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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14. Hopeful Brightness

Alanna Pyre, 12, District 6 Tribute

"And you should have seen the way she rushed at me! Swoosh!" I grimace as Tyler pours out his anecdote relating to his close encounter with the Career girl from District 1. She messed his arms up pretty badly, but he seems to be still alive. I guess he should be thankful that he managed to stumble into my hide out whilst running from her, else he might be dead. But the downside to his survival means that we're now stuck in an alliance until one of us dies. Hopefully him before me.
"Yes, Tyler, I get it. It was amazing. Now sit still whilst I get the bandages out." I crawl through the concealing bush, and grab the beaten up backpack I managed to salvage from the squirrels yesterday. I pull it open, and reach a hand in, grabbing the rather generously large roll of bandages. I pull them out, and turn to Tyler. Upon seeing the bandages, his face lights up, and a ridiculous grin plasters onto his face.
"Oh my gosh! Bandages! Back home, I always used to play hospital with my friends! It was so much fun!"
"Yes Tyler, I bet it was." I say flatter than planned. Even whilst loosing a dangerous amount of blood; it's pooling on the floor, he's still as bubbly as he was just over a week ago. I unwrap the roll, and the realisation of what I have to do next fills me with dread and humiliation.

"Tyler, I'm going to have to ask you to take off your shirt." The words leave my mouth awkwardly, and I feel the blood rushing to my face as Tyler nods, and begins to remove the article of clothing. Of all the times to be freaking out about seeing the other sex in a state of undress, now isn't the time. I hear the shirt drop to the floor, and let out a gasp at the damage caused.

There are two massive gashes, one down each arm, which are releasing a continuous stream of blood down his arm, and even onto his torso. There is another wound, whilst not as large, on the back of his shoulder, that seems to go deeper than the other one; this was where she got him with the knife. There doesn't seem to be any infection, fortunately, but if Tyler strains himself too much, he'll be risking making his wounds worse.

Swallowing my humiliation, I begin to wrap the bandages around Tyler’s arms. As soon as I get it around once, he begins to squirm and giggle.
“Stop, please; it tickles!”
As he says the words, I wince as a memory involving a similar situation floods my mind. When I was happier, and didn’t have to worry about battling for survival every day. Yet strangely, it was also the day that I learned the concept of the Hunger Games.

I stifle my tears as I stagger through the streets of my district, the autumn sun setting, creating a golden light that covers as far as I can see. For a moment, it distracts me from the pain I feel in my arm, but as soon as I think about it, the searing pain flares up, causing me to release a sob. I must look stupid, crying over a small cut on my arm.

I was playing outside, with my friends; the adults were too busy watching the older children play games on the television, when we started to play dares. My dare was to run up to the top of the tall hill outside of my house really quickly. So I did, and I had almost done it, as well, when I tripped on a loose part of the grass. This caused me to tumble down the hill in a ball of person, grass and mud, and crash into the fence separating us from the village full of big houses. The barbed wire surrounding the fence sliced into my arm, sending it into a lot of pain. After getting over the shock, I stood up, and began to make my way home.

My arm still hurts like it did when I first caused the injury, so this makes me think it isn’t actually just a small cut on my arm. It almost looks like the cut the girl on the TV had. This confuses me; why do so many people play a game that gets them hurt? I know I’ll never play a game like that.

I finally reach my house, and push open the door with my good arm. As soon as I step inside, I realise something’s wrong. The house is silent, and empty; undisturbed by everyday life.
"Hello?" I call out to the emptiness, but as I expected, I'm met with silence. Where are my parents? "Mom? Dad?"

Still nothing. A feeling of dread slowly seeps into me. They are always at home. Why aren't they here? I swallow back the tears as I run further into the house, and find that the door to the main room is shut. Tentatively, I press an ear to the door.

BOOM!

A sound like an explosion rings out, and I let out a scream. What was that? Before I go to find out, the answer presents itself in the form of a sob. My mother's crying.

Worried, I burst into the main room to find my parents, and Olyver, my older brother, all hunched around the television. Tears are flowing freely down my parents' faces, and Olyver's trying to comfort my mother.
"Oly, are Mom and Dad okay?" I ask to my brother, who shakes his head.
"Listen, Alanna, you remember how our cousin Miles went away last week?"
"Yes?" I reply. I know Miles very well. Him and Olyver were born on exactly the same day, which makes them six years older than me. We threw their twelfth birthday party last month.
"Well, he went into the Game that the big boys and girls go to. You know, the sad one?" I nod. This doesn't sound right, and it probably has something to do with the television. I cross the room, and look at the screen.

MILES PYRE, 12, DISTRICT 6 MALE TRIBUTE
ELIMINATED: DAY 6, 18:40
PLACED 5TH

It takes a moment to read it, but when I do, it confuses me. Eliminated? Me and my friends play a game at school where one of us tags the other, and when we're tagged, we're eliminated. So he's not allowed to play the sad game any more? Isn't that a good thing? So why are my parents crying?

"Now for the instant replay of that delightful kill by none other than District 1's Jade!" Kill? As in, death? Fear creeps back into me. Why is there death in the sad game? That doesn't sound fun. Suddenly, the words vanish from the screen, and in its place is a pretty field full of colourful flowers. His face has lots of scratches, and he's crying, but his eyes look scared. What's so scary about the flowers? I love picking them on the weekends with my friends.
"Oly, what's going-"

"And here comes Jade, with her signature weapon, the diamond encrusted sword! Kindly donated to her by Aluminus, our lead Career sponsor!" This voice scares me now. Something seems off, and Olyver's face hardens as a pretty girl with black hair runs across the field. But she's screaming, and holding a big shiny knife in her hands. I quickly remember the name; a sword.
"Oly, what's happening?" I ask again, this time my voice full of urgency.
"Alanna, look away. Please, look away!" I stand there in shock. Olyver's never mad at me. Something serious must be happening. I try to look away, but when I look back at the television, I find myself unable to move, unable to do anything, except scream.

The girl has shoved her sword into Miles' chest, and he's screaming. Then, he throws up, but instead of his food, blood flies out, splashing onto the floor. It's disgusting, and terrifying.
"Oly, she's hurting him!" I yell, as if it'll stop the horrible things happening. But it doesn't, and I look again as she slices into his arm. It falls off, and blood flies everywhere. I'm aware of the tears pouring down my face, but all I can do is stare at the blood as it shoots everywhere. Then, when I think it can't get any worse, she stabs his neck, and his head falls off, and his body falls to the floor.

My parents let out a wail that drowns out my own, and I look to Olyver for comfort.
"Oly, what happened?"
"Come with me," He motions to the door, "I have some explaining to do."

We walk out of the main room, and into the kitchen. I'm still shaking from what I saw. She used her sword to pull Miles' head and arm off, like my doll, but he was bleeding a lot. Olyver sits down on one of the seats at the table, and I follow.
"Alanna, it's time I tell you about what you saw." He begins, his voice uneasy. "You know that old people go to heaven when they sleep sometimes?"
"Yes." I reply. Grandma went to heaven a few years ago. I was happy for her since she finally managed to move house, but everyone else was sad.
"Well, what actually happens, is they die." Die? A tightness begins in my chest, and it becomes hard to breathe.
"Does that mean," I trail off for a moment, sobbing, "Does it mean that Grandma's actually dead?" I really hope the answer is 'no', but Olyver's face is telling me that it's not what I want to hear.
"Yes, Alanna, she's dead. As in not coming back." My heart sinks, and a fresh wave of tears fly from my eyes. She's really gone. I should have known this; why didn't anyone tell me? "And Miles..."

He doesn't need to finish for me to understand what happened to Miles. He's dead. That Jade girl killed him. This sad game suddenly seems a whole lot more terrifying. So when people lose, they die. That's a lot of dead boys and girls every year.
"Olyver," I start, my voice faltering, "If this game is so bad, why do people watch it?" After all, I only watched it for ten minutes, and what I saw was horrific. I hope I never have to see all of it.
"Because the Hunger Games are our punishment." Punishment? Why would we be punished? I've never done anything wrong, and Olyver and my parents wouldn't do any wrong either.
"Oly, why are they called the Hunger Games?" I ask. It is a silly name, after all. The name makes it sound like they are doing something with food, not dying.
"Because that's one of the Capitol's favourite ways of killing the children who are in the Hunger Games; making them starve to death." He replies, his voice flat, with an underlying tone of anger.

"Oly, I have one last question," I begin as I formulate a way to say this clearly without crying, "W-Will we ever have to go on the Hunger Games and die like Miles?" My voice catches at the end; saying it makes it sound so much more real.
"No, Alanna. It's like a lottery. A really bad lottery. And how many people do you know that win a lottery, let alone a bad one?"
"None." I reply, suddenly feeling calmer. If it's like the lottery, where you buy a ticket to win a lot of food and money, which we never win, then nobody else I know will go into the Hunger Games.

Suddenly, Olyver looks at my arm, and notices the cut.
"Alanna, what happened?" He says, his voice dripping with concern. A flash of pain shoots through it, and I shudder in pain and shock.
"I was playing dares with my friends when I fell down the hill into the sharp wire on the fence." I reply, breathing through the pain.
"That's not good," Olyver pauses for a moment, thinking something over, "Wait a minute. I'll just go grab the bandages, and we'll have you better in no time at all." He smiles warmly, and walks out of the room, leaving me alone at the table. I sigh, and gaze at the cracked clock on the wall, watching as the seconds tick by.

I count thirty seconds by the time Olyver returns, holding one of our two rolls of bandages. He sits back down, and looks at me.
"Could you hold your arm out for me," He asks as he unwraps the bandages. I comply, and stick my arm out, "Thanks." He smiles, and begins to wrap it around my arm. Almost instantly, I begin to giggle as it makes contact with my arm.

"Stop, please; it tickles!"

Losing myself in the memory, I allow a smile to cross my face, and see Tyler looking at me quizzically.
"Alanna?"
"Yeah?" I reply, returning to wrapping his arms and torso up.
"You kinda spaced out there." My slight happy daze vanishes, replacing with stone cold shock. How could I be so stupid?! We're still rather close to the Cornucopia, and barely two hundred metres from where Tyler was attacked. I shake my head, in an attempt to clear my mind. It doesn't work, the memory is still fresh, but at least I'm somewhat more focused.

I finish wrapping up his arms, and despite the fact that the bandages are quickly soaked with blood, it should hold off infection. But these bandages will only work for about three days tops. So unless we have a sponsor at the ready, Tyler will be at serious risk seventy two hours from now. Just perfect. Not only do I have a serious liability as an ally, I also have one that practically has a countdown timer on his life.

Suddenly, the thought of Tyler dying fills my mind. My imagination begins to play out several various scenarios involving his death, ranging from a simple arrow to the heart, to being brutally dismembered. And for each scenario I think of, the heavier my heart becomes, and it dawns on me that I actually care about him. This sends a wave of panic shooting through my body. This was how Olyver died. He joined an alliance with the boys from 8 and 10, and Elektra and Samuel from 3. When everything fell apart with that horrific Mutt, he ended up sacrificing himself so that the double-crossing pair from 12 and Elektra could escape alive. A twang of remorse stabs in my heart, and I force myself to look at the dense greenery that makes up the bush we're hiding in. It's warm, and gives a sense of security; we're fairly securely concealed in here.

I crawl to the edge of our small hideout, and peer through the leaves, looking at the moonlight illuminated forest. Everything's so still; there's not even as much as a gust of wind as everything remains motionless, like a painting. Although why anyone would ever want to paint the Hunger Games is beyond me.

"Nick, this is definitely where I attacked the kid!"
"You sure, Emerald?"
"Positive! Look, there's the tree where my spear dented, and one of Ariella's arrows is in the bush!"

My heart rate increases as I hear the voices. Careers, and close. Dangerously close. 
"Tyler," I begin, feeling the adrenaline beginning to set in, "Tyler, we have to go." I listen again, and hear yelling. "Tyler, the Careers are coming!"

I don't care that I'm now practically yelling; the message has definitely sunken in. Tyler's eyes have widened, and he's rushing to throw his shirt on. I grab one of my bags, and swing it onto my back. Tyler's got his shirt back on now, and I throw the other bag to him. Shakily, he puts it on, and I peer my head out of the bush. Everything still seems still, but then I catch movement.

It's just a little further down the path, barely in sight, but I see it. The boy from District 1, armed with a spear and sword. Suddenly, his head turns in my direction, and I duck back down into the bush.
"How close are they?" Tyler whispers, his eyes widening by the second.
"Very." I shoot back, and motion to the other end of the bush. "Come on. We'll have to take the back exit." Tyler nods, and we both stand up. I peer behind us, and see nothing. Perhaps they've moved on, and found nothing of interest.

Sighing in relief, I move forward, quickly darting into the trees just across from us, Tyler in behind. I'm just about to begin sneaking through the trees, when an arrow stops me from moving any further. I peer behind Tyler, and see all five Careers, staring us down.

Or perhaps I'm an idiot for thinking that the Careers wouldn't thoroughly check an area for anyone hiding.

"Ariella, shoot them!" I hear one of them yell, and that's all the incentive I need. I grab Tyler's hand, and we rush into the tree line, the loud stomping of the Careers just behind us. Judging by the frequency and volume, we're not losing them at all. Two more arrows fly by us, ramming into the nearby trees. My heart is pounding in my head, and every breath is agony.
"Alanna, how much further do we have to run?" Tyler huffs, his lack of breath barely denoting his tone as questioning. I dare to glance behind us, and see the boy from 4, armed with a trident, grinning maliciously.
"I have no idea." I reply back, pulling Tyler sharply to the right as the boy from 4 throws himself at us. He careens into the greenery, and down a sharp slope. We won't be seeing him for a while.

Taking notice that the loud sounds of the Careers have died down, I take a moment to stop. Tyler stops too, and we're stood next to a thick bunch of trees, panting and catching our breath. Once my breath returns, I look around, gladly noting the lack of Careers.
"Tyler, I think we've lost them." I say sharply and quietly, as if my voice will return all of them to our exact spot. It could do, though, if they were listening hard enough, which, luckily, I doubt they are doing. Now only one question remains; where do we go now? We can't really return to the forest, and the beach is a no-go, so where?

I look up, and my question is answered instantly. The mountain. The massive natural structure looms over the island, towering up into the clouds. Perfect for getting lost on. And we won't have to worry about any other tributes trying to kill us. In fact, the only downside would be that we'd be easily at risk from any Mutts the Capitol decides to spring up. But killing a Muttation is significantly less morally wrong than killing a kid, so I'll take the chance.
"Tyler, how do you feel about going on a little expedition?" I ask brightly, and Tyler's eager nature immediately responds to the positivity.
"Yeah!" He yells, then, realising where we are, whispers the words again. "­Yeah..." I smile at this; good to know Tyler still has his sense of humour, and point at the mountain.
"That is where we're going, Tyler; we're gonna be mountain climbers." A giggle bursts out of Tyler's lips, and we begin to walk through the trees, heading towards what might very well be our salvation in this game.

"And just where do you think you're going?" A foreign voice rings out, and chills run down my spine. I glance around, looking for the source of the voice, and find nothing. Nothing at all. I look to the trees, but there is no sign of anyone. It was as if the voice was never there to begin with. Am I hearing things? Going crazy? No, the voice was definitely real; Tyler's reacting like I am. Even though he is rather childish, it shows I'm not alone in hearing this voice. "What's the matter? Can't see me?" The voice is louder this time, more confident. They're mocking us. Wait a minute. Mocking! It must be a jabberjay- a genetically altered bird that can perfectly mimic the human voice; the ancestor of the mockingjay.

My theory is instantly dis-proven by the arrow that flies out of nowhere, grazing my cheek. I don't need a mirror to know that it's bleeding; I can feel the warm fluid dripping down my face. I look around, more frantic this time, and draw my knife. I clutch the handle tightly, the blade poised to attack. Despite the fact I don't want to, I'm more than willing to fight this mystery attacker to death if it comes to it.
"Tyler, get your knife out." I whisper to him. I don't look at him, but I hear the frantic unzipping and re-zipping of his bag as he draws his weapon out. 
"Who's there?!" Tyler yells, and before I can tell him what a stupid move that was, a barrage of arrows rains from the sky.

We hit the bushes as the sharp weapons attack the ground, my heartbeat louder than before, a new type of fear filling my being. A fear of dying, here and now, at the hands of whoever it is raining unholy fire down at us.

Suddenly, a fresh wave of arrows begins to assault the bush, and we're forced out of hiding into the open. Another few arrows flies at us, and in retaliation, I throw my knife into the trees. I hear a yelp, and the sound of someone hitting the floor. But no cannon. Which means whoever it was is still alive. Not good. Not good at all.
"Tyler, pass me your knife." I ask, my voice harsh and urgent.
"But Alanna, how will I-"
"I don't care Tyler, we both know I'm the better aim. You can get it back once we're done. Okay?" Sighing, he complies, and hands me the knife. It's identical to the last one, down to the shape of the handle. We begin to walk towards the mountain again, and our attacker surfaces from the bushes.

It's the girl from 2, holding a shining silver bow, her back loaded with countless quivers, all full of arrows. My heart rate increases once more, and panic rushes throughout my body. I hold my knife close, and take a step back. This simple action is enough to provoke her into action.

She loads her bow with almost impossible speed, and opens fire, the arrows barely missing us. I throw Tyler to the floor, and glare at him.
"Go on ahead! I'll meet you there!" I bark, my voice urgent as an arrow lands between the two of us.
"But I won't be able to make it!" He replies weakly, and I see tears beginning to flow down his face. Of course, he's absolutely terrified.
"Fine then," I grimace, "Keep hidden in the bushes, and I'll hold her off."
"Okay then." He nods, a determined expression appearing on his face, and he crawls into the bushes, vanishing from sight. I take this moment, whilst she's distracted, to rush at her. I get up close, and drag my knife across her arm. She cries out in pain, and sweeps her leg out, tripping me up. I fall to the floor, the force of the impact causing my head to explode in a powerful rush of pain. But I can't afford to hesitate. Not now.

I scramble to my feet, and barely dodge a kick from the girl from 2. She loads her bow, and fires an arrow. I duck out of the way, and it harmlessly sails into a tree, splintering the wood. Okay, maybe not that harmless, but at least it didn't kill anyone. The girl from 2 doesn't skip a beat, and she's already rushing at me, going in for a tackle. I don't see why she would be doing that, but then I see the spear concealed by her jacket.

It's very rare I'm thankful for my small frame, but this is one of those highly rare occasions. I throw myself to the ground, and the girl from 2 keeps running, tripping over me, crashing into the ground. She lets out a moan of pain, before going silent.

I crawl out from under her, and see Tyler, standing over her head, holding a rock. I glance back at the unconscious girl's face, and notice the steady flow of blood pouring from her nose.
"Tyler, I think you just saved us." I say, catching my breath.
"Really?" He says, his face lighting up, reminding me of an eager puppy. His smile is infectious, and I can't help but share the positive emotion.
"Yes, really. Now come on, we have to get to the mountain before the other Careers catch up." I grab my lost knife from her belt, and begin to walk down a path that I hadn't noticed before, towards the mountain.

The path cuts clearly through the forest, and I can see the other side already. I turn back to Tyler, and a playful grin crosses my face. Might as well make the most of a bad situation.
"Hey Tyler, last one out of the forest is a rotten egg." I taunt, and a confident smirk grows on his face.
"Oh, it's on!" He shoots forward, racing down the dirt path. After one last look around, I take off after him, laughing as he trips. I overtake him, and I've almost made it out when he comes up from behind.
"Looks like you'll be the rotten egg!" He laughs, and begins to overtake me. Seems he's faster than I've given him credit for.
"Over my dead body!" I cry back to him, and match his pace, before the two of us both trip on a loose tree root, tumbling out of the tree line in a pile of laughter and smiles. I can't remember the last time I've had this much fun.

"Looks like we're both rotten eggs, Alanna!" Tyler pipes up, and I set off into a giggling fit, followed by a triumphant grin as I look at the rocky hill in front of us. We've reached the mountain.
"Come on Tyler," I say, walking over to the base, "Not long now until we can rest." Tyler laughs wearily, and follows me up, continuing to giggle.

Finally, we reach a small cave in the side of the mountain. I carefully walk horizontally across the sloping path, and into the small hole. It's about the size of a large tent; large enough for the two of us to comfortably fit, but not large enough to be noticed. Tyler climbs in, and I look out, at the view.

It's breathtaking. I can see the early morning sun beginning to rise up over the horizon, its golden rays reflecting off the ocean that surrounds the island. The glow of the sun also seems to intensify the shining of the Cornucopia, the golden horn becoming a beacon in the diminishing darkness, as well as the flaming ball of golds and yellows that is slowly climbing higher in the sky.

"Hey, Alanna," Tyler says, yawning, "I just realised that we didn't sleep at all last night."
"Yeah," I reply, suddenly yawning myself, "How's about we catch some sleep for a few hours?"

He doesn't need a second invitation, and already he's laying down, his eyes shut. I sit in the far corner of the cave, and look out as the sun slowly brightens up the arena. And as I look at the sleeping form of Tyler, I realise just how much I actually appreciate his company.

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