Shatter All The Mirrors (A Short Story)

[So, I’m taking a Creative Writing: Fiction class this semester. I originally wrote this to share with said class; I ultimately decided on a different piece for this particular assignment. But I do hope that this piece will speak something to somebody, so here it is for your enjoyment.

It is still a rather rough draft.]

TW: Strong language, Internalized Ableism, Implied Not-So-Internalized Ableism, Fragmentation of Self]

          My head hits the desk, and I fall within.

        Maybe “fall” is too simple a word. It’s dissolving, it’s suction, it’s whiplash, it’s blood-emulsifying pressure; it’s pins-and-needles, it’s breath held too long; it’s collapse.

        Whatever it is, the Body lays passed out across the linoleum cardstock furniture, severed completely from any connection to the interior Self.

        The psychoanalysts would call it the “unconscious” where the id and superego argue impulse and morality and the ego attempts to find a common ground. I suppose that the neurologists would call it “the meeting point of synapse signals traveling from neurons scattered through the cerebral cortex to those lining the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of the frontal lobe” (or something of that sort–neurology is a dawning and shifting field).

          It’s reflection, it’s reflections, it’s storage, it’s contemplation, it’s projection, it’s me, it’s them, it’s us, it’s the Self. And at least part of the Self needs to restore connection with the Body in case it needs to interface with its surroundings. Else, the Body is listless–catatonic, zombie-like, they all it–and, even if the Body can compel itself to feed and eliminate waste, a listless Body is a prime candidate for hospitalization and medication, which would awash the Self in chemicals and connection-breaks and a manner of things unpleasant.

          I reach for the toggle around my neck, the connection agent to syphon me back into the body– mine in particular an orange No. 2 pencil, the eraser casing rusted but usable, the graphite worn but not chipped–but my fingers slip through it and then almost through my chest. I look down at myself to see that the milky-crystal walls of the Self upon which the Personas walk is visible through my projection.  

          I have lost too much opacity. I have become diluted. I cannot connect with the outside anymore.

          But I expected that this would happen and am frankly surprised that it hadn’t happened sooner. I was never meant to function as a full-fronting Persona. I am–or at least I originated as–a mere utensil, a voice that could answer questions about state capitals posed by elementary school teachers, a hand that could hold a pencil steady long enough to turn lines into solutions to math problems, an eye that could spin letters into words, words into sentences, sentences into pictures, pictures into meanings. I am but a fragment of the Self designated to address school-related matters, a secretary, a single line of programming, a temporary robe to be worn by the Self when the Body sits in desks and to be discarded at the end of the school day.

         Here among the Personas, they call me The Scholar.

          In the beginning, there was only Body and Alpha. If the Body existed in a vacuum (and did not perish of ashypixation or starvation in this vacuum), Alpha is all that would be of the Self. Alpha and her awkward command of limbs, putting so much energy into them that they go flying at times and so little that they almost fail to impact the physical entirely at others. Alpha and her even more awkward command of speech, tongue bumbling over teeth, throat tightened so that the air jams up, only a few of them stuttering out, and those that do often too fast and too clumped to be understood by others. Alpha and her laser-point fixation, the turning of a single blade of grass over the eyeballs for hours, the bending back of fingers over and over until the joints throbbed with red numbness, the coloring books colored completely, if not very imprecisely, the desiring of the Barbie doll with the pink skirt so badly that a parental negation brought shakes and screaming and falling to the floor and internal pain bordering on infernistic torture. Alpha and her confinement to the Special Education classroom with the colorful carpet and the maroon velvet calendar, at least until I started to take form. The Self exists in  a world of pressures and demands and expectations and overwhelms and fears and challenges, all which rub against the Self and cause fragmentation, friction, Personas to step in and reduce the drag between Alpha and the outside world.

           For a while, I was an intermittent buffer for Alpha; I’d come forth when needed, and Alpha toggled back in when the school bell rang and all of the homework was done. If I were to estimate a percentage, it was about 35% Scholar and 65% Alpha in the early elementary years.

           Over time, of course, others of us toggled through occasionally. The Christian made frequent appearances for a while, and, in fact, at one time held the most influence over the Body than all of the personas–though Alpha still toggled often in those days. The Christian started to take form about the time that the parents introduced Sunday School activities; later, they became Wednesday night teen worship sessions and Bible Study groups, from which, of course, The Christian developed a penchant for independent Bible study and prayer and worship, an affinity that bled into casual conversations and even school assignments (the latter with my assistance, of course). The Christian very strongly believed in praying to some deity who she insists is a benevolent and omnipotent deity that wants nothing more than the peace and healing and happiness of all of His (its?) creatures; she believes in belting out songs about total devotion and everlasting light; she believes in gentle words and comforting presences. 

          I found her intellectually compelling for a while. But then I came across other theological ideas, and I, with the assistance of The Misanthrope, diluted her opacity quite a bit.

          Perhaps The Misanthrope had been in the Self for awhile, but between the hyper-intensity of The Alpha, the academic concerns with which I was involved, and the pontification of The Christian, she didn’t have much allowance to have her influence on The Self. Perhaps she had started out as very diluted, so much that she was barely perceptible against the backdrop of The Self. But by about middle school, her voice could be heard. “Slap the motherfucker once, and he’ll learn that he can’t make me go to sleep whenever he wants like some puppy being told to crawl back in its cage.” “Bitches like her just go to prove that people can’t be trusted not to shove you in the dirt the first chance they get.” Where The Christian sees kindness and opportunities to serve, The Misanthrope sees cruelty and opportunities to hurt or be hurt. The Christian saw an ultimate protector of the universe in the pages of the book, but The Misanthrope saw a tyrannical dictator ready to inflict endless torment upon anyone who doesn’t feed Him endless praise or sacrifice everything they have and everything there are to Him for the mere sake that He is big and we are little. I could see arguments for both interpretations and for interpretations less definite, but I had to admit after a while that elements of theology were, well, impractical to optimal functioning.

         So The Misanthrope diluted The Christian with furious swipes and cutting words, and I diluted her with questioning and probabilities. She’s still here, of course, singing her praise songs and whispering words of love, occasionally even compelling the hand of the Body to scratch a cross into the forehead or to clasp hands together in supplication, but it’s been awhile since she’s had full control.

         We tried to dilute Alpha out of the Self entirely, too, the three of us. We each have our own reasons. The principles of the Christian include a dissolving of the Self to the point of the Self being a total and pristine vessel of Christ and his unfaltering love and compassion–and Alpha is very much Self. The Misanthrope finds her weak and boorish and in the way. “You’re nothing more than a fucking retard who wastes the time and resources of everyone around you, you spineless, childish excuse of a person.” And I, well, find her an impediment., a hindrance to my studies and to the optimal functioning of the Self. I can respect what she is, what she was born as, why it’s not her fault that she presents these challenges with her inability to properly connect with the Body and her deviations of focal ability. I get her…but I tried to drown her away.

          But no matter what we say to her, how we beat and tear at her, how often we deny her the Body, she remains fairly opaque, and her fingers keep lacing the toggle, a white and navy sea-shell, it obliging to the physics of her touch.

         I thumb at my toggle; my finger again fall through it completely.

         “I figured you wouldn’t have much longer.”

          I turn to see The Misanthrope, her eyes reddened with moisture irritation and her toggle a jagged soda tab. “Well, it has happened,” I reply. “I have executed my performance, and now I am worn out from here. Has there been any progress on The Ideal?”

        It’s been twenty-one years; by now, the Self ought to have spawned forth the Persona most capable of representing its interests and aspects, no? The Ideal is a conglomeration of best attributes. The Christian’s altruism and serenity, the Misanthrope’s straight-forwardness and strength, and my capacity for the intellectual. But The Ideal would supercede us as well. Gentle, yet authoritative. Contemplative, yet self-assured. Unfatigued, but not restless. Driven, passionate, ambitious, but neither hubriant nor blinded from reason and reflection. Ideal, to put it succinctly.

            “If there was, she’d have control of the Body by now, and then we’d be free to dissolve and let her take over.”

            “Ah, you do have a point there.”

            I head in the direction of the chamber in which she is taking form. The Misanthrope follows.

           “But since that’s not the case, let me handle things for a bit, and tell The Christian that she’ll just have to cram her ‘virtues’ down her pious little throat. I’m not the mindless beast that you seem to think I am, Scholar. I’d bring The Body to her classes, and I’d let you do the homework and essays and stuff. But I’ll be damned if I sit there and smile while those preppy little bitches keep shooting us those looks and laughing at us. I’d stand up and show those snobby assholes who–”

          “To be the subject of ridicule is irksome, yes, but overt retaliation would only complicate matters–”

         “Well maybe there needs to be a complication!  You just sit there and let them keep racking against The Self with their rolled eyes and their bitchy snickers and the way they tilt their head and point when The Body skips by. If we could just get The Alpha to calm…but, no, you just let the Self keep getting wounded because you’re too much of a coward to stand up to them! And now look–you’re diluted, Christian is diluted, Alpha’s as useless as ever, and we’re no closer to The Ideal than we ever were. I can protect us against them. I can protect the Self against all of the bullshit of the world and it’s demeaning, degrading beady people. I will set shit straight.”

           “You have a feasible philosophy, but your approach lacks practicality in certain–”

            The Misanthrope grasped her toggle tightly; with a flash of light, she zipped upward, merging with the transparent Observation Ceiling long enough to delesque through the other side and fill in The Body.

            Well, this is less than optimal.

            The Body pushes itself up from the desk, fists clinched, teeth tightened.

            “You let Misanthrope take control?”

            I turn in the direction of the soft but agitated voice and look for The Christian. My eyes scan over the opal-shimmer of the Self and see no Persona juxtaposed onto it.

           “How do you suppose I was to prevent her from doing so, Christian?”

            “Block her from ascending. Grab at her. Grab her toggle, if you can….it’s a shame that you’ve become diluted, although I too well understand how that comes to be.”

               She grabs her wooden cross toggle, the movement of the barely visible translucent toggle finally making her visible–just barely, but visible–to me.

               “You’ve lost even more opacancy than I last recall.”

               “I think that the Self itself is losing opacancy. We need Ideal to take form and soon, or else…we have to get Misanthrope out of there.”

                 The Body is sitting on the ground now, hands pulling at hair. The Observation Ceiling flashes, and a beam of light deliquesces from somewhere in the distance.

      “That didn’t take long,” mused Christian. “Was Misanthrope diluted before she toggled?”

                 “A bit, but she should have had more stamina than that…”

       Although, Misanthrope never was able to hold full control of The Body for very long. I conjecture that its because the Misanthrope is the most ego-dystonic of the Personas–the Alpha is, for all her puerile anxieties and intolerances, on the whole relative passive and pacifistic, whereas The Misanthrope is–                   

      “Was being in The Body always that draining?”

       Already, she is much more transparent than she was a short time ago. Her soda tab barely has its silver hue.

       “We have to try to open the chamber and activate The Ideal. It’s the only bit of The Self strong enough.”

        We run towards the crystal pillar. It has a hardened base and top that protrudes from the wall of the Self, between which lies a clear pane with swirling mists. Inside the shroud of mists is our Ideal–indeed, her anthropomorphic form can just be seen if one focuses one’s attention sharply enough.

       I run my fingers–barely opaque enough to make contact, across the base, looking for anything to pull or press. Despite being of the Self, I am not privy to all of its secrets and operations. Still, I sense that there has to be a way to open the chamber if it exists. It has always been here. At first, I had assumed that it was a storage unit of tears or confusion or sleepiness or something that would be of a mist-like quality–but as we Personas each came to project our own ideas about who the Self should be, the mist grew thicker and swirled stronger. Maybe there’s some connection along the bottom edge…

     “Let’s just shatter it,” suggested Misanthrope.

      “No, you might dilute The Ideal if you do that!” protested Christian.

     “So what? She’d still be more opaque than any of us. She’s Ideal. She can handle it. She can handle anything, or at least more than any of us ever could.”

     “But what if it hurts the Se–”

      “Actually, I think that Misanthrope has a point. You do raise a valid concern, Christian, that inflicting injury upon the chamber may cause structural damage to the Self. But The Ideal offers something to the Self; healing. Once she takes over, then the functions of the Self and of the Body will flow so much smoother. Then the Self will have energy to rejuvenate all that has been damage. Especially if we dissolve into it. The walls of the Self are covered in chips, and we’re all losing opacancy by the second. This may be our only plausible course of action left.”

           The Christian looks at Misanthrope and then at the chamber. “I suppose that you’re right. When The Ideal takes form, then we’ll be able to further our connection to Go–whatever divine may or may not exist, and He will let his healing flow through us.”

            “Now we just need to figure out how.”

             The Misanthrope slams her foot into the clear midsection of the chamber. I can tell that she is too diluted for the contact to be of full effect, but I feel the midsection vibrate slightly as if having been struck.

            “Come on, help me! I don’t think that the chamber is that strong–just like everything else here.”

              I grab at the toggle around my neck, and, to my surprise, it actually obliges to much touch.

           But if I were to bring harm to it, then what happens to my ability to toggle?

           Well, then, we’ll be in more-or-less the predicament that we’re in now, wouldn’t we?

            I slam my toggle into the chamber. Surprisingly, I feel a give in its crystal structure. Misanthrope is right–it isn’t of much solidity. Christian is knocking her fists against the crystal, but her hands go through it slightly, and not as a means of fracture. She is very translucent. But maybe her energy is doing some good.

             I strike again; simultaneously, Misanthrope’s foot makes contact, as does the gentle percussion of Christian’s hand. The crystal pops. It doesn’t shatter or crack; it dissipates like water boiling to an evaporating steam.

              The midst flows out about us.

             Somewhere soon, there should be our Ideal, our salvation…

               I look up to the Observation Ceiling to see if she has taken The Body. The Body remains slummed and motionless.

                “Where is she?” Misanthrope asks sharply.

                 “I…I can’t tell,” answers Christian.

                  The midst has dissipated. I see no lights suggesting a toggle, sense no presence of an added Persona, see no new form before me.

                    But I do see Alpha. As of late, she’s taken to hiding in the cracked chasms of the Self, ruminating amongst the chips and shadows, but she walks forth slowly, studying the sheer emptiness of what used to be the chamber. There are no shards, no chips–only a thing that was now absent.

               “Well, this is a bust,” groans Misanthrope. “Of course an Ideal can’t exist within a literal autist. We’re fucked, that’s what it is. The Self has been set up to fail. This Self just isn’t strong enough. We’re going to spend the rest of our days knitting baskets and banging our head in a fucking asylum…” She stomps off, fuming and diluting in her anger.

                “I see now,” says Christian, “The true Ideal is not in ourself but in The Lord. Father, please show us the way to your unending love and peace. Illuminate us, and help us find our way to you..,”

              The Christian walks off, enchanted in her prayer.

               I look at Alpha. She’s the most opaque entity that I’ve seen in awhile. There is still the translucence of years of strain and effort and intra-personal abuse, but her form, her unkempt brunette hair, her disoriented schoolgirl clothing, her buck teeth (which, thankfully, The Body has resolved in its form long ago), her drifty eyes, her sea-shell toggle, has a vibrancy that indicates…survival.

                The Alpha will surpass us all. I have suspected as much for a while, that we, having arisen as fragments of the Self, will not ultimately endure, but that the Alpha, being the original Self, will never dissipate–at least not until The Body perishes.

                “Well, Alpha, it looks like it’s up to you. You are the only of us strong enough. Heck, you’re the only real one of us. You are the I, the ego, the Self. You’re all that was, and all that will be. The world hasn’t been kind to you, and I suspect that it will continue to be unkind to you, but you must tolerate it as much as you can. In whatever way you can. Let the world fault you for your awkward movements and your peculiarities of engagement. Let them label you in unfavorable ways and shove you in unfavorable boxes. At least you’re surviving. You’re surviving in a world–in a Self–that wants nothing more than to eradicate you, and that makes you stronger than anything that fear and disappointment and ableism and human cruelty can throw at you. You’ll have The Personas exerting whatever influence we can, but we’re diluting to dissipation. But we are you, so we’ll always be with you. Go out and live, Alpha. Go.”

               The Alpha nods once, fingering her sea shell. She pokes at it, as if unsure of its nature. Then, she grasps it. She looks at me. She smiles. A goofy, childly, uneven smile, but a smile.

                And then the light flashes, and she rises up.

                There’s a rumbling outside that stings my ears. Construction. The room’s light makes me dizzy. My legs tremble as I stand. But I do stand. I believe I have…an essay to finish, or something? Oh, a water bottle cap. That looks fun to play with.

                It is fun to play with. It has the tingliest ridges and the spinniest circles and–

              –right, essay. Might as well get to it. Might as well do the best that I can as a human being.

                 I am not Ideal, but for the moment being, I am all that I have.

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