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Reporting Tutor: Metabang
@Current Assignment Report
Update Assignment Status: plural
Update Assignment Name: the Pembers
Update Assignment Pronoun: they | their | them (plural)
Append Member Name: Balmer Pember
Append Balmer Pember Pronoun: hen | hen | hen
Append Member Name: Firan Pember
Append Bet Pember Pronoun: phe | phe | phe
Append Member Name: Jural Pember
Append Jural Pember Pronoun: ve | vis | ver
Append Member Name: Myra Pember
Append Myra Pember Pronoun: xe | xyr | xem
Append Member Name: Olvar Pember
Append Myra Pember Pronoun: ne | nir | nir
Append Member Name: Ploot Pember
Append Ploot Pember Pronoun: e | eir | em
Append Member Name: Toost Pember
Append Toost Pember Pronoun: sie | hir | hir
Please forgive my informality here. I understand that the Auditor prefers it when I retain a parsable terseness even in the notes sections of my reports, but I do have things I like to write and I hope whomever is reading this appreciates it. I imagine the Auditor threw an error, and I apologize for that, but it really needs to stop disapproving of notes.
Question: Have you yet considered my proposal for tutor-written publications? I would like to remind you that with our public lives spanning multiple generations, we are in a unique position to record history for the populace and to even write fictions that are informed by a wide variety of human experiences. We could identify such documents as clearly coming from tutors so that anyone skeptical of our intentions could treat them with appropriate cautions. If you would like another tutor’s input on this idea, I would recommend debriefing Abacus, currently tutor of Tetcha.
So, to begin my account, there is as yet nothing alarming about my assignment’s development, it is just that this anecdote regarding their naming is too cute not to share. At least, I think so.
As you know, according to my previous reports, we’ve suspected that my assignment has been developing as plural for some time. And that we believe that it is likely attributable to the fact that they are experiencing developmental fibrillation. “We” being me, their caretaker Jana, and Jana’s tutor, Hand.
Today’s experiences confirmed it.
Every plural system presents differently and follows a different developmental path, and I’ve only tutored a small handful in my existence. You all know that, of course, but what if someone who doesn’t know eventually reads this? As per my proposal?
In any case, to recapitulate old reports, my assignment originally presented as the type of system where members were originally perceived as imaginary friends beginning at the age of four years old. It’s just that they had a lot of imaginary friends, more than the typical two or three. In fact, I have come to suspect that their system is much larger than the seven members named in this report. Combined with their disinterest in picking a name or pronoun for themselves well past five years old, this high number of imaginary friends became our case for suspecting their plurality. They were happy for so long just being known as “student of Metabang,” and “they | their | them” (singular) suited them just fine. Furthermore, alerted to this, we became aware of different modes of thought and memory that they would present when doing different tasks or while inhabiting different settings, modes that were more separated than those found in a neurotypical child. Of course, like with everyone, we waited to let them present themselves.
And now, at “the ripe old age” of twelve, following the parameters of roughly a third of those in developmental fibrillation, something seems to have clicked for them.
They were playing with their neighborhood friends, Tetcha and Morde, in one of the more quiet corridors near their nursery.
Jana was busy attending to their nursery peers, Amphel, Twusp, and Chevip, the three of whom had had a major disagreement. Led by Jana, we tutors had been discussing with our assignments their eventual selection of their own quarters, to be done at their own pace. Apparently, they had begun fighting over how close they wanted to live to each other and in which neighborhood, as well as to when to move out. Chevip had dreams of living up in the Garden, alone, while Amphel and Twusp both felt more comfortable below decks. And Amphel wanted to live close to Chevip, while Twusp wanted to live in the same quarters as Amphel but was ambivalent about Chevip. Amphel wanted their own quarters and wanted to have them soon. Chevip was daydreaming about making their move several years from now. Jana had zir hands full explaining to them that they had time to work this out, and that there was absolutely no deadline to leaving the nursery, only that they were reaching a developmental age where that might become a possibility.
My assignment was entirely disinterested in this subject and had deftly avoided the conflict before it even started by calling on Morde and Tetcha at the first signs of it being brought up.
They met at an intersection of the corridors between their respective nurseries and, after exchanging the briefest of words, Morde pointed down one of the corridors and all three began walking that way. Ralf, Abacus, and I, as their tutors, remained silent and observant, giving them their autonomy.
This section of corridor is slightly curved, one of many that connect two thoroughfares, and has no entrances to quarters. And it is situated in a neighborhood with a high number of nurseries. As such, it isn’t used very often by the local populace for travel, and the local artisans have filled it with durable sculptures and play structures for the neighborhood children to explore and use. Part of it has been left open and the floor covered in a matrix that could display any number of markings for use in group games, some of which might use balls or pucks. It isn’t a very big space, but large enough for younger children. And Tetcha, Morde, and my own assignment will use it to hide in and play role playing games when the other children are asleep or eating or away at other parks with their caretakers.
“What do we want to play?” Tetcha asked, once they felt they were out of earshot of anyone and had huddled out of sight behind a statue of an ursine fauna with a funny hat and a cane.
My student(s), not for the first time, noted that you could tell it was supposed to be fauna instead of a person because it looked exactly like the kind that could be found in the nearby mountains. Some people looked an awful lot like this animal, but there were always telltale differences such as horns, slightly different proportions, a tail, or a different kind of fur (or no fur at all). Suddenly, their own body felt small and awkward. Their ears felt too big and their limbs too fragile, and they didn’t know what to do about it. They were distracted by this thought, which felt like it had come from someone next to them, so they hadn’t really heard the question that Tetcha had asked, and were slow to respond when Morde prompted them next.
“I don’t care,” Morde said, “Student of Metabang usually has the best imagination between the three of us.” Sie turned to them and asked, “What do you want to do? I mean, you’re the one getting away from your family. Want to keep doing the story from yesterday?”
“Huh?” they looked over from the statue. They felt like they were standing behind their body and were watching as someone else was making it move and talk. They wanted to say a whole bunch of things, but couldn’t. And a huge number of the things they wanted to articulate didn’t have words yet. Instead, they heard themselves speak, “I’m sorry, we’re feeling overwhelmed. We can’t think of anything.”
Then they watched in mortification as Morde’s eyes widened and Tetcha squinted and leaned forward to look into their face.
“Did you just say, ‘we’?” Tetcha asked. Then xe glanced at Morde and said, “Called it. I told you!”
The dominant thought in my student(s) psyche at that moment, as they reported it later, was, Why am I stressing about this so much? What’s going on? Which was then followed by a thought in a slightly different voice, I think we’re going to move out before our peers do, and we might as well admit this is real, too. “I… we…” they stammered, as someone else in their head thought, I’m Jural, who’re you? It was a question asked internally on purpose, directed at the one who was panicking. And the one who was panicking was not the one who’d felt bad about their body.
Morde held an open hand in front of Tetcha and said, “give them a moment. I think they need to sort this out for themselves.”
Themselves, came a thought, not themself. Maybe we are plural, like in the stories.
I’ve been telling you all, Jural responded.
“Hey, let’s sit down,” Tetcha suggested. “You look like you’re about to faint.” Then, with a flourish of xyr frilled tail, xe lowered xemself to the ground cross legged.
Morde scowled down at hir partner in bemusement, then lowered hirself down to Tetcha’s level by curling up hir tentacle-like arms beneath hir cloak.
My students felt their body follow Tetcha’s example, but more gingerly, using their own tail but also their outstretched arms to maintain balance as they crouched, then crossed their legs, their skirt splaying out around them in the process as if they’d meant it to happen. Then, in a slightly different voice than whoever had spoken before, Jural spoke out loud, “Yeah, hi. This feels better.”
“Have you asked your tutor about this?” Tetcha asked them.
Jural shook their head, “I think we’re just working it out right now. Don’t know why it took us this long.”
“Do you feel embarrassed by your plurality?” Morde tilted hir head up inquisitively.
“I don’t think so,” Jural replied. “At least, I don’t. Why should we? But… we don’t feel plural. I mean, I just know that we are, but most of the time it feels like we’re one person, you know? Like, we’ve got one soul, or something like that.” Their body felt a rush of excitement at the sound of Jural saying that out loud. They watched both Morde and Tetcha nod, then Jural added, “I mean, sometimes it’s really clear we’ve got more than one, but it’s not the same as how the stories and other systems describe, so we just thought our brain was weird. Most of us did. But, also, our dreams are really cool…”
At that point, Jural felt a presence, sort of a pressure on their mind, to their left, and held up their finger.
For my part, since I hadn’t been called upon, I was not interjecting. I’d felt the urge to do so earlier, but it looked like Jural was being a good facilitator, and I judged it would be better to let my students remain in charge of the situation.
“What is it?” Tetcha asked.
“I’m gonna try something, hold on,” Jural said. Then they relaxed and imagined themselves becoming the person they felt beside them. And that person felt what they knew to be Jural retreat into the back of their mind to their right, a warm, round pressure that subsided slowly. They had a rush as they felt the panic they’d been experiencing earlier, but much more sharply, filling their whole body. Yet they were in better control of it now. They knew what was going on. And they felt good.
“Hi, um…” they heard their voice as higher pitched, and coming from a different part of their throat than what Jural had used just a second ago. A name came to them, along with pronouns. They remembered it from one of the games they’d been playing with their friends. “I’m Myra! Xe/xyr/xem!” xe exclaimed, head suddenly becoming totally clear. “Like, really! I think.” It felt right.
“Hi, Myra,” Tetcha smiled warmly. “It’s so good to meet you face to face, actually. I’m glad you could come forward! It’s been fun playing with you in our games.” Xe paused briefly, so as not to rush Myra, then asked, “Are you a dancer in real life, too?”
Myra nodded, “I think I am, yeah.”
“Are all of your imaginary friends actually members of your system?” Morde asked.
And at that, Myra felt a chorus of thoughts respond, so xe spoke in surprise, “Yeah. Yeah, actually. I think so!” Xe tilted their head, looking inward with xyr mind’s eye, and asked out loud, “would anyone else like to come forward and say ‘hi’ to our friends?”
Jural nudged xem and took control of their mouth long enough to say, “I think we want to let you talk about this, Myra. You were panicking, but you’ve got this. OK?” Then, to Morde and Tetcha, “Oh, I like the pronouns ve/vis/ver, by the way,” before receding back again, leaving Myra in control.
Tetcha grinned really big and half laughed, “Oh, yeah, you’re definitely plural alright. This is so cool. I bet our role playing games will be more fun now, too.” Xe gestured generously toward xyr friends, “Probably more fun for you, especially.”
“Huh,” Myra replied. “Maybe, yeah. Dang it. I wanted to get some of the others to talk to you.”
“That’s OK,” Morde reassured xem. “We’ve already met most of you, in a way. I mean, I know of Toost, Ploot, Olvar, and Balmer, and some others. It’s just good you’ve figured this out finally.”
“Hey,” Tetcha prompted. “Do you all have a name for your system? Something we can call all of you? Or is it just ‘Students of Metabang’?”
Myra scrunched up xyr lips and furrowed xyr brows, and tried to think about that, waiting for xyr internal chorus to speak up, but xyr mind was silent. After a moment, xe shook xyr head and admitted, “not yet. No one’s talking. It’s like when your caretaker asks you and your peers a question and nobody wants to answer first.”
Tetcha nodded, “That’s alright. ‘Students of Metabang’ is totally fine. We can probably just call you each by your own names for a while. It’ll be cool to talk to each of you like a person finally.”
A presence pushed up from below Myra, filling their body with a feeling of strength and spoke with a lower voice that held some chest resonance, saying, “We are people.”
“This is true,” Morde acknowledged, and exchanged nods with Tetcha.
And for the time being, that was all there was to it. The group of friends proceeded to pick up with their collaborative story they’d been working on the day before, and spent three hours and twenty-seven minutes enjoying each other’s company while doing so.
As I watched them do this, I counted the seven system members listed above as they participated in the game.
Afterwards, my students took some time to consult with me, and ask me questions about plurality. I found, however, that they already knew most of the important information, and sometimes the system member asking would be surprised when one of their fellow members answered them before I could. Plurality is, after all, a subject of fairly common knowledge, even though only 3.2% of the populace experience some form of it. Obviously, discussing the subject in detail was good for them, so that they could all synchronize their knowledge, so I recommended that we increase such discussions as a start to kick off a number of exercises to cultivate their inner trust. They seemed amenable to that idea.
In the process, they treated me to formal introductions to each of them, though they couldn’t all front. And Jural said that there were clearly more below the surface that ve could not name currently. Their identities felt like they were on the tip of vis tongue. And I told ver that there was plenty of time to meet everyone.
Later that evening, with my assistance, they spoke to their caretaker and reintroduced themselves. Jana, already sharing our suspicions that they were plural, was easily pleased to meet them individually and told them ze looked forward to getting to know each of them better.
“Um,” replied Jural to that. “So, yeah, we’re happy to finally be out and all. But, uh, I think we’re actually ready for our own place. I mean, we want one, if you think that’s OK. I think we need our own space, kinda.”
“We wouldn’t pick a place very far away,” Myra interjected, xyr voice a distinctly different timbre than Jural’s, with different inflections. “We want to stay close to you!”
I’d been expecting this, but Jana blinked several times as she considered the request. A caretaker’s child moving out can be a really big thing to some people, and Jana is not an exception to that. And my students are particularly young to be doing so right now. But after some discussion between me, them, and Jana, it was agreed that it would be a good idea. I do believe that they are developmentally ready for it. And their plan for remaining in touch and spending lots of time still with their peers and their caretaker, coming over for meals and activities, and treating their new quarters as a glorified separate bedroom, is a good one that they proposed themselves.
They chose to give it two days before they moved into their new quarters, after picking a vacant unit that was near enough for their needs, so that they could talk to their peers more about it. Amphel’s jealousy that they had been cleared to move before hen, however, made the atmosphere at their old home so unbearable with arguing and whining, they moved out the next morning.
This is another reason that I think moving into their own quarters is good for them. They become overwhelmed with social stress more easily than their peers, and some buffer between them and such stress will probably serve them well.
And the relief they exhibited when they were finally alone in their own quarters was palpable. I even felt relieved, as if I too had been stressed.
They sat in the middle of the floor, their tablet lying in front of them, just smiling and beaming at the wall for some time. I had a great view of the ceiling from that tablet, so I used the camera from above their bed to observe.
Then they started to talk. Identifying just who said what isn’t possible for me. I haven’t acquainted myself with each of them well enough, yet, though I expect that will come quickly enough. And I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to pry with such a frivolous conversation. They might not entirely be aware of who talked themselves, in any case. So, I’ve included an unidentified transcript of the conversation as follows:
“What do we call ourselves?”
“Yeah, I’m stumped.”
“We… we could take the word ‘member’, as in ‘system member’, I don’t know why, but – and we could just change the first letter so that it sounds different and maybe cute.”
“Oh, I know! Let’s take the ‘p’ from ‘people’ because system members are actually people! So we’d be the Pembers!”
“That is cute!”
“Yeah, I like it. It feels like us.”
“It’s kinda hokey, but I’m OK with it.”
“Should we vote on it?”
“OK, everyone in favor of being called ‘the Pembers’ say ‘aye’ out loud.”
And then, there was a round of ayes, each in a slightly different voice. It took a while for them all to come in, but there were no “nays”.
I recognized Jural’s voice as ve said, “Well… that’s more than I expected. That’s eleven of us! Is that everyone?”
Their shoulders shrugged, and someone else said, “I think so. For now at least.”
After a moment, Jural spoke up again, “so there are no ‘nays’?”
Their head shook.
“OK, then!” Jural declared, “I guess that’s our name! I’ll text it to our family.” Ve reached for their tablet, and addressed me, “Metabang? Could you message Jana, Chevip, Amphel, and Twusp that we want to be called ‘the Pembers’? Well tell Tetcha and Morde in person.”
“Of course,” I told ver. “I think that’s a nice name, too.”
Jural nodded their head, then turned slightly aside, eyes glazing over as if looking internally and asked, “Hey, so, there’s eleven of us who voted, right? What do you all think of calling this group ‘the Council of Eleven’? You know, like we’re our government?”