Truth is, a time long ago I loved the simpler things in life. To sit in green fields and watch the sun come up. To strut through the city and chase pretty girls. To spend endless summer days making mischief with my friends. I was young, foolish, and utterly full of myself. Those were good days.
Those days are done.
After my accident, nothing has been the same. I don’t feel like myself most of the time. I think perhaps I’m sick, very sick. I hear voices telling me to do terrible things. And after all these years, I find myself listening. And why not? Better to accept what I have become than spend lifetimes waging war against it.
It doesn’t matter what I look like. I’ll tell you anyway. I’m short for the modern age, only 5’11”. I have dusky hair and grey eyes. I suppose I’m what you’d consider athletic. The girls used to say I was lean as a whip, but nowadays men look at my ropey muscles and cringe. I’m faster than they are. I’m stronger. I don’t ever get hurt. Ever. They think it’s unnatural. It so happens they’re right.
More than my body, people fear my mind. They think I’m crazy, but that term is so…vague. I have something inside me. It’s like poison, but it doesn’t kill me, not quickly anyway. No, I’m not insane. What some might call obsession is merely disclipline. I’m driven to do what I do. I’ve moved on to better things than happiness, relationships, or life. Religion, one might call my new way of thinking. Truth, I prefer to say.
I hardly feel human any longer. I can’t identify with people like I used to. It’s just that we’re all so damnedly fixated on staying alive, we’ve forgotten what it means to die.
* * * * *
I didn’t used to be this way. I swear. I was optimistic, ambitious, and faithful. Well…anymore I’m just not. I’ve been through so much. I’ve been kidnapped, imprisoned, threatened with death. My teachers have lied to me again and again. I’ve been walked on, hoodwinked, and abused. It’s a miracle I’m still alive.
So it’s high time I start living for myself. I was supposed to be married. It might’ve been wonderful, but the more I think about it, the more I know settling down isn’t for me. I want more from this world than a ring on my finger and a roof over my head. I want to live. I want to travel to the mountains, the forests, and every tiny little city in-between. I might be old and brittle before I do it all, but no matter. I won’t be kept. I’m in charge now. I and no other.
I know I don’t look the same as I used to. You probably wouldn’t even recognize me. I’m leaner, but stronger, if that makes any sense. My hair is black and my eyes…well…my friends tell me they’ve gone grey. I suppose it’s all the years on the road that’ve changed me. I’m no longer a child. I feel confident. I feel ready. The world is mine and yours, but mostly mine.
And yet, despite everything, all I want is to be loved.
Who am I…really?
Can’t say I know anymore. I’m the biggest actor on the world’s grandest stage, but in gaining my fame I’ve lost my sense of self. I’ve played kings, aristocrats, and knights, but I’ve also played soldiers, peasants, even women. I’m not a braggart. I’m not arrogant. But it’s true; I’m the best. Step outside your door and ask your neighbors. Chances are they’ve heard of me. Honestly, if you haven’t, where’ve you been living all this time?
So it should come as no surprise that I’m looking for another role, another person to pretend to be. It was never about the show itself, but the applause at the end. And by applause, I mean you…yes you…standing there with your mouth open and your eyes wide. Maybe you’re in awe, but more likely you’re terrified. That’s good. That’s exactly the reaction I wanted. Because this isn’t really a play. It’s real life. And you never saw me coming.
I’ll be honest with you. Don’t take it as a sign that I care or that we’re going to be friends; we’re not. But the truth is it’s been so long since I’ve not worn a mask, I’m just as terrified as you are. I talk big and act bigger, but I’m not doing this show for myself anymore. I’m not the playwright or the director. I’m occupying the stage, but I’m not setting it. I’m working for someone else. The pay is awful, the hours never-ending. Doesn’t matter. I have to see this next act through to the end.
If I don’t, it’ll be my last.
* * * * *
I’m so old I can taste the dust between my teeth. My bones pop when I walk and my body hurts all the time. When people tell you that growing old is like sailing gently into the twilight, they’re lying. At my age, pain is king. And with pain comes anger.
I couldn’t tell you when it was I began to feel my rage. One eve, I woke up from an impossibly long dream and knew my contentment was at its end. To see the world through my crusty eyes annoyed me. To ache with every damnable step filled me with frustration. Worse yet, whenever I saw another person, I just…I don’t know…felt the urge to end them.
And so it’s true. All I am is a husk of my former self. I’m tall and strong despite my brittle old body, but I’m so ugly no one will look at me. I’ve given up all sense of dignity. I don’t bathe or change my ragged clothes. I’ve not spoken to anyone in such a long time that my voice is but a creak and a whisper. Doesn’t much matter, I suppose. I don’t want to talk, not to you, not to anyone. My anger has become hatred. My loss of self fills me with loathing for everyone young, beautiful, and alive.
If I were you, I’d stay away.
* * * * *
No. I don’t have multiple personality disorder. Well…maybe sometimes.
Each of the above is a character sketch from Dark Moon Daughter, Book II in the Tyrants of the Dead trilogy.
J Edward Neill