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How "The Hunger Games" Should Have Ended

The Hunger Games “Greetings to the final contestants of the Seventy-fourth Hunger Games. The earlier revision has been revoked. Closer examination of the rule book has disclosed that only one winner may be allowed,” Claudius Templesmith says. “Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.”
This is what you think it is! A long-time-coming contribution to the alternate endings of this summer’s featured Hunger Games Round Up. I’ve been very vocal about my opinions, saying in a previous post that “the idea of ‘The Hunger Games’ had the potential of being something truly meaningful, yet Collins wasted her pages on petty teenage drama.” I read the books, I watched the movie while it was in theaters, and I’ve had many conversations with friends at hipster coffee shops. The fair-trade coffee almost made me appreciate, what Rebecca Cusey calls the “blue-state” vibe of trilogy’s ending. Well, maybe not. But it did drive me to do what I’ve threatened all along, and rewrite the story myself. If you are following along, this rewrite starts at the end of chapter 25 of “The Hunger Games.”
There’s a small burst of static and then nothing. I stare at Peeta in disbelief as the truth sinks in. They never intended to let us both live. “If you think about it, it’s not that surprising,” he says softly. I watch as he painfully makes it to his feet. Then he’s moving towards me, as if in slow motion, his hand is pulling the knife from his belt. My bow is loaded with the arrow pointed straight at his heart. Peeta raises his eyebrows and I see the knife has already left his hand, and it skitters across the cold metal. My brain jumps to the only logical conclusion. The only solution. “You shoot me and go home and live with it!” I’m shoving the bow into his hands. “You know I can’t. You know I wouldn’t be able to live with it.” Peeta says, discarding the weapons. “I’ll go first anyway. We both know they have to have a victor.” He leans down and rips the bandage off his leg. “No, you can’t kill yourself,” I say. I’m on my knees, reaching for his bandages, but he is wrapping me in his arms. “Katniss,” he says, “It’s what I want.” His words are trapped in my head, thrashing desperately around. We both know they have to have a victor. Looking into Peeta’s eyes, I don’t see it move. The Gamemakers, through some magic of their arena, grab the knife that Peeta had discarded with invisible hands. In this brief moment of time, all I could see is the blade shimmering like a thousand perfect diamonds. Something pulls it in towards my body. I realize what is happening, as it plunges deep into my chest. The knife slides between Peeta and his arm wrapped around me. He reacts as fast as possible to try to grab the knife, but it is too little too late. “Katniss!” Shock sets in. He lays me flat, rips his shirt off and forced it into a tight bundle. His breathing is uneven, too quick. The metal is hot on my back. I can feel myself getting colder as I bleed out. With a shaking hand, Peeta grips the knife in my chest. In one swift motion, he wrenches the knife from my body and shoves his shirt into its place. Mingled with my blood is the juice of the poison berries, the pouch having been punctured by the knife on its way to my heart. Will the poison kill me before I bleed out? I hope so. “Katniss… I love you.” Suddenly, the memory of my life floods over me. All my memories, my dreams. My past, my future. My life flashes before my eyes, as it all comes back to me. Mother, Prim, Rue. Gale, Haymitch, Peeta. Peeta is with me – I reach out for him. My eyes flutter open and I see his face. “Peeta…” I remember. I reach up and brush his cheek. My pain vanishes, the throbbing ceases. My entire being tingles, and I feel like I’m floating. Elevating, above the dismal scene that has been my reality for far too long. “Don’t leave, Katniss, I love you!” He says over and over again, rocking with me in his arms, as if the repetition could make me stay. As if he could will me to live. “The victor…” The words escape my lips as mere whispers. And after permitting their passage, my final breath leaves me. My consciousness shatters into an infinite number of pieces. My head slumps backwards. My arms go limp. My heart flutters, falters, and then beats its last. And there, on the field of my final battle, in the arms of one who loved me, at the hand of the Gamemakers, I die.
Here, on the field of her final battle, in my arms, at the hand of the Gamemakers, she dies. I die, inside. I give myself over to complete apathy. I can hear the loud speakers announcing “Victor Peeta Mellark of District Twelve!” I hear the anthem booming. I hear a hovercraft above me. What I do not hear is Claudius Templesmith come down from the hovercraft on the ladder and walk up to me, until he speaks. “Peeta, it is time to go.” “Why her?” “You said it yourself, we have to have a victor.” “Why her?” “Peeta, it is time to go.” I begin to black out, pain shooting up my leg from my own blood loss. I feel her body being pulled out of my arms. “Katniss…”   I wake up again in the bed of a Capitol hospital. Claudius is still by my side. “You are going home now, Peeta.” The horrible reality floods over me again. “I’ll never go home, not really. I’ll spend the rest of my life in the arena trying to think my way out.” He turns on the television. The cartoonish face of Caesar Flickerman greats us. “Our beloved victor, Peeta Mellark, is still in the hospital. They say he is in stable condition. He spoke to us a moment ago, let’s listen.” They begin to play the audio of our supposed interview. “Peeta, the question that is gripping Panem is, ‘why?’” A voice comes on that undoubtedly sounds like me. I never cease to be amazed at the lengths they will go to deceive people. “I almost didn’t,” my voice says, “I knew death right there, right then would be the easier of the two. But when I realized that if I died, Katniss would be the one who would have to carry guilt with her the rest of her life. Killing her, and carrying the guilt myself seemed the most merciful thing to do. I loved her too much to make her go through this.” The audio cuts off, and Caesar comes back live. “So selfless. A man above men. But I suppose that is why he is a victor of the Hunger Games, and we are mere citizens. What a truly, tragic hero…” “Turn it off.” I demand of Claudius. “I can’t take your lies.” He grabs the remote, and flicks it off. “You killed Katniss. That is what all of Panem saw. What all of Panem believes. And what you will go to your grave saying.” He stands, and walks to the door. It opens with a swipe of his badge, and I see guards outside. He looks over his shoulder and flatly says, “She never loved you.” “Get out.”   Effie and Haymitch leave me in the room behind the stage. We are in District 12, about to start my national tour, and the Capitol is making a production about me paying respects to Katniss’ family. I only hope that they have guessed the truth. Expecting Prim and their mother, I am shocked to see Gale. Katniss’ “cousin.” He looks primed to kill, and I realize that he might be here to put me out of my misery. I face him like facing death. He is reaching into his jacket, I know it is over. He pulls out a handheld radio, and barks something into it. He lifts up a few wood panels from the floor. “Go.” He says, “we are getting you out of here.” My time in the arena has taught me to think fast, and I jump through the trap door. Through a tunnel, under the fence, and into a hover craft. As we lift off, I see a riot in the main square, distracting my guards. “What is happening?” I ask in disbelief. “Revolution, you know.” Gale smirks. “No, I didn’t. I’ve been out of the loop for a few months.” “You are in the thick of it now.” Still disbelieving, I ask, “why not kill me?” Gale’s gazes out in the distance. “No one believes you killed her.” “Why rescue me?” Still gazing, he sighs. “Perhaps no one alive can fight with more righteous indignation than you, my friend. We need you.” Yes, I would fight. I would avenge her. “People use to believe in permanent things, like justice,” Gale continues, “that people have dignity, and rights, that is what Katniss believed. That is what this revolution is about.” “Where are we going?” “District 13. It exists. It will be the birthplace of freedom. People shouldn’t have to wait until they die to be free from the tyranny of the Capitol.” “Gale,” I hold my thought for a minute. A mockingjay flies past the window, “Katniss is free.”