he did not try to do anything about his footprints because he just wanted to get away quickly. Maybe he even thought that I was hiding somewhere close by, following his every movement. The thought is strangely satisfying. Prince Natan could really be scared of me, of short, skinny and ridiculous me. No human being has ever been afraid of me earlier.
Or maybe he is just trying to trick me into the mine field? That could have been a smart tactic but it will never work because I already know about the danger that lurks under the surface. I see him stop now. Then he moves straight towards the river.
Wait. Maybe he does not know.
He must be standing right in the middle of the mine field now because beside him I see the rock that looks like a shark fin. It casts a large shadow over the snow, in the opposite side of the one where he is. He has stopped again. I am close enough to see his blond hair, although it looks darker now that the surroundings are so bright. I am also able to see that the only weapon in his hands is his old pick. He is between me and the river. I am quiet as a spirit. I have got rather good at this. It is really strange how we adapt to the circumstances. We get used to most things and find ways to survive and live.
Natan is looking at the rock. He seems to be examining it with his blue eyes. Well, from here I would not be able to tell that they are blue but somehow, each time that I look at his face, I still think of those blue eyes. I don't know what so many girls seem to like about them. They are quite scary actually. If I had met him on a street, anywhere that wasn't here, I would still have thought: wow, such unpleasant eyes. This is a guy to avoid. Or maybe that's just because nobody ever liked your eyes, Vitus. There isn't much about you that is likable.
I lay down flat on a rock. It is cold under my stomach. Natan is still standing by the shark fin. Sometimes he looks towards the river and then back at the fin again. It must be those blood stains that he is seeing. They are probably still there. Like some kind of macabre painting.
I slide down behind the rock. I hope that he is really scared. Invincible prince Natan, who everybody wants that he wins. Handsome prince Natan, who can get all the girls that he wants to. Athletic, strong, talented prince Natan. What has he done to deserve all of that? The worst is that most probably consider him to be a nice and kind-hearted person too. Before he left the crowds and walked to the podium, on the reaping, he gave his family and friends hugs. There were so many who wanted to hug him, most never got the chance. When he was standing there, above them, he said: I love you all, I really do. He must have meant it too because then he started crying and he is that kind of guy who does not need to hide his tears. The camera zoomed in on them but then Natan wiped them away and smiled. I will win for you, he said to his district and everybody was shouting and cheering.
I look at him again. He is still standing there, like an idiot, in the middle of that mine field. I hate him. I hate him because he is all which I could never be. But I had Melissa. And grandpa. I think of them as I move closer, close enough to have a chance with my bow. Natan is looking at the rushing water again which I still cannot see from where I am.
I aim. Entire Panem must be holding their breaths as they witness yet another exciting finale to the Hunger Games.
It would be so easy to think that we are hopeless. When you are in the arena you see it so clearly how doomed mankind is. I wish that I could let everyone know that there still are good things to human nature. There are. I want them to know that.
I see Natan lift one foot to take a step.
“Don't move!“ I shout. “Or you'll die.“
He spins around. The time in the arena has changed him too. All the way from here, his cheeks look hollowed out and his hair is a mess.
“Not me...“ My voice is shaky and barely obeys me. It is hard to hear it over the sound from the water. “Mines... In the ground.“
My legs aren't happy to obey me either as I stand up and come to view. Natan's eyes find me and lock on me. There is no way of making this undone now. I open my shaking finger and let the bow drop to the ground. I hear it sink through the snow.
I do not want to do this. It goes against everything. I am human and being human means being scared too as well as it means many other things which I never understood that it meant before arriving to the arena. Still I manage to get myself to move forward, towards Natan in the mine field. He raises his pick but I see the fear in his eyes too. I see it on his whole body.
I try to say something but it is incomprehensible.
Natan looks perplexed.
“What?“ he shouts.
I breath in deeply and exhale.
“Stand still.“ I repeat. It is a little better this time. “You'll be alright.“
We both stare at each other for a while. I continue forward through the snow.
I close my eyes. The roar from the river rushing down from the glacier is deafening and erases all other noises. It envelopes me and carries me away.