I am Alex. Alexithymia. Not Rainbow. Alex.
Alexithymia, meaning the inability to identify and express or describe one’s feelings. Or, in this case, Mama’s inability and refusal to identify my feelings. Mama preferred to act like I didn’t have any, like I didn’t matter.
Papa went on a trip, leaving Mama home all alone. But two days before he was due to return, a man looking just like Papa came to our house, and I was conceived. When Papa came home later, Mama was confused – he insisted that she had an affair, she insisted that she had only been with him. He left her, and months later, when I was born, she blamed me for his leaving. She was cruel to me, using my flesh and blood to dull her anger and pain.
I was just past my 7th winter when we met Madam. It had been a rough winter – we had no money, no food, and no warmth. Mama sold me to Madam for 10 pieces of gold and a loaf of bread. At first I was happy – I had food and a bed, more than I had ever had before, and all I had to do was keep Madam’s house clean. Soon after though I learned that even food and a bed were not worth everything – Madam’s husband, Sir, was cruel.
Then one day, when I was a bit older, around 12, Sir was angry and looking for me. I tried running, planning on hiding in the kitchen, but Cook was there. Fear caused a shiver to run through my spine, and I squeaked at the sensation. Although her back was turned to me when I ran in, she turned at the sound. Looking straight at me she asked “Where is Alexi?” I was shocked, confused at the question. “I am Alexithymia,” I replied. Angry at what she thought was a lie, Cook slapped me hard across the face and I felt the shiver ripple through me again. Cook began to shriek, and ran from the kitchen as if she’d seen a spirit. I stood there like a dumb piece of driftwood, stunned, until Madam and Sir ran in, Cook on their heels. Sir proceeded to beat me, until I felt the shiver again and again, and then he and Madam dragged me, bleeding, to closet and locked me in.
When the door was unlocked the next evening, Sir placed chains on me, and we walked two towns over. There, a person named Silver bought me for 20 pieces of gold.
That night Silver gave me a huge bed to sleep in and more food than I had ever even seen before. Silver told me that I was Doppelganger, just like them, and that I could change what I look like. I felt so special, like royalty, and Silver gave me a special “neutral” name – Rainbow – cos apparently ‘Gangers are supposed to be neutral. For days Silver treated me better than I’d ever been treated, and I finally belonged.
And then, just like before, I found out I was wrong – life wasn’t any nicer to me as a ‘Ganger than as a human. I soon discovered that even Silver wasn’t giving away food and a bed for free; no, I had to work for me food. Except that instead of cleaning, I was supposed to entertain Silver’s clients. Silver wanted me to become different things – different people – for whatever these men wanted.
And they all wanted different things, and I hated them all. But if I fought, or refused, Silver would send their bodyguard – a giant Dragonborn named Boulder – to beat me. I’d go days without food trying to resist, but in the end I always gave in.
Until a few days ago, when I finally got out. Boulder had been dragging me to the yard for a beating, but while he was distracted I grabbed an axe and killed him. And by killing Boulder I finally killed Rainbow.
So I ran, and I refuse to stop running. Running is what keeps Alex alive.
And writing (plus a vial of Boulder’s blood) reminds me to never look back – never end up back in a cage. So I’ll keep writing.
And I’ll keep running.