Ma used to tell me that my eyes were the Devil's mark. She said that one was the sign of the abyss and that the other was the mark of the cold, like I was made of living ice. But now I know that she was wrong.
The hottest fires burn blue.
When I first realized that the war was coming to an end, I was sitting in a ditch, heavy artillery firing on me as I tried to claw through my tool belt for any last weapon. For a second, I looked in my comrade's eyes and thought about just blowing the whole damn thing up, killing all of us in one big explosion. An explosion like that would definitely kill us, but it would probably almost certainly kill the Keepers too, and I think that's a death most of my comrades could get on board with.
Those were the fucking days.
When the war came to an end, I expected pain. I expected our ceasefire to end in darkness, to end with the Peacekeepers lining us up and taking aim between our eyes. I expected blazing torment from a set of blazing eyes, to be put down by soldiers as dedicated to their war as we were dedicated to our rebellion. But I receive nothing. Since the day we laid down our weapons and were forced to fall to our knees, nothing has happened to me. The Keepers rounded us up and took our weapons, and then sent us on our fucking way. No executioners came, no trained torturers to try and get information out of us on hold-outs or secret caches. No one tried to pry secrets about our revolution out of my head. They sent me home to my empty house and told me to rebuild. They sent twenty-four kids to die in a football stadium like that is something that is supposed to scare me, like I haven't been watching kids die—fuck, like I haven't been killing kids already for the past four years. My prison cell is comfortable and well-furnished, with my same plush bed and a stocked bookshelf full of boring books that I still can't be bothered to read.
That's a lie, actually.
I've read every single Ripred-damned one of them.
I've scoured every letter of every line, trying to drown out the voices in my head. The memories of my comrades, the blurry days where I was so starved for hunger and one more kick of adrenaline that it would feel like I blinked and it was over. All I want is to dull the pain with duller books, but my dead friends are sharp like blades in my head and the letters rearrange themselves on the page until all I see are my friend's names. Mostly I never knew their real ones, just in case I ever got captured and the Keepers needed information on exactly who their enemy was or something, but I still see Bullet Catcher and Tiny. I see Blue with a knife in his neck. I see Slim diving over a grenade I should have dove for.
I see Ma with a bullet between her eyes.
So I read the dull books, or maybe I don't, either way, the days pass and nothing happens and everything changes and I can't believe this is where I am.
This is my cage, and it's fucking boring.
The Capitol has no imagination.
But I guess sometimes you don't need four cement walls or a set of metal bars to feel trapped.
Sometimes, you can stand in the middle of a field, not a cloud in the sky, and still feel the world closing in around you. Sometimes all it takes to feel caged in is your comrades laying down their weapons, hands held high, and giving in.