Ilario said he didn't know, and Kimberly, she didn't know either. She appreciated that he wasn't playing games with her, at least. No need to shelter someone who was gonna die anyways. What he said after, though, that was the important bit. Rhory had seen it as a way out. She'd gone on her own terms. She didn't want to be saved.
That sounded pretty damn familiar. He could've been talking about someone else, no, so many other people. Kimberly'd always thought she was special, always figured nobody understood. She'd sensed a kindred spirit in Rhory, but hadn't really figured the depths that went to.
Then again, maybe it wasn't so true after all. Maybe they were nothing alike. Kimberly had always been a poser. She'd known it on some level even back home. The island had driven it in, but she'd just replaced one form of acting with another. She'd let herself get drawn into self destructive patterns, and now all she wanted was out. Too late now. Too late to back down, to pull away, to change who she'd become. Too late for regrets. Too late for worries. Too late to apologize, to figure things out, to ease off a little bit and trust someone and say thanks.
Ilario reached into his pocket and pulled something out. It was a scrunchie, a little hair tie. No way it was his. Before Kimberly could speak, he explained. It was Ivan'sno, it had belonged to the girl Ivan had been protecting, the one whose death he had been taunted about during the announcements. He'd wanted it to get home. He'd wanted to get home, too, to deliver it. He'd wanted to go home for someone he'd cared about and Kimberly had fucked up his last few minutes of life to protect someone she only kind of liked because of some bullshit debt she'd coaxed herself into believing in. No point regretting it, though. He'd tried to kill her. Nobody had been right. There was nothing right about this, any of this.
The only thing right was what Ilario was saying. He said that none of them had asked for this, and that was true. That was the crux of the matter. Nobody had asked to be taken, to be shot and tortured and killed. Nobody had wanted this. Nobody had deserved it. The biggest jackass in the school, the most crazed killer on the island, none of them could have possibly wanted this over happy, normal lives. Kimberly had known that about herself for a long time. She'd known that she'd have traded just about anything to have gotten the flu the day of the trip. She'd had an old boyfriend in her grade, once, and he'd been gone that day, had just missed the bus and was probably sitting at home watching this. It'd have been better, so much better, to be like him.
Ilario locked eyes with her, and Kimberly did not turn away. She did not flinch, did not cry, did not panic or weep or beg. Fuck that. She'd lived so long planning for everything to end on her terms that she wasn't about to back down now.
He said he wasn't sorry. He said he'd done what he had to. That made one of them. It was probably admirable.
Ilario's eyes shut, just for a second, as he moved. He was pointing the gun, but not at her. It was a big gun, but he handled it like he knew it. Kimberly hadn't ever really understood guns, so it took her a second to realize what he was doing. By then, his eyes were open again, and he told her it was going to be okay, and there wasn't time to say or even think anything except for the stupid sense of wonder she felt at the fact that a gun that big could be turned around like that and still look almost graceful, and then he smiled, and he pulled the trigger and there was a loud noise, so much louder this close by, and he fell backwards, dropped to the ground, the gun falling from his grasp.
He was wrong. It wasn't okay.
Kimberly sat in shock. Across the street, something fell with a crash in the burning house. She could still hear the fire, the crackling. It was dark. Even with the light from the flames, the world was a little bit fuzzy. It was almost natural seeing things without her glasses now.
She glanced at Ilario. He wasn't moving.
Five seconds later, the voice crackled from all around her. She screamed, drowning it out, not wanting to hear it, not ready to cope yet. She wanted to cover her ears, to fall unconscious and never have to deal with the world ever again, to somehow make things better or make up for everything she'd done and had not done.
They waited thirty seconds before trying again. By that time, Kimberly had fallen silent.
"Congratulations, Girl Fifty-Nine," the man's voice said. It was not a voice she knew. It sounded surprised and irritated in equal measure. "You are the winner."
Kimberly didn't feel much like a winner. She'd thought about this, fantasized about it, even, but all of a sudden she'd didn't have any idea what the fuck she was doing still being alive. Nothing made sense. Maybe she'd finally made actual peace with the notion that she was doomed. Maybe she'd just been holding herself together only in the context of the island, and now that she had a way out her entire reality had suddenly been reshaped. Maybeand, at the moment, this seemed closest to rightshe was just not seeing what she'd done to deserve to still be standing here. She hadn't done things right. She hadn't even tried, not until the last few days. She'd been one awful fuckup of a person until Erik.
"The danger zones have been deactivated. Please proceed to the docks for extraction," the voice said.
Kimberly didn't move. She didn't stand up. Everything felt unreal. It was like the first day again, like back at the beach, facing something she didn't know how to deal with at all and maybe didn't quite want to accept. Maybe this was worse. It was terrifying. All her time on the island, the one certainty in her mind had been the end. The only given had been death. She'd done some repulsive, evil shit. She'd said some horrible things, not just to her now-dead classmates, but to people who had escaped, to people back home, people who had never been part of this and couldn't even possibly begin to understand.
It had seemed so smart at the time. She'd figured she was doing her family a big old favor, making them hate her so that her death would be easier on them. She'd figured they'd recover quicker that way. She'd thought maybe someday they'd realize that she really had loved them. Maybe they'd bring some flowers to whatever empty patch of land bore her gravestone.
Now, the island wasn't some crazy Valhalla anymore. It wasn't some fantasy land where she could do whatever she wanted and never have to worry about things again. It was no longer a place where consequences didn't exist. She'd hurt a lot of people, and now she was going to have to do the one thing she'd never planned on: return and face the music.
"Quickly." The voice wasn't sounding very pleased. Kimberly could relate. Fuck them. Fuck the terrorists and their little games. She reached out and braced herself on the house and pulled herself to her feet. Her left leg had fallen asleep from the knee down. Her right was tingling with a different sort of pain, from the mysterious cut.
She realized she could look this all up on YouTube or something and figure out what had really happened. She'd get to sit down in front of a computer again, get to eat shitty fast food and sleep in a real bed. It didn't make her feel better.
She could just imagine the guy stuck talking her to her, probably bored out of his mind the past few days, sick and tired of the slaughter, now forced to deal with her attitude and hating her a little more every second. It was a nice thought. Fuck the terrorists. She could hurt them. The ideas she'd been bouncing around in her head, the realization that she'd been awful to her classmates, that she'd been sadistic and wrong, none of that was in play here. If she could hurt the people who'd put herno, them, all of themthrough this, if she could fuck up their days in any little way, fuck, that was something worth doing. Nobody would fault her for it.
"Come on," the voice said. "We know you can still walk."
She turned, feeling her lips curve into a grin. She felt a rush, a returning boom of energy, as her mind made a few little connections. She knew what to do, knew how to do it. She could do it. She could make a difference, could change the world. There was a camera nearby. Had to be. It took five seconds to find it. By then, Kimberly had her good hand hooked under her collar again, just like she'd done all those days ago when she'd wanted to ensure they'd show her, when she'd left Sarah and Bridget that spiteful little message.
"Fuck you. You want me to hurry? How come? What'll you do if I don't? Kill me? You think that can scare me now?"
The breeze had picked up. She could feel her hair being pulled by it, not smoothly like it once might have been. It was a matted mess after two weeks without seeing a brush, probably with blood and dirt ground into it. The stench of gasoline about her was the only thing sparing her the smell of her own sweat and grime. Funny. She'd lost her deodorant somewhere along the way, but she'd gotten a replacement after all. It was enough to get her laughing, a crazed cackle.
"You can't hurt me anymore. You can't make things worse. Don't you get it? After this there isn't anything worse. You saw what happened to everyone. And the funniest thing about it is you can't even kill me. People got away this time. I know they did. They got away and that means you can't kill me. You took the guy back who won the first time, and you made him do it again and he died. The second guy, I've got no clue what the fuck happened to him, but that means a lot of other people don't either. That means you've got one crazed, torturing fuck and me. That's the only reason anyone has to play, just the two of us as the bait you can dangle, and I'm pretty fucking sure nobody wants to be him. I can kill myself now, make it a clean sweep, and what the fuck's anyone gonna do next time? They'll sit down and wait. Just like I said they would."
At some point, she'd stopped laughing and had started crying. Her nose was running, remnants from that little cold or whatever she'd had a few days ago. Didn't matter. No way in fuck this was going to be dignified.
"You'll lose. No matter what happens, you'll lose. You lost this time. So many people fucked you over, and" and then she stopped talking, just froze mid-sentence, as her collar gave a loud, clear beep.
"Greynolds here." This was a voice she did know, but it sounded more relaxed now, not worried in the slightest. "You're not on the air, so you can stop trying to martyr yourself. You're the last one left, so you've got the right to go to the docks and hitch a ride, but only for the next"a short pause, as if maybe he was checking his watch"fourteen minutes. If I was you, I'd get moving. You're leaving the island then no matter what. Only question's whether your head's attached or not."
Kimberly stood for a second, completely taken aback. Her fingers were pressed against her neck, tucked under the her collar, still burning from the cut across them.
"And one more thing," Greynolds added, still sounding cheery and a bit bored. "You say another word before that collar comes off, you die. I've had a rough week, and I'm too tired for this nonsense. See you soon."
For a moment longer, Kimberly considered pushing her luck, shouting something at the cameras or going ahead and yanking anyways, just to spite the fuckers. The impulse rapidly died away, though, leaving her standing there in her ragged clothes in the middle of the night, crying and shivering and scared and lonely and wanting nothing more than to wake up and find out everything had been a dream.
She wasted five more seconds just trying to wrap her head around the past half hour, then gave up, knelt, and picked up the hair tie Ilario had shown her.
She looked back at Ilario, at the boy who had given her a chance, who had been ready to kill her and had instead saved her life, who had maybe staked everything on the fact that she wasn't Rhory after all, the boy whose sacrifice she had nearly thrown away on some last stupid vestige of a rebellion fantasy.
There wasn't any more time for her to stand around. The docks were close by, but her ankle was fucked up and her sides were aching and she just couldn't seem to catch her breath. Fourteen minutes was doable, but not if she didn't get moving right away.
She hobbled past the fountain, towards the docks, but turned back and paused once, right when she was on the edge of being out of sight of where she and Ilario had talked. She wanted to say something, but figured it was safer to just mouth out "Thanks." It wasn't like anyone would hear her either way.
((Kimberly Nguyen concluded in V4's Epilogue