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Telling Stories

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Added to the Roswell Slash Archive March 4, 2001

Telling Stories
by Livia
10/10/00



The wailing clatter of construction echoes through my new office as I attempt to computerize the UFO Center's inventory. Earlier I tried closing the door to drown out the sounds of drills and hammers and the occasionally truly clever profanity, but that just let the louder crashes and shouts sneak up on me. With the door open, it all blends together, and I can mostly ignore it.

So when the faint knock sounds at my back, I don't respond at first. It sounds again, and I come alert, turning in my chair to see Max Evans.

He's clad entirely in black, as he was last night, and hovering just outside the doorframe. Looking up at him with probably far too much pleasure on my face, I try to keep my voice light. "Well, one out of three isn't bad."

"What?" he says, startled.

"This time, you're here during business hours. And you knocked."

"Oh. Right." He stands awkwardly in the doorway, and I push away a few folders ostentatiously, turning my computer chair away from my desk towards him.

"Please, come in. Grab a chair, sit down." I watch Max curiously as he pulls out the folding chair stashed behind the door and settles. He pushes the chair almost all the way over to the wall, then sits, still looking slightly awkward. It dawns on me suddenly; he's nervous about sitting with the door at his back.

Uncomfortable or not, he looks directly into my eyes. "I want to apologize again for last night--"

"Honestly, Max, it's quite all right." So, I never could hold a grudge, especially against someone with such an earnest gaze as Max Evans. Besides, if you held a contest for Lunatic Behavior of Abductees, I doubt I'd win a medal, but I'd definitely be in the race. "Last night, though, you said you'd tell me your story." I wait a moment, then prompt, "the story of your abduction."

"My story... yeah," he says, shifting in his chair. "I did say that, I guess."

"Well?" I am grinning now, I can't help it, though Max just seems more and more uncomfortable, jumping visibly as a particularly loud drill begins to whine shrilly outside.

"I'll tell you all I can, but really I don't remember much," he says vaguely. "It was a while ago, y'know."

I lean back in my chair; I must've heard fifty people tell abduction stories, and maybe five were true accounts. As far as I can tell, Max Evans is lying.

"Let me guess, Evans." I drawl. I'm almost viciously disappointed; I didn't want him to be just a banal teenage thug. "A bright light, a white room... they probed you."

Max looks up sharply. "You don't understand!" His throat works for a moment, and when he speaks again, I have to strain to hear him over the work going on outside. "It wasn't like yours. You have to understand that. I wish it had been," he mutters, "I wish I could understand. What they did to me..."

I get up, then, and shut the door to my office. No need for the crew outside to overhear. Max looks up at me gratefully as I return to my seat. "Thanks."

"No, please." I take my chair again, scooting a little closer to Max. "Go on."

"I was driving to a carnival in Bingham. I blacked out, on the road. It was the same as your experience," he says, glancing up tentatively. "I woke up almost two days later. Miles away."

I raise an eyebrow. "You were alone?"

Max looks at me, his face as emotionless as a mask. I arch an eyebrow, wordlessly daring him to lie to me again. "No," he finally says, softly, "but she doesn't remember, and I don't want her to remember, so don't-- just don't." His voice is steel. "We're not going there."

"All right." I hold my hands up, and lean back a little, trying to look casual, trying to look like a patient boy, although I suspect that even outwardly I'm vibrating with excitement. You get more than your usual share of wannabes, hangers-on and posers in the community of abductees, and for a moment I thought Max might be among them-- but now I'm not so sure.

"There was..." He takes a short breath. "There was a white room. They kept me in it for... I don't know how long." He stops talking, suddenly looking off-balance, vulnerable, as though he regrets saying even that much. I know how he feels. It's hard to come out and say it; to most people, it's tantamount to admitting that you're insane.

"Then what?"

"It was the quietest place I've ever been. So quiet... After a while, it was like I thought I could hear my own heartbeat-- you know? Then I turned," he says, beginning to speak more quickly, "and I didn't see a door or anything like that, they were just there..."

I speak as quietly as I can, not wanting to break the spell. "Who, Max? Who was there?"

"Dark... figures. They looked like they were wearing radiation suits. Something like that. I don't remember much of that part." Max bites his lower lip unconsciously. "They must have drugged me, or something, because everything went. Strange. I can't... put any of that part in order." He glances up helplessly. "It was like a nightmare, where you can't figure out what's going on, or remember what happened earlier or later--" He stops, glancing from wall to wall of my office like a trapped animal.

"I know," I murmur, and I do, I know about this, too. After keeping everything locked up tight inside you for so long-- once you get started talking, to someone who'll really listen, it's hard to stop everything from spilling out at once.

"They strapped me down to a table, and they-- they-- one of them--" Max is shaking like a leaf now, and when I put out a hand to steady him, his arm is clammy-cold and covered with goosebumps. "He hurt me," Max grinds out, eyes bright with the terror he's recalling. "He just kept hurting me."

"Christ." Part of me doesn't want to believe his story. For seven years I've built my life around the idea of aliens as benevolent beings. Higher forms of life, maybe, but friendly. Helping people. But if I had any lingering doubts as to the truth of Max's story, they're burned away as his eyes brighten. He clenches his jaw, turning his face away, raising his hand to hide the gleam of unshed tears.

"I'm sorry," he grits out. "I didn't mean to get-- to get so..." He takes another gasping, half-panicked breath, and I grit my teeth, moving forward. I've never really been good at this people stuff, but jesus, nobody human could just sit here and watch his pain.

Leaning close, I put an arm around Max Evans' shaking shoulders and pull him hard against my chest. He looks sturdy enough, but as my arms close around his bony shoulders I realize he's still just a boy.

I rub his back, and he keeps talking, stumbling over the words. "I haven't t-talked to anyone else about it-- I know my parents are worried, they have me seeing this psychiatrist, but I can't tell him, and nobody understands..."

"It's all right. Shh, it's all right, Max, really." I say, trying to soothe him. "I understand. I mean-- maybe I haven't been where you've been exactly, but I know what it's like to have something happen that changes your entire life, changes everything..." He nods, pulling back, and takes a slow breath, trying to calm himself. "I know what it's like not being able to talk to people." I add, looking at him sincerely.

My hand is still on his shoulder, and I squeeze hard, once, before turning away to give him some privacy, rummaging in my desk drawers for Kleenex that isn't there.

I watch out of the corner of my eye as Max scrubs at his face with the back of one hand. "I didn't-- I didn't think it would affect me like this." His voice is thick with pain. "Talking about it. I'm sorry."

"It's all right."

"I had to be the strong one, I had to be..." He looks away, jaw tightening again as he struggles to keep control.

I look down at my hands. "Max, I get the feeling that this all happened pretty recently."

He nods, once.

"When?"

"We started out for the carnival on May eleventh, and got back on the thirteenth," he says wearily, then looks up at me, startled. It takes me a moment to realize that the other abductee must be his girlfriend-- no wonder he doesn't want me to track her down.

"Max, it's all right. I swear." And the funny thing is, I'm sincere. If you'd told me a month ago that I'd be ignoring a lead like this, I'd have laughed in your face. But I can see why Max doesn't want her to remember what happened to them. "If her amnesia is a coping mechanism, it might be dangerous to try to force a memory to the surface..." I shrug and lean back with a sigh. "Or if she's like me, then the memories are just... gone. In which case no amount of hypnosis or memory retrieval will bring back that missing time."

Max nods a little warily, leaning back in his chair. "Maybe it's better," he suggests, "that you don't remember."

"I've never thought about it like that, but..." Who knows. He may have a point. "So they actually returned you just the day before the energy spike that my device detected, then."

Max nods. "That's why I was so upset when I saw the date, May fourteenth, on your computer. Just the thought that somebody might have been keeping track of me, somehow..."

"I can imagine."

"No, I don't think you can," Max says. He doesn't smile, but a hint of bleak amusement glints in his eyes. "For a minute or two I thought... I thought you might be one of them."

"What. Me, an alien?" I can't help it, it's so totally ridiculous I have to laugh.

"I know," he says, and laughs with me.


After that, we sit in the basement and talk for a while longer, mostly about inconsequential things. Max tells me about Roswell, and about his life: school, parents, a sister. When he mentions his sister, he sounds protective, and I wonder if it wasn't a girlfriend, if this Isabel Evans might have been the other abductee. Maybe, if Max grows to trust me, she'll be open to sharing her story as well. You never know.

But mostly what I gain from our conversation is the sense of Max as almost freakishly normal, if such a thing can be said. If one ignores the abduction, he's just a thoroughly average young man from your average American family. Soon I'm telling him all about my life, even about the software startup and how they bought me out, cut me loose after I started speaking out about my abduction. I didn't mean to put it about immediately that I was a multi-millionaire, but I think I can trust Max not to spread it all over town. He's had experience with bigger secrets than that.

My computer beeps eight times on the hour and Max looks up, startled. "Is that the time?"

I'm incredulous too, and twist my head to check the clock. "Meeting your girlfriend?"

"I don't have one."

"Oh?"

His mouth twists wryly. "We broke up. She couldn't deal with..." A shrug indicates everything and nothing. "Stuff."

"Sorry."

He shrugs again, glancing away. "It's just later than I thought. That's all."

"I'll walk you out," I say, pushing my chair back. The workmen must've packed up and left sometime while we were talking; I didn't even hear them go, but the place is dark, abandoned and the air conditioning that's such a necessity during the day is rapidly turning the place into an icebox now that it's twilight. "God, it's freezing in here. I've really got to figure out some way to put the heater on a timer..." I rub my arms a little as Max and I walk through the half-finished exhibits.

"Brody," he says as we climb the stairs, and it may not be the first time he's said my name, but it sounds like it. "When they took you... when you came back. Were there any unexplained marks on your body?"

"What?" I glance up at him, but he doesn't look back.

"You know. Was there anything? Even if it's weird," he lowers his voice a little, "or if it faded away, afterwards, something like that..."

"No." I shake my head as we reach the top. "I checked myself out pretty thoroughly when I woke up, and so did the doctors. No mysterious marks anywhere, I'm afraid."

"Oh." He glances out through the scratched and grimy plastic doors into the street, and then back down into the dim pit of the museum.

"What about you?" I ask.

He looks at me for a moment, measuringly. Then, taking my wrist, he pulls me a few feet down the stairs, just out of sight of anyone who might be coming down the street. Silently, he takes his black t-shirt in both hands, and twists it up, over his head and off. He stands there in front of me, his chin high and his mouth tight, his shoulders straight back like a soldier. A few inches below where his collar would hit, running straight down his breastbone, is a bright, relatively new scar almost four inches long.

My hand moves before I even think, I'm reaching for it before I know what I'm doing. Max stiffens a little as my fingertips encounter the thin vertical line. It's mottled white and pale pink, slightly raised against the smooth, tan expanse of his chest.

"My God, Max." I pull my hand away apologetically, quickly casting about for something, anything to say. "The other abductee. Does she have one of these?"

"No. Just me." He moves away, pulling his T-shirt back on. Tugging it down over his stomach, he turns to leave.

"Evans," I call after him as he reaches for the door. "You're not fired." He looks back, startled, and I flinch and amend myself. "If you'd like, that is. I mean, if you still want to work here. I'd understand how it might have negative associations--"

"No," he interrupts, only smiling a little. Only with his eyes, but it's real enough. And it's enough for now. "No, I think I'd like to work for you."

"Good." I nod, and try to return his smile in kind.

"Brody..." He cocks his head a little. "Is there anything I could say to you, that would convince you to stop looking?"

"For aliens?" Poor Max. I can only imagine how much my coming here must have terrified him. I can see even now how terribly frightening it must be. To live in fear, that the beings who abducted him may someday return. I sigh. "You mean, anything that you haven't already said?" It's my turn to stare into space for a moment. "I honestly don't know."

"Sometimes I don't know what I'm more afraid of." Max says musingly. "That I'll never know why they did what they did to me-- that the pain they caused will never have an explanation I can understand..."

I wait a few seconds, but he doesn't continue. "What's the other thing?"

He glances up. "What? Oh." He has one hand on the door, the brilliant New Mexico sunset spilling across his face, and then suddenly he's looking at me from a million miles away, and his eyes look lifetimes old. He shrugs a little. "That there was a reason, a good reason. An 'end justifies the means' kind of reason. One that someday I could understand... and that someday I might."

And with that he's outside, blinking up into the sunset for a moment before walking away, letting the door swing shut. And I'm alone in the museum, shivering slightly in the air-conditioned chill.

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