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War and (hunger) games Part 3

Well I just started book three and thought it would be fitting to have a third talk about war and Hunger Games (Part 1, Part 2). To be honest, this post wasn’t going to exist. I’ve shared my suicide attempts, my depression, my anxiety, and all the seemingly taboo bits of myself. Today I’m sharing something that’s hard even for me to talk about. In a lot of ways dreams are very personal. I don’t know about dreams, but I can tell you about nightmares. If you’re squeamish, this is your warning to turn away now.

A common theme across the Hunger Games books are nightmares. Most of them are obviously simplified to help target the intended reader, the young adult. We don’t need to be metaphorical we can be more literal. A nightmare about a tongue being cut out because Katniss feels responsible for the person it happened to. It’s very simple, but also a very effective way to explain that even sleep brings no reprieve from the horrors of the daytime.

In fact, nights are the hardest for me. For a lot of people really, I know plenty of veterans who will spend the rest of their lives chasing the elusive good nights sleep. It’s such a common issue, it’s no surprise it made it into the book. My surprise is that it was done well and that a “love story” didn’t magically fix it.

I want to say you get used to it. I want to tell you that the shock value wears off like watching a horror movie for the twentieth time, you know all the twists and the jump scares. You know what’s going to happen so the movie no longer has the same scare factor it did going into it. I would like to tell you these things, but its not true.

I sleep through the night… most nights. So in some ways you do get used to the nightmares. You don’t constantly wake up sweating or thrashing about, but it never leaves you. Fun fact about me, most of my nightmares have a theme. It’s not always as obvious as the Hunger Games nightmares, but after having so many you get the idea behind them.

They all involve me needing to do something to save people and for some reason or through some unseen force, I can’t do it. I’ve had nightmares about having to get pieces of a weapon to defend my friends. The twist is that I actually manage to get the pieces and when I try to use the weapon it doesn’t work and I’m left to watch the aftermath. I am not attacked, but everyone around me isn’t so lucky.

That isn’t the worst one though, I have a single reoccurring nightmare that I haven’t been able to sleep through. I must have had this one at least a few dozen times a year and no matter how frequently it comes, I always wake up just as scared, just as sweaty, and just as sad as the first time it happened.

It’s deceptively simple. I’m in a room, an endless bright white room. I can’t distinguish the floor from the ceiling it’s that bright and that white. I’m dressed in bright white clothing, like hospital scrubs and I don’t see anything or anyone around. There I am and suddenly someone is calling out to me. When I hear the voice I run toward it and there he is, laying there.

I’m not going to say the name, please don’t make me. So there he is dressed in these bright white scrubs, same as I am. Except they aren’t all white. There’s a slight red spot on his abdomen and it rapidly expands. He’s shot and calling for me.His eyes follow me, but besides that, he’s unable to move. I kneel next to him and tell him it’s going to be okay. Nothing bad will happen I’m going to help. I’m going to save him. I will save him. I have to save him.

Like all my nightmares, there’s a twist. I can’t touch him. Not in the sense you may think. When I try to apply pressure to the wound my hands pass through him. Not without causing damage. It’s like I’m pressing into pudding. Bright red pudding, I pull my hands back and the bleeding is worse. Of course he’s still alive, still conscious and talking to me, still begging for my help.

I try to pick him up, maybe if I can just move him somewhere else I can figure out what the hell is happening. My arms pass right through him. I’m covered in him, but it’s not him it’s just this red blood. I’m in this this pure white room and now there’s just a giant red spot as I flail around trying to do anything to help him. I’m covered in red, he’s basically a red puddle at this point, except for his head. He’s still alive, still calling out to me, still looking at me, still watching me fail him.

I can’t do anything to help him at that point so I’m forced to lay there in this sticky, slippery pool of bright red blood thrashing around in anger at the situation. It always ends this way, I’m left in this white room, covered in red blood, unable to save anyone.

The takeaway may not seem that abstract, but it took me a while to make sense of it. It’s a common theme in my nightmares. I lack the ability to save anyone. My nightmares come in different flavors of course and the one I just shared is by far the worst for me.

To tie this back into the Hunger Games books, I find it interesting that the author managed to get that so right in my opinion. The feeling of being haunted doesn’t just go away during the day and even far into the after, there is no escape from the nightmares.

I guess my enjoyment from the book isn’t from the main plot, the fall of an empire, the overthrowing of a dictatorship, etc. My enjoyment comes from the emotional damage to the characters along the journey. I know everyone takes something different away from a book, but for me it wasn’t ever a “they lived happily ever after” story, it was a “they lived” story. There was never going to be happiness, how could there be in the face of what happened?


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