Altering Personalities: Going Under

[Video diary, Sam Bascombe]

[Sam sitting on a scruffy sofa in a scruffy flat in LA, wearing black jeans and a red t-shirt]

"...That thing working now, Casey? A bit too high tech and not weird enough for me, you know..."
[off camera, a female voice]
"Sure mate, just keep talking...I'll go and have a drink down at the bar. Tape'll finish in an hour or so anyway, you don't have to do anything."
[leaves; door opens and closes off camera]
[Sam makes himself more comfortable with a glass of clear liquid in his hand]
"Yeah,'d be fun to say that my psychiatrist ordered me to do this, but actually...I think it was my own idea. I've never been good at writing, and as long as someone gets these camera things going for me, no problem there..."
[10 seconds silent fidgeting]
"I mean, I dunno where to start anyway...I was born and some such. I mean, it's pretty obvious I was born, ain't it? I'm 27 now, I was born in 1911, but that was on Terra, right? So I'm a bit of a foreigner here."
"My childhood wasn't exactly hard or anything...I can't blame any criminal energy I have on a really bad only got bad when I was about 12. You know, my mum wasn't exactly the most faithful of wives and had a fling with a bloke from Egypt on a sort of holiday, before the Great War - oh, I keep forgetting you've had two of them already over here, right? I mean the first one...well, my parents travelled to Egypt and my mother found herself a nice plaything. My father probably did likewise, but you know, he had it easier to hide any indecencies on his part, as long as they don't end up on his doorstep 10 years later..."
[sips from his drink]
" least they still get decent British gin in this dump here...cause I AM from Britain, as you've probably already noticed cause of my sophisticated accent, eh?"
[smiles innocently at camera]
"Well then, so I was not exacly the perfect image of my parents...I did inherit my mother's grey-green eyes, but, unfortunately, neither my "father's" red nor my mother's blond hair, but instead these raven curls. And my complexion turned out to be, as my general nature, rather sunny and was not exactly of the pale, noble kind you would associate with Englishmen. My father seemd to be in denial of these plain facts until I grew a little older...twelve, as I said...I dunno, denial seems a funny thing to me."
[broadly smiles at camera again]
"But then my parents had a bloody row about me, and my father threatened to disinherit me - have I already mentioned we lived in a rather grand mansion and stuff?"
[waves glass of gin around]
"I wasn't exactly thrilled at that, and after some more months more of bickering, I packed my stuff and went away. That was, '23 or '24. I ran away to London."
[slaps himself on the forehead]
"My, I'm an idiot!"
[grins at camera]
"I mean, of course I'm NOT an idiot. I'll get to that in a minute or two, but I forgot to tell you about my extraordinary power to change my appearance..."
[changes his looks to that of a young blonde man with brilliantly blue eyes]
"Hell, yeah. I can do that. I discovered it when I was about to run away from home, when my dear father wouldn't stop yelling at me and my mother, calling her a few assorted obscenities and me the obvious, a bloody bastard - which, technically, I was of course!"
[blonde young man smiles at camera]
"Well, in one of those moments I unconsciously changed my appearance to the one you can see now - but younger, of course....which was, theoretically, what my father would have wanted me to look like."
[laughs heartily]
"Whatta surprise, I can tell you, but one that made me all the more want to run away, and my parents both finally agreed on something: That there was something wrong with me...I ran away."
[has another sip of gin]
"Anyway, I had a load of fun in London, cheating people left and right and having a good time. So I grew up. A petty criminal, if you like, but I enjoyed it. I won't bore you with the details of how I finally got into contact with pals, the Syndicate of Sin, and how I ended up in this, I won't bore you with that..."
[smiles at camera again, looks dreamily at something beyond the camera and then downs the rest of his gin]
"Suffice it to say that they probably still think this is what I really look like!"
[points at his blond hair and then laughs]
"It was such a useful disguise, and they always really admired my "half-native Egyptian persona" - I don't think they really got it - apart from the boss, I mean. You couldn't cheat him anyway, and you wouldn't want to either..."
[changes back into his real appearance]
"I'm not really into this whole psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo, but I'm still trying to get my problem across. Wait and see."
[gets up, takes glass and goes away; after a few seconds, he comes back with a freshly poured gin and sits down again]
"To cut a long story short - I suffer from identity problems. There's a bloke called Stuart, and it's all his fault."
[grins into the camera, seemingly rather forced.]
"No, it isn't really. I dunno whose fault it is, which is funny - I usually find someone to blame within a second..."
[drinks half his glass of gin, as if in a rush]
"Do I seem confused? Hell yeah, I AM confused - something like this hasn't happened to me before. You might think I, because I can change my appearance at will, might have an identity problem anyway, right?"
[looks expectantly into the camera.]
"No, probably not, cause you're just a bloody piece of scrap metal and electronics...and I'm going mad..."
[gets up, walks around agitatedly with the glass in his hand, but keeps speaking]
"I'm no good at this...I'd be a happy bloke if I'd only never met these people...can't stand that Baarley guy...such a noble, naive pain in the arse...and so easy to deceive! I would like to wipe that positive, carefree grin from his face - "
[stops and sits down again, looks at camera intently, not smiling, and drinks rest of his gin]
"But then, I think, he actually saved my life, in the Land Below....of course, he thought I was his pal Stuart, the Egyptologist, the little git that can't do anything right -"
[looks at empty glass, puts it down and looks at his empty hands.]
"That...bloody hell, that wasn't okay!"
[changes his appearance again, this time into that of Dr Stuart Pierson, and keeps looking away from the camera]
"I mean, what I've just said was crap. I didn't mean it, honest…"
[takes glass again, looks at it, and absentmindedly puts it on the floor again, where it falls over]
"You know, what they did in that Village place - and those two scary blokes in the black suits...and that weirdo tentacle guy...I mean, I watched a bit of Stuart being pushed around, and such, because I was supposed to imitate him... and even then I had the feeling something was wrong. Still, these people had offered me a lot, and I was convinced working for them wasn't a problem."
[looks up again]
"But I didn't like their methods one bit. I can't deal with this subversive psycho stuff. To fast-talk people into something is one thing, but this was different. Nevertheless, I thought that was none of my business anyway, and I went with the other blokes to the Land Below. That was the strangest thing I've ever done..."
[pulls legs up and now sits cross-legged on the sofa, looking at a point beyond the camera.]
"These people thought I was their friend Stuart, you see...they didn't doubt me. This was so different from what I was used to...they risked their damned little lives to save my butt...I couldn't believe it. As I said, I've never spent such a long time in one disguise, and after a while..."
[nervously looks to left and right]
"...I got the funny feeling that I, indeed, WAS Stuart. Me. I mean, not me."
[shakes head and stares at the right-hand wall for a minute]
"Sorry...I have a bit of trouble sorting out my thoughts. I'm glad I spent a while with these people, it was fun cause it was so different and obviously, a part of me didn't want to come back. And they all thought I had this incredible amount of knowledge, which, of course, I hadn't....but, funny enough, I quite often wished I really HAD this kind of knowledge. That was a kind of superiority I've never experienced before. And I can't stand it when people think I'm kind of simple and stupid, which I'm not. I'm just not a university graduate."
[tugs at his shirt]
"And when I had finished my job with my...I mean, Stuart's friends, the world turned upside down. Stupid cliché, I know, but, mate, that's what it felt like. I dunno what these guys are, these "Back to Core Earth" people, but they're not the kind of evil guys I'm used to work with...they presented my with a clone or dummy or something looking like me - I mean, like Stuart - and had it killed by the black-suited monster brothers...and even Stuart himself had to take a look at that thing. Poor bloke...I watched him on a monitor and he didn't look too happy."
[looks at his hands again and changes back to his original looks]
"They promised me to help me get rid of a problem I've got with my shapechanging powers. They didn't promise me money or anything - see, I wasn't in it for the money! And you know what they did?"
[gets up from the sofa and starts walking about the room again, talking]
"The bastards cheated - what they wanted was to conduct some bloody experiments with me as their guinea pig. They never had the intention to help me, they wanted to find out about my powers - they tried to force me to take different shapes - what did they THINK they were doing? I refused to do anything for them, but they wouldn't leave me alone - locked me up in their super secret basement lab thingie and kept poking me with needles and stuff. They also thought I was stupid or something, but I don't like needles being stuck into me, and I don't like being treated like a lab rat, and I got away."
[stops walking and sits down again, looking desperate.]
"I got away and I've been on the run ever since. On the run from my former colleagues, who say I betrayed them, on the run from those weirdos from that funny Village place, on the run from myself...I didn't know back when I chose to take things into my own hands, when my friends...I mean, these other people, you know, Stuart's friends...tried to steal that plane...that experimental plane, in Thebes...when my colleagues were too stupid to get things done...I didn't know then that, somehow, everything would change - that was when I first disguised myself as Stuart, and the first time I met him anyway - I had met the other ones during the affair with that Ark thing in Tanis, but that was when I had pissed off Baarley - "
[shakes his head]
"On that plane, I still thought that Stuart was just a geeky idiot, and I was wondering why anyone would drag along someone so useless-"
[puts his head into his hands]
"That had also been BEFORE I found out there was obviously more to Stuart than meets the eye, as they say."
[looks up again]
"From what I've seen and heard, for example, he must be at least as stubborn as I am. A quality that I, at least, think is a positive trait…"
[shakes head]
"On that plane, that was also when I tried the "potted plant" trick for the first time, which actually hurt a bit - it's just bloody hard to appear as something not human - and then, when they actually discovered who I was, they had the gall to lock me up in prison - and I, the naive idiot that I was, thought those "Back to Core Earth" people came to save me when my stupid colleagues had obviously forgotten about me - so much for the reliability of Nile Super Villains..."
[looks at the ceiling, rolling his eyes]
"That was when I still thought I knew who was right and who was wrong. Somehow, I have to find Stuart. I have to talk to him - I have serious problems figuring out who I am and what I'm doing sometimes-"
[changes into Stuart again]
"I'm not used to this psycho stuff - and I can't blame it on anyone, which also troubles me - sometimes I'm not even sure whether the story about my parents and how I ran away, whether that is not also something from my imagination, I wonder."
[pulls up his legs and puts his arms around them]
"Sometimes, I feel utterly alone."
[changes into Sam again]
"And I wonder whether it's just me, and whether it's just because I made a mistake."
[in a flash, the video camera switches off]
[End of tape.]

Back to stories