Rebirthing

Chapter I: Metamorphose

The first thing that registers in my mind is the thumping noise. It's a heavy beat that shudders through my whole body, echoing in my eardrums. The cadence continues steadily, keeping perfect time.

Thump, thump, thump.

I was dead. I'm sure of it. I died. They killed me, the Careers – Marvel – he killed me.

Thump, thump, thump.

The pounding gets louder and louder.

Am I dreaming? I must be. Maybe I'm having a near-death experience. But this isn't a light at the end of a tunnel, or the striking gold of heaven's gates, or even the fiery pits of hell. Purgatory, perhaps?

Thump, thump, thump.

Maybe this is simply nothingness. Perhaps I must travel through this void to reach the afterlife. I must be strong. It will end soon. It must, it has to! I can't bear to stay here forever, locked inside my dead body, drifting on soundless, violent seas…

In a feeble attempt to remain calm, I take a deep breath. The sound I hear is deep, almost guttural, like the snorting of a dragon as it rises from its cave.

Gasp. Snort. Gasp.

Why can't I hear myself inhale? That harsh intake of oxygen isn't me. I try taking a second breath. All I can hear is the bestial rasping.

Thump, thump, thump.

Gasp. Snort. Gasp.

Maybe it was all a dream – the spear, the death, this empty, drifting horror – all of it a fantasy, blown about like smoke. I have to open my eyes, just open my eyes, and it will all vanish away…

I try to blink. I can't. Darkness seals my eyelids shut. It feels as though someone is pressing down on all my limbs, a massive hand shoving me down forever into the eternal abyss. I try to feel something, anything but the pressure. I can't. I'm not warm, nor am I cold. I'm not in pain, nor am I comfortable. I can't feel anything, and that alone is sufficient to terrify me.

Gasp. Snort. Gasp.

Thump, thump, thump.

I struggle against the choking fear, the nothingness, the hand grinding into my back, crushing, pushing, splintering me apart… I feel something. A figment of my imagination? No. I feel – pain – everywhere.

The inhuman thumping slows, breaking off sharply between beats. Each thump is fierce and hard.

Thump.

Gasp. Snort.

Thump. Thump.

Gasp.

Thump.

Agony starts in my chest again, and I wonder if I'm being forced to die for the second time, made to appreciate each individual moment of the anguish. My lungs feel scalded, burned. My lungs are full of heat. I still can't make myself breathe, can't make myself move, but I feel my lungs expand of their own accord. They grow. Swelling. Bulging.

Thump! Thump!

Gasp.

Thump!

I feel my lungs strain against my ribcage, pink tissue expanding, scratching against my bones. I'm going to snap apart from the inside. Some animal is inside me, some parasite eating me away. Someone, do something. It's inside me. It's killing me. It's killing me again!

Then my ribcage is screeching. Growing. Will my own bones tear me apart? The thumping becomes erratic, like a blaring siren.

Thumpah-thump, thumpah-thumpah thump.

Gasp, gasp, gasp. Snort. Gasp.

My heart is expanding. Now my stomach, now my chest. My throat closes up for a moment, and my mind is swamped with panic, but then my throat expands. My whole body bulges, my skeleton distorts, squeezes out, stretching my muscles and ligaments and flesh.

Thumpah-thumpah-thumpah.

Gasp, gasp, snort, gasp.

My whole body is burning, like I'm drowning in acid. Pinpoints of pain break out across my skin. I hear a wet, ripping, tearing sound. I feel warm all over, even apart from the anguish, as if someone has placed a fur coat over me.

The pinpoints of pain intensify. I want to scream and I can't. I want to plead with someone to make this end. Take me home. Take me to heaven. Take me away from this.

I try to recall Katniss' song, but all I hear is the harsh imitation of breathing, and the heartbeat. Heartbeat. Whose heartbeat?

Thump. Thump. Thump.

Gasp. Snort. Gasp.

The cycle of breathing and heart beating settles down. I hear something new. A man's voice. A voice with a strange accent – clipped words, hissed S's, sick enthusiasm.

"Yes, yes, exactly as I envisioned! It is magnificent. But will it kill?"

A woman's voice, equally horrible, even more twisted, exclaims happily, "Of course it will. The girl's memory will be altered, and it will kill. It will kill with relish."

"Good," the man says.

I shriek as loud as I can inside my head. I still can't scream. Inside, I'm wailing.

What kind of nightmare is this?

I feel a stab of pain in my wrist, like a needle, stinging. Sleepiness seeps through my veins. I hear an array of medical sounds – beeps, whirrs, whistles, blaring alarms on surgical equipment. The heaviness increases beyond what I can take. I sigh and let death take me again. I can only hope it's finally over… Finally… finally…

The world fades.

Awareness drips away.

A/N: I'm probably going to continue this up to Rue's subsequent awakening as a muttation, which will ultimately transition to the final battle at the Cornucopia with Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark, Cato, and most importantly – Mutant Rue.

Please review. Please.

Constructive criticism is encouraged, but please refrain from flames.

May the odds be ever in your favor!