The New Mockingjay

The revolution is over. Panem has been changed. Now, each year, a young girl is chosen to be the Mockingjay. There are only two requirements- she has to be pretty, and she has to be able to sing like no other.
When Electra becomes the Mockingjay, she thinks she's in for a life of public performances, and putting forward a pretty face. The reality is much, much worse than that.

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14. 13- The Gates

 

She stumbled numbly forwards, pain flaring in the soles of her feet. Her legs burned, and her eyes felt scorched, but that was nothing compared to the shattering pain in her heart- the pain of knowing she had let Gwen- her only real friend... her only friend in this awful place- down, by stopping. That thought played over and over again in her head. If you hadn’t stopped, then she would be alive. She would be with you, and you would be making it through those gates together, instead of just you alone, and right now you honestly might as well curl up into a ball and die here, because without Gwen you have nothing to protect you, and no strength of your own. You’ve only made it this far because Gwen was there for you. And now she’s not, because you didn’t listen to her, and you stopped when she needed you to keep going, and you make her come back for you, which ended up with her getting burned, and now she’s dead and it’s all your fault, and now you’re going to die, which is only justified, after what happened to her...

“Stop it!” Electra screamed to the air. Her face burned, and she realized that hot tears were tracing their way down her face. “Stop it stop it stop it! I didn’t let her die. I didn’t. It wasn’t my fault, I was in a daze, my brain wasn’t working... it doesn’t matter, she would have died anyways, just stop it and leave me alone, I’m trying as hard as I can, just shut up!” At this point, she didn’t care if anybody was watching her, and thought she was crazy. She kept rambling to herself, voice slightly crazed with pain and fear and maybe, just maybe, a bit of anger as well.

She kept running frantically. Gwen had wanted her to reach the gates. So all she had to do was reach the gates. She had to reach the gates, and then she would keep going. She had to survive, and that was all that mattered. She would survive, and she would keep running. That was what Gwen wanted, right? She just had to reach the gates, and pass this challenge. Then she could keep going, and survive, and then maybe something would make sense. Maybe it would turn out that the fire had missed Gwen, and she was actually alive. But that couldn’t be right. She had seen the fire flare up, and now Gwen was gone. There was only one thing that could have happened, and that was unthinkable. Gwen couldn’t be dead, could she? But that didn’t seem possible. She was brave, and strong, and resilient. All those things added up made it seem incredibly unlikely that she could have spontaneously died. Even if this place was a death trap, even if it was incredibly likely that she was gone, it didn’t seem right. Part of her was vaguely aware that she was delirious, her mind blank with grief and panic, scrambling desperately for an excuse, a reason, a way for Gwen to still be alive. She kept running, trying to blank those thoughts out. Getting her hopes up would just crush her later on if she believed too strongly that Gwen could be alive. She had to be realistic.

It was a miracle that she didn’t die as she crossed the rest of the fire wasteland. She technically should have already been dead. It was sheer dumb luck that no fire had hit her while she was standing still contemplating death and deciding that everything was worthless. That had been incredibly stupid of her, in retrospect. She should have reacted faster. One shock, and she was left standing there like a total idiot, in some kind of weird trance. Did she have some kind of trauma? That would be just her luck- some kind of trigger that was caused by near death experiences. That would be great... as soon as she saw something bad, she’d freeze up. That would have been a good way to die really quickly.

So why am I not dead? That bothered her to no end. The fire had hit Gwen, not her. She should have been the first target, not Gwen. She was the one they wanted dead, right? So why was she still alive? Why did they keep letting her live? They could have killed her at least three or four times by now, and yet she was still alive. What did that mean? What they were they trying to accomplish? Did they think that the longer she survived, the more interesting her death would be? Was that it? That didn’t make much sense. Then again, who knew. These games were designed by twisted, horrible people. Who knew what they wanted? They probably had some kind of twisted, demented reason for making her suffer before they killed her. She really didn’t care what the reason was. She didn’t want to die. But everything was starting to look hopeless. Gwen had been much more prepared than she had. She was fast, brave, and strong. She was really cautious, checking for traps, expecting even the berries to be poisoned. And now she was dead, and Electra, who fell into quicksand, who feinted at blood, who was scared, and weak, and always wanting to run away and escape... she was the one who should have been dead.

A shadow fell over her, and she looked up. The massive black gates towered above her. She kept stumbling forwards, even as it occurred to her that she really ought to stop. But she had been running and running and running, and it didn’t make sense to stop, not not. She had been going so long... why stop now?

Her decision was quickly made for her when she ran straight into the side of one of the gates. She fell backwards, hitting the ground. Her head hurt, but the pain helped break through the monotonous fog of fear and grief. She gave herself one moment to think. Why wasn’t she crying more? Gwen was her best friend. They had just started to trust and like each other, and now Gwen was gone. Why wasn’t she sadder? She reasoned that she must still be in denial, refusing to accept that Gwen was no longer alive. When the grief hit her, she would have to accept it.

She studied the black gates. They were mesmerizing, inscribed with curling designs, that appeared to be one entire line. Electra tried to follow the line with her eyes, but rapidly got lost in the twisting, swirling turns of the intricate design. She could have sat there all day and stared at the designs, but some small, rational part of her brain warned her that she really needed to get up and get moving. Being distracted and dazed might keep her mind away from grief, but she had to be productive too. Surviving the games was still her first priority. If she lived through all this, she would find a place to cry, to scream, to mourn Gwen however she wanted. But for now, she had to keep going.

Electra made herself a silent promise. She would not break down and start crying or screaming. She would be strong, and keep running. Keep surviving. That made sense.

That sounds like something Gwen would say... she thought idly. What did she say to me? Don’t give up hope? She didn’t give up hope... she believed we’d make it. And look where it got her. Why did she run back to save me? Why didn’t she save herself? I can’t believe her, she was so stupid! She should have kept running. The fire wouldn’t have hit me. I would have made it to the end, and we could finish this miserable little trial together, but no, she had to do
the heroic thing and come running back for me!

She walked forwards, and saw that between the gates was a massive stairway going down. If she hadn’t run into the pillar, she probably would have fallen down the stairs and broken her neck.

She blinked, studying the stairs. She should probably wait for Gwen, before she went into a new-

She cut off her line of thinking. Gwen’s dead, she told herself firmly.

But I should wait for her. She’d get annoyed if I went charging into danger without her... I mean, she always takes the lead, so-

“Gwen’s dead!” she yelled. Saying the words, she felt something go snap inside her heart. To her surprise, she didn’t feel grief. What she felt was solid fury. She was angry! At the capitol, and president Rickerson, for creating this awful little test. For the game makers, for selecting the fire that had burned her friend. And also at the mysterious order of the jay. They were supposed to be her friends, but they wanted to use her, just like the capitol! And they had sent Gwen- innocent, kind, brave Gwen- to die in this horrible place. And for what? So Electra could get used by someone else? Someone who was theoretically ‘good’?

There was no good. There was no evil. Everybody worked for themselves. That was how the world worked, wasn’t it? They took and took and took from other people, never giving back at all! Why? Why did the world have to be so demented? So twisted? Was there any good at all in this awful world that she called home? That wasn’t right. It couldn’t be right. That was so messed up!

She closed her eyes. No time to go philosophical, Electra. You’ve got bigger problems to deal with. You have to accept that waiting isn’t going to help you. Gwen’s not coming back, and she’s not right behind you. You have to walk into this maze alone, understand?

She forced herself to take a deep, calming breath. Then she stepped forwards, and walked down the stairs.

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