The Forbidden Games by Angela Braru

Prim’s lifeless face is all I see when a blinding beam of bright blue light hits my bloody, exhausted body. My grip on my bow loosens as I feel myself getting stuck inside a whirlwind of bewilderment and nightmares. My arrows pierces against the small of my back as I keep falling like an abandoned petal, getting dissolved inside the excruciating currents of a previously mystical lake. I don’t know if I’m really trying to swim across the waves to reach my little sister, or just having a nightmare in the middle of a deadly tournament.

The mist in front of my eyes clears to reveal Prim floating in the depths of the brackish lake, her feet tied to a giant rock on the bottomless bed. Her blonde hair form a halo around her head, and I realise that my little duck is not so little anymore. Even though the dagger in my hand is heavy enough to make its presence known, I flow into a zone of paralysis and watch helplessly as the scenario around me turns into a dystopic myriad of false hopes. 

I break through the paralytic state and shoot against the currents like a ball of fire dancing solitarily in the middle of nowhere. Magical creatures called the ‘Mer People’ swim around with scary tridents in their hands. I immediately miss my bow and arrow, only to register that I don’t have them in my possession. I look around vulnerably, feeling incomplete without their safe touch. That blue beam of light messed with my head and the person behind it had a diabolical gleam in his eyes. If only I could’ve shot my arrow before he chanted his spell.

I thought that after threatening the Capitol with my Nightlock stunt I’d only have to worry about Prim, mom and the sudden love triangle I had become a part of. However, Snow had different plans for me. I’m surrounded by people who use long wooden wands to send out beams of colorful light that end up hurting the person on the receiving end of it. They call themselves witches and wizards, while the non magic folk become a species whose name sounds similar to ‘mumbles.’ It’s a weird place, with an eerie castle that’s bigger than Snow’s residence. This castle is like the Cornucopia of the Games; a storehouse of all the things you might need to survive. 

Back in District 12, all would be calm and composed. Even though Peeta was supposed to be on the Victory Tour, he refused to do it without me. We stopped talking after we were declared the victors, partly because I asked him to forget about the little romance we played in the arena. I did it for the sponsors, while Peeta was genuine about his feelings. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find a good companion in him, and I was on the verge of looking forward to something more. Maybe that’s why I took a step back before my emotions could surpass the brim. 

The water pulls me out of my ridiculous reverie, whilst I wonder what’s making me go back in time to relive the most emotional moments of my life. Prim is nowhere to be seen and I hear a scream that resembles my own. All of a sudden, the water disappears to make space for a sinister maze and I find myself buried within the bushes, gasping for breath and trying to get out of their green clutches. From the little vantage point I have, I see where my bow is, but my quiver of arrows is a forgotten history. Terrified, I use all of my strength to break out of the grip but I only end up exhausting myself. 

“Help!” I scream at the top of my lungs, hoping to reach out to the one noble soul I might find here.

Back in the Games, I focused more on making friends than allies; I didn’t believe in getting acquainted with someone only because they had resources. Even though I come across as self-enclosed and impassive, people who manage to break through this façade realize that deep down, I do crave the touch of love and acceptance. I might do little to own it, but the knowledge of wanting more always falters my stride.

I hear footsteps approaching my helpless state and for a second, I freeze. What if it is the same opponent who used that severe spell on me?

The feet stop right in front of me and I stop breathing. 

I can’t believe that I won the 74th Annual Hunger Games, only to die in the middle of a wizarding world, being crushed by angry bushes.

“Tell me where you are, I won’t hurt you.” It’s a guy’s voice, but not vicious. I don’t waste a second and cry out that I’m right in front of him.

He blurts out some gibberish, and within seconds, the tight grip around my body loosens. My strength returns as I drag myself out of the bushes and fall on the plain land. The scars on my body speak a story of their own, while the scars on my mind are dragging me into a trance-like state of unconsciousness.

This is exactly what I felt when I had Clove from District 2 ready to carve my eyes out from my face. The dread was real and surreal at the same time; and, even then, an external aid in the form of Thresh saved my life.

“Are you alright?” The boy asks and I turn my head to look at him. His shabby haircut and round glasses try to hide a nasty scar on his forehead, but give away the three red lines with the help of the light glowing on the tip of his wand.

I stand up and try to ignore the buckling sensation in my knees. My brown hair has managed to escape from my side braid, giving me a shabby appearance too. 

“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.” I say, genuinely grateful for his timely help. He nods his head and hands me my bow, which I happily take, and then look around for my quiver. The pitch darkness does nothing to help me locate it. 

Lumos Maxima!” The boy chants, and his wand explodes with bright light, which allows me to grab on to my quiver lying on the other side of the path. With my bow and arrows secured perfectly in my hands, I immediately feel at home. 

“Thank you.” I say and he nods again. 

A furious gust of wind slaps against our bodies and I cover my eyes with my palms. It feels like the meadow-like maze is growling like an animal. I turn to look at the boy, only to find him speaking to me. “—end well. This is where we go our separate ways”. With this, he takes the left turn while I continue going forward.

I keep following the path that is a home to numerous magical snares. They make me fall face-first about twenty times, reminding me of certain fish-hooks I came across in the arena last year. Fortunately, I don’t run into any of the psychotic tributes of this tournament, but I do sense someone following me. I am quick enough to shoot an arrow and scare him away. 

I subconsciously touch my Mockingjay pin as I walk further down the lane, shivering at the sound of animalistic noises. The Capitol didn’t hesitate in planting hideous mutts during the Games, so why would these magic folks?

I keep walking, only to realize that the path is slowly getting wider. If I squint a little, I can capture a foggy illumination emerging from the nearest end. As I get closer to this brand new revelation, I spot a glassy silhouette of something peculiar, and sense the sudden silence. I stop and stare as far as I can. The light is radiating from a shimmering glass trophy, which electrifies my body with goosebumps. I found the damn thing. This is exactly what Snow wanted in order to let me and my family stay alive. I look at my ultimate goal and strut towards it, not caring about the noise my feet make. 

I’m ten steps away from it, when the crunching of dry leaves alerts my senses. I look beyond the trophy and find a familiar pair of grey eyes shooting daggers at me. His wand is pointed at me and I stare at it. I decide then and there that he doesn’t get to turn this situation around just like that.

I’ve always been the writer of my story, and no one can change that. His gaze is locked on me and mine is locked on his wand; it’s now or never.

I draw my bow and arrow, and set my aim.

Angela Braru is a 20 year old literature student from India, writing about her own worldview. An avid reader, writer and student with a critical eye, she’s one of the geeks who’d prefer books and music over food and sleep. You’ll find her fangirling over Harry Potter and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and roaming around the streets in search of a poetic inspiration. With a tender love for the metaphorical sound, she crafts her words that aim at making her readers think. She is an active writer on Wattpad, with works that range from poetry, short stories to novels, and wishes to see herself holding a paperback of her own published book one day.

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