CHAPTER 1

Every day I wake up disoriented with a feeling of impending doom. I snap awake, examine my surroundings, and inhale the stale air slowly, cautiously. I forcibly tense my muscles and then try to imagine them turning to gelatin, melting in the sun of a hazy August afternoon in the Seam. My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am nineteen years old. I was in the 74th and 75th Hunger Games. I was the Mockingjay. I killed President Coin. President Snow is dead. I am in District 12 now. I am safe. My eyes warily float to the ceiling above me and trace a line from the center of the room to the cracking baseboards. A sudden sense of dread begins to melt what had once been a floating ball of calm in my chest. Prim is dead. Peeta is…

Peeta. The name sounds so far away. The old Peeta, the reliable Peeta, the safe and noble Peeta has disappeared into my past like so many of those I had grown to trust; the only difference is that part of him still lives on, forced to live out the rest of his days in the nightmare that is the aftermath of the spark ignited by a kiss.

I killed Prim. I killed Peeta. Both so innocent and so changed following the dangerous games we had played. Few things, I imagine, can feel as terrible as striving to protect the lives and innocence of two people whom one loves, only to be forced to live in the shell of one's former self. Without either of them. I stare contemplating at my dirty, jagged fingernails. What value can my life possibly hold now? I lived out my worth as a political pawn, an "It" girl, a star-crossed lover, a sister, a daughter.

Not once in my exile to District 12 has my mother come to see me. Is she ashamed of me? When she looks at me, does she only think, "If only it had been you instead of Prim." Does she not look at me and know that I think the same? It's so unbearable and lonely that I question whether Peeta's interception of my self-preserving suicide was an act of determined love or determined hatred.

I haven't committed suicide yet only because I am under 24-hour suicide watch which requires constant supervision from either Greasy Sae or Haymitch. At night, I'm tied into soft restraints. It's in exchange for acquittal, for my life, Dr. Aurelius reminds me. He won't discharge the orders until he deems that I am no longer a risk to myself or to others and he has no way of determining this as I have severed communications with him. To his credit, he has not reported me to the judge. Most days, anyway, I'm too crippled by depression to be able to formulate any sort of plan. Part of my prescription was to continue with my hunting as it had always been therapeutic. Now, though, my limbs sink into the bed and feel like concrete. Dust has settled on my quiver.

7 AM. Haymitch appears at my bedside cursing. "I am through with this sweetheart," he hisses, his breath carrying notes of gin. He snarls and his teeth are still stained from the copious amounts of red wine he's consumed. He carelessly unties the restraints, opening some sores that have formed on my wrists.

I stare through him. He is transparent. He grabs my sorry wrists and pulls me into a seated position, nearly loosening my shoulders from the sockets. He grabs my chin with his thumb and forefinger and pulls my face closer to his.

"I know how you feel (don't you think I was there?) but this needs to end. You are not a vegetable and I am not a babysitter. You need to pull your sorry self together."
I continue to stare through him. "What a waste. Your little beloved sister is dead while you are afforded the opportunity to live and you do it by simply existing."

The mention of Prim snaps me out of it and I fly at Haymitch in a blind rage. Anticipating this response, he bear hugs me, pinning my arms down at my side. I wonder to myself how his movements and responses can be so quick and precise when he's spent the majority of his life destroying his motor coordination with drink. Then I look down at my arms and legs which are so wasted away from disuse and malnourishment that I can barely support my own weight.

"Look at you, Katniss," Haymitch softens his tone. "You, the Mockingjay, the Girl on Fire. You defeated two oppressive dictators. Where is your fire now?"

He releases me and I crumple into a heap on the floor. The waves of sobs overwhelm me until my head is pounding and my ears are ringing. Haymitch stands there silently for what seems like forever, studying me carefully.

"My fire was gone, too until you and Peeta came along. Until you find your fire again, I've brought you something to keep you warm. The train came in today." Ah, well that explains the confrontation and why Haymitch reeks of alcohol. I begrudgingly turn, expecting to find Haymitch offering me a handle. Yet when I turn, I find only his upturned fist, his swollen fingers curled in on something small. I look up at him questioningly and he opens his fist. A small, pink pill was delicately cradled in the palm of his hand. I knew it well.

Morphling.

In the matter of a few seconds, I consider the ramifications of accepting Haymitch's offer. I could become a jaundiced, wirey shell of a human being and live only for the next high; however, the alternative was to remain an emaciated depressed shell of a human being and live waiting for death. Well, what would anyone do? I chose the high.