Entering the arena
I let out a slow, deep breath, closing my eyes as I tried to quell the nauseating churning of my stomach. Entering the arena. I never thought I’d be here but yet here I am. As nervous as I think I’ll ever be seeing as I’ll probably die in there. I could feel the bile start to rise in my throat as I paced up and down the room, that wasn’t a particularly safe thought when trying to fight back the urge to vomit.
“Olivia,” The calming voice of Setty my stylist floated to me from thin air.
I opened my eyes and looked at her. She smiled reassuringly.
“You’ll be fine. You know how to fight, you know how to hunt and you know how to survive. You‘re a fighter, you‘ve proved that already; don’t worry.”
I nodded and offered her a weak smile. She smiled back, caressing my cheek with her hand. I could see tears collecting in her eyes.
“How?” I asked her, my voice cracking.
How could she do this again and again? How could she go through with it? She sniffed and pressed her fingers to my lips, telling me to hold my questions.
“Because I have to.” she whispered a tear running down her powdered cheek like melt water through snow.
I nodded, accepting that this was all the answer I’d get. Setty picked up my necklace from the table on the far side, then gestured for me to turn around and she put the necklace on me.
“Never forget your home. Never forget that we are with you.”
I held back the tears trying to break free from my eyes.
“Never.” I whispered, my voice trembling.
Then it was time.
I stood on the plate, knowing not to move. I remembered one game when a tribute had committed suicide by stepping off the plate before the end of the countdown. It had been so gory that Mother had shielded my eyes, muttering under her breath about the boy’s family. I asked her afterwards why he did it. She looked at me, smiled sadly and said,
“Because he chose how he would die.”
I hadn’t known what she meant then, but kept quiet. I had felt sad when I realised the boy had killed himself because he had been forced into such a situation.
I surveyed the area, knowing I would only have a few sort moments to get to cover. My heart was beating a mile a minute. My palms sweating, my hands shaking. Frantically I looked about cataloguing my surroundings as quickly as I could. A forest to the left, wild and full of Evergreen trees. Then to our right was a huge basin carved out of a sheer cliff face, a graceful waterfall tumbling over the edge some seventy feet above ground level, the loud din rumbling in my ears. Within the basin was a massive bowl of crystal clear water, untouched and still as a plane of glass. Then straight in front of us was the Cornucopia, a magnificent structure, held up from the ground by a collection of gold poles. From the mouth of the Cornucopia sprouted a collection of goods, food individually left on the ground, bags of various colours and sizes, with untold survival necessities within. Or perhaps not, there were after all useless items among the treasure. Like a violin that balanced right on the lip of the structure, or the wound up netting of a hammock that deceivingly looked like a fishing net not four feet away from me. There was also a leather pack sitting not fifty yards ahead of me. It looked promising, bulging with contents, and was the safest bet for me at the moment.
Then it was time to run, I sprinted to the Cornucopia, reaching for the pack that caught my eye.
My fingers brushed its straps just before the big guy from district 11 barreled into me. I shouted and kicked him in the side, winded he arched away from me. But then he pulled back his fist and punched me square in the face. I tasted blood, split lip. Dazed I spat a mouthful of blood into his face then tried to wrench free from his grip. Frantically I grabbed at his hands, fighting to push them away from my neck. From far away I heard a cannon fire.
One dead already.
His grey eyes looked determined, no trace of fear or apprehension in them. I gasped when he hit my ribs, and then kicked out again at his chest, hitting him in the gut. He grunted and I tried again but he moved so he pinned me, one hand holding both of mine down and the other clutching my throat. I shrieked but was cut off abruptly by his choking hold on me. Then just as the pressure on my throat was too much he let out a cry of pain and rolled off me, only to be attacked my Theo.
“Run!” he cried at me, punching the boy in the face and then trying to restrain him in a headlock.
Gasping for breath, my head spinning I could barely make out what he had said but then I grabbed the bag and ran.
Looking back I saw Theo hurry away from the boy’s slumped figure, though he was still breathing, and disappear into the woods just yards away from I ran to. The ground was littered with figures, some dead already, others still fighting, I could hear another cannon fire. Fleeing into the woods I heard yet another.