A Different Kind of Alone
Summary: What would have happened had Max been put in a very different white room? This story was inspired by Elizabeth’s Within, definitely a must read in my book.
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Struggle. Battle. Fight. Scuffle.
Max had put up a struggle the entire way to the van that the suits had thrown him in. He had yelled, screamed, tried to make as much commotion as possible. Yet somehow, it failed to attract the attention of the people enjoying the carnival. Failed to be heard above the cries of joy of the kids riding the Ferris wheel.
The only sense of relief Max felt after they threw him into the back of the van was that Liz, Michael, and Isabel hadn’t been taken. His relief was short lived because a few seconds later he was knocked unconscious. And when he awoke, he was in a sterile, ten by ten white room.
Banging on the walls didn’t seem to do much good. And there didn’t even seem to be a window, let alone a door. He spent the entire night (or day, he wasn’t quite sure what time of day it was) pounding on each individual panel that lined the wall, hoping to find something.
But he didn’t.
After a while he tried to get some sleep. He decided that they would probably start the experiments the next day, so he had better be well rested. He wondered what they would do first. Would they cut him open and look at his insides? Or would they question him to see if he knew where he came from? He had imagined it so many times in his head, had so many nightmares about it, that he knew what to expect.
Or did he?
Max curled up in a fetal position with thoughts of the next day in his head.
Alex and Maria looked up expectantly when Tess, Michael, Isabel, and Liz entered the Crashdown.
“Liz? Where’s Max? Oh my god.” Maria ran up to Liz, who was crying, and enveloped her into a hug.
“They took him. Oh god, it’s all my fault.” Liz said in between sobs.
Maria led Liz over to a booth to sit down. The three aliens followed suit. Alex gave Isabel a hug and Maria squeezed Michael’s hand. “Now what do we do?” Maria asked.
“We don’t do anything.” Tess stated. “Max is one of us. Look what happened when you humans got involved.”
“Need I remind you who impersonated Max to begin with?” Alex ground out.
“Will everyone please stop fighting?” Isabel pleaded. “I mean it’s bad enough as it is…and now that…” Alex pulled her close as Isabel began to cry.
“Isabel! You can dream walk. You did it to me, why can’t you do it to Max?”
“Dream walk?” Tess asked.
“Never mind,” Michael spat. “Isabel, you’ve got to do it. That way you can find out where he is and we can go rescue him.”
Isabel nodded. “I, I need a picture of him. And a place to, to sleep.”
(The Next Morning)
Isabel woke up confused. She didn’t recognize her surroundings. She was in a room, a girl’s room, but it wasn’t hers. She felt somebody stir beside her and realized where she was. She was in Liz’s room. The previous day’s events came flooding back to her and she struggled not to cry. She felt two arms envelop her and she managed to give Alex a weak smile as he tried to comfort her.
“So did it work?” he asked. She nodded “Let’s go downstairs. Everyone is waiting for us. They didn’t want to wake you.”
She started downstairs, but then stop, “Wait. I have to call my mom and let her know where I-”
“You already called her last night and told her you and Max were spending the night at a friend’s house.”
“I did?” He nodded. She could barely remember last night after Max was taken. “Well, then. Let’s go downstairs.”
Michael, Maria, and Liz were nursing cups of coffee when Isabel came down the stairs and into the Crashdown.
“Aren’t you guys supposed to be open?”
Maria answered for Liz, who was still too upset. “Last night there was a message on the answering machine. Liz’s parents won’t be back until later this afternoon. They went out to dinner out of town and their car broke down.”
Isabel and Alex sat down in the booth across from the other three. “So what did you see?” Michael asked.
Isabel sighed. “Nothing really. I mean, I did see things. But nothing really useful. He was having a dream and that’s about it. In it he was in some type of lab and there were these doctors who were performing all kind of horrible experiments on him.”
“Do you think that…they were recreations of what happened earlier? Like maybe they did those things on him?” Maria asked, almost afraid of the answer.
But Isabel shook her head. “No, it wasn’t like that. It was just too…I got this feeling that these were just his fears, just a nightmare. I tried to get to him, talk to him, like I did with you Maria. But he wouldn’t listen to me.”
“So you learned nothing from it?” Michael asked. Isabel shook her head. “Dammit.” Michael slammed his hand on the counter.
“Where’s Tess?” Alex noticed she wasn’t in the restaurant.
“Oh, she went off to go find Nasedo. She’s convinced he knows what’s best.”
“What do we do now?” These were the first words Liz had said all morning.
Michael sighed, “Nothing. All we can do now is just hope that Isabel can connect with Max or that Nasedo will actually come through for us. Until then…”
“Wake up, son. C’mon, wake up.” Max awoke to a woman nudging him with her shoe. She clucked her tongue disapprovingly, “Couldn’t they have given you a bed?” She turned around and walked out the door-the one Max had been searching for the night/day before. She seemed to be talking more to herself then to him. “No, that would have been too easy. They always have to do things the hard way.” She turned back around to face him. “Well, are you coming or not?”
Max decided to follow her. She didn’t look threatening. She reminded him of Grandma Claudia, Liz’s grandmother. She led him down a hall that twisted and turned until they reached an office, similar to that of a doctor’s.
“Here you go. Take this and take a seat and fill this out. When you’re done, you can bring it up to me.” She handed him a clipboard and a pen and then went to go take a seat at a desk.
Max was confused. Where was the big bad government agency that was going to take him apart piece by piece? Perform experiments on him until he broke down and told them about his race’s ‘secret plan to take over the world’? He scanned the papers attached to the clipboard. “What the…” He was astounded by the questions on it. First name? Last name? Middle initial? Address? Didn’t the FBI already have this information on him?
“Excuse me. I think there’s been some kind of mistake. I don’t think I’m supposed to be here.”
The woman at the desk rolled her eyes. “Did a couple of guys in suits bring you in?”
“Then you’re supposed to be here.”
“But…but I’m a human. My name is Max Evans. I live in Roswell, New Mexico. I have a family that’s going to be very worried about me so I need to-” Max was cut off.
“Listen, sweetie. I know you think there’s been a mistake, but we don’t make mistakes. So just sit down and fill the information out or I can fill it out for you. Because, to tell you the truth, no one is ever going to look at those forms. It’s just a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that we need to fill out so that I can get paid.”
Max was shocked, but sat down anyway and started filling in the forms. ‘What the heck is going on?’
An hour or so had passed and now Max was waiting to find out what would happen next. Surely that whole survey thing had just been a ploy to psyche him out. The door leading out of the office opened and he was sure whoever it was, was coming to get him.
Which was why he was so surprised when he saw a girl about his age come bounding in. And she was laughing. Laughing-no one was supposed to be laughing. There was going to be screams and pain, but laughter?
“Sharon! Guess what-they’re letting me make dinner tonight.”
“That’s great, Jenny. I’d love to chat, but I’ve got to work right now.”
“Aw…c’mon,” The girl pleaded, “What’s the big deal anyway? Not like anyone new is coming in.”
Max watched Sharon lower her glasses and look over at him. The girl, Jenny, looked over, mouth gaping.
“Who’s he?” she whispered.
“Another one of you apparently.”
“No way.” Jenny looked back over at Max and then back again. “Can I…”
“Go ahead, show him around. He wasn’t supposed to come for another week, so everything’s messed up.”
“I thought you guys didn’t make mistakes.” Max interjected.
“We don’t. That’s the collective ‘we’, mind you.”
Jenny held out her hand and shook hands with Max. “Hi, I’m Jenny.”
“Nice to meet you, Max. Where are you from?”
“Roswell. You?” She laughed at his question. “What’s so funny?”
“Oh, it’s not your fault. You’re new here. It’s just that they found me in Roswell, the desert actually. But I’ve lived here all my life, so this is where I’m from.”
“You’ve lived here your entire life?”
“Yeah.” She extended her hand and pulled him up beside her. “C’mon. I’ll give you a tour of the place.”
“And this is my room.” Max looked inside, expecting another sterile, ten by ten room, but instead it looked like any teenage girl’s bedroom. Scratch that-boy’s bedroom. Posters of different sports teams lined the walls and clothes laid strewn about on the ground. “Please excuse the mess. This is my room for the better part of the year, but when the big guys come around Sharon moves me to a room, probably like the one you have right now, so that it looks like well…like they know what they’re doing.”
“They don’t know what they’re doing?”
“Well, no, it’s not that. It’s just…I’ve been here for ten years. I think that by now they’ve learned all there is to know about me. That might be why they brought you here. Maybe females and males differ with powers and stuff.” Jenny looked down at her shoes, “So…do you want to see more of the complex?”
Max nodded his head. This girl had been here for basically her entire life. ‘Then she must know everything about this place.’ Max noticed that Jenny had started walking down the hallway again. “Wait! I mean, can you um…show me around your room?” He knew it sounded lame, but her room seemed safe. Especially considering that it didn’t have any cameras, unlike the hallway.
“Sure, no problem.” Jenny walked back into her room and Max followed, closing the door behind him.
“Okay. Are there any cameras or recording devices in this room?”
Jenny raised her eyebrow. “Um…there’s a VCR over there.” She pointed towards the corner of the room.
“No, I mean, like stuff that the government would use to watch us.”
She laughed again. “Why would they want to watch us?”
Max scratched his head. He was definitely not expecting his abduction to be like this. “Anyway, we probably don’t have a lot of time. They probably don’t want us to be alone too long.” She gave him a weird look, but he continued, “You’ve lived here your entire life. So you know your way around here, right?” She nodded. “So you could get me out of here, right?” She nodded again and Max smiled. He’d finally be able to go home.
“But why would you want to leave?”
Max frowned. “Because they’re holding me captive and I want to go home. They’re holding you captive too-don’t you want to go home?”
This time Jenny frowned. “I am home.”
Max shook his head, “No, I mean a real home.”
“This is my real home.”
Max sighed, he obviously wasn’t getting through to her. “Don’t you want to leave?”
Max sat down at this remark. “Will you help me get out of here, though?”
“But you just got here!” She protested. “Besides, I’m making dinner tonight. C’mon, there’s still more to see.” She walked towards the closed door but Max beat her to it.
He pinned her against the wall. This was his only chance to get out of this place and he wasn’t going to blow it by being the calm and cooperative Max. “No. You’re not leaving until you help me get out of here.”
She struggled against his hands, “Max, what’s wrong with you? Let me go.”
He opted for the angry approach. Maybe he could scare her into helping him. “Not until you help me get out of here,” he barked and tightened his grip on her wrists. He immediately regretted yelling at her. He really did scare her and now she was struggling to get away from him. She turned frantic and he feared she would scream, he didn’t know how soundproof the room was.
Suddenly Max was thrown against the wall across the room and luckily when he landed, he landed on the bed. “What the heck is wrong with you, Max?” she asked him.
“Me? You just threw me against a wall.”
“I wouldn’t have had to, if you didn’t push me against the door.” He watched in amazement as she healed the bruises that he had caused on her wrists.
“Sorry about those.” Max finally realized what Jenny had done and what she said earlier, “Wait-you have powers. You’re an…an alien.”
“I prefer the term not of this earth.” She flashed him a toothy grin. “And I accept your apology because I realize that you’re not normally like that. It’s just because you want to go home. I would too, if I were you.”
“How do you know what I’m normally like?”
“When I threw you against the wall, I sorta built a connection with you. I sometimes do that with Sharon, but yours came almost automatically. Probably because you’re an alien.”
“Shh…not so loudly!” Max whispered.
Again she laughed. Max was finding her laughter really annoying because it normally meant that he had said another foolish thing in her eyes, “Why? No one can hear you. And besides, they already know. Why else would they have taken you?”
Good point. But Max wasn’t about to tell her that. “So you said that you understand why I want to go home. Will you help me?”
She shrugged. “I guess. I mean, I wouldn’t want to keep you away from Liz.”
“Or Michael, Isabel, Alex, and Maria. Besides, like you said to Sharon, you have a family that’s probably worried about you. Oh yeah, and you have a project due on Friday that you haven’t started on.”
He smiled and she returned the grin. “You learned all that from one little touch?”
“What can I say? It’s a talent.”
Max’s tone turned serious as he realized that escaping wouldn’t be easy. While he had this whole government thing all messed up, he doubted they would let him go easily. “When do we escape?”
“Um…I don’t know. It might take a while. I mean, I have to plan it out and all…”
“How long will that take?”
“Oh, I don’t know. A day or two.”
Max nodded. He guessed he’d have to live with that. After all, what other choice did he have?
“C’mon. Let me finish giving you a tour of the complex. And then you can help me make dinner.”
Max watched in amazement as Jenny ‘made’ dinner. In actuality she was using her powers to prepare, mix, and cook the food. Within a few minutes, the normally hour meal, was done.
“Who’s ready to eat?” Jenny set the food on the long cafeteria like table.
Sharon shook her head disapprovingly. “Jenny, you know he’s not allowed to eat this food. He’s got to be kept on a regular diet until-”
“Sharon, he’s grown up like a regular kid. I’m pretty sure that he can eat ‘human’ food.”
“I don’t know about this.”
Jenny sighed, “Sharon, you won’t get in trouble. I mean, they don’t even know he’s here yet. The only people who do are the suits who brought him in, you, me and any orderly or janitor who saw him brought in.”
“Alright. Well, I’m heading home now. Make sure that Jerry locks up before he leaves.” Sharon gave her a hug before leaving. After she closed the door behind her, the room seemed very silent to Max.
“So where is everyone else?” Max asked Jenny.
“This is it. Jerry’s somewhere making his rounds. He’s the guard around here. They used to have a lot of people around. It was like having your own personal swat team watching you 24-7, but they’ve loosened up a lot. They know I’m not going anywhere.” She handed Max a plate of food.
“Why?” Max said while stuffing his face. He had refused to swallow the blue pills they had offered him at lunch so now he was starving. Jenny had told them they were just food supplements that the government had perfected, but he wasn’t sure if he could trust her completely.
“Why do they know you’re not going anywhere? You said that you knew how to escape.”
“I do. But I’ve never had a reason to escape. They don’t treat me badly and I have food and shelter here. And friends. Outside-well, there’s nothing out there for me.”
Max sighed. While Jenny and he were the same on the inside they certainly were different. He couldn’t understand why she would want to stay here and she couldn’t understand why he would want to leave. There were so many things that she knew, she was a genius in his eyes. Yet she didn’t understand simple things. He had tried to describe to her why he wanted to go home, why he loved Liz. That was the most astounding thing, she kept asking him rather child like questions. Asking him why there were wars, why people discriminated other people because of their skin color. Every question she asked him all he could do was shrug and tell her that that was the way things were.
“So have you thought up a plan yet to get us out of here?”
“Not yet. Maybe tomorrow.” Max nodded and continued eating.
Jenny sighed as she went to bed that night. “Night, Jerry,” She called out. She heard the muffled reply through her door. She still didn’t understand why Max wanted to leave. All the things they had talked about during the day. All the problems in the world with wars and prejudice-even just in Roswell with the sheriff. She didn’t understand why he would want to leave the safety of the complex for that.
But she knew that she didn’t want Max to leave. She knew that she couldn’t keep Max here though. He would die of misery if he couldn’t see his family or Liz again. That left her only one choice. To leave the compound herself. She realized soon after that she would probably have to guide Max to get him out safely, but she had been trying to figure out a way for her to get back to the complex before the alarms went off. Every time she tried to figure it out-the alarms always went off before she could get back to her room. Now she realized that if she went with Max, they would have plenty of time to escape before the alarms sounded.
Suddenly she sat up with a start. Tomorrow afternoon Jerry was retiring. That meant someone new would be guarding the compound. Someone that she didn’t know the nightly routines of. ‘Tonight, then. We have to leave tonight.’
She quickly threw on some clothes and grabbed her notebook. She threw it and a few other things into a bag. Jenny checked the lock on her door and made a silent thank you to Jerry, who had left in unlocked. She ran down the hallway, trying to remember where Max’s room was.
Jenny glanced down at her watch once she was outside Max’s door. ‘11:35. That means we have exactly five minutes to get to the basement and steal one of the cars. Then the silent alarm will sound and we’ll have two minutes to clear the gate before they realize something is up and before the siren goes off.’ She took in a deep breath. ‘Here goes nothing.’
She smiled at the stupidity of the government. She quickly used her powers to make a hole in the wall, next to the heavy metal door that she couldn’t manipulate with her powers.
Max, who was now sleeping on a cot, awoke with a start. “Jenny, what’s going-”
“No time, Max! You wanted to leave-then let’s go!”
Max immediately came out of his stupor and followed Jenny down the hall. He saw her waiting for the elevator and shook his head. He grabbed her hand and pulled her through the door marked ‘Stairs.’
They started running down the spiraling stairs, when suddenly a light started blinking. “Dammit-that’s the silent alarm. I’d thought we’d have more time…” Jenny looked down, they still had four more floors to run down. Then she noticed the laundry basket at the bottom, Max noticed it too.
He raised his eyebrows and shrugged before jumping over the stair’s railing. Jenny followed suit.
Before she had a chance to recover, Max was pulling her up and out of the laundry basket. “Which way?”
“Through here.” She led him through a door to the basement that was actually more like a parking lot. She ran over to the first vehicle she saw, n jeep that reminded her of the one Max owned. She jumped in the passenger side. “You drive!” She yelled over the alarm that was no longer silent. Max jumped into the driver’s side, looking for the keys, but couldn’t find any. Jenny reached over and started the jeep on her own before he could ask. “Hurry, Max!”
Max floored the gas pedal and peeled out of the basement as fast as possible. He saw the ‘garage door’ to the building and had his mind set in just driving through it, but Jenny quickly raised it. He smiled, thinking they were in the clear, but Jenny’s worried expression made him realize there was probably more to this escape.
He was right.
Fifty feet ahead of them was a metal gate and their freedom. But standing between them and their freedom were several suits armed with weapons. Jenny sighed, they had been so close. The emotions were so high that they were permeating off of Max, like ocean waves, hitting her blow after blow until she thought she would pass out. She tried to block him out so that she could stay level headed and think of a way past the guards, but soon she realized they were her own heightened emotions running rampant on her mind.
She turned and looked at Max, who was so determined, so dead set on returning home. That was when she noticed that Max wasn’t slowing down, that he was going to run the guards over. She opened her mouth to scream, but nothing came out. She felt Max’s hand on her back, pushing her down as the guards began to fire.
She felt sick to her stomach but wasn’t sure why. Was it the thought of the suits, who were just doing their jobs, dying? Or was it because she was leaving the only place she had ever known and was traveling into an unknown place filled with things she didn’t understand?
Jenny winced at the sound of Max screaming. She sat up, looking for the bullet wound, but instead found Max smiling. “Max?”
“We did it! We’re finally going home!”
She nodded and looked back behind her to get one last glimpse of her ‘home’. She exhaled a large breath in relief as she saw that the suits were okay. They must have gotten out of the way of the jeep in time. She cocked her head to the side. The proverb ‘there are two sides to every story’ echoed through her head. To Jenny, the suits had been her protectors, keeping her safe from the outside world filled with horrible problems. To Max, the suits had been his enemies, keeping him away from the people he loved best. Jenny turned back around and faced the open road. She knew that they wouldn’t come after them, Sharon would somehow convince them that they no longer needed a subject to study. That they had all the research they needed.
So she stared at the road ahead of her. The road that would lead her towards her future, but away from the life she had always known.