Chapter 4

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I awake with a start. I must've had a bad dream but I can't remember it. Glancing at the digital clock on my bedside table, I see it is 7:15am. I meet Paige in the common room and sit on a fluffy chair, still groggy. I slept very well and that'll improve my game definitely. I think.
"Good morning Paige."
"You too, Connor." She replies.
Staff members bring out trays of tea and coffee. They explain that we will not be fed breakfast so we'll have to gather food on our way to the mats. If we lose, we can keep whatever's in our hands. I take a hot tea and so does Paige. We sip the tasty hot drink together. I imagine: There are about twenty runners in this cabin. At the end of the day, only two or three will be sitting on a mat.
One of them will be me.
I'm glad I slept well enough last night because it would be a disaster trying to get through the woods if I was tired. We are guided towards the runner's field and Jeff Rogers begins to announce the rules before we are released. I remember staring at the wooden platform i'm standing on right now from the television. I guess that's what my family is doing right now. We are stuffed into this walled in area with no roof that has automatic gates at the front. When the time is right, they'll release us. Jeff drones on as I try to nudge my way to the front, which I successfully do.
I easily work my way to the center of one of the gates so I will have the best start possible, though the first few steps are usually pretty rough because none of the runners will hesitate to trip you or elbow you out of the way and that's why I need to get a quick start to separate myself from the pack. My plan to go to the side of the field before progressing across is definitely a risky move and I've never seen anyone do it before but I'll just have to be the first.
Jeff finishes the rules and the thirty second countdown begins.
"Thirty"
A stern masculine voice booms down at us from a speaker mounted above. Wow, thirty seconds. I never knew they could go this slow as the man counts down one by one. 28. 27. 26. . .
"Twenty"
I wonder if the camera people will have to follow me through the woods. Will they? No. There will most likely be stations throughout the woods that just capture whatever's near. What a random thought to have during the final seconds before the run.
"Ten"
Alright, It's about to start. Get ready. Right for fifty yards then left and get to the finish. I mustn't forget to grab food. It will be crucial.
"Five"
"Four"
My final thoughts before the gong goes off is: I wonder if Paige will make it? Hmm.
"Three"
"Two"
"One"
The gong is bashed and simultaneously the gates fling open. I lunge out with the rest of my competitors and sprint through the mass of teenagers. Someone behind me sweeps my legs and I crash to the dirt. Not to be discouraged, I grab an ankle and take down someone else. I get up and isolate myself from the pack. My heart is racing as I sprint at top speed through the woods. The viewers are probably confused because I'm not going towards the mat but I make a sharp left turn to face them. The adrenaline races through my body and I don't dare slow.
I'm still empty handed as a monster jumps out from a bush and grabs my foot. The lady in the black suit with long dark hair has a strong grip but I am able to kick her hand away. I dash deeper into the forest, excited that I'm already half way through and I've only encountered one monster. My excitement quickly depletes when another monster, a man this time, jumps out of a tree and lands square on my back. I fall to the ground and wrestle him for a few seconds before wiggling myself free,  but he is hot on my trail and I can hear his footsteps heavy behind me. I dive into a ditch and land on a satchel with round fruits inside it. I take this time in hiding to sling the bag over my soldier and recover my breath. After a few seconds, when I think the man is gone, I make a run for it. Sprinting faster than ever, I near the mats, But I've come almost empty handed. I decide that I need to pick up anything I find on the way. During the final 75 meters I spot a nylon cord up ahead. Figuring it must be attached to something of value, I seize it. I quickly realize, while I'm still running, that there are two containers tied to the cord, one on each end. I loop it around the back of my neck and carry on. I hear a voice in the distance.
"Taking the eleventh mat is number 38, Justin Tillerman!" says Jeff.
I sprint even harder when I realize there are only two mats left. But I'm close. I still have a chance.
Pushing harder than ever I sprint until I find the opening, just to see a girl collapse on mat number 12.
"Taking the twelfth mat is number 103, Paige Harper!" Says Jeff Rogers, "Only one spot left, who's gonna get it?"
Another runner and I break through the foliage and race towards the finish. We elbow and push and then he trips me. I would not be outdone. Not today. I grab his ankle, tripping him. He falls with a thud and spills a bag of a half dozen oranges. I jump to my feet and take off. Swooping down to collect a rolling orange, I make my way to the thirteenth, and last available, mat. I sprint on with pride and double over, breathing heavily. A woman looks at the number on my hand then tells Jeff what it is.
"Taking the thirteenth mat is number 104, Connor Reid!"

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