Chapter One |Chapter Two | Chapter Three | Chapter Four
Chapter Five |Chapter Six | Chapter Seven | Chapter Eight
He followed a speck of dust dance along the filter of sun shining through the window as somewhere, out in the world, it rose steadily, flooding Panem with it’s gentle light. He sighed softly to himself, squinting against the beam of light as it struck his face, flinching from it and turning over to lie on his side. His restless eyes stared blankly into the shadows cast from the Capitol’s city buildings obstructing most of the sun’s light. He laid there, trying to convince himself to soak up these final few seconds of peace, but it was lost against the muddle of his thoughts. The softness of the pillow beneath his cheek, the warmth of his bed sheets, as much as he tried to think about it, his mind went numb, silencing all thoughts and replacing them only with the things he had lost; Taesun, his mother, father, Kai, his home.
The door creaked open, but Taemin didn’t move. Donghae looked at him from the door way for a moment, noticing the heavy shadows under his eyes from the sleepless night, his pale expression. Taemin already looked like a ghost of himself.
“Taemin?” He said gently, but still the boy made no response. “Taemin we have to get ready in ten minutes.”
The small, lifeless nod was all Donghae needed. The shuffle of clothes and the quiet click of the door closing again told Taemin that he was once again alone. He silently agreed to himself that he should get used to this feeling, for this was how it was to be from now on.
The motions of getting out of bed, stiffly moving his limbs without thought of what was occurring around him. He barely ate, despite the nagging at the back of his mind screaming at him, telling him he had to gorge himself, telling him he would starve if he didn’t. But the voice at the front of his mind, telling him it was the end, that was the voice controlling him, that was voice that drained the hope out of every action, expression Taemin took. Drained the will from his eyes. He barely noticed Donghae’s worry, his concern as he tried to inject as many tips into Taemin’s mind as possible throughout the entire morning. Taemin heard none of it.
He didn’t remember how he got there, but soon enough he was standing opposite Joon, as he fixed the clothes onto Taemin that the Gamemakers had made especially for the arena. He kept muttering about how convenient they would be, how they were waterproof or something. Taemin didn’t care. He mechanically lifted his arms as Joon pulled the jacket over, accidentally locking eyes with him. In a split moment, everything shifted. Joon broke through Taemin’s deadpan numbness, splitting the wall down in the most unexpected of ways.
“I want you to run,” He said, hands on either of Taemin’s shoulders. Taemin stared back at him in slight shock. Joon had never really given Taemin advice on much other than his appearance, he had remained relatively unattached since their last awkward hug, and left Donghae to do the mentoring as it was supposed to be. But in these final moments, he snapped. His lips opened to intake a gush of oxygen as Joon’s suddenly forceful gaze penetrated Taemin’s, his fingertips digging slightly into his shoulders in urgency. His eyes were almost watering with pure fear over Taemin, and Taemin realised that, even though he had never though of Joon as a close friend, Joon was fond of Taemin. All of the people Taemin had promised he would win for spun around in his mind, with Joon as a new addition. Taemin’s body shook violently in fear of the voice that echoed in the room, beginning the countdown.
“It’s going to be a blood bath up there, Taemin, promise me you’ll run, as far away as you can.” His eyes searched Taemin’s for an answer but all he could do was nod back weakly. His lip began to waver, his heart thudded so loudly in his ears, pounding against his chest, his whole body skittishly jumping at the gasp of air hissing behind him as the tube slowly opened the doors.
“It’s time,” Joon clenched his jaw and pulled Taemin into a tight embrace, burying his face against his shoulder and stroking the back of Taemin’s hair, regardless of whether it would mess it up or not.
“Good luck Taemin, win for us.” He mumbled, muffled slightly against his skin. Taemin shuddered slightly as Joon’s breath ghosted against his skin. He stepped back, slowly entering the tube and turning to face Joon, shaking his head as tears began to well up in his eyes.
“Joon I’m scared, I can’t do it,” he spluttered out quickly, hoping desperately that Joon would rescue him, but the doors clicked shut around him. He searched for a way out, suddenly claustrophobic, sickness churning in his tense stomach as it began to move up. He pressed his hands against the glass, keeping his eyes locked on Joon’s in pleading until he was no longer in view.
His eyes blinked against the sudden shock of white light, recoiling back slightly, stumbling back against the wall of the tube. He steadied himself as it disappeared down beneath him, fearful of the deathly mines active and surrounding his metal circle in case he steps off before the sixty seconds were up. He looked up again, eyes finally adjusting, absorbing his surroundings for the first time.
The sun burned down on the glistening snow, shining into Taemin’s eyes almost too brightly. At first he didn’t quite understand it, until he looked up to see another tribute staring intently behind him. He spun his head around, realising they were at the top of a mountain. Further down it was laced with a thick forest, Taemin couldn’t quite make out what was at the immediate foot of it, but stretching out below them was a meadow. Icey coldness snaked around Taemin’s body, sneaking under his layers as a breeze alerted him as to how freezing it was. A shiver ran down his spine; whether it was due to the cold or his fear, he wasn’t sure.
His eyes searched his competition, their own bloodthirsty eyes targeting each other. Taemin was suddenly aware of how likely he was to be targeted as easy prey. A flicker of an old memory from district 12 streamed through Taemin’s mind.
He was walking home from school when Kai grabbed his hand, pulling him to a halt and pointing upwards.
“Look, Taemin, an eagle!” He exclaimed brightly, having rarely been so close to the border of the district. The great bird glided effortlessly, sharp eyes boring down at something. Taemin tried to follow it’s eyeline, but he couldn’t see anything in the overgrown grass. Without warning, it swooped down, like an unstoppable train, it’s eyes on it’s target, oblivious to anything else but the kill. Taemin then saw what it was chasing; a small mouse, seemingly oblivious. His heart stopped for a moment as the mouse perked up, somehow seeing the eagle and dashing through the grass. Taemin didn’t think the small rodent stood a chance, but it suddenly disappeared. The eagle immediately swooped back up, aiming for the sky again, it’s bare talons clenching back up as though in frustration. Taemin looked down to search for the mouse, seeing a flicker of it’s tail bounding away from an empty tree log where it had taken cover.
As the gong chimed, snapping back Taemin’s attention to alert him that his time was up, tributes began flashing past in quick movements, darting towards the Cornucopia and taking hold of weapons. He realised that he was the mouse, and his only chance of survival, was to run and hide. He suddenly felt like he was walking the plank with his eyes wide open. His legs jolted forward, a pack instinct in following the pace of the people charging around him. Before he realised what was even going on, the whipping sound of metal scraping through the air caught him. He turned just in time to see a boomerang of knives spin past his face, missing him by only a few inches.
Joon’s advice to run hit Taemin’s mind like a wrecking ball. He ran forward, grabbing his bag as yet another weapon Taemin didn’t take the time to search for sped past him, the gurgled sound of someone’s scream being cut off behind him. He shuddered, trying to block out the adrenaline-pumped shouts of the predator-tributes and the distinctive, earsplitting cries of the less fortunate prey. He could hardly breath, he could only function as the instinct to survive pushed him to run. Run as fast as he can, panic hanging in the air of the arena, suffocating those who were surviving.
His legs charged across the snow but it was hard. The woods were right there, he needed only to get to the cover of the woods, out of the snow, but the steep fall down and the weight of the snow on his feet slowed him down too much. He shouted out in agony as something ripped past him, splitting open a gash in his arm. He clamped a hand over it, feeling the blood seep through and flow over his fingers. He turned as he continued to push through, half running and half jumping through the snow, to see where the weapon had been thrown from. Jonghyun had a smirk on the edge of his lips as he stalked towards Taemin, eyes intent only on him, his stomach dropping as Jonghyun raised his arm with another knife in his hand. He stood still, paralysed in fear, eyes wide in vulnerability.
His attention was cut off as another tribute slammed into Jonghyun’s side, the knife falling from his hand. Taemin stared in shock as Jinki’s eyes glanced up briefly to meet his.
“Run, Taemin!” He yelled and before Taemin could even process what was happening, he blindly agreed to Jinki’s words. His body quivered in fear, streaming through his body like electricity. He turned, picking up the knife that Jonghyun had thrown at him and a handful of snow as he sprinted the last few strides into the woods, where he was finally able to pick up pace.
He passed the knife into one hand, holding the snow against his cut to numb the wound, not bearing to look at it until he had gotten as far away as possible. His thighs and calves began to burn, knee’s clicking with each stride. His wound stung and his head pounded with the screams of the other tributes still ringing through his ears. But he kept running, he wasn’t particularly sure which direction he was going in, but he kept running until his feet became tiredly clumsy. Eventually, he couldn’t go any further.
As he came to a halt, his legs shaking, his breathing laboured as he turned slowly to look back up the mountain. He couldn’t see much through the trees, but where he could see, the snow was dripping red with blood where Cornucopia stood. His entire body became weak. Suffocation blocked his throat, and his vision blurred as thoughts of Jinki yelling at him to run entered his mind. He’d saved his life. But Taemin had run without a passing thought over his. He stared up at the bloody mess, realising that it amongst it, was probably Jinki’s.