[Click acá para ir a la parte 1/6]
[Click acá para ir a la parte 2/6]
[Click acá para ir a la parte 3/6]
[Click acá para ir a la parte 4/6]
[Click acá para ir a la parte 5/6]
[Click acá para ir a la parte 2/6]
[Click acá para ir a la parte 3/6]
[Click acá para ir a la parte 4/6]
[Click acá para ir a la parte 5/6]
A chill runs through me. Am I really that cold and calculating? Gale didn't say, "Katniss will pick whoever it
will break her heart to give up," or even "whoever she can't live without." Those would have implied I was
motivated by a kind of passion. But my best friend predicts I will choose the person who I think I "can't survive
without." There's not the least indication that love, or desire, or even compatibility will sway me. I'll just conduct an
unfeeling assessment of what my potential mates can offer me. As if in the end, it will be the question of whether
a baker or a hunter will extend my longevity the most. It's a horrible thing for Gale to say, for Peeta not to refute.
Especially when every emotion I have has been taken and exploited by the Capitol or the rebels. At the moment,
the choice would be simple. I can survive just fine without either of them.
In the morning, I have no time or energy to nurse wounded feelings. During a predawn breakfast of liver
pate and fig cookies, we gather around Tigris's television for one of Beetee's break-ins. There's been a new
development in the war. Apparently inspired by the black wave, some enterprising rebel commander came up
with the idea of confiscating people's abandoned automobiles and sending them unmanned down the streets.
The cars don't trigger every pod, but they certainly get the majority. At around four in the morning, the rebels
began carving three separate paths--simply referred to as the A, B, and C lines--to the Capitol's heart. As a
result, they've secured block after block with very few casualties.
"This can't last," says Gale. "In fact I'm surprised they've kept it going so long. The Capitol will adjust by
deactivating specific pods and then manually triggering them when their targets come in range." Almost within
minutes of his prediction, we see this very thing happen on-screen. A squad sends a car down a block, setting
off four pods. All seems well. Three scouts follow and make it safely to the end of the street. But when a group of
twenty rebel soldiers follow them, they're blown to bits by a row of potted rosebushes in front of a flower shop.
"I bet it's killing Plutarch not to be in the control room on this one," says Peeta.
Beetee gives the broadcast back to the Capitol, where a grim-faced reporter announces the blocks that
civilians are to evacuate. Between her update and the previous story, I am able to mark my paper map to show
the relative positions of the opposing armies.
I hear scuffling out on the street, move to the windows, and peek out a crack in the shutters. In the early
morning light, I see a bizarre spectacle. Refugees from the now occupied blocks are streaming toward the
Capitol's center. The most panicked are wearing nothing but nightgowns and slippers, while the more prepared
are heavily bundled in layers of clothes. They carry everything from lapdogs to jewelry boxes to potted plants.
One man in a fluffy robe holds only an overripe banana. Confused, sleepy children stumble along after their
parents, most either too stunned or too baffled to cry. Bits of them flash by my line of vision. A pair of wide brown
eyes. An arm clutching a favorite doll. A pair of bare feet, bluish in the cold, catching on the uneven paving stones
of the alley. Seeing them reminds me of the children of 12 who died fleeing the firebombs. I leave the window.
Tigris offers to be our spy for the day since she's the only one of us without a bounty on her head. After
securing us downstairs, she goes out into the Capitol to pick up any helpful information.
Down in the cellar I pace back and forth, driving the others crazy. Something tells me that not taking
advantage of the flood of refugees is a mistake. What better cover could we have? On the other hand, every
displaced person milling about on the streets means another pair of eyes looking for the five rebels on the loose.
Then again, what do we gain by staying here? All we're really doing is depleting our small cache of food and
waiting for...what? The rebels to take the Capitol? It could be weeks before that happens, and I'm not so sure
what I'd do if they did. Not run out and greet them. Coin would have me whisked back to 13 before I could say
"nightlock, nightlock, nightlock." I did not come all this way, and lose all those people, to turn myself over to that
woman. I kill Snow. Besides, there would be an awful lot of things I couldn't easily explain about the last few days.
Several of which, if they came to light, would probably blow my deal for the victors' immunity right out of the water.
And forget about me, I've got a feeling some of the others are going to need it. Like Peeta. Who, no matter how
you spin it, can be seen on tape tossing Mitchell into that net pod. I can imagine what Coin's war tribunal will do
By late afternoon, we're beginning to get uneasy about Tigris's long absence. Talk turns to the possibilities
that she has been apprehended and arrested, turned us in voluntarily, or simply been injured in the wave of
refugees. But around six o'clock we hear her return. There's some shuffling around upstairs, then she opens the
panel. The wonderful smell of frying meat fills the air. Tigris has prepared us a hash of chopped ham and
potatoes. It's the first hot food we've had in days, and as I wait for her to fill my plate, I'm in danger of actually
As I chew, I try to pay attention to Tigris telling us how she acquired it, but the main thing I absorb is that fur
underwear is a valuable trading item at the moment. Especially for people who left their homes underdressed.
Many are still out on the street, trying to find shelter for the night. Those who live in the choice apartments of the
inner city have not flung open their doors to house the displaced. On the contrary, most of them bolted their locks,
drew their shutters, and pretended to be out. Now the City Circle's packed with refugees, and the Peacekeepers
are going door to door, breaking into places if they have to, to assign houseguests.
On the television, we watch a terse Head Peacekeeper lay out specific rules regarding how many people
per square foot each resident will be expected to take in. He reminds the citizens of the Capitol that
temperatures will drop well below freezing tonight and warns them that their president expects them to be not
only willing but enthusiastic hosts in this time of crisis. Then they show some very staged-looking shots of
concerned citizens welcoming grateful refugees into their homes. The Head Peacekeeper says the president
himself has ordered part of his mansion readied to receive citizens tomorrow. He adds that shopkeepers should
also be prepared to lend their floor space if requested.
"Tigris, that could be you," says Peeta. I realize he's right. That even this narrow hallway of a shop could be
appropriated as the numbers swell. Then we'll be truly trapped in the cellar, in constant danger of discovery. How
many days do we have? One? Maybe two?
The Head Peacekeeper comes back with more instructions for the population. It seems that this evening
there was an unfortunate incident where a crowd beat to death a young man who resembled Peeta. Henceforth,
all rebel sightings are to be reported immediately to authorities, who will deal with the identification and arrest of
the suspect. They show a photo of the victim. Apart from some obviously bleached curls, he looks about as much
like Peeta as I do.
"People have gone wild," Cressida murmurs.
We watch a brief rebel update in which we learn that several more blocks have been taken today. I make
note of the intersections on my map and study it. "Line C is only four blocks from here," I announce. Somehow
that fills me with more anxiety than the idea of Peacekeepers looking for housing. I become very helpful. "Let me
wash the dishes."
"I'll give you a hand." Gale collects the plates.
I feel Peeta's eyes follow us out of the room. In the cramped kitchen at the back of Tigris's shop, I fill the
sink with hot water and suds. "Do you think it's true?" I ask. "That Snow will let refugees into the mansion?"
"I think he has to now, at least for the cameras," says Gale.
"I'm leaving in the morning," I say.
"I'm going with you," Gale says. "What should we do with the others?"
"Pollux and Cressida could be useful. They're good guides," I say. Pollux and Cressida aren't actually the
problem. "But Peeta's too..."
"Unpredictable," finishes Gale. "Do you think he'd still let us leave him behind?"
"We can make the argument that he'll endanger us," I say. "He might stay here, if we're convincing."
Peeta's fairly rational about our suggestion. He readily agrees that his company could put the other four of
us at risk. I'm thinking this may all work out, that he can just sit out the war in Tigris's cellar, when he announces
he's going out on his own.
"To do what?" asks Cressida.
"I'm not sure exactly. The one thing that I might still be useful at is causing a diversion. You saw what
happened to that man who looked like me," he says.
"What if you...lose control?" I say.
"You mean...go mutt? Well, if I feel that coming on, I'll try to get back here," he assures me.
"And if Snow gets you again?" asks Gale. "You don't even have a gun."
"I'll just have to take my chances," says Peeta. "Like the rest of you." The two exchange a long look, and
then Gale reaches into his breast pocket. He places his nightlock tablet in Peeta's hand. Peeta lets it lie on his
open palm, neither rejecting nor accepting it. "What about you?"
"Don't worry. Beetee showed me how to detonate my explosive arrows by hand. If that fails, I've got my
knife. And I'll have Katniss," says Gale with a smile. "She won't give them the satisfaction of taking me alive."
The thought of Peacekeepers dragging Gale away starts the tune playing in my head again....
Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
"Take it, Peeta," I say in a strained voice. I reach out and close his fingers over the pill. "No one will be
there to help you."
We spend a fitful night, woken by one another's nightmares, minds buzzing with the next day's plans. I'm
relieved when five o'clock rolls around and we can begin whatever this day holds for us. We eat a mishmash of
our remaining food--canned peaches, crackers, and snails--leaving one can of salmon for Tigris as meager
thanks for all she's done. The gesture seems to touch her in some way. Her face contorts in an odd expression
and she flies into action. She spends the next hour remaking the five of us. She redresses us so regular clothes
hide our uniforms before we even don our coats and cloaks. Covers our military boots with some sort of furry
slippers. Secures our wigs with pins. Cleans off the garish remains of the paint we so hastily applied to our faces
and makes us up again. Drapes our outerwear to conceal our weapons. Then gives us handbags and bundles of
knickknacks to carry. In the end, we look exactly like the refugees fleeing the rebels.
"Never underestimate the power of a brilliant stylist," says Peeta. It's hard to tell, but I think Tigris might
actually blush under her stripes.
There are no helpful updates on the television, but the alley seems as thick with refugees as the previous
morning. Our plan is to slip into the crowd in three groups. First Cressida and Pollux, who will act as guides while
keeping a safe lead on us. Then Gale and myself, who intend to position ourselves among the refugees
assigned to the mansion today. Then Peeta, who will trail behind us, ready to create a disturbance as needed.
Tigris watches through the shutters for the right moment, unbolts the door, and nods to Cressida and Pollux.
"Take care," Cressida says, and they are gone.
We'll be following in a minute. I get out the key, unlock Peeta's cuffs, and stuff them in my pocket. He rubs
his wrists. Flexes them. I feel a kind of desperation rising up in me. It's like I'm back in the Quarter Quell, with
Beetee giving Johanna and me that coil of wire.
"Listen," I say. "Don't do anything foolish."
"No. It's last-resort stuff. Completely," he says.
I wrap my arms around his neck, feel his arms hesitate before they embrace me. Not as steady as they
once were, but still warm and strong. A thousand moments surge through me. All the times these arms were my
only refuge from the world. Perhaps not fully appreciated then, but so sweet in my memory, and now gone
forever. "All right, then." I release him.
"It's time," says Tigris. I kiss her cheek, fasten my red hooded cloak, pull my scarf up over my nose, and
follow Gale out into the frigid air.
Sharp, icy snowflakes bite my exposed skin. The rising sun's trying to break through the gloom without
much success. There's enough light to see the bundled forms closest to you and little more. Perfect conditions,
really, except that I can't locate Cressida and Pollux. Gale and I drop our heads and shuffle along with the
refugees. I can hear what I missed peeking through the shutters yesterday. Crying, moaning, labored breathing.
And, not too far away, gunfire.
"Where are we going, Uncle?" a shivering little boy asks a man weighed down with a small safe.
"To the president's mansion. They'll assign us a new place to live," puffs the man.
We turn off the alley and spill out onto one of the main avenues. "Stay to the right!" a voice orders, and I see
the Peacekeepers interspersed throughout the crowd, directing the flow of human traffic. Scared faces peer out
of the plate-glass windows of the shops, which are already becoming overrun with refugees. At this rate, Tigris
may have new houseguests by lunch. It was good for everybody that we got out when we did.
It's brighter now, even with the snow picking up. I catch sight of Cressida and Pollux about thirty yards
ahead of us, plodding along with the crowd. I crane my head around to see if I can locate Peeta. I can't, but I've
caught the eye of an inquisitive-looking little girl in a lemon yellow coat. I nudge Gale and slow my pace ever so
slightly, to allow a wall of people to form between us.
"We might need to split up," I say under my breath. "There's a girl--"
Gunfire rips through the crowd, and several people near me slump to the ground. Screams pierce the air
as a second round mows down another group behind us. Gale and I drop to the street, scuttle the ten yards to the
shops, and take cover behind a display of spike-heeled boots outside a shoe seller's.
A row of feathery footwear blocks Gale's view. "Who is it? Can you see?" he asks me. What I can see,
between alternating pairs of lavender and mint green leather boots, is a street full of bodies. The little girl who
was watching me kneels beside a motionless woman, screeching and trying to rouse her. Another wave of
bullets slices across the chest of her yellow coat, staining it with red, knocking the girl onto her back. For a
moment, looking at her tiny crumpled form, I lose my ability to form words. Gale prods me with his elbow.
"They're shooting from the roof above us," I tell Gale. I watch a few more rounds, see the white uniforms
dropping into the snowy streets. "Trying to take out the Peacekeepers, but they're not exactly crack shots. It must
be the rebels." I don't feel a rush of joy, although theoretically my allies have broken through. I am transfixed by
that lemon yellow coat.
"If we start shooting, that's it," Gale says. "The whole world will know it's us."
It's true. We're armed only with our fabulous bows. To release an arrow would be like announcing to both
sides that we're here.
"No," I say forcefully. "We've got to get to Snow."
"Then we better start moving before the whole block goes up," says Gale. Hugging the wall, we continue
along the street. Only the wall is mostly shopwindows. A pattern of sweaty palms and gaping faces presses
against the glass. I yank my scarf up higher over my cheekbones as we dart between outdoor displays. Behind a
rack of framed photos of Snow, we encounter a wounded Peacekeeper propped against a strip of brick wall. He
asks us for help. Gale knees him in the side of the head and takes his gun. At the intersection, he shoots a
second Peacekeeper and we both have firearms.
"So who are we supposed to be now?" I ask.
"Desperate citizens of the Capitol," says Gale. "The Peacekeepers will think we're on their side, and
hopefully the rebels have more interesting targets."
I'm mulling over the wisdom of this latest role as we sprint across the intersection, but by the time we reach
the next block, it no longer matters who we are. Who anyone is. Because no one is looking at faces. The rebels
are here, all right. Pouring onto the avenue, taking cover in doorways, behind vehicles, guns blazing, hoarse
voices shouting commands as they prepare to meet an army of Peacekeepers marching toward us. Caught in
the cross fire are the refugees, unarmed, disoriented, many wounded.
A pod's activated ahead of us, releasing a gush of steam that parboils everyone in its path, leaving the
victims intestine-pink and very dead. After that, what little sense of order there was unravels. As the remaining
curlicues of steam intertwine with the snow, visibility extends just to the end of my barrel. Peacekeeper, rebel,
citizen, who knows? Everything that moves is a target. People shoot reflexively, and I'm no exception. Heart
pounding, adrenaline burning through me, everyone is my enemy. Except Gale. My hunting partner, the one
person who has my back. There's nothing to do but move forward, killing whoever comes into our path.
Screaming people, bleeding people, dead people everywhere. As we reach the next corner, the entire block
ahead of us lights up with a rich purple glow. We backpedal, hunker down in a stairwell, and squint into the light.
Something's happening to those illuminated by it. They're assaulted by...what? A sound? A wave? A laser?
Weapons fall from their hands, fingers clutch their faces, as blood sprays from all visible orifices--eyes, noses,
mouths, ears. In less than a minute, everyone's dead and the glow vanishes. I grit my teeth and run, leaping over
the bodies, feet slipping in the gore. The wind whips the snow into blinding swirls but doesn't block out the sound
of another wave of boots headed our way.
"Get down!" I hiss at Gale. We drop where we are. My face lands in a still-warm pool of someone's blood,
but I play dead, remain motionless as the boots march over us. Some avoid the bodies. Others grind into my
hand, my back, kick my head in passing. As the boots recede, I open my eyes and nod to Gale.
On the next block, we encounter more terrified refugees, but few soldiers. Just when it seems we might
have caught a break, there's a cracking sound, like an egg hitting the side of a bowl but magnified a thousand
times. We stop, look around for the pod. There's nothing. Then I feel the tips of my boots beginning to tilt ever so
slightly. "Run!" I cry to Gale. There's no time to explain, but in a few seconds the nature of the pod becomes clear
to everyone. A seam has opened up down the center of the block. The two sides of the tiled street are folding
down like flaps, slowly emptying the people into whatever lies beneath.
I'm torn between making a beeline for the next intersection and trying to get to the doors that line the street
and break my way into a building. As a result, I end up moving at a slight diagonal. As the flap continues to drop, I
find my feet scrambling, harder and harder, to find purchase on the slippery tiles. It's like running along the side of
an icy hill that gets steeper at every step. Both of my destinations--the intersection and the buildings--are a few
feet away when I feel the flap going. There's nothing to do but use my last seconds of connection to the tiles to
push off for the intersection. As my hands latch on to the side, I realize the flaps have swung straight down. My
feet dangle in the air, no foothold anywhere. From fifty feet below, a vile stench hits my nose, like rotted corpses
in the summer heat. Black forms crawl around in the shadows, silencing whoever survives the fall.
A strangled cry comes from my throat. No one is coming to help me. I'm losing my grip on the icy ledge,
when I see I'm only about six feet from the corner of the pod. I inch my hands along the ledge, trying to block out
the terrifying sounds from below. When my hands straddle the corner, I swing my right boot up over the side. It
catches on something and I painstakingly drag myself up to street level. Panting, trembling, I crawl out and wrap
my arm around a lamppost for an anchor, although the ground's perfectly flat.
"Gale?" I call into the abyss, heedless of being recognized. "Gale?"
"Over here!" I look in bewilderment to my left. The flap held up everything to the very base of the buildings.
A dozen or so people made it that far and now hang from whatever provides a handhold. Doorknobs, knockers,
mail slots. Three doors down from me, Gale clings to the decorative iron grating around an apartment door. He
could easily get inside if it was open. But despite repeated kicks to the door, no one comes to his aid.
"Cover yourself!" I lift my gun. He turns away and I drill the lock until the door flies inward. Gale swings into
the doorway, landing in a heap on the floor. For a moment, I experience the elation of his rescue. Then the whitegloved
hands clamp down on him.
Gale meets my eyes, mouths something at me I can't make out. I don't know what to do. I can't leave him,
but I can't reach him either. His lips move again. I shake my head to indicate my confusion. At any minute, they'll
realize who they've captured. The Peacekeepers are hauling him inside now. "Go!" I hear him yell.
I turn and run away from the pod. All alone now. Gale a prisoner. Cressida and Pollux could be dead ten
times over. And Peeta? I haven't laid eyes on him since we left Tigris's. I hold on to the idea that he may have
gone back. Felt an attack coming and retreated to the cellar while he still had control. Realized there was no
need for a diversion when the Capitol has provided so many. No need to be bait and have to take the nightlock--
the nightlock! Gale doesn't have any. And as for all that talk of detonating his arrows by hand, he'll never get the
chance. The first thing the Peacekeepers will do is to strip him of his weapons.
I fall into a doorway, tears stinging my eyes. Shoot me. That's what he was mouthing. I was supposed to
shoot him! That was my job. That was our unspoken promise, all of us, to one another. And I didn't do it and now
the Capitol will kill him or torture him or hijack him or--the cracks begin opening inside me, threatening to break
me into pieces. I have only one hope. That the Capitol falls, lays down its arms, and gives up its prisoners before
they hurt Gale. But I can't see that happening while Snow's alive.
A pair of Peacekeepers runs by, barely glancing at the whimpering Capitol girl huddled in a doorway. I
choke down my tears, wipe the existing ones off my face before they can freeze, and pull myself back together.
Okay, I'm still an anonymous refugee. Or did the Peacekeepers who caught Gale get a glimpse of me as I fled? I
remove my cloak and turn it inside out, letting the black lining show instead of the red exterior. Arrange the hood
so it conceals my face. Grasping my gun close to my chest, I survey the block. There's only a handful of dazedlooking
stragglers. I trail close behind a pair of old men who take no notice of me. No one will expect me to be
with old men. When we reach the end of the next intersection, they stop and I almost bump into them. It's the City
Circle. Across the wide expanse ringed by grand buildings sits the president's mansion.
The Circle's full of people milling around, wailing, or just sitting and letting the snow pile up around them. I fit
right in. I begin to weave my way across to the mansion, tripping over abandoned treasures and snow-frosted
limbs. About halfway there, I become aware of the concrete barricade. It's about four feet high and extends in a
large rectangle in front of the mansion. You would think it would be empty, but it's packed with refugees. Maybe
this is the group that's been chosen to be sheltered at the mansion? But as I draw closer, I notice something
else. Everyone inside the barricade is a child. Toddlers to teenagers. Scared and frostbitten. Huddled in groups
or rocking numbly on the ground. They aren't being led into the mansion. They're penned in, guarded on all sides
by Peacekeepers. I know immediately it's not for their protection. If the Capitol wanted to safeguard them, they'd
be down in a bunker somewhere. This is for Snow's protection. The children form his human shield.
There's a commotion and the crowd surges to the left. I'm caught up by larger bodies, borne sideways,
carried off course. I hear shouts of "The rebels! The rebels!" and know they must've broken through. The
momentum slams me into a flagpole and I cling to it. Using the rope that hangs from the top, I pull myself up out of
the crush of bodies. Yes, I can see the rebel army pouring into the Circle, driving the refugees back onto the
avenues. I scan the area for the pods that will surely be detonating. But that doesn't happen. This is what
A hovercraft marked with the Capitol's seal materializes directly over the barricaded children. Scores of
silver parachutes rain down on them. Even in this chaos, the children know what silver parachutes contain. Food.
Medicine. Gifts. They eagerly scoop them up, frozen fingers struggling with the strings. The hovercraft vanishes,
five seconds pass, and then about twenty parachutes simultaneously explode.
A wail rises from the crowd. The snow's red and littered with undersized body parts. Many of the children
die immediately, but others lie in agony on the ground. Some stagger around mutely, staring at the remaining
silver parachutes in their hands, as if they still might have something precious inside. I can tell the Peacekeepers
didn't know this was coming by the way they are yanking away the barricades, making a path to the children.
Another flock of white uniforms sweeps into the opening. But these aren't Peacekeepers. They're medics. Rebel
medics. I'd know the uniforms anywhere. They swarm in among the children, wielding medical kits.
First I get a glimpse of the blond braid down her back. Then, as she yanks off her coat to cover a wailing
child, I notice the duck tail formed by her untucked shirt. I have the same reaction I did the day Effie Trinket called
her name at the reaping. At least, I must go limp, because I find myself at the base of the flagpole, unable to
account for the last few seconds. Then I am pushing through the crowd, just as I did before. Trying to shout her
name above the roar. I'm almost there, almost to the barricade, when I think she hears me. Because for just a
moment, she catches sight of me, her lips form my name.
And that's when the rest of the parachutes go off.
Real or not real? I am on fire. The balls of flame that erupted from the parachutes shot over the barricades,
through the snowy air, and landed in the crowd. I was just turning away when one caught me, ran its tongue up the
back of my body, and transformed me into something new. A creature as unquenchable as the sun.
A fire mutt knows only a single sensation: agony. No sight, no sound, no feeling except the unrelenting
burning of flesh. Perhaps there are periods of unconsciousness, but what can it matter if I can't find refuge in
them? I am Cinna's bird, ignited, flying frantically to escape something inescapable. The feathers of flame that
grow from my body. Beating my wings only fans the blaze. I consume myself, but to no end.
Finally, my wings begin to falter, I lose height, and gravity pulls me into a foamy sea the color of Finnick's
eyes. I float on my back, which continues to burn beneath the water, but the agony quiets to pain. When I am
adrift and unable to navigate, that's when they come. The dead.
The ones I loved fly as birds in the open sky above me. Soaring, weaving, calling to me to join them. I want
so badly to follow them, but the seawater saturates my wings, making it impossible to lift them. The ones I hated
have taken to the water, horrible scaled things that tear my salty flesh with needle teeth. Biting again and again.
Dragging me beneath the surface.
The small white bird tinged in pink dives down, buries her claws in my chest, and tries to keep me afloat.
"No, Katniss! No! You can't go!"
But the ones I hated are winning, and if she clings to me, she'll be lost as well. "Prim, let go!" And finally she
Deep in the water, I'm deserted by all. There's only the sound of my breathing, the enormous effort it takes
to draw the water in, push it out of my lungs. I want to stop, I try to hold my breath, but the sea forces its way in
and out against my will. "Let me die. Let me follow the others," I beg whatever holds me here. There's no
Trapped for days, years, centuries maybe. Dead, but not allowed to die. Alive, but as good as dead. So
alone that anyone, anything no matter how loathsome would be welcome. But when I finally have a visitor, it's
sweet. Morphling. Coursing through my veins, easing the pain, lightening my body so that it rises back toward
the air and rests again on the foam.
Foam. I really am floating on foam. I can feel it beneath the tips of my fingers, cradling parts of my naked
body. There's much pain but there's also something like reality. The sandpaper of my throat. The smell of burn
medicine from the first arena. The sound of my mother's voice. These things frighten me, and I try to return to the
deep to make sense of them. But there's no going back. Gradually, I'm forced to accept who I am. A badly
burned girl with no wings. With no fire. And no sister.
In the dazzling white Capitol hospital, the doctors work their magic on me. Draping my rawness in new
sheets of skin. Coaxing the cells into thinking they are my own. Manipulating my body parts, bending and
stretching the limbs to assure a good fit. I hear over and over again how lucky I am. My eyes were spared. Most
of my face was spared. My lungs are responding to treatment. I will be as good as new.
When my tender skin has toughened enough to withstand the pressure of sheets, more visitors arrive. The
morphling opens the door to the dead and alive alike. Haymitch, yellow and unsmiling. Cinna, stitching a new
wedding dress. Delly, prattling on about the niceness of people. My father sings all four stanzas of "The Hanging
Tree" and reminds me that my mother--who sleeps in a chair between shifts--isn't to know about it.
One day I awake to expectations and know I will not be allowed to live in my dreamland. I must take food by
mouth. Move my own muscles. Make my way to the bathroom. A brief appearance by President Coin clinches it.
"Don't worry," she says. "I've saved him for you."
The doctors' puzzlement grows over why I'm unable to speak. Many tests are done, and while there's
damage to my vocal cords, it doesn't account for it. Finally, Dr. Aurelius, a head doctor, comes up with the theory
that I've become a mental, rather than physical, Avox. That my silence has been brought on by emotional trauma.
Although he's presented with a hundred proposed remedies, he tells them to leave me alone. So I don't ask
about anyone or anything, but people bring me a steady stream of information. On the war: The Capitol fell the
day the parachutes went off, President Coin leads Panem now, and troops have been sent out to put down the
small remaining pockets of Capitol resistance. On President Snow: He's being held prisoner, awaiting trial and
most certain execution. On my assassination team: Cressida and Pollux have been sent out into the districts to
cover the wreckage of the war. Gale, who took two bullets in an escape attempt, is mopping up Peacekeepers in
2. Peeta's still in the burn unit. He made it to the City Circle after all. On my family: My mother buries her grief in
Having no work, grief buries me. All that keeps me going is Coin's promise. That I can kill Snow. And when
that's done, nothing will be left.
Eventually, I'm released from the hospital and given a room in the president's mansion to share with my
mother. She's almost never there, taking her meals and sleeping at work. It falls to Haymitch to check on me,
make sure I'm eating and using my medicines. It's not an easy job. I take to my old habits from District 13.
Wandering unauthorized through the mansion. Into bedrooms and offices, ballrooms and baths. Seeking strange
little hiding spaces. A closet of furs. A cabinet in the library. A long-forgotten bathtub in a room of discarded
furniture. My places are dim and quiet and impossible to find. I curl up, make myself smaller, try to disappear
entirely. Wrapped in silence, I slide my bracelet that reads mentally disoriented around and around my wrist.
My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. There is no District
12. I am the Mockingjay. I brought down the Capitol. President Snow hates me. He killed my sister. Now I will
kill him. And then the Hunger Games will be over....
Periodically, I find myself back in my room, unsure whether I was driven by a need for morphling or if
Haymitch ferreted me out. I eat the food, take the medicine, and am required to bathe. It's not the water I mind,
but the mirror that reflects my naked fire-mutt body. The skin grafts still retain a newborn-baby pinkness. The skin
deemed damaged but salvageable looks red, hot, and melted in places. Patches of my former self gleam white
and pale. I'm like a bizarre patchwork quilt of skin. Parts of my hair were singed off completely; the rest has been
chopped off at odd lengths. Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire. I wouldn't much care except the sight of
my body brings back the memory of the pain. And why I was in pain. And what happened just before the pain
started. And how I watched my little sister become a human torch.
Closing my eyes doesn't help. Fire burns brighter in the darkness.
Dr. Aurelius shows up sometimes. I like him because he doesn't say stupid things like how I'm totally safe,
or that he knows I can't see it but I'll be happy again one day, or even that things will be better in Panem now. He
just asks if I feel like talking, and when I don't answer, he falls asleep in his chair. In fact, I think his visits are
largely motivated by his need for a nap. The arrangement works for both of us.
The time draws near, although I could not give you exact hours and minutes. President Snow has been tried
and found guilty, sentenced to execution. Haymitch tells me, I hear talk of it as I drift past the guards in the
hallways. My Mockingjay suit arrives in my room. Also my bow, looking no worse for wear, but no sheath of
arrows. Either because they were damaged or more likely because I shouldn't have weapons. I vaguely wonder if
I should be preparing for the event in some way, but nothing comes to mind.
Late one afternoon, after a long period in a cushioned window seat behind a painted screen, I emerge and
turn left instead of right. I find myself in a strange part of the mansion, and immediately lose my bearings. Unlike
the area where I'm quartered, there seems to be no one around to ask. I like it, though. Wish I'd found it sooner.
It's so quiet, with the thick carpets and heavy tapestries soaking up the sound. Softly lit. Muted colors. Peaceful.
Until I smell the roses. I dive behind some curtains, shaking too hard to run, while I await the mutts. Finally, I
realize there are no mutts coming. So, what do I smell? Real roses? Could it be that I am near the garden where
the evil things grow?
As I creep down the hall, the odor becomes overpowering. Perhaps not as strong as the actual mutts, but
purer, because it's not competing with sewage and explosives. I turn a corner and find myself staring at two
surprised guards. Not Peacekeepers, of course. There are no more Peacekeepers. But not the trim, grayuniformed
soldiers from 13 either. These two, a man and a woman, wear the tattered, thrown-together clothes of
actual rebels. Still bandaged and gaunt, they are now keeping watch over the doorway to the roses. When I
move to enter, their guns form an X in front of me.
"You can't go in, miss," says the man.
"Soldier," the woman corrects him. "You can't go in, Soldier Everdeen. President's orders."
I just stand there patiently waiting for them to lower their guns, for them to understand, without my telling
them, that behind those doors is something I need. Just a rose. A single bloom. To place in Snow's lapel before I
shoot him. My presence seems to worry the guards. They're discussing calling Haymitch, when a woman speaks
up behind me. "Let her go in."
I know the voice but can't immediately place it. Not Seam, not 13, definitely not Capitol. I turn my head and
find myself face-to-face with Paylor, the commander from 8. She looks even more beat up than she did at the
hospital, but who doesn't?
"On my authority," says Paylor. "She has a right to anything behind that door." These are her soldiers, not
Coin's. They drop their weapons without question and let me pass.
At the end of a short hallway, I push apart the glass doors and step inside. By now the smell's so strong that
it begins to flatten out, as if there's no more my nose can absorb. The damp, mild air feels good on my hot skin.
And the roses are glorious. Row after row of sumptuous blooms, in lush pink, sunset orange, and even pale blue.
I wander through the aisles of carefully pruned plants, looking but not touching, because I have learned the hard
way how deadly these beauties can be. I know when I find it, crowning the top of a slender bush. A magnificent
white bud just beginning to open. I pull my left sleeve over my hand so that my skin won't actually have to touch it,
take up a pair of pruning shears, and have just positioned them on the stem when he speaks.
"That's a nice one."
My hand jerks, the shears snap shut, severing the stem.
"The colors are lovely, of course, but nothing says perfection like white."
I still can't see him, but his voice seems to rise up from an adjacent bed of red roses. Delicately pinching
the stem of the bud through the fabric of my sleeve, I move slowly around the corner and find him sitting on a
stool against the wall. He's as well groomed and finely dressed as ever, but weighted down with manacles, ankle
shackles, tracking devices. In the bright light, his skin's a pale, sickly green. He holds a white handkerchief
spotted with fresh blood. Even in his deteriorated state, his snake eyes shine bright and cold. "I was hoping
you'd find your way to my quarters."
His quarters. I have trespassed into his home, the way he slithered into mine last year, hissing threats with
his bloody, rosy breath. This greenhouse is one of his rooms, perhaps his favorite; perhaps in better times he
tended the plants himself. But now it's part of his prison. That's why the guards halted me. And that's why Paylor
let me in.
I'd supposed he would be secured in the deepest dungeon that the Capitol had to offer, not cradled in the
lap of luxury. Yet Coin left him here. To set a precedent, I guess. So that if in the future she ever fell from grace, it
would be understood that presidents--even the most despicable--get special treatment. Who knows, after all,
when her own power might fade?
"There are so many things we should discuss, but I have a feeling your visit will be brief. So, first things
first." He begins to cough, and when he removes the handkerchief from his mouth, it's redder. "I wanted to tell you
how very sorry I am about your sister."
Even in my deadened, drugged condition, this sends a stab of pain through me. Reminding me that there
are no limits to his cruelty. And how he will go to his grave trying to destroy me.
"So wasteful, so unnecessary. Anyone could see the game was over by that point. In fact, I was just about to
issue an official surrender when they released those parachutes." His eyes are glued on me, unblinking, so as
not to miss a second of my reaction. But what he's said makes no sense. When they released the parachutes?
"Well, you really didn't think I gave the order, did you? Forget the obvious fact that if I'd had a working hovercraft
at my disposal, I'd have been using it to make an escape. But that aside, what purpose could it have served?
We both know I'm not above killing children, but I'm not wasteful. I take life for very specific reasons. And there
was no reason for me to destroy a pen full of Capitol children. None at all."
I wonder if the next fit of coughing is staged so that I can have time to absorb his words. He's lying. Of
course, he's lying. But there's something struggling to free itself from the lie as well.
"However, I must concede it was a masterful move on Coin's part. The idea that I was bombing our own
helpless children instantly snapped whatever frail allegiance my people still felt to me. There was no real
resistance after that. Did you know it aired live? You can see Plutarch's hand there. And in the parachutes. Well,
it's that sort of thinking that you look for in a Head Gamemaker, isn't it?" Snow dabs the corners of his mouth. "I'm
sure he wasn't gunning for your sister, but these things happen."
I'm not with Snow now. I'm in Special Weaponry back in 13 with Gale and Beetee. Looking at the designs
based on Gale's traps. That played on human sympathies. The first bomb killed the victims. The second, the
rescuers. Remembering Gale's words.
"Beetee and I have been following the same rule book President Snow used when he hijacked Peeta."
"My failure," says Snow, "was being so slow to grasp Coin's plan. To let the Capitol and districts destroy
one another, and then step in to take power with Thirteen barely scratched. Make no mistake, she was intending
to take my place right from the beginning. I shouldn't be surprised. After all, it was Thirteen that started the
rebellion that led to the Dark Days, and then abandoned the rest of the districts when the tide turned against it.
But I wasn't watching Coin. I was watching you, Mockingjay. And you were watching me. I'm afraid we have both
been played for fools."
I refuse for this to be true. Some things even I can't survive. I utter my first words since my sister's death. "I
don't believe you."
Snow shakes his head in mock disappointment. "Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not
to lie to each other."
Out in the hall, I find Paylor standing in exactly the same spot. "Did you find what you were looking for?" she
I hold up the white bud in answer and then stumble past her. I must have made it back to my room, because
the next thing I know, I'm filling a glass with water from the bathroom faucet and sticking the rose in it. I sink to my
knees on the cold tile and squint at the flower, as the whiteness seems hard to focus on in the stark fluorescent
light. My finger catches the inside of my bracelet, twisting it like a tourniquet, hurting my wrist. I'm hoping the pain
will help me hang on to reality the way it did for Peeta. I must hang on. I must know the truth about what has
There are two possibilities, although the details associated with them may vary. First, as I've believed, that
the Capitol sent in that hovercraft, dropped the parachutes, and sacrificed its children's lives, knowing the
recently arrived rebels would go to their aid. There's evidence to support this. The Capitol's seal on the
hovercraft, the lack of any attempt to blow the enemy out of the sky, and their long history of using children as
pawns in their battle against the districts. Then there's Snow's account. That a Capitol hovercraft manned by
rebels bombed the children to bring a speedy end to the war. But if this was the case, why didn't the Capitol fire
on the enemy? Did the element of surprise throw them? Had they no defenses left? Children are precious to 13,
or so it has always seemed. Well, not me, maybe. Once I had outlived my usefulness, I was expendable.
Although I think it's been a long time since I've been considered a child in this war. And why would they do it
knowing their own medics would likely respond and be taken out by the second blast? They wouldn't. They
couldn't. Snow's lying. Manipulating me as he always has. Hoping to turn me against the rebels and possibly
destroy them. Yes. Of course.
Then what's nagging at me? Those double-exploding bombs, for one. It's not that the Capitol couldn't have
the same weapon, it's just that I'm sure the rebels did. Gale and Beetee's brainchild. Then there's the fact that
Snow made no escape attempt, when I know him to be the consummate survivor. It seems hard to believe he
didn't have a retreat somewhere, some bunker stocked with provisions where he could live out the rest of his
snaky little life. And finally, there's his assessment of Coin. What's irrefutable is that she's done exactly what he
said. Let the Capitol and the districts run one another into the ground and then sauntered in to take power. Even
if that was her plan, it doesn't mean she dropped those parachutes. Victory was already in her grasp. Everything
was in her grasp.
I recall Boggs's response when I admitted I hadn't put much thought into Snow's successor. "If your
immediate answer isn't Coin, then you're a threat. You're the face of the rebellion. You may have more
influence than any other single person. Outwardly, the most you've ever done is tolerated her."
Suddenly, I'm thinking of Prim, who was not yet fourteen, not yet old enough to be granted the title of soldier,
but somehow working on the front lines. How did such a thing happen? That my sister would have wanted to be
there, I have no doubt. That she would be more capable than many older than she is a given. But for all that,
someone very high up would have had to approve putting a thirteen-year-old in combat. Did Coin do it, hoping
that losing Prim would push me completely over the edge? Or, at least, firmly on her side? I wouldn't even have
had to witness it in person. Numerous cameras would be covering the City Circle. Capturing the moment forever.
No, now I am going crazy, slipping into some state of paranoia. Too many people would know of the
mission. Word would get out. Or would it? Who would have to know besides Coin, Plutarch, and a small, loyal or
easily disposable crew?
I badly need help working this out, only everyone I trust is dead. Cinna. Boggs. Finnick. Prim. There's
Peeta, but he couldn't do any more than speculate, and who knows what state his mind's in, anyway. And that
leaves only Gale. He's far away, but even if he were beside me, could I confide in him? What could I say, how
could I phrase it, without implying that it was his bomb that killed Prim? The impossibility of that idea, more than
any, is why Snow must be lying.
Ultimately, there's only one person to turn to who might know what happened and might still be on my side.
To broach the subject at all will be a risk. But while I think Haymitch might gamble with my life in the arena, I don't
think he'd rat me out to Coin. Whatever problems we may have with each other, we prefer resolving our
I scramble off the tiles, out the door, and across the hall to his room. When there's no response to my
knock, I push inside. Ugh. It's amazing how quickly he can defile a space. Half-eaten plates of food, shattered
liquor bottles, and pieces of broken furniture from a drunken rampage scatter his quarters. He lies, unkempt and
unwashed, in a tangle of sheets on the bed, passed out.
"Haymitch," I say, shaking his leg. Of course, that's insufficient. But I give it a few more tries before I dump
the pitcher of water in his face. He comes to with a gasp, slashing blindly with his knife. Apparently, the end of
Snow's reign didn't equal the end of his terror.
"Oh. You," he says. I can tell by his voice that he's still loaded.
"Haymitch," I begin.
"Listen to that. The Mockingjay found her voice." He laughs. "Well, Plutarch's going to be happy." He takes
a swig from a bottle. "Why am I soaking wet?" I lamely drop the pitcher behind me into a pile of dirty clothes.
"I need your help," I say.
Haymitch belches, filling the air with white liquor fumes. "What is it, sweetheart? More boy trouble?" I don't
know why, but this hurts me in a way Haymitch rarely can. It must show on my face, because even in his drunken
state, he tries to take it back. "Okay, not funny." I'm already at the door. "Not funny! Come back!" By the thud of
his body hitting the floor, I assume he tried to follow me, but there's no point.
I zigzag through the mansion and disappear into a wardrobe full of silken things. I yank them from hangers
until I have a pile and then burrow into it. In the lining of my pocket, I find a stray morphling tablet and swallow it
dry, heading off my rising hysteria. It's not enough to right things, though. I hear Haymitch calling me in the
distance, but he won't find me in his condition. Especially not in this new spot. Swathed in silk, I feel like a
caterpillar in a cocoon awaiting metamorphosis. I always supposed that to be a peaceful condition. At first it is.
But as I journey into night, I feel more and more trapped, suffocated by the slippery bindings, unable to emerge
until I have transformed into something of beauty. I squirm, trying to shed my ruined body and unlock the secret to
growing flawless wings. Despite enormous effort, I remain a hideous creature, fired into my current form by the
blast from the bombs.
The encounter with Snow opens the door to my old repertoire of nightmares. It's like being stung by tracker
jackers again. A wave of horrifying images with a brief respite I confuse with waking--only to find another wave
knocking me back. When the guards finally locate me, I'm sitting on the floor of the wardrobe, tangled in silk,
screaming my head off. I fight them at first, until they convince me they're trying to help, peel away the choking
garments, and escort me back to my room. On the way, we pass a window and I see a gray, snowy dawn
spreading across the Capitol.
A very hungover Haymitch waits with a handful of pills and a tray of food that neither of us has the stomach
for. He makes a feeble attempt to get me to talk again but, seeing it's pointless, sends me to a bath someone
has drawn. The tub's deep, with three steps to the bottom. I ease down into the warm water and sit, up to my
neck in suds, hoping the medicines kick in soon. My eyes focus on the rose that has spread its petals overnight,
filling the steamy air with its strong perfume. I rise and reach for a towel to smother it, when there's a tentative
knock and the bathroom door opens, revealing three familiar faces. They try to smile at me, but even Venia can't
conceal her shock at my ravaged mutt body. "Surprise!" Octavia squeaks, and then bursts into tears. I'm puzzling
over their reappearance when I realize that this must be it, the day of the execution. They've come to prep me for
the cameras. Remake me to Beauty Base Zero. No wonder Octavia's crying. It's an impossible task.
They can barely touch my patchwork of skin for fear of hurting me, so I rinse and dry off myself. I tell them I
hardly notice the pain anymore, but Flavius still winces as he drapes a robe around me. In the bedroom, I find
another surprise. Sitting upright in a chair. Polished from her metallic gold wig to her patent leather high heels,
gripping a clipboard. Remarkably unchanged except for the vacant look in her eyes.
"Effie," I say.
"Hello, Katniss." She stands and kisses me on the cheek as if nothing has occurred since our last meeting,
the night before the Quarter Quell. "Well, it looks like we've got another big, big, big day ahead of us. So why
don't you start your prep and I'll just pop over and check on the arrangements."
"Okay," I say to her back.
"They say Plutarch and Haymitch had a hard time keeping her alive," comments Venia under her breath.
"She was imprisoned after your escape, so that helps."
It's quite a stretch. Effie Trinket, rebel. But I don't want Coin killing her, so I make a mental note to present
her that way if asked. "I guess it's good Plutarch kidnapped you three after all."
"We're the only prep team still alive. And all the stylists from the Quarter Quell are dead," says Venia. She
doesn't say who specifically killed them. I'm beginning to wonder if it matters. She gingerly takes one of my
scarred hands and holds it out for inspection. "Now, what do you think for the nails? Red or maybe a jet black?"
Flavius performs some beauty miracle on my hair, managing to even out the front while getting some of the
longer locks to hide the bald spots in the back. My face, since it was spared from the flames, presents no more
than the usual challenges. Once I'm in Cinna's Mockingjay suit, the only scars visible are on my neck, forearms,
and hands. Octavia secures my Mockingjay pin over my heart and we step back to look in the mirror. I can't
believe how normal they've made me look on the outside when inwardly I'm such a wasteland.
There's a tap at the door and Gale steps in. "Can I have a minute?" he asks. In the mirror, I watch my prep
team. Unsure of where to go, they bump into one another a few times and then closet themselves in the
bathroom. Gale comes up behind me and we examine each other's reflection. I'm searching for something to
hang on to, some sign of the girl and boy who met by chance in the woods five years ago and became
inseparable. I'm wondering what would have happened to them if the Hunger Games had not reaped the girl. If
she would have fallen in love with the boy, married him even. And sometime in the future, when the brothers and
sisters had been raised up, escaped with him into the woods and left 12 behind forever. Would they have been
happy, out in the wild, or would the dark, twisted sadness between them have grown up even without the
"I brought you this." Gale holds up a sheath. When I take it, I notice it holds a single, ordinary arrow. "It's
supposed to be symbolic. You firing the last shot of the war."
"What if I miss?" I say. "Does Coin retrieve it and bring it back to me? Or just shoot Snow through the head
"You won't miss." Gale adjusts the sheath on my shoulder.
We stand there, face-to-face, not meeting each other's eyes. "You didn't come see me in the hospital." He
doesn't answer, so finally I just say it. "Was it your bomb?"
"I don't know. Neither does Beetee," he says. "Does it matter? You'll always be thinking about it."
He waits for me to deny it; I want to deny it, but it's true. Even now I can see the flash that ignites her, feel
the heat of the flames. And I will never be able to separate that moment from Gale. My silence is my answer.
"That was the one thing I had going for me. Taking care of your family," he says. "Shoot straight, okay?" He
touches my cheek and leaves. I want to call him back and tell him that I was wrong. That I'll figure out a way to
make peace with this. To remember the circumstances under which he created the bomb. Take into account my
own inexcusable crimes. Dig up the truth about who dropped the parachutes. Prove it wasn't the rebels. Forgive
him. But since I can't, I'll just have to deal with the pain.
Effie comes in to usher me to some kind of meeting. I collect my bow and at the last minute remember the
rose, glistening in its glass of water. When I open the door to the bathroom, I find my prep team sitting in a row on
the edge of the tub, hunched and defeated. I remember I'm not the only one whose world has been stripped
away. "Come on," I tell them. "We've got an audience waiting."
I'm expecting a production meeting in which Plutarch instructs me where to stand and gives me my cue for
shooting Snow. Instead, I find myself sent into a room where six people sit around a table. Peeta, Johanna,
Beetee, Haymitch, Annie, and Enobaria. They all wear the gray rebel uniforms from 13. No one looks particularly
well. "What's this?" I say.
"We're not sure," Haymitch answers. "It appears to be a gathering of the remaining victors."
"We're all that's left?" I ask.
"The price of celebrity," says Beetee. "We were targeted from both sides. The Capitol killed the victors
they suspected of being rebels. The rebels killed those thought to be allied with the Capitol."
Johanna scowls at Enobaria. "So what's she doing here?"
"She is protected under what we call the Mockingjay Deal," says Coin as she enters behind me. "Wherein
Katniss Everdeen agreed to support the rebels in exchange for captured victors' immunity. Katniss has upheld
her side of the bargain, and so shall we."
Enobaria smiles at Johanna. "Don't look so smug," says Johanna. "We'll kill you anyway."
"Sit down, please, Katniss," says Coin, closing the door. I take a seat between Annie and Beetee, carefully
placing Snow's rose on the table. As usual, Coin gets right to the point. "I've asked you here to settle a debate.
Today we will execute Snow. In the previous weeks, hundreds of his accomplices in the oppression of Panem
have been tried and now await their own deaths. However, the suffering in the districts has been so extreme that
these measures appear insufficient to the victims. In fact, many are calling for a complete annihilation of those
who held Capitol citizenship. However, in the interest of maintaining a sustainable population, we cannot afford
Through the water in the glass, I see a distorted image of one of Peeta's hands. The burn marks. We are
both fire mutts now. My eyes travel up to where the flames licked across his forehead, singeing away his brows
but just missing his eyes. Those same blue eyes that used to meet mine and then flit away at school. Just as they
"So, an alternative has been placed on the table. Since my colleagues and I can come to no consensus, it
has been agreed that we will let the victors decide. A majority of four will approve the plan. No one may abstain
from the vote," says Coin. "What has been proposed is that in lieu of eliminating the entire Capitol population,
we have a final, symbolic Hunger Games, using the children directly related to those who held the most power."
All seven of us turn to her. "What?" says Johanna.
"We hold another Hunger Games using Capitol children," says Coin.
"Are you joking?" asks Peeta.
"No. I should also tell you that if we do hold the Games, it will be known it was done with your approval,
although the individual breakdown of your votes will be kept secret for your own security," Coin tells us.
"Was this Plutarch's idea?" asks Haymitch.
"It was mine," says Coin. "It seemed to balance the need for vengeance with the least loss of life. You may
cast your votes."
"No!" bursts out Peeta. "I vote no, of course! We can't have another Hunger Games!"
"Why not?" Johanna retorts. "It seems very fair to me. Snow even has a granddaughter. I vote yes."
"So do I," says Enobaria, almost indifferently. "Let them have a taste of their own medicine."
"This is why we rebelled! Remember?" Peeta looks at the rest of us. "Annie?"
"I vote no with Peeta," she says. "So would Finnick if he were here."
"But he isn't, because Snow's mutts killed him," Johanna reminds her.
"No," says Beetee. "It would set a bad precedent. We have to stop viewing one another as enemies. At this
point, unity is essential for our survival. No."
"We're down to Katniss and Haymitch," says Coin.
Was it like this then? Seventy-five years or so ago? Did a group of people sit around and cast their votes
on initiating the Hunger Games? Was there dissent? Did someone make a case for mercy that was beaten
down by the calls for the deaths of the districts' children? The scent of Snow's rose curls up into my nose, down
into my throat, squeezing it tight with despair. All those people I loved, dead, and we are discussing the next
Hunger Games in an attempt to avoid wasting life. Nothing has changed. Nothing will ever change now.
I weigh my options carefully, think everything through. Keeping my eyes on the rose, I say, "I vote yes...for
"Haymitch, it's up to you," says Coin.
A furious Peeta hammers Haymitch with the atrocity he could become party to, but I can feel Haymitch
watching me. This is the moment, then. When we find out exactly just how alike we are, and how much he truly
"I'm with the Mockingjay," he says.
"Excellent. That carries the vote," says Coin. "Now we really must take our places for the execution."
As she passes me, I hold up the glass with the rose. "Can you see that Snow's wearing this? Just over his
Coin smiles. "Of course. And I'll make sure he knows about the Games."
"Thank you," I say.
People sweep into the room, surround me. The last touch of powder, the instructions from Plutarch as I'm
guided to the front doors of the mansion. The City Circle runs over, spills people down the side streets. The
others take their places outside. Guards. Officials. Rebel leaders. Victors. I hear the cheers that indicate Coin
has appeared on the balcony. Then Effie taps my shoulder, and I step out into the cold winter sunlight. Walk to my
position, accompanied by the deafening roar of the crowd. As directed, I turn so they see me in profile, and wait.
When they march Snow out the door, the audience goes insane. They secure his hands behind a post, which is
unnecessary. He's not going anywhere. There's nowhere to go. This is not the roomy stage before the Training
Center but the narrow terrace in front of the president's mansion. No wonder no one bothered to have me
practice. He's ten yards away.
I feel the bow purring in my hand. Reach back and grasp the arrow. Position it, aim at the rose, but watch
his face. He coughs and a bloody dribble runs down his chin. His tongue flicks over his puffy lips. I search his
eyes for the slightest sign of anything, fear, remorse, anger. But there's only the same look of amusement that
ended our last conversation. It's as if he's speaking the words again. "Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we
had agreed not to lie to each other."
He's right. We did.
The point of my arrow shifts upward. I release the string. And President Coin collapses over the side of the
balcony and plunges to the ground. Dead.
In the stunned reaction that follows, I'm aware of one sound. Snow's laughter. An awful gurgling cackle
accompanied by an eruption of foamy blood when the coughing begins. I see him bend forward, spewing out his
life, until the guards block him from my sight.
As the gray uniforms begin to converge on me, I think of what my brief future as the assassin of Panem's
new president holds. The interrogation, probable torture, certain public execution. Having, yet again, to say my
final goodbyes to the handful of people who still maintain a hold on my heart. The prospect of facing my mother,
who will now be entirely alone in the world, decides it.
"Good night," I whisper to the bow in my hand and feel it go still. I raise my left arm and twist my neck down
to rip off the pill on my sleeve. Instead my teeth sink into flesh. I yank my head back in confusion to find myself
looking into Peeta's eyes, only now they hold my gaze. Blood runs from the teeth marks on the hand he clamped
over my nightlock. "Let me go!" I snarl at him, trying to wrest my arm from his grasp.
"I can't," he says. As they pull me away from him, I feel the pocket ripped from my sleeve, see the deep
violet pill fall to the ground, watch Cinna's last gift get crunched under a guard's boot. I transform into a wild
animal, kicking, clawing, biting, doing whatever I can to free myself from this web of hands as the crowd pushes
in. The guards lift me up above the fray, where I continue to thrash as I'm conveyed over the crush of people. I
start screaming for Gale. I can't find him in the throng, but he will know what I want. A good clean shot to end it all.
Only there's no arrow, no bullet. Is it possible he can't see me? No. Above us, on the giant screens placed around
the City Circle, everyone can watch the whole thing being played out. He sees, he knows, but he doesn't follow
through. Just as I didn't when he was captured. Sorry excuses for hunters and friends. Both of us.
I'm on my own.
In the mansion, they handcuff and blindfold me. I'm half dragged, half carried down long passages, up and
down elevators, and deposited on a carpeted floor. The cuffs are removed and a door slams closed behind me.
When I push the blindfold up, I find I'm in my old room at the Training Center. The one where I lived during those
last precious days before my first Hunger Games and the Quarter Quell. The bed's stripped to the mattress, the
closet gapes open, showing the emptiness inside, but I'd know this room anywhere.
It's a struggle to get to my feet and peel off my Mockingjay suit. I'm badly bruised and might have a broken
finger or two, but it's my skin that's paid most dearly for my struggle with the guards. The new pink stuff has
shredded like tissue paper and blood seeps through the laboratory-grown cells. No medics show up, though,
and as I'm too far gone to care, I crawl up onto the mattress, expecting to bleed to death.
No such luck. By evening, the blood clots, leaving me stiff and sore and sticky but alive. I limp into the
shower and program in the gentlest cycle I can remember, free of any soaps and hair products, and squat under
the warm spray, elbows on my knees, head in my hands.
My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead. It would be best for everyone if I
When I step out on the mat, the hot air bakes my damaged skin dry. There's nothing clean to put on. Not
even a towel to wrap around me. Back in the room, I find the Mockingjay suit has disappeared. In its place is a
paper robe. A meal has been sent up from the mysterious kitchen with a container of my medications for
dessert. I go ahead and eat the food, take the pills, rub the salve on my skin. I need to focus now on the manner
of my suicide.
I curl back up on the bloodstained mattress, not cold but feeling so naked with just the paper to cover my
tender flesh. Jumping to my death's not an option--the window glass must be a foot thick. I can make an excellent
noose, but there's nothing to hang myself from. It's possible I could hoard my pills and then knock myself off with
a lethal dose, except that I'm sure I'm being watched round the clock. For all I know, I'm on live television at this
very moment while commentators try to analyze what could possibly have motivated me to kill Coin. The
surveillance makes almost any suicide attempt impossible. Taking my life is the Capitol's privilege. Again.
What I can do is give up. I resolve to lie on the bed without eating, drinking, or taking my medications. I
could do it, too. Just die. If it weren't for the morphling withdrawal. Not bit by bit like in the hospital in 13, but cold
turkey. I must have been on a fairly large dose because when the craving for it hits, accompanied by tremors,
and shooting pains, and unbearable cold, my resolve's crushed like an eggshell. I'm on my knees, raking the
carpet with my fingernails to find those precious pills I flung away in a stronger moment. I revise my suicide plan
to slow death by morphling. I will become a yellow-skinned bag of bones, with enormous eyes. I'm a couple of
days into the plan, making good progress, when something unexpected happens.
I begin to sing. At the window, in the shower, in my sleep. Hour after hour of ballads, love songs, mountain
airs. All the songs my father taught me before he died, for certainly there has been very little music in my life
since. What's amazing is how clearly I remember them. The tunes, the lyrics. My voice, at first rough and
breaking on the high notes, warms up into something splendid. A voice that would make the mockingjays fall
silent and then tumble over themselves to join in. Days pass, weeks. I watch the snows fall on the ledge outside
my window. And in all that time, mine is the only voice I hear.
What are they doing, anyway? What's the holdup out there? How difficult can it be to arrange the execution
of one murderous girl? I continue with my own annihilation. My body's thinner than it's ever been and my battle
against hunger is so fierce that sometimes the animal part of me gives in to the temptation of buttered bread or
roasted meat. But still, I'm winning. For a few days I feel quite unwell and think I may finally be traveling out of this
life, when I realize my morphling tablets are shrinking. They are trying to slowly wean me off the stuff. But why?
Surely a drugged Mockingjay will be easier to dispose of in front of a crowd. And then a terrible thought hits me:
What if they're not going to kill me? What if they have more plans for me? A new way to remake, train, and use
I won't do it. If I can't kill myself in this room, I will take the first opportunity outside of it to finish the job. They
can fatten me up. They can give me a full body polish, dress me up, and make me beautiful again. They can
design dream weapons that come to life in my hands, but they will never again brainwash me into the necessity
of using them. I no longer feel any allegiance to these monsters called human beings, despise being one myself.
I think that Peeta was onto something about us destroying one another and letting some decent species take
over. Because something is significantly wrong with a creature that sacrifices its children's lives to settle its
differences. You can spin it any way you like. Snow thought the Hunger Games were an efficient means of
control. Coin thought the parachutes would expedite the war. But in the end, who does it benefit? No one. The
truth is, it benefits no one to live in a world where these things happen.
After two days of my lying on my mattress with no attempt to eat, drink, or even take a morphling tablet, the
door to my room opens. Someone crosses around the bed into my field of vision. Haymitch. "Your trial's over," he
says. "Come on. We're going home."
Home? What's he talking about? My home's gone. And even if it were possible to go to this imaginary
place, I am too weak to move. Strangers appear. Rehydrate and feed me. Bathe and clothe me. One lifts me like
a rag doll and carries me up to the roof, onto a hovercraft, and fastens me into a seat. Haymitch and Plutarch sit
across from me. In a few moments, we're airborne.
I've never seen Plutarch in such a good mood. He's positively glowing. "You must have a million questions!"
When I don't respond, he answers them anyway.
After I shot Coin, there was pandemonium. When the ruckus died down, they discovered Snow's body, still
tethered to the post. Opinions differ on whether he choked to death while laughing or was crushed by the crowd.
No one really cares. An emergency election was thrown together and Paylor was voted in as president. Plutarch
was appointed secretary of communications, which means he sets the programming for the airwaves. The first
big televised event was my trial, in which he was also a star witness. In my defense, of course. Although most of
the credit for my exoneration must be given to Dr. Aurelius, who apparently earned his naps by presenting me as
a hopeless, shell-shocked lunatic. One condition for my release is that I'll continue under his care, although it will
have to be by phone because he'd never live in a forsaken place like 12, and I'm confined there until further
notice. The truth is, no one quite knows what to do with me now that the war's over, although if another one should
spring up, Plutarch's sure they could find a role for me. Then Plutarch has a good laugh. It never seems to bother
him when no one else appreciates his jokes.
"Are you preparing for another war, Plutarch?" I ask.
"Oh, not now. Now we're in that sweet period where everyone agrees that our recent horrors should never
be repeated," he says. "But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor
memories and a great gift for self-destruction. Although who knows? Maybe this will be it, Katniss."
"What?" I ask.
"The time it sticks. Maybe we are witnessing the evolution of the human race. Think about that." And then
he asks me if I'd like to perform on a new singing program he's launching in a few weeks. Something upbeat
would be good. He'll send the crew to my house.
We land briefly in District 3 to drop off Plutarch. He's meeting with Beetee to update the technology on the
broadcast system. His parting words to me are "Don't be a stranger."
When we're back among the clouds, I look at Haymitch. "So why are you going back to Twelve?"
"They can't seem to find a place for me in the Capitol either," he says.
At first, I don't question this. But doubts begin to creep in. Haymitch hasn't assassinated anyone. He could
go anywhere. If he's coming back to 12, it's because he's been ordered to. "You have to look after me, don't you?
As my mentor?" He shrugs. Then I realize what it means. "My mother's not coming back."
"No," he says. He pulls an envelope from his jacket pocket and hands it to me. I examine the delicate,
perfectly formed writing. "She's helping to start up a hospital in District Four. She wants you to call as soon as we
get in." My finger traces the graceful swoop of the letters. "You know why she can't come back." Yes, I know why.
Because between my father and Prim and the ashes, the place is too painful to bear. But apparently not for me.
"Do you want to know who else won't be there?"
"No," I say. "I want to be surprised."
Like a good mentor, Haymitch makes me eat a sandwich and then pretends he believes I'm asleep for the
rest of the trip. He busies himself going through every compartment on the hovercraft, finding the liquor, and
stowing it in his bag. It's night when we land on the green of the Victor's Village. Half of the houses have lights in
the windows, including Haymitch's and mine. Not Peeta's. Someone has built a fire in my kitchen. I sit in the
rocker before it, clutching my mother's letter.
"Well, see you tomorrow," says Haymitch.
As the clinking of his bag of liquor bottles fades away, I whisper, "I doubt it."
I am unable to move from the chair. The rest of the house looms cold and empty and dark. I pull an old
shawl over my body and watch the flames. I guess I sleep, because the next thing I know, it's morning and Greasy
Sae's banging around at the stove. She makes me eggs and toast and sits there until I've eaten it all. We don't
talk much. Her little granddaughter, the one who lives in her own world, takes a bright blue ball of yarn from my
mother's knitting basket. Greasy Sae tells her to put it back, but I say she can have it. No one in this house can
knit anymore. After breakfast, Greasy Sae does the dishes and leaves, but she comes back up at dinnertime to
make me eat again. I don't know if she's just being neighborly or if she's on the government's payroll, but she
shows up twice every day. She cooks, I consume. I try to figure out my next move. There's no obstacle now to
taking my life. But I seem to be waiting for something.
Sometimes the phone rings and rings and rings, but I don't pick it up. Haymitch never visits. Maybe he
changed his mind and left, although I suspect he's just drunk. No one comes but Greasy Sae and her
granddaughter. After months of solitary confinement, they seem like a crowd.
"Spring's in the air today. You ought to get out," she says. "Go hunting."
I haven't left the house. I haven't even left the kitchen except to go to the small bathroom a few steps off of it.
I'm in the same clothes I left the Capitol in. What I do is sit by the fire. Stare at the unopened letters piling up on
the mantel. "I don't have a bow."
"Check down the hall," she says.
After she leaves, I consider a trip down the hall. Rule it out. But after several hours, I go anyway, walking in
silent sock feet, so as not to awaken the ghosts. In the study, where I had my tea with President Snow, I find a box
with my father's hunting jacket, our plant book, my parents' wedding photo, the spile Haymitch sent in, and the
locket Peeta gave me in the clock arena. The two bows and a sheath of arrows Gale rescued on the night of the
firebombing lie on the desk. I put on the hunting jacket and leave the rest of the stuff untouched. I fall asleep on
the sofa in the formal living room. A terrible nightmare follows, where I'm lying at the bottom of a deep grave, and
every dead person I know by name comes by and throws a shovel full of ashes on me. It's quite a long dream,
considering the list of people, and the deeper I'm buried, the harder it is to breathe. I try to call out, begging them
to stop, but the ashes fill my mouth and nose and I can't make any sound. Still the shovel scrapes on and on and
I wake with a start. Pale morning light comes around the edges of the shutters. The scraping of the shovel
continues. Still half in the nightmare, I run down the hall, out the front door, and around the side of the house,
because now I'm pretty sure I can scream at the dead. When I see him, I pull up short. His face is flushed from
digging up the ground under the windows. In a wheelbarrow are five scraggly bushes.
"You're back," I say.
"Dr. Aurelius wouldn't let me leave the Capitol until yesterday," Peeta says. "By the way, he said to tell you
he can't keep pretending he's treating you forever. You have to pick up the phone."
He looks well. Thin and covered with burn scars like me, but his eyes have lost that clouded, tortured look.
He's frowning slightly, though, as he takes me in. I make a halfhearted effort to push my hair out of my eyes and
realize it's matted into clumps. I feel defensive. "What are you doing?"
"I went to the woods this morning and dug these up. For her," he says. "I thought we could plant them along
the side of the house."
I look at the bushes, the clods of dirt hanging from their roots, and catch my breath as the word rose
registers. I'm about to yell vicious things at Peeta when the full name comes to me. Not plain rose but evening
primrose. The flower my sister was named for. I give Peeta a nod of assent and hurry back into the house,
locking the door behind me. But the evil thing is inside, not out. Trembling with weakness and anxiety, I run up the
stairs. My foot catches on the last step and I crash onto the floor. I force myself to rise and enter my room. The
smell's very faint but still laces the air. It's there. The white rose among the dried flowers in the vase. Shriveled
and fragile, but holding on to that unnatural perfection cultivated in Snow's greenhouse. I grab the vase, stumble
down to the kitchen, and throw its contents into the embers. As the flowers flare up, a burst of blue flame
envelops the rose and devours it. Fire beats roses again. I smash the vase on the floor for good measure.
Back upstairs, I throw open the bedroom windows to clear out the rest of Snow's stench. But it still lingers,
on my clothes and in my pores. I strip, and flakes of skin the size of playing cards cling to the garments. Avoiding
the mirror, I step into the shower and scrub the roses from my hair, my body, my mouth. Bright pink and tingling, I
find something clean to wear. It takes half an hour to comb out my hair. Greasy Sae unlocks the front door. While
she makes breakfast, I feed the clothes I had shed to the fire. At her suggestion, I pare off my nails with a knife.
Over the eggs, I ask her, "Where did Gale go?"
"District Two. Got some fancy job there. I see him now and again on the television," she says.
I dig around inside myself, trying to register anger, hatred, longing. I find only relief.
"I'm going hunting today," I say.
"Well, I wouldn't mind some fresh game at that," she answers.
I arm myself with a bow and arrows and head out, intending to exit 12 through the Meadow. Near the
square are teams of masked and gloved people with horse-drawn carts. Sifting through what lay under the snow
this winter. Gathering remains. A cart's parked in front of the mayor's house. I recognize Thom, Gale's old
crewmate, pausing a moment to wipe the sweat from his face with a rag. I remember seeing him in 13, but he
must have come back. His greeting gives me the courage to ask, "Did they find anyone in there?"
"Whole family. And the two people who worked for them," Thom tells me.
Madge. Quiet and kind and brave. The girl who gave me the pin that gave me a name. I swallow hard.
Wonder if she'll be joining the cast of my nightmares tonight. Shoveling the ashes into my mouth. "I thought
maybe, since he was the mayor..."
"I don't think being the mayor of Twelve put the odds in his favor," says Thom.
I nod and keep moving, careful not to look in the back of the cart. All through the town and the Seam, it's the
same. The reaping of the dead. As I near the ruins of my old house, the road becomes thick with carts. The
Meadow's gone, or at least dramatically altered. A deep pit has been dug, and they're lining it with bones, a
mass grave for my people. I skirt around the hole and enter the woods at my usual place. It doesn't matter,
though. The fence isn't charged anymore and has been propped up with long branches to keep out the
predators. But old habits die hard. I think about going to the lake, but I'm so weak that I barely make it to my
meeting place with Gale. I sit on the rock where Cressida filmed us, but it's too wide without his body beside me.
Several times I close my eyes and count to ten, thinking that when I open them, he will have materialized without
a sound as he so often did. I have to remind myself that Gale's in 2 with a fancy job, probably kissing another pair
It is the old Katniss's favorite kind of day. Early spring. The woods awakening after the long winter. But the
spurt of energy that began with the primroses fades away. By the time I make it back to the fence, I'm so sick and
dizzy, Thom has to give me a ride home in the dead people's cart. Help me to the sofa in the living room, where I
watch the dust motes spin in the thin shafts of afternoon light.
My head snaps around at the hiss, but it takes awhile to believe he's real. How could he have gotten here? I
take in the claw marks from some wild animal, the back paw he holds slightly above the ground, the prominent
bones in his face. He's come on foot, then, all the way from 13. Maybe they kicked him out or maybe he just
bones in his face. He's come on foot, then, all the way from 13. Maybe they kicked him out or maybe he just
couldn't stand it there without her, so he came looking.
"It was the waste of a trip. She's not here," I tell him. Buttercup hisses again. "She's not here. You can hiss
all you like. You won't find Prim." At her name, he perks up. Raises his flattened ears. Begins to meow hopefully.
"Get out!" He dodges the pillow I throw at him. "Go away! There's nothing left for you here!" I start to shake,
furious with him. "She's not coming back! She's never ever coming back here again!" I grab another pillow and
get to my feet to improve my aim. Out of nowhere, the tears begin to pour down my cheeks. "She's dead." I
clutch my middle to dull the pain. Sink down on my heels, rocking the pillow, crying. "She's dead, you stupid cat.
She's dead." A new sound, part crying, part singing, comes out of my body, giving voice to my despair. Buttercup
begins to wail as well. No matter what I do, he won't go. He circles me, just out of reach, as wave after wave of
sobs racks my body, until eventually I fall unconscious. But he must understand. He must know that the
unthinkable has happened and to survive will require previously unthinkable acts. Because hours later, when I
come to in my bed, he's there in the moonlight. Crouched beside me, yellow eyes alert, guarding me from the
In the morning, he sits stoically as I clean the cuts, but digging the thorn from his paw brings on a round of
those kitten mews. We both end up crying again, only this time we comfort each other. On the strength of this, I
open the letter Haymitch gave me from my mother, dial the phone number, and weep with her as well. Peeta,
bearing a warm loaf of bread, shows up with Greasy Sae. She makes us breakfast and I feed all my bacon to
Slowly, with many lost days, I come back to life. I try to follow Dr. Aurelius's advice, just going through the
motions, amazed when one finally has meaning again. I tell him my idea about the book, and a large box of
parchment sheets arrives on the next train from the Capitol.
I got the idea from our family's plant book. The place where we recorded those things you cannot trust to
memory. The page begins with the person's picture. A photo if we can find it. If not, a sketch or painting by Peeta.
Then, in my most careful handwriting, come all the details it would be a crime to forget. Lady licking Prim's
cheek. My father's laugh. Peeta's father with the cookies. The color of Finnick's eyes. What Cinna could do with
a length of silk. Boggs reprogramming the Holo. Rue poised on her toes, arms slightly extended, like a bird
about to take flight. On and on. We seal the pages with salt water and promises to live well to make their deaths
count. Haymitch finally joins us, contributing twenty-three years of tributes he was forced to mentor. Additions
become smaller. An old memory that surfaces. A late primrose preserved between the pages. Strange bits of
happiness, like the photo of Finnick and Annie's newborn son.
We learn to keep busy again. Peeta bakes. I hunt. Haymitch drinks until the liquor runs out, and then raises
geese until the next train arrives. Fortunately, the geese can take pretty good care of themselves. We're not
alone. A few hundred others return because, whatever has happened, this is our home. With the mines closed,
they plow the ashes into the earth and plant food. Machines from the Capitol break ground for a new factory
where we will make medicines. Although no one seeds it, the Meadow turns green again.
Peeta and I grow back together. There are still moments when he clutches the back of a chair and hangs
on until the flashbacks are over. I wake screaming from nightmares of mutts and lost children. But his arms are
there to comfort me. And eventually his lips. On the night I feel that thing again, the hunger that overtook me on
the beach, I know this would have happened anyway. That what I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with
rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that
means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can
be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.
So after, when he whispers, "You love me. Real or not real?"
I tell him, "Real."
They play in the Meadow. The dancing girl with the dark hair and blue eyes. The boy with blond curls and
gray eyes, struggling to keep up with her on his chubby toddler legs. It took five, ten, fifteen years for me to
agree. But Peeta wanted them so badly. When I first felt her stirring inside of me, I was consumed with a terror
that felt as old as life itself. Only the joy of holding her in my arms could tame it. Carrying him was a little easier,
but not much.
The questions are just beginning. The arenas have been completely destroyed, the memorials built, there
are no more Hunger Games. But they teach about them at school, and the girl knows we played a role in them.
The boy will know in a few years. How can I tell them about that world without frightening them to death? My
children, who take the words of the song for granted:
Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when again they open, the sun will rise.
Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.
My children, who don't know they play on a graveyard.
Peeta says it will be okay. We have each other. And the book. We can make them understand in a way that
will make them braver. But one day I'll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won't ever
really go away.
I'll tell them how I survive it. I'll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything
because I'm afraid it could be taken away. That's when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I've
seen someone do. It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.
But there are much worse games to play.