Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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16. Paralysis

    The echoes of the Careers bounced off the walls of the tunnels. Their laughter and their playful yet threatening calls for Emily and Liam to come out from hiding. So they could all play.

    They zig-zagged to make it hard for the Careers to find them and turned around to make the other turns if they reached dead ends. They had to be 100% sure they were far behind them to climb back up to the surface, they kept running for twenty minutes and it was too soon to try and leave just yet. Emily stumbled and fell to her knees, Liam skidded to a halt and ran back and helped her up. She felt his rough and jagged hand around hers; that was when she noticed how damaged and bloody his hands were. His once smooth hands had been cut into, blood had dried and older wounds were scabbed, just by how ruined they looked it was clear to Emily how tired he truly was.

    The Career pack had calmed down and only their feet could be heard. It actually made it easier to figure out where they were coming from, but it made it easier for them to hear Emily and Liam’s feet on the wet floor. They both stopped to catch their breath, Emily leaned against the wall and winced in pain. Dangit, right. Her wound. She had been running so long she numbed the pain.

    “Do we have the gauze and rubbing alcohol?” she asked.

    Liam fished through his bag and took out a tiny bottle and the roll. “Lucky we have what we need,” he commented.

    “Yeah,” Emily nodded and took a piece of the gauze dabbed in rubbing alcohol and cleaned off her wound while Liam did her back. She kept in her cries, only wincing in pain and allowing an occasional growl.

    “Seriously, how are you still alive?”

    “I don’t know . . .” she muttered and used the cleaner side of the cloth to clean the wound at her temple. There were so many times she should have died and she was still breathing . . .

    Liam unrolled another small bundle and pressed it against her back and taped it into place. He handed over the gauze to her and she did just the same. Once she was cleaned up and patched up, Liam wrapped his arms around her and tightly embraced her. His lips pressed against her bare shoulder, his arms nearly wrapped around himself around her, and nuzzled his face into her hair.

    Even with the dust, sweat and blood in her hair she still smelled sweet. Just as her scent comforted him, his arms around her and his warmth comforted her. Emily kissed his hand held her shoulder and held his hand over her waist. It hurt to kiss his hand and feel his jagged cuts, it was agonizing to love him when she knew there was no chance of making it out together. She held onto her words she said in her interview: it wouldn’t be worth going back to Eight without Liam.

    Emily felt his head move to the side and she froze in place. He heard something and he didn’t have his bow or quiver to protect them. He left them back on the surface and they had no knives in the pack that survived the building’s destruction. “Stay hidden,” he whispered to her, let go and walked over to a small hole just a couple feet from them. When Emily got a better look of it, she saw that it was only small enough for her to fit in.

    “But—”

    “I’ll be okay,” he whispered and kissed her deeply on her lips. They didn’t have the time for a long passionate one, he had to keep it short and sweet. “Stay hidden. I’ll come back for you,” the man promised her.

    Emily could only stare at him and nod. She broke away from his loving hold around her face and crawled back into the hole, feeling something slimy and slippery underneath her as she backed far enough she hid in the dark. It smelled awful and the sustenance underneath her made her skin crawl. She saw Liam’s feet disappear and run somewhere until his feet echoed farther and farther away from her.

    What did he hear?

    What was it that made him so nervous?

    Then she heard something. But it sounded close. She made sure not to move as the sound grew louder and louder, some sort of clicking noise that came from the walls. Then everything went black. The opening in front of her had disappeared and she was thrown against the wall, she was spinning and she had nowhere to cling onto it. Round and round the walls spun and her hands searched for something to hand onto until the tunnel leaned forward. Emily slid forward and the opening of the tunnel appeared again as she was spat out into the sewer water. She had no idea where the surface was. She knew she slid into the water head first, but her struggle made it hard to figure out where she was exactly.

    All Emily could do was kick. The redhead kicked and flailed her arms when her foot kicked something underneath her. Oh god what was that? Was that the floor? The pool was deep but she didn’t hit the bottom when she was spat out. Was something in the water with her? She kicked harder and found the wall and followed it until her hand broke the surface and found the edge. Emily pulled herself up and gasped for air, spit the dirty water from her mouth and pulled herself up to the edge and coughed up water she accidentally swallowed.

    She gagged and emptied her stomach when she heard excited calls. Emily turned her head to the end of the tunnel when she saw the pack, all of the tributes from One, Two, and Four. And they found her. Emily crawled onto her feet and ran down the tunnel and stopped at a halt when she realized she was at a dead end. Water rushed through the bars, bars too close together for her to slip through. Emily hopped at the shallow floor closer to the barred archway of the dead end to the other side, but the Careers were ahead of her and took the other end so she had no way of escape.

    Emily looked left and right, trying to find a way to get out of her situation. She could have used the water and swim away, but she felt something was in the water and the Four’s had a spear with them. She was trapped and there was no way of getting out.

    “What? Little baby doesn’t have her guard dog to protect her?” the male One tribute cooed at her with a mock pout.

    She stared at the group with wide eyes, her back pressed against the bars, her legs violently shook, and her trembling hand rose to get the whistle around her neck. But the pretty girl from One pinned Emily’s wrist to the bar and wrapped her manicured fingers around her throat in a choke hold. “Nah nah nah, can’t call your little boyfriend when you’re not able to breathe,” she smiled at Emily.

    But she saw an opening. Emily grabbed hold of the girl’s wrist, pulled her legs up to her stomach and pressed her feet to her stomach, using the wall as her support and pushed the girl away from her. Her nails dug into Emily’s neck and left shallow scratches before she fell into the water. The Two boy had come to her and Emily used his knee as a support when he came close enough and kneed him in the jaw, forcing him back and hit the wall behind him to check how badly he bit his tongue.

    Take them all down. Beat them all and then run for it before they could stab her!

    Emily quickly turned around to find the One boy coming her way and took just two steps to him when he raised his sword pointed to her. She twisted to the side, keeping hold under his pit and over her shoulder as she spun around the other side of his body, swinging her legs around and was around his head and pulled him down to the ground by the force of her legs. He hit the ground with a loud thud and Emily was about to make a run for it when she saw an opening and the Four boy grabbed hold of her and pinned her head to the ground. Her cheek burned from impact and her wrists behind her back as she struggled.

    “Damn,” he cursed. Emily struggled to get out of his old, growling at him and tried to slip her hands away and kick him, but he was too far up her body to hit anything vital. “Didn’t think you’d be this big of a pain in the ass.”

    The Two boy groaned and wiped the blood from his lips and spat at Emily. “Just kill her already,” the pretty One girl snarled angrily as she twisted water from her hair.

    “Then give me a fucking knife, bitch,” he rolled his eyes at her when he was suddenly yanked by his foot and his weight disappeared off of Emily. She heard screams of horror mixed with absolute pain when she looked back and saw something eating at the Four Career. The pack backed away into the wall as far as they could before they made a run for it, but Emily was frozen in her spot as her wide eyes stared at the Career boy being torn apart. His blood pooled the water in front of her and the cries ceased when he was pulled underwater by whatever mutt was submerged from sight.

    Emily violently shook in her spot when she heard the cannon echo through the sewer tunnels. Her breaths were shallow and quick, her head felt light and the room spun around her. How the hell—

    But then the mutt emerged from the water and stared at her. Long wrinkled nose with scars all over it, emotionless hazel green eyes, jagged skin, and a thousand sharp teeth. It stepped onto the shallow step Emily laid frozen, revealing its hugeness and approached the small tribute. A crocodile in the sewers . . . of COURSE the Capitol decided to put a croc in the sewers . . .

    Emily backed away to the bars and covered her mouth to keep herself from screaming and to muffle her shallow breathing. Tears poured down her cheeks as she stared at the mutt in horror and it stared back at her with unreadable eyes. Her body trembled more violently as it got closer, its large nostrils breathing in her scent. Sweat, blood, and sewer waters mixed in. The croc’s mouth and teeth was full of blood and she swore chunks of the Career was stuck in between its teeth.

    It stared at her and it backed away, slowly sinking into the water again. It kept staring at her until it disappeared back into the murky waters. Emily’s hands still cupped over her mouth, salty tears soaked her cheeks and her muffled cries of horror escaped past her hands. She slowly got back up on her feet, her knees weak and shaking as she held onto the bars for support while she kept her eyes on the murky waters.

    Run . . . run before it comes back . . .

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