I can’t believe I’m still alive. Though I would happily welcome the numbness of death over the pain I’m experiencing, I know I cannot just lay here until I die. And I will, soon enough, whether it be from infection, starvation, tracker jacker poison, or the rest of the Careers coming back to investigate and retrieve Cato. But some inexplicable will inside of me urges me that I will not die here, not like this. I muster every bit of strength I have left to crawl away, heading in a direction I’ve never been before.
Using my forearms and good knee, with my left leg dragging behind, I heave myself through the woods. I cannot imagine where I am headed, but I know any long journey is made one step at a time. I can feel dirt scratching in my open wound, but I fight to resist the urge to scream out in pain. After I feel like I’ve made it far enough out of sight, I allow myself to roll over and finally assess the injury.
The combination of pain and the sight of my gushing leg are enough to make me lose whatever food I had left in me. The gash cuts down to the bone, and the oozing of dark brown-red blood shows no sign of slowing. Fire ants burst out of wound and crawl up my body, a hot tingling sensation overcomes me, the ants grow larger and larger like balloons, until they become the size of a rabbit and burst into a gush of blood. I try and beat the imaginary ants off of my body but the impact to me leg injury only amplifies the agony. I squeeze my eyes shut, willing the ants to go away. I try and focus on what I can do to somehow treat the wound. Not like it will make much of a difference, but dragging it through the dirt obviously isn’t doing it any good.
I wish Katniss were here. Maybe she would know what to do. Not only that, but she has supplies, which I am now sorely lacking. I left all my stuff at the campsite when I ran to flee the tracker jackers. Now I have no weapons, no first-aid, no food, no water. Water. I dream of how refreshing it would feel to take a dip. But there is no way I am going back to the pond. Or the lake. These are both familiar places, but I know they are infested with people who want to kill me. There has to be more water somewhere in this area, I just haven’t found it yet.
I decide to crawl facing upward, like a crab walk. A crab with three legs. That way my wound isn’t dragging on the ground, and I can keep my head up to see what’s around me better. Not like I’d be able to put up a fight if I saw anything threatening. Just in case, though, I feel around the ground for leaves, mud, sticks, and anything else I can find to attempt to cover myself. If I hear something coming, I’ll bury myself in a pile of foliage and hope for the best.
My face and skin now covered in mud, my wound bandaged with leaves, and my body covered the best I can, I keep crawling. I want to lay down so badly. Every movement aches. But if I stop I know there is no way I’ll be able to get back up. With as bad as I’m feeling right now, it is sure to only get worse. I need to use my last bit of strength to find water and a safe place to hide until… well, I don’t know what.
I remember the Career’s pile of supplies. Oh how I wish I could have just one sip of water, one bite of food, one dab of medicine. I suddenly remember that along with the rest of Panem, Haymitch is watching. What does he think, seeing me pathetically dragging myself through the forest, without a destination in mind, like a wounded animal just begging to be put out of its misery? I’ve seen the Games before. When a front-runner gets an injury like mine, their popularity is the sole deciding factor between if they live or if they die. If they have a lot of sponsors, they might be sent a silver parachute, which floats into the arena like a gift from heaven containing life-saving supplies. The Capitol has a stockpile of medicine that heals wounds or sickness almost instantly, like a magic potion. If Haymitch was able to round up enough sponsors to send one of those parachutes to me, I could be on my feet and nearly good as new by tomorrow. But I don’t kid myself into expecting any such thing. Yeah, I scored an 8 in my training session. That gets a reasonable “not bad” shrug from the sponsors, but nothing extraordinary. I think I came off as relatively likeable in my interviews, but again, no one bets on the “nice guy.” I certainly made an impression when I confessed my love to Katniss, but again, why would anyone in their right mind want me to go on living but suffer the heartbreak of losing her? Maybe them wanting me to die is their idea of compassion. Sometimes heartbreak is far worse than physical pain. So, with all of those pieces added up, I conclude that I will not be getting so much as a matchstick from any sponsors. For the first time since the gong sounded, I fully recognize just how alone I am.
Nonetheless, I keep moving until the sky begins to turn pink. I need to find a place to rest before sundown. My arms give out for a moment, and I lay flat on the ground, facing the sky. Shades of pink and orange swirl together above me, painting a picture with all my favorite colors. For a moment, the pain slips away as I gaze up into the beauty of the sunset. My eyelids grow heavy and I allow them to rest, just for a moment. I lay in stillness, fully experiencing my other senses. My leg throbs, and sharp twinges of pain, like a million tiny needles being jabbed into my open wound, are incessant. My hands feel around me. The crispy fallen leaves. The soft grass. The gust of breeze sweeping by. The wet mud. The wet mud?
Suddenly my ears register the far-away sound of flowing water. My eyes shoot open and a surge of energy pulses through me. I flip over and crawl with all my strength towards the sound. The river, less than a hundred feet away, beckons me.
By the time I reach the water, the sky has grown much darker. I dunk myself in the moment I can reach it, watching the blood escape my leg and join the flow downstream. Painfully, I rub water all over my body: my leg, the burn on my chest, my tracker jacker bumps, and various bruises and scratches whose origins I can’t exactly recall. This will be where I’ll rest. Feeling the workable clay lining the riverbank, I decide this is a perfect place to test my camouflage skills.
I do my face first. Using the dark gray clay, I cover the entirety of my face and arms, caking it on and comparing the shading to the rocks around me. I add small pieces of sandstone to my mixture to create the flakey and jagged appearance of the rock. Perfect. I grab a glob and drag myself up to the rocks a bit further from the water, collecting moss, grasses, twigs, and leaves. I spot a large rock overhanging slightly, creating a perfect slot for me to hide. Crawling over, I settle between the two boulders. I scoot my legs as deep into the small crevice as I can, and the rest I’m able to cover with the moss I’ve collected. Most of my upper body is covered by the overhanging rock, but I make sure to coat all my exposed surfaces with the clay, again using small rocks and sheets of limestone to create texture. Finally, I place the remaining greenery strategically to match the pattern of my surroundings and, using mud as a glue, cover up my dirty blonde hair with it. I lay down my head and settle into my spot right as the sun has finished setting. With one last look at my work, I close my eyes, silently wondering how long I’ll be here, and if this is my final resting place. If I were to die here, bleed out, my body plagued with infection, they would only be able to find me because of the tracker still embedded in my forearm. I let out a massive sigh, in more pain and despair than I’ve felt in my entire life, and everything goes black. Not even the booming sound of the Capitol anthem will wake me up tonight.Add to favorites