(This story takes place in both my inworld and outerworld. In order to ease confusion, I’ve decided to use Italics when speaking about the inworld. April, Avery, Ash, March, and Arkady are code-names, used for either anonymity or my own amusement. This post, being formerly the worst day of my life, has a lot of trigger warnings. Abusive relationships, car crashes, existential issues, blackmail, depersonalization, suicidal ideation, and– at the end, anger. I’d exploded during a PTSD attack that alcohol didn’t quite dull and decided to leave that in. For anyone having trouble remembering who everyone is… April, abusive partner. Ash, abusive ex-metamour in present days. Arannan and Rebecca, those who claimed to have either adopted me or were the natural parents of my past-lives that Ash claimed to channel. Sound and Koji, two alters of mine married to JaK. JaK, an alter of mine originally created and controlled by April. Xhaxhollari, the alter that currently co-hosts with me.)
It was about a week since Avery had gone missing and I was running out of alternative theories on why. Maybe it was two weeks? I was fading in and out of my inworld so often those days that it was hard to tell. But I’ll never forget that it was a Tuesday night that I heard a knock on my door. What I saw when I opened it will always be ingrained in my memory.
They had a neck-length mane of platinum blond hair. They were wearing black jeans and a black tanktop, which did wonders for their arm and shoulder musculature. They had a rogueish smirk, leaning against the doorframe. The sun had set not too long ago, the lighting a deep turquoise with my door light illuminating the front of them a warm orange. “Express delivery from the nut-hut,” they said hoarsely.
We embraced. It was all something out of a film.
I made them a pot of tea and watched as they sat in my living room and scooped an absurd amount of honey into their glass teacup. I’d told them, in a rushed tone, about my doomed relationship. I don’t think I’d discussed April with them before that night– only the misunderstanding and why we weren’t allowed to make out anymore. I’d recounted how April had reacted to my moving into my workplace, starting the story with, “Oh, it was really funny when she–[…]”
As the story went on, nearly to the end, Avery interrupt me with, “Wait. She hit you?”
I stared at them. “Yeah, but she’s like ninety pounds, soaking wet.”
Avery stared back. “Still, though.”
I feel like I actually heard the phrase, “it’s not like that” run through my skull before dismissing it entirely. I’d just feel too cliché. As I finished with the explanation of why I would break up with April, Avery began telling me why it was they were forcibly committed to the ‘nut hut’ for the past several days. “I can’t believe [Undisclosed University] commits you for being suicidal,” they griped, as if such a thing were a complete plot twist.
“Well, did you say you have a plan?” Isn’t that the rule? You weren’t considered suicidal unless you had it more planned out than most eighteen-year olds had their professional careers?
“No,” they said, baffled. “But they wouldn’t believe me. I had to pull down my pants and literally show them all of the cuts all over my genitals.”
They also disclosed to me that they would be forced to leave [Undisclosed University] for financial reasons. It was a raw confession, peppered with tears. I wanted so badly to comfort them, but they also had already said they didn’t want touch at the moment. Our time as a couple would have to come to a close before it had ever begun. But there was still a little over a month left– all the more better reason to break up with April.
The tension was finally broken by a knock on the door. “Is that someone from your work?” Avery asked.
“No,” I admitted. “I panicked and ordered us a pizza.”
It was at least another week that I had to build up courage. By that point, I hated the institution of monogamy as a default almost as much as I hated gender roles. It had gotten to the point where I didn’t even want a relationship. Just to kiss and flirt and fuck and romance as the moment– and the other person– demanded. I was essentially planning to Dorian Gray myself around life, minus the murder.
Unless you asked nicely.
A relationship in general seemed like an entire cage around me. The expectations, the rules that were unspoken until violated, how it seemed to turn romance into a business agreement.
That seemed like an easier excuse to break things off, somehow. Somewhere in the same vein of, ‘Sorry, but I’m gay.’ ‘Sorry, but I’m moving far away for work.’ ‘Sorry, I’m giving up relationships for lent.’
I felt as if I were crafting my explanation in my very dreams when my phone rang, around 5am.
Koji. “Can you get ahold of JaK?” His shaky tone was all too familiar to me. “I was hoping to hang out with Adrennin and Sumire– he knows I have a crush on Adrennin– and he got really mad. I snapped at him and he drove off in a car without me. We’re on the border of France and Germany. It was raining really hard, and we’re on like a mountain, so I’m worried.”
Even though JaK is in danger of dying about every other week?
Even Prosper, one of my personal favourites of the Heart-Hanasaki household, had taken to getting plastered and being a sort of chaotic peanut gallery to JaK’s threats. “Oh, no, he’s really going to do it this time. Thirtieth time’s the charm!”
I’d tried calling a few people, but no one had seen him since he had stormed out of that tavern on the border. I consoled Koji and told him that his husband would probably show up tomorrow, probably scowling in his Berlin apartment. I went back to sleep, comforted in the thought that out of all the things I lose sleep over, it won’t be April’s arguments.
April always did hate going out for Mondays, but I convinced her that day to meet at The Gryphon Tea Room for an early sort of date. It was likely 2pm in the afternoon. It was shaping up to be a somewhat pleasant day. Sunny, partly cloudy, mid-seventies. The brutality of summer was creeping around the corner and threatening us under its hot, humid breath, but it was still pleasant.
I remember wearing my velvet frock coat once again. There must be something about that coat and pivotal points of my life. Just before we had gotten the bill, I had awkwardly launched into my line of thought. “It’s not that I just don’t want a monogamous relationship. I don’t want a relationship at all. I mean, think of it. When we started dating, I was still grappling with the fact that I wasn’t Neb.” I was briefly interrupted when the waitress brought back the bill.
April slung her bag over her shoulder and tore away from the table of empty dishes. I walked quickly after her. Unlike about half of her angry escapes, this was at least leading us neatly towards her dorm. “[April], it’s not like I don’t still care about you. Like I know it’s a stereotype to say, ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ but I really don’t think I’m made for relationships in general. I’m not even from here. I’m fictional. You’re literally dating a fictional character! It’s not good for you, either.”
“You and Aberle treat ‘not belonging in reality’ like it’s some sort of exclusive club and I’m sick of it!” she snapped. “I was the one who made it and you’ve ruined everything!”
Here, my memory seems to fade out like burning theatre tape. When I came to, we were already in April’s dorm. The conversation had progressed by probably five minutes, through what Xhaxhollari didn’t want me to see and still doesn’t. I was catching only the tail end, wherein April was saying that because of me/us, that she could never go back to Dominic’s, she could never see her friends like JaK again.
“This won’t change anything,” I watched my mouth say, seemingly without my permission. “You’ll always be able to see JaK.” This was the first time I remember ever being aware of Xhaxhollari. He’s been present before that– since Neb split in 2012, evidently. But this is the first time I’ve ever witnessed him, and I wouldn’t know who this was for years.
“No, I won’t.” I felt a pang of guilt upon the realisation that April was crying softly through her words. The system had known April for a collective six years. Sometimes, she’d been the only one who wanted to talk to us. Now, I was breaking her heart. “Because–” she sobbed. “JaK was found today, lying face-down in a river.”
I cannot even explain to you what those words did to me. Suddenly, I was on a muddy hill in Germany. The sun had sank below the horizon, leaving everything in a Tim Burton blue cast. The air was cold and damp, chilling me moreso when I heard Sound wailing.
You ever see the scene from Hereditary where the mother’s grieving? It was just like that.
I looked down the hill at the shallow river. Indeed, there was a shock of platinum blonde hair and some colourful jacket, floating in the river with a cloud of blood just underneath him. He appeared to have the car’s engine through him. I didn’t look too closely– gore makes me nauseated. Once I saw pink tones– possible twisted flesh– my eyes darted away as I retched.
Koji was even paler than usual, standing so still I didn’t think him breathing. He turned to me. His eyes so utterly haunted that it frightened me to look at him, as if he had been reduced to the dead Elizabethan child he once was. “How did you get here?” The desperate yet airy tone of his voice was something that seemed to wonder if he was dreaming, and that my suddenly appearing could be proof of it.
I shook my head, wondering if I were dreaming myself. How did I get here? Maybe I took Vex helped me there after I heard the news? I mentally retraced my steps to April’s dorm.
Then, I was that same dorm again. I could hear the body’s voice saying, “What did you do? What did you do?”
April shook her head, sniffling. “It’s ruined. You didn’t have any friends, so I made it all so you wouldn’t be alone, and now it’s ruined. I’m done having hope for you. You did this, you ruined it.”
“You’re saying I did this?” It was actually me speaking through my mouth, this time. My voice was rising to a hysterical pitch it had hardly ever known– it actually hurt my throat. “I didn’t do anything to JaK! I tried to break up with you!” I was realising something. Something I didn’t want to.
Neb. She ended high school with no friends. Except for April.
“I made it all so you wouldn’t be alone.”
“I know you love them more than me!” April shouted, making me jump out of my disturbing reverie. “You always have! And you can’t have them if you don’t have me!”
“What are you saying?” My voice was ragged. The existential terror was raw in me, seeming to slice up my entire ventricle system with every pulse. Then, my mouth seemed to move on its own again. A rigged, wooden tone. “[April]. JaK has a family. He has two spouses. Take it back.” I didn’t necessarily understand what ‘Take it back’ meant. But if it meant Sound’s broken screams would stop echoing in my ears, I was all for it.
April was shaking her head. “If I do, you’ll just hold this against me. You never listened. I’m so done having hope. It’s done. He’s gone.” The way she said, ‘He’s gone’ wasn’t a grieving confession. It was in the same tone that a bad parent would say, ‘Fine, your bedroom door, that’s gone, too.’
I remember eyeing the door. April lived on only the second floor of Ohouse. But if I sprinted to the top and jumped, I could just– not have to think about this anymore. Maybe the creeping realisation hadn’t settled in my brain yet. Maybe I could just dash my skull open and the poison of what I was discovering could just spill out, and I’d never have to hear those screams again.
I took steps to the door to do just that. It wasn’t self-destruction, it was self-preservation.
Just like that, I was forced back to the banks of that damned river. I leaned against a tree, feeling like I was suffering from mental whiplash. Once I’d gotten my bearings, I yelled, “Call a pureblood! Get Dominic.” Koji was staring at me as if I were crazy. “You are literally a goddamned dead vampire child they brought back to life, do not tell me this ten thousand year-old bount science project is going to die in a bloody car crash today! Get Dominic!”
I was in two places at once– somehow, I could tell what was going on from the surface, even though Xhaxhollari had put me in another suicide timeout. Sort of like I was listening to an audiobook and reading a print book at the same time. I had to shift my focus to tell what was going on in each. I could hear my own voice again, but it was distinctly more American. Not quite, but sort of… Trans-Atlantic?
Xhaxhollari wasn’t up to writing this part, but he gave me the go-ahead to repeat what he’d told me. There was a point, during his time on the surface world, in between all of his negotiating and pleading, that he accidentally fell back and onto April’s Macbook keyboard.
April’s tone had changed. She was, so far, acting as if she had just gotten helplessly trapped by an over-active imagination. But when she sensed her laptop was in danger, her tone shifted to her usual sharp tone. “That better not be damaged. I’ll make you pay for that if it is.”
It was a crack in the oddly remorseful facade. It occurred to Xhaxhollari that April viewed this all as a game. Ever notice that all anime with an obnoxiously genius protagonist seems good at chess? I think that’s how April saw herself in this moment.
And this was check.
“You win,” I heard Me(?) saying. “You’ve found my currency. You found what you can use against me. Well done. Now, what do you want? Just tell me what you want me to say.” The tone was wooden. A leashed dog brought to heel.
April sniffled. “There’s no point. You won’t trust me. You won’t show care. You don’t love me. There’s no point in any of you existing.”
The last line knocked the wind out of me. “–any of you existing.” Kaspar? Koji? Prosper? Aberle? Myself???
“No, no! That’s not true! Of course I love you. Of course I trust you.” Xhaxhollari was lying through his teeth on the surface.
Meanwhile, I stole JaK’s soul from the afterlife, just to keep him here a little longer. Dominic and Luuwyl were working on healing JaK’s broken body. At one point, Xhaxhollari had run to the restroom and soaked his hands in the sink, then dripped the water into his eyes. Then he wrapped our arms around April, nuzzling her cheek so she could feel the ‘tears.’ “See? I’m crying. I care. I care! I love you. I love you So much.” He hated her. We both did. Each lie cut into us. We were switching rapidly, both realising begging her to let JaK live was the only way to go about this. “I love you.” “I trust you.” “I’m sorry about earlier, I was just scared that I didn’t deserve you.” “No, of course I’m not breaking up with you.”
Each line was like a flog against my spirit. I bitterly reproached myself for every word. Hell, I pride myself about not lying about emotion. She is the only one that has ever received a false ‘I love you’ from me, and I hate that she made herself the only blotch on that record.
She protested at first, citing my flaws and general misbehaving as a reason she couldn’t let another person live. “No, being in a relationship makes you feel like you’re in a cage.” “No, I’m ‘abusive’, remember?” “No, Neb was a ‘different person’, remember?”
It was just more begging. Promising to behave. Apologising in just the right way. It was the same damnable game she always forced us to play, only now I knew just how high the stakes were. Xhaxhollari was eventually winning, having apparently convinced April that we cared the right way. I even caught him as he was even proposing that the other world would bring us closer.
At the end, JaK was free of the car engine and still back to the land of the living. It wasn’t feeling nearly so miraculous with Xhax and I both realising that our begging to a petulant toddler had saved him. The inworld version of events is that I was able to locate and hold JaK’s soul like a squirming lost cat as Dominic and Luuwyl healed his body. I remember standing there, gutted, as Sound and Koji had embraced JaK. They promised to be better spouses to him and I felt utterly sick.
I felt separate from them. Separate from everyone and everything. I wasn’t quite of the surface world, and I now knew too much to be of the inworld, too. It was as if I were a character in a story being written, but had met the author and realised that they intended to kill us all. And there was nothing I could do but keep trying to keep everyone alive.
I got out of April’s dorm around 1am that night. I can only account for about three hours of that 11-hour nightmare. When I went home, I threw up in the bathroom, then laid in my bed and just screamed. I screamed into the pillow, I clawed at the sheets. It was just uncontrollable wailing of existential horror, rage, and despair.
And as much as I wanted to die– as much as I felt like I needed to die, I knew that I had to play the game to make sure I could keep everyone alive for gods knew how long.
I didn’t know what to make of it. Did she create me? The identity that was always so precious to me– was it a whim of hers she now regretted? Were we all a perpetual puppet show to her, friends, lovers, children, and gods she could Thanos away if I didn’t want to date her? Did Neb’s over-active imagination and crushing loneliness force her into doing this?
It was all Lovecraftian levels of horrifying that I shuddered to think about. What I did know is that I tried to break up with April and she had the power to kill JaK.
I was trapped. I was trapped in the relationship, trapped in life, trapped in knowing I didn’t belong in my inworld or outerworld. And I never did.
This is what the household decided to deliver me to on a silver fucking platter. (Aside from Arkady’s system– he has no financial independence, so I wager he ultimately doesn’t have a choice.) Ash, Asra, and March have no problem endorsing transphobes, racists, and literal abusers as long as they don’t have to admit that they tortured a triggered, mentally ill person, gaslit the fuck out of me, and then condemned me and harassed me for speaking up about it. THEY LITERALLY CONVINCED ME OF PAST-LIVES, TOLD ME THAT THEY WERE *SLEEPING WITH* MY ALTERS AND MOCKED ME FOR BELIEVING THEM. These disgusting, vile, blackmailing, lying, pathetic, delusional twats– this is what they represent. This is apparently better to them than speaking up about abuse, and that is irredeemable. Not only fuck them– but unless they were literally locked away with no way of getting to me, Fuck Arannan, who left his child to be lynched TWICE. Fuck Rebecca, who watched a group scapegoat her adoptive child and didn’t offer so much as a fucking word in response. And honestly, considering the power they have and the promises they’ve made, I think Ash disgusts me most of all.
Because Ash even had an abuser that held dubiously real people hostage when Ash would misbehave. Ash pretended to channel the alters of OTHER PEOPLE. Ash pretended to channel my fucking late girlfriend. Ash was told their DID wasn’t real by their abuser. And now they’ve turned around and done the same fucking thing to me just because I wouldn’t date them at first. Ash is just has bad as Tattianna, if not, worse.
When you escape an abuser, you’re not supposed to absorb them like KIRBY, you bloody abhorrent
h y p o c r i t e.