by Nnenna Josakweker
Long ago, when people first started reading books and with different genres, it was tough to find books because at that time, the equipments needed were scarce and quite expensive. But those who were lucky to find books, read and they were the rich of course; those born with a silver spoon in their mouths. Far on the horizon, where the sky was always especially low, there was a village and in that village, in a little mud hut, thatched with straw, there lived a bent old woman. This bent old woman was the oldest woman in that village; possibly the oldest woman in the world. She was so old she no longer remembered any other way of being. She lived all alone in her little mud hut, for she had neither a friend nor family left in this world. She was lonely and frustrated. So she decided to wander off into the city, to find perhaps a friend for she told herself she shall not die a loner. She wasn’t pleasant looking and as a result, everyone that saw her ran because they thought she was a witch. They didn’t actually believe what they thought and that was the biggest mistake they made; they should have believed.
This woman saw the lifestyle of the citizens and how everyone’s main goal was to be able to afford a novel. She thought to herself that maybe she could work in these book shops. Perhaps she would make many friends because she will meet many people as she sells the books. So she went around; bookshop to bookshop, trying to apply for a job as a bookseller but they all shooed her away and some said that there were no more vacancies left. She even asked to be a cleaner if need be but still the answer was no. This lady got furious and travelled back to her village. She cursed the souls of those book owners and swore that she must sort her revenge. Everyone treated her like a slave; like a non- entity! She made a curse that whoever was to leave a book open and happened to fall or even sleep on that open book, that person would be sucked into that book forever- and this spell cannot be reversed.
“So that is how the folktale of being zapped into a book came about,” said granny as she bent over to take a piece of tissue to blow her nose.
“Wow….that is quite awesome,” I replied dreamily. Imagining all the books I would love to enter just to have that perfect life.
“Well it wouldn’t be, if you were the one who was zapped into a book for eternity. Now go to sleep. You’ve got a tough day tomorrow.” She said as she covered me properly and gave me a peck on the forehead.”
“Goodnight granny,” I said smiling.
“Goodnight dear. Sleep tight,” she replied tucking me in. Granny walked over to the lamp and switched it off and as she made her way to the door she was stopped by a question.
“Granny, do you believe this story?”
“Well, the question is do you believe it dear child?”
“Uhm….well… I don’t know what to think!”
“To be honest, I don’t really believe it but you never know. Night night,” she said then winked as she walked out closing the door behind her. Her footsteps could be heard making their way downstairs.
I pondered on this story but not long before I sunk into the irresistible claws of sleep. I grew up day by day and each day that went by, the old folktale told by my grandmother was just a mere smudge on my memory. I love reading! Like nobody else on this planet! Books were second in line; after food of course. I was exhausted after having 7 torturing hours of high school work. All I felt like doing was taking a hot shower and having a hot, steaming plate of one of my mum’s salivating dishes. The thought alone made me drool all over my school bag. Luckily, no bystanders or security cameras caught that….at least I think so.
“Hey mum I’m home,” I yelled as I walked into the house.
“Nancy, I’m in the laundry room!” she yelled back. Heading down into the laundry I opened the door to my mum sitting on the floor in a pile of clothes.
“Whoa. Do you need some help?” I asked, eyeing the billions of colours and fabrics sitting before her.
“Oh no Nancy, I have everything under control here. Oh I got you a novel. It is the latest book as the movie just came out recently. I thought you might like it.”
“Really? Which book? What’s it called?”
“The Hunger Games–I hear its good stuff.”
“Whoa…ok! Thank you mum. Where did you put it? And by the way, where’s granny? I didn’t see her on the porch today.”
“I left it on your desk in your room and your granny is sleeping in her room. Be quiet with whatever you do; she’s one tough bear when you wake her from her sleep,” giggled mum as she sorted the dresses out according to their different colours.
“Oh yes she is. I’ll just go check up on her quietly, take a shower and then come down for lunch. I’m starving.”
“Good good and Nancy, you’ve got to make dinner tonight. Don’t look at me like that. No excuses. Go on now.”
I turned left to a corridor which leads to what I call, ‘the road to redemption.’ But as others call it, my room. But before I reached there, I checked up on granny just as I promised and went to freshen up. When I was done, I put on my pyjamas and that’s when I saw it! The book mum had told me about and it had an interesting cover too. I plopped on my bed and told myself, “I’ll just read the first two chapters and go down for lunch since I am a very fast reader.” As I read from page to page, the words rushed past my eyes like the gush of wind coming at a fast moving car. I didn’t even know what page or chapter I was reading because the book was so fascinating. Then for some reason, my eyes gave away…I think I must have fallen asleep. My head hit hard on the novel and the scent of fresh, newly printed paper filled my nostrils.
Suddenly, there were sounds of bells ringing, shuffling of feet and finally, silence. I opened my eyes and found myself lying down in a bush with the only thing in sight, trees. I got up, dusted myself and took a minute to take in my surroundings. On one side was a lake, and on another, a border of sparse woodland and as I turned, right there stood the contestants; each tribute standing on his or her own metal circle, all at equal distances from an oversized golden horn in the middle of the field, overflowing with supplies including food and weapons. I jerked back in alarm.
“Smokes! What the hell?” I quickly hid behind a tree and peered a little, just enough to not give myself away to the others.
As I had read, “tributes must wait 60 seconds before a gong allows them to step off, or they will be blown up by land mines. After that begins the bloodbath, wherein tributes rush for supplies and enter their first battle”. And then before my eyes, Katniss grabbed an orange backpack near her. Another boy arrived at the same time but before they could fight, he dropped dead. She saw that he had been stabbed with a knife in his back. She rushed immediately towards the woods, lifting her bag above her head to protect herself. Then she turned to see several tributes fighting but she could’t find Peeta. She turned around and headed my way, not noticing me.
I was dumbfounded; I didn’t know what to do so I just froze on the spot. Then the first shot of the cannon, each shot of which signified the death of a tribute….this brought me back to my senses. I started running; that’s all I knew how to do. I guess P.E did help after all. I wasn’t running for long before I tripped on something. I fell hard and hit my forehead on the hard earth. The world was spinning and it felt like a parade was going on in my head.
“Who are you?!” I heard a female voice ask. I took a moment to clear my head and looked up. Above me towered Katniss and pointing at me was an arrow. “I am Nancy. I am not your enemy. Please don’t hurt me,” I begged.
“What District do you belong to?!” she screamed, drawing her bow further backward.
“I don’t belong to any District! If I did, don’t you think I would have killed you by now? Or at least put up a fight?”
Seeing sense in what I said, she withdrew her arrow and dragged me by my arm. She motioned for me to be quiet. We started running. To be quiet? That is the least of my problems right now! How was I going to explain my sudden appearance? Something I couldn’t understand myself. All I was wondering now is if you dig a hole for yourself, how long before you reach the bottom? Too engaged in my thoughts, I didn’t realize we had stopped running. I understood Katniss was looking for a tree. A tree? What? Are we going to climb? This can’t be good.
With my heart throbbing in my chest, I stuttered, “Uhm….Katniss…you know, climbing a tree would waste our time and…besides, it’s a perfect way to get spotted.” She paused and gave me a stern look. I gulped and admitted the truth.
“Alright, I can’t climb and I am not particularly fond of heights.”
“I’m sorry. You have to or the others will find you and kill you,” she responded.
With that, her eyes rested on a tree hidden by others. She ran to it and pulled me, motioning for me to climb up. With her help, I climbed and fell. My vision was starting to get blurry. She pushed me up and I saw something move at the corner of my eyes in the woods, which was enough to send me scurrying up the tree. Katniss must have noticed this too for she ran to the tree opposite mine and climbed up. The entire ascent was swift, and I had never seen such grace.
I closed my eyes. No! No! No! Is this how I am going to die? With my family unaware of my whereabouts and with some girl with an arrow? No way! I am going to get out of here. She seemed nice but that’s how people die in movies; by trusting strangers. I turned around and looked at her. She was just as frightened as I was. On second thought, perhaps she could be trusted; I mean for starters she didn’t kill me when she could have easily stuck an arrow right through my chest.
The Panem anthem played and images of dead tributes were broadcast into the sky. Night arrived. Dang it was cold. What to do? Man, Dora would know what to do. I put my arms around myself; it didn’t do much but what else was there to do? My eyes gave away, as I realized I was indeed tired. Something somewhat soft struck my face. I opened my eyes. It was morning and I saw Katniss pointing down. I looked and below us were the career tributes. I almost screamed but stopped when I spotted Peeta among them. Wasn’t Peeta in Katniss’s District? I looked at Katniss and saw she was just as shocked as I was, if not more. They left and when she was sure we were safe, she climbed down and I did the same too. She handed me a knife which she got from her back pack.
“What’s this for?” I asked confused.
“To protect yourself if I fail to do so. Also have this.” She handed me an apple.
“You don’t have to thank me. Just eat.”
“No, I mean for everything. Though I am curious; why did you help me? And not kill me? Knowing full well that here you either kill or are killed.”
“Well I only hunted animals back home and besides you look like you are the same age as my little sister.”
“I see….well thank you again. Oh and…?”
“Wait shush!” She placed her hand on my mouth as she listened for any signs of movement in the bushes. When she was sure we were safe, she removed her hand from my mouth and stood up. “We have to keep moving. This spot isn’t safe.”
We kept walking and walking in silence. The only time we spoke was when she would stop us and listen for sounds; nothing else. I watched in admiration; she was a survivor indeed. Suddenly, fireballs exploded around us. It was obvious they were directed at us from somewhere unknown and within seconds, the whole bush was engulfed in fire. The fire was bad enough, but worse was the smoke which was ravaging our lungs. Weak, we ran all the time trying to dodge the fireballs whilst coughing. I was surprised by one of them landing in front of me which exploded the rocks nearby and sent me whizzing in the air till I hit a tree and landed with a thud. Then all went quiet and dark.
If you ask me, this world is a lot better and prettier. Wings, a flurry of motion in the morning sky. The wispy clouds representing the merest strands of hope or the slimmest chance of survival. But here the sky was home; here I felt at home. Just as if Mother Nature had heard me, the sky began to fall like the leaves on the trees during autumn. The birds disappeared and all that was left of this perfect world was me; or maybe not. Someone else was here. This constant sound of a weeping lady was coming from somewhere close.
“Hello?! Where are you? Show yourself!” I shrieked, running in circles in frustration and fear. The cry got louder and closer, accompanied by whispering. Have I lost my marbles? Is this it? Ah make it stop!
“Not long now Nancy, you will be brought to perceive the true meaning of life.” Women in cloaks chanted these words and were now gathering around me. I struggled trying to break free from their cold grasps and their raspy whispers. There was no use struggling for I knew this was it. I was done for.
“You are now one of us Nancy! Complete this sacred ceremony,” the women chorused; their voices ceremonial and mesmerising, sending every experience through my head; memories happening again and again.
“No! Let go of me! No!” I screamed. The sound tore through the light and back again on to the point where it began. The sound, my very own voice was angry and filled with fear and hatred towards the oncoming evil. “No!” I screamed for the third time. My head filling with images. I shot up straight and was covered in sweat and breathing heavily. It was not long before I realized I was still screaming.
“Nancy! Nancy! Oh my God! Thank the stars you are alive. Keep calm it’s me, Katniss. You are running a temperature,” Katniss uttered holding me and trying to make me calm.
I thought about the immense battle and shuddered. I could feel a helmet-like pressure reverberating through my whole head. I laid back and stared at the sky. My whole body was soar and I could barely blink because merely doing that caused a sharp pain to surge through my body.
“What happened?” I finally asked looking at Katniss who was gathering as much leaves as she could find to cover me.
“We got attacked by fireballs. That cootie! I bet you he knows you’re here and you are now part of the game!” Katniss shouted as she turned furiously shifting her hair to the back of her ears. Who is she talking to? Me? Or herself? Could it be that I am associating myself with a psycho? My head was beginning to implode.
“Katniss, no offence but my head is hammering over here and you are not helping by screaming to…God knows who,” I said struggling to sit up.
“I’m sorry but it’s him! President Snow?” she said looking at me to catch some form of understanding. I slowly shook my head.
“You don’t know him? Where have you been? He’s like the reason life is not how it’s supposed to be.”
Interrupting her, “Katniss is it just me? Or is this a different dwelling place?”
“Oh… I had to carry you here. It was a surprise we got out of there alive,” she sighed. “You have to eat something and rest and as soon as you regain some strength, we’ll get moving.”
Funny enough, I didn’t feel too bad. Being in the woods was quite rejuvenating. I was glad for the solitude, even though it was all an illusion. I was probably on-screen right now. Famous! Though this not how I planned to be on air, but it would have to do.
Night creatures were coming out. I could hear the occasional hoot or howl, my first clue that we would be competing with natural predators for the rabbits. There could have been any number of animals stalking us at this moment but right now, I decided to make her, or should I say “our” fellow tributes, a priority. Twilight had arrived and I could feel their window of attack closing on us.
“Katniss, I think we should just keep moving. Don’t worry, I can make it,” I said, feeling the rising fear about to consume me.
“Are you sure?” she asked looking doubtful at my ability to move.
“Yes. Now let’s move it.” Even if I might be able to last the night, what will the morning bring? I stared into the foliage trying to tell myself to have faith, but the burns forbade it.
“Ok. I’ll help you get up. Here,” she said, pulling her hand out. I took it and stood up trying to regain my stamina but my legs were shaky.
“Easy now easy, don’t rush,” she mumbled.
In the middle of the sky, I spotted the hovercraft. Then I saw the girl from District 4 being lifted into the air and then vanish. The eyes of some animal peered at me from the neighbouring tree — a possum maybe; I squinted, trying to get a better view. Suddenly, I realized those were no possum’s eyes; I knew their glassy reflection too well. In fact, those were not animal eyes at all. In the last dim rays of light, I made her out, watching us silently from between the branches. Rue.
How long had she been here? The whole time probably. For a while we held each other’s gaze. Then, without even rustling a leaf, her little hand slid into the open and pointed at something above my head.
My eyes followed the line of her finger up into the foliage above me. At first, I had no idea what she was pointing to, but then, about fifteen feet up, I made out the vague shape in the dimming light. But of what? Some sort of animal? It looked about the size of a raccoon, but it hung from the bottom of a branch, swaying ever so slightly. There was something else. Among the familiar evening sounds of the woods, my ears registered a low hum. Then I knew. It was a wasp nest.
Fear shot through me, but I had enough sense to keep still. After all, I didn’t know what kind of wasp lived there. It could have been the ordinary leave-us-alone-and-we’ll-leave-you-alone type. But these were the Hunger Games, and ordinary wasn’t the norm. More likely they were one of the Capitol’s mutations. Terrified, I just stood still with my mouth agape. So is that what hung above me? I glanced at Katniss who too was standing dead still. I looked back to Rue for help, but she had melted back into her tree.
I whispered to Katniss, “Of all the trees, this is the one you chose to put me to lay down beside.” I was beginning to shake.
“Shsh!” she snapped.
From somewhere far there was something approaching us. As it got closer we could make out what it was. Katniss’s first gift from a sponsor! Haymitch must have had it sent in during the anthem. The pot lands and easily fits in the palm of her hand. What can it be? Not food surely. I watched eagerly as she unscrewed the lid and I know by the scent that it’s medicine. Cautiously, she probed the surface of the ointment. Then she put some on my hands and legs, the throbbing in my fingertip vanished. She dips her fingers in the jar and gently she spreads the balm over my calf. The effect is almost magical, erasing the pain on contact, leaving a pleasant cooling sensation behind. She does the same to herself and before I knew it, the pain had eased. I knew this is it; we have to move and move fast.
“Katniss, uhm….is there something edible in your backpack? I don’t mind how big or small it is…” I asked realizing that almost nothing stayed in my stomach yesterday, and I was already starting to feel the effects of hunger. She handed me a cracker and a strip of beef and a few cups of water. I was indeed satisfied.
“You are not hungry?” I asked surprised by the way she only watched me eat and didn’t touch her food.
“No, I’m not hungry,” she replied, and then shifted her gaze to the bushes. Remembering Rue and the fact that I hadn’t thanked her, I called Rue’s name in a hushed whisper, “What are you doing? Do you think she might be here? Is that why you are calling her?”
Katniss leapt up and looked at me in alert but before I could explain, the eyes appeared wide and alert, at once. She pointed up to the nest again. How could I have been so stupid to forget that? I held up my knife and made a sawing motion. She nodded and disappeared. There was a rustling in a nearby tree. Then the same noise again a bit farther off. I realized that she was leaping from tree to tree. I looked at the ground. It was all I could do to not laugh out loud. Katniss was stunned and I instantly felt guilty for not telling her.
“Kat….niss, uhm…I saw her a while back while you were helping me up and I know I should have told you and I am sorry,” I apologized feeling foolish. But she wasn’t listening, her gaze was fixed on Rue; watching her as she made her way down the tree and to us. When she finally reached us, it looked like Katniss had already formatted a plan for her reply was shocking.
“You know, they’re not the only ones who can form alliances,” she said. What was she doing? A few minutes ago she was against the idea of Rue. For a moment, there was no response, then one of Rue’s eyes edged around the trunk.
“You want me for an ally?” she asked.
“Why not? You alerted us about the nest and you sure are smart enough to still be alive.” She blinked, looking at Katniss, trying to decide.
“You’re District Eleven. Agriculture?” Katniss asked. “Orchards, huh? That must be how you can fly around the trees like you’ve got wings.”
Rue smiled. Were these people nuts? Obviously they knew that standing under this hive was suicide. If we were going to die, it wasn’t going to be now and not in this way. As if reading my mind, Katniss said, “I think we should move from this spot. We don’t want a case where the wasps find their way to our skin.” She stared at the ointment Katniss had received earlier from Haymitch. “You have good sponsors,” she said longingly.
“Have you gotten anything?” Katniss asked. She shook her head. “You will, though. Watch. The closer we get to the end, the more people will reckon how clever you are.”
“You weren’t joking, about wanting me for an ally?” she asked.
“No, she meant it,” I said. For some reason, I trusted her. She was a survivor. I was pretty sure she also reminded Katniss of Prim.
“Okay,” she said, and held out her hand to Katniss. They shook; then to me. “It’s a deal.” Of course, this kind of deal could only be temporary, but neither of us mentioned that. Instead we got up and started for the mission of finding a safer dwelling. We began to head upstream until it was almost nightfall.
“Where do you sleep?” I asked her. “In the trees?” She nodded. “In just your jacket?” Rue held up her extra pair of socks.
“I have these for my hands.” I thought of how cold the nights had been. “You can share my sleeping bag if you want. We’ll both easily fit.” Her face lit up. I could tell this was more than she dared hope for.
“Sorry, how rude of me! What’s your name?” she asked. “Correct me if I’m wrong. You weren’t introduced at the Panem. So how are you here?” she asked bemused.
“I’m Nancy and yeah you are right. I am not part of any District and how I came to be here, I do not know,” I replied, careful not to mention the folktale so as not to seem insane.
She looked at me for a while, then nodded and walked on. We stopped for the night had already dawned. So we picked a fork high in a tree and settled in for the night just as the anthem began to play. There were no deaths today. It seemed that Rue had decided to trust us wholeheartedly. I knew this because as soon as the anthem finished she snuggled up against me and fell asleep. Nor do I have any misgivings about her, as I took no particular precautions. If she’d wanted us dead, all she would have had to do was disappear from that tree without pointing out the wasps nest.
The next morning, we set about our mission. Working together made us get to know each other more. I knew a lot about Katniss already from this novel. I came to know Rue, the oldest of six kids, fiercely protective of her siblings. When you asked her what she loved most in the world, she replied, of all things, “Music.” I knew this girl was evidently clever. “Me too,” I had said.
For a while, we dug roots, gathered berries and greens, and devised a strategy in hushed voices. We packed our food and Rue decided to teach us her mocking jay signal, the one she gave to indicate the day’s work is done.
“It might not work. But if you hear the mocking jays singing it, you’ll know I’m okay, only I can’t get back right away.”
“Okay, then. If all goes according to plan, we’ll see you for dinner,” Katniss said.
Unexpectedly, Rue threw her arms around Katniss and then at me. I only hesitated a moment before I hug her back.
“You be careful,” she said to us.
“You too,” we both respond in unison.
We watced her make her way into the woods and then I turned to look at Katniss and that’s when a warning bell went off in my head. Don’t be so stupid. What if Katniss is planning how to kill you? She is luring you in to make you easy prey. The more likeable she is, the more deadly she is but because two can play at this game. I smiled at her and walked off into the distance.
May the Games Begin
I could tell by the look on Katniss’s face that she was worried. But I didn’t know who exactly she was worrying about. Rue? Or Peeta? Probably both. The sun burned off the morning haze almost immediately and I could tell the day would be hotter than usual. We headed on until we found a stream. We both dipped our feet inside. The water was cool and pleasant on my bare feet. I was tempted to ask her what the matter is but I didn’t want to make it any harder than it already was, but I asked anyway.
“Katniss? Are you ok?” I asked, truly concerned.
“Yeah! I’m great,” she replied but I could tell she was being sarcastic.
“No, for real, what is it?” She looked at me as though deciding whether she could trust me or not and then made up her mind instantly. “We haven’t heard from Rue and neither have I seen Peeta.” I knew it had to be the reason for her silence.
“I’m pretty sure Rue is doing just fine. After all she was fine before she met us. She can take care of herself,” I said trying to reassure her, but not only her, myself too. “And as for Peeta….we’ll look for him together.”
She looked at me and smiled but I didn’t smile back. I wasn’t even sure of what I just told her. I was stuck in this death alley with no clue whatsoever how I got here. I mean it might have been because of the folktale but that’s why it’s called a folktale; they aren’t always true. I bit my lip hard but stopped when I felt a blow on my shoulders and the salty fluid filled my mouth.
“Nancy, haven’t you had enough bruises on you?” Katniss scolded, looking baffled at my bizarre behaviour. I smiled back trying to look alright but really I was far from it.
“So, what do we do now?” I finally asked, sucking on my lower lip.
“We look for Peeta.”
I wanted so much to go home and just have a normal teenage life. To go to school and have countless tests and homework for that was in fact, all I needed right now. And I wanted so much to tell her I was joking about looking for Peeta with her. That I was going to find my own way home and that I didn’t need her help but without knowing, I replied, “Ok, let’s do this.”
It didn’t take long to reach the spot where we peeled off to go the Careers’ camp. There was no sign of Peeta, but this doesn’t surprise me. We had been up and down this stretch three times since the wasps nest incident. If he were nearby, surely she would have had some suspicion of it. The stream began to curve to the left into a part of the woods that was new to me. Muddy banks covered in tangled water plants led to large rocks that increased in size. In fact, we had just about decided we were on the wrong track entirely, that a wounded boy would be unable to navigate getting to and from this water source, when we saw a bloody streak going down the curve of a boulder.
Blood! My insides encouraged me to think it was Peeta’s but yet again we weren’t the only ones in this forest. But it was a possibility! We slowed our pace and moved in the direction of the blood, searching for him. She called his name in a hushed voice.
“Peeta! Peeta!” When there was no response, we climbed back down to the stream. He must have moved on. Somewhere farther down. Katniss’s foot has just broken the surface of the water when we heard a voice.
“You here to finish me off, sweetheart?” said the voice.
We whipped around. It was was coming from the left but the voice was hoarse and weak. Still, it must have been Peeta. Who else in the arena would call Katniss sweetheart? Our eyes scanned the bank but there was no sign of him.
“Peeta?” she whispered. “Where are you?” There was no answer. “Peeta?” she called again.
“Well, don’t step on me!” the voice said again.
We both jumped back. His voice was right under my feet. Still there was nothing. Then his eyes opened, unmistakably blue in the brown mud and green leaves. He laughed showing a hint of white teeth.
While they were chatting away, my mind was occupied with troubling thoughts; most especially, the memory of Rue laying weak on Katniss’s hand as her eyes fluttered shut and her chest moving slightly. How Katniss laid her on the earth, picked flowers and placed them around the beloved corpse and how we willed that the heavens would take her soul. A tear slid down my cheeks. I missed her but my thought was interrupted by Katniss.
“Nancy, this is Peeta, as you already know. And Peeta this is Nancy,” Katniss said, but as she caught the confused look on his face, she continued, “It’s…..it’s a long story but for later. Now we have to get you somewhere to rest and feed you.”
“Hey…” I said to Peeta, unsure of what else there was to say.
“Hi,” he replied smiling. At least I thought he was.
Who knows where the Careers are now? Either too far to reach us or maybe this was a trick or … was it possible? Too scared of Katniss? Who knew? After all she was the girl on fire. Peeta, who is wounded, was now our ally. Not that he was better than Rue but at least we had something.
We tried helping him up but he was unable to move an inch on his own. He was so weak that the best he could do was not to resist. We tried to drag him, but sharp cries of pain escaped from him. The mud and plants seemed to have imprisoned him and we had to give a gigantic tug to release him from their clutches. He was still two feet from the water, lying there, teeth gritted, tears cutting trails in the dirt on his face.
“Let’s get you cleaned up. Keep an eye on the woods for me, okay?” Katniss said.
He was so caked with mud and mattered leaves, I wondered if he was naked. I looked away. We managed to prop him up against a boulder. He sat there, uncomplaining, while she washed away all the traces of dirt from his hair and skin. He winced a couple of times but by the time it was all done, he looked like a knight in shining armour. She offered him some leaves with which she concocted some weird herb potion and then he was left to doze off while his clothes dried out. But by late afternoon, it was clear we had to keep moving. So, Katniss gently tapped him on the shoulder.
“Peeta, we’ve got to go now,” she whispered.
“Go?” He seemed confused. “Go where?”
“Away from here. Downstream maybe. Somewhere we can hide you until you’re stronger,” I said, finally getting the chance to say something. They both looked at me and then Katniss agreed, “Yes definitely.”
We helped him up but he is still too weak to move but we made it – after a lot of begging, coaxing, complaining and kissing. Yes kissing! They did it, right in front of me….Jesus.
“Nancy….. I know you miss home and I can see it. You helped me find Peeta. I promise I will help you with everything I’ve got to see that you get home. Ok?” Katniss said to me gently comforting me on my shoulders. It was at this moment I knew I was really homesick. But the least I could do was nod and smile.
Katniss stepped out for a while saying she wanted to go fetch some water. So it was just me and Peeta. He was sleeping peacefully. I couldn’t imagine how much he was going through. Half an hour later, Katniss ran in smiling and walked up to Peeta. She held up a pot.
“Peeta, look what Haymitch has sent for you,” she said waking him up. Too weak to ask what it was, he sipped until the pot was empty and drifted off to sleep again.
We attended to our own needs but I wasn’t hungry so she wolfed down a supper of groosling and roots while I laid down preparing to sleep. The temperature dropped rapidly and soon I was chilled to the bone. I wondered what time it was. We didn’t have any clocks here and with that I let my exhaustion kick in and fell fast asleep.
Sometime in the night, I was woken by a squeak-like sound of feet. I opened my eyes to see Katniss packing up some food stuff and her bow. I instantly knew she was going out.
“Where are you going?” I asked sitting up.
“To make sure the coast is clear and that the careers are not aware of this cave.”
“Well, I’m coming with you.”
“No you’re not. You have to stay here with Peeta and make sure he’s safe.”
“No I am coming with you. Besides I have no skill in medicine or fighting. So I would be of no use. But out there hunting with you, I’d be more of a help to you.”
“Yes or I’ll wake him up and you’ll have to do your lovey-dovey thing till he falls asleep again.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Oh really? Watch me,” I said pretending to be making my way to him.
“Ok! Ok! But be silent,” she hissed.
I could have sworn I heard her mutter ‘stupid’ under her breath, but I let this slide–but just this time. We squeezed through the opening in the rocks and out into the night. My breath made small white clouds as it hit the air. It was as cold as a November night at home. I could see my friends having snowball fights outside their houses but I shook the thought away.
That’s when there was a movement in the woods. We turned at once, but it was too late for Katniss to load her arrow on her bow. A knife caught me in the forehead. It sliced above my right eyebrow, opening a gash that sent a gush running down my face, blinding my eye, filling my mouth with the sharp, metallic taste of my own blood. Almost immediately, Clove from District 2 slammed into me, knocking me flat on my back, pinning my shoulders to the ground with her knees. Katniss was on the other side, lying unconscious on the floor.
I tried screaming for Peeta but Clove jammed her fist into my windpipe, cutting off my voice. “Who are you? Eh?” she asked.
Heart pounding, frozen with fear, unable to even scream, I shot up straight in bed soaked in sweat and breathing heavily. Hold up! In bed? Wait…wait! It was all just a dream?!
“Yes! It was a dream! A DREAM!!” I screamed out on the top of my lungs. My chest was still heaving, the fragments of my dream still playing in my head.
“What dream?” said Effie Trinket standing at the door of my room. “Anyway, Katniss, come on now! You need to get ready to meet Caesar Flickerman, the star! And your fans!” she said excitedly.
“Wait what? Why did you call me Katniss?” I asked horrified and filled with confusion.
“Oh come on now! There’s no time for jokes Katniss. I give you two minutes. Cinna is waiting for you. Oh I can’t wait to see you in that dress. Don’t be long now.” She giggled and walked away, hopping excitedly, closing the door behind her.
Just then I looked at the window and saw the reflection of an old woman.
“Hahaha!” she laughed, her voice as loud and clear as thunder in a stormy night. Her laugh still ringing in my head, I screamed: “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!