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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25. Explosion

Afya Zahirah, 16, District 11 Tribute

Rubbing my eyes in exhaustion, I continue to follow the path of the mountain, Maia close behind me. The sun has nearly set entirely, meaning that we'll have to find somewhere to settle down for the night soon. Also, from travelling around the mountain, I've found out two things. The first is that we can't go any higher, and the second is that each smoking tribute tunnel leads to an identical room layout to our own. They're also all probably connected to the same lake of lava. So we didn't have bad luck nearly dying in there, we had good luck in that we survived with minor injuries.

As the lush, green mountainside darkens, I begin to realise something. We haven't seen a cave entrance in quite a while, and it would be dangerous to go back down there.
"Afya," Maia says, trying badly to stifle a yawn, "Do you have any idea when we'll find somewhere to rest?"
"Not yet," I reply, "But I'm pretty sure that we're close to finding shelter." I don't know about that, but they can't be seriously making us spend tonight outside. We're down to the final five, which means that we'll most likely be drawn to the other tributes, wherever they are.

Come to think of it, I haven't seen another tribute since I met up with Maia. Which is rather odd, but has definitely worked to our advantage. After all, I'm pretty sure neither of us is up for fighting anyone at all. Returning my focus to the path ahead, I notice a faint glow a little further ahead.
"Hey, look!" Maia cries out, a weary smile on her face, "Shelter!" She runs off ahead, suddenly receiving a burst of energy, and I follow her, looking around. I don't know why, but something about this mountain is giving me a bad vibe. It's almost as if there is a sense of foreboding about the place that I haven't really noticed before. Whatever it is, I don't feel as safe here as I have done the past couple of days.

Ignoring the feeling, I follow Maia as she runs up to the light. Panting for breath, I stop just a little behind Maia. That's another thing about this mountain; the higher you get, the harder it is to breathe. Or perhaps it's exhaustion. I'm not sure.
"Hey," I say to Maia as I continue to follow her, "Are you sure it's safe?"
"Pretty sure," She replies, "Or why else would they mark it clearly for us?"
"You have a point." I say, and follow her as we approach the source of the light. As soon as we're close enough, I quickly realise it's another entrance to a trapped cave. I peer inside, and notice that a large portion of the middle of the floor has fallen, meaning that this has already been set off, thankfully. But as soon as I realise this, it can only mean one thing; another tribute has been here. As I open my mouth to warn Maia, she runs into the mouth of the cave, disappearing from sight. Fearing the worst, I follow her in.

To my surprise, the cave is actually empty. The rock is warm to touch, and the lava does an excellent job of keeping the place warm. Above us is a hollow opening in the roof, which is probably where the lava erupts from. But despite the fact that this place has obviously had a previous visitor, it gives off a sense of comfort.

As I sit down against the wall, I hear a noise. It's faint at first, and I have to strain to hear it, but as it gradually grows louder, I recognise what it is; someone's crying.
"Do you hear that?" Maia whispers to me, her eyes wide and alert.
"Yeah," I reply, "Do you think whoever it is set this place off?" Upon saying this, Maia pulls out her knife, and I pull out an arrow, prepared to shoot. But just as we prepare ourselves to fight to the death, the intruder appears.

It's a small girl, with long blonde hair, and bright blue eyes. She's walking slowly, and sobbing heavily. I recognise her as the girl from District 6. But why would she be in such a state? She doesn't look injured. Then I remember. Her district partner died in the late hours of last night. Suddenly, all my fear dissolves into emotion and compassion, and I watch with a heavy heart as she sits at the edge of the lake of lava, looking down at it.
"Maia," I begin, lowering my bow, "I don't think she's a threat at all." Maia nods, and puts her knife back in her belt.
"What do we do?" Maia asks, looking over at the small girl, unsure of what to make of the situation.
"We're not killers, so how's about we go over there, and try to comfort her." I reply, hoping that this is the right decision I'm making. "I mean, she is the youngest tribute in the Games."
"You're right." Maia says softly, and stands up. I do the same, and we both walk over to the small girl, sitting either side of her.

"Are you okay?" I ask her, looking at her face. It's small and delicate, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
"All my fault," She replies, not taking her eyes off the lava, "I wasn't quick enough. I could have saved him." She lifts her head up to face me, before breaking down into sobs. "I want to go home!" The girl buries her face into my arms, and I comfort her, slowly stroking her head.
"There, there. It'll be fine." I say softly, like whenever I saw one of the starving children in the streets of 11 that turned up to my house in the hopes of getting something to eat. There was nothing I could do but make their desperate situation as comfortable as possible. Maia looks on at the situation awkwardly, not sure what to do.
"What's your name?" She asks the girl, and after a moment, she lifts her head up, and turns to face Maia.
"Alanna." She replies, and I remember her now. She's the young girl that scored a 7 in training. Which I found pretty impressive.
"Well, Alanna," Maia continues, "How's about you stick with us for a bit? You know, until you feel better."
"Are you sure?" Alanna asks out loud, "I don't know what to say."
"Perhaps, 'yes' would be a good place to start." Maia suggests, and this gets a laugh out of Alanna.
"Okay then." Alanna confirms, and shakes both mine and Maia's hands.

Now that we're together, I realise that I should probably know of Alanna's condition.
"So, how are you holding up for food and water?" I ask, suddenly aware that my voice echoes throughout this place.
"Oh, I'm fine." Alanna says with a weary smile, "I'm only a little sleep-deprived, is all."
"That's great." Maia says, yawning. This causes both me and Alanna to laugh, and already she fits in pretty well with our dynamic.
"Well, perhaps we should all get some rest." I suggest, and point to the corner of the room. "Come on; it'll be pretty cosy." I get a mutual nod of agreement from both Alanna and Maia, and we all move over to the corner, and lay down, slowly dozing off.

However, as soon as I close my eyes, I hear something hit the floor near me. Panicking, my eyes shoot open, and I see the girl from District 2 standing in the mouth of the tunnel, aiming her bow at us. This isn't good.
"Guys, get up!" I yell as loud as possible to Alanna and Maia. Startled, they look around, and also see the girl from 2. Instinctively, both girls draw their knives, and I load my bow, keeping a close eye on this girl. Some part of me knows that she most likely played weakling during training, to make sure that nobody realised her true powerful potential. As I stare her down, I realise something. Out of the final five, four of us are in here. The fifth tribute is probably on their way up, and this means that this is supposed to be the dramatic climax of the Games. And I'm caught in the middle of it.

I release one of my arrows, striking the girl from 2 in the chest. She simply pulls it out, and uses it to load her own bow. My eyes widen as she fires my own arrow, hitting Maia's thigh. She screams in pain as she crumples to the floor, and both me and Alanna advance forwards, keeping the girl from 2 from getting any closer. And then, as if by some telepathic communication, we both nod, and Alanna runs forward, slashing the girl from 2 with her knife, before running to the other side of her. She quite clearly wasn't expecting this to happen. I fire another arrow, but she ducks, and instead of going for me like I anticipated, she grabs Alanna, and lifts the small girl up, causing the knife to fall to the floor. She then throws Alanna across the room, and picks up the knife.

"Alanna!" I cry, suddenly aware that I'm the only one with the ability to fight left. Maia's struggling to get the arrow out of her leg, whilst Alanna is shakily standing to her feet. I fire another arrow at the girl from 2, but she ducks to the floor, causing the arrow to fall into the lake of lava. She then rushes forwards, and slashes my leg with Alanna's knife. I don't hesitate, and swing my other leg upwards, delivering a swift kick to her jaw. An audible crack echoes out, and she lets out an unearthly scream, before jumping up, and grabbing my arms. She digs her fingernails in, and I'm forced to drop my bow. Now that I'm defenceless, she goes for my quiver, pulling it off me. It's now that I realise what she's doing.

Desperately, I punch her in the face. I catch her eye, and she shuts it, but it doesn't deter her. Whilst I'm trying to fight her, she lifts a foot, and crushes my bow. I look on in horror as it splinters and shatters in half, becoming completely useless to anyone. However, just as the Career girl goes in to stab me with the knife, she falls backwards to the floor.

"Get away from her!" I look in awe as Maia stands over the girl from 2, pulling her knife out of the girl's back.
"Maia, you saved me." I say, astonished, but not ignoring the girl from 2. She's not moving, which probably means she's unconscious. Thankfully. 
"Maia, that was amazing!" I look to see that Alanna's joined us again. Besides a slight nosebleed, she's pretty much okay, "Let me get your quiver for you, Afya." She says, and bends down, reaching for the quiver. But the moment she touches it, the girl from 2 springs to life, grabbing Alanna once more. She isn't fazed when Maia and I plunge our knives into her, and keeps going towards the edge of the floor, heading for the lake of lava.
"She's going to throw Alanna into the lava!" Maia exclaims, and I nod in agreement, before we both run forwards, in a desperate attempt to stop her, and save Alanna from dying.

But by the time we get there, it's too late, and she's thrown Alanna off the edge. I stand there in horror as I hear Alanna's screams. They quickly come to a stop, but I hear no cannon. Running past the girl from 2, I peer over the edge briefly. I see Alanna laying in a heap on a small ledge just a little further down. She's unconscious, and her legs are contorted into odd positions. Theoretically, we could get her up, but not right now, under these circumstances.

Returning my attention to the fight, I see Maia running around the girl from 2, dodging the onslaught of arrows as they fly towards her. But the girl from 2 seems to have more energy than Maia, and I see my ally beginning to tire out rather quickly. I have to step in, and save her.
"Maia!" I call, and rush towards the girl from 2, with my knife in hand. I stab the knife into the girl's side, and she begins to kick me, causing me to fall. But I'm still holding onto my knife, and it causes a long, deep gash to appear in her side before it falls out. Screaming in agony, the girl from 2 cripples over in pain, and I deal a powerful kick to the back of her knees, causing her to collapse in a heap. I then walk over to the girl's temple, and I prepare to shove my knife into her brain, ending her life.

"Hey, don't you dare take my kill!" Both me and Maia turn our heads in surprise and confusion as another figure emerges from the tunnel. It's a male, with dark hair, and blue eyes, and I'm quick to recognise him as the boy from District 10. "You heard me, this is my kill!"
"What the hell?!" Maia exclaims as he barges past me, drawing a sword, and aiming it at her head. But he ignores us, and continues to prepare himself to lower it down.
"This is for April, Magnum, and all the other tributes that have been killed as a result of you!" I back away quickly as he begins to lower it. But just as he does so, everything begins to vibrate as a deep rumbling causes everything to shake.

The force of the shaking causes me, Maia, and the boy from 10 to be all thrown to the ground. As it increases in intensity, and I notice the floor isn't collapsing, I realise that this isn't normal. Shakily, I stand to my feet, and notice that Maia has done the same.
"We have to get out of here!" She yells over the sound of the entire mountain shaking, and I shoot her a quizzical look.
"Why?!" I yell back, and she motions to the edge of the floor. I carefully make my way over, and gape in horror at what I see. The lake of lava is rising. And fast. 
"Come on!" Maia yells, but I can't take my eyes off of the ledge. Alanna's still there, oblivious to her imminent demise.
"But we can't just leave Alanna!" I shout, "She doesn't deserve a death like this!"
"Afya, she won't even know she's dying!" Maia shouts back as I see a segment of the roof land on the boy from 10's head, knocking him out, and causing a thin trail of blood to pour from the site of the impact, rendering him as unconscious as everyone else in the room besides me and Maia. Remorsefully, I tear myself away from the edge, and begin to run towards the exit, Maia right behind me. We run across the room, dodging falling debris, and finally reach the exit. Maia runs out first, and I follow her immediately, quickly escaping the room.

As soon as we're outside, an ear-shattering explosion sounds out, and everything begins to rumble at an increased magnitude. I look to the sky, and scream in horror as a massive orange stream of molten rock is propelled into the sky, and judging from our position, we're right in the range of where it'll fall down.
"Run!" I scream, and Maia nods in confirmation, as we begin to sprint at full speed down the shaking hillside, the only source of light being the contents of the volcano that are being spewed out. I look back behind me, and see a molten river flowing towards us remarkably quickly. I stand there in a daze, and don't move until Maia tackles me to the ground, causing us to roll down the steep slope of the mountain.

Everything is a disorienting blur as we roll faster, eventually crashing into a slight wall of rock. It takes a moment, but I'm quickly on my feet, and helping Maia up as we look around. Luckily, our location allows for the stream to pass us by, but more is still exploding from the volcano, and a new realisation hits me. There is every chance we are going to die, but moving would be more suicidal than remaining where we are.

After what seems like forever, the constant spew of volcanic content ceases to exist, and instead, a soft glow emits from the flowing streams. This causes me to realise that the worst of the danger is over.
"Hey, Afya," Maia says, her voice shaky, "That was a close call, but at least we-"

BOOM!
BOOM!
BOOM!

Three cannons go off in quick succession, and I'm left staring at Maia as a horrific realisation dawns on me.
"Those were the other three tributes, weren't they?" I ask, my voice hollow. Maia nods meekly, and her face begins to go pale.
"We're the final two tributes left." She says, her eyes wide.
"So we are," I reply, chills running throughout every section of my body. I know what we have to do, yet I really hope it doesn't have to happen, "The two of us, the final ones remaining."
"Yeah," Maia says, "Now what?" I hold my knife in my hand as Maia asks this question.

But she doesn't get an answer, and the next thing I know, the knife isn't in my hand any more. Instead, it's flying towards Maia's skull.

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