I had won the hunger games but that was not the end. I still had to ride the roller coaster that was being a mentor. But I may have a gap year this year, just maybe. As last year was the 24th annual games, this year would be the quarter quell, it was a special games with different rules.
When I returned home I was given a house which I gladly took. It was in a set of houses that were meant for victors only,but i was the only occupant. I didn't want to live with my foster parents anymore. I holed myself away for ten months and didn't go out unless it was for food, water etc. I guess I was in shock. Of what happened and my experiences. I still had Kinders wound on my chest as a memory. I was only seventeen and my eighteenth birthday is in a few months. I wish I would have died in that arena.
After six months we were meant to go on a victors tour around the districts but that had been cancelled. So I sat watching a broadcast from the Capitol to find out why. They were going to announce the rule for this years games. So I took my chair and sat in it as this was going to take awhile. I was cold to the touch. At least that's what my foster brother had said. He was my only friend who came to visit me. He was the only person who came to visit me.
President snow appeared on the screen. "People of the districts, this year it will be the 25th hunger games." There was a loud cheer. "The rules for this year are different." He pulled a slip of paper out of a dark green envelope. "These games will be for the strong and mighty, only sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year olds can qualify. Two boys from each district, no girls. And all can qualify, civilians,victors and workers alike. Also, next year will be different. It will be a quarter quell as well." The screen went black. I was stunned. I was back in the running for another games. The pool of boys was smaller. I didn't dare to think about it so I called my brother and we took a walk to the forest. They loved to throw victors into the games.
It was the day of the new reaping. My foster brother is sixteen and had never done the games but as we sat on the spot that I sat at last year, I knew he was scared. I just called him my brother because I felt protective of him, and I loved him like he was my real brother. The wind was cold and there was frost in the trees as we watched the stage be built again. "Ash, what will happen?". The trees shook in the wind as it whipped around my face, leaving my hair in a great mess. I was shocked at his outburst of speech. My brother had never been the strongest boy on the block and could get very emotional. "It won't be you, I promise." And with that he got up and left. I sat for another minute before following him down the long trail to the square.
I had my blood taken, this was to keep track of the population. I was shoved into a roped off area.I was stood in the square with around forty other boys. I was the only victor there. Some boys had told me I had to volunteer, but I said nothing. It was picked at random, we were not district one and two. We were seven. But yet we stood, waited and were silent. They played the video about our rebellion,how we were defeated and how the games is our punishment.
Then Octavia, our announcer appeared. There was no 'ladies first' so she said. "Welcome all, it's now time to pick our two boys to fight and to make our district proud. She reached into the mound of paper and pulled out the first slip of paper. The black tape was peeled away as some of the boys drew a breath. "The first boy is Max birch." I didn't know this boy but yet he appeared, red faced and timid as he walked up the stairs. We waited for any volunteer but there were none. So she went for the second slip of paper. She peeled the tape. My heart stopped. "Jack forest". Phew, it wasn't me. But I knew that name. It was my foster brother. I looked for him as he walked through the crowd. I felt something burn inside me. I had always protected him and I was just going to lose him. He was onstage when I looked back. "Well," said Octavia. "We have our tributes." But then I shouted, "Wait, I volunteer for Jack." I don't know what came over me. I walked out and toward the stage as Jack burst into tears. He was always emotional. I gave him a hug as we exchanged places. But I only just realised what I had done. I had put myself into an all male, all star games.
We were escorted into the justice building, when Jack burst in. He was still sobbing his heart out. We hugged each other for a minute before he spoke."thank you, thank you, but please,don't die, you won and you could do it again.I love you Ash." I only had time to reply with a "me too." Before he was dragged away. I knew I had no other family so I waited to be dragged out into the car. I knew I was the only living victor from my district so I had to train and mentor the other boy, Max. In the car we met Electra, our escort. But I just watched the district fade as we got on the train and it pulled off.
I sat on the train at the table and stared off into the distance until my peace was disturbed. Max and Electra came in. The filled their plates and sat. "Is it always like this?" It was Max. I didn't think of replying but Electra did. "No it's just that, never mind. So Max what are your plans?" "To win of course!" Great another boy who is full of himself. "Yes obviously, but any plan on weapons or tactics?" And yet he started again,"well I know my tactics..." And he tailed on about his plan and how he would win. He was so naive and so cocky, I couldn't stand much longer. "And I'm going to use knives, I think, but I'm good with an axe." That sent me over the edge and in a burst of fury I picked up a knife, "NO,the knives are mine I'm not learning a new skill, and stop sharing your plans because if I was a career I would know how to kill you, and you don't want that, at all..." And to clear my point I said again "THE KNIVES ARE MINE." And I threw the dinner knife at the nearby drawing of a human, straight in the heart and stormed of to my bedroom.
The next day we got off the train and I was silent. I had nothing to say but I knew I would have to talk. But I gathered my things and strode off the train like the victor I really am and may not be much longer. I got the elevator up to the floor and dumped my stuff. I took a walk, I knew I wasn't really meant to but I did anyway. It was calming and peaceful and picturesque at the park I found myself in. I took a quick swim in the lake, but then I heard it. My senses had changed since the games. I was jumpy and alert and I knew what was happening. But I ignored the oncoming camera men and reporters. After ten minutes of them watching me I got out of the water and grabbed my clothes. I pushed the reporters away, I didn't want to deal with this now. I had had enough of these games. I got In The elevator and re-dressed and got onto the floor. But Electra was there "where do you think you've been?" I simply replied with "swimming" and went to prepare myself for the prep team.
I met a new set of people this time and I knew I was in poor condition, I had grown some abs but I had a thick mop of hair and a slight beard. They stripped me and waxed my back. They said the hair made me look manly but they shaved my beard that I had worked so hard to grow. They swept my hair Back with gel and it looked like a flat quiff. But I payed little attention as my mind wandered. I had to be one of the favourites being the only victor in these games and my swimming yesterday would have caused a stir. I didn't kill anyone last time but I knew I had to. Like Kinder he was cold and blood thirsty. But I would never be kinder, just thinking of him sent chills down my spine. Then my old stylist walked in, Flame. She understood me and said nothing, knowing I was thinking. I followed her down a hallway where I was given a brown suit, nothing special but then I saw a crown from the side of the room. It was green of course as I was from the logging district, but a crown. I nearly broke down but I kept myself together. I hugged Flame and managed a "thank you" before taking the clothes to get dressed. I had time to kill so me and Max watched the other reaping ceremonies. As that finished I said to Max. "Watch out for one and two, the boys from six and four and the girl from five." I had to help him some way or another, I was his mentor.
We were escorted down to the chariots and I passed the other districts, I got many stares but I looked ahead. This didn't phase me, well not anymore. I said to Max "look kind, smile but don't wave." He nodded as we stepped onto the chariot to await the parade but I feel a pull from behind. I turned to find a boy "That crown will be mine." He pulled me off the chariot and aimed a punch. But i was too quick and, not wanting to be violent, kicked him in the groin. I turned leaving him to lie on the floor. Electra came over "why did you just knee of of three's boys?" I simply said "he was trying to steal my crown." She went to reply but the call was made for escorts to move away and they chariots started to move. I knew I was shutting people out but the games changed people mainly for the worse. That's why I hid myself away. I had nightmares and dreams, i was scared. We pulled of into the arena and I stared intently off into the distance, I think we had one of the loudest cheers seven has ever had. This threw me off guard but I kept my cool as we stopped to listen to president snows speech.
I got back and didn't bother to watch the highlights. I took a shower as I knew what setting I liked, I had a good memory you see and then I lay in bed and slept. I was awoken by shouting but got dressed in my training gear, a lose black t-shirt, trousers and a pair of combat boots before I went and followed it up. Turns out it was Electra and Max who had been shouting as they were debating it over breakfast. Electra wanted him to try and make alliances with the careers but Max, sticking to his earlier plan, wanted to stay a lone wolf. I had no preference on the matter, Max was dead to me which he would really be in a few days. But I ate, drank and took the elevator down to training early, half an hour to be exact.
I saw the knives and noted nobody was around. I strolled over to one and picked it it, it felt the same as the ones I had used in the arena, ones that had been in skulls, torsos and limbs. I picked one up, only carefully and threw it. It whistled through the air, breaking the silence. Straight to the heart.I turned on the machine and the targets changed and I threw another. Bulls eye. I steadily got back into the swing and I got into my element. Throwing knives at lightning speed, straight into the hearts of my enemies. I thought of Kinder but that reminded me of Willow. We had barley any contact since the games. I missed her and I hoped if I won these games I could see her again. But I soon zoned back in to life and herd a noise. I turned to find most of the tributes and trainers. Some clapped, other gave me death stares. I put down my knives and left the station as I knew we were given talks on our schedule. I apologised for being here with no supervision and joined the others.
The talks were boring but I wasn't itching to get started either. But when they did end I went over to the swords and just watched a boy from one slashing at a target. He was good, I have to admit, and maybe a match for me even. I went over and picked up a sword and went to the other end of the station. I started hacking at a dummy but I knew I hadn't used a sword in a while, I was rusty so I went back to watch the career. After a while he said "what do you want?" I said "to learn" he replied with "yeah right, what do you need to learn?" I said "Everything." I left and went back to slashing my dummy but he walked over. "Twist your grip to the right" I changed my grip. "Use your knees." I obeyed and found I was gaining speed and it was easy to swing. I mumbled a "thanks" and moved away to watch Max at the axes. He was good, I have to say but I knew he could do better. I went over to him. "I'm sorry" "for what?" "For shutting you out." He stopped briefly but went back to chopping. "You can use knives if you want but in the arena most of them will be in my jacket." He laughed and walked away to the knives. I knew I had to be a fartherly figure to him. But it was nearly impossible knowing I might be be one to split his skull open.
Whalen we got back from training we had dinner, I had missed this food. Back at home I went back to my ways of rabbit or bird as they where abundant in the forests. But my stomach was still small and I ate only in small portions. I did have a protein shake though. I went for a measuring session with Flame and then I wandered off to watch the highlights of the day on the projection screen. I watched them talk about how the careers were showing good promise which the weapons, the girl from five passed the edible plants test with flying colours. The boy from four killed his hand-to-hand combat session and got a theoretical 24 kills in fifteen minutes on a trainer. The team from three made a mediocre trap that was meant to hang you dangerously from your leg. But then it cut too me. They debated my swim yesterday and whether the was a sign of calm or fear. They talked about my throwing before the training started. They also talked about me possibly having an alliance with the boy from one. I had had enough of their guessing and went to bed.
I woke to a banging on my door and I got up and dressed. I went to breakfast and filled my plate with a small helping of a porridge like form. I was sweet and I tasted the familiar honey sweetness. I ate in peace and was just about to leave when Max walked in with Electra. They where talking quietly as the stylists walked in. "Flame," I had forgotten to ask "you remember my jacket from last year?" She nodded in reply. I had asked for it to hold knives and it helped me a lot in the arena. "Can I have the same style again?" She replied with "of course" before I left and sat on the sofa and waited for training to start. I had an hour so I closed my eyes and attempted to nap. I awoke to find I was ten minuets late! So I rushed down to the floor and slipped in unnoticed.
I made my way over to the knives where a boy from eight was literally chucking his knives at the targets. I didn't want to embarrass him so I went up to him. "You want some help?" He seemed surprised that I was behind him and talking to him. He simply nodded as he looked like the cat had got his tongue. I grabbed a knife, showed him how to hold it and said "concentrate on your aim." And I threw it. He whispered a "thank you" before I said "keep practising" before walking away to wait for him to leave. I went over to the camouflage station to pass time. I mixed some of the substances together and tried to paint bark from a tree on my arm. I had no use for camouflage and I was lucky I didn't. I was rubbish. I washed my arm and walked away, noticing the boy had left the knives. But I had a quick go on the edible plants test. 87%. Not to bad I guess. But i wanted to get back to the knives,To let off some steam. So I wandered over to the station and started the moving targets. I threw, not completely accurately, at the targets. But the careers seemed to notice. The boy from three I kneed at the parade and one from two came over. The boy from two picked one of the knives up and I let him have a go. He threw. Not completely straight and missed his second. But soon he was throwing pretty steady shots. I knew what he was doing so I barged my way past him and picked up a knife. I said "watch and learn" and turned the machine up to the highest setting. I knew I was stretching myself but I had to prove my point. I picked up a set of knives and threw them. I didn't look where they went but I kept throwing until I had used all the knives. I stopped the machine and walked off. I looked back as the boy from two gawped at the set of targets. Still as statues with a knife lodged in each of their hearts. I was satisfied. But then time was called.
We had our private sessions tomorrow with the game makers. I would throw my knives (obviously) and maybe wield a sword. But I had no doubts my score would be quite high. I had a shower before dinner and it was luxurious. I had a small portion of meat and vegetables before setting myself down on one of the numerous green chairs around the screen. The other joined me as the show started. It was mainly the same stuff about the careers but they did mention me showing up the boy from two. I laughed at the gawping boy on screen. I knew and he knew that he looked weak. Well the more sponsors the better I guess. The girl from twelve had a go on the speed game where you tap tiles on a screen as fast as possible. She was good for somebody from twelve. Amazing thinking about it. She looked nimble and she had a small frame. She would be a hard target to throw at. I could smell the leftovers from dinner and it made me hungry. But the smaller my stomach was, the better. I took sips of my protein shake as I waited for the show to end. It soon did and I excused myself and went to bed.
I wa awoken by a noise. I sat bolt upright in a flash, only to find it was Max. "Hey,can we talk?" I didn't know what to think about his late night venture, I was curious so I replied "sure,what about?" "I'm scared, like so scared. I don't know what to do." I couldn't see him properly so I got up and walked over to him. I guess I compared him to my brother, small, timid and emotional. Just as I reached him he broke into small, quiet sobs. "Let it all out." it always helped with my brother. So we sat on the floor of my suite as he sobbed into my chest. I guess it felt strange as I didn't know him like my brother but I let him. He looked small for seventeen and I was a tall,stocky boy. I would be eighteen when the games started, on the second day to be exact. After a while he said "I'm sorry, I should go." So I watched him leave, only to hear him run into Electra. "What are you doing up this late?" I didn't know what this would mean for him. I walked to the door and opened it a crack. "Nothing,just thinking." "Okay, we'll get back to bed. We don't want you tired tomorrow." I heard him run down the corridor, he had made it. I guess I didn't want to harm him as he reminded me so much of my brother. But I slipped back into my bed, not before checking the time. 12:35 . I had a few hours.
I awoke early and got dressed. I walked down the corridor to the dining room, to find a spread of food. I had a slice of toast with some jam, I don't know what kind. It was just jam. I was heading to the gym as I passed Max, he gave me a weak smile before heading off. I got on a treadmill and started running. I had to be fast to reach the cornucopia otherwise I would have nothing. I knew I would be on the top of the kill list. I wondered where my skills came from. I had no training and no family of fighters. Just plain old me. I ran faster and pushed myself. I became a sweaty mess and went to have a shower. But I was stopped by a loud knocking. I got out and dressed. I walked out to find Max "what is it?" I felt the tone in my voice and he looked like he was about to run away. "We have to go." I followed him down the corridor, into the elevator and down to the floor. We got out the elevator to find we were the last ones there. We made our way to sit on the crates as the boy from one was called. I hummed a tune as I sat and waited. It was a song that many kids sang in our district but I never learnt the words. But my brother would often hum it on our trips to the forest. Soon Max was called I said "make me proud" he nodded as he was lead away. We had ten minuets to show the game makers our skills and they would give us a score. This score would be broadcasted on Capitol tv later today.
as i waited to be called i took a look around me. A bunch of pale faces sat around me as i hear "Ash" i stood and followed the woman out into the training area.
As i entered, the woman left me and i took a tentative step into the floor. Despite being who i was, i was,in my mind, still scared. the game makers all turned their heads, which was better than what i got last year. Usually the game makers were drunk from their never ending buffet. I wondered what it would it would have been like if i was from district twelve. They may have been too drunk to even look at me. But they watched me like hawks as I approached the knives, i had to get this. So i started the machine at a slow speed and picked up one of the knives. They felt heavy in my hands but I knew it was my mind playing tricks on me. So I sucked it up and threw. Just off centre. NOO! I screamed in my head. So I increased the speed and thought about Kinder,Willow, How stupid these games are and all the bad things in my life. The good things that went wrong. I got myself so worked up I threw completely straight. I had no time to congratulate myself as I was already throwing the next knife. I was completely in the moment, like a hawk on the hunt. But them I got my rage on, rage was never good until you got in the arena. I turned to see a sandbag hanging from the ceiling, my knife went straight to the rope. Severing it and leaving the bag to drop to the floor. I threw one at a nearby dummy at the swords station. I threw one at the ceiling lamp, shattering it as sparks flew across the room. I heard the bell signalling me to leave, so I threw a knife at the button of the elevator. It opened as I walked towards it. I said "thank you for watching me." Before I got in the elevator and went back to my floor.
I opened the door to Electra, "well how was it then?" I needed some time to think so I said "I'll tell you at dinner." And she nodded and walked away. I walked down the corridor, only to find myself knocking on Max's door. I got no response so I tried the handle. Open. So I opened it and I saw nobody, but as I turned the corner I saw Max, sat staring out of the window. He turned around and said "I did it" I was confused so I asked him "what did you do?" And he stood, and said "I messed up." I said, "that's ok, some people play that tactic. So it's not the end of the world. I know your better than that." I guessed he meant about his session, but I couldn't be more wrong. "No it's, not that." I was really confused now. "Then what is it?" He gestured for me to take a seat, so I did. "I watched the games last year, and I felt for you. I really did. But Kinder used to be my friend. He lived in our district but left when his dad started working for the Capitol." I shocked me to hear this news and memories came flooding back. Of the boy who used to be in my class and when he left we thought he had starved. I wished to talk to him again, to tell him I hated him. But Max snapped me back into reality. "When he left, we managed to keep contact. When he died in the games, I cried. I felt lost. He was like my big brother, and I still miss him to this day. But I vowed to avenge him when the opportunity came. This is my opportunity, these games are my lifeline." I fled the room, not wanting to stay any longer.
I rushed straight to lunch. I ate a slice of bread. I wasn't hungry in the slightest. When Max arrived you could almost see the tension. We had to watch the training scores and then be prepared for our interviews that would be live tonight. I sat on a chair, waiting in apprehension. I had got an eleven last year. But as the show started I learned the scoring was between five and fifteen. That was ok I thought but then they started showing the scores. The careers had twelves and thirteens. It must a good bunch this year. A very good bunch. The scores then wavered from a six for district six to a ten for district four. Then Max's face appeared on screen. The world slowed. The number was announced. Twelve. My word. I looked over at him and he gave me one of those smiles. Like he was happy I was there but he wanted to kill me. He then looked away putting his boyish smile on. He high-fives Electra before walking off with his stylist. Then my face appeared. "And our golden boy has got..." The world stopped and I jolted back into reality to see a fifteen on the screen. A fifteen like one five. A massive grin appeared on my face as I got up and walked over to Flame. I hugged her as we proceeded down to the prep rooms. A single tear of joy appeared on my face as I hear a shout "look boys, golden boy is crying!" I hated that name. The Capitol had used it and it stuck. Boo them. I saw the shout had come from the boy from three who I had kneed at the parade. He had a massive grudge against me. But I broke away from Flame and strode down the corridor. I approached the boy from three and I remembered him name was Matthew. I picked him up by the shoulders of his shirt and pressed him against the wall. He struggled to move as I held him there. "Look at little Matthew, full of himself thinking he can win." I laughed as I dropped him and walked off. I may have ripped the sleeve of his shirt, oh well. It was like nothing had happened. But I turned to find him behind me. He aimed a punch but he missed, scratching my arm. I started to bleed but yet again I walked off to the prep room.
As Flame was bandaging my arm she asked me if I was ok. I guess I was but I wasn't expecting the punch. She said my outfit had short sleeves and I said it would be fine to show my bandage, might get me a few more sponsors if I looked like I'd been a fight. I had my hair cut but I couldn't see it until I put my outfit on. Flame had been told to give me an open shirt but you could still see the target and 'kill me' written on my chest. I could see flame was having doubts but I reassured her that it would be ok. But my hair looked like the style I had in the last games, low maintenance. It was almost an exact copy, it moved me. Nearly to tears. Anything that remained me of the games did. But I collected myself and I strode down the hallway past the others to find Max. We had some time before we had to go down to the stage. You could feel the tension between us, you could cut it with a knife. But I was still his mentor so I told him to play to the crowd. He simply nodded and gave me that false smile as we were called down to the stage area. I had to take the elevator after Max because of the crowds, only to find that I had to share it with the boy from one. It was just us. He said "I hope you'll be joining me in the arena." I had not thought of this, or any alliance to be truthful. I had considered Max, but no more. "Won't you be with the careers?" "Well I meant the careers,not just me." Oh,right. I had just made myself look like an idiot. "Sure" I replied, not really thinking about my reply. I watched the other interviews until it was my turn.
The crowd looked blurred as I attempted to compose myself and stride over to Caesar flicker-man. He was the host of the show. He was allowed to ask me four questions. I bowed before taking a seat, and the crowed cheered. Caesar said "welcome Ash, welcome. So first question, how are you?" I almost laughed. Out of everything to ask, he asked me how I was. I composed myself and replied "I'm great thank you, very good actually." "Well that's good, but your hurt. What happened to your arm?" Great. I knew this would be a talking point. So I played it "well I had a bit of a scrap, nothing big. But everyone gets scars Caesar. Everybody does." I didn't know how far to take this, but I went a step further. "And this is mine." I stood and opened my shirt, showing the audience the true extent of what was engraved on my chest. They gasped, like they had never seen it before. I think I saw one woman faint. They were overreacting, definitely. But I sat back down and awaited my next question. "Well, very true Ash. But next question. We saw you volunteer for a boy named Jack at the reaping, any reason?" The question took me by surprise, but I had to give an answer, "He my foster brother Caesar." 'Ah of course. But is there anybody else behind this?" I thought about this. Was there? "Willow." It came as a whisper but it was picked up on the microphone. "And is this the Willow you won with last year?" "Yeah." I loved Willow. She'd kissed me after the games, and she had saved me. I owed her. I had one more question though. I felt sick. Very sick. But Caesar went on "well we have some footage people, who wants to see it?" The crowd cheered as the film played on the screen behind me. It was of my run in with the boy from three. I had been caught. But I saw something, as I picked him up, my eyes went funny. They glazed over turning a darker shade of brown. Almost black. It reminded me of the last person I wanted to be reminded me of, Kinder. Maybe even in Max. I phased out but I heard a voice, snapping me back into reality. "Well our golden boy is certainly feisty this year, with a training score of fifteen. Our golden boy, Ash Sparsk." The crowd erupted as I left the stage and Max walked on. I wanted to floor him and punch him in the face. Right there and then. But I restrained myself as I heard the question. "How is it having Ash as your mentor?" "Ah, now that's a story. He is so inspiring." I watched as a string of lies easily left his mouth. I could barley sit through the other interviews. The minute it was over I rushed back to my room, only just making it in time to vomit in the toilet. I flushed it away, flustered, as I got into bed and fell swiftly asleep.
I saw myself, in a forest. It Was familiar. It was the arena from last year. I sat, my vision blurred. It seemed like forever, only to find myself awake again. My vision cleared as I stared at the grass. I saw two pairs of feet. I knew one of them. His. I tried to fall asleep. But this seemed real. Too real. I didn't want to see the face of the other person. But I heard his voice. "Worthless." It was Max. I looked down to find blood streaming down my chest, my wound reopened. After all of this time. My blood felt unfamiliar, unlike the stuff that came out of the fight with the boy from three. It was cold, sticky and oozed out my chest. I tried to run but I couldn't move. I tried to imagine this away. I felt faint but I felt a stinging sensation on my cheek. Kinder had slapped me. Hard. I looked around me. I saw a knife on the floor. Willow and the boy from two asleep by the fire. Wait. A knife on the floor. I tried to move my arms but they were heavy, weak. I had one option left, to shout and scream. I belted at the top of my lungs and my eyes fluttered closed. When I awoke I was sat on my bed. Still belting. I stopped myself. The whole building must have heard me. We used to have to shout to each other in the forest back home. I dressed myself. Today was the games. I tried to act like nothing had happened. Electra attempted to open her mouth as I passed her in the corridor but I gave her a straight look of I don't wanna talk about it. She nodded and walked off, leave me to eat breakfast with Max. "So, why I was such a liar?" I looked up. He had heard me. My god. I had made a big mistake. I stared off. If I ignored him he might just go away. "I said answer me." I could hear the tone in his voice. Nobody knew my dreams were so violent. I was not ready to tell. I made an attempt to leave, but as I walked down the corridor I could hear him following me. "I said ANSWER ME." His voice roared. I stood still. He grabbed my shoulders, he pushed me against the wall. I struggled to move. Now I knew why he had gotten a twelve. But I twisted away and punched his nose leaving a stream of scarlet blood trailing down his face. I turned at the end of the corridor. "BECAUSE YOUR A BACKSTABBING LIAR, THATS WHY." His actions had been a lie, he was a lie. I had no idea who he was.
I ran straight down to the prep rooms. Where I met flame, I tried to bury my anger. I felt betrayed, back stabbed. I was given similar clothes to last year. That would play to my advantage. Flame gave me my armband. It had survived a games and was hopefully going to survive another. 20 SECONDS TILL LAUNCH. I gave Flame a hug "If I die, tell Willow I love her." She gave me a stiff nod as a tear appeared in the corner of her eye. "Don't cry, you barely even know me." I hugged her one last time as ten seconds was called. I stepped into the glass tube and it sealed around me. This was it. This was the start of the games. I checked my jacket. It was my style, that was good. I fiddled with my armband and I turned it inside out. And I noticed something, mine and willows name written inside a heart. We had done it in the last games. I felt tears well inside of me, I missed her. I left my band inside out as I let one tear drop. I was on the move.
I appeared on the surface, trees to my left. A pine forest at first glance. A series of rocks to my right, I looked like it would lead to a water fall. "Welcome ladies and gentlemen to this years hunger games, we will begin in 5 minutes." I could picture Jack sat at home, waiting. I looked over at the boy from one receiving a stern nod. I then looked at the spoils coming from the cornucopia. I picked a backpack to run for near the golden cone. The sun was bright and reflecting on the golden cone that twisted into a sharp point. It was silver last year, I remember everything that happened in the games. Everything. But I scanned the cornucopia for knives, none were visible. That must have been deliberate, I'm sure of it. "Welcome, welcome. We are about to start the hunger games. So good luck everybody, may the countdown begin." I shook in my boots.60. The countdown had started. No twelve year olds as pale as snow. No weaklings.50. I needed to keep cool, I had fifty seconds.40. I took a deep breath.30. I had half a minute, I had time 20. There was no chance of running now, there never was. 10. No, no, no, how can there be ten seconds.9. Calm.8. Breathe.126.96.36.199. I took my running stance.3.2.1. A horn sounded signalling we could run.
I bolted toward the centre, making it first. I grabbed my backpack and headed into the cone in search of knives. I heard screams and shouts behind me but I didn't look. Watching someone die was hard, very hard. Where were the knives? I tipped over some crates, not there. I turned to see a boy from eleven running off with them. They were my lifeline, not today. I shot off after him picking up a spear on the way. I stopped, aimed and threw. I looked away, I couldn't look. But somebody got there first, slicing his stomach open. At least that's what I thought I saw as I went over. The attacker had left, overlooking the knives. I still hadn't killed. Good, that's what I hoped for. I grabbed my loot as I ran back to the cornucopia, Seeing the careers already collecting the spoils. I heard the cannon go off thirteen times. Eleven left to play. I cleaned the knives on my shirt. There were three good blades. I shoved them in my jacket. I sat and went through my backpack: some dried fruit, a water bottle, iodine, a blade like a saw and a tent. I got a good pack.
I went up to the boy from one and asked him if the other careers were OK with this. He said they were hesitant but are ok now. I pitched my tent slightly away from the group. I felt like a lost child, but it was becoming dark, the careers could afford to start a fire so they did. As we sat pleasant chat was made, nothing amazing. Just small talk, but they did talk about the bloodbath. I said I had killed nobody when they asked me. It was the truth, unless you counted the run in with the boy from eleven.But then It went hushed, the careers were whispering. Then the boy from three turned to me. "Was it you who was screaming yesterday?" They knew. I was slowly digging myself a hole. "Yeah" there was no hiding, nowhere. "So are you a little baby?" "no" "bet you are" "NO" you could see the boy was enjoying dissing me. He repeated the remark "bet you are." I stood. He stood. I took a step. So did he. "Bet you are" I had enough of him, he tried to steal my crown and show me up. I wouldn't kill him, but maybe scare him. I felt my hate and anger brew up. About Willow, Kinder, Max. I pushed him over and I was on top of him before you could say knockout. My rage was at a high, but not as much as my private session. I could see him squirming. My jacket blew open and his eyes went wide. Ha! I knew I had won. I shifted myself towards my tent taking my bag with me, just in case. As I lay in my tent I heard the boy from three talking in hushed tones. "His eyes went black, and he looked crazy. I don't know what came over him. We need to kill him, like now." I thought about his remark, there was obviously a killer in me somewhere. I watched the sky light up with the faces of the dead tributes. I scanned the faces. I knew who I was looking for, Max was alive and kicking. I tried to sleep with one eye open but I fell into one of my deepest sleeps.
I felt myself back in the forest, no near a forest. Back in the arena. I lay on something hard, the cornucopia. I knew what was going to happen next. I felt his weight on me,I smelt his breath, warm on my neck. I was waiting for him to go limp, to hear Willow gasp. But it never came. I opened my eyes. I saw his face, his cheek cut and warm with blood. His hair whipping in the wind, oh how I wanted to punch him, to hurt him. But I couldn't. I closed my eyes again waiting, still waiting. But I heard a voice, familiar but not Kinder's. It was a boy, Matthew cable, Matt. The boy from three. What, why was he here? I opened my eyes to find him, instead of Kinder. Wait I wasn't dreaming. He was attacking me. He raised his sword. "Look I already have a target." I tossed and turned. I saw the other careers. I broke an arm free. I aimed and punched at his nose. He jerked back giving me time too roll away. I spotted my knives and made a dash, only getting there in time. I felt my rage coming. I felt myself change. "See, I told you about his eyes." Matt said to the others as he charged towards me. No it was Kinder, no it was Matt. He attempted to tackle me but I dodged to the side. I grabbed his arm and shoved it toward a tree, a soft one. I knew my trees. His blade went right in leaving him weaponless. He called to the others but nobody came to his aid. I wanted to kill him right there and then. He tried to copy my actions but he didn't know his trees. It was hard and my blade barely made a dent in the bark. I was winning. I grabbed his wrists, dropping my knife. I punched his nose and blood started trickling down his face. I stood, then kicking him in the stomach. I then grabbed my knife and proceeded back to my tent. But I turned to find Matt. He made a long cut down my arm. I nearly screamed in pain as I ran to my backpack for bandages. I grabbed some leaves from a nearby bush. I couldn't pass out now it was too dangerous. I wrapped my arm and used a knife to cut the bandages. The material was quickly soaked. I felt woozy so I went to lie down. I never knew if I made it.
Back in the forest. The trees were glowing, no melting. His boots wavered and wobbled. It was only him. I was ok, for now. The grass itched my legs. The rope stung my skin. "No, go. Just leave. I hate you." I found myself shouting at his boots. How pathetic of me. The grass turned into ants and they crawled up my body, itching and scratching. I belted again, nearly losing my voice. I felt weak, I closed my eyes and i awoke back to the current games. To the boy from one. He had his hand over my mouth. But then I felt the pain in my arm. Oh how I wanted to scream. The boy spoke. I think his name was Blake. "Hey, hey, your ok. Just stop screaming, before Matt comes. I gave you an shot, you may feel dizzy. Sit up." I slowly sat. Looking at my arm I could see nearly the whole thing was bandaged. Luckily it was my left arm, I threw with my right. Phew! Blake left and I tried to get some rest. It should nearly be morning.
I awoke to find I was the first one awake. Great. I refilled my food stock and packed my backpack. It was a garish orange colour so I walked over to the lake to grab some mud. I stuck my hands in the wet earth and grabbed a handful of mud. I smothered it onto my backpack and made sure it was now brown. I soon realised it would not work as the material of the backpack would not soak it in. It must have been done on purpose, to make it easier to see us. I so wanted to swim in the lake. But there was no time and it would leave me vulnerable. But I Found myself taking my clothes and pack and hiding them in a nearby bush. I strode into the cool water and swam into the middle of the lake. I closed my eyes and listened to my surroundings, bird song, trees rustling in the wind. Wait. There was no wind. I opened my eyes to see a boy with a bow loading an arrow. He knew that I saw him as I swam away. I heard him pull back his bow. I heard his silence as he took aim. Then I heard him scream. I knew not to turn back as I dashed off to get my things. I'm so stupid, I shouldn't have gone for that swim. When I had hastily threw my things on I turned to see the boy on the floor and Somebody stood over him. It was him. No it can't be, it was Blake. That shot must have really made me sick. He didn't even look at me as he went back to his tent. He had saved me. The boys cannon went off. Ten left to play.
As I stood on the grass thinking over what had just happened I heard a blinking noise. I looked up. It could be a bomb, it could kill me. So I retreated far into the forest line as Matt emerged from his tent. I shouted at him "wait stop." But he carried on and went to catch the package. It was a small crate made of oak. As Matt examined it I walked towards him. He said "it's for you." And walked off. A parachute. But what did I need? I lifted the lid to primarily find an envelope. I opened it. My hands were trembling. It was a piece of card that read 'Happy Birthday Ash!" It was signed by Flame,Electra and a signature I didn't recognise. It also read 'ps.check your armband." I looked to find mine and Willows name. Nothing special. But then I looked back at the card. Willows signature matched the one on the card. She'd signed it. Oh my gosh. I felt so happy, I wished she was here just so I could tell her how I really felt. I dug further into the box to find something I thought was hair product from Flame. Typical. I laughed at her gesture as I opened the tin and took a sniff. It smelt familiar, from after the games. I was at the hospital. It wasn't food, it was medicine. It was for my arm. I shoved it in my pocket. I had forgotten it was my birthday, I could picture Jack at home watching me wishing he could send me something. I found a tin full of broth from Electra, it had chunks of rabbit in. My favourite. Finally I pulled out a perfect blade. It must be from Willow. This would have been expensive,very expensive. I whispered a thanks before looking up. The careers were looking at me, holding the blade. I quickly put it in my jacket as Matt said "time to go hunting." "One minute." I wanted to apply my cream. I ate the broth on the way. It was warm and filled my stomach. The perfect amount.
Not wanting to show the others I had it I went into my tent. I had no idea what would be behind the bandage. I slowly unwrapped it, very slowly. I saw the start of a large cut. I had looked okay last night but it was worse this morning. Once I had got the bandage off I went to apply the cream. I wanted to faint at the sight of the wound. I had taken painkillers but I knew they had to be strong ones or I would be in a lot of pain. As I put the cream to my skin it burned so badly. I let out a muffled scream. It hurt so bad. Blake came into my tent. He was silent as a mouse. He took the cream out of my hands and went to apply it to my arm. I pushed his hand away. I couldn't deal with the pain right now. "No, let me help you." I shook my head. "Why?" I wanted to know why he was being so kind. "Just trust me, do you trust me?" I guess I had no choice. I nodded as he grabbed my arm to attempt to put the cream on again. I Shoved some bandage into my mouth to muffle my screams. He rubbed it on, he was surprisingly delicate. But it still burned and I screamed. As soon as he was done he left leaving me to put my bandage on. I grabbed my knives and went to join the others. "Your late." It was Matt, of course. "Don't you start." I didn't need an argument right now. He glared at me as we headed off into the forest. What a good birthday I had.
We headed off and spent many hours walking around the forest. It was luscious and green, I hadn't seen so many species of trees in so long. I felt at home in this forest even though I didn't know any of it, well maybe I did. It was pretty similar to the one last year. We came across a backpack and food. We found no tribute so we moved on. Soon we found a boy by the edge of the forest, near the river. When he saw us he didn't even try to run. I don't know why. But Matt just sauntered up to him. He asked the boy from two to kill him but when he got to the boy he bottled. So Matt killed the boy himself and threw his body in the lake. I turned my head and didn't watch. I couldn't watch, I never could. Not after seeing him die. Never again. But as I turned back round I saw the boy from two arguing with Matt. The cannon sounded. Nine left to play. I saw something I never wanted to see again. Matt hit the boy over the head with a rock, stabbed him with his sword and his body soon followed the boys. Straight into the river and washed away. The cannon sounded. Eight left to play. I felt sick. I excused myself and ran round the corner. I kneeled at the lake and vomited into it. It was washed away with the water. But as I turned to head back I saw Blake. He knew. I felt like he's watching me.
That evening as we were lighting the fire the cannon sounded. It took us by surprise. "Well it's one less person to kill." What a sarcastic remark from Matt. I feel like Blake is the one stopping him from killing me. We sat at the fire and talked again. "So.." Matt started. "I hear Grant over here has a secret." The boy looked at him with a questioning look, he obviously had no clue what he was talking about. "You wanna know?" He looked at Blake and he casually nodded his mind obviously elsewhere. "He's got engaged." Grant looked confused "congrats. Who too?" I was just being courteous and kind. Matt wasn't allowing him to speak and carried on. "To a lovely girl from his district, so beautiful. Been in the games before. Very recently even." I could tell this was a lie as Grant looked dumbfounded. "Wanna know her name? Willow." Wait what? "Yeah the one from last year." I started heating up but I knew this was a lie. "Yeah right." I tried to dismiss it. Matt was just trying to get me worked up. "No,it's true." "Prove it." Little did he know I was getting worked up at him, not Grant. He looked over at him "it's true isn't it." I could see his hand was on his sword and Grant knew. He gave a slight nod. I couldn't sit there any longer. I moved off towards my tent. "Hey wait." It was Matt, "be ready in the morning." I nodded as everybody else moved to their tents.
I had questions so I walked over to Blake. I knew Matt was trying to work me up. But I wanted to know why. "Hey, Blake wait. I wanna ask you something. Why was Matt working me up. Cause it dam well worked." He looked at me with a forgiving look. What had I done? "Cause he wants to see you kill." This confused me. Why would he want to see me kill? "Why?" I had to know, I was itching. "Cause he wants to know your full potential so he can kill you." Well at least it made sense. "Well why work me up?" "Cause he knows that you won't kill anybody in this state. He needs you to change." Blake stared off into the distance. "Change?" I still didn't know of this 'change' everybody was talking about. "I first saw it when you attacked Matt before the games. He must have seen it too. Your eyes go dark, your voice goes husky and you, well, change." I know my eyes went funny when I attacked Matt but I thought that was me seeing the video wrong. "I guess that's a bad thing." "Well for everybody else it is." He let out a small laugh. "You must have had some bad things happen to you." With that, he turned and left to go back to his tent. "Thanks for saving me yesterday." "No problem." I had to thank him. Maybe, hopefully, he would do it again. I sauntered back to my tent as well because I felt tired as well.
I saw myself back there in the forest. No surprise. These dreams were pretty common but they entailed different aspects of the games. But then my vision wavered and blurred. The bathtub. Now this one was new. This was one of my worst memories and I had tried to put it to the back of my mind. I heard the lock click. I wanted to run to escape, but I kept walking and I put one foot in. Two feet. I lowered myself in. The pain was immense. I bit my tongue until I tasted blood. Then the door opened. I heard footsteps. He was above me. He grabbed and twisted my hair, this hurt more than I remembered, I tried not to scream so I cried. I started choking. I closed my eyes, I couldn't hold it any longer. I screamed but it was sniffles by my sobs. I saw the world turn black. Good, this means I'm coming back. I tentatively opened my eyes to find a dark figure. No, it can't be him. I tried to scramble away. "No, no. It's only me." It was Blake. Phew. "Don't do that to me." I heard the tone in my voice. I was annoyed, it was evident. "It's ok, I just wanted to make sure Matt didn't hear. I'm sorry." I started to calm down. My breathing slowed down and I started to return to the real world. "You ok? It sounded pretty bad." "I don't think you wanna know." I had never told anybody about the nature of my dreams. But Jack had made pretty good guesses. "I do, I wanna understand you." I knew I could trust him. There was only two outcomes, he died and the secret died with him or I died and it wouldn't be relevant. "Fine, but come here, I don't want everyone to hear." I was referencing to the people watching. I don't want the whole world to know. He scooted closer and I put my mouth near his ear. "I have flashbacks of last year. Bad ones. Things that happened before and after the games. Some things only me and him knew." He knew who I was referencing to. "Tonight it was a secret one. Every night I went down to his floor after he tried to harm Willow. After he put the 'thing' on my chest," I started to breathe faster. I struggled to find words. He spoke, "do you want to stop?" No not after I had started. It felt good to finally talk about it. Many victors took their lives because they couldn't. "He shoved me in a bath full of this substance. He forced me under. It burnt my chest so much." I felt like I was going to cry. I couldn't, I'd look weak. "He pulled me out, tied me to a chair and sent me up In the elevator. One night he even made me tie myself up. You saw what happened in the games. But to be there, untrained and unprepared is a big shock to your system. To see people die. Him die. He died on me. I felt his blood on my chest. I felt his breath on my neck and I do to this day. But no more. He went limp, he cracked his head on the cornucopia." I looked over to the current one. I felt one tear roll down my cheek. Blake gave me a hug. It may have felt weird but I needed some comfort. I felt another tear and another. It may be good to have a sob story. What am I thinking. I will probably die at the hands of Matt. Boom! The cannon. Seven left to play.
"Go! Get out now." Me and Blake were shouting at each other. We grabbed our weapons and ran out of my tent. I frantically whipped my head around. "Over there!" Blake pointed to Matt and Grant fighting with two tributes. The only two I didn't know. I hesitated and Blake hung back with me. We might as well not die if we don't have too. I turned to go back as I heard one cannon go off. Matt had killed the boy and he lay sprawled on the floor,blood pouring out of the side of his head. I felt really sick. But I couldn't run, I felt glued to the ground. Just as day was dawning Grant impaled his target. I heard his scream, I saw him fall. Thud. The grass soaked with his blood, mixed with the other boys. Boom! There goes the other boy. Five left to play. Me, Matt, Blake, Grant and Max. I racked my brains trying to remember his plan but I couldn't. My brain was mush. I took tentative steps toward my tent as the arena was filled with the sound of a voice. "Well, congratulations on making it to the final five. We will now be having a feast. But no ordinary feast. You all need something, want something. You may not realise it but you do. So you will find this item at the cornucopia marked with your district. If there is two from your district the bags will have names. Carry on!" What did I need? We walked towards the cornucopia and grabbed my bag leaving Max's on the table, for now.
Grant got a something in a pot I couldn't see but it made him smile. Matt got some wire or something like that. With a note from his mentor. Blake got a better blade. Well I guess his original sword was a bit blunt. Matt took the best one. Obviously. And then I reached into my bag. First I pulled out a photo. It was of me and Willow after we won the games. I smiled at the gesture. I folded the paper and placed it in a pocket on my jacket. The closest one to my heart, where it should be. I went to discard the bag but it still had something in it. I pulled out another razor sharp knife. I was one lucky tribute. Grant looked over at me. "Naw, that's not fair." He came over to me. "Can I try?" I nodded. I knew he would take it but I had another one. So I handed it over to him. He then twirled it in his hand. He came close. Something was wrong and I took a step back. He came ever closer. He was gonna do something, I could feel it. He lifted his arm, he was gonna swing. I bolted towards my tent for my jacket, I had left it in the grass after the boys died. Grant sprinted after me, he was very fast and nearly on top of me. I dived for my jacket, but I wasn't fast enough. He dived for my foot and pulled me to the floor. I tried to scramble away but without my knives I was no match for him. He grabbed me and lifted me toward the cornucopia, he was going to smash my head in. I knew there was no use struggling, but I still tried to escape his grasp. We reached the cornucopia, he lifted me. "Say, goodby golden boy." I closed my eyes. I thought of Jack. Poor boy, he was probably crying right now. I waited for impact. None came. I opened my eyes, I heard footsteps. Please be Blake, please.I saw the tip of a sword poking out Grant's chest. I felt his blood on my shirt. I was gonna be sick. But I heard a voice, "He's mine." It was Max. Oh no. I knew Max was slow so I ran away to get my jacket, picking it up as I ran towards Matt and Blake. Matt immediately strode off in the opposite direction chasing Max down. Max knew what he was up against and bolted in the other direction. I was sick on the ground, and as I turned I saw Max's bag was gone. He was very sneaky. But It was turning dark.
That night we started a fire, me and Blake both agreed there had been no cannon. But if Matt lost Max then he would be back. "They may be making a pact." "I guess." That's just what I needed. Two of my mortal enemies teaming up on me. "If and when they come I'll kill them for you." I nodded. I didn't need to think about killing them. The thought of them alone made me scared. "So we're a team then?" I just needed to check. "Yeah, of course." I knew he may have to kill me but it was nice to have a teammate. Somebody to fall back on. But then the announcers voice filled the arena again. "Boys, the rule of two victors was so popular and very equality promoting. So we will bring it in again this year. We will allow two victors. Carry on!" I looked at Blake, he looked at me. We hugged each other. "We could go home." "Yeah." But we still had to fight them. We went out to our tents. They would want a fight, they wouldn't want to kill us while we slept. But a night meant a dream. The forest materialised. I saw him, the fire and the boy from two. I knew in the back of my mind that this was a dream but it never felt like one. I felt like I was reliving the moment, in the flesh. I saw their swords, knives and blades. I knew what was coming. I felt the blood on my chest, their breath on my neck. There was no point in hiding, I called out. For Blake, Willow, Jack, anybody. But nobody came so I screamed for help, but nobody came. I felt faint. From the pool of blood at my feet I could tell I was going to pass out. I felt dizzy and I closed my eyes. "Ash, hey. You ok? Answer me, please." The voice rang in my head like a bell. "Ash, please, answer me." I felt myself coming round. "They're here, I need help." They? Oh my word, Matt and Max. I tried to rise but maybe I went to quickly. I fell on my bandaged arm. I winced in pain. I needed painkillers. I rummaged in my pack and quickly swallowed them. I grabbed my jacket in a daze and stumbled out my tent. I could see them in the forest line, armed and ready. I turned to Blake, "you ready?" "Better than I'll ever be." He stepped forward, which one would come at him? It was Matt. No, why? I wanted Max dead.
Matt charged at him, I turned my head. But I heard no screams. I turned my head back to find them engaged in a clash of swords. I wanted to go and help him but I didn't move. I turned my head but I heard a shout, I immediately whipped my head round. Matt had a cut above his eyebrow that was spouting blood. Uh. I needed my concentration so I turned to find Max. But he had disappeared. Had he abandoned Matt? No he wouldn't. I walked in a circle looking for him. He was nowhere to be seen. Blake and Matt were still fighting. Blake dropped his sword. No. I shouted "Blake catch!" I threw a knife at his backpack and it lodged in it. He pulled it out just missing a swipe from Matt. I fell to the floor. I couldn't cope. I stood and went to move to the cornucopia but I felt myself watching. Blake was getting close. He nearly got him a couple times. And then I heard a scream. It was Matt. He was stumbling as blood was pouring down his chest. He was going to die. I went to shout but I felt something around my neck. It was an arm. It was Max. He was cutting of my windpipe. I choked as Matt's cannon went off. I felt myself being thrown towards the floor. I saw the panic on Blake's face. He started sprinting towards me. "Now, time for my revenge." I felt myself get angry, very angry. "Ah don't pull that trick on me." My eyes must have changed. But Max knew my weaknesses and I was no match for him. I tried to pull away. "No." It came out chocked as Max forced himself on top of me. It was just like last year.
A fresh cut on his cheek leaked onto my face, i felt his breath his breath my neck. I heard his breathing. I was helpless. I closed my eyes and opened them to him, not Max on me. I felt myself struggling. The world slowed and I closed my eyes and opened them to real life. I felt him peel back my jacket. I knew he was lifting my shirt. "Revenge is sweet, isn't it?" I had no intention of replying. I waited for the end. But then I heard a shout. It was Blake. "No revenge is for losers." I saw Max's face change. It dropped. He fell on me I heard his skull crack. Was this my dream. No. I saw blood coming out of his back, he went cold. The cannon sounded. I started crying. I had survived. I stood to see Blake, he was crying too. We hugged each other, we were safe. I managed a "why?" "It was the only way, I'm sorry it was the same as last year." We were still hugging as we were lifted off to the hospital.
I woke to find myself surrounded with people. Electra and Blake. I stood and gave the, both a hug. Then Flame walked in. "Did you enjoy your birthday?" I laughed and hugged her as well. "We have somebody who wants to see you." Electra opened the door and I stepped out. It was Willow. I ran to her and we hugged each other. "I love you." "Me too." I was crying with happiness. I saw Blake looked jealous but I dismissed it. People got confused after the games.But I was soon pulled away and led off to get ready. Me and Blake had too watch the games. I was given a suit. Great, I didn't feel like being fancy. I was put into the elevator with Blake. We were lifted.
We emerged into the middle of a crowd and we walked towards two seats. President snow appeared. And walked towards us. "Congratulations Blake Michael on winning the 25th annual hunger games." There was a massive cheer and round of applause as he was presented with a crown like the one I got last year. "And congratulation to Ash Sparsk for winning his second hunger games." There was an equally loud cheer as I was given another crown. I sat, as I realised I would have to watch these people die. I can't write in words what I saw. So I will make it short. I was nearly sick. And once I had been allowed away I was sick in the nearest toilet. I felt like I was going to lose my insides.
I was allowed one last night in the hospital and I spent my evening with Blake. We talked about our lives. How mine had changed and how his was going to change. He got angry at Max with me. But I saw something in him that I saw in me. He got really angry. I knew the careers did. They were blood thirsty. But his eyes glazed like mine. Went dark. Not like a normal career. I had to say something. "You know, your like me. Your eyes.." He stopped me before I could say anything. "I know, but it hasn't happened in a long time. Not since.. Well you don't wanna know." I had recognised his face the day I first saw him, but now I recognised it. "You were twelve, you won your games." He nodded. I remembered watching the little boy on the screen win his games. "I admired you." The night ended with me in tears. My games had been worse than his. We were hugging when he lifted his head. "I love you Ash, I admired you too." I thought he meant as a friend but my thoughts were squashed when he leaned in. He kissed me. And to my surprise, I kissed back.