Finnick’s hand comes up and hits me so hard, so squarely in the chest that I go flying back into a nearby tree trunk. I’m stunned for a moment, by the pain, by trying to regain my wind, as I see Finnick close off Peeta’s nose again. From where I sit, I pull an arrow, whip the notch into place, and am about to let it fly when I’m stopped by the sight of Finnick kissing Peeta.
Hmm…Finna? Peetick? I could live with that. Also I kind of laughed when Finnick hit Katniss, is that bad?
No, he’s not kissing him. He’s got Peeta’s nose blocked off but his mouth tilted open, and he’s blowing air into his lungs. I can see this, I can actually see Peeta’s chest rising and falling. Then Finnick unzips the top of Peeta’s jumpsuit and begins to pump the spot over his heart with the heels of his hands. Now that I’ve gotten through my shock, I understand what he’s trying to do.
He learned it while filming Baywatch!
His lashes flutter open and his eyes meet mine. “Careful,” he says weakly. “There’s a force field up ahead.”
He meets my eyes and I glare at him through my tears. It’s stupid, I know, that his efforts make me so vexed. All I wanted was to keep Peeta alive, and I couldn’t and Finnick could, and I should be nothing but grateful. And I am. But I am also furious because it means that I will never stop owing Finnick Odair. Ever. So how can I kill him in his sleep?
YOU HAD ONE JOB, KATNISS! And of course she feels worthless and guilty that this one incident 20 minutes into the Games would have been the death of Peeta if no one else were around. Plus she just keeps racking up her debt to people!
“Maybe they did a better job than they thought. You know, sometimes I do hear funny things on that side. Things you wouldn’t ordinarily think have a sound. Like insect wings. Or snow hitting the ground.” Perfect. Now all the attention will turn to the surgeons who fixed my deaf ear after the Games last year, and they’ll have to explain why I can hear like a bat.
Haha, great cover. And definitely a good idea to conceal her knowledge of the forcefield’s weakness. For now.
There’s a reason we can’t turn to the left, will never be
able to. From this precarious vantage point, I can see the shape of the whole arena for the first time. A perfect circle. With a perfect wheel in the middle. The sky above the circumference of the jungle is tinged a uniform pink. And I think I can make out one or two of those wavy squares, chinks in the armor, Wiress and Beetee called them, because they reveal what was meant to be hidden and are therefore a weakness. Just to make absolutely sure, I shoot an arrow into the empty space above the tree line. There’s a spurt of light, a flash of real blue sky, and the arrow’s thrown back into the jungle.
What the HEH. So the arena is just a big circle? Actually, now it doesn’t seem so big, if it only took them part of a day to reach the edge. And I didn’t realize that the island that is the Cornucopia is in the center, completely closed off. Holy shit. How are they going to get the tributes closer to each other? Make the forcefield gradually shrink? And what the hell is on the other side of it?
The sound of the cannon brings me to a halt. The initial bloodbath at the Cornucopia must be over. The death toll of the tributes is now available. I count the shots, each representing one dead victor. Eight. Not as many as last year. But it seems like more since I know most of their names.
Yeesh, I wonder how fast this is going to go by? Maybe, like Katniss thought, the Gamemakers want to just get it over with quickly.
It’s ugly, all right, a big rodent with a fuzz of mottled gray fur and two wicked-looking gnawing teeth protruding over its lower lip.
ROUSs! They do exist!
Peeta has another idea. He takes a cube of rodent meat, skewers it on the tip of a pointed stick, and lets it fall into the force field. There’s a sharp sizzle and the stick flies back. The chunk of meat is blackened on the outside but well cooked inside. We give him a round of applause, then quickly stop, remembering where we are.
The man from District 5, the one Finnick took out with his trident, is the first to appear. That means that all the tributes in 1 through 4 are alive — the four Careers, Beetee and Wiress, and, of course, Mags and Finnick. The man from District 5 is followed by the male morphling from 6, Cecelia and Woof from 8, both from 9, the woman from 10, and Seeder from 11. The Capitol seal is back with a final bit of music and then the sky goes dark except for the moon.
And here I thought that old bag Mags would be the first to die.But for some reason I’m saddened by Seeder’s death! Just because she was from District 11 and was Haymitch’s friend.
Peeta unties the cord and flattens out the circle of silk. On the parachute sits a small metal object that I can’t place. “What is it?” I ask. No one knows. We pass it from hand to hand, taking turns examining it. It’s a hollow metal tube, tapered slightly at one end. On the other end a small lip curves downward. It’s vaguely familiar. A part that could have fallen off a bicycle, a curtain rod, anything, really.
Great, more metal instruments that have no apparent use!
“It’s a spile. Sort of like a faucet. You put it in a tree and sap comes out.” I look at the sinewy green trunks around me. “Well, the right sort of tree.”
BOOM BABY! So they’re going to drink sap? I’m not sure that will work as well as water.
There’s nothing to drill with, so Mags offers her awl and Peeta drives it straight into the bark, burying the spike two inches deep.
Yay, the awl isn’t entirely useless!
At first nothing happens. Then a drop of water rolls down the lip and lands in Mags’s palm. She licks it off and holds out her hand for more.
By wiggling and adjusting the spile, we get a thin stream running out. We take turns holding our mouths under the tap, wetting our parched tongues. Mags brings over a basket, and the grass is so tightly woven it holds water. We fill the basket and pass it around, taking deep gulps and, later, luxuriously, splashing our faces clean. Like everything here, the water’s on the warm side, but this is no time to be picky.
Water! So wet, so good! I wonder how the other tributes are doing for water. Are the trees their only source of drinking water?
Instead I find myself jarred from sleep a few hours later by what seems to be the tolling of a bell. Bong! Bong! It’s not exactly like the one they ring in the Justice Building on New Year’s but close enough for me to recognize it. Peeta and Mags sleep through it, but Finnick has the same look of attentiveness I feel. The tolling stops.
“I counted twelve,” he says.
I nod. Twelve. What does that signify? One ring for each district? Maybe. But why? “Mean anything, do you think?”
“No idea,” he says.
Maybe the number of districts that still have at least one living tribute? Nope, 8 and 9 are both out. I got nothing.
The sound of the cannon startles me, although it makes little impression on my sleeping companions. There’s no point in awakening them for this. Another victor dead. I don’t even allow myself to wonder who it is.
I bet someone got struck by lightning (only kind of kidding)! Can the Gamemakers control the lightning so it hits people?!
Moments after it stops, I see the fog sliding softly in from the direction of the recent downpour. Just a reaction. Cool rain on the steaming ground, I think. It continues to approach at a steady pace. Tendrils reach forward and then curl like fingers, as if they are pulling the rest behind them. As I watch, I feel the hairs on my neck begin to rise. Something’s wrong with this fog. The progression of the front line is too uniform to be natural. And if it’s not natural …
A sickeningly sweet odor begins to invade my nostrils and I reach for the others, shouting for them to wake up.
In the few seconds it takes to rouse them, I begin to blister.
WHAT THE FUCK it’s like acid rain! Or acid fog! Or something, just get the hell out of there wtaffyasnefvd