The clock on the end table reads 3:17 AM in bright red letters. Loud knocking on the window wakes Pigeon, and there’s a split second of panic before she recognizes the face outside.
Grimacing at the cold floor, she crosses the hardwood to the window. “Pete, what the hell are you doin’ here?” She slides the window up and pops the screen out. A few dead bugs fall onto the windowsill. “It’s three in the morning!”
“Pete needs your help,” his natural Appalachian accent is stronger than usual (1). “I need your help.(2)”
Pigeon hasn’t seen Duck take over in a while (3). Pete’s been getting better recently, ever since he started therapy. She begins talking soothingly to placate the young child now controlling Pete’s twenty-one-year-old body (4). “Hey, its ok, Duck. What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know,” he says, panicked. “June won’t tell me. She said to find you and tell you to grab Vicki’s shotgun and her ammo and get the pickup keys.”
“What do you need them for?”
“I don’t know (5), please just go get the things.”
“Hey, can I talk to June right quick?”
“I don’t think she wants to.”
1 The main symptom of Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is having multiple personalities exist in the same person. See Reinders. 2 Another symptom of DID is referring to oneself by another name. See Vernon et al. 3 While it is typically difficult to tell when a personality switches family and close friends can often tell. See Spiegel. 4 It is common for different personalities to be different ages. See Vernon et al. 5 People with DID often suffer from amnesia, and certain personalities may know or remember things that other personalities do not. See Vernon et al.
He goes silent a moment. “She’s crying.” He sounds panicked. “I ain’t never seen her do that before.”
“What’s Pete doing?”
“June shouted at me when he came out earlier.”
“Dunno. Something ‘bout not bein’ ready to process . . . Look, can we just go?”
“Not until I know why you need the gun.”
Pigeon feels the energy in the room shift as Pete’s body stands taller, and he fiddles with a necklace under his shirt, pulling it to the top. Pigeon recognizes that June has taken over. Her eyes immediately get shiny, and Pigeon can tell that June has indeed been crying. “Pigeon, do you trust Pete?”
“What’s this have to do with-”
“Do you trust us (6), Pigeon?”
“Just tell me why you need Mama’s shotgun-”
“I’ll tell you in the car, I promise. It’s not suicide. But every second you delay, Duck is going to get more anxious, and we don’t need that right now. He doesn’t know what’s causing his anxiety, but I do, and I promise I’ll explain that as well. But right now, Pigeon, I need you to trust us, and go get your mom’s shotgun and your truck keys.”
Pigeon’s concern (and alright, it’s also a little bit of curiosity) wins out. “Fine, just . . . Just stay here. I’ll be right back.”
6 May refer to oneself as “we” or “us”. See Vernon et al.
Pigeon pulls her fuzzy socks on over her cold feet and cautiously opens the door. The house is dark and silent. Pigeon skips over all the creaky spots on the floor, a process ingrained in her brain from sneaking out as a teenager to go smoke pot and play field hockey in the old abandoned K-Mart downtown. She sticks to the outside edge of the stairs, flitting down them as silent as a ghost. Her mom’s – Vicki – room is at the end of the hallway past the kitchen, and she slips in undetected. Light snores fill the room as Pigeon cracks open the closet door, cringing slightly at the noise it makes. Vicki shuffles in her sleep, rolling onto her side facing Pigeon.
Pigeon freezes, heart beating in her chest. She hadn’t thought of a lie to tell her mom in case she woke up, and she is now regretting it.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
Pigeon tenses. “Nothing, Mama.”
“Why’ve you got my gun?”
Pigeon mentally curses. “Uh, Ed Chicory called me a few minutes ago about bears over at his place and said he couldn’t find his gun. Wanted me to go over and scare ‘em off.”
Vicki groans. “When will that man learn to keep his damn shotgun where he can find it? Don’t get yourself killed, and next time just wake me up.”
Vicki mumbles and rolls back over to sleep. Pigeon grabs the two boxes of shotgun shells and goes out the door, climbing back up the stairs silently.
“You ready?” she asks. June’s necklace is no longer reflecting the moonlight, so either Duck or Pete is in control. Based on tonight’s events, she’d place money on it being Duck. “Let me change real quick and we can go.” He nods, and she pulls out jeans, a flannel, a jacket, hat, and boots. Ten minutes later they’re both in Pigeon’s rusted pickup, headlights shining on the empty roads.
“Where are we going?”
So she heads west, out of Thomas, West Virginia and into the great darkness before them.
Pete is silent for about two hours. It’s the longest Pigeon has seen any of them sit still, and it’s more than a little unnerving. She spares glances occasionally, and since there’s no one else on the road they tend to last a little longer than usual.
Around 5:30 Pete shifts in his seat and June pulls the necklace out, letting it settle against her chest. The two are silent, each seemingly waiting on the other to start.
June sighs, “I know you have questions-”
“Yeah, no shit! I ain’t seen y’all in months, ever since Pete disappeared. Why do you need a shotgun, why did you show up at my house at three in the morning, and most importantly, where the fuck are we going?”
“Please, Pigeon, watch your language (7).”
“It’s alright. But to answer your question, yes, therapy was helping. But, uh, it brought up some unpleasant experiences that none of us are quite ready to deal with (8). I took control about three months ago to get us away from there, and it took Pete a while to convince me to come back here. I’ll admit, it was only by using you for a bargaining chip that he even got me to consider it. We missed you.”
Pigeon smiles. “Missed you too, dingus.”
7 Each individual personality has their own independent opinions. See Reinders et al. 8 DID is sparked by a traumatic experience, usually sexual trauma when the person is a child. See “Mental Health – Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).”
June snorts. “I let Pete take over to get us back home, but as soon as we set foot in Thomas, I sensed his panic pick back up. I merely kept an eye on it, but he had a full-blown panic attack(9) when we arrived at his house. He couldn’t function, so I took over until he was calm. By then it was three AM and the only logical decision was to go get you. Pete was very adamant that no one else know we were back, even if only for a day.”
“Is he ok now?”
“Yes, he’s taking a rest. I set Duck to watch him.”
Pigeon lets the silence ring for a moment before asking her next question. “Why didn’t you call?”
June shrugs and refuses to make eye contact. “We didn’t want you to worry.”
“Honey, I was more worried without you calling. If you’d’ve called I would’ve at least known you weren’t dead in a ditch somewhere.”
“I’m sorry,” June says softly. “Next time we’ll call.”
Pigeon doesn’t comment on the “next time.” She hopes there never is one.
“Where are we going?”
June doesn’t answer.
Pigeon looks over to see a blank look in her eyes, and sighs. “June.”
She blinks a few times before speaking, twitching in the seat. “Hey, Pigeon,” Pete speaks, tucking June’s necklace back under his shirt. The way Pete’s Appalachian comes through is both comforting and terrifying. “Sorry about all that. The last few days, well, months, really, have been crazy.”
9 People with DID are more prone to other mental illnesses as well, such as anxiety and depression. See Bhandari.
“Yeah, no shit.”
He snickers. “You ready to get this show on the road?”
“I don’t know where we’re going, Pete.”
“Did June not tell you? I told her to.” He shakes his head. “She was there the whole time Duck and I were doing research. Anyways, we’re going to Columbus.”
He gives her a look. “No, Georgia. Of course Ohio. It’s the closest one, ain’t it?”
Pigeon puts on her blinker and passes the sedan in front of them. The old coots are up and about, driving around to slow everyone up on the way to work. “So how much of today do you remember?” she asks.
“Just about everything. Watched the whole thing, Duck wouldn’t let me interact, though. He said it was too stressful even for him, but June seemed to handle everything ok.” Pete places his hands on top of the vent, rubbing them together. “Damn my poor circulation,” he whispers (10).
Pigeon pulls back out onto the highway as Pete fiddles with the radio. He picks up a station with a little bit of static playing a new song Pigeon’s more than a little sick of. Pete fiddles, trying to find a better station but after a moment he just lets it be.
A beat. “Ok, why do you need the gun?” Pigeon breaks the silence.
Pete glances at her. Pauses. “We’re going to kill Calvin. (11)”
Pigeon’s head whips around to stare at him. “You’re going to fucking what?”
Pete shrugs. “We can’t keep running, Pigeon. He’s always caught us before.”
“That doesn’t give you the right to kill someone, Pete!” she shouts.
10 Different personalities can have independent physical medical conditions. See Bhandari. 11 Most people with DID are nonviolent. See Spiegel.
“You know no one will believe us!” he shouts back. “We’re crazy, Pigeon! Not to mention I’m a man. ‘How could I let someone abuse me like that? That only happens to girls,’” he mocks. “They won’t believe us, and then Calvin will come after us again.”
Pigeon laughs a little manically. “Are you crazy? You’re going to get caught! You’ll be imprisoned for the rest of your life, and you know how bad it is in prison for people like, well, you know (12). Not to mention that now you’ve dragged me into it, and I don’t particularly want to get arrested for being an accomplice to murder in the first degree!”
“Just drive me there and leave me, then! You don’t have to deal with the aftermath, you don’t have to shoot the bastard. Just get me to Columbus and I’ll handle it from there.”
“Pete, you are insane.” Pigeon breathes.
“What gave it away, the three other people using my body?”
“You can’t kill someone, Pete.”
The phone rings, waking Vicki Little from her sleep. She groans and unwraps herself from the covers, mumbling to herself about old bones and cold floors. She makes her way into the living room and picks up the phone from the receiver. “Hello?”
“Mama, you gotta help me.”
12 Inmates with mental illness do not receive adequate care for their mental health, and as a result of this can be held in prison longer than other inmates who committed similar crimes. See Carroll.
“Cara? What’s going on?”
“Pete’s here, and he’s gonna-” Cara whispers the last part.
“What? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
“Pete’s going to kill Calvin Hobson. Calvin abused him back when he was married to Pete’s mom and Pete’s gone off the rocker. He has a gun and a truck and I can’t stop him, Mama. I can’t stop him. You gotta call the police or somethin’. We’re on the way to Columb-”
The sound of a scuffle breaks off her sentence. It continues for a second then stops. Vicki hears someone else pick up the phone.
“Hello, Vicki, I am so sorry about that. Pigeon hit her head earlier, and she’s been having delusions. I’m going to take her to the hospital and have them call you from there.”
There’s a hesitation. “Yes.”
“Absolutely. You’ll hear from us in about an hour. Don’t listen to anything Pigeon said, like I said, she probably has a concussion.”
Vicki hums in acknowledgement, and Pete hangs up. Vicki listens to the dial tone for a moment before pressing the button to reset the phone. She types in a number, quickly, listening to it ring for only a moment before the other person picks it up.
“Hey, Sheriff Isaac? I need a favour.”
In “Pete, Duck, June
and Seth,” one of the main characters has Dissociative Identity Disorder, a mental disorder where a person develops different personalities in order to cope with trauma they experience as a young child (Reinders). His personalities are Pete (the core), Duck (childlike
personality), June (protector identity), and Seth (trauma identity). This is demonstrated throughout the short story, when he switches personalities every so often. While it is typically hard to tell when someone with DID switches personalities, “family members can usually tell when a person ‘switches (Spiegel).’” This is demonstrated by Pigeon’s ability to almost instantaneously notice when Pete’s personalities switch.
Every personality within the body is unique, having different opinions, sexual orientation, genders, and even different ages (Vernon et al.). This is demonstrated between the personalities, with Pete being a straight, cisgender man who is twenty-one, Duck being a child-like personality around the age of twelve, and June being a lesbian woman at the age of twenty-four. Each personality mentioned in this story has a different worldview and therefore reacts differently to each situation.
While there is no permanent ‘cure’ for DID, therapy does help people manage their symptoms better. This is why Pete attends therapy with Dr. Thacker, who attempts to help them work through their trauma and healthily process their experiences (Bhandari).
However, one inaccuracy in this story is how Pete and his personalities are inclined to violence towards their abusive ex-stepfather. Typically, people with DID are non-violent, many even choosing to become pacifists. “People with DID are no more likely to be violent than anyone else. There are very few documented cases linking crime to DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)).”
Bhandari, Smitha. “Dissociative Identity Disorder (Multiple Personality Disorder): Signs,
Symptoms, Treatment.” WebMD, 22 July 2019, https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/dissociative-identity-disorder-multiple-personality-disorder#3
Carroll, Heather. “Serious Mental Illness Prevalence in Jails and Prisons.” Treatment Advocacy
“Dissociative Disorders.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research,
17 Nov. 2017, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dissociative-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20355215.
“Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).” SANE Australia, 3 June 2019,
“Mental Health – Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID).” Mental Health Foundation of New
Mierendorf, Michael. America Undercover Multiple Personalities: The Search for Deadly Memories.
“NAMI.” NAMI, https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Dissociative-
Reinders, A.A.T. Simone, et al. “Psychobiological Characteristics of Dissociative Identity
Disorder: A Symptom Provocation Study.” Biological Psychiatry, Elsevier, 26 Sept. 2006, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S000632230600388X.