I have not formally been diagnosed with DID but I have a lot of educated evidence pointing in that direction. Therefore, I am using DID terms. Psychiatrists in my area are extremely backed up.
I realize alters cannot *die* but this seemed the case to everyone who witnessed this.
Neb’s final year was a blur of disappointments. She had fallen in love, then died; the former being more damning than the latter.
Kirra, the summer before, had enrolled in Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), located in Savannah, Georgia. Which was likely a saving grace, since the world already saw what happened when someone like that wasn’t accepted to art school.
Neb, having spent most of her senior year and the ‘gap’ year putting out fires in her sanctuary-turned-nightmare had no job and no social connection other than Kirra. (Except Casey, who’s pretty much the only reason the system even survived that period.)
Neb was hopelessly in love with Kirra, at that point. Wrote poetry for her, bought her a glass rose, melted any time Kirra would happen to spare a hug. She bloody melted when Kirra had said, ‘As a sociopath, I don’t feel anything. But I do know you have your uses.’
Once, Kirra had told her during a coughing fit, ‘Don’t die. I’d be mildly disappointed if you died.’ And Neb held onto that like a lifeline. So, when Kirra told Neb she was moving out of Savannah, Neb’s only option seemed the most reasonable: Take her two-month old driver’s license, her 1999 Mitsubishi Mirage she and Casey had bought with her graduation money, lie to her parents about having an apartment set up, and drive, by herself, to Georgia from Ohio—where she will live out of a car until her blue-haired, no-work experience self, will somehow come up with a job and an apartment.
And she drove down, shaking in terror and inexperience behind the wheel, and—actually made it to Savannah in September of 2012.
I started waking up periodically then. Primarily when she hung out with a fellow homeless man, Lathia, a street-wise philosopher who took us under his wing. I loved her circle of homeless friends. I remember being out and hating telling them her name. She had been excited to use it, of course. No one in her hometown had been excited to call her Nebula. So, I felt obliged.
But I did hate it. It felt like a cover story, even though it had always been the truth.
Neb’s and my days were filled with wandering the city in the September heat, asking for applications, trying not to be scammed on Craigslist. We’d (more often, I) would hang out with the fellow homeless folks that slept under Talmage Bridge until Kirra got out of class. Then we would hang out in her shoebox of a dorm, with Kirra’s newest followers (two baby weebs and a fedora-wearing sexist), and usually go out to eat, where Kirra would either buy Neb a meal or give her leftovers.
There were visiting hours at SCAD, so Neb usually walked from Kirra’s dorm to her car at 2am, and fell asleep until that metal death trap started baking her alive by 8am. She would stagger to the Mr. Pizza bathroom across the street, clean herself up in the sink, and start the cycle all over again.
Kirra did help out with meals and such, but as far as moral support for her homeless friend, she swung between judgmental to entitled. One incident that comes to mind was the Dragon incident.
She was assigned some sort of art project where she had to fill an outline of a Chinese dragon with the sins of humanity. She was begging Neb for ideas, ‘Please, I’m fried, make yourself useful and think of something else to draw!’
Neb had a few suggestions—none that could satisfy. “What about… betrayal?” The ultimate Chaotics sin. Everything always has a reason.
“That’s stupid!” Kirra spat, “How am I supposed to depict betrayal? How am I supposed to draw a picture of that?”
Neb was tensing, as nearly always. Kirra had hit her and thrown spare objects at her before and she had begun to pick up the survival instincts of a kicked dog. “M-Maybe with like… a silhouette of someone holding a knife behind their back or—”
“No, that wouldn’t work. That’s too cliché!” Said the wannabe sociopath who idolized Light Yagami on DeviantArt. “I need to be able to draw this! How would I even draw it?”
This brain’s trauma responses tend to be either Fawn or Freeze. This was a freeze. “I don’t know—I’ve never been good at visualizations—I’ve always just been a writer—”
“You know, I used to think you were creative. I actually was friends with you because I thought we could, as two artistic minds, share that sort of passion but I guess I was wrong about you. Your ideas are as simplistic and drab as your writing.”
Kirra wasn’t just going for the nerve, she was going for the entire nervous system. Hey. Nervous system. Good DID pun.
Neb, of course, had a breakdown. She ran from the dorm that night in tears, drowning in the sort of hurt and self-loathing that could only occur when the only person on the planet who seemed to understand you seemed to feel nothing but disdain for you. Her mind was swan-diving to suicide. Gods knew Kirra would probably just be angrier for running away.
The options were running through Neb’s head. Try to OD on Equate? Can one even OD on Equate? Maybe try to climb the bridge and jump off?
But I was fully awake that night and I’m an absolute devil on this poor girl’s shoulder. “Hey, you know how Kirra always associates herself with fire? The red hair, the crimson and black, all that? We still have that petrol canister in the boot, why not set ourselves on fire?”
I admit, this probably wasn’t my best introduction. Even as far as the purpose of alters, dear lords, I am bad at my job. But it wasn’t occurring to me that my existence was tied to this odd, fleshy vessel. I wanted theatrics! I wanted symbolism! I was new to the world and wanted to feel like what it’d be to burn. What even are consequences?
I don’t know if Neb heard me as a full voice or just as an intrusive thought. Gods know I never exactly introduced myself. But she did listen. With shaking hands, she grabbed her jerry can from the boot of her car. She rummaged through her rucksack and found a lighter, that she’d held onto just in case.
Staring at them both in her hands, she paused. I’m not sure what she was thinking. She walked to the gas station and paid for one gallon mechanically, barely even registering the interaction. She walked to River Street, just near where the dilapidated factory used to be. She stood there for a long time, watching the lights dancing on the river.
I remember being silent. I was somewhat curious if she’d do it. I had a childlike detachment from the concept of life and death—sometimes I still do, when it comes to myself.
Then she upended the jerry can and soaked her hoodie and jeans. I remember how oddly cold the gasoline felt. She grasped her lighter in her hands, tried to light, then—
The fucking thing wouldn’t light.
We flicked it a few times, then froze. What could we even do now? We’d gone too far this time, we couldn’t even try to get help without being institutionalized somewhere in the Bible belt. What next?
“Neb!” It was Lathia—he was about thirty years old, with a handsome face, dirty blonde hair, stubble, and stormy blue eyes. I’d recently feared I’d made him up as an alter, but confirmed that someone outside my head had met him too. He had a similar way of talking that Shadow had. Perfect diction that seemed oddly rehearsed. “Neb, I was looking for you. I had a conflict with Katrina earlier. My girl, coming by like a hurricane. Let me run this by you.” He put his arm around our shoulders, steering us away from the river, where our life could’ve ended only a minute before.
I honestly can’t remember what he was talking about. It was definitely about Katrina, and how she had made him a mixed tape or something. He didn’t mention the jerry can, that we had left behind. He had somehow gently taken away Neb’s lighter without either of us noticing. Maybe the fumes got to our head.
He led us to an apartment that was over a locksmith shop, right near Wright Square. He talked on and on about his personal affairs. I’m not sure Neb or I made a single sound.
Lathia’s friends were renting the apartment. He spoke to one girl—I don’t remember hardly anything about her, only that she had a heavier build, glasses, and brown hair. Lathia talked to her alone for a bit, then said goodnight to us and then left. His friend directed us to where the shower was, where the couch was, and gave us a change of clothes. At this point, our only response was, “Okay.” And “Thanks.”
There was no judgment, no questions. I remember them talking amongst themselves, about whether petrol could be washed in the laundry systems. We showered the body off, then fell asleep on the couch.
Neb’s life continued as usual. No apology from Kirra, just a bit of mercy since she had somehow managed to finish the project. Neb continued to search for employment, even alongside Kirra’s insistence that Neb was going to die in a gutter as soon as she had to go back home for break.
But, against all possible odds, Neb achieved her goal in the beginning of November. I helped a bit—not as much as I take credit for, but I did help. She got a job as a food-runner at an Asian Fusion place called Fire. She had a pitifully low wage, but somehow found rent as cheap as her labour.
Neb was thrilled. She had survived homelessness, moved to a new city on mostly a prayer, and was stable. With an awful job and pitiful apartment, but hell, we both figured that she’d be dead before she’d even get that far.
Neb was so excited to tell Kirra, who had temporarily moved back home for autumn break. “I have an apartment! My first night there is tonight.”
Kirra responded with, word for word, “Good for you. I hate my carpet.” She then went on a rant about how her mum refused to update the carpeting in a room Kirra didn’t even live in anymore, and was pulling it up with her bare hands in protest.
How did Neb feel? Well, this was posted to her deviantArt three days before I woke up:
Here we go again with my melodramatic sap.
Luring rhyming words into a ‘simplistic’ trap.
Step right up to enjoy the last crash.
Maybe in time to glimpse the remnants of ash.
I’ve come and gone before anyone knew.
But hey, did you at least enjoy the view?
From homeless to housed, the successes ignored.
Never made proud the one I so adored.
Struggling to recover myself to no avail.
At last, my spirit knows and has begun to fail.
My love for you has even evoked to benight.
A constant, dark flame compared to what was blazing light.
I’ve been so sick of forcing myself to feel.
Pretending to be human, the very thought surreal.
Flirting with Death, because she makes me feel wanted.
I haven’t lived nearly as much as I’ve haunted.
I shouldn’t have hoped, I should have known.
Single or not, I will die alone.
With no one to care and no one to hold.
It’s no wonder I’ve become one with the cold.
That was the last known thing she had ever written. Days later, on December 17-18th, I woke up and stayed.