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We Can Live with the Sadness
Topic Started: Oct 10 2011, 09:34 PM (3,651 Views)
MurderWeasel
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((Kimberly Nguyen continued from Everybody Knows))

Upon reaching the town, Kimberly chose to stick to the comforting and familiar, making her way towards the flowers and the statue in the center of everything. She was pretty sure the announcements had specifically noted that there would not be a weapon to find there. That was tantamount to telling everyone left alive not to waste their time. It suited Kimberly just fine. She didn't want to fight anyone, didn't want to get into yet another petty squabble over something unimportant.

There were twelve people left alive, maybe less by now. It was nearly unreal. She'd never imagined that she would still be breathing at this point. When Kris had shot her, Kimberly had assumed that the remainder of her life could be counted in minutes, maybe hours if she got unlucky and it took a while to bleed out. Sarah had patched her back together, but that had seemed such a temporary measure, such a fleeting hope. The island had never stopped reminding her that she wasn't in a good position. Jeremy Franco had been the first of many people to get the upper hand while dealing with Kimberly. He'd told her, way back whenever—could it have been only a week ago?—that she couldn't maintain on her own, that she couldn't afford to keep acting like she knew what she was doing when she so clearly didn't, that she couldn't spit in the face of charity and expect it to work out.

And yet, here she was, one of the final twelve living people on the island and still fit to do no more than pretend to be a badass, with her fake gun and her volatile chemicals and her cheap plastic lighter and her complete lack of any ideas as to what she should do next.

On her way to the town, once she had cleared the danger zone and her collar had stopped beeping at her, Kimberly had finally unwound the spare rope she'd been carrying for most of the game. She'd undone the knot she had made way back in the south-eastern woods, had eventually separated the hook from the rope entirely. She still kept the metal part tucked in her belt. It didn't seem like a good weapon, certainly not the equal of the knife she had left lying in the dirt next to Kris' body, but it didn't have to be. All she needed was something to maybe divert an attack with, something to make people think twice if she lost the fake gun and wasn't able to back someone down with the explosives. Besides, it was easier to travel light. Her pack had nothing in it now, except that one Molotov cocktail. The one stuffed into her sweater's hand-warmer, where the lighter clinked against it every couple steps, formed the other part of her actual armament.

All of this was a little bit silly. It didn't matter at all. She didn't give a fuck if she could back off the dangerous psychopaths. Kris was gone, and nobody else was quite that scary. What Kimberly wanted wasn't even to scare everyone away. What she wanted was someone to talk to again, someone to help her maybe figure the remainder of her life out. Erik had been different. He'd made the world real again, in some little way. He'd let her laugh at stupid jokes instead of pain. He'd let her talk about being crazy and feel more sane than she had since back home. He'd bandaged her wounds and she'd tried to fix his.

He'd died a pointless, arbitrary death.

That brought it all home again. That was what Kimberly was afraid of, why she needed a way to control any encounter she found herself in. She didn't want to bleed out in some near-stranger's lap. She didn't want to listen as someone futilely tried to patch her together again, as they lied to her and told her she'd be fine, as if that would make it any better. She didn't want to be prey for some newly-deranged lunatic howling for blood. She'd never let that happen, never again.

Really, she wished she'd been involved in whatever had happened a few days ago. It would have been a better way to go, if they were dead, and if they weren't, as Kimberly suspected, well, anything was better than this. She'd said her piece to Sarah and Bridget, but there had been others who had left whom she'd owed some words. Jeremy Franco, for one.

What are you doing now, Jeremy? Are you enjoying yourself? I hope you are.

I don't think I ever hated you.

And now Kimberly was back in her place, sitting on the rim of the fountain, surrounded by the flowers. Nothing much had changed from last time she was here, before Kris, before Erik. The flowers were a little more withered. The bodies were a little more rotten. She wasn't looking too closely. She didn't want to know if any bones were visible yet. There was a very good reason Kimberly stuck to the psychological end of the horror spectrum.

Idly, she realized that, before experiencing this herself, she probably would have found this corpse-covered island a wonderful setting for a story.
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Juliette Sargent
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Kimberly was aware of the person nearby. She could hear the soft footsteps. The air felt charged. She willed herself to calm down. She wasn't going to freak out just because there was somebody there. The odds were pretty good it was a player. Most of the people left were probably playing. It was pretty fucking hard not to start thinking about the odds and crunching the numbers when you heard there were only a dozen people left. Kimberly had been trying, trying as hard as she could. She didn't need unrealistic dreams fucking up her attainable goals.

She still yanked the fake gun from her pocket. She left it in her hand, limp by her side, and waited a couple seconds until the voice came, then turned to face the speaker.

Whatever she had been expecting, she was still shocked. With her glasses gone, the entire world was still a little bit blurry, but Kimberly could recognize the figure before her from the general outline, from the voice and height and coloration. The facial features were identical. There was blood on the girl, but no one was in perfect health anymore. Kimberly suspected that, apart from the injuries she herself had sustained, she was also seriously malnourished. Her jeans didn't fit quite as snugly as they had a couple days ago. If there wasn't so much other awful shit going on, it would have been a big concern.

That wasn't really important. What mattered was that, for just a second, Kimberly was sure she was looking at Reika Ishida again. She was wondering whether, through some strange miracle, she'd been correct in her assumptions back on the first day, whether she'd hit her head and imagined everything since, whether their class really had refused to play, whether there had been some mix up with Kris' bags and she'd never shot her gun. Maybe Kimberly was just now regaining her consciousness to realize that it was all okay.

It only lasted a second.

"Reiko," Kimberly said with a bit of a smile. "I don't want trouble. Have a seat?"

She knew Reiko was probably bad news. She knew the girl had killed a lot of people, more than Kris, maybe. Kimberly had no personal stake in Reiko's actions, though. If anything, she was slightly curious about this girl, who it seemed she had been circling around even since before the trip, flitting at the edges of her life but never making an actual appearance. This would, in all likelihood, be her only chance to indulge her interest. No reason not to take advantage of it, except the danger, and there was danger everywhere.

Besides, she had a few tricks she'd figured out in case anything went wrong.
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This was surprisingly peaceful. It seemed like Reiko wasn't going to flip out and gun her down. This had actually been a decent enough idea. Kimberly was pleasantly surprised by this. Of course, there was a chance everything was going to go completely to pieces at any moment, but that had been true of every moment on the island. By now, Kimberly didn't give a fuck. If things got bad, she'd cope. Reiko was beat up. She probably wasn't in good enough shape to do much chasing. First plan of defense: run.

And then, things got even weirder. Reiko took some chocolate out, ate a piece, then offered to share. Kimberly actually grinned at that. It seemed the other girl was fairly clever. It was to be expected, in a way. Reika had been intelligent too. Here, what Reiko had done was prove her sincerity by eating first. That meant Kimberly could be assured she wasn't about to be poisoned. She wasn't a huge fan of chocolate, but at this point she'd have eaten pretty much anything. She was down to her last bottle of water, and was suffering from a dry mouth and occasional stomach cramps. Chocolate sounded pretty damn divine.

"Sure," she said. She had to turn and reach across a little awkwardly. Her left arm wasn't hurting so much anymore, as long as she was gentle on it. She could almost clench her fist without it hurting, could nearly bend her elbow a little bit. She didn't much. She didn't want to fuck things up again, not now that they were almost a little better. She didn't want to damage her wound again. It wasn't bleeding anymore, but she knew from when Erik had treated it that it was by no means fully healed, either. She was also worried about the fact that there was probably still a bullet in her arm. The last thing she needed was to jar it and force it into an important blood vessel. Her other injuries, the bruising to her head especially, were not cause for much concern. They only impacted her if she scratched her face. They probably made her look hideous, too, but that was totally unimportant. Nothing in her skull had been broken, and she wasn't concussed, so she wasn't in any real danger from them. But now wasn't the time to worry. Now she was getting a chance at something approximating a tasty last meal.

And then, before she could grab a piece of chocolate, there was someone else there, looking at them, asking if they were having a private party. This girl, she was fucked up. All it took to tell was a glance. She was probably missing an eye. The wound still looked pretty fresh, given the bloodstained bandage. It would likely kill her, Kimberly realized. That was how things went here. This late in the game, none of the other people were going to risk their lives helping some girl who'd gotten her face slashed, especially not when they'd just have to kill her within a day to survive anyways. The girl had to know that. Approaching in a friendly fashion meant she wanted something, then.

Moreover, she was being painfully nonchalant about the whole thing. That meant she was insane. Kimberly was perfectly familiar with insanity as a defense mechanism. She knew all about trying to walk off wounds. She also knew that she didn't trust this girl in the slightest. She could recognize her, could tell she was someone from around school, but she was one of the loners. There was a name floating around, but it was hard to grasp it fully. Kimberly could remember the last announcement, though. There had been three or four girls mentioned as killers. She wasn't one herself. Reiko wasn't one. Kimberly couldn't believe the gender gap was that great at this point. That meant this girl was almost certainly a murderer. She had probably picked up her wound—no, wounds, her leg was bandaged too—in a fight. That she'd walked away meant she'd won. That meant she was a dangerous psychopath with nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain by murdering everyone else before she keeled over. Her only chance was to kill everyone before the wound killed her, then count on the goodwill of the terrorists and hope they patched her back together instead of throwing her corpse into the sea. Given that people had been rescued, that was probably a fairly safe assumption. They'd need someone alive to convince people next year that playing was worth it. That meant this girl was probably going to be playing for keeps.

This was exactly the sort of shit Kimberly didn't want to deal with. Reiko was a curiosity, a temporarily-benign one. This girl was a pain in the ass.

So Kimberly just said the first thing that came to mind.

"Yep. Fuck off."
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The fucked up girl was taking Kimberly seriously. She didn't even have to pick up the gun lying by her leg. It was a pleasant change. Maybe being around at this point brought some automatic respect. In a way, the dozen people left were like an exclusive little club. Maybe that was why they were so willing to talk.

Kimberly fucking hated that thought. She had nothing in common with the others. She was interested in Reiko in part because of their shared pool of acquaintances, in part because of the change in the other girl's behavior, as revealed by the announcements. It was a mystery to unravel, one Kimberly almost cared about, unlike this other girl's identity. She'd figure it out next time the announcements came on, most likely. A missing eye seemed too good to pass up for a twisted joke, even though the new guy didn't seem to fool around as much as Danya had. Still, he wasn't too different. He knew how to pronounce "Nguyen," at least.

And then the girl stopped, and she turned back, and she tossed back a little comment, all calm and causal, like she'd really just forgotten, like she'd missed the announcements and figured these charming people who clearly wanted jack shit to do with her were going to suddenly feel really social and altruistic. Bullshit. She wanted something. Kimberly didn't know what, didn't care. She was, for the most part, over hurting people for kicks. Deflating them, well, that was a whole other fucking ball game.

"Yeah," she said. "Some pretty big shit. There are only twelve people left, so they decided to do something a bit different. They said it's gotten boring, so instead of a fight to the death, they're gonna do it American Idol style. Shittiest singer every hour gets their collar popped. Me and Reiko,"—name dropping the other girl seemed like a nice, subtle way to underscore that one-eye should be fucking off—"are working on a duet. Figure it can keep us going a bit, if we can get the synchronization down."

She didn't even pause before launching off on a new tangent.

"No. There's nothing you should know. Twelve people left, lots of people dead. Same shit, different day. Goodbye."

Kimberly wasn't really feeling it, wasn't really in the right mood to be sparring with this girl, to be cutting her down for being a moron. She was probably lying anyways, unless she'd been wounded here in one of the houses. Most of the rest of the island had been turned into danger zones, yet here this girl was, one eye fucked up but neck nice and whole. Kimberly couldn't even really explain what it was that was firing her temper again. Maybe it was just the sheer nonchalance, like none of the horrible shit the past few days mattered. Yeah, she was doing the same fucking thing herself, but the difference was, this girl seemed to mean it. Kimberly didn't want to deal with a psychopath. She didn't do psychopaths. They didn't react right, didn't get riled, didn't make stupid choices. Will, he'd probably been a psychopath, on reflection. That was why everything at the docks had gotten so ugly. That was what had led to her one mistake. Brook, he'd been a psychopath too, and look what had happened to Dutchy. There wouldn't be any more of that shit. Not again.

So, come on, psycho girl. Fuck off or tip your hand. I'm starting to get bored of waiting.
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The girl finished fucking off, with a glance at the leg that was probably going to kill her and a sarcastic little salute. Kimberly didn't bother returning it. She was pissed enough about the interruption and about having to deal with yet another psychopath. They seemed to be a dime a dozen this late in the game. It was almost like all the decent people had been killed by now. Come to think of it, that was probably pretty fucking close to the mark. While playing things like Lombardi had was totally suicidal, getting this far implied a certain willingness to get one's hands dirty. Anyone who couldn't stand the thought of taking a life was pretty well out of luck.

It left Kimberly wondering what exactly she was doing still being alive. She certainly wasn't one of the big names on the announcements. Oh, it wasn't like she was standing on any moral high ground, not after what she'd done to Aislyn. Looking back, she couldn't even remember what the reason for her actions had been. She couldn't say why she hadn't dropped the knife. Aislyn was unarmed. Will would probably have attacked them all, but he wouldn't have killed them, not all of them. Will hadn't been a threat at all. He and Steven had gotten themselves killed quickly enough, had joined the endless list of names.

Kimberly wondered if she'd rate a joke. Probably not. It was getting too late in the game, and she doubted they'd put on a comedy show for the final survivor. Besides, Nguyen was a bitch to rhyme.

"By the way," she said, turning to Reiko, "I'm Kimberly."

She hadn't introduced herself earlier, not because she wanted to watch Reiko squirm, but because she wasn't sure what the reaction would be. It seemed stupid to get shot in the middle of saying her own name. Afterwards, she hadn't wanted to identify herself to the third girl, for no particular reason at all. Now that the psycho had gone, things could go back to where they had been going. Kimberly could learn a little about Reiko, maybe figure out what it was that turned someone into one of the island's most known names and then turned them away from killing for almost a week.

More than that, maybe she could learn a little more about Reika and her death. After all, she had been something close enough to a friend to Kimberly, and her murder had been the spark that set in motion all the events that had led Kimberly here.

It had been such a silly thing. There were many different bag designs being used. Reika had just happened to pull one with a name on it. Had it not been for that simple, stupid little fact, Kimberly would have never walked up to Kris. She wouldn't have a chunk of metal in her arm right now.

She might well have died days ago.

Somewhere, maybe from the town, maybe from the docks, maybe from both, some gunshots faintly rang out. Kimberly didn't even acknowledge them. She was used to it by now.

She frowned for a moment, still thinking of Reika and Kris, then brightened and added, "I'm glad we got rid of her. Now, you were giving me a piece of chocolate?"
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"Thanks," Kimberly said. Being polite felt a little bit unnatural. She'd never been particularly courteous, even when it had mattered. It felt strange to start now. On the other hand, she wasn't looking to offend Reiko into a fight or anything of the sort. Besides, the girl was actually being nice. It was pleasant enough, even if Reiko was no Erik when it came to engaging conversation.

Kimberly tried not to scowl at that. She tried to keep her face nice and impassive as she took the chocolate and took a big bite. There was no helping the past now, no fixing yesterday's fuck ups. There was no guaranteeing the future, not when all but one of them would probably be dead in less then a day. There was only the present, and the present included Reiko instead of Erik, and Kimberly had some things she wanted to know that Reiko could help her with.

She finished the chocolate first. Normally, she'd have tossed the wrapper into the flowerbed, but as she was moving to do so, she remembered it was doubling as a grave. The dead wouldn't care about some littering, but she didn't need to fuck up some grieving family's day even more. Funeral rites had always been for the living. These people were lucky enough to have had someone to care for their son or daughter. It wasn't Kimberly's place to spit on that.

Vaguely, she wondered if anyone would bury her. She wondered what they did with all the bodies, at the end. They had to check them, somehow, to make sure no one had managed to play dead.

It wasn't worth thinking about.

She shoved the wrapper into her pocket, checking at the same time that the lighter was still there. Good. Everything was in order.

"How've you been?" she finally asked, finding that none of her real questions was a particularly appropriate opener. There was no good way to lead with "Did you see your sister die?" or "Why'd you murder so many people?" or "How about that rescue we missed?". Faux-normalcy would have to suffice, even if it was stupid. WIth luck, Reiko would run with it and share the things that mattered.

And all the time, Kimberly was wondering how this was going to turn out. After all, there was no guarantee Reiko was half as stable as she looked, and it had to be getting pretty close to the end. She was curious as to how long it would be until Reiko saw her as just another obstacle in the road home.
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"Yep," Kimberly said. "Kinda sucks. I'm glad your girlfriend's okay, though."

Time to think. Who the fuck was Reiko's girlfriend? No, wait, that was a silly question. Kimberly could almost remember something about Reiko and Sarah. She'd seen them together, at Prom, and Sarah had escaped, and she had wanted to find Reiko. They'd all agreed on that, Sarah and Bridget and Kimberly. Maybe Sarah had even mentioned something about them being together, and Kimberly had just missed the subtext. It all fit perfectly.

"Sarah, right? She saved my life."

It was nothing but a casual comment, now. There was no need to go into detail. Reiko didn't need to know what had transpired, how Sarah had patched her shoulder up, how they had traveled together, how Kimberly had left when it became clear that they weren't hunting Kris after all. Reiko certainly didn't need to know about Kimberly's little conversation with Sarah and Bridget, the one through the cameras. That might provoke a violent reaction.

In a happy little coincidence, if Reiko ever did find out, it would be far too late for Kimberly to worry about it.

In the meantime, they had a common point of interest, a humanizing factor. That meant Reiko was less likely to start shooting, and more likely to just hang out and shoot the shit. It meant Kimberly felt pretty safe when she reached over, picked up the fake gun, and stuffed it back into her pocket. Oh, sure, she was careful to move slowly, to avoid doing anything starling. Relative security or not, it wouldn't be good to have a misunderstanding now.

Still, she wasn't quite so concerned about imminent death, not anymore.
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They talked for a while, and they sat in silence for a while, as the day wore on into evening and the sun began to set and the sounds of gunfire from other parts of the island faded slowly into silence. Kimberly didn't bother trying to count or figure out how many people had died. She didn't give a fuck. It wouldn't be long until there were only a handful left. She kept expecting someone to turn up and attack them. On some level, she was sure there would be an ambush—a shot from behind, straight through the gut, a few minutes spent bleeding out, writhing on the ground in pain and terror, and then nothing.

That wasn't what happened. They sat, and they talked, and they learned things about each other.

At some point, Reiko proposed a truce. Kimberly agreed. It was a simple idea, really. Neither of them wanted to kill the other, so they promised not to—at least, not until and unless they were the only two left. It was an interesting situation. Kimberly could almost like Reiko. The girl was refreshingly forthright. That did not equate to any real trust in her. Quite simply, Kimberly knew that the girl had murdered to survive, and knew that she would be more than willing to do so again. She couldn't at all guarantee that Reiko would honor their agreement if doing so would disadvantage her in the long run.

At the same time, Reiko knew next to nothing about Kimberly. She didn't know the exact circumstances of Kimberly's kills. She didn't know that Kimberly's gun was a prop or a toy of some sort, completely useless for actually hurting someone. She didn't know Kimberly's thoughts, her ability and willingness to kill, or her lack thereof.

It would've been a better advantage had Kimberly been a vicious killer, or, fuck, had she even known herself exactly where she stood. She was going to have to figure it out pretty damn fast, that was for sure. All she knew was she wasn't about to let Reiko get away with betraying her, if it came to that. She didn't think it would, but she was going to be ready, just in case.

Her thoughts had flourished in the silence that had fallen between them. After almost two weeks on the island, neither girl had much left to say. They were tired, emotionally drained, and on edge. Despite all of this, Kimberly managed not to jump when the speakers crackled to life. The sun had set by this point, though the faint light of dusk still illuminated the area, and the stars and moon were looking to be bright. Visibility was going to be alright tonight. Kimberly wasn't sure how to feel about how quickly a change in the situation made her assess her surroundings. She was getting too nervous, too calculating.

Still, she had to pay attention to what was coming from the speakers. Kimberly sat in silence, listening to the words. It was hard to believe that she was still alive, that she had somehow made it this close to the end. In a way, it was terrifying. There would be no more running away, no more hiding and waiting things out, no more coasting by because people were unwilling to actually pull the trigger. This was it.

She made careful note of the deaths. Most of them meant nothing to her. When Ema was listed, though, when the leg wound was specifically blamed, Kimberly couldn't help chuckling a little. Suddenly, a few things made a lot more sense, and her hunch about a certain someone being a psycho had been vindicated. She whispered to Reiko, "Saw that one coming. I think she was the girl we saw. She was pretty much dead already."

Also of particular note was the fact that many of the emergent killers had met their own ends over the past half day. Kimberly suspected that people had just gotten overconfident towards the end, had thought that maybe they could take up Maxwell's mantle and gun their ways to safety. It wasn't a line of reasoning she could really understand. From the little she knew, the past three winners had all been big killers, but that seemed like it had to have been a fluke. Killing, logically speaking, didn't matter all that much. All it did was give people supplies and get them targeted.

Then Greynolds listed everyone left, and Kimberly stopped pondering the mentalities of the dead.

The first name was familiar. She knew Ilario by sight, at least. The triplets were too much of a curiosity not to know. She knew that he'd been killing people. His name had come up frequently and consistently enough for her to peg him as a player, though he didn't have the sort of list that would suggest he'd been shooting everyone he met.

Ivan was less familiar. Kimberly knew he'd killed a few times. He'd won the first Best Kill Award. After that, he'd been pretty quiet, though. What Greynolds said, however, had her worried. If Ivan had lost someone important to him, he might not be rational. He might be out for revenge, or he might be desperate to survive. In either case, it wasn't something Kimberly wanted to end up on the wrong side of.

Reiko she knew enough about. She'd noticed the wounds, but she was inclined to suspect Reiko was very much still a threat.

And then, it was her name on the announcements. It felt unreal, like a joke. Not too long ago, she'd been hoping she'd be one of the last fifty alive, just so she could die knowing she wasn't totally pathetic and useless. Now, she was one of the five people on the island who were still breathing.

Greynolds' assessment wasn't so flattering, but that was no surprise. What he said gave her a lot to think about, too. That word, tomorrow, it felt strange as she rolled it over in her mind. For the past two weeks, there hadn't been tomorrows. She'd lived in the moment, or maybe in the few moments she could count on seeing. Now, there was a chance for more.

She nearly lost focus, but managed to catch the information about Ericka, who sounded like a serious threat. Then she was told that they would all fight to the death here, in the town center. It was too bad. This place was almost pretty, with its statue and its flowers and its houses. She could almost forget the corpses littered around them. She couldn't smell death anymore, not after spending so much time with it. She tried to remember what the air had been like in Saint Paul, what the city had tasted like when she inhaled, but no recollection came.

No time for regrets.

"Come on, Reiko," she said. "I don't think we want to start this off in the middle of everything."

She paused for a moment, remembering where the new danger zones were, before speaking again.

"The docks and infirmary were safe until now, so odds are good people will be coming from those directions. I think we should go the other way. No reason to be the ones to start shit."

With a glance backwards to make sure Reiko was following, she headed towards the houses to the north of the statue. The closest ring was outside the danger zone. That meant they could find somewhere safe enough to wait and see what happened.

((Kimberly Nguyen and Reiko Ishida continued in V4 Endgame))
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