There might just be a chance.
My mind won’t stop racing, trying to find a way for me and Ean to both win.
“Alright, so what do we know? Only one person can win, I know where everything is. I have all the past objects in my bag and I know where the first weapon is. The weapon will help either of us win.” He swallowed. We both avoided the big question neither of us wanted to hear.
“And they’re watching us. They know we’re teamed up. They know we know about each other and they must know now that I’m not Piper.”
“If they didn’t before, they do now,” He laughed. “We’re halfway through. Something has to happen soon.” He turned his head. “This way,”
I walked to the right with him, staring at the ground. “Are you excited?”
“Winning,” I refused to look up but I could feel him turn his gaze to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him run a hand through his dark hair.
“What makes you think I’m going to win?” We turned again.
“Well, you were chosen to win. You have to or something's going to happen to... Someone.” He stopped walking and I paused but kept my gaze down.
“I don’t want to win.” He said quietly.
“Why not?” I finally looked up .”You’ll be rich…”
“I don’t want to be rich.”
“Why not?” I laughed.
He swallowed and stared at me. “I think you know why.” He whispered before continuing on. I did.
“We have to talk about that, then.” He shook his head. “Only one of us can win, Ean. And it has to be you. You have to win.”
“I can’t. Not if it means I have to kill you.”
I took a deep breath. “Unless... Unless someone else did.” I’d been thinking about it anyway.
He glanced at me then put his head up. “There’s the rock, it’s under there.”
I nodded and looked toward the large boulder. The next step I took made a small clicking sound and I suddenly felt sick. I stopped walking and put my hand in front of Ean to stop him too.
“What? What’s wrong?”
I took in a shaky breath. “I just stepped on something… some sort of button.”
He sighed deeply and started to walk around. “Don’t move, ok?”
I considered moving. It would be a quick, painless death and I would be out. But I also had no idea how far the explosion would go, and it might kill Ean as well. So I took his advice and stood still, watching as he came back to me with a couple rocks.
He placed a hand on my ankle. “Just don’t move until I tell you to, ok?” I nodded. “Lift up your toes. SLowly.”
I lifted just the tip of my feet and he slid the rock directly under, touching my foot. “Stop…” We stopped for seconds and all I could hear was our breathing. “Okay keep going…” He said after repositioning the rock. I slowly slid my foot back, wincing and praying the button didn’t release. He pushed the rock forward and I pulled my foot back the whole way. He kept his hands down for a little while and closed his eyes. “I don’t think this one’s heavy enough.”
I kneeled down and rummaged through the other rocks he brought, finding one slightly bigger. He slowly brought his rock off, holding the button down with his hands. He was breathing shakily through his nose and I watched him carefully. We might like each other, even love each other, but if he didn’t want to win I wouldn't be surprised if he lifted the button right now.
I brought my rock over slowly, placing it just in front of his fingers. He pulled back and I slammed the rock down onto the button, making sure it didn’t break but didn't lift either. I waited and smiled.
“I think it’s good…” He chuckled softly.
“Alright... Let’s go before something else bad happens.”
As if on cue, an arrow shot past between our heads and stuck itself into a tree nearby. HE both whipped our heads around and saw a man holding a crossbow behind the rock, aiming it at us again. He shot it faster than anyone I’d ever seen, and I pushed Ean over to avoid him being killed.
We got up and ran towards the man, ducking at arrows flying at us.
“We have to get it, go around the right side, Chloe!”
I nodded. “Where’d he come from?” He shook his head and we separated, going around different sides of the rock. I pressed my back against it, feeling it’s coldness all over. I slowly shuffled around, covering my mouth to quiet my breathing. I nearly tripped over a rock and decided to pick it up, just in case. The second I straightened up, I felt a sharp pain slice my cheek and reached up to feel the sticky hot liquid running from it. I looked ahead and saw the man running towards me, refilling the bow. I threw the rock as hard as I could and it hit his leg. He yelled in agony but kept coming towards me.
I ran forward and grabbed the elbow just before he shot, pointing it towards the sky and trying to yank it from his grip. He kicked my back in the stomach and I doubled over, crawling to get back up.
“You’re Piper right?” No. “Well, I’m going to win. I don't care if you’re a girl or not, I’m still going to kill you.” I forced myself up and he grabbed my neck, forcing me against the rock again. I felt a wave of pain throughout my whole body as I hit my head on the rock.
“Bye-bye…” I felt all my air leaving me, like drowning underwater. So this is what I did to Piper. I can’t believe it.
I stared at the man, clawing at his arm as he held up the crossbow with one hand and aimed it at my face.
And then his eyes unfocused. I watched every millisecond of a knife falling down and halfway disappearing into his head. I let out a breath as his grip loosened. He fell to the ground and Ean jumped down from the rock, grabbing the bow.
“Alright?” I rubbed my neck and nodded. “Good,” he handed me the crossbow. “Shoot me.”
I froze and furrowed my brow. “I’m not going to shoot you.”
“Just do it please,” He had tears running down his face. “I can’t win, I can’t live with myself knowing you're dead. Please.”
I shook my head and wanted desperately to drop the crossbow but I couldn’t. I just couldn't drop it, my hands were frozen. He really thought I could kill him. He put his hands on either side of the rock by my head and yelled. “Kill me!”
“No!” I yelled back. “I won’t.” He grabbed at the weapon with the last arrow and we struggled for a couple moments.
“Shoot me now, Chloe!”
“No!” I shot it at the sky, throwing the bow aside. “No! You think everything is about you! Think about me! If I win, how am I supposed to live without you! We can’t live like that… We either both die or both win, then!”
He stared at the bow on the ground then turned back to me, shaking his head. “I’m sorry…” He said softly, his voice cracking.
I sniffled and threw my arms around his neck. He put a hand on my shoulder and a hand on the back of my head and cried into my hair.
“I’m so sorry, Chloe…”
I sat alone at the campfire as Ean left to find more wood.
We established that the man we saw must have been Cole’s partner. When Cole attacked us, no one was with him, unless he was hiding to find out where we were going. That’s how he knew I was Chloe and not Piper. But now he was dead. Besides me and Ean, there was only one guy left.
I heard a small tree branch crack and grabbed for my knife, standing up. “Ean?” I whispered. No answer.
I walked forward and pointed my knife forward, watching the silhouette freeze and put their hands up.
“Whoa there, Chloe… put the knife down, please,”
I gasped and the man laughed. “Collins Edworth…”
“The one and only! He came closer and I could see his face in the fire. I don’t know that he’s ever come into the games because the videos on TV are fake but I had a feeling this might be the first time he’s visited any participants.
“You know, Chloe, I’ve been watching you and I must say, I’m quite astonished.”
“About what?” I asked angrier than I should have.
“Well.. you! All have you, everything about you! You’re just a... You’re a remarkable person. You know your bets have gone up in the outside world, they think you’re going to win.”
“What makes you so sure?” He came over and sat down and I wanted to stab him. “Please put the knife down,” Collins smiled sweetly and I lowered my knife. “Now, I also think you’re going to win, but I’m not allowed to bet.”
“Why would you think that? You know who’s going to win.”
He gasped dramatically and held up a finger. “Watch your phraseology… I did know who was going to win. Quite frankly, I’m not so sure anymore.” He crossed his legs and motioned for me to sit down. I didn’t. “You see, when your sister was picked, as you’ve told our Ean, I didn’t have much faith in her. People simply thought she was pretty, and they voted. Of course, you look exactly like her.” He laughed deeply and smiled, waiting for me to thank him or join in his laughter. When I didn’t, he continued. “Now that I’ve seen who you are and what you’re capable of, I’m just absolutely amazed at what you can do. You are stronger than Ean, you know that? Just because he was picked and trained doesn't mean he’s going to win.” He chuckled, his whole body shaking. “Of course, it would be the first time we made the wrong decision, being so perfect. But everyone makes mistakes, yes?”
I shook my head and exhaled quickly. “What's your point?”
“Well, since I think you’re going to win, I’m going to help you out,”
“He’s getting more wood just like he said he was!” He raised his eyebrows at me as if I was stupid. I was not stupid. Not this stupid. “You see, I know where everything is. I change their pots to help you win. I can do anything to help you win. You’ll get all the riches and food and fame and love you ever had.” Collins stood and laughed. His laughing was starting to haunt me. “What else could you wish for?”
“You’re offering me a chance to win?”
“You had the chance to win when you entered the competition…” He moved his head back and forth. “Or so you thought…. I’m giving you a chance to be a celebrity. A queen, a… a goddess. Anything you want. Just say the word, and I can do it.”
“You’d help me win?”
“I’d let you win.”
I sighed. “Just me?”
Collins laughed again. “There can only be one winner!”
“So I’d… I’d have to kill Ean?”
He shrugged. “I could kill him for you.”
“That’d be cheating…”
He smiled and pointed at me. “That’s it!”
“Cheating is wrong…” I lifted my knife again.
He backed and stared at me. “So’s killing your sister to play a game.”
We stopped talking, stopped moving. Everything was quiet. I can’ believe the thought of winning crossed my mind again after everything Ean and I have been through, everything we’ve done together. I couldn’t stand the thought of killing him ten minutes ago, but now all I could see was the future I would have. I wanted to get out of these crazy woods. I didn’t want to find crossbows and old doorknobs and useless things for the rest of my life. I could be rich and perfect, living perfect, acting perfect… but I wouldn't have Ean.
I look at him determinedly. “I only want to win if Ean wins.”
“Well then you can’t win…”
“We can both win. Like in that old book.”
“Ah, the book… we don’t care about that, it’s history. We care about who’s going to win this game. You’re lucky I’m even doing this, you should be punished for killing and lying and cheating. But you could heat again, and get the life you always wanted. I will only take an answer tonight, Chloe dear...”
“No.” I had mixed feelings of instant regret and finality… What did I want?
He shrugged again. “Suit yourself.” I watched him walk past me and back into the darkness. “If you kill Ean, we’ll know you changed your mind.” He laughed and turned back. “Oh, I’d go find him, by the way. He might not be so… perfect.. Right now.”
As soon as he had come, he disappeared. I grabbed my backpack and ran around, my heart swelling up.
Should I take his offer? Well, it was too late now. Unless I killed Ean, I couldn't win and I wouldn’t. I’d rather let the other man win than live without Ean and have him live without me.
I stopped and considered suicide again. It might be the easiest way… and if Ean had… If Ean’s already gone down that road...
I broke into a run, calling his name and running around. My heart started racing as I never got an answer… I called and called and ran and started to cry when I finally heard something…
“Ean?” I whispered then got an odd feeling suddenly that it was Collins again.
“Yeah?” My heart dropped. That was not either of them.
I reached into my pocket to search for my knife… it was empty. Suddenly the figure walked out from behind the tree to my left and covered my mouth with his hand. I tried to scream and kick, but he had me too tight… so I bit him. He growled, turned me around, and smacked my face.
“Just listen!” He yelled and grabbed me by the shoulders. “I want you to kill me!”
I stopped fussing and looked at him… there’s no way it could be Ean in disguise. I shook my head. “Wha-”
“Please… I can’t do this… I’ve just… I’ve almost killed someone, please kill me.” He reached into his pocket quickly and pulled out a small gun. I raced back and replayed what he just said to me.
“You… you almost killed someone…”
“Yes, tonight, I just.. I wanted to win so bad but I don’t care anymore. I need to die!”
“You…” The only people left were my team and this man… I grabbed the gun and pointed it at his face. “Show me where he is now!” I don’t know why I was threatening him with the gun, but I was. He wanted me to shoot him, but I wouldn’t. Not until I got to Ean.
“Now!” He turned quickly and ran the direction he came, me following close behind. He led me to a small campsite I guess was his and pointed to Ean, lying down, his hand on his stomach with blood spilling out all over his fingers. I sighed and ran over to him.
“Ean?” He looked up at me and smiled.
“How’d you get here? How’d you know I was here?”
“I followed the other contestant, he said you were…” My voice trailed off as I saw Ean slowly shaking his head.
I turned around to find the man and he was gone. There was no one in sight.
“But he…” I suddenly felt so foolish. Collins must have talked with him after his chat with me... He didn’t care who won, as long as it wasn’t Ean. Ean betrayed Collins, told his secrets, and refused to kill me. Collins wanted Ean dead, and he knew that was my weakness. If Ean died, I'd kill myself and he'd win. “He told… so…” I didn’t even know what to say. I just knew sitting there with Ean leaking blood and me having mixed emotions about everything…
I knew somehow I'd have to finish this game and I'd do it with Ean.
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"Finale" - Final part soon!