The older rural area and run-down playground were several minutes behind her, as Des quickly sped away on her bike. A focused determination energized the biker, and it reminded her of the way she felt during the multiverse merger. She knew the stakes were even greater than they were then; all of the versions of Max and Chloe that she saved now existed as one inside each of her moms. It was imperative that they were safe in this prime reality.
Her mind was honed in, but she was still trying to decipher everything that had happened with the Watcher. Like a song playing on a loop, Rachel’s words repetitively echoed through Des’s head.
“…This scenario can play out a countless number of ways, but not a single one ends happy if you go home…”
“…trust me when I say… you need to stay away. They have their own abilities and can manage by themselves, I hope…”
Despite the straight-forward, matter-of-fact look in her eyes, Rachel seemed worried with the ‘hope’ part, and it bothered the time traveler immensely.
“…No Watcher can see beyond what they can’t understand, and I do not understand where they have to go. They totally disappear from any space I can see…”
She wondered where they could possibly go that Rachel wouldn’t be able to find them. She also thought the ‘no Watcher’ comment was a bit strange.
“…You must come to my realm. There’s so much you don’t know about time, universes, and realities. As much as it pains me to say this, we have bigger problems than whether we save your moms’ lives or not. I promised to always protect them, and I will always try. But this is bigger than anything we’ve faced before…”
Her moms fully trusted their friend, who Des knew ultimately protected them from terrible outcomes in the past, but the biker still had a sliver of doubt in her mind about Rachel’s current intentions. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe what she was told, she just knew the Watcher could see probabilities and futures. She felt there was a good chance the words Rachel chose were more to push Des in a certain direction than anything else. The woman’s true agenda is what concerned the girl; why she needed help in the first place. Regardless, it didn’t sit right in her mind that her mothers’ safety was abruptly put on the back burner. It was unnerving to the twenty-one-year-old that they no longer took precedence to Rachel.
It occurred to the young adult that it was time to make a decision: go home where she assumed her parents were in danger and attempt to save them, or listen to Rachel’s warning and avoid the area all together. She wasn’t certain about her next steps, but she was going to do what she’d always done; use the information provided and carve her own damn path.
The street where she lived came into view, so Des slowed her speed. She rounded the corner and first spotted their mailbox. Looking towards the driveway, she noticed an idling black car she didn’t recognize in front of their closed garage door. Her heart dropped and her palms felt clammy, realizing the gravity of the situation. Remembering Rachel’s words, she began to fear the worst. She’d saved her parents countless numbers of times and believed she could do it again if necessary.
Out of the corner of her eyes, just on the fringes of her peripherals, she noticed something odd. She completely stopped her bike two doors down from her house in hopes of confirming what she just witnessed. Because nighttime was settling in, a clear, unhindered view was nearly impossible. She squinted and tried to center her senses on what she saw, desperately hoping to see it again. She cut her eyes left then right, then allowed them to drift out of focus. The moment she unfocused, transforming the objects in her line of sight to a blur, it seemed to uncloak itself with a glint.
Like the outside soapy layer of a bubble, it was there; merely a shimmer at first. Once locked in, with an understanding of how to perceive what she was observing, the picture became unsettlingly clear. Surrounding the house and forming an almost invisible field of distortion, a thin dome-like layer encircled the area; from the front porch to the back yard, and on both sides.
“Fuck! What’s going on in there?” She knew her hushed voice couldn’t be heard from her location, but not wanting to risk being noticed, Des kept her words to a whisper. “Okay, so they’re inside and some sort of force field is being used. Most likely they’re using the device Rachel mentioned. If they’re looking for me, maybe it detects if I get too close or something.” It helped the biker talk out the situation so she could understand what was happening and make a more informed decision. In every reality where she had to save her moms, the red-streaked blonde went through a similar process.
“Fuck,” she whispered again, knowing what she was about to decide. She’d had to make many tough decisions during the multiverse merger, but none of them involved leaving behind the two people she cared about most of all; the ones whose love brought her into the world. Back then, all of her decisions involved figuring out ways to save them. Now, she was going to drive away knowing bad things were on the horizon.
All of a suddenly, her phone vibrated, causing the girl to marginally jump in surprise. She stuck her hand inside of her leather jacket and retrieved the item. The ID on the screen read “Mom- Chloe”. When she was first given a cell phone years ago, she listed both of her moms in her contacts as only “Mom”. She quickly realized she would need another system to differentiate between the two so she could easily tell them apart.
Having been in many close-call situations, Des had a sense for knowing when it was a good time to leave. She made a calculated bet that she greatly hoped would pay off. She believed whoever was trying to get to her wouldn’t gravely harm her moms as long as they didn’t know her whereabouts.
Allowing the phone call to ring out and go to voicemail, the biker tucked her cell away and hit the road, leaving her home and family behind as she departed. After nearly ten minutes on the road, Des pulled into a restaurant parking lot about a quarter mile from the interstate. She went inside to use the restroom and sort of gather her thoughts.
No other customers were in the building except the blonde biker. The restaurant staff were cleaning and preparing to close for the evening, wiping windows, scrubbing floors, and taking dishes back to the kitchen for washing. After the restroom, she stepped to the counter and ordered a water, taking the beverage back to the farthest corner booth, away from anyone’s earshot. She placed her phone on the table and scrolled to her contacts. When she got to her moms’ names, she stared for a moment, wondering how they were fairing back home. She wasn’t planning on ignoring them forever. Rachel said she had information that would help them; she just needed to put some distance between herself and those that wanted to do her harm.
Des took a deep breath through her nose and held it for several seconds. Reality seemed to slow as she felt the cool trails of air tunnel in through her nostrils. A transcendent wave of energy trickled through her extremities, centering her weight in an even, balanced distribution. An airy exhale from her mouth followed, and she felt ready to return the missed call.
“I’m gonna fuck with ‘em.” Des pressed her thumb against the contact labeled “Mom- Max” rather than the one who originally called. It rang several times then went to voicemail.
“You’ve reached Max with M3. I’m unable to answer your call, so please leave a message. Thank you. (‘I love you, Max!’)”
Des ended the call with a tiny heartfelt smile, almost giggling at the way her older mom jumped in at the end of the recording and snuck in a few words. A couple of seconds later, her phone was vibrating again. This time, she answered it on the first ring.
“Not quite,” a female’s smoky voice mysteriously responded. “But your mom is in the other room, Destiny. They both are.”
“Who the hell are you? And if you even think about hurting them, I swear to god…”
“Don’t use the Lord’s name in vain, child,” the girl demanded. “You’ll only make me angry.”
“I don’t give a fresh fuck if I make you angry. Do you know who I am and what I could do to you?” Fury raged through Des’s veins, an icy chill sent a shiver down her spine.
“Of course I know who you are. You’re the one I’m going to kill.” The juxtaposition of her honeyed voice and the weight of her terrorizing words, gave Des a start. Despite being livid, a prickling twinge of fright caused the blonde’s breathing to catch. The assertiveness in the speaker’s words sent a rippling terror through Des’s body.
“Yes, Destiny. You are an abomination. I was sent by God to destroy you.”
The red-streaked blonde was uncharacteristically speechless. She had previously faced adversity and danger, but something felt different this time. Thinking about the numerous universes she’d visited; she had a healthy fear of making mistakes and potentially losing instrumental versions of her mothers. She’d never directly been targeted as she was now, though her moms warned her that bad fucking things were always potentially nearby.
Several seconds of silence passed. Finally, the girl on the other end of the line broke the quietness.
“You’re not a talker are you, Destiny.”
“That’s ‘Des’ to you.” She could feel her face warming and her heart’s pace beginning to quicken.
“Sure… Des. Though I like your full name better since it’s my destiny to stop you before you can fulfill the prophecy. Oh, and you asked MY name. It’s Esther. Not that it’ll matter to you once you’re dead.”
“Prophecy?” The blonde wondered, aggravation brewing from within her heart. “What the hell do you think I’m gonna do… Esther?” When she said the girl’s name, a mockingly nasal inflection came out.
“You can somehow just pull yourself through time. That’s unnatural, Des. Even without the ancient texts predicting that you will bring death to the world, it’s plain to see you are an evil, cursed obscenity. My father’s work lead him to your location years ago, but he was unable to finish his duties. So, now it’s my turn. And before today, I didn’t know your moms were filthy abominations too. Good thing my device prevents them from time traveling as well. They’re helpless, Des.”
“Don’t you fucking touch them!”
“But, Des, you have a choice. You can come meet me right now, and I promise to let them go safely. Sacrifice yourself for them. There’s no need to…”
Des cut her off, not allowing Esther to finish her thought. “You’re not very bright are you? You’re really threatening me and my family? Literally, all I have to do is go back and take you out before tonight. It would actually be easy as shit.” She recalled Rachel’s warning but figured the girl on the phone couldn’t know what she knew.
Esther chuckled in response. “Des, if you were going to do that, you would have already done it and not waste your time chitchatting with me. We’re in this moment right now because you can’t or you won’t. Either way, I have the upper hand. Your moms are here and if you don’t return to your house… I will kill them.”
“Oh, please,” the time traveler shrugged. She took another deep breath to slow the situation down and clear the emotions from her head. “Are you really willing to risk your dad’s legacy and your own life this way? That’s dumb as fuck.” She smirked to herself.
“DESTINY!” Esther bellowed into the phone causing Des to move it back from her ear with a brief grimace on her face. “Don’t you dare talk about my dad, you filthy mistake! You’re an abomin…”
Before the zealot could finish, Des broke in. “Abominable snowman? Like… fucking Bumble from that one Christmas movie? I’m not a goddamn snow monster. Geez, Esther. You’re kind of an idiot, aren’t you?” She smirked again.
Esther must’ve put the phone down, as Des could hear a childish scream in the background like Esther was throwing a temper tantrum. There was some sort of a scuffle, and several voices could be heard arguing. None of which were Max or Chloe. After the commotion died down, nearly a minute later, the girl returned.
“Be here within the hour or I’ll kill one of your mothers. I think I’ll start with the tall one. She sure has a filthy mouth on her. I don’t usually feel this way, but I’ll genuinely enjoy watching the light fade from her filthy blue eyes.”
“Here’s what’s gonna happen, bitch.” A warming confidence bubbled from within. Des was overflowing with renewed vigor; thoughts of her moms’ unconditional love filled her heart. “This is YOUR moment to decide. Not mine. I was warned not to go back and take you out before now, but I don’t care anymore. You will let me speak to them now, or I’ll do it.”
“You were… warned? What does that mean? Warned by who?”
“You don’t even know what you don’t know, and the truth is… it’s none of your FUCKING business. Put my moms on the phone or it’s over. Do it now, psycho.”
“There’s no need to call names, Des. Your problem is you don’t realize you’re the villain in this story. You’re a monster. And I’m the hero who is fated to slay the beast.” She sighed the continued. “But, fine. You can speak to one of them. That seems like the best approach at this point. Your Choice. Who will it be?”
Her instinct was to speak with Chloe since she’s the more in-your-face, talkative of the pair. Her backtalk skills might just come in handy in this situation. Then, it suddenly dawned on the biker; this was a predicted moment by Rachel.
“… You will eventually receive a phone call from your moms. As it stands right now, in 50% of those conversations, you will give them information that will help save their lives. Remember your travels when you were restoring the multiverse? Something they’ve forgotten and tucked away will save them; particularly Max…”
“Put Max on. I choose her.”
A swooshing sound followed by the unmistakable creaking of her parents’ bedroom door opening could be heard. She’d asked them to put WD-40 on the hinges for years but was now grateful they hadn’t so she could visualize where her mom was being held.
“Des? Is-Is that you?” Max’s expression seemed softer than usual, even a bit frail.
“Mom. Fuck! Are you okay? Did they hurt you?” She didn’t realize her voice was raised until she received multiple glances from the restaurant staff as they cleaned up around her.
“Yeah, a little bit, but I’m fine. Your mom is in your room. Des, talk to me. How are you feeling?”
She made the connection that this was the time to help Max remember something she’d forgotten during the merger. The task seemed nearly impossible, though; there were so many different circumstances and situations, universes and timelines. It was similar to searching for a needle in about a million cosmic haystacks. She didn’t even know if she could recall the instance Rachel spoke of herself. Many of her own experiences were lost to her, but she knew there wasn’t much time to figure it out. Again, she took a deep breath to relax; the perception of everything moving in slow motion helped her sift through her memories. Until now, she purposely avoided thinking about those moments, because, quite frankly, it was painful.
Des recognized it wasn’t in their best interest to worry about how uncomfortable her recollections were, so she began picking through the first ones that immediately stood out:
One time, she literally had to travel to the moon to save them. She remembered being playfully nudged by Chloe. “You did great, Des. Without you I would have had no idea I wouldn’t be able to get in by the main hanger. Hell, I’d have tried and probably wrecked the lander when the doors hadn’t opened.”
Another time, she was forced to defend herself from a pair of predators. In that instance, she tapped into her martial arts experience to save them after their workout at a dojo.
She recalled a different situation in which she saved a version of Max, who was doped up on painkillers, and Dr. Chloe Price at the hospital after Max’s gall bladder burst. It was so cute watching Dr. Price be so protective over her patient. She had to convince the woman she was there to help them and nothing more. Once she had these versions of her moms together in the elevator, she phased them to the merging point.
In one of the strangest moments of the entire adventure, she saved two versions of Max and one of Chloe from an evil boy named Daniel who had telekinetic powers. She never met him in the prime reality, but she had heard stories about him and his brother from David Madsen and Karen Reynolds. She knew he wasn’t evil in her universe, but that version of him was awfully terrible.
Those experiences were all fascinating, nerve-racking, and exhausting. However, none seemed to stand out in a way that could potentially help Max get the two of them away from Esther. Then, a fleeting memory crashed into her mind so hard she almost fell out of the booth, and she knew, without a shadow of doubt, it was the one Max needed to remember.
“I’m peachy, Mom. Listen, I need you to summon a version of yourself from the split multiverse.” Des spoke quickly, ensuring to overly-pronounce the words she was speaking for full clarity.”
“What? Which one?”
“Think about what I’m telling you. Imagine yourself there and remember. You have to.”
“Okay, I’ll try.”
“So… you had lost your memory of Mom and the storm week, and you were on experimental meds after choosing to save Arcadia Bay. You had a job in Cali at some online newspaper, I think. Anyway, Mom had gone through some shit and was in the slam on death row, scheduled to be executed pretty quickly. I found you on her execution day watching her final moments from the prison’s witness area. I was going to save you like normal, but I remembered already seeing this version of you at the merger gathering point. Since I knew you would be fine, I realized all you needed were some words of motivation. I briefly spoke to you then left. It was weird as fuck because it was the only instance where your power had morphed into less of a rewind and more of a wormhole thingy. You saved Mom then saved yourself, and all I did was provided encouragement.”
“Wowser. I did all of that? And Chloe was in prison? That sounds awful.”
“Yeah, it seemed pretty bad, but you overcame that shit like you always do. Point is, you need to remember. Somewhere inside of you, you can create wormholes. Now that I think about it, her fucking device might not detect your power that way. You gotta remember!”
“Time’s up, Des. Come to your house and let’s meet in person. If you’re not here within the hour, I’ll kill her. And just so you know how serious I am…”
Des heard a fleshy thump, a squeal from her mom, then the sounds of a body crumbling to the hardwood floor. Her mouth reactively gaped open in shock as an abrupt clicking from the phone indicated the conversation had been ended.