Original Work: A Problem for Tomorrow’s You

This is a horror story about how taking ADHD meds feels like putting on a glamour every morning and what happens if the glamour achieves its own sense of self.

It was originally written for an anthology that fell through and its publisher completely folded. After a slew of lovely rejections in other markets, I decided to give it a home by self-publishing it on my site. Enjoy!

Content warnings: misgendering, death by stabbing, blood

The daily ritual to summon your neurotypical glamour goes like this:

  • Expel bodily wastes.
  • Consume water, breakfast, coffee, medications, and vitamins, preferably in that order.
  • Cleanse dead skin in the sink.
  • Apply creams, powder, and tinted creams.
  • Consume water again.

Once sufficiently hydrated, you will have your very own glamour. It’s you, but better. It’s you, but you’re acutely aware of the passage of time. It’s you, but you’re able to complete small tasks before meetings and appointments.

It’s you, but them.

But remember, the ritual doesn’t last all day. You have to consume lunch. At steady intervals, water must touch your lips and lubricate both your flesh and the glamour. Past midday, but before the workday’s end, you must take your medication again. If you forget, your glamour will fall off and then your office mates will know the real you. You can’t have that. The glamour goes on, and you do everything in your power to keep it on.

Until the day wears down past the sun’s rest time. In the comfort of your home, the glamour can fade. You’re back to your true self. The one with the pile of bills, too many creative ideas, and no concept of how long unwanted errands and chores actually take. It’s okay. Sometimes the glamour takes care of those things for you.

To make the obfuscation of your true self last longer, a cup of tea or coffee in the evening is recommended. It’s not necessary, but it’s an old friend. The beverage also tastes wonderful with the addition of syrups, milks, and flavors in a variety of combinations. It’s the ritual you knew before you were taught the glamour.

Being in the place where the true you has no support has been so much easier ever since you started this routine.

Wednesday

It’s a crisp sunny day when you perform the ritual in the correct locations. Toilet, kitchen, sink, back to the kitchen. You do the right things in the appropriate places. But the glamour doesn’t come on. The sudden clarity doesn’t come. The unquiet mind remains loud. Something is wrong, but you’ve done nothing differently.

“Hello,” a voice like yours says behind you.

You nearly jump out of your skin to see another you standing at your side. They’re wearing the same work-appropriate outfit, the same style make-up, but their hair might be slightly better styled. There’s a bit more hairspray and gloss to keep stray strands at bay.

“H-hi,” you say, unsure how to react. Screaming would alert the neighbors. You never wanted to be a problem for them.

“Take the day off, I’ve got it from here.”

You tilt your head to the side. It’s got what from here? Your whole life? “Are you…me?”

The glamour shrugs. “I suppose you can say that. I’m you as they want you to be.”

You know this. You’ve been performing the neurotypical glamour ritual for several months now. No one mentioned the possibility of this outcome.

You liked the version of yourself with the glamour. But here it is, in all its discrete glory. As much as you don’t want to know what havoc this creature can wreak, you know how profoundly you need a break.

Sending this identical surrogate might be good for you. In the time when you’re home, you can indulge and push forward on the things you deeply need to do when your time and mind aren’t occupied by office politics, administrivia, bookkeeping, and the precious allotment of time that actually allows you to use the skills listed on your resume.

“If that’s what you want, go for it,” you say.

“Excellent. I’ll be home at the normal time.”

The glamour goes to the fridge, packs leftovers for lunch, picks up your work bag, and goes on its—your? —way. You reach for your phone. As much as you want to go back to bed, you’re too wired to even attempt sleep again.

This presents a strange opportunity, however. You can be the person you are when you don’t have to show up to that office, to be with those people. The writer, the painter, the linguist. The possibilities are endless.

Except, with a face full of makeup, you sit on your couch, fire up the gaming console, and lose yourself to pixels and story until 6:30pm when the glamour returns home. It cooks you dinner, removing the required ingredients, placing them back where they belong, without the urge to start yet another apartment reorganization project. Food sizzles and warms on the stovetop and the glamour focuses on that singular thing.

You lean against the doorjamb, glass of water in hand. This day off has been pleasant, but strange. You’re able to indulge the parts of yourself when you’re not under a spell, ensnared by those gray floors and walls.

At around 9pm, the glamour vanishes. At least that part of the cycle remains. It reminds you of how you’re left to your true self for the evening.

But the glamour never had its own agency; that part feels wild. In the end, it was still you, just with some changes that don’t feel obvious to people who aren’t you.

Eager to see what the next day brings, you shower, clean your face, cream your face, and tuck yourself right into bed.

Thursday

Flush, boil, sip, crunch, swallow, sip.

For the second morning in a row, the glamour appears beside you. There’s no clear indication of what to do about this situation. You look identical enough. But it feels strange to have missed a full day of meetings even though the people in the office saw you there the day before. But the information didn’t transfer between you and the glamour. Why would it? It’s supposed to be a cloak. But this glamour is its own entity, with its own thoughts and initiatives. It’s not you.

Something is terribly wrong.

“I think I’ll go to the office today,” you tell the impostor. It felt strange to take a day off, even though no one in that maze of cubicles knows any better.

“That’s a bad idea. There’s follow-up from yesterday and I’m not sure you have the context for it.” The glamour puts its too-real, too-soft hand on your shoulder.

It sends chills across your skin. This isn’t right. Something has gone horribly wrong.

But it makes sense. You allow it.

You lose another day to video games. This is self-care—indulging in the things you can’t when you spend eight hours elsewhere. It’s longer than that; the time doesn’t include the commute at each bookend. Another energy sink.

The glamour, once again, makes you dinner with enough for leftovers, and disappears at the appointed time.

This is nice, but you swear to yourself tomorrow that you’ll be productive, a human being. Contributing to society in ways that personally give you a paycheck.

That’s tomorrow’s goal.

Unless the glamour sticks to your face next time and life returns to normal.

Friday

It doesn’t.

You un-drink the water, you drink the water, you take the pills, you eat the food, you put on the make-up, you get dressed, and the glamour once again appears at your side.

Today, you will do what you need to do. You’re going to sit at your good screen and write a story, then you’re going to read, and possibly take care of all the bills and pages littering your casual spaces. It’s been too long.

But you also decide that you need to see how things are going at your job. You have access to the inbox via the web browser (there’s no way you’re surrendering access to your phone just to have Outlook installed).

The glamour has been productive, but it’s not even that, it’s the time stamps. They reply to emails without delay. The answers are brief, not overly explained. They’re perfect, and no one can tell that it’s not actually you there.

Just like you always suspected. Perhaps you should send the glamour to work instead of yourself. If there was another one of you, the one that has their mind arranged appropriately and can present as having their shit together, send them off to the cubicles when your brain wants to be you.

At the bottom of an email, something catches your eye. The glamour changed your pronouns from “they/them” to “she/her.” You scream. Unlike your worst fear during similar outbursts, the neighbors don’t rush over to interrogate what’s wrong.

You wouldn’t even be able to explain it anyway. “The ritual that turns me into something palatable for the workforce is now changing my identity. That’s not me in that office.”

You’re sure your performance is stellar (at least, that’s what they told you). Perhaps your coworkers don’t even notice—they never met you without the glamour. But you know yourself well enough.

You’re a “they,” and people find your workflow charming and a “pleasure to have in the office.” You don’t recognize the person the glamour is. It’s you, but it’s profoundly not.

But you can’t just barge into the office and freak everyone out because there will be two of you. You can’t explain how that came to be.

These worries are senseless. Monday is two days away. The glamour as your replacement is a Monday problem, not a Friday-evening-you problem.

On weekend’s eve, however, the problem is that the glamour doesn’t disappear at the appointed time. She remains.

Her eyes follow you as you essentially do nothing. You don’t touch the dishes. You don’t even touch the books you feel like you need to read in order to develop yourself personally.

Instead, you go to bed, and wait for the weekend to begin in earnest.

Saturday

Missing three days of work unexpectedly weighs heavily on you.

The glamour is still there in the morning, and you haven’t even done anything yet. She doesn’t sleep. She waits in the corner for you to wake up to do the ritual.

You don’t want to.

Fear clasps around your chest like a vise, making you choke like a dry-swallowed pill. How long had you wished to be someone else? How long had the fracturing of your own mind wished that you didn’t have to mask, that there should just be a glamoured version of yourself to do your life for you.

The problem with that, is that it’s not you living your life. It’s that thing. It’s a creation, an aberration. As much as it excites you to have someone else doing your job, you realize you still want to be there. To be present.

You like yourself when the glamour is on—it’s still you. You hate this existence of two separate entities.

Hours go by. You’re not sure what you did with the time. What you didn’t do, however, is be with your friends, playing board games. Your head hurts too much to get dressed, drink coffee, and make your way over. Plus, wouldn’t the vision of two of you traumatize them? You wouldn’t want to cause that kind of anguish. It’s embarrassing enough when you’re the only one aware of two disparate versions of yourself.

It’s exhausting.

Your body wants something else.

Late into the night, with slight swagger and smudged eyeliner, the glamour returns. None of your friends messaged you to ask if something was wrong. She took over your life as easily as she came into it.

You know what must be done.

Sunday

You sleep in until eleven A.M. and the other you is still there. She stares at you from the seat in your bed.

You’re not getting up to go to the bathroom.

You’re not getting up to go to the kitchen to make coffee or eat.

You go to the kitchen to pick up a knife from the Misono block. The large one with just a point and no serrations. The previous tenant left behind this knife set he had no right to own—he wasn’t much of a cook. You pull out one of the blades. Like an amateur, you press the pad of your thumb on the side to check its sharpness. Blood wells. It’s as sharp as it needs to be.

The glamour needs to go. You liked it when it was just a mask to be worn to make it through the workday. But somehow, somewhere, it heard your deep desire to be replaced and manifested.

No more. An absent half-week and a ruined weekend is enough damage.

The glamour appears in the open doorway to your kitchen. “What are you going to do with that?”

Without responding, without a moment’s hesitation, you plunge the blade into the glamour. You’re done with it. It goes on your face or it doesn’t exist at all.

Blood bursts from the glamour like confetti with a nauseatingly sweet scent. It goes all over your sleep shirt and onto the floor. Instead of the body falling like a hunk of meat, it disintegrates into a crimson pile, like dyed confectioner’s sugar. Same consistency too, aside from the streaks left behind on the caved-in hardwood floor.

How you’re going to explain those stains to your super is a problem for tomorrow’s you.

THE END


Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this story, leave a comment. If you’re so inclined, I made a tip jar on ko-fi. Happy holidays!

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One thought on “Original Work: A Problem for Tomorrow’s You

  1. this is lovely! the ending being left up to the reader, the subtle shift in pronouns, it’s all very real. you, op, get it

    Like

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