“Living Fiction” was what Xanthe initially wanted to call their autobiography, before they even knew we had DID. They’d always felt they were a ‘fictional character’, through more than just their whimsical backstory. In their reactions, in their emotional capacity.
At times, it’s a battle cry. In other times, such as this week, it’s a source of despair.
As I was polishing up our ‘INWORLD’ page and putting in the descriptions and likenesses of everyone I knew who existed, I noticed a pattern. Those with the most dubious backgrounds– Xanthe, who was a story about a plucky Victorian ghost, who became a watch, then a clockwork crow. Phisoxa, who was a cross-dressing aristocrat who aimed to be a god to spurn the heavens themselves. Kaspar, practically the secret heir to a twisted regime. Jasper, who went head-to-head with Al Capone in the Chicago Prohibition era, while being gender-fluid and calling himself the ‘King of Chicago and the Queen of New Orleans.’
Aside from that, these are all people that Neb, Star/Story and myself wanted to be. And probably even Thysia, as well. We– those tied to the body and its past, the Living in the Living Fiction– had always used fictional characters to cope. Darkwing Duck, Jack Sparrow, Boss from Saint’s Row, V from V for Vendetta, Will Herondale, Dr. House, Jay Gatsby, Lestat de Lioncourt… They all had that quick wit, that uncompromising will, that bold declaration of, ‘Here I am, a nuisance, a thorn in everyone’s side, I am mostly discussed for reasons of outrage or exasperation, but I’m too powerful to be forgotten.’
The first was Phisoxa. It was sometime after Nebula had learned of the ‘Thysia curse’, an inworld phenomenon were Thysia’s ‘parts’ were reborn to sacrifice their sanity or their lives to better the life of their abusive lover. Neb was undoubtedly looking at Kirra with a wistful calm. Ah, yes, a lifetime of feeling like the only thing notable about her was failure, but at least she could be good for something.
But Phisoxa was also a Thysia. Phisoxa learned of his destiny and openly scoffed at it. Fate was a rule meant to be broken. The fact of Phisoxa’s continued survival without a sad self-sacrifice was what had him labeled selfish. A monster. Granted, his bitterness and lust for power did in fact warp him into being a notorious murderer who also tended to use everyone he came into contact with. But even the lack of self-martyrdom branded him as selfish. Unkind. Undeserving. He was the first. I can see traces of Dr. House and V in him. The desperation to change the world at any cost, his bitter disregard of his own life and others, the maniacal drive to prove something with something of a sardonic jokester and sentimental artist in there.
Phisoxa’s two most prominent flaws is that he is lonely and he is miserable. As most of the Fiction side of things, he has the ability to lose himself in a trance of music, romanticism, books, and aesthetic. But what if there were something like him, but just malleable enough to to harness romanticism into their very personality.
Thus, he wrote Xanthe.
I’m convinced our dear host may have become a completely different person if we had never been introduced to Pirates of the Caribbean. Captain Jack Sparrow is undoubtedly where the alcohol dependence stemmed from. As well as whimsical self-serving charisma, reckless thirst for adventure, and the delirium masking something either cold-hearted or wishing it was.
Wait. Jack Sparrow.
This process seems like it collided with Lestat as we grew older. Anne Rice writing Lestat’s point of view, how he could spin even fragments of light into rapturous glee, how he tended to drift from one deep romance to another for the thrill of it– with reciprocation being a messy but occasionally welcome surprise. He was a far cry from being as emotionally invested as Neb’s line tended to be.
Then as Xanthe woke, they experienced Jay Gatsby and Dorian Gray, which was more than the finishing touches for their personality.
Phisoxa created Xanthe to ‘break the cycle’– of being consumed in a long cycle of abusive relationships that could have started as nine years of collective age. Xanthe’s eternal hunger for life experiences, both the painful and the joyful, has been the fuel for a monumental amount of ambition.
And of course, I envy them. Instead of being so good at adapting to the status quo, they’ve elected to break it. Now, why didn’t I think of that? It’s just as Harrow envies Jasper. And how Thysia seems to envy Phisoxa. Where the golden-haired Fiction is the flashier Gatsby, we writers, we readers, we biographers, the ‘floating third person point of view’– we’re Nick Carraway. We’re Louis Pont du Lac. We’re Wilson, Jem Carstairs, Will Turner, Evey.
It’s a careful balance.
But just as we Living envy the Fiction, they envy the Living.
During most of the breakdowns of Phisoxa, Xanthe, Kaspar, and Jasper that I’ve seen– I hear the same sentiments repeated.
“I feel vastly unrelatable.”
“The spotlight you see around me is a farce– the crowds surrounding me are only props to keep the ghosts away.”
“Do you know how many people tell me that ‘real people’ don’t do and feel the things I do? Do you know how much that fucks me up?”
“There’s never a moment where I don’t feel utterly alone.”
“I don’t belong here. And sometimes I get tired of fighting that fact.”
“I feel like people don’t really see me. Not unless I shriek my personality to the heavens, and even then, it’s misheard.”
“It isn’t confidence. It’s completely unwarranted. Call it ‘arrogance.'”
“I’m not even a real person. I’m a mirror. I just reflect what you either fear or want, apparently.”
“Do you know how many times someone has asked to know ‘the real me’? As if my genuine self seemed so painfully frivolous and unrealistic that I was bound to be hiding something?”
“Is there even a real me?”
And, most recently, Xanthe to myself. “I feel like we were just sort of supposed to serve as inspiration for you guys. Like we’ve fucked things up royally by pretending like we were real too. People like me should’ve stayed stories.”
This isn’t limited to only the outerworld. Our inworld mirrors the outer world in a myriad of ways. Many of these lamentations had referenced an inworld interaction. There’s a sort of celebrity effect that seems to apply to most of them, wherein many feel like they know them, but definitely don’t. Yes, even if you’ve read every page of this blog.
I was startled to see someone reach out to me out of nowhere (because people still don’t seem to realize that I am not them and vice versa) one of Xanthe’s internet friends, proclaiming love and revealing a sordid past and babbling about mental health issues. I looked back on the history of this exchange– there was hardly any. It was as if just through reading our tale of manipulation and trauma, they’ve decided they know us. Another friend of Xanthe’s accosted me (again, not realizing we’re separate) for seeming obsessed with them and, aside from a couple stilted conversations with said friend, they’ve hardly registered within the hierarchal pyramid of system needs.
On the other side of this, the Fiction end is envious of us. The way we don’t really want to be known all that much, and are safer for it. The way we relate to memories of the body and don’t have to reconcile two different origin stories. We’ve been called ‘more approachable.’ I never felt I have fit into the inworld or outerworld, but I confess, I am a stranger to the friction of ‘reality fighting me.’ They’ve envied how ‘genuine’ my emotions are, but I find them inescapable and everlasting. I’ve been applauded for my cautious nature, but I find myself very nearly cowardly.
I can’t fake anything to save my life. I can’t be selfish to save it, either. But I suppose that’s what the Fiction side is for.
And what are we for?
I suppose, just to keep on going and to find out.
They even envy my vulnerability. I’ve gotten comments like “Why would we want to be vulnerable? All life ever does is hurt us, especially if our heart’s in the game.” I agree, but I can’t help my bleeding heart.
Xanthe’s and my mutual disdain was revealed during the Chandra debacle– when they, in their memory, first met me. It was the second time I had met them, but the first time we had come to physical blows within the inworld.
I’m tempted to go into detail, explain the context that Chandra wrought on our anguished system, how I allowed myself to be the scapegoat in a vain hope that Story/Star/Harrow/Averie wouldn’t split from Xanthe. But that will be gone into all in good time.
What I really remember was the fact that– when Xanthe was partially integrated with them– they had wings in the inner world. Feathery wings a lot like mine, other than theirs weren’t scorched. That body seemed to be dying. It was a fact that passed into my notice upon consciousness when their cane struck against my collarbone and pressed me into the wall. “I could have had everything.” Everything about them was shaking. I’ll never forget the acidic hatred in their voice, how they seemed to hate everything that I was and what they couldn’t be. Just as I hated everything they were, and what I couldn’t be. “You convinced me that Gaslamp was all around. They all think I’m crazy because of you!”
“We’re in this situation because of you.“ I struggled to say. “You made fun of Neb for years for moving to be with someone who would ultimately destroy you, and now irony’s hitting you in the face!”
“What the fuck even are you?” They coughed up a glob of ink. I imagined that their clockwork heart was pulsing viscous ink all over their hollow insides. The irony was intensifying.
I didn’t know how to answer this. I still don’t. A symbol of something dead? A sign that Black Butler had been rewatched one time too many? “I’m trying to fucking save you,” I hissed before kicking them square in the chest.
The physical battle was multi-segmented and something similar repeated throughout. Once we discovered what Rowan had done, we’ve called a truce and had even formed a strained friendship since.
They lost their wings when their old body died.
It dawns on me that if that integration had taken place, that would have been the very first time that the Living and the Fiction would have fused. Would it have worked if the timing weren’t so dismal? Would something like that had killed Xanthe’s natural independence and therefore themself?
The fact that they were almost completely fused may have done more damage to them than the splitting had. Perhaps they perceived themselves in ways they weren’t meant to, and that’s part of why it’s taken them so long to recover. I don’t know what the system meant to do by trying to do that. It could have been for Rowan’s and Arkady’s sake– it wouldn’t be the first time the system put its neck on the line to protect those it thinks is in its world.
But the more I think of it, the more our system represents that classic Divine Dichotomy. The Apollonian and the Dionysiac. The Failures and the Abominations, the Readers and the Stories, the Silver and the Gold, the Heart and the Mind.
Now if only we can stop hating ourselves for what we’re supposed to be.