The Caged Bird Sings



I'm in the bed, thinking of these long, arduous months, feeling growth in me, feeling something alive squirming for its way out into this harsh world. In some ways, I want to keep it inside me, save its innocence from the dark domain that will eagerly gobble it up, a little bird ready to be devoured by the wolves. But I'm more fragile than any egg, and I can't keep it in me—and I don't want it in me, too. There's so much in me that I feel as though I'll burst from it all and this little thing in my belly is the breaking point.

I'm laying on my back, staring up into the ceiling, white and gold, the sun peeking in a little to witness this and the pain is so awful I can't stand it.

Despite the pregnancy, he would still occasionally have sex with me, even hit me but it never went to the stomach and that was the place I always wanted him to hit—I don't want this child, it's not mine, I didn't want it, I never wanted it.

The rapes weren't as rough because of this pregnancy, which I'm slightly grateful for, but he would still come in and stay by me through the long hours of the night. The emotional abuse was enough to make up for the lack of the physical, constantly berating me, telling me I was stupid not to stab myself in the gut before people came to break up my attempts, telling me how I'm worthless, how nothing good can ever come out of me because I'm filthy.

And all of it was true.

He doesn't want this child either, I'm sure of it—the way he stares at my bulging stomach. It's an obscenity for both of us and it makes my heart coil to think like that—the fact he and I agree on this, that this child is something unwanted by the two of us. I hate him so much it inflames me from the inside out, leaving me breathless. To ensure that I won't do anything rash, he had secured nursemaids and guards within the confines of this room to keep an eye on me during the day, and during the night, he would come in and take over, watching me with acute sky colored irises.

Another contraction throws me into a memory—of him coming into the dead of night, unbinding the ropes that held my wrists to the bedposts to prevent my thrashing out for a weapon of any kind, for I had been difficult that day to my captors.

"Do they know about how you treat me?" I asked him.

He comes, dragging a chair and sits, back of it to his front so he can lean towards me. "Yes. And no,"

I looked at him in confusion, "What do you mean?"

"Some are bribed—with all the money I have now. The others don't ask because they know better."

"You're a sick bastard,"

He laughs quietly, "You threw quite a tantrum today."

"Of course I did—I'm being held here against my will and you don't expect some sort of retaliation?"

"I do, believe me I do, Girl on Fire," he says, using the moniker that destroyed my life, "But I also know that if you were compliant, they wouldn't have to restrain you. Think of the baby,"

"I am! I'm thinking about how death would be better for the two of us!" I shout, standing in rage.

He rises slowly, simply staring with that infuriating quiet. He then goes on his knees and touches my protruding belly, caressing it and even plants a chaste kiss upon it, "Mommy's being silly, isn't she?"

I had backed off, breathing hard, because of the sincerity that crept into his voice, even as he mocked me. He stayed beside me, ignoring me, and I could do nothing as he murmured affectionate words, gripping my hand to keep me in place, the other gently patting. We even felt it kick and he laughed softly, saying, "Going to be a strong one." And he took hold of my face and kissed me, working his way into my mouth, into my soul, and it frightened me.

I wasn't sure of him that night, other than he was a complete raving madman.

Pain shoots upwards into me, and my head is tossed back, body arching, tauter than bowstrings, screaming curse words, singing for relief. There's a midwife there and I ignore her for most of it, occasionally listening to the instruction of pushing and waiting.

I can't help but wonder if his family knows. I haven't seen them since that day he was arguing with them below. Do they know about how apathetic, how merciless he is? They must. They raised him to be a contender for the Games—all the Careers are raised to learn how to shed blood without the slightest remorse in order to preserve them; if this is how their son is, they must be worse, and, therefore, condone this.

I scream as another contraction makes my body tense, and I'm wishing for my sister to hold my hand, for my mother to deliver me from this excruciating time in my life.

Another cry resounds with mine, entering the world as mine die in the air.

The midwife is holding it in her arms, cleaning up the thing, and I wish she could do the same with the air, rank with sweat and blood.

She's smiling at me, "You want to see him?"

No, I don't. I want to tell her that. I want her to take it and throw it into a river, because if its father is a demon, there's no chance of gaining an ounce of compassion and humanity, living in a dark, desolate den.

She must be one of the people who don't ask, because she comes forward and places it beside me and I look into the face of one so small it breaks my heart in two. He bears my skin color, my eyes… the hair is indistinguishable, almost a pale shade of red. The color will go either way, yet I don't care. I knew that looking at the child would be the death of me because, now looking at him, I know that parting with him will hurt me. Despite his origin, it's not his fault, and he's absolutely perfect and I quietly ask him to forgive me for wishing he died.

"I was just scared for you," I whisper.

The baby only coos, staring into my face, and I nuzzle close.

The door opens and my body tenses because it's him; I'm looking dead straight at him and he walks over, looking at us.

"A healthy baby boy," says the woman.

He moves to touch the soft baby skin—

"No!" I shout, and I startle the baby, causing it to cry.

He purses his lips, "You're being ridiculous," and he shoves me back. The time it took to give birth has exhausted me and the aches between my legs vibrate through me, making me collapse.

I watch as he holds my child, his finger clasped between two tiny fists. "Very healthy… he has your eyes. You're going to be a fine Victor—I'll see to that."

I'm rushing up, the world falling apart, collapsing in on itself, and the midwife is rushing out the door with them, and he's stealing the one thing that's mine left in this dark dungeon. I slam into the now locked door, throbs overbearing my fatigued frame, and I fall onto the floor, crying and laughing—I was happy for that one fleeting moment and he stole it; I'm laughing because I'm free of the one potential thing that would, undoubtedly, bind me here—because it's a child—and I'm weeping for the little boy who will have to face evil alone.

Sleep finds me, ravages me, and I watch as a young toddler is selected to be a Tribute, crying out for a savior, and no one comes, because I'm buried alive beneath his feet, forgotten and useless.

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