Banner by Precariousem
Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell …please don't sue....
Summary: Liz never got shot in the Crashdown. Before that could happen, something else did. This will be a medium short story. Do NOT expect frequent updates until both Falling and Decisions are completed. I didn't really mean to start this but the idea came to me and I needed to get enough of it down to remember it.
It was a very small ceremony...just three people present. Of course, all things are relative. In this universe that constituted the entire population, so by that standard it was huge perhaps. Even so...it certainly wasn't your typical wedding.
"You're sure about this?" asked Liz nervously...
"More certain than I've ever been about anything in my whole life, Liz," said Max.
Liz looked up at Isabel and shrugged her shoulders, a sad little smile on her lips. Isabel looked down on her with obvious approval...and more than a little regret that she hadn't gotten to know the girl years ago....hadn't understood her as well as she had come to understand her these last eight months. More than anything else, she regretted the near-decade she'd been trying her best to keep these two apart.
Isabel looked at Max, then back at Liz, and with a smile not too different from Liz's started to intone. "Repeat after me.....I, Elizabeth Parker..."
"I, Elizabeth Parker..."
"..take thee, Maxwell Evans, as my wedded husband,.."
"..take thee, Maxwell Evans, as my wedded husband..."
- ten months ago
He was 32 years old, and in most societies would have been considered an adult. But this wasn't most societies, it was Roswell New Mexico, Earth, in the very late twentieth-century. It wasn't the first time he'd been drinking and driving...it was in fact one of many. And it wasn't like he'd never been caught...he had in the course of his lifetime, had a total of seven DUIs, two of them while a minor who was supposed to not have access to alcohol at all. But this was, after all, the late twentieth century, and it had become fashionable to not hold adults responsible for their actions. In fact, adolescence was extended, for legal purposes, to ridiculous lengths, with excuses made for all sorts of irresponsible and antisocial conduct. The perpetrators were judged to be...not old enough to understand what they were doing. And even in cases like this when at 32 years of age it was difficult to deny this individuals adult status, there was another rationale for denying him culpability for his crimes....he was merely sick. Yes. alcoholism was a 'disease' and the man had gotten off several times because he was 'unable to control his actions,' the nonjudgmental nature of the era accepting this excuse, without imposing the logical action were this legal fantasy actually true of actually incarcerating this man, as they would certainly have done for any other animal whose nature placed the public at risk.
His vehicle was a large diesel pickup truck, and he'd been out drinking with the boys again. There was almost a case of empty beer cans back in the box of the pickup. and several bottles of tequila had bit the dust in the last few hours as well. His blood alcohol at autopsy would be 0.32....four times the legal limit. Yes, tonight the man would die...despite...or perhaps because of all the chances the legal system had given him. Ultimately the laws of physics would do what the laws of man had failed to do...take him off the road and out of the gene pool as well.
The truck was doing almost 120 mph when it crossed the double yellow line, it's intoxicated operator barely conscious. The oncoming car had little warning and its operator was barely able in the last tenth of a second to wrench the car away from the head on that would have instantly killed both drivers, but for the driver of the truck the reprieve was only temporary.
The front of the truck impacted heavily on the left side of the car directly behind the driver, sending the car spinning off the highway toward a lamppost, but the truck itself had now started to skid and as it rebounded back to the right side of the highway, still doing in excess of ninety miles per hour. The truck driver had responded slowly ...even after the impact, but he had also turned the wheel rapidly to the right and the truck simply couldn't turn that sharply...it rolled over repeatedly as it continued down the road. On the second roll the cab of the truck was sufficiently distorted that the driver's side door sprung...spilling the driver, who had neglected to wear his seatbelt, out in the only direction the laws of physics allowed...into the path of the rolling vehicle. A fraction of a second later the rolling truck caught up with the man...the laws of physics then doing what the laws ot the state of New Mexico had been unable to do...removing the man permanently from behind the wheel.
Liz Parker had only had her license for six weeks when Amy DeLuca's faithful Jetta had its transmission go out. It was a Friday, and parts would not be available until Monday morning. That's how Liz found herself out in the family car at 11:20PM , just returning from driving Maria home after their late Friday shift. She was only sixteen, and the accident statistics for teenagers driving at night are uniformly terrible in all states due largely to their inexperience and the lack of a meaningful concept of mortality in the very young. But Liz wasn't taking unreasonable risks...wasn't drinking and driving...in fact, was not doing anything wrong as she drove directly home in complete obedience to all the traffic laws....but none of that kept the big pickup truck from crossing the double yellow line suddenly as its drunken operator passed out. She had seen the speeding truck coming....pulled her car to the right...slowed down...but it hadn't been enough. She swerved desperately and avoided the headon, but there was too little warning to avoid the truck completely.
Although she had yanked the front of her vehicle away from the head-on collision, the speeding truck smashed viciously into the car just aft of the driver’s door, the impact instantly setting off the driver side airbag located in the steering wheel and slamming her back against the seat. But this position of relative safety was short-lived as the rear of the car skidded from the impact and the car began to spin. The impact with the lamp post was directly behind the right front seat door, and as the car bent itself around the post, the driver was thrust laterally to the right…out from behind the collapsing remains of the airbag…even sliding past the restraint of her shoulder harness….and as she crumpled over the seatbelt holding her, her head slashed down to what once would have been the passenger seat….before the impact of the post had distorted the car. But where the passenger seat once would have been was now the side of the car pushed inward by the unmoving lamp post and the motion of her head was arrested quickly by its impact with that distorted wall.
Her head literally bounced off that distorted metal, the bony structure under her crown and upper skull not quite fracturing from the impact. But within that skull, within the braincase that had evolved to protect the brain that was the very core of the person that was Liz Parker, more serious damage was occurring.
The technical term was a coup-contrecoup injury. The ‘coup’ injury occurs at the area of impact in this case the frontal portion of the cerebral hemispheres, the contrecoup injury occurs as the brain rebounds backwards in the cranial cavity. In this case the ‘coup’ injury was high enough that the contrecoup injury was at the very base of the brain … near where the spinal cord exits from the skull. For this small area…the brainstem…it was actually a double disaster. The initial injury was itself bad enough…bruising and twisting the brainstem in something called diffuse axonal shear. But as the brain above swelled in the tight cranial vault, the tissue had nowhere to go…nowhere but to force itself downward…forcing the stem of the brain through the foramen magnum, herniating the brainstem through the only opening available. By the time the ambulance got there, the young driver was barely breathing.
".... to love, comfort, honor and keep you Maxwell... For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. And forsaking all others," repeated Liz, not without some reservations.
The biggest reservation was the certainty that this was all just a dream...on that there didn't seem to be any real debate. She did believe she'd been injured in an accident...she remembered it happening....that part at least made sense...but she was pretty sure that this Max and Isabel were both figments of her imagination. Oh, a Max and Isabel Evans existed alright, .... she'd known them both for years, back before the accident...and the period of total sensory deprivation that she'd had before this 'Max and Izzy,' had broken it for her. But she was pretty much convinced that the 'Max' she was now marrying, and the 'Isabel' that was assisting with their vows...weren't THOSE Max and Isabel. These two were simply creations of a mind that was trapped within itself...her mind...or what was left of it.
They had told her it had only been two months that she'd been trapped in that isolation...that sensory deprivation...it had seemed like an eternity to her. In a very real sense she believed she had gone insane during that time...was probably still insane, her mind conjuring an 'alien' brother and sister pair to comfort her in her solitude...no more than phantoms, but still...somehow...bringing her back from that abyys of soul numbing emptiness that she had occupied before her mind had created them.
No, the real Max and Isabel wouldn't be in this place with her...wouldn't be doing something they called a 'dreamwalk,'...and the real Max and Isabel Evans weren't... and certainly never claimed to be...alien survivors from the 1947 saucer. But as Liz came to the final words she realized that reservations were pointless. She almost certainly WAS in a coma...nothing else made sense....and there was no indication she'd ever get out of the coma.....and since that seemed to be her fate, ...this was certainly a pleasant enough dream.....even if it wasn't...and never could be...real.
"until death do us part...," finished Liz, with a shy smile.
- ten months ago:
It was almost midnight as he approached the door to the living quarters behind the Crashdown. There were actually a lot of good things about being Sheriff, Jim Valenti kept telling himself, but there were some horrible things too. Among these was notifying the parents of a teenager that they'd been in a serious auto accident, and that their child might not make it. It was even worse when he knew the accident victim...when she was a classmate of his own son. 'Hmpph,' Jim Valenti thought to himself, '...accident my ass...,' He'd personally gotten that bastard for DUI twice, and the damn lawyers and judges had kept letting him go. And now...this.
Jim could have gotten the operator to give him the unlisted number for the Parkers' residence, but Jim had never been able to bring himself to do that. Bad enough to learn that someone you'd loved their entire life maybe wasn't going to make it from a human in person. He couldn't bring himself to break news like that over the phone.
Jeff Parker had been in bed for forty-five minutes, but he had not even started to go to sleep. He wouldn't, he knew, until he heard her climbing the steps up to her bedroom. When he heard that, he'd probably be asleep before she got to the top of the stairs, but until he knew for sure she was back, sleep just wasn't going to happen. She was only about forty-five minutes late...she'd probably gone in to talk with Maria for a few minutes...maybe have a soda...and they'd just lost track of time. At least that was what Jeff Parker was telling himself until he heard the doorbell ring downstairs. He hurried down, hoping that somehow Liz had just lost her keys or something...had to walk home, and then ring the doorbell. It all made sense sort of, and he wanted to believe that, because that thought was so much less frightening than the alternative he feared. But when he opened the door and saw Jim Valenti standing there, Jeff Parker knew...even before Jim opened his mouth and said the words that he somehow knew were coming.
"Jeff...I'm sorry...there's been an accident. Liz is in the Emergency Room at Roswell General being worked on right now."
'Being worked on...,' the very phrase was like a fist clamped tightly around his heart. "How bad is it, Sheriff?"
Perhaps Jeff and Nancy Parker would someday feel some gratitude for the sheriff getting them to the Emergency Room in his patrol car, certainly neither of them was in any shape to drive. But not tonight...there was no room in either of them for gratitude right now. The speed of the car...noise of the siren...the way the strobe lights lit up the surroundings in the night...all contributed to the terror that seemd to fill them completely.
The terror continued as they went through the Emergency Room door. The charge nurse seemed to know who they were and why they were there …just by the look of fear that their faces held.
“Mr. and Mrs. Parker?”
“Yes,” said Jeff, “..our daughter Liz…”
“She’s been transferred to the Intensive care unit…bed three. Jamie, will you take Mr. and Mrs. Parker to the ICU please?”
They followed the orderly quietly, their minds in turmoil. Intensive Care was not good, but at least she was still alive. They exited the elevator at the third floor and traveled almost half the length of the building before they came to the door with the sign that said ‘ICU, visits by immediate family only for maximum of 15 minutes per hour.’ The orderly picked up the phone and told the unit clerk that the Parkers were here to see their daughter, and the doorlock buzzed briefly and they hurried in. They could see the unit clerk at the end of the short hallway….a hallway filled with doors leading to rooms with rolling beds where people were on beeping monitors and respirators, and where they had all varieties of IVs and tubes running into and out of them. It was too late for them to believe she was OK but with each step toward the desk they prayed she would live through this. As they passed room three they looked inside. It was empty…not even a bed. They stood there unable to move. Nancy Parker began to sob and Jeff felt tears running down his own eyes.
The nurse was named Beverly, and she was twenty-eight years old...about average for an ICU nurse. They tended to burn out after three or four years, and go looking for a less stressful job. In fact, Liz wasn't her patient...her patient was across the hall in ICU bed one, but one look and she knew what they were thinking. She spoke quickly.
"I believe the patient in that room is down in radiology getting some imaging studies. Her ICU nurse is Debbie Hansen...she's down there with her, as well as Doctor Taylor, her trauma surgeon. '...and the anesthesiologist and radiologist too..,' Beverly thought but didn't say. The girl's parents clearly had fears enough without knowing how badly injured the girl was, without getting it third hand from someone else's nurse. Doctor Taylor was not only one of Roswell's best trauma surgeons, but she was good at breaking the news to relatives...much better than several of the trauma surgeons who, in the nurses opinion, had all the tact of a freight train. If any one could calm these two down...give them a little hope, it was Dr. Taylor. "I'm sure Dr. Taylor will be up to talk to you as soon as the imaging studies are done."