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22 January 2020 - 14:39

shifting static

Shifter's a funny guy. We got into our car just now, and taking a look around, Ninja commented, "We really gotta clean the shit outta this car." To which Sal replied, "I concur."

"Of course you concur," Ninja replied sarcastically, "but will y'help clean it?"

HeadMusic suddenly blared up in our Mindspace: "And it's no, nay, never! No, nay, never, no mooore!" (Wild Rover by Barleyjuice.) We turned in the direction it was coming from, which is odd, because HeadMusic usually comes from everywhere in the Closet, and realized quickly that it was coming from Shifter, who was sitting, cross-legged, on the floor, wearing the black highwayman's coat that the kids decided long ago belonged to him. Once he caught us looking at him, the music faded into a soft electric hum, and a flickering shadowy smile formed briefly in the static whirlwind that is his face. He was grinning at us! And just to prove we weren't imagining it, a soft crinkly noise came forth from him, over the hum of the music. It sounded like the crumpling of gift wrap tissue paper, or the plastic stuff they put inside cat toys. I've never heard Shifter chuckle before.

It was a very brief moment of surprise for us, but not frightening. Many times I forget that Shifter's actually one of us, and not just a device to be used, as Piojo once said. Even so, I think he may have started out that way, but the kids have really breathed life into him. By them insisting that he's his own person, and forcing all of us – and him – to act and think as such, it's really changed him and made him more independent. He's still very much internalized, and I feel he prefers to act as a helping tool, or coping mechanism, but now we at least address him as an individual when doing so, and we thank him when he helps us. Piojo still won't directly speak to him, but he acknowledges him as another member he needs to protect. And Shifter really seems to like him. More than any of us, even. I don't think Shifter has insecurities or feels a need to be protected, so his attachment to Piojo is extra weird. It's as though he genuinely appreciates Piojo as a person rather than his function as protector. Which... holy shit, that makes perfect sense, though. I can't believe I realized this only now. I guess the two are more alike than I ever realized. Both Shifter and Piojo have been used by the rest of the system, the rest of us, as means to cope with stressful situations. Although we've always seen Piojo as a person, and the strongest person among us, to boot, none of us have ever really tried to get to know him as a person. Except for the Prophet, that is, and though they seem pretty close, we don't actually know the depth of their bond because they're very private with it. But they are close; that much is at least obvious. And no, I don't think it's a romantic relationship; they're not built that way, I don't think. It's more akin to a very powerful partnership that goes even beyond respect. Piojo respects my mom; what he demonstrates towards Prophet is closer to absolute trust. Blind trust. And, you know, love is blind. Prophet just may be the closest thing that Piojo will ever get to feeling affection towards. Not that he does love Prophet. Again, I don't think he's capable of that. But I don't think their relationship even needs emotions. Which is why I find Shifter's relationship to Piojo so curious. I think Shifter senses the similarities between them, but unlike Piojo, Shifter can emote, and feels a sense of wonder and curiosity towards Piojo. He wants to be close to him and likes him because... I don't really know. I'm guessing it's because he feels they have stuff in common, since other than his function within the system, he has no real personality: no favorite color or food or outside interests. He doesn't even have his own real voice, other than his static-filled, whispering hum. At least he has his own coat and hat for now.

But it is a bit endearing to see Shifter attempt to bond with the rest of us. Him communicating, even if it is through music, and trying to make his little jokes is, honestly, cute as hell, and something I can really appreciate. But anyway, I need to get ready for work now, which sucks. I'll try to keep more in touch with Shifter from now on, if he's okay with it.

More as this develops.

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