Claudius Templesmithâ€™s voice blares from invisible speakers, inviting me and the other tributes to a feast. A feast sounds good, as Iâ€™m dangerously low on food. But as this is the Hunger Games, thereâ€™s bound to be a catch. Iâ€™m busy formulating plans before Claudius can even finish his little announcement. Apparently, there will be a backpack with my district number (5) on it at the â€œfeastâ€, and that backpack will contain something I need. Food, or a way to get food. The backpacks will be on a table at the Cornucopia at dawn tomorrow. At first, I donâ€™t want to go. The other tributes are rough, tough and most of them are hulking killing machines. Especially Cato and Clove, the District 2 tributes. I know Iâ€™m the smallest tribute still alive, and maybe the youngest. Thereâ€™s only six of us now, three girls and three boys. And the other five will more than likely be there bright and early, waiting by the Cornucopia whenâ€¦ Thatâ€™s it! The idea strikes me as if itâ€™s lightning. I donâ€™t have to risk being spotted at the feast. I can wait just like them, only undercover. Where better to hide than in the Cornucopia itself? All the mines in the arena are deactivated, I heard Katniss, the District 12 girl, blow them up herself. It almost deafened me, even though I was a reasonable distance from the site. I wonder, was it an accident, or was it a pre-planned attack? Probably an attack, because sheâ€™s still alive. I was so careful not to set them offâ€¦ I run toward the Cornucopia, keeping fast and silent. If thereâ€™s one thing Iâ€™m good at, itâ€™s silence. My flame-red hair trails behind me like the tail of a comet. Once I reach the giant golden horn, itâ€™s almost sunset. I would like to sleep, but shouldnâ€™t. If I were to fall asleep, I might miss dawn, and wake up to an empty table and five blood-crazed tributes lying in wait to kill me. I keep myself awake through the instinct of self-preservation. My best bragging right is probably my self-preservation skill. It contains my speed, agility, intelligence, small appetite, self-sufficiency, and many other talents that have kept me alive during this nightmarish time. I watch the place where the table will be for several hours, waiting. The Capitol anthem plays at nightfall, but no faces appear. Iâ€™m still facing five dangers. Although if my plan works, I wonâ€™t be facing anyone for more than a second. The night is uneventful, except for the freezing temperature. Are the Gamemakers doing this on purpose? If they are, they should spend a night in this cold. See how they like it. In the last hour of night, I can just see Katniss on one side of my peripheral vision, waiting. Clove is on another side, but they donâ€™t see each other. Cato and Peeta must be behind, waiting for the action. Thresh, the District 11 boy, Iâ€™m not so sure about. He could be anywhere, but hopefully I wonâ€™t be sticking around long enough to see him. This is a very tricky plan, more daring than Iâ€™m usually comfortable with. I like to stay out of the action, approach with stealth. Even my food-getting methods illustrate this: I steal from other stocks, never taking enough to be noticeable. But thinking about food wonâ€™t help my situation, so I watch the sky for any sign of dawn. The instant the first light ray touches my eyesight, a crack opens in the middle of the plain, near me. A table rises out of the crack, with four backpacks on it. My eyes rivet on the green one with a 5 on it, and Iâ€™m running before Iâ€™m even aware of it. My survival instinct urges me to keep running once I have the green bag, and I listen to it. Iâ€™m well out of sight before I dare stop. My first thought is: THAT WAS AMAZING!!!!! My plan worked perfectly, not a hitch. I didnâ€™t fall asleep, I got my backpack first, and nobody will bother to chase me when they can get their own backpack. Another part of my strategy: If I tried to help myself to someone elseâ€™s loot, theyâ€™d hunt me down. This way, theyâ€™re too distracted. If they decide to get me later, Iâ€™ll have a head start and be hidden somewhere theyâ€™ll never find me. Right now, Iâ€™m concealed in a tree, with leaves stuck on my jacket so Iâ€™ll fit in easier. My hairâ€™s too easily noticed in this environment, so I tuck it into the hood of my jacket. Once Iâ€™m satisfied with my disguise, I open the green backpack and look inside. Hello, food. Thereâ€™s all kinds in there. Bread, fruits, vegetables, rice, cheese, even some scraps of meat. Itâ€™s enough to keep me going for about a week, if I live on as little as possible. As I taste some bread, I hear a cannon fire. I almost fall out of the tree in shock, but manage to steady myself. Of course someone was going to die. All of those strong tributes vying for what they needed. But the real question is: who? It could have been anyone. I suppose Iâ€™ll find out tonight, when they show the face in the sky. Now thereâ€™s only five tributes left. If I keep out of the action, the remaining four will have their fights and kill each other. If Iâ€™m lucky, something will happen and all four of them will die, leaving me the winner without killing anyone. Thatâ€™s probably a record. Iâ€™m not particularly interested in winning or glory or fortune, I just want to make it through alive. Already, nineteen tributes arenâ€™t going to make it. Iâ€™m sure of that. And four others are doomed. But I shouldnâ€™t think of that, should just try to keep myself alive. Thereâ€™s no bringing back those who are already dead, and if Iâ€™m the only one who can live, then Iâ€™ll do my best to seize that opportunity. You can call me selfish if you want, and maybe I am. But if Iâ€™m in the top five, then selfishness is working out great for me. A few days pass from there, with me staying in the tree. Iâ€™m constantly on edge, waiting for sound that never comes. The night just after the Cornucopia, Cloveâ€™s face appears in the sky. So sheâ€™s the one who died. As indifferent as I am to the others, I canâ€™t help but wonder who got her in the end, and why. Questions Iâ€™ll never know the answers to. As each hour passes, I become more uneasy. Long silences in the arena are never good, because if nothing happens for a while, the Gamemakers will make something happen. And Iâ€™m right, I think. The day after the Cornucopia, thereâ€™s a thunderstorm that renders my tree intolerable. I bet the audience in Panem has been watching me, and they got tired of my inertia. They want me to get moving? Fine, Iâ€™ll move about 100 metres to the nearest cave. Those Gamemakers cannot fool me easily. I outsmarted their little feast, didnâ€™t I? The cave has a few little holes in the roof, but I use tree sap to plaster leaves over the holes. After fashioning and installing a leaf canopy for further concealment, I finally feel a tiny bit safe. Iâ€™m tired, after going almost 48 hours without sleep. The cave seems to offer protection, calling out to me: â€œYou can sleep here! Iâ€™ll keep you safe!â€ I sleep for a long time, I have no idea how long. But I stay in a lethargic, dreamlike state until the storm ends. I sleep on and off, dreaming and forgetting my dreams. At some point, the weather shifts. Before, it was lightning and thunder and rain. But it changes, leaving behind the thunder and lightning, the rain intensifying until my leaves are washed away. With nothing to stop the water flow, my only hope is to curl up in a spot where the water wonâ€™t touch me, way in the back of the cave. But whenever the anthem plays, I drag myself out to look. The night before the storm ends, Thresh is dead. So weâ€™re down to four now. Iâ€™m pretty sure I know how itâ€™ll go down. Cato will hunt down Katniss and Peeta, and there will be a two-against-one melee. But Catoâ€™s strong enough for two. Iâ€™m actually hoping that this will happen: Cato will kill one of the District 12 tributes, I donâ€™t care which. Then, the other will kill Cato in revenge. So, I will set up an elaborate and intelligent way to get the last opponent out of the way. Then, Iâ€™ll be out of the Hunger Games and into District 5 again. I wait for the storm to end, and when it does, Iâ€™m active again. Why? For three inter-related reasons.
1. Iâ€™m running out of food.
2. Iâ€™m pretty sure that I hear Katniss and Peeta nearby.
3. Logic suggests those two have food.
I have no qualms about stealing food, I do it all the time. It isnâ€™t a crime in the arena. When it comes to food, youâ€™re welcome to whatever you can take. Also, the two District 12 tributes will be easy to follow. Iâ€™ll track them until I get a moment alone with their food, then run. As usual, I wonâ€™t take enough to be noticed. I wait for the two to emerge from their cave, and they do in the early morning. Iâ€™m close enough to hear every word of their short conversation, and understand it. Theyâ€™re worried about Cato following them, though they donâ€™t suspect me for a second. Peetaâ€™s very easy to follow, childâ€™s play, really. At one point, Katniss turns to him and says, â€œYouâ€™ve got to move more quietly. Forget about Cato, youâ€™re chasing off every rabbit in a fifteen-kilometre radius.â€ Absolutely. But of course, the noise wouldnâ€™t make much difference. Iâ€™m fairly sure I could follow them just as easily if they were silent. They eventually separate, but Peeta has the food. So I follow him. Food aside, heâ€™s much easier to track, like I said. After a little while, Peeta spots something and goes off to it, leaving the food. Excellent! I creep over to the food, still nervous in case Iâ€™m caught. Thereâ€™s bread rolls, apples, and a bit of cheese. The cheese appeals most to me, and since the Games are almost over, maybe I can afford to be a little indulgent. I use one sharp fingernail to scrape a little cheese from the rest, and hide it in my pocket. I would take bread and apples too, but I hear Peeta returning. I zip away into the cover of the forest, watching. He has a few handfuls of berries. I hold my breath, expecting him to notice the missing cheese. But he doesnâ€™t. He just sets down the berries, and leaves them there unattended. I return to the food, curious. The berries look a little familiar, like some berries I saw on a bush, and tried. Those berries were good, and if these are the same, I should eat them. Once again, I take enough to survive without attracting notice, and get away. After about a hundred metres, I deem it safe to stop. I draw the berries from my pocket, and study them. In the end, I put most of them away, deciding to eat the three biggest, juiciest ones. I open my mouth, and stuff the berries in. Before the first chew, I know that something isnâ€™t quite right. These berries are viciously bitter, when I expected sweetness. I chew, and they donâ€™t get any better. Thereâ€™s a second just before I swallow, where I seriously consider spitting out the sour fruit. But I tell myself, Any foodâ€™s better than none. Just suck it up and swallow the berries! I swallow. Just as the fruit hits my throat, everything goes terribly wrong. My insides are burning, my eyes are streaming with reflexive tears. My bodyâ€™s shaking and convulsing, my vital organs feel under attack. Shouldnâ€™t have swallowed, shouldnâ€™t have swallowed, shouldnâ€™t have swallowed!!! The berries. They were bitter, my instincts told me to get rid of them, now thisâ€¦ The berries were poison. Deadly poison, that has effectively killed me, or will very soon. I can almost hear my heartbeat, now scarily weak and slow. When my heart beats the last time, everything seems to stop. I can think, feel, see a million things in that one last instant. I see my past, and my present. After that, a series of unfamiliar visions come to me. A young red-headed woman in a white dress, walking up an aisle. A middle-aged woman with red hair, with three red-haired children next to her. An old lady, grey-haired, but with some streaks of red remaining. A gravestone in the District 5 cemetery, with a bouquet of fresh flowers. It strikes me that Iâ€™m seeing what was once my future, what can never be all because of three berries. All of this in a fraction of a second. But then my brain shuts down, gives up. As the eternal blackness descends, eager to take me as its victim, Iâ€™m aware one last thing. The last contact I have with that lifetime, as it were. The distant, vague sound of cannon fire, and the steely glint of a hovercraft.