I woke up in a blinding-white room, which was illuminated by solar-lights installed by what could've only been the Capitol.
I sat up, taking in my surroundings- I was lying on a bed, like one in a hospital. The room itself wasn't big, just enough for my bed, a small chest of drawers, a bedside table and a closet. A window was placed by the far corner, also known as where my bed was. But it was nighttime, so there was no sunlight. A TV hung on the wall in front of me.
I blinked. Where am I? I wondered. Definitely not District 12, or any other district that didn’t have the Capitol’s favour. That only left Districts 1 or 2. Or the arena, I suppose, but somehow I really doubted that the arena would have solar-lights or a television. Why wasn't I in the arena anymore? Wasn't I in the Hunger Games?
More importantly, where was Katniss? Was she alive, and was she okay? Why wasn't I with her? The last thing I remembered before, before blacking out was...was sitting on the beach with Katniss...then...I remembered our allies forcing us to separate, while rigging that lightning-trap for the Careers. I was so worried, consumed with worry on whether we'd even make it through the night. Then I remembered the force field...well, 'malfunctioning' would be the word I'd use to describe it. It malfunctioned as if something had been shot at it. Then I collapsed and everything went black...
Suddenly, the TV flashed on. It showed the gleaming, colourful, heavily made-up face of our interviewer and host, Caesar Flickerman. "Well, here's today's update on our long-anticipated Quarter Quell! Today, I will be showing you some exclusive footage that you didn't get to see, featuring our favourite tribute alliance! That is- Beetee Latier, Johanna Mason, Finnick Odair, Peeta Mellark and of course, our very own Girl-on-Fire, Katniss Everdeen!"
There was applause from the audience before the scene on the television changed. It was nighttime. It was showing, first, Katniss and Johanna trudging through the dark arena. There was no audio, but suddenly Johanna knocked Katniss out, and dug something out of her arm. Katniss was screaming. I wanted to jump through the television right there to protect her from Johanna, but I could only watch. There was some commotion as we attempted to set the plan in action, but then Katniss nocked an arrow, and when she saw Finnick, aimed it at him. He yelled something at her, and she lowered her bow, before aiming it towards the force field and making it implode.
As for myself-on-screen, I was alone, looking for Katniss. I looked like I was yelling her name, when suddenly I came across two figures fighting. Both grown men...and both whom I recognised. One was Brutus, the bloodthirsty Career from District 2. The other one was Chaff, a friend of Haymitch's and ours. The fight wasn't much of a contest. A few seconds later, Brutus struck the fatal blow and Chaff crumpled, dead. On screen, I yelled in rage and charged Brutus. Rage gave me strength, I guess, and a few seconds later, Brutus' body was lying just a few meters away from the friend he murdered.
I kept on looking for Katniss, until suddenly lightning struck, and I blacked out. My unconscious body was carried out via hovercraft, along with Johanna's and Enobaria's. Katniss' was too, but it wasn't a craft I recognised. It didn't have the Capitol emblem on it, meaning it couldn't have belonged to them...Finnick was carried by the unidentified hovercraft too. I was brought into the Capitol's hovercraft...
The screen went black for a second before flickering back to Caesar (pun intended), who clapped and said, "What a show! What a show!" he exclaimed. "But the real question is, where are the tributes now? Well, here in the Capitol, resting in our beds, safe and sound!" More applause filled the room, but I hardly heard it as I started to register where I was.
Katniss and I couldn't have been taken to the same place, because we were taken by different hovercrafts. Was she safe? But the real question was, was I safe? Because if I was taken by the Capitol...then...
Forget the districts, or the arena. I was in the Capitol.
A few minutes later, after going to the bathroom and freshening up, I felt as good as new. Or I did, until I got a little visitor. It was a Capitol nursemaid- or their equivalent of a nursemaid, I guess- coming to ask whether I felt good enough to have a talk with them. But it wasn't really a question, it was more like a threat, like, Come with me now, unless you want to be killed. So, of course, I followed her.
She took me through blinding-white hallways filled with doors. A hospital. It seemed like an endless maze. And this woman was walking so fast, I'd be lucky if I could keep up and not get myself hopeless lost in this labyrinth of white corridors.
I tried for some friendly conversation. "So...where are we going?" I asked. Unsurprisingly, she didn't answer, or even look back. "What's your name?" I tried again. "At least tell me how long I've been here?" She turned back impatiently.
"Look, Mellark, just shut up with the questions. You'll find out where we're going when we get there. You don't need to know my name. You've been here for 2 days and 4 hours. Now, will you please just be quiet and walk?"
I kept quiet after that.
It's not that she scared me, or anything. I was just pondering on what she said, and I figured that it would be better if she wasn't all mad at me and stuff.
2 days? I'd been lying in bed, unconscious, for 2 days? Was Katniss okay? What did they do with me during those 2 days I couldn't defend myself? Pump drugs into me? Mess with my memories? Who knew? This was the Capitol we were talking about after all.
But I seemed fine. Eventually, the white hallways changed into stone, then finally, it led to a building made specially for the tributes, also known as the Tribute Centre. We walked into the place where the judges scored us, then went up the lifts. Finally, we stopped at the top floor- the penthouse, the place me and Katniss usually stayed.
This time, it wasn't Katniss who was in the room with me. Our very own President Coriolanus Snow, sitting on the sofa I usually occupied with Katniss as we anxiously waited for our results...
"Snow," I said, trying to muster as little contempt in my voice as possible, but it wasn't easy. This man had forced us into this death game, he had threatened us, he had forced us into yet another arena...But Snow just chuckled.
"Ah, Peeta Mellark. As charming as ever," he replied smoothly. "I am here because I thought that you alone might listen to reason."
"What are you talking about? And where's Katniss?"
"She's safe, for the moment, I suppose. However your little friend here, Johanna Mason..." he snapped his fingers and a video appeared in thin air, showing Johanna screaming as she was being electrocuted. "Is clearly being very stubborn, and we've had to resort to, ah, more drastic measures, shall we say."
"WHAT DID YOU DO?!" I yelled. "Are you torturing her for information?!"
Snow nodded slowly and deliberately. "Yes, that's right."
"You-you're a monster!" I shouted. "A monster! How could you do this to her? She's only a young woman!"
"A young woman that's withholding information from her rightful president!" he spat. "I will go to all and every measure I need to find out about this rebellion!"
I frowned. "Rebellion?"
"Oh, don't act innocent, Mr Mellark. Your friend Ms Mason has already given up that game. And I quote, 'I will never talk about the rebellion! I will never reveal the plans!'. Ha. She will, soon enough."
Seeing as I probably looked horrified, he continued to say, "Oh, don't worry. You needn't go through that torture...as long as you don't withhold any information from me like dear Johanna."
"What? I don't know anything about a rebellion," I insisted. Snow looked disappointed.
"Look, Peeta. There's no point in hiding this now. We, the Capitol, have the advantage, obviously. We have the weapons, trained soldiers, food supplies...there's no way you can win this war, so let's just take a step back and not fight it."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
My shout echoed through the empty room.
"If you won't listen to me, listen to the screams of your friend." He turned on the video of Johanna, screaming, but I swiped it off just as quickly. "Tell us what we need to know, and she will be spared. Her torture will cease. Don't you want that?"
I do, of course I do. Johanna is my friend, and apparently she knew something about a rebellion. I have to make sure that her plans are in action, and that she does not die. To do that, I'll need something more than trying to convince Snow I know nothing. I need the thing that Katniss always says I'm a specialty at. I need my words.
I tried for a smile, which probably would not have convinced the snake of my innocence. Last time I checked, he was better at seeing through lies than regular people looked through glass. It was all transparent. "Look, Snow, alright, I'll tell you all I know. But only if you let Johanna go."
Snow's cunning smile wavered. "What? No, Ms Mason will resume her torture until you yield results. What were the rebels planning?"
"I'm not saying until you stop torturing her."
"Well, I'm not stopping until you say."
We stared at each other, defiant, stubborn, angry. I imagined how it must have been for Snow; having his answers so close, within reach, yet so far. He clenched his jaw.
"Fine," he said, and snapped his fingers.
I took a deep breath. At least Johanna was okay, now, at least she wasn't being tortured anymore and that was a start. "I'll tell you all I know."
"Nothing withheld," I said.
"Nothing withheld," he agreed.
"The good with the bad," I said, trying to stall for time, so that Johanna might have as much torture-free time as possible.
"Yes, both. Now, Mr Mellark, if you may..."
"I know you are more intelligent than this, Mr Mellark! Now, enclose the information to me now, or Johanna will receive torture even worse than before! Worse than you can ever imagine!"
I knew my time for stalling was out. I took a deep breath.
"Well, when we went into the arena, I didn't know anything," I began.
"Then...when we had Finnick, Beetee and Johanna as allies-"
"Yes?" he interrupted. I'd never seen Snow so eager, so unhinged, so...vulnerable. An idea began ticking in the base of my skull.
"Well, Johanna confided the plan in me. She didn't tell Katniss, so don't go and torture her, because she doesn't know anything."
"For now, yes. But many people believe she is the heart of the rebellion."
"Well, she doesn't know a thing about the rebellion."
"For now, yes, for now."
"Anyhow, when we activated that electricity trap..."
"Continue, Mr Mellark," he said, his tone smooth, yet I saw the hunger in his eyes, the undertone of eagerness.
"Katniss went with Johanna, and we had to separate, right? J-Johanna had to...had to, um...cut the..." I thought- what could be in Katniss' arm that Johanna had to cut out? Then it hit me. "Cut out the tracker. In her arm."
"Yes, that does make sense..." Snow murmured.
"Then-" I began while he was distracted, then while he was lost in his thoughts-
NOW! I said to myself. I threw back my right elbow and bashed it in his face. He looked up in alarm, then registered the situation and merely looked amused, although his nose was bleeding quite heavily. I managed to throw a punch at him before he yelled, "GUARDS!" Peacekeepers instantly flooded the room and grabbed my elbows, arms like steel.
"Treason," Snow growled, and then calmly removed a red rose from his coat. He passed it to me, putting it between my teeth. "Here is a gift...I gave your, ah, fiancée a white one...and everyone knows that red and white is a pair, isn't that right?"
"You won't get away with this, Snow!"
"Get away with what?" he said mockingly. "Oh, and one last thing I want you to see before you're taken to your cell..." He opened the video, and snapped his fingers. A blast of electricity shocked Johanna and the last thing I heard before the Peacekeepers dragged me away was her anguished scream.