“Ladies and gentleman, from District Four, please welcome Finnick Odair!” Caesar Flickerman’s voice boomed. The audience erupted into applause as Finnick came onto the stage, the bright lights illuminating his face and causing him to squint slightly. When he saw everyone staring at him expectantly, he gave them all a bright grin.
“Mr Odair, we are so glad to have you here tonight. So tell me, what was it like to leave behind your family in District Four. It was hard, I imagine.”
He nodded in response. “It was. I only hope that I’ll get to see them again.”
There was a collection of ‘aahs’ from the audience and Caesar nodded towards them. “And not just family, I hear there’s a special someone as well. Y/N?”
Finnick gave him a look of surprise and confusion. “Y/N? They’re my friend. I mean they’re special, of course, but not in that way.”
“Of course. So, they’re your friend.”
“They’re my best friend. Actually, more like a sibling. Been around for longer than I can remember.”
"So you hope to get back home and see them again?”
Poetical Essay at the End of the World by Annie Cardi
The first thing we lost was power. Within a few days, electrical grids were down—no one to run the power plants. My phone was already almost dead from trying to call Mom over and over, so I tossed it and to be honest, I started crying when I turned away from it. I expected some people to roll their eyes at me—some teen girl crying over her dead cell, but I thought of all those photos and texts I’d never see again. Those voicemails from Mom I barely listed to because I thought how could I spend a whole three minutes listening to her talk when she could just text me what she wanted.
No one made fun of me, though, if they saw me crying. Small blessing.
We talk about the small things we miss—coffee and cars and slippers and movie theater popcorn and Youtube and chocolate cake and concerts and on and on and on. We talk about them like we’re on some wilderness vacation and will be back to all the comforts of home soon enough. Like they’re only gone for a little while and might come back again someday.
They might. Maybe.
No one talks about the people we miss. Once the sickness spread in the cities, and the bodies started walking, the ones of us who were left and who got out started gathering. Anytime you found someone who was scrambling toward you, shouting, “Help, help, please!” you brought them with you.
But it’s been over a month and there are fewer and fewer people we find. It’s like we all keep thinking maybe they’re still out there and will meet us at a crossroads any day now. Our eyes are always scanning the landscape, and not just for the dead. But no one says who they’re looking for. We are all Eurydice, afraid to turn back for fear of losing everything.
So we keep marching forward, trying to find other people, other resources. We break into houses, into sheds, into stores. We take food and clothes and medical supplies and anything that could be a weapon. Before the sickness, I never broke any laws, not even stealing a lip gloss when my friends did. I said as much the first time we broke into a home, and one of the others, an older woman with the sinewy limbs of a runner, laughed. “It’s the end of the world, kid,” she said. “Anything’s possible.”
The home was just as the owners’ left it—before they ran or died. There was a pile of laundry in a basket, neatly folded. Two of the others sorted through it for anything we could use. I wandered by the bookshelves, tilting my head to scan the titles.
“Take a few,” one of the others said when we saw me by the books. “We can use them for kindling.”
I put a few in the my bag, probably more than was safe to carry. Before we tore any pages out, I read every word.
Whenever we need to make a fire, I try to memorize what I can, because it’s hard to tell when we might come across more books, or if one day all the books will be gone.
Ms. Simpson, fifth grade teacher, was big on memorization. She had us memorize a different poem every month. “You’ll never be bored if you memorize poetry.” My friends all groaned and talked about how Ms. Simpson was the worst, but I stood in front of my bedroom mirror, repeating the words over and over until I knew them by heart:
For we cannot tarry here, We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger, We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers!
I wonder if Ms. Simpson is somewhere now, walking with the living and reciting poetry.
Sometimes I see the dead walking in the distance and I wonder why we keep huddled together, stealing what we can and talking about the things we miss, because there might never be any more coffee or slippers or concerts or books.
But sometimes I look up at night and see the stars—so many of them, more than you could hope to see before. I know how far apart they are, how far from them we are, but there are so many it seems like the sky is crowded with them. They’re all so far apart but ages and ages ago people looked up and drew lines between stars and told stories about how the stars got that way.
It doesn’t bring back coffee or slippers or concerts or people we lost, but for a moment it’s beautiful.
I’m still walking; I am writing a poem in my head.
Someday I’ll explain it to you, why they came, why they won’t ever go away. But I’ll tell you how I survive it. I make a list in my head, of all the good things I’ve seen someone do. Every little thing I can remember. It’s like a game. I do it over and over. Gets a little tedious after all these years, but… there are much worse games to play.
There. He’s done it again. Dropped a bomb that wipes out the efforts of every tribute who came before him.
Well, maybe not. Maybe this year he has only lit the fuse on a bomb that the victors themselves have been building. Hoping someone would be able to detonate it. Perhaps thinking it would be me in my bridal gown. Not knowing how much I rely on Cinna’s talents, whereas