AN: This is a multi-chapter memoir of Haymitch Abernathy told from the perspective of Markus Zusak's Death from The Book Thief. He was a fascinating narrator, so I'm trying out the style. There are some spoilers for The Book Thief and spoilers for the entire Hunger Games series. I own neither. Enjoy!
THE CALLERS FROM THE COFFIN
Over the years of the monotony of my job, I have come across collectibles that keep me in check, exposing the most repulsive and the most beautiful extents of the human race so I can't decide whether I appreciate or loathe humanity. I'm caught somewhere between both, and these relics remind me why.
Humans and I have an aching, dreadful relationship, you see. I hate them, I love them, I am haunted by them.
* * * A SMALL NUMBER COMPARED TO ETERNITY * * *
I have exactly
why I view
the human race
the way I do.
Always in my hands or my pockets, slowly being eroded from time and my travels, are seven recorded treasures that show both the compassion and the cruelty of human beings.
I surprise myself by always trying to figure them out. I never give up because I have eternity with the mortal bastards. Often I believe I almost understand them until they pull something so evil, so stupid, that I am left confused at their malevolence once again. They are quite the comedians, jeering at my frustration while they still cannot escape me at the end of their lives.
Liesel Meminger's story is one in a small handful that I have told already. She lived in Germany, in the time of burning books and Nazis. I encountered her three times throughout her life before I collected her light soul.
She stole books - Liesel Meminger, the book thief. A lemon-haired boy, whose dead lips Liesel kissed under a homecooked red sky, gave her the epithet.
That story is one in seven.
Another is in the ruins of a country across an ocean from Germany, Europe, three hundred or so years later. Panem, it was called. I thought I was everywhere during 1942, behind the scenes of Liesel's book thieving career. But then there was Panem.
* * * MY PANEM CALENDAR * * *
First, a war between thirteen districts
and its controlling city, the Capitol.
Next, the Hunger Games.
Lastly, another war.
There were two rebellions, and a compromise for the first uprising that had failed. While human behavior since the beginning of time can very well be blamed, the sole impetus of everything in this story was that compromise.
Every summer, for seventy-five years, I would leave twelve poverty-stricken districts where I spent most of my time. When I'd steal away with the mewling colors and diseased, starving souls, the rest grudgingly returned to working, to living. They often called for me to hurry up and end their misery, but once I was there only some welcomed me. Others were taken by surprise.
Under the dome of a force field, I would gather twenty-three out of twenty-four souls while hovercraft collected their bodies and jubilant trumpets sounded through the ears of the one bastard left surviving.
Tributes were the contestants, aged from twelve to eighteen.
Victors were the tributes without the good sense to die.
I present to you the Hunger Games.
It was humanity at its ugliest. Adults solving their problems using children were human. Make no mistake about it; they were very human.
In Panem, everyone felt trapped in an arena, isolated from the other districts as well as the rest of the world, constantly watched. But a select number of teenagers witnessed that paranoia in its actuality, and before the slaughter they all wondered if anyone would share their disillusionment enough to react if they said none of this was fair, none of this helped solve anything.
Haymitch Abernathy knew no one would care and still spoke up, yet his existence said more than any words he'd ever utter.
Similar to our Liesel Meminger, Haymitch Abernathy had a life of beauty marred by brutality. Or was it the inverse?
Although I had brushed shoulders with her before, I found the life of Liesel in a black book she had left amidst the mountain ranges of rubble.
I, using a pen and paper borrowed from his desk drawers, recorded Haymitch Abernathy's life because no one else could. It had to be preserved. I had to remember every detail, every instant I met him. Haymitch was in my dark presence so often that I foolishly kept an eye out for him while I was everywhere else snatching the souls of the dead. The encounters I did not witness I stitched together from his final visions that proved to be useful.
I wonder how many stories like his or Liesel's remain untold because no one else thought to remember them. Laziness and apathy were his apparent excuses, maybe even diffidence, but knowing Haymitch I am certain that was not the reason.
So, here you go: The Callers from the Coffin. Titled by yours truly.
It's a simple story, really, not unlike The Book Thief. But it's something.
If you let me, I'll tell you his story.
* * * FEATURING * * *
A virulent boy
Some psychosomatic ice
A game of chess
A flock of mutant flamingos
A reverse skywatcher
A girl on fire
And quite a lot of alcohol