"Ladies and Gentlemen," booms the voice of Claudius Templesmith, "let the seventy-fifth hunger games begin!" I have a minute to prepare myself. I can't think straight and all I can see are images of Cinna lying lifeless on the floor. It was clearly meant to unhinge me. I am on the verge of a panic attack, but I must be strong. I owe Cinna that much.
I see the Cornucopia, in all its glory. The massive, golden metal horn is at the centre of the ring of tributes, on an island surrounded by water. There are thin strips of land between each plate. I think there are around ten. Behind me and around the water, there is a pattern consisting of a beach then a patch of dense greenery. I scan the circle of tributes, but I can't see Haymitch anywhere. He must be blocked from my sight by the Cornucopia. I dip a fingertip in the water and taste it. Saltwater. That would explain the smell.
Twenty seconds, the counter announces. There is nothing to cling on to, no boats or driftwood or anything. I am glad for the lake my father taught me to swim in when I realise this is my only hope. The gong sounds and I don't hesitate to dive into the choppy waves. I cut through the water easily and wonder why. Perhaps it's the salt. I wouldn't know.
I reach the horn and set my eyes on a golden metal bow and a couple of quivers of arrows. I reach for them then sense that I am being watched. I whip around, my bow loaded with an arrow, to find Finnick standing there, with a trident in his hand. I remember that this was his weapon of choice, a deadly extension of his arm. After analysing each other's skill and weapons for a few seconds, his arm relaxed and he grinned at me, his eyes sparkling. "Good thing we're allies," he says. His wrist shifts and I see the sun reflect off a gold bracelet he is wearing. Peeta must have given it to him as a signal for me to trust him. I nod.
Suddenly, I remember Haymitch and turn around, he is in the water. He can't swim, but he is somehow staying afloat. It is then that I realise that our belts must be some sort of floatation devices. I start to walk towards the edge of the miniature island. Finnick stops me and shakes his head
"You'd better not exert yourself," he says, "Not in your condition."
He reaches his hand out and places it on my stomach, and looks almost surprised to feel that there is a small, but noticeable bump there. Maybe he thought Peeta was lying. He turns and jogs to the water's edge, taking out the man from five as he runs. He dives effortlessly into the water in one swift motion and swims with flawless, practised strokes towards Haymitch. He reaches him and, after killing another career, he tows him back to us. As they step onto the island, Mags, the old woman from Finnick's district appears. She embraces him.
Haymitch spits out water and pushes his wet hair out of his eyes. "Hey, sweetheart," he says.
"You ok?" He asks me as he tries to catch his breath from fighting someone in the water. I nod my head. I still feel slightly dizzy but not enough to overcome the adrenaline.
"Right," says Finnick, "Let's move."
We run down the land strip to our right all the way to the green area. After walking down the beach, there is a jungle in front of us. These are different trees to the ones I'm used to. They are tall and rubbery with few branches. The foliage is thick with strange plants and thick vines appear to be trying to strangle the trees. The balmy, suffocating heat is beginning to get to me as I realise there is no sign of water, though we have been walking for about twenty minutes.
We eventually set up camp and I decide to go and hunt and also look for any signs of water. As I get up, I feel a wave of dizziness come over me and I grab a tree trunk to hold myself up. I try to take deep breaths as Haymitch rushes to my side. "Katniss, are you ok?" I can't reply yet, so I concentrate on breathing and not fainting. As it passes, I force myself to stand up straight.
"I'm fine," I lie, "It's just dizziness."
Haymitch frowns and shakes his head.
"Are you sure?" he asks worriedly, "The boy will kill me if anything happens to you."
"I said I'm fine, Haymitch!" I snap. Finnick is trying not to laugh. I glare at him while Haymitch shares a look with Finnick.
"It's just hormones," Finnick says "From the baby." Infuriated, I retrieve my bow and set off.
I walk in circles, trying to cover every inch of ground within a radius of a mile or so. There is still no sign of water. I know Peeta must be worrying out of his mind, so I try to stay strong, but exhaustion is getting the better of me. The trees appear to move around me and my ears are ringing. Struggling to stay upright, I slump against a tree. That's when I see it. A rodent about the size of a large rat is sitting on a branch, eating an insect or something. I take it out with one arrow and examine it. Its muzzle is wet; it must have just been drinking. From where, I am unsure. I even climb the tree, but there is no way of knowing where the tree-rat was drinking from.
Exhaustion, both emotional and physical suddenly catching up with, I wearily return to our camp. Mags is weaving yet another bowl for some nuts she found and Finnick and Haymitch are arguing about a parachute they received. There is a note attached that reads 'You can figure it out. – Peeta'. It turns out the gift was a strangely shaped metal tube. I examine it for a moment then throw it down in anger.
"I have no idea what it is," I say in reply to their hopeful looks.
A few hours later, Finnick and Mags have made a woven shelter attached to some trees to keep us dry if it rains and to conceal us. I sit against a tree, turning the metal thing over in my hands, thinking of home. I remember when my father and I used to get sap from trees to make syrup, a treat in the bleak reality of district twelve. I sit up suddenly. Syrup! A spile!
"Haymitch, Finnick! It's a spile!" I say in excitement. Haymitch and I make a hole in a tree and I slide he spile inside. A trickle of water runs out and we all have a drink. Relief and joy are apparent on everyone's faces.