My Own Desert Places, Pt. 22 (GPT-3 fueled short)

I didn’t want to bother involving medical staff in my ghost-related problems. The only information I would be interested in gleaning is how exactly does a ghost who came from a female body interact with the brain of a male body. But I doubt doctors would be able to help me with that. I would need a doctor in ghostology, likely one who had been a ghost himself, and that’s unlikely to happen when most people don’t even believe that ghosts are real.
I had no idea how to ask a hospital to schedule a MRI. I found the phone number for the general information service of Osakidetza and told them I needed to get my brain looked at because it might be rotting. They told me to schedule a medical appointment with my general practitioner, even though I didn’t know I had one. I navigated their website and I ended up with a medical appointment at the local hospital in Hondarribia, but I wouldn’t have to go for a few days. This was going to be a bother, but still, I didn’t want my girlfriend to worry about my well-being.
Finding a writing course that Alazne could attend was far easier. They teach introduction to creative writing at the library located in old town, and people are free to join the course midway. For the following two days, Alazne was both excited and nervous as she imagined herself meeting a new group of people and having her thoughts exposed, because she wanted to write for psychological reasons, to find relief for her depression and an outlet for bad memories that didn’t involve excessive abuse of her genitals.
When I wake up in the morning of the day the course will take place, I miss Alazne’s warm body in my arms. I catch a glimpse of her ass cheeks, covered by her cream-white cotton briefs, as she leaves the room towards the bathroom. Before I know it I’m rubbing my morning wood, but I take a deep breath and I spring from the bed. I don’t masturbate any longer, although since I told Alazne that I had died for a while, she has replaced half of the sex times with tender cuddling.
I’m putting on some pants when Alazne returns to the bedroom, and the first thing my gaze falls on is the mound of her pussy barely covered by her briefs. My crotch tingles.
“Hey… Can you stop putting on those pants and lie down with me in bed for a while?” Alazne asks me sweetly.
When I look up she’s smiling knowingly at me, because it couldn’t have been more obvious that I was ogling her pussy.
“Oh, absolutely. Let me brush my teeth in a hurry and I’ll be right back. You get ready.”
When I get to the bathroom I clean my teeth at record speed, then gargle a bit on mouthwash. Once I come back to the bedroom, Alazne is lying in bed, but she’s dressed in one of my shirts, which is too big for her small frame to the extent that it covers her holy parts. As I approach her, she widens her smile and opens her arms to welcome me.
“Come here, my love. I want my snuggly bear.”
I can already tell I won’t orgasm this morning, but I don’t particularly mind. I bend over to hug her as I plop onto the bed. Alazne wraps her arms around me and squeezes her cheek against mine.
“Mmmm… You’re always so warm. It’s like hugging a heated brick.”
I take a good whiff of her scent. It calms me down as always, and makes me want to remain in her embrace for hours.
“Odd comparison to start the morning, but alright,” I say softly.
She nestles her face on my chest as she entwines her legs with mine, but after a while she raises her head to look at me.
“So, my love, did you have a nice sleep?”
Her loving, sultry voice close to my ear gives me tingles.
“I sure did. Pure oblivion. And now I’m as rested as I can be.”
Alazne nuzzles against my neck, almost purring. I want to fuck her so bad, and yet I know she’s in a different mood. At least we both came last night.
“Sweetie…” I start. “I was thinking that while you attend that course today, I could spend the time writing in some nearby coffee shop.”
We can’t stand to be apart for too long, but being together all the time hinders our ability to focus and do our own things. I had to refuse attending the writing course, as I think this is something Alazne should do alone, but I’m fine with walking up to the library with her.
“That’s good,” Alazne says, “because having to deal with a bunch of new people is going to be nerve-wracking enough. I’d rather see you as soon as I get out.”
She curls her arms around my neck, and her frame trembles as she hugs me tighter. Her hot breath warms my face, so I lean in enough to kiss her. Our lips unite for a quiet moment before she pulls back.
“I’ll miss you so much,” she whispers.
“I’ll only be a street or at the most a couple of streets away. Nothing’s going to happen to you.”
“I know…”
“At the risk of ruining this mood… You told me that you wanted to write in a communal setting as a psychological release, as well as to learn about other people’s experiences and the stories they come up with. That means you have… thought about getting professional therapy, but you have discarded the idea?”
My question must have taken her by surprise. She loosens her embrace. I’m tempted to apologize, because reminding Alazne of her pains could disturb her, but she speaks calmly.
“I did consider it, at times. But I think the whole therapy thing is a scam, to be honest.”
“How can a person calling out your personal problems and having a heart-to-heart not be therapeutic?”
“What I mean is that one goes to therapy because she wants to fix herself, right? Is that not the point? But I know I can’t be fixed. So at the most, talking to a therapist would help as much as talking to someone else willing to listen closely to my pains.”
“That’s a bleak way to think about things, not that I disagree… I wouldn’t say that you need to be fixed as if you were unsightly broken, but still, a professional should be qualified to help you with your problems.”
“I had a fucked up childhood and a brain predisposed to misery from birth. That’s not solvable. I mean, look how I turned out.”
“You are one of the most caring and selfless people I know.”
Alazne chuckles almost bitterly.
“But you don’t know anyone besides me and Kateryna in this new life of yours, do you?”
“Yeah… I guess that’s true.”
“Maybe your ex-fiancée, but I hope you didn’t reconnect with her to any significant extent, for my sake. Selfless of me, huh?”
“So… when you want an outlet for your pains, are you going to rely on writing?”
“On playing the guitar too, and on you, of course. I can’t imagine me reaching out to you so you would listen, only for you to turn your back.”
“I will always listen, but I’m also going to call you out on your bullshit.”
Alazne bites my neck playfully. I complain, then squeeze her ass.
“And therapists wouldn’t treat me so honestly, because they need my money,” Alazne says. “So I’ll stick with you.”
I sigh.
“I’m okay with that. Listen, if you change your mind at any point, even if you just want to try therapy for a while, just tell me and I’ll bankroll it. After all, supporting you financially makes me feel manly and powerful. It’s a nice boost to my ego.”
“Is that the case? There is plenty of space in the wardrobe for new clothes. I guess I’ll get to drag you along before the end of the week.”

At twenty to six in the afternoon, Alazne and I are walking up the narrow, slightly claustrophobic San Nikolas street in old town, heading for the public library. All these houses must have been built back when people needed to walk everywhere, so both the sidewalks and the stone-paved road are too narrow for comfort. Still, I guess that the old, wooden, cramped storefronts, medieval-like front doors and cast iron window grilles are soothing in a way.
We are passing by a large open square unlike any other area of old town, on which nearby coffee shops have distributed their outside tables. One side of the square is walled with the fronts of three to four story high residential buildings constructed without allowing any space between them, and on the opposite side towers a grey fort-like structure. Its pockmarked bricks suggest that they were involved in some armed conflict.
I realize that I came to this square for a coffee shortly after I possessed Asier’s body, and before my new life with Alazne begun. I point at some empty tables.
“I guess I’ll spend the hour and a half of the course here, writing on the laptop.”
Alazne tugs on my arm, nervous.
“Sure, but… accompany me to the entrance.”
I suppose that Alazne’s behavior can qualify as separation anxiety, not that I mind. I love how she clings to me. I didn’t spend twenty years a ghost to complain now that my girlfriend is too insistent on spending as much time with me as possible.
When we turn the corner we begin descending the street in front of the ancient, imposing church, its bricks darkened by centuries of rain. The public library is just a couple of buildings away. It doesn’t scream library in any way; it’s like they repurposed one of the fanciest, old residential buildings because they didn’t know where to store all those books otherwise.
A group of people is chatting near the entrance, and also blocking the path to the extent that if a car comes up along the stone-paved road, those people will have to move. It’s an incongruous mix of retirees, two women in their forties, two guys maybe in their thirties, and one who looks like a teenage girl.
“Well, that’s surely them,” I say. “The class is about to start.”
Alazne looks at the group, then at me, then at them, then back at me. She’s clutching her laptop bag, which also contains a new notebook. She couldn’t make it more obvious that she’s nervous about approaching those people. Three of them, who aren’t taking part in the group’s conversation, are staring at us in silence, as they have realized we might join their class.
I admit it, I’m uncomfortable with Alazne getting involved with a group that includes men around her age. There’s no chance of other men trying to get in her pants if she only interacts with this man-corpse I’m possessing. I want to mark my territory, but instead of pissing all over Alazne I cup the back of her head and seek her tongue with mine. I break the kiss before any of the group members comment on it, which could mean they would be tempted to bother Alazne for it later.
When my girlfriend looks up at me, her pupils are dilated like those of a junkie. She didn’t expect to be kissed now, and she has blushed heavily.
“Alright, go meet your new friends and have a good time,” I whisper to her. “When we come back home, daddy will give you a treat.”
Alazne swallows as she lowers her gaze adorably. When she turns around, I’m tempted to pat her butt, but I only stare at her back as she walks up to the group while holding the laptop bag against her side. Her light brown hair is loose, slightly wavy near the tips, and she’s wearing a slim, knitted cardigan and blue denims. Two of the men are already eyeing her, hungrily I bet. Damn vultures…
Most of the group turns towards Alazne as she stops near them. A bald guy in his sixties, wearing glasses with thick frames, seems to welcome her, although I can’t hear what they are saying. My girlfriend’s head moves as she talks.
I don’t want to stick around in case I feel like rescuing her, so I walk up to the square. I sit heavily at one of the empty outside tables, then leave my laptop bag on the chair next to me. I’m already tired from the anticipation, but I’ll have to keep myself busy for an hour and a half.
When the waitress approaches my table, I force myself to look her in the eyes. It’s the same blond, chipper waitress in her late twenties that took my order the other time I came, and whose eyes I complimented for no particular reason. How awkward.
“You again!” she says cheerfully. “That wound in your head doesn’t look that bad anymore.”
“Eh, I had it checked. It’s nothing to worry about.”
“You were really pale the other day. You made me think someone had died.”
Why on earth did I come here again?
“It was just some mild existential confusion,” I answer dismissively.
“A philosopher. I like it! You read Camus?”
Jesus Christ, this woman will not stop talking to me of her own accord. I just want a coffee and to be left alone! Is that too much to ask for in this world?
“I’m afraid I only read Japanese mangas these days.”
The waitress’ gaze goes up to my hair, as if to certify I still have greys. I’m getting annoyed.
“I’ll have a coffee,” I tell her as I take out my laptop from its bag.
“A random one?”
I’m not in the mood for call backs, and I need some peace, but I still attempt to look friendly.
“No, I’ll be more specific this time, if only to make your job easier. A cappuccino, please.”
“Coming right up!”
The waitress sashays away. Nice ass. No, I have a girlfriend.
I take a deep breath. The laptop is already waiting for me to introduce my credentials. After I do so and my desktop is filling with icons, I insert the pen drive where I pasted some music. I open a new Word document. I connect my expensive earphones to the laptop and I insert the earbuds into their respective canals. I intend to listen to Modest Mouse’s ‘The Moon & Antarctica’ from the beginning. As soon as I hear those first echoed guitar notes, I exhale in relief. I’m as ready as I will be.
As I stare at the blinking cursor in the document, I can’t help but wonder why the waitress talking to me bothered me that much. It wasn’t just because she was delaying me from starting this project: she was demanding I related to her like she knew me to be from that one time we interacted. I can hardly identify anymore with my first days as Asier Izcoa. When I look back, I feel as if I was… unhinged. I only have my Alazne to thank for having assembled something resembling a normal human being out of my broken pieces.
I might as well write my experiences hoping that my girl will read them in the future, some day after I have admitted what I am, who I am. Assuming she would accept me. I doubt that will ever happen, but I shake my head and I start typing.
If you are reading these words, it means I’m dead. And if you aren’t reading them, I’m dead anyway! Because I’m a ghost.
I laugh to myself. What else could I have possibly written in the introduction?
I’m writing these memories for you, my love. I want you to remember me after I’ve left this world. I hope that my story gives you a sense of peace and understanding about who I was and why I did what I did. I also hope that we may meet once more, in a world much different from this one.
I feel the back of my eyes warming as if they intend to get teary. Why did I make it so dramatic? If Alazne ever reads these memories, I expect to be sitting next to her. I delete the last part.
You might be asking yourself how come I’m writing these words if I’m a ghost. Well, it just happens that like some other ghosts we know have poltergeist abilities to fling shit around like deranged monkeys, I have the uncanny ability to possess people. I hated it for the longest time, because whenever I managed to break through a living person’s natural defenses to command their flesh and bone robot, the owner’s soul fought me constantly. It felt as if an old, greasy man was licking me all over. It wasn’t erotic in the slightest, I assure you.
I bet Alazne would love to read that last bit.
I first realized I could become corporeal again while I was reading a dead professor’s diary. The dead bastard had discovered a ritual by which a ghost could invade a living body, although the process was extremely dangerous and only had a 10% chance of success. It involved a complicated magic circle with human blood as ink and quite a few other creepy ingredients.
I kind of like that for a fictional story. I cut those sentences, open a new document and paste them there. Maybe I’ll get busy with some creative writing of my own. Anyway, back to my memories.
You see, whoever is reading these memories, hopefully you yourself, my love: I’m not Asier. I’m wearing Asier, certainly. I command this decaying, hairy body as if I had grown a flesh and bone mecha and I was currently residing in its nape. How come I ended up disguised as a guy? Now that’s an interesting story. I was travelling to Donostia in a bus, feeling all despondent because I had seen you do some terrible stuff to yourself and I was trying to distract my troubled mind, when suddenly Asier veered his car into incoming traffic. As he admitted later on, he had tried to kill himself. I got off the bus and stood right next to him in the afterlife as his ghost wiggled out of his dying body. The paramedics were giving him CPR, which is mostly how I ended up with a battered ribcage. Anyway, I talked with Asier. He wanted an audience with the afterlife king, but I laughed at him. That pissed him off, I think. I don’t remember our conversation clearly, but when I suggested he could return to his body, he became paralyzed. It’s like he was imagining the mess that expected him back on the plane of the living: two ex-fiancées who hated him, one of them dead and haunting his house, and some blonde Eastern European guy pursuing him for whatever reason. So the motherfucker just bailed, you know? He turned tail straight into the beyond. I saw my chance. I remember thinking that if I had a body I could wipe your tears, Alazne, so I jumped into this man’s dead body. Fortunately it wasn’t dead enough that it didn’t work anymore, and turns out that when a ghost possesses a body still functional but devoid of its original soul, the possessing ghost gets trapped and can move it around and stuff. It’s kind of claustrophobic, to be honest.
Something lands softly on my table, startling me. It’s my cappuccino. The waitress also leaves the bill. Without taking off my earbuds, I lift my gaze towards the smiling waitress and nod. She wanders away. That’s one bubbly ass.
I focus on my writing again.
Anyway, who am I in all this? Well… My name is–
I can’t even bring myself to type it. Alazne shouldn’t learn it. But she isn’t reading my confession, not yet. I’ll have to be so careful with where I store this document.
My name is Irene. I’m a woman, yes. I was born with breasts and a pussy, and two X chromosomes. Well, I didn’t have breasts right when I was born, I don’t think. My point is that I have never been a man. I’m not even a man now, I’m just wearing one and taking advantage of his cock, which is quite magnificent, I gotta admit. And you have enjoyed it a lot as well, judging by how often you moan, and all the scratches on my back. I believe that the scientific term for what I am is a futa: a majestic woman who somehow possesses a monster cock. Except that you only know me to have the body of a man including the dick, but I’m talking about my mental image here.
I tap on my chin. I think I need to clarify how come I’m a ghost in the first place.
You see, I used to be alive. Even though I was a woman, I had… Well, my father used to call it improper tastes. Basically I couldn’t sit still and I wanted to make out with and eat out almost every attractive girl I saw. That made school complicated for me. And even more troublesome for many girls who didn’t know they could feel like I forced them to discover.
I delete the word ‘forced’. No, most of it was consensual. No, all of it was. They were just reluctant. It’s not my fault some girls are on the fence about being lesbians, or experimenting, or whatever they want to call it. I couldn’t care less about how they justified themselves as long as I got to taste their juices.
I continue writing.
There were no special girls. I was like a general, the Julius Caesar of eating pussy, wanting to explore and conquer every girl I set my gaze upon. There was no love involved, I don’t think. I have only known love ever since that day I was roaming the streets of Irún as a ghost, in the dreary, colorless afterlife, and I heard you playing guitar, Alazne. You made me a full person. You tamed a lioness.
I read it back. It’s quite creepy, actually. I need to explain how I died, but for twenty years I have been avoiding even thinking about that.
I graduated after I repeated a grade. I didn’t want to study anything. I didn’t feel like I belonged in society. There was nothing that I felt I had a talent for, except the aforementioned relentless deflowering of innocents. It’s not as if my parents supported me: they had divorced a few years before that point. My biological mother moved to South America. I got along well enough with my step-mother, but she had a sickness, degenerative I think, that was going to confine her to a wheelchair. She already had to use one at times during my last days with them. Anyway, my father hated the fact that I wouldn’t have children. I was the only creature they spawned and I turned out to prefer the taste of clits. Can you believe it? I wasn’t shy about it either, because a few times I brought over a couple of girlfriends, if I could call them that, to sleep with me.
My pulse is trembling, it’s getting harder to breathe. Why does it bother me that much? It happened twenty years ago. I have been a ghost almost as long as I lived in my original body.
My father was ready to give up on me, but my step-mother insisted that I had to get through college. She wanted to make sure that if there was the smallest chance I would grow up, as they called it, I wouldn’t be held back by my lack of a diploma. My father kept insisting that I would need to change my mind about producing his grandkids. Why the fuck would I want to have children? Parents and their stupid delusions, making kids who then grow up and imitate their parents. That’s the idea, I guess. I didn’t want any part of this fucking world. I couldn’t connect with anybody. I only wanted, needed, to wrestle with the tongue of some sexy girl, and hold her warm flesh against mine. That’s what life was about as far as I was concerned. The rest was window-dressing for liars.
I realize that I’m gritting my teeth, and a tear falls on the back of my hand. Startled and embarrassed, I hurry to wipe from my eyes any possible trace of tears, and then look around cautiously in case someone has noticed. It doesn’t seem to be the case, as the people occupying the other tables are focused on each other.
Yeah, I need a break. I lounge in the chair as I take sips of my cappuccino. I get to see a small band of horizon between the line of apartment buildings on my left and the old fort on my right. That’s the Txingudi bay, I’m quite sure. The Atlantic ocean, or maybe the sea. In any case it’s just a line of water instead of land making the flat horizon. How am I going to write my memories if I can’t express my thoughts properly, nor describe my surroundings?
I sigh, and return to work.
Yeah, so I went to college. Doesn’t matter for what, really. The most important part is that I tried to make friends, and yes, fuck classmates and random women I saw walking around, but it’s like I lost my magic. They looked at me as if I was some weirdo. A pushy, relentless, friendless weirdo.
I don’t want to put these memories down. Why am I writing these thoughts again? This doesn’t help anybody. Do I even want Alazne to know who I used to be before I chose to wear a dead man’s body?
The teachers either didn’t care about the volume of homework they sent, or other classmates could deal with it and I didn’t know how, because nobody would interact with me. In any case, I couldn’t, nor wanted to, study at home with a father who hated me and a step-mother who was crumbling away. I didn’t study in libraries, because I couldn’t sit still. I wondered if the best part of my life had already ended, and it hadn’t seemed that good to begin with. Nobody I had met or even had sex with wanted to keep in touch with me. Was I such a disgrace that everybody avoided me so much?
The breeze feels cool. I turn my head up to feel it blow through my hair, and I close my eyes.
I quit. I became a college dropout after three months. I thought that at least my step-mother would understand, but I remember looking down at her, because she was sitting on her wheelchair, as she glared at me furiously. She pounded a glass table with her fist. Not only it broke, cutting her hand, but she grabbed one of the pieces and fucking threatened me with it. I don’t remember what she yelled at me. Ah, yes: ungrateful. I was an ungrateful freak.
I shake my head and blink away the ghosts in my head. They had been gone for a long time.
Even though I just had a high school diploma, I got a job as a lowly clerk. I knew it would be boring as fuck, soul-killing. What I wouldn’t have expected is that I was unable to learn how to perform properly tasks that the seemingly dumber workers around me could do without issues. To print an invoice I had to work on, I ended up wasting three or four copies, because I kept failing to notice obvious mistakes. One of my bosses sat across from me. The fucker was some Italian shithead whose leg constantly shook as if he couldn’t wait to run to the bathroom and snort some coke. From nine to six in the afternoon, with a so-called break in between that I had to spend around my coworkers, I constantly heard my bosses going on about how they could make money with this or that plot, and how we would need to work harder and maybe work overtime if necessary and such. Someone had complained that I was fumbling basic tasks, so the boss ordered me to prepare a presentation to teach other coworkers about an auditing system the company sold. The details are unimportant: the fact is that nothing felt real to me, and I didn’t know what the hell I was saying. When the presentation ended, the boss ran up to me and berated me, called me useless, asked me specific mathematical questions unrelated to the presentation, and when I couldn’t give him the answer, he told me that I would know if I weren’t a pathetic dropout. He said that unless I intended to get fired by the end of the month, I would need to learn how to become minimally competent.
I sniff, and wipe my nose with my forearm. Why the hell am I crying? I am a tough guy who doesn’t cry. And also a fucking ghost. I died. Maybe this is what happens after death: you become some puddle of tears. Yeah, that’s it. After death you lose all defenses. You become a weeper, a wailer, some sobbing bitch.
That night I pissed my pants in my sleep. I cried as I threw my sheets into the clothes bin. I kept shaking, my teeth chattering. I remember thinking that my life would be like this until I died. Decades of such humiliations were the only thing I could look forward to. Nobody would care about me. Nobody would love me. I hurried to take a shower and dress myself. Only as I passed by a storefront I realized that I hadn’t cleaned my mouth properly after I brushed my teeth, and it looked as if I had just blown some guy. Then I stood at the bus stop. As I watched the vehicle that would drive me to work maneuvering to stop in front of me, my legs trembled, my heart jumped on my chest. I can’t do it, I thought. I won’t. So I didn’t. For a couple of hours I wandered around the outskirts of the city, a costal one but hundreds of kilometers away from here, as my phone kept receiving calls. The office, my parents. I didn’t answer any of them. I sat on a bench hugging my knees for another hour, and then I decided that I would get on a bus that would drive me up the local mountain. There were only a couple of other people on the bus that morning, mountaineers. I headed directly to a cliff, and I stood on the edge, nearly overwhelmed by vertigo, as I looked at the jagged rocks below. The tide wasn’t as high as I had expected, but it would be in a few hours.
I close my eyes tight as I feel the breeze caressing my face. In my earbuds, Isaac Brock sings bitterly about his broken heart. I remember standing at the edge of that cliff, and how I vomited what was left inside my stomach.
I want to end it, I thought. I can’t go on. I have to jump. Just fucking do it already. I was a freak who had been born with a broken brain. In any other age of history I would already have been rotting six feet under. I don’t want to live this nightmare for a second longer, so just step forward.
I take deep breaths as I feel my fingertips resting on the keys. I am not Irene anymore, am I? I will live as Asier for at least four to five decades more. I will become this man, and that original life of mine will become a tattered memory.
I remember looking around. Nothing but grass, trees, birds, a couple of horses in the distance. To be honest, if anyone had been walking around at that hour, I wouldn’t have jumped. If anybody had been nice to me in recent memory, I wouldn’t have jumped. But for a single second I wanted with all my might to die, so I stepped forward. I remember falling, cold wind getting in my ears and cooling my eyeballs, and me orienting myself in the air so I would hit the rocks headfirst. Then I must have fallen unconscious. Not died, just lost consciousness. I had fucked up landing on my head, or my skull was tougher than I would have expected, because I regained my senses only to be tortured with the most harrowing pain imaginable. It’s like I hadn’t known any pain until that point. I tried to move my arms, but I couldn’t feel them, and neither did I feel my legs. I think one of my eyes had burst, been crushed or whatever. I could barely move my head so I wouldn’t drown in the puddle formed on the rock my head rested on. I don’t know how much time I spent there. I thought I had gone to hell, because I felt as if I was being flayed alive, but somehow I couldn’t yell. And what would I yell for? My spine was broken, and I had purposely walked up to an area of the mountain nobody might visit in days. I remember being hungry, and thirsty. I regretted it, but not because I thought I was wrong to kill myself, but because I hadn’t imagined such pain was possible. In my head I asked, to whoever might be listening, for mercy, for them to come down and kill me. Eventually nature did it. The tide rose.
I cough. I’m about to take a drink of my coffee, but I realize I don’t want to put liquid in my mouth right now. As if my memory was recreating the vertigo I felt, I’m getting dizzier and dizzier. I want to return home. I want to kneel in front of the toilet in my stolen bathroom and vomit.
I remember how the saltwater burned behind my nose, and also how my lungs ballooned inside my chest as if they were about to burst. I didn’t want to live, I wanted it to be over. I don’t remember the exact moment when I entered the afterlife, but that morning I found out that ghosts exist, that I would need to keep tolerating this consciousness possibly for eternity, except in a far more dreary, colorless, odorless, tasteless world. I walked along the bottom of the sea for a good while, maybe an hour or two, until I emerged onto a beach. I would have thought that I would be tied down as if by magic to the place where I killed myself, and I guess it wouldn’t have been too bad to look at fishes for hundreds of years, but instead I walked out of my hometown. I never came back. I have no clue what happened to my parents, or if anybody found my body. And I couldn’t give less of a shit about any of it.
I feel claustrophobic, and cold sweat is rolling down my forehead. I take out the earbuds and listen to the animated conversations around me. Three tables to my left, a group of forty something men talk to each other as if they’ve been hanging out since they were children. A couple of digital cameras are firing off next to the fort, and their owners are talking in English. I have only spent forty five minutes. I have to wait for at least another forty five until my beloved, the light of my life, returns to my side. I can’t sit still anymore, I’ll take a walk. I look around until I locate the blonde waitress, and I signal for her to come over.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 21 (GPT-3 fueled short)

I have taken the habit of enjoying my breakfast on the balcony of the second floor, as long as it doesn’t rain. I sit wearily on an iron chair at the table, facing the neighboring countryside. This chair is so sturdy that I never have to worry about the wind pushing it around. I enjoy the slight morning breeze as I drink my coffee, and I gaze upon the view. Green rolling hills as far as the eye can see, a pleasant view marred only by a couple of electric towers and isolated farmhouses among fenced grazing fields and small groves. In the horizon rise the two peaks of a mountain, name unknown.
I had intended to leave Alazne sleeping, but the noise I made as I was preparing my breakfast must have woken her up, because I hear her footsteps approaching me from the hallway behind me. She’s coming into the balcony as she holds a fresh cup of coffee from the coffee maker I bought recently. She smiles at me warmly, then sits down on the iron chair next to me. She’s wearing baby blue pyjama bottoms adorned with cat silhouettes, and a white shirt showing the protagonist from ‘Goodnight Punpun’ in his black, elongated head, multi-eyed version. Her light brown hair is tied back in a ponytail except for a couple of rebellious locks.
“How are you today?” I ask, trying not to stare at her breasts.
“Fine. You?”
As I had feared, I am apprehensive. Yesterday I couldn’t take anymore how much Alazne suffered because I needed to lie about my nature as a ghost, so I pacified her with the lie I also told Asier’s ex-fiancée Ainhoa: that the car accident Asier had suffered, which had granted him his wish to die, had erased most of the memories of my past before the crash. If I had pondered about the pros and cons of deceiving Alazne further, I would have figured out some other solution, but I can’t turn back time now.
And last night I suffered the first consequence: we didn’t have sex. For the first day since that fabled night in which I conquered Alazne’s holy pussy with both my penis and my mouth, we hadn’t gone a day without repeating the same ritual with some variation. However, last night, around an hour after we ate dinner, Alazne announced that she wanted us to watch a movie in bed. It was Makoto Shinkai’s ‘Your Name’. Alazne had already seen it at her previous home a few years ago, before the day I heard her playing guitar for the first time. I had only caught bits and pieces of the movie over the years, when I wandered into people’s houses, and I didn’t know what it was called. So I sat with my back against the headboard, Alazne leaned back against me, and for the time the movie lasted I hugged her chest under the sheets while I watched the laptop screen, which she appropriately propped up on her lap.
I guess Alazne had forgotten most of the events of the movie, or maybe the narrative is just that powerful, because she cried profusely at a couple of moments, and right by the end I’m ashamed to admit that I shed some manly tears, although hopefully my girlfriend didn’t notice. When the movie finished, Alazne turned around, hugged me tight and we made out heavily for a good while, so the romantic movie fulfilled its purpose. However, when I tried to unfasten her bra she told me that she didn’t want to fuck, just for me to hold her tight and sleep facing her. I panicked internally, and feared something was seriously wrong, not to mention that she must have known how hard I was by how my penis was digging into her abdomen, but Alazne just curled up against me, with her hands between our chests, and fell asleep with a placid smile on her lips.
I hadn’t noticed that I lost myself worrying about last night’s events, and when I switch back to reality, I find myself looking down at the foam in my coffee. As I take a drink I realize that Alazne is gazing at the wound on my forehead, now mostly a scar, so obviously that it seems rude even to me.
Nervous, I take a sip of coffee, and then I slide the tip of my index finger along the wound.
“I hope that over time it won’t look discolored, but I guess nothing will prevent me from sporting a conspicuous scar. I wish it could have crossed my eyebrow or something badass like that. So close to my hairline it just looks wrong.”
“Well, I love you anyway,” she says with a sweet smile.
“Everyone loves a war hero,” I say. “That’s what we could tell people anyway. Not that I went and crashed my car because…” Because Asier veered deliberately into incoming traffic. I haven’t told this to Alazne, have I? “… Because I’m a moron who can’t drive properly. It was a nasty crash, bad enough that I died for a moment.”
“Asier, did the doctors check you for brain damage? They must have, right?” Alazne asks with an unconcerned tone for what she’s asking.
“It’s not my mind that’s damaged, it’s my heart. I must have been a lonely, sad man to drive so recklessly. But yes, the doctors did check, and apparently the only lasting damage to my brain is having lost most of my memories. Which I guess is a very serious issue, but… I embrace it, given that the person this body belonged to before the accident was a rotten bastard.”
A sudden movement in the countryside distracts me enough to divert my attention to it. A man, I guess a farmer, is walking through one of the fenced grazing fields maybe two hundred meters away. There’s nobody else out, even though it’s a pleasant morning at around nine and a half. I follow the guy with my gaze for a few seconds until he disappears in the shade of some trees.
When I focus on Alazne again, she’s not trying to disguise the pity she feels for me. I shift my weight in my chair.
“Alazne, please don’t look at me like that. I’m telling you, I’m fine. I have no clue how the… previous owner of this body felt before the accident, but I’m doing okay, apart from some occasional confusion.”
Alazne reaches with her hand to touch my shoulder, then her fingertips slide down to the inside of my elbow, where she lets her hand linger.
“I’m just worried about you, and want what’s best for you. I can’t imagine spending my life with anybody else. You know that.”
I swallow a sudden flash of warmth in my throat.
“I do. I feel the same way.”
“And… I think you should go back to get checked. You have been irresponsible with your recovery. In the beginning I thought it was a nasty enough crash in which you hit your head, and that was that, but you literally died for a few seconds. You could have ended up… the only way I can think of calling it is a vegetable. Forever lying in bed with barely any brain function. And having lost your memories is not something you should just brush off. I need you to be well.”
I grab her hand and squeeze it. She squeezes back. Her hands are warm, an even more pleasant sensation than usual in such a nice, quiet morning. I stare at the pale, freckled face and those hazel eyes of my beloved for a few seconds, as the birds chirp to each other.
“I’m fine, sweetie. But you are right, I’ll go to the hospital in Donostia and ask them to do some tests. I suppose they’ll agree that they are necessary. Whatever they want. I’ll call later.”
Alazne nods, then narrows her eyes with gratitude.
“Thank you. Tell me if you feel weird at any point, alright? I’m here for you.”
“I will also write in my will that if I die for whatever reason you’ll get to have this house and the money I hoard. And the stock portfolio, I guess. So you’ll be fine either way.”
If I had thought before the words already left my mouth about what reaction Alazne would have, I suppose I would have expected her to chuckle, and maybe hit my arm playfully, but she snaps her head back and her eyes get teary. She frowns.
“Don’t joke around like that,” she says. “I want you here, present, with me. It’s not about your things.”
I stare open-mouthed, and I can’t help but avert my eyes.
“I know, I was–“
“No, do not finish that sentence,” Alazne interrupts with a sharper tone in her voice. “If you die, everything will be awful, and I don’t want to think about it happening. You are not to die, ever.”
I wrap my arms around her and hold her close. She’s trembling.
“You kind of gave me an impossible task,” I say in a low voice. “I will always try not to die. For you, and for me. Because your happiness is my happiness, and your unhappiness would be unbearable. That’s the whole point of how I ended up being with you.”
When I pull away, she looks down as if embarrassed of herself.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “Besides, I’m your rock, remember? I’m the big, tough guy who can crush people’s heads like balloons. That’s the kind of man you need.”
I give a meek smile, and she looks up at me.
“No, you are not,” Alazne states.
A shiver runs through my spine. I feel a rush of panic. I fucked up, didn’t I? I’m quite sure that as I was preparing myself to admit this supposed memory loss, I had realized that Alazne needed, her tastes in men demanded, an invulnerable ravaging monster who would be able to keep her safe, and save her from having to doubt or make decisions if necessary. That had been the role I had played from the moment I met her. Back when I was a ghost I had the privileged opportunity of learning every little detail of Alazne’s masturbatory fantasies, and they rarely diverged from a tall, strong father figure who would treat the female actress like his little princess. A princess who needed to be held down and spanked from time to time. Even if she would deny those urges to her dying day, there’s no doubt that’s what she yearns for.
“You are not my rock,” she says. “Rock is a silly, weak thing to be. The world is made of rocks, but you are a mountain. Mountains do not move. Mountains last forever. You are my mountain, and I love you.”
This time I’m the one who blushes. I’d say that the world is also made of mountains, but I don’t intend to contradict my beloved.
“That’s… Thank you,” I say with a thin voice.
Alazne keeps staring at me while smiling. I wish I knew what she’s thinking. I had a closer relationship with her back when she couldn’t see me nor feel my presence, because I didn’t need to deal with the layer of acting, inevitable when you are interacting with another human being, even the person one loves the most. I fell in love with her when she believed nobody would care if she died.
Alazne lowers her head for a moment, and her smile falters.
“I’m not… sure if I acknowledged you as a human being to the extent that I know myself to be.”
“W-what do you mean?” I ask, taken aback.
Alazne sighs. She forces herself to hold my gaze.
“I needed someone to drag me out of my hole. I think I told you that. I dreamt of someone doing so, a man strong enough that he could handle how much of a disaster I am. You were that person, straight out of my daydreams. I suppose that I let myself go along with a delusion.”
“I will be that man for you anytime, sweetie.”
“No, you are not a figment of my imagination. You are a flesh-and-blood man who can get hurt and who has his own emotions which might not align with what would be convenient for that delusion. Do you get what I mean?”
I nod slowly.
“I understand. You are saying that now that you have found out a significant weakness of mine, that of having lost almost all of my life previous to my car accident, I’m not the strong man you needed.”
I sounded more bitter than I intended. I can’t blame Alazne for feeling that way. I suppose I’ll have to deal with her being less attracted to this body sexually because I’m partially broken, and Alazne may believe that I need to be taken care of. I suddenly feel miserable.
Alazne realizes that I’m hurt, and she scoots her chair closer to me so she can put her hand on my cheek.
“I know that as a man you need to feel strong to protect me. And you are, that’s not what I meant.”
I give her a knowing look.
“But that’s what you need. And I mean really need. Someone so strong and invulnerable that would make all the troubles in your life seem insignificant. Is that not the case?”
“Well… Fantasies are one thing, Asier.”
I’m getting annoyed. Maybe I’m learning a thing or two about masculine pride.
“I’m going to be real with you, Alazne, because I don’t believe we should talk around the issue. It’s just you and I, after all. Well… And Kateryna, of course, if she’s listening. My point is that I have been inside you. Any time I close my eyes I can recreate that moment in your previous home when you were kneeling on the mattress and sucking my cock, which you are amazing at, by the way, and when I called you a good girl you almost came.”
Alazne takes her hand away from my cheek. She rests both hands on her knees while her eyes dart around as if thinking about my words. I wouldn’t know how to answer to what I said, to be fair.
“You want a man who would be strict with you, take you over his knee when you act out,” I say. “Your insides have never squeezed me as tight as when I was overpowering you and pretending to be your daddy.”
She remains quiet for a while, as if deep in thought. I take a sip of my coffee. Alazne glances over at me, her eyes narrow and her cheeks red.
“Do you find me disgusting, then?” she asks with a vulnerable voice, as if fearing I would reject her.
“Not at all, Alazne. It makes me horny as hell.”
She sighs, then fidgets with the hem of her shirt.
“A-at the moment I was so… turned on that I didn’t think about what I was saying. If I had, I would have been terrified of you leaving me immediately. I have felt bad about having these needs, you know…”
I take her hand into mine, then lean in to press my lips against hers.
“Alazne, you’re perfect to me. And every fetish, even far more deranged than any of yours, is fine between two consenting adults, as far as I’m concerned. Last night I was more than ready to provide for my precious girl what she needs, but she didn’t want to. It’s fine not to want it, of course, but you have to understand: that very same afternoon I opened up about a big weakness of mine, and a few hours later you didn’t want to have sex with me. That made me seriously worried about how our relationship had changed.”
She moves her lips down to my palm, and gently puts a kiss on it.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think of it that way. It’s just that… It’s really hard for me to put in words. But last night was a lot for me.”
“What do you mean?”
She takes a deep breath, then gets closer to me.
“I thought I was already as close as I could be with you, but after we watched the movie and we made out, I just needed you to hold me in your arms so I could fall asleep. I had never felt as connected with another human being. And I have slept without a worry in the world.”
“That’s… really sweet of you to say. I feel like a bastard now for complaining that I wanted to have sex and you didn’t.”
She chuckles, then brings her lips to my ear.
“If you thought that our sex life would end, you were mistaken,” Alazne whispers. “Now that we can talk openly about all the dirty stuff we yearn for… We will take good care of each other.”
She breaks off the whisper and brings her lips to mine, kissing me sweetly.
I can’t tell how much time we spend kissing as the breeze brushes our hair and chills our skin. The sound of an engine turning on distracts me from Alazne’s tongue. We both look towards the asphalt below and get to see veiled human faces behind the windows of a minivan as it drives out of the gated community. Once it leaves, it turns in the direction of the city center, and eventually the unpleasant sound of the engine disappears under the singing of birds and the rustling of leaves.
“So we do have neighbors after all,” Alazne says, then takes a drink of her coffee. “Oops, it’s gone cold.”
“Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on with this community of ours… But I’m glad you’re here with me.”
Alazne grins.
“Me too. It’s nice to share a quiet morning with someone after our previous long, exhausting day of labor.”
We both laugh. When we stop, Alazne stares at me fondly, as if she figures she can say something important to me.
“Listen, I want to do something out there, like with a group.”
“Oh? Like what? You mean like a part-time job?”
Alazne shivers.
“Goodness, no… Unless you ask me to contribute in that way, I don’t want to, to be honest. I meant like a course. Engaging with a group for a communal objective, you know? Learning new stuff, maybe…”
“What kind of group? What are you interested in learning?”
“I don’t know. Maybe something to do with… with…”
She struggles to come up with a suggestion.
“Guitar classes, for example?” I offer. “That would help you improve for sure. Not that you need them, mind you.” I stroke my chin as I look at the sky. “But that’s not exactly communal…”
“No, I was thinking something like… You know, I told you to write your experiences. Something along those lines. A writing course in the city.”
Alazne, someone who when I met her could barely leave the house because her abysmal self-esteem and her anxiety threatened to suffocate her, now wants to meet new people and do activities with them. I feel proud. I want to squeeze her tight and let out embarrassing noises.
“That sounds wonderful,” I say while grinning. “What prompted this need, though?”
“Back when I was holed up at my depressing apartment, I couldn’t afford to turn my attention away from how I would earn enough money to pay my rent and utilities. Well, at the most I would lose myself in shows and manga so I could tolerate the overwhelming misery. I couldn’t justify to myself spending my energy and resources in other… frivolous pursuits.” She perks up. “But now I’m standing on such solid ground that I feel like I could do anything! Except that… there’s the issue of how to pay for it.”
I raise an eyebrow at her.
“Are you seriously going to pretend that money is an issue? Look around. We are the one percent.”
“Unless you have several millions, or dozens or hundreds of millions in the bank, I wouldn’t go that far… Hey, if you want me to do something for the money, that’s alright with me.”
I narrow my eyes at her and lower my head slightly.
“Then later I’ll have you naked and kneeling on the mattress. You’ll look up at me and plead. Then maybe I may give you some money, if you have earned it.”
Alazne turns red and starts laughing. Her laugh is so delicate.
“Alright, I won’t tease you anymore.”
“Good,” I say while smiling. “I’ll give you the money because you are my girl and I love you, of course. But it’s not good for your dignity to keep asking me for money whenever you want to do something by yourself. Give me your account details when you want, and I’ll put an automatic monthly transfer. A few hundreds is probably enough.”
Alazne turns her head away from me instinctively, as if embarrassed, and wrings her hands over her lap. I wouldn’t be comfortable if I had to ask for money, even to the love of my life, so I avert my eyes to give her space. As I take the last gulp of my cold coffee, I realize that a group of bronze-colored cows is grazing in a nearby field. A calf is lolling on the grass while a nearby adult cow gazes up at us as if looking out for danger. The poor cow doesn’t know who she should fear.
Alazne sniffles, which startles me. Her parted lips are quivering, and tears keep streaming down her cheeks. She’s silent otherwise. I pull her into me so she can bury her face in my neck, and I caress the back of her hair.
“Is… this a good cry or a bad one?” I ask cautiously.
Alazne doesn’t say anything. Seconds later she pulls away, then she straightens her back and smiles softly. The morning sun makes her irises look as if they float right under the surface of a glass ball.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 20 (GPT-3 fueled short)

My girlfriend Alazne, gifted with an obsessive personality, is enraptured by us having a ghost roommate. She keeps talking to Kateryna, describing her own activities and intentions in case the ghost feels lonely. I tended to do that as well in the beginning, but I think Kateryna and I, as we grew to know each other better, came to an understanding that most of the actions around the house were so mundane an uninteresting that describing them would annoy anyone, even a ghost sick of being trapped in the afterlife. Also, the more time I spend inhabiting this stolen body, the less interested I become in talking to ghosts. I see Kateryna as a friend and I treat her as if she just happened to be invisible, but I avoid addressing her current predicament, because her being a ghost reminds me that I will inevitably die some day. I didn’t appreciate enough being alive during my first time through.
Alazne also insists on testing Kateryna’s powers. A few times I witnessed my girlfriend arranging different kinds of objects, for example cutlery, her phone, random mangas she brought over, a lamp, an empty cardboard box, the stuffed seal she won at Monte Igueldo, etc. so Kateryna could lift them, hold them in the air, pivot them, or even throw them around. Alazne was mainly curious, I think, but Kateryna hadn’t exercised her poltergeist powers as much as now that my girlfriend lives here. It’s as if Alazne wants to train our ghost into becoming a more proficient poltergeister. Because Kateryna remains silent when she isn’t using the board, and even when she communicates with us through the planchette she can’t transmit her emotions properly, I couldn’t tell if Kateryna appreciated all this attention or not. It could be that she considered Alazne’s insistence as pestering.
When Alazne wasn’t talking to Kateryna, browsing the internet, watching anime, reading manga or playing the guitar in a bare room of the second floor, she had begun to enjoy cooking. We always prepared our meals together, given that neither of us had to work and we rarely left the house alone. Today we prepared a fairly decent meal of pesto tortellini with chicken, and as we are eating it at the living room dining table, Alazne, seated right next to the ouija board, keeps talking to Kateryna, who may feel that us eating in front of her is just a reminder that she will never get to eat anything ever again.
“How old are you, Kateryna, by the way? I can’t believe I hadn’t brought it up!” Alazne says as she chews.
The planchette moves as swiftly as usual, but from where I’m sitting I can only see the board sideways, so I don’t catch the answer.
“What did she say?” I ask.
“Forever twenty five,” Alazne says, then turns her head to the empty space next to her, intending to look at our ghost pal in the eyes. “For some reason I pictured you as an older, courtly lady from like the Russian aristocracy.”
The planchette moves around, and Alazne chuckles.
“Kat said that I should feel honored. Yeah, I do. It’s great being able to talk to a ghost and know that there’s something waiting for us after we die, even if it is colorless and dreary. So you aren’t from the Russian nobility, huh?”
The planchette slides around almost angrily.
“… Kat said ‘all massacred by communist weasels’.”
I shake my head, then pick up more tortellini with my fork.
“Yeah, I think they were governed by communists for a long time. And then they had the whole Chernobyl thing. Quite a few refugees came here.”
Alazne nods, and eats another forkful of pasta.
“I must have pictured you all wrong, Kateryna. How did you look back when you were alive?”
The planchette sputters across the board, spelling out words.
“… Yeah, I’m sorry, Kat,” Alazne says in a low voice.
“What did she say?” I ask.
“That her body is now a skeleton in a dress.”
“To be fair, I doubt the decomposition has advanced that much since you died. If I were to dig up your casket, Kat, you would probably still be recognizable.”
Alazne winces as she chews and turns her head to stare at the board, because Kateryna hasn’t wasted time to reply.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“Kat said ‘when I was alive I was hottest in the world Asier said so’.”
I gag on the bolus of tortellini, and I have to cough a few times as well as drink from my glass of water. I blink a couple of tears away.
“Yeah, I’m sure she was a real beauty,” I say with a grating voice, “being Ukrainian and all. But I wouldn’t know for sure, because nobody can see her. Isn’t that the case, Kateryna?”
“Are you okay, my love?” Alazne asks me with worry. “Do you need me to hit you on the back?”
I feel a twinge of pain in my chest.
“I need you to hit me all over, sweetie. Just punish me and make a real mess of this body.”
Alazne gets up, walks up to me and hugs me tightly while I rest my chin on her shoulder. She turns her head and kisses my cheek.
“We can always go into the bedroom and try new stuff like that. Not before we finish eating and digest the food enough, though.”

I wanted Alazne to become acquainted with Hondarribia, even though I wasn’t from here nor did I choose to settle in this city: it just happened that the man whose body I stole lived in its outskirts. Also, I loved taking walks with Alazne as she held on to my hand or to my arm and she kept talking without a care in the world. Leaving our home meant distancing ourselves temporarily from the only other person in this world who knows I’m actually a woman ghost wearing a very elaborate disguise. I feel that for Kateryna, isolated in the afterline and unwilling to seek out other ghosts because she’s afraid of them, my horrifying secrets have become an inside joke, instead of damning information that would destroy my relationship with Alazne.
As my girlfriend and I walked through the residential neighborhoods and approached the center of the city, I kept feeling like I needed to look over my shoulder. Why, though? That blond, Eastern European dude’s angry face flashed in my mind, and for the next couple of minutes I pretended that I wasn’t annoyed. Alazne and I could enjoy such a relaxed time in this city, but now I have to wonder where that crazy bastard might be. He promised that he was going to harass me again, too. Quite a few times as I was working out and my muscles were burning up, I imagined myself grabbing that Oleksiy’s head with my hands and bursting it like a balloon.
My girl and I sat on the dwarf wall of the Butrón promenade so we could eat lemon ice cream cones while looking at the calm waters of the Bidasoa river. A cool breeze blows against us, bringing sea smells. Apart from the few fishing boats that bob in the water, on the opposite bank of the river we can see France, particularly the city of Hendaya, although from here the view only offers a few white houses with orange roofs on the left, and on the right a line of palm trees behind which stands tall a branchless forest of white masts from all the boats that rest on that port. A few seagulls keep squawking like the annoying maniacs that they are, above the background noise from not only the nearby traffic but also the dozens of people, couples of all ages with or without kids, who are also enjoying this promenade.
“I will think of something bigger to do instead of just taking walks, don’t worry,” I say unprompted.
“Well, we’re already eating ice cream,” Alazne says with a smile, then licks some liquified ice cream that had trickled onto her hand. “I’m not worried at all. I’m a very domestic person.”
“Still, I want us to do something fun and meaningful. There are plenty of organized activities out there that require money and that people wouldn’t do alone. I’d say we are overdue for a visit to the zoo, for example.”
“Are there even zoos in this province?”
“There might not be. A serious oversight on the part of whoever is responsible. There’s the natural park at Cabárceno, though. It’s not that far.”
“That’s true, but it’s not a zoo, is it? The animals won’t be as close as you would want them to.”
“Well, the point is to be in nature and do stuff outdoors. That’s still an option.”
Alazne strokes the back of my neck with her free hand, then leans towards me so she can touch my cheek with hers. I turn my head and kiss her lemon-flavored, cold lips.
“What I meant, my love, is that you don’t need to rack your brain,” Alazne says with a sweet voice. “I told you a few times that just being with you is enough. You must not truly understand how much of a recluse I used to be. I spent years in prison, a sentence for which my broken brain was both judge and jailer.”
“Very poetic…” I say, although my heart hurts when I think of how she had felt like.
“During the periods in which I had a job, I went to work and returned home. I only left it otherwise to buy groceries, and I was a disaster at planning how to fill my fridge properly. When I was unemployed, I… spent weeks without leaving my apartment. I think once I didn’t shower for two weeks or more, let alone change my underwear.”
“I’ve… always loved your smell, though. I’d love it if it were stronger.”
Alazne smiles sadly.
“No… You wouldn’t.” She sighs. “This is how I’ve lived for a decade or so. It’s only since you met me that I’ve felt… well-adjusted.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re feeling well.”
“I feel great. But that’s the point. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have come out of my hole. So, whatever you want to do is fine by me. If you come up with a fancy plan, then I’d love to experience it with you, but don’t get stressed as if you had to impress me constantly.”
I’m touched, and I have trouble holding my girlfriend’s gaze for a moment. There’s also guilt mixed in.
“You sure are a romantic today.”
Alazne smirks.
“I don’t know of what you speak. Now, was there anything else?”
“Not really. We can go back to doing what we have been doing.”
“Which was?”
We kiss until we both feel cold, sticky ice cream trickling onto our fingers.

A bit later we walk deeper into the city, and take a leisure stroll along the popular San Pedro street. Most of the outside tables of the restaurants are occupied by chatty families. Groups of all kinds of people are hanging out around the benches. Instead of walking in the shade of the lines of old trees, we take advantage of the sunlight remaining in this increasingly cloudy afternoon. I keep glancing at the small houses facing this pedestrian street, which look as if they were built a hundred years ago and only painted over every couple of decades, and I wonder what kind of people live there.
As we pass by the outside tables of some bars, the tumult from all the talking drowns out Alazne as she went on about an episode we had watched last night. She shuts up. After we leave behind the throng of people, however, she changes the topic.
“Asier, has Kateryna spoken to you about this Irene person?”
The warmth leaves my body as if a breach had opened in a spaceship, and Alazne had spoken to me while looking at my face, so she already knows I’m unsettled. I mumble something before my conscious mind can formulate a proper lie.
Alazne is frowning slightly, worried.
“She seems like an important person to Kat, but she’s frustratingly tight-lipped about this Irene. I can’t get Kat to say whether Irene is alive or not. It seems to me that she hadn’t intended to mention her at all.”
I can’t hold my girlfriend’s gaze any longer. If only I had witnessed every interaction that Alazne had with our ghost, I would have been able, maybe, to weave a lie around the facts my girlfriend learned, likely because Kateryna fucked up and said something she shouldn’t. But it could be the case that Alazne knows some detail I haven’t predicted, or maybe Kat made something up that I would end up contradicting. I’m paralyzed.
“You… know this Irene as well, Asier,” Alazne says with a disheartened tone. “And yet you clearly don’t want to tell me about her, or other stuff you have withheld. I don’t understand why.”
I simply can’t tell her the truth, and I’m coming up blank on a good lie. I feel like a simple animal caught in the headlights of the truck that’s about to wipe it out.
“I… Alazne, there are some things I can’t…” I say with a thin voice.
Alazne squeezes my hand. She tries to get me to look at her, but I don’t.
“You can’t say? Ever since I moved into your beautiful house you have been high-strung, particularly when I’m interacting with Kateryna. You are a very honest person, Asier, so I do believe that there is some information, maybe a memory of yours, or a bunch of them, that you truly believe you can’t share with me. I have no idea why.”
She stops talking as if she intended for me to confirm her conclusion. She’s right about how on edge I’ve been recently. Back when I visited Alazne’s apartment, I felt in control. Now I keep running around plugging holes. The lies I’ve created are endless, and I’m sure some contradict each other, but I still can’t see any way out of this. Not when I want to keep Alazne in my life.
We remain silent as we distance ourselves from the overlapped conversations, and the clatter of forks and spoons and knives, from the dozens occupying the restaurants of this street. Whatever relief I would have felt from heading towards calmer areas of the city gets suffocated by this panic that’s gripping my heart.
I swallow and try to come up with something.
“I… love you, Alazne. This might feel like a barrier in our relationship, but–“
She doesn’t let me finish.
“I love you too, Asier,” she says with a teary voice. I don’t want to check if her eyes are welling up with tears. “But I fear that there’s some hole in this new life we are living that I will end up falling into, and that will be that. You will leave me, and I will have to return to a hopeless existence I already wanted nothing to do with.”
My throat closes. I stop, I put my arm around Alazne’s waist and I guide her to a nearby small plaza lodged between two three-story buildings. We end up standing next to a series of parked bycicles, in the shade of a large treetop. When I look at my girlfriend’s face, I regret it, because her eyes are already red and she’s wiping a tear.
I cup the back of her head and kiss her light brown hair, then I speak with a voice as calming as I can.
“I admit it, Alazne, I’m hiding things about my past that Kateryna is aware of, and because she likes me, she simply doesn’t want to reveal them. But I’m not… ready to tell those things to someone who is alive, even to the love of my life.”
“I feel such dread when I can tell you are hiding something…” she mutters pitifully.
“No! I don’t want to break your heart. I just… I’m scared, and there’s so much at stake here.”
“I don’t understand. Truly, I don’t. What could possibly be so bad that I wouldn’t accept it?” She holds my gaze with her watery eyes, as if to glean the truth from my expression. “Have you murdered someone?”
“What? No! That’s the first thing that comes to mind? Nothing like that.”
“Are you a… terrorist?”
“Jesus Christ, Alazne.”
“Are you actually a cactus? An older woman? A goat? Tell me, please.”
She was so close with one of those wild possibilities she was throwing, which she had intended to be so ridiculous that they would be inconceivable, that I want to sit on the floor and hug my knees.
“I’m… probably none of those things.”
“Then, what could it possibly be? Asier, even if you were cheating on me with this Irene, or any other woman, I would still want to be with you,” she says as if she considers it a weakness, but also undeniably true. “Do you understand that? Even if you betrayed me to my face, and you brought home another girlfriend and had her living there, my life with you would still be miles ahead of the nightmare out of which you dragged me.”
My nostrils get dilated, and I find myself clenching my teeth. I take Alazne’s hand and move her to a nearby bench. After I sit, I gesture for her to sit on top of me. She climbs onto my lap and wraps her arms around my shoulders. As she presses her head against mine, moistening my skin with her teary eyes, I can feel her relaxing a bit. She’s so warm, and I need this contact right now.
“Alazne…” I say in a low voice, but sternly. “You need to respect yourself more. Don’t ever accept being cheated on, even if you believe that the alternative is preferable. You can’t get by in this world when you have sacrificed your dignity.”
“Please,” she begs. “Just tell me it isn’t what I think it is.”
“Were you thinking that I was cheating on you and hiding it, then?”
I hold her head gently between my palms, so I can stare straight into her glossy eyes. If she tries to find any trace of dishonesty there, there won’t be.
“I am not, in any way or form, cheating on you.”
I stop for a moment, and I imagine the previous, and original, owner of my current body saying those words to Ainhoa and Kateryna, and sounding exactly as I have. But I continue.
“I want to be with you forever. That’s the whole truth as far as this particular issue is concerned.”
“… I’m sorry for getting angry and accusing you of something so horrible,” she says softly.
“You have a right to be upset. This whole situation is pretty fucked up, and it’s okay to react to it emotionally sometimes. Also, being accused of cheating is horrible, because cheaters are the worst scum of this planet. To go behind the back of the person who loves you so you can fuck someone else, only to return to your partner and kiss her and tell her you love her as if you weren’t plunging a knife into their heart every single day of your life… Those people need to be lined up and shot. They don’t need to exist.”
I see red. My heart is pounding on my chest. I feel Alazne’s loving touch as she puts her hand on my cheek, and it’s as if I had forgotten she was sitting on top of me. My breath begins to slow down.
“I’m sorry,” I say, embarrassed. “It seems I hold very strong feelings on the subject.”
“It’s okay. But I’m glad to know that you would never do such a thing.”
Alazne hugs me tightly. By how she’s letting her body rest against mine, she likely wishes we could remain like that for a long time, but we’ll have to walk all the way back home. Maybe I’ll call a taxi. I’m not in the mood for a stroll anymore.
My brain keeps replaying that moment when I got off that bus to Donostia and walked up to the totalled Škoda that the original owner of my current body had used to kill himself, inconveniencing random people in the process. Couldn’t he have jumped off a bridge, or gotten ahold of a gun and shot himself or something? I should have known that this Asier bastard wasn’t any good. Maybe I should have haunted some hospital until I found my chance to possess any other body.
I get a clear image of an unclear subject: the blurry shadow of Asier’s ghost, back when he stood next to me and asked whether I was an angel. His own guardian angel, he might have asked, but I have forgotten. I pretty much am, aren’t I? I have been in charge of putting your life together after you fucked everything up.
I can’t take hurting Alazne with my lies. I need to move forward towards being as clear with my beloved as any other person can be. Maybe she will never get to learn that I’m actually a woman, but surely I can push her closer to that secret.
I pull away from our warm embrace. After I kiss Alazne on the lips, which she welcomes, I take out my wallet from my shirt pocket and I open it. When I find myself holding the note that doctor wrote about the aftermath of Asier’s accident on my body, I hesitate. I suspect that revealing the true fact that I don’t hold memories Asier had prior to the accident is going to contradict other stuff I’ve said, but it needs to be done anyway. I pull out the printout.
“Please, sweetie, read this,” I say with the thinnest voice. “Maybe you will understand part of why I kept quiet.”
She reads it twice, and then looks at me with puppy dog eyes as she parts her lips.
“M-memory loss caused either by head trauma or not enough oxygen getting to the brain when your heart stopped for too long?”
I take a deep breath. I can tell myself whatever I want, but this is just pasting a lie on top of worse lies. I have always been honest with myself, even in those times I wish I wouldn’t.
“I’m not the Asier that existed before that car accident. That’s the… most succinct way of putting it, I guess.”
Alazne takes a while to mull over this information, looking at me intently as she does so. The longer she stares at me like that, the more I wonder what’s going on in her head. Is she disappointed? Terrified? After she shakes her head slowly, she puts the paper with the doctor’s note back into my hands and cups my face.
“Asier, I love you for whom I know you to be.”
Wait, it doesn’t make sense, does it? I told Alazne that I had been travelling throughout Europe for years. Those are my own memories as a ghost. If we ever find out more about this body’s past, it might be that there is proof that I didn’t live abroad for years. Thankfully the doctor’s note isn’t that clear, and only uses the term ‘memory loss’ in a general way, maybe hoping that I would eventually regain many memories. But this sudden worry is just another reminder that I have a bomb attached to my body that might go off at any time, and I fear it will get so bad that every time Alazne opens her mouth I will feel an upsurge of anxiety.
“I retain… some memories. Images, a few sequences. I’m not entirely sure for how long I was travelling abroad, even though I did tell you exact years. I couldn’t speak at length about my experiences in other countries because I simply remember very little of them.”
Alazne nods in a way that reassures me she understands.
“I’m sure you lived a good life. You’re a kind person, and you make me happy.”
“T-that’s… part of why I kept quiet. I don’t think I was a very good person at all, Alazne.”
“How would you be sure?” she asks me with curiosity, her face mere centimeters away from mine. With a trembling finger, I wipe an errant strand of hair to behind her ear.
“Get this, I had no idea who Ainhoa, this body’s… ex-fiancée was. She appeared in the hospital because apparently I had her as my emergency contact, and she was pissed because of that. As far as I knew, I hadn’t seen that woman in my life.”
Alazne has one of those light bulb moments, because her face brightens and she raises her eyebrows.
“That’s right. I was so puzzled about your ex-fiancée’s words back at the aquarium. They hadn’t made any sense!”
“W-what words?”
“She said that she knew you weren’t yourself. That you weren’t Asier. That what happened to you was a miracle, proof that people can start over. So she wasn’t mad at you, because it would be like hating you for what someone else did.”
“… Are you sure she said that?”
“I must have blacked out back then or something…”
Damn it, Alazne retains far too many details. I barely recall anything of the conversation we had with Ainhoa in the aquarium. In my memory I only see her elegant, self-assured self standing there and looking into my eyes with a conflicted intimacy that shouldn’t have been aimed at me.
Alazne shakes her head and gives me a look of pity. That feels wrong. I don’t want my girlfriend, who likely needs to see me as an immovable rock, to consider me broken and weak. Not to mention that her fetishes demand me to be unrelenting and dominant.
I clear my throat.
“So in general I feel that this isn’t my body, that I’m not Asier Izcoa. You know what I mean…?”
It isn’t a lie, I tell myself, if she lacks the full context of a truth I tell.
“Of course I do,” Alazne says, and after a final look of relief, she throws her arms around me.
I want it to hurt, to punish myself. Maybe she shouldn’t know what’s coming out of my mouth.
“Alazne, Ainhoa told me that her relationship with me ended because I cheated on her,” I say gravely.
I feel how Alazne holds her breath, then slightly turns her face towards mine, even though our cheeks were already touching.
“… That’s right,” I say. “I have no memory of that happening, and just her word to go by, but… Ainhoa likely told the truth. So that’s the situation I find myself since the accident. I’m a new person inhabiting a body that I’m not familiar with, and I’m bogged down by a past, including the actions of the previous owner of this body, that feels disconnected with who I know myself to be now. Do… you understand?”
I learn an important lesson: the best lies are mostly made out of truths.
The next time I open my eyes, Alazne is staring at me from up close. Her eyes are glistening with emotion, but it seems that she won’t cry again. She nods at me.
“Kiss me,” she whispers. “Prove to me that it’s you in there.”
I don’t need many excuses to taste that tongue of hers. She shuts her eyes. She caresses my greying hair with one hand while her other hand rests on my chest.
“I love you. You’ll always be you no matter what form you have,” she says.
I don’t know how to respond back to her, and I know that her own resolve would crumble away if she knew she just made out with a woman who wears a man’s corpse to date her, so I just hold my girlfriend close and feel sad in the knowledge that I can’t hold on to this bliss forever.

As soon as we got up from that bench, both of us wanted to head home. I call a taxi, and it barely takes a couple of minutes to reach us in this popular area. The whole ride through, as Alazne and I sat next to each other on the back, we held each other’s hand and stroke it lovingly, as if we were playing a private game that the rest of the world failed to notice. When we return to the safety of our gated community, Alazne hurries to the front door of our house. Once inside she crosses her arms behind my neck and won’t pull away from my tongue. I fondle the length of her naked back under her berry blue chiffon blouse. Although I need to pee, I am tempted to unfasten her bra and power through it, but Alazne ends up breaking the kiss. She stands there looking up at me with glistening eyes and a warm smile.
“I’m going to grab the guitar, head to that room on the second floor and play until we need to prepare dinner,” she says. “Thank you for everything today, Asier, and for admitting something so difficult.”
“You are an angel. Don’t worry about stopping to prepare dinner with me. Play as much as you want, then come down to eat.”
Alazne grins, then turns around and skips to the hallway. She disappears out of sight. I lower my head and sigh. When I walk into the hallway, I catch my girlfriend leaving our bedroom while holding her guitar bag. She rushes up the stairs.
I get into the kitchen and pour myself a full glass of grape juice, which I then down in one gulp. I want someone to punch me hard. I sit on a stool at the free-standing counter, close to a ouija board and another call bell. I stare into the void while something foul churns in my guts.
As if I had forgotten about Alazne wanting to play the guitar, I’m startled by how a string rings out throughout the otherwise silent house as she starts tuning, and after she tries that note a few times, it’s followed by others.
I find myself leaning on the counter with my forearms crossed, and hiding my face.
“I hate myself,” I grumble. “I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself.”
I’m getting dizzier. As I lean back, I slip off the stool. My butt lands on the cold tile floor with a thud. I want to groan.
“No, I deserve this. I deserve this pain in my ass. I’m nothing but garbage who lies to the sweetest woman in the world.”
I rub the bridge of my nose while I close my eyes tight. I consider taking a nap right here. Suddenly, the call bell sounds as softly as possible, as if Kat attempted to gain only my attention, even though I doubt that Alazne would have noticed a truck crashing into our house given how passionately she’s playing her personal version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’. She sings as if we were the only inhabitants of this gated community, although to be fair I have only gotten glimpses of the living ghosts who own the other houses.
Kat insists on ringing the bell. I had already forgotten she had. Is something wrong with my brain today? I drag myself to my feet, then approach the ouija board.
The planchette spells out WHATS WRONG IRENE.
My left eye twitches.
“No ‘Irene’, my dear Kateryna. There are no Irenes in this house. Only Asier and Alazne and Kateryna. No other names matter, nor exist, as far as anyone in this household is concerned.”
My ears are ringing. Hating myself can easily translate into hating everyone around me.
“Yes, I know that the name Irene is out there. We can’t take that back. It’s firmly lodged in my beloved’s brain, which led to her interrogating you about who that person was, as she explained to me this afternoon. Do you understand my predicament?”
I’m raising my voice at an inanimate object. This is my life now.
The planchette glides to spell out SICK OF LYING.
I rub my hands over my face.
“You think I’m not? I feel like I’m rotting. Back when I was alive for the first time I hated people like me, building their lives on lies, faking all the way! I’m nothing but a phony wearing a disgusting man-body!”
I slam my palms against the ouija board, making the planchette jump. My heart is beating quickly.
“No! This can’t be good for my fucking soul, because I won’t have one if I keep this up! I wanna… I wanna tell her, but that’s not an option!” I point towards the ceiling in the direction of the room where Alazne is playing. “For a long time I just wished for Alazne to realize that I exist, and now she lives with me. I managed to get her a bare room in which she can sit on a stool in front of a wide window, so she can play the guitar as freely as she wants. That’s the love of my life right there. I should be melting of joy, and yet I feel as I’m sitting on a plastic chair and some bastard is going to run at me from behind and shatter the two back legs with a mighty kick!”
The planchette jumps in an arc back to the center of the board, and then it spells out SHES IN LOVE WITH A GHOST.
“Yes, yes, yes!” My voice is becoming hoarse. “Of course she is! I know that, and that’s the whole problem!”
I grab the edge of the counter and I bend over as I try to calm myself. It’s not working. Hearing Alazne playing joyfully only makes it worse.
“Maybe I’m a horrible person,” I mutter with a hollow voice. “I guess I always was. Back when I was alive, I didn’t care much about people nor about their well-being. After twenty years as a ghost I have little reason to lie to myself: I want what I want, and I’ll do what I can to get it. That’s just how it is.”
I feel my lips quivering.
“Alazne couldn’t see me. Of all the people I care about anymore, only you would have been able to both hear me and see me. I wanted to be seen. It’s not wrong to take other people’s bodies if they aren’t using them any longer. That’s why I have these powers to possess people, right? They must exist for a reason. In Asier’s body, I can touch Alazne as much as I want.”
The bell rings three times in a row. I know Kat will insist if I ignore her, so I raise my head towards the ouija board.
YOU ARE LOSING IT, the planchette spells out.
“Maybe I am!” I start yelling. “This isn’t easy for me! You can’t possibly understand my feelings! This is the only body Alazne can have sex with! I’m not going to abandon this life plan!”
“I don’t need to be happy! I just need to be near Alazne!”
The planchette remains still. I breathe hard through my mouth as I glare at the stupid board. Seconds later I wipe the spit from my mouth.
“Are you going to rat me out, Kateryna?” I say, fear peeking through my voice.
The planchette moves swiftly to the word NO.
“Then I guess we’re done here. You keep this between us. I don’t want my plans ruined.”
I only took a step towards the door when the bell rings again. I take a deep breath.
I hang my head low. I close my eyes, and I get to listen closely to Alazne’s guitar playing as she stretches out the last part of Joanna Newsom’s ‘Kingfisher’. Her voice is mournful.
“Is it not better that we can be together, even if I have to lie about who I am?” I say as if tearing out a piece of my chest. “Is it better for her to know the truth, when otherwise I can give her what she needs? I will love her, you know, to the end. If I hadn’t stalked her and intruded upon her life, she would be rotting alone, and one day she would have found the strength to hang herself.”
I open my eyes, although I don’t want to. I feel a tear rolling down my cheek.
“I will save her,” I say. “And if I have to lie to do so, then that’s what I’ll do.”
“I am what I need to be. It doesn’t matter to me.”
I clench my teeth and turn to the board, ready to tear it to pieces.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I growl.
“I know what’s best for her.”
I stare without blinking at the quivering planchette. Talking my problems out with Kateryna always makes the world much clearer.
“Then she would be disgusted by me and hate me like I deserve. So she can never know.”

Roleplaying through “Re:Zero” with the GPT-3 story generator (Part 65)

This entry covers part of the eleventh volume of the original “Re:Zero” novels.

In the previous entry, the Witch of Pride wanted in on the tea party, and we got further proof that the protagonist focuses on trying to fuck almost everything that moves whenever he needs to escape from how much of a nightmare his life has become.

An obsidian black, closed iron maiden has appeared out of nowhere a bit further on the hillock. The mere sight of it conjures images of torture in dungeons, and dungeons are no longer an abstract concept for you. You have been through hell and came out alive. You repeat that to yourself as you stand up from the chair and approach the iron maiden cautiously. Even though you don’t dare touch it, it feels heavy and cold.
As you get so close that it would take lunging twice to touch the dark metal, the iron maiden’s doors open. A cold shiver makes you tremble before you register how the girl inside looks. It’s a teenager, or at least her emaciated, small body suggests it. She has raven-black, frizzy hair that comes down in two ponytails. She’s wearing a white straightjacket that reminds you of black and white photos of sanatoriums, and her body is held in place by chains attached to the back and sides of the iron maiden. More importantly, though, the girl’s lips are bitten off. They are a bloody, glistening mess of raw flesh, as if this girl had chewed on them. No, had eaten them, her own lips. The impression you get is of an insane girl locked up in a dark room for years, who has no other recourse but to cannibalize herself.
You won’t look at this girl’s eyes. The fear has frozen you in place. You don’t want to remain in this death-dream any longer. Hell, you don’t want to exist in the same universe that contains someone like this.
“Ya wanned ‘o shee me”, the girl mumbles as blood drips out of her mouth. Half of her tongue is gone. “He’e I am.”
You swallow. Your legs are trembling. You want to run away, but that would disappoint Echidna. You have faced far worse than a cursed girl who has experienced nothing but a nightmare for her entire life, you tell yourself.
“I did… I did, Daphne. I wanted to know you personally.”
You are talking to a living, breathing being trapped in a situation that would break most people. Perhaps even yourself.
“You look sho good, Shubawu”, she mumbles with pure hunger in her voice. “I would like ‘o bi’e you sho much.”
Daphne is drooling heavily, and it drips from her chin in a mix of her sticky saliva and blood from her open wounds around her dyed teeth. Your stomach churns. You fear you might vomit at any moment. This is the most twisted, insane thing you have ever seen or heard. You don’t know what to do.
“You want to eat me, I’m guessing… Is that how it feels, Daphne? You even want to eat people?”
“I wanna ea’ evewyone, Shubawu”, she says, her voice the embodiment of a madwoman. “Evewyone. I wanna ea’ evewyone and evewy’hing.”
A surge of warmth reaches your eyes, and a tear runs down your cheek. You don’t know if it’s from pure fear or from the thought that anyone could live like this girl and yet fail to go completely insane. But you can’t help it. You pity her, even if she wants to eat you.
“Why a’e you cwying, Shubawu?” Daphne slurs.
Your throat is closing.
“Because the world is horrible”, you say with a trembling voice.
You expect Daphne to agree with you, but instead she laughs, a horrible mix of a chuckle and a wheeze.
“I’ ish fine ash long ash you go’ enough ‘o ea’, ishn’ i’?” Daphne stops laughing, and you feel her stare burning your face, as if she could see through your skin and bone and into your brain. “Sho you came ‘o me ‘caushe you wanna kill Gwea’ Wabbi’?”
You tighten your lips and swallow something hot that was bubbling up your esophagus.
“… That’s right. Those little guys of yours ate me. Although ‘ate’ doesn’t feel like a strong enough word for what they did…”
“‘hank you sho much for feeding my babiesh. Wash vewy nice of you.”
You want to argue, but it would be pointless. For this creature in front of you, satisfying her hunger means good, remaining hungry means bad. At least you understand both the White Whale and the Great Rabbit now.
“Daphne, could you tell me why you created those monsters of yours, the White Whale, the Great Rabbit…?”
You expect her to laugh again, or say something like ‘who knows?’, but she answers seriously.
“My babiesh we’e my gif’ ‘o da wowld.”
You frown, not understanding. You can’t glean much about her expression: because she ate her own lips, her drooling mouth displays her teeth as if she were grinning or snarling constantly. And just glancing at her features is making you dizzy.
“Was that sarcasm, Witch of Gluttony?”, you ask as firmly as you can when you risk vomiting, “Those babies of yours have done little else, it seems, than cause destruction and erase thousands of people from the world, whether by removing the memories of them or consuming them to the last drop of blood. Are you messing with me?”
She shakes her head.
“Nah ah-ah-ah. I wan’ed people ‘o feed on my babiesh. Whaley ish big and mea’y, and ‘here awe sho many of my bunniesh da’ people could fill ‘hem belliesh foweve’.”
You shiver. You can tell now that this deranged witch isn’t joking. In her twisted mind she had wished to bless the world, but because her all consuming hunger is never fully satisfied, she can’t think in terms of anything else. As a result she let loose two curses on the people of this world that were so unstoppable that the population of different nations had to handle her babies as natural disasters. Maybe you can make Daphne understand, maybe she could stop her monsters even from her spectral imprisonment.
You get closer to the iron maiden, but Daphne flinches. The flow of drool that drips from her chin, washing away the blood from her eaten lips, increases, and her saliva hangs in viscous threads. Suddenly the bottom sides of the iron maiden grows six paired metallic legs, and as soon as the tips touch the ground they lift the iron maiden and crawl away from you. The sight of those impossible legs stops you, and your head hurts for a moment as it struggles to handle its current reality.
“I would s’ay away if I we’e you, Shubawu”, the Witch of Gluttony mumbles, “You look vewy appe’izing.”
You are trembling from head to toe. You want to vomit, you want to lie on the floor and cry. But Echidna is watching, and you don’t want that goddess to take you for a weakling. You force yourself to stare at Daphne’s bloody teeth and the glistening, raw flesh that surrounds them.
“Your monsters haven’t been feeding people, they have been eating them! Do you understand what you have done? Both the White Whale and the Great Rabbit are curses upon this world!”
“Why, would you have my babiesh lie ‘here and le’ ‘hemshelves be ea’en ash if ‘hey we’e a cooked meal? If ‘he people of ‘hish wowld we’e craf’y enough, ‘hey would have been able ‘o hun’ down Whaley and ‘he bunniesh. My babiesh have ‘o fill ‘heir belliesh ‘oo.”
“This is madness! They need to die, and you need to…”
You stop yourself. You are standing so close to the iron maiden that it would take those metallic legs jumping forward for the Witch of Gluttony to reach you, and all you have are words. Are words enough?
“You call madnesh ‘he law of na’ure”, Daphne mumbles, “Evewyone ish in a rush ‘o ea’ shomeone elshe sho ‘hey can live ano’her day. Echidna figured ou’ you a’e fwom ano’her wowld. Ish i’ no’ ea’ o’ be ea’en ‘here ash well?”
You can’t argue with that, and can’t say anything at the moment either, because a sudden wave of dizziness and nausea forces you to hunch over and retch. You vomit what remains of Echidna’s tea, along with a good quantity of bile, splashing the grass. You feel covered in cold sweat. While you support yourself on your knees and wheeze, Daphne continues.
“Even plan’sh have ‘o ge’ ‘heir nu’ien’sh from shomewhewe, you know? And ‘hey feel pain when ‘hey ge’ ea’en, even ‘hough you can’ hear ‘hem shcream. You ei’her ea’ or you ge’ ea’en. I’sh ‘he main law of ‘he wowld. If you don’ ‘hink sho, shomeone elshe ish doing ‘he killing for you.”
You wipe the vomit from your mouth, and you manage to raise your head and look at Daphne with wide, teary eyes. You desperately wish for this witch to go away, but if she vanished now, you wouldn’t have learned anything of value. You straighten your back.
“Daphne, I need to kill the Great Rabbit. Not only I risk getting devoured myself, but everyone in Sanctuary is going to die as well. Your friend Echidna agrees that your monster needs to disappear from this world. If you truly created it for the benefit of mankind, in your twisted way, please give me advice on how to destroy it.”
Daphne laughs.
“I’sh ei’her an imbe’ishiwe lil’ crea’uwe ‘hat killsh wheneve’ it deshiwes and ish neve’ sha’ishfied, or ‘he Gwea’ Wabbi’ ish a friendly beash’ie who jush’ wan’ed a hug.”
You aren’t sure you understood everything she said, but you are getting mad anyway.
“I don’t have time for bullshit, Daphne. Just looking at the lower half of your face is going to give me nightmares for years. Please tell me whether you will give me advice on how to defeat the Great Rabbit. If you won’t, we are done here.”
Daphne grins, or at least the way the raw flesh around her teeth widens suggests it.
“I will ‘ell you, Shubawu! I like you vewy much. And no’ only becaushe I wanna fill my belly wi’ you! My bunniesh prefe’ shourcesh of magic, sho ‘hey will shniff ‘he mo’ powewful magiciansh awound and ‘wy ‘o ea’ ‘hem. Mo’ impor’anly, you need ‘o kill ‘he Gwea’ Wabbi’ a’ once, meaning all of i’sh individual bodiesh, or elshe i’ will quickly pwoduce new bunniesh.”
You wipe the sweat from your forehead. You had expected this witch to laugh at you and mumble for you to fuck off, but she helped you. The rabbits are attracted to the biggest sources of magic, and all of them need to be killed as close to immediately as possible. That’s enough information to send Daphne away, you think.
“Awen’ you gonna ea’ you’ vomi’?”, Daphne asks with an anxious voice. “You a’e wash’ing food!”
Before you even realize you are doing it, you step over the puke and stand closer to the iron maiden. The metallic legs twitch, but they don’t retreat.
“No, I won’t eat my vomit, Daphne”, you say with a hollow voice. “Let me tell you, I pity you. You have been cursed with one of the worst conditions I can imagine, but it’s been a long time since you were a child, and in your brain there must be a commanding center freed from your overwhelming impulses that understands that you have led to the death of countless people. So I can’t forgive you. I will use your advice and erase the Great Rabbit from this world.”
“Hwoe hwoe!”
You look into Daphne’s disgusting open mouth, and stare into the blackness of her throat.
“… Was that an attempt at mocking me?”
“Nobody hash managed ‘o kill my babiesh in hundredsh of yearsh, bu’ you believe you will be able ‘o, Shubawu?”
“Yes, I will kill your baby, Daphne”, you say with more force in your voice that you had managed since you first spoke to this disgusting witch. “None of the others who tried could try over and over, learning from their mistakes along the way. I will win.”
You are too dizzy and angry to realize that your gaze has slipped upwards and has met hers. The Witch of Gluttony’s eyes are a bright yellow that instead of feeling painted on the surface of her eyeballs, it deepens into them. You feel you are staring into a yellow horizon that has trapped your gaze, and you will need to struggle to pull it away.
“Bring i’ on ‘hen, Shubawu”, Daphne says with a menacing voice.
The crab-like legs that hold the iron maiden in the air coordinate themselves to carry the Witch of Gluttony further into the hillock, but you only notice her vanishing out of the corner of your eye. You are shaking. Your mouth is filling with saliva. It feels as if a black hole has opened in your stomach, and it’s sucking the walls in. You need to eat now or you will die. The world becomes a monochrome shadow, and nothing in it matters any longer but what you could shove into your mouth.
Your stomach keeps convulsing and the hole in the middle of your body keeps growing. You lick your lips and are overwhelmed by the need to eat, but there is no food around, only vomit. The smell is overpowering and your vision tunnels and you are shaking all over. Then your eyes flicker to what you threw up. The sight of your puke makes you salivate heavily. As you extend your shaky arms towards the liquid dripping down the grass, you stop and look at your hands. Those fingers, the thick flesh at the base of your thumb… You had never seen something so tasty. You sink your teeth into that succulent meat, chewing on it desperately, feeling the thick blood leaking down your chin. You swallow big pieces, then you move to biting chunks of meat off your fingers. The pain is worth it, the deliciousness…
“Subaru, look at me.”
You recognize Echidna’s voice. She is standing in front of her tea table and looking at you calmly. You swallow the tasty meat you were chewing, then focus on the witch. You had never noticed before, but that beautiful face of hers, those glistening black eyes… You need to fill yourself with her. You must grab the sides of Echidna’s head and bite off her nose, eat her cheeks, tear off her lips, suck on her eyeballs until they pop out of their sockets.
You take a step towards the Witch of Greed, but a thought manages to float over the tide of hunger: you don’t want to hurt Echidna. You are very close to falling in love with her. But you won’t be able to contain yourself for long.
“Stay away from me, Echidna!”, you shout with a trembling, pained voice. “That Daphne has given me her hunger! It’s way too much… I can’t think straight!”
Echidna doesn’t flinch. Instead she smiles, her eyes narrowing.
“And now you want to eat me as well.”
You hear the creaking of your bones, the growling of your stomach, the thundering of your pulse.
“Stay… Stay away from me…”
Echidna steps forward, then turns her palms towards you and moves them further apart as if welcoming you.
“Come closer, Subaru. I want to know what you will choose.”
“I… Echidna…”
You picture yourself ripping Echidna’s shoulder off and biting into the meat of her arm. You imagine chewing through her delicious skin, feeling her sweet blood on your tongue. You squeeze your eyes shut and grab your head.
“No!”, you shout through your clenched teeth. “Please, stay away from me! Most of my brain is demanding me to eat you… The parts of me that decide whether something is good or bad only want me to fill my stomach. I can’t barely keep it together. Please, Echidna, save yourself.”
When you open your eyes again and glance at the Witch of Greed, you see that she’s walking slowly towards you.
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you really do love me”, Echidna says softly.
You turn your face away from her, but she grabs your chin and forces you to look at her.
“If you want to devour me, go ahead.”
You shake your head frantically, trying to avoid her gaze. Your mouth is filled with warm saliva, and you need to keep it open or else you risk choking on the liquid. Your drool is dripping from your chin. Echidna can’t understand how much you wish to eat her alive. You should sate your hunger with something else, but even your own flesh can’t compete with how appetizing the pale witch looks. You want to lunge at her, grab her with as much strength as you can muster, and sink your teeth into her face. You imagine her screaming in agony, but you don’t let go. You bite through the soft, warm meat and crunch through the bone. You imagine yourself chewing and swallowing the delicious morsel. You wouldn’t stop until only her bones remained, stripped of meat.
“Eat me, my love. I’m all yours”, Echidna says while bending forward and offering her long, elegant neck to you. Her lips are pouted and moist, and her eyes are filled with anticipation and longing.
Your teeth tingle, and you can practically feel your mouth bursting with a near-uncontrollable hunger as the muscles in your jaw contract involuntarily. Your stomach rumbles. You feel dizzy and confused.
You turn your head and grit your teeth, then push Echidna away from you.
“I will not! I don’t want to hurt you, no matter how much my brain orders me to!”
Echidna steps closer and embraces you. You go limp in her hands as if the witch had taken over the control of your body. She leans over you while she narrows her glistening eyes, and wields a loving smile on her rosy lips.
“That’s so sweet”, she whispers. “It’s been so long since someone made me feel this way.”
As the Witch of Greed holds the back of your head, she opens her mouth, extends her tongue and lets a phlegm fall into your open mouth.
“Swallow, Subaru. Do it for me”, she says quietly.
You allow her slimy spit to slide down your throat while she smiles lovingly at you. As soon as you gulp her phlegm down, the hunger disappears. You are left with the memory of how it had overwhelmed your brain like a virus, taking over the specialized centers that handled different aspects of how to exist as a human being, only to manipulate them into convincing you of focusing on nothing else but sating your bottomless hunger.
You are still stunned when Echidna steps back while pulling you in so you stand on your own feet. You haven’t broken the embrace. Your hand doesn’t hurt either, so she must have healed it immediately as well. You stare into Echidna’s black eyes and those white, vertical pupils with awe, affection and trust like you don’t believe you have ever felt for another person. She has saved you twice from horrifying destinies. The Witch of Greed is as powerful as a god, and yet she helps you this much.
“Thank you”, you say as you recover your breath.
Echidna closes one eye to look at you coyly with her other. The closeness of your bodies is making her blush, a conspicuous redness on her snow white skin.
“Maybe I should have warned you more strongly about how bad of an idea looking into Daphne’s eyes would be, but we ended up learning something interesting, didn’t we? You have a knack for seducing witches…”
Your heart is beating so loud that you can’t hear yourself breathing heavily. You slide your hand under Echidna’s silky, white hair so you can cup the back of her head, and then you lean forward to kiss her mouth. The taste of her tongue reminds you of honey.
Echidna puts her hands on your shoulders to keep some space between you, but doesn’t push you away. She closes her eyes while you hold her as closely as you can. Your heart is beating out of your chest, and you feel faint. After several seconds, Echidna opens her eyes again, looking at you with a mixture of bashfulness and guilt, and her tongue leaves your mouth.
“I shouldn’t be doing this,” she whispers.
You tilt her head to kiss along her graceful neck. Echidna shivers in your arms.
“Yeah, we should. I don’t care if your witch friends witness it. We should stay here and make love over and over, forever.”
Echidna lets out a mischievous sigh, and she rubs your back with her hands.
“Ah… You will end up making me want to give up everything as well”, she whispers. “But we can’t. The death-dream won’t stay up eternally. In fact, it won’t last for much longer. And you have to make sure you can get past this loop and continue with your life, for both our sakes.”
“None of that matters now.”
You fondle the witch’s ass with one hand, run your fingers through her hair with the other, and lick her small ear with your eager mouth. Echidna moans softly.
“Make sure you… don’t fall in love with me. Make sure you still hold fondness for the people you miss on the outside. You are trying to escape from your troubles.”
“I’ll keep them in mind when I go back, but right now… you’re the only person that matters.”
Echidna slides her hands under your shirt, and her warm hands caress your naked lower back.
“Then let’s do it… one more time.”
Your lips press against hers, and her tongue enters your mouth. Her hands slide up your back as if she were about to take your shirt off, but then she moves them to your front to fondle your chest with her fingers. Both of your hands now rub her supple ass. Echidna releases you from the kiss and lets out a long breath.
“I’m afraid that will have to be all for now, Subaru. Until you come back again”, Echidna says while she breathes heavily and her eyes glow as if drugged.
Even though a pang pierces your heart, you nod, then follow the Witch of Greed as she leads you by the hand back to the tea table. You sit in your chairs, then lift your gazes at each other over the teacups and the teapot as if you had entered her death-dream seeking her wisdom. You can tell that she’s forcing herself to come down from her arousal, but for the moment she’s not a powerful witch, merely a person who wants to love and be loved. These are feelings you understand well, so you help her down from them.
“That Daphne…”, you begin, then swallow. “She lives in hell.”
“Yes, she does.”
“I don’t know if I experienced her curse to the extent she does every waking moment, but… she deserves some credit for remaining lucid enough after hundreds of years of such a nightmare.”
Echidna nods, and drinks from her teacup as if trying to calm herself. Her nostrils are widened.
“Our burdens aren’t equivalent. She is bound by chains stronger than those that bind the rest of us.”
“Well… The little advice she gave me will have to do. I don’t feel capable of facing her again at the moment.”
“Make no mistake: if the White Whale didn’t content herself with hunting in specific areas every couple of weeks, or the Great Rabbit roamed the land instead of sleeping underground and only emerging when it has snowed significantly, only for them to move somewhere else as soon as they’ve had their fill for the day, the world would end.”
“I had understood that much. Everyone of us hanging out in Sanctuary is going to be eaten alive if I don’t stop those rabbits.”
Echidna’s eyes smile at you fondly over the rim of her teacup.
“Which is a significant part of why you can’t give up and spend the rest of eternity tending to this old maiden’s sexual needs, Subaru, as much as I would enjoy it.”
You sigh.
“It’s hard not to accept defeat when it would taste so good. But can I ask you a serious question about Sanctuary?”
“Go ahead, Subaru.”
“It’s your town, isn’t it? You founded it. So why did you, why here, why the whole thing with the barrier, the half-breeds, all that…?”
“It’s a long story, of course. But the short version is that Sanctuary wasn’t my idea. I needed some solitary land to carry out my research in peace. Back in the old world I approached the Mathers household, and they granted me this backwoods barony, which was as perfect for my purposes as they came. The Mathers lineage would benefit from my research, and I would also take a few of their talented younglings as wards, if I had the patience for it. The Mathers also acted as mediators when I needed people to build houses or dig further into the ground. But back then there wasn’t anything resembling a village, just a few houses for me and the few people that hung around, as well as my laboratories and storage facilities. Through my research I ended up realizing that the blood of half-breeds was vital for figuring out how to find a cure for the worst injustice that ever plagued living beings: that of being born just to die. It was a terrible time for demi-humans back then, because some had gotten particularly rowdy and launched wars of conquest against human nations. They lost, and plenty of the refugees, some of which only intended to live in peace and never agreed with the hostilities, found themselves rejected in human territories. Soon the rumour that a sanctuary awaited them in the backwoods of the Mathers territory reached their ears, and many families found their way over here. They understood that I wanted them for my research, but in exchange they found the safety to live with their families in peace. It became a symbiotic relationship.”
You want Echidna to explain how the barrier came to be, but a wave of dizziness ripples through you. You hunch over and grab your head. Even though for a moment you felt as if you were about to pass out, you end up taking a deep breath and rubbing your shoulders.
“Sorry for interrupting you. Something was wrong with me for a moment…”
Echidna stares at you gravely.
“Some disturbance in the outside is waking you up, Subaru. Our time together has come to an end.”
It must be Emilia. She has woken up from her own nightmare, and must be shaking you awake. You are so disappointed that you want to punch the table, but you take a deep breath. You know that Echidna was telling the truth, that by you wanting to spend the rest of your conscious life with the Witch of Greed as her sexual plaything, you are escaping from your troubles the same way you did back at the capital, during that self-imposed loop that usually ended with you guillotining yourself. You will have to return to that cold, harsh world outside, and wade through your many obstacles over and over until you succeed. How much will the experience change now that you will be able to remember Echidna?
You both stand up and walk until you face each other next to the table. You don’t want to say goodbye, but she speaks first.
“I had such a lovely time, Subaru.” Echidna smiles warmly at you. “But still, every visit to my death-dream requires payment.”
You are pretty sure she made up these rules, but you shrug.
“Sure. Take from me whatever you want.”
“That’s pretty generous of you.”
As you breathe in her scent, you realize that your feelings for her go beyond love. You worship her. You would die permanently to protect her if need be.
“But for now I’ll be content if you offer me that accessory of yours”, Echidna says while pointing at your right wrist.
You are confused about what she means, but you realize you have a handkerchief tied around your wrist. How did a handkerchief end up there? Ah, that precocious trainee tied it as a custom of her village or some shit. You chuckle with disbelief.
“Are you sure you want this? It’s completely worthless.”
Echidna tilts her head and offers you a smile of understanding.
“You aren’t aware, but objects imbued with the earnest wishes of young maidens hold a special magic of their own.”
You grimace as you snap your head back.
“You are fucking with me, aren’t you…”
Echidna can’t keep a straight face. She covers her mouth while her shoulders tremble, but she ends up bursting into laughter. You laugh as well.
“Don’t play around with my lack of knowledge like that!”, you complain.
Echidna wipes one of her eyes.
“Sorry, sorry. But I assure you, after what I intend to do to it, it won’t be useless any longer.”
She takes your arm by the forearm and lets her free hand hang over the handkerchief. She closes her eyes, and even though nothing seems to have happened, when she opens her eyes again she seems content. She lowers your arm gently.
You bow.
“I assume that has done something. Thank you. I assure you, Witch of Greed, I’ll come visit you as soon as I can.”
Echidna looks down. You don’t like one bit the sadness that showed on her pale face.
“Subaru, you truly don’t understand. The requirement for entering a death-dream gets increasingly harder, and the next time you will have to surpass your request for knowledge that you had uttered while you had gone insane.”
You go cold. You stare at her, waiting for the witch to add some comment that would lessen the finality of her words, but none come. She looks worried that this meeting might have been the last time.
“Please, Echidna, don’t tell me I will never see you again”, you mutter with your throat almost squeezed shut.
The Witch of Greed steps forward and places her hand on your chest, over your heart.
“I wish I knew the answer, and you know how much it bothers me not to know something. Let’s hope that you will find your way back to me, and next time we will have something very important to discuss about our future.”
The Witch of Greed kisses you on the cheek, and as she does so, her form vanishes while her death-dream collapses on itself.

Note from January of 2021:

The part where the protagonist meets Daphne took me a lot to finish. I tend to dive deeply into the scenes in my mind, I guess, and I felt dizzy through it. As if that wasn’t enough, I lost my current job midway through. Other times I embrace these pauses between jobs as opportunities to do stuff I actually want to use my time in, but now I feel like shit.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 19 (GPT-3 fueled short)

After I invited my girlfriend to move into my fancy house in the outskirts of Hondarribia, and next to a graveyard, she didn’t want to delay it. She never enjoyed living in her dreary working-class apartment in Irún. Even though Alazne was already sleeping in my house every night, in the mornings we travelled back to her apartment and organized the move. Fortunately only her fridge belonged to her, as the old one that came with the house had broken down, so the moving company wouldn’t have to bother hauling bothersome dressers, cupboards, shelving units and the like. However, even if she had bought that furniture, the mahogany is worn and smells like old people, while the stuff in my expensive house only brings joy to all who enter it.
We gathered all the cardboard boxes we could find, and I even brought some from my attic, but I had to buy bubble wrap, duct tape and other material which I had previously associated with making collages. We went room by room taking stuff out of her dressers and cupboards and counters, and spent time deciding what could be thrown out. We didn’t need to move her guitar into my place, because she brought it the second day she came to my house, and it now rests against the full-body mirror of my bedroom.
As Alazne and I took turns walking down to the street to throw bulky garbage bags, the neighborhood busybodies, groups of old women who didn’t have many qualms about gossiping, whether cruelly or not, about people within earshot, must have put two and two together in their rapidly mouldering brains and realized that Alazne must be preparing to abandon them. I’m surprised that some of these old biddies haven’t confronted me in some manner due to my presence in the neighborhood. I guess I look tough enough. Besides, that old man with his sweaty tracksuit, who was always attached to his tiny dog, must be doing the rounds, and every time I turn around I expect I’ll have to face that wrinkly mug. I hate old people. I hate them because they are close to death and I don’t want to die because the afterlife is shit.
I was especially careful when throwing away the sheet-noose that Alazne had intended to hang herself with. When she saw me putting it in a garbage bag and I told her that I would throw it in the container, she narrowed her eyes and nodded silently, as if making peace with it.
In three days Alazne and I ended up with a cluster of boxes near the doorway of her living room. We had written on all of the boxes, in every side, to what room the contents originally belonged, and we also kept a written list of all the boxes we were going to move, in case the movers were idiots and would lose some along the short ride to the neighboring city.
We stood in my girlfriend’s kitchen, now mostly empty except for the furniture and her fridge, and we wiped the sweat from our faces with a towel.
“I’m going to miss this shitty apartment,” I say to Alazne. “I know that for you this place has become associated with many terrible memories, but I only have good ones. I can never go back and spend my first full night with you anywhere else. And all those hours we held each other in the dark… I feel as if I should steal your bed out of principle.”
Alazne chuckles despite herself.
“You’re silly, you know that?” she says with a smile. “But you are right, besides the shows I’ve watched, the manga I’ve read and the… private time I have enjoyed in here, my brain associates this apartment with a dark well from which I couldn’t escape. So the sooner I put it behind me, the better.”
We take a moment of silence to look around the room.
“So… this is it, then?” I ask her as she stares at the fridge.
“Yes,” she says, then nods. “This is it. I’ll tell the landlord he can keep the fridge.”

I don’t know where Alazne went that afternoon, but she met the landlord and gave him the keys of her now old apartment. Meanwhile, as I sat at the table on the balcony of my home in Hondarribia, I browsed the internet for some moving company. From time to time, as I drank grape juice I gazed at how the shadows were elongating on the green, wave-like ground of the neighboring countryside.
I used the power of a dead man’s money to hire some movers, so we wouldn’t break our backs loading all those boxes from her apartment, not to mention that we wouldn’t be able to carry her stuff to my house otherwise. I have money, so I hire other people to do stuff that would be too annoying for me. Besides paying to shove enough food into your mouth every day, paying to push your inconveniences on other people is why money exists, and I’ll beat up anyone who argues otherwise. I have been ramping up my workout routine now that Alazne can peek as I’m lifting weights, and the testosterone flowing through my veins is pleading for me to batter someone up. I fear that one of these days it won’t even care whose face I destroy. Male bodies are like ticking bombs, it seems.
It’s nine and a half in the morning and the two big guys of the moving company are walking up to the third floor to haul boxes down. I don’t want to stand around while Alazne is watching, and I need to show off my muscles, so I contribute.
The tall, dark-skinned Colombian guy, a detail we know because he readily shared it during the first two minutes he chatted with us, is bending over to lift what ended up being the heaviest box, one filled with stuff from Alazne’s bedroom. I approach him and crouch on the other side of the box.
“You take that side and me this one,” I say.
“Sure, buddy,” he replies.
I stop for a moment as he grabs his side of the box. Buddy, he called me? Was he being condescending? He’s looking for a fight, isn’t he? I shake my head, then sigh and grab the top of the box. We lift it off the floor. Even with two people handling it, it’s heavier than I would have thought. Alazne and I should have distributed the contents into at least three or four boxes, but we had no clue what we were doing. In any case, my biceps flex with satisfaction, and they will likely look good for Alazne. I hope she gets to see my efforts.
The mover and I walk downstairs, both struggling under the weight. As we were crossing the pavement towards the open back of the truck, I spot that Alazne is standing close by with her back to us, because one of the neighborhood busybodies has approached my beloved. I’m quite sure that’s one of the evil witches who has talked trash about Alazne, suggesting that having to listen to her passionate guitar playing was a curse. I’m not sure, though. To me these old broads look interchangeable. She must be half senile as well, because her hair is styled with one of those wiry perms with which old women around these parts ruin their crumbling looks.
I stop, causing the Colombian mover to stagger and question why he’s left holding a very heavy box. But I’m paying attention to the old woman who’s accosting Alazne, in case I need to step in and headbutt some old skull.
“So you are moving out with your boyfriend?” the old woman asks with a smile.
Alazne, who likely never held this woman’s gaze before, nods nervously.
“You don’t need to sound so proud of it. You make it seem like you are doing something bad, with all the shame and guilt that normal people have.”
“I’m not ashamed! I love him!” my beloved raises her voice indignantly.
A smirk forms on the old woman’s lips as she cocks her head to one side. For a brief second our eyes meet, but she quickly returns her gaze to my beloved. That’s right, I think. You have no clue who you are dealing with.
“Love, huh?” the old woman says. “You will keep playing the guitar there, right?”
“Y-yes, of course…”
“Hey, dude…” the mover says to me, but I ignore him.
The old woman puts her hand on Alazne’s shoulder.
“Keep it up, dear. Good luck to you.”
As my girlfriend stands there still, the old woman hobbles away. I wonder if she’s genuinely happy because Alazne won’t rot alone in her misery, or because the old woman won’t have to listen anymore how Alazne plays the guitar, or moans, or pleads for daddy to put it in.
I shake my head and turn to the mover.
“Carry on.”

Once all of our boxes sit on the back of the truck, the two movers close the rear doors. The Colombian guy approaches Alazne and I as he wipes the dust off his hands. The morning light shines on a bead of sweat that rolls down his forehead.
“Alright, we’re done here. This address you gave me, though… It looks as if there’s only a graveyard there?”
“Yeah, it’s a… private place. A community adjoined to the graveyard. Don’t worry, drive to the exact address. It will be there.”
“Got it.”
We exchange a firm handshake as I give him a nod.
“Why are we shaking now, though?” I ask him. “Aren’t we getting in your truck?”
The mover raises his eyebrows.
“Uhh… No, there’s only space for my cousin and I. The clients are supposed to drive to their new home in their personal vehicle.”
“We don’t have a car, though. Those things are death machines.”
The mover seems to give it some thought.
“Yeah, they pretty much are. But anyway, maybe I can ask my cousin to go get his car and drive you both to your new home.”
He points at the skinny mover waiting by the truck’s passenger door. He briefly looks in our direction before lowering his gaze back to his cell phone.
“Nah, it’s okay,” I say. “He looks shady. Whatever, I’ll call a taxi. I have lots of money.”
“Alright then… We’ll drive to your creepy graveyard house. Call me if you are going to take too long to get there.”
“Sure. Don’t disappear with our boxes, please.”
The mover chuckles as we shake hands once again.
After the moving truck that carries Alazne’s stuff drives away, my beloved hugs me tightly and rests her head on my chest. I run my fingers along her scalp. A few seconds later I pull out my phone to call the taxi company. Once the dispatcher assures me that one of their taxis will reach us sooner or later, I hang up and I look down the street anxiously. From here to the end of the street there are four other nearly identical five-story, working-class apartment buildings, painted slightly different so the inhabitants don’t suffocate under the weight of their insignificance. To our left is the taller, larger apartment building whose inhabitants have put their money together to fence their place up and set up some security cameras, which isn’t very likely to deter the criminals, as people need to do some really nasty shit, or bother some politician, to get sent to jail.
The absence of that man is making me nervous.
“Alazne, do you recall having seen around, and been bothered by, an old man who always wears a blue tracksuit and who walks a brown, tiny Maltese dog?” I ask my beloved.
“No. I honestly don’t pay much attention to the people around here. Why?”
I don’t answer. So this is it, huh? I would have sworn that no matter at what hour we had organized moving our boxes to the movers’ truck, so Alazne could flee from this working-class hole forever, the old man would be standing nearby while his pocket dog took a shit. He would be wearing the same never washed tracksuit that probably stinks like some old folks home in which the employees are particularly neglectful. And yet, in our final hour there’s no sign of the man anywhere. What was your purpose then, you shoddy old turd, if you don’t force me into a confrontation when the timing is right? I swear some people merely exist to make others feel shittier for no fucking reason, as if the universe had to fill a quota.
And what kind of life is that, huh? Relentlessly trying to keep the peace in his crumbling territory, a self-appointed watchman against every weirdo who wanders in and could remotely inconvenience the locals. Disliked and dismissed by everyone, even the neighbors, only for one day to pass away without anybody giving it a second thought.
My throat tightens, and I find myself needing to blink a few times. I pull away from Alazne’s embrace to stand straight, bringing my feet closer together.
“Alazne, salute,” I tell her.
“What?” she asks me, puzzled.
Shinzou wo sasageyo!
My beloved doesn’t need any other explanation. We both cross our left arm behind our lower back, then our right forearm across our chest, so we can clench our right fist over our heart.

I wake up with the morning light that shines through the window near my side of the bed. My body feels relaxed as if it has appreciated the nine or ten hours of sleep, even though some of my muscles, particularly those in my arms, are stiff from lifting heavy boxes I shouldn’t have bothered with. Next to me sleeps the love of my life, who has spent her first night as my live-in girlfriend. Alazne is lying face up, with one arm over her head and touching the headboard slat, which has raised that breast. Its rosy nipple peeks out from under the sheet. My girl is breathing through her mouth, and I watch for a while how her chest raises and falls. She smells like stale sweat, sex, and her own particular smell that I can’t describe. She’s really here, in my house, in my bed, and she will remain with me forever.
I stand up carefully from the bed, then walk up to the curtains to draw them so my angel can sleep for a bit longer, but either she was already awake or me shifting my weight around on the mattress must have done it, because I hear her yawning. When I turn back, Alazne stretches adorably as she shuts her eyelids tight. She opens them again, and I give her a smile.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
“Hey,” she replies, a little groggily.
“Sleep well?”
“Never better.”
I walk up to the bed and climb on, then straddle her waist. I tickle her sides while she grins and squirms, until she begs me to stop. I lean forward with my arms pressed against hers, so my chest touches hers. As I look into those hazel eyes, I feel complete.
“I love you, you know,” Alazne says.
“I bet.”
I lean in closer to kiss her, but she turns away. I stare at her with a raised eyebrow. She bites her lip as her cheeks redden.
“I have morning breath.”
I sigh dramatically, then stand up from the bed even though my boxers already feel too tight.
“I’ll allow you your dignity, I suppose.”
I walk to the bathroom, which is thankfully far enough from the master bedroom, and while pissing I check this body out in the mirror. The beard is starting to grow out a bit now that I’m not shaving every other day. Quite a few greys in there. My hair has a month or so to grow before it looks as if I just don’t care. I brush my teeth, then I spit the froth down the drain.
Now comes the dangerous part, which is to take a shit silently enough that I won’t feel like my girlfriend is sitting on the bed while hearing my farts and wondering why she’s dating me. When I finish up, I hold my breath in case I hear Alazne crying. Then I wipe my ass as carefully as someone wearing a man’s body must now that his girlfriend is always around. You never know when Alazne is going to stick her nose close to my ass, not to mention that this body I stole has plenty of hair down there, which seems designed to catch nasty residues. I spit on every piece of toilet paper to clean myself thoroughly, and after the last piece of paper doesn’t show me a stain, I still crouch in front of the bidet to shoot a stream of water at my anal area. Then I perform the finger test. If I rub the skin near my closed hole, which I assure you remains shut during this procedure, and my finger doesn’t smell like shit, that’s probably good enough. I wipe my ass a final time with some more paper, then I stand up and return to my bedroom.
Alazne is kneeling on the bed as she holds her hands in front of her plain salmon-colored panties, which are the only thing she’s wearing. Her messy bed hair makes her sexier, and in her tear drop breasts, the nipples are hard and pointing at me.
I stand there like an idiot for a moment, delighted by the delicious view, but Alazne pats the mattress next to her.
“Hey, lie down on your back,” she says with a low, alluring voice. “I need to tell you something.”
I nod as I walk over to the bed, lowering myself onto it, then I lie down on my back with my legs spread apart.
“What’s up?” I ask as I stroke her thigh with my closest hand.
Alazne leans towards my ear, but she stops midway and looks at me with a playful expression.
“Close your eyes.”
I obey her. When I let the back of my head sink into the pillow, I feel Alazne’s weight shifting in the mattress. She doesn’t tell me anything, though: the next thing I know my boxers are bunched around my calves, and my soft cock is inside Alazne’s wet, warm mouth.
While her tongue curls around, my cock grows harder filling the available space, and my girlfriend lets out some appreciative moans. Alazne keeps sucking me off eagerly as she holds my thighs. My ass clenches while I experience one of the best feelings in the world.
I let out a long sigh, then I reach with my hand to run my fingers along her scalp, slowly and lovingly. Back when I inhabited a woman’s body, I wouldn’t have thought that pure bliss was my live-in girlfriend gorging herself on my dick first thing in the morning, but one lives to learn.

It soon became clear that we might both want to check stuff online, or just watch videos, as we lounged in different rooms of the house, so having to rely on the desktop computer was going to become annoying. I had forgotten where I left the laptop I found in the attic, and I suddenly walk into the living room only to find Alazne sitting next to the ouija board as Kateryna’s laptop is powering up.
I am shocked, although I don’t let it show. She’s going to see an account made for Kateryna.
“What are you doing?” I ask, hopefully not sounding annoyed.
“Research,” Alazne says as she waits for the login screen to load. “There’s so much information out there if you look hard enough. A few groups about ghosts seem legit. I mean, it’s alright if I contribute our experience. Or is that an issue…?” she asks as if she just considered that it should remain a secret.
“As long as you don’t post our address, I guess…”
I walk behind Alazne towards the opposite side of the ouija board, and a sudden chill all over my body as well as a cobweb sensation on my face makes me realize I went through Kateryna. I wipe my face as if the contact had left some residue, although I know it hasn’t.
“Excuse me, Kateryna, for causing you an unpleasant sensation.” I want to bite my tongue, but I take a deep breath. “I mean, because you told me it was unpleasant.”
I need to get rid of the laptop before I ruin everything.
“Huh. Why is there an account for Kateryna?” Alazne asks, puzzled. “I-is this her laptop? Did they forget it here after she died?”
Shit. Alazne has turned towards me. I shrug, but as I open my mouth, we both notice the planchette hovering slightly above the center of the ouija board. Kat wants us to know she intends to speak.
I’m having a hard time hiding my relief. Kateryna is a true friend, the best I’ve ever had. She always has my back, she’s usually up for shooting the shit, and she finds this world as chaotic and meaningless as I do.
“Communicate how?” Alazne asks while she alternates between looking up at me and at the board. “Are you able to push the keys?”
I shake my head.
“My dumb idea. I had witnessed how great of a poltergeistmith our friend is, so I figured that she could learn to type in a keyboard as if she were alive. Stupid on my part, really. I don’t even remember the password to her account now.”
“Alright, that’s a shame,” Alazne says as she begins the process of creating her own user. “But we can speak to each other well enough through the ouija boards, right?”
I smile at her.
“Sure. That’s the main point, after all.”
“I’m glad we can stay in contact as much as we want.”
As my girlfriend is focused on typing in her chosen password for her new account, I turn my back on her and I facepalm silently. I dig with my fingers in my flesh for good measure. I hate it. Alazne does nothing but love me, and yet I keep lying and lying and lying. I’m no better than Asier. I’m no better than my biological mother. I’m no better than my father. I’m no better than any of the ghosts I’ve judged and condemned over the years. I’m terrible.
“I-I’ll buy a new laptop,” I say with a raspy voice, then I clear my throat. “One of us might want to bring it out to some coffee shop or something. I was planning on starting to write about my experiences, after all.”
Alazne realizes that I’m towering right behind her seated self, so she leans back and reaches with her hands to stroke my face.
“I suppose that laptops aren’t that expensive these days. And also… I’m so proud of you. I think you’d make a great writer.”
As I exhale deeply and close my eyes, I give into the pressure and embrace her warmly. I’ll just have to keep lying. It’s the devil’s game, but this is what happiness must feel like.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 18 (GPT-3 fueled short)

I hold open the door of my stolen home, which is technically a haunted house, and Alazne steps into the foyer. She absentmindedly wipes the soles of her shoes on the doormat while eyeing her surroundings, including everything she can see from there of the living room, as if Kateryna’s ghost intended to ambush my girlfriend.
I put a hand on her shoulder and rub it. I feel her relaxing, but she can’t erase the worry in her eyes. She must be thinking that this plan to meet a ghost was a foolish idea.
“I assure you, Kateryna is as kind as they come,” I say with a reassuring tone, then turn my head towards the door to the hallway. “Hey, Kat, you likely already know Alazne arrived, but feel free to come!”
It feels chilly, but today’s weather is masking Kat’s presence. I hope that she won’t say high by displaying her poltergeist powers. One thing is accepting that you are standing in a haunted house, and another is for the primitive brain to integrate that you are witnessing a display that shouldn’t be possible.
“Alright, let me show you around what I hope will become your house,” I tell Alazne, and I kiss the top of her light brown hair.
My girlfriend nods. Her right hand seeks my left one, and she holds on to it tightly. Her face is paler than usual, which highlights her freckles, but she doesn’t seem too freaked out otherwise.
“I-is the presence of someone new not going to scare off Kateryna?” Alazne asks with a slight frown.
“Not if that person is alive, no,” I reply with confidence. “If anything, you’ll make her more comfortable.”
“Well… okay…”
I move my arm around Alazne’s waist and pull her closer to me. I show off my spacious living room, which is around three times as large as Alazne’s corresponding room back in her Belaskoenea apartment. The living room is divided between an area with a large dining table, where I set up the ouija board and the call bell for my daily séances with Kateryna, and another area with two expensive, three seater sofas with firmly stuffed cushions in front of a coffee table. Two bookshelves offer novels that came in a collection and that Asier likely didn’t read, and he filled most of the shelves with statuettes mainly of naked women, maybe honoring the Greek tradition, but probably because he loved naked women which was part of why he cheated constantly.
There’s a flat screen mounted on the wall which offers an exceptionally sharp image, although I only switch it on to entertain Kateryna, because televisions are tools of the government to brainwash the population. Two large windows give a nice view of the fenced backyard. I get reminded again that I might have to introduce myself to my neighbor and ask him if he can trim his plane tree, because it’s blocking some of the sunlight in the yard. We should take advantage of all the hours of full sunlight around these parts.
Alazne walks around the dining room table and towards one of the sofas as if she were admiring a display in a museum. She approaches one of the bookshelves and looks at the statuettes.
“Who’s this?” she asks, picking up the depiction of a muscled, armless man with a happy facial expression even though he’s lifting a giant rock.
What the fuck would I know? Shit, I’m the one who is supposed to have bought those statuettes!
“That’s the Thinker,” I reply. “He represents introspection.”
“Ah yes, he’s very cute. I like his dimples.”
Alazne looks at a few of the naked women, but thankfully she doesn’t force me to justify myself. She places the male statuette back on the shelf and walks towards me while smiling warmly, which calms me down. I gesture towards the nearest sofa.
“Imagine all the times we are going to spend lying there under a blanket while watching some shows on the enormous flat screen.”
Alazne briefly eyes the ouija board prominently displayed on the dining room table, but I have explained the situation.
“I can imagine us spending many happy afternoons with each other here,” she says as she squeezes my hand. “But don’t you think we should continue the tour? I want to see the bedroom.”
I swallow, and as if Alazne had reached for my girl cock, it grows a few centimeters. I turn towards the hall. From there we walk into the hallway that connects with the garage, the kitchen, a guest bedroom, a bathroom with a large bathtub, an office, and finally the master bedroom. After I point out the presence of the stairs to the second floor, Alazne says ‘wow’, but then pirouettes into the master bedroom. The bed sheets are freshly clean and they smell nice. I can’t take credit for that, because they were already washed when I found them in the dresser.
“Nice sheets,” Alazne says quietly in a slightly higher pitch, then she sits on the bed. “What kind are they?”
“I don’t know, they just had a tag that said Sp… Sp… something. Just brand new.”
“Sweet. And soft too.”
She looks behind her at the desk that holds my brand new gaming monitor, and then her gaze lingers on the exercise bench, the barbell set up with enough weights to pump up my pectoral muscles, and the variety of dumbbells lying nearby.
“Curious that you chose to exercise in your bedroom when you have empty rooms,” Alazne says with a lulling voice. “I mean, this room is large, but still…”
“That’s a good point. I guess I was used to it. I might end up moving it somewhere else.”
When Alazne looks forward again, she stares into her own hazel eyes reflected in the full-length mirror that covers the wall next to that side of the bed. Asier installed it no doubt to watch himself fucking Ainhoa and Kateryna, particularly our Ukrainian goddess I’m guessing, as well as the other women he sneaked in here to cheat on his wonderful fiancées. I have mostly used the mirror to habituate myself to the faces this man-body makes when I’m orgasming, and to an extent I wish I hadn’t, because men look like idiots while they are shooting their spunk.
When I look back down to Alazne’s glistening eyes and her grateful expression, a sharp pain squeezes my heart. Every step of the way I have to remain on guard, because I never know when I’ll be prompted to spout wild lies. I can’t risk losing her, not the love of my life. I have been alone and miserable for so long, and I never want to be alone ever again.
Alazne sighs and takes off her sport shoes. She’s wearing her knee-high pink socks with cartoon cat faces, which in my mind they have turned into code for ‘tonight I want to submit fully to you’. My breath thickens, and my cock starts bending against the crotch of my jeans. I should have worn looser clothing today.
I clear my throat.
“You haven’t seen the second floor, although it’s mainly more of the same. Two of the rooms are bare, ready for whatever comes. The balcony is nice, I have been sitting on the chairs there to read or just to relax. Beautiful view of the countryside.”
“I didn’t know you liked to read,” Alazne says while staring up at me hungrily, shifting her knees apart.
“I used to read quite a bit when I wasn’t…”
When I wasn’t wearing a man’s body, for starters. And when I wasn’t chasing girls. I used to either spend my time alone with my hobbies, or focusing on my main hobby, which was to fuck as many girls as I found attractive. I particularly enjoyed those who presented a challenge, for example those who didn’t see themselves scissoring with another girl. Many of those conquests ended up loving the taste of pussy juices.
I step closer to Alazne. The bulge in my pants can’t be concealed anymore, but my girlfriend must have grown used to it.
I reach down to cup her cheeks, and Alazne wraps her arms around my thighs. She’s breathing harder, her lips are getting wetter.
“I know my house is not a villa on a hill, but…” I say calmly.
“I don’t want to talk about the house now,” Alazne says with a raspy voice. “Give it to me.”
She grabs my shirt and pulls me into her. She falls back onto the sheets, and I end up supporting myself on my hands, planted in the mattress to the sides of Alazne’s shoulders. Fuck, I love how aggressive she has gotten. Although sometimes, like today, I’d prefer her to plead. I lower my face to devour her mouth. Alazne lets out a contented moan, and wiggles her ass while pushing herself up with her heels so she’ll lie further back on the bed.
She quickly unbuckles my belt and unzips my jeans. I pull them down enough with my hand so my cock has some breathing room, while Alazne pulls down her trousers. I fall upon her body and grind my hips against her. I can feel her wetness through my boxers and her panties.
“Oh, God! Fuck!” she lets out in between kisses as I move down to her neck, sucking on the skin there.
I sit back up to slide off my jeans and then lower my boxers. I pull down Alazne’s red with black lace panties. As I fall back down onto her, she wraps her legs around my waist and her arms around my shoulders. She has turned her head towards the full size mirror, and she’s smiling like drugged at her reflection while drool trickles onto the sheet. Her eyes are glazed over, her cheeks an adorable fiery red. I embrace her thighs with my forearms so that my hands cradle her ass. Our eyes meet in the mirror, and she bites her lip as I penetrate into her. The thought of putting on a condom briefly flashes through my mind as the butter-smooth walls of her vagina squeeze my girl cock, but by this point of our relationship we have both become irresponsible enough in our horniness, and my pull out game has improved so much, that I figure that I’ll manage to cum on her pubes so it ends up looking like a cute snow-covered forest. And if I fuck it up and fill her womb with my seed, we’ll have a baby and that’s that. College isn’t particularly expensive in these parts.
With every thrust, I lean forward to kiss her on the lips. She holds onto my arms so tightly that her bitten fingernails bite through my shirt, and her knuckles go white. She must have loved this house I stole. I continue to watch us fuck in the full body mirror until my vision blurs and Alazne’s carefree moans fill the room. Her eyes roll back, and after a guttural sigh, she might have passed out, because she goes limp. I pull my cock out and come all over her bellybutton.
Suddenly exhausted, I roll onto the mattress to lie next to my woman. I embrace her body from the side, and some of the cum that remained inside my cock gets smeared on her thigh.
Shortly after, Alazne’s eyes flutter open and she looks back at me in the mirror. She licks her lips.
“I really liked that.”
“Me too,” I answer, still catching my breath. “You didn’t come, though.”
“I didn’t, huh? Everything went white, and for a moment it felt as if I just came out of an operation, completely free of anxiety. So great…”
I kiss her cheek, and she reaches with her opposite arm to rub my shoulder affectionately.
“We christened this bed quick,” I comment.
Alazne stares at the ceiling while a smile remains pasted on her lips. She lets out a long sigh.
“It’s all so amazing, Asier. The thought of living here… It’s like most of the problems in my life would vanish.”
“Yes, I guess that beyond the shit that goes on in our brains, most everything else is about money.”
“Yeah,” she answers.
When I regain my strength, I fetch a towel from the closet and hand it to Alazne. She wipes off her belly. A bit of cum ends up on the tip of her thumb, but she licks it.
“I guess it’s pretty normal to feel this way about a house,” she says, turning her head towards me. “When I was about five, my family bought a new house, and I’d run back and forth from the living room to the kitchen, feeling like I’d finally found all the happiness in the world.”
As I stand next to the bed, I’m shocked that Alazne has shared a detail, let alone a fond one, from back when her parents were alive. I keep quiet and merely hold her gaze with what I hope is an understanding expression.
That memory involving her parents must have escaped her mouth because fucking has relaxed her that much, but her face darkens as she’s likely forced to face again that she lost her parents way before she could have dealt with that pain. I want to embrace her and say some corny shit like ‘you didn’t lose your parents, you are keeping them alive right here’ as I tap her head, but I wouldn’t want to see how my girlfriend reacted to that.
Alazne rubs her eyes as her head sinks in the pillow, and then she manages to smile.
“What I wanted to say is that this house of yours is much bigger still. It’s so strange for me to enter a brand new place and feel this comfortable and safe.”
“I’m glad that it’s working out for you.” I bite my lip. “What maybe I should have said before I shoved my cock inside you is that the resident ghost, our Kateryna, likely witnessed our frantic lovemaking. Just so… you know.”
A sudden unease distorts her expression, but after she blinks, she smirks defiantly.
“So I’m not going crazy, because I’m pretty sure I saw her. She was right there in the living room, sitting on the rocking chair.”
“Nope, Kateryna doesn’t have the power to manifest herself, and neither do I have a rocking chair.”
“Is this going to be one of those cases in which a house is super haunted, but when a guest comes over, the ghosts hide like anxious cats?” Alazne asks.
“Well, Kateryna, she’s a proud woman. She doesn’t want to intrude on our lives, particularly when we are so eager to tear our clothes off. But did you expect to enter the house only for a bunch of knives to launch themselves at you?”
Alazne shrugs.
“It’s not that I don’t believe in ghosts, it’s just that I have never seen one. But I had thought–“
My girlfriend shuts up at the same time a cold bubble of air makes the hair on my arms stand up. Alazne’s face has gone white, and as she rests the weight of her upper body on her elbows, she’s staring wide-eyed at something in the corner of the room where I set up my exercise bench. I spot it immediately: a dumbbell is hovering while quivering, as if the invisible hand that’s holding it is getting tired of the weight.
“Hey, Kat,” I say casually. “Maybe some exercise will do you good.”
The dumbbell drops noisily on the carpet. I’m tempted to reprimand Kateryna, because that might have dented the floor. I sigh.
“Alright, it’s about time I introduce the two of you properly.”

Alazne and I, and judging by the increased chill around the table, Kateryna as well, gathered in front of the kitchen table. To set the right mood for a séance, I closed the curtains to darken the room, and I lit two candles that bathed the ouija board in a yellowish, trembling light. Completely pointless, but it looks cool. I pulled a chair so I could sit next to my beloved, while she occupies the commanding seat in front of the board. The planchette remains still in the center, but it won’t be for long.
Back when Kateryna dropped the dumbbell, for a second I expected Alazne to spring to her feet and sprint out of my house while screaming and tearing out her hair, but she was excited. Not sexually, but still. I could tell that the presence of a real ghost fascinated her, and from then on Alazne looked wired but eager. I was nervous, though, for a different reason: Kateryna knew who I truly was, and I had no clue what was going to come out through the planchette’s movements.
I put my hand on Alazne’s shoulder, and she stiffens.
“C’mon, you can talk to Kateryna. She will likely not use her poltergeist powers to bite you.”
“A-alright…” Alazne says. “H-hi, lady ghost. I’m Alazne. I’m sure you already know that I’m Asier’s girlfriend, and from now on I think I will spend plenty of time in this house. I-I hope you won’t mind. Nice to meet you!”
The planchette twitches. I feel a chill going down my spine. The air is tense as fuck. As if its movements were automated, the planchette is quick to spell out HA HA HA.
Alazne’s eyes widen with shock.
“W-what?” she asks in a high-pitched voice.
I shift my weight in the chair. Now I suddenly fear that my roommate is going to embarrass me.
“What the hell do you mean with ‘ha ha ha’, Kat?” I ask.
Alazne gasps, but more towards how much the planchette is moving by itself than to the potentially horrifying meaning of the message. I can tell she doesn’t buy it. But now I’m the one who is scared, because Kateryna referred to me as a she! Damn it, Kateryna! Don’t screw up immediately!
“T-that was a joke, I see…!” Alazne says. “I can tell you are intelligent, and that you are actually here…”
NO IM ACTUALLY SATAN, the planchette spells out.
I frown. I want to get up and throw the planchette on the floor.
“Yes, very funny, Kateryna.”
“Yeah, you and everyone else.”
I sigh in an exaggerated way.
“See, Alazne, Kat tends to joke around when she’s nervous. And she’s meeting you, someone she has heard me talk about for hours. So naturally she wants to make a good impression. Isn’t that right, Kat…?”
The planchette glides over to the printed YES near one corner of the board. It seems she won’t continue with her path of terror.
“See?” I say.
“So… do you want to try asking questions?” I ask Alazne, who remains jittery.
“Y-yeah, of course.”
“Alright, but let me get you something to drink while you talk to Kateryna,” I say as I stand up. “I think I have Coca-Cola and orange Kas if you want some carbonated garbage, but I’ve been partial to grape juice recently. There’s also bottled water.”
“Uh, I’ll have what you’re having.”
I wasn’t having anything, but I shrug and go to the fridge to take the carton of grape juice. I grab two glasses.
“So… d-did you witness us… having sex?” Alazne asks shily.
When I walk back to the table and set our glasses on it, the planchette was returning to the center.
“What did she say?” I ask.
Alazne takes a big gulp of her juice, and then licks her delicious, now extra sweet, lips as she calms down.
“The gho–… Kateryna said that she did and that she enjoyed it.”
AS I SAID I MISS SEX, the planchette spells out.
“Well, I’m glad we could entertain you,” I say, and take a drink. “We will put on a show for you most days from now on, I’m sure.”
“I feel like a bit of an ass for the lot of questions I want to ask,” Alazne says, “but I really want to know what’s up with you, Kateryna.”
“It’s alright. I’m sure she appreciates you caring enough to ask her directly.”
I nearly choke on my grape juice, and I hunch down as I pound softly on my chest. The pain in my battered ribs from the accident is mostly a memory now, particularly due to the daily dose of painkillers. Still, I don’t want to worsen whatever remains to heal in there. I should probably take better care of this body, but I kind of hate it, too.
Alazne chuckles.
“So Asier masturbates quite a bit, huh?” she asks to the invisible presence.
I’m beet red.
“Somehow this all sounds worse when you say it, Kat,” I say in a low voice.
Alazne laughs and reaches out for my hand to hold it. She shakes it playfully.
“Aww, I do appreciate it!” she says, beaming.
I clear my throat, then point down at Alazne’s shirt.
“By the way, Kat, what do you think about her choice of attire?”
Alazne looks down at her tee shirt as if she had forgotten she was wearing it.
The planchette spells out WISH I COULD BECOME MONKE.
Both Alazne and I laugh for a few seconds.
“I bet!” I say.
THIS BOAT IS MOVING TOO SLOW, the planchette spells out.
“Alright, I’m going to ask you some serious questions now,” Alazne says, already used to talking to a ghost. “How did you end up in this house?”
I freeze. I feel close to a catastrophe. What would happen if Alazne found out that Kateryna was another one of this body’s ex-fiancées, and that most likely died in this house? I can’t imagine how my girlfriend would react.
LIVED HERE BEFORE ASIER CAME, the planchette spells out.
My vision gets blurry for a moment, as tears of relief and gratitude come to my eyes. I blink them away, hopefully before Alazne saw them.
“Kateryna…!” escapes from my mouth.
Alazne twists her mouth as if brooding, while she fidgets with her glass of grape juice.
“Ah… K-Kateryna, did you die in this house?”
I feel a cold sweat.
I DID YES, the planchette spells out.
My heart beats rapidly.
“W-was it… an accident?”
“K-killed…?” Alazne repeats with a hollow voice. “As in someone killed you, or as in you killed yourself?”
The planchette remains still for a few seconds, and then slides quickly with the proficiency of a veteran typist.
“Jesus Christ,” I mutter as I wipe some sweat off my forehead.
IT WAS VERY UNSATISFYING, the planchette adds.
Alazne looks at me, worried. I have no words of comfort to offer her; I’m too busy dealing with my own nervousness. A range of emotions is clawing at me, but most of all I feel a lot of guilt. I’m so glad that Kateryna lied about her relationship with Asier. If a woman died in my house while I lived in here, it likely means that I was somehow responsible. I’m surprised that the police haven’t visited me since I possessed this body.
Alazne seems troubled. Her eyes dart around as if she’s trying to figure out something important.
“Kateryna, are you alright in the afterlife? I mean, do you feel well?”
“I-is there no sun in the afterlife?” Alazne asks.
Oh no, Kateryna is losing it. I get the mental image of a particularly drunk, and hot, woman who is making a scene in a party, except that I can’t physically drag Kateryna out until she sobers up. And taking away her planchette, her only means of communicating properly, feels too cruel.
“Kateryna implies that everything is faded, washed out, in the afterlife,” I say with a grave voice. “Close to odorless, tasteless… She has spoken about this before.”
Alazne stares with a determined look at the planchette.
“Does anything give you joy?” Alazne asks.
The planchette spells out NOTHING. After a brief pause, the planchette moves again DISTRACTIONS.
“What sort of distractions?” Alazne asks.
The planchette is motionless. I can tell that both Alazne and I are holding our breath while the flames of the candles waver, and the atmosphere feels darker and darker. This is like a legitimate séance. I’m getting why those ghost hunting shows on YouTube are so popular.
“L-let me change the angle…” Alazne says as she shifts her weight. “Asier told me that it seems to be true that spirits remain in the afterlife, at least in the lower level you are in, because they regret something about their previous lives. In that case maybe we could help you, to free you from that nightmare.”
CANT MOVE ON ITS NOT POSSIBLE FOR ME, the planchette spells out without hesitation.
“That would be far too cruel, to throw you into that grey world without any way to escape it.”
“Alazne, maybe the afterlife just is. I mean that you can’t expect fairness of a volcano if you jump into it.”
Alazne squints one eye at me as if she didn’t quite catch the analogy.
TO SOLVE REGRET WOULD NEED TO BE ALIVE, the planchette spells out.
“C-can a living person do whatever you need performed for you?” Alazne asks, eager to please.
When the planchette returns to the center, it trembles for a moment until it remains inert, as if the fingers that had been touching it were lifted.
I lean forward towards the ouija board, and rest an elbow on the table.
“Kateryna, you never clarified those words for me. The first day we spoke to each other you told me that, ‘no child’. Do you mean that you wanted to have a baby before you died, and now you obviously can’t get pregnant?”
The planchette slips suddenly towards the edge of the table as if Kateryna had applied her power incorrectly, but after the planchette returns to the center, it spells out WANT TO LIVE AGAIN IRENE I AM PAINED DONT WANT TO SPEAK MORE.
A wave of nausea comes over me, and I have to restrain myself from slapping the ouija board away. I stand up forcefully, making a scratching noise against the floor with my chair.
“Ghosts have feelings too, and I think we have prodded Kateryna too much for this session.”
Alazne looks up at me confused.
“Irene, she said. It seemed incongruous in the middle of those sentences. Was it someone she knew from when she was alive…?”
“Let’s… Let’s just take a break,” I say with a hint of desperation.
Alazne nods. She gets up. She’s troubled by the experience, but as if she listened to someone’s terrible experience instead of because she has undeniable proof that ghosts exist. My girlfriend keeps quiet for a few seconds, but then she holds her hands in front of her waist and bows slightly towards an invisible presence.
“T-thank you so much for speaking with me, Kateryna. I hope we get to talk again soon. If you think of some way I could make your existence easier, don’t hesitate to let me know.”

When Alazne and I decided to figure out how we were going to fill our bellies tonight, she was very impressed not only with the size of the kitchen and the amount of groceries I had stocked, but also with the island this kitchen came furnished with. By island I mean a free-standing counter space in the center of the kitchen, which in my eyes is as good a symbol as any to distinguish the peasants from the rich people like me. I have an island in my kitchen, and everyone else can eat their muck out of a mug.
I grabbed two packages of instant ramen and showed them to Alazne, who was sitting on a stool while leaning on the free-standing counter.
“I figure that someone so obsessed with anime, manga and the likes will appreciate some ramen,” I say.
“I do, if only because it reminds me of all those joyful times. So…” Alazne fidgets with the apples in a bowl. “Do you just have to put it in the microwave?”
I open one of the packets of ramen and extract the noodle cube, which looks like it was compacted in some industrial machine.
“We need to boil water,” I say as I reach for a hanging pot, “We also need to gather all the associated food and condiments. So a couple of eggs, bacon, salt, black pepper… Butter as well. Do you want to help?”
“Sure. I must say that this looks more like a chef’s kitchen,” Alazne says as she gets up from her stool.
“The owner is nowhere close to a chef, though.”
She walks over to the fridge while shooting me an apologetic look. She opens the fridge and gets the packet of bacon.
“Y-you will be so disappointed by how little I know how to do.”
I start heating the water on the stove.
“You are the one who is perennially disappointed in yourself, Alazne. I have nothing but love for you. And the more you learn how to do, the more confident you will become.”
Alazne sighs as she places the bacon on the counter.
“I-I can try cooking this. Hopefully the house also came with fire extinguishers. Where are the pans, though…?”
I nod towards a hanging cupboard over the main counter. I was walking to the spice rack to get the black pepper when I notice that Alazne is on her tiptoes to reach the pile of pans inside the cupboard.
“Now I really feel small…!” she complains.
“Yeah, I should reorganize the kitchen having you in mind. This body of mine is taller than average, after all.”
I slide out the bottle of black pepper from its rack, and I turn to help Alazne when I see that the pan on top of the pile is lifting, and then floats carefully out of the cupboard until it lands with the gentleness of a feather in the hands of my baffled Alazne.
“T-thank you, Kateryna,” Alazne says, then smiles.

Both of us have mostly digested the surprisingly delicious bacon and egg ramen, which by the way I had only prepared once before and with the purpose of impressing Alazne when she came over. It’s nine and a half at night, dark outside as well as drizzling. The crickets are chirping in the nearby countryside. I convinced Alazne to join me in the main bathroom and take a bath with me.
I’m all about the mood today, so I have brought over a few candles from the living room and have set them on a shelving unit at the end of the bathtub. The tub is already full with around 40 degrees Celsius hot water, waiting for us. As the flames flicker, I switch off the electric lights and I walk up to my Alazne, who is standing there blushing and offering me an eager smile. I grab the hem of her shirt, and she raises her arms to help me take it off. She’s wearing an ultra thin, red and black lace bra that she bought recently, if I can say that she bought it when I paid for it. I bite my lower lip as I admire the curves of her C cups. The candlelight makes her pale, freckled skin seem smoother and her light brown hair shinier. I lose myself staring at Alazne’s body for a moment, but then she grabs my shirt and pulls me into a kiss. As we taste a hint of ramen in each other’s saliva, I undress hastily, my eyes never leaving hers. When we pull away, I take off my boxers and leave them on the porcelain tiles, and Alazne does the same with her lace panties. I’m already at half mast.
“I’m going to love this so much,” I say hungrily.
Alazne giggles excitedly as she submerges into the warm water. She lets out a long, moan-like sigh as she rests the back of her head.
I crouch to get the bottle of silicon-based lube out of the cupboard. I place it on the edge of the bathtub, where I will be able to reach it as I soak in the warm bath. Alazne has closed her eyes, but even if she hadn’t, I doubt she would have noticed what I brought. Much better, because I’ll get to surprise her.
The bathtub is spacious, so we have enough room to move about. I ask Alazne to scoot so I can get into the water behind her, and when my legs rub against hers in the bath, my girlfriend wiggles her ass back until it presses against my crotch, then she leans against my chest. She sighs contently as I wrap my arms around her torso, resting her breasts on my right forearm. I feel so snuggly that I want to cry. We stay in silence for a couple of minutes, just taking in the warmth of each other’s body heat.
“From now on, every night should end with us soaking in a hot bath,” I say.
“Maybe it would be better if we didn’t do it so often, because if this becomes a routine, it will lose its charm.”
“You’re right. We’ll do this every other night. The water bill might make me cry, though… But then again, I’m rich.”
Alazne giggles, and reaches with her soaked hand to stroke my cheek. We kiss on the lips.
“I used to have baths when I was little,” Alazne says in a low, sad voice. “Mom would bathe me before bedtime. She would wash my hair and scrub my skin red, and then she would hold me so tightly that I couldn’t move. I think I felt safe.”
I hold her tighter in response.
“She… wasn’t right in the head,” Alazne continues, almost whispering. “Even back then I knew there wasn’t much to be done, because that’s how she was. But when I turned five and we moved, everything got worse. She would grab my arms and legs and toss me around, or sometimes she would put her hands over my mouth so I couldn’t breathe.”
I hadn’t expected our bath to turn this way, and I’m disturbed by her memories. I rub Alazne’s arms to assure her that I’m here for her.
“I hated… her so much…” Alazne adds with a hollow voice. “I had nothing but resentment. I was forced to endure this meaningless life because my dumb parents wanted to have a kid, but they didn’t have the mental tools to raise one properly.”
“It’s alright,” I say, hugging her tightly. “They’re not here anymore. They can’t hurt you.”
I hope those empty words I stole from several sources help her a little bit, because I can’t think of anything better to say.
“No, they’re not here anymore… but you are,” Alazne says.
She turns her head towards me and kisses me on the jaw. I must look distraught, because Alazne is quick to apologize.
“I-I didn’t want to sour this beautiful moment…! It just came out. I’m sorry.”
I fold my arms across her breasts. I feel her nipples hardening against my forearms.
“Don’t apologize for opening up, sweetie,” I say with what I hope is a soothing voice. “You told me about your mother because you feel safe, and you indeed are. Everything you want to tell me, I want to hear.”
Alazne nods. She relaxes again, putting her weight on me.
“Sometimes I just felt… unreal. Like this life couldn’t possibly be my own. I couldn’t affect anything, no matter how hard I tried.”
I want to chuckle bitterly. I have twenty years of experience with that. At least back when I inhabited my original body, no matter how terrible I thought my life had become at the end, I didn’t feel like a living ghost. It’s like Alazne has been forcefully practicing for an eternity in the afterlife.
“Back when I was twelve, I went outside in the middle of a storm at night, hoping that maybe Mother Nature herself would take me away,” Alazne says. “That was my first attempt. A half-assed one, but still.”
“That… was before your parents’ accident, right?” I ask softly.
Alazne stays silent for a few seconds. Her chest raises and falls against my arms.
“Yes. The night they died was the first time I really tried to kill myself. I had been thinking about it for years, you know.”
“What did you do?”
“I took all the pills I could find in the medicine cabinet and my mother’s handbag. I remember standing at the foot of my bed, staring at them while I counted.”
“How many were there?”
As Alazne says this, she tenses her body. Maybe she’s remembering the moment she took them.
“I then walked into the bathroom, turned on the shower, and started vomiting.”
“You threw up, huh?”
“Yes. So it didn’t work. Thing is, until that night I had wished for my parents to disappear. I thought I would finally get to be happy if I lived alone. But for that I would have needed a new brain. I guess that serves me right.”
“How did you adjust to your parents’ death?” I ask in a whisper.
“The next night I went to a nearby bridge and jumped off it. I broke both my legs, one in three places and the other in two. After that, they sent me to a mental institution. They wanted to give me medication. I didn’t let them.”
“I had… no clue about any of this,” I say with a shaky voice.
Alazne chuckles softly.
“Yeah, that was a lie, the jumping off a bridge thing and getting sent to a mental institution. Sorry… I thought it was getting too serious.”
“Don’t worry about it,” I say, even though I’m still feeling a little strange.
“I didn’t try to kill myself again until shortly before the fated day when we met each other,” Alazne says with a brighter voice. “Not because I didn’t want to, it’s just that I felt I could simply go with the flow. Life was shit for me, and there was nothing I could do. My lot in life and all that. And I had so many shows to follow, mangas to read… So I found some joy along the way, whatever could get me to forget myself. But I truly wished to die. You only got to meet me because I’m a coward. If I had any guts, years ago I would have been consequent with my desires. That cowardice kept me alive.”
Alazne takes my hand and entwines her fingers with mine.
“You know, you are the only person I have ever felt comfortable with,” she says warmly. “The only one who’s given me hope. Since you first kissed me in front of that car depot, I’ve only wished to be yours for the rest of my life.”
I feel my heartbeat quickening.
“Do you wish to spend the rest of your life with me?” she asks me.
“Yeah. This life of mine is all yours. And if we get to meet in the afterlife, whatever passes for my existence there will be yours too.”
“Good,” Alazne says, then sniffles. “Let’s live together, please.”
“You liked the house so much, huh?” I ask, still troubled.
“The house and how your big body feels against my bare skin, particularly your penis, even though it hasn’t been hard since I ruined the mood by bringing up sad memories.”
“I’m sure I will get hard again in no time. But I’m so glad you warmed up quickly to living with me. I want to wake up every morning looking at your angelic face.”
“Warming up? I don’t even want to return home!”
“Alright, then I’ll start figuring out how to bring your stuff over here. Won’t you miss living in Irún, though?”
Alazne snorts.
“Hell no! Fuck that dreary shithole.”
We laugh together. After we calm down, I move away the wet locks of hair that were blocking access to Alazne’s appetizing neck, and I kiss it from her clavicle to her ear. She reaches over her shoulder to run her fingers through my hair, and gazes into my eyes. She had opened her mouth to speak, but I was aching to bring the topic of Kateryna up.
“So it doesn’t worry you that a ghost is genuinely living in my house, that she will be our roommate?” I ask.
“Well, I believe she won’t hurt us, so no. And she actually succeeded at killing herself.”
“Yeah,” I mutter while my throat tightens. I don’t like that Alazne sounded proud of that fact.
“Kateryna will continue haunting the house forever or whatever it is ghosts do,” she continues. “I feel… a kinship with her.”
“I’m happy to hear you say that. I’m sure you both will become friends. You know, she’s likely listening to every word we are saying right now. She might be standing a couple of meters away from us right now and we wouldn’t notice, distracted as we are.”
“That’s fine, she already watched us fuck, after all. It’s kind of exciting. I’ve always been into weird stuff. And Kateryna needs distractions like those, she said so. It’s like she lives in a manifestation of depression, that whole afterlife she’s stuck in. I want to help her. At least make sure she has as easy a time as possible.”
My mind goes blank for a bit. I recall all those times as a ghost I tried to befriend other lost souls, only for them to tell me to fuck off or even try to call the ghost police. My time on that hopeless plane would have changed so much if Alazne would have understood I lived in, or I guess haunted, her apartment in Belaskoenea. I have no clue how I would have made her notice me when I only have the power to possess people, but my daydream doesn’t care. I doubt I would have dared possessing Asier’s dying body if Alazne, or any ghost for that matter, had been nice to me after Iñaki disappeared.
I switch back to reality because Alazne is slowly grinding her ass against my growing cock.
“There it is…” she says seductively.
I reply by kissing and biting her neck as I fondle her right breast and play with her hard nipple. With my left hand I reach for the lube.
“You just reminded me… that I had planned to take care of you during our bath.”
“Is that so? Then who am I to say no?”
Her mouth curls up in a smile as she looks longingly into my eyes, then she closes hers. She bends my rock-hard girl cock with her ass, which makes me shiver. I squirt a glob of lube on my left hand. I pass it to my right fingers, and I submerge them in the warm water so I can rub Alazne’s labia. She yelps in delight while squirming suddenly, which causes hot water to splash on the bathtub’s side and fall to the floor in a short-lived waterfall. Alazne then thrusts her hips gently in rhythm with my fingers. I focus on caressing her clit while I suck on her earlobe.
“Ahh… Fuck me…” Alazne says, her voice trembling.
She rests the back of her head against my shoulder and exhales through her mouth as I concentrate on slowly bringing her to a climax. I hook my fingers inside her, which allows me to feel her pussy pulsating around them, and slowly slide my fingers out, dragging along her soft, tender skin. I return to her clit. I would prefer that my tongue was tracing little circles around it, but I’m sure I’ll be eating her out in bed if not tonight, before tomorrow is done.
As Alazne orgasms, she breathes deeply while holding my arm, her nails digging into my skin. The hot water mixed with our sweat has created a thin mist that floats around us as we embrace each other.
“I am going… to have… such a good time here…” Alazne says with a faltering voice, out of breath.
“Oh, Alazne. Now that I’ll have you right where I want you, I will hunt you down relentlessly,” I say while caressing her belly.
“Yes, please. Tear me apart,” Alazne says, then she closes her eyes and leans her whole body against me.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 17 (GPT-3 fueled short)

Alazne’s warmth and mine have homogenized in the pitch black of her bedroom. After eleven at night or so, we’ve taken the habit of closing the window blinds to submerge ourselves in such a darkness that our lovemaking will be reduced to the sensations of taste, smell, touch, pressure, vibration, temperature and pain. We both last orgasmed around fifteen minutes ago, and since then we have held each other’s naked body and breathed on each other’s skin. I’m slowly kneading Alazne’s ass cheeks with both hands as I caress her neck with my lips. She keeps stirring and letting out almost indiscernible, high-pitched vocalizations that make her sound feral. Meanwhile she smears slowly the still wet juices caught in her pubes against my lower abdomen. Her pussy emanates such warmth that it hits my genitals as if she were exhaling on them.
Beyond the act of sex itself, I have never known such bliss as holding Alazne like this while knowing that the love of my life feels calm, satisfied and safe. In a way, I adore such moments even more than fucking. Ever since I first came across Alazne, I had wanted nothing more than to purge the sadness that was rotting her insides, and now I get to hope that one day she’ll be free of her pain.
My face is buried deep in Alazne’s neck, and her breasts are squished against my chest. Every breath of hers tickles my skin. Her hands have been gripping the back of my shoulders as if she doesn’t want to let go, and her bitten nails are pressing into my trapezius muscles.
I slide my hands up to massage her back, and when I lower them again to knead her ass cheeks, I feel Alazne tensing up as if she’s getting wetter. But she leans closer to my ear and opens her mouth noisily.
“What are you thinking about, my love?” she whispers.
“You, of course.” My voice sounds monotonous because I’m trying to keep it from breaking into a yawn. “Just how much I love you and how lucky I am.”
“You’re lucky?” she chuckles, clutching me tighter. “What about me, huh? I’m the one dating someone who puts so much effort into taking care of me, and who insists on paying for everything.”
“It’s all so we can lie in bed like this, feeling your naked body against mine, and getting to fondle that sweet ass of yours.”
I press my groin into Alazne’s thigh, and her warm liquids moisten my crotch. Alazne shivers, but then lets out a soft chuckle.
“We are both such horny bastards,” she says with a playful sigh. “I already was before you met me. I mostly masturbated so much because while I was aroused I didn’t feel despair. And it’s cheaper than drugs, I guess.”
“But you don’t masturbate anymore,” I say, “because you got me.”
Alazne giggles, and then licks my earlobe. The sound of her deep breath right into my ear canal makes my dick throb.
“No, I still masturbate when you aren’t here. And I come harder because I keep replaying in my mind what we do to each other.”
“That’s not fair. I have stopped masturbating so I wouldn’t waste my sexual energies! Alright, take this then.”
I find Alazne’s labia with my hand and rub my fingers up and down it to tease her. She shudders, then bites my shoulder to stop herself from moaning too loud.
“You’re so fucking cruel,” she whispers, lifting her hips to get more of my fingers inside her. “Are you trying to make me cum?”
“Of course I am.”
I insert another finger, and start finger-banging her. Her fluids are trickling down my wrist.
“You’re so wet already,” I whisper in her ear. “Are you going to cum for me, my sweet girl?”
“Mmh, you know I will,” she says in a low grunt.
I thrust my fingers quicker and she buries her teeth into my shoulder to muffle her ecstasy. The sharp pain of those teeth about to break through my skin only make me harder.
“Don’t worry,” I say while stroking her hair. “You can bite me all you want.”
With a series of moans, it only takes Alazne around a minute and a half to climax, spraying my hand and part of my belly with her pussy juices. After Alazne’s breath stabilizes and her body goes limp against me, I pull my hand out and wipe it on the bed sheet.
“You’re so bad,” Alazne says in a raspy voice.
She has lifted her head slightly, and even in the dark I can tell she’s trying to stare at me. I know that her pupils must be uneven, and that her light brown hair is sweaty and disheveled. She never looks so beautiful as in these moments, except when she plays the guitar.
“You’re going to kiss me, aren’t you?” I ask.
“Of course I am.”
I feel her lips on mine, like the touch of a feather. Gentle and fragile. My heart aches.
“You gave me a new feeling,” Alazne whispers. “When we lie in bed like this, I don’t doubt, I don’t suffer. My anxiety is gone. Every other passing moment of my life is spent in pondering and fearing everything as if I had to escape from a hole quickly filling with water. But now I’m free, soaring the sky beyond the walls.”
I swallow. I don’t want to let her know how close I came to crying.
“You’re so poetic. It would have been more effective if you hadn’t sneaked an ‘Attack on Titan’ reference in there.”
Alazne giggles, but then she rests her head on my chest and we do nothing but breathe for some seconds.
“What if this is a dream?” she asks, barely audible. “What if I wake up from it and I’m still locked in my pitch-black room, but alone?”
“What if everything is a dream, or some VR shit that feeds us fake sensations?” I reply.
“I don’t know if that would be good or bad,” she says. “Would we keep holding each other like this if that were the case?”
“Probably. We wouldn’t be the ones to realize that we are in a fake world.”
“Whether it’s real or not I guess it doesn’t make a difference,” Alazne concludes.
I kiss the top of her head, and she snuggles even more closely against me. Our bodies have merged. We are in perfect accord, just like two wheels connected by a single axle. I’m scared. Scared that something is going to come in and yank her away from me.
“Hmm… I don’t want to be anywhere else but in this bed,” Alazne mumbles placidly.
“That does segue awkwardly into the plan I was going to offer you for tomorrow. See, I want you to come over to my house so you can enjoy a bigger living environment, and also because I can’t wait to fuck you in my own bed.”
Alazne lets out a gasp of surprise and delight, and she squeezes my shoulders tighter.
“I said ‘this bed’, but I’m sure your own bed will work just fine. So you just want me to come over so you can get inside me, huh…?”
“That’s one reason, but also because there’s more space and privacy.”
“Fine, I’ll come over, spend the night and all that,” Alazne says as her heart beats louder.
“I know you’re going to love it,” I say. “But… Well, there are some things about my house you should know.”
As I’m trying to find the words, Alazne speaks up.
“I-I have been replaying our encounter with your ex-fiancée, and as much as I can remember of her words. I know, I know, but I can’t help it. Among the confusing things she suggested, it seems your house has a… bug infestation?”
I chuckle nervously.
“No bugs, that’s just Ainhoa refusing to face reality. Ah… I doubt you would have ever anticipated the words about to come out of my mouth, but… my house is haunted. I’m a hundred percent honest. I seriously have a fucking ghost roommate.”
Alazne lifts her head and exhales in surprise. I wait a few seconds for her to say anything, but she doesn’t.
“She won’t bother you,” I say without much confidence. “She doesn’t hate you and her name is Kateryna, not that it matters right now.”
“Okay, I can tell you are serious,” Alazne says with a nervous laugh. “What else? I-I mean… You seemed curiously interested and knowledgeable about ghost stuff before, but I wouldn’t have thought… Tell me, does this ghost appear to you? Is she a shadow person?”
“Uh… No. She’s not a shadow person. She doesn’t have the power to manifest herself on this plane.”
Neither did I. Back when I was a ghost, I could only possess people, a niche ability that made me feel I was the bottom rung of the ghost pecking order. However, these days I feel like the queen.
“I-is she hostile?”
“No, not at all.” I think back at the first time I met Kateryna, and how she purposefully targeted my testicles. “W-well, she can be, I guess. She produces poltergeists, and very effortlessly. If she’s pissed, I’m sure she can stick a knife in anyone’s head. Not that she will do that to you.”
“Are there others like her?”
“Not that I know of. I haven’t seen any proof of other ghosts in my house.”
Kateryna is one of a kind, and that’s why I cherish her.
I feel Alazne nodding slowly against my chest as if digesting the information.
“Listen, her poltergeist powers allow her to communicate easily through the ouija boards,” I say to reassure her. “And she’s very eager to talk, because the afterlife is boring. I guess. So tomorrow you’ll get to speak to each other for sure.”
“S-so you can talk to her?”
I snort.
“It’s hard to get her to stop using the ouija board. We have conversations daily.”
“I-Is it just her, or do other ghosts visit you too?”
I’m quite sure she just asked me that, but I’m surprised Alazne isn’t freaking out more, or getting mad because she thinks I’m lying.
“Just her.”
Kateryna had told me about a few times she had tried to take a walk through the graveyard which for some reason is adjoined to my gated community, but the presence of other ghosts terrified Kat. When a couple of them approached her merely to talk, she fled in a panic. She hasn’t left my home since. A phasmophobic ghost is a sorry sight.
I break the embrace and place my hands on Alazne’s shoulders.
“I’m am not joking, sweetie,” I say in a low voice. “I wouldn’t pull such prank on you.”
“I-it’s okay if you like to joke,” she whispers. “Just… don’t lie to me.”
My mood is ruined. But it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for the love of my life to expect.
“I won’t,” I say with a thin voice. “Still, my point is that you must find this whole thing about my ghost roommate hard to believe.”
“W-well, I know the common objections. Think about how many people have died throughout human history. Wouldn’t the ghost world be congested beyond belief?”
“Apparently not. Most don’t even linger there. It seems that the majority of people die with such few regrets, or a lack of wish to keep living, that they simply dissipate into the aether.”
“Alright, but even with most people’s souls disappearing when they die,” Alazne insists, “wouldn’t the mere passage of time have accumulated a tremendous amount of ghosts in the afterlife?”
I find myself smiling. I love being able to talk to Alazne about a place I’ve wasted two decades in.
“That plane is indeed quite crowded with ghosts, although not as many as you are thinking. Some ghosts refer to it as the Calm Depths of the Afterlife for a reason. There’s no water in it, but it’s not nearly as overpopulated as one might assume. Ghosts can’t kill each other, only drive you nuts, so if a ghost finds some abandoned ruin that the living wouldn’t bother with, that ghost could live in relative peace for eternity. There are few of what one could call ‘wrath spirits’, whose entire purpose seems to rage against whatever they consider ‘the machine’, including other ghosts. One could think that nature figured that those who go through the trouble of haunting are doing so out of a sense of purpose or duty, and they should be provided for accordingly.”
As Alazne stutters for a moment trying to digest everything I just poured into her ears, I want to hit myself. Shut up, moron! How on earth are you supposed to have learned this information?
“I-I mean, as far as Kateryna, the ghost in my house, told me,” I say. “I forgot to mention that the number of ghosts in the afterlife also dwindles because some manage to face their regrets and overcome them somehow. There was this ghost…”
Shit, I was going to speak in depth about Iñaki. I hadn’t thought about that old miserable bastard in what feels like a long time. I don’t think I could pass my interactions with the guy as a tale that Kateryna told me, because then Alazne might wonder why Kat doesn’t leave my house.
“This is all very intriguing…” Alazne says. “Still, wouldn’t there be ghosts from hundreds, thousands of years ago?”
I want to laugh bitterly and say some variation of ‘trust me, you don’t want to know’.
“There must be, but it’s not like you could understand what they are saying. Also, the longer one spends in the afterlife, the higher the risk of going insane. With losing their ghost minds entirely comes, for some, the salvation of dissolving into nothing, because their regrets no longer matter. Or that’s the common conception. It’s not like being a ghost comes with an instruction manual, you know? Ghosts learn by hearsay, and there are some clueless shadows out there.”
“Hmmm… So after one dies he has to look forward to going crazier and crazier from loneliness and impotence?” Alazne asks with a bitter twinge of irony.
“Erm, well…” I say. “Some do, for sure. But knowing that means you have your work cut out for you: you must live a life of no regrets.”
“… Was that an ‘Attack on Titan’ reference?” Alazne asks, amused.
I sigh.
“Everything is, Alazne. What I mean is that you make the best of it. That’s the whole point of living a life with no regrets: so that you won’t look back and kick yourself over your own failures. And maybe you get to save a bunch of people and cut down some titans in the process, I guess.”
“I love that you are speaking my language.”
“I hope that at least gives you even more reasons to live. Now you are motivated by something other than fear, even if it’s to put titans down.”
Alazne rests on me again, and closes her right hand around my left biceps. She leans in to my armpit, tickling it with her nose, and takes a good whiff, which causes me to chuckle in confusion.
“What are you doing?” I ask.
“Just smelling by boyfriend,” she says, contented. “You know, you could write some books. You experienced many strange things during those years you travelled throughout Europe, and now you are friends with a ghost… I’m sure people would be interested. I know I would love to read all of it.”
Not to mention that if other ghosts who can possess recently deceased corpses have returned to this plane, they have kept quiet about it. Writing about my experiences, huh? I stroke my chin with my free hand.
“You know, Alazne, I used to write quite a bit when I was…” A woman, that’s what I was going to say. And I would gladly have said it, if it weren’t because I caught myself. Being this relaxed is dangerous. “… When I was younger. Maybe I should try something again. I do have a laptop.”
“Yeah! I would love to read your work!” she says, the image of enthusiasm.
My heart skips a beat as she cuddles closer to me. I release a long breath.
“Thanks for the encouragement,” I say, “but for now try to get some sleep, my precious girl. You have a strange day ahead of you.”

This morning, before I left Alazne’s apartment to return home and spend a few hours figuring out how every room of my stolen house would look from my beloved’s perspective, I gave her two fifty euro notes and the phone number for the taxi company I had been abusing recently. It’s now six in the afternoon in a cloudy day that has darkened as if the sun was setting, and I can’t stand still. I pace up and down the hallway and the living room, dealing with an anxiety that creeps from the tips of my fingers. I get the feeling that I’m forgetting something vital about the hill of lies on top of which I live.
The bell I set up on the living room’s table rings, sounding sharp as if it had tapped on my eardrums. Kateryna wants to tell me something.
The planchette spells out YOU ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY.
It’s unlike Kat to make such an obvious complaint. I sit down heavily on the nearest chair and rest my forearms on the table.
“I’m sorry. I had grown used to how I needed to act, or maybe behave is the right word, when I was visiting Alazne’s apartment. Now that she’s going to explore my safehouse, I’m simply on edge. My brain is running simulations of every question I could be asked, along with i the outlandish answers I should give.”
I groan, sounding more pained than I would have expected.
“What is exactly the truth that you suggest I should reveal to my beloved, Kateryna?” I ask with a hollow voice.
“Then help me, Kateryna. Help me figure out how to tell Alazne the truth without destroying everything.”
The planchette slides in one direction, but it stops. It trembles as if Kateryna was doubting herself. Then it spells out SAY I AM IRENE I AM WOMAN AND ALSO A GHOST BUT I LOVE YOU.
Although I can’t help but laugh, by end of that outburst my laughs turn bitter.
“My friend, it wouldn’t work on me, I don’t think. I would run for the hills. I don’t want Alazne to reject me like that, I wouldn’t be able to stand it.”
I sigh and rub my eyes.
“Could you throw something at my head, Kateryna? I need to snap out of this. I feel like I’m suffocating. I can’t stand the way I’m lying to her.”
A chill and a cold breeze envelop my surroundings. It’s thicker than usual, and maybe I should feel afraid, but I don’t. I can only hope that this is Kateryna’s way of helping me out.
My head snaps to the side as an invisible hand slaps me. The pain runs across the side of my face, and my eyes get teary. I think I taste blood; I might have scraped the inside of my lower lip with my teeth.
“That, hmmm, that really hurt,” I say as I breathe heavily through my nose.
The cold spot floats towards the ouija board, and the planchette quickly spells out TOO HARD I AM SORRY I CANT CONTROL IT THAT WELL.
As I rub the warmer side of my face, I tilt my head so my neck cracks. Surprisingly, I feel more at ease.
“It worked! I should have known that physical pain would have diverted my troubled mind’s attention from its worries. Thank you, Kat. Unfortunately, I still don’t see how–“
My phone rings, startling me, and I spring to my feet. It’s Alazne.
“Hey, the taxi should be a street away from the address you gave me, but the driver says there’s only a graveyard there. That’s not true, is it…?” She sounded worried, as if I had finally decided to pull a nasty prank. And sending a previously suicidal person to the graveyard while pretending it’s the house I invited her to live in… That’s peak nasty.
I press the phone against my chest for a moment to silence the mic.
“Oh shit, she’s already here!” I tell to Kateryna, and then I hold the phone to my ear as I run towards the front door. “Alazne, it’s a gated community right next to the graveyard. Has a wall covered in ivy. Tell him to drive along the wall past the graveyard. You can’t miss it.”
I stand right outside of my stolen abode’s front door. The houses are organized in four columns of three, and this place is in the second column and closest to the wall. I keep staring at the open gate, which some neighbor must have the duty to close past eleven at night, but for which Asier had the key in his keychain.
I was holding my breath when a taxi appears. Even though I can barely make out Alazne behind the reflection in the windows, I can tell she has spotted me and is leaning towards the driver to talk.
The taxi stops close to the open gate, and the rear passenger door swings out. My girlfriend exits the car while putting the change in her back pocket. I find myself staring at her figure in awe. Merely looking at Alazne fills me with such joy.
As I walk up to her, I’m confused by her baffled expression. She alternates between looking at me and at Asier’s house behind me. The taxi pulls away to leave the gated community. The silhouette of the driver’s head stares back at us.
“Y-you weren’t kidding about this community being next to the graveyard,” Alazne says in a low voice as she reaches me. “I would have thought this was an extension of the graveyard, maybe where they arranged the crypts.”
“Yeah, I have wondered what kind of crazy people built these houses so close. But their insane idea worked for our benefit. You can’t beat this silence.”
The community is indeed an oasis of quiet, particularly because none of our ghostly neighbors seem to have the ability to project into this plane their wails and how they plead for their eternal suffering to end.
I smile and take Alazne’s hand. I open my mouth to speak, but my girlfriend, who can’t tear her gaze away from the house, keeps talking as in a trance while she points towards the building.
“Is this seriously your house…? You own this place…?”
“Yeah, I’ve lived here for years,” I reply. I think that’s true.
“It’s huge…!”
“I love hearing that coming out of your mouth. You seem confused, though. You thought I couldn’t afford it?”
Alazne turns her head towards me. She seems to have snapped out of her trance, and now she’s staring as if she isn’t sure where she stands, or as if she needs to reevaluate some aspect of our relationship.
“Asier, I don’t even know what your job is. I had already thought that for someone who insists on paying for everything, you seem as unemployed as me, but…” She gestures towards the house. “This is ridiculous!”
“Oh, you’re right. It’s ridiculous how little you know about me.”
I had meant it as a joke, and yet it isn’t, and Alazne frowns as if I upset her. While I think about how to justify myself, I observe my house as if I hadn’t seen it before, or lived in it for that matter.
It’s two stories high if you don’t count the partial floor they fit for the attic under the gable roof, and they built the house in the common farmhouse style popular around these parts, particularly in the outskirts of the cities and for the houses of those who can afford some luxury. It’s supposed to bring to mind the struggles of long generations of Basque farmers or some shit. The bricks have a tawny, toasted tone, while the architraves around the windows and doors are tan, and possibly made out of some type of stone, not that I would know or care about the particulars. What’s an architrave, you ask? You tell me. A balcony surrounds most of the second floor, and it has an ornate cast iron balustrade. On the first floor, a closed garage door leads to a garage, against all odds, but it doesn’t contain a car, because Asier wrecked his Škoda when he invaded the opposite lane to kill himself. And I don’t want to buy a new car, no matter how much money I have. Those things are death machines. With the public transport being so good in these parts, personal vehicles are isekai plot devices, as far as I’m concerned.
“There’s also a small yard in the back, but I don’t feel too comfortable there, as the neighbors can look down at you from their balconies,” I say casually to Alazne, who is grimacing with worry. I put a hand on her shoulder. “Listen, sweetie, either I bought this place or I stole it. Whichever seems more likely.”
“You bought it, I’d say. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m amazed, but… I-I feel distanced from all of this, somehow…”
I quickly pull her into an embrace, and when Alazne reacts, she crosses her arms behind my back.
“Alazne,” I start with a serious tone, “maybe I should want to tell you that I worked really hard for this majestic house that invited you to, both to stay the night and to live in whenever you feel ready, but the truth is that I inherited some money, and my grandparents probably were considerably loaded as well. Not only I hoard quite an amount of euros in my bank account, but I also have a diversified stock portfolio. I’m the kind of rich person that unless I turn into a complete imbecile, I shouldn’t need to debase myself by working for other people, or at all.”
“T-then what are you doing with me? With us?”
Alazne sounded scared. I pull away from our hug, even though she resisted, and I hold her head to invade her mouth with my tongue.
“Hmm… Tastes like blood?” Alazne says, mostly muffled.
“Ah… Sorry, I bit myself out of nervousness.”
We make out for a while, and Alazne is into it, but she ends up pushing me away gently. She has blushed heavily, and is avoiding my gaze.
“I-It’s hard for me to understand why you would want to spend time with someone like me.”
I flick her forehead, maybe a bit harder than I intended.
“You dummy, you know why I am with you! You give too much importance to material possessions. It’s not as if I earned any of it! Well, I… I did earn some of it, I suppose. Just focus on the fact that I have an awesome house in which you will be able to run around, fall down the stairs and shit like that.”
And I wasn’t lying about me having a stock portfolio, although I don’t know if it’s properly diversified, nor do I know what ‘diversified’ means in that context. I found out on my bank’s site that I had entries in something called a stock portfolio. I googled what that meant. Turns out that Asier bought some numbers related to some companies, and those numbers are tied to charts with jagged lines that go up and down. Some people apparently spend all day glued to their devices to monitor how those lines change direction, and they need to follow the international news as well, because some minor event might spook the markets as if it were a colony of cats that just heard a sudden noise. I have no clue why anyone would jump willingly into the rabbit hole of this stocks garbage. I suppose that the people who gravitate towards it need to feel wired or else they’d get bored. They probably snort loads of cocaine off someone’s butt crack. Whatever the case, I own some stock stuff myself, and if one day I need money, I guess I’ll sell those stocks where the line is closest to the top of the chart.
“You know, maybe I should look into buying a summer house somewhere in southern Europe so we can live there half a year,” I say nonchalantly.
Alazne places a hand on her forehead as if she suddenly feels dizzy. I step towards her in case she staggers.
“Really…? This is a bit too much.”
“Just focus on what matters, Alazne: I’m rich enough that I don’t have to work. And because I’m not forced to, I can openly hold the opinion that most of the jobs out there are meaningless, soul-killing tasks created to keep the citizens occupied, because the government needs to lower the unemployment rate so they can use it as a reason for why the masses should vote for them. And also some people are so stupid that if they didn’t work, they would start wreaking havoc because they wouldn’t know how to keep themselves busy. Humanity is just the pits, Alazne, we are naked apes who were given cars and machine guns and we believe ourselves to be civilized because we dress ourselves and produce complicated vocalizations. There’s only a layer of conscious thought above millions of years of instinct, and down there it’s all raw animality. If we could get away with flinging our shit at some people’s faces and ripping some other people’s faces off, you know we would.”
When I finish, Alazne blinks a few times and looks up at me with her big, hazel eyes.
“I suppose that’s right…”
“This whole conversation just reminded me of my general outlook on life that I tend to forget, that’s all. In conclusion: I won’t waste decades of my precious existence inside a breathing, decaying body rimming some boss’ asshole. Instead, I’ll rim your– I mean, I will eat you out. I don’t like any of that ass stuff.”
Alazne smiles faintly at me while maintaining an absent expression, as if I have removed some vital piece of her brain.
I point at her choice of attire.
“I wanted to mention, that’s a curious way of introducing yourself to a ghost.”
“A-ah, that’s right, there was also the ghost…”
Alazne looks down at her shirt while holding its hem. It features a meme-inspired design that says, in bold letters, ‘REJECT HUMANITY, BECOME MONKE’, above a close-up, smirking depiction of the Beast Titan.
“Yeah, I saw it online and I thought it was cute. I also thought of getting a tattoo of him.”
“For the love of God, I don’t want to stare at the Beast Titan’s bigfoot face as I’m fucking you.”
Despite how nervous Alazne looks, she smirks.
“I would choose his human form, of course.”
“They can do whatever they want with him. He’ll always be bigfoot to me.”
When Alazne finally laughs, she can’t hide the desperation.
“I-I think I need to get inside. It’s getting really chilly, and I was already high-strung about visiting haunted house.”

Note from May of 2021:

Somehow I ended up writing around 75,000 words of this ridiculous story, so when I finally finish it I’ll figure out how to merge it into a functional epub, I’ll commission the cover art, I’ll sell it on Amazon for a couple of bucks or three, and I’ll order a printed version so I can feel that I’m doing something productive with my extraordinarily limited time on this planet.

Also, Alazne keeps bringing up that show, so I might as well link all its openings, creditless and in 60 fps.

Roleplaying through “Re:Zero” with the GPT-3 story generator (Part 64)

This entry covers part of the eleventh volume of the original “Re:Zero” novels.

In the previous entry we learned that Garfiel is boring, that children shouldn’t be Pokemon trainers, that Echidna is a bad mother, that the protagonist is traumatized after being eaten alive, that the Witch of Greed wants to consume the protagonist, and that the protagonist is waiting to meet the presumably horrifying Daphne, the Witch of Gluttony.

You stare at the empty chair across from you while your heart jumps on your chest and cold sweat beads on the back of your neck. Being so close to Echidna had already made you light-headed, and now you can’t think straight. You realize, for starters, that you are staring at a chair, when Echidna had said that the Witch of Gluttony doesn’t sit. As the hair on your arms stands up, you look around the hillock in case another witch is standing out of sight to give you a scare. You first realize that this isn’t the small hillock you had assumed it to be, in which you would just have to take a few steps to roll downhill. The top of this hillock is much wider, as if Echidna wanted to grant you more room to maneuver.
When your gaze falls back on the chair across you, someone is sitting there. It’s a tanned girl not older than ten, with short, feathered, dark green hair and red eyes. She’s wearing a white sunday dress, and the first instinctive impression you get is of a prim and proper girl from a reputable family. When you return your gaze to her face, she smiles with a wide mouth.
The sudden sight doesn’t compute for your brain, but as you hold her red gaze, you recall the most ominous warning that Echidna had given you: not to look into the Witch of Gluttony’s eyes. You flinch and look down at her side of the table. You must be giving the impression that you want to shrink into the chair. Why is Daphne a child? And why is she so sylphlike? Someone born with the curse of gluttony surely should be as obese as they get.
“I’m glad that I got to meet you, Baru!”, the child says with a carefree, innocent voice.
Her voice dismantles you further. She sounded like the kind of girl who would happily spend hours playing with a doll house. You had imagined that you would face someone who would give some justification for creating those two legendary monsters, the White Whale and the Great Rabbit, but if Daphne is a child who was killed then trapped as a ghost for hundreds of years, surely she must have created those monsters on a whim, as playmates. You feel that you can’t hold her responsible for the damage and uncountable deaths that the White Whale and the Great Rabbit have caused by rampaging for centuries. The problem is that a child shouldn’t have the power to create such monsters in the first place. Was this the reason why Echidna didn’t seem troubled by your fear in anticipation of meeting the Witch of Gluttony? She must have known you were going to meet an innocent child that can’t help but manifesting horrors in the world outside.
Your shoulders slump.
“Ah… I’m happy to meet you as well”, you ask with a nervous voice. “How are you doing?”
On the edge of your vision you notice that she smiles at your words.
“I’m doing better now. Ekidonna always keeps the visitors for herself. That’s not fair, is it? And we get so few!”
Her voice was so hopeful that you begin to feel relieved. She must be a very emotional person, and they usually forgive as they get attached to others easily. Still, you get the sense that you won’t glean any information about how to defeat the Great Rabbit from her.
“Not to disparage the great Echidna or anything,” you say with a conciliatory tone, “but I’m glad I can meet at least another one of you witches. It’s not fair that you ended up locked away for centuries, is it? It must get too lonely.”
The child giggles.
“I’m not lonely at all! I’m always with my friends. But I’m happy that I could meet one more. You are so friendly with Ekidonna too, giving her lots of kisses on her legs. And you wanted to kiss her down there too!” She giggles as if laughing at a silly joke. “That’s where we pee from!”
You gasp. Your gaze darts around in a panic, although you are very careful not to allow yourself to look above the lower half of this child’s face.
“Y-You shouldn’t have seen any of it. Sorry, I didn’t know the other witches were watching. It was supposed to be an intimate moment.”
“It’s fine. I don’t mind. It was very funny! But I’m feeling sad that you won’t look at me. It’s bad manners not to look at the person you are speaking to, you know. Daddy told me that many times. Are you shy?”
You must seem mousy, petrified as you are of holding this child’s gaze. Is this a ploy? Is she feigning innocence, and the moment you look into her red eyes she will be able to eat you, or something more unimaginably horrible?
“You were listening to the long conversation I had with your fascinating friend Echidna, didn’t you? So you know that she warned me about looking into your eyes. I’m merely following her recommendations.”
The child laughs, then shakes her head.
“You think I’m Daphy! That’s so funny! I look nothing like Daphy! But that’s alright, you hadn’t met us before.”
A chill runs through your spine, and you slowly lift your gaze towards the child’s red eyes. She stares back with curious amusement. You stand up from your chair and walk a couple of steps away from the tea table so you can look at this girl fully. She tilts her head, then she turns on her chair to face you. There’s nothing weird about the rest of this stranger beyond the fact that now you know that her white dress has a skirt.
“Who are you then?”, you ask cautiously.
“Me? I’m a wee little girl! A very, very, very little girl!”
Both the presence of a random child here as well as her carefree nature, after having been trapped in this tomb for hundreds of years, unnerves you. You want to retreat. It’s the closest you have felt in this world to being in a haunted house. You are staring at a ghost, who feels to you as incomprehensible and unpredictable as the ones in your old world.
“What’s your name…?”
“Name’s Typhon. That’s the name my parents gave me. Do you like it?”
“It’s… a nice name… Where are your parents, Typhon?”
You don’t know why you asked that. It just doesn’t sit right that this child isn’t at home with her family.
“I ate them.”
She answers so casually that you forget to breathe for a second.
“You… You did… What?!”
“I ate them. I was hungry.”
“But why would you do that?!”
“There’s no cake in this room. The desserts here are terrible!”
You stare at her wide-eyed and with your mouth open. The child can’t hold her serious expression for longer than a couple of seconds, and then she closes her eyes and grins, showing most of her teeth.
“I don’t eat that much! That’s Daphy’s problem! You are so silly, you just believed me!”
You don’t know what to say, but you force yourself to come up with something.
“Yeah, you really got me there, Typhon… Anyway, why did you come to see me? Were you just curious about a stranger entering your tomb?”
“Hmmm… I dunno. I just felt like it. And you aren’t a stranger anymore, Baru! A stranger wouldn’t be so friendly with Ekidonna, would he?”
“Well, I guess not…”
“I like you! But I’m curious to know something… Are you a sinner, Baru?”
You have no idea how to answer. Why is this girl suddenly asking about sins? Who the hell is she? The name Typhon doesn’t mean anything to you. Is she truly one of the witches of old, even though she’s a damn kid? You feel that you need to answer seriously. You have no clue what this child is capable of.
“Let’s see… I have killed a few people, I can’t quite remember how many… I stabbed an Archbishop in the heart and he died some time later, my sword got stuck into a cultist’s head that one time Ricardo launched me against the guy, I… I had my ground dragon murder a pretty teenage girl who was possessed. Those are the things that sound like sins of everything I’ve done, I guess. And I cheated on my Rem…”
“You’re not a very good person, are you?”
You swallow.
“No, I suppose not.”
Typhon smiles at you.
“Good! That means I can eat you!”
You jump away from her. Your whole body is tense, and you are having trouble breathing properly.
“Damn it, are you actually the Witch of Gluttony just pretending to be someone else?”
The child doubles over with laughter. When she recovers, she jumps from her chair and walks a couple of steps towards you. You only prevent yourself from moving because you feel she would simply get closer.
“You believe everything!”, Typhon says between giggles. “I don’t know if you are an evildoer yet. Let me hold your hand!”
Typhon slowly approaches your hand with hers.
“This will tell me everything about you, Baru. If you truly are a bad person deep down, then I will curse you.”
You feel your pulse in your neck. You swallow to return some saliva to your mouth. Are you a bad person? You feel like you are. But Echidna has seen all of your memories and still accepted you.
“Ah… Can I refuse to be judged like that?”
Typhon frowns at you.
“No, because I’m the judge.”
You allow the girl to grab your hand. You tense up. You had expected to feel some electricity-like surge of power running through you, but it just feels as if you are holding a small girl’s hand.
Typhon giggles as she looks into your eyes.
“Baru, those are so many icky thoughts about girls!”
“You think about naked girls all the time!”
You try to withdraw your hand from her grip, but somehow you can’t move it.
“I do not! Well, I do! Is that bad!?”
You panic as a bead of sweat rolls down your forehead. The smile on Typhon’s face broadens.
“That’s not right, Baru! Those girls would feel bad if they knew, wouldn’t they?”
“Ah… I think that Rem and Emilia would be happy about it, don’t you think…? Do you know who they are…?”
Typhon is still smiling up at you, but with a coldness in her red eyes.
“You feel much worse about yourself than the stuff you have done, but those are so many dirty thoughts about girls! We have to do something about that, don’t we?”
You don’t want to respond, but you feel that you need to say something.
“Typhon, I also think about things other than girls…”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course! I think about eating good food, and talking to people I like, and killing people I don’t like, that kind of stuff.”
“Don’t you think you have a dirty mind, Baru?”
This child is still holding your hand. Your palms are sweating profusely.
“Anyway, I’ll help you with your problem”, Typhon says. “You are not an evildoer, just naughty!”
She moves back while still holding your hand, and you realize that your right arm has followed her even though you haven’t felt a pull in your body. She’s holding on to your rigid arm as if it were a doll’s limb. Your blood runs cold. You look down towards where your right arm ought to be, but it ends slightly below the shoulder as if it had been cut off and the wound cauterized immediately. No, as if you were a detachable action figure. You look back at Typhon, who has lowered her right hand, still holding on to yours, but keeps staring up at you as if she didn’t just pull off one of your limbs.
“You need to be punished, right?”, Typhon says casually. “In the future, whenever naughty thoughts come to you, you will fear that you will lose a part of yourself!”
You’re about to cry.
“There’s nothing wrong with naughty thoughts!”, you say unconvincingly. “Wanting to have sex with a bunch of people is one of the most normal things in the world! Maybe not with that trainee, but… those outfits are too much!”
You’re edging backwards, and at some point you realize that your left arm has fallen to the grass as if it were poorly glued to your body.
Typhon steps towards you while she chews innocently on her thumbnail. She’s still holding on to your detached right arm.
“I don’t want to eat you, though. You’re too skinny! And I’m not allowed to eat people with black hair!”
“I-I already know you aren’t Daphne! Please, don’t steal more of my limbs! I can’t regrow any of them!”
“But you need to be punished”, she says again with a playful smile.
You feel as if you are about to pass out. You don’t feel any pain at all, but trying to move your arms only for just your shoulders to pivot helplessly is screwing with your mind, sending it into a panic. Relax, you repeat to yourself. None of this is actually happening. You are inhabiting an avatar of sorts courtesy of Echidna. Think of that black-eyed loon and her warm insides you never got to taste.
“I don’t. I shouldn’t be punished. I should be able to think about having sex with whomever I want. I don’t hurt anyone with thoughts. You are the one messing with me.”
Typhon frowns as she stops chewing on her thumbnail. She tosses your right arm aside and she shakes her head.
“You’re not very nice, Baru. You’re not even nice to yourself! Maybe I should get Daphy to eat you after all.”
You shudder. You want to motion for the child to stop, but you don’t even have hands. Your legs are getting numb, as if they wish to stop holding your weight.
“You know, Echidna told me she would return to me after I had a chat with your glutton”, you say with a shaky voice. “The Witch of Greed won’t be happy if she finds me dismembered!”
“Nah. Ekidonna will find it interesting!”
She looks at your left arm, which is lying on the grass, and as if Typhon had cut it with a huge, invisible knife, the arm gets bisected silently.
“Y-You seem like such a nice girl, Typhon”, you say with a thin voice. “You wouldn’t fuck with me to such an extent, would you?”
Typhon looks at you with an innocent, cherub face.
“Don’t use bad words! When people can’t help themselves, they only learn through punishment, isn’t that right? All those icky thoughts about girls are making you feel guilty. That’s okay! I will divide your body for every naughty thought you ever had!”
The terror makes you want to vomit. This girl is going to reduce you into atoms!
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”, you yell as tears drip down your face. “Please forgive me! I am dominated by my genetic imperatives!”
“Nah, you must learn your lesson, Baru.”
Your legs give out, and you fall to your knees. No, to the stumps that your knees have become. The lower half of your legs has broken off cleanly. As you fall forward, unable to prevent yourself from faceplanting given that you lack both arms, you head gets detached and rolls off. A blade of grass slides across your eyeball, so you close your eyes. When your head, the only thing you feel you can move to any extent anymore, rests, you open your eyes to see the grass you are lying on rising in your vision like a tiny jungle. The rest of your body keeps bisecting slowly. Typhon is making sure you notice each time she applies her power. The child appears in your field of view, and she looks down at you with an innocent grin, as if she’s merely playing with you. You open your mouth to speak, but suddenly you lose your bifocality. It seems as if the part of your head that contains your left eye has detached and has slid down, so it only shows you the blue sky surrounded by unfocused blades of grass.
To your surprise, you can still speak.
“You called me mean, and yet you just reduced me to this. What does that make you, witch?”
Typhon giggles.
“Me? I’m not the mean one here. You’ve got a very mean look about you, Baru, even though you aren’t that bad of a guy. Besides, I’m saving you, am I not?”
You try to shake your head, but it just slides a little to the side.
“How do you call this being saved when I can’t even tell where my junk is? This is around the fourth time I’ve lost those guys!”
Typhon giggles, and she is about to say something when you both are startled by the distant sound of a woman shouting. It comes from the sky, and it increases in volume as if someone had jumped from a skyscraper and on the way down she berated as loud as she could the people she was about to meet below.
A few seconds later, the shouting becomes intelligible.
“The first time you meet him and you hurt him like this! It’s unforgivable! How could you be so cruel!? He only wished to speak to us! You think you can get away with this!?”
Typhon frowns, and crouches next to you to touch your forehead with the tip of her fingers.
“It looks like Nerva isn’t too happy with me. She can’t stop yelling, that one.”
One of your eyes catches a glimpse of a person falling feet first maybe around twenty meters away, where the hillock curves down. When the person crashes, it jolts the ground sending up a burst of dirt, grass and particles. After the grass and the dirt fall around the crater that has formed, you see a girl maybe in her late tens or early twenties, who is down on one knee. She’s beautiful, blonde and blue-eyed, and her fit body is clothed with the closest thing you’ve seen in this fantasy world to a superhero outfit, white and blue, which provides a generous amount of cleavage. She has gathered her long hair in a ponytail at the side of her head, as if she just wanted her hair out of the way. When she stands up, she flounces angrily towards Typhon and you, and midway through she points with a trembling hand towards the child. This new girl’s eyes are crying as if out of indignation, because she’s glaring at Typhon.
“You! You dare hurt Subaru like that!? I’ll never forgive you!”
Typhon rolls her eyes.
“Oh, he’s alright. Aren’t you fine, Baru?”
You narrow your eyes, even though one of them is only showing you blue sky and blurry grass.
“I’ve been better.”
The blonde girl shakes her head in disappointment, and now she’s looking down at you while tears keep running down her face. This stranger came to defend you, it seems.
“Nice to meet you”, you say. “I guess you must be one of the witches of old, right? You know my name from prying into my conversation with Echidna.”
She crosses her arms while she stares at you with her beautiful light blue eyes, but she’s frowning heavily as if outraged.
“We have no choice but to see and hear! We can’t go anywhere! You didn’t come to hurt any of us, nor to attempt to cast us from this world! In fact, you wanted to make love to the Witch of Greed!”
“Which is public knowledge now, it seems…”, you mumble.
The blonde woman clenches her right hand into a fist and she pumps it energetically.
“People should love each other! That’s the solution for all the troubles in the world! I’m Minerva, the Witch of Wrath! I’m glad to meet you in person, Subaru!”
“I like you already, Minerva. It doesn’t hurt that you have the body of a model, or how I imagine a model would look in person. I’d love to shake your hand, but you’d have to find mine first.”
Typhon lets out a noise of indignation.
“What did I tell you, Baru? No mouth for you.”
Something detaches in your face. It must be your mouth, because everything under your nose and above your chin feels hollow. You have lost the sense of taste, and you don’t feel the saliva in its cavity. You are surprised that you haven’t bled to death, nor had a heart attack because none of the things happening to your body make any sense.
Minerva narrows her eyes at Typhon, while her nostrils widen.
“You dare hurt Subaru further in front of me! You are the worst, Pride!”
“Oh, I’ll have you know that I’m still the best! The best! Wouldn’t you agree, Baru?”
You make a point of narrowing your eye that shows the child in its field of view. The little shit knows damn well you can’t say a thing.
“I won’t let you get away with this, Typhon!”, Minerva shouts while tears keep jumping from her eyes. “How many times do I need to tell you to be careful with people’s feelings!? You have no right to hurt others!”
“I need to know if people around me are evildoers, and to what degree. You know this, Minerva! I can’t have them getting away with being evil.”
“You’d do well to listen to someone who has more experience than you do, kid!”
“We are both more than four hundred years old, though.”
“I’m still older, and I have accrued more life experiences! I’m telling you, breaking people apart is a bad thing, especially someone you’ve just met!”
Typhon frowns, clenches her fists and stomps on the ground.
“You’ve always been like this. Why am I even friends with you?”
“Because the pair of us can’t exactly be choosers when it comes to allies! We are both outcasts, and we have to help each other out! Now, I suggest you return him to normal or I will keep demanding you do so!”
“No, I don’t wanna. He hasn’t learned his lesson! He had icky thoughts about you the moment he saw you!”
You want to say that you couldn’t help it, nor wanted to, really. But you can’t say anything without a mouth.
“I’m not mad about that, people can have whatever thoughts they want!”, Minerva shouts as she keeps pointing an accusatory finger at Typhon. “Hurting people, that’s a different matter! You better make this right or I’ll be this close to never forgiving you!”
Typhon looks away, then snorts as she crosses her arms.
“You are one to talk. You want nothing more than to punch and headbutt people.”
“I may have done some questionable things in the past, but I have never outright hurt someone like you do! Turn him back, Typhon!”
“No! People need to be punished for their bad actions!”
Minerva groans loudly, then turns toward you and glares murderously at what remains of your face.
“Alright, then! I will do it myself!”
The Witch of Wrath stands in a fighting stance. She pulls her fist back while eyeing you as if she’s targetting your forehead.
You want to scream, you want to ask for mercy. This witch who a moment ago was defending your existence suddenly intends to obliterate you. You don’t understand anything.
She leaps towards you while launching her powerful fist. You close your eyes. The moment her fist connects with your forehead, you feel whole, standing on your legs. The shock almost makes them buckle. You stagger around for a moment while balancing yourself with your arms, which you have regained as well.
Minerva holds her fist in front of her as if she’s checking if she’ll need to punch you again, and although she’s frowning and tears run down her cheeks, she’s as close to satisfied as you have seen this strange person.
Typhon shakes her head.
“Why did you have to get involved, Nerva?”, she complains with a teary voice. “I wasn’t doing anything wrong!”
Now that you have a voice again, you want to take the opportunity to defend yourself.
“Please, girls, let’s forget this regrettable incident.” You focus on Minerva, who looks back at you with her beautiful light blue eyes, like the water in a pristine lake. You walk up to her and offer your hand to shake. “I’m so glad to make your acquaintance, Witch of Wrath. Not only you look so fucking good, but you also prefer to put me together instead of breaking me apart. That makes you a winner in my eyes.”
Minerva wipes the tears from her eyes. She doesn’t stop frowning, or can’t, as she grabs your hand and shakes it while squeezing it strongly.
“I apologize if I seem a little angry! I can’t tolerate people hurting others, it gets on my nerves!”
“Don’t worry, I can tell that being furious is your niche. And man, you are as sexy as they come, aren’t you.”
Typhon stomps on the ground and clenches her teeth.
“Baru! Don’t say such icky things to my friends, I’m telling you!”
“If you don’t like it, then go away”, you say, barely glancing at her. “Sorry, Witch of Pride, if you have a problem with me having naughty thoughts, you might as well never share a room with me, because I’m made out of little else than naughty thoughts. If you took them out I’d become an empty husk.”
It seems that you won the argument, because Typhon pouts, walks away and vanishes as if she exited the death-dream.
Minerva smiles back at you, even though it looks malicious due to her frown. She gives your hand a final squeeze before letting it go.
“Typhon might be a dragon in a dress and I a lion, but you are a cat, Subaru!”
“I’ll take that as a compliment. You are too kind, Witch of Wrath, healing me through a righteous punch. I’m sure that if I ever get to leave this death-dream, I will remember you fondly. And not only because of that appetizing cleavage.”
She pumps her fist.
“Hah! You’d better remember!”
“I was supposed to meet Daphne, the Witch of Gluttony that you must be familiar with. Any tips on how to face such a terrifying prospect?”
She lowers her head while glaring fiercely.
“A-ha! Daphne is a real monster, but you are not! Just face her with the courage of your convictions, and I’m sure she will be just as charmed by you as I am!”
A smile grows on your mouth. You put your hands on your waist.
“Thanks for the advice. You remind me of my senior servant, if she were nice. It’s too bad you are dead, Minerva.”
“You look like you mean that, so I’ll take it as a compliment! I’m sure we would have been friends! Now, I have taken too much of your time! I hope we meet again, and remember to be fair and kind to people!”
“I intend to…”
You wave as Minerva turns around and walks away. When she vanishes, you feel sad.
As you turned to walk to your chair, Echidna is sitting in the shade of the parasol. Staring back at those black eyes with vertical slits fills you with such relief, it’s as if you came home after a long day at work. You sit down slowly while the Witch of Greed regards you with an apologetic expression.
“I failed to predict how eager Typhon was to meet you. She was waiting for the defenses to wane so she could take a good look at you.”
“It’s fine, really. I got to meet two interesting new people.”
You take a sip of your now tepid tea. Echidna rests her cheek on her hand and observes you with curiosity.
“You are something else, Subaru. Typhon’s black-and-white thinking led to that child breaking you apart, and yet your mind has recovered entirely. If anything, you seem more energized now. And I got to witness again how your psyche uses your sexuality as a defense mechanism. The moment you got aroused by our relentless paladin, your mind integrated the uncanny events without issues.”
You open your mouth to answer with the first thing that comes out naturally, but you realize that you are looking at someone whom you attempted to pleasure orally, and she’s pointing out that you just ogled at some other witch’s attributes.
“I apologize if me finding Minerva sexy bothered you, Echidna. I assure you that didn’t lessen how fascinated I am by your witchy self.”
She raises her eyebrows and sighs.
“I can see that you have a preference for the body type, and that’s fine by me. A lot of men seem to have a thing for dominatrixes.”
“I doubt that a dominatrix who healed people whenever she hit them would have a successful career. However, you are wrong about that. I want nothing more than sweet, loving intimacy occasionally accompanied by being murdered. That blonde hottie wouldn’t provide any of that. I was going to say that the prospect of it would make her angry, but I suppose that winning the lottery would make that one angry as well. You people have some burdens to bear with those curses you have been born with.”
Echidna takes a gulp of her tea. When she lowers the teacup, she turns her head slightly to the side and closes one eye as she looks at you.
“However, you did make me feel like a woman again, a flesh and blood female, by stimulating me to such an extent, but later on you salivate for a different woman. That’s a very mean thing to do, Subaru.”
You clear your throat. You can barely hold her gaze.
“You know, Echidna, I might have been cursed myself at birth to incarnate some horniness-related ideal. Have some sympathy for a fellow sufferer.”
She narrows her eyes at you, then puts her head down and chuckles.
“That’s true. It probably means you’re in more pain than even me. I’ll give you that. We are stalling, though. Our intention here was to summon the thorny witch of Gluttony, so you could figure something out about how to defeat at least one of her children. I’ll open the barrier again, and this time I will take extra care in making sure that nobody else interrupts your meeting. I can’t wait to witness how you deal with Daphne’s peculiarities.”
You shift your weight on the chair.
“You know, I feel we have been very lucky that more troublesome witches, one in particular, hasn’t taken the chance to confront me in your death-dream.”
Echidna nods slowly with a knowing, serious look.
“You are right about that. During this session, the Witch of Envy has attempted repeatedly to break into my death-dream.”
Your throat closes, and when a noise of surprise escapes your mouth, it sounds strangled.
“Special defenses, remember. Her insistence worries me, but she won’t succeed when I’m restricting access to the death-dream this much.”
“Somehow that doesn’t soothe my worries in the slightest. I’m guessing plenty of idiots in this fantasy world of yours had issues with you because you are a witch, and a powerful one at that, but I can’t imagine you doing something like what that traitorous Witch of Envy did to me: moving the return point so I couldn’t save the love of my life. That’s fucked.”
Echidna looks down at the grass for a moment.
“You wouldn’t hear pleasant words coming out of my mouth if I were forced to speak in depth about the Witch of Envy. She ruined my life. Ended it, in fact. But let’s forget about anything else that doesn’t relate to you meeting our Daphne for the first time. You will face a witch that won’t trigger your psyche’s main defense mechanism.”
You swallow your sudden anxiety.
“You know, I can appreciate some portly bodies.”
Echidna chuckles, a low sound.
“I’m sure you do, but I’m afraid that doesn’t apply here. Stay strong, Subaru. I’ll see you on the other side.”
You keep holding Echidna’s gaze in the vain hope that it will prevent her from leaving you, but as if she had been an illusion all along, the lovely, black-eyed Witch of Greed disappears leaving behind an empty chair.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 16 (GPT-3 fueled short)

I couldn’t open up to my beloved Alazne entirely, both about Asier’s past relationships and about my existence as a ghost, a woman ghost at that. So I thought that the next best thing was to invite Alazne into more aspects of my current life, starting with the house I usurped from the man-corpse I’m wearing.
I’ve just finished my workout routine for the day. Thankfully this Asier prick had bought an exercise bench and a whole variety of dumbbells and discs. I massacred through most of the muscles in my back, chest and legs, and tomorrow I intend to focus on isolation exercises. Back when I inhabited my original body, I only ran from time to time, but as a man, it’s like the testosterone stored in my balls, although I don’t know if it’s stored in my balls but I always associate testosterone with testicles, demands I lift weights and feel the lactic acid building up in my muscles as they burn and their fibers break. I suspect it’s bad for my health, but it does make me bigger and stronger.
Soon after I gulp down the protein drink, I want to lie in bed and I finish off the whole taking care of myself routine by masturbating. Before I had sex with Alazne, I almost exclusively jerked off while looking at some of my ghost roommate Kateryna’s framed pictures. That Ukrainian goddess was pure lava while she still breathed. However, ever since I tasted my Alazne’s holy juices, I have kept my promise to preserve every ounce of semen this body produces for my girlfriend. She does appreciate it as well, as these days the longest period of time when Alazne doesn’t start crying for one reason or another always involves us making love. My beloved never asked me to penetrate her anally, though, for which I remain grateful.
Still sweaty from the workout, I locate Kateryna’s characteristic cold spot in the living room, where I’ve left a movie, some random Hollywood crap, playing so my ghost friend could distract herself.
“Hey, Kat, I’ve had an idea: I will finally bring my Alazne here!” I announce.
I feel the cold spot floating from its place close to the television to the side of the table where I set up the ouija board. I reach for the television remote and pause the movie.
“As you know,” I continue cheerfully, “she’s been distraught because she feels that I’m withholding vital details about my life. She’s partially wrong, though, because it’s two lives I’m not sharing vital details about. But I think Alazne would love me more and feel at ease if she could spend some time in this house. And you two could become friends!”
The ouija planchette slides quickly to spell out OTHER EX FREAKED OUT.
I sigh.
“Yeah… But Ainhoa is a normie, isn’t she? She would never tolerate your existence even if you were all nice and submissive with her. She would simply want to get rid of you as if you were some cockroach. It’s like those people who see UFOs flying above them and they don’t even want to look up because they don’t believe in them.”
WORRY ALAZNE WILL DISLIKE OUR RELATIONSHIP, the planchette spells out, taking its time.
I remain in silence for a moment.
“Maybe…” I muse. “It seems I’m my beloved’s first real relationship, and she can’t handle jealousy well. It’s alright, I think she’ll eventually get over it. As long as she doesn’t have a clue how hot you were.” I chuckle at my own joke, but then I feel bad. “No, it’s not funny. It really hurts me to hide so much stuff from her, but… I can’t risk losing her!”
I wipe the stale workout sweat from my face with my palms.
YOU SURE SHE WILL BE FINE WITH A GHOST, the planchette spells out.
“No clue. How would I know? I tried to ease her into ghost stuff, pretending to be some aficionado, and I even admitted that I was a ghost for twenty years, but Alazne believed it to be some stupid metaphor! I’m stuck with that old curse of telling the truth and people thinking I’m joking. A Cassandra syndrome for idiots.”
The planchette remains silent.
I suspect that my initial enthusiasm for this wild initiative was related to how pumped up my muscles felt during the workout. Now I’m deflating. Without thinking, I take a few steps to wander around the house, but Kateryna moves the planchette again.
“What do you mean?” I ask.
This Kat seriously repeated the same sentence letter by letter. She’s too good at this poltergeist stuff. I don’t even text that fast on my phone.
“Like who?”
“I don’t want you to pretend in such a way. I bet that if we could talk face to face, you would have a very strong opinion on this matter. You are Kateryna, my friend and confidant. I don’t want to disguise you as anybody else! That would be demeaning.”
Kateryna doesn’t respond. I don’t know if she’s impassioned, if she’s thinking about it, or if she plans to contradict me. It’s so hard to communicate with her, due to her shyness, her fragility and… No, mostly the fact that she’s fucking dead.
Despite my sudden doubts about bringing Alazne here, my body feels tingly and numb, from both the excitement and the workout. All I know is that this afternoon Alazne is going to be so impressed with this house I stole that she will want to rush into my bedroom, tear her clothes off and offer her beautiful, defenseless body for me to devour her like the relentless monster that I am. And she needs plenty of examples every day that show her there’s more to life than just being sad.
I wait around for Kateryna, whose cold spot has raised the hair on my arms, to assert her existence, but she doesn’t.
“Uh… Kat, are you okay? Will it be fine for me to bring my girlfriend over?” I ask cautiously.
“You sure?”
I smile in her general direction.
I chuckle, but I’m genuinely grateful. A warmth spreads in my chest.
“No, you are, Kat. I always come back home hoping to talk to you again. And you haven’t even complained that I have spent a few nights at Alazne’s apartment without leaving you any distraction.”
IM NOT YOUR PET IM NOT YOUR GHOST TO BE INVISIBLY LEASHED, the planchette spells out frantically.
I’m a bit taken aback, but I have only her words to deduce whether I pissed her off.
“Ah… Forgive me, Kat. I didn’t mean it that way.”
“I like you too. I’m… sorry about that.”
As I suddenly feel embarrassed, I think about telling her that I didn’t suggest she should lurk about in my bedroom as I had a wank, because that was rude even for a ghost, but I recall that I did ask her and even talked directly to her as I masturbated.
“I… think there’s something I need to inform you of, and that you might not like.” I scratch the back of my head as I try to figure out how to word it without hurting my friend. “Asier was very proud of how hot you were. That’s obvious, given how many photos of you he framed and distributed throughout his house. But Asier’s stupid man-face is in those pictures, and I’m Asier now, so picture this: Alazne comes in and right in the hall she sees that photo of Asier and you together, looking so proud and healthy and hot, you in particular. Alazne will think ‘what the fuck’, and will question me about it. What would I say? Yeah, that’s another ex-fiancée of mine, one that happens to be dead. Don’t feel bad because she looked like a supermodel. Hell, far hotter than those sticks that they use for supermodels. Alazne will feel as if I punched her in the face, as if bringing her to my place was a way for me to gloat about the kind of hotties I used to date. My beloved already shrivelled up under Ainhoa’s gaze, after all.”
SO IS IT TRULY GOOD IDEA TO BRING HER HERE, the planchette spells out.
“I want to have a nice day with her. And I hope for my Alazne to move in shortly after! I’m trying to figure out how to make it work out.”
“She’s a sweet, intelligent and funny girl, with a lot of scars,” I say with pride. “She just suffers from abysmal self-esteem and a rotting brain due to depression, and she’s also objectively… less attractive than you. But so is the rest of womankind!”
“What do you mean?”
IS THE DEAD GIRL MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR GIRL, the planchette spells out ominously.
I take a step back. For the first time since I learned about my ghost roommate’s true nature, a shiver runs through my spine. Cold sweat forms on my forehead over the film of sweat that the workout left.
“What the fuck?” I ask incredulously.
The planchette tilts sideways.
“Shit, Kateryna!” I say as I collapse on the chair in front of the ouija board. “You are too powerful a poltergeister to say ominous stuff like that. I need to know that Alazne will be safe if I bring her over!”
I shake my head as I control my breathing. I had a flashback to the day when I met Kateryna, and how she nearly burst my balls with a projectile.
“If you think the afterlife is boring, which it is, and I lived there for many years, imagine what a snoozefest is whatever place those ghosts teleport to when they move on. A second level of the afterlife filled with self-absorbed ghosts who haven’t carried their regrets over. Do you think you would be able to have sex there? Think again.”
I MISS SEX, the planchette spells out.
I sigh. Now that I’ve spent all these days since I met Alazne, most of them anyway, orgasming inside her except when she was too tired and I only ate her out, I have no clue how I didn’t go insane in the afterlife from the lack of sex. I don’t want to bring this point up, though, because Kateryna has no way to solve her predicament, not even through some dedicated self-diddling.
“You’re a horny ghost,” I say with a more serious voice than I intended. “Anyway, I’m not having sex with Alazne in any level of the afterlife. No, what I mean is that I’m going to bring her over and have sex with her in my bed. You can watch if you want.”
“I am not joking,” I say while I stand up again. “And as usual I forgot my original motive for tangling you in a conversation, and we end up shooting the shit for an hour. I like you way too much, Kateryna. But what I wanted to ask your permission to do is this: I need to get rid of all those pictures of you. And that wasn’t a reference to The Cure. Well, I don’t know if that means anything for someone who came from Ukraine. What I mean, damn it, is that I’m going to gather all those arousing pictures of you and hide them in the attic.”
The planchette remains still.
“Please, Kateryna, tell me whether you are okay with it or not,” I say cautiously. “It’s fine if you aren’t, I’d just have to figure out something else. Is hiding the proof that you existed as a hot woman an affront to your ancestors or something hideous like that?”
The planchette begins to move slowly. Then it slides to point at YES, without spelling out the letters as usual.
Oh no, I’ve just hurt my friend’s feelings. She’s trapped on that dreary plane, and I contributed to her pain.
I lower my head for a moment, but then I look towards the source of the cold spot as I let my expression twist with the guilt that I feel.
“That means a whole lot to me and my future with Alazne. Thank you so, so much, Kateryna. I will make it up to you. Think of anything I could help you with, or anything you merely want, and I’ll do it.”
She doesn’t respond. The air in the room remains cold.
I wring my hands as I turn towards the door.
“Alright then, I… I will start gathering stuff up.”
As I pass through the hall, I head to pick up the two framed photos displayed there, but first I take a glance into the mirror. My hair is a mess, my eyes are red, and I need a shower. But I’ll start with what I should have done from the beginning: getting rid of all evidence of my crimes.

I wasn’t content with locating all the framed pictures featuring my smokeshow of a friend and that had been placed to arouse envy, and possibly simple arousal, in whatever guest who wandered into those rooms. I looked inside the cupboards, end tables, nightstands, dressers, credenzas and consoles… I’m not sure how I know what a credenza is. Is that truly a type of furniture? My point is that I went around and opened doors and disturbed the stuff inside in case Asier stuffed a framed photo in there. I found none. Asier had been careful in exhibiting the photos of his model fiancée so he could remain horny no matter what room he entered. That lucky son of a bitch… In the end I was more or less confident that Alazne wasn’t going to find incriminating evidence in the first two floors. And I also need to mention that I didn’t find a single photo of Ainhoa. I guess Asier got rid of them permanently after he destroyed that poor woman’s life.
I threw the framed photos into two garbage bags and then brought them to the attic. This floor is cozy, although with a lower ceiling than I would prefer. In the room closest to the stairs Asier had set up a couple of sofas, a coffee table and a television which I haven’t switched on once. The only natural sources of light are small awning windows, so Asier put a few more lamps than in the other rooms. Beyond a door at the end of this second living room, I enter into a bare space that the previous owner of this house used as a storage room. Half of the space is filled with filled plastic bags, piles of boxes, and also some wooden crates that I haven’t dared to open, nor I care to. Merely looking at this mess, left here to gather dust, makes me feel tired on top of how exhausted the workout made me. I put down the two garbage bags filled with Kateryna’s framed photos, then walk back to switch on the only lamp in this room.
My stomach grumbles. It’s already midday. I guess I can justify preparing myself a meal before I bother with the work of hiding these two garbage bags behind most of the crap already present.
I have taken the habit of buying groceries online from supermarkets and paying extra for some minimum wage minion to drive up to my place and deliver my food right to me. With the pantry and fridge stocked, I focused on figuring out how to follow simple recipes online without burning down my entire existence. I wanted to learn how to cook partly because I need to eat healthier to take care of this decaying body, but also because I wanted to impress my Alazne with my newfound abilities as a cooksmith. And any meal I’m able to cobble together will likely amaze her, because she survives off a diet of cereal, fruit and pre-made meals, and that’s when she can find the strength to walk up to the kitchen.
I clear the counter and gather the bottle of olive oil, bacon, garlic, cheese with a name I don’t care to remember, four eggs, salt, and grinded pepper. I forgot the packet of pasta. By the time the salted water in the pot is boiling, I find myself tapping on the floor and crossing and uncrossing my arms. Man, cooking is so fucking boring. I don’t know who has the time or the motivation for a task this involved. If I wasn’t doing this mainly for someone else, I’d stick with pre-made food.

As my stomach digests the spaghetti carbonara, I return to the storage room in the attic and, after a long sigh, I kneel and start moving around boxes and plastic bags to clear space for the photos I need to hide. If the police come here with a search warrant and they find my collection, I’m fucked. I’ll have to explain why I have relegated those delicious still images of one of the hottest women in the world to garbage bag material. That must be a crime somewhere, or at least I would make it one if I had the legislative power. Well, if I had that kind of power, many things would change overnight, starting with making myself even richer.
After I push a pile of boxes, something that had been leaning against the back of it falls forward. It’s a laptop bag. I press my fist against its surface, assuming I would find it empty, but something solid resists inside. Like a kid who just got a gift, I sit cross-legged and I open the bag. It contains a HP laptop. I take it out and push the power button not expecting it to start, but it does, and I wait until it reaches the login screen. It only has a user created, named ‘Kat’. I move the cursor around awkwardly with the touchpad, like I had seen breathing people do back when I was a ghost, but as it seemed back then, it really is a terrible replacement for a mouse. I should make a new user account. But I’ll have to name it after the bastard whose body I stole, because I don’t want Alazne to wonder why on earth I’m using a female name as my user account. I can’t justify that by saying ‘it’s an internet thing’. Men who use women’s names online must be a particular brand of crazy.
Something doesn’t feel right here. The laptop looks almost new, barely used. Why didn’t Asier keep it in his bedroom even after he obliterated Kateryna’s heart, pushing her towards a downward spiral that ended with her death? Whatever. I can go out now to coffee shops with a laptop, even if just to show off. Of course, with the mountain of money in Asier’s bank account still waiting for me to squander it, I could buy plenty of laptops, but I’m not that much of an idiot that if I own one that works, I will go and buy a new one.
I continue rearranging piles of boxes, wooden crates and plastic bags until I’m confident that Alazne wouldn’t be so bored as to get through the previous obstacles to find the photos I’m about to hide. Although it feels sacrilegous, I grab the two garbage bags filled with framed photos of my super hot friend and I place them on the space I had left.
As I push and pull the junk back to their general places, now to create a wall, my gaze stops by itself on the sliver of a photo that I can see through the opening of a portfolio. I sit down again and put the portfolio over my thighs. When I pull out the first photo, which had been printed on shiny professional grade paper, I find myself staring back at Kateryna’s big, slightly slanted emerald eyes. She’s leaning sideways on a comforter that I’ve seen inside my bedroom’s dresser. The comforter is folded so Kat could keep her head mostly straight. Her sunflower-colored hair, which looks so soft that I just want to run my fingers through it, frames her perfect features, and also falls over her bare chest in two braided tails. Her full lips, wet and slightly parted, look like an invitation. Her left forearm is crossed under her breasts, which would fit just right in my hands, and look so meaty that my mouth starts salivating heavily. I want to hold those protruding nipples between my lips. Kateryna has also bent a leg in front of her waist as if to hide her pussy, but the curve of her ass suggests one of those bubbly ones that if I saw covered by leggings I would want to cry of joy.
The nervous endings in my crotch fire up white noise, and a shiver shakes me from head to toe.
“Holy shit,” I murmur.
It’s almost impossible to conceive that such a gorgeous woman could have ever existed. And not only she lived here, but she’s my best friend!
I flip through the remaining pictures. It’s a whole set of modelling pictures, the most juicy ones shot in this house, but quite a few depict Kateryna in front of popular spots of Donostia, like the slanted cube of Kursaal at night all lighted up. For some minutes I browse through the photos while swallowing my excess saliva. I’m well aware that my hard penis keeps pulsating, but I know that if I took the opportunity to stroke it even once, I wouldn’t stop.
Despite the diversity of poses and the skin and flesh these photos allow me to gawk at, the remaining blood in my brain lets a thought through: in those close-up shots of her perfect features, I only see a happy woman confident in her otherworldly beauty. None of the photos would have suggested to anybody that this masterpiece made out of bones and flesh and whatever else there is in a human body would one day become a poltergeist master. What the hell happened, Kateryna? That bastard of a fiancé cheating on you truly fucked you up so much? Asier was clearly insane if he betrayed you!
A noxious thought pops up, one of those that once you become conscious of their existence, they will remain in the back of your mind like an itch you can’t scratch: if Asier went as far as producing these professional level modelling photos, or at least they look that good for someone like me who doesn’t know shit about the subject, wouldn’t he have recorded videos as well? He would have even recorded himself fucking this Ukrainian goddess. I would witness the nasty man-body I’m possessing right now plunging deep into that miracle of flesh. The files might have waited in his computer. When my new monitor arrived, and after I asked Kateryna not to use this one as a dart board, I didnt want to bother going through the files that Asier had accumulated, so I formatted the drives and installed a bootleg version of Windows 10 that I had downloaded. Now I’m getting the sinking feeling that I might have wiped out gigabytes of Kateryna in motion while posing, getting rammed or diddling herself. I might have burned the masturbatory equivalent of the library of Alexandria.
I was pacing back and forth in the attic while cursing and rubbing my eyes, when my phone vibrates and plays my chosen ringtone. I take the phone out. It’s my Alazne!
“Hey, sweetie!” I say cheerfully. “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing fine,” Alazne answers with a soothing voice. “I thought of going out for a walk, but I ended up not doing so. I’ve been lying in bed and working on catching up with the second season of ‘Re:Zero’.”
“That’s good. I think I only watched the first two. Too bad we are out of sync now…”
“I’m almost done with the fifth episode. I wouldn’t mind watching them again with you… W-what I wanted to ask you is whether you’d like to come and… spend the night again with me.”
I open my mouth to assure my queen that I will appear in front of her apartment’s door very soon, and that I might not even bother wearing pants this time to accelerate the process, when I remember that my whole plan today was to invite my beloved to my place. But I just found some more, and even more troubling, incriminating evidence that this body I’m occupying used to date one of the hottest women who ever lived. What other evils might be lurking in this home, waiting for Alazne to casually open some cabinet door? No, I’m not comfortable with bringing my girlfriend over today. I’ll dedicate tomorrow morning to scour the rest of the house.
I shift my weight to the other leg and smile seductively at my phone, but it doesn’t react.
“Why would you want me to spend the night with you in your apartment, Alazne?” I ask with a roguish tone.
“W-well… I guess…”
“You guess?”
“Um… I want to feel your warmth again.”
I bite my lower lip as my breath thickens. I’m getting the tingles down there.
“So you want us to lie in your bed and for me to wrap my strong arms around you and pull you close. What else do you want, Alazne?”
“I want you to… kiss me and…”
“… Tell me, Alazne. What else do you want?”
“I want your cock in me,” she says with a mix of embarrassment and lust.
I gasp and lick my lips. My sweatpants are feeling tighter.
“You’re going to have to wait for that.”
“I know… But I really need it,” she adds.
“Sure. I’ll also bring you dinner,” I say with my regular voice.
“You’re the best.”
“No, keep the praise until I take care of you tonight. And don’t you dare play with yourself. I’m already hungry.”
“I-I won’t. I can’t wait.”
I hang up. My heart is jumping in my chest, and I feel every hair on my body. Ah, this woman of mine drives me wild.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 15 (GPT-3 fueled short)

In a futuristic room bathed in blue light, inside a tank filled with similarly blue water float a bunch of little ghosts: jellyfish. They keep contracting at regular intervals to maintain their buoyancy. Alazne leans towards the glass, and her curious face gets reflected. The jellyfish don’t react, because if they have a brain it’s as minimally functional as possible. And they are lucky for it. For a few seconds I grow jealous of jellyfish.
Alazne agreed to let me organize a potentially exhausting outing for Saturday. I chose the aquarium in Donostia, because from the few times I came here as a ghost I recalled it being quite beautiful, and looking at animals is always cool; no matter how terrible the troubles in one’s life, at least you aren’t trapped in a zoo exhibit or a tank filled with water so a bunch of idiots can pay to gawk at you. Then again, if the animals are stupid enough, maybe it’s a good thing that people are keeping them safe and feeding them and cleaning their shit so they don’t have to worry. It’s like an utopia. And to an extent I would have loved to take care of Alazne like that, but eventually she’d feel like rebelling against her perfect living conditions and think of ways to fuck everything up. I don’t blame her, that’s just human nature.
“Have you ever been stung by a jellyfish, Asier?” Alazne asks.
It takes me a few seconds to snap out of it and realize that I’m Asier. I’m such a moron, and yet I have to believe I can keep up this facade permanently.
“I have been stung by many jellyfishes,” I say solemnly. “Most had the form of human beings, others were abstract concepts that however caused me painful rashes, metaphorical ones at least.”
Alazne chuckles and pushes my shoulder playfully. I rub it pretending that it hurt.
“I see,” Alazne says. “You’re talking about your past relationships, aren’t you?”
Dumb as I am, I just gave my beloved an opening to pry into this troublesome past.
“Yes,” I say, smiling a bit. “At least I think so. Now then: have you ever been stung by a jellyfish, my dear?”
Alazne squints at me sideways. I can tell that she doesn’t enjoy my wariness, but she must realize there’s a good reason for it.
“A few times,” says Alazne. “Most were small and insignificant. Others were large and memorable.”
We move on from the damn jellyfish, and we enter a large, darkened room with a shape that only brings to my mind a hallway, but without any doors that the visitors could get into. Dispersed throughout there are tanks, either cylindrical or hemispheres mounted on displays. All the tanks are lighted as if nothing else in this building mattered but looking at the fish and fish-related beings, and I guess that’s why people come to the aquarium. I have no idea why this aquarium looks like the rooms of a futuristic spaceship, though.
As we approach a cylindrical tank filled with small fish that remind me of sardines, and with a starfish glued to the glass, I can’t take out of my mind Alazne’s suggestion that she dated quite a few people before. Back when I stalked her as a ghost, I never saw her interacting with anyone who wasn’t selling her something. I guess she dealt with a few coworkers at different offices, but even as a ghost the idea of working terrified me, and I didn’t want to enter any office in case they captured me and I ended up spending my eternity chained to a desk.
“Tell me about this large and memorable one,” I say cautiously to Alazne, “I mean the metaphorical jellyfish who stung you.”
Alazne sighs and smiles.
“There’s not much to tell,” she says. “He was an idiot, but I guess he had his reasons. He was a lot like you in some ways, and that’s why I liked him.”
“What was his name?” I ask.
“Asier,” she responds, “and he had this tendency to avoid opening up whenever I asked him any direct question about his life previous to meeting me.”
“Well, I’m lucky that I’m not Asier,” I say while trying a smile, but it falls on its own a couple of seconds later.
I look away, and my gaze conveniently happens to land on a crustacean resembling as shrimp, but larger, uglier and more armored. The creature seems startled that a stranger has noticed it.
I sigh deeply, although I avoid meeting Alazne’s deliberate stare.
“I mean, it sounds like he avoided the subject for a reason,” I say in a low voice. “Maybe he had something to hide, maybe that something wasn’t worth knowing or maybe it was something that you would’ve not liked. Maybe he had a good reason for doing what he did, or maybe not, but I do know that the only thing you’re achieving by thinking about those matters is losing time and energy that could be dedicated to making the best of now.”
I look at Alazne hoping that she understood my point. Her eyes are even sadder now, and her shoulders hang low. A wave of self-loathing threatens to make me tremble.
I grab her hands. They are colder than usual.
“I mean, I don’t have anything to hide,” I say.
Alazne looks around for a moment, likely hoping that no groups are approaching us, and none are. She approaches me and hugs me, resting her face on my chest.
“You know I have wanted to die for a long time,” she says with a soft, vulnerable voice, “and that I have actively tried to. What detail about your life up to this point could be worse?”
I feel my whole body stiffening.
“Can you please be my rock?” Alazne asks, looking up at me with glistening eyes. “You don’t know how much it means to me that there’s someone like you in my life. Someone who doesn’t judge me for my past, and accepts me despite it.”
I run my fingers along the back of her head.
“I am your rock, sweetie. It’s just that I meant it when I said that my life up to meeting you no longer mattered to me. I have… done and experienced things I regret. Just imagine someone showing you a video taken of you as a child, and that version behaves so embarrassingly and out of character for who you know yourself to be, that you just want to burn every single photograph and videotape that registered such a version.”
“You don’t need to prove anything. I love you.”
She says those words with such conviction that it makes me feel like crying.
“I love you too,” I say.
“It’s just that I want to know. That’s all. I want everything of you, and I will accept all of it just how you have accepted me. I can’t help but feel you are being silly, because whenever you end up sharing it with me, I will simply hug you, kiss you, and if necessary, dry your tears.”
“I’m physically incapable of crying, though, as a man.”
Alazne flicks my nose with barely any strength.
“Like I said, everything of you.”
She can tell that I’m not going to open up under pressure, so she grabs my hand and we keep observing the exhibits. We stop in front of a big tank featuring bushes of red algae and some weird fishes that just rest on rocks, seemingly dead except because they aren’t floating face up, and also move their fins from time to time. I can’t focus on any of the fishes now, though. Every day that passes without me revealing every sordid detail about my troubled existence, I feel as if I’m pushing a poisoned pin millimeter by millimeter into Alazne’s heart. She needs to know. But how can I open up about being a ghost? It goes against the whole purpose of my previous existence as one of the damned.
And being a ghost wasn’t the worst part: it was being a woman. I have to face now that the most damaging part of my life is having been born with two X chromosomes. But what would I have done if I fell in love with a lovely woman, and had the best, most passionate sex of my life with her, only for my girlfriend to eventually reveal that she was a man all along? I’d probably kill myself. Is that superficial, though? The world would probably be a better place without me, but I don’t want to die, and I want to live with Alazne in love and happiness. My head hurts so much today.
“You okay?” Alazne asks.
I’m so preoccupied with my thoughts that I didn’t even notice that I’ve been holding a door open for Alazne. She looks at me worried.
“Yeah,” I answer. “Just some thinking. About me opening up and all that unmanly stuff.”
Alazne stands on her tiptoes and gives me a sweet kiss on the lips. I grab her by the waist and press my lips against hers for a couple of seconds. When we pull away from each other, still holding on to each other’s hands, she offers me a sheepish smile, a slightly contrite one.
“Why would I pressure you about something you don’t want to do, when we already have such great times together? I’m selfish. I’m loving the fish exhibits and this whole day you prepared for me. Let’s keep enjoying it.”
I beam at her, maybe making my relief too obvious.
“That’s my girl.”

We come across the first view into the central tank of the aquarium, a lake-like monster of an exhibit in which swim placidly big fishes, bigger fishes, turtles, sharks and some other crazy shit. In the background I can make out the tunnel that awaits up ahead, so we will be able to look up at the passing sharks as they seem to fly overhead. The times I visited aquariums featuring such daring tunnels, I always feared that the glass would break and that we would end up swimming with the aquatic monsters. And I have witnessed a couple of times how one of those sharks bit in half some random innocent fish during feeding time, maybe because they confused a living fish with their meal, or just because sharks are demons masquerading as animals so they can catch us unawares.
I grab Alazne by the arm and ask her stop next to the glass as I pull out my phone.
“Please, I want a photo of you in front of the horrifying monsters.”
Alazne poses, and despite our recent argument, she offers me a beaming smile that could outshine the whole tank. After I register the photo on the device’s memory, I make sure that I don’t delete it by mistake, so I can treasure it forever.
I put the phone back in my pocket and take Alazne in a kiss. With this display of affection I want to tell her how much she means to me, and that everything I do it’s for both of us, not just myself.
“Asier? That’s you, isn’t it?” a woman’s voice says to my back.
Through the sounds of splashing water and the chattering tourists, I didn’t hear anyone coming, but I spot an elegant woman with shortish, shiny black hair styled in a way that looks as if a hairdresser just worked on it. She’s wearing a mid-calf length floral dress that is a mix of green, pale yellow and red, and over it a short denim jacket. She’s Ainhoa, my ex-fiancée. Or Asier’s. One of them anyway. She approaches us confidently, as if her mind had never been plagued by anxiety nor doubts, although Asier cheating on her with as many women as he could fuck must have destroyed her mindset.
It takes me a few seconds to notice that the man in his early thirties pushing a stroller next to Ainhoa must be her husband. He’s pale, probably unable to withstand too much time in the sun, and his hair is black. A mean expression draws his eyebrows together. By the look he gives me, I can tell he knows Asier cheated on the woman he loves. He probably realized that Ainhoa remains in love with that Asier prick, even though his ghost moved on to the beyond. At least this husband guy has the integrity to look annoyed that we ran into each other. I respect that.
“Funny running into you in an aquarium,” Ainhoa says, sounding friendlier and more stable than I expected due to how we last parted.
What the fuck are you doing here, Ainhoa?! That’s what I want to shout, but instead I say:
“It’s funny, yes. How are you both doing?”
“Good,” Ainhoa says. “This is my husband, Unai.”
“Nice to meet you,” Unai says in a monotone voice. He just shakes his head side to side slowly and looks at the ground.
I open my mouth to greet the nearly cuckolded husband, but I realize that Alazne is trying subtly to pull her hand away from mine. I’m surprised, as I wouldn’t have expected it, but I hold hers tighter, and in a few seconds she gets the point and closes her fingers timidly around my hand. I gesture towards Alazne.
“This is my beloved, Alazne. Gaze upon her gloriousness.”
“Hi,” she says, looking up at Unai with a nervous smile.
“Hi,” Unai repeats in the same monotone he used before.
Alazne glances towards Ainhoa, but she misses her head. My beloved can’t sustain her smile for this greeting.
“Hi to you as well. Nice meeting you,” Alazne tells my ex, with a voice a moment away from breaking.
It might have only happened for a second, but my mind retains the image of Ainhoa’s glad expression as she stares at Alazne, who now I recognize was intimidated by how mature and well put together is Asier’s ex-fiancée, one of them anyway. And although Ainhoa wipes that expression off her face, she must be gloating internally about it. I recall having referred to my Alazne as gentle but passionate, reclusive, severely depressed. I’m a fucking bastard. Why would I tell anyone about Alazne’s private details like that? Who else should have to know that my beloved is reclusive and depressed? I want to punch myself in the gut.
“Where are you from?” Unai asks Alazne.
She hesitates, as confused as me that the guy would want to ask my beloved anything, but then tells him.
“I’m from Irún. Born there.”
Unai makes a thoughtful sound.
“So am I,” he says, “although I haven’t lived there in a while. Olaberria. Really quiet area, nothing like this.”
“Yes, I… Yeah.”
Alazne fiddles with the hem of her jacket. I have no clue why this asshole husband startled my beloved, but I want to distract their attention from her. I nod towards the stroller that Unai is holding.
“As you told me, Ainhoa, you guys spawned a creature.”
Ainhoa is disconcerted by my choice of words, and looks towards the stroller as if she had expected to find something else there. But then she looks back at me, smiles and nods. This woman is hard to read. I suppose that she makes a habit of disguising how she really feels.
“… Yes. Our dear girl will turn a year and six months next Tuesday. We thought it would be nice to bring her to the aquarium, now that we have… disposable income.”
I can’t see the creature inside the stroller from here, but it isn’t making any noises, so either she’s sleeping or dead. Why would you bring a baby or a toddler or whatever this child of hers is now to an aquarium, when she doesn’t even know what a fish is? Does Ainhoa believe that her daughter will retain anything? Whatever. Parents don’t enjoy hearing these things. Or anything not positive about their children, for that matter. Parents become brainwashed by their parental hormones and they no longer exist as human beings: they have been reduced to tools to bring forth the next generation. I have never wanted to bear a child myself, even back when I inhabited a body that was capable of such supposed miracle. There are few things in life that I would want less than to be destroyed from the inside by a goblin that one day would yell at me, steal my shit and then abandon me forever. People are so weird with their life choices.
“Yes. She will enjoy seeing the fishes,” I say with a fake smile.
Ainhoa nods and smiles faintly. Her silence is unnerving. I lack the tools to engage in small talk, and I’m never quite sure how much I can say about certain things. However, I realize she’s working herself up to tell me something. After a few seconds of awkwardness, she lifts her gaze towards me and opens her pretty mouth.
“I think most people would have refused the money,” she says softly, “but it will help us so much. I’m very grateful, as I texted you. Most of it will benefit our daughter, so… you did a good thing.”
“You’re welcome,” I say with a nod. “It’s good that you’re taking care of your daughter. That’s what’s important.”
“That’s not all, but thank you. Listen… I have to tell you something.”
Ainhoa is holding my gaze with a troubling determination.
“I know who you are,” she adds, “and I know you’re not Asier.”
I nearly gasp. I realize that Alazne’s hand that I’m holding is sweating, but maybe it already was. I cast a quick glance at her, to see that she has fixed her gaze on the floor.
“I know you’re not Asier,” Ainhoa repeats softly, “not anymore at least. So it feels wrong to call you by that name. What happened to you is a sort of miracle, the proof that people can start over. So I no longer hold any disdain towards you. It would be like blaming someone for what another did.”
“Thank you,” I say, feeling immense relief.
Ainhoa looks at the both of us. Although Alazne clearly doesn’t want, or maybe can’t handle, any more of this encounter, Ainhoa ignores it. She starts walking as if to pass us by. Her husband lets out a soft sight and maneuvers the stroller. However, as Unai was already showing me his back, Ainhoa turns and talks to me from a meter and a half away.
“I hope the… problem at your house is solved.”
“Problem? What are…? Ah, you mean–” I realize that Alazne hasn’t got the faintest clue that Kateryna lives in my house, nor that she’s a ghost. The slight sweat on my forehead is turning cold. “It’s not a problem for me. You see it as an infestation of sorts, something for which to call an exterminator, but for me it’s simply a fact of life. Even millennia-old civilizations knew about them, right? They had all kinds of traditions and rituals to handle them. It happens all around us, although most people don’t get to realize it. Nothing to worry about.”
“Oh. I guess I was just not used to… bugs,” Ainhoa says awkwardly. “But you are for sure the expert. If it doesn’t bother you, I guess it’s okay.”
Ainhoa finally decides to catch up with her annoyed husband, but she keeps talking to me over her shoulder.
“I hope things continue going well for you.”
I wave goodbye.
“For you too. Take care.”
The encounter startled me so much, and I suddenly felt so relieved when Ainhoa and her family disappeared behind a wall, that I don’t realize that I have absentmindedly approached the tank as if I was very interested in observing the fish. I have dragged Alazne with me. When I look at her downcast, mortified face, my heart sinks.
“Ah… You aren’t well at all, are you, Alazne.”
“I’m sorry. I’m such an idiot.”
I raise her chin with my left hand, and speak to her with a voice brimming with affection.
“No, you aren’t. Why did you try to stop holding my hand?”
She tries to reciprocate my gaze, but ends up looking away. Her brow is trembling.
“B-because I thought you would want me to.”
“So you didn’t want to?”
I caress her blushed cheek, and then slide my hand to the back of her head to cup it and bring her mouth towards mine. I separate her lips with my tongue. She closes her eyes, and after a few seconds of making out, her hand stops trembling. When we pull away, she still looks up at me with a pained expression.
“Alazne, do you truly understand that you are my girlfriend?” I ask her. “I’m as serious with you as a person can be.”
“Of course I know it, but…”
Her voice sounds so frail that I feel an urge to take her somewhere else where we can be truly alone.
“That’s not how it seemed to me,” I say. “If I am your boyfriend and you want to hold my hand, you keep holding it no matter who approaches us.”
Alazne takes a deep breath, then finds the strength to look me in the eye.
“Asier, you had something with that woman, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. It was obvious, I guess… She’s my ex-fiancée.”
One of them, anyway.
Alazne snaps her head back. I don’t know what kind of relationship she had expected Ainhoa and I to have, but this truth makes her grimace as if I had slapped her.
“Y-you had a full life before me… Do you still love her?”
“No, my mind is only set on you, Alazne.”
“S-she looked at me very aggressively. I think she loves you still.”
“Whether or not she does, it makes no difference.”
“Such an elegant and confident woman was someone you were about to get married to, but now you are with me…” Alazne looks down at the patch of floor between our feet. She presses her lips together as a naked despondency overwhelms her facial features. “I’m clearly a downgrade.”
“Don’t say that ever again, Alazne.”
“W-was I just a pity date…?”
I pull her into an embrace. She stiffens up, but then gradually falls limp as she sobs into my chest. Her tears stain my shirt while I kiss the top of her light brown hair.
“Well, clearly fish time is over,” I say as I sigh.
Alazne tries to say something, but she shuts up. I suppose that in her current state she wouldn’t have been able to finish a sentence without sobbing. A few groups, either young couples or older ones with their children, pass us by while offering us glances of either concern or embarrassment. I keep caressing Alazne’s light brown hair until she calms down.

We leave the aquarium a few minutes later. Must be around six and a half in the afternoon. As I hold Alazne’s waist, we walk along the port, near the edge to the calm, basil green, fish-smelling waters. The sky is getting cloudier, although there’s barely any breeze. It will probably not rain today. Still, the weather changes way too quickly around these parts.
I want for Alazne and I to sit in peace for a few minutes, so I guide her towards a long pier built like a regular street, only narrower, quieter, and surrounded by the bay waters on one side and a whole lot of resting leisure boats on the other. I always wondered how they manage to maneuver out of their parking spaces. In any case, this part of the harbour looks humid and depressing, but Alazne and I sit on a stone bench added to the dwarf wall that protects us from falling into the bay.
Alazne isn’t very eager to speak, so I merely stroke her hand as I lean my head against hers. Some distance away a bunch of people are talking, and I also hear the background noise of traffic from a couple of streets away. A few minutes later I look up and find a sliver of clear blue, while most of the sky is puffy white.
“When that woman acted so familiarly with you,” Alazne begins suddenly, with a hollow voice, “I felt such a mix of worry, fear, and anger towards her… I have no clue what’s wrong with me.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you,” I say.
I lean forward trying to look her in the eye, but she turns her head slightly away from me.
“Well, while that woman was hitting on you…” Alazne says. “If she was doing it at all… I don’t know. Something just overwhelmed me. It was like I wanted to hurt her. I never had such thoughts before.”
“You’re jealous,” I smile, although she can’t see it. “Completely normal. The more you care about your romantic partner, the stronger it gets, but for some people it can get pretty crazy.”
“But I don’t even know her… I mean, I can’t know her. She’s a stranger to me.”
“She’s someone who came over and spoke to me with some intimacy. You are pissed because you feel you should be the only one treating me that way. It’s normal, as I say. And I would get similarly annoyed if anyone approached you. You learn to live with it.”
“S-so that’s what it was, jealousy…?”
I grab her head so I can kiss her forehead. Alazne finally turns her face towards me. Her hazel eyes look naked, defenseless, and still afraid.
“Asier… I haven’t dated anyone for more than two months.” Her voice becomes quieter as she speaks. “I could hardly consider the ones I had as proper relationships, and they happened a long time ago.”
“Alright, so this is all new territory for you.”
“But you already had a fiancée. You were that close to deciding how the rest of your life was going to go.”
“The divorce rates are quite high these days, if I remember correctly.”
“The intention must have been there.”
“I’m not entirely sure about that…”
Alazne’s mouth is slightly open and she’s frowning in confusion, as if expecting me to clarify the many unknowns of my life.
I sigh.
“Listen, Alazne… Ainhoa is a normal person. She can’t conceive except what passes for normal. That’s her measure of good and evil. I don’t want someone like that as a girlfriend, nor as a wife. A lifelong relationship with such a person would bore me out of my mind.”
“T-that’s… That’s quite cynical…”
“I have never been quite sure of what that word means, or at least what people mean when they use it.”
“What I mean… What I mean is…”
“I have come to understand that even if Ainhoa is not a permanent fixture in my current life, if we happen to run into her, I can tolerate her. It’s just one of those things that happen, that come with someone’s life. Baggage of a sort. That’s all she is for me.”
Alazne rubs her eyes, then leans forward to rest her elbows on her knees. The slight breeze is blowing through her hair, which she hasn’t tied up today.
“Asier, I’ve been thinking of what you said yesterday. You mentioned that you travelled the world because you wanted to learn more about your condition, and wanted to meet more people with your same problems. That if you remained at home, you might surrender to despair. It was something like that, right…?”
“Yes, but–“
“You have been comfortable with thoughts of death as well as… my suicide attempts. You are familiar with death, aren’t you?”
“Of course. I mean… I’m desensitized to it.”
Silence hangs between us. Alazne brings her knees up to her chin and wraps her arms around them, then closes her eyes.
“Asier, a-are you dying? Do you have some terminal illness or something to that effect that will take you away from me? I-I wouldn’t be able to bear it, but if that’s the case, you still need to tell me. I need to know in advance.”
I feel a cold, nasty sensation in my guts as if some organ had teared open. I’m a horrible piece of shit, aren’t I. Just the lowliest garbage imaginable. I didn’t predict how much refusing to open up was going to hurt the woman who loves me, or maybe I didn’t bother understanding how it would damage her.
I swallow to moisten my mouth.
“It’s the opposite case,” I say with a thin voice. “I was already terminal, and now I’m alive thanks to you.”
Alazne opens her eyes and stares straight at me, but she doesn’t say anything. I can’t tell what she’s thinking. A tear rolls down her cheek. She looks weary, as if she’s had enough of just about everything.
I try to focus on how to clarify what I mean, but nothing comes out. I don’t know how many seconds pass. Maybe more than a minute.
“I wish we could freeze,” Alazne says barely above a whisper, “or everything around us would freeze, so it would be just you and I and nothing would change. Maybe I’m too sensitive about it. Children are supposed to grow out of these fears relatively quickly, but… I guess I never really matured. I know well how easily people can die. I had my entire life upended. And after I met you and came to care so, so much about you, I fear that you are going to die at any moment, that one day you will leave my apartment and I will never see you again. I can’t take it. I guess I’m too fragile, but… I mean, that’s just how it is.”
Alazne has started to cry in earnest now, even though her expression doesn’t change and no sound escapes from her mouth. I place my hand on her left cheek and caress it with my thumb. She shuts her eyes and bites her lower lip, but she doesn’t try to hide the tears rolling down her face.
I don’t say anything, although I don’t think she expects me to.
“I had assumed that I would always be alone,” Alazne continues. “Still, by the end of that day you pursued me, I felt like I had been living in a stuffy, darkened, closed off room for decades, but suddenly the windows blew open, letting air and the sunlight in. I find myself imagining futures. I fantasize about going to this or that place, doing certain activities with you, and even travelling abroad.”
“Please, share those ideas one of these days,” I say calmly. “I might not come up with them on my own.”
I’m not sure if Alazne has paid attention to what I said, because she continues:
“And it’s just because you want me.”
I scoot closer to her, then pull her head towards me so she can bury her face in my chest. I rest my chin on the top of her head, and my gaze falls upon the wide view of the bay.
“I do more than want you, Alazne. You will integrate that eventually, I think.”
“It’s so hard…”
I allow her to cry silently onto my chest as she presses herself against me. I caress her soft hair slowly.
There are around three dozen leisure boats on the waters of the bay, some close enough that I can distinguish the expression in the couple of men walking around on top. Except for one of the boats, all the others remain static as if they had dropped the anchor, if that’s a thing that boats still do. Beyond the calm waters, which reflect the clouds that cover the sky, on top of the large cape that rings the bay stands the castle-like structure of Monte Igueldo, or of the amusement park. I never quite figured out if Monte Igueldo was the whole structure or if people just call it that because they are lazy. I guess I’m lazy as well, because I never bothered figuring it out. It doesn’t matter anyway, in the grand scheme of things.
It’s peaceful. Although Alazne is crying softly against my chest, or at least I assume she keeps doing it, because I can only feel her breath intake, the world that surrounds me, of which I’m a tiny and insignificant part, looks beautiful in its indifference. Once all of our pains have passed, way beyond whenever our countries and civilizations die off, these enormous shapes that our human constructions cling to will remain in place. It’s all so stupid.
“For many, many years I felt incapable of connecting with others,” I say. “I couldn’t even get interested in the living. Their existences kept going undisturbed whether or not I was present. By that point they felt like a different species, their busy lives an old foreign movie in another language. People came and went like the seasons. But I remained in the middle of all that. And I kept thinking, what had I done that warranted me getting trapped in this wasteland, enduring the pain of this acid loneliness with every passing second? For what regret did I remain penitent, and what goal would I have to fulfill so I could be free? Or was it my punishment to witness listlessly the ravages of time for no reason that I could understand? And at one point, something flicked in my consciousness: I would keep drifting. I no longer expected the hurt to end, but I figured I would get to enjoy the sights as they came.”
I pause, waiting for some kind of interruption. Maybe Alazne will speak, or laugh, or cry, or simply ask me to continue. She doesn’t. I hope she’s still listening.
“I was a ghost for twenty years,” I say. “And then I met you.”
The breeze is picking up, pushing sea smells into my nostrils. It’s getting too chilly to just sit around.
Alazne sniffles.
“I don’t understand anything,” she says.

Note from May of 2021:

The same day I wrote this entry I walked up to the apartment building where I chose that Alazne lived for my probably fictional story. It didn’t take me long to walk there, because I live in the same city. I hadn’t seen that area of Irún in years, probably since I studied at the nearby high school, and as I have experienced before when coming across places or objects that I built fictional stories around, the experience was surreal, even dizzying. As I stood exactly where my protagonist did, I expected Alazne to come out at any moment. I thought about moments that had taken place there in my story, and it was as if I had fabricated memories in my brain that were more vivid than most real ones. Like Alazne herself, I have struggled with depression for most of my life. One therapist called it ‘clinical depression resistant to treatment’. I don’t suffer it the same way my fictional character does, as I have more functional coping mechanisms such as writing, but I’m sure this depression is responsible for how I have forgotten most details of my life, and how many of the remaining events seem tattered. I used to know people for years, and was even very tangled with some, and yet I only remember sequences of a few seconds of my experiences with them. By writing fiction it often seems as if I’m creating vivid memories to fill all the spaces in my brain where voids have remained. And unfortunately, given that I have been unlucky in the stuff that has happened to me as well as the people I’ve met, no matter how crazy my fictional memories get, they feel warmer than the real ones.