The Caged Bird Sings

Grouse


Grouse


I kill myself.

Or at least attempt to.

His hands are all over me, strangling me until I can't scream or breathe or cry. When he leaves me dead and blue and black, there's something whispering to me, a harsh sound, almost like quiet screaming. I wander down bleached halls where only gray ghosts and dark shadows pass over them until I find myself in a room. There on the table is the most wonderful thing ever: nightlock.

My giddiness evaporates as quickly as it comes when I hear Prim shout to me, holding Hyacinth, calling me back.

"I can't!"

"You have to, Katniss!" she cries, "For me, for Hyacinth, for all of us!"

"No, I'm too far gone!" And it's true. My fingers ache, heavy, holding only one berry but it carries the weight of dark matter and the bleakness of the world in its fragile skin.

"Please! Katniss!" Prim is weeping and there's nothing I can do to quell the tears.

Then something twists in her face, Hyacinth letting out a howling screech, and the sounds, the words, coming from her mouth aren't my sister. But they're true. "You damned masochist! You're not in fucking love with him!"

The cry in my throat isn't released as I sit up fast in bed.

I simply sit. And sit. And sit.

Then I release the wail.

I pound my fists into the sides of my head and I blearily turn to the nightstand. The pills! Where are they? My hands are trembling as they ravage through the contents of a very bare drawer. I walk to the bathroom and practically yank out the cabinet upon the wall, trying to find the pills that I take whenever I just want to knock myself out.

Nothing.

I wonder if any Avoxes have come in recently. The Capitol had illustriously provided us with many things, including 'household servants,' but I had absolutely forbade anyone and everyone from entering my room who were Capitol-born, save Effie and Cinna because they're a part of us. I'm tempted to go out and pick a fight with someone because I'm too high-strung at the moment and I need to vent it out. This is not a smart thought, which I'm close to doing, but I rein in the desire. I take in deep breaths, shaking uncontrollably. The one time I need those pills to send myself into dreamless sleep and the damned things decide to be gone.

My leg jitters on its own, toes curling in and out as I bite my nails, red and cold. Raking my fingers through my hair, tugging on it hard causes the loose strands to tangle around my digits, dark threads of brittle night. I need to stop treating my body so terribly but there's not much else I can think to do with it.

The days go by so lethargically now, long and tedious and uneventful.

There's nothing here for me.

What purpose do I have here aside from taking care of my children?

I may be free from my solitary confinement but that's beside the point. I simply do not know what to do. Rage and anger and hate gave me life in those dark moments when my body felt torn and splintered apart. Apathy is taking its place, causing me to be numb to almost every situation. My heart isn't even broken from the idea of Gale being with Madge is true. It's a little shocking, considering how he had treated her before the Hunger Games—a plague, something to be avoided or, at the very least, tolerated. To see them the way they are now…it's almost unbearable in certain ways.

My life had been stole from me for over a year. I lost all that time which I will never be able to regain. There were days when Prim may have done something wonderful; days when I could have listened to Gale speak with the fervor and passion I know he possesses; days when my mother and I could've mended our relationship; hours of being in the Hob, where everyone knows me and I know them; minutes, and seconds, and all the moments in-between where I could have had life.

He stole it from me and it pains me that, at the same time, I had life in those dark moments. I still felt pain and it made me human. I gave life in that prison cell, crying sweet wails and smelling of bloodied flowers, to the most precious little boy in the world.

The feeling of being robbed is still there however because it applies to my son as well. I don't know what he saw and did outside of the room when I was locked inside but I do know that, with me, my child saw nothing but gloom and roving black. He spent time with me in the darkness—all that suffocating, horrible darkness where it will squeeze in upon us and trap us and we'll be screaming in the mines of my mind because he's a part of me; I am nothing but a burden to my child because he's stuck with someone who will never understand the true severity of her situation.

Falling in love with a monster is an unthinkable and terribly tragedy. At least, it may be love…

There's too much in me to wonder. Love doesn't work that way and it shouldn't—I don't understand why he consumes all my thoughts, why he comes to my mind's eye when I shut them, looking arrogant at the mouth but soft in the eyes, a contradiction of everything embodying pain and comfort. He would hurt me, make my legs ache, make me wonder if he was going to break my back with the way he would make it arch, pulling and pulling until it was all I could do to cry and scream for him to stop; then, in the aftermath of rape and brutality, he'd hold me close sometimes, murmuring to me that, one day, it'll be easier. One day, the hurt will leave and it'll never come back. I'd been such a fool to believe that it could ever be completely and wholesomely true.

All of him comes spinning into my already dizzy mind—the way he smells, and breathes, and moves, and breaks. There's nothing more I would rather do to him than murder him softly and slowly. All of these conflicting desires inside of me are his fault—he does these actions to confuse, to stray me off a path that I know I'm supposed to be walking but am unsure of how to proceed; all because he won't leave me the fuck alone and he finds it hilarious to mess with my head, to completely annihilate any little ounce of humanity that I may possess. Which he needn't worry about—all of it has been wasted away during my time of capture.

In the end he really is the only thing I have that can give me an inkling of what humanity is like—to feel something, even if all the emotions are negative. My hatred of him rivals the love I have for Prim and Hyacinth, for both are equal in intensity.

The fact of the matter, however, is how the love I have for him came about. When did I even fall in love with him? When did looking at him cause me such heartache and grief but not in the typical manner I've always expected? There are still times when I daydream of cutting him into pieces so small there's nothing left—and it's not an exaggeration how often I daydream or how serious I am about the idea if it wasn't for the treaty—so the issue of falling in love with him is a huge problem.

I can't be in love with my rapist.

But I am. Aren't I?

Love is having your thoughts filled to the brim of someone special; love is never forgetting who they are deep down; love is something sacred and precious—

To hell with this, I know I'm not in love with this demon. It's a complete and total impossibility. There's nothing there to tie me emotionally or physically to this person that doesn't involve the slightest remote use of violence. All the connections to him are negative. Nothing is there with him. I'm no shining star but he's the farthest thing from the sun and life.

I walk back to the bed and throw myself upon the fancy sheets, clinging to the silk, wondering if it'll wrap me into a cocoon if I wish hard enough. It's impossible, but I want it to happen so badly….

"Katniss?" Comes my mother's voice.

I don't open the door. She's the last person I want to see and the last person I don't want to see me in this state.

It reminds me too much of how she would look and behave when my father was gone—empty, devoid of emotion, completely apathetic.

The door opens and she's entering. I make myself bite back the curse word that desires to be hurled at her, a stone meant to impale her head. We haven't been close since my father died and since the whole incident with the Hunger Games, our relationship feels irreparable.

Her footsteps are louder than my breathing. I can feel body heat near me; she's hovering over me. I feel fingers rake over my head and I flinch. Her hand withdraws; or at least stops.

"Are you doing better?"

I refuse to acknowledge her. I've become everything that she was: weak, helpless, fragile, and unwilling to face the truth—a part of me has died, the same a part of her died within the mines that day.

"I wanted to make sure you were all right. None of us have seen you in a while."

The numbness is seeping back into me; I can't hold onto the indignant anger that would often fuel me, the anger I felt towards my mother's abandonment and neglect. It's too tiring to do anything. It's too lost in me—I've lost myself within myself because there are so many pieces of me that are fighting one another: the parts that hate, the parts that love, the parts that grieve, the parts that laugh.

"Oh, honey, it's all right,"

The next thing I know is I'm being pulled into the warmth of her abdomen, soft and solid, filled out from better conditions. Her fingers rake through my hair again and she's murmuring words I don't understand because I won't understand. All I know is that she's there and I allow myself, just this once, to let her in, even if it's for selfish reasons. I don't allow her near because I feel something akin to love; I allow her there because I don't know what else to do other than weep. I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive her for all the things she's done, all the things she's never done, but I'm reminded of dark nights when she'd hold me close and tell me all was well. That she was my mother and nothing would get me—she would never leave me.

But the truth is she did leave me.

Everyone left me.

I cry all the harder and she continues to hold me, murmuring words that sound like 'I'm sorry' and 'You've suffered so much.'

After a while, I find my eyes opening, and I wonder if it was all a dream, because I'm all alone now. I make myself move off the bed and nearly collapse upon the ground. I have to make myself I haven't eaten all day, the headaches have increased, and there's still no trace of medication within sight. Annoyed, I walk out of the room, the claustrophobia shifting about me.

Walking down the halls brings me to my senses a little. It's dark outside and I walk to the window of the dining room where we eat. I nibble on some fruit, trying to savor the taste, like the old Katniss would. It doesn't make much difference to my appetite, since I realize I'm famished, but I try. I just can't eat.

I look out upon the splendor of the Capitol, watching colors upon colors walk in groups. It's a living rainbow, an awful manmade, bloodthirsty, rainbow. Even with the developments with the treaty, there still doesn't seem to be any change to their lifestyle. Which isn't too surprising; we're being accommodated very well here, but that doesn't mean the citizens of the Capitol will lose some of their privileges, even though I wish they would. I want them to know what it's like to have nothing. I want them to feel what it's like to have absolutely nothing to wear, to eat, to dream about.

But it's always the ones who are undeserving who get all they want.

In my derision of them, I spit out a string of curse words and walk out. I head to the only place where things make a little sense. The guards don't even bother to inspect me thoroughly anymore, I realize. And me without a simple kitchen knife…

I enter into the prison cell. I notice that the temperature in here has decreased somewhat but he doesn't look the least bit uncomfortable. He even looks pleased to see me and motions me over with his head. I approach with caution and sit four feet from him, watching him watch me.

"You look better today."

"You have to lie all the time on everything, don't you?" I reply.

"Who says I'm lying?"

"I do."

He sighs. "I thought we got rid of that thought yesterday."

"You know very well as much as I do that there will always be a part of me who will see you as nothing but a liar and manipulator."

He laughs and reclines, the chains rattling. I have to wonder if they ever hurt him. If anything ever hurts him...then I'm reminded of how he responded to the death of Clove, the girl tribute from 2 and how he almost seemed to grieve. I haven't seen emotion like that in a long time.

"That's what you want to think—"

"No, it's what I know."

He sighs and quirks his brow at me. "Why are you always scared of me?"

I'm not scared.

I'm not.

He's nobody—just a piece of filthy rags to me. And I'm filthier than him; I wouldn't fear something that was better than me.

Or maybe that's another possibility: fearing him because he's better than me. He would tell me that quite often—that without him there would be no purpose to me; all that would be a reminder of me would be whatever impact I left on the people who had loved me in District 12. No one would ever really remember me. And that changed with the coming of my name, the Girl on Fire, Mockingjay… am I really not me anymore?

Who am I?

"Why are you always scared of me?"

Why do I fear him? Aside from the abuse, there's nothing to fear from him. He's unpredictable, true, but all of him makes sense because of it. Then I remember the way he would take Hyacinth from me for days on end and it would tear me from the inside out, digging harsh roots into my marrow and bloodstream. He always had the ability to take my son and I would fear him due to that. He's a Victor: strong, conniving, primitive, and volatile.

Then I'll remember darker parts of the night, where I'll wake up screaming and he'll calm me down. The times when he'd allow sunlight to shatter my coal cage and reveal the interior, showing me my child, born from violence and pain, playing beautifully on the floor; and he'd join in, teaching him little things, even if they were unorthodox and manners I didn't approve of for a child his age. There was one instance where he had actually managed to show Hyacinth how to curl his hand into a fist, and he told him this is how you defend yourself; this is how you win; this is how you survive.

And when he took Hyacinth into his arms, allowing him to wound that fist about a finger, I couldn't breathe.

Are we all just survivors in this world?

Isn't that what all of us are? We live to die and when we die we just become nothing. Mere mist that spreads and vanishes in the flicker of moments, leaving no trail of smoke upon skin; people exist for one purpose: to destroy one another.

This is our fate, forevermore.

That can't be all there is!

"Hey, what's the matter?"

I'm crouched into myself, trying to hold back the heat of tears that burn into my eyes. Why is all of this happening? Why is there so much destruction? Why don't people help each other? Why is this treaty here when all of us are still in the same position—stuck, unsure of how to carry on with our plans?

"Cato, why do you do this to me?"

I look at him from behind my hair, above my arms, and he's ghostly in the dimly lit room.

"Do what to you?"

"Why do you act like you care?"

"What makes you think I don't care?"

I'm screaming and my hands reach out for his neck. My arms are coiling around his neck, fingers in his hair, a crown of skeleton and flesh, and the look on his face is horrifying: he looks frightened.

"Stop playing games with me! What do you possibly have to gain from this?"

Something in him flickers and he's laughing, deep bass, vibrating into me, and I'm reminded of when he'd force himself into me, hard and slick, brutal and unreal. All of him is mine and all of me is his and I hate it so fucking much.

"This is about Lover Boy isn't it?"

"What are you talking about? Peeta has nothing to do with this—"

"He has everything to do with this! So long as his memory is here you'll never come to grip with it all!"

"Come to grips with what? What the hell are you talking about?"

"You can't let it go—you can't let go of what you did and loving people is the last thing you want to do—"

My heart freezes in hellfire and brimstone, attacked from all sides. Peeta is mourning inside me, telling me how I loved him and he loved me and how can I still do this to him? Why must I hurt everyone?

"Loving people has nothing to do with anything!" I shout at him, gripping him by the collar, digging my digits so hard into his chest that they hurt. "What do you know of it? You're incapable of feeling anything!"

"But I am not stupid!" he shouts back, snickering, eyes narrowed, looking evil and elated, "You refuse to think of that part of you don't you—that you were the cause of his death and love terrifies you."

My hand strikes him across the face and memories flood into me, when he would do that to me, how I would long to return it back, and now that I can, now that I do, the relish of it isn't as potent as I thought it would be. It just drains me and my anger is suddenly fueled. He made me weak. He's lying to me again. I don't regret anything about anyone.

"Tell me! What games are you still doing?"

"Girl on Fire, there are no games except the major one happening. You think I'm an idiot—there's so much more going on in the world and you can't even see it because you're too blind to notice."

"Blind? Blind to what?"

"How Snow wants you to kill me and you won't do it because you love me."

"I'm not in love with you!" My fingers tighten into his hair and as the palpitations of my heart reach a frightening symphony, his voice is loud again, mirth pouring out into my skin, and there are tears running down his cheeks onto mine, joining with mine; my hands immediately go to his throat because I can't stand the look of pain on his face, similar to mine and every other damned individual that was born into the country of the dead—

There are people opening the door, I hear them; footsteps are peals of thunder that clamor around me and I realize the way it looks—that I'm going to kill the person that the treaty was created for, and I don't care. I want to kill him and my fingers squeeze—

"No, let her do it!"

"Let me kill him!"

I want to kill him. It's the best thing for everyone if I put him out of his misery, if I put myself out of my misery. Nothing can move forward so long as he's here—chained to me, chained to my mind, chained to every little miniscule detail that radiates from my breathing. Love is the farthest thing I can ever feel for him; you don't love people who are cruel to you and that seems to be the only logical explanation for all the things I am doing for him, for all the things I refuse to do to him.

But damn it I want to murder him!

My heart is screaming, Peeta is screaming, and I'm making my way back to my captor, dragging the men who are pulling me back. Appendages hit me because they are losing control of me, and they don't know how to respond so they use violence. Ha! Isn't that what all of us do? Resort to the worst, lowliest methods? I'm no better but I can admit that. Everyone here is a stupid hypocrite and they can all burn for it.

They are taking him from me and I'm weeping from being torn apart from this man that confuses me, that makes me question all around me, that gave me the gift of life in my son—the child who shows me light in the dark—and gives me all the answers to the questions around me. People want to use us for something and I don't know what it is. Gale and Madge, Cinna and Effie, Haymitch and my mother, Prim… no one will tell me. They may not know the full extent of Snow's intentions either—because he says one thing in honey and another in venom.

Arms encase me, dragging me away. I dig my heels into the tile, trying to go back, because my arms ache to hold him until he dies in them, they ache to hold someone close who may have the key to understanding all the snippets of memory and dreams that taunt me when I'm awake. I want to remember what it's like not to be used, I want to remember freedom; I want to remember what it's like to sing. Peeta urges me to but my mouth is drier than sand, and he weeps for me because I can't.

They're holding the Victor down too. The screams and curses out of his mouth remind me of grotesque beasts; he's writhing on the ground, crying, shouting for people to leave him be. That he wants to kill himself.

We're different breeds he and I, compared to the rest of the world. We're people who hate another but who can understand us better than each other? We don't know how to let go of hatred, we don't know how to love, we don't know how to survive in this world where we're all being lied to and no one seems to be annoyed by this.

We're crying for help and no one hears.

Oh, this doesn't remove all the yearning, the sensual longing I crave to have to annihilate him; he's done all of this to me, to himself, and I'm no different. We're monsters of our own making.

There's flashing and the air crackles, sparks with living energy. He's screaming into the air that heats up from the electricity, rods held straight into his chest—

"No!" I scream, because I don't want him to die. I'm supposed to kill him. Snow said so. I said so. Who are these people to take what's rightfully mine? I am his and he is mine and my soul is the only one that can kill his and the world will make sense again and I can finally die in peace—

"Katniss, calm down!" I hear Gale tell me, holding me back. I catch the scent of heavy whisky and Haymitch is there, murmuring into my ear not to make a bigger spectacle than I've already done. Cinna is here too, offering me the support no one else can give, offer the empathy that I only feel from when I need it most. Madge watches me squirm and writhe in the arms of her lover that would've been mine had things gone differently; my mother holds her hands to her breasts, saint-like, silent tears streaking onto porcelain skin. Prim is looking at me like the sister that will never be, because the old Katniss is gone and she finally realizes it.

Hyacinth is weeping because nothing around him makes sense either.

I pity my son the most because his life revolves around those who can take care of him.

And he's got the worst parents in the world.

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