In the thirteenth chapter of The Hunger Games, SERIOUSLY THIS IS GETTING UNBEARABLE COULD THERE PLEASE BE A MOMENT WHERE WE CAN JUST REST AND SHIT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Hunger Games.
NO. REALLY? A WALL OF GODDAMN FIRE? THIS IS JUST ABSURD RIGHT NOW. WHAT IS GOING ON.
The world has transformed to flame and smoke. Burning branches crack from trees and fall in showers of sparks at my feet. All I can do is follow the others, the rabbits and deer, and I even spot a wild dog pack shooting through the woods. I trust their sense of direction because their instincts are sharper than mine. But they are much faster, flying through the underbrush so gracefully as my boots catch on roots and fallen tree limbs, that there’s no way I can keep space with them.
When I read that there were footsteps before the fire, I assumed that other tributes were trying to burn Katniss alive. But…I guess this isn’t that much better, is it? Again, WALL OF FIRE.
The heat is horrible, but worse than the heat is the smoke, which threatens to suffocate me at any moment. I pull the top of my shirt up over my nose, grateful to find it soaked in sweat, and it offers a thin veil of protection. And I run, choking, my bag banging against my back, my face cut with branches that materialize from the gray haze without warning, because I know I am supposed to run.
Great. More disaster ahead. If the fire doesn’t kill Katniss, smoke inhalation will.
This was no tribute’s campfire gone out of control, no accidental occurrence. The flames that bear down on me have an unnatural height, a uniformity that marks them as human-made, machine-made, Gamemaker-made. Things have been too quiet today. No deaths, perhaps no fights at all. The audience in the Capitol will be getting bored, claiming that these Games are verging on dullness. This is the one thing the Games must not do.
I should have thought of this. These Games simultaneously oppress and entertain. (And bigotry sells, doesn’t it?) Katniss suspected the berries were poisonous (it was never confirmed if they were), but she forgot to consider the deadly weapons that the Gamemakers could use against her.
I hurdle over a burning log. Not high enough. The tail end of my jacket catches on fire and I have to stop to rip it from my body and stamp out the flames. But I don’t dare leave the jacket, scorched and smoldering as it is, I take the risk of shoving it in my sleeping bag, hoping the lack of air will quell what I haven’t extinguished. This is all I have, what I carry on my back, and it’s a little enough to survive with.
Well, there goes her jacket but not her dignity.
Discomfort turns to distress until each breath sends a searing pain through my chest. I manage to take cover under a stone outcropping just as the vomiting begins, and I lose my meager supper and whatever water has remained in my stomach.
I’m glad that Collins is including details like this, showing that the Game can negatively affect a person’s health like this. Wait…ok, I’m not actually glad that she’s vomiting. I mean that this sort of realism is usually ignored in fiction and in film/TV, but not here. BUT YEAH, I DON’T DERIVE JOY FROM VOMIT. Thanks, guys.
The thing that’s so interesting about all this is that any sort of expectations I had for the Games have all been met or topped in the first few chapters. I don’t know what else Collins has left to explore anymore! Gamemaker intervention, injury, massive death, dealing with dehydration, betrayal, terror…it’s all here. IT’S ALL READY HAPPENEND. What on earth could Collins do now? I mean, short of the remaining Tributes killing each other or dying in the wild, how on earth is she going to carry this narrative any further?
Katniss wonders where the Gamemakers are driving her and presumes it’s a few things: back to where she came from, to a new area that is not familiar, or towards the other players. Basically, NOWHERE GOOD AT ALL.
The fireballs continue to hurl at Katniss and she knows a direct hit is death. But even her quick wits and speed are no match for COLLINS THE AUTHOR.
My muscles react, only not fast enough this time. The fireball crashes into the ground at my side, but not before it skids across my right calf. Seeing my pants leg on fire sends me over the edge. I twist and scuttle backward on my hands and feet, shrieking, trying to remove myself from the horror. When I finally regain enough sense, I roll the leg back and forth on the ground, which stifles the worst of it. But then, without thinking, I rip away the remaining fabric with my bare hands.
I sit on the ground, a few yards from the blaze set off by the fireball. My calf is screaming, my hands covered in red welts. I’m shaking too hard to move. If the Gamemakers want to finish me off, now is the time.
WHAT THE FLYING FUCK IN HEAVEN. Ok, so the first thing I thought of when I read this was that horrible moment in Deathly Hallows when Harry realizes his wand is broken. It’s senseless and it brings with it a pervading hopelessness. When Katniss’s leg and hands are burnt, I don’t think, “WELL, THIS IS EASY TO GET OUT OF.” Instead, I think, “JESUS CHRIST BURNS ARE REALLY PAINFUL AND THEN LAST A REALLY, REALLY LONG TIME.” So what just happened to her is going to affect her performance in the Games for DAYS AFTER THIS. (Assuming they last that long and really now…there are 200 pages left. They aren’t going to end any time soon.)
I’ve been pretty hard on Collins so far, but I have to give her an astral plane high five. This is a huge moment in this book because even though Katniss is obviously going to make it out alive, Collins has made us realize that she can still experience so much loss aside from her life.
Oh, right. We have a name for this moment: SHIT JUST GOT REAL.
I hear Cinna’s voice, carrying images of rich fabric and sparkling gems. “Katniss, the girl who was on fire.” What a good laugh the Gamemakers must be having over that one. Perhaps, Cinna’s beautiful costumes have even been brought on this particular torture for me.
FUCK. How terrible. I didn’t even think of this. I guess the Gamemakers appreciate violent irony. So they’re like the very worst hipsters of all time or something.
Guys, HER HANDS ARE BURNED. How is she going to use weapons? Climb trees? Catch food? This ruins pretty much everything. Good lord.
I don’t quite understand how she gets there, but Katniss arrives at the pool of water she was at before. Actually…is it the same pool or a different one? It’s not really clear, but she takes time to recuperate and check out her leg.
I almost faint at the sight of my calf. The flesh is a brilliant red covered with blisters. I force myself to take deep, slow breaths, feeling quite certain the cameras are on my face.
GREAT. GREAT. JUST GREAT. It hurts even thinking about this. I’ve suffered a few minor burns over the years (BIGGEST KLUTZ IN THE KITCHEN EVER), but nothing like this. It’s a sign how tough Katniss is because I would have been a mess by now.
Though, admittedly, Katniss is actually not her normal self. She doesn’t get a move on immediately and chooses to lounge in the area, consumed by drowsiness and hunger, to rest and get some food. She even doses off briefly, but is awakened by the sound of approaching tributes.
I pick a high tree and begin to climb. If running hurt, climbing is agonizing because it requires not only exertion but direct contact of my hands on the tree bark.
OW OW OW OW OW OW OW OW. NO. NO THANK YOU. But I guess fear can motivate people to look past the pain to survive.
Up in the tree, she spots the six tributes, Peeta included, and realizes there is a very small chance any of them will be able to climb a tree. So she says hello to them.
Now I smile. “How’s everything with you?” I call down cheerfully.
This takes them aback, but I know the crowd will love it.
“Well enough,” says the boy from District 2. “Yourself?”
“It’s been a bit warm for my taste,” I say. I can almost hear the laughter from the Capitol. “The air’s better up here. Why don’t you come on up?”
BLESS YOUR HEART, KATNISS. This is fantastic! But…oh man, this has to be so awkward for Peeta.
We learn two more of the tributes’ names: Cato and Glimmer.
The girl with the arrows, Glimmer I hear someone call her—ugh, the names the people in District 1 give their children are so ridiculous—anyway Glimmer scales the tree until the branches begin to crack under her feet and then has the good sense to stop.
I love the content of this sentence because that name is ridiculous, but did the diction of this piece seems strange to anyone else? It’s far more conversational than anything else we’d seen up to this point. Just a thought.
Katniss, confident that she’s safe from the tributes below, actually prepares to go to sleep in the tree after Peeta convinces the others that she isn’t going anywhere.
I stare into the foliage trying to will myself to rest, but the burns forbid it. Birds are settling down for the night, singing lullabies to their young. Night creatures emerge. An owl hoots. The faint scent of a skunk cuts through the smoke. The eyes of some animal peer at me from a neighboring tree—a possum maybe—catching the firelight from the Careers’ torches.
I’m pointing this out because it’s another passage of Collins’s that I think works really well in the first person present tense. As I said before, I’ve been pretty harsh on her and I want to make sure I do include what I’m enjoying here, and this is one of those times. It’s got a nice rhythm to it.
Suddenly, I’m up on one elbow. Those are no possum’s eyes, I know their glassy reflection too well. In fact, those are not animal eyes at all. In the last dim rays of light, I make her out, watching me silently from between the branches.
ARE YOU SHITTING ME???? What the fuck is she doing up there? OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK.
How long has she been here? The whole time probably. Still and unobserved as the action unfolded beneath her. Perhaps she headed up her tree shortly before I did, hearing the pack was so close.
For a while we hold each other’s gaze. Then, without even rustling a leaf, her little hand slides into the open and points to something above my head.
YOU HAVE TO STOP ENDING CHAPTERS LIKE THIS. Jesus god in heaven, I don’t want to stop now. DAMN IT.