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You've been counting stars, now you're counting on me
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Time became slightly more defined after Kimberly started her rehabilitation. The doctor or one of the nurses would walk her through her exercises after each meal. Sometimes one of the nurses, a fairly handsome young man, would attempt to engage in small talk with her, trying to tell her about his baby son or sports or some novel he was reading. Kimberly held herself aloof, hating that everyone was so difficult to hate.

The positive side of everything was that she could tell she was getting better, albeit rather slowly and nowhere near completely. She hadn't come anywhere close to coming to terms with the fact that she'd never be fully better, but she figured she'd not panic just yet, that she'd maybe get a second opinion from someone who knew their shit well enough to get a real paying job instead of selling their talents to a group of international terrorists. It helped keep her calm, even if she knew on some level that the hope was false.

She could make a fist without pain now, could mostly bend her elbow just fine. She was only taking a few pills every meal at this point, and she was pretty sure at least one was a multivitamin. She'd also put on some weight. She did some basic exercises whenever she had the energy, crunches and sit-ups, anything that didn't fuck with her shoulder much, and she paced the room for long periods of time. She wasn't getting winded as easily now. It was obvious to her even at a glance that she was not in the same sort of shape she'd been in before the island, but she no longer felt like she might waste away.

She finished her books and read them all again. One of the other nurses, a middle-aged woman, offered to bring her more, but she refused. Kimberly considered writing something in her journals, but she figured anything she did would probably get seized and examined in case she was trying to smuggle out secrets or something, so she left them untouched.

One day, when she had nothing better to do, she cleaned her fedora off in the bathroom sink. It took an unreasonable amount of time, but she managed to get rid of the bloodstains and remove some of the sweaty residue from the inside. After that, she took to wearing it again.

She left the scrunchie as it was.

Some other day, they told her that her stitches were coming out, as if she'd celebrate. Kimberly nodded and tried to sit quietly but ended up crying as they were removed anyways. She still had some scabs, but they weren't so bad. That she had been wounded was still obvious at a glance, but it was equally clear that she was healing.

Five meals after that, Kimberly found three strange pills on her plate along with her usual stuff. The doctor delivered her meal personally, accompanied by a man with an assault rifle. She hadn't seen one of those in what felt like a long time.

"What are these?" she asked.

The doctor glanced at the man with the gun, who shrugged. They seemed more at ease than they had when Kimberly was fresh from the island. It struck her as odd. Back then, she couldn't have done any damage even had she been motivated. Now, well-rested and adequately-nourished, she figured she might pose more of a threat if she cared to throw her life away.

"Sleeping pills," the doctor said. "We're moving you out today. You need to be unconscious for a little here, for security purposes, and this is less risky for your nervous system than gassing you again. Of course, if you don't want to take them..."

It didn't take Kimberly long to mull that one over.

"Fine," she said. "Just fuck off and let me pack first."

Both men paused, seeming a bit unsure how to deal with that statement.

"Look," she said, "if I don't take the drugs, you'll know and you'll do something else. No one wants that. I just want to get changed and get my shit packed, okay?"

The man with the gun stepped out of the room, leaving Kimberly and the doctor to look at each other awkwardly. He was not gone for long, though; maybe half a minute later he reappeared, clipping a walkie talkie to his belt.

"Fine," he said. "Be quick."

Kimberly didn't reply to that, just turned away and packed her books and journals back into her pack. The scrunchie went in there too. Then she gathered her own clothes, the ones she'd brought all that time ago when she still thought she was going camping, and stepped into the restroom, very grateful that her apparent escort didn't decide to take issue with her having a little privacy. Changing wasn't such an ordeal anymore, though she felt stupid and absurd in her old clothes.

It wasn't that they looked bad. What bothered Kimberly was that she had a matched outfit, black t-shirt and skinny black jeans and another big old sweater. She'd planned her outfits for every fucking day. She'd had such a clear idea of it all back then, such a set plan, and now she was one of the only ones left alive.

Fuck it all. That wasn't how the world was supposed to work.

Kimberly went back to the other room, nodded at the two men, ate her meal, and took the sleeping pills. The next half hour consisted of her awkwardly trying to doze off while the two men awkwardly waited for the drugs to take effect. It didn't help that her mind was whirling with thoughts, with fear and excitement. It was finally time. They were sending her back to the States. Nothing else mattered. The world she had come to know over the past span of time was about to be replaced by reality once again, and Kimberly couldn't fucking wait. She was so sick of the confusion she'd been feeling here, so tired of having no one but enemies to interact with, so over letting her mind drift to fantasies of what would happen to her on her return instead of actually just living through it.

She'd never taken sleeping pills in her life, so she had no idea what to expect. Maybe they wouldn't work, and she'd end up getting gassed after all, brain damage or whatever be damned. She tried to force herself to relax, closing her eyes and trying to loosen her focus on reality, but she still seemed completely a part of the waking world.

It wasn't too long before the drugs did kick in, though, and after that everything probably went a lot more smoothly.
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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