“I don’t want to die, Mags.” Finnick sits in the middle of his bed, knees upthrust and arms wrapped around, so young that he isn’t anywhere near finished growing yet. So lost and alone that the bed nearly swallows him whole. They’re all alone, even the ones who think they’re not, the ones who work for the title “Career Tribute.”
He did everything right in his interview. Charmed Flickerman, the audience, all of Panem, just as she told him he should. It was easy for him, that charm, that innocence. He already has them eating out of his hands, she thinks, but he doesn’t even know it. Money from sponsors is already rising like a full-moon tide, all because the Capitol has fallen in love with this beautiful boy. It breaks her heart, knowing that if he lives, they’ll eat him alive.
“We all die, child.”
She cocks her head to the side. “There is death, Finnick, and there is death. Sometimes it’s hard to tell them apart.” The boy just looks at her like she’s insane; maybe she is. “Lay down and close your eyes.” He shrugs and does as she tells him. She pulls the covers over him and sits down beside him on the bed, strokes his hair. She smiles. “Once upon a time—”
“Seriously?” he interrupts. “You’re going to tell me a bedtime story?” He sounds so outraged that she has to laugh.
“Hush, boy. Listen to your elders. You might learn something.”
“Once upon a time, there was boy. A golden boy, whom the whole world loved. One day, that boy was set adrift in the middle of an endless sea. He was not alone, for there were many others with him, but there were none he could trust.” She can tell that he’s listening now, that he understands this is no fairy tale with kings and queens and the bluest of skies. “To win his way free of this endless, treacherous sea, he had to do many things that he’d always been told were wrong. He had to lie, to cheat, to steal. He had to make those others with him believe that he was their friend, even though none of them were his. Surrounded by others, the boy was alone, and if he ever forgot that, he would pay the price. One by one, the others fell, to their own treachery, to the monsters that surrounded them in that cold and indifferent sea, until there were only a few left. And the golden boy found that he had to make a choice. He could let that uncaring sea take him, or he could take what the sea offered, but only by giving it its due.” She falls silent, letting him think about what she’d said.
After a time, he asks, “Is that the end?”
“No, boy. I don’t know the end of this tale yet. Perhaps you’ll tell me.”
“That story kind of sucks, Mags.”
“Well, then, you’ll just have to give it a good ending.”