Thicker Than Water

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  • Published: 25 Nov 2013
  • Updated: 25 Nov 2013
  • Status: Complete

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1. Thicker Than Water

 

The cannon booms overhead. Annabella's throat tightens. Things are not going well.

"Please not Sadie," she whispers, her voice hoarse. "It can't be Sadie." 

She knows it must be, though. There's no way the small girl from District 8 could have fought off any of the powerful tributes that were left. Annabella didn't get a good look at their attacker before she bolted but he was clearly male and clearly very strong. That meant it was probably District 1 or District 4, because they were two of the three male tributes left. She wouldn't even consider that it could be the other one. She refused to think about the other one.

Slowly, she peered over the ditch she had taken refuge in and looked back at the direction of her and Sadie's camp. Well, just her camp now. The thought that she was on her own now hit her all at once and her throat tightened again like a noose around her neck and her face burned with the hot tears that she didn't even notice were streaking down her cheeks, cutting paths in the layers of grime and dirt that had covered her face since the first day of the games. There wasn't much time for washing when you were trying to stay alive. There wasn't much time for anything when you were trying to stay alive, certainly not friendship, yet somehow she had ended up finding it.

She had watched Sadie during the training, always thinking about talking to her, always thinking about introducing herself. The small unassuming girl from District 8 didn't look like much of a fighter, but as Annabella watched she saw intelligence in her eyes, and that was what would matter in the games. Sadie could light a fire, identify poisonous plants and her traps were excellent. And she seemed like a genuinely nice person. A person she would want to be allies with. A person she could be friends with. But whenever she had just about got up the courage to talk to her she was reminded of him and what he'd say.

"Why would you want her?"

"Stop being such a girl. You're such a loser. You won't last five seconds in there."

As if being a girl would stop her lasting five seconds anyway. Here she was in the final five, and two of them were girls. Wait no, final four now. One of them. 

Waiting on those metal disks as the clock counted down from sixty Annabella had quickly checked out the arena and then tried to find Sadie. She was standing opposite her, almost obscured by the cornucopia. To Annabella's complete surprise Sadie was looking straight at her. Sadie raised her eyebrows then made a brief gesture with her hands, pointing behind her in the direction of thick forest. Annabella understood.

When the gong sounded she ignored the cornucopia and other tributes and instead ran as fast as she could around the metal plates and towards the forest, where she could see Sadie had already reached and was gesturing wildly for her hurry up. When Annabella reached her they wasted no time, and set off still running deep into the forest ignoring the sound of the cannons that would boom every other minute. After two hours of running the adrenaline had died down and they slowed, introducing themselves to each other and deciding what to do next.

"I watched you during training you know. You make a mean snare," Sadie had told her. Annabella had grinned, forgetting where she was.

"I watched you too! Wait that sounded weird. I mean I thought you were interesting. That still sounds kind of weird. What I mean to say is that I always wanted to be allies with you." The two girls smiled and laughed and Annabella had felt strangely happy, as if the awfulness of what had happened was fading away by the second. Of course though, it didn't.

As the sky started to darken they found a good spot and decided to set up camp. Using Sadie's hands on skills she had learned while making uniforms back in her District, and Annabella's mathematical and analytical mind she had formed in District 3 they managed to make a small but sturdy structure out of branches and trees, that was near invisible to anyone who passed by without looking too closely. With their stomachs rumbling and dry throats they had lay in it and looked to the sky as the faces of people they had barely known flashed up, and the gravity of their situation hit them. First there was the boy from One. That was odd, careers don't usually go so quickly. Then the girl from Two; Someone must have really had it out for the careers. Annabella tried to cover up the thoughts of who she knew it was. Sadie took her hand reassuringly while they waited to see if District 3 was going to flash up. It didn't. She should have felt relieved. She didn't.

After four days fourteen tributes had died. Annabella and Sadie hadn't seen a single one. With the exception of taking brief walks to go and collect water from a spring they had found on the second day, and to forage for berries and  nuts to eat they didn't leave camp once. They began to wonder if people had forgotten about them, but apparently someone wealthy from The Capitol thought they were worth rooting for because on day three a parachute was waiting for them when they woke up containing two rucksacks filled with bread, cheese and, to their surprise, weapons. It hadn't even occurred to them that were someone to pass by they would have no way to defend themselves.

That was two days ago. This morning they awoke to the sound of a twig snapping, and they were both instantly up and running. The weapons were left lying on the ground.

Sadie had started to struggle almost instantly: In District 8 people don't have the motivation to exercise. She tripped over a rock and Annabella had stopped to help pick her up, but to her horror a branch had somehow embedded itself in Sadie's leg. Through gritted teeth Sadie told her to go, to leave her behind, that if one of them were to have even a slim chance of winning it would be Annabella. Annabella nodded. She could hear the attacker approaching. She bolted. 

Now, hesitantly making her way back in the direction of Sadie she saw the hovercraft pass overhead and its claw extend down and lift up a body. It looked female. 

The tears refusing to stop leaving her eyes. Annabella walks back to camp, a hyperventilating mud covered mess. She's lost the last friend she will probably ever have. And she was too much of a coward to try and help her. 

The instant she gets back to camp the atmosphere has changed. She knows what it is. The attacker is still here, waiting. She knows who it is. It can't be anyone else. She hopes to God that it is, but she knows it won't be. A voice comes from behind her.

"Well hey there, sister. Fancy seeing you here."

Shaking, Annabella turns around. Her thoughts are confirmed. There stands her bother, a sick grin on his face. "Why?" is all she manages to choke out.

"This is a game I intend to win little sister. You were always better at chess, but I think I've found a game I can beat you at." He conspicuously moves his arm and her attention is drawn to the loaded crossbow at his side. There is blood on the loaded bolt. 

Annabella shakes her head. "You aren't my brother any more,"  she says, struggling to get the words out. Everything is crashing down around her, this isn't happening, she refuses to believe this is happening. It feels like reaping day again, and she can feel herself rip apart when her and her bothers name are called, and her insides churn when he smiles as he takes his place on the stage. Her brother was always too big for District 3. It was clear this eventually would happen. Annabella just didn't foresee herself being a part of it. 

"She was fun to kill you know."

"Stop."

"I enjoyed listening to her pleas and goodbyes."

"Please stop."

"It was a pleasure to see her life drain from her eyes."

"I said stop!"

He smirks. "Calm down. You'd think someone's died or something."

And then Annabella leaps at him, clawing with dirt covered nails and biting with now yellow teeth. Her brother is caught off guard for a minute, and stumbles backwards. Only for a minute though. Instinctively he raises his arm and she can feel cool metal pressing against her chest. And then she can't feel it pressing against her chest. And she can't feel him either. She falls to her knees, blood leaking out from around the bolt that's gone straight through her chest and she can't feel anything. She coughs once and closes her eyes. She knows it's over.

She feels Sadie's hand on hers reassuringly once again.

 

 

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