We learn that the first knife tattoo on Kirsten’s wrist marks a man who came at her in her first year with the Symphony, when she was fifteen. He didn’t say anything, but she understood what he was trying to do. As he approached, time slowed, and she had plenty of time to pull a knife from her belt and send it spinning into the man’s throat.
Kirsten has killed twice before the archer in Chapter 48. The first was a man who (it’s implied) attempted to rape her. To stave off the attack, she threw a knife into his throat and killed him.
The second knife tattoo was for a man who Kirsten killed two years later. The Symphony encountered four men, two with guns and two with machetes, trying to rob them, but the sixth guitar whispered “guns first,” and he and Kirsten each killed a gunman while the conductor took out the two with machetes.
The second person she killed was in a similar situation as the archer. A friend whispered whom to attack first, and, in order to survive, Kirsten acted without hesitation to kill rather than be killed.
Kirsten had hoped before killing the archer in Year Twenty that she wouldn’t have to kill a third person. She realizes based on the look of August’s face that the gunman was his first. She is too tired to tell August what she knows: that he will survive this, but that he will carry the man with him through the rest of his life.
We know Kirsten associates killing with the way that the world has changed, so it makes sense that she hoped never to have to kill again. Somehow August has made it to Year Twenty without being placed in a situation where he was required to kill.
Kirsten, August, and Sayid continue to walk in silence, wondering where the prophet is. As they walk down the highway, Kirsten reflects on the man she has just killed, and on Dieter’s death. As they get closer to the airport, they hear the distant bark of the dog and realize that the prophet is approaching.
They hide in the woods, as the prophet, a man with a crossbow, a man with a shotgun, and the boy with a machete, now wielding a handgun, all approach with the dog, Luli. Luli smells Kirsten, August, and Sayid, and soon the man with the crossbow sees them. Kirsten doesn’t know what to do, as she thinks she will get shot if she tries to attack with her knives. An arrow lands next to her, and the man with the crossbow instructs her to get up and drop the knife.
The young boy has apparently rejoined the prophet after fleeing earlier. Though Kirsten, August, and Sayid hide from the prophet and his men, Luli locates them, and they are in a precarious position. Kirsten knows that she cannot act or attack without most likely dying.
Kirsten stands and drops the knife, knowing it’s unlikely she would be able to reach a second one before being felled by one of the four attackers. She hopes that they don’t find Sayid and August, as the prophet approaches her. He calls her “Titania,” recognizing her from the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in St. Deborah by the Water, and has her drop to her knees. When asked, she tells the prophet that August and Sayid are dead, pretending the archer that August killed has killed them.
The Prophet recognizes Kirsten from the Symphony’s performance, showing the lasting impact of theatre and art. To save her friends, Kirsten lies about what happened in the altercation with the archer, hoping that if the prophet believes August and Sayid are dead, they might survive even if she must die.
While the prophet’s rifle is an inch from her forehead, Kirsten knows what August must be thinking. If he reveals himself to fire arrows, the three of them would likely die, rather than just her. She comes to peace with the fact that she will die for her friends. While the prophet preaches, Kirsten notices the boy with the handgun is crying. As he prepares to kill her, the prophet says, “We are the light moving over the surface of the waters, over the darkness of the undersea.” Kirsten recognizes the Undersea as from the “Station Eleven” comic books, but the prophet is no longer listening to her. She responds to him with lines from the first issue: “We long only to go home,” taken from a faceoff between Dr. Eleven and an adversary from the Undersea. “We dream of sunlight, we dream of walking on earth.” The prophet’s reaction is unreadable, and Kirsten cannot tell if he has recognized the text. She continues quoting the scene, but the prophet merely says it’s too late. He adjusts his grip and a shot is fired.
With a rifle an inch away from her face, Kirsten is able to make peace with her death, since she knows that she is dying to save her friends’ lives. The young boy, who Sayid was talking to before, appears deeply upset by what is happening. But as the prophet prepares to kill Kirsten, he begins reciting lines from “Dr. Eleven,” which Kirsten of course recognizes. It’s unclear if the prophet is as shocked as Kirsten is to find another person who knows about the comic books. He certainly appears taken aback by her recitations, but the coincidence is not enough to convince him to spare her. The two are connected by the comics and by Arthur Leander, but are unable to recognize each other or reconcile in this moment of extreme tension.
The shot comes from not the prophet’s rifle, but from the boy’s handgun. The boy has shot the prophet in the head. In the instant after, August kills the other two men, while Kirsten and the boy stare at the prophet. Though she tries to stop him, the boy then shoots himself. As she kneels by the dead bodies, Viola and Jackson, the Symphony’s forward scouts, approach.
Just before the prophet can kill Kirsten, the young boy shoots the prophet and then kills himself, in a climactic moment of tragic violence. He has apparently been convinced that the prophet is evil and found the courage to resist him, and his suicide reflects how guilty and confused he appeared when talking to Sayid in the woods.
Later, August discovers a page from “Station Eleven” in the copy of the prophet’s New Testament. Kirsten wonders who he was and how he came to be the prophet, wondering if maybe he had the misfortune of remembering everything. She, August, and Sayid continue on to the airport while Viola and Jackson head back to tell the Symphony they have reunited.
Kirsten marvels at the fact that the prophet had a copy of “Station Eleven,” but cannot yet understand that he is the son of the actor she idolized. She wonders if his insanity and violent nature spawned from the unfortunate curse of remembering everything that happened to him, reinforcing the notion that forgetting painful or traumatizing things can arguably be a blessing.