And I’m not doing anymore chapter reviews.
I’m sorry, everyone. I just couldn’t keep dragging it out and doing a post for each chapter and it honestly started feeling like a chore to do. This has been an amazing experience for me, and I am grateful for every last one of you supporting me*. I really, truly appreciate it. And you guys are the only reason I feel bad stopping the blog. I feel like I’m letting y’all down, but I just don’t have the stuff to do book reviews (I’ve seen a few of Mark’s posts and they’re really good, you should check him out!). Plus, it felt so good to just plow through the rest of Catching Fire and all of Mockingjay in two days.
And since I never got to use that .gif I had been saving, and also because this is basically what I was doing while reading the rest of the books:
I TOTALLY KNEW FROM THE START THAT JOHANNA WAS TAKING OUT THE TRACKING DEVICE IN KATNISS’S ARM
OMG SLOW DOWN SHE BLEW UP THE ARENA AND EVERYONE WAS IN ON IT WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON
AND JESUS CHRIST THAT FUCKING LOVE TRIANGLE LASTED THE ENTIRE SERIES UP UNTIL THE LAST PAGE OF THE LAST BOOK BUT PEENISS <3 SO IT’S OKAY
AND I KEPT WAITING FOR EFFIE TRINKET TO SHOW UP BUT SHE WAS NO WHERE NEAR AS INSTRUMENTAL AS I THOUGHT SHE WOULD BE, SO FUCK THAT PREDICTION
I FEEL LIKE I HAVE PTSD JUST FROM READING THESE BOOKS AND I HAD TO KEEP REREADING ENTIRE PAGES JUST SO I COULD COMPREHEND WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON
“YOU LOVE ME, REAL OR NOT REAL?” “REAL” <3
Now that that’s out of my system (I honestly kept thinking about you guys at certain points in Mockingjay and getting the urge to make little quick fire posts, but I knew I couldn’t do it without having done each chapter as well), I guess I’ll wrap this up.
I’m not too good at goodbyes, but I just want to say thank you. Thank you for supporting the blog and reading my posts and sending me messages and not once spoiling me. Just thank you for being awesome!
And…may the odds be ever in you favor!
Wow, good one, Jason.
I look back at the wall of fog extending in a straight line as far as I can see in either direction. A terrible impulse to flee, to abandon Peeta and save myself, shoots through me. It would be so simple, to run full out, perhaps to even climb a tree above the fog line, which seems to top out at about forty feet. I remember how I did just this when the muttations appeared in the last Games. Took off and only thought of Peeta when I’d reached the Cornucopia. But this time, I trap my terror, push it down, and stay by his side. This time my survival isn’t the goal. Peeta’s is. I think of the eyes glued to the television screens in the districts, seeing if I will run, as the Capitol wishes, or hold my ground.
I’ll admit that I thought it, too. I just don’t know if I’d have it in me to slow myself down to help another person survive, at risk of getting myself killed. So I think it’s totally normal for Katniss to think this, as a natural born fighter. But I love that she keeps her word and stays with Peeta.
The left side of his face has sagged, as if every muscle in it has died. The lid droops, almost concealing his eye. His mouth twists in an odd angle toward the ground. “Peeta—” I begin. And that’s when I feel the spasms run up my arm.
Whatever chemical laces the fog does more than burn — it targets our nerves. A whole new kind of fear shoots through me and I yank Peeta forward, which only causes him to stumble again. By the time I get him to his feet, both of my arms are twitching uncontrollably. The fog has moved in on us, the body of it less than a yard away. Something is wrong with Peeta’s legs; he’s trying to walk but they move in a spastic, puppetlike fashion.
WHAT THE it also paralyzes you?! How the fuck are they going to get out of this? From a Gamemaker’s standpoint, I don’t really see how this is entertaining, because if the fog is meant to debilitate them, then they don’t really get to put up a fight, which is what the Capitol wants to see, right? It’s like they just want to kill them immediately.
“It’s no good. I’ll have to carry him. Can you take Mags?” he asks me.
“Yes,” I say stoutly, although my heart sinks.
I just, I’m sorry, but it’s really not helping, having to carry these people around. They’re having a hard enough time with their own bodies! I can’t see this lasting much longer.
Finnick’s back by my side, Peeta hanging over him. “It’s no use,” I say. “Can you take them both? Go on ahead, I’ll catch up.” A somewhat doubtful proposal, but I say it with as much surety as I can muster.
I can see Finnick’s eyes, green in the moonlight. I can see them as clear as day. Almost like a cat’s, with a strange reflective quality. Maybe because they are shiny with tears. “No,” he says. “I can’t carry them both. My arms aren’t working.” It’s true. His arms jerk uncontrollably at his sides. His hands are empty. Of his three tridents, only one remains, and it’s in Peeta’s hands. “I’m sorry, Mags. I can’t do it.”
What? Finnick what are you saying? I mean I totally get that you can’t carry two people at once when your body is already not working very well, but so what does that mean now? Finnick?!
What happens next is so fast, so senseless, I can’t even move to stop it. Mags hauls herself up, plants a kiss on Finnick’s lips, and then hobbles straight into the fog. Immediately, her body is seized by wild contortions and she falls to the ground in a horrible dance.
I want to scream, but my throat is on fire. I take one futile step in her direction when I hear the cannon blast, know her heart has stopped, that she is dead.
WHAT THE FUCK, NO, I KNEW THAT THEY COULDN’T CARRY MAGS AROUND FOREVER, BUT I DIDN’T WANT THIS!!! I WANTED THE OPPOSITE OF THIS.
And now I really feel for Finnick. For all we know, they had it worked out that if it were between them, Finnick would be the one to live. I just can’t imagine how Finnick must have felt, by basically saying that he couldn’t keep Mags alive. That he had to let the other victor from his district die so that these two District 12 victors could live, at least for a little longer.
And Mags, man. This woman. I have all the feelings for her. Of course things are probably different when you’ve lived as long as she has, but that still can’t be an entirely easy thing to do, at least not for the average human being. But the way she decides, in the split-second, that of course she is dead weight, and these other three victors are much, much younger, and stand a much better chance of winning than she does. I just, I respect her so much more now because of this, and I really am sad about her dying.
Maybe it’s my eyes playing tricks, or the moonlight, but the fog seems to be transforming. Yes, it’s becoming thicker, as if it has pressed up against a glass window and is being forced to condense. I squint harder and realize the fingers no longer protrude from it. In fact, it has stopped moving forward entirely. Like other horrors I have witnessed in the arena, it has reached the end of its territory. Either that or the Gamemakers have decided not to kill us just yet.
Maybe they were satisfied that they had killed another tribute. They met their dead tribute quota! Or they made it into some kind of safe zone?
But there’s another sensation, of drawing out. I experiment by gingerly placing only my hand in the water. Torturous, yes, but then less so. And through the blue layer of water, I see a milky substance leaching out of the wounds on my skin. As the whiteness diminishes, so does the pain.
WHAT so the salt water cures them of their acid rain fog burn strokes?
And then, of course, there’s Mags. I still don’t understand what happened there. Why he essentially abandoned her to carry Peeta. Why she not only didn’t question it, but ran straight to her death without a moment’s hesitation. Was it because she was so old that her days were numbered, anyway? Did they think that Finnick would stand a better chance of winning if he had Peeta and me as allies?
I really, really, hope we hear Finnick talk about this.
I wonder what happened to the awl. Mags must’ve either dropped it or taken it into the fog with her. Anyway, it’s gone.
NO NOT THE AWL TOO!!! :( I’ll miss you, awl.
In just the short time it takes to cross to the edge of the jungle, I become aware of the change. Put it down to years of hunting, or maybe my reconstructed ear does work a little better than anyone intended. But I sense the mass of warm bodies poised above us. They don’t need to chatter or scream. The mere breathing of so many is enough.
I touch Finnick’s arm and he follows my gaze upward. I don’t know how they arrived so silently. Perhaps they didn’t. We’ve all been absorbed in restoring our bodies.
During that time they’ve assembled. Not five or ten but scores of monkeys weigh down the limbs of the jungle trees. The pair we spotted when we first escaped the fog felt like a welcoming committee. This crew feels ominous.
He’s just five yards from the beach when he senses them. His eyes only dart up for a second, but it’s as if he’s triggered a bomb. The monkeys explode into a shrieking mass of orange fur and converge on him.
OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE PEETA DO YOU HONESTLY ENJOY MAKING THINGS DIFFICULT FOR YOURSELF
I throw my knife at the oncoming mutt but the creature somersaults, evading the blade, and stays on its trajectory. Weaponless, defenseless, I do the only thing I can think of. I run for Peeta, to knock him to the ground, to protect his body with mine, even though I know I won’t make it in time.
PEETA, KATNISS, NO, OH MY GOD SWBFVIE
She does, though. Materializing, it seems, from thin air. One moment nowhere, the next reeling in front of Peeta. Already bloody, mouth open in a high-pitched scream, pupils enlarged so her eyes seem like black holes.
The insane morphling from District 6 throws up her skeletal arms as if to embrace the monkey, and it sinks its fangs into her chest.
WTF PEETA’S FRIEND FROM THE CAMOFLAUGE TRAINING?!
Finnick’s hand comes up and hits me so hard, so squarely in the chest that I go flying back into a nearby tree trunk. I’m stunned for a moment, by the pain, by trying to regain my wind, as I see Finnick close off Peeta’s nose again. From where I sit, I pull an arrow, whip the notch into place, and am about to let it fly when I’m stopped by the sight of Finnick kissing Peeta.
Hmm…Finna? Peetick? I could live with that. Also I kind of laughed when Finnick hit Katniss, is that bad?
No, he’s not kissing him. He’s got Peeta’s nose blocked off but his mouth tilted open, and he’s blowing air into his lungs. I can see this, I can actually see Peeta’s chest rising and falling. Then Finnick unzips the top of Peeta’s jumpsuit and begins to pump the spot over his heart with the heels of his hands. Now that I’ve gotten through my shock, I understand what he’s trying to do.
He learned it while filming Baywatch!
His lashes flutter open and his eyes meet mine. “Careful,” he says weakly. “There’s a force field up ahead.”
He meets my eyes and I glare at him through my tears. It’s stupid, I know, that his efforts make me so vexed. All I wanted was to keep Peeta alive, and I couldn’t and Finnick could, and I should be nothing but grateful. And I am. But I am also furious because it means that I will never stop owing Finnick Odair. Ever. So how can I kill him in his sleep?
YOU HAD ONE JOB, KATNISS! And of course she feels worthless and guilty that this one incident 20 minutes into the Games would have been the death of Peeta if no one else were around. Plus she just keeps racking up her debt to people!
“Maybe they did a better job than they thought. You know, sometimes I do hear funny things on that side. Things you wouldn’t ordinarily think have a sound. Like insect wings. Or snow hitting the ground.” Perfect. Now all the attention will turn to the surgeons who fixed my deaf ear after the Games last year, and they’ll have to explain why I can hear like a bat.
Haha, great cover. And definitely a good idea to conceal her knowledge of the forcefield’s weakness. For now.
There’s a reason we can’t turn to the left, will never be
able to. From this precarious vantage point, I can see the shape of the whole arena for the first time. A perfect circle. With a perfect wheel in the middle. The sky above the circumference of the jungle is tinged a uniform pink. And I think I can make out one or two of those wavy squares, chinks in the armor, Wiress and Beetee called them, because they reveal what was meant to be hidden and are therefore a weakness. Just to make absolutely sure, I shoot an arrow into the empty space above the tree line. There’s a spurt of light, a flash of real blue sky, and the arrow’s thrown back into the jungle.
What the HEH. So the arena is just a big circle? Actually, now it doesn’t seem so big, if it only took them part of a day to reach the edge. And I didn’t realize that the island that is the Cornucopia is in the center, completely closed off. Holy shit. How are they going to get the tributes closer to each other? Make the forcefield gradually shrink? And what the hell is on the other side of it?
The sound of the cannon brings me to a halt. The initial bloodbath at the Cornucopia must be over. The death toll of the tributes is now available. I count the shots, each representing one dead victor. Eight. Not as many as last year. But it seems like more since I know most of their names.
Yeesh, I wonder how fast this is going to go by? Maybe, like Katniss thought, the Gamemakers want to just get it over with quickly.
It’s ugly, all right, a big rodent with a fuzz of mottled gray fur and two wicked-looking gnawing teeth protruding over its lower lip.
ROUSs! They do exist!
Peeta has another idea. He takes a cube of rodent meat, skewers it on the tip of a pointed stick, and lets it fall into the force field. There’s a sharp sizzle and the stick flies back. The chunk of meat is blackened on the outside but well cooked inside. We give him a round of applause, then quickly stop, remembering where we are.
The man from District 5, the one Finnick took out with his trident, is the first to appear. That means that all the tributes in 1 through 4 are alive — the four Careers, Beetee and Wiress, and, of course, Mags and Finnick. The man from District 5 is followed by the male morphling from 6, Cecelia and Woof from 8, both from 9, the woman from 10, and Seeder from 11. The Capitol seal is back with a final bit of music and then the sky goes dark except for the moon.
And here I thought that old bag Mags would be the first to die.But for some reason I’m saddened by Seeder’s death! Just because she was from District 11 and was Haymitch’s friend.
Peeta unties the cord and flattens out the circle of silk. On the parachute sits a small metal object that I can’t place. “What is it?” I ask. No one knows. We pass it from hand to hand, taking turns examining it. It’s a hollow metal tube, tapered slightly at one end. On the other end a small lip curves downward. It’s vaguely familiar. A part that could have fallen off a bicycle, a curtain rod, anything, really.
Great, more metal instruments that have no apparent use!
“It’s a spile. Sort of like a faucet. You put it in a tree and sap comes out.” I look at the sinewy green trunks around me. “Well, the right sort of tree.”
BOOM BABY! So they’re going to drink sap? I’m not sure that will work as well as water.
There’s nothing to drill with, so Mags offers her awl and Peeta drives it straight into the bark, burying the spike two inches deep.
Yay, the awl isn’t entirely useless!
At first nothing happens. Then a drop of water rolls down the lip and lands in Mags’s palm. She licks it off and holds out her hand for more.
By wiggling and adjusting the spile, we get a thin stream running out. We take turns holding our mouths under the tap, wetting our parched tongues. Mags brings over a basket, and the grass is so tightly woven it holds water. We fill the basket and pass it around, taking deep gulps and, later, luxuriously, splashing our faces clean. Like everything here, the water’s on the warm side, but this is no time to be picky.
Water! So wet, so good! I wonder how the other tributes are doing for water. Are the trees their only source of drinking water?
Instead I find myself jarred from sleep a few hours later by what seems to be the tolling of a bell. Bong! Bong! It’s not exactly like the one they ring in the Justice Building on New Year’s but close enough for me to recognize it. Peeta and Mags sleep through it, but Finnick has the same look of attentiveness I feel. The tolling stops.
“I counted twelve,” he says.
I nod. Twelve. What does that signify? One ring for each district? Maybe. But why? “Mean anything, do you think?”
“No idea,” he says.
Maybe the number of districts that still have at least one living tribute? Nope, 8 and 9 are both out. I got nothing.
The sound of the cannon startles me, although it makes little impression on my sleeping companions. There’s no point in awakening them for this. Another victor dead. I don’t even allow myself to wonder who it is.
I bet someone got struck by lightning (only kind of kidding)! Can the Gamemakers control the lightning so it hits people?!
Moments after it stops, I see the fog sliding softly in from the direction of the recent downpour. Just a reaction. Cool rain on the steaming ground, I think. It continues to approach at a steady pace. Tendrils reach forward and then curl like fingers, as if they are pulling the rest behind them. As I watch, I feel the hairs on my neck begin to rise. Something’s wrong with this fog. The progression of the front line is too uniform to be natural. And if it’s not natural …
A sickeningly sweet odor begins to invade my nostrils and I reach for the others, shouting for them to wake up.
In the few seconds it takes to rouse them, I begin to blister.
WHAT THE FUCK it’s like acid rain! Or acid fog! Or something, just get the hell out of there wtaffyasnefvd
Part III: The Enemy
All right, there’s the Cornucopia, the shining gold metal horn, about forty yards away. At first, it appears to be sitting on a circular island. But on closer examination, I see the thin strips of land radiating from the circle like the spokes on a wheel. I think there are ten to twelve, and they seem equidistant from one another. Between the spokes, all is water. Water and a pair of tributes.
That’s it, then. There are twelve spokes, each with two tributes balanced on metal plates between them. The other tribute in my watery wedge is old Woof from District 8. He’s about as far to my right as the land strip on my left. Beyond the water, wherever you look, a narrow beach and then dense greenery. I scan the circle of tributes, looking for Peeta, but he must be blocked from my view by the Cornucopia.
Wait, okay, WHAT? The Cornucopia is on an island, and there are these strips of land, like sand bars, that shoot out between all of them, and the tributes are balancing on metal discs in the middle of the OCEAN?
I’m still not so sure I’m grasping this whole setup, so maybe that’s why I was so confused during the whole first half of this chapter. I feel like I’m reading the Department of Mysteries chapter of OotP, like they’re in WHAT room which is connected to WHAT and WHERE is this person and WHERE are they going now and I need a fucking DIAGRAM of this place.
But anyway, moving on!
Last year, the supplies were spread out quite a distance around the Cornucopia, with the most valuable closest to the horn. But this year, the booty seems to be piled at the twenty-foot-high mouth. My eyes instantly home in on a golden bow just in arm’s reach and I yank it free.
Haha, booty, get it because they’re on an island? Whatever, POINT IS, Katniss got her filthy hands on a fucking golden bow and is now ready to fuck shit up!
For a moment we’re frozen, sizing each other up, our weapons, our skill. Then Finnick suddenly grins. “Lucky thing we’re allies. Right?”
Sensing a trap, I’m about to let my arrow fly, hoping it finds his heart before the trident impales me, when he shifts his hand and something on his wrist catches the sunlight. A solid-gold bangle patterned with flames. The same one I remember on Haymitch’s wrist the morning I began training. I briefly consider that Finnick could have stolen it to trick me, but somehow I know this isn’t the case. Haymitch gave it to him. As a signal to me. An order, really. To trust Finnick.
FINNICK IS ON THEIR SIDE WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN WHY WASN’T I TOLD?
Seriously though, Haymitch, why didn’t you just say something, Katniss almost killed him!
“Duck!” Finnick commands in such a powerful voice, so different from his usual seductive purr, that I do. His trident goes whizzing over my head and there’s a sickening sound of impact as it finds its target. The man from District 5, the drunk who threw up on the sword-fighting floor, sinks to his knees as Finnick frees the trident from his chest. “Don’t trust One and Two,” Finnick says.
I quickly scan the pile on my side and find maces, swords, bows and arrows, tridents, knives, spears, axes, metallic objects I have no name for…and nothing else.
“Weapons!” I call back. “Nothing but weapons!”
“Same here,” he confirms. “Grab what you want and let’s go!”
Why only weapons? Do they want the tributes to just kill each other and get it over with? Doesn’t sound like something they would do. Also, like with those night-vision goggles from last time, I’m going to predict that they’ll find a use for those metallic objects. Or we’ll at least find out what they are.
I sling an extra bow and a second sheath of arrows over my body, slide two long knives and an awl into my belt, and meet up with Finnick at the front of the pile.
I admit I had to look up what an awl was. What a weird thing to have as a weapon!
If I had only my own safety to consider, I might be willing to take them on with Finnick by my side. But it’s Peeta I’m thinking about. I spot him now, still stranded on his metal plate.
OMG WTF I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT PEETA. What has he been doing this whole time? Just standing on that metal plate? Does he not know how to swim? It’s just amazing to me how many of them don’t know how to swim, maybe because I learned when I was like 8 so it’s second nature, and maybe I take it for granted that everyone knows how to swim. Which is weird considering the location of the Cornucopia and the lack of swim training back at the Capitol.
I take off and Finnick follows without question, as if knowing this will be my next move. When I’m as close as I can get, I start removing knives from my belt, preparing to swim out to reach him and somehow bring him in.
Finnick drops a hand on my shoulder. “I’ll get him.”
Suspicion flickers up inside me. Could this all just be a ruse? For Finnick to win my trust and then swim out and drown Peeta? “I can,” I insist.
Yeah, why is Finnick all eager to get Peeta? Something sure seems….fishy.
But Finnick has dropped all his weapons to the ground. “Better not exert yourself. Not in your condition,” he says, and reaches down and pats my abdomen.
Oh, right. I’m supposed to be pregnant, I think. While I’m trying to think what that means and how I should act—maybe throw up or something—Finnick has positioned himself at the edge of the water.
“Cover me,” he says. He disappears with a flawless dive.
I’ll allow it, but watch yourself, Odair!
(wow I am on a fucking roll) And what is Katniss’s “pregnancy” going to mean for the other tributes and the Games in general? How will it come into play? Because it obv will.
A quick survey of the rest of the arena shows that most of the tributes are still trapped on their plates. Wait, no, there’s someone standing on the spoke to my left, the one opposite Peeta. It’s Mags. But she neither heads for the Cornucopia nor tries to flee. Instead she splashes into the water and starts paddling toward me, her gray head bobbing above the waves. Well, she’s old, but I guess after eighty years of living in District 4 she can keep afloat.
Mags! Get on over here, you old bag! And I’m still just in awe at how many of those tributes just can’t swim. Like right off the bat, they’re incapacitated by the water surrounding them.
“Hello, again,” he says, and gives me a kiss. “We’ve got allies.”
“Yes. Just as Haymitch intended,” I answer. “Remind me, did we make deals with anyone else?” Peeta asks.
“Only Mags, I think,” I say. I nod toward the old woman doggedly making her way toward us.
“Well, I can’t leave Mags behind,” says Finnick. “She’s one of the few people who actually likes me.”
“I’ve got no problem with Mags,” I say. “Especially now that I see the arena. Het fishhooks are probably our best chance of getting a meal.”
“Katniss wanted her on the first day,” says Peeta.
“Katniss has remarkably good judgment,” says Finnick.
Oooh, yay, the fearsome foursome!
Also, the belts float. Good to know.
I hand Peeta a bow, a sheath of arrows, and a knife, keeping the rest for myself. But Mags tugs on my sleeve and babbles on until I’ve given the awl to her. Pleased, she clamps the handle between her gums and reaches her arms up to Finnick. He tosses his net over his shoulder, hoists Mags on top of it, grips his tridents in his free hand, and we run away from the Cornucopia.
What does mags plan on doing with that godforsaken thing? And I had to reread that part, but yes, Finnick is carrying Mags. Suddenly she seems like dead weight.I mean, at least Finnick is here to support her.
Around the Cornucopia, the ground appears to be bleeding; the water has purple stains. Bodies lie on the ground and float in the sea, but at this distance, with everyone dressed exactly the same, I can’t tell who lives or dies. All I can tell is that some of the tiny blue figures still battle. Well, what did I think? That the victors’ chain of locked hands last night would result in some sort of universal truce in the arena? No, I never believed that. But I guess I had hoped people might show some…what? Restraint? Reluctance, at least. Before they jumped right into massacre mode. And you all knew each other, I think. You acted like friends.
No!!! We were supposed to have a big sit-in!!! I hate this.
I let the slight, soupy breeze cool my cheeks while I come to a decision. Despite the bangle, I should just get it over with and shoot Finnick.
That was quick. But it just seems like a bad idea right now.
But when I land, I find Finnick’s kept pace with my thoughts. As if he knows what I have seen and how it will have affected me. He has one of his tridents raised in a casually defensive position.
“What’s going on down there, Katniss? Have they all joined hands? Taken a vow of nonviolence? Tossed the weapons in the sea in defiance of the Capitol?” Finnick asks.
“No,” I say.
“No,” Finnick repeats. “Because whatever happened in the past is in the past. And no one in this arena was a victor by chance.” He eyes Peeta for a moment. “Except maybe Peeta.”
Yeah, I’m sold. He’s got to be good. At least mostly good. Maybe it was too perfect of a response to what Katniss was thinking, but I really think Finnick is going to be usefull, if not a “good guy”, whatever that is.
But there is no other side. I know this before anyone else, even though I am farthest from the top. My eyes catch on a funny, rippling square hanging like a warped pane of glass in the air. At first I think it’s the glare from the sun or the heat shimmering up off the ground. But it’s fixed in space, not shifting when I move. And that’s when I connect the square with Wiress and Beetee in the Training Center and realize what lies before us. My warning cry is just reaching my lips when Peeta’s knife swings out to slash away some vines.
What the fuck? Is there a forcefield surrounding the island? Is it even an island? Why is there a forcefield there? Why not the bounce-back kind of thing that Haymitch utilized in his Games? OH AND PEETA’S ABOUT TO FUCKING HIT IT.
There’s a sharp zapping sound. For an instant, the trees are gone and I see open space over a short stretch of bare earth. Then Peeta’s flung back from the force field, bringing Finnick and Mags to the ground.
WHAT WAS THAT? The trees disappeared! Right? Is it all an illusion? What is behind that forcefield?
I rush over to where he lies, motionless in a web of vines. “Peeta?” There’s a faint smell of singed hair. I call his name again, giving him a little shake, but he’s unresponsive. My fingers fumble across his lips, where there’s no warm breath although moments ago he was panting. I press my ear against his chest, to the spot where I always rest my head, where I know I will hear the strong and steady beat of his heart.
Instead, I find silence.
NO NO NO NO NO
Caesar gestures for Cinna to rise. He does, and makes a small, gracious bow. And suddenly I am so afraid for him. What has he done? Something terribly dangerous. An act of rebellion in itself. And he’s done it for me. I remember his words …
“Don’t worry. I always channel my emotions into my work. That way I don’t hurt anyone but myself.”
… and I’m afraid he has hurt himself beyond repair. The significance of my fiery transformation will not be lost on President Snow.
Shit, shit, shit, Cinna what have you done? Is this why he asked for District 12? Did he predict that he could facilitate an uprising with his clothing, that Katniss could become the face of the rebellion with his help?
“We’re already married,” says Peeta quietly. The crowd reacts in astonishment, and I have to bury my face in the folds of my skirt so they can’t see my confusion. Where on earth is he going with this?
He’s making everyone feel even worse! They may be the most tragic tributes of them all, the star-crossed lovers, now married, soon to be facing each other in the arena again only a year after they won. And Peeta is just rubbing their noses in it!
“I’m not glad,” says Peeta. “I wish we had waited until the whole thing was done officially.”
This takes even Caesar aback. “Surely even a brief time is better than no time?”
“Maybe I’d think that, too, Caesar,” says Peeta bitterly, “if it weren’t for the baby.”
PEETA YOU GENIUS. Now they’re married, AND they’re expecting?
As the bomb explodes, it sends accusations of injustice and barbarism and cruelty flying out in every direction. Even the most Capitol-loving, Games-hungry, bloodthirsty person out there can’t ignore, at least for a moment, how horrific the whole thing is.
Hmm, sending previous victors back into the games is beginning to sound like less and less of a good idea, huh, Gamemakers?
And then it happens. Up and down the row, the victors begin to join hands. Some right away, like the morphlings, or Wiress and Beetee. Others unsure but caught up in the demands of those around them, like Brutus and Enobaria. By the time the anthem plays its final strains, all twenty-four of us stand in one unbroken line in what must be the first public show of unity among the districts since the Dark Days. You can see the realization of this as the screens begin to pop into blackness. It’s too late, though. In the confusion they didn’t cut us off in time. Everyone has seen.
But what does this mean for the tributes? Are they going to stay this united once the gong sounds and they’re in the arena? I can’t imagine every single tribute would be on board for a sit-in, but DEAR GOD how I’d love a sit-in.
We wait for the others to return, but when the elevator opens, only Haymitch appears. “It’s madness out there. Everyone’s been sent home and they’ve canceled the recap of the interviews on television.”
Peeta and I hurry to the window and try to make sense of the commotion far below us on the streets. “What are they saying?” Peeta asks. “Are they asking the president to stop the Games?”
“I don’t think they know themselves what to ask. The whole situation is unprecedented. Even the idea of opposing the Capitol’s agenda is a source of confusion for the people here,” says Haymitch. “But there’s no way Snow would cancel the Games. You know that, right?”
Either way, they’ve done something. They’ve stirred something in the other districts, and even the Capitol. Everyone saw what happened, they’re going to remember it, and they’re going to do something about it. I just feel like this is the turning point for all of Panem.
“Then we’ll never see Effie again,” says Peeta. We didn’t see her on the morning of the Games last year. “You’ll give her our thanks.”
“More than that. Really make it special. It’s Effie, after all,” I say. “Tell her how appreciative we are and how she was the best escort ever and tell her … tell her we send our love.”
Effie! I never thought I’d get upset over Effie! :(
For a while we just stand there in silence, delaying the inevitable. Then Haymitch says it. “I guess this is where we say our good-byes as well.”
“Any last words of advice?” Peeta asks.
“Stay alive,” Haymitch says gruffly. That’s almost an old joke with us now. He gives us each a quick embrace, and I can tell it’s all he can stand. “Go to bed. You need your rest.”
I know I should say a whole bunch of things to Haymitch, but I can’t think of anything he doesn’t already know, really, and my throat is so tight I doubt anything would come out, anyway. So, once again, I let Peeta speak for us both.
“You take care, Haymitch,” he says.
We cross the room, but in the doorway, Haymitch’s voice stops us. “Katniss, when you’re in the arena,” he begins. Then he pauses. He’s scowling in a way that makes me sure I’ve already disappointed him.
“What?” I ask defensively.
“You just remember who the enemy is,” Haymitch tells me. “That’s all. Now go on. Get out of here.”
What the…yeah. The Capitol, right? Or does he mean the other tributes? Is he disappointed in their striking back at the Capitol? He was never on board with a rebellion, but does he still expect them to “play” the Games and kill each other? After all this? I just wish I new what Haymitch meant and how he really feels!
“What do you think?” I ask, holding the fabric out for Cinna to examine.
He frowns as he rubs the thin stuff between his fingers. “I don’t know. It will offer little in the way of protection from cold or water.”
“Sun?” I ask, picturing a burning sun over a barren desert.
Oh yeah, I just remembered, where are they going to go? Where will the arena be? Did I ever say it might be in District 13? Because I feel like it could be there.
We sit, as we did last year, holding hands until the voice tells me to prepare for the launch. He walks me over to the circular metal plate and zips up the neck of my jumpsuit securely. “Remember, girl on fire,” he says, “I’m still betting on you.” He kisses my forehead and steps back as the glass cylinder slides down around me.
Suddenly the door behind him bursts open and three Peacekeepers spring into the room. Two pin Cinna’s arms behind him and cuff him while the third hits him in the temple with such force he’s knocked to his knees. But they keep hitting him with metal-studded gloves, opening gashes on his face and body. I’m screaming my head off, banging on the unyielding glass, trying to reach him. The Peacekeepers ignore me completely as they drag Cinna’s limp body from the room. All that’s left are the smears of blood on the floor.
NO. NO NO NO. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?
THEY’RE GETTING BACK AT HIM FOR THE COSTUME.
OH MY FUCKING GOD, PLEASE DON’T LET HIM BE DEAD.
Sickened and terrified, I feel the plate begin to rise. I’m still leaning against the glass when the breeze catches my hair and I force myself to straighten up. Just in time, too, because the glass is retreating and I’m standing free in the arena. Something seems to be wrong with my vision. The ground is too bright and shiny and keeps undulating. I squint down at my feet and see that my metal plate is surrounded by blue waves that lap up over my boots. Slowly I raise my eyes and take in the water spreading out in every direction.
I can only form one clear thought.
This is no place for a girl on fire.
I’m still shaking from Cinna’s attack.
But what the hell? Where are they? The ocean? Do they have to swim around and tread water until they get too tired and drown?
What the fuck just happened?
What the fuck is going to happen?
As I stand in the water, I begin to wonder about the wisdom of my latest trick. The question that should now always be my guide is “Will this help Peeta stay alive?” Indirectly, this might not. What happens in training is highly secretive, so there’s no point in taking action against me when no one will know what my transgression was. In fact, last year I was rewarded for my brashness. This is a different sort of crime, though. If the Gamemakers are angry with me and decide to punish me in the arena, Peeta could get caught up in the attack as well. Maybe it was too impulsive. Still…I can’t say I’m sorry I did it.
Honestly, Katniss, they were probably going to try to kill you both no matter what you did.
“Well, that would be standard. They can’t let one tribute know what another did,” says Effie, unconcerned. “What did you paint, Peeta?” She looks a little misty. “Was it a picture of Katniss?”
“Why would he paint a picture of me, Effie?” I ask, somehow annoyed.
lol come on Effie
“Actually, I painted a picture of Rue,” Peeta says. “How she looked after Katniss had covered her in flowers.”
JESUS CHRIST, PEETA, WHY DON’T YOU JUST PUT A KNIFE THROUGH MY HEART
“And, Haymitch?” says Peeta. “We decided we don’t want any other allies in the arena.”
“Good. Then I won’t be responsible for you killing off any of my friends with your stupidity,” he says.
“That’s just what we were thinking,” I tell him.
Wait what? When did they decide that? And Haymitch is just okay with that? Your friends most likely going to get killed, anyway, Haymitch, no matter who does it!
And it turns out he’s right. Because when Peeta and I each pull a twelve, we make Hunger Games history. No one feels like celebrating, though.
“Why did they do that?” I ask.
“So that the others will have no choice but to target you,” says Haymitch flatly. “Go to bed. I can’t stand to look at either one of you.”
So they got a twelve for their…performances. But wouldn’t that also make people want to team up with them? I just feel like these scores could go either way.
And Haymitch, can you just stop killing my buzz, thanks.
Peeta walks me down to my room in silence, but before he can say good night, I wrap my arms around him and rest my head against his chest. His hands slide up my back and his cheek leans against my hair. “I’m sorry if I made things worse,” I say.
“No worse than I did. Why did you do it, anyway?” he says.
“I don’t know. To show them that I’m more than just a piece in their Games?” I say.
He laughs a little, no doubt remembering the night before the Games last year. We were on the roof, neither of us able to sleep. Peeta had said something of the sort then, but I hadn’t understood what he meant. Now I do.
I just love that this conversation happens at almost the same exact point last year. And I love that it means a whole hell of a lot more to Katniss now than it did last year. It’s amazing to think of how far her character hs come since then.
And for the first time, I distance myself from the personal tragedy that has consumed me since they announced the Quell. I remember the old man they shot in District 11, and Bonnie and Twill, and the rumored uprisings. Yes, everyone in the districts will be watching me to see how I handle this death sentence, this final act of President Snow’s dominance. They will be looking for some sign that their battles have not been in vain. If I can make it clear that I’m still defying the Capitol right up to the end, the Capitol will have killed me…but not my spirit. What better way to give hope to the rebels?
The beauty of this idea is that my decision to keep Peeta alive at the expense of my own life is itself an act of defiance. A refusal to play the Hunger Games by the Capitol’s rules. My private agenda dovetails completely with my public one. And if I really could save Peeta … in terms of a revolution, this would be ideal. Because I will be more valuable dead. They can turn me into some kind of martyr for the cause and paint my face on banners, and it will do more to rally people than anything I could do if I was living. But Peeta would be more valuable alive, and tragic, because he will be able to turn his pain into words that will transform people.
We lie there for a while, in no rush to begin the day. Tomorrow night will be the televised interview, so today Effie and Haymitch should be coaching us. More high heels and sarcastic comments, I think. But then the redheaded Avox girl comes in with a note from Effie saying that, given our recent tour, both she and Haymitch have agreed we can handle ourselves adequately in public. The coaching sessions have been canceled.
Wow, really? That seems really odd. Though I guess nothing they say can make President Snow and the Gamemakers like them any more or less.
“I wish I could freeze this moment, right here, right now, and live in it forever,” he says.
This is already heartbreaking considering Peeta’s love for Katniss, but now cthe fact that they really won’t live much longer after this moment makes it ten times more depressing.
His fingers go back to my hair and I doze off, but he rouses me to see the sunset. It’s a spectacular yellow and orange blaze behind the skyline of the Capitol. “I didn’t think you’d want to miss it,” he says.
“Thanks,” I say. Because I can count on my fingers the number of sunsets I have left, and I don’t want to miss any of them.
My prep team. My foolish, shallow, affectionate pets, with their obsessions with feathers and parties, nearly break my heart with their good-bye. It’s certain from Venia’s last words that we all know I won’t be returning. Does the whole world know it? I wonder. I look at Cinna. He knows, certainly. But as he promised, there’s no danger of tears from him.
This is kind of funny and yet sad because I had really grown to like Venia, Flavius, and Octavia. And Cinna, dear God, make me cry why don’t you? That stupid man doesn’t even have to say anything and I just lose it. :(
“President Snow put in the dress order himself,” says Cinna. He unzips the bag, revealing one of the wedding dresses I wore for the photo shoot.
What the…FUCK? She’s wearing her wedding dress? I think I’m going to throw up. It’s just so…cruel. And it’s President Snow’s way of reminding her that she really is no more than a piece in their games.
Cinna helps me carefully into the gown. As it settles on my shoulders, they can’t help giving a shrug of complaint. “Was it always this heavy?” I ask. I remember several of the dresses being dense, but this one feels like it weighs a ton.
“I had to make some slight alterations because of the lighting,” says Cinna. I nod, but I can’t see what that has to do with anything.
I would have passed by this completely, but the last time something seemed odd about her outfit and Cinna gave an odd explanation for it, it turned out to be much more significant.
We meet up with Effie, Haymitch, Portia, and Peeta at the elevator. Peeta’s in an elegant tuxedo and white gloves. The sort of thing grooms wear to get married in, here in the Capitol.
Haha I just love that he’s wearing white gloves. Where’s his cane and top hat?!
Back home everything is so much simpler. A woman usually rents a white dress that’s been worn hundreds of times. The man wears something clean that’s not mining clothes. They fill out some forms at the Justice Building and are assigned a house. Family and friends gather for a meal or bit of cake, if it can be afforded. Even if it can’t, there’s always a traditional song we sing as the new couple crosses the threshold of their home. And we have our own little ceremony, where they make their first fire, toast a bit of bread, and share it. Maybe it’s old-fashioned, but no one really feels married in District 12 until after the toasting.
I took this as a kind of poke at our own wedding traditions today. We set the date months in advance, spend lots of money, get all dressed up and buy a huge cake and drink champagne and whatnot. Actually, I see a lot of parallels being made of the Capitol and our first world countries, if you will.
Finally Finnick says, “I can’t believe Cinna put you in that thing.”
“He didn’t have any choice. President Snow made him,” I say, somewhat defensively. I won’t let anyone criticize Cinna.
AS YOU SHOULD.
I’m confused because, while they all are angry, some are giving us sympathetic pats on the shoulder, and Johanna Mason actually stops to straighten my pearl necklace.
“Make him pay for it, okay?” she says.
It’s amazing how one line can completely change my ind about a character. I mean, I don’t think I ever thought Johanna would be bad, but this made me really like her. It reminds me that in a way, they’re all on the same side. Them vs. the Capitol.
This is the first time I realize the depth of betrayal felt among the victors and the rage that accompanies it. But they are so smart, so wonderfully smart about how they play it, because it all comes back to reflect on the government and President Snow in particular.
Wait so they’re all using their interviews to criticize the Capitol? Nice.
Cashmere starts the ball rolling with a speech about how she just can’t stop crying when she thinks of how much the people in the Capitol must be suffering because they will lose us. Gloss recalls the kindness shown here to him and his sister. Beetee questions the legality of the Quell in his nervous, twitchy way, wondering if it’s been fully examined by experts of late. Finnick recites a poem he wrote to his one true love in the Capitol, and about a hundred people faint because they’re sure he means them. By the time Johanna Mason gets up, she’s asking if something can’t be done about the situation. Surely the creators of the Quarter Quell never anticipated such love forming between the victors and the Capitol. No one could be so cruel as to sever such a deep bond. Seeder quietly ruminates about how, back in District 11, everyone assumes President Snow is all-powerful. So if he’s all-powerful, why doesn’t he change the Quell? And Chaff, who comes right on her heels, insists the president could change the Quell if he wanted to, but he must not think it matters much to anyone.
NO I just ripped a page in my book when I was turning it! :(
Anyway, I never in my life expected these tributes to do their interviews this way. I sort of thought they’d be “too proud” for it. But I guess that would make more sense in any other year. New children that we’ve never met refusing to play along, or else trying to win the crowd over. Now, however, it is a completely different ball game. They’re using their “fame” to tell it like it is and try to sway the Capitol. And I wonder if the Gamemakers and President Snow are slowly regretting their decision to send in tributes that the whole world already knows and loves.
And by the way, Finnick’s poem was about me. You can all go home now.
By the time I’m introduced, the audience is an absolute wreck. People have been weeping and collapsing and even calling for change. The sight of me in my white silk bridal gown practically causes a riot. No more me, no more star-crossed lovers living happily ever after, no more wedding. I can see even Caesar’s professionalism showing some cracks as he tries to quiet them so I can speak, but my three minutes are ticking quickly away.
Well it certainly looks like the tributes’ plan is working.
I don’t have to look at Cinna for a signal. I know this is the right time. I begin to twirl slowly, raising the sleeves of my heavy gown above my head.
When I hear the screams of the crowd, I think it’s because I must look stunning. Then I notice something is rising up around me. Smoke. From fire. Not the flickery stuff I wore last year in the chariot, but something much more real that devours my dress. I begin to panic as the smoke thickens. Charred bits of black silk swirl into the air, and pearls clatter to the stage.
WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY BURNING HER ALIVE IN FRONT OF EVERYONE?
Somehow I’m afraid to stop because my flesh doesn’t seem to be burning and I know Cinna must be behind whatever is happening. So I keep spinning and spinning. For a split second I’m gasping, completely engulfed in the strange flames. Then all at once, the fire is gone. I slowly come to a stop, wondering if I’m naked and why Cinna has arranged to burn away my wedding dress.
But I’m not naked. I’m in a dress of the exact design of my wedding dress, only it’s the color of coal and made of tiny feathers. Wonderingly, I lift my long, flowing sleeves into the air, and that’s when I see myself on the television screen. Clothed in black except for the white patches on my sleeves. Or should I say my wings.
Because Cinna has turned me into a mockingjay.
CINNA, YOU’RE A FUCKING GENIUS.
But maybe I don’t understand how this dress works, but does she actually look like a mockingjay? It’s basically the same dress but with black feathers. And…wings? How does that work? I don’t know but I’m not doing to worry about it because that is freakin’ AWESOME.
Haymitch grips my wrist as if anticipating my next move, but I am as speechless as the Capitol’s torturers have rendered Darius.
Of course Haymitch knows who this is, too! Of course Haymitch is equally affected by Darius becoming an Avox. I wonder what he’s thinking at this moment. Of course, after many years of returning to the Capitol for Games-related stuff, he might be used to seeing people he knows as Avoxes.
But the only time I really feel present is when I purposely knock a dish of peas to the floor and, before anyone can stop me, crouch down to clean them up. Darius is right by me when I send the dish over, and we two are briefly side by side, obscured from view, as we scoop up the peas. For just one moment our hands meet. I can feel his skin, rough under the buttery sauce from the dish. In the tight, desperate clench of our fingers are all the words we will never be able to say.
Haymitch gives me a scowl, then relents. “All right, never mind. Today, in training, you’ve got two jobs. One, stay in love.”
“Obviously,” I say.
“And two, make some friends,” says Haymitch.
Oh man, this ought to be good. Peeta’s a natural, but Katniss, making friends? Recruiting allies? Either way, I’m excited to see who they come up with. I like teams!
Make your own pack if you’d rather. Choose who you like. I’d suggest Chaff and Seeder. Although Finnick’s not to be ignored,” says Haymitch. “Find someone to team up with who might be of some use to you. Remember, you’re not in a ring full of trembling children anymore. These people are all experienced killers, no matter what shape they appear to be in.”
Am I the only one who rolled his eyes when Haymitch suggested, oh, I don’t know, just two random people off the top of my head, how about Chaff and Seeder, the two with whom I’ve become the closest of friends? I mean maybe they would be their best bet, but for some reason I yawned a bit when Haymitch said it.
Enobaria looks to be about thirty and all I can remember about her is that, in hand-to-hand combat, she killed one tribute by ripping open his throat with her teeth. She became so famous for this act that, after she was a victor, she had her teeth cosmetically altered so each one ends in a sharp point like a fang and is inlaid with gold. She has no shortage of admirers in the Capitol.
I WANNA SEE YA GRILL, YA, YA, YA GRILL.
I’d be content to spend the morning alone with him, but after about an hour and a half, someone puts his arms around me from behind, his fingers easily finishing the complicated knot I’ve been sweating over. Of course it’s Finnick, who seems to have spent his childhood doing nothing but wielding tridents and manipulating ropes into fancy knots for nets, I guess. I watch for a minute while he picks up a length of rope, makes a noose, and then pretends to hang himself for my amusement.
The woman, Wiress, is probably around my mother’s age and speaks in a quiet, intelligent voice. But right away I notice she has a habit of dropping off her words in mid-sentence, as if she’s forgotten you’re there. Beetee, the man, is older and somewhat fidgety. He wears glasses but spends a lot of time looking under them. They’re a little strange, but I’m pretty sure neither of them is going to try to make me uncomfortable by stripping naked. And they’re from District 3. Maybe they can even confirm my suspicions of an uprising there.
Hmmm, suddenly these people seem like potential allies. I think either way, they’re going to have to team up with at least one old person. Might as well be them.
I glance around the Training Center. Peeta is at the center of a ribald circle of knife throwers. The morphlings from District 6 are in the camouflage station, painting each other’s faces with bright pink swirls. The male tribute from District 5 is vomiting wine on the sword-fighting floor. Finnick and the old woman from his district are using the archery station. Johanna Mason is naked again and oiling her skin down for a wrestling lesson. I decide to stay put.
Nice, classic, high school cafeteria-style walkthrough of the tributes in the training center. But seriously what is that girl’s PROBLEM?
“The strength of the thread,” Beetee finishes explaining. “Automatically. It rules out human error.” Then he talks about his recent success creating a musical chip that’s tiny enough to be concealed in a flake of glitter but can hold hours of songs. I remember Octavia talking about this during the wedding shoot, and I see a possible chance to allude to the uprising.
“Oh, yeah. My prep team was all upset a few months ago, I think, because they couldn’t get hold of that,” I say casually. “I guess a lot of orders from District Three were getting backed up.”
Beetee examines me under his glasses. “Yes. Did you have any similar backups in coal production, this year?” he asks.
“No. Well, we lost a couple of weeks when they brought in a new Head Peacekeeper and his crew, but nothing major,” I say. “To production, I mean. Two weeks sitting around your house doing nothing just means two weeks of being hungry for most people.”
I think they understand what I’m trying to say. That we’ve had no uprising.
“Oh. That’s a shame,” says Wiress in a slightly disappointed voice. “I found your district very …” She trails off, distracted by something in her head.
“Interesting,” fills in Beetee. “We both did.”
I feel bad, knowing that their district must have suffered much worse than ours. I feel I have to defend my people. “Well, there aren’t very many of us in Twelve,” I say. “Not that you’d know it nowadays by the size of the Peacekeeping force. But I guess we’re interesting enough.”
See, everyone expects District 12 to be like the leaders of the uprising, and they haven’t been able to do anything! But during these games, or after, something will happen. Something has to happen. Gale will organize a rebellion, definitely. Maybe during the games while everyone’s distracted? I don’t know but the suspense is killing me!
I take a tray and start making my way around the food-laden carts that ring the room. Peeta catches up with me at the stew. “How’s it going?”
“Good. Fine. I like the District Three victors,” I say. “Wiress and Beetee.”
“Really?” he asks. “They’re something of a joke to the others.”
“Why does that not surprise me?” I say. I think of how Peeta was always surrounded at school by a crowd of friends. It’s amazing, really, that he ever took any notice of me except to think I was odd.
“Johanna’s nicknamed them Nuts and Volts,” he says. “I think she’s Nuts and he’s Volts.”
“And so I’m stupid for thinking they might be useful. Because of something Johanna Mason said while she was oiling up her breasts for wrestling,” I retort.
“Actually I think the nickname’s been around for years. And I didn’t mean that as an insult. I’m just sharing information,” he says.
“Well, Wiress and Beetee are smart. They invent things. They could tell by sight that a force field had been put up between us and the Gamemakers. And if we have to have allies, I want them.”
I feel like it’d be just like Katniss to make a team of outcasts. Like, the fact that everyone seems to dislike Wiress and Beetee would probably make her want them even more. But I guess it’s still too early to tell who they’re going to team up with.
Cashmere and Gloss, the sister and brother from District 1, invite me over and we make hammocks for a while. They’re polite but cool, and I spend the whole time thinking about how I killed both the tributes from their district, Glimmer and Marvel, last year, and that they probably knew them and might even have been their mentors.
LOL CASHMERE AND GLOSS, I CAN’T.
Also, I guess they’re not too upset about Glimmer and Marvel (lol) if they invited Katniss over to their station. Unless it’s to draw her in and lull her into a false sense of security so they can avenge Glimmer and Marvel (lol) by killing her in the arena? I don’t know why do I even bother trying to predict this shit?
After a while I tune out the trainer and simply try to copy whatever Mags does. When I make a pretty good hook out of a bent nail and fasten it to some strands of my hair, she gives me a toothless smile and an unintelligible comment I think might be praise. Suddenly I remember how she volunteered to replace the young, hysterical woman in her district. It couldn’t be because she thought she had any chance of winning. She did it to save the girl, just like I volunteered last year to save Prim. And I decide I want her on my team.
Great. Now I have to go back and tell Haymitch I want an eighty-year-old and Nuts and Volts for my allies. He’ll love that.
Dream team right here. I still want to learn more about Mags though.
I forget the rest of the gym and the victors and how miserable I am and lose myself in the shooting. When I manage to take down five birds in one round, I realize it’s so quiet I can hear each one hit the floor. I turn and see the majority of the victors have stopped to watch me. Their faces show everything from envy to hatred to admiration.
That’s how you do it, bitch.
And the more I come to know these people, the worse it is. Because, on the whole, I don’t hate them. And some I like. And a lot of them are so damaged that my natural instinct would be to protect them. But all of them must die if I’m to save Peeta.
And that is what the Hunger Games are all about. I kind of want to see all the tributes just have a big sit-in when the Games begin, like an Occupy The Hunger Games. When the gong sounds or whatever, instead of running around killing each other, they just walk up to the Cornucopia and sit in a circle, sharing the food and burning all the weapons in the middle while singing “Kumbaya.”
There’s a lot of kidding about it at lunch. What we might do. Sing, dance, strip, tell jokes. Mags, who I can understand a little better now, decides she’s just going to take a nap.
Hahaha, old people.
We sit in silence awhile and then I blurt out the thing that’s on both our minds. “How are we going to kill these people, Peeta?”
That is what sucks about alliances. No matter how many people you have, how good they are, how much you like each other, at some point you’re going to have to kill each other. It’s its own form of turture that the Gamemakers didn’t even have to create. The tributes do it to themselves. Not that they have much of a choice.
When I go in, I smell the sharp odor of cleaner and notice that one of the mats has been dragged to the center of the room. The mood is very different from last year’s, when the Gamemakers were half drunk and distractedly picking at tidbits from the banquet table. They whisper among themselves, looking somewhat annoyed. What did Peeta do? Something to upset them?
Peeta need I remind you that we’re all here to try to keep YOU alive? So don’t fuck it up!
Suddenly I know just what I’m going to do. Something that will blow anything Peeta did right out of the water. I go over to the knot-tying station and get a length of rope. I start to manipulate it, but it’s hard because I’ve never made this actual knot myself. I’ve only watched Finnick’s clever fingers, and they moved so fast. After about ten minutes, I’ve come up with a respectable noose. I drag one of the target dummies out into the middle of the room and, using some chinning bars, hang it so it dangles by the neck. Tying its hands behind its back would be a nice touch, but I think I might be running out of time. I hurry over to the camouflage station, where some of the other tributes, undoubtedly the morphlings, have made a colossal mess. But I find a partial container of bloodred berry juice that will serve my needs. The flesh-colored fabric of the dummy’s skin makes a good, absorbent canvas. I carefully finger paint the words on its body, concealing them from view. Then I step away quickly to watch the reaction on the Gamemakers’ faces as they read the name on the dummy.
Having been through prep with Flavius, Venia, and Octavia numerous times, it should just be an old routine to survive. But I haven’t anticipated the emotional ordeal that awaits me. At some point during the prep, each of them bursts into tears at least twice, and Octavia pretty much keeps up a running whimper throughout the morning. It turns out they really have become attached to me, and the idea of my returning to the arena has undone them. Combine that with the fact that by losing me they’ll be losing their ticket to all kinds of big social events, particularly my wedding, and the whole thing becomes unbearable. The idea of being strong for someone else having never entered their heads, I find myself in the position of having to console them. Since I’m the person going in to be slaughtered, this is somewhat annoying.
omg lyke i am so sad u guize, my favrt victor is goin bck in2 the hunger gamez 2 almost die agen, dis is so sad 4 me, how wil i evr get ovr dis, how cud dey do dis 2 me, mi lyf sukz u guize.
The costume looks deceptively simple at first, just a fitted black jumpsuit that covers me from the neck down. He places a half crown like the one I received as victor on my head, but it’s made of a heavy black metal, not gold. Then he adjusts the light in the room to mimic twilight and presses a button just inside the fabric on my wrist. I look down, fascinated, as my ensemble slowly comes to life, first with a soft golden light but gradually transforming to the orange-red of burning coal. I look as if I have been coated in glowing embers — no, that I am a glowing ember straight from our fireplace. The colors rise and fall, shift and blend, in exactly the way the coals do.
He turns me toward a mirror so that I can take in the entire effect. I do not see a girl, or even a woman, but some unearthly being who looks like she might make her home in the volcano that destroyed so many in Haymitch’s Quell. The black crown, which now appears red-hot, casts strange shadows on my dramatically made-up face. Katniss, the girl on fire, has left behind her flickering flames and bejeweled gowns and soft candlelight frocks. She is as deadly as fire itself.
I just, I didn;t think anything could top their costume in the last games, but this definitely takes the cake. Oh man. I can’t wait to see this in the movie. Assuming they make the next two books into movies?
“Want a sugar cube?” he says, offering his hand, which is piled high. “They’re supposed to be for the horses, but who cares? They’ve got years to eat sugar, whereas you and I…well, if we see something sweet, we better grab it quick.”
I…what…was that….was that like…a pick-up line? Because it was truly awful. Plus, isn’t he like, in his mid twenties?
Tall, athletic, with golden skin and bronze-colored hair and those incredible eyes. While other tributes that year were hard-pressed to get a handful of grain or some matches for a gift, Finnick never wanted for anything, not food or medicine or weapons.
So basically, if you’re good-looking, you get to live. Or at least, you’ll get a lot of sponsors to give you whatever you damn please so that you can live.
When he received a silver parachute with a trident—which may be the most expensive gift I’ve ever seen given in the arena—it was all over. District 4’s industry is fishing. He’d been on boats his whole life. The trident was a natural, deadly extension of his arm. He wove a net out of some kind of vine he found, used it to entangle his opponents so he could spear them with the trident, and within a matter of days the crown was his.
Wait, hang on, did I read that right? A trident? He used a fucking trident to kill his opponents? I don’t even, what? This is pretty badass!
He’s draped in a golden net that’s strategically knotted at his groin so that he can’t technically be called naked, but he’s about as close as you can get. I’m sure his stylist thinks the more of Finnick the audience sees, the better.
“Then how do they pay you for the pleasure of your company?” I ask.
“With secrets,” he says softly. He tips his head in so his lips are almost in contact with mine. “What about you, girl on fire? Do you have any secrets worth my time?”
SECRETS DON’T MAKE FRIENDS. But seriously, he could get just about anyone to spill their deepest darkest secrets. What kind of secrets is he keeping in that beautiful head of his?
I climb up and pull him up after me. “Hold still,” I say, and straighten his crown. “Have you seen your suit turned on? We’re going to be fabulous again.”
“Absolutely. But Portia says we’re to be very above it all. No waving or anything,” he says.
GOOD. Don’t give those fuckpieces the satisfaction or the attention that they don’t deserve. I like this angle. Because the audience is going to love them no matter what they do. They were the most recent victors, and the “star-crossed lovers” on top of that, and now they’re going back to the games immediately after that. So they already have the sympathy of the crowd. Now they’re going to refuse it. Show them they they don’t need anything from the Capitol. They are better than the Games, and can win it again if they have to.
I look up into those blue eyes that no amount of dramatic makeup can make truly deadly and remember how, just a year ago, I was prepared to kill him. Convinced he was trying to kill me. Now everything is reversed.
IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL AND YOU BOTH HAVE COME A LONG WAY AND I AM SO PROUD OF YOU BOTH.
We star-crossed lovers from District 12, who suffered so much and enjoyed so little the rewards of our victory, do not seek the fans’ favor, grace them with our smiles, or catch their kisses. We are unforgiving.
And I love it. Getting to be myself at last.
This is why I like it so much. There’s no faking it. District Twelvers don’t front. District Twelvers are keeping it real. They’re probably the only “real” people in this joint.
I know Chaff by sight because I’ve spent years watching him pass a bottle back and forth with Haymitch on television. He’s dark skinned, about six feet tall, and one of his arms ends in a stump because he lost his hand in the Games he won thirty years ago. I’m sure they offered him some artificial replacement, like they did Peeta when they had to amputate his lower leg, but I guess he didn’t take it.
Suddenly I’m wondering if Haymitch will have a hard time supporting Peeta, and even Katniss, when he has friends in there fighting against them. Will he be able to overcome his friendship with Chaff and the others, knowing that for Peeta to live, they all have to die?
The woman, Seeder, looks almost like she could be from the Seam, with her olive skin and straight black hair streaked with silver. Only her golden brown eyes mark her as from another district. She must be around sixty, but she still looks strong, and there’s no sign she’s turned to liquor or morphling or any other chemical form of escape over the years. Before either of us says a word, she embraces me. I know somehow it must be because of Rue and Thresh. Before I can stop myself, I whisper, “The families?”
“They’re alive,” she says back softly before letting me go.
Phew. Well, at least Rue and Thresh’s families don’t have to suffer any more than they already are. And I wonder if Katniss and Peeta will befriend Chaff and/or Seeder. Them being from District 11. Or at least as much of a friendship you can have in the Games.
Johanna Mason. From District 7 Lumber and paper, thus the tree. She won by very convincingly portraying herself as weak and helpless so that she would be ignored. Then she demonstrated a wicked ability to murder.
WATCH YOUR BACK, BITCH.
While we wait for the elevators, Johanna unzips the rest of her tree, letting it drop to the floor, and then kicks it away in disgust. Except for her forest green slippers, she doesn’t have on a stitch of clothing. “That’s better.”
“It’s you, Katniss. Can’t you see?” he says.
“What’s me?” I say.
“Why they’re all acting like this. Finnick with his sugar cubes and Chaff kissing you and that whole thing with Johanna stripping down.” He tries to take on a more serious tone, unsuccessfully. “They’re playing with you because you’re so…you know.”
“No, I don’t know,” I say. And I really have no idea what he’s talking about. “It’s like when you wouldn’t look at me naked in the arena even though I was half dead. You’re so…pure,” he says finally.
“I am not!” I say. “I’ve been practically ripping your clothes off every time there’s been a camera for the last year!”
“Yeah, but…I mean, for the Capitol, you’re pure,” he says, clearly trying to mollify me. “For me, you’re perfect. They’re just teasing you.”
“No, they’re laughing at me, and so are you!” I say.
So…people are messing with her because she’s PURE? I just can’t think of anyone who’s won the Hunger Games as anywhere near pure. It’s the whole thing that’s been messing Katniss up! And what is teasing her going to accomplish, exactly? I’m pretty sure her sexuality isn’t going to matter much in the arena. Is it for intimidation? Because anyone who knows Katniss should not waste their time.
Then a chill runs through me. Because I know him, too. Not from the Capitol but from years of having easy conversations in the Hob, joking over Greasy Sae’s soup, and that last day watching him lie unconscious in the square while the life bled out of Gale.
Our new Avox is Darius.
WHAT THE FUCK? The old Peacekeeper guy from District 12? The one who was at gale’s whipping?! Did he get punished for interfering, or was it something else? If it were for that, you’d think Gale, who actually committed the crime, would have become an Avox. Maybe because of his leiency over the years? Or to make an example out of him? I don’t know but this is just fucked.
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.