There he was in the arena. Coming from District 2, John had been training for this moment his whole life. And he had successfully made it to the Cornucopia, stocked up on everything he needed, and met back up with the other careers. There were easy smiles shared between the six of them - Anderson and Sally from District 1, Jim and Sebastian from 4, and his fellow tribute Molly - but they’d already sized each other up in training, cataloging strengths and weaknesses and deciding how things would play out when they were the only ones left.
The arena was small, a flat plain ending in cliffs, all surrounded by an ocean. The cliff wall was flat, a straight drop down into the crashing waves below. There was nothing to provide shelter or cover, just the tall, waving grass. The sun beat down on them all.
The sun was merciless. The group of Careers scoured the arena for water. It was never night here. They were exhausted and dehydrated. It seemed as if any time they stopped to rest for long, another attack was launched on the arena. They’d suffered a fire that ripped across the plain, an earthquake that had made the earth even more difficult to cross, and, the one time the scorching sun had let up a little, a torrential rain storm, leaving the arena muddy but still, somehow, lacking a water source.
It was ironic, John thought. They seemed surrounded by water, but it was of no use to them. They’d lost Jim to the fire, which had left Anderson so badly burned he could barely walk. Another thing to slow them down. Anderson’s complaints were enough to make them want to leave him behind.
John and Molly’s mentor had won the Games two years ago.
He’d been a young tribute, only twelve. Yet he astonished the audience with his superior intellect and apparent lack of morals in the arena. He set brutal traps for his opponents, luring them into agonizing deaths. People wondered whether it was really necessary to be that bloodthirsty but seemed to enjoy the entertainment all the same.
After the Games were over, he gave remarkably calm interviews and expressed himself to be a very stable person, not wild and out of control as one might have thought from his actions in the arena. He didn’t seem to be bloodthirsty at all, simply calculating. He didn’t seem to possess any emotions at all.
He’d been a bit of a prodigy in their district, and his fame had spread to the Capitol even before he became a tribute as he’d redesigned some of the mining equipment to be more efficient and more productive, always a positive in the Capitol. John had heard that his older brother held a significant position in the Peacekeeper training center and was viewed as one of the Capitol’s greatest allies.
But John didn’t meet Sherlock Holmes until after the reaping.
Compared to the small village John had grown up in, the wealth and grandeur of the Capitol was astonishing. As he and Molly entered their rooms, he couldn’t help his mouth falling slightly open.
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Sherlock, passing through the door behind him, admonished him. “It’s not that impressive. You look stupid gawping like that.”
John closed his mouth, pressing his lips tightly together. He resented the fact that his mentor was three years younger than him. Molly, a shy thirteen-year-old whose face had looked rather pale since the reaping, seemed to be in awe of him, Sherlock. Her eyes followed him around the room.
Oh God, John thought. Why does everyone love Sherlock Holmes?
And yet, Sherlock was intently focused on John, all but ignoring Molly. He peppered him with questions, setting up what-if scenarios, offering him bits of advice. He barely gave John a minute to himself but shadowed him. If he didn’t act so superior, John would almost think the younger boy admired him. No, this wasn’t adoring puppy kind of following around, the way Molly wanted to do with Sherlock. It was, “You’re so idiotic, you’re so dull, you won’t last 5 seconds out there without my expert knowledge which I shall now impart.”
“Look, you’re so keen, are you sure you don’t fancy another go in the arena?” John finally snapped. “I’m sure someone’d love to have a go at finishing you off.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, John,” Sherlock replied seriously. “You know tributes only enter the arena once.”
John rolled his eyes and leaned his head on his fist while Sherlock began lecturing him on what do if the arena was arctic in climate.
The parachute drifted lazily down. The gift was for John. A single water bottle. It was cold. John pressed it eagerly against his forehead and noticed the note taped to the side, damp with condensation. He pulled it off and then saw the expressions of his fellow careers. They stared hungrily at the bottle. He pulled the cap off and took a few grateful gulps, then held it out. “One sip,” he instructed. As they devoured the water, he unfolded the note.
Leave Anderson. SH.