She’s bleeding. A lot. I kneel down beside her, my eyes looking everywhere for the wound. There. On her stomach. I lean in for a closer look. There’s a lot of blood, but I don’t think it’s very deep.
“It’s fine. You’re going to be fine. Callie? Hey Callie, look at me.” She’s loosing consciousness. I work fast. I tear a strip of cloth from my top, then another. I have to tear two more before I have a strip long enough to be wrapped around Callie. I position the makeshift bandage across her wound, and tie it tight. I’m afraid to do any more.
I can’t pick her up, so I have to wait until she wakes up before we can move. I stand guard over her, never letting my axe out of my hand, and never letting Callie out of my sight. I don’t know why I’m helping her. Only one of us can win, and if Callie were to die, it would increase my chances. If it were anyone else, they would’ve left Callie ages ago.
After about fifteen minutes, a noise sounds from up ahead, followed by another noise. I look up. Two silver parachutes are gliding gently towards me. The first one lands, quickly followed by the other.
One is attached to a basket. On closer inspection, the basket contains… bread? I got sent bread.
Its smell gently wafts towards me, and I instantly recognise it as district 7’s bread. I take a look at the other parachute. It’s a small pot of some sort. I screw the lid off, and peer inside it. It is a thick green paste, and I am wondering what to do with it, when I catch sight of a pice of paper attached to the same parachute.
‘District 2 thanks you.’
District 2? That’s Callie’s district isn’t it? Suddenly I know what is in the pot. It’s medicine for Callie. Carefully, gently, I peel the makeshift bandage off her wound. I apply a small amount of cream, then wait. After about 10 seconds, Callie stirs. She opens her eyes.
“Hey.” I smile at her, although it’s as much for my benefit than for her’s. I didn’t know I could feel so relieved.
“Can you stand?” Callie nods, so I hold out my hand. She grabs it, and I pull her up. Stumbling, she falls into me. “Thank you Willow.” She whispers. I steady her, and she stops shaking.
“Come on, we need to keep moving.” Someone will have heard the cannon and seen the hovercraft remove the body. I hold onto Callie’s hand as we move in the opposite direction to where I killed the boy.
“How are you feeling?”
It’s been three hours since our run in with the other tribute, and Callie is looking a lot better. Her face is no longer pale and drawn, the colour returning to her cheeks, and every half hour, when I check her wound and add more cream, her stomach appears to be healing.
“Listen, Callie, I have an idea, but you might not be up for it.”
She looks at me quizzically.
“Can you climb trees?”
She nods. “Mother used to teach me, as a way of being on my own. I have four brothers, and sometimes they got too much, so I used to hide in a tree. Mother made sure that only I could climb a tree, so I couldn’t be bothered.” She wipes at her face, but not before I see the tear roll down her cheek.
“Well, do you think you can climb now, because I reckon the trees are our best way of staying out of trouble.”
“We’ll see I guess.” She replies shakily.
I walk over to a thick oak tree, inspecting it. The tree has to be climbable, but not so easy that everyone can climb it. And this one’s the wrong type. There’s a bare fir tree behind it, the branches sparsely separated. Perfect. Not even the tallest tribute could reach the branch above the first one, but if you know where to look, which I do, then there are knobbly handholds all over the trunk to use.
“Callie, I’ve found a good tree to climb. Just follow my lead, ok?”
She nods, so I haul myself onto the first branch. Almost immediately, I find a suitable handhold to use. I grab onto that with one hand, then grip the branch above me with my other. My feet are no longer in contact with the first branch. They replace my hand on the knobbly part, and within no time I’m up onto the second branch. I look down and see Callie following suit. She’s a bit wobbly, but I can see her grip is strong. She won’t fall.
Using the same repetitive technique, I reach the top within a minute, Callie not far behind.
“Stay there Callie.” Where I am, the branches are too thin to be of any use permanently, but it’s a good lookout. The arena looks huge from up here. Snow capped mountains are in the distance, and the white stuff is also on the trees. I need to be careful. One false move and I could slip on the icy snow. I climb down to Callie’s level, where it is more sheltered, and less dangerous. I find a good, thick branch, and she does the same.
“At night, before we go to sleep, we would tie ourselves to the tree trunk, to stop us falling down.” Callie nods, then gets out the rope from her pack. I pass her the sleeping bag, and she climbs into it. I tie the rope around the tree, and she settles down. The strain from the climbing has taken its toll on her, and the little colour she had regained has gone again.
The sky darkens above us, and still Callie sleeps. She looks better again, and she sleeps so peacefully.
The anthem plays once more, just like last night, except I know at least one person who will be up there.
Sure enough, the first picture to come up is the boy from District 2. Callie’s district. I killed one of the careers. Then comes the female from 4. Both from 5. And Josef. He’s dead. No more faces come up, and the sky goes dark once more.
I don’t believe it. Josef, my brother, my kind, strong, wonderful brother, is dead. I slump down on my branch, and break down.
“Willow? What’s wrong?” Callie has woken up.
“Josef-” It’s all I can say, but Callie immediately understands. She unties herself, secures both the rope and the sleeping bag, then comes over to me. She pulls me into a hug, and sob into her shoulder.
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