Mark Reads ‘Mockingjay’: Chapter 20

In the twentieth chapter of Mockingjay, HOLY GOD NOTHING IS SAFE ANYMORE. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay.

It’s as if in an instant, a painted window shatters, revealing the ugly world behind it. Laughter changes to screams, blood stains pastel stones, real smoke darkens the special effect stuff made for television.

OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED OH MY GOD THERE IS NO WAY TO WRITE YOURSELF OUT OF THIS.

I reach Boggs first, try to make sense of the torn flesh, missing limbs, to find something to stem the red flow from his body. Homes pushes me aside, wrenching open a first-aid kit. Boggs clutches my wrist. But his next words are an order. “The Holo.”

OH MY GOD BOGGS. YOU ARE PRETTY MUCH DEAD MY CREYS THIS IS SO INTENSE WHAT THE FUCK

The Holo. I scramble around, digging through chunks of tile slick with blood, shuddering when I encounter bits of warm flesh. Find it rammed into a stairwell with one of Boggs’s boots.

YEAH, SO CAN WE PLEASE GO  BACK TO THIS BEING A REALLY BORING WAR FULL OF SILLY SCENES OF THEM FILMING PROPOS. WHAT THE FUCK.

Homes has the stump of Boggs’s left thigh cupped by some sort of compression bandage, but it’s already soaked through. He’s trying to tourniquet the other above the existing knee.

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY. WE CAN NEVER HAVE NICE THINGS AGAIN.

But Boggs has both hands working the Holo. He’s typing in a command, pressing his thumb to the screen for print recognition, speaking a string of letters and numbers in response to a prompt. A green shaft of light bursts out of the Holo and illuminates his face. He says, “Unfit for command. Transfer of prime security clearance to Squad Four-Five-One Soldier Katniss Everdeen.”

WHAT THE HOLY FLYING FUCK WHY THE FUCK IS HE TRANSFERRING AUTHORITY TO KATNISS I SERIOUSLY CANNOT HANDLE THIS MY BRAIN IS GOING TO EXPLODE.

Finnick’s yelling something back, gesturing to the end of the block where we entered. Black, oily matter spouts like a geyser from the street, billowing between the buildings, creating an impenetrable wall of darkness. It seems to be neither liquid or gas, mechanical or natural. Surely it’s lethal. There’s no heading back the way we came.

I SERIOUSLY CANNOT FUCKING BELIEVE THIS. WHAT IS THIS SHIT.

I don’t know what they’re doing until another bomb, ten yards away, detonates, opening a hole in the street. Then I realize this is a rudimentary attempt at minesweeping. Homes and I latch on to Boggs and begin to drag him after Gale. Agony takes over and he’s crying out in pain and I want to stop, to find a better way, but the blackness is rising above the buildings, swelling, rolling at us like a wave.

THIS MIGHT POSSIBLY BE ONE OF THE MOST HORRIFYING THINGS I HAVE EVER READ. LITERALLY FILLED WITH TERROR AND SADNESS OH MY GOD BOGGS THIS IS SO FUCKING AWFUL.

I’m yanked backward, lose my grip on Boggs, slam into the stones. Peeta looks down at me, gone, mad, flashing back into the land of the hijacked, his gun raised over me, descending to crush my skull.

WHYYYYYYYYYY WHYYYYYYYYYY WHYYYYYYYYYYY MY BRAIN CANNOT PROCESS SO MUCH STUFF ALL AT THE SAME TIME

I roll, hear the butt slam into the street, catch the tumble of bodies out of the corner of my eye as Mitchell tackles Peeta and pins him to the ground. But Peeta, always so powerful and now fueled by tracker jacker insanity, gets his feet under Mitchell’s belly and launches him further down the block.

WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING. PEETA. WHAT WHAT WHAT ARE YOU DOING

There’s a loud snap of a trap as the pod triggers. Four cables, attached to tracks on the buildings, break through the stones, dragging up the net that encases Mitchell. It makes no sense—how instantly bloodied he is—until we see the barbs sticking from the wire that encases him. I know it immediately. It decorated the top of the fence around 12. As I call to him not to move, I gag on the smell of the blackness, thick, tarlike. The wave has crested and begun to fall.

THIS IS FUCKING UNBELIEVABLE. A NET MADE OF BARBED WIRE. PEETA JUST KILLED MITCHELL. THIS WAVE OF BLACKNESS IS GOING TO COME CRASHING DOWN. THIS IS THE MOST INTENSE CHAPTER OF ALL CHAPTERS EVER TO BE CHAPTERED EVER.

Gale and Leeg 1 shoot through the front door lock of the corner building, then begin to fire at the cables holding Mitchell’s net. Others are restraining Peeta now. I lunge back to Boggs, and Homes and I drag him inside the apartment, through someone’s pink and white velvet living room, down a hallway hung with family photos, onto the marble floor of a kitchen, where we collapse. Castor and Pollux carry in a writhing Peeta between them. Somehow Jackson gets cuffs on him, but it only makes him wilder and they’re forced to lock him in a closet.

WHAT THE HOLY HELL, I CAN’T BREATHE ANYMORE. OK, SO, IF I MAY, I THINK THE IMAGE OF THEM DRAGGING A BLOODY BOGGS THROUGHT SUCH A “PRETTY” APARTMENT IS KIND OF AMAZING AND WILL LOOK FANTASTIC IN THE MOVIE BUT SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN ANY OF THIS BE PG-13, THIS IS SERIOUSLY SOME SCARY SHIT.

ALSO LOL PEETA’S IN THE CLOSET LOL

Boggs forces the Holo into my hand. His lips are moving, but I can’t make out what he’s saying. I lean my ear down to his mouth to catch his harsh whisper. “Don’t trust them. Don’t go back. Kill Peeta. Do what you came to do.”

I draw back so I can see his face. “What? Boggs? Boggs?” His eyes are still open, but dead. Pressed in my hand, glued to it by his blood, is the Holo.

WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN. WHY. WHY. WHY SHOULDN’T SHE TRUST ANYONE. WHY SHOULD SHE KILL PEETA. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON

Peeta’s fee slamming into the closet door break up the ragged breathing of the others. But even as we listen, his energy seems to ebb. The kicks diminish to irregular drumming. Then nothing. I wonder if he, too, is dead.

JESUS THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING GOOD THAT CAN COME FROM ALL OF THIS. THIS IS THE WORST OF ALL THINGS. WHAT. THE. HELL.

“Our radio communicators went dead almost immediately. Probably an electromagnetic pulse device. But I’ll get us back to camp. Give me the Holo.” Jackson reaches for the unit, but I clutch it to my chest.

“No. Boggs gave it to me,” I say.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she snaps. Of course, she thinks it’s hers. She’s second in command.

“It’s true,” says Homes. “He transferred the prime security clearance to her while he was dying. I saw it.”

“Why would he do that?” demands Jackson.

I DON’T FUCKING KNOW!!! I MEAN, CLEARLY HE IS AWARE THAT KATNISS IS GOING TO SNEAK AWAY TO KILL SNOW, BUT WHY ON EARTH DOES HE WANT HER TO KILL PEETA? WHAT DOES HE KNOW THAT WE DON’T??? A;DFIJSJKAS;DFJ 29087_*& &*(^(%TOGJK ;AKSLDFJHA;AFKL

“Because I’m on a special mission for President Coin. I think Boggs was the only one who knew about it.”

This in now way convinces Jackson. “To do what?”

Why not tell them the truth? It’s as plausible as anything I’ll come up with. But it must seem like a real mission, not revenge. “To assassinate President Snow before the loss of life from this war makes our population unsustainable.”

I LOVE YOU FOREVER, KATNISS. YOU ARE MY FAVORITE BADASS.

“I don’t believe you,” says Jackson. “As your current commander, I order you to transfer the prime security clearance over to me.”

“No,” I say. “That would be in direct violation of President Coin’s orders.”

Guns are pointed. Half the squad at Jackson, half at me. Someone’s about to die, when Cressidea speaks up. “It’s true. That’s why we’re here. Plutarch wants it televised. He thinks if we can film the Mockingjay assassinating Snow, it will end the war.”

HOLY GOD, CRESSIDA, NOW I LOVE YOU, TOO. AMAZING. THAT IS AMAZING. SHE STOOD UP FOR KATNISS!!!!

This gives Jackson pause. Then she gestures with her gun toward the closet. “And why is he here?”

OH. OH SHIT. OH SHIT THAT’S RIGHT, HE MAKES NO SENSE. ;LKASDJF;ALKSDFH;AHDF;KLAHJS

Cressida comes to my aid again. “Because the two post-Games interviews with Caesar Flickerman were shot in President Snow’s personal quarters. Plutarch thinks Peeta may be of some use as a guide in a location we have little knowledge of.”

CRESSIDA, YOU ARE THE BEST. QUICK-THINKING AND COURAGEOUS. ILU 4EVA BUT WAIT WHY ARE YOU TAKING KATNISS’S SIDE I SHALL SIDE EYE YOU JUST IN CASE.

Homes unlockes the closet and heaves an unconscious Peeta over his shoulder. “Ready.”

“Boggs?” says Leeg 1.

“We can’t take him. He’d understand,” says Finnick.

DON’T CRY, MARK. DON’T FUCKING CRY.

Ok, so, the first moment in the entire chapter where I didn’t feel like forty thousand things were all happening at the exact same moment. JESUS, GUYS. This chapter is so intense it hurts to read even a second time.

When I say that I don’t know how this is going to be resolved, I mean it. I don’t even have an inkling of an idea. Katniss is so far in the whole of awful and complicated that I literally cannot conceive of a single method for her to get to Snow and kill him, LET ALONE DEAL WITH GALE AND PEETA. What the fuck, Collins.

Katniss gets her bearings at this point and comes up with an idea for an escape: to leave the same way they came in, tracing back over the path of the black wave. Obviously, people object to this, and understandably so. The goo was clearly toxic, but Gale scrapes off some of the black stuff from his boots. It’s not corrosive and was probably intended to either smother or poison them, so it’s probably safe. Castor translates Pollux, who states that the cameras are also probably disabled, too.

And so Katniss leads her troops out of the apartment, onto the thick batch of good covering the ground. I really liked this part:

“If anyone needs to go back, for whatever reason, now is the time,” I say. “No questions asked, no hard feelings.”

Despite that no one takes up the offer, I still think it’s a fantastic moment for her; she understand that her taking the lead might be jarring or ridiculous, so she’s giving the troops a choice. Has anyone else in the rebellion done such a thing? I don’t think so, and it demonstrates a sense of respect that I appreciate.

The streets of this part of the Capitol are covered with this weird, gel-like black stuff, which seems to have triggered other pods as well. They come upon a pile of tracker jackers, which are thankfully dead. In fact, it seems that any of the pods in the path of this gunk are now gone or disabled. As the goo begins to thin out, Katniss directs the group into an apartment  off to the side so they can regroup and figure out their next plan of attack.

Katniss is confused and so am I. I don’t know how to solve this. I don’t know what she’s supposed to do with all these people, or with Peeta, or how she’s supposed to get into the Capitol and then kill Snow and then hope it solves things? THIS IS SO COMPLICATED.

Just as the complexity of the mess I’ve dragged everybody into begins to overload my brain, a distant chain of explosions sends a tremor through the room.

“It wasn’t close,” Jackson assures us. “A good four or five blocks away.”

“Where we left Boggs,” says Leeg 1.

Ugh, the Capitol is bombing where they think they are. And just at that moment, the TV flickers to life, a Capitol broadcast filling up the screen, to confirm that very thought. I can’t imagine how strange this is, but the remaining troops watch themselves act out what they’d just experienced moments ago. Even stranger? The reporter names out Gale, Finnick, Boggs, Peeta, Cressida, and Katniss:

Now we cut to a live feed. A reporter stands on a roof with the Peacekeepers. Behind her, the apartment block burns. Firefighters try to control the blaze with water hoses. We are pronounced dead.

There’s a silver lining to this, obviously, since they now have the chance to move closer to the center of the Capitol without being detected, but I have to say…jesus, to watch someone say you’re dead on national television? That is so fucking weird. Right? Right?

We watch as they play the footage over and over. Revel in their victory, especially over me. Break away to do a montage of the Mockingjay’s rise to rebel power—I think they’ve had this part prepared for a while, because it seems pretty polished—and then go live so a couple of reporters can discuss my well-deserved violent end. Later, they promise, Snow will make an official statement. The screen fades back to a glow.

Seriously, one of the most bizarre things a person can witness. Is this going to make a difference to the rebellion? Didn’t Coin want Katniss killed anyway, so she could become a martyr?

“So, now that we’re dead, what’s our next move?” asks Gale.

“Isn’t it obvious?” No one even knew Peeta had regained consciousness. I don’t know how long he’s been watching, but by the look of misery on his face, long enough to see what happened on the street. How he went mad, tried to bash my head in, and hurled Mitchell into the pod. He painfully pushes himself up to a sitting position and directs his words to Gale.

“Our next move…is to kill me.”

HOLY CLIFFHANGER, WHAT THE HELL. OH GOD NO. NO. NO, DO NOT DO IT.

This chapter, y’all. THIS CHAPTER.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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