PREVIOUSLY: Glen gave mental suggestions to others, trying to do away with a chip Julie had created, meant to restore the time machine. Instead of Lee getting the chip, a future Carrie appeared to destroy it.
PART 78a: CHEER UP
There were two major announcements at school on Monday morning. The first was that Glen would no longer be the bass player for Corry’s band. While there was some confusion within the school about that, it at least made sense to Chartreuse. After all, given what Tim had said on the phone about the conflict he and Lee had experienced with the redhead on the weekend, not to mention the audacity of Glen mind controlling their friends, they could hardly keep working together in a band. Not in any amicable way.
The second announcement was that Laurie would be acting as the head cheerleader until further notice. That was the announcement that didn’t make sense to Chartreuse. Not because it was Laurie – she knew better than anyone how much her friend had been going all out this year, even sketching diagrams of possible new routines for the team that week Carrie had been in hospital – but because giving up the lead ran against Carrie’s nature. More to the point, the timing implied a temporal connection that she couldn’t see, again based on the weekend’s events.
Chartreuse knew Carrie could avoid her at the end of the school day, if she chose. Their timetables were almost a match – except last period, when Chartreuse had Physics while Carrie was in Drama. So the mystic girl made a point of standing outside the Art room at the end of lunch, before that class started, reaching out for Carrie when her friend arrived moments before the bell.
“Chartreuse, not today,” Carrie sighed, evading the outstretched arm.
“Carrie, please don’t make me do a reading. I want to help, and Laurie’s, you know, my friend too. Where is this headed?”
Carrie hesitated just inside the doorway. “I’ll call you tonight,” she yielded.
Chartreuse decided that was the best she’d get.
Carrie had opted to avoid having a major blowout with Glen at school. Yet her headache was flaring up again by the time she arrived at their training warehouse that afternoon, meaning she felt unable to project the proper amount of rage for their conversation. As such, she began quietly with, “When were you going to tell me that Lee was in possession of a microchip to resume time travel?”
Except she didn’t say that at all.
What came out instead was the more sensible, “When were you going to tell me that I had destroyed the microchip Lee had for time travel?”
“After the possible stress of our upcoming act for the school talent show was behind us,” Glen admitted. The words somehow addressed either query, regardless of the one she’d actually spoken.
Carrie pressed two fingers to her temples. “And how dare you keep things from me, like your threatening Lee using his job at the library?”
Didn’t say it. Hadn’t happened.
“And how dare you keep things from me, like the fact that I’m almost ready to make a time jump of such precision?”
“Again, I thought it prudent to wait for you to raise these subjects first,” Glen said, seating himself on the desk he’d obtained for the warehouse space. “We’re dealing with some rather dodgy timeline issues here, a fact I’m sure you’ve remarked on by now.”
Carrie grit her teeth. So were they in a new timeline now? Or rather, ANOTHER new one, again overwriting an old one, on account of her actions? And, of rather more importance, was this new ‘timeline five’ perhaps only a restoration of Glen’s ‘timeline three’?
“Yes, okay, let’s finally talk about this,” she decided. “About the timelines. About fact that you’re not simply here to train me, but rather to take me away. From this town, from my life, from everything that’s important to me!”
Glen eyed her. “Then I did tell you that, in the alternate timeline you mentioned to Mary Clarke?” He shrugged. “Carrie, that is what is meant to happen. You’ve even realized it on some level – seeing as you’ve put Laurie in charge of your squad.”
Carrie grimaced. She’d done that more to have the chance to process the temporal pain which had kicked in. After what Lee had said to her Sunday night (in either timeline), she rather hoped her headache wasn’t going to continue right through until whenever she took that trip back in time. But was Glen right, was it a sign they were again in timeline three?
“Glen, no,” she countered. “I’m not going to run away. I’m not going to let one of my… my…” She forced herself to acknowledge the truth. “One of my friends die!”
Glen leaned forwards. “I don’t think that has to happen. Not any more.”
Carrie flinched back. “What?”
“It’s as I said once to that boy Clarke – time resists universal change, but individuals still have the free will to screw things up locally. You rewrote history to save your friend? Very well, time is now attempting to compensate. To provide you with an alternative reason to leave with me. One that does not involve anything quite so drastic.”
“Why, precisely the opposite to before – you must leave with me in order to keep your friends safe. After all, so long as a time machine can exist here, in this time? The danger of whatever happened on that other track you erased is all too real. Conversely, what you’re faced with now is simply the chance to remove the possibility of more time travel – and more deaths – before departing this town. Then everyone’s lives can go on as normal.”
He sighed. “Carrie, understand that I care about you when I say this? You need to accept that your life can never be normal. And the more you mess around trying to delay our destined departure, the more others might suffer.”
Carrie clenched and unclenched her hands. She began to pace, not certain if the activity was meant to help her work through the logic, to avoid meeting Glen’s gaze, or both. “Thing is, the Carrie who leaves with you? Is kind of a horrible person for running away,” she asserted. “By leaving, there’s every chance I’ll become like that too, always getting more and more bitter about my situation, leading to even greater suffering down the timeline.”
“Carrie, you must know I’ll help you out. In fact, I can’t help but notice that you’ve been rejecting all my advances as a boyfriend these last few weeks. Perhaps, if you opened yourself back up to that possibility, you would be more–”
“Ohhh, you need to shut up about that NOW.” Carrie stamped her foot as she pivoted. “Glen, you haven’t merely concealed important things from me. If what Lee told me is even partially true? You also have serious issues in terms of seeing others in this time as ‘Mundanes’ to mentally influence as you see fit. I don’t want a boyfriend like that. I’m becoming sketchy on whether I even want a trainer like that! It could colour everything about my powers, and it makes you…”
A junction point for the entire temporal war. Those words, from the letter Mindylenopia had left with her father back in October, flashed back into her mind. For an instant, Carrie froze in place. Then another pang speared through her head – would she have even had this revelation in the other timelines? – and, giving up on dealing with the constant throbbing, Carrie paced over to her school bag to grab another aspirin.
“Makes me?” Glen prompted, his tone half amused, half annoyed.
“Kind of a pain in the ass.” Carrie worked up some saliva and swallowed the pill. “Glen, I don’t believe that my only remaining choice is leaving with you. I can’t believe that. There has to be another option.”
He shrugged. “Well, we can delay for a little while yet. Resume our work on the act for the talent show, perhaps? That is why we’re here. You need to deal better with crowds, and using magic as a front for testing your powers in front of people still seems like the best plan to me.”
“Fine,” Carrie sighed. “Let’s finish going through that routine.”
It was later on, as she was walking home, her headache again submerged beneath medication, that Carrie realized something. If her ultimate decision would indeed be to destroy the time chip and then leave with Glen… she could do that at any time. At any FUTURE time. Yet she hadn’t. She’d gone back to the PAST to destroy the chip.
Why? Why do that, subjecting herself to the extra pain of this rewritten timeline? If the original path, where Lee had the chip, had truly led to someone’s death, surely she would have provided herself with a bit more information! Yet if it hadn’t, and this was all paradox, why was she making a headache part of the process?
“Because I have this perverse desire to torture myself at every opportunity,” Carrie concluded, kicking at a pop can on the sidewalk. She kicked at the can twice more, until it was close enough to someone’s recycling bin, and then dropped it in.
Except, what if this was more? Was Carrie’s rewriting of the timeline here an attempt to give herself a unwritten message? If so, what was the damn message?
“Hello, my confusing ray of sunshine.”
Chartreuse gripped her phone a bit tighter, trying to force the butterflies in her stomach to quiet down. “C-Carrie… um, ummm, maybe, like, don’t use pet names? Unless you’re calling me to… to say…”
“Damn it. I’m sorry, Chartreuse. I can’t do anything right today.”
Chartreuse expelled the butterflies with a quick breath. “Oh no! Don’t say that. You’re, like, too hard on yourself. So, what’s going on? Why are you stepping back from your, you know, cheerleading? Is it temporal?”
There was a brief silence. “Chartreuse, you remember that day in the cafe? When I explained to you about the four timelines?”
When you told me you weren’t sure if you were in love with me? Gee, Carrie, what do you think? “Of course!”
“Well, we’re in a new timeline again. Meaning what happened on that night, with Lee and the chip and everything, it’s put us into ‘overwriting’ territory, as opposed to ‘fulfilling destiny’ territory.”
“Ohmigod, you’re not, like, going back into hospital, are you?”
“What? Oh, no, no, it’s not that bad. Yet. Actually, I think I’m giving myself a message. But I’ll be damned if I know what it is, and it’s taking a toll on my head. So it’s just as well that Laurie take over for me, for a while at least. I hope she can rise to the challenge.”
“Oh, I’m sure she can!” Chartreuse assured her friend. “And thanks for telling me, it’s, you know, helping things to make more sense.” She leaned in against her desk. “See Carrie? You’re a nice person, telling me stuff and giving Laurie a chance for leadership in this timeline. Make sure you’re, you know, acknowledging your good points too, okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, Dad said something similar during dinner, about good for me giving Laurie her shot, but you’d think I’d at least… I’d… oh no. Dad. Chartreuse, if I simply up and leave town with Glen, what happens to my Dad?”
Chartreuse frowned. “Well, I imagine he’d, you know, look for you. Why, what, like, happened with him in those other timelines?”
“I don’t know. I never thought about it. I’m the worst daughter ever.”
“Carrie, stop already! You’re, you know, processing a lot here. You’re thinking about him now, that’s what’s important.”
Again, a brief silence. “You’re right, Chartreuse. More to the point, this HAS to be what I was trying to tell myself. Because I see it now. How I’m going to lash back against destiny.”
“Okay, great! It is great, right?” Chartreuse pressed. Carrie really didn’t sound sure.
“It’s… complicated. I’m sorry, Chartreuse, I need to go now. There’s a bunch of stuff I’ll need to figure out before Friday’s talent show.”
“The talent show? I, like, did see that you and Glen were going to be in that, but how does it, you know, fit in?”
“Later, Chartreuse, okay? Keep being awesome.”
“Okay, but what…”
It was too late; Carrie had already hung up.
Chartreuse stared at her phone for a solid minute before shifting her attention over to the circle of crystals she’d laid out on the floor. Just in case. She bit down on her lower lip. Then, with sudden resolve, she tossed her phone aside and moved into the circle, sitting down and assuming the necessary meditative pose.
“Ohm, ohm, oh my,” she murmured. “Spirits from beyond… show me… what is to come…”
Minutes passed. Chartreuse maintained her regular breathing, waiting, pleading for guidance. At last, an image swam up before her… of Megan Falls. Chartreuse tracked with the junior student at school as she spoke with some of her friends about the talent show, but soon realized there was nothing there that would help her with Carrie.
She banished the vision. An hour later, after splashing some water on her face and getting ready for bed, she took another run at it. “Spirits from beyond,” Chartreuse chanted softly, deliberately. “Show me… what is to come… with Carrie?”
It seemed to take forever. And when the image finally coalesced, and it was Megan Falls again, Chartreuse couldn’t help but kick out at one of her crystals in frustration. How was she supposed to get a proper reading on Carrie’s situation when the spirits were obsessing over Megan?!
It didn’t occur to her until the next day that perhaps there was a very good reason for the mystical forces to be doing that.