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Title: Valley of the Shadow
Fandom: Hunger Games
Rating: T for language and somewhat graphic detail
Summary: The thoughts of a tribute in their dying moments

Valley of the Shadow

Pain tears through me as the arrow penetrates my flesh. It feels blunt at first; the sudden hard impact of something pummelling into my gut, and then there comes the sharp stab of searing agony as the arrow tip punches its way past the barriers of skin and muscle and rips through the soft tissue behind. My breath leaves my body in a short burst as the shock of the impact forces it out. I stumble, unable to keep running as my balance is thrown off.

My legs give out under me and I fall forwards, the shaft of the arrow hitting the ground before my body does and causing the tip to twist deep inside my gut. An agonised scream tears from my dry throat as another wave of pain shoots through me, and my eyes begin to blur with tears of agony and fear.

I didn't see who loosed it. It could have been any of the other Tributes – my mind is so clouded by pain I can't even remember which is which anymore – but I don't even care. It doesn't matter to me which of them it was, I just want to somehow survive it. My mind is rushing back over the past few seconds, wishing that somehow something could have been different. What if I'd run just that bit faster? What if the arrow had gone just a few inches to the left? Then I wouldn't be here now and perhaps I'd still be in with a fighting chance…

But I know that's not true. I've been lying to myself, pretending that I might be in with a chance of winning this, but deep down I've known all along that I can't. Ever since the moment my name was drawn at the Reaping that was my death warrant signed and sealed. I've just been killing time, lapping up the false hope they've been feeding me while I wait for death to come. There was never any chance for me. Twenty-three of the twenty-four will die, and now my number's up. I'm just one more joining the ranks of the hundreds of Tributes who have died over the years.

Screams of pain and anger echo through the forest as I lay writhing on the ground, my life draining away with each passing second. I know I don't stand a chance. A burning sensation is spreading through my gut as stomach acid pours out inside, and there's a hot, thick fluid oozing between the fingers I didn't even realise I'd clasped to the wound. Not even generous aid supplies from a sponsor could save me now. Nothing short of immediate medical attention could hope to pull me through, and I know I won't get that. The bitter taste of bile – or perhaps it's blood – fills my mouth as I realise that they want me to die, and I feel a sudden rush of rage.

What kind of fucked up world do I live in? That they send twenty-three innocent children to go out and die each year? Hand out twenty-three arbitrary death sentences to people who have committed no wrongs? Burning hatred and fury for the people responsible courses through me with every fresh wave of pain.

But still, despite all the things that I loathe about this world I don't want to leave it. The faces of my family flash through my mind and my screams are intercut with choking sobs as I think about how I'll never see them again. I don't want this. I don't deserve it. All I want is to go home and see my family again and why the fuck am I not allowed to do that? What have I done wrong?

Please, God, don't let me die here. Please, do something to help me…

Here I am, praying to a God I never believed in to save me, because maybe if I start believing now then everything will change. Maybe the past few seconds will be undone, the past few days will never have happened; and I'll be safe back home and someone else will be here dying in my place…

But I know that won't happen. Nothing can change what's already done. All I can do is hope and pray that this isn't the end I'm dreading. Desperate words I think I'm supposed to say flood my mind, echoing the faith I never had.

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I shall fear no evil…

That's a lie. I'm terrified. Mind-numbing fear is coursing through me and I know my prayers are falling on deaf ears because I still can't force myself to believe. How can there be a God when things like this happen? What kind of God would have let people do this?

I don't want to die I don't want to die I don't want to die

The words are cycling futilely round my head like a mantra, as if by repeating them enough times I'll fend off the moment when death finally comes for me. If I can just stay awake then maybe I can hold on long enough to survive this.

I don't want to die… I don't… want… to die…

My thoughts are slowing as it becomes harder to concentrate. My sight is blurring now, partly from tears and partly from blood loss taking its toll on my brain. Looking up all I can see is the green haze of the forest canopy and the dull grey light of the sky beyond that. I try to picture my family's faces again and draw comfort from that in my final moments, but I can't even focus enough to see them clearly.

Please, I don't want-

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July 2013

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