In the tenth chapter of Mockingjay, the bombs begin to fall. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.
I have one complaint before I continue on with this mind-fuck of a chapter:
The scream begins in my lower back and works its way up through my body to jam in my throat. I am Avox mute, choking on my grief.
No, Katniss, you are not an Avox. Shut up.
All right, I had to say that. ONWARDS TO SO MUCH WHAT THE FUCKERY I CANNOT HANDLE IT.
Peeta’s message at the end of his speech hits home very quickly, as everyone in Command freaks out. Is this indeed a message from him about an oncoming attack on Thirteen? Why did he change his mind about the war between the Capitol and the districts? What’s going to happen to him?
It’s a good thing that Coin believes Katniss and Haymitch, because she very quickly moves to enact safety protocols that she says District 13 has been preparing for for decades. This is, by and large, one of my favorite set of scenes in the entire series. We all know that Collins exceeds best when writing situations that are urgent and intense; here, in chapter ten, she paints an eerie and unsettling portrait of a district under attack.
District 13 immediately goes into lockdown. A lot of what Collins does here is create an atmosphere of claustrophobic suspense. As the ear-splitting sound fills the underground base, the residents quietly and quickly descends deep into the base. At one point, Katniss’s ears actually pop, signifying how deep they must be going. While some people split off unmarked doorways along the way down, Katniss is directed all the way to the bottom, where we learn just how gigantic District 13 is.
The place seems unable to decide if it’s natural or man-made. Certain areas of the walls are stone, while steel beams and concrete heavily reinforce others. Sleeping bunks are hewn right into the rock walls. There’s a kitchen, bathrooms, a first-aid station. This place was designed for an extended.
Well, that’s not a comforting thought. But the sheer size of this place makes me wonder: what else is there in District 13? What else are they prepared for? I also find it strange that despite that Katniss describes the place as being gigantic, it still feels small to me. Maybe it’s the idea of being hundreds of feet below the surface of the earth that freaks me out.
Recent events have had little effect on Plutarch’s mood. He still has a happy glow from Beetee’s success on the Airtime Assault. Eyes on the forest, not on the trees. Not on Peeta’s punishment or 13’s imminent blasting. “Katniss, obviously this is a bad moment for you, what with Peeta’s setback, but you need to be aware that others will be watching you.”
A SETBACK? A SETBACK????
“Why don’t I just pretend I’m on camera, Plutarch?” I say.
“Yes! Perfect. One is always much braver with an audience,” he says. “Look at the courage Peeta just displayed!”
It’s all I can do not to slap him.
Ok, seriously. I do not like how those in charge of District 13 and the rebellion simply use Katniss without regard to her feelings or her mental state or her energy or…shit, ANYTHING AT ALL. Fuck this. Katniss, please find that third option THIS IS AWFUL.
Katniss heads to her assigned section and then finds the twelve-by-twelve foot square. Yeah, she gets a square to share with her family. A SQUARE. Since her mother and Prim haven’t arrived, she reads the BUNKER PROTOCOL and goes off to collect the rations/supplies her family is allotted.
The waiting begins. I have to hand it to Collins. Even narrating something as simple as waiting is painful. It’s not long before Katniss’s mom shows up…but without Prim. Oh, and Prim left ten minutes before her mother did.
I squeeze my lids shut tight for a moment, to track her as I would prey on a hunt. See her react to sirens, rush to help the patients, nod as they gesture for her to descend to the bunker, and then hesitate with her on the stairs. Torn for a moment. But why?
My eyes fly open. “The cat! She went back for him!”
GODDAMN IT, BUTTERCUP. You better be shitting in someone’s bed.
She wasn’t. I kind of had a feeling that, as Katniss came upon the guards closing the door to the bunker, that Collins wouldn’t SERIOUSLY lock Prim out. RIGHT. Like…she isn’t that awful, is she?
So Prim makes it inside with Buttercup and apparently Gale was with her? What was Gale doing? Anyway, I particularly liked this section because it basically proves that my Buttercup log is actually cannon:
I take a few breaths to calm myself, step back, and lift Buttercup by the scruff of the neck. “I should’ve drowned you when I had the chance.” His ears flatten and he raises a paw. I hiss before he gets the chance, which seems to annoy him a little, since he considers hissing his own personal sound of contempt. In retaliation, he gives a helpless kitten mew that brings my sister immediately to his defense.
See? He’s a smarmy asshole. I knew it!
“Thanks for…everything.” I take our stuff. “What were you doing up in our rooms?”
“Just double-checking,” he says. “We’re in Forty-Seven if you need me.”
WAIT, SIR. WHAT WERE YOU DOING THERE. Hmmm. Maybe I’m just a fan of ~conspiracies~ too much, but THIS SEEMS FISHY. Oh well. It’ll probably turn out to be just fine.
Prim has Buttercup installed on the lower bunk, draped in a blanket so that only his face pokes out. This is how he likes to be when there’s thunder, the one thing that actually frightens him.
Ok, so I’m now realizing that I said this chapter was very ~suspenseful~ and ~intensical~ and I’ve been quoting passages about a cat with an attitude, like this is a Garfield novel or something. I SWEAR IT’S INTENSE AND CREEPY but I cannot avoid quoting all things having to do with Buttercup. God, I’ve become a real-life manifestation of half of Tumblr now.
The faint sound of the sirens cuts off sharply. Coin’s voice comes over the district audio system, thanking us all for an exemplary evactuation of the upper levels. She stresses that this is not a drill, as Peeta Mellark, the District 12 victor, has possibly made a televised reference to an attack on 13 tonight.
So that means YOU’RE GOING TO STOP MAKING HIM OUT TO BE EVIL, RIGHT, COIN?
That’s when the first bomb hits. There’s an initial sense of impact followed by an explosion that resonates in my innermost parts, the lining of my intestines, the marrow of my bones, the roots of my teeth. We’re all going to die, I think. My eyes turn upward, expecting to see giant cracks race across the ceiling, massive chunks of stone raining down on us, but the bunker itself only gives a slight shudder. The lights go out and I experience the disorientation of total darkness. Speechless human sounds—spontaneous human shrieks, ragged breaths, baby whimpers, one musical bit of insane laughter—dance around in the charged air. Then there’s the hum of a generator, and a dim wavering glow replaces the stark lighting that is the norm in 13. It’s closer to what we had in our homes in 12, when the candles and fire burned low on a winter’s night.
Ok, THIS is that unbearably creepy moment. That space of silence…holy shit, that is so terrifying to me. Just waiting to see if another bombs drops. If the ceiling will crack. If the stones will come tumbling down.
That second bomb doesn’t come, but it’s a long while before they know this. Prim relates to Katniss the information she was taught when during orientation for new citizens and surmises that it was probably just a bunker missile. Even then, though, it’s still a possibility that the Capitol will launch a nuclear attack as well.
Katniss’s thoughts turn to Peeta and she wonders what finally convinced him to do what he did. She believes that what he was doing was genuine, that he really wanted a cease fire, but that something inspired him to finally leak the information of the bombing on live TV.
What was it?
Coin’s voice, perhaps a shade grimmer, fills the bunker, the volume level flickering with the lights. “Apparently, Peeta Mellark’s information was sound and we owe him a great debt of gratitude. Sensors indicate the first missle was not nuclear, but very powerful. We expect more to follow. For the duration of the attack, citizens are to stay in their assigned areas unless otherwise notified.”
SO THAT MEANS YOU’LL PARDON PEETA, RIGHT? If you don’t Coin, I will end you. Metaphorically.
As Katniss’s mom takes off to tend to the first aid station, we get some much-needed quality time between Katniss and Prim:
Despite the disagreeable conditions, I’m glad to have time with my sister. My extreme preoccupation since I came here—no, since the first Games, really—has left little attention for her. I haven’t been watching over her the way I should, the way I used to. After all, it was Gale who checked our compartment, not me. Something to make up for.
There’s a part of me that likes to imagine this is Collins’s way of saying, “HEY GUYS, I KNOW. THIS BOOK IS LACKING IN PRIM.” I appreciate it. I think I want to see more of these sister together because they have such a natural and trusting relationship. The conversation they have in the bunker is evidence of that, as Katniss makes an attempt to find out how Prim is dealing with all of this. She’s doing quite well, honestly, and it made me smile that she believes District 13 will train her to be a doctor.
Prim a doctor. She couldn’t even dream of it in 12. Something small and quiet, like a match being struck, lights up the gloom inside me. This is the sort of future a rebellion could bring.
Ok, so maybe this isn’t all bad. But I’m still not ready to trust Coin, Plutarch, and Haymitch. Something else is up and it gives me the creeps.
The conversation comes round to Prim asking how Katniss is and I loved that Katniss finally had someone to open up to, despite how painful it is for her. And then Prim drops her own little bomb:
“Katniss, I don’t think President Snow will kill Peeta,” she says. Of course, she says this; it’s what she thinks will calm me. But her next words come as a surprise. “If he does, he won’t have anyone left you want. He won’t have any way to hurt you.”
Well, shit. Someone is a lot wiser than we thought before. And with that, a few throwaway lines from Catching Fire are given a new context:
Suddenly I am reminded of another girl, one who had seen all the evil the Capitol had to offer. Johanna Mason, the tribute from District 7, in the last arena. I was trying to prevent her from going into the jungle where the jabberjays mimicked the voices of loved ones being tortured, but she brushed me off, saying, “They can’t hurt me. I’m not like the rest of you. There’s no one left I love.”
Oh, Johanna. I really hope you’re ok.
“So, what do you think they’ll do to him?” I ask.
Prim sounds about a thousand years old when she speaks.
“Whatever it takes to break you.”
FUCK. I was going to say TEAM PRIM, but I’m already on like 233454 teams by now. But wow. That girl brings it.