1I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ashsettles on the worn leather. This is where the bed I sharedwith my sister, Prim, stood. Over there was the kitchentable. The bricks of the chimney, which collapsed in acharred heap, provide a point of reference for the rest of thehouse. How else could I orient myself in this sea of gray?Almost nothing remains of District 12. A month ago,the Capitol’s firebombs obliterated the poor coal miners’houses in the Seam, the shops in the town, even the JusticeBuilding. The only area that escaped incineration wasthe Victor’s Village. I don’t know why exactly. Perhaps soanyone forced to come here on Capitol business wouldhave somewhere decent to stay. The odd reporter. A commit-tee assessing the condition of the coal mines. A squad ofPeacekeepers checking for returning refugees.But no one is returning except me. And that’s only fora brief visit. The authorities in District 13 were against mycoming back. They viewed it as a costly and pointless venture,given that at least a dozen invisible hovercraft are circlingoverhead for my protection and there’s no intelligence tobe gained. I had to see it, though. So much so that I madeit a condition of my cooperating with any of their plans.3
4Finally, Plutarch Heavensbee, the Head Gamemakerwho had organized the rebels in the Capitol, threw up hishands. “Let her go. Better to waste a day than anothermonth. Maybe a little tour of Twelve is just what she needsto convince her we’re on the same side.”The same side. A pain stabs my left temple and I pressmy hand against it. Right on the spot where Johanna Masonhit me with the coil of wire. The memories swirl as I try tosort out what is true and what is false. What series of eventsled me to be standing in the ruins of my city? This is hardbecause the effects of the concussion she gave me haven’tcompletely subsided and my thoughts still have a tendencyto jumble together. Also, the drugs they use to control mypain and mood sometimes make me see things. I guess.I’m still not entirely convinced that I was hallucinating thenight the floor of my hospital room transformed into a car-pet of writhing snakes.I use a technique one of the doctors suggested. I startwith the simplest things I know to be true and work towardthe more complicated. The list begins to roll in my head. . . .My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. Myhome is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. TheCapitol hates me. Peeta was taken prisoner. He is thought to bedead. Most likely he is dead. It is probably best if he is dead. . . .“Katniss. Should I come down?” My best friend Gale’svoice reaches me through the headset the rebels insisted Iwear. He’s up in a hovercraft, watching me carefully, readyto swoop in if anything goes amiss. I realize I’m croucheddown now, elbows on my thighs, my head braced between
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