All in Time – Chapter 9
All in Time
A Life is Strange Story by OuTsYdeR
Slip To the Void
Max and Warren sat next to each other at the foot of Max’s bed. The door to the bedroom was closed for the first time she could remember. She had left it open at all times since moving into her apartment. Only, now, Victoria was living on the other side of the door.
“I can’t believe you let her stay with you.” Warren finally spoke up, breaking the awkward silence in the room.
“Well, believe it or not, she actually asked nicely…” Max responded, idly kicking her dangling feet through the air.
“Yeah… It’s just that…She has a way of sucking all the fun out of a place, you know?”
“Yeah, I know what you mean. But, you weren’t there, Warren. She seemed so vulnerable. I know it couldn’t have been easy for her to come to me for help. And, what kind of person would I be if I turned her away?”
“I know, Max. You’re such a warm and caring person. That’s what always drew me to you.” Warren said, nervously. “You’re definitely nicer to her than she probably deserves. But, I think your heart might be made of solid gold.”
Max laughed. “No, I just know how it feels to have everything you’ve built come crashing down around you…” Her expression instantly turned from humor to one of somber remembrance. “If I can help anyone through that, even Victoria, I have to do it.”
She didn’t expect Warren to understand, but she felt as if she had an obligation to help people. She’d done her best to help Chloe, to disastrous effect. But, this time, she wasn’t using her super power, only her power as a tenant of Ocean View Apartments.
After another awkward silence that seemed to go on for hours, Warren spoke again. “Anyway, I looked into lucid dreaming. Apparently, you have to kinda trick your brain into thinking you’re asleep, but stay completely conscious. You’ll be fully aware that you’re dreaming, and you might be able to assert a small level control over the people and surroundings in your dream.”
“Okay, that sounds good. How do you do it?” Max asked. She couldn’t imagine how one would ‘trick’ their brain into dreaming while awake.
“Well, apparently, you have to completely relax, close your eyes, and don’t move until you start dreaming. Like, from what I read, your body has checks to see if you’re really asleep or not. Like, you might get a random itch or something, and, if you scratch it, your brain knows you’re not asleep yet. So, you have to stay perfectly still, no matter what.”
“Okay. Awesome. Thanks, Warren!” She smiled and leaned over to kiss him on the cheek.
“I assume you were asking about it because of your nightmares. If so, you should be careful, Max.” Warren said, his expression becoming stern.
Poor Warren, Max thought. I still haven’t told him that the ‘nightmares’ have turned into something completely different.
“First of all,” Warren continued. “You probably won’t get it on the first try. It’s really hard to stay awake and have your brain go into a dream state. Also, a nightmare could be even worse when you’re totally conscious.”
“Thank you for the warning, Professor Graham.” She replied with a wink. “I promise I’ll be careful… Now,” She said, changing the subject. “Let’s go do what I asked you over here to do.”
“You sure you want to do this, Max?” He asked with a grin. “You know it’s gonna hurt like hell, right?”
“Yup. That’s why I asked you to come with me. I need the moral support. Plus, if I pass out from the pain, you can drive me home.” She gave him a smile and she stood up from the bed and walked to the door. Warren followed suit, and, as they passed through the living room on their way out, they saw Victoria sitting on the couch, on the phone. Max could only assume that she was talking to her mother, as she was clearly arguing with someone. Max gave her new roommate a little wave as her face showed a frown of sympathy. Victoria, for her part, returned the wave with a tight-lipped half smile.
As they pulled up to the front of the building, Max began to have second thoughts. She sat in the car for a long moment, studying the pulsing neon sign that read “TATTOOS”. She felt Warren gently grasp her shoulder, which seemed to lend her some strength.
“Okay,” She said as she opened the car door. “Let’s go make some questionable decisions…”
Once inside, she was greeted by the typical inked and pierced misfit one would expect to see behind the counter of such an establishment. A short, thin woman who appeared to be in her late 20’s or early 30’s, with very short, dark hair. Freckles adorned the parts of her face that weren’t otherwise decorated with piercings. Max wondered if she’d end up looking like this when she was the woman’s age. She explained to the artist that she wasn’t really sure what she wanted yet, but would know it when she saw it. Luckily, there were samples of the shop’s work all over the walls.
As Max walked around, perusing all the drawings of fairies and skulls, she spotted it. With Warren still in tow, she walked straight to the image of a blue butterfly. It looked exactly like the one that she photographed on that bucket in the bathroom on that fateful day. It brought back bittersweet memories, for sure. On one hand, it would be a constant reminder of the day that Chloe died. However, on the other hand, it seemed like a fitting tribute. The butterfly was, after all, the catalyst for rekindling her relationship with Chloe. Besides, the color of its wings matched Chloe’s hair color almost perfectly.
After about an hour of excruciating pain, most of which was spend squeezing the life out of Warren’s hand, she exited the store with a large bandage covering the inside of her left forearm. Beneath the bandage now lived a fresh tattoo of the mysterious blue butterfly. She’d considered adding a banner beneath the image with the name “Chloe” on it, but, in the end, decided that the butterfly would be enough. She knew who it was for. Besides, the lettering would have cost extra.
“Max, you are so awesome! You actually did it!” Warren said, almost in disbelief, as they reached his car. “Badassery of that caliber deserves a reward. Olive Garden? My treat.”
“What can I say, I never could resist marginally authentic Italian food.” Max responded with a wide smile. “Especially when I’ve earned it.”
After nearly eating her weight in chicken gnocchi soup, Max and Warren returned to her apartment. When they arrived, the lights were all out, and Victoria appeared to be asleep on the couch. Tiptoeing across the living room and into Max’s bedroom, she closed the door as softly as possible, so as not to disturb Victoria’s slumber.
Sex while riding an adrenaline high, Max found, was amazing! She’d had to be careful not to touch, or allow Warren to touch, the fresh tattoo. However, it turned out to be a very small obstacle to avoid. Evidently, Warren enjoyed it as much as she did, as he was now sharing a cigarette with her, and he’d never smoked in his life, as far as Max knew.
After Warren had passed out, and the butt of the cigarette had been extinguished in the ash tray, Max decided that she would make her first attempt at lucid dreaming. She took her Lexapro and Xanax, but not her Ambien. Lying on her back, arms tucked behind her head, she closed her eyes…
Warren was right, the first attempt was unsuccessful. Max had fallen asleep, and was no more aware that she was dreaming than usual. The hazy fog that permeated her dreams of late was present once again. She wasn’t exactly sure what that signified, but she had an idea. The fog started showing up at the same time that her dreams had shifted from nightmares to cuddly, sweet, quality-time-with-Chloe dreams. As best she could tell, the fog was caused by the drugs. Most notably the anti-anxiety medication. The difference this time was, there was no Chloe.
She seemed to be in a blank space. All she could see was black nothingness and the fog. Slipping her phone out of her pocket and firing up her flashlight app, she walked along, looking for any sign of anything… She felt like she was on a Star Trek holodeck with no program running.
Out of the vast nothingness, a dark shape appeared on Max’s right. It crashed into her, knocking her to the ground. Her phone fell out of her hand, lying on the ground, the flashlight facing up, so she could see, but just barely. Her left forearm hurt, presumably from the fall. The dark shape collapsed on top of her. She tried to scream, but seemingly had no voice. She was just about to use her rewind power when the face of the shape came into view of the dim light.
“Howdy, stranger! I’ve been waiting for you.” Chloe said. Max was entranced by the look in her eyes. Chloe seemed to look at her the way she imagined people who were in love looked at each other. In this moment, her pain was forgotten. Nothing in the world mattered. Then again, there didn’t seem to be anything else in the world but the two of them.
“Welcome to the wasteland, Max.” She said, before softly kissing Max’s lips.
“Chloe? W-where are we?”
“Nowhere… I think. I dunno, man! It’s your dream. You tell me!”
“Duh! You do know I’m hella dead in real life, right?”
“But… That’s not right… This isn’t… Something’s wrong…” Max’s head was swimming. She felt dizzy, even though she was lying on the ground. Her botched attempt at lucid dreaming had apparently left her in some sort of limbo, a void between waking and sleep.
“The only thing I’m seeing wrong here is that you’re not nearly as into me as I am into you. Do you not love me anymore, Max?” Her expression had changed from a look of unconditional love to one of profound sadness. Her frown made Max die a little inside. “Has Warren completely replaced me?”
“What? No! Never! No one could ever replace you in my heart, Chloe Price. You will always be my first true love.” Suddenly, the pain in her arm returned, which triggered her memory. “I even got a tattoo dedicated to you! Not nearly as impressive as your ink, but I’m working on it. Baby steps…” She turned her left arm so that Chloe could see the blue butterfly on the inside of her forearm. This seemed to cheer her up somewhat, as her smile returned.
“I love you, Max. So much it hurts.” Chloe admitted. “I just wish we could’ve spent more time together, and, you know, had less stress on us when we were together.”
“Oh, god, me too… Chloe, you have no idea how much I wish for the same thing, every fucking day. I love you, too.” Max gently slipped her arms around Chloe’s waist and closed her eyes. Just holding her made her feel more alive than she ever did in real life, anymore. Eventually, she fell asleep within the void and had no more dreams for the rest of the night.
She awoke to the sunlight invading her eyes through the blinds on the window, the annoyingly cliché sound of birds chirping, and Warren Graham in her arms. A tear rolled down her cheek as Chloe’s words suddenly came back to haunt her; “Has Warren completely replaced me?”