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HG: The End of the World, Chapter Eighteen - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
HG: The End of the World, Chapter Eighteen
Maysilee has been killed, and Haymitch swears to live and kill everyone involved. He's thrown back from the body by an air blast from the hover craft, and is knocked out on some rocks.

This is two chapters in a row that end with Haymitch unconscious, but, well, that's the way the plot played out.


Chapter Eighteen
I am aware of being cold long before I actually wake up. I am cold, and I reach for Maysilee, but she isn't there. I do not dream of bloody revenge. I don't dream of anything that I'm aware of. I just lie there, drifting in the darkness, not able to open my eyes. I feel the hard rocks beneath me.

I decide to take down the Capitol.

It isn't even a struggle. I'm not even sure it can properly be called a decision, as there is not any other choice. I will take down the government, and the last thing they will see is Maysilee's mockingjay, the one they thought they could take away. I remember her tearing it from her interview dress, before I oh-so-wisely told her not to talk about it. Gia will still have it back in the Capitol. I won't tell her what I'm planning to do with it. She's nice, and she doesn't need the trouble. But I will take it back, and I will make everyone responsible for this remember Maysilee Donner -- and the rest of the kids they've killed, I guess, but I don't care about them right now -- in the last seconds of their lives.

But just killing them isn't enough. If the president dies, there'll be another one just like him ready to jump in and keep things rolling along. There always is. I have to tear down all of it, so we can start fresh.

Or not. Maybe I'll just tear it down. I can't say I have any special reason to start anything fresh. We always manage to screw it up. Whole world just about got wiped out, and did we change? No. We barely managed to get on our feet again before started plotting against each other and starting empires. We somehow starved in the middle of a world that once supported eight thousand times our population. We blew each other to bits in a war, and then we started murdering each other for entertainment. Maybe the whole thing just needs to come down.

Except that the world also has people like Digger and Mom and Lacklen and Danny. Except that, until a few hours ago, it had Maysilee.

I can't think about that. Mom's going to die, and they already murdered Maysilee. My brother and my friend and my girl, they'll understand. It has to go.

I finally force my eyes open when I hear the national anthem, and roll over so I can see the sky. My head is throbbing, and I feel sick, but I will see Maysilee's face one more time before it disappears forever. I will not forget what she looked like.

She is not alone tonight.

Moonstone Gill, the redheaded boy from District One, is dead. So is Kushi Rowe from Three. I try to remember something about them, the way Maysilee would, but nothing comes to mind. The Gamemakers must have decided to end the Games. I'm left with Filigree Simms. Good. The first and last from Caesar's show. The ones I figured everyone would remember.

Maysilee's face appears, and I stare up at her. She's clean and scrubbed, and her long, golden hair falls around her face in soft waves. I don't say anything out loud, but in my head, I promise her that this isn't the end. That I will remember her face. That I will make them pay for what they did to her. And that if anyone ever says we were "only friends," I will tell them that the word "only" does not apply to someone like her. Ever.

She vanishes from the sky, and the anthem ends.

I get up to go to war. I can't keep any of my promises to her if I don't get out of this arena.

I'll have to hunt Filigree, and I'll have to kill her. I was willing to die for Maysilee because it seemed like the right thing to do, but I don't have any compunction about outliving Filigree. She betrayed Beech and slit his throat. She probably murdered those little kids that Maysilee wanted to leave food for. I'm all right with it.

I make it to my feet, but stumble backward. The world is spinning. There is a big lump on my head from where I hit the rocks.

I know better than to try and work around a concussion. They'd love it if I died from my brain swelling. They'd probably think it was funny. If I can get past Filigree, on the other hand, they'll have to take me back to the Capitol and fix whatever is wrong.

I lurch over to a rock and sit down at the edge of my cliff. I will wait until I'm a little bit steadier. It will be hard to hunt at night, anyway. I won't sleep. There's no one left to wake me up and check to see that I'm still alive.

I can feel the electricity of the force field here. It's got to be pretty strong. The rock I threw at it maintained a little charge.

I briefly consider my original idea of blowing the entire arena. It would be satisfying to burn something of theirs to the ground. Reluctantly, I decide that I don't have the equipment for it and I don't know enough about electricity. More to the point, they'd execute me for treason the second it blew and name Filigree the victor before I had a chance to get anywhere. The audience wouldn't like it. They don't like it when the Gamemakers kill people directly, and they'd barely tolerate it for the final fight. But I figure they'd decide it was the lesser of two evils. Letting me be a victor and then executing me would go over even worse.

Dead people don't overthrow governments, so I can't do it. Not now.

But the force field is good for something. It has to be. I didn't drag Maysilee all the way out here to be killed by mutts only to find something useless.

My stomach gives a lurch, and I lose what little food I had put into it today.

I make myself eat more, as soon as my stomach settles. It will be bad enough going into it with a headache. Going in on an empty stomach as well would just make it worse.

Something thuds to the ground in front of me. I don't even recognize it at first. I haven't seen one up close, after all.

A parachute.

Curiously, I reach over. Open it. Inside is a cold-pack (battery operated, so it will self-regulate) and a little package with two painkiller pills in it. The cold pack has cartoon directions for what to do in case of a concussion.

This late in the Games, it must have cost a fortune to send anything, let alone something so big and useful. I guess Drake was saving up my sponsor money after all.

I take the pills and secure the cold pack against the bump on my head with the little strap it has. I probably look dumb, but it's already starting to help. I don't even know who to thank. This is more than anyone I know could afford, and I'm not in the mood to thank rich Capitol sponsors right now. They could have sent something to make Maysilee happy days ago. She told them exactly what she wanted.

I sit here at the end of the world, staring at the invisible force field, and at the nighttime world beyond it. It's a starry summer night out there, meant for sitting around a campfire. In here, it's ice cold, and an unpleasant wind is ruffling through the ugly dry grass. I get the blanket. It smells like Maysilee. There is too much of it to use alone.

I throw it away. It goes over the cliff. I hear it sizzle when it hits, but it doesn't come back. I go to look and see if maybe they turned the thing off, but of course, they didn't. The vagaries of the air currents and the electrical fields just pick the blanket up and toss it around. It billows and floats from place to place, like a ghost in a badly illustrated book. Eventually, it gets caught on a rock and pressed against the force field.

Electricity sparks over it, and it catches on fire.

I watch until it burns out.

I'll throw Filigree into the force field.

It's that simple. I don't think I can get a good advantage if I'm attacking. She's as good at defending as I am, and she's as quick as I am. If we end up in an actual fight that lasts more than a few seconds, she's stronger than I am and she'll win. But if I can get her up here, she'd have no idea what's here. She'd be careful of the cliff, sure, but I think maybe I could knock her off balance if I feinted just right, especially if I can manage to do a little bit of damage before we get here.

Her eyes. If I could interfere with her vision, it would be easy to throw her over. Lacklen is always tripping over things because one eye is worse than the other and his depth perception is terrible.

I am not ignorant of the fact that I am sitting here contemplating methods of murder. I can even accept that, in doing this, I am doing what they want me to do for now. I doubt Filigree is having long thoughts about the subject, either. She's probably mentally picking out furniture for the house they'll give her after I'm dead.

I don't care about the house, and certainly not about the furniture. I don't really care about Filigree one way or the other, and if I didn't have to kill her to get out of here and keep my promises, I wouldn't go out of my way for it. I am morally satisfied that I'm only doing what I need to do.

I keep the cold pack on until sunrise, then put it in my bag. There's not really a reason to do this, since I don't plan on taking my bag with me -- one way or another, I won't need it anymore -- but it's become a habit to not leave a trail to my hideouts. The bump on my head has shrunk considerably, and the headache is far off. The dizziness is gone. I don't feel good, but I can function.

I eat breakfast slowly. There's plenty of food left. Maysilee and I have been careful. I zip the backpack up and hide it behind the rock I sat on. I only take my knife and the blowtorch, which can tuck into what's left of my belt.

I go back to the hedge, back through the gate we made, and start hunting.

I have a feeling that the Gamemakers will make this part easy. They always do. The audience doesn't want to watch the last two tributes stumble around each other in circles. I think I'll pretty much just have to wait until the television viewing day begins in the Capitol… if they haven't been up all night watching exciting recaps of everyone else dying, that is.

At first, I'm stymied. The volcano is sputtering again in the distance, and there's a fire somewhere, but nothing seems close. Nothing seems to be forcing me in a particular direction.

Unless she's hunting me, she's likely in the little meadow… but what are the chances that she's not hunting me? And besides, I can't remember exactly where the meadow was. It's down the hedge a ways, then into the woods, but… I'm just not sure.

I stalk through the woods not far from the hedge for what must be an hour, looking for any sign of her. I'm sure I'd be doing better at it if I'd gone into the woods and learned to track, but I never did, so I'm stuck with my less than stellar skills.

I start to climb a tree for a wider view, but I remember that this close to the hedge, I can't climb very high, so I turn away from the hedge and go deeper into the woods. When I'm in a bit, I find a small rise, and climb a tree on top of it. I can see to the hedge now, but not the land beyond it. That's okay. Filigree doesn't know about that yet, so she's not there.

I look out over the forest. I can see the fire now -- it's burning around the base of the volcano, contained in an unnaturally straight line. It's just blocked off. There are a few bald spots in the canopy of the forest, two of which are in the direction of the little meadow. I focus that way, looking for the movement of leaves, sudden flights of birds, anything to tell me she's there. I don't see anything. Maybe the viewers aren't awake yet, or maybe I'm a really bad hunter.

I hear a crackling sound below me, and think for a minute that they've set the tree on fire, but they haven't. I can't imagine what it is… until the trunk starts to crack.

The tree comes crashing down. I manage to jump clear of it somehow, a feat I don't think I could accomplish with a year of practice if I tried. The crash can probably be heard for miles, and the whole canopy of the forest is shaking. A flock of mutt magpies bursts upward.

They're making it easy now.

For Filigree.

I consider this carefully. I'm not trying to avoid the fight. But I'd rather fight it on my terms. I may as well help them make it easy for her to find me. The sooner she does, the sooner it will be over.

I take out the blowtorch and light a little fire, enough to send up smoke.

Then I start heading back for the hedge.

I light a fire every ten feet or so until I'm in sight of the gate Maysilee and I made. I pull a lot of the detritus around it so that it's not immediately visible.

I climb another tree, this time for cover.

It takes Filigree longer than I expected to find her way here. Maybe she's careful as well as crazy, and knows she's being trapped. I'll have to be careful. I shift in my place to make sure my legs don't fall asleep, and that I have a clear jump to the ground.

The sun is high when she comes into my view.

The arena hasn't diminished her physically. She's still huge, and she looks strong and well fed, but whatever sanity she started with -- I'm not betting on much -- is long gone. When I first saw her in the tribute parade, she carried herself with arrogance, and in training, she was bombastic. Now, she's feral.

She smiles widely, raising the axe she's carrying. "Come on out now," she says, staring at a rock I'm nowhere near. "Come on. I know you're… HERE!" She jumps behind the rock and brings the axe down on unfortunate thorn bush. She grinds her teeth, then starts hacking at the hedge, which I know isn't going to give much.

She spots a pile of twigs Maysilee and I left and says, "I see you!" The axe comes down.

I decide to let her keep doing this, using up her energy and getting frustrated. In some other circumstance, it would be funny to watch her chopping up offensive plants, thinking each time that she's got me, but it's actually kind of frightening -- partly because she looks genuinely crazy now, not just mean, and partly because I wonder if I look exactly the same now.

I examine the way she moves, the way she reacts to sounds in the woods. She's focused, and she can recover quickly from surprises. I won't have any advantage for long. I'm going to have to hurt her fast if I'm going to get her to the cliff.

I wait for her to come close to the tree, hoping that she'll be close enough that I can actually land on her, but I think she's getting suspicious about where I really am. She doesn't come under any limb thick enough to hold a person. I'm going to have to fight her. There's no sense delaying it any more.

I tense my muscles and drop down from the tree.

I have less time than I thought.

She's swinging the axe at me even as I land, and I have to crouch and roll to get away from her. I flick my knife out at her, but I don't find any purchase.

I stand up across from her.

She swings the axe again, but it's a wide miss. I dive behind the piles of twigs, grabbing a couple of handfuls as a go and throwing them backward to slow her down.

She grins and secures her axe with both hands.

Little pig, little pig, let me in, I think crazily, crouching in my pile of twigs. Thanks to my preps and their magical shots, I have no hairs on my chinny-chin-chin to swear refusal by.

She breathes heavily, staring at me through her strange, glassy eyes. "Just you and me," she says. "Come on. Try and take me."

I swing the knife in a deliberately short arc, meaning to draw her in.

She laughs. "Are you afraid to cut?"

"Not anymore," I say.

She charges forward suddenly, even quicker than I gave her credit for. The axe swings low. I move my foot instinctively, or I'd certainly lose it, and my life in short enough order. As it is, she shaves off the edge of my shoe, leaving it open.

I've lived in ripped up shoes before.

I run for the gate.

Filigree tosses aside the twigs. They seem to barely slow her down. She tackles me, and I go flying away from the hedge. I barely hold on to my knife.

She jumps on me and raises the axe. I do the only thing I can -- I swipe at her hand, crossing the veins of her wrist.

I hope that will be enough, but it isn't. It's just a surface cut, and in the wrong direction. It does make her drop the axe. I take the opportunity to stab at her, and manage a deep cut across her thigh this time. She doesn't bother with me. She has to get to her weapon.

While she scrambles for it, I get to my feet and run for the gate.

That's when I am cut in half.

At least it feels like it.

The axe slams into the side of my abdomen, just above my hips, and bright blood splashes up from it. She pulls it out, and a something grayish pink trails after it. The pain is blinding and endless. and I don't know how I'm alive to see my own innards.

She hasn't actually cut into them, though. I'm losing blood, but if I can just kill her, just win, then they have to fix it.

She is gloating, waiting for me to properly die.

I hold the ball of my intestines that is trying to escape with one hand. In the other, I secure my knife. I don't have a chance at her heart, but I still have the force field. I still have an option.

Using every bit of remaining strength that I can find, I rise up and drive the blade into her open eye.

She screams.

I drive it further, thinking vaguely that I can get to her brain, shut her down for good.

But I'm losing my strength.

She pushes me away and rips my knife from her face, taking most of her eye with it. She throws it aside.

The wound bleeds profusely, blotting out her face. She still has her axe

I run for the only thing I have left.

I struggle through the gate. I can hear her lurching behind me, the wounds in her head and leg slowing her down, or I'd be dead already. My guts slither through my fingers, and I push them back as far as I can. I'm leaving a trail of blood behind me, and I can smell death coming up from inside my own body.

I just need to make it to the cliff.

There is no way I should be running. It is impossible that my legs are moving when everything inside me tells me that it's time to give up, that my life is running out of me. But I made a promise. I force myself to move, to struggle up the slight incline toward the cliff. She's weak now. If I can get her to try an attack, I can just step aside, let her fall, and hope I outlive her.

I trip over a rock and go sprawling. More of my intestines bubble out of the wound in my gut. I can hear her coming again, closer than she should be. She even seems to be gaining strength.

I just need to get a little closer to the drop-off. Just a few more feet.

The world narrows to the agonizingly slow movement across the last stretch of land. I can see it. I remember standing here yesterday, laughing, like I'd found a great prize. Now, it's my only hope, and I can see it for what it is… desperation.

Around me, I can see the shadows creeping in. Filigree and I are on a lonely lit island in an increasingly dark sea around us, where bloodthirsty ancient gods await us.

I push myself up, hoping she'll think I mean to make one last stand. She can't be seeing very well, even out of the eye that's still in her head.

I can't quite get to my feet.

I look up at her.

Under the mask of blood, she smiles, and raises her axe.

The world closes to a pinpoint of light, and in it, I see her empty eye socket.

It is the last thing I will see.

The pain doesn't stop, even as I lose consciousness. The last thought in my mind is, I lost.
9 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
sonetka From: sonetka Date: September 13th, 2013 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Damn. Even for the Capitol audience, that's got to be horrifying viewing. Haymitch seeing the landscape slipping away and turning into a bloody island ... it's probably just as well we don't see what Filigree sees. I wonder about Haymitch's parachute. How many sponsors did it take to club that thing together -- was Drake sitting on their contributions the whole time, or maybe the people who couldn't choose between Maysilee and Haymitch had their choice made for them?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 13th, 2013 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
The people in the Capitol really have to have been put through some conditioning to deal with the end of the Games. People as essentially soft-hearted as Octavia (Katniss thinks of her as being soft and frightened like a mouse) just treat it as spectacle, like it's special effects somehow.

We'll hear more about the parachute.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 13th, 2013 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Given...

What we know about money, sponsors, and the prostitution of the Victors, I have two words: Adamaris Brinn.

And any sponsor who had his/her sights set on Filigree would frankly be much smarter to stay the hell away from her if she was a Victor.

Sara Libby
sonetka From: sonetka Date: September 13th, 2013 05:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Given...

Yeah, if she's that unhinged she would have been a real liability for the Capitol. Though I could see Brutus dating her for publicity, anyway.
From: (Anonymous) Date: September 13th, 2013 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Given...

Brutus and Filigree as a pairing might actually work... But can you imagine their kids? {Shivers}
mollywheezy From: mollywheezy Date: September 13th, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Even knowing that Haymitch didn't lost that's still quite a cliff hanger!

I read the comments and am glad we will be hearing more about the parachute.

I really love the internal monologue you have given Haymitch. I'm going to have to reread the series, then read your fics about his pov of the books . . . ;)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 15th, 2013 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. I thought the parachute would lead well into the rest of the story.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: September 14th, 2013 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have this crazy idea that the sponsor who sent the parachute is someone like Plutarch who heard his little rant and thought he'd be perfect for the revolution.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: September 15th, 2013 03:31 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice weather lately, huh?
9 comments or Leave a comment