Pursuit of greatness – Chapter Two

A peaceful breakfast.

With a soft bang from the large steel-framed door closing behind the two, Jefferson carried Max through the plastic drapery hanging from the roof. The room was stocked with supplies of food and water, just as if someone had prepared for the apocalypse. The last thing Max saw before passing out was a red portfolio on a glass table with her name on it.

“…I’m telling you, I’ll manage the deadline in time, but for now I’m busy teaching at Blackwell. Yeah I see, thank you for reminding me. “ Mr Jefferson put the phone in his pocket and looked over at Max. “Max… I can see you waking up.  Don’t worry about the phone call; it was just a publisher who wants to publish some of my work… but enough about that.  I do know you like my art. The key to my success is the pursuit of the best shot. Some may think I’ve crossed the line; but for an artist, there are no lines to be crossed. You just write new rules for the subsequent generation. And that, Maxine ‘Max’ Caulfield, is what brings you here…”

A high-pitched noise came from the pocket of Mr Jefferson.

“I’m sorry Max,; it seems I’ve run out of time for now. I’ll come back after school and ensure you stay safe and sound; we wouldn’t want you to come to any harm. After all, you are the key to the ultimate future!” With that, Mr Jefferson proceeded to give Max an injection, and soon thereafter, Max drifted off into sleep.

“Max! You’re finally back. What took you so long?” Chloe asked curiously. “You just decided to leave all of a sudden, when things were finally getting good!”

Happy to see Chloe again, Max rans through Chloe’s room and jumped into a hug! “I’ve missed you so Chloe!” Max exhaled excitedly. She pulled out from the hug to stare at Chloe.  She’s still that beautiful blue haired punk rocker. She brushed Chloe’s hair from her face and saw red liquid slowly creeping towards the floor with the help of gravity and a beating pulse. She quickly pulled all the hair away from Chloe’s forehead, only to find the red liquid gone with not even a trace of it ever having been there in the first place.

“What are you doing Max? What’s wrong?  You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”  A smug grin followed Chloe’s worried expression. “Perhaps you need some help with medication, Max Caulfield? If so, Doctor Price is in the house!”

“God Chloe, no! At least not yet, I just thought you were bleeding from your head and wanted to be sure it’s nothing,” Max exclaimed. She added under her breath, too quiet for Chloe to hear, “I thought I saw you die!”

“Hmm? Did you say something, SuperMax?” Chloe turned around to put some music on.

She took her first step with her left foot, all dirty from mud. A stain after Chloe’s foot was left on the floor. She took another step; this time, her right foot left a stain of dirt behind as before, but its sole was clean.

“Chloe… did you run barefoot in the garden before I arrived?” Max asked suspiciously, noticing that there were no dirt marks on the floor in front of the door. In fact, the only dirt marks are where Chloe’s feet had just left the floor.

“Max, are you sure you’re feeling all right? How do you expect me to have time to run down to the backyard and back up in what… five or ten minutes? What did you even do after you left me waiting?” Chloe asked, now seriously worried about Max. “I figured you just went to the bathroom, but did you ingest anything you shouldn’t while you were gone?” Trying to save whatever was left of the mood before Max disappeared, Chloe avoided obvious questions of why would she have run barefoot in the garden, and what had made Max ask that?

With the latter of these in mind, Chloe turned to look at Max again.  As she search for anything that could explain her best friend’s odd behaviour, a sudden cry of fear escaping Max’s throat made her jump high into the air.

A flash suddenly lit the room, followed by the familiar sound of a camera shutter.  Max screamed.

Max had never screamed with such power and fear before in her whole life. In place of her beautiful girlfriend, a blonde-haired girl stared at Max her hazel-coloured eyes.  In contrast to her otherwise dishevelled appearance, a blue feather at her left ear bore not a speck of dust, and seemed to be glowing. Her clothes, infested by mould, were slowly ripped apart from the sudden pull of gravity. The previously dirt-stained skin of the girl started falling off; her hazel eyes, slowly lost their focus on Max and rolled out from their sockets as her muscles and skin slowly degraded. They slowly rolled onto the floor, only to be crushed by Rachel Amber’s limb falling apart with the help of gravity and decay. And then everything turned black.

Max awoke to the soft feeling of Rachel’s lap. She opened her eyes and stares up into two beautiful hazel-coloured eyes, a glowing blue feather and blonde hair framing Rachel’s beautiful face.

“Good morning, Max. I believe this is the first time we have actually had the pleasure of speaking to one another.” Rachel said, smiling, “I’m sure Chloe has told you about me as you’ve seen our picture together, and asked her about my missing girl posters. I just want to tell you… don’t make the same mistake I did with Chloe and walk out on Frank…”

A lock of blonde hair suddenly started falling from the back of Rachel’s head, quickly followed by another. Rachel tried to continue her speech but the only thing coming out of her mouth was dirt mixed with her teeth. Rachel’s body started to lean forward. Then it suddenly fell and hit the ground with a loud crash, spreading dust about and leaving behind something wet.

Yet again the room quickly lit up, followed by the sound of a picture being taken.

“Great, Max! You broke the snow globe I got from Dad before he passed away!” Chloe said crossly.  She lay on the bed, staring at nothing, clearly deep in her own thoughts.

Max took a step over Rachel’s corpse, or snow globe, or whatever it was, lying there on the floor. Nothing was as she wanted; everything seems to have been taken straight from a nightmare. Making sure she passed the scene of the broken snow globe, she took yet another step only to stumble upon something she hadn’t seen. She screamed as she fell, hitting her head on the floor.

“Max! I don’t even have to arrange your pose and you’re giving me all these beautiful pictures already! Oh how I wished I could’ve filmed you while I was away, who know what wonderful faces I missed while I had to be in school teaching your pestering friends.” Anger rose in Jefferson’s voice as he mentioned her classmates. “But don’t worry, Max! You must be starving; I didn’t have time to feed you when we first arrived, I simply didn’t want to wake you. And when you finally came to, I had to go to school, so I didn’t have time to feed you then, either! You see, Max, it’s of the utmost importance to me that you’re feeling well and are being taken care of. So for me and the whole art world’s sake, please cooperate with me.”

As Mr Jefferson walked through the plastic draperies, probably to prepare something to eat, Max took the opportunity to survey the room in which she was held captive. The first thing she noticed was all the high-tech camera equipment in the room. Then, she saw the walls, covered with pictures of girls in absurd poses. They seemed unaware of their situations; possibly drugged.

Is this what awaits me? Having my picture taken against my will? Max shuddered at that thought alone, dreading what awaited her.

Max continued to survey the room. The next thing she saw was a computer at a desk; from her position, it seemed to be turned off. Next to the computer were two big lockers, one opened and displaying its contents: red folders just like red portfolio she saw earlier. Most of them had something scribbled on their backs, but she was unable to read them. Closer to her was a sofa and a table, on which was a red portfolio; it lay wide open but, luckily, without content.

That has got to be my portfolio just waiting to be filled with disgusting pictures to fulfill Jefferson’s obsession with the “perfect” shot. I can’t imagine what he has in store for me! thought Max , until she saw a screen on her left, plugged into a high spec camera. On the screen she saw her own face, tormented by the horrors of her previous nightmares. Small beads of sweat began to develop on her furrowed forehead; a drip hung from her cheek, just about to fall. I’m sure Jefferson isn’t pleased with this shot as I’m still muzzled in it.

In the other room, Jefferson stopped shuffling items around and started whistling. Soon, he emerged between the curtains, carrying a tray of food and looking pleased with himself.

“Max, I’ll remove your muzzle now.  Scream all you want; the only thing you’ll accomplish is getting me in a bad temper.  And trust me when I say this Max,” Jefferson spat out her name. “You don’t want to make me angry. If you understand, please nod.” With this, Max nodded; her stomach’s craving for food having prevailed over the anxiety in her brain. Anything containing nutrition was welcome to her, even fed by Jefferson’s hands.

Jefferson ripped off the duct tape covering her mouth with a swift, experienced pull. He started to feed Max, showing a surprising amount of affection.  It was as if he truly cared for her well-being and indeed for Max herself; as a person, not just as object to be photographed. Almost as if she were his very own offspring. Max shrugged at the thought. The food was the tastiest Max had ever known. She gulped it down without hesitation, whilst Jefferson regarded her with the look of a father feeding his newborn.

Suddenly, the food stopped coming. Jefferson put the tray on the table and provided some water to help her wash down the food. With each gulp, Jefferson’s smile slyly widened. Seeing this, Max started to panic. She violently turned her head from the bottle and spat out the contents of her mouth.  Sighing deeply, Jefferson calmly replaced the lid to the water bottle, the smile and pleasant aura of harmony previously surrounding him shattered. His face distorted in anger.

“Max, I thought I told you… YOU DON’T WANT TO MAKE ME ANGRY!” He growled at her while walking to one of the cabinets in the back of the room. “And now you’ve accomplished just that! THIS ONE IS ENTIRELY ON YOU!”

Max could hear Jefferson look for something; then he stopped. Having found whatever tool he was searching for, he proceeded to close the cabinet and glared back at her. In one hand, Max saw something small and transparent coiled about his fingers like a snake.

 

Previous chapter: https://lifeisstrangefans.com/pursuit-of-greatness-chapter-one/

Next Chapter: https://lifeisstrangefans.com/pursuit-of-greatness-chapter-three/

Authors note: Thanks to Harpuia, Outsyder and Brooke for story tips, editing and language help.

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