I match her stance, rising to my feet. “So she invented dissociative personality disorder to explain it? Do you have any idea how insane that sounds?” Jillian won’t meet my eyes. Her gaze skitters over the room. “She doesn’t know,” I continue. “About my blackouts. Has no other ground to stand on. She looked me in the eyes and told me something she thinks to be true. Told me something she says that you told her.” Breath pushes out of my chest in hot waves, the pounding in my head hurting. Rage. That is this emotion. A foreign emotion that I haven’t felt in a long time. Don’t understand. I feel a peeling of my psyche, a loss of some of what I understand to be control. I blink, focus on Jillian, can feel the snarl in my voice as I step closer.
“Brant… you don’t understand.” She falters. “Your medicine stopped all that.”
“All what? The blackouts? Or my stepping into another persona altogether?”
She holds up her hands, and I stop. Realize how close I am to her. How the wide white of her eyes is fear. Of me? A laughable thought. I will my fists to relax and focus on my breathing.
“I don’t know anything about another persona. All I know is that you’ve been doing perfectly. Your work has never been better, your focus more crisp, your creative insight more in tune.”
“Fuck the work. I’m talking about my life, the person I am when I lay my head down to sleep.”
“You don’t mean that,” she straightens. “Your work is everything, Brant. You and I… we’re changing the world.”
“We’re building computers, Jill.” I reach out. Grip her shoulder and force her stare to meet my own. “What’s going on with me? Is she right?” I beg with my eyes for truth and see a falter of indecision in her own.
Fury boils through me at the tell, ripping apart the veins of my composure and I grip her other shoulder with my left hand. Rattle the small bones of a woman I thought I knew. “Tell me!” I scream into her face. “Is there someone else inside of me? Tell me!”
I watch, in slow motion, the snap of her chin, its jerk as I shake her shoulders. The feeling, an overwhelming hatred of the unknown, shatters every tie of self-control that I had in place. I notice, for the first time in decades, the strip of my world as it breaks into pieces. The dark sweep of oblivion as it takes my anger and dissolves it into a sea of black.
Maybe it is another personality taking over. Or maybe it is the injection stabbed into my back, Jillian’s eyes leaving mine for a brief second to look over my shoulder and nod.
I wake up restrained, my wrists and ankles given a limited range of movement, about two inches, best my drugged mind can determine. I jerk and pull, the action worthless, other than earning movement from the man in my room. Turning my head works, the movement free and unrestrained, my head lifting easily as I crane my neck to see the bald man move closer, his features coming into focus, the cloud of my mind recognizing everything about him in a second. “Dr. F.” I let my head fall back as he moves closer, his hand resting with reassurance on my chest, his face looking down on me with concern. “Where am I?”
“You’re at Jillian’s home. She thought this would be a better place to keep you, away from the press or public eye.”
“Untie me.” I try to ask with as much civility as possible, but am certain he hears the expletives behind my tones.
“Not yet. Jillian told me what happened… for our own safety we need to keep you restrained a little longer.” His hand pats my arm as if he is turning down my request for a popsicle, not my God-given right to freedom.
“Let me the f**k up. I’m not going to hurt you. I’ve done nothing to allow you to restraint me like an animal.” I spat out the words, yanking with all my might at the restraints, feeling claustrophobia swell through me.
“Brant, forget the restraints for a moment. We need to talk.” He returns to his seat, ignoring my personal alarm, pulling a pen out and clicking it open.
I close my eyes and will my muscles to relax, to cease the press of skin against restraint. Envision the motherboard of Laya. The components that connect to make it run. The pieces of nonsense that communicate to breathe life into an inanimate object. Peace. I open my eyes. “Talk.”
“What happened when you blacked out?”
“Yesterday. Here. You blacked out in Jillian’s den.”
“It’s not a f**king den. It’s a formal room designed for uninteresting chitchat. And it couldn’t have been yesterday. Had to be today… I—” I notice the light streaming through the windows. It was yesterday. “Where is Lana? I want to see her.” I need to explain the things I don’t yet know.
“We don’t think you should have any visitors until we figure this out.”
“We don’t think—”
“I heard you. I just can’t believe you would speak to me as if I am a child. I am an adult. I don’t care what you think.”
“Mr. Brant, you’ve been declared incompetent. For the moment, I am your personal physician, unless Jillian appoints another one. And Jillian is your personal representative.”
Oh my God. I’m going to break again. I can feel the creep, can see dots in my vision… “I can’t have been declared incompetent. There is a process involved. Probate court. A psychological examination by a medical practitioner.”
“I am a medical practitioner, Brant. And Jillian had some strings pulled. We have a provisional application in process, which has been approved by a local judge. It will stand until the courts open on Monday. Please relax and let us treat you.”
My brain tries to grab at straws it can’t reach. “I need my medicine,” I gasp. “Please.”
“We are going to hold off on any medication until we see the frequency of your switches.”
“My switches?” My chest hurts. Stress leaning on my chest until I fear it will break.
“Your switches into other personalities. We can’t understand them until we observe them.”
“Other personalities?” So it is true. I need Layana. Need to explain…
I’ve woken up in f**king old lady luxury. Lee shifts in the bed, his gaze moving over ornate wallpaper, his mind trying to place where he is. How drunk he got to take home a senior citizen and end up in her bed. Moving his head slowly to the left, he comes face to face with an old bald man. He blinks, the man staring at him like dissection is planned. He tries to sit up and realizes that his hands won’t move, a hard jerk of wrist doing nothing but alerting him to the fact that his arms are sore, like he has struggled for hours.