Chapter Twelve

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**Celestia**

The short minute we have to get our bearings as we rise up into the Games does not seem long enough. My brain does not seem to be able to comprehend the fact that I am inside the arena, instead of just watching it on my TV screen. Now I can understand what is going through the tributes' minds as I watch them wait like ducks for their deaths. Now it seems real. It isn't just a movie, a form of entertainment, any more. This is real.

This is real. The voice of Ceasar Flickerman, counting down the last minute of my life before all hell breaks loose, is real.

"Fifty-seven. Fifty-six. Fifty-five."

I use the short amount of time to get my bearings. I am in a concrete clearing in what looks like the middle of a city. I can see the Cornucopia in front of me, about fifty metres away, a pointed horn spilling weapons and supplies. All of the other tributes are dotted around it in a circle. I spot both Grace and Harry on my right, and Charlie on my left. Grace sees me, and gives me a quick wave. I can't see Bryony though; I suppose she must be on the other side of the Cornucopia.

"Forty-two. Forty-one. Forty."

If I look behind all of the pedestals, I can see a sprawling city unlike any I've seen before. Every hundred metres or so, the buildings change - from tiny wooden shacks to towering skyscrapers. It's like it has been split into slices, like a pizza. I quickly count how many there are - twelve. Twelve pizza slices, each one a different city.

"Thirty-five. Thirty-four. Thirty-three."

I don't have much time. I need to decide what to do when Ceasar's voice reaches zero, and the gong goes. If I don't move, my time in the Games could be over before it has even begun.

Yesterday, Grace, the boys and I decided to meet in the direction the back of the Cornucopia points to. At the moment, I am looking at the side of the Cornucopia. If I run to the left, I can follow the point at the back of it.

"Twenty. Nineteen. Eighteen."

Anxiously, I catch Grace's eye and nod towards the point of the Cornucopia. She nods, understanding. I see her looking to her right, an area that is blocked from my vision by the Cornucopia. I suppose she is trying to say something to Bryony.

"Twelve. Eleven. Ten."

I notice a khaki backpack about ten paces in front of me, and decide to run for it as soon as the gong goes. I brace myself and wait.

"Three. Two. One."

The gong sounds, pushing all of the tributes, including me, headfirst into the Games. I race forwards, stooping low to grab the backpack, racing a couple of other tributes and beating them there. As soon as I reach it, I turn around and head towards the city nearest the point of the Cornucopia. I can hear heavy breathing and loud footsteps behind me - someone is following.

As I run, I open the backpack and search inside. I find a dagger, and without pausing to think about what I'm doing, I fling it at the tribute behind me, who I can see from the back of his shirt is from Team Five. It hits his heart and he falls to the ground; I carry on running, not daring to look around again and see the damage I caused.

There are no cannons in the initial bloodbath, so I have no idea how many people have died yet. I can only guess.

But I can't let myself think about that now - I need to focus on my own life, and trying to keep it.

I keep sprinting forwards and soon find myself in a run-down part of the city. It is full of deserted shacks (they are more like piles of decaying wood really) littered around, making it harder for me to sprint. I glance behind me. There is no one in sight. Knowing it is a risk, I decide to slow down to a jog, weaving in and out of the buildings. The last thing I need right now is a twisted ankle.

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