They find the cave before nightfall, an opening in the rock that’s neither too deep nor too shallow, but large enough to fit them all comfortably. Good enough to shelter them from the biting wind and the snow, and good enough to hide in. They settle in, and Cally barely says anything at all.
The day had been bitter cold, but the night is freezing. The cave keeps the worst of it at bay, though, and they even manage to build a small, timid fire. Cally doesn’t want to think about what would have happened if they hadn’t found the cave, or if there had been someone – or something in it. They hadn’t run into any other tributes, or any muttations, though they had walked for a while.
The atmosphere is still not overly friendly, and Cally feels the stress and the tension in the air, but the night passes without incident. She sleeps for moments, but uneasily, wavering between full, alert consciousness and a daze that offers little to no actual rest. In the midst of it, somehow, she dreams.
She dreams of red on white, the corpses on the snow that she barely registered, now vivid and crystal-clear in her mind. Faces she doesn’t know, all of them. A passing glance in the hallways, at most. But there are other faces, ones she hadn’t seen before, and now the white is still white but it’s a forest, too, and there’s a bloodied axe at her feet. She sees the red hair of one of the corpses and doesn’t dare look closer. She walks, and passes a small, small body, the body of a child, younger than Candice but the word sister rings in her ears. Other bodies, too, many, so many, and she sees their faces and these are all faces she knows.
And he’s there. He’s there, his blood forming a pool of red on the green grass of the forest, because there’s no snow anymore and all the others are gone and it’s only him and she’s there to see it.
Her eyes open, and they stay open now. The fire didn’t last through the night, and she feels numb from the cold, but the morning light is starting to flood their cave. She glances over at the others and none of them seem to have died overnight.
Her dream has not yet completely dissipated from her mind. It’s the first time she doesn’t wish for cold water to clear her thoughts.