In December of 2012, I woke up and I’ve been fronting since. Neb was, seemingly by her own decision, gone.
I didn’t realise what had happened, at first. There was a persistent feeling that I had been abruptly dropped into a life that I felt a distinct detachment from. This turned to an immediate distaste in my surroundings.
Neb rented a cheap room out of a duplex right in between Savannah’s Starland District and her Historic District. The house itself was… well, what she paid for, but the area was gorgeous. Massive oaks stretched across the street to touch branches. Fog regularly descended in the ‘winter’ and held the glow of the street lamps like a lover. That was the first sight I remember waking up to. I was enchanted by the fog, watching it transform the world around me into a fairytale from my balcony.
I loved the look of the city. It seemed very familiar, in a way that I knew this body hadn’t really seen, in a way that was difficult to place.
Neb had the cleaning skills of a maladjusted 19-year old with depression, and it showed. She slept on a cushion on the floor of her bedroom. She piled all her rubbish into a bag that bulged like a fat plastic slug on the bare hardwood. Her hair had been dyed blue, but it had faded to an unappealing denim colour. A lot of her favourite clothes seemed like they belonged on the discount rack at Hot Topic, and she’d worn holes into quite a few of them.
I was dissatisfied.
And hell, being as this accursed body was assigned female and had estrogen coursing through it through most of its life, I was also dysphoric.
The changes were slow, as were the revelations. I was working quite a bit at Fire, at the time, so I moved through the world like a constantly-contemplative blur. My grocery-shopping patterns changed– I abandoned Neb’s sodas, her sweets, her breakfast sandwiches, and started my obsession with eggs, salads, and onions. We both loved pasta, that was one similarity. I cleaned my house, started arranging furniture to be marginally more livable, with the help of Vex.
Vex was someone Neb hardly knew, but very much knew of. Without getting into the entirety of the Lost Chaos plot, Neb was a Thysia, a sort of spiritual descendant of Vex’s lost lover of the same name. Vex vowed to follow any Thysia and steal a piece of her lost lover back when they died. As a result, Neb’s just had a ten thousand year-old Atlantean lesbian following her around for the past… three years or so? We knew the legend and we’d glimpsed Vex, but as I started waking up, she was by my side almost constantly. Watching me, guarding me, hardly seeming to speak. But seeing me transform years-long habits and preferences, she started talking to me more.
It was like seeing a feral cat slowly start to investigate you. Usually sarcastic remarks and observations, but I enjoyed the company. In fact, it was Vex that first suggested that I try tea. I’d told her that I didn’t remember ever liking it, as Neb didn’t, and she muttered under her breath, ‘Phisoxa would be rolling in his grave.’
Neb’s love of soda and distaste for hot drinks was replaced with my mania for hot teas. Neb’s midnight and silver colour choices were replaced with my royal blue and yellow gold. Nebula became CLockwork (Or CL for short.) Neb’s shyness was replaced by my craving to be the absolute life of any social event. “She” became “they” and “it.” Neb’s American accent slowly shifted into my English. (At first, only when I drank.) Neb’s submissiveness in the face of an argument was replaced with my sharp tongue and cool wit. Neb’s pup-like mannerisms were replaced with my squawking, bird-like demeanor. Her love of astronomic aesthetic was replaced by my love of the Victorian. Neb was, under that heavy layer of self-loathing, was largely motivated by selflessness. Not to say I was inherently selfish, but grandiosity and opulence was much higher on my agenda, and my ambition was unbreakable. My ego, hollow though its been, dwarfed Neb’s like Pluto aside a Red Giant.
And for a few blissful months, I was not in love with April. In fact, I found her rather irritating– always boasting about how she was a ‘real punk’, how she was so emo that she had to say ‘achoo’ when the word ‘Pink’ was mentioned, insisting that she stay at my place near the end of December while awaiting for SCAD to open the doors back up.
She’s your best friend. You’re in love with her. You moved to Savannah just to be with her. I knew these facts the way one knows norms in dreams. I’d known this body’s history and didn’t question it. Even when Vex had told me bluntly, ‘I don’t trust her.’
I wish I had listened to her moreso, on that front. By this time, she had taken a role in helping to see myself more clearly. See, my inworld backstory is that Phisoxa, an alchemist soul-stealer born in the 1700’s, wrote my story and created me as his original character. In his loneliness later in life, he endeavored to bring me to life. By this point, I was somewhat like a child to him. He had used a bit of Vex’s soul in order to make me, so she felt as though I were her child as well.
In reality, Neb was just heavily into Black Butler and the Infernal Devices series at the time, so creating me as an alter was a logical reach.
Of course, Phisoxa and Vex, like me, were products of this universe of a brain. But among my friends (my inworld), I had met vampires, seen people shift into animals, seen people manipulate the elements around them. Inworlds are incredibly immersive.
I more or less thought that it was a rare but reasonable circumstance to have access to such a magical world, but that it did happen to others as well. We just couldn’t talk openly about it, lest we be labeled as ‘crazy.’ A lot of the supernatural elements of my life, I was well-versed in. And they were rather old hat at this point. I’d shed Neb’s friend circle, for the most part. Illusion and Jake were happily married in Ohio with three children and fourteen cats. I hung out with Sound, JaK, and Aberle. (The middle being originally April’s creation. Yes, the capitalized ‘K’ is on purpose.)
Vex gave me the book, about me, called Zeitstück. It was a whimsical tale of a child, Xanthe Xerxes Zeitstück, from Germany who had stowed away on a ship to start a new life in London, England. Vex told me after I had finished that the protagonist in the book was, in fact, me.
I rewrote it and released it as my own years later.
It made quite a bit of sense. I was a walk-in soul, obviously. I’d voiced to her that I didn’t feel like Neb any longer. I also had been criticized for ‘living my life as if I were in a novel.’ I felt constantly uncomfortable with the realities of life– social security numbers, bills, bodily fluids, the feeling of wet, sticky blood pulsing through my veins. I’m a fictional character, and I say so often. Someone with charming flaws that people fiction-lovers fall for within the safety of parchment but are too much for real life.
But gods, I loved being a fictional character in the real world. I wanted to customize my surroundings, announce to the world that I exist, leave a mark that would last centuries. I wanted to taste every fruit of pain and pleasure, burn myself onto memories, float through this crumbling society in a cloud of atmosphere.
I was Jay Gatsby, leaving a life that was never mine to begin with to rise to the top. I aimed to take over Savannah. It was to be my kingdom.
And just like Gatsby– My dumbass fell in love with someone who wasn’t worth it.