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.


16. Fuel For the Flames

April Holme, 14, District 12 Tribute

I tend to the slowly roasting groosling on the fire in front of me, taking in the delicious scent of our lunch. Food wise, the arena's been pretty kind to us; I mean, how often is it that a whole horde of the birds comes by? Not very often, if you ask me.

I return my attention to the bird. Judging by the golden-brown colour of its skin, it's about done. Carefully, I reach over to it, and pick it up. The heat of the bird instantly burns my hands, and I have to bite my tongue to stop myself from screaming out loud. However, I still manage to set it down on one of the fallen logs, and leave it there, darting to the lake on the other side of the clearing, trying my hardest to not cry out in agony.

When my hands reach the cool water, relief immediately floods over me as the heat of the burn vanishes. I remain like this for another few moments, until the water has numbed by hands. Grateful for this, I stand back up, and return to the log. Our lunch is still there, and is still appetisingly delicious. Only one thing left to do know.

I make my way deeper into the woods, to our camp. The three tents that Hunter managed to salvage from the Cornucopia are still set up, two of them occupied. If I didn't know better, I'd say that both Magnum and Hunter are narcoleptic or something. But they're not; they're in the Hunger Games with the one person that can function on barely any sleep at all.

Cautiously, I walk across the sun-dried dirt floor, and unzip the first tent. I'm met with the sleeping form of Magnum, who is mumbling softly in her sleep. It's only expected; I'm surprised I haven't yet had any nightmares.
"Hey, sleeping beauty, get up!" I shout. No need to be soft here; sleep may be the death of my allies if they remain in a deep slumber for too long. "Come on, lunch is ready!" I coo again, and this seems to provoke some form of response from Magnum.
"Macro, whatever it is you want can wait." She groans, and I nudge her again, growing impatient at how much this girl can sleep through. If this was called the Sleeping Games instead of the Hunger Games, she would definitely be the victor. No doubt about it.
"Magnum, get up!" I yell, louder. Suddenly, her eyes snap open, and she lets out a scream, glaring at me, bewildered. Upon recognising me, she calms down, sighing softly, before moving a few loose strands of hair from her face.
"Oh, it's you, April," She says, crawling out of the tent, "You sure managed to give me a fright there."

For some reason, her saying this manages to make the both of us burst into laughter. We chuckle and giggle, and my sides begin to hurt with the shuddering spasms of humour. It doesn't last long, though, and I've soon managed to calm down. Magnum, however, is still wiping the tears form her eyes, and shuddering in bliss.
"I'm going to go and wake Hunter now." I tell her, and get up off of the floor. She nods in between fits of laughter, and I walk across the clearing, heading towards Hunter's tent. Hopefully he'll be somewhat less traumatic to wake up than Magnum.

I reach the tent, and my hand slowly moves towards the zip. Suddenly, without warning, it shoots open, and I'm met with weary, but happy, face of Hunter, his blue eyes staring right into my own grey ones.
"What's gotten you in such a good mood?" I ask flatly as he practically leaps out of his tent. Yes, you heard that right. Leaping. In the Hunger Games. What the heck.
"Nothing at all," He practically sings, before skipping merrily towards Magnum. I need a reality check or something, considering Hunter has spent the last two days focusing on his girlfriend back home, not frolicking merrily throughout this tropical death-match. At least he isn't endangering us just yet, thankfully.

Seeing as both of my allies are awake, I walk over to them. Might as well tell them the reason I woke them up.
"So, who's ready for some lunch?" I ask nonchalantly, but the response from Magnum and Hunter is instant and ecstatic.
"Yeah!" The two of them cry out, their mouths practically watering as I say this. Oh, how I know that feeling. After all, living in District 12 means that hunger is essentially your best friend 24/7.
"Where is the food?" Magnum enquires, giddy with the prospect of food. I don't even see why. We've had a good food supply since day one. But whatever keeps us happy and sane.
"It's near the lake," I tell them, and begin to walk towards the clearing, "Come on!"

Well, they don't a second invitation. Both Magnum and Hunter rush past me, darting through the trees. I waste no time in catching up with them, and pretty soon the three of us are in the clearing. I walk over to the log, the sun beginning to beat down on me, causing a sheen of sweat to appear on my forehead, and scream in horror at what I see.

A whole swarm of jabberjays have appeared, and are fighting one another over the pile of freshly cooked meat, imitating the screams of the recently departed tributes from the bloodbath. The sounds strike terror into my soul, and I'm left paralysed as the copycat birds fly off, each one holding a generous portion of our lunch in their horrific beaks, leaving us with a pile of bones and entrails. How wonderful.

"Well, that's just... Oh my." I look back to my allies, my tongue loaded with witty remarks about the jabberjays and the way they stole our food, when I see the state of them. Hunter's staring off into space, his eyes glazed over, trembling slightly. Of course, I recognised Nikki's cry in there; it must be playing several mind games at once with him. But what's really got me concerned is the state of Magnum. She's curled up on the floor in the fetal position, her hands on her ears, crying softly.
"No, no, no, no, no..." She whimpers, shaking and sobbing. This isn't good.
"Magnum...?" I call softly to her, carefully inching towards the girl from District 3. "Are you alright?"
"...April?" Magnum looks up at me, temporarily confused. Then, she leaps up, and wraps her arms around me, her voice almost bursting with relief and joy. "Oh, April! It was awful!" She weeps into my shoulder, and I find myself awkwardly comforting the girl that is one year my senior.

We remain like this for a few minutes, before Magnum lets go, looking deflated. "April, I'm sorry about the food." I see her eyes trained on the inedible pile of groosling that was once a truly delicious lunch. She looks really upset about it, and given her last breakdown, it'd probably be best if I keep the atmosphere as positive as possible.
"Oh, that old thing?" I let out a laugh that sounds incredibly forced, but Magnum buys it, or so it seems, "Don't worry about it. I'll just go catch another one." I give her a smile, and this seems to calm her down. Good. 
"Hey, April," Hunter speaks up, still on his buzz of joy from earlier, "Mind if I come with you? After all, two people are better than one." Well, I didn't see this coming.
"Why?" I ask in response, "You know that I'm the skilled hunter in this situation."
"It's just that it'd probably be good if I know how to in the event that we lose you." Hunter says, looking endearingly at me. Great. I'm caving in to him. 
"...Fine." I grumble, picking up my bow from behind the log, "But what're we gonna do about Magnum?"
"Yeah, what about me?" Magnum suddenly asks, as if she's just become aware of the conversation. 
"Don't you worry about that," A light hearted chuckle escapes from Hunter's lips, "You get the most important job: You get to guard the camp whilst we're gone!" He says this in such a tone that if I couldn't see the situation, I'd think he was talking to a child, not a fifteen year old girl. 
"Really? That's great! Thank you so much!" Magnum is almost bursting with excitement, and I resist the urge to point out the dangers of leaving a girl as fragile as she is alone in the woods, where trained killers are prowling on the search for prey, since it seems that Hunter's managed to calm her down.
"Don't mention it," I say, and point in the general direction of our camp, "And if I were you, I'd hurry up, camp guard." I sugarcoat those last words immensely, and the sheer sweetness is making my stomach hurt. Magnum laughs at this, and runs off into the woods, singing to herself.

"Well, that was awkward." Hunter finally says. He must have read my mind, as I was just about to say the exact same thing.
"Indeed it was," I reply, before turning to him, "And now we're alone, spill the beans. Why're you coming along with me?" I ask darkly, but Hunter doesn't miss a beat.
"Oh, that." He pauses for a moment, before continuing once more, "Well, I have something to discuss with you," He looks in the direction of the camp, "Something that cannot be discussed with Magnum present."

A thousand possibilities run through my mind at that statement, none of them positive. What's he planning? For the two of us to ditch her? To kill her? To go on some mindless killing spree?
"Hunter, why?" Is all I ask. He shakes his head in response, before walking closer to the trees.
"I can't tell you just now. Wait just a little longer; trust me on this, April." Because that really sounds trustworthy. Leading me deep into the woods, alone, just to tell me some secret plan? If it weren't for the fact that I know Hunter well, alarm bells would definitely be sounding out.
"Alright then," I say begrudgingly, "But if you try any, and I mean any, funny business, be prepared for an arrow in your eye." He chuckles at this, and the two of us walk into the woods, in search for our well needed lunch.

As soon as I step into the foliage, I'm instantly cooled down; the shade from the trees is protecting me from the blistering sunlight. The Gamemakers are definitely playing with a massive thermostat; every day it's becoming more and more unbearable to be out in the sun. I tread carefully and quietly on the ground, becoming a silent entity. That's one of the things I love about the woods; I can blend perfectly into the background, being able to hide away indefinitely. Hunter, however, is quite obviously not living up to his namesake; he's treading and crashing into everything at volumes I didn't think were possible.
"Hunter, how much louder could you possibly get?" I hiss, and he looks at me apologetically.
"Sorry," He whispers, "I'm not skilled in the art of silence."
"Whatever," I reply, "Just try not to make noise when we actually find anything."

We move deeper into the woods, and with every passing second, I grow to resent bringing Hunter along more and more. I mean, really? Could I have gotten anyone even louder? Of course not; such a person doesn't exist.

My internal rant is promptly cut off, however, by the rewarding sound of fluttering wings; a groosling, and close.
"Come on!" I whisper to Hunter, and the two of us take off, running through the greenery, until the bird flies out in front of us. With surprising accuracy, I load up by bow, aim, and fire at the flying figure. I strike it in the stomach, and it falls to the ground, writhing in agony. 
"You did it!" Hunter cries out in joy, and since I'm so happy that we've got food, I don't chastise him for being loud. I run over to the squirming pile of live meat, and pull out my dagger. When I first found the dagger in the middle of the bloodbath, I thought nothing of it, but now it's become a just as powerful asset as my bow. I bend down to slice its throat, when suddenly, it receives a last-ditch burst of adrenaline.

I'm thrown to the ground as the bird jabs its beak into my side. It hurts really badly, but I don't think it's broken the skin, thankfully. After releasing several more squeals of terror, the groosling simply flies away, the arrow still protruding from its underside. I watch, dumbstruck, as it disappears towards the mountain, taking both lunch, and some of my ammunition, with it.

"Damn it." I finally manage to say, the feeling of remorse bubbling up inside me, "Damn it!" I slump my head into the nearest tree, and proceed to punch it, getting the sticky residue, that I found out could easily burst into flames, all over my hand.
"April?" Hunter says, walking over to me, "Are you okay?"
"What do you think, Hunter?" I snap back, "I managed to lose our lunch twice, meaning I'm hungry as hell, and I've just lost a precious arrow. What do you think?" Anger has taken over now, and I'm kicking the tree as I try to prevent the tears from spilling out. But it doesn't work, and I'm soon slumped on the floor, sobbing; a wreck.

I can't do this. I mean, look at me. I'm having a Magnum level breakdown, over losing some food. Something as pathetic as food. How ridiculous. Several victors have actually managed to get out alive having not eaten anything over the entire time they were in there. Our alliance is privileged, getting such a meal. I should have realised that our luck wasn't going to last forever.
"April," Hunter begins yet again. I'm really not in the mood to tolerate whatever spills from his mouth that he thinks could possibly help me out. "April, get up."
"Why?!" I yell at him, tears streaming down my face. He doesn't respond. Instead, he puts his finger to his lips- a gesture that I learned in school means silence, and points to the sky. Then I hear the beeping.

Leaping to my feet, I look up, and see the magnificent silver parachute floating down from the clouds, the District 12 emblem quite clearly printed onto it. It takes all my control to not burst into song there and then. The parachute lands softly on the grass, and I sprint over to it.

I tear it open, and find a large silver box. It's warm to touch, oddly enough. Carefully, I lift the lid off, and look on in joy at what I see. Two roast turkeys, plump and coated with seasoning. And underneath it, two large glass bottles. One's empty, whilst the other is filled to the brim with some sort of Capitol booze. The alcohol has a note attached to it, and I pick it up, reading what it has to say.

Thought you could use this- H.

"Thank you!" I yell to the sky, tears of joy streaming down my face. Hunter, however, has a different look on his face. A darker one.
"Can I have the bottles for a moment?" He asks, calmly.
"Sure," I say, slightly confused. I grab the second bottle, and hand the pair of them to him. Almost instantly, a chuckle bursts out from him. 
"Perfect." He says happily, clutching the two bottles. Okay, something isn't quite right here.
"Hunter, what's so great?" I ask, covering the two turkeys. He responds by pulling something out of his pocket. Something I've only seen once in my life, but something that is easily recognisable. A lighter.

"April, ever heard of old world weaponry?" Hunter asks. I nod in response. It's something they teach us throughout school. Back before Panem, there were almost as many types of guns as there were types of people.
"I have." I say, and Hunter's smile widens even more. Something has really gotten to him.
"Well, a select few people managed to make a powerful weapon using very few materials: Alcohol; a bottle; fuel; fire." I haven't heard of a weapon like this before, and I fail to see how that could ever be useful.
"Hunter, I don't follow." I say flatly, and he just laughs again.
"You see, I had the idea for this the moment I saw the trees burst into flames. The flammable sap was the major ingredient that I knew would be hard to find, but it's actually all over the forest. So all I needed was the alcohol, and someone kindly gave us that."
"Hunter, what exactly are you doing?" I ask as he fills the empty bottle with the tree sap.
"April, I'm going to make us a Molotov cocktail." He says, before he tears a section of his sleeve off, tying it around the top of the bottle. He then pours some of the alcohol on top of the bottle, before holding it close.

Suddenly, it all makes sense. The fuel inside the bottle is highly flammable, and the fragile nature of the bottle means that it'd be able to quickly spread. The alcohol coated fabric means that the fire will increase in size, and the lighter will be able to set this whole thing off.
"Hunter, that's awesome and all," I begin, unsure of what the purpose of all this is, "But what are you exactly going to do with it all?"

"April," Hunter says, releasing an almost sadistic laugh, "We're going to take down the Careers."

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