Light a Spark
(the Way of the Flexh Remix)

by Evil Little Dog

Fandom(s): the Hunger Games
Word Count: 1,625 words
Rating: Teen
Genre: Horror/PTSD
Note: When you eat someone’s flesh, it changes you, and everyone around you.

Remix of “A Breath on the Embers”.



 
She’s eating human flesh.

Up there, on screen, Katniss watches as her sister eats a person, the other Tribute from District Twelve. His name is — was — is Peeta Mellark. Once before, before he died in the Games, he’d saved her family’s life. Maybe he hadn’t realized it then. After hearing his interview, Katniss knows Peeta remembers his kindness, but she doubts there’s any way he’d know what it had meant to her family. She wonders if Peeta had ever found out that she’d been interviewed. She’d talked about Peeta throwing her the stale bread his mother told him to give to the pigs. What would he have thought, hearing her interview? Would he have had a chance to think about how he’d saved the Everdeen family?

Now, he’s saved Prim again. Just like the first time, Katniss can’t pay him back. There is no way she can say ‘thank you’ to that baker boy. She isn’t even sure she can go to his family and offer them her gratitude. Mrs. Mellark would look down her nose at Katniss, she’s sure. Or worse, throw the thanks back in her face.

Katness swallows hard. Prim is coming home to District Twelve. To her. To them. She’ll be there at the front of the crowd, to welcome her sister back with open arms. Prim would be here, and she’d be safe.

Except Katniss isn’t sure what safe is, any more.

***

That is her daughter on the screen. That being, gaunt and hurting and mad, is her daughter, cutting into the flesh of the baker boy, bringing it up to her mouth on the blade of a knife. Eating the bloodied flesh, biting into muscle, chewing, not even noticing the blood coating her lips or running down her chin. This girl is her daughter, sweet, gentle Prim, lover of cats, adoring of her sister.

She hadn’t believed Prim would last out the Games. The odds seemed far too long, never, ever in her favor. The battleground too great; her opponents too fierce. Prim hadn’t been the one protecting the family. That is Katniss’s job, sneaking off to the forbidden grounds and hunting for animals so they can survive. Katniss had been the one to throw herself at the Tribute guards, screaming that she’d take Prim’s place, that she’d go into the Games for her little sister. She’d been beaten down, taking into custody. The Peacekeepers and their rules were strict and harsh – no substitutions. No matter what Katniss had done, how hard she had pled, Prim had been the one whisked away to the Capital. Little Prim, her gentle daughter. The kind one, who didn’t understand any of this. Prim, who could never realize what she’d done when she ate another person’s flesh.

She didn’t either. How could the Capitol do this to a child so young?

But she knows the answer to that question, at least: the Capitol will do whatever it takes to survive.

Just like everyone else in the world.

***

Effie smoothes her skirt down over her thighs, watching the screen with the other people gathered around. She licks her lips, but realizes someone might notice, and fixes a smile on her face. The skin around her eyes tightens, but she thinks that might not be something anyone would see. This Tribute, little Primrose Everdeen, survived the Games. When her name is announced as the victor, she is the first to clap.

But all around her, Effie feels it, a tension in the air, a feeling like a great beast holding its breath. All around, citizens boil with anger, with fear, with something ineffable, and beyond Effie’s understanding. But she knows something will change, something must change, from all the emotions clouding judgments. And she thinks, even now, all it might take is one little spark to ignite a fire. Cinna’s costumes hinted at a future flame, and Effie wonders if anyone might live to see it.

***

Haymitch isn’t sure what to do with her. The little girl survived it all, through none of his own training. He isn’t sure she even knows she survived. If anything, when brought back from the Game, Prim wears an expression like someone who’d managed to survive an explosion that killed off everyone else around her.

When she comes back from the gaming field, Haymitch sees a ghost. The girl never seemed very strong, a pale little wraith of nothing. He’d had no hopes of her returning from the Game alive. Even Peeta’s determination to protect Prim wasn’t much when it came to the Games. Prim had no strength, no willpower. She was a laughable contestant; look at the way she bolted like a deer, away from anything that might’ve helped her. She didn’t take any of the skills he’d tried to teach her, nothing, just ran. If he hadn’t sent the water filter, Haymitch is sure she wouldn’t have lasted out the third day. The cannon might have just as easily boomed for her.

As it is, she’s the one leaving the playing field. Shell-shocked. Ravenous. And the fire in her eyes makes Haymitch want to pull back, a little bit. Maybe more than a little. The Trinket woman is horrified, positively aghast, and stands with her fingers all twisted together, and her mouth pursed even tighter than normal. The only one who greets her with any equanimity is Cinna, and he hugs her gently. Prim clings to him, her dirty, bloodied fingers digging deep into the fabric of his clothes, all the way down to his skin. Haymitch knows she’s leaving marks behind, but Cinna makes soothing sounds until he can finally get her settled.

Trinket says something about how Prim’s come back a complete savage, as opposed to one who used to be at least somewhat civilized.

Haymitch thinks she’s probably right, but keeps the comment to himself.

***

Prim sits up in the bed, her eyes wide and staring. She cannot sleep. Her head’s too full. Her stomach is full, too, a rounded, hard lump in the middle of her body. It hurts, but in a good way. Better than she’d felt all through the Game.

Outside the window, she can catch glimpses of stars. Not like back home. The flickers are stronger on the ground, far below. Prim doesn’t want to look down. She doesn’t want to see what’s there. She looked once, and the sight of it reminded her of a river, running over the rapids. It made her stomach churn, the way it had when they told her about her dad.

She remembers, though her mother and Katniss never thought she did. Prim remembers the sound of the explosion that took her father’s life. It started like this; a low growl that shook the ground, and then the fire erupted out of the mine, a cloud of smoke and a bang so loud, it made her ears ring. She remembers, waking and in her dreams, and sometimes, it’s not just her father who dies, but her whole family, leaving her in the smoking ruins.

She’s seen the looks. They’re worse than the ones she got when Daddy died. Prim recollects Mr. Abernathy expression. It makes her shiver to think about it, how cold and strange it was. Her fingers itch at remembering Miss Trinket’s fake smile, and she wonders if that’s what Katniss meant, about wanting to slap a smile off someone’s face. Cinna alone treated her the same; holding her close and whispering to her that everything will be okay. Prim knows it’s not true, but it’s nice to hear.

Nothing will ever be okay again. It can’t be. She isn’t the one they’d picked to win; even as little as she knows, Prim understands that. President Snow’s smile is even more false than Miss Trinket’s, and Prim doesn’t like how his hand held hers when he gives her his congratulations. Her own skin prickles even in memory, like she’s touched poison ivy. She thinks that’s what President Snow is, a cruel vine that poisons everything it comes in contact with.

Outside her room, she hears noises from the street, screams and shouts, a blending into the roar of a great animal, or maybe even a wildfire. She covers her ears, but she can’t block it out. The susurration rising up to her window rolls and flows, a continuous sound of the crowds below. They are celebrating her win, that’s what Miss Trinket says, but Prim’s not sure if she believes it or not. The sound seems less like a cheer, and more like a howl.

Prim lies down, pulling her pillow around her ears. It’s not enough. The sound is like a wild animal hunting its prey. She can still hear it. Her pillow doesn’t block the noise.

She can still taste Peeta’s blood on her mouth. No matter how she brushes her teeth or rinses, the flavor coats her tongue. His flesh, fat and muscle and skin, it all tasted so good after nothing but tubers for so long. Her lips chap from how many times she licks them, still tasting his blood there.

A part of her thinks of her mother, of a story her mother told Katniss and her, a long time ago, about a man who fed his people with his own flesh. Peeta did that. Peeta is the one they should cheer for, not her.

The roar rises, like the lick of a fire, like the growl of a monster. Prim wraps her arms around her knees. She doesn’t understand much, but she knows this: The monster may be out there, but it’s in her, too. And she’s going to be like a dragon.

She’s going to let it burn.


End

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