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Simon Says

Nebula-award winning author Nina Kiriki Hoffman has published more than 300 stories. In addition to publishing throughout the cream of the science fiction and fantasy world, she has appeared in the pixels of Daily Science Fiction several times before.
***Editor's Note: Adult story.***
I don't know how many of us are in this head. I just got here, and I'm ready to leave.
We have to take turns using the eyes, face, and mouth. Simon the repeater has been telling me the rules. The core personality gets to hog the eye time, because she's the one with a job, and we need that job if we want to have our own apartment. Otherwise we'd have to live with her parents, and whenever that happens, it gets more crowded in here.
Simon says he moved in when Core was tasked with saying, "I will not touch myself there" a thousand times. Core did the first fifteen times, but every time she stuttured, the father pressed a lit cigarette into her arm. Core can't say the word "touch" without a stutter, but Simon can. Touch touch touch.
Toby has a high pain threshold. Kevin does the jobs that need us not to pay attention to what's going on around us. Annie takes care of things that involve blood, wounds, medical treatments, or body emergencies. Core throws up when faced with that stuff.
Me, I can talk to the little kids in the daycare where Core works without scaring them. Simon says I'm the fifth person Core developed just for that, because the other alters keep telling us what else Core knows, and we get polluted, and the toddlers can tell.
Thor is in charge of social interactions with adults who aren't Core's parents. Thor likes me, or says he does. Thor told Simon to stop talking to me. Simon is the main alter who pollutes people by telling them things.
Simon can't help himself. He has to repeat, whether he's in charge of the eyes or not.
"You're killing Eliza," Thor says when Simon tells me things. Thor shows me the head's graveyard. Shadowy corpses lie strewn across a gray ground, all their details hard to make out except the sticky labels on their chests. HELLO, MY NAME IS: Bob. Helena. Alexander.
Some of them died twisted, in pain, maimed or mutilated. Others look unmarked.
Simon says, "Stop showing her that, Thor. You're killing her. Or giving her ideas."
It's my turn with the eyes. I kneel next to a weeping child clutching a broken doll on a block-scattered yellow linoleum floor. The shrieks, laughter, and chatter of other children sound through an open door to a green and sunlit world.
"It's all right, honey. It's all right," I say, stroking my hand down her soft, pink, unscarred arm. "I can fix your doll." One of the boys tore its arms off.
Electrum, the keeper of memories, shows me a stack of broken dolls, and how none of them ever got really fixed. They got stuck back together with tape, or repainted, or they had glass eye transplants, or doll socks pulled up over their charred feet, but they never felt safe after that first "accident." They lost their sparkle.
Kissy, she's the master of fake sparkle.
I ease the doll from the child's grip, then the doll's arms. "She's not really hurt," I say. "Look. They go right back in." I pop the arms back into place.
Matt's the do-unto-others person, and most of what he does gets us into trouble. He wants our mouth to yell at the little girl, "Stop your soggy yammering or I'll give you something to cry about!" Matt has gotten us fired three times.
I keep my mouth shut to prevent Matt's words from getting out.
"All better," I say, showing the little girl that the doll's arms work now.
She breaks into a smile, kisses my cheek, and runs outside. I lose my turn behind the eyes.
Electrum tells me stories about kisses that hurt.
I'd rather talk to Simon.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, October 27th, 2014

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