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The Hunger Games: Peeta’s POV. Chapter 17

Chapter 17

 

Somehow during the night, I manage to drift off because when I awake again the sun has already made its way above the forest for me to see. It must be late in the morning, and in the stillness, I can hear the birds singing a four-note tune and the gentle flow of the stream beside me. The sound of the water reminds me that I haven’t had more than a sip of water in days, though I’ve been so consumed by pain and overcome with bleakness that I haven’t felt hungry or thirsty at all. Even the thought of the Capitol feasts that I indulged in during the days before the Games make me sick. 

A little while later I hear the burst of another cannon. I try and imagine who it could’ve been, and a twang of fear grips my body at the possibility that the cannon was for Katniss. No, it couldn’t be. The song of birds slowly replaces the echo left by the cannon, though it’s not the same four-note tune they’d sung earlier. No, this one is much more complex. Its soothing lullaby gives me a false sense of peace until another cannon fire cuts off the birdsong. The feeling of unease quickly returns, now with increasing uncertainty of whose death this fire signified.

I hate being trapped here with no idea what is happening in the rest of the arena. At least when I was with the Careers, I was in the thick of the action, for better or for worse. Now, I have to wait until nightfall to discover who joined the lost today. I awake from my fatigued rest when I hear the anthem playing, and I anticipate seeing two faces in the sky tonight, one for each cannon. The first comes as a surprise when I see Marvel’s headshot, captioned with “District 1.” I wonder if his cannon was the first or the second, and what was the cause of it. Though I never liked Marvel, through spending time with him and the other Careers, I did have a chance to see him as a human, another victim of the Games rather than an enemy tribute. Now, the only Careers remaining are Clove and Cato from District 2. Maybe, for the first time in years, and outlying district finally stands a chance. The next face in the sky breaks my heart. Rue, the 12-year old girl from District 11. She has made it further than anyone probably would have predicted, and her young age and sweet demeanor did not prevent her from fighting a noble fight, I’m sure. I wonder where Thresh is in the arena right now, looking up into the same sky. Is he, too, heartbroken at the loss of his fellow District 11 tribute? Even Thresh, with his monstrous and stoic stature, must be shedding a tear with the rest of Panem tonight. 

The dried clay around my face and the fact that I haven’t had a drop to drink in days makes it impossible for me to cry. However, if it had been Katniss’ face in the sky tonight, I’m sure I would’ve found a way. 

I sleep through the majority of the next day. At nightfall, after the anthem plays, there are no new deaths to feature. However, to my surprise, it is followed by trumpets, the tune played before an important announcement. I remember this happening occasionally in past Games, usually when the number of remaining tributes is dwindling, and they need a way to spark us back into action. This is usually a call to a “feast,” where they use some sort of bait一like food or other essential supplies一 to bring us all together and initiate another bloodbath.

The announcer, Claudius Templesmith, who has been a Hunger Games celebrity almost as long as Caesar Flickerman, has a very distinct voice that booms across the arena, so each one of us can hear. 

“Attention Tributes. There has been a slight一” he searches for the right word, “一rule change.” Rule change? This type of announcement has never been made before. The rules of the Game have been the same for 74 years, and really, there aren’t many of them. Fight to the death until there’s one left alive; that’s it. He pauses his announcement for a moment, and I’m sure every tribute and viewer alike are hanging onto his words. “The original rule stating that only one victor may be crowned has been… amended. Rather,” he continues, “two tributes may be crowned if they both originate from the same district. I repeat, two victors may be crowned under the condition that they come from the same district. This will be the only announcement,” and all of a sudden, his voice is gone, and the arena returns to its same dark stillness. But now, noting this sudden news, everything changes.

Two winners. There can be two winners. Katniss and I could win. We can go home. We can be… together. 

I repeat the message over and over in my head. My mind is racing, unable to comprehend this sudden turn of events. What will I do now? Despite the amendment to the rules, my situation hardly changes. I am still stuck here; I have no strength to get up and seek out Katniss, and even if I did I would be dead meat the moment another tribute hears my clomping from a mile away. There’s nothing to do on my part, though I so badly wish that I was able-bodied and can seek her out, protect her, and strengthen her. On the contrary, if she comes looking for me一 which I sense she will一 I fear I will only bring her down and diminish her chances. Her heart is too good to knowingly leave me for dead when she knows I’m still out here, though I’m wasting away. Will she be able to find me? And if she does, then what?

Suddenly I remember the conversation I had with Haymitch during interview training. I replay is over again in my mind. “A tragic romance, two star-crossed lovers fighting for their love even if it costs their lives… they’ll love it” he’d said. Is that what this is all about? Has the audience still been hanging on so tightly to our love story that the Gamemakers saw the need to change the rules? Again I remember Haymitch’s comment “More attention means more sponsors means more money means more life-saving gifts in the middle of all the action. And ultimately, better chances of staying alive. For both of you.” If this isn’t the result of all the attention being on Katniss and me, I don’t know what is.

I’m worried that I’m far beyond repair and I’ll be nothing but a burden, but if Katniss and I are a package item, so are our sponsors. Haymitch’s attention no longer has to be divided. I could get the medicine I need. But if I don’t… an awful vision comes into my head.

Katniss has found me, and she’s treating my wounds. My eyes are half open, but I see him approaching. Cato is behind her, sword raised above his head. I try to reach out my hand to shield her, but it won’t move. I try to scream out to warn her, but I can’t make a sound. But then, it’s too late. Boom. Katniss’ cannon.

I snap myself out of my vision. No, I tell myself. She’s smarter than that. But I can’t shake this feeling that I will be the reason she dies because she’s trying to save me. That is, if she ever finds me. I consider removing the camouflage and crawling out into the open in case she came looking for me, but I figure if she doesn’t find me, someone else will, and I’m in no condition to put up a fight. I decide to stay here. Maybe she will come my way again like she did today. But I will only make myself heard if she’s looking for me. If she’s not, she’ll be better able to finish out these Games on her own, unhindered.

However, the audience must be waiting for my response to this news. They must think that I should be overjoyed. Not only do I now have a better chance of living, but  the guy-gets-the-girl story is no longer impossible. I need to let them know that I’ve heard them, that my hope has been refreshed. But all I can manage is to breathe out the word “Katniss…” and break my hand free from the mud like I’m reaching for her. Of course, she is still so far away, and I’m not entirely convinced she’ll come looking for me, or if I even want her to. 

I consider every possible scenario, making a list in my head of reasons why she would come looking for me and reasons why she wouldn’t. She must know I’m injured; she saw me moments before my encounter with Cato. However, in that same moment, she must’ve known I was trying to protect her. Now, as a way to pay me back, does she feel obligated to protect me? Or she might actually think teaming up with me will benefit her. Perhaps she’s also realized that whatever injury I have may be curable with a sponsor’s gift to both of us. If that’s the case, though I am not nearly as skilled with weapons or distinguishing edible plants, two is always stronger than one. I imagine being able to stand on two legs, back to back with a knife in my hand and a bow and arrow in hers, fending off enemies left and right as they approach us from both sides. When the last enemy falls the trumpets sound, and she turns to wrap her arms around my neck and… kisses me. 

But I can’t allow myself to think that far ahead. I’m sure romance is the last thing on her mind right now. Her goal is, and always has been, to get out of here alive so she can get back to Prim and her mother. That’s what I want for her as well, so at least we have that in common. For the first time, I think about what it may be like for me to go home, too. What will my mother say? Somehow I still have a hard time picturing her embracing me with tears in her eyes and saying “well done, my son.” I wonder how life will be different. I’ll have a house in Victor’s Village, more money than my family and I will ever need. Maybe I’d live across the street from Katniss and her family and I could bring homemade bread to their house every week and they’d invite me in for dinner and drinks. We’d chat and I’d get to know her in a context outside of the Games, where survival isn’t the only thing that matters. Then, maybe things could be different.

I’m getting too ahead of myself. I nestle deeper into my hiding place after taking a sip of water from a pool beside me, and I drift off to sleep, my mind swimming.

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