In the twenty-fourth chapter of Mockingjay, how is it possible that someone could even conceive of what happens here? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read Mockingjay and then sob himself to sleep for a week.
I haven’t even had time to heal from chapter twenty-two. Good god.
Let’s start off with Katniss being a badass and showing us all she doesn’t need the men in her life to survive.
But my best friend predicts I will choose the person who I think I “can’t survive without.” There’s not the least indication that love, or desire, or even compatibility will sway me. I’ll just conduct an unfeeling assessment of what my potential mates can offer me. As if in the end, it will be the question of whether a baker or a hunter will extend my longevity the most. It’s a horrible thing for Gale to say, for Peeta not to refute. Especially when every emotion I have has been taken and exploited by the Capitol or the rebels. At the moment, the choice would be simple. I can survive just fine without either of them.
At heart, Katniss is a survivor, and while that is a fair assessment to make, she’s spelled out what I couldn’t process yesterday because I’m not her: this is awfully fucked up for either of them to say or condone. It’s dismissive and unfair and I’m glad she has, at least for the moment, resolved to take care of herself first.
The next morning, they prepare further for the next step of infiltrating the president’s mansion. On the television, they watch as the rebels push forward even further into the city. I found it kind of funny that, like modern warfare in the television age, it seems the rebels are keen to televising what they’re doing, which I’ve never understood myself. I remember being a kid and watching the Gulf War during dinner on the tiny television my dad kept in the kitchen, wondering why on earth we would show our enemies on national television what our plans were.
Of course, this backfires and Gale predicts it.
“This can’t last long,” says Gale. “In fact I’m surprised they’ve kept it going so long. The Capitol will adjust by deactivating specific pods and then manually triggering them when their targets come in range.” Almost within minutes of his prediction, we see this very thing happen on-screen. A squad sends a car down a block, setting off four pods. All seems well. Three scouts follow and make it safely to the end of the street. But when a group of twenty rebel soldiers follow them, they’re blown to bits by a row of potted rosebushes in front of a flower shop.
WELL, THIS MISSION LOOKS LIKE IT WILL BE A SUCCESS. Seriously, how the fuck are they going to manage this? It seems that staying in disguise is, at the very least, the only way to inch closer to President Snow’s mansion. Katniss peers out the window and sees tons of refugees from the Capitol heading to the center of town. It’s an opportunity, sure, but it pains Katniss to think about the situation too much, as it reminds her that there were once refugees fleeing from her own district, under much more strenuous circumstances.
I didn’t expect there to be another day before Katniss and her group left the cellar, but Tigris leaves to go spy for them and the day stretches out to an unbearable length, leading our survivor group to wonder where she went. Is she turning them in? Was she arrested? Killed?
Thankfully, she wasn’t, and the information she brings back is invaluable. Peacekeepers are moving from door-to-door to assign refugees to each building based on the size of each place, which means a couple of things. First, as we learn from the TV broadcast they watch once Tigris arrives back, is that everyone in the City Circle has to abide by the rules and house refugees. That means there’s a chance people could be set up in Tigris’s shop. More importantly, though, is the fact that the president himself allegedly will open up his mansion to refugees. Whether that’s actually true or not is sort of irrelevant at this point. The situation in the Capitol has reached a pretty critical moment of panic:
It seems that this evening there was an unfortunate incident where a crowd beat to death a young man who resembled Peeta. Henceforth, all rebel sightings are to be reported immediately to authorities, who will deal with the identification and arrest of the subject. They show a photo of the victim. Apart from some obviously bleached curls, he looks about as much like Peeta as I do.
WHAT THE FUCK????
It seems that now is the time to act. There’s no point waiting around for the right opportunity. This is as good as it’s going to get. Gale and Katniss sneak away for a second to discuss this and it’s clear that while Cressida and Pollux could be useful, Peeta is going to present a problem. Surprisingly, though, when they bring this up to Peeta, he doesn’t fight it at all. Not only does he agree that it’s too risky for him to come along with them, he announces that he’ll actually be leaving off on his own.
“The one thing that I might still be useful at is causing a diversion. You saw what happened to that man who looked like me,” he says.
“What if you…lose control?” I say.
“You mean…go mutt? Well, if I feel that coming on, I’ll try to get back here,” he assures me.
“And if Snow gets you again?” asks Gale. “You don’t even have a gun.”
“I’ll just have to take my chances,” says Peeta. “Like the rest of you.”
Well, that’s a shaky plan, right? But the thing is…it’s not like they have any amount of time to come up with something better. And so it is: they are leaving in the morning to disguise themselves as refugees and make it inside the president’s mansion. Early the next morning, Tigris goes to work doing what she used to do best: be a stylist.
She redresses us so regular clothes hide our uniforms before we even don our coats and cloaks. Covers our military boots with some sort of furry slippers. Secures our wigs with pins. Cleans off the garish remains of the paint we so hastily applied to our faces and makes us up again. Drapes our outerwear to conceal our weapons. Then gives us handbags and bundles of knickknacks to carry. In the end, we look exactly like the refugees fleeing the rebels.
“Never underestimate the power of a brilliant stylist,” says Peeta.
Look, seriously, this isn’t even the saddest thing ever, and it made me tear up. Portia and Cinna and OH GOD THIS BOOK IS COMING TO AN END SOON prepare for endless waterworks.
Pollux and Cressida head out into the streets first, acting as guides of sorts so that Gale and Peeta can follow behind them in the right direction. It’s time to go, and this may be the last time any of them see each other. Katniss turns to Peeta, unlocks his handcuffs, and makes my heart hurt.
I wrap my arms around his neck, feel his arms hesitate before they embrace me. Not as steady as they once were, but still warm and strong. A thousand moments surge through me. All the times these arms were my only refuge from the world. Perhaps not fully appreciated then, but so sweet in my memory, and now gone forever.
UUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH please, please do not let Peeta die. Jesus christ, THIS IS SO STRESSFUL.
Unsure of what the near future holds, Gale and Katniss step out into the cold, frosty air of the Capitol and mesh in with the refugees. I think Collins does a spectacular job describing the atmosphere of all of these people sadly pushing forward toward some unknown time and place, the sounds of their crying and moaning mixed in with their palpable fear.
And then Collins punches us in the face. And then kicks us once we’ve fallen to the floor. And then pushes off a cliff. And I will never, ever look at this book the same again.
Just minutes after joining the group, Katniss spots Cressida and Pollux ahead of them, but there’s no chance to continue moving. Gunfire rains down on them from the roof above them and the two of them hide to get a better look at what’s happening.
What I can see, between alternating pairs of lavender and mint green leather boots, is a street full of bodies. The little girl who was watching me kneels beside a motionless woman, screeching and trying to rouse her. Another wave of bullets slices across the chest of her yellow coat, staining it with red, knocking the girl onto her back.
I can’t. I SIMPLY CANNOT. Who the fuck is shooting at them? Peacekeepers? Why would they do this? But I was wrong about my first impression: it’s the rebels. THINK ABOUT THAT. The rebels just infiltrated the center of town and THEY JUST SHOT DOWN A CHILD MOURNING SOMEONE WHO WAS JUST KILLED IN FRONT OF HER. Rebels, what the fuck are you doing???
Gale and Katniss don’t panic, thankfully, as they calmly discuss the fact that they have to keep moving on. They cannot stop now or risk being detected.
Behind a rack of framed photos of Snow, we encounter a wounded Peacekeeper propped against a strip of brick wall. He asks us for help. Gale knees him in the side of the head and takes his gun. At the intersection, he shoots a second Peacekeeper and we both have firearms.
Holy god, shit is getting real and shit is not even real yet. Gale, YOU PROBABLY JUST KILLED SOMEONE. Well, it’s not surprising, considering how much he hates the Capitol, but it’s still completely jarring. It only gets worse, though, as the two of them arrive at the next block and it’s utter chaos. It’s impossible to tell who is who and the rebels have now completely arrived to fight the Capitol.
Pouring onto the avenue, taking cover in doorways, behind vehicles, guns blazing, hoarse voices shouting commands as they prepare to meet an army of Peacekeepers marching toward us. Caught in the cross fire are the refugees, unarmed, disoriented, many wounded.
The true nature of this war is right here: two sides battle out their differences while a whole bunch of people who can’t defend themselves are murdered in the middle. Ok, sure, that’s a gross simplification of what’s happening here. The rebels have to fight in the Capitol and they’re fighting for their freedom. This is important and it’s imperative. I just don’t like the idea of the rebels being so careless, shooting little girls and defenseless refugees; it’s unsettling because it’s so violently unnecessary. I expected that there would be collateral damage during this final battle, but it’s just so grisly and shocking.
A pod’s activated ahead of us, releasing a gush of steam that parboils everyone in its path, leaving the victims intestine-pink and very dead.
THIS IS SERIOUSLY THE MOST TERRIFYING BATTLE OF ALL TIME. My god, it’s the chaos. The fact that there’s no plan. The fact that Gale and Peeta have no idea what they’re supposed to do anymore. My heart hurts. I am bewildered and confused and SHIT IS STILL NOT REAL YET.
The steam from this latest pod fills the street and essentially renders this Katniss and Gale’s view impossible. They no longer can tell who is who. It’s frightening to read that Katniss is shooting randomly, just like many of the other people on the street, but I did have a sense of comfort knowing that Gale was with her.
As we reach the next corner, the entire block ahead of us lights up with a rich purple glow. We backpedal, hunker down in a stairwell, and squint into the light. Something’s happening to those illuminated by it. They’re assaulted by…what? A sound? A wave? A laser? Weapons fall from their hands, fingers clutch their faces, as blood sprays from all the visible orifices—eyes, noses, mouths, ears. In less than a minute, everyone’s dead and the glow vanishes. I grit my teeth and run, leaping over bodies, feet slipping in gore. The wind whips the snow into blinding swirls but doesn’t block out the sound of another wave of boots headed our way.
Suzanne Collins, I submit to you. I am not worthy. You have created something that is indescribably horrifying. I seriously don’t know what else to say about this. I was never prepared for this.
To hide from the oncoming troops, Katniss and Gale fall to the ground and pretend to be dead, forced to deal with being stepped on and kicked inadvertently by passing troops. After they pass, the two of them stand to continue moving towards the mansion, but a pod is triggered. And it’s not like other pods, as the street cracks open down the middle and begins to fold downwards into something unknown under the ground. YEAH IT’S A GIANT TRAP. They should have brought Admiral Ackbar along!
There’s nothing to do but use my last seconds of connection to the tiles to push off for the intersection. As my hands latch on to the side, I realize the flaps have swung straight down. My feet dangle in the air, no foothold anywhere. From fifty feet below, a vile stench hits my nose, like rotted corpses in the summer heat. Black forms crawl around in the shadows, silencing whoever survives the fall.
You know, I straight up don’t want to know what’s down there.
The situation is as bad as it could possibly be, as Katniss dangles over her possible death. She manages to swing her leg up to the street and cling to a lamppost, calling out to Gale, hoping he didn’t fall to his death. Thankfully, he immediately responds and she sees that a group of people, including Gale, are doing the same thing as Katniss, clinging to whatever they can over the blackened pit. Katniss shoots out the lock on a door next to Gale and he swings indoors, safe from whatever was below him.
For a moment, I experience the elation of his rescue. Then the white-gloved hands clamp down on him.
Gale meets my eyes, mouths something at me I can’t make out. I don’t know what to do. I can’t leave him, but I can’t reach him either. His lips move again. I shake my head to indicate my confusion. At any minute, they’ll realize who they’ve captured. The Peacekeepers are hauling him inside now. “Go!” I hear him yell.
Gale’s gone. Oh my god, they captured Gale. I can’t believe it. I didn’t think Collins would do this. Peeta is nowhere around, Cressida and Pollux might be dead as well, and Katniss is all alone.
I fall into a doorway, tears stinging my eyes. Shoot me. That’s what he was mouthing. I was supposed to shoot him! That was my job. That was our unspoken promise, all of us, to one another. And I didn’t do it and now the Capitol will kill him or torture him or hijack him or—the cracks begin opening inside me, threatening to break me into pieces. I have only one hope. That the Capitol falls, lays down its arms, and gives up its prisoners before they hurt Gale. But I can’t see that happening while Snow’s alive.
My god, this is so disheartening. At the beginning of this chapter, I knew that there was no time to come up with a perfect plan, and that they’d experience complications. This is more than a mere complication. This is the worst of the worst, the absolute most awful thing I could imagine. Hundreds of people dead and every possibility that the four remaining rebels besides Katniss are dead or captured as well. It’s real. It’s happening. And jesus goddamn christ, I am not prepared.
Katniss pulls herself together, knowing that everything will be in vain if she doesn’t continue on, if she doesn’t kill President Snow as soon as possible. So she leaves the house she’s hiding in, awash in the tragedy of what has just happened, dedicated to fulfill her mission. Alone, that is. She makes it to the City Circle, and it’s not at all what she expected. It’s full of refugees, sure, but what those refugees are doing is what shocks both her and myself.
About halfway there, I become aware of the concrete barricade. It’s about four feet high and extends in a large rectangle in front of the mansion. You would think it would be empty, but it’s packed with refugees. Maybe this is the group that’s been chosen to be sheltered at the mansion? But as I draw closer, I notice something else. Everyone inside the barricade is a child. Toddlers to teenagers. Scared and frostbitten. Huddled in groups or rocking numbly on the ground. They aren’t being led into the mansion They’re penned in, guarded on all sides by Peacekeepers. I know immediately it’s not for their protection. If the Capitol wanted to safeguard them, they’d be down in a bunker somewhere. This is for Snow’s protection. The children form his human shield.
HOW THE FUCK DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS, SUZANNE COLLINS???? How do you make EVERY SCENE WORSE THAN THE ONE THAT COMES BEFORE IT? Does this mean that Snow organized to have the refugees come to the City Circle with no intention to house them in his mansion? He did this on purpose, didn’t he? To protect himself against the oncoming rebel force.
It’s true. As the rebel force enters the circle and Katniss climbs a flagpole to escape the crushing crowd below and any possible pods. But no pods come. Instead, a Capitol hovercraft approaches, dropping medical supplies on the crowd via silver parachutes. It’s very reminiscent of the Hunger Games, isn’t it?
The hovercraft vanishes, five seconds pass, and then about twenty parachutes simultaneously explode.
I CANNOT. I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS CHAPTER. Screw the rest of this book. This chapter alone is one of the most frightening and stressful experiences I can possibly imagine. Collins, you are an evil, evil genius.
A wail rises from the crowd. The snow’s red and littered with undersized body parts. Many of the children die immediately, but others lie in agony on the ground. Some stagger around mutely, staring at the remaining silver parachutes in their hands, as if they still might have something precious inside. I can tell the Peacekeepers didn’t know this was coming by the way they are yanking away the barricades, making a path to the children.
WHY IS THE CAPITOL BOMBING THEIR OWN CHILDREN? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON
Another flock of white uniforms sweeps into the opening. But these aren’t Peacekeepers. They’re medics. Rebel medics. I’d know the uniforms anywhere. They swarm in among the children, wielding medical kits.
This is a disaster. The Capitol is willing to murder their own citizens to survive. I can’t even. I JUST CAN’T.
First I get a glimpse of the blond braid down her back. Then, as she yanks off her coat to cover a wailing child, I notice the duck tail formed by her untucked shirt.
PRIM. OH MY GOD, PRIM! She is now a medic??? Why is she here? What is she doing?
I have the same reaction I did the day Effie Trinket called her name at the reaping. At least, I must go limp, because I find myself at the base of the flagpole, unable to account for the last few seconds. Then I am pushing through the crowd, just as I did before. Trying to shout her name above the roar. I’m almost there, almost to the barricade, when I think she hears me. Because for just a moment, she catches sight of me, her lips form my name.
And that’s when the rest of the parachutes go off.
I….I….uh…..oh my god. Oh my god. Wait. WAIT. WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE HOLY SHIT FUCK JUST HAPPENED
OH MY GOD GUYS. IT’S GALE’S TRAP. IT’S HIS FUCKING TRAP. TRICK PEOPLE INTO THINKING IT’S A RESCUE MISSION OR SUPPLIES AND KILL THEM WHEN THE GO IN TO HELP
Oh my god I can’t. I can’t. Prim can’t die. If Prim dies because of Gale’s idea….oh my god. MY GOD. MYG ALSKDJFAL;DJF HOW DID THE CAPITOL GET GALE’S IDEA. WHAT THE FUCK. WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!
I am going to cry forever.