In the twenty-sixth chapter of Catching Fire, I realize that these little third-person introductions I do are utterly pointless because there is no way I can ever summarize what the fuck just happened. My god. If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for me to read Catching Fire and then pass out.
The anthem begins, but there are no faces in the sky tonight. The audience will be restless, thirsting for blood. Beetee’s trap holds enough promise, though, that the Gamemakers haven’t sent in other attacks. Perhaps they are simply curious to see if it will work.
I seriously can’t. This chapter and only one more left? That’s all that’s left in Catching Fire and somehow, Collins is going to resolve all this? I CAN’T. HOW IS SHE GOING TO DO THIS?
There’s a finality to the tone, a shift in the underlying feeling of the words on these pages, as if the characters also realize that this is the last time they’ll do most of this. Beetee begins to unroll the wire and Finnick helps him wrap in an intricate design around the tree that gets struck by lightning every twelve hours. Katniss can’t figure out why the design has to be intricate, but there’s no sense to questioning any of this. There’s simply no time.
I suppose time is now the real thing that we have to worry about, not only because we’re so close to the end of the book, but because…well, think about it. The arena is a clock and the dangers are based on hourly segments, and the pace of the Games has slowed far too much. Something has to happen. The Gamemakers can’t allow this to get too boring.
This is when Beetee reveals the rest of the plan. Since we move most swiftly through the trees, he wants Johanna and me to take the coil down through the jungle, unwinding the wire as we go. We are to lay it across the twelve o’clock beach and drop the metal spool, with whatever is left, deep into the water, making sure it sinks. Then run for the jungle. If we go now, right now, we should make it to safely.
Unsurprisingly, Peeta isn’t too happy about getting separated from Katniss, especially since he couldn’t convince her to abandon her plan to keep him alive. Again, time factors into the plot: Beetee insists that there’s no time to debate this. Katniss and Johanna are the fastest and they can easily get to the beach and back before midnight.
And then they are off. Johanna and Katniss move down the beach, one of them uncoiling the wire while the other keeps a look out. When Katniss asks to switch and take the wire, it just….i can’t…my god.
Both of our hands are still on the metal cylinder when there’s a slight vibration. Suddenly the thin golden wire from above springs down at us, bunching in tangled loops and curls around our wrists. Then the severed end snakes up to our feet.
It only takes a second to register this rapid turn of events. Johanna and I look at each other, but neither of us has to say it. Someone not far above us cut the wire.
WHAT. ALREADY. WHAT.
My hand frees itself from the wire and has just closed on the feathers of an arrow when the metal cylinder smashes into the side of my head. The next thing I know, I’m lying on my back in the vines, a terrible pain in my left temple. Something’s wrong with my eyes. My vision blurs in and out of focus as I strain to make the two moons floating up in the sky into one. It’s hard to breathe, and I realize Johanna’s sitting on my chest, pinning me at the shoulders with her knees.
No. No. NO. It can’t be. JOHANNA???
There’s a stab in my left forearm. I try to jerk away but I’m still too incapacitated. Johanna’s digging something. I guess the point of her knife, into my flesh, twisting it around. There’s an excruciating ripping sensation and warmth runs down my wrist, filling my palm. She swipes down my arm and coats half my face with blood.
Johanna betrayed her. Finnick probably did too. They lied. They fucking lied to her. They have to have planned this the entire time.
I can’t guys. I can’t believe this.
Footsteps coming. Two pairs. Heavy, not trying to conceal their whereabouts.
Brutus’s voice. “She’s good as dead! Come on, Enobaria!” Feet moving into the night.
Oh fucking hell. They betrayed Katniss to side with the Careers. They were planning this THE WHOLE TIME.
The alliance is over. Finnick and Johanna must have had an agreement to turn on us tonight. I knew we should have left this morning. I don’t know where Beetee stands. But I’m fair game, and so is Peeta.
This is just awful. You know, I wanted to believe that they they were good and that they were actually trying to give the Capitol the middle finger. This is so fucked up.
With a renewed sense of purpose and a motivation to get up and not die there in the middle of the jungle, Katniss manages to sit upright and her thoughts turn to Peeta, to saving him. She throws up her seafood dinner from that night, and begins to work on making sure she’s still able to keep moving.
The reality of her injuries is terrifying. She’s still squirting blood from the wound on her arm, but she manages to bandage it up with some moss. The lump on her head didn’t break the skin, so she presses on.
Collins narrates, through Katniss, one of the most ordered bits of chaos I’ve read in a long time. Again, it’s another moment that validates the narration style that Collins chose. To be completely honest, I read this chapter in maybe ten minutes, if that; I had to visit it a second time before I even started to write this review.
My judgment of Finnick is quickly proven to be hasty when he runs by Katniss screaming her name and Johanna’s. Surely he wouldn’t be calling out her name with so much terror if he had turned on her, right? Though I can’t be sure and neither can Katniss. But her mind isn’t completely focused as the rise in the clicking from the insects in the eleventh wedge begins to overwhelm her. And me. Fine, I’ll admit it, I’M OVERWHELMED. WHAT IS GOING ON.
The boom of a cannon pulls me up short. Someone has died. I know that with everyone running around armed and scared right now, it could be anybody. But whoever it is, I believe the death will trigger a kind of free-for-all out here in the night.
Well, if I was overwhelmed before, now I can’t even think right. What is going on.
Katniss thinks she gets caught in a net, but it turns out to be more of Beetee’s wire. She uses it to guide herself as quickly as possible in her current condition back to the tree in the twelfth wedge, but no one is where they should be.
A soft moan answers me and I whip around to find a figure lying higher up on the ground. “Beetee!” I exclaim. I hurry and kneel beside him. The moan must have been involuntary. He’s not conscious, although I can see no wound except a gash below the crook of his elbow.
WHO HURT MY BEETEE? I will metaphorically harm you back.
Except maybe no one did. Because Katniss sees that Beetee is clutching a knife in his hand, a knife wrapped in a small bit of wire that he left on the ground before he even started. Realizing that they’re just a few steps from the force field, she looks up the “chink” in the field and makes a damn fine guess: Beetee tried to drive the knife into it.
WHAT. WHY. WHY WOULD HE DO THAT DELIBERATELY.
Except, like most things in chapter 26, she doesn’t get much time to think about it. That’s when she hears Peeta screaming her name in the distance. Knowing she’s too weak and injured to run to him, she does the next best thing. She screams his name in response, hoping to bring his attackers to her. She waits atop the small hill and sure enough, Finnick and Enobaria arrive. It’s all but outright confirmed at this point that they were completely and utterly betrayed.
“Katniss!” Peeta’s voice howls for me. But this time I don’t answer. Beetee still breathes faintly beside me. He and I will soon die. Finnick and Enobaria will die. Peeta is alive. Two cannons have sounded. Brutus, Johanna, Chaff. Two of them are already dead. That will leave Peeta with only one tribute to kill. And that is the very best I can do.
I really can’t pinpoint why, but this might be the saddest passage yet in this trilogy. I’m at the point where I truly believe Katniss loves Peeta and appreciates and respects him on a level that is genuine and real. And here, she realizes this might be it and she is completely okay with giving it all up for him.
Shit is fucked up.
Enemy. Enemy. The word is tugging at a recent memory. Pulling it into the present. The look on Haymitch’s face. “Katniss, when you’re in the arena…” The scowl, the misgiving. “What?” I hear my own voice tighten as I bristle at some unspoken accusation. “You just remember who the enemy is,” Haymitch says. “That’s all.”
Haymitch’s last words of advice to me. Why would I need reminding? I have always known who the enemy is. Who starves and tortures and kills us in the arena. Who will soon kill everyone I love.
And the transformation begins. In an instant, she chooses to reveal herself as she removes the wire from Beetee’s knife, ties it around the arrow, turns to the weak spot in the force field, and sends her arrow flying through it. IT GOES THROUGH THE FORCE FIELD.
A flash of white runs up the wire, and for just a moment, the dome bursts into a dazzling blue light. I’m thrown backward to the ground, body useless, paralyzed, eyes frozen wide, as feathery bits of matter rain down on me. I can’t reach Peeta. I can’t even reach my pearl. My eyes strain to capture one last image of beauty to take with me.
Right before the explosions begin, I find a star.
Suzanne Collins, what have you done? That’s all I have to say.