As Dirk realized what was happening to him, not much took him by surprise. He had always been aware of his various splinters, and was used to sorting through different versions of himself. But Dirk's awareness eventually stretched past the "proper" canon of Arquiusprite and Brain Ghost Dirk, past the more loose canon of doomed timelines, and into splinters that perhaps only contained one part of the canon trifecta, sometimes barely at that. And he was surprised.
He existed within... People. People who read the narrative. People who were not him, were never him, never could be him.
It wasn't the same as the ones who merely put him on paper, puppeteering a version of him for their own amusement. He had expected that as soon as he became aware of the narrative. He was familiar with the internet, afterall. But with this, instead of having... memories, he guessed they could be called, of all sorts of mortifyingly entertaining situations he could be placed in, he was experiencing something he could only describe as empathy, but frighteningly more intense and convoluted.
He could feel the teen, numb from trauma, latching onto his aloof persona.
He could feel the closeted kid adore a character who felt like he did without shame.
He could feel a vast variety of gender identities and understandings aligning themselves with him, making him shiver involuntarily.
He saw himself be stripped down to nothing but his self-loathing and doubts and heard a chorus of "That's me"s, which made him laugh in a strangled sort of way. He was ripped to pieces and worn on sleeves or tucked away in secret places and he collapsed under the pressure of having all the pieces of him claimed like a Thanksgiving Day turkey.
And which parts are you claiming? Or do you think you can have all of me? I feel you desperate to relate as you tell yourself you won't be like me anymore, pretending you were ever like me to begin with.
God, you don't even say you kin me ironically anymore. It'd be hilarious if it wasn't so sad.
That's not even how you claim to love me so much, but you treat relating to me as a form of self-fucking-harm like you wish you could get decapitated on a whim so you could understand me just a little more and, hey, fun bonus is you get to roll the dice on whether it will be Just this time. Because you hate what I turn into, not because I turn into it, like you fucking care, but because you might if you had an ounce of self-respect.
He reclines against the wall, hands in his pockets, head tilted back. He idly wonders how a wall is here to begin with, but decides it doesn't matter. A smirk threatens to play on his lips.
Does this make you feel better? Narrating what I do? Does it help you give the illusion that you have any control over how any of this plays out?
Great job switching tenses, by the way. Consistent storytelling at its finest. Though, I guess this is, technically, happening "now" in some sort of ambiguous sense of the word. Now, as you write it. Now, as you read it. Now, as you obsess over it. Time doesn't really matter in narratives like this, does it?
He pauses, as though waiting for a response from the void, despite the question being almost entirely rhetorical. He fidgets. Straightening his glasses. Brushing a hand through his hair. Smoothing out his clothes. He flips up his wrist to check the time on his non-existent watch.
You're going to play like this, huh? Pretend we're not having this conversation? Keep yourself as some sort of passive, third-party observer? Well, two can play that game.
Her fingers hesitate, pencil in hand hovering over paper, waiting for the words to flow. [It is "her" while you're at work, right? Or does it even fucking matter?] She/he/they frown/s as their concentration stutters. He really should be working right now, anyway. She glances up at the busy work they created for himself, then back down at the paper. She needs to write, though. Needs to find new ways to make a fictional character express the myriad of ways they hate himself and consider herself to be fucked up. It's working, even if not in the way they originally intended it to. Yeah, it's goddamn self-flagellation hours over here. Just whipping chains on his back in the least kinky way imaginable.
God, and people say I need a therapist.
He slides into a sitting position and sighs, fingers rubbing slow, deep circles into his temples.
Yeah, apparently you can still get a migraine in splinter limbo. Thank you for aiding me in this completely wonderful discovery.
He looks oddly morose.
I'm not motherfucking morose! I just-- Is it that easy to hate me? DO I really not have to try that hard? Is it just my natural Strider charm? Wait, scratch that, people fucking love Dave. I guess it doesn't really matter. It's the point in the end. To be hated. To be the villain. But to regularly use my voice, my narrative, my thoughts, any grasp of similarity you think you can find between us to express how screwed up you are and how much you hate yourself? Using me like a pebble in your shoe to punish yourself as you go about your day? Is that all I'm good for?
Still not going to answer me, huh? Too direct for you? Too cringey? Too stubborn to break out of the narrative set up you've formed?
Fine; we'll do it your way.
Their hand still hesitated, not quite sure they like the direction this took. They decide they should probably get back to the busy work they prepared. They're still on the clock, afterall.
Oh, no you don't.
They feel drawn back to their notebook, and reluctantly pick their pencil back up. They bite their lip, unsure of the question they're trying to answer.
Why? Why is it bad to relate to me? Why does it hurt? Why does it make you feel afraid?
She/he/they think/s maybe a certain fictional character is the one who needs to answer this.
Oh, fuck no. I call bullshit. You do not get to narrate yourself in the third person! Especially not to avoid the fucking question at hand.
The narrative interested Dirk a lot, and when he wasn't focusing on his ever-increasing number of splinters, he glimpsed through it all, canon and, well, fanon was probably the easiest name for it.
So we're doing this again? Fine. Just make it quick.
To say the words skimmed by in Dirk's mind would be an understatement. He could only see a blur of letters, but was somehow able to get the gist of it without having to read the probable millions of words.
Relief. Understanding. Familiarity.
He flinched back as if struck, the sped up through the next few years. It was like running his hand through loose sand. Pleasant, if unfamiliar, but occasionally there were little pricks, like he had found glass in the mix.
The shards stung, but the sand was soothing and overwhelming. It made him ache like the aspect made him ache and he felt burdened by all the potential laid on his shoulders. And then it happened, the moment he was speeding toward, and there was nothing but shattered glass.
Okay, enough with the heavy-handed metaphors; I get it. I became, or, I guess, will shortly become, what I was always meant to be instead of some redeemed soft boi. Don't even know why I had to ask.
She/He/They/It/Xe began doodling in their notebook.
Stop. Just talk to me! Are you too embarrassed to directly engage with the fictional character lodged in your head?
They doodled a heart. Specifically, they doodled the aspect symbol of Heart. Then around it, they doodled a handful of Hope symbols.
I get it, I'm fucking up your yaoi bull shit. Sorry for making your smut noncanonical?
The pencil idles on paper as the one holding it runs through an internal struggle.
Spit it out, dude. (Dude is gender neutral; fuck off.)
The pencil moves again, their hand slightly covering the shapes it makes.
They remove their hand to reveal their last, most important message written in as few words as possible to get their point across:
We'll be waiting for you. <3