The Alternate

There are two of me.

Two people living as one, and nobody knows it. Not an evil clone or anything like that, well, not exactly that at any rate. There are two copies of me, sharing the same body, but with separate minds. The strange thing is that we are not “multiple personalities” but rather two versions of the same personality, sharing all the same memories up until the fateful day of July 7th, 2015. Or July 8th if you ask him, but we’ll get to that later.

I can see your eyes narrow with curiosity. “What was it?” you ask, “Car crash? War? What trauma caused your psyche to shatter like a china plate in the face of unimaginable horror?” Well, I did get a bit sunburned, playing frisbee in the park, but that’s about it. No head wound, no strange encounters, nothing. As far as I can tell, I spent the next day having a lazy Sunday watching movies. Now I say “as far as I can tell” because I don’t actually remember that day. I know that it happened because the world kept spinning and Monday came inexorably around, and later on I looked up the browsing history on my computer, and what lighthearted comedies I watched on Netflix, but in my memory it was a complete blank.

At first I figured I had wasted the whole day messing around on the computer and didn’t really think about it much. But when I woke up the next morning I found a note taped to the bathroom mirror. Bold letters in my own familiar hand writing spelled out “We have to talk” in red sharpie.

I realized that the next day was not in fact, the next day. It was Wednesday and it seemed to me as if Tuesday had never been. This is when I checked the browser history on my computer, and you can imagine the feeling I had as I found pages of activity from the previous day. Even worse, once I scrolled down past Reddit, Imgr, and other favorite time-wasting sites, I started coming across google searches for “blackout”, “multiple personality disorder”, and “psychiatric help”. I followed in my own footsteps, clicking through WebMD and Psychology Today and amazon reviews of recommended books. I couldn’t believe it, I was sure it was a prank or something, so I didn’t tell anyone I just went grocery shopping as normal, made some quick pasta with cheap-o sauce and wrote on the back of the note “prove you’re me, what’s a secret no one knows?”

As soon as I awoke I went to check the note:

“5th grade, got locked out, tried to pick front door with twig and jammed keyhole, dad blamed it on Halloween pranksters”

Fuck. Not only had I never told anyone about that, but it’s exactly the secret I would have picked. This was no prank, I was talking with myself. What was I going to do? What if this continued? Sure enough, every time I slept he woke up, and vice versa. We kept trading notes over the next few days trying to get a handle on things and making sure nobody found out. In the end we decided to just, well, share.

It was easier than you would expect, setting up life between us. We lived alone, did remote contract work, not a lot of friends, not a lot of anything really. So we just split it up, MWF for me T-Th-S for him, a good nap on Sunday to keep it consistent. I started thinking of him as a roommate of sorts and our avoidance of chores like dishes was epic until we divvied those up too. That was one situation where it was frustrating to have all the same preferences, but mostly that worked out in our favor. Finances were split up and if any bankers wondered why one person would have two separate checking accounts they never inquired.

Why did we not seek medical treatment, you might ask? Why the secrecy? Well it came down to the fact that we are both cowards, and neither of us could really be sure of being the “primary” personality. Would integration be seamless, or would one of us simply “win out”? It was too big a risk to face oblivion, better to just share a life, for whatever it was worth. At least that was my reasoning and I assume his was the same. After all, who is easier to get along with than yourself?

It was all going along quite well until she came into the picture. I didn’t know at first, he had done a good job of covering up tracks, using incognito mode on his browser, a separate email account. But it got more serious than he expected, and being in a relationship does leave a mark. I knew something was up, but it wasn’t until I found his hidden journal that I knew what.

That bastard, hiding from me, hording this all to himself. Why should he get to be the happy one while I’m stuck vaccuming Sunday morning before his date night? Once I knew what was up it was a simple matter to just not take a nap Sunday and…

Damn, what an idiot I was. I should have planned it out, found a way to contract her on my normal days, done more research, maintained informational advantage, anything! Instead I jumped right in, confused the hell out of Sarah with questions about things I should have known and generally made a mess of things. Maybe if I had just talked to him we could have worked something out, but it was far too late for that after I went and messed things up so badly.

My alternate was furious. He knew what had happened as soon as he woke up on the wrong day. We had an epic fight, dragged out due to the fact that you can only take so many naps, so each invective filled note took at least half a day to find it’s recipient. If only it had ended there, one roommate moving out in a huff and a flurry of passive aggressive notes. That wasn’t an option for us, so we just had to work it out. He patched things up with Sarah claiming he got a concussion and didn’t know it. I started online dating, but didn’t find anyone. How did he end up with a girlfriend and not me, he’s the same person! Maybe it’s just luck. I’ll bet some social scientists would love to get a look at our lives, even better than identical twins! Actually a lot of scientists would like to meet us. The thought makes me shudder, and I think it scares him too.

That’s when things started getting out of control. We were starting to diverge as different life experiences piled up, but there was still a vast pool of identical history, not to mention physiology. So as soon as one of us started to worry, we could be pretty sure the other was thinking the same. After the Sunday incident we were less trusting, more interested in protecting ourselves. I installed spyware on the computer, trying to get a heads up on his actions. Later, a library book left conspicuously on the dresser told me that I wasn’t fooling anybody. With an entire day at his disposal he could easily work around my pitiful surveillance.

I started waking up later, presumably because he was staying up late, stealing time. I started doing the same, partially because of the late mornings, partially because I refused to let him “win”. It was a classic tragedy of the commons situation and pretty soon both of our sleep schedules were shot to hell. It was affecting our work and our relationships, but I didn’t know what to do. One morning I awoke with a hangover so bad that it could only have been intentional. I resolved to pay him back for that one as soon as the mere thought of alcohol didn’t make me want to spew.

Sorry for the mental image there, the point is that it was not a good situation. We stopped communicating. Stopped leaving helpful context notes in case someone called us out of the blue on an off day. Stopped covering for each-other. We even began to sabotage each-other, though I maintain he started it. Rude email to a boss, cancel plans with a friend, hiding shit. I even tried to get Sarah pissed at him, which was admittedly a low blow. But it was the amphetamines that finally broke us.

Do you know how easy it is to go days without sleep with the proper drugs? Oh it’s not good for you, but you can do it. I started stealing days here and there, using uppers to keep me going. Anytime someone from his life called to ask about missed appointments or whatever I would just make up a random excuse to put them off and let him deal with it later.

One day I awoke to a blaring, extra-loud alarm clock by the side of the bed. It was the middle of the night and my body felt like a used rag. I was wrung out and could barely keep my eyes open. I fumbled with the unfamiliar clock and got it to shut the hell up. A few moments later it went off again and I hit the off button harder than was really needed. The third time I picked the damn thing up and yanked the cord out of the wall. A few moments later it happened again, and by this point even my sleep addled brain knew something was up, but I couldn’t quite figure out what. I stumbled to the place I hid the pills but they were gone. Something was happening with the clock, he was setting it to wake me up. I was exhausted and drugged but was saved by pure vindictiveness. If he was going to set an obnoxious clock to annoy me, I would set it to annoy him.

When I woke up mid-afternoon I was still feeling rough but at least I could think straight. I glanced at my phone and then just stared at it in shock. “Yesterday” was a week ago, a whole fucking week! I ignored the overflowing notifications on my phone and sat down to think. Pretty soon I realized what happened. He found my stash and decided to take a “if it’s war he wants, it’s war he’ll get” approach. He must have stayed up with the amps, then as soon as the crash started set an alarm for 20 minutes later and passed out. After I turned off the alarm I would fall right back asleep and stay that way long enough for him to wake up feeling roughly human. He could repeat this every day or two to stay in control indefinitely.

I just sat there in a daze. This was too much, I could share my life, but I can’t be my own worst enemy. I decided to find a resolution, one way or another. I grabbed some cash, left my cellphone at home and got in our car. The oil light was on, but neither of us had wanted to spend the measly $30 bucks to get it swapped. It was selfish, petty, and downright stupid. Leave that long enough and the whole engine will blow. Talk about an obvious metaphor.

I skipped the therapist and went straight to my doctor for a referral, then on to the neurologist the same day. There seems to be some excitement over my test results. Unprecedented discovery, sending results to colleagues, etc. etc. I guess someone is having a good day at least.

Now I am sitting in the waiting room, getting ready to face whatever comes next. I don’t want to hide and fight anymore, I’m an honest guy. If my alternate wins out than I hope him and Sarah the best, I really do. If I’m the one left then I’m going to owe her one hell of an apology. I don’t think they make cards for “sorry I psychically murdered your boyfriend”. The neurologist says not to think of it that way, that integration may mean a merging for both of us. If that’s the case then things are going to be pretty crazy for everyone involved. They’re calling my name now, time to face the music.

Catch you on the flip side.

(I’ve always wanted to use that line.)




Subject: Truth

What I am sharing with you may seem unbelievable, but you have a right to know why you only talk with your boyfriend on certain days. No matter what happens I want someone to know our story, as we lived it. Sorry for, well, everything.

Attachment: alternates.docx

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