In the twenty-second chapter of Catching Fire, we find out where some of the other tributes have been, and Katniss realizes what this specific arena is. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Catching Fire.
Peeta drops the sheath and buries his knife into the monkey’s back, stabbing it again and again until it releases its jaw. He kicks the mutt away, bracing for more. I have his arrows now, a loaded bow, and Finnick at my back, breathing hard but not actively engaged.
“Come on, then! Come on!” shouts Peeta, panting with rage. But something has happened to the monkeys. They are withdrawing, backing up trees, fading into the jungle, as if some unheard voice calls them away. A Gamemaker’s voice, telling them this is enough.
Whoa, wait a minute, has this ever happened before? Just when I thought there was some sort of pattern to this all, this happens. Does this mean that the Gamemakers are controlling how these dangers are rolled out in a much more active way? I mean, the fog stopped at the edge of the beach and now the mutts are being called off before they can kill Peeta. Maybe the Gamemakers are purposely extending the Games specifically to torture Katniss and Peeta. Like…keeping them alive the whole time only to kill them off at the end.
The morphling from District 6 surely won’t last but a few minutes, though; she’s certainly not going to make it to the end.
She lies on the sand, gasping like a fish out of water. Sagging skin, sickly green, her ribs as prominent as a child’s dead of starvation. Surely she could afford food, but turned to the morphling just as Haymitch turned to drink, I guess. Everything about her speaks of waste—her body, her life, the vacant look in her eyes. I hold one of her twitching hands, unclear whether it moves from the poison that affected our nerves, the shock of the attack, or the withdrawal of the drug that was her sustenance. There is nothing we can do. Nothing but stay with her while she dies.
For me, this seriously might be so much worse than Rue’s death. At least Rue had moments of innocence and at least she had a day or two to feel safe and loved with Katniss. This unnamed tribute, chosen years ago to participate in a heinous act of oppression, has lived a life of terror, tragedy, and pain. And now, at the height of this awful hand that life has given, she just saved a complete stranger.
COLLINS, YOU PULL AT MY HEARTSTRINGS. And then you crush them.
The scene after this is SO STRANGE and kind of endearing? Peeta knows she is the morphling who spent most of her time in the Training Center fingerpainting, so he talks to her about all he truly knows: paining.
The morphling seems mesmerized by Peeta’s words. Entranced. She lifts up a trembling hand and paints what I think might be a flower on Peeta’s cheek.
“Thank you,” he whispers. “That looks beautiful.”
Just to provide some context, she paints that flower WITH THE BLOOD SEEPING OUT OF HER OWN CHEST WOUND. Good lordy.
For a moment, the morphling’s face lights up in a grin and she makes a small squeaking sound. Then her blooddappled hand falls back onto her chest, she gives one last huff of air, and the cannon fires. The grip on my hand releases.
Fucked up. So fucked up. Though…why didn’t the cannon sound this instantly for Peeta when he hit the force field? Finnick had time to make out with him…er….give him CPR while he was dead and no cannon sounded.
Peeta sets her body into the water and they watch her float away for a bit before the Hovercraft comes to take her. It’s a short moment, but another powerful image that has to anger the Gamemakers. Perhaps their rounds of terror are their reactions to Katpee making real allies and defying the Captiol’s wish for them to turn into murdering machines. But isn’t allowing them these very human moments also risking rebellion in the other districts? Though, it’s entirely possible that they’re editing footage out so that the precarious control they hold doesn’t slip away.
Oh, would you like to get that tightness in the back of your throat? Would you? Of course you would.
It’s still night, though dawn can’t be too many hours away. Unless the Gamemakers want it to be. “Why don’t you two get some rest?” I say. “I’ll watch for a while.”
“No, Katniss, I’d rather,” says Funnick. I look in his eyes, at his face, and realize he’s barely holding back tears. Mags. The least I can do is give him the privacy to mourn her.
Jesus, I am gutted. This is so worse for me than Rue. I have grown to respect Finnick in a strange way and the fact that he isn’t hiding this from Katniss makes me think that there’s a chance he actually isn’t plotting to be friendly with her and then murder both her and Peeta. I’m not positive about that, but I’m starting to warm up to the idea.
The next morning, the itching due to their healing has gotten so bad that Katniss, while she slept, actually drew blood while scratching. Irritated, Katniss actually says:
“Hey, Haymitch, if you’re not too drunk, we could use a little something for our skin.”
AND BAM. A silver parachute descends, containing a tube of some sort of ointment that alleviates their itching. It’s also stains their skin a gray-green color, and that’s when Finnick has an idea.
“I’m going to wake Peeta,” I say.
“No, wait,” says Finnick. “Let’s do it together. Put our faces right in front of his.”
BLESS YOUR HEART.
Well, there’s so little opportunity for fun left in my life, I agree. We position ourselves on either side of Peeta, lean over until our faces are inches from his nose, and give him a shake. “Peeta. Peeta, wake up,” I say in a soft, singsong voice.
His eyelids flutter open and then he jumps live we’ve stabbed him. “Aa!”
Finnick and I fall back in the sand, laughing our heads off. Every time we try to stop, we look at Peeta’s attempt to maintain a disdainful expression and it sets us off again. By the time we pull ourselves together, I’m thinking that maybe Finnick Odair is all right. At least not as vain or self-important as I’d thought. Not so bad at all, really.
Man, every time there’s a happy moment like this, I worry that Collins is going to demolish our joy with epic sadness, but it doesn’t happen this time. Another parachute carrying bread shows up. Katniss initially believes it’s from Haymitch, as a sign that she should continue being friendly with Finnick, but it turns out it’s actually bread from District 4.
So our three tributes continue to stay on the beach and enjoy a meal of shellfish and bread, refusing to venture into the jungle, which Katniss surmises is full of traps. I’m beginning to think this was all methodically planned ahead of time and that while the Gamemakers manually control when things start and stop, they always intended for every one to end up at the beach. It looks like they wanted a quick Hunger Games after all.
Then, in the distance, comes screaming. Across from us, a wedge of the jungle begins to vibrate. An enormous wave crests high on the hill, topping the trees and roaring down the slope. It hits the existing seawater with such force that, even though we’re as far as we can get from it, the surf bubbles up around our knees, setting our few possessions afloat. Among the three of us, we manage to collect everything before it’s carried off, except for our chemical-ridden jumpsuits, which are so eaten away no one cares if we lose them.
A cannon fires. We see the hovercraft appear over the area where the wave began and pluck a body from the trees. Twelve, I think.
Well, they’re halfway done. So one of the traps is a giant wave? Now I’m curious: what triggers the traps? Certain people from certain districts?
We rearrange our things back on the wet sand and are about to settle down when I see them. Three figures, about two spokes away, stumbling onto the beach. “There,” I say quietly, nodding in the newcomers’ direction. Peeta and Finnick follow my gaze. As if by previous agreement, we all fade back into the shadows of the jungle.
Oh, great. Careers maybe? How many of them are left? UGH THINGS WERE SO PEACEFUL.
I draw back an arrow, readying for an attack. But all that happens is that the one who was being dragged collapses on the beach. The drgger stamps the ground in frustration and, in an apparent fit of temper, turns and shoves the circling, deranged one over.
Finnick’s face lights up. “Johanna!” he calls, and runs for the red things.
WHAT!!!!! Oh man, had I forgot about our resident nudist? But who the hell is she with???
The two of us tromp down the beach to where Finnick and Johanna are just meeting up. As we move in closer, I see her companions, and confusion sets in. That’s Beetee on the ground on his back and Wiress who’s regained her feet to continue making loops.
OH MY GOD YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I LOVE THESE TWO! Oh man, it’s like a giant family reunion.
HOW ON EARTH DID JOHANNA GET STUCK WITH THEM. This is the best development of all developments possible.
When we reach them, Johanna’s gesturing toward the jungle and talking very fast to Finnick. “We thought it was rain, you know, because of the lightning, and we were all so thirsty. But when it started coming down, it turned out to be blood. Thick, hot blood. You couldn’t see, you couldn’t speak without getting a mouthful. We just staggered around, trying to get out of it. That’s when Blight hit the force field.”
This is some Carrie-level bullshit, guys. No, wait, this is a Slayer record come to life.
“Yeah, well, he wasn’t much, but he was from home,” she says. “And he left me alone with these two.” She nudges Beetee, who’se barely conscious, with her shoe. “He got a knife in the back at the Cornucopia. And her—“
We all look over at Wiress, who’s circling around, coated in dried blood, and murmuring, “Tick, tock. Tick, tock.”
Johanna will make a good ally (if she’s even up for it), and Wiress and Beetee seemed to have all but completely checked out. And yet, I am still excited that they are here. More adventures??? Oh man. Also, I never expected this many people would be together during the Games, so I’m excited to see if they’ll stick together.
Johanna narrows her brown eyes at me in hatred. “Lay off her?” she hisses. She steps forward before I can react and slaps me so hard I see stars. “Who do you think got them out of that bleeding jungle for you? You—“ Finnick tosses her writing body over his shoulder and carries her out into the water and repeatedly dunks her while she screams a lot of really insulting things at me. But I don’t shoot. Because she’s with Finnick and because of what she said, about getting them for me.
Yeah, what the fuck just happened. She got them for her????? Is this something arranged by Haymitch? I mean….WHAT????
They don’t really discuss it much at all because Peeta and Katniss begin to work on cleaning off Beetee, who is covered in dried blood. The wound on his back isn’t as bad as they thought it would be, but he apparently has lost quite a bit of blood since the Games started. Unsure initially how she can help him, Katniss remembers the moss that Mags had used earlier and sets it on his back in the hopes that it at least keeps the infection out.
While Katniss begins work on Wiress, who only seems to be able to say, “Tick, tock,” over and over again, Johanna and Finnick finally join them to talk. When Johanna asks about Mags, we learn a pretty awful fact about who she was.
“She was Finnick’s mentor, you know,” Johanna says accusingly.
“No, I didn’t,” I say.
“She was half his family,” she says a few moments later, but there’s less venom behind it.
Oh god. That is even more depressing than I anticipated. Poor Mags. 🙁
“So what are you doing with Nuts and Volts?” I ask.
“I told you—I got them for you. Haymitch said if we were to be allies I had to bring them to you,” says Johanna. “That’s what you told him, right?”
Wow, we got that answer quickly. So this is Haymitch’s doing. So….do Wiress and Beetee have something for Katniss that she doesn’t know about? They’re the ones who let her in on the chink in the armor of the force field. Perhaps they know something more about the design of arenas.
While Johanna takes the time to get some sleep, Katniss decides to be lookout and comfort Wiress, who is slipping in and out of consciousness, always muttering, “Tick, tock.”
The sun rises in the sky until it’s directly over us. It must be noon, I think absently. Not that it matters. Across the water, off to the right, I see the enormous flash as the lightning bolt hits the tree and the electrical storm begins again. Right in the same area it did last night. Someone must have moved into its range, triggered the attack. I sit for a while watching the lightning, keeping Wiress calm, lulled into a sort of peacefulness of the water. I think of last night, how the lightning began just after the bell tolled. Twelve bongs.
“Tick, tock,” Wiress says, surfacing to consciousness for a moment and then going back under.
WAIT. WAIT A GOSH DARN MINUTE.
Twelve bongs last night Like it was midnight. Then lightning. The sun overhead now. Like it’s noon. And lightning.
MY HEAD. IT IS EXPLODING.
Slowly I rise up and survey the arena. The lightning there. In the next pie wedge over came the blood rain, where Johanna, Wiress, and Beetee were caught. We would have been in the third section, right next to that, when the fog appeared. And as soon as it sucked away, the monkeys began to gather in the fourth. Tick, tock. My head snaps to the other side. A couple of hours ago, at around ten, that wave came out of the second section to the left of where the lightning strikes now. At noon. At midnight. At noon.
I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE THIS. HOW DID I NOT SEE THIS.
“Oh,” I say under my breath. “Tick, tock.” My eyes sweep around the full circle of the arena and I know she’s right. “Tick, tock. This is a clock.”
Suzanne Collins, you are a genius.