Previously: Luci’s consciousness became trapped inside Frank’s body with him, all because Carrie wanted to rig up the time machine. Frank took control, for a last ditch effort…
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PART 3.23b: TIMELINE FOUR 2
“Carrie, I…” Frank/Luci turned to look at her, seemingly searching for the words. “I’m sorry,” he said at last. “Please don’t blame yourself here. This is my decision. I know what’s going to happen, but according to our calculations, it’s the only way.”
Carrie sighed back. “Oh, now what are you–” She stopped when she saw the look in Frank’s eyes. And saw not only the quiet intensity there, but somehow, how those same eyes were also pleading desperately with her.
Which was when it first occurred to Carrie to really question why, ever since the plan had been proposed, Luci had not been in control of the body.
“No,” Carrie breathed, the truth of the situation dawning on her. The reason why Frank was experiencing those physical pains as he tried to enact this plan. Along with the explanation for why Luci’s essence would get forced out of Frank’s body. But he wouldn’t… he COULDN’T…
Frank nodded slightly, as if he knew she’d worked it out. “Take care of Luci for me, Carrie.”
“Frank, NO!” Carrie screamed, jumping for him.
He brought Luci’s hand down. The rod slammed into the fuse box. There was a huge shower of sparks, and an explosion of light and sound. Carrie was knocked back off her feet, only dimly aware of the cloud of smoke billowing around her. Only dimly aware of the residual static left in the air, after Luci’s body and the time machine had disappeared. But all too aware of the lethal charge that had been sent through Frank’s body.
Carrie felt like her head was being peeled open like an orange.
After a couple of hours (seconds? days?) she realized Glen’s hand was on her shoulder (she still had a shoulder?). “This,” came his voice (so far away!), “was the key event. We have to leave town, Carrie. Now.”
“DO… YOU…. *MIND*?!” Carrie shrieked, rolling over onto her back, holding her hands to the side of her head. If she moved them, surely the top of her head would pop off. “FOR GOD’S SAKE GLEN, FRANK JUST *DIED*! HE’S DEAD BUT IN THE OTHER TIMELINE HE WASN’T AND IT HURTS INSIDE OH GOD IT HURTS EVERYWHERE, WORSE THAN IT DID WHEN THIS ALL STARTED I CAN’T TAKE THIS IT’S TOO MUCH I WANT TO DIE TOO OH PLEASE PLEASE *PLEASE* *DO* *SOMETHING*!!!” She couldn’t tell if she was yelling, or if her head was simply adding reverb to every syllable.
“Carrie, calm down,” Glen said sternly, leaning over her. “You’re feeling some added pain because of your proximity to this event, but give it a few hours. You’ll be fine. I know, because this is the reason I was sent here. To ensure that in our timeline three, the one where your powers awaken, you will leave town when one of your classmates unexpectedly passes away. Don’t worry about the rest of them changing anything once we leave, I’m pretty sure Frank’s last act shorted out the time machine for good.”
There was a cracking noise as Carrie’s fist connected solidly with Glen’s nose. “THAT’S… NOT… HELPING!” she howled, before slapping her palm back against her head. She realized that she was hyperventilating, yet somehow, that knowledge didn’t help her to stop.
“OWW!!” Glen yelped. “You dough Carrie, gedding so emodiondal ondy maggs de payn werze. We shud work on dat.”
Carrie curled up tightly into a ball, trying hard to resume breathing regularly without inhaling too much smoke. Gradually, awareness of her surroundings returned – Frank’s parents were shouting something upstairs. Probably upset that the basement door had been jammed closed prior to their experiment.
“Carrie, we hab to go dow. You hab no altwernatib.” Glen chuckled. “As dey say in daht moobee, come wid me if dyu wand do libe.”
The pain was starting to ebb – from her head, if not from her heart. Desperately, she tried to take stock of the situation. Did she really have no alternative but to run away with Glen? Part of her thought so. Actually, most of her thought so.
Because there was no way to explain this to anyone. No way at all, and if this was how timeline three was supposed to play out, then Glen was right. Besides, she’d already burned all of her bridges in town, slapping Julie, cutting off Chartreuse… it was time to move on.
‘What sort of monster ARE you?’ Elizabeth accused.
‘I’m you,’ the majority of her mind retorted. ’The girl tied to time. The girl who should never have existed. Come on now. We can’t fight fate.’
‘Like hell we can’t! We said we’d FIX this!’
‘HOW, idiot? How can we fix this? How do we even know the first THING about fixing something of this magnitude?’
The part of her that was Elizabeth felt the fight draining out of her. ‘We’ll figure it out. Later. Then come back and tell ourselves…’
‘…changing our future, preventing us from coming back…’
‘I’m immune to paradox, damn it!’
‘And the tradeoff is, whatever we see, becomes permanent. Surely you’ve realized that by now? We saw this, and we haven’t come back yet, meaning we cannot change this. Stop fighting. This is our timeline. It’s time for us to go.’
Elizabeth/Carrie shook, her cheeks wet with tears. “No, no, no, no…!”
“Cub on, Carrie,” Glen said, pulling her to her feet. “I cad use by pawwer to ged us oud of here. Bud id hass to be dow.”
Mindylenopia! Oh God, Mindy was the key. By inserting herself into the timeline, Mindy had forced Carrie to power up faster. To learn a technique like banishing sooner. Mindy had moved her abilities along at an accelerated rate – in fact, Glen likely wouldn’t have revealed himself two weeks ago, if not for Mindy! Surely, Mindy’s involvement meant that Elizabeth/Carrie had it somewhere within her to undo this.
‘No. You remain weak.’
Moreover, she had told Luci/Frank that she would fix things, one way or another. She had meant that.
And there WAS a way. She saw it now.
“Go to hell, other me,” Elizabeth gasped. Her eyes flashed golden. She felt like she was being torn in two, but despite Glen guiding her towards the stairs, she pulled away from him, vanishing into the time streams.
Carrie pressed her palm into her forehead, then marched to the window. “Any future Carries want to come back to tell me what to do this time?” she called out into the darkness. “Send me a letter maybe? No?”
She stared down at the ground outside. “Screw it,” Carrie sighed. She turned and knelt back down in front of the time machine. Yet as she reached out to open it, another Carrie appeared. Smelling of smoke, with her hair awry, dirty smudges on her tearstreaked face, and two golden eyes that seemed to be staring right though her present – prior? – self.
Carrie had never been more terrified in her entire life.
“This… ends… HERE!” Elizabeth hissed, and before the Carrie of the past could react, her future self had popped open the time machine, yanked out a bunch of the electronics, and then slammed her free hand right into her double’s chest.
Then she couldn’t stop screaming.
She screamed as she felt her future counterpart sinking into her, she screamed as the memories of the coming week began to overload her psyche, and she continued to scream as she relived Frank’s death. Soon her throat was raw and her own vision had become blurred with the tears of her counterpart and the only thing she knew about now was how to scream.
Which was when she finally, mercifully, fell unconscious.
“She’s awake!” came a voice. “Chartreuse, go get her father!”
“Hrrngh,” Carrie said again, as she heard someone running from the room. Wait, that voice… she recognized that voice! She forced her eyelids open.
“Hey there,” Frank said, smiling down at her. “Welcome back. You were really starting to worry us there, Carrie. You’ve been unconscious for over a week now!”
Carrie blinked away the tears that were reforming in her eyes. Over a week? Yes, that made sense. The only way that OTHER her had been able to keep from going temporally insane had been to merge. To merge, then induce unconsciousness for the duration of those other memories. The ones leading up to now, the moment in Frank’s basement when he had… no. He was here. Because she had pulled apart the machine…
“You’re alive. Oh, Frank, yes, you’re alive!” Carrie tried to sit up, but felt too weak. She became aware of the fact that she was lying in a hospital bed. “L-L-Luci,” she croaked, mouth dry. “Where… WHERE?”
Frank blinked. “I’m not sure. She’s been spending a lot of her time lately with Tim, working on that gun and logbook. Why, did you need us to find her? What the heck happened anyway?? Your father said you simply started screaming, and in your room I found the time machine all wrecked!”
Carrie ran a quick self-assessment. The pain in her head, it was back to manageable levels. And yet – something felt off. It took a moment, but Carrie pinpointed the problem.
When Shady had brought back his machine, destroying “timeline two” and setting in motion “timeline three”, there had been little resistance. And timeline two had been irrecoverably overwritten. But here, when Carrie had initiated what she might as well dub “timeline four”… that was not the case. That third timeline, the one where she had fled town? It wasn’t giving up quietly at all. It was still out there. But that was impossible!
She forced herself to remain calm. The trouble was, Glen wouldn’t know they were supposed to be leaving town today. Right? Because he hadn’t been waiting for a date! Rather… for an event. An event… that could still happen. Pushing this new timeline back in line with “three”? Unless she became powerful enough to not merely delay, but truly prevent a classmate’s death…
‘You CAN’T DO…’
“Shut UP!” she shrieked at the voice of resistance in her head.
Frank flinched. “I’m sorry?”
“No, not you,” Carrie said, bringing her palm to her forehead. “Sorry. As to what happened, I… I made an error in judgement. One which I’m now attempting to correct.”
“Oh! Does that mean our time group is back together?”
Carrie bit down on her lip. The best chance for her friends… surely it was to make her new timeline four as much like timeline two as possible. The one without the machine. The one where her powers hadn’t awakened. The one where Frank had also lived.
“No. The more I connect with the rest of you, the more I might cause someone’s… no. I’m sorry, Frank. Any time travel, it’ll be me and Glen now. We’re the anomalies, it has to be that way. Is the time machine destroyed?”
“I… I left the pieces under your bed, but…”
“Good. Consider it gone. Never speak of it again.” She would dispose of those pieces. Then get Glen to teach her as much as he could about what she was capable of, while staying away from the rest of them. That was the best way to keep everybody safe. The best way to preserve her destruction of timeline three.
“Carrie, I don’t understand.”
She turned to face the opposite wall, biting down hard on her lip. “I know you don’t. Please don’t try. Just… leave me be.” The pain, the sheer mental and physical agony of dealing with the time streams and the ramifications that came from her alterations of them… honestly, it was her cross to bear. Hers alone. The girl tied to time.
After all, ever since the loss of timeline one? It had been the only reason for her existence.
END OF BOOK 3: Destruction
-New Commentary this Sunday!
-A vote for T&T at “Top Web Fiction” does bring in a hit or two. (A personal recommendation or review might even get people to read past Part 1.)
-This does mark the first time I’ve ever revisited a prior scene… and changed it. Did you notice the bit with Carrie at the window is from Shattered Part 2? Related, one of my favourite “Buffy” series quotes was spoken by Oz in Season 3: “Time’s up. Rules change.”
-We now leave Carrie, on her own to deal with her new timeline, with all the other teenage relationships similarly broken around her. You can walk away and hope for the best… or stick around for Book 4: Resolution. Coming next week. Tell your friends.
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