Книга Mockingjay. Содержание - 25
I fall into a doorway, tears stinging my eyes.Shoot me. That’s what he was mouthing. I was supposed to shoot him! That was my job. That was our unspoken promise, all of us, to one another. And I didn’t do it and now the Capitol will kill him or torture him or hijack him or—the cracks begin opening inside me, threatening to break me into pieces. I have only one hope. That the Capitol falls, lays down its arms, and gives up its prisoners before they hurt Gale. But I can’t see that happening while Snow’s alive.
A pair of Peacekeepers runs by, barely glancing at the whimpering Capitol girl huddled in a doorway. I choke down my tears, wipe the existing ones off my face before they can freeze, and pull myself back together. Okay, I’m still an anonymous refugee. Or did the Peacekeepers who caught Gale get a glimpse of me as I fled? I remove my cloak and turn it inside out, letting the black lining show instead of the red exterior. Arrange the hood so it conceals my face. Grasping my gun close to my chest, I survey the block. There’s only a handful of dazed-looking stragglers. I trail close behind a pair of old men who take no notice of me. No one will expect me to be with old men. When we reach the end of the next intersection, they stop and I almost bump into them. It’s the City Circle. Across the wide expanse ringed by grand buildings sits the president’s mansion.
The Circle’s full of people milling around, wailing, or just sitting and letting the snow pile up around them. I fit right in. I begin to weave my way across to the mansion, tripping over abandoned treasures and snow-frosted limbs. About halfway there, I become aware of the concrete barricade. It’s about four feet high and extends in a large rectangle in front of the mansion. You would think it would be empty, but it’s packed with refugees. Maybe this is the group that’s been chosen to be sheltered at the mansion? But as I draw closer, I notice something else. Everyone inside the barricade is a child. Toddlers to teenagers. Scared and frostbitten. Huddled in groups or rocking numbly on the ground. They aren’t being led into the mansion. They’re penned in, guarded on all sides by Peacekeepers. I know immediately it’s not for their protection. If the Capitol wanted to safeguard them, they’d be down in a bunker somewhere. This is for Snow’s protection. The children form his human shield.
There’s a commotion and the crowd surges to the left. I’m caught up by larger bodies, borne sideways, carried off course. I hear shouts of «The rebels! The rebels!» and know they must’ve broken through. The momentum slams me into a flagpole and I cling to it. Using the rope that hangs from the top, I pull myself up out of the crush of bodies. Yes, I can see the rebel army pouring into the Circle, driving the refugees back onto the avenues. I scan the area for the pods that will surely be detonating. But that doesn’t happen. This is what happens:
A hovercraft marked with the Capitol’s seal materializes directly over the barricaded children. Scores of silver parachutes rain down on them. Even in this chaos, the children know what silver parachutes contain. Food. Medicine. Gifts. They eagerly scoop them up, frozen fingers struggling with the strings. The hovercraft vanishes, five seconds pass, and then about twenty parachutes simultaneously explode.
A wail rises from the crowd. The snow’s red and littered with undersized body parts. Many of the children die immediately, but others lie in agony on the ground. Some stagger around mutely, staring at the remaining silver parachutes in their hands, as if they still might have something precious inside. I can tell the Peacekeepers didn’t know this was coming by the way they are yanking away the barricades, making a path to the children. Another flock of white uniforms sweeps into the opening. But these aren’t Peacekeepers. They’re medics. Rebel medics. I’d know the uniforms anywhere. They swarm in among the children, wielding medical kits.
First I get a glimpse of the blond braid down her back. Then, as she yanks off her coat to cover a wailing child, I notice the duck tail formed by her untucked shirt. I have the same reaction I did the day Effie Trinket called her name at the reaping. At least, I must go limp, because I find myself at the base of the flagpole, unable to account for the last few seconds. Then I am pushing through the crowd, just as I did before. Trying to shout her name above the roar. I’m almost there, almost to the barricade, when I think she hears me. Because for just a moment, she catches sight of me, her lips form my name.
And that’s when the rest of the parachutes go off.
Real or not real? I am on fire. The balls of flame that erupted from the parachutes shot over the barricades, through the snowy air, and landed in the crowd. I was just turning away when one caught me, ran its tongue up the back of my body, and transformed me into something new. A creature as unquenchable as the sun.
A fire mutt knows only a single sensation: agony. No sight, no sound, no feeling except the unrelenting burning of flesh. Perhaps there are periods of unconsciousness, but what can it matter if I can’t find refuge in them? I am Cinna’s bird, ignited, flying frantically to escape something inescapable. The feathers of flame that grow from my body. Beating my wings only fans the blaze. I consume myself, but to no end.
Finally, my wings begin to falter, I lose height, and gravity pulls me into a foamy sea the color of Finnick’s eyes. I float on my back, which continues to burn beneath the water, but the agony quiets to pain. When I am adrift and unable to navigate, that’s when they come. The dead.
The ones I loved fly as birds in the open sky above me. Soaring, weaving, calling to me to join them. I want so badly to follow them, but the seawater saturates my wings, making it impossible to lift them. The ones I hated have taken to the water, horrible scaled things that tear my salty flesh with needle teeth. Biting again and again. Dragging me beneath the surface.
The small white bird tinged in pink dives down, buries her claws in my chest, and tries to keep me afloat. «No, Katniss! No! You can’t go!»
But the ones I hated are winning, and if she clings to me, she’ll be lost as well. «Prim, let go!» And finally she does.
Deep in the water, I’m deserted by all. There’s only the sound of my breathing, the enormous effort it takes to draw the water in, push it out of my lungs. I want to stop, I try to hold my breath, but the sea forces its way in and out against my will. «Let me die. Let me follow the others,» I beg whatever holds me here. There’s no response.
Trapped for days, years, centuries maybe. Dead, but not allowed to die. Alive, but as good as dead. So alone that anyone, anything no matter how loathsome would be welcome. But when I finally have a visitor, it’s sweet. Morphling. Coursing through my veins, easing the pain, lightening my body so that it rises back toward the air and rests again on the foam.
Foam. I really am floating on foam. I can feel it beneath the tips of my fingers, cradling parts of my naked body. There’s much pain but there’s also something like reality. The sandpaper of my throat. The smell of burn medicine from the first arena. The sound of my mother’s voice. These things frighten me, and I try to return to the deep to make sense of them. But there’s no going back. Gradually, I’m forced to accept who I am. A badly burned girl with no wings. With no fire. And no sister.
In the dazzling white Capitol hospital, the doctors work their magic on me. Draping my rawness in new sheets of skin. Coaxing the cells into thinking they are my own. Manipulating my body parts, bending and stretching the limbs to assure a good fit. I hear over and over again how lucky I am. My eyes were spared. Most of my face was spared. My lungs are responding to treatment. I will be as good as new.