Immediately, I collapse onto the ground, shielding my hands over my head, distantly hearing the bombs going off, but that's all I can hear. I know, I know in the greatest logical part of my mind that I am Peeta Mellark, post being caught by the Capitol and that I'm okay now. I'm okay now. I'm okay now.
But I'm not, because when I open my eyes I see the ground exploding around me, and trees shaking and falling, and I'm back in the arena of the Quarter Quell, when the world was literally blowing up around me. Terror makes me freeze and I close my eyes and clench them hard, squeezing my hands closed, too, until my nails bite into my palms and I register that I just made myself bleed, but I can hardly register the pain.
With great effort, I open my eyes and feet away from me I see Boggs on the ground. Just as I realize the fact that he has no legs there is another explosion, destroying the world around us. There is blood, so much blood. Closing my eyes, I tell myself that –
I don't know what to tell myself. Because all I can see is Doctor Cavanaugh, and all I can feel is the pain of being injected again with the tracker jacker venom that takes away any light I ever had left in my world.
I can hear people yelling, screaming, and I know that's part of the world that I need to hold on to. But I can't because soon, whatever words they are saying turns into screams. Scary, animal sound screaming that I recognize as Darius as he get electrocuted. Then they are worse: the screams of Portia and the venom feeling and the sight of the Doctor and Big Guy and the fire of District Twelve spin in circles above my head, taunting me.
The world shakes again, knocking into my mind a voice, so morphed now that it sounds like a demon in my head, screaming at me, "Katniss is guilty. It's her fault. She did this."
Biting my lip, I shake my head, faintly feeling the hard concrete below me, and the voice just gets stronger and stronger with all of the chaos in real world. I see the electrocutions happening, the deaths. So much blood. Katniss. Katniss. Katniss.
With Doctor Cavanaugh's voice whispering through my mind, I have flash images of Portia, my mom, my dad, my Thyler, Lucern, and Hailey. My baby niece. Opening my eyes, all I can see is blood and pieces of flesh littering the world around me. Did my family bleed like that? Did they get ripped apart like that? Was that what their worlds came to in the end?
"Who did this, Peeta? Give me the name!" my eardrums hurt from the loudness of the voice yelling this in my ears. Blood and pain and death and venom. Confusion and hurt and anger and…
As if there is a click, a change completely taking over and shifting into place, my eyes snap open. All those bad feelings, the ones I've felt for months, the ones I felt in the Capitol and the ones I was trying to get rid of in District Thirteen are gone, because finally, I have clarity again: Katniss.
Katniss causes pain and death and confusion and hurt and anger. She is poisonous and she ruined my life and the lives of everyone I ever cared about, and the solution to everything is just so pure and strong: she must go.
When you have an infection, you get it treated and get rid of it. When there is a poisonous snake bite, you suck out the poison. And that's what I need to do for the good of every single human being living in Panem: suck out the poison. Get rid of the infection. Get rid of Katniss.
With precision, feeling energized, I push myself up. What I am going to do literally is for the best of every human being in the entire country. How many other people can say that? The weight of the world is on my shoulders, and if no one else wants to do the dirty work, which, clearly, they don't, I will have to.
Cracking my neck from side to side, it takes me a moment to take in my surroundings. There is darkness rising and they are trying to escape it. She is trying to escape it, but she deserves to be right in the thick of it. Katniss Everdeen, dragging Boggs, who is practically dead, does not deserve to leave the darkness, for the sole reason of all of the darkness she has caused so many others. Myself included.
Before she can get too far, I take off at a run, feeling for the gun at my side. It's loaded with blanks, I remember, but that's okay because I don't want to take her life with an impersonal bullet. It has to be personal, because of the love that she never had for me, for the friendships she'd taken away from me, and for all of the utter shit my life has come to. I hate her and I literally do not understand how other people don't.
As soon as she's within my arms grasp, I reach out and get a good grip on the collar of her shirt, yanking backwards with such a force I surprise even myself, and I let go in time to see her crash to the ground before I descend upon her so she can't get away. There is no getting away this time.
I know the others will irrationally try to come to her aid, so quickly, I lift my empty gun in the air, already picturing more blood now: her blood. Her gray eyes stare up at me, so large in her face, and I can see them plead for her life. Old Peeta, the fool that he was, would have taken one look into those eyes and cared. He would have died for those eyes.
What an idiot, I think, and I bring my gun down with all of the strength I can muster. But just as my gun gets close enough to her that I cannot change its place of impact, her head rolls and as my gun hits the ground, I feel the amount of power I used to slam it down vibrate up the metal and into my arms, making me feel like jello.
As I try to lift my arms up once more – this time she won't get away – a force I hadn't seen coming blindsides me, tackling me to the ground and letting Katniss get away. The impact of landing on the rough concrete and the compact man landing on top of me knocks all of the breath out of my body, but I'm determined, invigorated, to finish what I've started and I'm not going to give up just because these people are too stupid to see what a danger Katniss really is.
I realize that this is Mitchell, and I feel a swell of gratification knowing that he is only here because he is the "star shooter of the Star Squad." The man is not a fighter. He holds a gun and shoots it, but he cannot win in an actual fight. He tries to lift my arms and pin them into the concrete, but he's clearly never had brothers or wrestled with them, because this leaves his chest to be lifted in front of my face, and with all of my might, I rear up and slam the top of my head into his neck.
His grip on my hands instantly loosens and I can hear him gasping to breathe, making his body shift even more, almost completely off of me, enabling me to get up my feet and land them solidly on his stomach. When I'm sure I have a secure, firm contact point, I kick up my feet up.
It's a move my brothers taught me, and taught it well, because he goes flying over my head. I meant to dive after Katniss as soon as he was flung off of me, but I stand, mesmerized as Mitchell lands on a booby trapped spot on the street and his body is jerked off of the ground in a barbed wire net. Blood drips down, and it's not until I look down at my hands and see that I was splattered in some that I remember my mission. Blood. Katniss.
But as soon as I turn back in her direction, ready to fight through whoever might be protecting her now, soldiers from Thirteen are on me. No. I'm strong. I'm stronger than they are! Hands grab at my shoulders, my arms, my fists. Someone else comes from behind me and locks their arm around my neck, and just as someone kicks out my feel, I go down.
Pain erupts from around my neck and I can't breathe, and for a moment I lose my mission because my vision is starting to become hazy. By the time I get my mission and my ability to breathe unhindered back, it's too late, because they are already dragging me. Too fast for my feet to be able to find purchase on the ground below, so I'm unable to actually stand on my own, and my shoulders feel like they're being ripped out of their sockets because the two men dragging/carrying me along are only holding me up by my arms.
But I struggle against them. I have to, because if I don't then what do I have? The only thing I know right now is that everyone is following Katniss, which is such a stupid idea. Haven't they seen how much suffering she's caused?
The only thing my struggling gets me is an even sharper hold as they continue to drag. I don't know where we are, but just as my rage starts to leave my veins, I see Jackson come at me with the cuffs. White hot fear tears through me, but I can't get away from her and once they're on, I start to plead that I'm getting better, but they don't hear me, and they force me into a room.
Only, once I settle with my hands cuffed in front of me, this is not a separate room. This is… I think a closet? But my breath becomes erratic because all I can see is darkness. Cuffed, alone, in the dark, just like I was in the Capitol. My cell. This is my cell, my thoughts start to come in the scary Peeta voice, but I make him go away. This isn't my cell and I'm not hijacked anymore and I'm not being held and injected.
But I'm being held against my will in the small, pitch dark, enclosed space, and all I can imagine is Big Guy coming to get me and making me sit in the chair, making me get some more tracker jacker venom. Please no. The more these thoughts start to seep in, the harder it is to keep them out, and I don't want to go back to that place. I can't.
I go to pound on the door with my fists, but it's ineffective because of the way they have me tied down, so I get on my back and pound with me feet. "Don't keep me in here! Please!" I can hear the desperation in my own voice. I continue to kick as hard as I can, but the door is not moving. I start to think I can smell the scents of the Capitol cell – hospital and death and bodily functions. No. "Please!" I call again but they don't answer me.
My feet start to feel weak and sore from all of the kicking and it's hard for me to breathe because my throat is getting clogged with that burning feeling that crying brings. I don't want the tears to leak out of my eyes, but I can't help it. I'm trapped, again, and I feel that if I close my eyes for an instant, I'm going to be right back in the Capitol.
But I feel too weak to keep kicking. As soon as I was energized what feel like hours ago, but was probably only minutes, I feel drained. Gently, I continue to kick, just to remind them that I'm in here and because I need to get out. And in my head, I start to hear Johanna's cries and whimpers, and I whisper, "Please?" once more before exhaustion overcomes me.
I start to come to god only knows how long later, and I don't feel any more alert than I did before I passed out. I'm startled into consciousness by the frightening beeping sound that a television makes when it's being powered on by the Capitol rather than the homeowner. It's the sound that it makes every night during the broadcast of the Games.
Even though I take in a startled gasp, no one notices, and I take the opportunity to look around me. I'm not in a closet anymore, I note with intense relief. I'm draped, somewhat awkwardly, over a lumpy couch. I have to blink a few times to see clearly, but when I do, I note that everyone is staring unhappily at the television. So I do, too.
And I see myself from an outsider perspective. A lump forms in my throat when I see what I've done, objectively. A killed a man, because he was protecting another human life. Despite that it was Katniss… I killed an innocent man. A good man, who was fighting for what he believed in. I watch myself throw him right into the barbed wire net and not feel remorse. My hands start to shake and I feel sweaty and nervous. That can't be right. I was so sure what I was doing was the right thing to do…
Then they replay it. Once, twice, a third time. I see the same footage again and again, and I see the fear in Katniss' eyes as I was about to bring my gun down on her. Misery takes me over because Katniss isn't the monster, and I can see that right now, clear as day. I am. The boy in that footage isn't tampered with, and I remember being him, I remember feeling that way. Who knows if what will set me off next or if they'll be able to stop me next?
I can't become that again. That blonde haired, blue eyed, crazy person is a monster. A murderous monster. I don't want to be a monster again.
I tune back into their conversation in time to hear Gale ask, "… what's our next move?"
It's hard for me to even hold back a snort of laughter borne out of guilt, "Isn't it obvious?" Everyone's eyes look to me and I can see their emotions clearly reflected in all of them. The uncertainty, the terror. It shames me. My father raised me better than this. I am better than this. At least… I was.
I need them to know that I'm in my right mind and that I'm okay. I'm stable now. So I push myself up so I can sit, even though the cuffs dig into my wrists and my shoulders feel achy from when I was being dragged earlier, but I get there. And by the time I know what I'm going to say, I know that it has to be done.
Forcing myself to look strictly at Gale because he understands me. Even though he might not like it and neither do I, I feel that on an elemental level, when I was the old me, we had an understanding. And I know he will do anything to protect Katniss, so appealing to that, I make the words come out of my mouth, "Our next move… is to kill me."
Hey everyone! After logging on and seeing that I had many, many messages regarding the continuation of this story, I think I should let you all know that this will be updated and finished. I had previously written several of the future chapters, and when I was going to start posting again, my entire hard drive was wiped. It's my own fault, because I knew my laptop had been having issues and I didn't back up my work, and then one day, it just would not turn on.
So while I had a loaner computer, I got a story idea for a different fandom, as some of you have noticed I started a new story. The only reason I have chapters to post for that is because I wrote those on my loaner.
Meanwhile, back on my doomed laptop that I just got back, I not only lost all of my creative writing, including my future Real or Not Real chapters, but my writing that I actually need to replicate, such as my thesis paper and all of my old essays to use for my capstone portfolio. These are all of my college career's history lost, and that's what I've been working on for the majority of my time.
This story will be finished because I'm not just going to abandon something I have spent so much time on, that so many people follow. But the only promise I can make if that more updates will happen in the summer, when I don't have to think about school. I'm going to try to write other chapters before then and hopefully have a sporadic update. But I just wanted you to know that it's not abandoned, in case you still want to stick by the story and me, it's not abandoned.
So... all of that being said, thank you to everyone who is still with me and my Real or Not Real journey. Thanks for reviewing, and please let me know what you think of this chapter!