Prologue: July 4, 2018

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2016 was pretty much the worst year anyone could possibly imagine. At least until 2017.

Not that it was Kim's fault. 2016 was terrible before Kim's retreat from the public eye, and long before her subsequent disappearance. No one blamed her for going off social media after she was robbed at gunpoint in Paris. Any one of us would have done the same. Batten down the hatches. Get off social media. Take care of yourself. Taking a break from social media is one of the healthiest things you can do when things get bad. That's what a lot of us did, in the weeks after the election, when we realized we actually had no idea how much worse things could get.

What we didn't anticipate was how long Kim would stay away. She was Kim Kardashian, the queen of social media. We were so used to her being ever-present, her face always glowing fiercely back at us from Snaps and Instas and magazine covers and TV and really anywhere our eyes ever happened to land. And then suddenly the world was falling apart and she was nowhere to be found.

If 2016 was a slow descent into Hell, with all the horror that was happening around the world, and all the celebrities we lost, and the terrible man becoming president, then 2017 was our arrival at Hell's front door. Things quickly got even worse. All the new laws going into effect. The wall going up. The people being rounded up and cataloged. Families being torn apart, people being sent away, deported, or disappeared.

By mid-2017 the unified government had successfully destroyed or taken away almost everything that mattered to us. It wasn't just our rights and freedoms that changed. The president took control of news and the media and the internet. He took control of Silicon Valley and all the tech companies, with their "information wants to be free" and "we don't want to help the government listen to your conversations" political stances. Anytime there was a threat to his power there would be new laws to silence that threat.

Kim didn't appear on social media at all throughout this. She was still on KUWTK occasionally, but she was almost a background character by that point. Lying on the couch, barely responding to the things her family asked her.

As the months dragged on and her silence continued some people started to wonder if she was even still making that choice for herself. If maybe she was being kept offline. We didn't know how right we were. But we wouldn't find out about all that, about what she was going through, about how terrible things were for her during that time, until much later.

By the time the president passed the law that made selfies illegal, it was almost a joke. We had so few other rights by then, who even cared about posting selfies? But the president was angry about the celebrities who'd campaigned against him, and who had continued to use their power and status to mock him. Celebrities, and regular people for that matter, could no longer say and post whatever they wanted. And images are more powerful than words, so it stood to reason they both needed to be tightly controlled.

No selfies! The horror! Surely this would send Kim back to us. Surely she would have an opinion on this. Surely she would do what she had always done: express everything we feel and hope and want with a simple image, a few words, a look somehow both composed and effortless. She had to come back. She had to.

But she didn't, and it was around then that Kim disappeared from KUWTK and from our lives altogether. One episode she simply wasn't there, and there was hardly any mention of her on the show anymore. It was weird, but it wasn't that weird. Many celebrities had disappeared by then. In a few weeks Kylie and Kendall would be gone too.

The president and his unified government had succeeding in creating a self-perpetuating regime, and they had beaten the people down into submission. We had given up, lost all hope. If the celebrities weren't safe, who was? There was nothing else to do but endure. Nothing to do but wait and watch as things got ever worse.

And then one day the impossible happened.

People were scrolling through the TL on Safebook, reading the official reports about how great everything was going, how much support the government had, how successful everyone was. We knew it wasn't the truth, but it was all the news ever said anymore.

Suddenly, somehow, amidst all the news and buzzfeed, the carefully filtered stories that were deemed safe for us to read, Kim Kardashian had posted a selfie.

No filter. Just her beautiful face. Not smiling, but not exactly sad either. Radiating something beautiful and secret. The Impossible Selfie, we called it. A thing that shouldn't exist, in a place where it couldn't exist.

The TL immediately blew up. This was the most amazing thing to happen, online or IRL, in forever. It only took a few minutes for the pic to get deleted and scrubbed by whatever government algorithm whose job it was to find and report selfies. But we remembered. We saw it. We wondered how on earth she'd gotten access to a decent front facing camera, how on earth she'd gotten the file past the monitoring systems, how she could have possibly posted a pic directly to the TL without immediately alerting the government task force to her whereabouts.

Where was she? It didn't matter. All that mattered was that Kim was out there somewhere. She hadn't forgotten about us. Wherever she was, whatever she was doing, as bad as things had gotten, she hadn't given up.

July 4, 2018. That was the day everything changed.

Where were you when Kim finally came back?

Where were you when you remembered what hope was?


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