Max stood on the roof of the school, holding out her camera and taking a shot of the autumn trees from above. After a moment, she slipped the picture into her bag. She didn't come up for pictures, however, and instead set her satchel down. A cool breeze lightly moved her clothes, causing some trees in the distance to sway. Some leaves fluttered off into the wind, taking a ride to the other side of the campus.
Max took another shot, but let the picture be taken by the wind. Unlike the leaves, it didn't go far. It landed next to her bag upside-down, so she couldn't see how it came out. Not that she was looking, instead she was looking at her camera.
She felt compelled to just drop it over the edge, watch it slowly descend the length of the building before shattering on the concrete below. A part of her expected it, too, to get taken by the wind, even if it wasn't possible.
She almost did drop it, reaching her arm out with it in her grasp, but she couldn't bring herself to let go. The camera was too valuable to her and it brought too many good memories, even some that made her want to drop it even more.
It's not the camera's fault. The thought flowed into her mind from out of nowhere. It's the phtographer's fault.
She couldn't erase him from her mind and, in a jolt of fear, dropped her camera. Even so, her arm was already outstretched, and she barely hesitated to rewind. It flew back into her hand and she doubled over, stumbling back from the edge and clutching it to her chest. The tears came fast, nothing stopping them from flowing down her cheeks.
The past couple of days were more than overwhelming. The amount of realities she jumped through without meaning to and lives she messed up hung on her shoulders heavily. She didn't mean to go through that photo, and she didn't mean to rewind just now. She wouldn't want anything to happen to her camera -- it technically saved many lives -- but she'd rather not rewind. She didn't want to mess up time anymore.
As of now, she was back in her "perfect" timeline. Everyone was alive; Kate recovered in the hospital and is doing better than ever, Max went far back and helped Chloe saved Rachel at the party, and helped Victoria become a better person.
Her camera clattered to the ground, unscathed as Max fell to her knees. She was too stressed, too exhausted, too sad, too angry, too scared. She didn't want to be scared anymore. Everything was fine now, she shouldn't even be scared. It is irrational, she told herself. All the thoughts in her mind of Jefferson, the dark room, all the binders, all the times she watched her friends die; they were just irrational.
She was fed up.
She couldn't take it anymore, living in constant fear of, apparently, nothing. Only Chloe and Rachel knew of what she's been through, so its basically as if nothing ever happened. As if all she was going through meant nothing, because no one truly knew.
No one but her.
Before she even realized, Max put her hand up and rewound. It quickly started hurting after not using it for so long, albeit only a couple months, but she didn't stop.
Her nose started to bleed as she rewound back thirty minutes, an hour, an hour and half. She barely reached two hours when her hand fell to her side and she collasped, once again landing on her knees. She coughed harshly, blood splattering onto the concrete. She wiped her nose, an angry adrenaline still coursing through her. Since she hadn't been holding her bag, that had disappeared along with everything in it.
She wiped her nose again, finding a bunch of it was staining her jacket and pants. She was sent into another fit of coughing, blood dripping from her mouth. A good part of her regret rewinding so much, but the other part thought she deserved it.
Where was I two hours ago? The thought crossed her mind suddenly, but her mind fogged over quickly. She clentched her fists and coughed again, wiping her mouth on her, already bloody, sleeve.
She shook her head and closed her eyes, the tears coming back full force without warning. Too much was going on in her mind right now and she was very, very tempted to just jump of the edge. It wouldn't be hard, just crawl a foot or so and let herself fall. Then her mind would let her rest. She wouldn't need to worry about saving anyone ever again.
She didn't know how much time had passed, but she hadn't moved from her spot in a while. She was taking deep breaths, trying to stop the flow of blood from her nose.
She shakily glanced up, her vision slightly blurry. A new wave of exhaustion took over but she managed to stand up anyway. She took of her bloody jacket and threw it onto the ground next to her, she held her hand to her nose trying to ignore the pounding migrane behind her eyes.
"E-enough." She whispered, looking over the edge of the school and down at the ground below. No one was walking about, they all were in their rooms.
A couple months ago, Kate was here, but she had recovered now. She called me her angel. Guilt flooded through her, but that didn't stop her from taking a deep breath.
Time is running out. A deep voice clawed at her mind. Just take the shot.
Always take the shot.
Before she could, a door slamming open causer her to wince and her breathing to hitch. Not only because of the fact someone was here, but also because noises like that had grown to scare her. Reminding her of David brusting into the dark room, trying to save her and ending up dead in more than one timeline.
"Max! D-Don't!" She tensed, the tears flowing harder as she slowly, hesitantly looked behind her.
Chloe was the first out in the open, Rachel not far behind. Shit, I was at their room two hours ago.. I must have just disappeared suddenly.
She had a sudden sense of déja vu when Rachel took a step forward and she stepped back, the back of her foot coming a bit off the edge. "D-Don't come any closer!" That's what Kate said.
More guilt flooded through her, remembering how terrified she was when she saw Kate on this same ledge, staring back at her with sad, dull eyes.
"Don't do this! Max you can--" Rachel started, but she was quickly cut off.
"No! I-I can't! I.. I can't do this anymore! It's t-too much!" Max exclaimed, grabbing fistfulls of her hair. She choked back a sob and quickly looked away, bringing her hand down to rewind.
"Don't rewind! You promised!" Rachel exclaimed and she bit her tongue, but hesitated before slowly putting her hand down.
"Max, please.. get away from the ledge. You.. You don't want to do this." Chloe pleaded, taking a step forward.
Max tensed and went to take a step back, but only hit empty air. She put her foot back down on the concrete, "S-stop!"
Chloe froze, Rachel's hand om her shoulder. Max quickly looked away agaon, seeing their horrified expressions.
"I just.. I just can't do this anymore.." Max sniffed, "You all are better off without.. without me screwing time up. I've hurt so many people.." Her voice got quieter, putting her head in her hands.
They both started to speak at once, but Max didn't hear them. Another voice had caught her eye. She whipped her head up and looked towards the dorms, makig eye contact with.. Kate.
Kate looked mortified, causing a new wave of tears to flow down her cheeks. She watched Kate mouth her name, her hand flying to her mouth. She didn't even think to rewind, quickly taking a couple steps back while shaking. She fell to the ground, her face in her hands. Kate.. oh Kate.. I'm so sorry.. I don't want to put anyone through what that felt like..
She had been so scared when Kate had been teetering on the ledge, looking so sad and worn. She had been stretched to the brink by all the insults. Max had tried so hard to stop the video and what came after, but she couldn't. She could only help her off the roof and make sure nothing else happened.
She was suddenly extremely light-headed, looking up to see a bird frozen mid-flap. She gasped slightly and looked behind her, seeing Chloe and Rachel both frozen as well. They were stuck mid-run, but Max swore she saw one of them blink. She sniffled, before seeing something in her peripheral vision. She glanced over and instantly crawled backwards, feeling anxiety claw at her chest. Mark, Mr. Jefferson, looked slightly angered as he loomed over her, putting his hand on her chin and lifting it upwards.
"You messed up my shot, Max! It would have been perfect." He slightly growled, a camera in hand.
Max swallowed, unable to move or speak. She had cried so much already, yet it was like the flip of a light switch and she was crying all over again, fear in her eyes.
He glanced away and, seemingly, made eye contact with Rachel before smiling. "If only you could have seen Rachel, my blood splattered angel."
Max got another sense of déja vu, but didn't respond. Her throat closed back up the moment he looked back at her.
"Rachel. Rachel Amber. Just like her name, I can finally see right through her skin and feel her cold, rotting flesh." He smiled a wide, crazed grin, an unsettling gleam in his eyes. He pulled out a syringe, but didn't go to use it. Instead, he studied it before responding. "Now that Chloe is dead, you won't be distracted in class anymore."
"They're fucking together in heaven right now. Is that what you want to hear?"
She swallowed, trying to crawl backwards. She managed to move about an inch, before she froze in place. His hand had grabbed her collar, causing her to be unable to move.
"Max... Max... I want to share my gift with you. Don't you dare run away. You will be my greatest portrait, Max." She quickly shook her head, blinking rapidly.
"Max, come back in the Dark Room. I know you're dying for it."
"N-no!" She exclaimed, her mouth going dry the moment it slipped out. Her heart beat quicked, pounding in her ears.
The gleam in his eyes turned deadly. "Oh... That struck a nerve; your face changed color... Beautiful." He admired, tracing her jawline with his finger.
"Max, I wish you could see yourself now. God, I wish you would have been around back in my day."
The déja vu never left, settling at the pit of her stomach. The anxiety turned her whole body cold as he slowly let go of her collar.
For no apparent reason, he was suddenly angry. "Start listening to me you dumb cunt!"
His words didn't make sense. They were all snippets of something bigger, but she didn't know what. The hot anxiety in her chest expanded, causing a drastic shift in her temperature. Extremely cold to increasingly warmer.
She didn't know when she started hyperventilating, but the moment she looked into his eyes her breathing, her heartbeat, and his words were all she could hear.
"You're the winner, Max... I choose you... Your portrait."
I don't want to win!
"I could frame any one of you in a dark corner, and capture you in a moment of desperation. And any of you could do that to me. Isn't that too easy? Too obvious?"
No no no..
"I miss those days when you looked at me with those wide eyes. I want to be your professor again. I can teach you so much."
"What happened to your spark, Max? I thought I could be your professor, for life."
The air around her got cold, deadly cold. It seemed to suck the life out of her as he kicked her down. "This angle highlights your purity, see?"
"The slightly unconscious model is often the most open and honest. No vanity or posing, just... pure expression."
"I realize now you'll never be an artist, much less a photographer."
"Always take the shot."
And she did, without even a second of hesitation. Down she fell, watching the frozen world fly out of her grasp.
For a moment, it felt like she could fly. Just like the leaves.
Swaying softly in the breeze, like the trees; like the photograph.
Instead, she plummeted. Just like her camera, and all the memories that came with it. She was lighter than a photograph, but still too heavy to fly.
The world started to move for a moment, less than a milisecond. The bird gave a final flap, the leaves softly touched the floor and ended their journey, the trees swayed one last time, and Max hit the floor.
"John Lennon once said: 'Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.'"