The drink was a sea in a bottle. Angry waves, tossing the content around in swirls, all the while being perfectly calm. It was a sky in a glass and a clear dream in a reality ringed to hopeless.
Just a bottle. Just a drink.
Colourless crystal, yet perfect blue. No labels, yet I knew exactly what it did.
I would never have left her. Never. But then, why am I here now? It was all surreal - a dream-stated living. It wasn't my decision. It couldn't have been. I would never leave her. I shouldn't have been there and they should have. Now, I shouldn't be here but I am, and so are they. And so they are.
They'll come for me like they took Peeta. And it will break Mother, like it did Katniss. I can't do anything, that's the frustrating thing. The drink just brought me and my old bag, hung across my shoulder.
I am alone.
Alone in a forest. In a forest covered in snow. In a year that forests existed.
This, though, was new. It was old and well loved and worn and dark and scary and a playground for the dead and a playground for the living. Just a forest, but it was a new sight to me. I grew up in black and white, or more accurately: black and grey. I didn't know when I was little, but everyone around me was sad. However much they smiled, they were still sad- it didn't change anything. There were those who had stopped smiling, because they had worked out it didn't change anything and stopped bothering. Though Mother said they had just stopped caring.
So I walked. Just like I would walk the streets of District 12 with a smile that pretended our lives were all okay. I slid on the snow with my scarf wrapped around my neck and bunches up in my hands as if I were at home. I trudged along as if there weren't people wanting me dead for walking into an abandoned room this morning. And picking up a bottle. And drinking it, and leaving her.
Each step cracked a twig or crunched the snow and broke the silence. I couldn't get away from the loud and the nothing. I got quicker and quicker until it was a run. Flat-out with the cool wind pulling past my face, grabbing my instincts. Simply moving. But I wasn't running from them. I wasn't scared of them. I should have had fear coursing through every bone and fiber in my being knowing they were nearby, but I wasn't scared of them. I didn't care.
That's what scared me.
My own thoughts.
That's what I ran from. The shouting and the silence. The screaming nothingness.
Mother, I'm sorry.
I ran until it was therapy for my discomfort. I was the storm of the sea in a bottle. I was the expanse of the sky in a glass forest, where each snowflake would shatter at your touch.
Each fleck of snow grasping at a branch enhanced. Every oddly tight cuff of my dress became painfully apparent. Clarity graced every sense and comfort whispered it's goodbyes once more.
They say we bottle things up, but the phial was meant to be my vent. Now I can't hit anything as hard as I want to more than ever. Frustration tightened my body and sent me walking again- no better off here than I was back home.
Untangling me from my thoughts was a yell. "Don't take him away!"
"Who?" I asked, genuinely curious.
The voice yelped and jumped back. "I..." As the voice trailed off I identified it to be that of the tiny figure, curled into a ball, tucked behind an oak tree. Dead leaves covered the ground around her and this seemed to be a fitting landscape for the tear stained cheeks and bleeding left arm.
"I t-thought you werrrre someone else and I-" I could clearly hear the fear and unwillingness in her tone so I stopped her, to save any forced lies.
"It's okay. I'm Prim. What happened to your arm?"
"I'm Tash. I fell on a thorn bush when I was running. It dug in pretty bad, but I couldn't feel it." She sighed, shifting a bit from her crouch.
"Numb?" I asked, mirroring her position.
"Yeah, in more ways than one." Rash said with a sad smile. "I mean..." She tried to save, but I cut her off again.
"Show me your arm, I'm a bit of a doctor." I offered her a hand.
"That's what he's gonna be. Wait whatever, how are you a doctor, you look about 13?"
"I am but back in my district, there isn't many doctors. So my mother, being one, taught me." I replied simply, before realising something.
"District?" She asked, but allowed me another view of her arm anyway.
"Er... What year is this?" I said as it dawned on me.
"Same one it's been since January. 2015." Said the short brunette.
2015? Why then.
Her hair was tucked into her collar as if she was in a rush. Her cheeks were wet and flushed. Pretty, but broken- though not beyond repair. Not quite.
"You sure it was just a thorn?" I asked examining her arm, taking time to stare at her numerous tattoos. She can only be 15 max...
A cracking sound split through the air and froze both of us. "That'll be them." We said in unison...
"Who's them?" We also both said.
"President Snow's people." I stated before realizing Tash had no idea who that was. Lucky her.
"I don't know a lot about politics so I won't question that. And, it's the army people after me."
"You wanted or something?" I asked as she got up.
"I could ask you the same. No, it's their fault I ran so they got assigned looking." She said simply, as she looked around.
I wanted to ask more, but I didn't want to make her uncomfortable. Also, we didn't have much time.
"Where do you need to go?" Tash asked brushing off leaves.
"I have no idea where I am. Away."
"I haven't a clue either. The shot came from over there so I say that way." She pointed in the direction of the sun.
"Let's do it."
Tree after tree. We walked and walked. We decided that running would create too much noise and waste energy and also wouldn't be good for Tash's arm. So we walked. Passing every type if tree I could imagine and using every once of my control to not scream 'here we are' just so it would end. The repeating cycle was going around in my mind. Driving me to insanity. Maybe I'm already there.
"So why are you running from a president?" Tash finally asked.
I sighed and played with the tips of my blonde/brown plaits. "I shouldn't be here. I drank something and it brought me here and I shouldn't have been there at all."
"Why do they care?"
"He's a mad man. Who knows."
"Can you get back?"
That, I wasn't expecting. That hadn't even crossed my mind.
"I. I don't actually think I can. Not without being caught. And being caught means certain torcher."
"Living with memories is worse."
I breathed in the new surrounding. Or old depending how you looked at it. 2015. Another capture in the world's forgotten photo album- that's yet to happen. It still smelt fresher here than anywhere I had ever been. Tash was running for the army, but she was still free. Even if I did make it home somehow, there nothing to return to. Except her.
I'm so sorry.
"You can ask, you know."
"Why are you running?" I said finally.
"They're sending my Dad off to War. I don't want him to leave, so I ran." She said, continuing on out low-lit path.
I pictured Katniss's face as she left.
"They sent my sister off to war, disguised as a game."
Again, I don't have an answer to her question. How did he get away with that?
Up ahead, light crawled over the ground and trunks of trees, claiming back the shadows. We slowed down and moved more casually. The darkness had hidden us this far, so we picked our way towards the edge, fearful of what was on the other side.
We did come to the edge.
And there it began.
The burst of light brought wonders beyond my mind.
"My sister told me stories about these kinds of places. But I started to believe they were only in the Games."
The clearing held a lake in the centre of it's palms. The distant horizon was a golden orange, with tinges of pink, melted onto a mirror of the brilliant glass. This place was straight out of a vintage photograph. A place where the sky was infinite and everything reflected that.
The abandoned building, on the banks of the lake, had overgrown vines running wild across its face. Collected trees were grouped like a family beyond the derelict crumble. Unruly licks of grass, flamed across the expanse- all, in what seemed, a camera filter.
The place looked as neglected and broken as we felt, but it did it beautifully.
Shattered windows were hidden beneath the dense foliage. The silence was enchanting, not violent. We gazed up at the trees surrounding us as we took slow steps forward. Colour.
My memory pulled at image as perfect as this, only stumbling on the desolate District 13.
"Tash, the same thing happened here as what did in one of our districts back home:"
I looked around at the stories of the past.
"nature took over. And it did it beautifully."
Maybe I don't need to go home if there's this. We can stay here forever, but there are other places out there. This place epitomized the neglection of our lives, while reminding us there is still hope and a need to keep going.