Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games

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20. Red

    Liam would check how the air was every hour, when it was deemed unsafe to go out he cleaned Emily’s wound on her back with rubbing alcohol. He would just barely dab the alcohol on her back before she muffled her screams with a piece of the jacket stuffed in her mouth. Black dots formed in her sight and fought to stay awake. She swallowed escaped acids from her stomach in reaction to the agonizing pain and endured through the pain as much as she could. They didn’t have enough gauze to patch up her back and had to make do with all they could.

    She swore she took all the hits for the both of them while Liam was practically untouchable.

    By the fifth hour trapped in the electrical room it was safe to come outside. It stunk, but it was breathable. Some coloration of the smoke still lingered, but it wasn’t as thick as it was earlier when it took the whole arena. They looked out the window and saw that it was just as bad outside, the sky looked polluted and it appeared that the sewers were even spewing the poison in the air.

    “Guess we should stay inside . . .” Emily muttered.

    “Yeah . . .” he nodded.

    Emily began counting under her breath of the last remaining tributes. Two more were killed from the poison, so adding to . . . there were seven of them left . . .

    “Let’s see if there’s a health office in here,” Liam said. “There might be some better stuff to put on you.” She could only nod and followed just behind him. Liam carried both the bags so weight wasn’t added to Emily’s ruined back, but then it would be harder for him to ready his bow in case of an attack. Emily gripped the knives he gave her to replace the sword and was Liam’s eyes to watch his back and to catch anything he missed. “Where’s Phox? You’ve been injured since the last time he sent sponsor gifts and you need something to close and clean those wounds.”

    “Maybe we’re boring now,” she shrugged. They had been nothing but cute after all and the Capitol must have been done with their romantic gestures and wanted something else besides kisses and holding hands. Emily would have thought their heartbreaking discussing of a family together would have been easy picking for medicine or food.

    Guess it wasn’t heartbreaking enough. Or Phox was saving the money for something more drastic . . .

    Liam cracked some doors open until they found a health room. Emily stood outside and kept watch while Liam rummaged through the cabinets. He kept cursing under his breath as the sound of empty glass bottles clacked against one another when the door closed behind her. She didn’t think much of it and stayed in the hallway. But once she couldn’t hear Liam behind the door, she cracked the door open and widened in when she couldn’t find him. Emily walked inside and Liam was nowhere in sight.

    “Liam?”

    The door closed behind her. Okay, she knew for a fact she didn’t close it that time and went to check the knob. It was stuck. She rattled the knob to tweak the lock when she heard a hissing sound. Her head shot up to the vent just above her and some red smoke began to seep into the room.

    No no no no no!!

    Emily rummaged through the cabinets looking for something. Maybe the arena was suppose to be a war zone. Maybe there were gas masks! Emily pressed the sleeve of the remains of her jacket over her mouth and nose as she looked through everything. She coughed when she caught its scent and held her breath. Nothing! There was nothing! Emily got back on her feet, putting in some effort to push herself as fast as she could, and turned the knob. The stupid door was unlocked but once she opened the door to the hallway red smoke was all she saw. It was too thick to see and who knew what kind of gas it was she was in. But that didn’t matter, she needed to find Liam.

    Stupid arena!

    Emily blindly walked ahead, her hand just in front of her so she wouldn’t run into the walls as she covered her mouth with her jacket sleeve. But the thing wasn’t useful in the slightest, she could still smell the gas and it tickled her through whilst forcing her to cough and gasp in the poisonous air.

    “Hehehehehehe.”

    Emily stopped, practically suffocating with coughs held back and stayed silent. The chuckling grew in numbers and she backed away into a wall, as if she were invisible and a part of the wall. But the smoke couldn’t be that thick. The laughing grew louder and dark shadows grew darker. Oh god . . . the Careers!

    “Oh look! It’s Eight!” one of them called, unsure which one it was that pointed her way.

    Emily booked it and brushed her fingers against the wall to follow where she was going, completely abandoning her mediocre mask to keep herself from inhaling the red gas. God, it was so thick she couldn’t see where she was going!

    “Hey, come back! We’re not going to hurt you!” one of them called with an obvious smile on their face as the sound of their heavy feet trampled after her.

    God, if she weren’t as hurt as she was she could have lost them a while ago. Her muscles hurt too much to push herself. On the plus side, they were in as big of a disadvantage as she was in terms with sight.

    Emily ran into a corner and backed away in some room. When she closed the door shut, the room echoed and she looked back at where she was. She took a step forward and the floor creaked a metallic moaning, metal stairs. Emily’s shaking hand touched something cold and when she grew closer she found a spiral stairway. No time to question where it went! Go where there was an escape. Their voices grew closer!!

    She went down the stairs until it stopped at the first floor and pushed the door open when she heard their laughter on that floor too. Oh my god did they split up!? Her head whipped back and forth and ran again. Somewhere! Anywhere as long as they couldn’t find her!

    “Little lamb little lamb!” one of them cooed. “Where’s your Bo Peep? Got bored of you and threw you to the wolves?” they chuckled.

    No . . . he didn’t. They got separated somehow—

    “Little lamb!” the pretty one from One smiled at her from around the corner. Emily screamed and slammed her back into the wall and ran the other direction into another room. “Little lamb!” She was there too!? What!?

    The girl busted out laughing at her and she disappeared from sight. Like a puff of smoke. The girl’s laughter couldn’t be heard anywhere near her, but she still heard the pack somewhere close by. Was Emily losing it now? Was the stress getting to her? Or . . .

    The red gas. It was playing tricks on her. And playing with her paranoia. Were the Careers actually there? Were they real? She didn’t want to find out. Emily pressed her hand against her chest and peeked around the corner and walked out when it was safe. Then their laughter amplified and it sounded like they were everywhere. Emily covered her ears and backed into the wall, feeling as if their chuckles were about to make her head explode and her ears bleed.

    “Little red lost in the woods! The big bad wolf is getting close!” one of them sang in mockery.

    She felt as if her heart dropped into her stomach and her body go cold. Got to leave. Got to run. Got to find Liam. Just run . . .

    Her breathing became quick and shallow, black dots danced in her vision as she began to move again. The gas felt heavier, it was hard to breathe all of a sudden and Emily fell to her knees a couple of times from the lack of fresh air flowing through her brain. She kept pushing herself more and more, gasping in air, holding in her tears and growing more and more overwhelmed the more her terror grew. Where were they!? Where were they coming from!?

    Why was everything so screwed up!!!???

    Emily couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t see. And the Careers were getting closer! They were almost there. The redheaded tribute got back on her feet and kept running aimlessly for nowhere and somewhere. Emily ran into a wall, blindly and frantically searching for a door as the footsteps grew closer and closer. The Eight whipped her head around for a moment and found the door, she turned the knob and ran inside only to run into a wall. No windows. No escape. She turned around and pressed her back against the wall as hand gripped the knives that stuck to her sweaty palm.

    Kill or be killed, right . . .?

    She racked her brain for what Abraham had told her on knife throwing, on how to throw it correctly and tried to remember how hard she had to throw it at a certain distance. Just throw it once it was in line with her eyes . . .

    A figure came into view in front of her, their voice disoriented. Her heart beat quickly and her palms were sweaty with fear. Just throw it . . . THROW IT! KILL THEM!

    She took a step forward to give herself room to throw, pulled back, and swung her arm forward then released the knife once it came into view. The knife whizzed into the smoke and she heard the Career’s painful growl. And all of a sudden, all the smoke was blown into the vents. The room began to clear and Emily was able to see her feet beneath her. She was about to run for the door when she saw the outlining of it behind the figure when she stared at the knife through his chest.

    Her eyes widened when she realized whom she hit . . .

    “Liam . . .” her voice cracked quietly in horror as she stared at his face.

    He pulled the knife out of his chest, wincing in pain as he pulled it through the muscles of his heart before he collapsed to the floor.

    Emily just stood there in horror, her body completely frozen in place. Her mind raced round and round, there was just . . . no way that happened . . . she was hallucinating . . . she figured it out once the gas vented away . . . it was quiet, there was no laughter of the Careers that echoed through the walls so loud she was positive they were behind her. She had been breathing in hallucinogenic gases . . . if the voices in her head were fake, that meant she didn’t kill Liam . . .

    Yet her body remained frozen and cold and she didn’t want to look down at the floor. She could see the outlining of his body . . . Emily closed her eyes and told herself over and over again it was a hallucination. She didn’t just kill Liam . . . she didn’t just throw a knife through his heart . . . it was all in her head it was all in her head it was all in her—

    “Em . . .”

    It wasn’t real . . .

    It wasn’t real . . .

    Tears ran down her face; it wasn’t real . . .

    She opened her eyes, took in a shaky breath and looked down at Liam’s body on the floor. His hand clenched the wound in his chest to keep the blood in and he struggled to breathe. Emily’s body trembled as she fell to her knees and carefully crawled over to him. She kept hoping it was someone else that looked frighteningly like him, she didn’t want to believe it . . .

    Once he was within reach, she raised a shaky hand and pressed her palm against his cheek. His face was warm and the stubbles of his facial hair scratched against her sensitive skin. Liam desperately took her hand and gave it a hard squeeze. That was when her tears escaped easily. A lump swelled in her throat, making it so much harder for her to breathe as she looked to his chest wound and pressed her free hand over his heart to keep the blood in like he did.

    “Phox . . .” her voice cracked inaudibly. “Help . . .” she begged. “He needs medicine . . . help him . . .” Emily pleaded. “Help him, please . . .” Liam’s hand squeezed hers as reassuringly as he could and Emily stopped. Phox wouldn’t be able to get anything for him . . . there wouldn’t be enough time. Her lips quivered as she looked to him. Liam’s eyes stared at hers with equal amount of sorrow and that hurt her even more. “I didn’t mean to . . .” she muttered under her breath. “Liam . . . I’m sorry . . .” Emily apologized. The lump in her throat burned like fire, like it was just seconds away from exploding.

    He released his hold around her hand and pulled her closer to him. She allowed this gesture and laid beside him as she held him gently while his arm wrapped around her waist in a loving embrace. She kept muttering she was sorry, that she didn’t mean to hurt him, and begged him not to be mad at her. “I’m not mad . . .” he muttered weakly. “I could never . . . be mad at you . . .” Liam ran his hand through her hair and planted a gentle kiss on her lips, “You have to win . . .”

    “I can’t . . .” she sobbed quietly. “I’ve only managed to survive this long because you did all the work. . .”

    “You’ll be okay . . .” he choked. “I’m okay with this . . .”

    “But I’m NOT okay with this.”

    “You have to . . .” he looked down at her and pulled her hair from her face. “Promise me you’ll get out of here . . .”

    They had that conversation before and she said she couldn’t. Even when he asked her again she couldn’t agree. But he was dying and it would make him feel better. Emily couldn’t allow herself to say no seconds before he departed. “Okay . . .” Emily nodded. “I promise . . .”

    Liam forced a pained smile and gently pulled her in for a long and loving kiss. Her tears ran down her face, tasting the salt of her sorrow and the blood of his life escaping his lips. The warmth from his body grew colder and colder and that only made more of her tears spill in a bigger mass as they kissed. It was far too soon. She knew one of them had to go sooner or later, but a part of her always hoped she had to be the one to perish first. Then she wouldn’t have to watch and feel him go . . .

    His warmth began to slowly diminish. The life she loved so much began to slowly slip away . . .

    “I love you, Emily . . .” he whispered weakly. “I’m grateful that I met you . . . and got to be with you till the end . . .” Liam’s voice trailed. His eyes fluttered a little as his eyes began to glaze over his steel blues.

    “No . . . no no no, Liam . . . please, let’s talk some more . . .” she whimpered and pressed her forehead to his. His eyes struggled to stay open as his hand gently and weakly brushed against the side of her face and caressed her cheek. “I can’t even begin to tell you how much you mean to me . . .” her voice choked. There was so much she had to make up for everything he and his family did, and she couldn’t share her own gratitude to him. “I’m sorry I’m so useless . . . you have been nothing but patient with me . . . I—” Emily stopped for a moment and wiped her tears, but more soaked her newly dried cheeks. “I wish I knew sooner . . . I wish we had more time . . .” she cried. “Liam . . .”

    BOOM

    Emily’s body flinched at the sound of the cannon and stared at Liam’s still face. The light from his eyes had died. His body was cold. He was gone . . .

    Her body trembled and her eyes were wide with horror and lowered her head to his chest again. No pulse . . . meant no heart beat . . .

    “Liam . . .”

    No response.

    Her hand against his chest balled into a fist, a handful of his shirt in her fist as she nuzzled her face into his chest to muffle her sobs. “Liam . . .” Emily’s voice cracked.

    Nothing.

    “I love you too . . .”

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