The winner of today’s sponsorship vote is…Jess Edelblut of District 12!
Congrats Jess, you get a free attribute point added to your lowest attribute (Charm).
I feel like I’ve been trapped in the arena for all eternity, and recently when I’ve tried to remember life outside the arena, I’ve been horrified to find the images of home not as vivid as they used to be.
I would cry, if I even had the strength left to cry. I’m picturing Amanda’s family, wondering whether it’s worse to see her die after she got so far than it would have been if she had died on the first day. I imagine it would be. They must have felt some hope she would return to them even if they’d tried to fight it and tell themselves it was all just an impossible dream.
At that thought, reality suddenly hits me. There are only two of us left, myself and the man I think I always knew would be in the finale, whether I was here or not. District 4 vs District 12. The lunatic vs the dark horse. Luke vs Jess. The show they’ve all been longing for ever since the Games began.
I don’t want to fight Luke. In fact, if the few arrows I have left miss their target, I don’t know if I even can fight Luke. But as I look up at the gray sky and the ash-laden ground, I realize that anything has got to be better than being trapped in this dead arena forever. Even death must be better than this. And besides, if we don’t make the effort to find each other and finish this, then the Gamemakers aren’t going to show any reluctance. The insects that plagued the arena have all been killed by the fire, but the push of a button would send them flocking back into the arena to hunt me down.
The Cornucopia is where I last saw Luke, so I trudge off in that direction. I have no idea what state Luke’s in physically, though I have a strong guess as to his mental state. I doubt I could track him down if he’s not at the Cornucopia, let alone the weakest tribute in the arena. The weakest tribute who was in the arena, I correct myself. Right now, the weakest tribute in the arena is me, and when all I feel in response to that thought is a dull sense of resignation, I know the only choice I have left is to either fight or die.
All is quiet. The gold of the Cornucopia stands out against the gray-green grassy plain where I kneel in prayer one last time.
“Bestow your favor upon me God, for I go into my final battle shortly!”
I feel Her presence wash over me almost instantly, a blanket of energy that somehow chills and warms me simultaneously. Goosebumps break out across my body. The hair on the back of my neck stands on end. A shiver pulses through my body.
I am ready.
I stand just as she comes into view, an arrow already notched into her bow. Grabbing a shield, I charge towards her.
I launch my first arrow a moment before I see that Luke has a shield. My arrow clangs off of the metal disc and flies off in an arc as Luke continues to charge towards me.
I aim my next arrow carefully, panic bubbling up inside me. If he reaches me, I’m done for.
I fire my arrow, and it lodges itself into Luke’s leg, bringing him to a halt with a short yelp of pain. He looks down at the arrow, and then looks back up, laughing.
“You cannot stop me!” he screams. “I have God on my side! Every drop of blood I have spilled has earned me her favor! And your blood will be spilled next!
He laughs manically, advancing towards me with a limp. And then I get an idea.
“God isn’t on your side, Luke! She’s on mine!”
I laugh again, still feeling Her presence surrounding me.
“You lie!” I fire back.
“You’ve only killed three, Luke. I’ve killed five.”
I stop dead in my tracks. No.
“Not true!” I shout.
Jess shakes her head.
“The man from 9. Taylor. The man from 6. The woman from 3. And Amanda from 11. All my kills. More blood spilled than you, Luke.”
I feel Her leave me almost instantaneously, the air sucked out of my lungs, a vacuum of raw emptiness surrounding me. I can’t breathe.
I collapse to my hands and knees, dropping my shield. And when I look up, I see Her hovering over Jess’s shoulder.
“YOU WILL NOT TAKE HER FROM ME!” roars Luke.
He launches himself at me in a wild fury, barreling into me before I get a chance to fire my third and final arrow.
We fall to the ground, his hands locked around my throat, tight. I try to scream, the pressure in my head making me feel like it could explode at any second.
I claw helplessly at Luke’s hands as he squeezes harder and harder, looking up into his eyes as he snarls and sobs.
I scramble to grab something, anything, and my right hand brushes against my last arrow. I have no choice. I grip it in my fist and shove it up as hard as I can into Luke’s eye.
I reel back screaming as my left eye goes dark and pain rips through my skull. Crumpling to the ground in a ball, I feel another stab of pain as the arrow in my leg is ripped out.
Rolling onto my back, I look up and see Jess standing over me, her face covered in blood. My blood. She truly is worthy.
I look over Jess’s shoulder as she reloads the arrow she ripped out of my leg into her bow, and stare into the face of God. A short moment passes before She finally glances down at me, disappointment emanating from her in waves.
Luke breaks down into uncontrollable sobs before I fire my arrow and put him out of his misery. A cannon fires as I sink to the ground in exhaustion and pain, gingerly touching my throat.
I lick my lips and suddenly gag as I taste Luke’s blood, intermixed with my sweat. It tastes of death.
The taste lingers as the hovercraft descends to airlift me out of the remnants of the arena. The taste of death.
I will bring it home with me.