Over, under, pull it through
Bend the ends, make one of two
Backward, forward, let it give
Twist the heart and watch it slip
The rope fell limp in his fingers. He took it up again. Cat’s Paw, Lark’s Head, Rolling Hitch… The motions were easy, familiar. And all just as easily undone.
There was no such thing as a knot that couldn’t be unraveled. People had spent generations trying to invent one, sure. There were trick knots – ones that required more than simply following the pattern in reverse – and moistened cinches pulled so tight that not even a fingernail could slip between the coils. But with enough time, enough patience, anything could come apart.
Sometimes all it took was a single strand, the right pressure on the smallest loop. No matter how intricate, no matter how hard, no matter how many years had gone into building coil upon coil, into making it beautiful and secret and unbreakable… Find the right piece and it would all come crashing down.
He made the knot again. The one his hands always made when he let his concentration wander. He had created it himself, trying again and again until he got it just right. She had always liked them – the decorative ones, more delicate than useful. She had taught him to fashion the likeness of a trout, the many loops of a flower, to weave two strands so that they would twirl prettily when pulled apart. At first it had seemed silly, but he found he didn’t care.
This one he had made for her. One strand – old and frayed – looping back on itself again and again, becoming thicker, changing shape. The end always moving, always running. Knotted at the middle. Delicate and small.
Finnick blinked down at the heart in his hand. With one deft tug, it was gone.
He should get up. He should move. But he was afraid. Afraid to feel that strange relief again, afraid to make the moment come. They would be airing his interview, broadcasting secrets, scandals, memories given new life. He pinched shut his eyes.
He had given their forces time, they said. But time for what? Time to see if their friends still lived? Time to uncover the horrors of their final moments? Time to die themselves? Would they have a chance to report back, to tell him that he had been wondering on borrowed time, that the knots had slipped loose long ago?
But he would know it if she’d… if she was… wouldn’t he? What if they news they brought back was something worse?
How many times he had made and unmade the knot, he couldn’t say. New callouses were forming beneath his skin, leaving even his practiced hands cracked and raw. Still he sat, worrying the rope between his fingers. Worrying. Always worrying.
Soon the time for worry would be over. Soon he would know. With a final tug, he watched the heart knot come undone.