Johanna shakes off Katniss's hand and heads for the jungle. "They can't hurt me. I'm not like the rest of you. There's no one left I love." Can't this pack of idiots see how completely unlovable she is? That no man or woman would gift their heart to somebody who'd rather destroy her own than acknowledge its presence? Johanna shakes her head as she faces the trees and their torturous birds. Torturous to others, that is. She's completely safe. Everybody's dead, and Johanna has never been afraid of ghost stories. There's silence as she enters; probably the dumb screw-ups in the control room are frantically trying to figure out who they can use.
Give it up, losers, she thinks with a smile. I'm untouchable.
And then. The unthinkable.
No. They haven't. They can't have. Ice floods her veins and she stands solid, immobile as an oak, unable to process what she's heard.
Not that voice. Not that voice. Not the one voice that can reach beyond the grave… and drag her into her own.
How do they know? She's never told anyone. And certainly nobody in the district knew. Sure, people are bastards, but even they'd have done something if they'd known what was happening to her…
Time rushes and suddenly she's eight years old again, nights of cold hands, weight, pressure, and that voice, whispering, shattering the darkness just when she thought she was safe. She can smell him, all sweat and stink and anger, harsh and confusing. Feels the heaviness around her, his body trying to crush and inflate her at the same time.
She remembers the days, paralyzed with waiting, knowing that every night will bring him, and yet hoping that maybe this time will be the time she gets lucky. It took a long time before she learned that perpetually shattered hopes are worse than no hope at all.
And then a miracle.
She's making dinner, slicing fruit up with a knife. It's too sharp for this job, really, but they only have the one, and it has to manage with their meat as well. So the apples are almost whispered into halves, then quarters, then eights, neat as anything.
A step. Behind her. It's him.
She spins, tries to push him away. Doesn't know what she's doing when wet heat erupts over her hands. Doesn't know why he suddenly gasps and collapses to the floor. It seems to take hours for her to be convinced. He can't hurt her.
She killed him.
For a second she can't think of anything and then she laughs. So easy! Easy as slicing an apple! Why hadn't she thought of this before?
Shift. Her Games. The Games she won. She remembers thinking that she's already survived torture and attempted destruction, and this is no different. No, it's better, because there's even more people to take revenge on. Delicious, painful revenge. She knows how she beat him. A slight manipulation, deliberation instead of accident, and it's a winning strategy. Act helpless. Let them walk all over her. And then turn around and death.
And it works. When she rises from her wimpy, useless shell, she puts his face over that of every tribute and watches them fall before her. It's easier than cutting trees, and she has to do that to survive. Anything easier than survival… it's just fun.
Johanna Mason never enjoyed herself so much in her life.
A smile crosses her face now. The voice frightened her, but it's okay. He's dead. She knows he's dead. She killed him and then sliced him open just to make sure. Sliced bits off and threw them as far as she could. And then gathered them up again and hid them in the waste wood pulp, burned every day. Watched him go up in a hundred separate flames.
"Johanna…" It just sounds pathetic. Empty. He did a thousand things worse than speak to her.
She fills the shell with water and returns to the beach while the jabberjays whisper three meaningless syllables.