The Hunger Games: Untold Stories
A Fanfiction Chronicles
By J. Clay
I see her just as clear as I have for so long in my memory. Just as I have on television along with hundreds of thousands of us cheering her on-just as I last remember her at the reaping. Her unmistakable face, the face I could easily find lost in sea of others: that typical mask of determination wearing her down, held steadily in place, not for herself, but for her sister Prim, and her mother-her family. But it's not the face my mind continues to dwell on, go back to without fail: it's her eyes. Eyes that both of us knew I could see through alone and take in her frail uncertainty that escaped everyone else, eating her alive. At that one moment. That one moment in time, that seems now a lifetime ago. Perhaps, it was.
This is the girl I see. The girl on fire. The one girl who has unapologetically haunted me when both my eyes are open and closed. There is no escape from her, not even in sleep. No rest. No peace. Nothing to quell the constant internal struggle between a complete breakdown and absolute rage. Not even Katniss's mother's home remedies did anything but just numb the pain ever so slightly. And it isn't only just affecting me but that thing, that horrible lurking fear I see glimpses of in Prim's eyes, her pinched, fragile face when watching, the way she withdrew like a wilting flower without sunlight when we saw Katniss nearly die of dehydration.
And it is present in their mother's as well, but she did her best to conceal it in her own way-with silence, and telling Prim Katniss would survive for them. She is strong. She will make it out alive, for them. For us. For all of us. But, not unlike in the gaunt faces of her patients, the symptoms of this terrible thing are evident in her own. Mrs. Everdeen's usual clenched mouth, boring eyes into the screen: evidence of the gripping tension swallowing us all. Bit by bit. Making us the prey I was all too familiar with. There was no escape. Not for anyone. Not even Katniss.
Not even from the nightmares, outside of the one we lived through during the day. But within us. Within me.
And now she's standing right in front of me, only but feet away staring at me, and I at her. We're sharing the same dazed, wondering expression as if we're both lost in some distant dream. Everything feels so real, here though. The gust of the wind blowing through my hair, carrying the sprawling tendrils of the smoke billowing from the surrounding scorched and blackened trees. The crisp pine needled carpeted ground beneath my feet, its solid purchase.All feels real. As if it's actually there.
The obvious pounding of my heart into my head, reverberating into my thoughts, my everything. The dryness of my mouth. The sweat dripping from my fisted hands. The unwillingness of my eyes blinking, because I am afraid if I do so, she would disappear again, like so many times before. Even the smells have me on edge.
The overpowering stench of the filthy, drifting smoke veiling her mud and blood smeared face, her long frayed black braid caked with dirt and grime. I could even feel the floating dust and flecks of ashes on my eyelashes, tingle against my parched lips. I feel like I just sprinted an extremely long distance through the woods outside of electric fence hunting with her. Even so, I couldn't move. Think. Or talk. I could only just do what I did: stand and stare, speechless.
"Gale, I-I don't believe it, you're here. You're actually here." It had been Katniss who broke the leaden silence forged between like the cement walls of the Hob.
I couldn't believe it myself. I open my mouth to speak, but no words come out. What could I say? What could I possibly say? How long did I even have with her? I had to think of something, and quick. But she goes on, her dark hair flickering in the slight breeze, "How did you manage to get here? How did you find me? I don't believe this."
A heavy sigh escapes me, feeling as if a weighty deer carcass slung across my shoulders suddenly fell. I could breathe again. "Neither do I," I finally speak.
A streak of confusion sets into her exhausted features. "But this doesn't make sense...Am I hallucinating? Are you one of the Gamemakers..." She hesitates on the word before saying it: "tricks?"
I shake my head. "No, I'm here. With you. I-I've missed you so badly."
Now, the tears begin to well up from our darkest depths, kept in for so long, burning to be free; and, then my face is entirely flushed, and I'm overcome with strange, lightheaded feelings. I can see the teary glints in Katniss's bloodshot eyes, and then she's all legs, running straight for me, and before I realize it, we're embracing.
I feel her fierce cling about me tighten, and beneath her smells of sweat and blood, I can smell her. The scent that brings me back to the day in the woods before the reaping, the day we had discussed about fleeing into the woods and surviving on our own. That day felt so long ago, but now, maybe it would be somehow possible again.
Katniss always smelled of things that remind me of springtime at home. The sweet scent of berries we would gather on occasion. Sometimes, of the fresh smells of honeysuckle in her hair, of wildflowers that grow in the meadow. At that moment, her face, cheek pressing against my chest I feel like one of the arrows she carries, pierces my heart. This could not last. But I can't help but think of other things…
We are in danger.
Someone could be watching us. Even now, aiming to kill her. I don't care about myself. Just her. Her safety. I need to get her out of this damn forest. And back home with me, alive. Where she should be anyhow. Not here. Not killing to survive. The idea of it just makes me want to vomit, and thinking about it I could already feel my blood begin to boil, my face constrict, nostrils flare.
But I couldn't let anything distract me from this moment. The moment I had been craving for so long. My arms around her: not ever wanting to let go, again. But I feel her though, unsteady, starting to break away.
"You shouldn't be here," she says, whispering, chagrin in her voice. Even in a voice so low, it's like a nauseating blow to the head. Something tells me though in the back of my thoughts, this had been coming.
My brow knits in frustration and when she looks up at me, I can see the tear stains smudged beneath her eyes. She swallows nervously. "Neither should you," I tell her, my jaw stiff.
"I know, but here we are...We should go...Get out of sight. Someone could be watching."
"Yeah," I agree, nodding quickly. "But we could find a way out of here...You and me, remember?" I lift up chin gently, but she resists slightly, brushing my hand away, and it's then we separate from each other. She's trembling, and then violently shaking her head.
"Yes, no-I-I don't know anymore," she says in a flood of emotions, tears spilling again. But when she looks at me again, dead in the eyes, I can see something about her has changed, some motive. Something deep within. Something that makes me feel like maybe she's right, maybe I shouldn't be here at all, and an anger begins to build within me. "All I know is that I can't leave Peeta alone, here. To die...I just can't...Not anymore."
That something reviles within me when I hear her speak his name. I suddenly have the urge to spit at one of the nearby trees; I nearly do. Peeta. What did that baker's boy have anything to do with this? With us? He had nothing on me. Absolutely nothing.
"Gale, don't look at me like that."
"Like what?" I ask her furious, cocking my head, my hands tightening into fists.
"Like you are now..."
"Well, tell me then, how are you expecting to save Peeta in a death match? Just how exactly?"
"I don't know," she says quietly, almost defeated, and drops her stare shrinking away. "But I at least have to try."
"I don't believe you," I say in disbelief my eyes like fiery darts into hers. "You're using him," I spit.
She gasps outraged. "Using him!-Gale, I ought to-"
"Do what? Use me in the same way! Don't think I can't see through your little act here," I shout at her almost hoarse. "Your love for him is just as your love for me: uncertain." It was harsh, maybe I went too far, but it had to be said. And now taking in her hurt face, like I had forcibly slapped her, I already regret the words. Katniss's face crumples, and she flings her body around in a heated disarray.
"Katniss-Katniss! Don't turn away, look at me-please?"
"No!" she yells at me, sobbing, "stay away from me!"
"Catnip! Come on! Stop-Katniss don't do this! Please, listen to me!"
And unexpectedly she does stop in her tracks looking back at me, but her eyes are despondent, almost lifeless. The broken girl I saw from the reaping inside has resurfaced painfully. "There, there Catnip," I say softly, after taking long strides to meet her, carefully removing the dangling bangs from her eyes, and touching her soft skin of cheeks with my fingertips. This time she doesn't resist, doesn't turn away. "I'm sorry…I promise you, it will be okay. I'll get you out of here."
Katniss does though one thing that surprises me. She smiles. It's small. Barely there. But it's there. "Gale...I..." She's at a loss for words again, sighing, before saying, "I have to finish this-Have you seen Peeta by chance?"
Why does she have to bring up him again? I shake make head, my slight grin fading swiftly. "No, I haven't. Why?"
"He was just with me before the Gamemakers decided to attack me a barrage of fire. He disappeared...I tired calling for him...But I...I..."
"Katniss, you look awful-I mean, let's get you somewhere so you can sit down and rest-"
It's then I notice the very color draining from her face as she pants, clutching at her stomach frantically. Katniss's eyes widen as her face draws in discomfort, and her body goes instantly limp. I catch her as she plunks to her knees, and when she does so, Peeta is standing behind her, a bloody knife in hand. He's glaring at me, smiling triumphant. Everything-the monster within me screams, and enraged crying aloud, tears falling, my hands grapple for his neck with the intention to crush unpityingly.
When my eyes open, it's not into the cold blue eyes of Peeta I'm staring, but the dark, shadowed form of my pillow. Confused, breathless, sweat drenching my hair, and streaming down my neck, I realize it's the pillow I'm strangling the life out of-No! I think. No! It was real. It was real. I had been there. I had felt Katniss hold me. I was there. I slam my fists against my bed in fury, and bite down hard on my lower lip, wincing, as tears burn the corners of my blurry eyes.
Feeling soft, warm hands across my back, pulling me up, I first think it's Katniss then I remember that's ridiculous. "Gale," I hear my mother say to me softly, and I'm slowly pulled out of my shaking fit. Sighing, I move, my bed creaking beneath me, and I see my mother leaning over at my side. She presses a hand against my forehead, feeling my temperature, frowns, and quickly releases hold. Wordlessly, she sits beside of me on my bed, and I look at her, the moonlight shafting through my hole of a window, gleaming in her sunken eyes, against the weary creases of her face. She looks at me too, undoubtedly worried. As usual. When she shouldn't be. I was fine. I am fine. It's Katniss who needs the concern. Not me.
"Nightmares, again?" she asks in a low, tentative voice.
I nod solemnly. Eighth time this week. This time though, I had apparently woken her up with my screaming, but she tells me not to worry. She admits that she recently hasn't got much sleep anyhow. What with Katniss being in the Hunger Games, and all. She knows Mrs. Everdeen hasn't at all, although she routinely visits offering to assist in helping wash clothes, tidy things around the house, while I stay and watch my younger brothers, and sister.
"I hate this," I say. I'm not sure really who I'm saying it to. To her or just to the empty void in front of us. Maybe both. To whoever would hear me.
"Me too," I hear her murmur, eyes lowered.
A long time passes between us of complete silence, except for the cool wind breathing life into the old withered shack, and nighttime sounds from outside the cracked window. "Do you want to talk about it?" she asks me, concerned.
"No," I tell her assuredly.
"Okay," she replies, not questioning me any further, of which I'm grateful.
"I just know I won't be able to go back to sleep."
Her small lips purse, and she gives me a weak smile, easily getting up. "Come on with me, in the kitchen...And I'll warm us up some of Prim's goat milk she gave us today."
"Alright," I tell her yawning a bit, and decide to get up and follow her from the cramped bedroom, where somehow Rory is still asleep in his bed, curled up like Buttercup does at my feet when we all go over to visit the Everdeens often. I've decided that even if the house would fall through by an earthquake, twister, or violent storm: he would still be fast asleep. Nothing could wake him. Except for maybe the smell of hot, cooking food. But I suppose that is for anybody in the Seam, since such food would be rare to come by or even have at your dinner table.
The following morning all of us-and I mean the entire residence of District 12-are standing with no personal space left in the town's square, or at all for that matter, huddling around the set of working televisions behind the glass, soot-smudged barrier. All of our eyes are fixated upward, locked onto the black-screened televisions waiting for the final day of the Hunger Games to air-since after all there are now only three remaining tributes alive, two of them being both from our district. And the absolute stunned silence held throughout the massive crowds speaks volumes about how often this has happened before. You could hear some one breathe wrong. There is more noise in a graveyard than here, right now.
Swamped around me are familiar faces. The mayor's daughter, Madge, stands just an arm's reach away, wide-eyed and mouth slightly opened, her brilliant blonde hair shining in the morning light. Somewhere in the crowd is her father Mayor Undersee, who will most likely appear at the front of the crowd whenever the T.V.s decide to flicker on. Beside of Madge, stands Delly Cartwright, who is very pretty, and sometimes too friendly but anyhow, I see she's with her parents. Her Dad has a hand touching her shoulder gently. In front of me there's Mrs. Everdeen, and the girl who Katniss saved from the reaping, her sister Prim. Both of them share the most tense of stances at all of the people here, and for good reason. On my other side is my family, Posy standing on her tiptoes to see. She makes such a commotion about it I eventually give in and swing her up on my shoulders. "Up we go, Pose."
There's a murmuring ribboning through the crowd now, and I pick up phrases like, "It must be close now-" "I think it's almost time, has to be-" "Katniss and Peeta have to survive, they just have to-" Which makes me think of Peeta, of who I don't go out of way to think of, and I notice his family near the Everdeens, mostly by their appearance, and linking them with his similarity. His mother though has a distasteful look on her face, as if she had been sucking on something sour. But maybe that's her natural look. Anyways, I do get a glimpse of redheaded Darius and Rooba, 12's own alcohol vender, exchanging bottles of Vodka discretely, which makes my brow furrow. Maybe they're just saving them for the celebration when Katniss wins. That had to be idea here. Suddenly, there's a shouting voice, and next thing I know, Mayor Undersee comes flying into the picture shouting out of one of those electronic bullhorns, amplifying his voice.
"Alright everybody!" he bellows, "get ready, it's about to air! I'm sure we'll see something spectacular today! But for now let's take the time to honor the fact that both of our tributes are still alive, and that possibly one of them could turn out to be our Victor!" We have this awkward moment of silence, and the Mayor recognizes the tributes' families, and then as if on cue the set of televisions all turn on at the same time. And the moment we all had been waiting for at least a half hour arrives.
And what we get first though is unexpected. Katniss sleeping in the cave, and Peeta silently watching out for her-for Cato, the other remaining tribute, who was in my eyes the only other tribute that would pose as a serious threat for Katniss. Any signs. But nothing happens for awhile so the Games are interspersed with Caesar Flickerman's current viewpoint on the Games, and other monotonous commentary from other so called personalities. With the lack of interest the crowd begins to dwindle slightly, some returning to watch at home tired of the sweaty hotness and warm breathing of the crowd. But we stay. As noon approaches Greasy Sae appears and disappears into the crowd carrying a giant pot that nearly consumes her entire bony figure, ladling out her special meat soup to everyone. Today there will be no payments as she will consider it charity, in wodnerful honor of the Games.
Katniss eventually wakes up around early afternoon, and it's clear she believes herself to have over-slept. Peeta and her talk about the Gamemakers potentially throwing Cato and them together, the fate of that sneaky redheaded tribute that only died yesterday, before they decide to leave the cave for good. The cave where I saw them kiss. Where I wanted to wring Peeta's neck. Punch him in the face. And do so many violent things…It took my mother's shouting and pulling me back from throwing the whole damn T.V. across the room. But, sometimes love meant not keeping that person to yourself. It had taken a great deal of time and discipline to accept this, of which I really hadn't. Only on the outside. Along way through their trek in the woods, they figure that where they should go is supposedly the lake because of the dry river-makes sense to me, but I can't shake the idea of Cato surprising them, and catching them guard, somehow ending up killing Katniss. But she's too smart for that. Needless to say, my heart is slamming from my chest through my throat and into my brain ceaselessly.
At some point they decide to rest, until Katniss is brought to her senses by the swelling sound of mockingjays. Their distinct calling emanates from the T.V.s so much so, I can begin to hear them surround even us, an enwrapping euphoric melody: and amazed we watch as a flock of them fly above us and perch themselves upon the building where the T.V.s are housed; one of them I notice particularly, lands on the top of the seemingly unused gallows, so old it's leaning, a stark contrast of black and white with the morbid, weathered wood. They are singing for her. I watch as Posy's eyes increase to nearly to the size of apples, ecstatic, watching as the mockingjays continue to soar in, circle high above before finding settling nearby as if to watch the Games themselves. Then Katniss is up, and soon as they're running out into the open, the melodious sounds of the mockingjays quickly turn in shrieks of warning! Something is coming. Not something. Someone. And we all know who it is.
Just then Cato emerges belligerently breaking from the green mask of the forest, and is hot on Katniss's and Peeta's trail, and he's wearing some type of protective body armor. My mind immediately goes back to when Katniss risked her life to save Peeta from dying by retrieving that vial-that armor or whatever it is must have been he desperately needed. My heartbeat increases, seeing him chase after them-but then my mouth drops. Something about the way Cato is running, tells me he's not actually running at all-but more like fleeing-and the close-ups of his horrified face confirm this. But from what?
There's a collective gasp throughout the crowd, as sickening images of distorted creatures-beasts that appear wolf-like in appearance, but are flying wildly upright like a human on their legs are at Cato's heels: a flurry of fur and gnashing teeth. My heart sinks into my stomach, and I see the absolute state of fear etched into Mrs. Everdeen's face-Prim's. There are tears in her big, blue eyes. She's clutching onto Buttercup with all she has, swallowing nervously. I see that see that Vick and Posy, who is no longer on my shoulders have hidden behind Mother, and she guards them tenderly. Other parents I see cover their small children's eyes from this monstrosity. These muttations. Mutts. We've heard about occasionally from the labs of the Capitol. Anyhow, closer views of these Mutts reveal something that's very disturbing. Their eyes. There's just something about their eyes that almost seem…Human. Then a startling revelation hits me: what if these are the other tributes turned into these…creatures. No. That's what the Gamemakers want you to think. A psychological trick. Doesn't surprise me.
We watch them in absolute silence once more, even the flocking mockingjays have acquitted their din, as they run for their lives: fear bleeding from Katniss's face: shown a great deal on camera. Blood pouring along her scalp mixing with sweat and even tears, and mud. Peeta has fallen behind, and so has Cato who is distance away from them-but they all headed for the giant Cornucopia where it all began. It's Katniss who reaches it first, and she begins to scale it as best she can because of its smooth sloping incline. My palms sweat, and I swallow, my breathing heavy. Come on, Catnip, I think to myself. You can do it. And she does.
The following is a blur of Katniss taking out the mutts one by one with her archery that astounds even me, but they are all relentless. We're all breathless. Eventually Peeta climbs the Cornucopia, settling himself beneath Katniss, and as the mutts continue to swarm the Coruncopia, someone in the crowd screams-a woman-near the front as the things begin to climb it too; and, one of them swiping is clawed paws lunges at Katniss and Peeta-and we hear both Mrs. Everdeen's scream and Peeta's mother's: and sudden, clenching silence as Katniss barely avoids the deathly blow, but Peeta isn't so lucky.
His blood-curdling scream is distorted through the aged televisions, and the sounds of his mother's weeping growing louder, so much so, Peeta's father has to take her elsewhere. But the mutt is dealt with by an arrow of Katniss, and it disappears over the side of the Cornucopia, but then they are both followed by Cato up the side of the Cornucopia, Peeta scrambling for solid bearings again, panting madly. They enter into chaotic fray up the Cornucopia, and somehow Cato manages to suffocate Peeta into a choking hold as he reaches the lip of the Cornucopia, as Katniss is arcing a bow straight for Cato's head. They are caught in a stalemate that has left us weary, and lightheaded, oblivious to the sinking sun-food, meals, except for lunch, anything else that would forestall us on a normal day-we are all consumed in what will be the last moments of the Games that will dictate the fate we all we have to bear one way or another.
"Will Peeta die?" I hear a small voice beneath me, and I see Posy staring up at me confused. I shake my head quickly, picking her up. "No, no-he'll be okay. Promise."
Posy doesn't say anything, but then I'm distracted by a strange noise from the T.V. that seems so out of place: laughing. It's Cato, and he's apparently entered a completely mad state, manically cackling, because he just knows he's got Katniss in the palm of his hand, knowing that if she shoots him, it would mean Peeta's death. But as we watch-Peeta's mother now back and no longer uncontrollably crying-Peeta does something odd. He makes a small X on the back of Cato's hand. This has us confused, but then Katniss sees-and shoots instantly. The following events happen so quick, I nearly miss it. Katniss leaps for Peeta as Cato shouts aloud in agony, blood spurting into the air, and as he looses grip Cato vanishes beyond the Cornucopia below, but Katniss is still gripping onto Peeta, both of them alive. There's a sickeningly human crunch of bone as the sound of Cato collides into ground, and when the camera begin to show the mutts' snarling maul upon him, I cover Posy's eyes, and sit her on the ground. I tell her to go to our mother.
The time that follows of Cato's slow excruciating demise, his inhumane howling for mercy once overpowered, keeps us in a broken silence, heads lowered as the mutts repulsively keep him alive enough to extend the torture for as long as possible. As much as I dislike him, even I think this has crossed some line of humane decency-no one should be put through this kind of immense pain. Night thickens around us-and hardly even of us have eaten anything, swallowed up by the Games-and still there is no fire of any canon. It all goes on well into the night, until Peeta who clinging onto last strands of life himself, finally asks Katniss to just shoot him-and Katniss gives in: the face the cameras show, shadowed by the moonlight reveals that killing him at this point we would both agree would be an act of pity. And a few painstaking moments later the cannon fires, and we all expel a sigh of relief. It's over! They both survived. They made it! They're both returning home, because of the new rule announced recently.
Throughout the crowd there are shouts of glee, patting of backs, and I hear familiar toothless cackle and Greasy Sae's unmistakable ladle waving in the air. This makes my face break out into a smile and I laugh suddenly finding myself embracing Mrs. Everdeen, who's trembling with excitement, tears in her eyes. She gives a tight squeeze.
"They did it! They're coming home!" I cry aloud, and surrounding me there is a massive uproar of cheers, and hoorays: arms flying up into the air, dancing in the streets, and I see Peeta's parents embracing. Everything is uplifting swirl, and tears of my own spill down my cheeks as we separate, and Prim finds me. Laughing, as she giggles carefree, I pick her easily up and I swirl her around happily: and her face that has been so dark, too dark for a girl her age for so long is now as radiant as the sun. We hear cries of Peeta and Katniss, Victors of the Hunger Games being shouted, and the mockingjays join in singing joyfully.
I though feel something to be amiss, so I slow to stop, sitting Prim on her feet, and she-being as intuitive as she is-has picked up on my uncertainty, and ask me:
"I'm not sure," I say, my face tensing as I look back to the T.V. screens as around me the entire crowd is immersed within an awesome mirth. I continue to stare at the screens thinking that shouldn't we hear the Capitol's theme by now? I swallow, feeling as I feel my stomach sinks, and just then the booming voice of Claudius Templesmith is heard, and I cry out for everyone to silence. The celebration is instantaneously quelled as Templesmith goes on to say something about how the earlier amendment to the Games has been nullified, and signs off just as if he had been a reading a simple purchasing list for the day, emotionless. It takes a few moments for the sudden reality of this to sink-and when it does, we first hear screaming. Gut-wrenching screaming in the crowd. Shouting of horrified, no's! Out of the corner of my eye I see Mrs. Everdeen collapse, and both I and my mother hurriedly tend to her, assisting her to her feet, as she sways: her fragile blue eyes, sunken, her body expended far beyond healthy limits. I feel like sinking to my knees myself, but I can't. I have to be strong, for everyone else. I hear my mother comforting Mrs. Everdeen quietly, with soothing words, and stroking her fingers through her long thinned blonde hair. Hesitantly, my gaze falls back onto the screens, and I realize that now they will be forced to kill each other-but they're talking of something…Of what?
"Berries," someone says, I think it's Madge, but I'm not sure. "They're going to eat the Nightlock berries and kill themselves!"
Now there's shrieking, agonized, painful crying: it swells and moves the crowd like the beginnings of storm at sea. Is this true? I stare at the screen, all that's happening, but nothing registers. It's only until I see Katniss reaching for her own darkly glinting one, and the breaking of dawn's sunlight catching all in sight afire-that I do see it's true. But this is the Katniss I've known all along. This is the Katniss that I hunt with-This is the Katniss that exists out in the woods with me. This is her personal revenge against the Capitol, all the wrong they have committed against them, forging these sadistic Games-She will not die as their pawn, and neither will Peeta. I won't accept any of this star-crossed lovers' act bull. But I can't help the tears that begin to flow as she starts to swallow the berry, captured intensely on screen.
"Oh, Catnip," I say quietly to myself, and I glimpse to see Prim's face flushed and her mother's completely absent of all that is happening. The realization strikes me like a whip across my face-I'll never see her again. This is it. The last image I'll have of her will be on a damn Capitol-issued television screen. Something within me shatters then. Into a thousand pieces. Screaming. A world where Katniss…Is dead? I couldn't even imagine it. Could I exist in that kind of world? No! I tear away to the crowd, and stare at them all wildly, shouting:
"FOR KATNISS! FOR PEETA!" I press three fingers against my lips, and one by one others pick up what I'm doing, until we all are holding the same honoring gesture upon our mouths, and slowly extend our hands out toward the television screens, tears in all of our eyes. Then throughout the crowd of District 12 there's a murmuring that begins to build in sound until it becomes an overwhelming fluid chant rolling like crashing waves:
"Katniss. Katniss. Peeta. Peeta." Over, and over, until it consumes everything about us entirely. All that we are. All that we will be. As a district. As a people.
Just when we would believe them both pronounced dead by cannon fire, there's a frantic shouting of that blaring voice again-it's Templesmith, and he sounds extremely heckled. He pleads for them to stop, and following announces them both as the Victors of the Seventy-fourth Annual Hunger Games. We're all stunned again, wide-eyed, with mouths hanging open bewildered. Is this actually happening? I blink, taken aback. There's an immediate cutscene from the image of both Katniss and Peeta desperately spitting out their berries, wiping their tongues clean on their clothes, to Flickerman whose bright powder blue hair seems a bit askew as he goes on about announcement of Katniss and Peeta making history as the first two winners of the Games, and then suggesting for us to tune in shortly for the following interviews and coronation with President Snow himself, the snake. As if we had a choice to begin with. But what does that matter now? Both of them are still alive, and coming home! And when the T.V.s flicker off, there's a small pause before the entire crowd erupts into cheers, and then there's scattering to return home to watch the following interviews. I see Mrs. Everdeen and Prim embracing, and I want to be just as happy as everyone else, but something holds me back.
Although, I'm not quite sure what that something is. "Gale," I hear someone call my name, and I see it's Madge; she's looking at me peculiarly. "Both Katniss and Peeta are coming home, why do you look so…miserable?"
"Miserable?" I repeat, my brow furrowing. Is that how I look? Miserable? I don't feel it. My eyes find that lone mockingjay still perched upon the gallows strangely enough, and it's almost as if it's returning my stare with a cocked head. Odd. The rising sunlight reflects through the town and reminds me of something, and that something is directly associated with Katniss. And I get the feeling that somehow it's all connected. Everything that has happened so far. From the beginning of Prim's name being chosen, to Katniss's flaming costumes at the start of the games, to the pin she wears still on her chest that Madge had given her, to even now, at this moment-me staring at the wavering brilliant flagrant colors of reds, oranges, and golds of the sunrise burning against the windows, the roads, and the metallic clasps of the gallows.
"Is there something wrong?" she asks me instead of answering my question. "What are you thinking?"
I shake my head, exhausted, and smirk. "Oh, it's nothing."
"Yeah," I say smiling a little. "I was thinking…We have some celebrating to do. Come on." I make a motion with my head.
Madge offers a grin, and doesn't inquire any further, although I know she isn't totally convinced by the look in her eyes. As we walk together, eventually meeting up with the Everdeens, and the rest of my family, and head toward the mayor's house to watch the interviews, my eyes drift through the town and with the way the bright dawn's sunlight blazes through the street way, one thought enters and lingers like smoke snaking into my mind:
It's all catching fire.