The storm had destroyed Arcadia Bay.
It always did.
It didn't matter whether Chloe lived or not, whether Kate threw herself from the building, or Rachel was drugged and buried underneath piles of scrap and the memories of her lover.
The storm always came.
Max had been through so many timelines she wasn't even sure which Max she was anymore. She didn't know if she was some sort of amalgamation of every Max she'd taken control of – the collective memories of each timeline mashed into the body of a much too thin teenage girl.
She flexed her hand, staring down at the limb that had caused her so much trouble. So much pain.
Max had watched her friends die a thousand times. She had killed thousands more.
The storm was one method, indirect as it was.
She preferred a knife. Sweet memories of plunging it into the body of Jefferson over and over, listening in rapture as her classmates screamed in shock and fear as his blood spilled across the cheap linoleum.
Max had twisted his face into so many delightful shapes, watching as the skin hung from his cheek just so. Whether this tooth or that should be removed with the butt of a pistol, or if she should gouge out his eyes with a toothpick, just to see how long it took.
Sean Prescott was another favourite of hers.
Impaling him on his glasses she found to be a difficult, yet cathartic task – but she'd found that death didn't really phase him. Sean was a sociopath. A functioning sociopath, but one nonetheless.
Max pointedly ignored the fact that she was reminiscing over the grisly murder of the people who had wronged her, and the link of that to her own sociopathic tendencies.
Nathan… well, Nathan was just a scared little boy in her books. Fucked up beyond measure, but a child all the same.
Doesn't mean she hadn't killed him though. His screams still brought a tear to her eye.
Tucking her camera into her bag, Max stared at the photo that she had just jumped into.
Day one at Blackwell.
Without missing a beat, she drew her phone out of her pocket and called Chloe, listening to the familiar dial tone as it droned on and on, before –
"Hello? Who is this?"
She could hear Chloe's breath hitch on the other end of the line. "I- uh- what the fuck Max? Five years and you call me now? Is this some sort of joke?"
"No, not at all." Max sighed, already knowing how this call was going to go – or could go. It's not as if she'd had it thousands of times. "Listen, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I never called, texted, or even tried to fucking email you. I was scared of what you would say. I can't imagine how hard things have been for you, and I would completely understand if you don't want anything to do with me." She drummed her fingers along the back of her phone, trying to remember what to say. "I just… I'm back in Arcadia Bay. I'm going to Blackwell. If you ever want to meet up and see if we can rekindle our friendship, I'd be happy to. If you don't want to speak with me again, that's fine as well. I just wanted to put the offer out there."
Max was picturing Chloe frowning that way she always did when she was stuck – cogs whirring as she tried to string a coherent thought together.
"Jesus, I mean- fuck Max, I can't… you just drop this on me out of the blue? I… fuck man, I don't know what to say."
She could her the tension in Chloe's voice – feel it from there.
"You don't need to say anything," Max stated, her voice gentle. "All I wanted to do is let you know that I'm here if you ever want to speak to me… or beat the shit out of me, considering the last five years of silence."
Chloe chuckled dryly, a slight wheeze in laugh gained from the cigarettes she loved. "Yeah… that uh- that sounds good Max. I'll hold you to it."
"What, talking, or beating me up?"
A low-bit crackling snort met her ear. She really needed a new phone. "Either or. Depends on how I'm feeling."
"I've got to get set up, just moving some things in my dorm. Come by Blackwell if you ever want to meet up, either that or I could catch you at the Two Whales for some waffles. I'm in room two-nineteen."
"That sounds good Maxaroni. I'll uh- I'll talk to you later."
"Sounds good to me," Max said. "I'm gonna' hang up now. Still not good with goodbyes."
Chloe laughed. "Catch ya' later kiddo."
Max pressed the miniature red button on her phone screen, humming as it gave a slight buzz.
Well, that was taken care of. Went better than she expected too.
She lay back on her bed, looking up at the wall of photos she'd already set up.
None were from this timeline.
Max had been clever about it, bringing photos with her that were nondescript. Landscape, still life, and of course – selfies – were dotted along the wall, held up by little bits of drugstore glue.
They were mementos of her favourite timelines. The universes that had stuck.
A shot of the lighthouse overlooking the bay. The place where she and the Chloe of that time had consummated their relationship.
A glitzy restaurant in Seattle. A date with Victoria, having finally broken through her shell.
The totem pole in the middle of the grounds, spattered in what looked to be either blood or paint. The place where they had found Jefferson's body, mutilated and laying beneath the Tobanga.
Not that anyone could tell from the photo. It just looked like someone had attempted to vandalize it, or Samuel had accidentally spilled some paint on it.
She smirked as she recollected the moment. How she'd lain Jefferson's body in front of the Tobanga like a piece of art.
The irony of it delighted her.
Max had considered crucifying him – pinning his hands to the wings that jutted out from the ancient bit of art.
She'd decided that that would be disrespectful to the Native Americans who had once lived there.
A knocking on her door captured her attention.
Jumping off the bed, Max opened the door to be met by the smiling face of Kate Marsh.
"Hi." Max reached forward to shake her hand, Kate returning the gesture eagerly. "Good to meet you, I'm Max."
"I'm Kate! It's good to meet you too," she effused, practically bouncing with excitement. "Seems we're going to be neighbours."
Max chuckled. "That it does. Which room are you in?"
"I'm in 222," she said, pointing across the hall.
"Yeah! That's the first thing I thought!" Kate grinned at her. "I love it when things line up like that."
"Hey, 219 has a good ring to it."
"That it does," Kate drawled, tasting the words. "Two-nineteen. I like the way it rolls off the tongue. Very… crunchy."
Max laughed aloud. "That's one way to describe it. Do you need any help getting set up?"
"Oh no, I'll be just fine, but thank you!" Kate said hurriedly, looking almost terrified that she'd forgotten to thank Max. "My parents helped me get everything together when we got here. I'm just putting the finishing touches on things."
"Same here, I've got a bit of decorating to do. Might have to drop by a shop to pick up a lamp and other stuff."
"Let me know if you go, I'd love to get some things to decorate my room with."
"Sounds good to me," Max smiled. "It was good to meet you Kate."
"You too!" Kate replied, wandering off to greet the rest of the students.
Max heard a snort to her right, turning to see Victoria. "Yes?"
The blonde waved her off. "Nothing, I just think little miss bible isn't going to last here."
"And why exactly?"
Victoria sneered at her. "What's it to you, hipster-trash?"
Max looked down at her clothes, reminding herself to go shopping when she had the chance. She needed something more… refined than this. "You give her any trouble and we're going to have a problem."
"What are you going to do?" Victoria laughed, walking forward and looking down on Max. "I own this school. So, either learn to keep your mouth shut, or I'll make your life a misery."
Max stared her down, jaw clenched. "Threaten me again."
Victoria flinched, not used to people speaking back. "Keep. Your. Mouth. Shut."
Without hesitation Max grabbed her by the collar and dragged her into her room, slamming the door behind them.
"What are you- "
"Shut the fuck up," Max growled, roughly placing her hand over Victoria's mouth. "I warned you Victoria. You only get one." She leaned forward, breathing heavily on her neck, teeth just barely grazing Victoria's skin. Max grinned as the girl shuddered beneath her- unable to tell whether it was out of terror or arousal.
She had no interest in finding out.
"Don't harass Kate. That girl has been through more than you could possibly imagine. If you dare to bother her, or anyone for that matter…"
Max pressed down on Victoria's mouth even harder, garnering a whimper out of her. "I'll ruin you. The Vortex club – your little parties," she whispered, dragging out the word. "Your entire social standing gone in an instant. Your parents support, their constant funnel of money gone. Because they'd be so ashamed to learn about the things you and your friends get up to.
"Sure, they know you've probably smoked and drank, but do you believe they would forgive you for the other party favours you enjoy handing out?" Max let the statement hang in the air for a moment, staring into Victoria's bloodshot eyes. "A video of you rolling is the least of your worries Victoria. What would your mother think when she learns about what you and Courtney get up to? Tarnishing the family name as your friend bends you over a stranger's bed. What would she say to that?"
She drew her hand away from Victoria's mouth. "Good, that's good. Stay quiet and we won't have a problem. Is that understood?"
Victoria nodded shakily, her entire body trembling. "How do you- "
"I know a lot of things Victoria," Max interrupted, pressing a finger against her lips. "Hush. That was a warning. I'm sure we can be great friends if you don't let your… bravado get in the way of things." She trailed her finger down Victoria's arm, smirking. "You don't wrong me or my friends, and I don't wrong you. Is that understood?"
"Y- yes, yes. Crystal clear," Victoria stammered. "I- can I- uh…" she pointed feebly at the door.
"You can go now. Ta ta, Victoria. I'm sure we'll be seeing each other around," Max deadpanned, waving goodbye. "Have a delightful evening."
Quick as she could, Victoria collected herself, before throwing open the door and leaving as quickly as she could.
"Well, wasn't that fun."
"I'm sure we'll all get along just fine," Jefferson stated, smiling that horrible, saccharine grin of his. "Photography is just as much an art as it is a science. Your knowledge of both the tool of your trade," he said, lifting up a camera, "and the mind behind it are tantamount to a great piece. Combine the two and I'm sure you'll be making incredible art in no time." He surveyed the class, leaning back on his desk and crossing his arms. "Not to mention I'm here. I'll make sure that you all gain as much from this class as I do teaching it."
Max stood up.
"Yes, can I help you Miss Caulfield? Do you need to go to the washroom?"
"No, that's fine," she said, winking at Victoria as she strolled towards him – grinning as the girl flinched away. "I was just so curious about what you said about gaining from us as a teacher. Could you please explain?"
He waved his hands about. "There's always more to learn, no matter how solidified one is in their field." Gesturing to the class, he continued. "Every perspective is important, no matter the person or their work. There's a reason a…. traditional artist, such as Kate here," he mentioned, pointing towards the girl currently sketching in her notebook, who blushed shyly. "Study other artists work. They learn from it. How to place the line just so, how to frame things in a particular way, to light them so that you can draw out a different feel from the same image."
"Ever thought of showing off your own personal projects? I know the Prescott's just love your work."
Jefferson coughed, his laid-back expression quickly morphing into one of restrained anger. "They've been a fan of my work for a long time. My print in People was what led them to suggest me for this job."
Max walked closer to him; her head tilted as she looked up at the man.
"Did they enjoy your piece on Rachel Amber?"
"Your piece on Rachel Amber," she muttered, dragging her finger across his chest – shuddering in disgust. "The way you and Nathan had her on her knees, just begging. Wasn't that an interesting piece?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he rasped, placing the back of his hand against her forehead. "I think you need to go see the nurse, come with me."
She pulled her arm away as he went to grab at it, snatching him by the hair and smashing his head into the desk.
"No, no no no, Mister Jefferson," she tutted, wagging her finger.
Quick as lightning, Max grabbed a pencil and drove it into his eyesocket, grinning as the man screamed in pain, the class behind her joining his chorus. "You don't get to walk away from your crimes. Your sins." She crouched, twisting the pencil and causing him to howl again – blood dripping from his eye socket and mingling with the gelatinous mess of ocular fluid that coated his cheek. "This will be all over soon, and you know what – you're not going to remember this."
She grinned at him, the man staring at her in horror through his one good eye, stained in tears. "But I will, and that's what matters." She yanked his head back, drawing a knife from within her jacket and dragging it across his face, a few hairs from his beard scattering across the floor. "Shh, hush. It's all okay. You're going to pay for what you've done. I'm going to drag this out, kill you over and over. It's the only way I can stand your class anyways."
Max scoffed, placing the point of the knife below his jaw, ignoring the mad rush as her classmates finally realized the gravity of what was going on and scattered – either jumping from the window or rushing out the door.
"Why are you doing this?"
"I'm glad you asked, Mark. Can I call you Mark? See, you've been very bad," she drawled, cutting a thin line across the bottom of his chin and cackling as he winced. "You, Sean, and Nathan have gotten away with your crimes for much too long." She wiped a tear from his face, smiling. "See, I've been through this so many times. You get taken in by the police? Nothing." She moved the knife, dragging it along his stomach. "Your whole scheme crumbling as I open you up to the world? Nothing."
Fury in her eyes, Max plunged the blade into his gut over and over. "Nothing ever changes!" she shrieked, reaching into his belly and dragging his intestines onto the floor, grinning as Jefferson screamed. "I have tried to save Arcadia so many times, and it always ends in pain!"
Scowling, she plunged the knife through his throat and into the bottom of his skull, clutching the man by the hair and forcing him to look into her eyes as he died.
"It always ends in pain."
Max looked up to see Ste- David. David standing in the doorway with his gun drawn, his eyes flicking back and forth between Max and Jefferson.
"I said get down!"
Yawning, Max lifted her pinky and froze time.
She pushed David onto the ground, stepping over him and walking to the washroom. She stared into the mirror as she cleaned herself up, wiping the blood and viscera from her hands.
"Alrighty," Max whispered, drying her hands off. "Let's get back to class."
She practically danced her way back to the washroom, admiring the state of frozen panic in all those she passed.
Victoria's pale white face, vomit staining her cashmere sweater.
Alyssa's look of confusion, eyes wide with fear.
Miss Grant waving her arms above her head, trying to calm down the panicking students.
Max leapt over David's prone body, gun comically raised in front of him and pointed to the sky – his body rigid like a fallen toy soldier.
Taking her seat at the back of the class, Max raised her hand and rewound.