Let them go, I tell myself. Say good-bye and forget them. I do my best, thinking of them one by one, releasing them like birds from the protective cages inside me, locking the doors against their return.
Real rebels don’t put a secret symbol on something as durable as jewelry. They put it on a wafer of bread that can be eaten in a second if necessary.
Oh, so that’s why Twill had it on a cracker! I really didn’t know, it seemed weird to me. But now it makes sense.
In the history of the Games, there have been seventy-five victors. Fifty-nine are still alive. I recognize many of their faces, either from seeing them as tributes or mentors at previous Games or from our recent viewing of the victors’ tapes. Some are so old or wasted by illness, drugs, or drink that I can’t place them. As one would expect, the pools of Career tributes from Districts 1, 2, and 4 are the largest. But every district has managed to scrape up at least one female and one male victor.
I was thinking earlier, could the victor of the first ever Hunger Games still be alive? If they competed 75 years ago, they would be between the ages of 87 and 93. I mean, the average life expectancy in certain districts probably isn’t very high (it’s not even that high IRL), but it’s possible, right? I don’t even know what the significance of it would be, just a random though I had.
There’s the classically beautiful brother and sister from District 1 who were victors in consecutive years when I was little.
What the- they’re brother and sister, got chosen one year after the other, both won, and were both chosen to compete now? Besides the fact that one sibling might end up having to kill the other, that’s one unlucky family!
Brutus, a volunteer from District 2, who must be at least forty and apparently can’t wait to get back in the arena. Finnick, the handsome bronze-haired guy from District 4 who was crowned ten years ago at the age of fourteen.
Okay, I have to admit, I’ve heard a lot about Finnick outside of reading these books, so I know he’ll have some kind of important role, ja?
A hysterical young woman with flowing brown hair is also called from 4, but she’s quickly replaced by a volunteer, an eighty-year-old woman who needs a cane to walk to the stage.
At first I read this and was like “Aww, some old lady got chosen to compete in the games” and then I was like “WAIT WHAT SHE VOLUNTEERED?!” This automatically makes her really fascinating because either she is much better than she appears or is basically sacrificing herself because she’s lived a long life and would rather let the other woman live hers. Ugh, I want to know!
Then there’s Johanna Mason, the only living female victor from 7, who won a few years back by pretending she was a weakling.
Well, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me!
The woman from 8 who Effie calls Cecelia, who looks about thirty, has to detach herself from the three kids who run up to cling to her. Chaff, a man from 11 who I know to be one of Haymitch’s particular friends, is also in.
It’s such a reverse parallel; instead of people’s children being taken away, it could be people’s parents, or even grandparents!
When Peeta holds out his arms, I walk straight into them.
I wrap my arms tightly around his neck before he can order me to do push-ups or something. Instead he pulls me in close and buries his face in my hair. Warmth radiates from the spot where his lips just touch my neck, slowly spreading through the rest of me. It feels so good, so impossibly good, that I know I will not be the first to let go.
I HONESTLY THOUGHT THEY WERE GOING TO DO IT. I thought I was about to read a sex scene in The Hunger Games. But I guess that’s what fan fiction is for!
The tapes are marked with the year of the Games and the name of the victor. I dig around and suddenly find one in my hand that we have not watched. The year of the Games is fifty. That would make it the second Quarter Quell. And the name of the victor is Haymitch Abernathy.
But I feel weird. It seems like some major invasion of Haymitch’s privacy. I don’t know why it should, since the whole thing was public. But it does. I have to admit I’m also extremely curious.
I feel like Haymitch would come in and see this and go into like a drunken rage or something. But I also just really want to find out what went down in his Hunger Games. And suddenly I’m reminded of The Prince’s Tale. Like whatever I’m about to see on this tape will be the answer to fucking everything in these books. And I’m only halfway through.
She calls out the name of a girl who’s from the Seam, you can tell by the look of her, and then I hear the name “Maysilee Donner.”
KATNISS’S MOTHER’S FRIEND
“I think that’s your mother hugging her,” says Peeta quietly. And he’s right. As Maysilee Donner bravely disengages herself and heads for the stage, I catch a glimpse of my mother at my age, and no one has exaggerated her beauty. Holding her hand and weeping is another girl who looks just like Maysilee. But a lot like someone else I know, too.
“Madge,” I say.
“That’s her mother. She and Maysilee were twins or something,” Peeta says. “My dad mentioned it once.”
WTF so Maysilee was friends with Katniss’s mother and he twin sister was Madge’s mother! So the relationship between Katniss’s mother and Madge’s mother would be like my twin brother’s relationship with one of my friends, if I died.
I think of Madge’s mother. Mayor Undersee’s wife. Who spends half her life in bed immobilized with terrible pain, shutting out the world. I think of how I never realized that she and my mother shared this connection. Of Madge showing up in that snowstorm to bring the painkiller for Gale. Of my mockingjay pin and how it means something completely different now that I know that its former owner was Madge’s aunt, Maysilee Donner, a tribute who was murdered in the arena.
OMG THE SYMBOLISM
“So, Haymitch, what do you think of the Games having one hundred percent more competitors than usual?” asks Caesar.
Haymitch shrugs. “I don’t see that it makes much difference. They’ll still be one hundred percent as stupid as usual, so I figure my odds will be roughly the same.”
The audience bursts out laughing and Haymitch gives them a half smile. Snarky. Arrogant. Indifferent.
“He didn’t have to reach far for that, did he?” I say.
It probably made him a lot of enemies. But I love it.
The beauty disorients many of the players, because when the gong sounds, most of them seem like they’re trying to wake from a dream. Not Haymitch, though. He’s at the Cornucopia, armed with weapons and a backpack of choice supplies. He heads for the woods before most of the others have stepped off their plates.
LIKE A BOSS
Others begin to die off and it becomes clear that almost everything in this pretty place—the luscious fruit dangling from the bushes, the water in the crystalline streams, even the scent of the flowers when inhaled too directly—is deadly poisonous. Only the rainwater and the food provided at the Cornucopia are safe to consume.
Haymitch has his own troubles over in the woods, where the fluffy golden squirrels turn out to be carnivorous and attack in packs, and the butterfly stings bring agony if not death. But he persists in moving forward, always keeping the distant mountain at his back.
I’m sorry, but all I can think of is that bunny in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And where is Haymitch going?
Four days in, the picturesque mountain erupts in a volcano that wipes out another dozen players, including all but five of the Career pack. With the mountain spewing liquid fire, and the meadow offering no means of concealment, the remaining thirteen tributes — including Haymitch and Maysilee — have no choice but to confine themselves to the woods.
sdkgreiu wtf a fuycking volcano omg dhuewbv
Maysilee Donner steps out of the woods. “We’d live longer with two of us.”
“Guess you just proved that,” says Haymitch, rubbing his neck. “Allies?” Maysilee nods. And there they are, instantly drawn into one of those pacts you’d be hard-pressed to break if you ever expect to go home and face your district.
OMG WHAT they were fucking allies?!?!?!
“Why?” Maysilee keeps asking, and he ignores her until she refuses to move any farther without an answer.
“Because it has to end somewhere, right?” says Haymitch. “The arena can’t go on forever.”
“What do you expect to find?” Maysilee asks.
“I don’t know. But maybe there’s something we can use,” he says.
FUCK I never documented it but I kept wondering where the arena ended and what was there AND HAYMITCH IS GOING TO FIND OUT HOLY SHIT
When they finally do make it through that impossible hedge, using a blowtorch from one of the dead Careers’ packs, they find themselves on flat, dry earth that leads to a cliff. Far below, you can see jagged rocks.
“That’s all there is, Haymitch. Let’s go back,” says Maysilee.
“No, I’m staying here,” he says.
“All right. There’s only five of us left. May as well say good-bye now, anyway,” she says. “I don’t want it to come down to you and me.”
“Okay,” he agrees. That’s all. He doesn’t offer to shake her hand or even look at her. And she walks away.
What does he expect to do or find there? Why is he staying? And omg how sad is it that they’re finally splitting up with the knowledge that one of them will die, and with the hope that it isn’t at the hands of the other.
Haymitch skirts along the edge of the cliff as if trying to figure something out. His foot dislodges a pebble and it falls into the abyss, apparently gone forever. But a minute later, as he sits to rest, the pebble shoots back up beside him. Haymitch stares at it, puzzled, and then his face takes on a strange intensity. He lobs a rock the size of his fist over the cliff and waits. When it flies back out and right into his hand, he starts laughing.
OMFG THE CLIFF SHOOTS YOU RIGHT BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE HOLY SHIT. It’s like that cheat in the Lego games (or at least Lego HP) where if you fall over the edge, you just get picked up by some invisible force and land back on the platform.
And Haymitch is TOTALLY going to exploit it like the BADASS that he is.
That’s when we hear Maysilee begin to scream. The alliance is over and she broke it off, so no one could blame him for ignoring her. But Haymitch runs for her, anyway. He arrives only in time to watch the last of a flock of candy pink birds, equipped with long, thin beaks, skewer her through the neck. He holds her hand while she dies, and all I can think of is Rue and how I was too late to save her, too.
MORE PARELLELS, I JUST CAN’T EVEN RIGHT NOW.
Haymitch makes a beeline for his cliff and has just reached the edge when she throws the ax. He collapses on the ground and it flies into the abyss. Now weaponless as well, the girl just stands there, trying to staunch the flow of blood pouring from her empty eye socket. She’s thinking perhaps that she can outlast Haymitch, who’s starting to convulse on the ground. But what she doesn’t know, and what he does, is that the ax will return. And when it flies back over the ledge, it buries itself in her head. The cannon sounds, her body is removed, and the trumpets blow to announce Haymitch’s victory.
HOLY SHIT he totally did it that was awesome and badass and Haymitch is the best character ever. And I wonder if this will come into play later on, like in these games.
Finally Peeta says, “That force field at the bottom of the cliff, it was like the one on the roof of the Training Center. The one that throws you back if you try to jump off and commit suicide. Haymitch found a way to turn it into a weapon.”
“Not just against the other tributes, but the Capitol, too,” I say. “You know they didn’t expect that to happen. It wasn’t meant to be part of the arena. They never planned on anyone using it as a weapon. It made them look stupid that he figured it out. I bet they had a good time trying to spin that one. Bet that’s why I don’t remember seeing it on television. It’s almost as bad as us and the berries!”
You see? District 12 can totally manage a rebellion, look who they’ve got as victors! Katniss and Haymitch have both oursmarted the Gamemakers. They have both done something to “defy” the Capitol. It’s the perfect combination! I mean, besides the fact that Katniss could die. Again.
I’ve spent all these weeks getting to know who my competitors are, without even thinking about who my teammates are. Now a new kind of confidence is lighting up inside of me, because I think I finally know who Haymitch is. And I’m beginning to know who I am. And surely, two people who have caused the Capitol so much trouble can think of a way to get Peeta home alive.