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I allow myself to fantasize, for a moment, of winning. Not of killing, I am not strong enough for that. But what happens after, going home and feeling my brother hug me, his eyes lighting up as he sees me… I would do anything to see him again.

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1. I find some kind of wooden shed

 

                The wood splinters beneath my fingers, and the vines holding the boards in place begins to flake. I feel the creaking of the wooden bridge as it begins to rupture under my weight. Part of the rope bridge snaps of, I watch it tumble towards the swampy floor, and I know before long I will fall with it.

                Desperately, I try to scramble up the rotten bridge before I am launched into the murky abyss below me. The muscles in my arm scream in agony, and my heart beats so fast I’m afraid my ribs will shatter. Slowly, I drag myself further up the rotten planks in the bridge, my legs wrapping round the planks like the vines which hold my life in place.

                Just as I feel the rest of my strength evaporate, my hands reach the top of the bridge, and a last ditch attempt at survival allows me to pull myself up and over the edge of peak. I suddenly realize my eyes are streaming tears like a rivulet, my lungs raw and my hands bloody.

                I should have just dropped.

                No, thinking like that will not get me back home to my family. Or, whatever’s left of my family.

                I crawl along the wooden platform, desperate to find some kind of shelter. A small distance ahead, I see a make shift tree house with three walls and a roof made of large green leaves. Somehow I find the strength to haul myself inside the shed like structure and open my back pack for bandages.

                As I tend to my splintered ands and bleeding knees, I allow myself to fantasize, for a moment, of winning. Not of killing, I am not strong enough for that. But what happens after, going home and feeling my brother hug me, his eyes lighting up as he sees me… I would do anything to see him again. I shudder at the realization he is now in our districts foster home, alone and scared. He’s so small; the other kids will be able to overpower him in seconds. If I can get home, we will live in Victor’s village. If I get home, we will have a large house and we will never go hungry again. But, it’s a tremendously big if.

 

***

                My muscles groan as I strap up my bag and boots. Although, the groaning could just as easily come from the floor I’m standing on or the poisoned marsh land below.

                I have to hand it to this year’s game makers, they’ve made it interesting. There haven’t been any other arenas like this, where no tribute can touch the ground without a tremendous threat of death.

                My district partner showed me that.

                I shudder at the memory of watching him fall as the bridge fell. I didn’t even here him it the ground, just a sickening gurgling noise as the swamp swallowed him. I didn’t even stop; I just fought my way up the bridge.

                I didn’t even try to help him.

                Quietly, I slink out of the shed and look for a way off of this platform.

                There is a light breeze in the air, I hear it rustling the plants and pushing the shed and forcing a moan out of the twisted wood. The breeze cools down the burns on my face and neck, I let out a small sigh of relief.

                Idiot. I snarl inwardly. No noise.

                As I step further away from the shelter, I notice the sun glaring through the exotic leaves, blazing past the trees and scorching the timber platform. My eyes take a few moments to adjust to the furious glare of the sun, grateful for its heat in the hope the bridges and paths may have started to dry. Keeping my eyes down, to escape the blazing light, I try to come up with a plan. Tenderly, I tread around the platform, desperate for a way off. I know I can’t stay here, I am barely shielded from three sides, and anyone with a spear or arrow could shoot me down in a number of seconds.

                The remains of the rope bridge I had to fight my way up yesterday clunk against the sides of the podium, if that was the only way off… then I’m trapped. But, surely the game makers would have wanted there to be a possibility of bloodshed and capture, they would definitely leave more than one way into this sanctuary.

                There are long, green vines sloping down towards the top of my shelter. I remember a few years ago, watching a district 6 guy use a vine to escape from the Careers. He was really weak and starved for days; but he made it… it stands to reason I could do the same.

                Pulling myself onto a beam in the roof, I throw my arms upwards and scratch against the waxy lining of a vine. I take one last look, raising three fingers into the air, as a final goodbye to my partner.

                I jump into the air, my hands gripping the vine and the wind whistling past my ears, as I soar into the abyss.

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