Title: Gregor and the Marks of Secret (Book 4)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Read In: 2023
Purchase: Bookshop.org (affiliate link)
They had left the torches in the jungle. Gregor ripped the duct tape off his arm and returned the flashlight to his belt, flipping it off. He wanted darkness to hide in while he tried to understand this new thing that had happened to him.
Crossing the Swag reminded Gregor of riding the subway that linked Manhattan to Brooklyn at 14th Street. You had to go under the East River. It was not a long trip, only a few minutes, but at about the halfway point Gregor always felt a little anxious. It was something, having a whole river running above your head. Wouldn’t it have been better to build a bridge?
Luxa wanted the first watch. She was still too worried about Hazard to do anything else. Gregor realized that her loving Hazard had brought a new dimension of anxiety into her life. Made her vulnerable in a way she had not been before. It was unbearable to think about losing anyone you loved, but that time Gregor had thought he’d lost Boots it was as if the world had ended.
“So this is how a war starts,” thought Gregor. Not with two armies facing off, waiting for the signal to charge. Not with a wave of rats invading the avenues of Regalia. Not with a formation of bats swooping down on an unsuspecting colony of rats. It begins much more quietly. In a room, on a field, in a remote tunnel when someone who has power decides the time has come.
Gregor remembered Vikus, who was Hamnet’s father, begging him to return to Regalia. “What do you do here that you could not do there?” To which Hamnet had replied, “I do no harm. I do no more harm.” Hamnet knew if he returned to Regalia, they would make him fight again.
Hamnet had tried to explain his position on war to Luxa. How it did no good. How innocent creatures died and, in the end, how it only increased the already intense hatred between the rats and the humans. Hamnet believed that the least amount of violence used, the better.
Somewhere in that mess was the lovely peaceful time he had shared with Luxa, when they’d leaned back-to-back in silence. He wanted to pull the experience out and examine it and relive it.
For better or worse, their lives had wrapped in and around each other since the moment they’d met.
“V is for volcano,” Boots reminded everyone. “And valentine.” She poked Ripred on the haunch with her scepter. “Valentine!”
Ripred sighed. “Why are you here?”
“That’s not a song,” said Gregor suddenly. “That’s a prophecy! Don’t you see?”
He could tell by the expressions on their faces that they didn’t. It had been a song so long, for hundreds of years. It was like someone telling him that “Hey Diddle Diddle” would explain a train wreck in Nevada.
“You’re not crying about her now,” said Hazard.
“No,” said Howard. “I have become used to carrying her in my heart.”
“My heart is so crowded already,” whispered Hazard. “But I’m sure the others will make room for Thalia. She is not a very big bat.” And with that, he drifted off to sleep.
Secret. The very word filled Gregor with weariness. How exhausting it was to keep a secret, to hide a secret, to discover a secret, to know a secret existed and waited for you in the dark.