The Hunger Games: Chapter 18

The boy from District 1 dies before he can pull out the spear. My arrow drives deeply into the center of his neck. He falls to his knees and halves the brief remainder of his life by yanking out the arrow and drowning in his own blood.

In spite of how fucking sad this part is, I have to give a quick fist-pump to Katniss for her bamf archery skills.

Her hand reaches out and I clutch it like a lifeline. As if it’s me who’s dying instead of Rue.

“Don’t go.” Rue tightens her grip on my hand.

“Course not. Staying right here,” I say. I move in closer to her, pulling her head onto my lap. I gently brush the dark, thick hair back behind her ear.

“Sing,” she says, but I barely catch the word.

I give a small cough, swallow hard, and begin:

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.

Rue’s eyes have fluttered shut. Her chest moves but only slightly. My throat releases the tears and they slide down my cheeks. But I have to finish the song for her.

Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay

And when again it’s morning, they’ll wash away.
Here it’s safe, here it’s warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm

The final lines are barely audible.

Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Everything’s still and quiet. Then, almost eerily, the mockingjays take up my song.

For a moment, I sit there, watching my tears drip down on her face. Rue’s cannon fires. I lean forward and press my lips against her temple. Slowly, as if not to wake her, I lay her head back on the ground and release her hand.

I don’t care that I’m block-quoting a whole page and a half. This is one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching things I’ve ever read. This is where I actually started to cry tears forreals.

I can’t bring myself to leave her like this. Past harm, but seeming utterly defenseless. To hate the boy from District 1, who also appears so vulnerable in death, seems inadequate. It’s the Capitol I hate, for doing this to all of us.

It all comes back to the Capitol. They are the ones making you kill each other. They are the guy behind the curtain that’s making all of this happen. It’s just fucking sickening.

Then I remember Peeta’s words on the roof. “Only I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capital they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.” And for the first time, I understand what he means.

I want to do something, right here, right now, to shame them, to make them accountable, to show the Capitol that whatever they do or force us to do there is a part of every tribute they can’t own. That Rue was more than a piece in their Games. And so am I.

God, I just want her, and even the remaining Tributes, to like, rebel and just fucking kill them all. Maybe that’d show them that they’re not just a piece in their games. Speaking of other tributes, I want Thresh to have some gamechanging moment. Or some kind of important role in whatever. I’m babbling but something makes me want this person I’ve hardly seen to be more than he is at the moment.

I gather up an armful and come back to Rue’s side. Slowly, one stem at a time, I decorate her body in the flowers. Covering the ugly wound. Wreathing her face. Weaving her hair with bright colors.

“Bye, Rue,” I whisper. I press the three middle fingers of my left hand against my lips and hold them out in her direction. Then I walk away without looking back.

There it is again! I love it, and I’m crying again, and it’s just beautiful and amazing.

What must it have cost the people of District 11 who can’t even feed themselves? How many would’ve had to do without to scrape up a coin to put in the collection for this one loaf? It had been meant for Rue, surely. But instead of pulling the gift when she died, they’d authorized Haymitch to give it to me.

At first I thought this was going to be from Peeta’s father. But this is so much better. Of course, the District 11 people could see they’re alliance/friendship forming, how much of a help Katniss was to Rue. It’s just great that they extended a hand of kindness and grattitude to the girl who truly cared for one of their tributes.

There’s a drowsy in-between period when I can hear the last few strains of her music although she’s lost in the leaves. When I fully awaken, I’m momentarily comforted. I try to hold on to the peaceful feeling of the dream, but it quickly slips away, leaving me sadder and lonelier than ever.

This has happened to me, and it fucking sucks.

I give myself a series of simple commands to follow, like “Now you have to sit up, Katniss. Now you have to drink water, Katniss.” I act on the orders with slow, robotic motions. “Now you have to sort the packs, Katniss.”

It’s just so hard to read Katniss feeling so…depressed and hopeless. I don’t like it. Get up, Katniss and kick some ass or something!

I don’t know why I should even care about the boy.

Then I realize…he was my first kill.

Along with other statistics they report to help people place their bets, every tribute has a list of kills. I guess technically I’d get credited for  Glimmer and the girl from District 4, too, for dumping that nest on them. But the boy from District 1 was the first person I knew would die because of my actions.

I’m going to reference HP again, and quote Dumbledore: “Killing is not nearly as easy as the innocent believe.”

The news sinks in. Two tributes can win this year. If they’re from the same district. Both can live. Both of us can live.

Before I can stop myself, I call out Peeta’s name.

OFY.  I have never been more excited in any other part of this book than I am right now. Find Peeta, team up, and fuck shit up!

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.