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((Kimberly Nguyen continued from We Can Live with the Sadness))

Tomorrow was a strange word. For most of her life, Kimberly had taken it entirely for granted. Tonight, it was the most important word in the world. It was everything she wasn't quite sure what to do about.

Kimberly was hiding between two houses, crouched behind one of those big plastic trash cans you rolled to the curb every Tuesday, trying to ignore the faint smell of sour milk that emanated from it. It was strange, how a mundane odor could now cut through the jaded fog of her senses and turn her stomach in a way that rotting people could not.

She was on one knee, bad arm limp by her side, good hand on the gun in her pocket, like she knew what to do with it. Reiko was close, she thought. Good. She had to keep track of everything. The situation had changed dramatically in the last ten minutes.

Until now, Kimberly had been working on some basic assumptions. The first and greatest was that she was going to die on the island. This had shaped her choices ever since that day on the beach, every since Kris put a bullet in her shoulder. It had colored her decisions in ways she was only beginning to understand.

The truth of it all was that Kimberly did not want to die. She never had.

Death was a difficult thing to grapple with. Even before the island, she'd been a bit squeamish about the whole thing. That was a big part of what drew her to the goths and the emos. She had been able to talk about the futility of life and be taken seriously. She had never delved as deeply as her thoughts went, but that was to be expected. No social group could be perfect. It was also a part of what had, from time to time, driven her to get drunk or stoned, just to avoid dwelling too deeply on things that made her uncomfortable. Still, death had always seemed like a far off fear, along with getting old and living in poverty and all her other sources of hypothetical angst.

Since the kidnapping, things had not been so theoretical anymore. Dying—and, more, dying soon—had seemed inevitable. That simple thing was, in large part, the reason Kimberly had spent so much of her time on the wrong end of various weapons. It was why she had taken insane risks, why she had constantly pushed against the people she met. Lurking in the back of her mind, this whole time, had been the idea that she was doomed to die here.

This was part of why she'd spent so much time trying to goad people into killing her.

Death was a hard thing to face even in the best circumstances. As a helpless victim, it would be flat out intolerable. Better, she figured, to do it on her own terms. It was possible to die without being defeated, as long as it was all part of the plan. As long as she died how she chose, without regrets, she could go out believing she had won, no matter how stupid the reality.

But now, all of a sudden, there was another option, an option that didn't involve telling Liz to shoot her in the face, an option that didn't involve taking Steven hostage to provoke a psycho, an option that didn't involve a dance of death with Kris.

Maybe she'd always wanted this. Maybe that was why she'd taken such great pains to extricate herself from the crazy situations she'd ended up in. Maybe that was why she'd lashed out so severely when she heard that Sarah and Bridget had made it. Maybe she'd just been jealous. Maybe that was why she'd been willing to calm down when she was with Erik. Maybe that was why she could still be hurt by what happened to her friends.

Maybe none of that mattered, compared to the moment.

Kimberly had come to her decision. She wasn't going to play it their way, wasn't going to murder the others without provocation, but she sure as fuck wasn't going to roll over and die for them.

It was time to take stock of her resources.

She had a Molotov cocktail in the hand warmer of her sweater, all gasoline fumes and sloshes to match her steps and fidgeting. Its twin lived in her backpack, slung over her right shoulder. In her right pocket was a cheap bic lighter, a disaster waiting to happen. The combination suggested by these items was her only real means of self defense.

She had a fake gun, but it looked real enough that Reiko hadn't caught on yet. It was worth jack shit in a fight, but it was a tool, just like everything else. In this case, it was a tool for forcing a stalemate. Kimberly was the only one who knew she couldn't actually shoot anyone. She planned to keep it that way.

She had a grappling hook tucked into her belt. Without its rope, it was now nothing more than an awkward metal claw, one that might be able to hurt someone or jerk a weapon out of the way, but was unlikely to come anywhere close to lethal.

She had her boots. Long ago, when she'd walked out the door, when she'd called her last goodbyes, her grandmother had looked at them and asked her if she was sure she was wearing the right clothing for a camping trip. Yeah, Kimberly had said, her boots were fucking indestructible. Two weeks later, she'd altered her opinion only a little. The leather was scuffed, the laces frayed and worn, the soles ground down, but they were still holding together. She couldn't even begin to guess what kind of blisters and infections she had going on under them, but her boots still made her feel strong, even if it had taken her twenty minutes last time she'd retied the fucking laces, thanks to the fact that she couldn't use her left hand.

She had her secrets and her attitude, her suspicions and her determination.

She had Reiko, who she was trusting not to shoot her in the back of the head, and who was trusting her in the same way. Kimberly didn't like trusting people. In her experience, almost everyone was a liar. There were no other options, though, not now. Besides, Reiko was Sarah's girlfriend, and even if Kimberly sometimes hated Sarah a little, she still owed the girl her life. The least she could do was extend a little bit of confidence.

It wasn't a lot to work with, but she'd done more on less before.

Beside the trash can was a house, painted pale green, with nice wooden paneling. Kimberly had almost suggested hiding in it, but had changed her mind at the last second, figuring that the others were likely to search the houses first. From her current location, she could see the center, could see the statue and the flowers and the ground that was a grave. The light was not perfect, but the moon was casting enough of a glow that she would easily be able to see anyone traversing the open area. At the same time, it was dim enough for her and Reiko to lurk in the shadows cast by the other house (brown, dull except for the bullet holes in it).

They hadn't discussed their plan of action. Maybe there was none. Maybe they were just going to wait things out and try to pick off whichever of the other three came out on top. Maybe Reiko planned to go hunting. Kimberly wasn't about to start murdering people just because they were in her way. She hadn't shared this with Reiko, and hoped it wasn't going to become a point of contention. At the same time, if Reiko wanted to go on a killing spree, well, Kimberly didn't have the power or inclination to stop her. Everyone left was a killer. Everyone left had done horrible things to get this far.

Aislyn, in the water.

No time for regrets.

Kimberly kept her hand on her fake gun, kept her profile low, kept a watch on the section of the expanse of concrete she could see.

At the same time, she tried her hardest to enjoy the evening. There was a damn good chance it would be the last opportunity to do so she'd ever get. Tomorrow was still a night away.
Juliette Sargent drawn by Mimi and Ryuki
Alton Gerow drawn by Mimi
Lavender Ripley drawn by Mimi
Phillip Olivares drawn by Ryuki
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