Without You

*There’s a suicide in my text so I just want to give the heads up about it, stay safe*

 

The blue haired punk falls down and the now panicked Nathan Prescott rushes from of the bathroom.

What should I do? I promised Chloe to not change anything, Max solemnly thinks.

Hearing the blue haired punk calling out her name is enough to make Max stop and restart the week all over again. Her childhood friend, who in one week went from crush to her first love lies bleeding out before her on the floor. Suddenly, Chloe looks up from the floor, stretching out her blood-drenched arm, crying, and begging for help.

“I’m sorry, but I promised… I promised I wouldn’t intervene this time. I promised you, and I plan to keep that promise, no matter what happens to me”, sobs Max, the tears rolling down her face partly blurring out the blue haired punk and the grim reality of her fate.

“M… Max? Is that you? Please, you have to save me…” Chloe manages to croak.   “How can… can you just stand… there… to watch? God… Max, please help me, it hurts so much!” as tears starts crawling down her cheek.

Without a proper answer Max croaks back her previous statement of a promise to Chloe, a Chloe in a different timeline which this one possibly could not know about. Chloe grasps for air, fighting to stay alive. All Max had to do was help her. Give her help which she promised she would never do, for she did not want the world to break again.

With a dull thud, Chloe’s hand hits the floor. Her fingers now scratch the floor with slowly diminishing strength as the pool around her increases. Each finger moves visibly slower, her chest takes longer and longer between each breath, until suddenly a crushing silence overtakes her.   Her fingers have ceased their scratching against the sticky wetness; her chest has heaved its last.

“Where am I?” Max asks of no one in particular, her single question triggering many others as her mind struggles for clarity. “What happened to me? What about Chloe?”

Presently, Max realizes she is lying on her back, staring up at a white ceiling. White draperies surround her on three sides.  Behind her, an assemblage of medical equipment takes the place of a headboard. She gazes down upon her body, covered in a white blanket, and while her senses slowly crawl back from numbness, she becomes aware of a new, strange feeling.

What is this?! Max feels two small tubes going up her nose. With her anxiety rising each passing second, she tries to pulls them out, only to discover that her right hand is handcuffed to the bed.  Panicking, she pulls the intravenous needle from her wrist, which send a sharp pain through her arm and makes her relax and check her situation.

After carefully removing all the medical equipment plugged into her, she tries her legs. She find she is able to stand up, but… can she walk?

“Fuck…” Max curses as she stumbles at first, hindered by her handcuffed wrist .

Deciding it would be prudent to regain her balance before proceeding further, she takes hold of the bedframe and stands in place. Soon, her confidence returns; and on her second try, she is pleasantly surprised that she neither stumbles nor even feels any nausea.

Just as Max is reaching for the draperies, they move aside right before her hand. Smiling down upon her is a handsome older doctor.

“I see you’re up and about, Miss Caulfield,” he says.  “We found you passed out near the body of Chloe Price in the girls’ bathroom at Blackwell Academy. I’m happy you’re feeling strong enough to start walking around, but we’d like to perform a few more test just to ensure your health. And I’m sure the local law enforcement would like to have a couple of words with you before you walk too far; thus the handcuffs.” The doctor scribbles something in his notebook and turns to call for a nurse. At the door he whispers to someone just out of Max’s view.

The doctor nods slowly and walks off, glancing back at Max with sadness and judgement in his eyes.  In his place, a pair of men enter the room and introduce themselves as detectives from the Arcadia Bay Police Department. The topic of conversation is already obvious to Max: they want to talk about Chloe’s death in the bathroom, specifically who shot her and why.

The next hour would be the second worst experience of Max’s life, in what has already been the worst week of Max’s life. Not only has she witnessed Chloe’s death, not once or twice, but five times, in fashions ranging from a ricochet bullet to a oncoming train. She then had to force herself to watch her best friend’s final sacrifice while making not a move to aid her.  Every detail of Chloe’s last moments on that bathroom floor will haunt Max forever: how helpless, afraid and lonely she looked, the failing gasps of her lungs and the air tinged with the smell of burnt gunpowder amid the familiar faint odors of urine and perfume.  Having endured all of that, these detectives have the temerity to accuse HER of murdering Chloe?!

Having to wait for the tests to come in and show everything is within the margin of error forces Max to spend one extra night at the hospital. Crying herself to sleep over her one day of terror expecting tomorrow to be unable to turn out worse.

Waking up with sore eyes from crying, she hears a commotion outside in the corridor; it is the nurse ranting about how it’s snowing outside when there’s no clouds in the sky.

That’s impossible, Max thinks.  I stopped the rewind and am back to the timeline where Chloe dies; there shouldn’t be any snow today!

If October 7th had been the worst day in Max’s life so far, October the 8th has just supplanted it. With snow supposedly falling while it is 15 degrees Celsius and without a cloud in the sky. The detectives await the test results so that they can take her back to the station for a proper interrogation as a suspect in Chloe Price’s murder.

The results come back, giving the detectives the cue they’ve been waiting for to take her away. On her way out of the hospital to the back seat of a waiting police car, her fears are confirmed: fresh snowflakes land on her face, only to melt immediately, and mix with her tears.

As Max is led into the interrogation room, she sees a face she did not expect to meet there, that of Nathan Prescott. The detective nods approvingly to her classmate, handcuffs Max to the table and leaves the two of them alone.

“This is how this ordeal plays out. YOU, Maxine Caulfield, shot Chloe Price, this is now the truth. This is what the evidence looks like. The best thing you can do is confess to shooting her,” Nathan tells her with a smile on his face. He stares her in the face, stands up slowly, and presses down the door handle. “Oh in case you’ve forgotten, Maxine Caulfield, the Prescott family owns this town.” With that he leaves the room.

Max desperately tries to rewind time but to no avail. The detective come back in with a plastic cup filled with water in one hand and a paper file in the other. He places the water in front of himself, away from Max and peruses the contents of the folder.

The Detective sighs, “I know you’re innocent Maxine, but as Nathan describes it, you’re his scapegoat. His father’s generosity keeps the Police Department running, including paying our salaries. So when he asks for a small favour, we can’t say no. I guess you were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”  Before Max can respond, he exits the room.

Through the door comes an older man, emitting power. If glares could kill, his would. He sits down at the table, takes a sip from the water, and then throws it in the garbage bin.

“Maxine, I’ve heard the general story from my son. I’m sorry for how you’ve taken the wrong path in life. This whole ordeal is making the Prescott family look bad so I’ll have the police drop the charges against you and forget about all this, on the condition that you leave Arcadia Bay permanently. Tomorrow.  Additionally, I’ll personally ensure you are safe and financially independent.  All you have to do, really, is nothing. Just go away and never come back; don’t make a sound and never forget that your life is now mine. If you accept this, let the next man entering know. He’ll arrange your departure”. With that the mysterious man simply leaves the room, taking his aura of power with him.

The next man entered, making no lasting impression compared to the older man. He seems, quite dull, in fact; he just stands at the door waiting for her answer.

“If you’re unsure about the answer you can say yes now, if you regret it you can always come back and receive the sentence you’re guilty of. If you break your end of the deal, you’ll disappear. If you say no now, you’ll be charged guilty of murder and be found dead in your prison cell.” The man speaks matter-of-factly, as if stating the obvious.

“… I’ll take it” Max croaks out, tears falling from her cheeks.

After spending a day in her prison cell, two mysterious men in costume arrive to collect Max and, without saying a word, they hustle her roughly into a black van waiting outside the police station.

Standing at the train station are the two men in costume and Max. During the wait for the train to arrive, Max stares up at the sky. Snow yesterday, then today must have… her fears are soon confirmed. An unscheduled solar eclipse is taking place, surprising the two henchmen and the station workers. But for Max, the reaction is not of surprise but of dread. In the distance, a horn’s shriek announces the approach of the steel snake meant to swallow her up and spit her out in a place where she will no longer be a threat to the Prescott family.

“I’m sorry, Chloe.  I know this isn’t what I promised out, this isn’t even how it was supposed to play out. I’m so sorry, I don’t know why it didn’t work” Max cries, deprived of all hope.

The two costumed men look incredulously at each other and then back to the girl, now begging forgiveness to one whom she supposedly shot. As the train comes closer Max takes one deep breath. Collecting her thoughts, she takes one step. Then another; suddenly she’s in a full sprint.  Her sudden action has caught the two henchmen by surprise, and they react too slowly to prevent her escape.

Max leaps; it’s just enough. She was fast enough. The train slams on its emergency brakes but cannot stop in time. Max’s body is crushed by the charging train. When the train finally comes to a halt there’s not much left that resembles the former Maxine ‘Max’ Caulfield.

On the boarding platform lies a broken Polaroid camera, pointing towards what used to be Max’s right hand. In between these two object, a blue butterfly flapping its beautiful, serene wings towards the severed limb, landing comfortably on the index finger, without regard for the bloody scene around it.

Click. The polaroid camera takes its final shot, once again of a blue butterfly. But this time resting on the hand of its late owner, rather than a bucket.

The vague smell of urine and perfume hits Max nostrils.  She opens her eyes, confused.

The blue haired punk falls down and a freaked-out Nathan Prescott rushes out of the bathroom.

 

Authors note: As always I want to do a shout out to Brooke Scott, Harpuia and Outsyder for helping me 🙂

 

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