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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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((Jennifer Perez continued from A way a lone a last))

It was total coincidence that Jennifer found herself staring at a boat on the east beach. She'd passed out of the felled forest after dealing with the other girl, not really sure where she was going or what she was doing, just looking for somewhere to be. She'd figured she'd just go somewhere safe and be there for a while, but nowhere was safe in this game, not anymore. Everywhere was full of death and destruction. Everywhere was a graveyard.

There was, however, one place where she had felt safe recently, where she had been able to escape everything for a while. The roof of the groundskeeper's hut had been her sanctuary, and, more than that, it was a place other people were unlikely to be. Okay, it was also a danger zone, but that would be cleared at the next announcement. She could just go there again and sit on that roof until she died or was forced to move. It was as good a goal as anything else.

So she'd backtracked through a little pass in the mountains, avoiding the place where it had all gone wrong, avoiding where Melissa and who-knew-who-else lay. She'd looped past the house of mirrors again, and she'd remembered, and she'd wished she'd never left that note. It had brought Nick to them, and that was why Melissa was dead. It was so fucked up. All she'd done was try to remain with her friends, to find some comfort and safety in this game, just for a little while. She hadn't asked for much. Fuck, she'd not even wanted to live that much longer. She hadn't even really expected Melissa or Maf or Nick to get off. They were just supposed to outlast her, to spare her the pain of seeing them go.

She'd moved quickly, covering the entire ground in maybe four or five hours, walking tirelessly. It was quicker, moving when you no longer gave a fuck that someone might stumble over you and fill you with bullets.

It wasn't like they would. No one except Jimmy Brennan had made so much as a move to physically harm Jennifer during her stay on the island. She was protected by diplomatic immunity or something, the fucking Switzerland of Survival of the Fittest. Neutral. Not a threat to anyone. Someone you could go cry to, no matter how many murders you'd committed.

Her hands were entwined in her hair, yanking at the short strands, not hard enough to really hurt, but plenty to keep a constant pressure on her scalp. She didn't even know what she was doing. She was lost, not in any geographical sense, just lost with herself. Maybe she'd never been anything but lost. She'd never been the most collected person, never in her life. She'd been one push away from a nervous breakdown before the trip. It was a fucking miracle she'd kept together as well and as long as she had.

And now she was pretty much ready to throw it all away, to just give up and sit and die. She just had to wait until the announcements cleared the hut. In the meantime, she was sitting in the greens, looking at the mansion and wishing it was full of people, wishing she could go insane enough to repopulate this island in her head. A strong grasp on reality really fucking sucked right now, seemed like.

But maybe she was going crazier than she'd thought, because, just so very dimly, she'd heard voices, promising safety and salvation. She'd heard the siren call of a rescue, a return to reality.

She'd gone.

It hadn't been easy. She'd burned the majority of her energy earlier, on the trek here. She'd stumbled and wheezed, a stitch in her side and blisters on her feet and all the time so close to sure that she was being tricked, being led into some slaughter. She didn't care. Not a bit. Death was inevitable. Maybe someone would finally just shoot her, prove that she actually mattered in some way, that she was worth a bullet or something.

It had taken her a couple hours just to get from the greens to the beach. Her legs were cramping badly. Her mouth was dry. She'd had plenty to drink from streams, but that had been some time ago. Maybe if she wasn't shot, if they kept up the usual routine and looked at her funny and maybe talked to her a bit, maybe she'd go back to the mansion and hope it had a well.

Only, it hadn't been a trick or a trap.

There was a boat, and Jennifer was down the beach from it, a ways away from it, staring at it, and it was so incredibly, painfully clear that they were real and saving people and taking them home and also that they were wrapping it up right now, that she'd fucked around too long and was going to get left behind.

She only had the slightest moment of hesitation, of guilt. She was leaving her friends behind, those who were still alive. She didn't know if there were any, if Nick or Maf or—through some miracle—both, had managed to limp away from that fight. In that moment, though, looking at the boat, she didn't give a fuck.

At the end of the day, Jennifer Perez had always been a selfish person, and she knew it well.

She wanted to live. She wanted to keep going. She didn't want to find out what happened after death, didn't want to lie rotting on this island. Yeah, she'd probably die on this boat instead, probably be sunk, probably have her corpse picked clean by the fish, but she just didn't give a fuck. It was better than this. Anything was better than this.

She knew what she was signing up for, of course. Psychology was her favorite subject, so she knew all about PTSD and Survivor's Guilt and Stockholm Syndrome and all those other awful things. She knew she was probably going to regret this moment to at least some degree for a long, long time, if she made it past the next couple days.

She could live with that.

So she ran. She ran as quickly as she could. Fuck aching muscles and burning lungs and throbbing sides. She ran and she called out, though it was more of a wheeze, "H-hey, um, hey w-wait for... um, wait for me."

And she made it. She made it into view, and the boy running things, he gave her an odd look and gestured for her to hurry, and she couldn't speed up but she made it anyways, and they did something to her collar and it fell away and she collapsed into the little raft and was ferried to the boat, and she just sat there and cried again, just like she always did.


And she didn't even notice until the boat pulled away that somehow the icepick had left her hand, that it was still lying there on the beach, glinting in the sun.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
Library Vee
Misty Browder drawn by Ryuki
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A Slight Change of Plans · The Beach: East