Sit down we have a lot to do in this chapter and we need to get started now. We are going to start in the Wasteland. I have to show you how eight years after the Battle of Normal Street, Assassin finally found peace.
Now it is dark in the Wasteland and there is nothing but jagged rocks for as far as the eye can see until there is not. In the middle of it all hovers Smear Lord of Ire. All winds blow toward him. All warmth radiates from him. He is the god of the Wastelands and Assassin has come to make Smear bear witness.
Beside him stands Shush.
He is naked. Shush has never owned clothing. He is filthy. Filthy from the places that Char kept him and the things that Char has done to him. He has black hand prints all over his body that are stains of past horrors. Shush’s lips have been sewn closed. He has never learned to talk and he is unhealed.
His filthy hair hangs in front of his face and his entire body trembles.
Beside him is the ghost. Beside him is Lenore. She is the very essence of numb. She has trouble feeling anything. She holds a great deal of love for Bekah. She holds love for Rayph and Tobin. She feels love for Plan, who saw her once and crossed the room just to hug her. Lenore holds love for Smilin’ Jack. The one creature that can make her feel a surge of something even if it is fear.
Lenore is here. She wears all white, with white hair and black eyes. Her clothing is wispy and she radiates cold as she stands close to Shush.
“Why have you come?” Smear asks.
“I want to make the boy chose,” Assassin says. “I cannot live my life knowing that he is in this much pain and no one is helping him. I have talked to Shade about it but his leadership has become lax. I have talked to Conductor about it but he as well has no ideas. I want to make the boy choose so I come to you, the last authority I recognize, to witness what I want to do and make it happen.”
Assassin turns to Shush. “The time has come to fight or give up. Come with me and I will teach you to kill. I will teach you to serve and I will break the thing inside of you that hurts. It will be painful. It will be horrible. It will be a life of service to me. And I am a monster. Choose this path and leave this place at my side.”
He turned to Lenore. “Or go with her. Let her take you to Jack’s swamp where she resides with the Master of Monsters and she will wrap you in her arms and you will never feel anything again. No pain. No fear. No love, no joy. All of that will be taken from you. Make a choice now because I will not watch you wander this place whimpering and sobbing any longer. Make a choice because if you don’t, I will kill you myself.”
Shush stares for a long time at Assassin. He looks longingly at Lenore before he turns his back to her and walks to stand before Assassin.
“On your knees,” Assassin says.
Shush whimpers and tears fall from his eyes as he takes to his knees.
Assassin swipes his blade through the air once and Shush’s mouth is cut free. “Call me master,” he says.
Shush stares up in fear and awe. He opens his mouth for the first time as severed threads hang from his lips and he says the first word he has ever spoken freely. Shush looks at Assassin and says, “Master.”
Put a pin in that.
One day in 2010, Bekah wakes me up with a shake.
“You have to get up,” she says. “We have to talk.”
Shadow wakes up and nods. “Okay, shit, what time is it, fuck?”
“Shadow, I love you. I need to talk to Shade right now.”
Shadow blinks at her and nods. “Gotcha.” He stands up and kisses her, then Shade comes out.
“What’s wrong?” he says.
“I can’t live like this anymore. You have to do something,” Bekah said. “Come on, get up, your coffee is ready.”
“I’m five hours into my sleep here,” Shade said.
“Yeah well, you get a little less sleep today than usual,” Bekah said. “This is important, so get in here.”
He grunts but will not say no. She is upset and Shade hates to see her upset. He joins her in the living room and she sits in her chair and crosses her arms.
“You have to do something,” she said.
“Tell me what to do and I will do it,” Shade said.
“You are drying up,” she said.
And she was right. The last few years had been bad. We had fallen into a pattern hard. We got up. We ate. We watched TV. We hung out with the kids. We hung out with Bekah. Then we hung out alone. Then we went to bed. We had fallen into a funk and we had known it for a while. Getting out of it was just not possible.
“You need to get a job,” she said.
“Okay?” Shade said. He rubbed his forehead and remembered the appeal for his disability. “I am disabled.”
“But not dead. You’re not dead but you are acting like it. I don’t care what you do but you have to do something. Work a few hours a week at McDonald’s if you have to, I don’t care, but you can’t sit around anymore, it is killing you.” She shook her head. “What about the writing. Aren’t you supposed to be working?
“You went to that workshop. You were told that you were a gifted writer and then you quit. You just sat down. All you needed to hear was that you were good enough and when you heard it, you were satisfied. If that means you are done writing, fine. Pick something else, but do something.” She stood up and walked to my chair. She dropped to her knees and she took my face in her hands. “Look at me.
“I don’t care what you do. I don’t care how many hours you work. I don’t care if you sweep floors or teach at Harvard but you have to do something. You have no direction. You have no reason for life and you are dying inside.” Bekah kissed me. “If you want to write, then get started. If you want to go back to school, we can do that, too. Find something you love and dedicate yourself to it but don’t ask me to watch this anymore. This is not enough. Not for you. Not for me.”
I toyed with a few different things but in the end, it was always going to be writing. In the end, I figured out that no matter what else I did I would have to write on the side. I embraced it and I decided to start working. But there was a problem.
See my work ethic was all fucked up. I hated work even when I loved it. I had been taught that work was a thing to dread. So even when I loved the piece I was writing and even when I ached to write it, I would still just refuse. I would procrastinate. I would find reasons not to do what I loved because aren’t we all supposed to hate work? Aren’t we supposed to avoid it if we can? Even though I loved writing, I dreaded doing it. I needed to fix that, so I went to the place I always went when I needed to fix things.
I ended up with Henry. He was my new therapist in Milwaukee. He was brilliant in so many different ways than Steven.
He was a warrior. A martial artist. He taught marital arts and he was very spiritual. Into spiritual healing and the soul. He was a completely different kind of badass but he was my new badass.
I waited for two months before I told him about my DID. I wanted to get to know him. Get to trust him. When I had decided on him, I brought him in and he kind of lost it a little. He lost it in a very professional way. In a calm way. But he had never dealt with DID before. When I left on that day, he said that he would see me in two weeks. He was going to do some research and be ready when I got back to him.
Well now the problem in front of us was work. I sat him down and I looked at him and told him what Bekah said. I told him I needed to look at my work ethic and get to the point where I didn’t dread work anymore but looked forward to it. I told him that I had heard many times that work can be nourishing and fulfilling. I wanted to embrace that way of thinking.
We started meeting every week. We signed a contract that I would work three days out of the next week. I worked all five. We started to talk about my work in therapy. Started to use it as a way of talking about my issues. We banged away on the things that made me think I had to dread work and I began writing my first epic novel.
When I finished Eastgate it was 800 pages. I had written it in three months to the day. I had a work regiment. I had a quota. And I refused to let myself lean on any excuses. I worked every day and I never looked back.
As a disabled person I cannot hold down a job. I cannot be in public; I cannot clock in and out on a regular schedule. But my work day is an hour and a half long. It doesn’t matter what time I do it, what I am wearing, and I am alone. If I need to take a sick day, or a mental health day I can. Writing has turned out to be the only real job I am suited for. And with my commitment of one and a half hours a day, I have created a dynasty.
Now let’s look at the one thing I really want to talk about that is also happening around this time.
Hymnal came to see us the Halloween after Tobin was born.
Halloween is a big day in Milwaukee. We have a hopping neighborhood. It is great for candy and the kids come by the van load. I give out candy to everyone who comes. But the big kids have to earn it.
If you are deemed too big to trick or treat by Marigold, I stop you at the first set of steps. That leaves you at about twenty feet from my porch. I make you stop there and you have to catch your candy. Sometimes I will give it a bit of a lob. One day when I saw this adult take a piece of candy out of a kid’s pail that he did not know, I decided this was my guy.
I made him put his Michael Myers mask back on and I made him stop at the sidewalk. I let the kids gather around him and I told him that he had to catch his candy and I would throw ten pieces at him. Whatever hit the ground the kids around him got to keep.
Have you seen the movie? The movie his mask is from, have you seen Halloween the movie? It’s a great movie. Very fun, love Jamie Lee Curtis. Very screamy. However, if you look at that mask really close you can see that those eye holes are tiny.
I chucked that candy at him so fast he had no chance. All the kids around him picked up the candy that he pawed at but had no hope of catching. I bounced those mini candy bars off his head. I even managed to bounce one off his hand. I did it on purpose. It was pretty baller.
Well while all this is going on, Rayph is being a bus.
Rayph has been riding the bus back from three-year-old kindergarten. He loves buses and when Bekah asks him what he wants to be for Halloween he says a school bus.
But Bekah was an art student and you never laugh at an art student.
She bought some cardboard. She bought big pieces of yellow poster board and she built this kid a bus costume. He had a stop sign on the side that he would pull out every time he stopped at a door. He would knock, then open the hood of the bus where they would drop the candy.
The hood being his bucket was my idea.
Hymnal came that year and she let me dress her up.
I put her in my leather biker jacket, my chain wallet, a black do rag. And she went as a biker. The entire time she just laughed. She called Shadow crazy and she let him dress her up.
That night we put Tobin to bed. I said goodnight to Rayph. I talked to him for a while about how proud I was of him for learning the sounds for all of his letters. Then I went through hand shaking with him again. I showed him the right way to give a solid hand shake like I had been doing that month and I kissed him and sent him on his way.
I turned on the TV while Bekah went to take him to the bathroom to sit on his training toilet. I was trying to find a channel when I heard Hymnal explode.
“You’re just such a good father and husband!” she snapped. It seemed like she was mad at me.
“Okay,” I said. “Thank you. I think.”
“No one expected it out of you. None of us knew what you were or what you could be.” She shook her head. “The therapy has helped but whatever you have done has made you a great father and husband. Bekah is so happy all the time and the boys are well behaved and,” she waved her hand and shook her head. “I don’t know how you are doing it but I was wrong. I was wrong about you. You are so much more than I thought you were.”
“I love you, Hymnal,” I said.
“I love you too, Jesse.”
That was in 2010. Thirteen years after I had met her, I had finally been accepted by her. It would be another ten years before I let her know that she had been wrong about me all along. But that is in this book. And she has not read it yet.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.