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HG: The End of the World, Chapter Nineteen - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
HG: The End of the World, Chapter Nineteen
Haymitch has almost made it to the side of his cliff when the axe wound in his side finally overtakes him, and he loses consciousness. He assumes that he's lost.


Part Three: Endgame


Chapter Nineteen
When the cannon goes off, I assume I'm dead. No one ever came back to talk about it, so maybe your brain hangs on for a few minutes, trying to figure out what's happening now that it can't control its body. I hope it's only a few minutes, anyway. I think of the big graveyard outside of town, and hope that I won't lie there under the dirt, feeling my body rot away, not able to do anything about it or tell anyone that I feel it. Or maybe they'll cremate me and I won't even be able to scream. I don't have any way of knowing that's not what happens.

Or maybe I'm a haunt, like in the stories. Maybe I can get up from my body now and float around.

It would be a relief, because the pain in every part of me is like an inferno. I try to get up, but my body tries to come with me, and I don't want it. It's too heavy and it hurts too much. But I can't get away from it.

I'm not a haunt, then. There are probably no such things.

Something firm and warm presses against my chest, then there are words: "Be as still as you can, Haymitch. Don't try to move."

Something jabs me in the neck, near where the pink bird stabbed Maysilee, and suddenly, I can see. There is a young man leaning over me, his hand on my chest. He smiles. "You've won. You're a victor."

I cough, and blood pours out of my mouth. I feel it spill over my face, and I understand that I'm alive, that somehow, the cannon went off for Filigree.

Pain tears through me, worse than anything, as my stomach muscles clench from the cough.

"Be still, be still!" the Capitol medic orders. I hear him yell, "Immobilize him, you idiots!" and then there is a time that's gray and red. At least twice, there are moments when it is black and I am locked up somehow, drowning, and then things are sucked out of me and poured back in, and I am just a candle mold, being emptied and filled with whatever they want.

I'm aware of voices sometimes. One is demanding a victor, berating doctors for letting me stay asleep. It's bad enough that I'm the victor, but I can't even properly finish the Games. It's been two weeks. This voice doesn't come often. More frequently, there's a soft, high voice, telling me that she's spoken to my mother and my girl and promised them that I will be all right, and asking me to please not make a liar of her. Sometimes, there's a high, nervous man's voice, talking about things I don't understand. The most usual voice is a low, deep one that just tells me stories.

It is this voice that's droning on when I open my eyes at last.

Chaff is sitting in a chair beside my hospital bed, and Seeder is standing at the window. At first, they don't notice that I'm watching them.

"Snow's not going to wait much longer," Seeder says. "He'll pull the poor child out of the hospital and put him on a stage."

"Well, he's going to have to put up with it." Chaff shakes his head. "The boy took an axe to the gut. If the girl hadn't died instantly when that axe came back and hit her, she'd probably be getting fitted for an electronic eye right now… if she'd made it after the blood loss. Snow's lucky he had a victor at all, and Beetee's not sure this one's out of the woods even now. He's only alive because he's a stubborn little cuss. He's not going to go out stepping with the sponsors any time soon."

Seeder turns to say something, and smiles instead. "Well, he may at least be able to say hello to them soon." She perches on the footboard of the bed and touches my foot through the blanket. "How are you feeling, honey?"

Chaff looks surprised. "How long have you been awake?"

I want to answer, but when I try to speak, my throat is nearly closed up, it's so dry. Seeder picks up a glass of water with a bent straw, and hands it to Chaff. "Can you manage this for him?" Chaff rolls his eyes, and uses the stump of his missing hand to swivel the straw in my direction. "I'll go get a doctor. Tell them he's with us. But I'll make sure they know he's in no shape for the show."

She disappears.

I finish drinking. My stomach feels like it's full of broken glass. I try to raise my hand to point, but it's very heavy. I just wave my finger back and forth between Chaff and the door and manage, "Why…?"

"Why are Seeder and me with you?" Chaff guesses.

I nod.

"Well, it's our turn," he says. "Gia's taking her time to sleep, but she'll come running as soon as Seeder calls her. Beetee had a few business meetings. As long as they haven't finished the Games -- which happens when you have your last interview with Caesar -- the mentors can stay in town."

I can't speak very loudly, so I signal him to come close and whisper, "Drake?"

"Well, Albinus had some business that he had to do in District Two," Chaff says. "I imagine he'll wander back to town when you're ready for the cameras. Meanwhile, I figured I'd watch over you, seeing as you and my boys were allies."

I frown.

"Oh, I know," he says. "You got split up at the Cornucopia and they didn't find a rendezvous point, so it never worked out, but I still have those alliance papers we signed. Good thing, too, since I could help the lovely Miss Pepper watch your station now and again while Albinus was having a rest. And ask my sponsors if I could re-direct their gifts when you needed something. Beetee was glad to have those papers, too. He was sorry the alliance with Sigh didn't last longer than it did."

I don't know that I could say anything even if I could properly speak. Chaff sent me the parachute? And forged my name on some kind of alliance? I know that sometimes when people make allies in the arena, their mentors sign some kind of deal for a set-up that hadn't been planned (they've shown it on the Games coverage) but I've never heard of them making up a prior arrangement when nothing has appeared in the arena. I have no idea why they'd do such a thing, especially since I bolted from the Cornucopia without a second thought about Huller and Cotton, and only ran into Sigh Tomby by chance.

"Why?" I ask again.

He shrugs. "We liked you, and you were in some trouble with that concussion. Our boys were well past caring, and our sponsors were more than happy to let us share."

A spasm goes through my belly, and I can't concentrate on the conversation anymore. A doctor runs in, and something is shot into me through a tube in my arm. I drift numbly for a while, though I don't go back to sleep.

Somewhere in my drifting, Chaff and Seeder go off, and Gia Pepper comes in. She looks as put-together as she did before the Games. For some reason, I find this remarkable. She may even be wearing one of the same dresses she wore during the lead-up. It seems strange to me that a dress is still there and Maysilee and Gilla and Beech aren't, but I'm not angry.

She checks me and decides I'm not responsive, but smiles at me and gives me a kiss on the forehead. "That's from your mom," she says. "I just talked to her."

I can't quite bring myself up from whatever they gave me to answer, but I do manage to twitch my mouth in what I hope she takes for a smile.

She sits down beside the bed, kicks her high heels off, and starts reading a magazine.

I continue to drift. In the drugged daze, everything seems far away. District Twelve, the arena, even Maysilee, though she's closer than the rest. I remember hunting Filigree, but I can't connect that to myself. Did I really put a knife in a girl's eye? I know I did, and I know that when I wake up, I will see it in my mind more clearly, so I am not in a hurry to wake up.

It's sunset when Gia gets up and puts her shoes back on. She comes to my bedside and gently pushes my hair back. "I have your girl's token," she says. "And Maysilee's, too. I'll take care of them until you're ready to go. I wouldn't want anything to happen to them."

"Thank you," I say, or try to say. It comes out more as "Thoo."

She seems to understand, because she says, "You're welcome. You get some rest now. Visiting hours are over, but Beetee will be here first thing tomorrow, and I'll be in at noon. I have to meet with Caesar in the morning and let him know how you're doing. He's been very worried, too." She kisses my forehead again and leaves. She's wearing a lot of lipstick, and I imagine that there's a mouth mark on my face, but I don't have the strength to reach up and wipe it off.

The room starts to get dark around me. A nurse comes in to check my vitals and asks if I want the lights on. I shake my head (talking seems like too much trouble), but after she leaves, I wish I'd told her to turn them all on, full blast, and never let them out again. The room isn't pitch black. There are little lights at the bottom of the bathroom door, and I can see the faint glow of city lights around the edges of the window blinds. A grayish line of light on the ceiling expands and contracts somehow, and there is a light on the button that calls the nurse, though in my pain and drug-addled brain, I am convinced that it's a trick, that I'll press it and gas will come hissing in through the vents to kill me for not healing fast enough.

The darkness seems full. I don't see anything. The shadows don't take shape. But I am completely sure that the tributes I killed are here with me. Donnell Moran, blood pouring from his throat. Crispus Bidwell, back to return my knife from where it got jammed in the flesh of his throat. Filigree Simms, axe raised, ready to finish the job she'd started so well, so she can pick up her new eye and go home at last. I know that the knife I jammed into her head is here somewhere, her eye an amorphous bit of red-gray jelly on the tip of it.

And Maysilee. She's here as well, with the others. If she hadn't come back to find me, if I'd made her stay with me, or gone with her… I feel her close by, mad with pain, her blowgun raised. They must have taken it up with her. It was in her hand, the one I wasn't holding, while she thrashed her life out on the hillside.

I feel them all in the shadows. They almost seem to block the lines of light under the doors. They're coming closer. A warm, soft breath caresses my cheek.

I scream, and it clenches the muscles in my belly, pulling them tight around the wound, causing everything else to be wiped out with the pain of it. The lights do come on then, and the medical team rushes around me, needles out, trying to find a part of me still enough to inject.

I keep screaming until someone actually jabs me, and artificial sleep drags me under. It doesn't help. It just sends me back to the arena, to the hilltop by the force field. They're all there, the ones I killed, the ones who had to die so I could live. Sigh Tomby, his face melting, crawls toward the drop-off. Huller and Cotton, triumphantly waving our alliance papers, burn up in a river of lava. Gilla staggers toward me with one arm cradled in the other. I know she expects me to put it back on, and I don't know how.

I feel a pebble hit me in the shoulder, and I know when I turn, it will be Maysilee, and it is. She is covered with blood, her chopped off hair scarlet with it. She opens her mouth, and it's deep with sharp teeth. Then all of them are on me, swarming over me like the squirrels, and the world is pain and blood and tearing, and I can't wake up.

Finally, it's all black and smooth again. When I wake up this time, there is pain, but it's not as bad. My stomach has fresh bandages, and there are two tubes going into me. There is also one coming out, but I'm trying to ignore it.

I recognize the man in the room with me right away. It's hard to not recognize President Snow. He's on television a lot.

"Don't worry about standing up," he says. "I'll let you stay down, just this once. You should be feeling a bit better."

"A little."

"They missed a pocket of infection," he says. "That's why your previous recovery was so slow. The doctor has been let go."

"Oh."

"This is what's going to happen," Snow says. "You will continue to recover under more competent care. The damaged part of your intestine has been replaced, so it's largely a question of healing the incision now, which is being aided by steroids on my orders. By next week, you should be prepared to participate in the closing ceremonies. The people have been kept waiting long enough."

I feel an absurd urge to apologize, but it's not hard to fight.

Snow goes on. "A television crew is waiting outside now. You will give them an interview, during which you will enthusiastically praise Capitol medical teams. This is well earned. They have repaired all external injuries, restored your voice, and cured you of an infection that certainly would have killed you, possibly within hours of when they discovered it. You will express interest in which house has been assigned to you in the Victors' Village. If you must, you may express a desire to see your family again, though I would advise against immediate mention of that skinny thing you're banging back home. The audience is rather invested in your relationship with Maysilee Donner, and she's a distraction from it."

"She's my girl," I say. "My…" I make myself say it. It matters. "She's my wife."

Snow wrinkles his nose. "There are no papers to that effect, no matter how good your allies here in the Capitol were at forging other papers." He shrugs. "I knew about that, of course. Quite unfortunately, the Games were between you and a complete lunatic. Bad planning by my Gamemakers. Some will need to be… replaced." He shakes his head impatiently. "At any rate, I decided not to put a stop to it. You, at least, are somewhat rational. You will recognize your own interests."

There are still a few too many painkillers running through my system for my brain to go entirely on alert, but it sends up a feeble flare. "My interests?"

"Caesar has been given a set of questions to ask you. You will not expand on your answers. You will not refer to anything that hasn't been asked. And once you have seen the highlight film that will be released to the general public, you will never refer to anything that happened in the arena that is not preserved in those highlights."

"What are you going to do about it if I do?"

He smiles at me, amused. "My dear boy, I can do anything I like. For today's interview, though, let me stress that it will not be aired live, and if you say something untoward, it will reach no one except me. And if it reaches me…" He sighs. "Pelagia Pepper has a great deal of debt from her time in university. I don't know how well she'd fare if she were to lose her job for mis-preparing her victor. She could even end up in debtors' prison. That would be a shame, don't you think?"

He tips his hat slightly and goes out the door, leaving me alone to think about it. It's about as direct a threat as he could give. And I understand that he completely means it. If I don't behave myself, Gia Pepper -- who has been nice to me and sat by my hospital bed and done absolutely nothing wrong to anyone -- will end up in prison. I wonder what he could do to Chaff and Seeder if he's annoyed enough. They're victors, and I guess he couldn't just throw them in jail -- I guess he can't just throw me in jail, either -- but could he take away their teams? Do something to their families?

I'm not sure how to get past this. If anyone had told me two months ago that I'd be considering holding my tongue for the sake of a silly Capitol woman who spent money she didn't have and got herself in trouble over it, I'd have thought they were crazy, but it's true -- the idea that I could send this perfectly nice human being to jail actually does make me decide to behave. For now. I will get nowhere in my plan to take down the Capitol if I send up red flags before I know what I mean to do, anyway.

My preps come next -- Fabiola, Igerna, and Medusa -- along with a nurse who unhooks me from my tubing so I can get into a barber's chair that they wheel in. The preps clean me carefully around the bandages, and Medusa washes my hair. It feels good to be out of bed and clean, though I have to move slowly to keep the pain away.

Finally, they get me into a soft pair of pants and a shirt that hides the bandages, then make me up for the cameras. I'm moved to a large armchair near the window.

"You'll do fine," Medusa tells me. "Caesar is very anxious to see you. We're so glad you won!" She pinches my cheek. She actually does this.

They disappear, and the camera crews come in. While they set up by the bed -- it will be invisible in the shot -- Caesar Flickerman himself comes over in his midnight blue suit. The little lights aren't twinkling at the moment, but I'm sure they will by the time the film rolls. He pulls up a stool and sits across from me.

"We almost lost you," he says.

"You did lose everyone else."

"I know. Don't worry. I won't ask about them today. Are you sure you can do this?"

"No choice."

He doesn't look surprised. He reaches into his pocket. "Pelagia gave me this to give to you," he says, and pulls out the knotted indigo string that I wore through the arena. It looks faded from all the soakings it took, but it's in one piece. Caesar holds it out to me.

I take it. I stare at it for a long time before I put it on.

I look up at Caesar. "The president told me that you're only supposed to ask certain things. That I can't say anything about anything else."

"Don't worry. It's harmless stuff. Softballs. And then, I'm going to take you outside, and we'll show you enjoying the Capitol a little bit. Quiet things, of course, and a doctor will be right there. People just need to see you. There's a rumor around in the districts that you didn't make it. Snow hasn't been able to stop it."

"My family knows better, right?"

"Oh, yes. Gia's been on the phone with them every day. I talked to them myself. I sent your brother some glasses. I know you meant to do that later, and you can get him a better pair, but I thought he should be able to see you. I hope you don't mind."

I shake my head. I don't know why Caesar Flickerman would send Lacklen glasses, but the idea that he can see is the first good thing to cross my mind in days. Weeks, maybe. "Thank you," I tell him.

He nods and looks over his shoulder at the camera crew, then leans in to speak quietly. "I know you've seen terrible things," he says. "And I won't lie -- you're going to see more. But there are good things, too. Don't you forget that, Haymitch. There are good things."

"Everything's ready, Mr. Flickerman!" a technician calls.

"Are you ready?" Caesar asks me again.

I nod. "Sure. Let's do it."

Caesar presses a button on his cuff and his suit lights up. As if it's also attached to the switch, his face breaks into the big smile that he uses for the show. "Hello, Games fans! I'm coming to you from the recovery ward with this year's victor, Haymitch Abernathy. He'll be up and about for closing ceremonies in no time. Tell me Haymitch, how do you feel?"

On a far screen, I see my face come up. I think about the nightmares and the pain and the kids dying around me. Then I think of the living. I think of Gia Pepper in debtor's prison. I force a smile. "Well, I still hurt a little, but the Capitol doctors are great…" I praise them for a little while. Snow is right about that. They deserve it. The axe wound is healing, I have no scars, and they've even grown me a new earlobe. I have no idea how they did that.

As Caesar promised, the questions are soft. What kinds of food would I like to be eating (nothing right now, since my stomach hurts; I think about bringing up the carrot cake I promised Maysilee I'd have, but I guess that would be outside the scope), what I'd like to see in the Capitol, as long as I have some recovery time (I have no idea, but Caesar brings up a few things I can latch onto), and if there's anyone I want to thank (the doctors again, and Gia, and my preps).

"And your sponsors, of course!" Caesar says jovially, giving me a warning glance.

"Oh, yeah," I say. "I'd have been a goner without the ice pack." I stop, wondering if the ice pack will make the highlight reel, and if I've already broken Snow's rules. No one rushes in to stop me, though, so I guess that much is all right.

Caesar lobs a few more softballs my way, then calls the interview to a close. He orders his camera people to get set up for the next part.

"You did fine, Haymitch. I wanted to surprise you with a call from your family, but it didn't work out technically. While we were talking, it came through on my earpiece. Your mother sends her love, and says to not overwork yourself."

"She should talk," I mutter.

Caesar smiles fondly, and I get the impression he really has been talking to Mom, and knows what she's like. "Now, it's not usual for victors to have a tour of the Capitol -- I'm sure you've never seen it -- but I thought you could do with some air, and… I must admit, I convinced Snow to allow it by saying that it wouldn't hurt to show you enjoying it. You had a few moments in the arena that implied you were, maybe, not entirely devoted to us here."

"Can't imagine why," I say.

He grins. "Yes, well. Nevertheless, I think you actually will enjoy our tour. But if you get tired, if it seems like too much, you call an end to it. You are still recuperating."

I shrug. I'm not interested in touring the Capitol and pretending to enjoy it. On the other hand, the four walls of my hospital room are a little confining.

Caesar pulls over a wheelchair and helps me into it. Five minutes later, he pushes me outside into the bright Capitol sunshine.
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Comments
sonetka From: sonetka Date: September 16th, 2013 07:24 am (UTC) (Link)
She pinches my cheek. She actually does this.

I love that. It's such a sixteen-year-old thing to think -- it's nice to see the inner teenager peeking out amid the bizarro world he's currently living in. And yeah, those Capitol teenagers were probably shipping Haymitch and Maysilee before that first poison dart hit home.

It is nice to see that Capitol medicine, while spectacular, isn't completely miraculous. It gives me hope that even Snow had to endure things like spells of subsisting on broth and jello until he could defecate and prove that his intestines were actually working :).

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 16th, 2013 08:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Technology still has room for human error, and when there's as much wrong to start with as there was with Haymitch, missing one small thing has got to be pretty easy.
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: September 16th, 2013 12:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
It must have been like deja vu for Snow, when he went to talk to Katniss...
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 16th, 2013 08:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
To some extent, yes, though Katniss is a little less aware of the situation.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 16th, 2013 12:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

This Comment...

Really belongs to the last chapter, but I really liked Haymitch's internal monologue about wanting to destroy the Capitol and start a revolution, because it shows how much his thinking evolved once he actually managed to become a revolutionary. As it was, his thought process was pretty self-aware and sophisticated for a traumatized, angry sixteen year old, but it's a nice contrast to where he ends up in "The Narrow Path."

And that is absolutely awesome the way Seeder, Chaff, and Beetee created retroactive alliances and sponsorships from a flimsy little tissue of circumstances.

Glad that Snow appreciates that Haymitch is a preferable Victor to Filligree. But he's so HORRIBLE. Gah. Poor head game-maker. And poor doctor. No wonder the game-makers were quicker about shutting down Titus when he materialized.

And Ceasar is just such a sweetie pie.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 16th, 2013 08:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: This Comment...

I think Seeder, Chaff, and Beetee recognized a kindred spirit.

You're right that the Gamemakers would be quicker to get rid of the lunatics. It must have been galling to choose between a seditionist and a lunatic.
Carolyn Rothchild From: Carolyn Rothchild Date: September 16th, 2013 01:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

great job

Loved getting some more insight into what happened with Haymitch's games. Interesting how the connection between Maysilee and Haymitch played with the audiences, wonder if that is how Haymitch got the idea of tying Katniss and Peeta together, aided by Peeta's love for Katniss of course. Obviously, Haymtich's games served to show how 2 tributes sticking together was beneficial for the tributes, both to their survival and their relationship with the audience.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 16th, 2013 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: great job

It may have been, though it seems odd that he waited so long to try it. Maybe he had to wait for a stylist who could really pull it off. Or maybe he was set off by seeing Maysilee's pin.
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: September 16th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
Snow is E-VILE!!! :P

Poor Haymitch. Having to deal with all that drama while trying to recover.

I love the other victors' helping him. And Caesar and Gia. At least there are a handful of decent people in that world . . .
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 16th, 2013 08:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
There actually seem to be a good number of decent people. They just can't communicate with each other, and are ineffective alone.

Then they make an alliance with the biggest Career district of all...
redlily From: redlily Date: September 17th, 2013 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
"We almost lost you," he says.

"You
did lose everyone else."

O_O
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 18th, 2013 05:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah... Haymitch, that was pretty pointed for someone trying not to raise red flags.
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