Apologies for the long wait between blogs. I’ve returned to college to earn yet another degree, and between that and my time writing this book (as well as participating in several anthologies), I’m often – well, to be honest, damn exhausted at the end of the day.
But my newest book, Villain, will be here in just about two and a half months. It’s time for frequent blogs.
And today’s excerpt wasn’t written by me. It was written by my alter personality, Madeleine.
As anyone who has read Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac knows, I have DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder. While it has made my life vastly complicated, it has also given me a system of protection. I feel no shame when I mention the disorder, or how my mind fragmented and created different parts to protect me when I was a child. Personally, I find that the stigma people who have mental illnesses or conditions face is ridiculous. For instance, am I supposed to not have DID? That means I shouldn’t have been raped as a kid. But I was, and here we are, and while I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody, I have a system inside of me that protects me to this day.
One of the personalities within my system is named Madeleine. She is a motherly type – always looking out for people, happy to run errands and help around the house, and so forth – and she decided to write one of the essays for Villain. I’m grateful to her, because this book is about DID and the alters. It’s not a surprise. It’s about the balance of good and evil, sanity and insanity, and the ways we go about defining and protecting ourselves.
In 2016, right before my husband and I moved, there was a terrible car accident on our street, only a few houses away from ours. I heard it, but the shock was too much. Madeleine came out and took over.
This is her unedited account of part of that incident (and as a side note, if an alter refers to “the host” or “the body,” that alter is talking about me. They never use my name):
I put my phone in the pocket of the shorts that were on the body and stepped a bit closer to the crumpled vehicle. “It’s OK,” I said to the young man. “Doctors are coming for you. They’ll get you out of here and they’ll help. In the meantime, I know you’re in pain. It’s OK to scream. I’m not going to leave your side. I promise.”
The young man turned his head toward me, broken nose gushing blood down his face and onto his cracked lips.
And then he spit blood at me, hitting my shirt and arms.
“Fuck you!” he screamed. “I don’t need your help! I know how to drive my car! I’m getting out of my car! Go fuck yourself!”
He was sick, I knew it. He didn’t know what he was saying. He had a concussion. He was very drunk. Under normal circumstances, he probably wouldn’t have used such language toward me. And these were far from normal circumstances.
As people watched and I looked on in horror, the young man tried to unfold his legs from the top of the dashboard. He was determined to get out of the car, even though he was still unable to move his upper body. I didn’t even think to wipe the blood he spat at me off my shirt or arm – and what would I have used? – because I was too wrapped up in helping him. And in this moment, I was too wrapped up in watching him try to do the impossible – straighten his broken legs.
There was a terrible snap as he pulled one leg down from the dashboard, and he screamed. I echoed his scream. It was as though a tree branch had collapsed under the weight of an icicle. The sound was familiar and yet, in context, tremendously horrifying. More blood ran from his leg, but he was so drunk that he would not stop moving.
“Please stop,” I said, and I heard sirens in the background. “People are coming right now. I can hear them! Just stay still. Please stay still. I’ll tell them everything I can to help you.”
“Fuck you, bitch,” he growled, his voice a mixture of anger and pain. “I am walking out of here.” But after moving his one leg, he was finished. He couldn’t bother with the second, and he simply stopped moving.
There was a strange ticking from the front of the car, and as the fire truck approached, the ticking sound grew faster. Somehow, I knew the sound, but was so concerned for the man that I didn’t think about stepping away.
“I said fucking move, bitch! Fuck you! Fuck cars! Fuck God!”
As I heard him curse, still spitting in my direction as glass embedded unforgiving shards into my feet, I thought about the ticking, and about his words. And then I thought about his actions.
He was a drunk, and he’d chosen to get into his car, race down the street, hit an innocent person’s parked vehicle, and landed in this position. Had he been sober, this wouldn’t have happened. He was spitting blood on me, cursing me as I tried to offer comfort and had been the only one who had called for help, and I was still by his side. Now, he was cursing God – something I found strange. I believe in God, yes, but the odd part was that he had a cross around his neck – I could see it clearly as it sparkled under the streetlight – and therefore, must have believed in the same deity he was outright cursing in his moment of drunken pain and misery.
I could let him die, I thought. I could pull his other leg down under the guise of trying to help and cause him searing, blinding pain. I could lean in, spit on him, and tell him his useless, drunken life wasn’t worth saving. This whole night had been a waste of my time. The cuts on my feet, the blood on my skin – his blood, his damage – weren’t worth it. He should die and therefore save humanity from his filth.
It wouldn’t take much. Help still hadn’t arrived.
I could let him die.
But could I? Could I be so evil? I couldn’t ignore the thought – if I let him die, or caused him pain, he’d be receiving an eye for an eye, which would be just and fair. But as myself, as the person I’d been created to be – this defender, this protector, this person who had literally stood in front of a wall of fire and almost died running out of a burning, collapsing house, making sure all the people were safe and that the fire chief and the Red Cross had the correct information while everyone sobbed and reporters hunted for interviews – could I be so cruel? Could I be like Ruby and scowl, or like Lucy and raise one corner of my mouth and say, “Fine. Walk out of the car. Go ahead and die.”
Could I do that?
I heard three beeps – the phone in my pocket had disconnected – and saw several members of the fire department rush up to the car.
“Please step back,” one of them said to me, and I moved further over. But I couldn’t bring myself to move to the sidewalk with the people watching. I was still involved. In a way, I felt as though I was still a part of this.
And then the front of the car caught on fire.
–For more excerpts from Villain, as well as the cover design reveal and other information, please visit this blog every Thursday at 10 a.m.