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April 17, 2012

Setting foot on the island again was not quite what Kimberly had been expecting. She'd been prepared for a jolt of fear, a sudden need to flee. She'd been prepared to call the whole thing off, to just stay on the boat, tell closure to go fuck itself, and go back home as quickly as possible. She'd watched the island grow with a strange sense of detachment, but now, stepping onto the beach, what really hit her was an emotion that came very close to nostalgia.

Off to the south, the remains of the docks lay. In the four years since Kimberly had last been here, they had splintered and corroded and crumbled, no doubt weakened by the explosive damage Kimberly had first noticed when she was being picked up. It had been Kris that had caused that, Kimberly had learned. Kris had destroyed the docks, had taken one more thing from Kimberly. The place where she had made the biggest mistake of her life was no more.

She hadn't felt particularly torn up about that when she'd first found out, and her impressions on that front hadn't changed at all.

"You okay?"

The man who spoke to her was one of the photographers assigned to the project. The others were still unloading their equipment. Kimberly was standing off to the side, staying out of the way. She was a guest, after all, allowed along as a courtesy. She didn't want to cause any trouble. It was easy enough to imagine how awkward her presence alone could make things.

"I'm fine," she said.

She was travelling with a crew from National Geographic magazine. In the four years since the incident, the island had been sealed by the United States Government. From Kimberly's understanding, the army had descended en masse as soon as the finale was broadcast. Finding nothing whatsoever, they had declared the island off limits to the public for the sake of national security, had checked up on it occasionally to make sure nobody was treating it as a macabre tourist attraction, and had otherwise left it alone. They hadn't recovered anything notable from the ruins, nothing more than a few forgotten cameras and a lost gun or two. The bodies had been gone. She didn't know whether that had included those that had been buried. She liked to imagine that nobody had checked.

After so long without attacks, National Geographic had managed to coax the government into allowing it to come and do a feature, showing what had become of the island, figuring the tragedy was far enough in the past that such a thing could be tasteful. They had invited Kimberly along, quite possibly because of the very public fashion in which she had decried some of the more exploitative works about the attack. The idea had probably been that offering her a spot would lend the excursion an air of legitimacy. The team had seemed a little bit surprised when she'd taken them up on their offer.

So, once again, she was on the island. The breeze from the sea ruffled her hair, and she reached up to hold her hat to her head. It was the only article of clothing that revealed her as the same girl who had been here so long ago. She was wearing sneakers, tight blue jeans, a white tank top under a grey denim jacket. By now, her blond lock was long gone, though she had not altered the length of her hair much since high school.

The man nodded at her, then moved away, returning to the other crew members. People still gave her a wide berth most of the time, and that suited her just fine. She was prepared to be ignored for the most part. It would probably make this smoothest for everyone.

As the crew got its equipment ready, Kimberly wandered down the stretch of beach near the docks, half convinced that at any moment she would trip over an abandoned duffle bag or hear a familiar voice shouting from behind her. Instead, there was nothing but the wind and the call of sea gulls and cormorants. Kimberly frowned a little. She couldn't recall seeing a single animal on her last visit. Maybe she'd just been too focused on other issues. Birds made the island seem like a part of the real world, like it was connected to everything outside. That didn't match her memories well at all.

It wasn't long before the photographer who had spoken to her before retrieved her, informing her that they were heading out. With a nod, Kimberly followed him, moving away from the beach and deeper into the interior of the island.
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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