In my dream, Katniss was standing in front of me. She was wearing her 'girl-on-fire' outfit, and her beautiful brown hair was done in its signature braid. Her eyes had a hard look in them. "Game time is over," she growled. "From now on, it's for real."
The dream caught fire and burnt out, leaving me sweating and panting. Was this dream real, a figment of my imagination or something planted there by the Capitol?
"Peeta Mellark to report to Caesar Flickerman for live interview immediately," the voice over the PA said. I frowned.
Two Peacekeepers entered the cell and dragged my by the elbows to a corridor I didn't recognise, then through to a building I did recognise. It's the building where they hold the interviews with Caesar. They dragged me to a dressing room, where three people are waiting. My equivalent of a prep team, I guess. I don't recognise them, but they clearly recognise me, because they squealed and began nudging each other, murmuring, "It's him. It's Peeta."
Flattering to be recognised, really. (Note the sarcasm).
"Beauty Base Zero, first, I think, then we'll figure out what to do with him," one of them said. The other two nodded, and they begin to work their beauty magic on me. In a few minutes, I'm clean and fresh.
"Make him up," the same person said to the other two. Apparently he's the leader. They continue beautifying me; gelling my hair back, applying layers of powder or whatever stylists do. I didn't have a clue what they were going.
"That's it, guys," he said, stepping back with the other two. He handed me a mirror. "So, what do you think, Peeta?"
I glanced at myself in the mirror. I looked fine. I looked more than fine. I looked like my interview-self; Capitol-worthy.
"I look great, thanks," I said to them. They looked relieved and pleased.
"Thank you, Peeta," he says, and the three of them shuffle out of the room awkwardly, very strange for Capitol-citizens.
I heard Caesar Flickerman's voice announce, "And now, let's have our very own Peeta Mellark to tell us about that fateful night. Ladies and gentlemen, Peeta!"
Applause rang through the studio. I had no clue what to do, so I just did the thing that seemed the most logical. I stepped onto the stage with Caesar.
"Peeta!" Caesar greeted me. "Sit down, sit down! Ladies and gentlemen, let's have a round of applause for our very own Peeta Mellark!" Applause shook the room once again as I took a seat opposite Caesar.
"Thank you Caesar," I said with a smile on my face.
"Peeta, the events of the last Quarter Quell are a mystery to most of us," Caesar told me. "Care to enlighten us?"
"Um..." I murmured, trying to remember that night, that fateful night. "Well...me, Katniss, Beetee, Johanna and Finnick were setting the trap, right? The electricity trap for the Careers, so we could take them out. We had to separate. Katniss and Johanna went one way, and they refused to let me follow them."
I go on describing what happened that night; the force field exploding, Johanna knocking Katniss out, me, myself killing Brutus after watching him kill Chaff. "But Katniss is innocent," I argued every few sentences.
"You often say that Katniss is innocent," Caesar said. "What makes you so sure?"
"For one thing I was there that night," I said, trying to muster arrogance and anger in my tone. "I know what happened. Secondly why would Katniss do anything that wouldn't be innocent? She was just as clueless as I am."
"Then explain why she shot the arrow into the forcefield," Caesar said.
"I-I don't know. Maybe she just did it out of defiance. Against Snow, and the Games. She wasn't exactly its biggest fan; none of us are. Well, except the Careers and we can't exactly count them."
"Indeed. I can only imagine what it feels like to be in the arena," Caesar said.
"You don't know the first thing about it." I laughed bitterly. "Waiting in the arena, 23 other people, and you know that the only way that you gonna get out alive is that if those 23 other people die."
When heard silence around the room I continued.
"Under that pink sky, you don't know where your next meal is coming from or if you even get it. Just trying to stay alive, that's all you think about. Each hour promises a new horror. Monkeys, fog, those jabberjays... That big clock, that big clock is your life. It ticks away your life. Tick-tock."
"So...Peeta. What do you think would be the best course of action currently in this....dare I say it?- war? And remember, when they took Beetee, Finnick and Katniss, they declared war, not us. At least you and Johanna made it here and you're safe."
Safe, I laughed to myself. Is this what the Capitol calls safe? Torture? It's about as far away from safe as one could possibly get.
"I think..." I began slowly. I was about to suggest that the Capitol surrender, but then I remember what Snow said. "I think that in order to prevent the annihilation of the human race, the best option would be a cease-fire."
Instant reactions. The crowd clambered either in approval, disapproval or shock; I wasn't not sure which.
"Whoa whoa whoa, Peeta!" Caesar exclaimed. "They took your fiancée and you're saying you don't want them dead?"
"I'm not saying that, I'm saying that if we go through with this war, who knows how many of us will be left to carry on? There will be casualties. And it may just destroy us."
"Thank you, Peeta. You may go," said Caesar, and applause from the crowd cued my dismiss.
I stepped off stage. Peacekeepers dragged me back to my cell.
It had been like this for a long time: beating ups, interrogations, interviews. Even in those interviews I was prohibited from being honest. Snow fed me my lines.
That day, I was lounging about in my cell, recovering from the latest interrogation, when I heard voices talking outside.
"They will not suspect it," one said. "Their security is breached. The scientists confirmed this."
"Yes, it'll be magnificent!" laughed another voice. "The bomb that will hit Thirteen will go off tonight, and no one will suspect a thing."
"All of the inmates, dead, and no casualties for us- the Capitol," the first voice said.
I gripped the hem of my shirt and pressed my ear to the door, yearning to listen more.
Over the days, I'd gathered intelligence, some knowingly, some not.
District 12 had been burnt down. The people who took Katniss were known as the 'rebels'. They were planning to overthrow the Capitol. Currently, they had set up base in District 13, which apparently had rebuilt itself underground. That was where Katniss was, and where these people were planning to bomb.
I had to warn them. Or Katniss would die.
So...the next interview, I stepped on stage. I said the regular lines Snow fed me: about how the Capitol gave us protection (yeah, by sending kids into a game of death), and how a ceasefire would be the best option. I gave them something to think about.
Until I found my opportunity to warn them. And I said, "And you...in Thirteen...dead by morning!" I wasn't sure if it was enough, but it was all I could say.
The crowd began clambering, and immediately Peacekeepers came on stage and dragged me off to my cell. When we arrived, they tossed me into it as one of them growled, "Reveal our plans to the enemy again, and you're getting much worse."
They locked the door.
"What did you do?" Johanna hissed. I told her about the events that had occurred. She gasped. "That's madness. They'll kill you." I shrugged.
"They haven't killed me yet, so..." I muttered awkwardly.
"They will eventually," she said.
"Oh, no kidding. But I had to be there to warn Katniss," I said.
That night I heard two voices outside my cell.
"-that Mellark boy," one of them said. I froze, then pressed my ear to the door. "He warned them, and they set up the defenses. Everyone was protected; not a single casualty."
Joy leaped through my heart as I heard that.
"Enough, we can't extract any more information from him. We need to use him as a weapon, to break that Girl on Fire," another voice said. I froze.
They were going to use me as a weapon to break Katniss? No. I wouldn't let them do that. I'd sooner die.
But I had no say in the matter, did I? Well, I was going to have to stay strong. For her.
"Would Peeta Mellark please report for interrogation?" a male voice said over the PA. I groaned inwardly.
It had been nine days since the first torture session, and since then, I'd been called at least once a day, but usually two, for 'interrogation'. As Johanna said, it was basically torture, since I didn't have any information for them. They'd done something to me every other day, but most of the time they reverted to the original beating-up-and-fiery-whip torture. Basically, my body was in a very weakened state. I'd almost forgotten what it felt like to not be in pain. They pumped me morphling every few days to keep me going.
The Peacekeepers unlocked my cell and dragged me by my elbows, as usual. "I know the routine," I said glumly, but they just dragged me and pulled my elbows even harder. I winced.
"New one today, shrimp," one of them growled. One of them always called me 'shrimp' for reasons I never understood, and never got the courage to ask him about. This must have been the one. But I didn't think about that for very long, because of what he said before that.
"New routine?" I asked. "No more-no more t-tor-"
"Don't you dare call it torture!" he boomed. "It's a careful interrogation, alright?"
"A careful interrogation doesn't include lashing someone with a whip!"
He growled. "Keep quiet, shrimp, or you're getting much worse than a whip."
I kept quiet.
We went down a corridor I'd never been down before, then another. Finally, we reached a hallway where we finally stopped in a room with glass walls, except for the back wall, which was steel. A dentist's chair stood at the middle, with a whole load of high-tect equipment beside it, none of which I recognised.
The Peacekeepers tossed me into the room, and as soon as I was seated in the chair, shackles automatically reached out of the handle and secured me to the chair. The same happened with my legs. I was trapped.
"SNOW!" I yelled. "IS THIS YOUR SICK IDEA OF AN INTERROGATION? BUT I DON'T HAVE INFORMATION FOR YOU, SO YOU MIGHT AS WELL-" But that was as far as I got before one of the Peacekeepers stuffed a gag in my mouth. I was reduced to making angry noises.
"Today we will be exploring a....different situation," Snow's voice said through the PA.
"HMPHPH," I said.
"It's an experiment, I suppose you would call it...we'll be injecting a certain venom into your bloodstream. Tracker-jacker venom."
My eyes widened in alarm and I began to struggle even harder. I screamed through the gag.
I knew it was going to be bad, but holy moly, tracker jacker venom? I'd seen the effects it had had on even Katniss, the strong survivor. It was horrible.
A TV appeared and a slideshow was displayed, commentated by a pleasant female voice. "Effects of tracker-jacker venom include hallucinations, feelings of pain and stings. It targets the part of the brain that houses fear."
Oh dear god, what are they going to do to me?
A syringe appeared from within the handle of the chair, filled with shiny golden-green-orange liquid. I instinctively edged away from it, but another one appeared from the opposite handle and, simultaneously, the two needles pierced my arm. They disappeared within the reaches of the handles as I screamed. They reappeared again, and injected more of the venom into me.
"SNOW!" I yelled, and screeched as more venom entered my bloodstream. "WHAT-WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
"Oh, you don't need to know," he said.
"AGHHHHH!" I screamed as the needles continuously pierced me, giving me countless doses of the venom.
Suddenly, I was plunged into a different world...the world of...the world of dreams...
Everything was on fire. My father's bakery, the Hob...the whole of District 12...
And the people...I saw children burning alive...
Then one clear fact came to me...Katniss...Katniss was the one who started the fire...
But...but that couldn't be possible, could it? Katniss was...she was...I...I loved her.
Do you? A voice in my mind hissed. What has she ever done for you?
I was back in the first Games, the 74th. I was hurt; I was in a cave with Katniss. She sneered at me and pulled out a knife. "No...Katniss...please," I pleaded with her. She ignored me...and the next thing I heard was my scream...
That...that couldn't be true...right?
Why not? The voice hissed. Don't you remember what happened at the Quarter Quell?
We were sitting on the beach. "Let's go," Katniss said. "You know what happens after the Careers are dead. It'll just be us left." But I heard an undertone, like the only reason she wanted to go away with me was so that she could kill me alone...no one would be there to hear my terrified shout of death...
So I refused.
A thousand more memories flooded through my mind, in all of them, Katniss was trying to kill me. Everything became shiny; they had an orange, shiny quality about them.
She's a mutt.
That one fact is obvious, now; why else would she try to kill me, again and again, when I didn't do anything to her? She must be a mutt, created and designed by the Capitol, programmed to kill me. She isn't human. She's a mutt.