Thursday, June 18, 2015

They Say Time Heals

At the moment, my name is Lee. Until last week, I was Ashley. There is nothing in a name here. When I arrived, they called me Rachel. While I was training I went through several more, Jane, Chloe, Pip and Eve. No one asks for your real name because that is all you get to keep, and its a private thing. It's part of a life outside of this.

Lee has black hair, so the bathroom reeks of the dye I am using. Its just 'Daniel' and I at base. Everyone else is scattered, Europe, America and Japan. They're working. The black dripping down the heavily stained sink flashes red for a second, and I grit my teeth.

Lee isn't going to extract a person from danger, find a dangerous person, or track an object the government might want.

Lee is going to find her replacement.

It turns out while Ashely didn't fail her first field mission she's not cut out for the work. Blood makes her queasy, especially when she spills it. Her first real job was also her last. Ashley killed someone you see, someone not much older than her.

Trauma, the physiologist insisted. Not unusual. Not many people make it. What a comfort. She didn't even know my name when she made the diagnosis, I was in between Ashley and Lee.

I keep my eyes away from the mirror and stick my head back under the tap, waiting for the water to run clear. When it does, I ring my hair and wrap it in a towel. My eyebrows are okay, my real hair is brown. I throw everything in the trash and leave the bathroom.

The hallways are plain cream, nothing on them expect marks. Next to my door there is a dark red smear where I had my bleeding arm held against the wall while I was threatened. They don't care if we fight, it's what we are supposed to be good at. Her name was Ally when it happened, my only fault was being smaller and not as fast as her.

My bedroom is my own. They made that clear. My black walls are covered in white stars. My bed is white. I don't have any pictures. I have a bookshelf threatening to spill over. There is no red, I tossed everything with a even a hint of red when I got back. I don't even know if I like my room. Maybe Chloe did, I was Chloe when I decorated.

I dry my hair with a hair dryer. I approach the mirror quickly and with a certain defiance. When you change your name and appearance more than 6 times in three years, you start to lose sight of who you are. It's hard to remember you are still you when you aren't. A girl with pale skin, black hair, thin face and hallow cheeks meets my eyes.

I prod my face, feel my cheekbone. Lee is 160cm like me, but she weighs 48kg. I was 55kg 6 months ago. I suppose when I weighed back in last week at 50kg, They figured I might as well lose a few more kilograms. I change into some of Lee's clothes. A shirt, knee length socks and a plain skirt.

Downstairs, I rap smartly on the office door. We great each other as old friends, Lloyd and I. He asks me about how I feel, tells me it's okay this sort of work isn't for me. He assures me they'll integrate me back into society after this. I nod and mumble, even though I want to scoff. After what They've put me through, I will never be able to integrate back in society.

Lloyd passes a file to me, waits for my reaction. I slide the first piece of paper out. It's a full body picture. My eyes take in everything at once.

I don't want him to go through what I did. His fingers are to delicate, teeth to white, the veins in his arms are defined. I don't want blood to pour from them, his teeth to be red with blood, his fingers clenched in pain. Blood, blood everywhere. I close my eyes for a moment.

Lee has a slightly above average IQ, and she is wants to obey her superiors and not challenge anyone. She wants to fit in. I slip out my new passport, my plane ticket. A school map falls out. His profile, his family. The knife slides into him easily, I am surprised at the lack of resistance.

I am Lee. That was Ashley. So I don't say anything.
Opal finds the concept of changing your name and look to make yourself someone else fascinating. Do you lose who you really are? Do you see each name and look as a different person? Is it just an acting job? Does time heal? 


  1. AAAAH I LOVE THIS. The sheer premise is staggering. Reminds me of the Faceless Men in ASOIAF, but so much more psychological. And this is particularly close to my heart because I use an online penname and I do feel like I act differently when I tag the name Alyssa to everything I do instead of my IRL name.

    P.S.: PLEASE tell me this is part of a larger work and/or has sequels.

    1. Thank you! I have never read or watched a Game of Thrones (and I had to look up what ASOIAF was), but I'm glad you liked it :)
      Yes, using an online pen name can mess with your head- it's very easy to become someone else over the internet.

      Maybe. Maybe not ;)

  2. You scared me at first because when I started this was like you going through an identity change and you were revealing all of your names and I was like "OPAL WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" This is a fascinating and thought provoking aspect of the spy life, and definitely an interesting philosophical aspect with your comment at the bottom. As for me... I think I used to be like Alyssa up there, and when I chose a different name I thought I was a different person, which is exactly why I don't anymore. My name is Heather, that is what it is, my username is HeroineHiding, and has been for six years, and that's become part of me, too. I think it's a little like the grifter on one of my favorite TV shows—you can learn to slip into all these different roles, but like your character, you never really know who you are. And that can be bad. I LIKE TO THINK ABOUT IT THOUGH. This is a really good piece! Thanks for all the thoughts and thinking. (And also I'm glad this wasn't your confession because I'm pretty sure murder is still illegal and all that stuff.)

    1. I started out by calling this piece 'In Which I am A Government Agent?' then I realised that it was a very misleading title xD

      Using a pen name myself, when I used Wild Horse, I felt very different from now, using Opal. I think you begin to associate personality/facts with a name. Opal as a name means something to me, and it's my whole internet life, which almost none of my RL friends know about. It's a very interesting thing about the human mind.

      Thank you so much :) Wait, it's illegal? Since when?! :P

  3. OHMYGOODNESS. this is amazing, amazing. everything about this is perfect. it's always fascinated me that some change their appearance and name and become a "new" person. I think it's truly unique and quite amazing. And, like Alyssa, since I use a online penname, it really hit home :)

    1. Thank you!!

      It is- to try and leave an entire person behind is fascinating. Becoming someone else is as well.

      I'm glad you liked it :)

  4. This is incredible! At first I thought you were talking about yourself, like how you're Opal now but you were Ashley and Chloe and etc. :') But this is so beautiful and interesting! It's a story that continues after you've told it, you know? It reminded mea bit of The Remedy (but better). I think you would start to lose your identity and sense of self if you kept switching into roles. Maybe you'd stop remembering what you were like. Kind of makes me appreciate who I am now. :)

    1. Haha I wondered if it might be a bit misleading.
      The Remedy is on my TBR list. Appreciating that you are yourself and that the world would be different if you weren't is important :)