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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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The whole world was still and silent for a moment, as Kimberly inhaled the stench of garbage and leaned against a house whose occupants had probably been massacred and waited with a girl who had murdered more people than Kimberly could count on her good hand. Fate was a funny thing, sometimes. How strange that she should finally feel like a person again, that she should finally feel like she knew what she wanted. How strange that life should once again be a possibility. In the brief space of time they had been standing in silence, a lot of things had become clear. Kimberly had come a long way towards finally figuring herself out.

The complications were still mind-numbing. Kimberly wasn't cut out for murder. She was no instinctual killer, not the way the others must have been by now. She had the reflexes, sure. She'd sent Liz's knife spinning off into the darkness under the mountain. She'd ducked and dodged and dropped Rhory into the dirt. She'd slammed her knife into Aislyn's gut, on nothing but adrenaline and a split second to react. What she lacked wasn't the means, but the will. Self defense was one thing, but setting out to murder just because she was afraid, that was just becoming the same thing as Kris.

And it was funny, because she'd hurt people for just that reason, hadn't she? She'd spread pain and suffering for her own amusement, for her own benefit, because, fuck, hurting other people was a great way to feel like she still had some control over her life, like she was still in charge of her destiny instead of hurtling helplessly towards her end. The real thing, though, the real difference was exactly what Kimberly had told Liz, all those days ago. The awful people, the evil people, they weren't bad because they caused pain and death. It was that they stole futures, stole choices, stole options. Shooting someone meant they'd never get to grow up. It meant they'd never have the opportunity to better themselves, to realize their mistakes and turn their lives around. It also meant they'd never have the chance to become truly terrible themselves. Still a pity. People could be evil if they wanted, maybe. Perhaps sometimes it was even the right choice.

This was the wrong time for musings. It was the worst time in the world to second guess herself. Kimberly had a truce with Reiko. She had three people at a minimum who were hoping to end her life. She wanted to keep living. The differences were irreconcilable. Too bad. Some people were going to be damn disappointed by the end of the night.

She shifted, half-stood and shuffled her legs a bit, relieving some of the stiffness and tension. It'd be fucking awful to get killed because her legs fell asleep and she tripped over her own feet. She wasn't going to make it easy on the people who wanted to put a bullet through her head.

Somewhere, she thought she heard a noise, maybe a shattering of glass. That was ominous. Somebody was preparing something tricky, most likely, or arming themselves in some manner. These people would be tough. They would be the ones who had made their way to this point through luck and skill, through ruthlessness and careful thought. Maybe some of the others were flukes like she was. More likely, they were like Kris, just scared kids wanting to go home and willing to do whatever it took to get there, but horribly dangerous for precisely that reason.

Kimberly wondered about their families. She wondered who was watching, who was hoping that she would die so that their son or daughter could come back and nestle in their arms. She wondered what her grandparents thought. There was the possibility that they still cared, that even her parents still cared, in that strange detached way they must have viewed her in. She'd been a mistake, yeah, but they'd loved her anyways. They'd always loved her, even when she screamed in their faces, even when she cursed at them, even when she was twelve and wouldn't answer them on the phone for a month, even when she greeted her mom reeking of tobacco. Had she finally broken that, back at the groundskeeper's hut, like she'd hoped at the time? Had she alienated everyone? What would they even do if she came home? Would they throw her on the street, brand her the murderer she was?

How were Kris' and Aislyn's parents coping?

Didn't matter, not now, maybe never. Deep breaths. Don't choke. Don't fuck up. Don't let the tension become overpowering. No regrets.

It was clear, now, what she had to do. It was exactly the same fucking thing it had always been. She had to live like it was the last moment of her life, and she had to live without regrets. She couldn't throw her self away any more than she could throw her life away, survival be damned. She couldn't give up, either. She would take each moment as it came, and she would fucking own it. She would keep herself as safe as she could, and, if the time to die came, she would die laughing.

She pulled the gun from her pocket and straightened a bit, then moved forward a little and peered around the corner of the house, into the town center. Still empty. Were those footsteps echoing, or was it her imagination? A cricket chirped, probably from the flowerbed. The breeze raised goosebumps on her exposed arm. She should have picked more flowers for her hair. Too bad.

A glance at Reiko, then. She wondered what the other girl was thinking, wished she could know. She wished she could be Reiko, just for a second, to see what exactly she had fought so hard for, whether they had more common ground than she imagined. She wished she could be smarter, could be better, could walk into the middle of the square and raise her voice and say fuck it all, she had a way, she had it figured out, she knew how they could all go home and be happy and not have any more deaths.

Silly hopes and longings, but she could indulge the fantasy. She could endure. She had her fake gun, and she had her incendiaries and her little plastic lighter, and she had her hopes and dreams and, yes, even those little regrets she kept saying she'd avoid, and she didn't need anything else. So maybe she couldn't save anyone. So maybe she couldn't get everything she wanted. She would do her best, and it would be enough. It always had been so far.

She was smiling, though she doubted Reiko could see it with the shadows in the alley. The only thing she still didn't have was patience. It was going to start soon, and she was going to have to do something, to take some action. She couldn't sit and let the others tear each other to pieces, couldn't pick off whoever was left. It just wasn't right, wasn't her. So she waited, and she prepared, and she wondered just who was going to make the first move, and how long it was going to take.
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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