One Of Us
There’s a bottle of unbranded vodka on the table, and nothing much else.
Nothing much else in here at all, in fact. The room is another nameless motel room, in another faceless motel. Paid for in cash from a bundle left for me by the client at a safety deposit box at the station. When I’m in town to work, I tend not to use one of the safehouses, unless events conspire against me.
I look at the bottle, run a fingertip along the ridged curve of the screw-top.
I don’t like vodka. Vodka is Ivan’s drink.
I don’t like explosions, either – loud noises play hell with my constitution. Ivan is the demolitions expert.
The cap makes a cracking noise as I open the bottle for the first time. I take an exploratory sniff. Even the odour – something people will swear vodka doesn’t have, but I can definitely smell it – sets something off. Ivan’s voice, in my ear, close by.
For years, I didn’t know that the alters even existed. When you’re in the care system, most adults barely notice you at all, so it’s not surprising that nobody noticed that I’d black out for days at a time, and someone else would take over.
It took the rigid structure of a stretch in juvie for the cracks to really show – there was nothing but scrutiny inside, and when one of the others – Spinning Jenny I think – assaulted one of the other inmates, I was sent to see a shrink. Within six months, she and I had established the fact of my condition, and had even sketched out a vague roster of the other personas.
You’re supposed to call it DID, now… Dissociative Identity Disorder is what you’re supposed to call it. For some reason Multiple Personality Disorder wasn’t considered appropriate any more. The new name sounds more like an illness, but the older term carried a sort of inner truth to it.
They are personalities – as much as any personality is. Whether a person’s character is a cluster of chemical triggers, or a bundle of choices and memories accumulating to make patterns of behaviour, or something else altogether – whatever it is, it applies to the alters as much as to anyone else.
I’m not aware of what’s going on when one of the others is in the driving seat, but they know about each other – communicate with each other, even, or at least seem to. After a while, they even started to get in touch with me – lipstick notes on mirrors, sardonic internal gossip left with other people, like that.
I need Ivan for the job I’ve got on tonight. He speaks close in my ear as he seeps in, and reminds me about the gun. I take it out of the paper bag, on the floor at my feet, and put it on the table next to the vodka.
This is the nearest I get to being aware of the others – during the transition from me to them. I didn’t used to feel anything, but as we’ve started working together more, I’ve started to recognise their character traits as they come on in.
None of this would have been possible without the help of the best of the shrinks. He was also the last of them. I suspect that what I do for money now wasn’t what he had in mind.
At the time we’d managed to identify thirteen alters. We were even talking assimilation by then, which obviously at least one of the personalities didn’t like. I’m guessing Anodyne Annie – she’s always been the persona most likely to sabotage the whole, and also the only one who doesn’t like to announce her arrival. None of the others get off on pretending to be me.
Whoever it was, they did a number on us. Over a few sessions, she seduced the good doctor. And then she dropped the youngest of the alters into the driving seat, midway through a tryst.
The youngest of the alters is me at six years old. Of course, she isn’t really – I was me at six years old. But we were practically the same person back then, and she stayed frozen in place. She still uses the same name, if you can believe that.
She suffers from DID too, if you can believe that. It was being thrown into the lap of the doctor that did it, I think. We’ve never been able to work out the extent of her condition – she doesn’t come out that often any more.
For a few weeks afterward, I didn’t really know what was going – I was in and out of consciousness and as far as I could tell I was living on the street for a while there. When I finally got it back together, I discovered that I was on the run. Ivan had visited the good doctor one night, and left his body in pieces for his staff to find.
We’ve reached a kind of consensus over time, with shrinks and messages left on notepads, mirrors – and on one particularly unpleasant evening, in faeces on the wall.
The alters, it turns out, had developed some particularly useful skills over time. Nothing that could get us by in the overground working world, but, like Ivan, each had picked up tricks that serve us well in a particular line of work.
From Lazy Susan, who can work the hardest grift without breaking a sweat, to Spinning Jenny’s knack with knives – together there aren’t many contract jobs we can’t pull off.
Me? My only real skill is holding it all together.
I take a swig of vodka, and invite Ivan all the way in. Tonight, something bad is going to happen, somewhere outside this hotel room.
I’m glad I won’t be there to see it.
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