The Caged Bird Sings

Starling


Starling


Nothing can wake me up.

I'm trapped in some place I don't understand. It's frightening, surreal, and it feels like home to me.

Nothing can wake me up…

Wailing and cries wake me up and I panic, sitting up too fast, making my head spin. Hyacinth is grabbing the air, and I scoop him into me, holding him tightly. I murmur and sing to him until his eyes become heavy and he drifts into the one place where I can't protect him.

Placing him upon the soft mattress of his crib, I catch the scent of honey and oats. I turn, seeing something that looks mushy sitting in an elegant clear bowl, warm and fragrant. I take the food, sit on the bed, and eat it slowly, meticulously. My stomach growls viciously but I make myself take it all in with extreme lethargy.

And, honestly, I just don't feel like eating…

So half of it still sits in the bowl, looking pathetic in its half-eaten, incomplete state; I curl up into the bed, watching silver rays dance upon the floor and the walls, quiet valences of another world I can't touch.

Sleep decides to escape me. I get up, wrapping myself further into a robe and walk out the door. I can't think straight. I haven't been able to think straight since my sister's name was drawn at the Reaping. Everything is just too crazy.

I'm dying to go back home, to the woods, where everything is simple and clean, where things make sense and the only puzzles I have to figure out involve the sky and the earth.

My family and Gale's have no qualms with living in the Capitol. None of my people do. There's always food, water, doctors, showers, more food and water. It's good for them to have the things that they've desperately deserved all this time; however, I terribly wish it wasn't within this hellish place. Cinna is the only person I can stand from here, sometimes Effie. But, now, I cannot help but be wary of everybody. The only two people I can have with me and I won't feel the least hostile are Hyacinth and Prim. Most of the time, I don't want anyone else near me.

No one seems to get that.

I'm walking through the hallway with phantom legs, trying to find their sinew, their weight, their flesh. They creak and protest but within a while, they find a bit of themselves. The silence of the place is daunting but welcome. There's too many people here, asking if I'm fine, how I'm feeling, where I'm going, saying what I need to do; it's never the questions I want to hear: when I want my medicine, when I want to sleep, where I would like to play with my son, if I want to be left alone, if I want to leave…

People are stupid.

Because people are stupid, I walk back to my room, to keep them from Hyacinth and to avoid anyone who may be roaming the halls with me. Everyone's taken a liking to Hyacinth and it worries me a little bit. I just don't like the idea of people I don't know very well being around my child. The Capitol people mainly.

Murderers of children shouldn't be around children.

I enter into the quiet darkness and don't bother to flip on the light. I merely collapse atop the mattress, face planted right into the covers. Maybe I'll suffocate myself to death lying like this… but I know it won't work. Not when Hyacinth is here. And I toss too much in my sleep anyway—nightmares never allow me to stay still.

I don't know what I'm waiting for. I don't exactly know what's going on. I'm just tired and I want to sleep but it's so elusive, mocking me, flashing frightening fragments of memories behind my lids but without the relief of drowning in dreams.

Soon the sun is rising and I'm groaning loudly, fisting the sheets and pulling them up past my face. Why is it always so bright so soon?

Hyacinth is stirring, I hear him begin to whine and soon enough I hear his whines become loud, agitated cries. I rise, tired and exhausted, scooping him into my arms. I'm not allowed to breastfeed him because of all those damned medications they're giving me to help me with my insomnia and night terrors. Countless other pills too—to help me gain weight, to keep the depression to a minimal degree, to counter the weight gaining pill because apparently I get sick with it but no one will take me off it so they give me yet another drug.

Hyacinth is pulling at my shirt and the pleading in his eyes makes me hurt. "I know, but until they get rid of the meds, you're stuck on that baby powdered stuff."

Hyacinth seems to almost grimace, as though he knows what I'm talking about. I smile at him and wrap him closer in a lighter blanket, carrying him out of the room and into the hallway.

We reach the room where breakfast is usually served and I load up some fruit and a bit of the oatmeal I'd been given earlier. My son doesn't particularly like eating solids, even if they're crushed up to practically liquids, but he's a good boy and opens his mouth when the spoon comes forward.

Behind me, the door opens, sliding automatically with a gentle swoosh. I continue to feed my child with a deeper intensity to ignore the person behind me, no matter who it is. The footsteps are too soft and quiet to be Haymitch, who stumbles with every breath, and it cannot be Effie, who clops about the place, sounding like a horse in those high heels.

Prim will be asleep. My mother will be with her.

It's Gale.

But I'm wrong.

I'm glancing to my right and stare at Madge, who is sipping quietly on a cup of something that smells bitter. Probably coffee. Madge had recently gotten here, a part of the rebellion. She'd lost her parents a couple months ago to the cause of the rebels but she had remained loyal to them. I'd never taken her to be one for such a thing but there were plenty of things I'd never taken her to be either. One thing she remains to be is a girl who minds her own business and she does it now, just sipping her drink and offering silence to me. I add her to the list of people who don't piss me off.

Hyacinth gurgles and spits, yellow orange stuff escaping his mouth, dribbling down his chin. I grab a napkin and wipe him clean. He then has the silliest idea to begin to chew on it, looking at me with such bright hopeful eyes.

"Tough little guy, aren't you?"

Hyacinth and I glance at Madge. I've lost his attention and he stares at her, wondering who in the world she is. Madge is also a very pretty girl so it doesn't surprise me that he'll be looking. The dim sunlight peeking in is touching his hair, which is a bright golden color now, contrasting with the darkness of his skin and milky gray eyes. It's not as dark as my captor's, and it's brighter than even Madge's. It's just so pale, thin silver skeletal fingers. I'm hoping it will darken to a more normal shade, one that doesn't look like something from the Capitol. A color that's more like Peeta's…

"He's a strong child, Katniss,"

I grunt, but my pride swells. He's the only good thing I've ever created.

She continues to sip her coffee before she rises to walk to the other end of the room. Refilling her cup with the strong, heavy brew; she then looks over her shoulder at me, "You want something?"

I shake my head. Stomaching anything down is still difficult. The weight pills are backfiring, I think. They don't add fat or muscle onto me and it doesn't make me crave food either. Food's just revolting at the thought of it.

This strikes me. I've never hated food before… I used to want it all the time. Getting food, buying food, hunting food was my life and now I can barely have a passing thought about it without wanting to puke. So much about me has changed. I never thought it could happen—a person from District 12 denying food.

A shriek builds into my throat but I hold it in until it suffocates and dies.

"Are you all right?"

I find myself gripping the spoon too tightly, fingers red and knuckles white, hot, iron brands. Hyacinth is quiet, tense, watching me anxiously. I don't look at Madge, not wanting to see her face. I rise from the chair, try to feed my son a little bit more, and at his refusal, I take it as a good cue to leave. Lifting him up into my arms, I'm walking towards the door when it opens and Gale walks in.

"There you are,"

I pause, tense.

"We've been looking for you,"

"Who is?"

"Well, the lot of us. We have to discuss some things."

I relent my child to his crib, where Prim is there waiting to take care of him. She takes him into her arms and at his delighted squeal, I relax a little bit.

Following Gale and Madge down the hallway behind them, I don't look at anything or anyone but the floor and the black boots on my feet. Whispering is ahead of me. Madge and Gale are speaking in hushed tones. My eyes follow their movements; my ears listen to the rhythm of their voices, how close they are next to each other.

In another lifetime, I might've been jealous.

In another lifetime, I might've cared.

Here, where I am, I can barely hold interest.

We come into a new hall that's so sterilized my nose crinkles up. We walk to a door that has a security guard on each side. They identify all of us, and then we walk through the door. Haymitch, Cinna and Effie are already there. Gale and Madge take their seats. I walk to the other side of the table so I can look at the screen. They're going to ask me to sit here either way so I may as well accommodate them. I hate being told what to do. I like to do it on my own—so it'll feel like I'm in control of something.

"Good, we're all here," Effie states, "Although some of us could've been here a little earlier…"

Gale gives her a brief glare but retains whatever biting comment bristled upon his tongue.

It is almost similar to the days of the Games, but my stylists aren't here, and neither are Portia and her crew. It's completely empty of anything connected to Peeta.

"Now, before we start," says Haymitch, "Katniss, is there anything you want to ask?"

"Just what we're going to discuss and how it pertains to me."

He doesn't mind my clipped tone but Effie clearly doesn't like it. I can just hear her squawk in her head, Manners!

"Well, sweetheart, our president sent us a message very early this morning. He wants to talk with you personally."

"Why can't he just talk to you?"

"He asked for you."

"…when does he plan to call again?"

"Sometime this evening; he didn't give us any specifics either on what the details of the conversation will be. So just be on your toes."

"If we're in a truce with him, why do I need to be wary?"

"You know why."

And I do know why. Despite the new treaty between the Capitol and the Districts, we're all hanging by a thread of humanity and sanity that's so thin; a child's stare can cut it. I nod, agreeing, even though I would much rather do anything else.

"What else?"

Effie puts her hand on Haymitch's shoulder and Gale stiffens in my peripheral vision. Madge and Cinna are the only ones that are stiller than stone yet don't give off any pretentious or fearful airs. They continue to stare at the table.

"You shouldn't tell her," hisses Effie.

"What is it?" I snap, my patience cracking.

Haymitch turns to me, "I was going to tell you but you're not ready to handle it."

"What do you mean I'm not ready to handle it?"

"With the way you're acting, it would be best if we postpone even letting you know about it now."

"But you've already brought it up to my attention!" I claim, pounding a fist on the table, "Just tell me what you're talking about."

Cinna interjects, "Katniss, you're riled and filled with too many emotions—which is understandable—but we're thinking it would be good to refrain you from fully knowing about it."

I turn to him, a fresh wave of hurt washing over me. It's because it's Cinna, who had said he'd bet on me over anyone, and he thinks I'm not the same. Which is true, I'm not.

I can't get hurt anymore.

"I can handle it."

Effie sighs heavily as Haymitch straightens up, Cinna stares at me with sad, kind eyes, while Gale and Madge both have looks of anger on their faces.

"The Victor from 2 would like to see you."

Him…

"Why does he want to see me?"

"We were wondering the same thing, sweetheart,"

"But you do not have to go and see if you do not want to!" Effie says quickly. I see a flicker of fear there but I don't understand why.

Gale stands up, the chair protesting on the hard floor. "No, she can't. And she won't."

"Why not?" I say. It's not because I desire to him—not at all. I'm asking more out of the fact he's speaking for me and it's not his place to do so, broken shared past or not.

"Katniss, he can't be trusted," answers Gale, eyes hard as they lock onto mine. It's there in his voice, the tone, and the stance of his body— that I should know better.

The thing is I do. I do know better.

"I want to hear what he has to say."

There are immediately rounds of dissent that drowns out my voice, conquering and burying it. Frustration builds and I finally shout that I won't see him. I storm out of the room, intent on heading back to mine, where my son and sister are the only people in the world that I'm certain I never want to harm.

Prim and Hyacinth are beautiful in the deepening twilight. I watch the sun kiss the sky goodbye, the sky blushing with hot white stars. I cover them further up with the blanket, Hyacinth sleeping with a hand curled about Prim's finger.

Slowly, I head to the door, remembering the conversation that Snow will want with me. No doubt that there are escorts being sent here to fetch me. I've decided to beat them. I wander the halls often enough to occupy my mind and to allow Hyacinth a view besides one confined space…

The only footfalls that echo are mine, thudding quietly. In a matter of time, I find myself before the door where we held our conference this morning. The guards recognize me without the identification and allow me in. No one is there but me. I flip on the television, the screen blank. Before long there's a beeping sound, with the words 'Incoming Message' flashing upon the darkness. Snow is then there, facing me and I'm facing him. He looks so disgusting.

"Girl on Fire,"

"Snow,"

He smiles sleazily. It doesn't do much to me besides desire for a bath. His grin is venomous no matter what.

"It's been a long time,"

I nod.

"Let's get to the point, Miss Everdeen. The capture of District 2's tribute must've been a relief to you. I'm glad that you made it out safely."

I remain silent.

"This is in regards to him," he continues, slowly enunciating, as though I were lame in mind. I'm crazy, not stupid. "I have a proposition for you… Justice can be doled out for you. There will be a trial for him in two weeks in regards to the rebellion. You are the best witness against him."

"All right…"

"That's not the only thing I'm asking you to do. You are also his judger."

I blink. "What?"

"Cato is a traitor to the country of Panem. He's done the most inexplicable doing of sending the country into chaos and, of course, what he did to you was most detrimental."

A piece of me wants to tell him to shove his fake pity somewhere else.

"Since you are the largest witness to this, it only makes logical sense to have you be his judge."

"I don't understand. Why don't you do it?"

He shrugs noncommittally. "It's only fair that the girl he sexually abused is allowed to have vengeance. Isn't it?"

I cannot help but agree with that.

He does deserve this, everything and more…

"Is this a yes, Miss Everdeen?"

"No."

"Pardon me?"

"I'll need some time to think about it."

He's wearing a smile that shows knowledge, smugness and arrogance. He continues to stare into me, to break my spirit. I don't have much of it left. It's too empty inside of me—this won't be hurtful. I wonder if Snow is serious and if he'll recant his decision.

"Very well," he replies, stroking his bead, "You have a week to make your decision."

I thank him. Watch Snow leave and the blackness settle, a contrast to the brightness of the individual I just saw.

The judge of my captor… it's almost dreamlike. It's like breathing again, finding your footing and falling into sweet, soft dreams. However… I wonder if I can do it. If I can actually say in front of everyone, to him to his face, that he guilty of multiple penalties and then watching him die.

Yet my mind is saying not to do so.

I rise from the chair, look to the left then the right. I head to the left, a new determined purpose driving into me.

It's time I found the man that demolished my life. I know where he is. He's in the darkest part of the building, with four guards at the door. The opening is steel, plated with iron and copper. Each guard holds a gun and other intimidating objects. I take a deep breath and walk forward.

"State your name."

"Everdeen, Katniss."

The guard that questioned me doesn't even bother to breathe, "You are not authorized to head inside this vicinity, Miss Everdeen."

A part of me bristles but I make sure to grit my teeth. "If I cannot speak to him and go in there, can I at least see him?"

All four guards look at one another with wary glances and then back to me, wondering if I'd sprouted something grotesque. They move aside. I slide open the little slot that allows people to see inside.

I don't know what to think. He looks powerful yet vulnerable, chained to each side of the room while tightened completely in a white jacket that has many buttons and belts to hold him into place. He appears to be sleeping. I stare and stare. To kill him or not to kill him…

His head slowly rises and his eyes catch mine, ice that pierces deeply.

He smirks, the one meant to destroy me.

I plan to kill him too.

Then, it's there, the other thing—the emotion I cannot tell he's ever faking. He looks shattered….

I plan to talk to him, to find things out.

Then, I'll kill him. And I'll learn to laugh.

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