Chapter One: District After District
Katniss Everdeen was sick of Katniss Everdeen. She was all over the papers, all over the television. Her image was thrown across the continent.
Citizens could hardly leave their homes without seeing her face, without watching video of her volunteering for Prim, without the images of her drawing her bow back whilst surrounded by fire! And, of course, there were images of him. Peeta followed her at almost every turn.
The one thing not depicted was his end. The government had claimed that it was 'insensitive' to show it. Katniss wondered how governments could remain so perpetually hypocritical. They were the ones who put him in the arena in the first place!
But Katniss was not angry at Peeta. She was not even angry at President Snow. Katniss Everdeen was angry at Katniss Everdeen. Why had she not shot Peeta with the arrow? Or why not tie them together? He was injured, he should have been her first priority. Prim would have taken care of him.
Katniss was in District Nine right now. She was addressing the crowd, and hating every moment. What do you tell people who friends you just killed? What happens when you mispronounce their names? At what point does it become appropriate to thank President Snow for the opportunity to be a champion?
Soon, the tour would end. She would go home to her place on Victor's Lane and try to forget everything. The crowd was forced to cheer her entrance and exit. If allowed, Katniss would have cheered her exit too. But then she found something on the train that made her wish she was still in front of the crowd.
Herald sat on his chair with sinful comfort. He looked at her like a prize specimen. He licked his lips. She shuddered.
While interrogating Katniss directly after she won, Herald brought a young girl who looked surprisingly like Prim into the room. The girl, who said her name was Rose, was dressed in pure white. She sat in the chair across from the famous tribute and asked her why they were there. Rose was oblivious.
Herald tortured her to death.
It was too gruesome to even think about. Her blood spilled out onto her white dress, staining it a deep red. He whipped her for hours as she begged for mercy, then her mother, then her father, then Katniss.
Finally, she prayed to die.
It broke whatever spirit Katniss had left. What he had done with her next… was too horrible to speak of. Herald had to die a horrible death.
He smiled up at her like they were old friends, "Please! Sit down, eat something, we have much to discuss!"
Herald resembled a poisonous spider to Katniss. The food looked infinitely less appetizing. The imposing man took a jelly cream donut into his mouth and sucked out the juice from within. Katniss felt sick to her stomach.
It was a good thing there was not a bow within reach. She did not even need arrows; she would kill him with the pastries he was sucking dry.
"Do you know why I'm here?"
Katniss shuddered. She heard from other tributes that she was now an owned woman. Now that he 'boyfriend' was gone, she was 'available' something that never bothered her before. The champion took a breath, and balled her fist. She could strangle him as the pastry went down… make it look like an accident…
Herald was going on about how eager he was to sex her when she interrupted him, "I would never, ever touch a thing like you."
He smiled up at her, "Girl on Fire, you won't have a choice. Not if you can survive the bugs."
His shoulder slightly brushed hers when he passed her. The shudders would not stop all night. She wished deeply she knew where Peeta was, and what he was doing. She definitely needed him now.
Pain… unbelievable pain, it came from the monsters, and my leg was on fire. There was darkness and beeping lights. Then the pain stopped. In a flash, I was a tornado, whipping through the air, my breath was gone.
So apparently the afterlife is trippy.
My name is Peeta. Hi, how are you? I'm not so great right now.
My life used to be really, really nice. I had my eye on this girl, and sometimes I noticed her, uh, noticing me. It was nice. I had a nice family with awesome friends. My parachute opened, which made me feel infinitely better. I took a deep breath and released it.
I was several hundred feet off the ground. Well, that freaked me out. It was definitely time to get my bearings.
I was wearing my tribute uniform, with some adjustments. All my wounds were healed. Dozens of chutes were open in the skies. The jungle below us was… unsettling.
But it was not nearly as unsettling as the twin moons in orbit.
Hi, my name is Peeta; I do not care how you are doing anymore because I am falling from the sky on an alien world. I will probably be hunted down and killed, which is not much of an improvement to what I was doing last time I was conscious, and I have no idea what I am doing here.
Oh, and this time I don't have a killer girlfriend looking out for me.
I want to go home.