Today’s winner is…Ben of District 11!
Congrats Ben, your training score is now 10!
“Ladies and Gentlemen, let the Games begin!”
The announcer’s voice booms out as soon as our metal plates click into place, signaling the beginning of the 60-second countdown to the start of the Games. I’m not thinking about that though. I can’t think about anything but the room I’m standing in. It looks like a place taken straight out of my worst nightmares, and judging from the looks on the faces of the tributes around me, I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Trapped. That’s the best word I can use to describe how I feel right now. Trapped in a room with no windows, no sunlight, only a small number of ancient-looking artificial lights which hang from the ceiling, swinging back and forth ever so slightly. For a second, I consider that this room might be the entire arena, but I quickly drop that thought. If there was nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, then the Games would end very quickly. Scanning the room, I see a couple doors leading deeper into the arena, rusted with silver doorknobs. I can’t stand the thought of not knowing what might be on the other side. Irving and I will have to pick one once the 60 seconds are up. Hopefully we both make it.
I stare straight ahead at the Cornucopia. Hard to miss when it takes up half of the room, a massive golden structure that stands in stark contrast to the cold stone floor. There are small pools of filthy-looking water all around, and I can hear it dripping as it trickles down the metal walls. Refocusing on the Cornucopia, I can see supplies inside, but the first thing I think is that there doesn’t seem to be as much as there has been in previous years. I hope that’s just my panic talking.
“Calm down, Andrew. Calm down,” I tell myself.
It’s nearing the time when the gong will sound, when the 60 seconds will be up. When I have to start being a Career.
Being a Career has both good and bad qualities. I’ll have five allies right away when the games start, as opposed to the other tributes only having their district partners. And I’ll have control of the supplies in the Cornucopia, assuming us Careers take control in the first place. And there lies the bad; I’m expected to kill. Expected to take out any tribute that gets near me. That’s the stigma us Careers have to live with; that we are killers, that murder is in our blood.
I’m not a killer. Not yet, anyways.
The gong sounds, and twenty-four pairs of feet hit the stone floor almost simultaneously. Some tributes run to their partners and head for the doors, grabbing small backpacks and weapons scattered around the room. Others, like the Careers, sprint to the Cornucopia, where the better weapons and supplies are. And there are tributes like me, who find themselves torn between both options. I’m panicking. My hand is throbbing. I can’t find Jonah, my district partner. A tribute slams into me as she rushes to one of the doors, throwing me off balance and stumbling into one of the murky puddles of water, falling to my knees. That’s when I hear the first scream.
I look up at the Cornucopia, maybe fifteen feet from me, where the boy from 2 stands with a bloodstained katana, flanked by the girl from 4, who stands ready with a bow. Lying on the ground before the Career boy is Jonah. He has a katana in his hand as well, but the arm attached to that hand has been severed from his body. The boy from 2 swings his katana once more, and Jonah’s scream cuts off, though his face still screams silently as his head rolls off his body.
“No!” I scream from on the ground. The girl from 4 turns to me, stone-faced, and releases her arrow.
The brain, which controls all nerve endings in the body, has no nerve endings of its own. So I don’t feel a thing when the arrow severs my brainstem. Not a thing.
I finally find Alexandra. She’s standing in the middle of the room, behind the Cornucopia, holding a backpack in her right hand.
“Alexandra,” I bark. “We have to move!”
She looks down, and that’s when I notice the knife blade sticking out of her chest, just under her heart.
Alexandra looks up at me, teary-eyed.
“What do I do?” she chokes. “What do I—
A knife slams into her neck. I scream and turn to see the boy from 4 running at us, pulling another knife out of his belt. Alexandra is on the ground, feebly reaching at the blade embedded in her neck.
“No. No no no no no no no—
I grab the backpack from Alexandra’s limp hand and run as fast as I can to one of the doors, scooping up a small sword as I sprint. I look over my shoulder as the boy from 4’s sprint turns into a brisk walk towards my district partner. She isn’t even moving anymore. Crap. I turn away and run for my life.
By the time I find a meteor hammer, the fun is already over. Nine tributes remain in the room, and three of them are dead. I join my allies at the Cornucopia.
“No kills for you either?” asks Michael from 1, who is searching though the weapons for the small throwing knives that she favors.
“Nothing,” I pout, sitting down next to her.
Steven, my district partner, finishes cleaning his katana with the shirt of the boy whose head he cut off. Then he starts dragging the body away from the Cornucopia so it can be picked up. A few feet away, Marie is doing the same with the girl she shot in the head.
“Those two were from 8, right?” Andrew asks, coming up behind us.
“I think so,” Michael responds without looking up.
“Justin got the girl from 3,” says Andrew.
I nod and look over at the three Careers who got kills as they pile the bodies of their victims up. They head over to join us; a hole opens in the ceiling and a claw lowers to collect the body of the girl from 3. It lowers four more times; once for the girl from 8, and three times for the boy from 8, for his body, arm, and head. As the claw takes his head away, I can visibly see the scream locked onto his face.
“We can probably stop running now.”
My district partner Sam slows down as she speaks; I gradually let my run turn into a fast-paced walk. Sam and I are doing pretty well for ourselves at this point in the Games. We started off with our platforms next to each other, and a bow and quiver of arrows was resting against a shield and two backpacks just a few feet from us. Our signature weapons. We were the first team to make it to one of the doors in the Cornucopia room, and behind it we found a dimly lit hallway which lead to more hallways. Up until now, we’ve been running through them, not taking much time to pay attention to which turns we were taking. The three cannons that sounded a minute ago announcing the three dead tributes in the bloodbath were our cue that we were safe, for now.
“These hallways all look the same,” I remark to Sam, who has her bow loaded and ready.
“Yeah. It’s creepy.”
We continue walking for a while in silence, stepping around or through puddles of water. In some hallways water falls from slits in the metallic ceiling; I hold my shield over my head and let the drops bounce off.
Soon, we reach an intersection.
“Left or right?” Sam asks.
I’m about to say left when suddenly the lights further down that hallway start to blink out.
“Right,” I say, and we turn and start picking up our pace.
Then the lights start going out on further down that hallway too.
We stand there for a moment, watching the lights in both hallways go out, a wave of darkness slowly approaching us.
“Jeremiah,” Sam whispers to me.
An almost deafening scraping noise sounds from the right hallway, followed quickly by the same from the left side. The lights start going out faster.
“Run!” I scream.
We turn around and sprint as fast as we can. I turn and watch as the intersection of the hallway is swallowed in darkness. Then the lights in out hallway start going out.
“Run run run run—
The wave of darkness is gaining on us. Lights are blinking out and that terrible scraping sound is getting closer and closer and I’m splashing through puddles and getting scared and starting to panic and then Sam trips. I run past her for a good distance before stopping and turning around. I can’t let her die. I have to help her. Sam is getting to her feet just as the darkness swallows her. The lights stop blinking out. The metallic scraping noise stops. I can hear her breathing heavily.
“I’m okay, Jeremiah. I’m coming.”
After a moment, I can make out the faint outline of my district partner, limping out of the darkness, which seems like a cloud of black pressed up against the light on my side of the hallway.
“I bashed my knee on the floor,” Sam says as she enters the light, “but I’ll be oka—
Sam screams suddenly as something yanks her back into the dark, her bow dropping out of her hand. The terrible scraping noise returns, but I can still hear her screaming over it. I turn and run because something’s in the dark, something’s in there. Sam’s screams cut off, and a cannon fires as I round a corner.
“She’s gone she’s gone oh God…oh God…”
I run past a door before stopping and turning back to it. I want out of these hallways. As if on cue, the scraping noise starts getting louder, and the hallway around the corner that I turned starts getting darker. I open the door and slam it shut behind me. The scraping noise gets louder and louder until I can tell that it’s right in front of my room, right at the door. I get my shield ready and wait for the lights to go out. But they don’t, and the scraping noise suddenly disappears.
I drop to the floor, utterly exhausted. Something in my arm buzzes, and I look at the spot where the attendant injected my tracking device on my bicep. The veins around it are turning a dark purple, and the purple is spreading down the blood vessels in my arm. The poison. This is it. Sam’s gone, I’m poisoned, and I’m dead in a few days unless I kill someone else.
It’s only been an hour, and I’m already alone.
Current Training Scores
12: Steven (D2), Victoria (D10)
10: Kelly (D2), Ben (D11)
9: Andrew (D1), Marie (D4), Chelsea (D5)
8: Michael (D1), Drew (D3), Justin (D4), Jeremiah (D7), Allison (D9), Ian (D12), Morgan, (D12)
6: Joey (D5), Cyle (D6),
5: Matt (D6), Garrett (D10), Mariel (D11)
4: Irving (D9)
Highest Training Score: 12
Lowest Training Score: 4
Average Training Score: 8
Strongest Team: District 2
Weakest Team: District 6
Steven Dodson, District 2 Male: One kill (Jonah White, District 8 Male)
Justin Massey, District 4 Male: One kill (Alexandra Browne, District 3 Female)
Marie Morton, District 4 Female: One kill (Sara Kohler, District 8 Female)
Drew, District 3
Jeremiah, District 7