Hello, my name is Xhaxhollari Icarus, and I’m the “Gatekeeper” of the Living Fiction system.
This is to be my first blog, if my first haphazard confession in https://livingfiction153034881.wordpress.com/2020/12/10/the-sins-of-icarus/ doesn’t quite count.
Admittedly, I wasn’t entirely self-aware for a long time after Nebula split into myself and as many as two others. Xanthe and I have discussed it lately and discovered that they would notice me, but believe they were simply on ‘autopilot.’ I have the tendency to come off as somewhat robotic, even at the best of times.
I feel like the cataclysmic incident of April 27th is when we both fully noticed each other. We knew that while we were talking April down, we were wrestling with someone else. I’d thought Xanthe was a part of me; a romanticized, sensational part of me that I couldn’t bear them to think of themself as part of a lonely delusion.
I knew that, from an outsider’s perspective, yes, this looked like a role-play in a chat log. I knew it to be something more.
I thought April had known it to be something more.
There’s an episode of Darkwing Duck called ‘Twitching Channels’, wherein the title hero is transported into another dimension. In this dimension, Darkwing isn’t a hero. He’s a fictional character. His life has been made into a popular television show, with fans and a writer. As it turns out, the ‘writer’ had a specialized helmet that could ‘tune in’ to Darkwing’s dimension. He was simply dictating the story to a wider audience, pretending to have created it.
And that’s how I felt. That there was a world that I was tuned in to.
I don’t know how it began. This system has always had a penchant for fantasy and I suppose when Nebula, or anyone who came before her, discovered a way to live it– it consumed us.
And why wouldn’t it?
Reality was having scarcely passed high school. Reality was feeling like a disconnected failure from family. Reality was having had all of our friends abandon us and eating lunch alone for two years, to being looking forward to getting yelled at by April because it was at least someone. Reality was having moved across the country for an abuser– the first time, at that.
Reality was so unbearable that Xanthe brought elements of their origin with them wherever they went. Top hats, ruffles, typewriters, quill pens– their world had never existed on the surface, not even in the Victorian era. But by gods, were they determined to sustain the illusion!
With Nebula gone, I felt like I was only a live-streaming video camera, but slightly more sentient. Some floating, third-person POV. I knew I was typing into a chat log, but never felt that I had control. I couldn’t tell Sound what to say– who could? But could get the message to JaK quicker than if we had waited for a full switch. It felt like… an easier way of communicating, like April and I were two mirrors sat in facing one another to reveal infinity through our fragile surfaces.
I’d thought, before April 27th, that April felt the same way about that ‘other realm’ that we did. But if she had always thought it was a “role play”, why didn’t she stop when she realized we were too engrossed? Why wasn’t her reaction, ‘I’m not narrating this anymore’ and not ‘I’m killing your friend and this is only the beginning’? As soon as she realized how invested we were, she should have simply stopped.
And Xanthe was the last person who needed to be thrown into an existential crisis. They already were an existential crisis.
Xanthe is pure fantasy, formed when the host was reading/playing Saint’s Row, the Infernal Devices series, and Black Butler. It’s part of the reason I’ve been so near the surface for years. Xanthe barely treads reality, bobbing up and down the waterline while I fill in the gaps.
They’re less a product of what we’ve been through and more of a product of how we’ve coped. Heroes like Jack Sparrow, Magnus Bane, Will Herondale– then later, Tommy Shelby, Nikolai Lantsov, Boss– And we wonder how we ended up with a flamboyant, egotistical, frivolous smartass with a drinking problem as The Chosen One?
We’re not overly attached to reality. I may be the most grounded and I literally have six wings, if that tells you anything. Past and present abusers cite that as a reason to torture us, but it’s sick.
Imagine if you had a child, 8 or so years old. They had a favorite stuffed animal they always reach for in comfort, and you affirm the sentience of said stuffed animal. “This stuffed animal is happy to see you.” “He gets sad when you kick him out of bed. You don’t want him to be sad, do you?” Imagine if you went even deeper. “Since your departed grandmother gave you that, she’s watching over you through the stuffed toy’s eyes.” “This bear is your baby now. You have to take care of it.” And when your child is fully indoctrinated in treating this object like its own person, you decide to use the stuffed toy as a form of punishment.
Not just taking it away.
Imagine if you tore off the toy’s arm, then his head, saying, “See, the bear’s dead now. This is what you get when you don’t behave.”
Obviously, the child would be horrified. Screaming, begging you to stop the mutilation of its comfort and its friend. And then imagine looking at the child and saying, “What are you crying about? It’s just a toy. It’s not real. Grow up.”
If such a scenario made your stomach twist, good. This is what Ash and April did. And Xanthe didn’t take this initial incident… well. They have a tendency to shoot their mouth off, strutting through to get the last word against fate itself. And feeling as though they were in danger just exacerbates this darling trait of theirs. It’s as if when they feel threatened, they can just mock the danger into nonexistence.
So, I took control. I sent them to the inworld, essentially to hang around Aberle and Audric for a month. Xanthe themself is a romantic concept of a being, and so they must romanticize everything in sight. Including their own trauma. Sensationalize it– watch a show about blackmail and picture the theme music to the reaction they didn’t have but wanted to while I kept their life in relative order.
For the next couple of months, they would only come out when they wanted to drink or spend time with Avery and Cotton.
There was a certain wariness that they began to exhibit. It’s as if they expected that their world and friends within would crumble now that they knew their castle was but sand. They would get scared and head straight through the surface and into the bottle. I would hide their phone so we wouldn’t have another ‘If I die, it’s out of spite!’ incident.
In the meanwhile, Xanthe and I were separately theorizing on how the broken pieces of all we had known fit together. April very clearly had some power over our inworld and that was troubling.
This definitely wasn’t a “make believe” scenario. We could see the scenes playing out. Hear them. We either had no control, or had lost it long ago.
Perhaps this was simply April’s flawed theory of that unnamed, pressurizing effect that gathered around one party to condemn another, such as I’d witnessed between Koji and Romeo, which you can read about below.
I wanted to solve it.
Xanthe wanted to take this as proof that this world was not for them, and that being in possession of a living body was a curse within itself. In such a reckless state, I generally pushed them back when we around the walking landmine field we called a partner. It was my job to deal with April. I was in the lair of Ko, carefully trained in not to show any expression. And what did I turn to?
I could relate to him. His feelings of asexuality– being motivated by other people who had gotten their hearts in a complex tangle. My social ineptitude and lack of expression was similar to his. And, while being seen as something inhuman, something that didn’t belong, people still depended on him.
And he could save people.
People that had more of a chance of being happy than he ever had. People that would be married, have illustrious careers– people who commanded a room with their mere presence, to the delight to every audience. Sherlock, like myself, existed outside the amorous, the sexual, the grounded, and the yearning.
Sherlock, like me, was a sort of guardian angel.
And that’s precisely what I wanted to be. I loved the inworld. I didn’t fully understand it, nor did I interact with anyone as much as watched over them. All of them, Xanthe included, felt at once what I was and what I never could be.
Such glorious personalities– a smattering of gods and monsters and both, and I loved them them all.
And that’s why I did as I did. My interactions with April were carefully neutral. Xanthe only interacted with her when they were drunk. That was when April tended to take the most advantage. I was too nauseated and too reliant on a clear head to really intervene. I remember one conversation I’d had with her, saying that I wish people could have just left their clothes on while being intimate– as the experience might be a bit more palatable to me.
April haughtily responded with, “Someone wants punched in the face.”
But by then, Xanthe had already romanticized and sensationalized the torment they were going through, putting one more cushion between themselves and reality. I remember them even joking with Kaspar one day, years later; “Yeah, she used to wait until I was smashed to have sex with me. I guess that’s kind of not consent, but I think I was just relieved I was unconscious for amateur hour.”
I don’t like that I couldn’t stop it. But neither of us could, because we both knew what was at risk.
In only a month, April was looking for somewhere new to move. She was tired of having to go back to Ohio during every break and she was wanting a proper flat so that she might stay in Savannah full time.
Considering our summers and winters had before been refuges from her, this life was taking a very unsustainable turn indeed.
And who else to sign a lease with her other than pure, nonjudgmental Cotton?
Dear old Cotton. How in the hell were we supposed to tell him about all of this?