“Did you know there’s actually a scientific explanation that time travel could be possible under the theoretical rules of physics? Wormholes. Fucking wormholes!”
The man sitting across the table grinned. “No, Chloe,” he chuckled to himself. “I didn’t know that.”
“Yep,” she continued. “It makes sense, too. Einstein’s theory of general relativity suggests we could use wormholes to travel between different points in time. The Einstein-Rosen Bridge. That might be exactly what Max was experiencing with her power. I doubt she even knew what the hell she was actually doing. The photo jumps were the same as the rewinds, except… I dunno, maybe it’s a more direct path. I never asked her how that shit felt or what she experienced during the jumps, but it seems like it fits. Could explain the headaches and nosebleeds too. Traveling through a wormhole would fuck with a person’s mind, I’d imagine.”
“That sounds… interesting, sweetheart.” The man stood from his chair and walked around to the opposite side where his daughter was sitting. Craning over her shoulder and leaning down, William squinted at the screen Chloe was excitedly staring at. “Time travel theories, hmm? Looks like you’re enjoying the new laptop. Glad you convinced the warden to let you use it.”
Chloe perked up and peered over the top, slowly inching her screen towards the keyboard, half way between open and shut, to confirm nobody was within earshot. “Dad, I really wish Max was here. I miss her. She’s so damn good at solving puzzles. Then again, if she was with me now, we wouldn’t need to find her, would we?”
Another modest chuckle came from behind her. “No, I guess not.”
She fully opened the laptop again and glanced down at the bottom right corner, noticing the date. It was February 19, 2014. “Damn, that reminds me of a blast from the past. Goddamn Rodney ‘Thunder’ Spears. Today would have been his birthday. I went through his file in James Amber’s office a few years back. Pretty sure Damon must’ve killed him when he found out the dude was a mole hired by the police. Sucks, too. All he wanted to do was clear his name.”
“He wasn’t careful, Chloe. He played a dangerous game and got burned. I recall having a similar conversation with you about playing with fire.” He placed both palms on each of his daughter’s shoulders to comfort her. She could almost feel the man’s gentle touch, though she knew he wasn’t really there.
“Oh, fuckballs!” The prisoner hollered, kicking a leg in the air then shooting up to her feet. “It’s her. I fucking found her!”
“You did?” the man questioned as he removed his hands and leaned closer to the screen.
“She started a blog, Dad! A goddamn blog! I can’t believe it. Shit, this is amazeballs!” The prisoner sat back at the table and pressed the button to increase the screen’s brightness. She centered the laptop directly in front of her in a better position to give the text her complete attention. As she focused on Max’s writing, her father seemed to vanish, leaving her alone in the jail cell. She clicked the left mouse button to “Like” the post then proceeded to read.
Post 1: In the Beginning… By Max Caulfield
In the beginning, Max created a new blog…
(She very much hoped it would be good.)
Sorry for the biblical reference, I just couldn’t help it. I guess I should actually start this off with introducing myself. It would probably be helpful if you know who I am.
My name is Max Caulfield, and ever since I was a little kid, I knew I wanted to be a photographer. I’ve never really shared much of my work, but this space will be like my virtual art gallery since I’m nowhere close to being a professional… yet. I love old analog and instant cameras. Though I’ve recently upgraded to digital. I’m not as fond of the new norm in photography, but if I ever plan to make this a career, I have to learn to accept reality. Out with the old, in with the new. Even though I never plan on fully moving away from instant, I’ll mainly share shots I can easily upload.
Speaking of new things and changes, I’ve recently been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. The doctors wanted to claim my condition as agoraphobia but I don’t really show classic symptoms like fearing to leave the house alone. On the contrary, I love being by myself in a coffee shop listening to music and reading. Or sitting on the grass under a tree in a park jotting my thoughts down. I used to write everything in a journal, but I lost it several months ago and now I’m starting this blog, so I guess this will be my new journal space as well.
Back to my meds. I get panic attacks from time to time, but the doctors have me taking a beta blocker/ SSRI/ antidepressant combination twice each day and when I feel one coming on. I’m not sure what all the chemicals in it do, but I feel better when I take them, so I guess it helps. There are large chunks of my past that seem wonky or I flat out just don’t remember, but these pills help me to continue looking forward. I want to ease into my adult life with a clear determination to push forward and become a successful photographer, whatever “success” means in the field. The Caul FIELD of photography. (Maybe that wasn’t funny to you, but I laughed out loud! LOL)
Anyway, I’ll use this blog to share my photos from here on out. Maybe hearing my story as I navigate through life and share my art will help others in some small way. If even one person is positively impacted by my work, that would mean the world to me.
Chat soon. Promise.
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Chloe wiped her eyes to remove the liquid that was beginning to collect. “Holy shit,” she earnestly whispered. “I’m gonna ask the warden to bring Max here. I gotta see her, dammit.”
“No,” her dad sternly responded, reappearing with his back against the jail cell bars nearest the door. “Chloe, when we decided you wouldn’t speak a single word, everyone mistakenly equated your silence with guiltiness, even expediting your case and sentencing. We knew the timing wasn’t right despite the outcome. This isn’t much different.”
“What do you mean, Dad? She needs me more now than ever. I need HER more now than ever! Don’t you see that?”
“You read what she said, sweetheart. She’s on meds now and trying to start fresh. You know her; if she didn’t mention you or Arcadia Bay, there has to be some sort of issue. She doesn’t remember large chunks of her past.” The man stepped forward, shifting his weight to a full stand. “We gotta stay the course. The warden said he pulled some strings for you to utilize the laptop two or three times each week. I know they’re watching you to see what you do on it, but you can still use this to your advantage… like we planned.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do then? Keep researching fucking time travel and reading her blog every time she posts, desperately wishing I could see her? Fuck! They even blocked socials and email from the laptop. This is all I got!”
“Not much to really do at the moment, Chloe. Right now, you have to… just wait. I know it’ll be tough, but stick to the plan and we’ll know when the time is right to reach out to her. Have a little faith.”
“Faith? Ha! I’m severely lacking that shit lately.”
Suddenly, her father disappeared as the large door at the end of the hall thundered open. “Count time!” The guard approaching the cell announced, voice bouncing off the walls and ceiling throughout the chamber. Chloe sighed then shut the laptop, hoping time would hurry by until she could use it again.
The inmate decided it would be best to stay silent and stick with the plan, as her dad recommended, but that didn’t mean she wouldn’t bend the rules a bit. Bending rules just happened to be the girl’s specialty. If she couldn’t directly reach out and ask for Max, she’d ambiguously comment on the photographer’s blog. It would help her feel like the pair was in contact with one another despite being so far apart. At the very least, it might encourage her best friend to find the confidence to keep writing and sharing her artwork. For now, this was all Chloe had, and she intended to continue being hopeful, even if her faith had briefly waivered.
Balling the mostly crimson and pink tissue in her palm, Max placed the now saturated gob of goo in the vacant cup holder nearest the driver’s side. She gripped the rear-view mirror and adjusted it so she could view her own reflection. On the trip back to the apartment, her nose stopped bleeding and she cleaned her face so her mom wouldn’t notice. She located a dry napkin in her glove compartment and dabbed off one more time just to make sure her upper lip was wiped clean.
Good as new.
Stepping out of the vehicle, Max noticed her mom’s car in a different spot than it was earlier that morning. She figured the woman must’ve gone out for something to eat, or maybe she just needed to get out and drive around the area so she wouldn’t be cooped up all day. Max checked to make sure she had collected all of her important items before going inside.
Bag, phone, keys. Check. Pills? Not anymore.
Turning the knob and pushing the door inward to her apartment, Max inhaled through her nostrils. An immediate whiff of delightful scents trailed into the shared walkway outside between the apartment entrances.
“Welcome home, Max.” Her mom shut the oven door then stirred something in a pot with boiling water using a utensil she must’ve recently purchased. “Hope you had a nice day at work. Dinner will be ready in half an hour. Go wash up and it should be done by the time you’re out.”
“Hey, Mom,” the girl hesitated. “Yeah, okay.” Not questioning the woman’s directions, Max placed her satchel on the far end of the room-dividing countertop between the kitchen and living room. She made her way to the bathroom, turned the water on, and disrobed.
In the shower, her mind couldn’t seem to land on any solid thoughts. Random flickers of the day’s happenings flashed through her mind like flipping through disordered Polaroids. In one instance, she was sitting with Chloe in her prison cell experiencing a heartfelt moment of joy and contentment. Next, time was speeding by in reverse as she erased a horrifying situation in which she was being attacked by her boss. Finally, she saw her mom in the kitchen cooking like she used to do when she was a little girl.
Immediately, her disjointed thoughts fell away. She was ready and focused to find the missing pieces of the puzzle that would help unlock whatever memories she had buried deep inside. From the last text message her mom sent, the woman seemed ready to open up, and Max was prepared to find answers.
After stepping out of the shower and toweling off, she located a set of pajamas in her room. Max then dressed and headed straight towards the kitchen for a conversation with her mom.
“Good timing. I’m plating our dinner now.” If the woman had been wearing an apron, she would’ve looked like a stereotypically affluent housewife cooking the day’s evening meal for her family.
Max didn’t need to see a full dish of food to know exactly which meal she was about to enjoy. She smelled garlic, heavy cream, pepper, bacon, chicken and a buffet of other delightful culinary combinations. As intricate and complex as the smorgasbord of scents were, this dish used to be her favorite when her mom cooked more regularly after they first moved to Seattle.
“Mmm, Tuscan chicken pasta, salad, and garlic bread. Mom, what’s the occasion? You really didn’t have to do all of this.”
“I dunno, honey. Maybe I wanted to do something special for you. Can’t a mother just want to cook for her only daughter? Does there have to be some sort of ulterior motive?”
“Yeah, no. Of course. I wasn’t expecting this, that’s all.”
“Oh, it’s not a big deal. I went to the store earlier and decided to grab a few things. Your fridge and pantry have a few more items in them too. They were looking awfully bare. I hope you don’t mind.”
Max stepped around the partition that divided the two rooms. She slid behind her mother, who was putting the finishing touches on their dinners, and opened the pantry. She scanned up and down, viewing the shelves that were empty when she left for work earlier that morning, and were now loaded with all types of food and cooking materials.
“Wowser. That’s… that’s a lot, Mom. Thank you.”
“Think nothing of it, dear. To be honest, it was your dad’s idea. I told him I wanted to cook you a meal and he recommended stocking your kitchen.”
“How is Dad, by the way?” She wasn’t really in the mood for small talk, but she hadn’t heard from her father lately. Plus, her parents still cared enough to help her out. The least she could do was show concern for them. Even though the idea of potentially figuring out pieces of her past was her main interest, Max was glad she had two loving parents still around; even if their being overprotective drove her nuts much of the time.
The woman let out an almost unheard sigh while setting the two plates on the counter in front of Max’s barstools. She then grabbed a fresh bottle of wine and a newly purchased corkscrew, proceeding to pour two glasses. “As usual, he’s working a lot. After last night, he wanted to make the trip to Fresno himself but I convinced him I had everything under control. That man is a lot of things, but one thing he’s not is untrusting. He fully respects what I say, and trusts what I do. I love him for that.”
“Are you sure I should be drinking? Usually, you tell me not to mix my prescription with alcohol.” Max pulled her still-damp hair back, running her fingers through the strands, twisting a hair tie around a couple of times to form a ponytail.
“We both know you’re off your meds now, don’t we, honey? And you seem to be handling yourself well. I don’t think a little wine will hurt. It’ll take the edge off.” She took a sip then twirled a strand of pasta around her fork. Max nodded while watching her mom nonchalantly begin to eat. Her stomach growled and she realized she hadn’t eaten in quite a while herself. Picking up the fork and knife at the side of her plate, the younger of the two cut into her chicken and brought a piece to her mouth.
The women ate, drank, and discussed current events. They talked about aunts, uncles, cousins, and essentially everything under the sun besides the topic they most needed to unpack. Finally, as they were finishing the bottle, after three or four glasses a piece, Max decided she was ready to approach the subject of the holes in her memory. Despite how pleasant it was to converse with her mom at an adult level, the photographer needed answers.
“So, what happened before, Mom? Can we talk about it now?” The buzz she obtained from her beverage helped her to not feel overly anxious, allowing her to get straight to the point.
Unexpectedly, her mom stood from the stool and made her way to a beige, fabric shopping bag Max hadn’t realized was propped against the side of her couch, revealing an item she didn’t recognize from her location. It took several back-and-forth trips, but the girl took their dishes from the countertop and relocated them to the sink. After quickly clearing their eating area, Max joined the older woman in the living room, sitting beside her on the couch.
“Max, I’ve read through this a hundred times. It contains most of the answers you’re looking for, and it details some pretty dark things you apparently went through. Your father has never seen it. I’m not sure how he would react if he did. I found it in your bag and made sure nobody else had a chance to take it.” Vanessa handed the notebook to her daughter but didn’t release her grip when Max attempted to take it. “We only wanted to protect you, sweetie. It’s really a parent’s only job; protect their children. We didn’t know what to do. It’s not like there’s a manual written to deal with your situation.”
The girl tugged a little harder and was able to free the item from her mom’s hand. She rotated her body and placed the journal in her lap. Running her fingers over the stickers on the front, Max felt the room tremble. She knew everything would be different soon, and the wine coursing through her veins barely helped to dull her emotions.
“Take your time. I’ll be here when you’re finished or if you have questions.” Vanessa left her only child alone with a journal the girl hadn’t seen in years. She went to the kitchen and started washing their dishes.
Max read the first page:
July 10, 2013
I GOT ACCEPTED INTO BLACKWELL ACADEMY.
Her breathing hitched and her heart skipped a beat or two.
Whoa. Holy shit.
As she read through the first pages she wrote five years prior, a slew of memories flooded back. Like watching a highlight reel of memorable moments, Max began to experience the week she reconnected with Chloe all over again. A roller coaster of emotions welled inside of her. There were some amazing highs, and there were deep and dark lows. Faces she had forgotten materialized and jumped up from the pages:
Warren, Kate, Victoria, Alyssa, Nathan…
Just… fuck that guy.
Samuel, Rachel, David, Joyce, William…
Oh, God. William! Shit. Poor Chloe. I wish I could have fixed everything. Dammit!
Dana, Brooke, Stella, Justin, Mr. J-Jefferson…
Piece of shit! Fuck that psychopath… ahhh!
Max shuddered, causing her journal to slip from her lap and fall to the floor with a crash. She first recalled a needle being injected into her neck. It felt like a bee sting until she looked up and saw the man’s face. She remembered feeling helpless as she attempted to warn Chloe, but it was too late. Thinking she was about to die in the darkroom caused her to physically hurt, even though it was only a memory. She didn’t associate the pain with the idea of losing her own life; her fear, more than anything else, was the thought that she might never see her partner in time again.
“Are you okay, Max,” her mom called out from the kitchen, voice firm and focused.
“Y-yeah, I’m fine. Just…” Max paused, thinking she heard her phone vibrate from inside her satchel that was still across the room where she left it after getting home. “I went through so much shit, Mom.” The holes in her memory were quickly being filled in; solid bubbles floated to the vacant spots, and took their rightful places. The sensation was nearly overwhelming, yet a stronger sense of completeness was growing inside of her.
“Well,” the woman calmly spoke as she walked around the partition, approaching the couch, “yeah, I’d say so.” She crouched down, retrieved the fallen journal, and then returned it to its owner. “Listen, I want to lay it all out; let you know what happened before. I’m just terrified it’ll happen again, though at this point, I’m not sure I have a choice. You’re going to keep picking at it until you discover the truth.”
“Please, Mom. Tell me about before. I have to know.” She wasn’t sure when it happened, but she realized the pair were tightly holding hands, bodies turned inward facing one another, as she sat cross-legged. The oldest of the two had one knee and thigh folded on the couch and one dangling across the cushion to the floor.
“There’s no better place to begin than Chloe’s funeral. You were an absolute wreck at first. Not like weeping and inconsolable, but it was as if your mind had completely left your body. You were a shell. It was a horrible case of dissociation, if you ask me. Broke mine and your father’s hearts to pieces.” The woman inched in closer, leaving less space between them than there had been previously.
“Chloe’s… funeral?” As soon as she asked the question, more bubbles floated into their once vacant holes, causing a slight pain to splinter through Max’s head.
“Yes. You wanted to leave Arcadia Bay as quickly as possible afterward, so we made the trip to bring you back home to Seattle. You kept going on about time travel and a storm your power caused. We were so confused, sweetie. The more we didn’t understand, the more frustrated you grew. Finally, you screamed at us and we responded poorly. I’m sorry we reacted how we did, you just sounded… I don’t know.”
“Crazy?” Max questioned. She wanted to be angry but couldn’t. Either the alcohol was still doing its job, or she had matured enough to be able to see it from her parents’ point of view.
“When we didn’t listen, you shut down again. You barely spoke, wouldn’t eat, and didn’t even bathe for a week. One day, you stormed off to your room so I wanted to give you some space. I heard you showering, and I thought you might have been coming around, past your grief. I should have come to check on you.” Releasing her grip on Max’s hands, using her left wrist, the woman wiped a streaking tear from her cheek followed by a tiny sniffle. “Your father came home and found you lying in your own blood beside your phone and this sheet of notebook paper.”
Vanessa reached over the arm of the couch and lifted the bag that the journal was previously in. Her hand vanished inside, reappearing with a single, college-ruled piece of notebook paper. She placed it on the journal, still atop Max’s lap, and ensured it was facing upward for easy viewing.
Max scanned the sheet as she pinched the sides with her pointers and thumbs to pick it up, bringing it closer to her face.
What the fuck is this? That’s definitely my handwriting…
A bubble floated by and hung in midair. She stretched her arm out and wrapped her fingers around it, bringing it to its spot to fill the empty hole. The feeling of bewilderment was abruptly replaced by a memory of being trapped in a terrible headspace where nobody understood her. Everything was grey and life felt pointlessly bleak. Despite the crushing weight of the nonexistent week she experienced, a tiny beam of light shot through the darkness like a candle in the night. Attempting to master her power so she could somehow save Chloe was all she had left. Nothing else mattered.
Suddenly, she was back in her room that day:
…The column began sucking Max inward as all perception vanished, leaving her staring into a heavily vibrating vortex of spinning spirals. Try as she might, she couldn’t release the power. She dug her heels in and braced backward, against the vacuum-like sensation, leaning all of her weight in the opposite direction…
Everything pulsated then screeched to a halt. With a jerk, she stepped outside of her own body. Tiptoeing around to get a better view, she witnessed the moment frozen in time. The grimace on her immobilized face was telling. She was fighting with all of her strength to resist being sucked into the vortex while trying to control the power.
Maybe if I didn’t fight back. Wait… That’s it!
Newfound clarity filled the girl with renewed vigor. She wasn’t exactly sure how, but she knew this was the key to saving Chloe and extracting her from prison. It wouldn’t be easy, and she was uncertain if she would even survive what she now planned to do, but, regardless of her own safety, this was where her path was leading her. One way or another, the end was close. She could feel it.
A muffled vibration in the distance broke her out of the memory, sending her back to the apartment. When reality fell into focus, she saw her mother staring in her direction, eyebrows raised with a dumbfounded look on her face.
Standing with a gasp, Max turned from her mom and started towards her bag. She stuck her hand inside and fished around for her phone. Once she grasped the item and pulled it out, she noticed six missed calls from Maria, two missed calls from Weston, and three text messages. Quickly selecting the texts, Max was shocked by the messages she read.
Maria: Did you hear?! Call me as soon as you can!
Maria: Pick up, biotch! It’s important!
Maria: Well shit, I’ll just text it then. They’ve moved the death date forward. They’re executing your prisoner tomorrow!
Max’s heart sank like a bag of rocks being tossed in the ocean.