The edge of my mind feels frayed, running through memories and nightmares of people I love and lose. It's never past tense. The quiet is a constant reminder: I love and lose people each and every single day. My father is a prime example. And little Rue.
I think of them often, normally when alone. But today I ponder as I hold my son close, watching him as he plays with several toys. Rue would have enjoyed playing with him, and my father… I'm sure he'd have loved him, no matter the origin or circumstance. My mother does, even if she doesn't see us often. Although, that's more my fault than hers; she still gets uncomfortable around me but I would sometimes catch her with Hyacinth held close, kissing his forehead and combing his hair.
As long as she doesn't hate him, I'm content.
He holds up one object, in the form of a torn and slightly jagged plane—aircraft from before the destruction of Panem, I reckon. I would sometimes hear about them in class. He waves it animatedly, looking at me for approval. He gurgles, cooing and his voice rises in pitch—a question.
"Yes, it's really nice, huh?" I say.
Hyacinth seems satisfied and blows out bubbles, moving the object about in the air. He then makes it crash and he laughs hysterically. He makes it crash again, his laughter increasing.
This unnerves me and I don't like that my own child is making me feel uncomfortable. I remind myself that children can be amused by anything…yet it doesn't cease the discomfort I feel from watching him destroy something with such deliberate purpose.
It keeps smashing into the ground, and his eyes light up so brightly they rival the sky. My hand reaches out and I try to take the toy. He grips onto it tightly, looking at me with astonishment. I'm a little shocked too. I never interfere when he's playing—I play with him, however, stopping him is unheard of to both of us.
My hand is still insistent, the back of my mind soaked in sounds and images that it doesn't want to remember. It shakes the toy, trying to jiggle it out of his hand. "We don't laugh when things crash or get broken."
He doesn't understand, I don't expect him too. However, the tone in my voice causes him to give a pregnant pause. He reaches for the toy again and I offer him another one. He's satisfied for a few moments before throwing it, the toy going farther than I expected a child close to one year to throw. It's full of force, and frustration, anger, and his father comes to mind.
Hyacinth glares up at me as he tries to get his toy back. I hold it away. "You can have it as long as you don't make it crash."
His eyes well with tears and he lets out one long breathy wail; thankfully, it doesn't last long and he sniffles before he crawls out of my lap. He goes toward the toy he had thrown, picking it up, examining it. Then it's hurling toward me and smacks into my shoulder. I drop the plane from surprise and he's grinning, laughing even, as though I had made the funniest face in the world.
My shock flames to anger because this isn't acceptable behavior. It's too much like Cato.
I rise and he immediately silences. I've never gotten angry with him before and he's never had reason to throw a tantrum against me either. I pace, struggling with the anger of everything I feel, and I tell myself it can't be taken out on Hyacinth, never ever never ever. So I walk as calmly as possible out the door and lean against the wall, collecting my thoughts. It's long before I hear crying from inside and I walk back in when the incessant crying becomes so bloodcurdling it'd freeze the bones of the dead.
He is right by the door, eyes wide and brimming with tears. His face is red as he reaches up for me to pick him up. I haul him to me, not knowing what else to do. I know what I would've done if I hadn't left—it would not have been helpful to either of us, and I felt too angry to think right. It's a miracle I could manage to exit at all. My father would do that often. He never stayed to show how angry he was, coming back a while later and then doting out punishment.
I do the same. But not in the way he would.
"Now, look, I know you were upset, but we don't throw things at people. I'm going to have to spank you, but I'm not mad." He doesn't comprehend still. He'll learn. And the spank is only once, same as I would receive, and harsh enough only to sting.
Hyacinth cries from shock and I turn him around, cuddling him close. Having to hit him does something in me—it feels awful, the sting in my own hand of having to complete an act of disciple.
Did his father ever hit him?
He holds onto me, if only because he has no one else to turn to for my actions against him. He calms down soon, though, and I hand him back his plane. He immediately forgets he's crying and the cause of it, flying it in the thin air of the ground. He makes noises from his mouth and he's happy. I'm breathing a sigh of relief and so happy with the moment of reconciliation that I bury my face into his stomach and blow a huge raspberry into the soft flesh of his skin. He laughs delightedly, squeaking a tiny bit. Hyacinth waves his hands in the air, dropping the plane. He claps as I set him on the soft mesh of carpet. Turning over, he comes and nestles near me, tugging my shirt. I laugh, "You just ate."
He doesn't care and I don't either. He'll need all he can get down here, where the sun is a story and peace is a fairytale and true nourishment is unheard of. He begins to fall asleep, head in the crook of my arm. The quiet is more than nice, my eyes becoming heavy. I rise up, carrying him into the hall and walking to my room. There are a few passersby that watch me, faces becoming slightly red. One even stammers out that I shouldn't do that in public.
It's stupid really. Like they've never seen a woman's breasts before, or didn't know that they existed until I showed up. What do they care anyway? My son has to eat.
He's completely in the world of slumber by the time I reach our room. Placing him on his back, I lay next to him, listening to his gentle rhythmic breathing. It lulls me to sleep as well, a world of night.
It's the best kind of dream.
There's gentle prodding at my shoulder. I almost whirl upon the person, instinct and months of co-habiting with a psycho coming in an instant. It's only Prim, moving away in surprise.
"I'm sorry, Katniss, did I scare you?"
I prop myself up on my elbows. "No, no, it's just me."
"No, I was only startled."
Prim doesn't appear to believe it. She ignores it, "Haymitch sent me for you. He wants to see you in the usual conference room."
"Did he say why?"
"Not to me. I'll look after Hyacinth."
"I know you will, little duck." I kiss her forehead before leaving for the meeting with Haymitch. The uncertainty I normally feel when the prospect of a meeting comes up isn't here. I only come to the room and scan around. Haymitch is holding a bottle with spirits in his hand. He drinks heaviest when it's night, and it's understandable. I'd drink my sorrows in alcohol than in demonic dreams anytime. Too bad I could never stomach the idea of it; nor can I now, with little ones.
I sit beside him, waiting for him to speak. Nothing comes from his form, only the gentle sloshing of the liquid in the bottle.
"How was Hyacinth today?"
I look at him, wondering why he's brought up. "I…"
Suddenly, I feel overcome with shame. I've never been frustrated by my own flesh and blood before, not even by Prim. But my little ones are completely different personalities. Could that be why he can be challenging sometimes? Prim's environment wasn't nearly so…confining either. I'm a terrible mother! How can I raise him when—?
Then I recall that I'm not raising him. Not anymore. Gale and Madge still have custody.
"Not that well, today, sweetheart?"
I sigh. "No, not really,"
"…I hit him today."
He has the decency to look mildly shocked without being accusatory. He knows as much as anyone else how much I love my son. Physical punishment is unheard of in our relationship.
"Why was that?"
"He played with a toy really roughly and it… it bothered me, the way he acted with it."
"What exactly happened?"
I tell him. He makes no comment until I'm done; only looking at me occasionally before taking long swigs of the alcohol, the scent of it staling the air with its strong fumes. I wonder briefly if he's even following, and I realize I don't mind if he does or doesn't. If he does, he can be helpful, maybe. If he doesn't, it'll be because he's drunk, and I'd like it, too, if he can't remember.
He lets out a sigh into the quiet room. "Parenthood is hard,"
I snort. He laughs, "I know I'm not one to talk. I don't even know half of what you're going through,"
"Damn right you don't."
"No need to get huffy, sweetheart," he says with an acerbity. He only takes my comment in. Good, because I didn't mean it.
We're both musing for a while before he begins talking again. "Do you think you know the cause of this trigger?"
I think, wanting to tell him my inner thoughts. I'm not sure… I bite the inside of my cheek, feeling the skin becoming raw. I stop. It's not good to do that here, where antiseptics are sacred and the thought of blood in my mouth is horrifying. I'm drawn back into the times when I'd be hit with a fist, sometimes an object that's nearby, and the red would pour and pour down my throat until all I could taste was copper and iron and fear. Oh God, why—?
"Hey, you alright?"
I'm shivering. "Yes, just a little cold."
Haymitch makes no response, only waiting for my answer.
"Well, I think it's because… Cato laughs when things blow up."
"I see…" he murmurs, waiting for me. I don't talk to anyone about these things, not even the ghosts of my past or the inanimate objects around me. Everything just wants to accuse me, and pity me, and tell me how sorry they are for an experience no one had control over and no one can ever really understand. I never thought I'd be telling these things out loud to anyone, especially Haymitch, but I am. I don't know how I feel about it yet, but with the light of dawn, I usually do. And it's never good.
I ignore the darkness that wants to swallow me in the blanket of cold I know, smothered in snow banks that beckon me with deep sleep. I'm already speaking.
"I don't know what to do half the time. I don't… technically, have my son, anymore. My mind is too messed up. I want to have my child with me, but I'm so unfit to be his parent. There's too much going in me that it leaves me too…confused about how to raise him."
"Yes, about… what Cato would tell him; what would happen when I wasn't there."
"A perfectly normal concern for a parent,"
"It's not normal when the other parent is the rapist," I bite out.
"No, no, it's not." He replies solemnly, again not taking offense.
I move about the room, listening to him drink, my mouth drying from the thought of wanting water. I feel parched suddenly and my head is dizzy.
"So… you hit him. You feel guilty?"
"I do. More than anything; I only did what I remember but… it didn't feel as though I had the right to hit him. I don't remember if either of my parents hit me. My mother usually left that duty to my father but… I don't know.
I want to see Cato."
Haymitch looks at me inquiringly. "To find out what, sweetheart? His mind is still infected with the venom. How exactly will you even know the truth?"
"I think I'll be able to learn about that."
"I hope you know what you're doing, Katniss. This is serious business."
I hope so too. I'm the one who knows this most.
It's familiar to the feeling of falling out a tree; or being stabbed repeatedly by your own hand. It's my own fault, I know this, I tell myself this, like the masochist I'm becoming, as I head out in the light of morning, holding Hyacinth close. I come up to the large doors, waiting for the guards to let me pass. Neither makes a move for the keypad. They will not allow it—not with my child so close to a psychopath.
Frustrated, I hold back the scream building in my throat, the urge to beat them senseless until they give me what I fucking want. I don't. I count to ten, like I've been told. It doesn't work. I go back to murdering them in my head. I feel a little better. It just becomes so confining within these walls, miles and miles from the sky.
"Do you know what you're asking us to do?"
I glare at the young man on my right, "Of course I do. And I expect you to do your other part of guarding this entrance—protecting us. That is why there's a slot to look through, isn't there?"
With reluctance, the cell door is open and I enter, the scent of him hitting me. They haven't bathed him in a while. It's not too bad; however, I've seen some animals get better treatment. Mainly in the Capitol except that's not the point. The point is we are not the Capitol. We don't leave, and shouldn't, leave people to rot in their own filth.
Hyacinth is squirming, having been asleep in my arms.
I walk slowly to him, my hand extended already, holding my child in the other arm. My fingers barely brush the top of his hair when he opens his eyes, wide and lost, before becoming an intense glare. He bares his teeth, snarling, when they land on Hyacinth. He grins so brightly then that I almost forget he was the same person. It was as though two people live in him—one a man, another is a beast; both completely mad. He looks beautifully tragic now though. It's sad.
His face dims a little, noticing my expression. He doesn't like to be pitied either. I can respect that. So he sobers quite a bit, his face masking itself, yet it can't hide that he is happy to see Hyacinth.
"You decided to bring him here, finally."
I only nod, setting down my boy, who is wide awake. He doesn't appear to recognize my captor at first. He looks at the face he resembles with caution, his brows furrowing with trying to remember. He begins to tentatively smile and when my captor does it back, Hyacinth is clearly relieved. He crawls slowly, deliberately, with full confidence to sit in the wide lap of the broken insane individual sitting before me, his father. In the moment, they both only resemble boys to me: one born into violence, another born from it.
I keep myself from weeping.
Cato leans down, his nose in Hyacinth's hair. "He smells good. Much better than in here,"
I watch my son tug on the white sleeves encasing his father. There's something horrifying about it. I block it out.
It's quiet for a while, with nothing but the sound of all our breathing mingling together. This cell, where he's kept captive, he seems to transform a little. Hyacinth continues to sit in his lap, gurgling nonsensical phrases. When his voice rises in the form of a question, Cato answers. When Hyacinth begins to clap his hands together and blow raspberries, Cato joins in as best he can. It's fascinating to watch the two of them, frankly. It's as though he's a different person, someone that could've been normal had circumstances been different. Someone I could've loved with all my heart, if neither of us was insane.
Hyacinth… my poor boy… I wonder about the future for him. How will he grow up, knowing he came from a rape victim and a weapon of war? How will he cope with this information? Is it possible that he might wind up being crazy, like us? I've been told that some disorders are genetic.
Will he grow up into a psychopath, a sadist? Does my son have a chance to be human?
My throat swells up and I find myself holding back tears. I bury my face in my arms, pretending to be tired, although I very much am. Sleeping has dreams, however, and dreams are never good anymore.
"Hey, you alright?" His voice cuts into me, sharp, the same tone he'd use when all three of us were together in that mansion of a prison. I look up, ready to kill him. His eyes steel into me and I lose my nerve, my fervor dissipating. His voice says one thing and his eyes say another. Yet again. There's no peace for me here but Hyacinth… Cato needs to be with familiar faces. I had already begun to disapprove of my choice to bring my son here into this hellhole, to talk with the demon of his father. It had to be done though. I don't know why I did it but I chose to give them this time together. My child is calm, almost tranquil, and this is the sanest I've seen my captor in months. My son has a way of bringing falling worlds together, even when we can't keep his little delicate one from tearing itself apart.
It's so, so sad…
And I do. I nestle my forehead into the crook of his shoulder, ignoring the tainted scent of unclean bonds and skin. He's surprisingly warm; unbearably thinner. Not to the point of resembling the people of 12, although he's lost muscle mass and that's not good.
"It'll be okay." He murmurs to me. Somehow, I believe him. There's a gentle tugging on my braid and I turn, looking at my son as he tries to nibble at the end of my hairs strands.
"Hey, you don't do that," Cato says, giving Hyacinth a soft head butt. I'm almost in shock when Hyacinth only giggles maniacally. He lets my hair go and goes back talking about everything that we, unfortunately, cannot completely understand.
Cato suddenly chuckles.
"Nothing, really. It just feels like a long time since I've you pressed against me. Miss me much?"
I swat his shoulder. He only lets out another laugh.
"I suppose you haven't, and I don't blame you."
"…how has therapy been going?"
"Therapy? You think they're giving me therapy?"
"You mean they're not?" I hiss.
"I didn't say that. But it doesn't feel like therapy. They just take scans of my brainwaves, check on me now and again, and give me my meds and the occasional dose of Morphing for the pain I get being cramped up. Don't even get me started on how they give me drugs to sleep and see how the fuck my REM patterns are going, or whatever. It gets really tedious, you know?"
"I do, actually; believe me I do."
"Oh, they got you taking some tests, too?"
"They've lessened them a little but I still have them often. Been diagnosed with aggression—which I already knew. I think I was always angry; it just increased during this time. Don't even get me started on all the behaviors I've been told I have: suppression, hysteria, insomnia, panic attacks, hypervigilance, mood swings… it goes on and on."
Cato only keeps staring at me. I stiffen when his lips find the crown of my head, trailing down the side of my face and stopping a hairsbreadth from my mouth.
"I'm sorry… I can't… I can't believe I've done all this to you."
My mind is silenced by internal screams, telling me not to listen to this, that I must hate him forever, that I shouldn't accept his apology. He may not even mean it. He's still trapped within the venom of Tracker Jackers. How can he possibly know what he's saying?
I assume he senses this because he withdraws, becoming a little distant and my body flares for him to come back and touch me, missing the feel of him so close. He clears his throat as he moves his gaze down to Hyacinth.
"What has he been doing out there?"
"What do you mean?"
He doesn't look at me as he talks; he only watches Hyacinth fiddle with his own fingers. "What are his activities?"
"…I'm not sure. I gave him to Madge and Gale."
He raises a brow, not understanding, not looking at me still. "To babysit?"
"No… to have,"
He looks at me, his face distorting so quickly that the demon in him completely overrides any humanity left. I reach for Hyacinth instinctively, drawing him close to me as his father lunges forward, enraged.
"You gave away our son? To those people! Why in the fucking hell would you do that, Katniss?"
It stirs in me, a cold hand embedding itself into my throat, down, down, crawling into my chest—the fear I have of him. He's chained, held back by folds of white, locked in the prison of his mind, and it's still the same; he can still, somehow, make me dread being near him, frightened beyond belief. I don't dare approach, Hyacinth whimpering in my arms, a loud wail beginning to form, building in his chest and mind. I shush him, trying to keep him calm.
Nothing has changed.
Nothing has changed.
Nothing has changed!
He's still the one who's held me prisoner all this time—continues to have a hold over me, no matter how hard I try to break free from the attachment he and I have formed to one another; I'll be his forever and I fucking hate it, hate it so much I can die! Why can't everything be normal? Why can't we be a normal couple, fighting over normal couple things? Why can't he and I be in love and raise our son together without the destruction of man looming over our heads?
Because this was never meant to be, that's why! No matter how badly I want everything to be fine and perfect, no matter how hard I try to piece together a semblance of beauty in this blackened world of mine, nothing will ever be normal for me. This whole world has been turned upside down for centuries, humans enjoying the slaying of other humans.
Did his darkness and my darkness just blend together and create something more evil? Are all humans just born evil, with malicious intent? Could I ever do such things to another human being, just because I can and want to?
I fucking hate this world! I'm just so tired of all this guilt and all these feelings burying me alive.
"Why did you give him to them, Katniss? What were you thinking?"
"Oh, because we're so fit to raise him, right? Because I'm perfectly fine and you're not locked up for rape and murder and possible coercion and lack of sanity, right? Because we're just one normal couple: a family, planning to grow our family with children? Who the fuck are you joking, Cato? We're both so messed up! How could I not give Hyacinth to Gale and Madge, who are perfect together and great candidates for raising our son the right way? We can't keep him!"
Hyacinth is wailing and despite my yelling, he and I cling to one another. I may be losing my mind with each second I live, however I still have some sense, a little more than the one before me.
"You didn't even consult me!"
"You're locked up! How can you have any say in the matter at all? You're my rapist for fucking crying out loud, Cato! Do you really think that this is like any other legal case? I had no choice! I thought I was doing the right thing!"
Cato screams with such rage that it brings in the guards, the sound of crackling in the air that seems to have disappeared. My body is torn between getting between them and keeping Hyacinth safe. I shout at the top of my lungs for them to stop, neither one listening, intent on burning him through the skin—the voltage is so high that my hair is sticking on end, though that could be fear; I choose Hyacinth.
And I know Cato approves of my choice.
The shocks ignite through his body, sending chills up my own, his howls of anger becoming pain and Hyacinth is crying ever louder, in shock of the scene, even though I have already rushed out so he wouldn't see the rest of it manifest into something gruesome. I see Madge coming up the hallway, and I hand him to her. She takes him immediately and the weight of heart becomes heavy, though I try to lift it up high so I can rush back.
The guards still hover his body, twitching in sporadic and quick spasms. I shove them away, feeling indignation at their actions, infuriating me.
"Let him breathe! What's the matter with you?"
"You said that are duty was to guard you!"
"We weren't in need of any guarding—you have him chained to every wall of the cell, including the ceiling, except for the front wall with the door. Are you insane? You could have very well killed him!"
I spin on my heel and fall to my knees, cradling his head.
"She's fucking crazy," I hear one behind me say. "We need to get Haymitch down here. She acts like she's in love with him, it's sick," he continues to speak aloud, wanting me to hear, wanting very much to judge me, even as he gets his radio and the sound of brief static comes out.
I pressed my hand against the side of his face, wanting him to wake up. They did too much to him this time.
My fingers are on his neck.
There's no pulse.
And I scream in more fear than I've ever known.