“So, what’s been bothering you?” Dr. Cole asks, looking from me to Ycart and back.
I glance at my Other, who is tapping her fingers together and staring at the floor. My own fingers are tapping uncontrollably, and my words are quick and uncertain. “I’ve been feeling, like, kind of anxious, especially in the evenings, and I’ve been… I don’t know, maybe having panic attacks for the past couple of weeks… Like, they’re not super bad, so I’m not sure if that’s what they are, but my stomach gets really uneasy and my chest feels, like, hollow and sometimes I hyperventilate, and I don’t know if that’s really a panic attack because, like, I can still function, but… it’s not comfortable…”
The doctor nods slightly, turning to Yissy once again. “Do you believe you are causing this, Ycart?” he asks, his voice kind.
“No,” she says quickly, her tapping becoming more frantic. “At least, I don’t think so, I don’t mean to, but she’s getting all buzzy and shaky and that makes me hyper and then I make her worse, and I know that’s my fault, but I’m not starting it, I don’t think.” Her mouth snaps shut, and she begins scraping her foot against the floor.
“Mm-hm,” Doctor Cole says quietly, flipping through my medical file. “You’re taking classes again, right?”
“Yeah — well, I mean, just the one class right now, but yeah.”
“Do you feel anxious in relation to school?”
I shrug, grasping for words. “Not… exactly? I mean, it’s like, that’s a little bit I guess, but it’s more like this just kind of baseless… I dunno, dread, kind of, for no real reason.”
“And how have the social interactions been going? You’ve been having some issues with making friends, correct?”
I nod, very slightly. “When I talk to people… I’ll, like, say something and it seems okay, but then I’ll think about it later, and it’s like ‘Why did I think that was a good thing to say?’ and so, I don’t, like, talk to people too much.”
He nods, he writes, I fidget. Finally, Dr. Cole is looking at me again, making eye contact. I’ve only been seeing him for a few months now, but as far as psychiatrists go, he seems like a good guy. He also works in the same hospital as Ycart (though in a different area), and she’s mentioned that he’s been friendly whenever they’ve interacted.
“I’d like to conduct a couple of tests, if you’re willing,” he says, his voice calm and reassuring.
“What are you testing for?”
“To see if Ycart is causing this anxiety without realizing it, or if there’s some other factor that’s causing you to feel this way.”
I don’t ask about what “other factors” could mean; I focus (or, at least, try to focus) on this very reasonable solution which, deep in my soul, doesn’t seem correct.
When Dr. Cole returns, he’s holding two syringes. I tense slightly at the idea of a shot; I don’t really like needles.
“I’m going to inject you with one fluid, and then with the other,” Dr. Cole explains. “For this test to be conclusive, you need to tell me immediately if you experience any pain. Don’t just try to soldier through it; that will affect the results. Alright?”
I am now far tenser, but I manage a tiny nod. Ycart is watching the doctor very carefully, and I start to worry she’s going to hold him back.
“It’ll be okay,” I say, softly.
She doesn’t acknowledge my words, but she also doesn’t react when the first needle pierces my arm. I wince slightly, waiting for something to happen. “It hurts, like, a little,” I mumble. “Not really bad. I mean, it probably just hurts because it’s a shot, but... You told me to say if it hurts, and it does, a little, so... Yeah.”
I appear to have two settings at the moment: babbling and silence.
Dr. Cole nods very slightly, focusing on his watch. We sit (or, in Yissy’s case, stand) in uncomfortable silence for several minutes. I’m waiting for some unknown agony to shoot through my body, but it never does.
Eventually, the second syringe is administered, with the same results. The doctor applies two bandages to the punctures before finally speaking.
“Well, I’m afraid it I don’t have the best news for you.”
I’m dying. I’m dying. I’m gonna die.
“It seems you have two internalized Others.”
“... What?” Ycart asks softly. I can feel an invisible hand wrapped tightly around my wrist.
“What does that mean?” My voice isn’t shaking. That’s good.
“Occasionally, while in utero, a person’s Other will be absorbed into their own body, similar to a parasitic twin. This is more frequent among people with multiple Others. Because these internalized Others are literally a part of your body at present, your body recognizes their blood as your own. The injections I gave you were two samples of Other blood; the fact that your body didn’t attack the samples proves that the blood is already part of you.”
Ycart’s voice is very faint, but also vaguely threatening. “What kind are they? Are they dangerous?”
Dr. Cole shakes his head. “It’s a General Anxiety, and a Social Anxiety. As Others go, they’re pretty safe.”
“Can... Is there a way to get them... ” I’m not really sure how to phrase my question.
He chuckles. “You can undergo a treatment similar to dialysis. It will filter out the Others’ blood, and when that blood is exposed to the air, the Others will be able to manifest physically.”
“Will it be... upsetting for them?” I ask.
“It’s unlikely. As of right now, the Others aren’t completely conscious; however, one they manifest, they will be aware of all they have experienced — that is, everything you have experienced while they have been internalized. As a result, they are going to know everyone you know, they’ll know what you like to do, they’ll know what upsets you, things like that. It may take them a little time to adjust, but internalized Others tend to get used to the world very quickly.”
I nod slightly. “Can we... Can the dialyses thing happen today?”
Dr. Cole pauses, studying me. “Yes,” he says carefully, “but I would recommend you wait a day or two. I know this is a lot to take in—“
“She can’t start adjusting until we can treat them,” Ycart says, her tone clipped. “She wants to do this today.”
“Okay,” the doctor says, turning his attention back to me. “If you’re sure.”
The machine I’m hooked up to is humming. Literally humming; it makes music to calm you while your blood is filtered. It’s pretty neat, all things considered.
I watch my blood flow through the tubes, and I watch drops pool into a blood bag. The liquid in the bag has an orangey tinge; the machine is filtering the General Anxiety blood first. It’s not safe to filter for more than one kind at a time, since I’d have too much blood outside of my body.
Ycart is standing next to my chair, watching the machine. Her hands are clasped, but not too tightly. “You’ve calmed down,” I say thoughtfully.
“You’ve calmed down,” my Other replies.
One of my Others.
That’s going to take getting used to.
“I’m not sure it’s all... really sunk in yet,” I admit.
“But you are calmer.”
I nod slightly. “I... I’m glad that I know what’s going on now. I couldn’t understand why you were making things so bad all of a sudden, but now I know that it was something unrelated, and... I don’t know, I’m just glad to have that answer.”
Ycart nods and falls silent.
“... You’re taking this way better than I would have expected,” I say.
She stares at me. “They’re not going to hurt you,” she points out. “They already exist, and they’re not a threat. If they know what you’ve experienced, then they’ll know the things they need to do to keep you safe. As long as they aren’t going to hurt you, it’ll be okay.”
I chuckle, settling back into the chair. “So, you can be reasonable at times.”
Ycart frowns slightly, evidentially mildly insulted. But, she doesn’t reply.
“Ready?” I ask, holding the bag of red-orange blood.
“Ready,” Ycart affirms. A bag with a very small amount of clear liquid is being suspended in the air in front of her.
I nod, and we turn the bags over. Two puddles form on the floor, and almost immediately begin to change; the blood rises, twitch and molding into a human shape.
The Social Anxiety Other forms first, understandably. She stands at three inches, staring at me with frightened eyes. I cautiously reach out for her, and she cautiously approaches. I carefully take her in my hands and smile at her. She only stares.
The General Anxiety Other is more nervous when she forms. She’s shaking, her hands fidgeting desperately; my own fingers begin to twitch. I hold out my hand, and she takes it, but she hardly looks at me.
“Hey,” I say, softly. “It’s okay. We’re all going to be okay.”
“It’s going to be different, now.” Her voice is quiet, but fast. “Now you have to worry about us instead of just her, and you’re going to be unhappy, and there’s going to be more medicine and more people will stare and you’re more broken than you were before.”
It’s strange, hearing my thoughts come out of someone else’s mouth. Kind of jarring.
I give her a small smile; although I am feeling those same fears, they aren’t overpowering at the moment. “It’s going to be different, yeah. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be okay.”
I don’t think she believes me. I don’t completely believe me. But I’m going to keep repeating it, and maybe I can make it true.