I guess it was about four months ago. I’m thinking now that it might have been five. Not six. I had stayed up Around the Horn. Quite like I am doing today. This means that I did not sleep last night at all and I will not go to bed until midnight. It is usually how I deal with long writing hours. It is part of a very extreme lifestyle that I live that keeps in balance all the tiny moving parts that keep me going.
Well I was staying up Around the Horn and I had been up for thirty-one hours when I was sitting on the couch in Bekah’s and my bedroom talking to Rayph, and the topic of the alters came up. I was shutting down so I didn’t curb the topic and Rayph got interested.
We had told him a few times but he had always been very uncomfortable with it. Now he seemed receptive. So I told him the highlights.
Shade had once been known as Pain. Then he had grown up. Gotten good at everything he ever tried and had been Rayph’s first father.
Shadow was born when X set the seat of a car on fire. We had run to get away from the explosion but the car didn’t really catch. The seat just got damaged. We had gotten petulant and sulked off to light something else on fire but that was when Shadow was born.
I told him about Assassin pulling a knife on his mother.
I told him about Tier and how wise and commanding he was for a ten-year-old.
I kept talking and Rayph just stared at me with eyes wide, jaw slack. We talked about it for a long time before he said, “I want to meet them.”
“All of them,” he said. “I want to meet them all. Can I meet them?”
“Well, they are gone now. They handed everything over to me. We haven’t seen those guys for any real amount of time in about nine years. Maybe eight. They are gone.”
“They gave the entire life over to me,” I said. “To Adam. This is all mine now,” I said motioning to the world around us.
“What do they get?” he asked.
“They live in my head.”
“Nothing I guess,” I said.
“That’s not fair,” Rayph said. “They earned us. They earned a life. You get to have one too, but Dad, that is not fair.”
And he left. Hugged me, went to bed. I sat on it. I didn’t say a word. I might have mentioned it to Bekah but I might have kept it to myself. The memory is too raw for me to remember how I dealt with it. She is napping on a chair about five feet from me but I won’t wake her to ask. What I can tell you is that I didn’t sleep well that night.
The next day Shade was in car line picking Rayph up. He was sitting in the car we drive. Compared to what he was used to, it looks like a cockpit. He stared at everything and what it could do and when he got back to the house, he looked at Rayph, who was sitting at the table and he spoke.
“That car is crazy,” Shade said.
Now, Koh can fly really fast, and Rayph used to chase her everywhere so he loves anything fast. He clamped onto cars really quick and now he is a car guy. When Shade mentioned a car, he perked up. “What car is crazy?” Rayph asked.
“Your dad’s car,” Shade said. He looked Rayph in the eye and Rayph just stared. He looked at Shade for a second, and Shade saw it click in his head.
“They changed a lot since you were in one, haven’t they?” Rayph said.
“A bit, yeah,” Shade said.
And that was how long it took Rayph to get used to it. He was fine now. That was the trauma that it caused him to know that his dad was certifiably insane. He had adjusted so fast that all it took was a pause and a smile.
“What did you drive?” Rayph asked.
“I would like to say a Chevy Nova,” Shade said.
“If I had to guess, I would say that was Shadow’s car,” Rayph said.
“Definitely. I won’t claim the minivan. Not in front of a car guy. I have to keep up some of my bad reputation, so I will have to go with the PT Cruiser. I drove a PT Cruiser.”
“You’re making a stand with the PT Cruiser?”
“I never liked you,” Shade said.
They both laughed.
Sadie rushed in. Now, she is a full-blooded Rottweiler and as soon as Shade saw her, he freaked. “Oh, it’s Katherine!” He reached down and saw that she was almost twice Katherine’s size. He pulled back horrified. “What happened to Katherine?” In his defense, it looked like Katherine was a balloon that someone had just decided to blow up.
“That’s not Katherine,” Bekah said, walking in. “That is Sadie.”
“Katherine died a few years ago. This is Adam’s dog Sadie,” Rayph said.
Shade turned to see Tobin staring in confusion. He looked at Shade. He looked at his mother. The Servant in him was waiting to pull her aside. He was watching, trying to get more information.
“Have you seen the house?” Rayph asked.
Tobin’s jaw dropped open.
“Some of it. Not the office. I hear it’s insane!” Shade said.
“Want to see it?” Rayph said.
“Yeah. Let’s go!”
“Mom, we are going down to Dad’s office. I am going to show Shade,” Rayph said. Then he casually walked downstairs.
Downstairs Shade freaked out for a while before Tobin burst in. He stared at us with a look of wonder on his face.
“Hey, little man. You are not such a little man anymore, are you?” Shade said.
“I’m Shade. I was your first father. It was the honor of my life to do the job,” Shade said. “Can I get a hug?” They rushed to him and they hugged.
That was a Friday night and no one had any plans. From school to midnight we just shifted and met people. The boys met Shade, Guardian, Assassin and Tier. They met Servant. Lenore freaked them both out. She has not been back. It is hard, I would imagine, to see your father turn into a woman right in front of your eyes. There is nothing masculine about Lenore. At the end of the night, they met Teth. It was insane.
He scared the hell out of Rayph. There were too many rules and Rayph was terrified that he would look the Great Wolf in the eye and Teth would defend his dominance.
Teth wrestled with the boys and he smelled them both for a long time. That bastard can smell. And when he was done, Teth got the entire family sitting cross-legged in a circle. He wrapped his arms around all of them and he wept.
Now we are going to move forward about two months. Did we decide it was three? I don’t know. Let’s fly forward to Christmas.
The night before Christmas we all opened a present. Shadow made a case for opening all the presents, fuck the official date, let’s do it now. There was, when he introduced the idea, the faintest whiff of gasoline in the air.
Bekah pounded that idea down fast. If you can’t tell by now, that is how you deal with Shadow. You got to stamp it out fast or that fire will grow. She said we could open one and they gave me, Adam, my necklace.
It was a thin chain with about a dozen charms on it of all different sorts.
Each charm symbolized a different alter. As I stared at it in wonder and tried to guess what charm belonged to what alter, Tobin looked at me and said, “Adam is the chain.”
I wept. I still sob when I think about it. In that one sentence was the complete understanding and acceptance of the insanity of their father. In that one sentence they were telling me that they understood. That they were fine and it would all be okay.
No item I possess means as much as that necklace. That is the very symbol of love for me.
The next day we had our Christmas ass early in the morning. I had not gone around the horn so it was miserable and I was trying to figure out how to get coffee in me faster, this drinking thing was not getting it done, when Tobin walked up to me and said, “Dad, we need Teth.”
I looked up at him and down at his hands. There was a wrapped gift. “We got a few of the alters some gifts,” Rayph said. “We couldn’t get for everyone this year but we figured next year we can do others.”
Teth got a rabbit fur. He rubbed it all over his face when he got it. We are highly allergic to rabbits but were unaffected by the fur. Teth is just like that.
Prince got a pen for signing books at events.
Guardian got a flashlight.
Shadow got a collapsible shot glass. It is stainless steel and drops down to a little tab that you can easily fit in your pocket.
Artist got a journal.
When Shade came out Rayph had two Hot Wheels. He gave one to him because it was cool but the land rover, he handed to him and said, “I got this because this is one of the toughest cars in the world. You can beat it up forever and it never quits. Made me think of you.”
We found a new one about a month ago. He is not new. He was the kid that Bekah was talking about in Teardrop Road when she mentioned a kid she used to have so much fun with.
He had gone away when Bekah was lost the first time because he didn’t want to live anymore.
He has asked to be left out of the book but I will tell you that he knows how to play the drums. Which I don’t. He knows how to play the guitar. Which I do not. He knows how to dance in ways I have never seen anyone dance. And he loves bourbon.
We call him Benny.
We are getting to know him as a family. Introducing him to new things and new people. When he sees the Packers logo, he shields his eyes and walks away. There is a bit of trauma there. He is still in pain and we are still learning the depths of it.
But Benny is going to be okay, because Benny has a family. He has two sons and he has a doting wife.
He also has what is being called the Brothers of Adam in his mind with him, keeping him strong and taking care of him.
Bekah doesn’t approve of the name Brothers of Adam. She keeps stabbing at me that Lenore is not a brother and she has worked awful hard to be counted.
I can’t disagree, but I can’t think of a better name.
Hey, if you ever do, send me an email and I will try it on. We will see if it fits.
This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 2: Normal Street.