Surprises: The 68th Annual Hunger Games

For 68 years the Capitol has held the Hunger Games to keep the rebellious Districts in check. This year will be full of surprises and shocking twists that nobody could have anticipated. So watch as the 24 tributes battle it out until one remains in an arena guaranteed to surprise the entire nation of Panem.

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18. Bittersweet

Alanna Pyre, 12, District 6 Tribute

I walk along the smooth rocky surface of the mountain, the moonlight guiding me as I continue to climb. The night seems to have fallen quicker than yesterday, and I think that the Gamemakers are trying to speed things up. There were no faces in the sky during the anthem, and the Capitol always does something whenever a day goes by with no death.

I look back behind me, and see Tyler struggling to climb up the slope. He's great company, but when it comes to things like this, he seems to lag behind. Then again, he did only get a training score of four, so it's to be expected that he'll fall behind.
"Are you okay?" I call back to him. Of course, shouting might get us killed, but we're so high up on the mountain that I doubt anyone would be able to hear us.
"I'm okay," Tyler replies, "It's just that this mountain is so big and I'm tired!" He lets out a yawn, and I sit down, my knees huddled up to my chest, and wait for him to catch up.

To be honest, I have to admire Tyler's spirit. He hasn't had it easy in the arena, barely escaping the bloodbath and the girl from 1 with his life, yet he's still so positive about anything. Even now, as we climb this mountain, he's barely complaining. Finally, I see him make his way up the steep trail that's been laid out on the mountain for us to follow. He staggers over to me, and collapses.
"Tyler, do want to rest for a bit?" I ask, before laughing at my stupidly obvious statement. Of course he needs rest, look at him. But still, he nods his head, and crawls onto his feet. 
"That would be great!" He says, his voice bubbly.

Tyler makes his way to the wall of rock, and sits against it, next to me. I look at his arms. They're still healing from the fight with the girl from 1, and he's on his second set of bandages. Some kind soul sponsored me two more rolls of bandages, meaning that I can afford to change them once more. And hopefully, by then, he'll be fully healed.
"Tyler, how do your arms feel?" I ask. I just need to be entirely sure that they're healing at a good pace.
"Fine," He says, "But if you touch them, they get all itchy. But not like an annoying itch, more like a tickling itch." I sigh in relief.
"That's great," I explain to him, "It means that scabs are forming. You should be healed in about two days' time." Upon saying this, I can see the joy as his eyes light up.
"Really?!" He says, giggling slightly, and I can't help but laugh along with him. Tyler's laugh is really contagious if you're exposed to it enough. Luckily, we're far away enough that we can make enough noise to not be found out; leaving the forest has been my best decision so far, since yesterday, I happened to see several massive spiders crawling into there, followed by a series of screams. Nobody died though.

I look back at Tyler, who seems to be fully alert once more. Yet another thing that I'm envious of; Tyler's ability to recover from exhaustion almost immediately. Luckily I'm not that exhausted though. 
"Tyler, are you feeling better now?" I ask him as I grab my bottle of water. There's only about a quarter of the water left. I take a small sip, and place it back into my bag. It'll ward off dehydration, but that's about it. Tyler managed to find two full bottles of water on day one, and he's halfway through the first one, so if I have to, I can always drink from his. 
"Yeah, I feel great!" He exclaims, letting out another laugh.
"Well, come on." I say, "I want to get to another cave before sunrise."
"Okay then!" Smiling at his enthusiasm, I climb to my feet, using the wall of rock to support me, since I really don't fancy falling to my certain death. Tyler climbs onto his feet as well, and we begin walking up the thin trail once more.

Compared to the forest, the mountain is rather bleak; there aren't any trees that could conceal danger. Which should mean that we'd be able to spot any Muttations quite quickly. But I really hope that no Mutts are thrown at us; we wouldn't be able to take it without potentially sustaining a fatal blow. I glance behind me, at Tyler again. He's humming some sort of tune to himself, and skilfully climbing over several rocks.

I look forward again, and notice something that I wish wasn't there. There's a large ledge that rises above us, cutting off the path. The path probably continues on above it, meaning we'll have to climb up there.
"Tyler," I call back to him, uncertain of whether or not he'll be able to actually manage to climb up, "We have to scale this wall to continue upwards. Are you up to it?"
"Oh, boy!" Tyler cries out in response to my question, "I love climbing things! You remember the play park near the town square? Well, I could climb everything there really quickly!" That's good. Now all I have to do is hope that his arms allow for him to do it all right.
"Come on then." I say wearily, suddenly becoming aware of my fatigue. How wonderful. But I have to keep myself going, as dozing off is not an option. And I managed to learn the hard way how hard it is to keep awake for days on end; sleeping whilst your older brother is fighting for his life in the Hunger Games is simply not possible.

I rub my eyes again, in a futile effort to avoid falling asleep. But I can't fall asleep. Not now. If I fall asleep, I might never see Olyver again.

I return my attention to the screen in front of me. He's still walking around in the sewers, but he isn't looking so good now. His clothes are ripped, and there is blood flowing from several of his wounds. His hair is matted and coated in blood, and his face is torn to pieces. He is also limping slightly, which probably means that he broke his leg.

But it isn't surprising that he's like that; he had managed to escape from that hideous sewer monster that ate his allies. All of them, except for Elektra, the brown haired girl from District 3. She also managed to escape, but she found the boy and the girl from District 12. I remember the announcer saying how odd it is that both tributes from District 12 are still alive; apparently they are usually the first to be killed. I wish Olyver managed to meet up with them as well.

A noise echoes throughout the sewers, and I see Olyver's expressions become terrified. He begins limping faster, and a fear begins to build up inside my body. What if that noise tries to kill him? I don't want that to happen; it can't! He promised me that he'd come home when he was reaped! And not even the Hunger Games will be able to stop him from keeping that promise.

Suddenly, he begins to run forwards, and his face lights up in joy. What's making him happy? Just as I think this, the camera zooms further ahead of him, and I see the staggering form of Elektra. Out of all the tributes, I think that she's had it worst. She barely avoided getting killed by tracker jackers on the first day, and she had her arm horribly broken after being pushed out of a window by a Career boy.

I yawn again, and my eyes close for a few seconds, before I force them open once more. Elektra's seen Olyver, and is running over to him, her face also in a smile. The two reach each other, and they stand close, their shadows being illuminated by the river of toxic waste to the side of them.
"Elektra! You're alive!" He cries out, and I'm sure that if they weren't both horribly injured, they'd have hugged. "I managed to find the golden ladder!" When he says this, Elektra's face lights up further. Oh, yeah, the golden ladder was the one that would take them to the feast. I hope that Olyver manages to get to the feast; the announcer said that it contained the one thing that each tribute needs to win. And Olyver will win; a promise is a promise.

"And now, with the feast going on," He continues, his voice full of joy. When he's happy, his voice sounds so light and airy, almost as if he's always on the verge of laughing. It's one of the things that my mother told the Capitol people when they came to interview us about Olyver. I have to agree; it is one of the things that makes him him. "We may have a chance to-"

He's cut off by what I can only describe as the most horrifying sound; I can hear it clearly even through my television. The sound of the monster in the sewers, mixed with the terrified screams of the two tributes from District 12. The camera cuts to them as they run, their faces plastered with terror. And just a little further behind them is the monster, its huge form striking fear into the core of my body. It's now that I realise how close it is to Olyver, and what it'll mean if it gets him.

"Run!" I scream at my television, my voice hoarse and filled with terror. But it does nothing, and Olyver remains still, until the beast pounds towards him.

At once, all four tributes run down the sewers, away from the beast. But it's no good; it matches their pace almost perfectly. The feeling of sheer terror is building up inside me once more, and I fear for Olyver's life. The monster swipes its massive claws, catching the bags of Elektra and the boy from District 12. They fall off of their backs, and into the toxic waste, dissolving instantly.

Elektra and the boy from 12 duck to the floor as the monster strikes again, this time grabbing Olyver. My blood runs to ice as it grabs him in its massive hand like appendage, and lifts him towards its mouth.
"No!" I scream, now pounding the television in some sort of desperate attempt to get it to let go. "Get off him!" Tears are now running down my face, my body going weak, "Oly! Get out of there! Please!" It doesn't work, and Olyver begins to struggle frantically as the monster's mouth begins to open, revealing the rows and rows of razor sharp teeth.

My heart sinks deep inside of me, and shatters as the entire upper section of Olyver vanishes into the deadly mouth. His muffled cries sound out above everything else, including the screams of horror from Elektra and both from District 12. Suddenly, I spot movement from inside the mouth, and something is pushing against its cheeks. I then notice Olyver's legs kicking and squirming. He's fighting back!
"Come on!" I yell, shaking in apprehension and fear. He can't die, and he won't die. I just know he'll escape this.

The force of Olyver's struggling seems to be affecting the monster, as it is beginning to wobble and stumble backwards into the wall of the sewer. I see Elektra run out from where it's falling, and she lets out a cry of horror. I have no idea why; Olyver's going to get out!

But then, the brief glimmer of hope I've been holding on to vanishes, and I look on in despair as the monster crashes into the wall. Thousands of cracks form along the walls, roof, and ground, and Elektra and the pair from 12 run away, leaving Olyver alone. As soon as they're clear of the cracked section, everything caves in and collapses, leaving a pile of cracked chunks of rock and metal, the moonlight casting a sombre glow on the wide hole in the middle of the street. The camera zooms in on the girl from District 11, who's hiding inside a nearby building. Her face is one of surprise and shock, and she runs out from the building, and down the street, checking the floor for cracks.

BOOM!

The sound reaches my ears, and a hysterical sob burst from my lips. No, it can't be! Maybe someone else died. Yeah, that's it, someone else died. It can't be Olyver, it just can't! But my delusion is shattered as the death report shows on the screen for all to see, horribly echoing Miles' death four years ago.

OLYVER PYRE, 16, DISTRICT 6 MALE TRIBUTE
ELIMINATED: DAY 8, 04:20
PLACED 8TH

It feels as if everything has drained from me, and I'm nothing but a hollow shell, staring at the words on the screen. Thirteen words have succeeded in completely destroying my person.

The replay begins to show, but I've lost focus, and instead, I'm eagerly accepting the welcoming clutches of sleep.

That was the first time I really went without sleep, and why would I have slept back then? It's kind of impossible when you're forced to watch your closest family member fight to the death, and fail horribly. Olyver had come so close to victory. The Games ended that evening. He was only sixteen hours away from coming home.

Shaking away the memory, I begin to scale the rock wall in front of me. It seems that there are actually a few foot holds for me to use, and I'm soon climbing it with relative ease. I resist the urge to look back down at Tyler, since my first order of business is to get myself up here safely.

Finally, I reach the top, and sit down for a moment, catching my breath. It seems that the wall isn't as high as I originally though. I pull out my water, and take another sip from it. I don't know why, but I'm feeling more and more dehydrated with every activity that I do. Maybe it's something to do with being higher up than usual.

Once I feel somewhat better, I crawl over to the edge, and look down. Tyler's currently climbing up, his face red from the effort. 
"How are you holding up?" I ask him, my tone indicating concern. Since if there's one thing we don't want, it's Tyler reopening his wounds.
"I'm fine, Alanna," Tyler replies, "Stop asking. You sound like my mother." For some unexplainable reason, I find this hilarious, and begin to laugh. And not just a regular laugh; the spasms of joy are causing my stomach to hurt.

I'm so engrossed in my laughter, that I don't notice Tyler as he climbs over the edge. He gets his whole body over, and collapses on the floor breathing heavily; a combination of exhaustion and injury. He remains like this for a few moments, before he stands up, and breathes heavily, as if inhaling. But inhaling what, exactly? I follow his lead, and stand up, taking in a deep breath, and the scent is so delightful that I can't really be smelling it.

It smells like the bakery back home on the weekends when I walk past it; Saturdays are the days that they prepare various sweet baked goods, such as cookies and cakes. And right now, the entire mountain side smells just like it. I have to physically stop myself from salivating by swallowing hard several times, but it doesn't stop the growling of my stomach. No, that's still going strong.

"I think it's coming from further up the mountain." Tyler says, and for some reason, his tone seems different. Calmer, and more mature. Perhaps I'm seeing him in a different light. Instead of a bubbling ball of hyperactive annoyance that is akin to a living personification of a sugar rush, I'm seeing an intelligent boy, with boundless energy, and a warm sense of humour that is never offensive. And for some unknown reason, whenever we talk, or get close, a strange warmth builds up inside my body. It's an odd feeling, but a good one.

I return my attention to Tyler, and see him running up the path again. I look further ahead, and see what he's running towards; there's a large cavern opening just a little further up the mountain.
"Hey, wait up!" I call towards him, and run up after him, a light hearted giggle escaping my lips. Responding to my calls, Tyler slows down, and we're soon both running up the mountain side by side.

As we run, I find myself focusing on his face. It has a boyish charm, but his eyes carry a slight air of maturity. Speaking of his eyes, they are such a deep shade of green that you can't help but feel captivated by them. I let out a slight sigh, and warmth floods into my cheeks. It is such a wonderful feeling. I then notice that the speed that we're running at is causing his hair to bounce slightly. It's a light shade of brown, reminding me of the chocolate that I ate whilst in the Capitol, and always has a soft, shiny quality to it. The slightly long, windswept style that it's always in only helps to make it look more attractive on him.

The warm feeling returns, only this time more intense, and I reach my hand out without even realising I'm doing it. In response, Tyler grabs it, and we run closer to the sweet cavern hand in hand. It's sheer bliss, and every second that we hold hands, the warmth grows in intensity, and I just want to melt.

Finally, we reach the top of the path, and we stand at the entrance of the cavern. The mouth is huge, like a deep massive hole that seems to go on forever, but I notice a faint glimmer of light at the end of it. So it's more of a natural tunnel than anything else, although everything in this arena is far from natural. Everything, except for one thing.

"So, Alanna, are you sure about-" Tyler begins, but he's cut off by me. In a split second, driven by inner desire, I have my lips pressed against his own. The warm feeling is potent all over my body, a deep hunger to kiss Tyler growing with every second. At first he resists, perhaps stunned, but he soon gives in, and our lips are locked together in the ultimate display of passion. And it feels great.

Tyler eventually breaks off, and I'm left in a daze of sheer joy. That was the greatest thing I have ever experienced in my life, and everything seems to have a warm glow to it.
"Alanna, what was that about?" Tyler asks, his bubbly tone on the verge of a deep laugh.
"I just had to do it once." I reply. It's true; something about Tyler has just clicked with me, and I just want to spend the rest of my life staring into his shining green eyes, and soft brown hair.

It is now that I realise something that, less than a week ago, I would have said that I'd rather saw off my own legs; I am in love with Tyler Hawes. I don't really believe in all of the spiritual things about deities and destiny, but now I feel that me and Tyler being together was fated from the moment we met one another. It would explain it; he has been constantly consuming my thoughts every single day of the Games.

As the buzz of the kiss wears off, I return my attention to the large tunnel. 
"So," I begin, completely aware of my blush, "We're going in, right?"
"Of course," Tyler replies, a dopey smile on his face, "I'll do whatever you want to do."
"Come on, then." I say, and we both walk into the tunnel.

As soon as we step inside, the smell of sugar grows in intensity, until it overrides even my passionate desires for Tyler. I let out a cough as it burns my lungs. Tyler is choking as well, and I quickly realise we've fallen into a Gamemaker trap.

"Tyler!" I call out, light headed, but before I do anything else, a blinding light appears from somewhere, illuminating the cavern in a soft pink glow. Along the walls and roof of the cavern, I see small cupcakes lining the surface, emitting some odd powder. This must be where the sweet scent is coming from.

I look over to Tyler, who is staring at the ground, looking confused. I look too, and let out a mixture between a laugh and a startled scream. There is a creature that looks like a caterpillar doing some sort of bizarre dance on the ground, the patterns on its green skin flashing. It is all extremely surreal, but throughout this strange experience, a slight feeling of terror resides at the edges of my mind.

Then, it hits me like a ton of bricks. Extremely odd visions, and a feeling of terror. We're being gassed with tracker jacker venom.
"We have to get out of here!" I yell to Tyler, and grab his hand. But as I drag him to the entrance, I see something that completely crushes my plans of escape. The entrance is closing up, and I watch in horror as a now sparkling wall replaces the entrance. We're trapped, with only one direction to go. Forwards.
"Alanna, you look so silly!" Tyler giggles, his eyes glazed slightly. Panic grips me as I realise that Tyler's been claimed by the hallucinations. We need to get out, and quickly.

Still holding his hand, I stumble forwards through the cavern, the cupcakes releasing more and more hallucination causing gas, and I cover my face with my shirt to avoid inhaling too much. Tyler, however, is completely at the mercy of the gas. Luckily, it doesn't seem to be deadly as much as it is confusing.

A tinny tune begins to play out of nowhere, sounding like a horribly out of tune version of the Capitol anthem played at odd timings. Yet another trick of the gas. I try to ignore the sensory overload as best I can, but I'm quickly distracted by the feeling of something falling from the roof, hitting me.

Rolls of bread are falling from the sky, pounding on my head, hitting Tyler as well. I look back at Tyler, and see him holding one of the rolls with a free hand. Another wave of panic hits me as I see him bring it to his mouth, and take a bite. But absolutely nothing happens, and Tyler simply makes a satisfied groan. Yet again, the gas is forcing me to worry about everything. It's probably just stale bread, or it isn't really there. This causes another stab of panic. Is anything in here actually real? Perhaps not, and this trap is going to cause me to go insane thinking that nothing is real.

Swallowing my fear, I grip Tyler's hand harder, and dart towards the one clear spot in this wave of madness; the end of the tunnel.
"Alanna, the smell is making me feel sick." I hear Tyler moan, but I don't turn around. I can address him once we get out of here, before the gas claims our sanity.

But before I can get much further, I'm stopped by something that causes a strangled scream to come out of my lips. Standing right in front of us, letting out a deep groan, is the same sewer monster that killed Olyver. Panic takes over, and I sink my head to cover my ears with my shoulders.
"Go away!" I scream at it, "You can't be real! You just can't!" I look up at it again, and it begins to groan in time with the anthem of Panem. The music begins to increase in pitch, getting louder and faster and squeakier, and the normal peach coloured flesh of the horrific Mutt is turning purple. It is grating on my ears more than the high piping voice of our escort, and I didn't think such a thing was possible. And then, just when I think I'm going to lose myself to the madness, a loud explosion sounds out.

BOOM!

I clench Tyler's hand harder as I watch the Mutt explode into a cloud of butterflies, the insects swarming around us, the anthem ceasing to play, instead being replaced by an odd sound that reminds me of laughing, crying, and choking all in one. I want to do nothing but scream and curl up. But I can't; I have to get both me and Tyler out of here.
"Come on!" I call back to him, and with speeds that I thought I wasn't capable of doing, burst towards the clear patch.

I succeed in doing so, and the moment the outside air greets me, the cave seals shut, and the sweet smell vanishes. It takes me a moment to regain my senses, but the shiny glow vanishes from everything, and my head clears.

"Tyler, that was close." I begin, turning to face him, "How are you- Oh God!"

The only thing I'm aware of my body doing is shaking uncontrollably, and that warm, salty tears are flowing down my face. My eyes are shut from the horror of the scene in front of me, but I force my eyes to open.

The first thing that I notice is that Tyler's grip has gone slack, and the colour of his face has gone from a healthy pink to a deathly white. If that was all, I would simply think that he's gone into shock from the hallucinations. But the thing that has completely crushed every feeling in my body is the constant stream of blood that is flowing from his still mouth.

"Tyler!" I scream, louder than I should be, and release my grip on him. He slumps to the floor, in a heap, a small pool of blood forming from his mouth, "Tyler! Come on, you have to get up!" I start to shake him, "Please, get up!" My voice breaks on that last sentence, and a wave of sobs causes me to shudder. "Tyler, please!"

But it's too late. I can't do anything. There is only one clear thought in my head, one that I never hoped I'd have to think: Tyler Hawes is quite clearly dead. 
"But how?!" I yell at his lifeless body, "How did you die?!" My voice sounds more like a strangled sob than anything else, and my body is being taken over by sobbing shudders.

My eyes then move down his pale corpse, until I see the half eaten roll of bread. It's still in his limp hand, and from the outside, looks like a reasonably fresh roll of bread, nothing more. But I have some feeling inside of me that this bread is to blame; somehow, I just know it.

Acting on this impulsive instinct, I grab the roll of bread out of Tyler's limp hand; the hand slumps to the floor, and I check it over. My eyes then settle on where he began to eat it, and then I see the filling.

What appears to be pitch black jam is slowly oozing from the centre of the roll, staining the white colouring of the insides of the bread a horrible dark colour. Tentatively, I bring it closer to my nose, and smell it cautiously. As soon as the sickeningly sour scent reaches my nostrils, I scream in horror, and throw the bread blindly away from me.

Nightlock juice. That is what the rolls of bread that rained down on us were filled with. I should have checked to see for myself, instead of assuming that they would be fine. And now, Tyler's dead. All because I wasn't as observant as I should have been.

"I'm so sorry," I say, huddling up to Tyler's cold body, the blood from his mouth flowing onto my hand as it rests on his face, "I'm sorry Tyler! I didn't mean for you to die! Please don't leave me! Please!" My cries are desperate and empty, and I know that nothing I can do will bring Tyler back, just like nothing could save Miles. Or Olyver.

That's three people I've lost to the Games. Three good, innocent people, who had their lives cut short, and I couldn't do anything to save them. Except Tyler. I could have done so much to prevent his death. I shouldn't have paid so much attention to the terrifying hallucination; I'm stronger than that. I could have fought against the gas, and saved Tyler!

Then again, I should have also realised that the explosion in the tunnel that I thought was caused by the sewer monster sounded awfully like the cannon that has marked the deaths of tributes for 68 years. How could I have been so stupid?

"Please, forgive me." I whisper to Tyler, even though I know that he will never hear me, or do anything again. His life has been so tragically cut short, and all because I didn't get him out of that cave fast enough. As I think this, another feeling creeps into my body, one that when I vocalise, I sound like a tiny child again, too young to be subjected to such horrors.
"I want go home."

As soon as the words leave my mouth, I collapse in a heap of exhaustion and emotions. Tyler's dead, I'm stuck on a mountain with very few supplies, and someone could kill me at any given moment. Already I'm missing his company.

Then, a faint humming noise reaches my ears, and I look up to see a hovercraft appearing above my head, to take Tyler away for good. But I'm not done with him. Desperately, I pull off his bag, and set it away from him. I then reach over to his face, and close his eyes, giving him one last kiss on his freezing cold forehead.
"Goodbye, Tyler." I whisper, before grabbing his bag, and inching away from him, watching as the hovercraft lifts him up. It vanishes, and the only evidence that Tyler Hawes was ever in this arena is the small puddle of blood where he was mere seconds ago.

But instead of crushing sorrow at the removal of Tyler's corpse, a new feeling inches into my system, one that might be even stronger than fear, stronger than love, stronger than sadness: Determination.

Determination to show up the Capitol; to come home, and continue Tyler's memory. Determination to make sure that no life that was claimed in the Hunger Games is ever forgotten.

I open Tyler's bag, and empty the contents into my own. But as the last of it falls in, I notice an object that might help in my mission; a permanent marker pen. I grab it, and walk over to the sealed wall of the tunnel.

I then press it down on the wall, and begin to write. This is perhaps the most important thing I have ever written, so it must be perfect, and clearly written. Eventually, I finish, and look at my message, to show the world that those who have died will not be forgotten.

Rest in peace, Tyler Hawes.
You died thirteen years too young.

And may the memory of the other tributes who perish here never be forgotten.
-A. Pyre, twelve years old

Smiling at my message, I wipe the tears from my eyes, and walk away, continuing my trail up the mountain, a warm glow fills my body. It doesn't feel like what I felt when I was with Tyler, it is more of an internal message to the world.

I will not die in this arena; I will come home; I will continue the memory of the fallen tributes; I will not be forgotten.

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