I usually highlight fiction—romantic fiction—on my blog, but today I’m sharing a book which is entirely, heart-breakingly, true.
Last fall, my friend and fellow author A.E. Hayes published her autobiography, Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac. In Shattered, Hayes takes readers through the fragments of her life, painstakingly pieced together from journals, hospital records, accounts of friends and family, and a few actual memories retained after a traumatic brain injury wiped out most of her past.
Most of those retained memories, she would come to learn, were not her own. Instead, they belonged to alters: alternate personalities her mind created to deal with the psychological and emotional traumas of her childhood. But while Shattered grapples with the existence of the alters and their effect on Hayes’s life, her next book gives them voice.
Villain: The Voices of Shattered is a series of nonfiction essays, written primarily by alter personalities. In the book, Hayes and the alters tell stories that were not included in Shattered—stories that pose a question: what is good, and what is evil?
Villain will make you question your notion of heroism and villainy, and leave you wondering: who is the villain of this story—and my own?
Here’s a brief excerpt from the introduction.
Five days before my twenty-first birthday, I was drunk. I was so drunk that I ignored both the speed limit and the fact that, up ahead, there was a train barreling down a set of tracks that I was seconds away from crossing.
“Stop!” a voice commanded. I didn’t know who she was at the time, but I heard her. I stopped.
The train missed me by a foot, and the force of its momentum made my little green Dodge Neon sway. I was on a boat, seasick from rocking, but mostly seasick from having downed a half-dozen small whisky bottles I kept in the glove compartment.
A man who had stopped behind me approached and tapped on my window. Shaking, sick, and wanting to forget about the train that was still passing in front of us, I attempted to ignore the stranger, but he would have none of it. He kept tapping until I rolled down the window.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“Can I help you?” he said. “You were almost hit by that train! You didn’t see the flashing lights? Hey, you don’t look well. Would you like me to call someone?”
The only person this stranger could have called at the time was my abusive boyfriend, Alexander. I was on my way to visit him and I wanted to be properly drunk before I arrived. That way, when he forced me to cut myself or punched me for talking too loudly, the impact wouldn’t feel as severe. And he was going to do those things. Drunk or not, it didn’t matter. Alexander was always a man of action. And I, his possession, was desperately trying to drink myself into an early grave.
“No,” I finally said. “I’ll be OK. Thank you.”
The train passed and my car stopped shaking. The man, still staring at me, shook his head, mumbled something under his breath, and walked back to his car. I looked with clouded vision through my rear-view mirror and watched him pick up a cell phone.
Shit, I thought. He’s going to call the cops, report my license plate, and have me arrested. I slammed my foot down on the gas pedal and took off, twisting and weaving my way through the Pennsylvania back roads that would eventually lead me to a large highway.
The drive from my college to Alexander’s house was only two hours long. I was used to driving to him. After all, he never came to me.
The little bottles of liquor were gone, and I knew I couldn’t score more until later that evening. Alexander was abusive, but he didn’t mind providing for me. He enjoyed showing off the fact that he was wealthy and able to procure whatever he wanted at any hour or at the location of his choosing, and what harm would a dozen or so small bottles of whisky do to his pain-in-the-ass girlfriend? I was an asset to him because of my age—twenty to his almost twenty-eight years—but other than being arm candy and a person to buy alcohol for, I meant nothing.
I didn’t want to believe that, but I knew it to be true. I kept driving, weaving in and out of the lanes, until I hit the highway. I increased my speed from sixty miles per hour to eighty and hoped no one would catch me.
Running away was my favorite thing to do. I’d run away from home, from people who wanted to help me, from colleges, from events I loved, simply because I found it easier to run toward the destructive things. Hit me, beat me, rape me, intoxicate me, whatever would come to be—that was always easier. I was the mistress of running.
“You will die this way, you dumb bitch,” I heard the voice say to me.
“I’m just drunk,” I said to myself, shouting over the radio.
“You’re just an idiot,” she said. “You’re gonna get into a wreck and we’re going straight to hell.”
I picked up my pack of cigarettes from the passenger’s seat, lit a smoke, and enjoyed the sound of the crackling paper upon the first inhalation. It was soothing, like flipping the pages of a book I’d been yearning to read.
Going straight to hell?
Crazy brain, I thought. Don’t you know better?
I cannot go where I already exist.
© 2018 A.E. Hayes