In honor of The Hunger Games, I felt inspired to write a little this evening. I’m in the middle of book 3, Mockingjay, and I’m also reading The Ender’s Game (not a good idea to read them simultaneously). So with all the themes and concepts arising between both books, I had both author’s writing styles buzzing inside my head all day. I just had to write my own couple of scenes, and put my own twist on their beautifully written books.
My mind is consumed with the focus it takes to steady the gun clutched between my palms. I try to think, catching only glimpses of the scene beyond the mixture of blood and sweat dripping down my face. I aim at her again, trying desperately to stay silent while my entire right side, leg and arm included, scream with a sharp pain. She finds her way between the ticks on my gritty viewfinder, and I have my chance. This is it. Everything up to this point is hopeless, unless it happens. I have no choice– it has to happen. In a split second, I clamp my eyes shut, and listen to the sound of the gun firing in my bloody palms.
I can’t open them to find out if I had hit my intended target. I listen, waiting for her footsteps to come closer to finish me off. I listen for the rustle of trees that meant she had made it to safety on the other side of the clearing. I listen, but I hear nothing. I collapse to my knees, my eyes still glued shut, and wince in pain as my weight falls on the ground. I hear nothing, and that horrid knot in my stomach tightens even further. My brain clouds with the overwhelming thoughts that I can never escape from. Why? was the most prominent among them. I can’t open my eyes to watch the black-suited men appear and take away the last body. I still can’t open them when the announcer states the winner. The scores. My brain clears for just a moment, and I suddenly feel my entire being shiver and knot with utter hatred at the nonchalant way he addresses the deaths of all five of them. I still can’t open my eyes when a team of black-suits lift me onto a stretcher and roughly carry me out of the forest and into the walls of the Bowl. I can only see the dancing of light behind my eyelids. They went from yellow to red to black as we moved into more dimly lit areas. My eyes are still closed, and I listen. People passing orders in a heartless tone. Attendants passing and following. It’s all I can do to keep my eyes closed, because I know that the moment I open them, her death will flood my vision like every other kill before her. I must be hard. I must ignore it. I can’t open my eyes long enough to see her scarred face as the bullet I fired penetrates her chest. I won’t let that happen again. If I do, I will lose it. Lose everything. Again.
When I wake up, I have no period of recovery. My body does; every stitch, scratch, broken bone, or bruise has disappeared. The dark circles, the thirst, and the hunger have gone, and I am clean and healthy and fat. But my mind never gets the rest it needs. That’s what all of this was about– the mind. I fell asleep aching on a stretcher, after brutally murdering a contestant, and I immediately wake up in a new world. No time to think, no time to recover, no time to adjust. This level has the same layout as any battle in the Bowl, but this time, everything is a different kind of deadly. Instead of jungle-like trees, and shrubbery, its dressed up like a huge military base. There are command offices and unusable tanks and missiles everywhere. A flag stands in the center of the base, waving from the top of the pole, where it doesn’t belong. It should be farther down the pole, in respect, but there is no way the Bowl would allow anyone to feel pity for us.
I glance around at the buildings. Mess hall, barracks, weapon storage, training area, and other scattered landmarks dot the field. I consider checking the weapons storage first to see if they left any usable weapons, but I doubt it would. It would attract my enemies, and those weapons would be plastic, temporary. The real weapons had to be attained through killing, like every other level. Once you made your first kill with bare hands or whatever you can find, you’re given a knife. Your second kill grants you a sword or some other archaic form of murder. The third earns you a gun with only one bullet. On your fourth kill, you get a better, more accurate gun with plenty of amo. On your fifth kill, you get out. But not really. Only one person really gets out of the Bowl.
I start to move, getting out of the open area. I keep an eye out for the other five contestants as I find a protected spot to think. But before I can do any real thinking and strategizing, my brain freezes. It all clouds up. Her face, scarred but innocent. Marred only by her enemies. And I am one of them. I can’t think until I get her out of my system. I had to be hard. I couldn’t think of that right now. I’m an open duck, waiting to be found and killed off by hand. But I couldn’t stop. Her tears, her family, everything that I’ve done. All the dozens that I’ve killed to get this far. If I hadn’t killed them, then who would have, and how? That’s the only way I can justify it now. Only one of us can make it, and it was never going to be me. I’ve made it this far, and my only hope is that maybe he will make it through. He is the only one of us who deserves it, and I will just have to live with that. After all I’ve done, I definitely don’t deserve it.
I do my best to push away the counter-productive thoughts. I can only allow myself so much time to recover from each level– each death. More than that and I’m sure to be killed. The deaths happened so fast, every half-hour or so. I made more than half of the kills typically, which meant I’d sometimes get a small handgun with one bullet was my best defense. It had gone on this way for three levels now. This military-theme would be number 4 for me. Which meant I had already killed at least 15 others. Inside the Bowl, you can lose track of reality. We’ve been here for a month, but our minds are tricked into thinking less than a week has past. We only know that our bodies are recovered, and the calendar day has changed drastically. But it feels like I’ve killed 15 people in the last four days, and the mental bombardment of dead people would never help me to survive. So I do all I can and push them aside, one after the other as they each fall like flies.
I move on to the problem at hand. The first thing I think of is the flagpole. There would be a rope there, something I could use for strangulation, or for setting a trap. That is a valuable tool that’s sure to be snatched up soon. The next problem to solve would be the question of getting there and back without getting killed.