There's a game called Life Is Strange. It's a different sort of video game, one that I typically describe as "playing a YA book." It's a story-driven plot centered around a girl named Maxine Caulfield, who moves back to her childhood town of Arcadia Bay, Oregon to attend a seniors only boarding school named Blackwell Academy. You probably thought I stopped describing a video game when I said "story-driven plot." I didn't.
I could explain LIS in detail, but there's millions of YouTube videos of people doing just that (or you could just click to read about it here), so not going to do that. Instead, I'll tell you things that only I can tell you. A. I am a massive fan of Life Is Strange. Massive. I put the mass in Massachusetts when it comes to LIS. B. I recently finished playing the newest episode and I'm just so much in love with the story. So much so, I had the thought that it'd be fun to try to convert the video game into a readable novel, just to see what it would look like. So today, I decided to start. C. I'm going to do bits and pieces here and there when I have time just for fun, and in the spirit of said fun, I'm not holding myself to the standard of grammatical/syntaxical perfection. If people really dig it, then I'll see if I can work at it a little more intentionally, but for now, I'm doing this for my own jollies, and as a challenge to sharpen my writing skillz.
FYI: I do not claim this as my own work. FYI: This is not my work. FYI: This is, by all accounts, fan-fiction heavily based on Life Is Strange. All rights to the characters belong to the good people at Dontnod Entertainment.
Let me know what you think with a comment or something.
The Unofficial Life Is Strange Novel Adaptation
Part 1: Chrysalis
I feel dirt. Under my cheek, hands…in my hair. It’s literally everywhere. My back is wet, too. Actually, I’m wet. All of me is wet. A crack of thunder rolls across the air above me. Light flashes bright enough that it seeps through my eyelids. Wind whips my hair into my eyes. I say all this like it’s a fact. Like I’m not surprised I’m lying on the ground in the middle of a lord of all lords storm. Trust me.
I’m very, very surprised.
Right now, I, Maxine Caulfield, can be summed up with one panicked, “what the hell?”
I push myself off the ground and look around.
Where am I? What is happening?
I’m surrounded by trees, and wind. Lots of wind. A storm. I’m in a storm. As I stand, I say it to myself one more time. I. Am. In. A. Storm. Okay. Next question. How did I get here? I look into the sky and immediately I feel like an ant under the cone tops of the violently thrashing pines.
I am Ant-Max hear me panic.
Shit is flying everywhere, and I have the tiny feeling that I might die.
A ball of blue light catches my eye. I turn and I see the Arcadia Bay lighthouse doing its lighthouse thing right above my head. How am I by the lighthouse? Have I been here for a while?
I’ve been to the lighthouse before. With Chloe. We came up here when we were kids and pretended it was our pirate ship. We were co-captains protecting Arcadia Bay from all formidable foes. Being here now, in the middle of this storm makes me think about her. I haven’t seen her in years.
Okay. Instead of standing in the middle of a forest in the middle of a freaking hurricane, I’ll go to the lighthouse. I’ll be safe if I can get there. If. Why is if always a problem?
I throw my hands in front of my face and the rain slaps into my palms. A branch flies past my face, and my if seems a lot bigger than it was when I’d made this plan a few seconds ago.
Please, let me make it there.
I pass a wooden sign pointing me towards the lighthouse. I struggle up the semi-steps—four-by-four posts sunk into the dirt. The slope up to my sanctuary isn’t steep enough to have me heaving my guts out by the time I get to the top, but I can’t see Arcadia Bay from down here even though I know it’s right in front of me.
It takes me a lot longer to get to the top of the stairs than it should. I chalk it up to the epic battle between me and the forces of nature. When I crest the slope, I see it.
A massive tornado spins in the shallows of the bay. It’s taller than any building that I left behind in Seattle with my mom and dad. The tornado is so big it makes the Space Needle lose “space,” and it’s capitalization. Rings o’stuff circles around the cyclone like bugs around a bug light. A sail boat from the marina is thrown out of a debris orbit, and I watch it fall until it disappears into the gallons of churned up mist. Massive streams of water swirl around the tornado’s base. They siphon into swirls of spinning mass, turning into a unified skyscraper of cloud, wind, and water. Lightning strikes everywhere. Maybe even twice in the same place. The sky looks like a swarming paparazzi, a rave that only uses white lights.
What I’m seeing…what I’m seeing. It is everything. It is not normal. It is IT, and IT turns my if up to eleven. I suddenly know that the wind is pulling me towards the tornado. I finally have the thought that if I’m not careful I’ll get sucked off the Lighthouse Cliff, and I’ll take flight into the swirling mass of apocalypse.
Something snaps my hand with a wet crack. At first, I think I’ve been hit with something, but then I see a banner covering the Lighthouse Cliff park map, its ends whip in the gusts of wind with loud snaps. The banner is brown, and after smoothing it out with my hands I read, “Blackwell Academy, 1910.”
What the hell?
I stare at the tornado again, watching it draw closer and closer to the town. In seconds, I see houses close to the shoreline torn from their foundations. Stores are lifted into the air. The Two Whales Diner, where Chloe’s mom works, slides into the fray. Everything rips off of the ground and disappears into the swirling mass. I grab the bench in front of me as a thick SHHHHHHH fills the air. I look toward the new noise and watch a fishing boat fly over my head and slam into the lighthouse. I scream as the top of the lighthouse separates and falls towards me.
My if turning into my end.
I sit up in my chair. I’m in class. Everything’s cool. I’m okay.
Mr. Jefferson leans against the table in front of me, his back to Daniel, talking to us about Alfred Hitchcock. Daniel doesn’t look super happy about his view. Poor guy. He’s an artist, not a photographer, but still, he always seems to get the backside of Mr. Jefferson.
I realize I’m grasping the table like it’s about to fly away, which it would have if I was where I was a few seconds ago. I look past the tight bun of Kate Marsh and out the classroom window. It’s sunny. No apocalypse. No tornado. Yes, Arcadia Bay. Yes, me.
A ball of paper hits Kate in the face. It bounces off her cheek and tumbles to the ground rolling to a stop by the wall. Kate brings her hand up to deflect it, but she’s too late. Mr. Jefferson asks for an example of a photographer who does something or rather, not even noticing how dehumanizing Blackwell is to its students on a day-to-day basis.
A buzz comes from somewhere to my right. I stop looking out the window, looking for the source of the noise. A phone? A phone. Victoria’s phone. At least it’s not a tornado.
I shake my head and try to focus.
I sit up straight in my chair and look at Mr. Jefferson with the intentions of paying attention, but it only takes a few seconds for me to go back to the all consuming WTF-ness thoughts. I didn’t fall asleep. I know that because I hadn’t been dozing before…whatever that was at all. I’d had a coke from the vending machine in the hallway, and caffeine keeps me jazzed, always. If I wasn’t asleep, then dreaming of an apocalypse tornado…an apocanado wouldn’t be possible. You dream when you sleep. I mean, you dream when you’re awake too, but you don’t feel your day dreams, you think them. Typically daydreaming is a positive thing. You don’t normally daydream about shit that can kill you. So what just happened? This is just…weird.
Victoria jumps all over the chance to impress Mr. Jefferson, which is a typical occurrence. She’s desperate to win the Everyday Heroes photo contest, but instead of winning by taking a good photo, she sticks to kissing ass and flirting, which is more effort than I can say I’ve put in to it. It’s not that I don’t want to enter. I just take bad pictures. Well, not bad…just not inspired. If my photos were flowers, there would be bees everywhere. I don’t mean that artistically. I mean that in the most inconvenient way possible. Like when you accidentally dump cheerios onto the counter instead of in your bowl. I don’t know. I just shoot a steady diet of crap. Nothing I could show Mr. Jefferson and be proud of. I do like my selfies though. I like the simplicity of them. You don’t have to frame. You don’t need a muse, it’s all built in. Just you and the camera. Really, if I’m honest with myself, the amount of selfies I take is probably why my portfolio is so uninspired. I need to start taking photos of things. The ifs and the whats.
As if he heard me defending selfies to my selfie, Mr. Jefferson says, “A selfie is a dumb word for a photographic tradition. As you all know, the photo portrait, selfie, has been a popular form of selfie expression, sorry, I couldn’t resist, since mankind was first able to take photographs in the 1800s. You all are not the first to use such a technique, and will certainly not be the last. Now, lets go back to the reading I assigned yesterday for a minute. Someone tell me the name of the process that gave birth to the first self-portraits. The first selfies. Max?”
He looks at me, awaiting the answer. I try to reach back into the reading, but my mind is filled with apoconados and getting crushed by lighthouses. Ick.
I look at him hoping he’ll see the look of cluelessness in my eyes and move onto someone else, but his stare is strong. Stronger than my silence.
“I did know,” I say, prepping myself to ignore the classes reaction to my lack of…whatever. “But I kinda forgot.”
Mr. Jefferson slaps the table. “You should know this, Max. You guys have to do the assigned reading otherwise you won’t be able to keep up. Does anyone know? Come on.”
I’m sorry, Mr. Jefferson. I’ve failed you. Please don’t hate me. I promise I did the reading I’m just…
Victoria raises her hand. “Louis Daguerre was a french artist and chemist who created “daguerreotypes.” A process that involved chemically treating a polished sheet of copper and exposing it to the light. Like a permanent mirror.” Victoria looks at me with a grin of a chemically-treated polished sheet of bitch. “You certainly deserve to be here, Max,”she says. “Always stuck in the twilight zone. Sad face.”
I figured when I came to Blackwell the kids here would be legit. Like, really into being good artists and photographers. Imagine my surprise when I realize half the student body are eighteen going on fifteen. The class even laughed at her jab. “Always stuck in the twilight zone. Sad face” was enough of an insult for the class to laugh at. These halls reek of low-standards.
Or maybe I’m just pretentious.
Or maybe both.
“Thank you, Victoria,” Mr. Jefferson says as the bell rings, “and for the rest of you, I want you to read yesterday’s assigned reading and today’s. Come tomorrow ready to discuss how the world transitioned from Daguerre’s photochemistry to photography. Also, please don’t forget the deadline to submit a photo to the Everyday Heroes contest.”
Everyone stands out of their chairs, scooting the metal feet across the tile floor.
“The winner will get to fly with me to San Francisco to be feted and preened by the art world. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it will be great exposure and it can help kickstart a career in photography. Stella and Alyssa, get it together. Taylor, you can’t hide. I’m still waiting for your entry, too. And, yes, Max, I see you pretending not to see me.”
Shame. So much shame.
I collect all my things, and slide my Polaroid camera in my bag, navigating it carefully around textbooks and stacks of homework. The room clears, with the exception of Kate, Victoria, and Mr. Jefferson while I’m packing. I’m typically not this slow. I just feel so out of it, and I’m struggling to get what happened during class out of my mind. It’s like Leonardo DeCaprio hacked my brain with his band of jolly inceptioners and inceptioned the shit out of me.
Mr. Jefferson goes to the front of the room and I’m not sure if he notices the Victoria he has on his tail. Just. Come on, Victoria. Kate doesn’t move though. She just sits at her desk, and it doesn’t take much of a look to know she doesn’t look good. There are dark half-moons under her eyes, but they’re not just from not sleeping. They’re epic. Like, drama epic. I’ve spent a little time with her since I moved back to Arcadia Bay and started at Blackwell. She’s always been really kind. Not the drama-fabulous type.
“Kate,” I say walking over to her to make sure she’s okay. “Hi.”
She looks at me. Her eyes dark under her blonde bangs. She’s a little slumped over, like the cross pendant hanging on her neck weighs fifty pounds, and she’s doing all she can to stand under it’s gravitational pull.
“Oh. Hi, Max.”
“You seem quiet today.”
She shrugs. “Thinking too much, I guess.”
“I hear that. Want to go grab a cup o’tea and bitch about life?”
Her eyes dart away from me as something in her pulls her away from saying yes before she even consider my invite. “Thanks, but not today. I have to go over homework.”
Ugh. I want to believe her, but I don’t. Even so, I don’t push her. If she’s having that bad of a bad day, I don’t want to make it worse by pushing her into tea with me. “No worries. We can hang later, okay?”
She looks down at her sketch book, pencil in hand, but she doesn’t draw anything. “Yeah. Sure.”
The way she says, “Yeah. Sure” is almost enough to make me pull up a seat next to her. I almost say, “Okay, Kate, tell it to me straight. Give me all the details,” but I don’t. I don’t want to pry into a place she doesn’t want me to be. I like her too much, and I know I can come off as nosey instead of caring.
“Hang in there, Kate.” I take a step backward and something crunches under my foot. I move my foot and see the note that bounced off Kate’s face. It’s a little flatter than it was before. I act like I’m tying my shoe and pick it up. I unfold it as I walk to the front of the class room.
We love your porn video.
Xoxo, Blackwell Academy.
I read it a few times and almost feel like throwing up every time. There’s no way. Not Kate. I turn around and think about going back to her. Giving her another chance to spill, but I don’t for the same reasons I didn’t before.
I walk past Mr. Jefferson and Victoria, leaving him to defend himself against her flirtatious bitchery. I think about talking to him, but I know if I did he’d get on to me about entering the contest, and I’m a little over it at the moment. Sorry, Mr. J. You’re cute, but looks alone can’t make my desire for artistic domination grow.
I walk into the eight mile hallway of Blackwell Academy, leaving behind the safety of a room not filled with couples making out, dudes duding, bros bro-ing, bitches bitching. I’m too catty to a lot of people at Blackwell. I realize this as I look at them walk around in the halls. I try to remind myself that there’s some nice humanoids in this alien world, Warren and Dana to name a few. It’s just really hard to keep the Victoria Chases and all of the Victoria Chase rip-offs from infesting the feel of Blackwell. People aren’t nice to each other here, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be nice.
I toss Kate’s note into the trash and realize that I feel gross. I’m borderline claustrophobe. I don’t know if it’s the apocanado, Victoria’s verbal slap in the face, Kate’s note, the thick smell of dudes duding, bros bro-ing, and bitches bitching, but I’ve got to get away from it. Away from every just-add-water instant judgment. Every silly problem. Everyone trying to be someone that matters by making everyone else matter less. The chorus of, “she’s so shallow”s and “he’s such a creep”s. I pull my headphones out of my bag stick them in my ears, and let the music be the fuel that carries my feet forward.
I walk into the bathroom and take a deep breath. The silence is fantastique, but I still can’t get away from the apoconado and from how…lost I feel. Am I going crazy? Am I just over Blackwell today? I splash some water on my face because…I don’t know why. Because it makes me feel a little calmer. Not better, per say, just cooler. Tempature wise.
Overwhelmed. That’s what I am. Abysmal. Infinitesimal. What on earth was that dream? I turn the water off and stare at the nozzle, not wanting to straighten up until the water is done dripping off of my cheeks.
Come on, Max.
As a drop of water falls from my eyelash, a blue speck appears in my periphery. Everything in the bathroom is a drab shade of grey, so a sudden splash of brilliant blue is almost like having the sun appear in the sky in the middle of the night. I snap my head to the left, and I see a cutesy little blue butterfly fly behind the row of bathroom stalls and into the nook where the school janitor, Samuel, keeps the cleaning supplies.
I walk to the last stall and peek into the nook. The butterfly is sitting on a metal bucket. Just chilling. Just doing it’s blue butterfly thing in a girl’s bathroom.
I pull my camera out slowly. I step out from the bathroom stall, making sure I let the ball of my foot touch first. I am ninja. I am silence. I get as close as I can and then…
The flash, like lightning, lights up the walls and the butterfly decides it’s done with the bathroom. I follow it hoping to take one more picture, but the door opens, and I’m struck with the absurdity that is Max in the present. I’m in the girl’s bathroom with my camera out. There is no way to spin this that could save me any face. So I do the bravest thing I can think of.
I slide back into the janitor nook and pray that whoever just came in here didn’t come for the bleach.
“It’s cool, Nathan,” I hear. At first I wonder if I’m dreaming again because the voice belongs to a guy, and not just any guy, a Nathan Prescott guy. Nathan is the son of Arcadia Bay royalty and Blackwell benefactor, Sean Prescott. Therefore, I push myself into the wall even more.
“You own this school,” Nathan says to himself. “If you wanted too, you could burn it down. Blow it up. You’re the boss.”
Quite the ego boost.
The door opens again and someone else slips into the bathroom. Hopefully, this time, it’s a girl. Specifically one with enough gusto to kick Nathan out, but not enough awareness to realize I’m here.
“As my step-ass would say, ‘I hope you checked the perimeter.’ Let’s talk bidness,” a girl says.
“I’ve got nothing for you,” Nathan says.
“Wrong,” the girl snaps. “You’ve got trees made of cash.”
“That’s my family, not me.”
“You are your family, poor little rich kid. Let’s play this way. I know you’ve been pumping drugs to kids around here. I bet your family wouldn’t want the headline, “Nathan Prescott, drug overlord of Blackwell.”
“Leave them out of this, bitch.”
“How about I tell everyone that Nathan Prescott talks to himself in the girl’s bathroom?” The girl’s voice makes my shoulders tense. Her new tone echoes off the walls with the power of a punch.
I hear a scuffle. Finally, I peek around the corner of the stall. Of course, there’s Nathan. He’s standing there dressed like a rich kid with an psycho problem: slick hair, slick cardigan, slick button down shirt, slick wrinkle-less jeans. Slick. Slick. Slick. Then there’s this girl. Chin length blue hair tucked under a beanie. A black military jacket, silver-studded bracelets, ripped jeans, and a shirt decked out with a skull logo that, I assume, upholds her punk mystique. I’ve never known someone who’d claim the genre punk, but she looks so familiar.
Nathan reaches for something in he coat. “You don’t know who I am, or who you’re messing with. You want to start this?”
He pulls out something silver. At first I think maybe it’s a watch, or some sort of payment for the girl, but then he points it at the girl.
A gun. Shit. It’s a gun.
“Where’d you get that?” The girl says. “What are you doing? Come on, Nathan put that down!”
He shoves the girl against the wall and shoves the gun into her stomach. She tries pushing him away, but he keeps pushing back, returning the gun to where it was a few seconds earlier. “Don’t ever try to control me. Ever! I’m sick of people trying to control me!”
“If you kill me, you’ll get in so much more trouble. Come on.”
Nathan doesn’t listen. “No one gives a shit about you. No one would even miss you would they?”
I have no idea what to do. I’m stuck behind this wall even though all of me is screaming to move.
“Get that gun away from me!” the girl yells as she throws her arms out and pushes him away.
The gun goes off.
The gun goes off. And suddenly I’m moving even though I know it’s too late. I step forward and hold out my hand, reaching for Nathan. Screaming for him to stop, but the girl is falling to the ground, a blossom of red growing in the eye of the skull on her shirt.
And then everything goes blurry.
(to be continued)