Since things have gone so far with talking about my cult experience (and I haven’t even covered a fraction of the stuff that happened,) I’m going to talk about how I actually got out. Its hard, as always, to share my embarrassing past, but the incredible, supportive response I’ve gotten, the way people have shared their personal stories and really empathized with me, well…why stop now? Because it took a very specific set of circumstances to get out, at least for me.
Hollywood Boulevard was getting more and more chaotic. The money wasn’t coming in at the level it had been. Part of that was just the economy fluctuating; everyone was making less at that time. I think a bigger part for us may have been that we were no longer performing well. Perhaps I should restate that: I was no longer performing well. I always made much more money than he did. Jordan stopped being Legolas and became Puss in Boots (for once, not related to any “core” changes but because Lord of the Rings was getting lest popular). When I worked alone as Fiona, I made approximately the same amount as when Jordan worked with me. He had a creepy vibe, especially how he’d hover next to me and whisper in my ears, and it was off-putting.
At that point in the storyline, we had only limited contact with any of the original Others, beyond my Guide and the “Doctor.” We were fully enmeshed in the story which was later re-worked into Dumbledore’s Army and the Year of Darkness, the epic fanfiction-slash-cult that Jordan moved on to create. There were a lot of teenage “soldiers” from an alternate timeline set in 1942, all of whom were astonishingly beautiful, remarkably talented and usually had incredibly fucked up childhoods. I know I say “that’s for another post” a lot here, but that’s just the truth; it was an insane and multilayered clusterfuck with so many plot threads that I could probably write multiple novels about it (like Jordan has, just redressing it with Hogwarts uniforms). For now, lets maintain a little focus.
At any rate, there were soldiers and secret conspiracies and top-secret government prisons. It may have been an alternate timeline, but the Others were eager to explain how they also existed in our timeline as well. Further, they told me extensively how these dangerous Men-In-Black-type characters knew about us. Were watching us. And would, if given the chance, imprison us in the same X-Files-esque facilities. For those of you who read Stephen King: it was based on The Shop, which might help outsiders understand. As much as anyone could.
Hollywood Boulevard is the perfect place to introduce a conspiracy theory. There is a lot of paranoia out there. Regular rumors of upcoming “sweeps” that would “get rid of” the “bad” characters took over like wildfire (I can only assume this has gotten worse since the job was briefly made illegal). Lots of people believed that Homeland Security had “moles” that were keeping an eye on the characters, and that any moment we might all be dragged to Guantanamo Bay and questioned as possible terrorists, just because some people wore masks when they worked. It was a ridiculous echo chamber of fear and paranoid delusion, so it was easy to make the threat seem terrifyingly real.
After several months of building up to it, Jordan announced that we needed to flee the country and move to Toronto. I don’t really know what his real motivation was. He painted this picture of Canada as free, safe place where the mean ol’ Bush administration wouldn’t harm us, where there was socialized medicine and open minds and not so many damn mean people. He had a character who was a Mountie who explained how very, very easy it was to seek political asylum in Canada. Jordan backed this up with a handful of documents he pulled up on different immigration sites. I was wary, but eventually just let myself be convinced. I knew I couldn’t tolerate life as it was much longer. Maybe that was his reason; change the scenery enough that I would stay.
At any rate. He concocted an elaborate story about opening a cafe with some people we met, who were going to let us move into their apartment. We told everyone we knew we were moving to New York, but really, that’s just where we were landing. We were going to just walk to the border from Buffalo (so that no one knew we were leaving the country.) The funny thing is, there was nothing stopping us from getting passports and visas. There was no reason we couldn’t leave the country. I even had a valid passport, and Jordan had a perfectly legal ID. But no, that’s not possible; THE MAN might find out and then it was off to the Shop for us. Everything was super secret. We reduced everything we owned into three giant suitcases, the cheap wheeled style that is favored by the homeless.
We did get travel paperwork for Boo, our little bird, mainly so we could fly with him without complication. Granted, we had to pull him out of his cage to go through security (and there are few things as uniquely stressful as trying to hold a sparrow while agents poke at him) and pay an exorbitant “pet fare,” but there was no question of leaving that little birdy behind. So there we were, two crazy people, a bird in a pet carrier, three giant duffle bags and a pack of lies, heading from Los Angeles to Buffalo. In February, 2007.
Everything that could have gone wrong did. First off, we both developed a nasty chest cold the week we were moving. Emptying the apartment (while being low key about it, so as not to alert any “agents” that might be watching us) drained both of our energy, and we weren’t working enough to build up any kind of monetary cushion. We missed a train, which made us miss our first flight. Jordan turned on the charm and got us rebooked on a later flight with no fee. Somewhere, I think maybe Atlanta, we missed a second flight, and again he managed to smile and charm his way through it, getting us rebooked on another flight without a fee. That’s pretty impressive, but he generally got his way. That’s how he works; an easy smile and a silver tongue and people just believe him. He calls it “Blarney.”
Finally, finally, late at night, we landed in Buffalo, to the coldest weather either of us had ever experienced. By now, Jordan was claiming that his illness had progressed to pneumonia and, thus, had “shut down” his abilities to bring anyone through. He could “sometimes” see them, but was “too sick” to really communicate. Thus, we completely on our own. We walked the frozen streets of Buffalo for hours, dragging ourselves from hotel lobby to hotel lobby to keep warm enough to move, occasionally catching a bus to get us closer. The wheels gave out on one of the suitcases and we were forced to abandon it. I really should have at least seen that coming; there had been mention of packing the most important stuff all in one bag “in case” we couldn’t carry it all. Eventually, we were dragging ourselves across the Peace Bridge.
It was the last endless leg of the journey, and I was filled with relief and hope. There were these incredible, perfect star-shaped snowflakes falling on us, and I remember thinking that I’d never seen a snowflake that looked like a snowflake before. I remember that cold, roaring water beneath us, and the wind that was so frigid that every breath was pain. I remember that glorious moment that we went into the Border Patrol office, where it was warm and dry. Any minute, we’d be signing our forms for political asylum and could start our new life! We had made it!
Obviously, you can’t just walk into Canada, say “Gov’mint spies are after me!” and just get handed an apartment. I don’t know why I ever expected differently, but by that point I was pretty much a non-thinking entity. We told our story (as Jordan had coached me) and the border patrol agents laughed in our faces. Before I could even process that, Jordan completely lost his shit. He started screaming and tearing at his hair, shrieking like the crazy person he really is. He wailed and cried and howled like a spoiled child, and I was left to be the only adult handling the situation. And I couldn’t. When I was interviewed by the (surprisingly sympathetic) immigration agent, I couldn’t even explain why we were there. I had no answers.
They let us sleep on the floor of the office, since we had nowhere to go that night. We huddled under a blanket and Jordan alternately sobbed and slept, periodically commenting that he was probably going to die of pneumonia. I dozed occasionally, repeatedly waking with a jolt to check that both Jordan and Boo Boo were alive. Poor little bird; he was in that cage for so long in those couple of days. He didn’t chirp or fuss, just cuddled closely into my palm when I’d slip it into his carrier. I had never felt as utterly defeated. So hopeless. So done. I thought a lot about what options were left, and spent several hours thinking about just going out into that terrible cold and lying down in a snowbank. I’ve read that when you freeze to death, you feel warm and sleepy at the end, and just drift away. It sounded so tempting to just let go. The only thing that stopped me was that tiny feathery body in my hand. I knew that little birdy would die of exposure long before I would, and I could not kill him just to spare myself.
In the morning, Jordan pulled himself together a little. He talked some about calling Amy’s parents and asking for help. But all I really wanted was to call my mother. I hadn’t spoken to her for several years, only once since the agonizing day I gave her a book Jordan wrote full of accusations of abuse, none of which had happened. It was terrifying and scary and shameful, but it was that or the snowbank, and I’d already decided against that. I told her I needed help. I asked if Jordan and I could come home. She said to give her an hour and call back. Jordan filled that hour with big, new plans. I just nodded a lot and waited.
What I didn’t know is that my mother had been doing a lot of research over those years. She made more than one trip down to Hollywood, just to see for herself that I was alive and reasonably safe. She had been saving money in a dedicated account, waiting for the day I might call. She had kept tabs on all the internet gossip about Jordan and I. She had read up on (and worked with a therapist extensively) on folie a deux and the proper treatment of it (which is generally separate the usually sane person from the crazy person). She was ready for the day I called.
So when that hour had passed and I called her back, Mom had already bought herself a ticket to Buffalo, arriving the next day. Further, she had prepaid for a hotel room next to the airport for us, where she would meet us when she landed. She said she would discuss what would happen next once she arrived. Jordan was elated, but I didn’t feel much of anything other than panic. We walked back across that same bridge and went through U.S. Customs, which was a pain since we hadn’t actually gone to Canada. They grudgingly let us back into the country we’d not really left, and it was up to us to find a ride back to the airport. We had no money left, but a very nice young professional offered us a ride. Jordan jumped all over that, keeping up his “blarney” the whole ride. I agreed when prompted and otherwise stared out the window and hoped that this man really would take us to the airport and not harm us. He didn’t; he handed me a twenty dollar bill with pity-filled eyes as he dropped us at the hotel. I can only imagine what we looked like.
I hadn’t planned on making this a two-parter, but I didn’t count on how sad and exhausted it would make me to tell this part of the story. This was the day I finally hit the bottom. The first real crack had formed in Jordan’s hold on me, but it would be almost six weeks before I could sever it. I hope my readers will understand that I need to go cuddle my son and maybe call my mother and thank her one more time.
To Be Continued…