In the twenty-fifth chapter of The Hunger Games, there are few things in the world as fucked up as this. Seriously. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to read The Hunger Games.
I give up. I canâ€™t handle this.
Muttations. No question about it. Iâ€™ve never seen these mutts, but theyâ€™re no natural-born animals. They resemble huge wolves, but what wolf lands and then balances easily on its hind legs? What wolf waves the rest of the pack forward with its front paw as though it had a wrist? These things I can see at a distance. Up close, Iâ€™m sure their more menacing attributes will be revealed.
Yeah, could they not. Likeâ€¦yeah I donâ€™t want to see these things at all.
Gamemakers, you are winning. I would seriously be dead already, but if not, I would definitely die right now.
My hands have just landed on the metal at the pointed tail of the Cornucopia when I remember Iâ€™m part of a team. Heâ€™s about fifteen yards behind me, hobbling as fast as he can, but the mutts are closing in on him fast.
I totally get that Katniss freaks out and runs immediately. WHICH OF US WOULDNâ€™T DO THE SAME THING. I still laughed, though, when she was like, â€œOH OOPS MY PARTNER.â€ Best teammate ever, right right right?
Cato lies on his side at the very top of the horn, twenty feet above the ground, gasping to catch his breath as he gags over the edge. Nowâ€™s my chance to finish him off. I stop midway up the horn and load another arrow, but just as Iâ€™m about to let it fly, I hear Peeta cry out. I twist around and see heâ€™s just reached the tail, and the mutts are right on his heels.
GOD DAMN IT. I WANTED CATO TO BE MURDERED. Mostly just so this can be over with because WHY IS THIS SO STRESSFUL. Oh my god.
Peeta starts up hampered by not only the leg but the knife in his hand. I shoot my arrow down the throat of the first mutt that places its paws on the metal. As it dies the creature lashes out, inadvertently opening gashes on a few of its companions. Thatâ€™s when I get a look at the claws. For inches and clearly razor-sharp.
This is definitely the most frightening thing Collins created. I am in awe at this. You were all right. Was not at all prepared.
The mutts are beginning to assemble. As they join together, they raise up again to stand easily on their back legs giving them an eerily human quality. Each has a thick coat, some with fur that is straight and sleek, others curly, and the colors vary from jet black to what I can only describe as blond. Thereâ€™s something else about them, something that makes the hair rise up on the back of my neck, but I canâ€™t put my finger on it.
Might it be the fact that THESE MUTATED WOLVES ARE ASSEMBLING. That is what does it for me. So I take it back: This is now the most awful thing Collins has ever created.
For a moment it hangs there, and in that moment I realize what else unsettled me about the mutts. The green eyes glowering at me are unlike any dog or wolf, any canine Iâ€™ve ever seen. They are unmistakably human. And that revelation has barely registered when I notice the collar with the number 1 inlaid with jewels and the whole horrible thing hits me. The blonde hair, the green eyes, the numberâ€¦itâ€™s Glimmer.
NO. YOU SERIOUSLY HAVE TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!!!!
The small one with the red coat and amber eyesâ€¦Foxface! And there, the ashen hair and hazel eyes of the boy from District 9 who died as we struggled for the backpack! And worst of all, the smallest mutt, with dark glossy fur, huge brown eyes and a collar that reads 11 in woven straw. Teeth bared in hatred. Rueâ€¦
I revoke my last statement. There is nothing in this book worse than this. I am appalled. Think about this: they killed their fellow tributes and now the Gamemakers designed it so that they have to kill them all over again.
Gamemakers are the worst. I am in shock.
â€œItâ€™s them. Itâ€™s all of them. The others. Rue and Foxface andâ€¦all of the other tributes,â€ I choke out.
I hear Peetaâ€™s gasp of recognition. â€œWhat did they do to them? You donâ€™t thinkâ€¦those could be their real eyes?â€
Their eyes are the least of my worries. What about their brains? Have they been given any of the real tributes memories? Have they been programmed to hate our faces particularly because we have survived and they were so callously murdered? And the ones we actually killedâ€¦do they believe theyâ€™re avenging their own deaths?
Massively, mega-screwed up. This is horrifying. Collins, I donâ€™t know what possibly inspired you to create thisâ€¦thing, but good lord. I am impressed.
As Peeta is grabbed by a mutt, Katniss is quickly overwhelmed by everything. She tries fighting off the mutts, but the action is simply too much. What does she focus on? What happens when Cato catches his breath? Is Peeta ok?
Cato stands before me, almost at the lip of the horn, holding Peeta in some kind of headlock, cutting off his air. Peetaâ€™s clawing at Catoâ€™s arm, but weakly, as if confused over whether itâ€™s more important to breathe or try and stem the gush of blood from the gaping hole a mutt left in his calf.
Unbelievable. Collins continues to ramp up the action and the risk at the same time. I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever read so fast in my whole life; in fact, as soon as I finished this chapter, I immediately read it a second time, knowing I missed details.
Cato just laughs. â€œShoot me and he goes down with me.â€
Heâ€™s right. If I take him out and he falls to the mutts, Peeta is sure to die with him.
Cato, I am so full of rage. I hate you. Guys, where is that scene of the earth opening up and eating him? I need it right now.
Peetaâ€™s lips are turning blue. If I donâ€™t do something quickly, heâ€™ll die of asphyxiation and then Iâ€™ll have lost him and Cato will probably use his body as a weapon against me. In fact, Iâ€™m sure this is Catoâ€™s plan because while heâ€™s stopped laughing, his lips are set in a triumphant smile.
Just awful, right? The extreme irony is that Peeta can win this game alongside Katniss, but Cato is preventing that from happening. WHAT A BIGOT.
But what happens next is possibly one of the more brilliant twists in the whole book, not just because it changes the characters, but it also affects our perception of the Games in a way thatâ€™s completely unexpected.
Peeta draws an X on the back of one of Catoâ€™s hands and Katniss recognizes it as her chance: she draws back her bow and shoots an arrow into his hand. In this moment, Cato releases Peeta, who slams into him. He goes toppling off of the horn.
We hear him hit, the air leaving his body on impact, and then the mutts attack him. Peeta and I hold on to each other, waiting for the cannon, waiting for the cannon, waiting for the competition to finish, waiting to be released. But it doesnâ€™t happen. Not yet. Because this is the climax of the Hunger Games, and the audience expects a show.
That show, though, is the moment I realize Collins has been planning this all along. Weâ€™ve been set up to hate Cato the entire time. Heâ€™s rude, ruthless, cruel, and desperate to cause pain. Yes, itâ€™s in the context of the Games and we have no idea what heâ€™s like outside of them, but we still grow to hate him for what heâ€™s done.
And yet, as Cato fights the mutts, he delays the inevitable, as he uses the armor to his advantage as he tries to kill the mutts.
I donâ€™t know how long itâ€™s been, maybe an hour or so, when Cato hits the ground and we hear the mutts dragging him, dragging him back into the Cornucopia. Now theyâ€™ll finish him off, I think. But thereâ€™s still no cannon.
Night falls and the anthem plays and thereâ€™s no picture of Cato in the sky, only the faint moans coming through the metal beneath us. The icy air blowing across the plain reminds me that the Games are not over and may not be for who knows how long, and there is still no guarantee of victory.
So, I hated Cato. I begged for his death. And now Iâ€™m getting it, attached to a very Haneke-like twist: we have to read about him suffering for an entire night.
I feel awful that I ever hated him. Sure, he was an asshole in the Games, but who wasnâ€™t? Ok, maybe not Rue or Foxface, but still. Wouldnâ€™t you be an asshole to if you had to fight to survive.
Touche, Collins. Iâ€™m impressed.
The night stretches into what seems like infinity. I know Iâ€™ve complained a lot about Katpee just waiting around, but here itâ€™s strangely suspenseful, despite that nothing happens for hours. HOURS. Fucking terrible.
The cold would be torture enough, but the real nightmare is listening to Cato, moaning, begging, and finally just whimpering as the mutts work away at him. After a very short time, I donâ€™t care who he is or what heâ€™s done, all I want is for his suffering to end.
You know who truly deserves our hate right now? The Gamemakers. THIS IS CONSIDERED ENTERTAINMENT. I know this is another culture, but who in Panem actually is entertained by all this?
Guess how long this lasts? ALL GODDAMN NIGHT. Until the sun comes up. Thatâ€™s when Peeta convinces Katniss to user her last arrow (which is in Peetaâ€™s tourniquet) to finally end the Games and put Cato out of his misery.
It takes a few moments to find Cato in the dim light, in the blood. Then the raw hunk of meat that used to be my enemy makes a sound, and I know where his mouth is. And I think the word heâ€™s trying to say is please.
Pity, not vengeance, sends my arrow flying into his skull. Peeta pulls me back up, bow in hand, quiver empty.
â€œDid you get him?â€ he whispers.
The cannon fires in answer.
â€œThen we won, Katniss,â€ he says hollowly.
â€œHurray for us,â€ I get out, but thereâ€™s no joy of victory in my voice.
Iâ€™m shocked. I expected to feel the slightest bit of exhilaration when Katniss won. Despite Peeta winning too, I feel dirty. As if I shouldnâ€™t have read this and been entertained by it.
I feel fucking awful.
The mutts disappear into a hole in the plain, but after that, nothing happens. No anthem. No fanfare. No final announcement. The dread starts to fill inside my chest. Katpee have no idea why the Games havenâ€™t closed and they decided to head towards the lake. A hovercraft picks up the remains of Cato, but nothing happens to our winning tributes.
As I stoop to pick it up, Claudius Templesmithâ€™s voice booms into the arena.
â€œGreetings to the final contestants of the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games. The earlier revision has been revoked. Closer examination of the rule book has disclosed that only one winner may be allowed,â€ he says. â€œGood luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.â€
WHAT THE FUCK!!!!!!!!!
I wanted to start crying. Even reading this a third time while writing a review, it is like the very worst slap in the face. I feel betrayed and this book isnâ€™t even real.
I wasnâ€™t fucking prepared.
I stare at Peeta in disbelief as the truth sinks in. They never intended to let us both live. This has all been devised by the Gamemakers to guarantee the most dramatic showdown in history. And like a fool, I bought into it.
This is the most fucked up thing in Things That Are Fucked Up. I canâ€™t. I just canâ€™t.
The two of them almost immediately face off, though Peeta constantly insists that Katniss kill him. They argue frantically over who should die, both throwing down their weapons. Peeta ups the ante, though: He removes the bandage on his leg and begins bleeding to death.
â€œYouâ€™re not leaving me here alone,â€ I say. Because if he dies, Iâ€™ll never go home, not really. Iâ€™ll spend the rest of my life in this arena trying to think my way out.
Thatâ€™s probably my favorite line in the whole book. Just so damning and disturbing.
But Katniss (and bless her for thinking of this) realizes there is actually a third option.
Yes, they have to have a victor. Without a victor, the whole thing would blow up in the Gamemakersâ€™ faces. Theyâ€™d have failed the Capitol. Might possibly even be executed, slowly and painfully while the cameras broadcast it to every screen in the country.
The greatest act of rebellion in the arena is one of self-identity, to make a choice outside of the system that is yours and yours alone.
Double suicide by eating nightlock.
I spread out my fingers, and the dark berries glisten in the sun. I give Peetaâ€™s hand one last squeeze as a signal, as a good-bye, and we begin counting. â€œOne.â€ Maybe Iâ€™m wrong â€œTwo.â€ Maybe they donâ€™t care if we both die. â€œThree!â€ Itâ€™s too late to change my mind. I lift my hand to my mouth, taking one last look at the world. The berries have just passed my lips when the trumpets begin to blare.
The frantic voice of Claudius Templesmith shouts above them. â€œStop! Stop! Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present the victors of the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark! I give youâ€”the tributes of District Twelve!â€
Iâ€™m relieved. I can say that. And yetâ€¦I still feel completely terrible.
What the fuck, Collins.