Chapter Five

Even with a full canteen of water, I’m still exhausted. I stumble a few times, and Cato keeps sharply telling me to get control of myself. But I just can’t. It’s like all of my energy has just melted away. We take a break pretty earlier on, but then, it’s hard to tell. For all I know, we’ve been walking for hours. My best form of time measurement is the sun. It travels slowly across the sky, too slowly, and by the time it disappears over the far horizon I’m sure I’ve relived today at least three times.

Cato’s in a worse mood than usual, since we didn’t make any kills today.

“There isn’t enough time to make it back before dark,” he mutters.

“Well I found these,” Glimmer reminds him, holding up two pair of sunglasses. Or nightglasses, rather. She made a show of making everyone try them on this morning, and I must admit, they’re miraculous. I didn’t know that they existed until today, and they’re definitely useful.

“There are only two,” Cato says shortly. He takes a seat on the ground against a tree and pulls out his canteen. “We’ll stay here for the night.”

All of us remove our weapons from our belts and lay them on the ground, before making ourselves comfortable beside them. I sit against a tree a few yards from Cato, and most of the others lay on forest floor itself.

“Marvel’s got first watch,” Cato says before drifting off.

I give into my sleepiness instead of considering the dangers. Anyway, Marvel wouldn’t kill me in my sleep. Not unless Cato ordered him to…

It’s too late to think about this; I’m out in a few seconds.

I don’t dream very often. When I do, it’s usually about baking breads or frosting cakes. Tonight’s dream is much different.

I’m standing in a field alone, the vast blue sky stretching infinitely over my head and the grass infinitely below. I look wildly around, hoping for some sign of escape from this expanse of sameness.

That’s when I see her. A girl, tall and lean, with a long dark braid and gray eyes. She holds a bow in her hand, a smooth wooden one with matching arrows. She watches me for a moment, before disappearing behind a tree that wasn’t there before.

“Wait!” I call to her, but she doesn’t reappear. I sprint for the tree but it seems further away the faster I run. Finally I reach it, but just as I round the tree it disappears.

I turn sharply at the sound of a soft voice. “Peeta,” she calls.

She stands only a few feet away, so I start forward again. I just want to embrace her. To hold her still so she can’t leave again. So we can be together. Loneliness is a form of torture that’s becoming harder to fight against.

I reach for her, but just as my fingers meet her braid she’s gone.

I’m not sure how many times it happens. I see her, I run for her, and she disappears. Finally I give up. I sink to my knees and let the shadows find me; I lay in a cold darkness. A strange, prickling feeling seizes my body, and I start to sweat. It’s the feeling of burning, I realize. It’s as if suddenly a strong heat is being forced down on me, and I’m roasting in it.

“Everybody up!” Cato screams.

I roll over, squeezing my eyes shut. Confusion overwhelms me, but stronger than that is the raging heat and sweat that rolls down my face.

“Fire!” Cato howls, and the word is followed by shrieks and cries of surprise.

I leap to my feet, and gasp as my eyes take in the furious wildfire that’s lit up the forest around us. The flames lick at my feet and I stumble backwards, forcing myself to take hold of my senses and follow the group.

Cato is, of course, in the lead. We all try hard to emulate him, the way he leaps over burning logs and ducks under falling branches, but each move is a breakneck maneuver. We wind around burning clusters of trees, and barely pass walls of fire that rise so quickly from the burning ground.

There are screams as we narrowly miss being burnt as we hurdle over the raging chunks of burning wood and brush. Animals stampede around us, rabbits and squirrels and even a nicely sized deer.

I don’t think, just run. A few feet ahead of me Glimmer’s coat gets caught on a flaming branch and catches fire, and she shrieks and tears the fabric from her body. I don’t bother waiting to see if she’s okay; I keep on sprinting, lunging forward when a tree crashes behind me.

When the fire finally starts to die down, Glimmer’s caught up and the rest of us seem to be in pretty good shape.

“I think that’s it,” Cato says breathlessly, hunched over and clutching his stomach.

That’s when the first fireball explodes through the air and crashes into the tree beside me.

“Nope!” Glimmer screams. “That’s definitely not it!”

So it begins again, the dodging and shrieking and narrowly missing being seared like the trees around us. I stumble as a smaller fireball whizzes over my head, and land in a pile of sizzling ashes straight on my hands and knees.

I howl at the burning pain the spikes through me, and force myself up off of the ground. I’m limping, but still, it could have been far worse.

Somehow we all get through it. There are some burns here and there, and Glimmer’s coat doesn’t seem to be wearable. She tears it up and throws it into the flames, content with only her black tank top. Maybe it’s hot now, but we all know how drastically the temperature drops when it gets dark.

We keep moving; though the flames are low and dying, they still creep along the ground.

It’s just getting dark when we come upon a small pond, with sparkling water that reflects the light of the moon that’s risen in the sky above. We’re all coughing, and a little while ago Clove started vomiting. I lost my sword in the fire, but luckily Clove was kind enough to offer me one of her knives.

I’m just happy that I’ve managed to keep my lunch.

“Water!” Glimmer squeaks with excitement, and we all prepare to get in. Who cares if there are leeches, or man-killing fish? The cool liquid seems to call to us, to draw us forth into its depths…

“It’s Katniss!” Cato says suddenly, and I freeze in place.

We all turn to the splashing figure on the other side of the pond as Katniss retreats, pulling herself up onto the land and sprinting for the woods.

“Let’s go!” Marvel cheers, and breaks into a run.

The whole group seems to forget about the water, about the burns that we wear on our skin. They charge after Katniss and I follow behind, my heart pounding hard in my chest.

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