When Jacqueline’s Audi enters the roundabout at the end of Lugaritz Avenue, the setting sun shoots its beams through the branches of a nearby clump of trees, forcing me to squint as I doze off in the passenger seat. Jacqueline maneuvers around the center island, and I catch a glimpse above some distant hills of the cosmic fireball as it tinges the view like a golden spotlight. A bone white apartment obstructs the landscape on my left. I lean back, turn my head towards my window and try to stay awake by watching how a multicolored row of parked cars zips past us. It feels like I’m replaying an old movie whose name I’m too tired to recall.
My eyelids feel heavy, my thoughts are fuzzy. Added to the vibrations of the car that Jacqueline is driving safely to its destination, my mind is sinking in a mystical atmosphere that makes me feel detached from the loathsome reality.
I need to stay awake. I could use some coffee, in a mug that would warm my palms and fingers as it slid into my hands. If I had been sitting on a train as it headed to Irún, I would have shut my eyes and hoped that whatever part of my brain remained awake wouldn’t miss my stop, but I don’t want to pass out next to my girlfriend as if I were some elderly woman.
“You must have worked really hard today, huh?” Jacqueline says.
Her raven black hair shines in the light trapped inside the Audi. The glint in her eyes, that look more liquidy blue in the sunset glow, reminds me of those angelic figureheads carved into wooden ships.
I force myself to speak, although it feels like the effort will drain my remaining energy.
“I’ve worked, which is far more than I did yesterday. Gone over plenty of documentation for that Python contract. I’m halway through the implementation already, so I suppose I should feel happy with how things turned out.”
“You are barely able to keep your eyes open.”
I must look like a mummified rat, a tiny furry rodent who can’t move or even blink because it’s wrapped up tight in its own skin. I rub my eyelids, then sigh.
“That’s nothing new. Most workdays, as soon as I reached my apartment and sat down on the sofa, I passed out right away. I usually woke up a couple of hours later, then I ate whatever was left on the fridge and went to bed.”
Jacqueline takes her eyes off the road to glance into mine.
“How do you even manage to get the chores done?”
What chores? Ah, people clean their homes and take out the trash. I don’t know how they make any headway with those tasks without passing out on the floor from exhaustion first.
I give an exaggerated shrug.
“I… don’t. Life’s too full of tasks to complete when I’d need to sleep instead. It’s a good thing you haven’t visited my place.”
“That’s… no way to live, Leire,” Jacqueline says gravely.
I’m tempted to tell her that this is the kind of woman that she decided to date, but a cold fear grips me. Even during the weekends, there are so many days when I can’t face anything; I just want to lock my bedroom door and spend the day in bed. But that’s not the kind of person that would be able to keep an intimate relationship going, so I bite my tongue and hang my head low.
“Oh, I agree,” I say quietly. “However, my body insisted on keeping me alive, often against my will. Funny how nature works.”
Jacqueline’s hands remain firmly placed on the wheel as she turns her head towards me. I’m having trouble adjusting my gaze, so I can’t make out her expression.
“Since I met you, I’ve known you to really push yourself,” Jacqueline says. She pauses and gazes ahead through the windshield. “Your sleep schedule is messed up, and you sacrifice the time that should help you recover from work stress. It must feel like you’ve been living on a treadmill. Besides, you should eat properly so you can give your body the energy and strength it needs.”
I slump in the seat as a new wave of fatigue hits me. I don’t want to let Jacqueline’s words sink in. Why would she take such an interest? Maybe she’s trying to get into character for a role in some movie.
Before I became obsessed with Jacqueline, there was hardly a minute of the week when I wasn’t thinking about programming, even though I produced useless crap that our clients barely cared about. None of my jobs allowed any room for self-improvement, or growth as a person, beyond what they could provide financially. One of my former bosses said that us programmers are just assembly lines: useful only as long as our output keeps flowing and no defects show up. Besides, I wouldn’t have survived long term in any of my previous jobs, as the software was being built by teams of people who worked together seamlessly, while I can’t even work seamlessly with myself.
I never had any lasting interest in life apart from computers and technology; I amassed piles of board games, but I couldn’t be bothered to play most of them. So much work to set things up and deal with the rules. What’s left of me that hasn’t become a part of that black box of software?
I’ve been like this since high school. After my mother died, everything went downhill for me. My father turned to alcoholism. As soon as my older brother graduated, we got kicked out of our home and became homeless. We slept under bridges or inside abandoned buildings. By that time, my brother had become addicted to drugs, and ended up dead by overdose. My wails attracted a gang of junkies that kidnapped me and chained me to a pole in the basement of their hideout. They abused me as their sexual slave until they got bored, then they drowned me in an ice-cold bath and sold my organs on the black market. I still remember how peacefully those ice cubes bobbed on the surface of the water.
Who cares? My mind wants to shut off. Losing consciousness always solved my problems, at least during that respite.
“I should probably do plenty of things,” I mutter hoarsely, “but now I only want to sleep.”
My eyelids feel heavy again, and I let them fall shut. A sense of tranquility sweeps over me, a warm feeling that is rising from my stomach and spreading across my chest. I’m floating in the center of a black sphere that no threat can penetrate. From the outside world, only the pleasant vibrations and droning noise of the car’s engine reach me, and even they seem muffled. I wish I could stay like this for a long time, resting in the passenger seat while Jacqueline drives us home.
My consciousness grows dimmer. I’m sinking deep inside some cosmic womb where there’s nothing but darkness. No monsters lurking behind trees, no bad feelings waiting around each corner. Whether or not this place was created for me, now it’s where I belong.
I am jolted awake; Jacqueline is squeezing my left shoulder. I sit upright. I couldn’t make out what she said, but the Audi has stopped in front of her apartment building, she has turned off the car’s ignition and she’s unbuckling her seat belt, so I get the point.
I climb out of the car. As I step onto the sidewalk, a gust of cold wind whips my hair around and irritates my exposed skin, that the short sleep had anesthetized. Someone has painted the skies with the lightest shade of rose. The afternoon will slide into night soon enough.
Once again I marvel at the quiet neighborhood that Jacqueline was able to afford with her job as a secretary, in addition to whatever amount of money she made with the cam girl stuff. Up in the hills of Donostia, we are surrounded by two or three stories tall, ivory white apartment buildings with gardens hidden from view by fences and hedges. Most of the windows have the curtains drawn shut. Someone is watching television; I recognize the detached cadence of the local dubs, but I can’t tell from which building the noise is coming out. It’s the perfect neighborhood to launch a private porn empire.
Jacqueline digs her keys out of her coat’s pocket. Her next words slung my way catch me yawning; besides, my brain hasn’t snapped out of its daze yet, so I just straighten my back and nod. I follow my beloved into the building, then I drag myself up the stairs. Why didn’t we take the elevator?
As Jacqueline unlocks the front door of her apartment, I’m tempted to rest my forehead on her back. Ah, we’re finally home. Once I shuffle into the hallway, I shake my head and blink a few times to adjust my vision.
“You look like you’re about to fall asleep standing up,” Jacqueline says.
I consider struggling to formulate a coherent response, but I end up exhaling and shrugging instead.
We kick off our shoes, then we hang her coat and my corduroy jacket on the rack by the front door. Jacqueline turns towards me, brushes a lock of hair away from my forehead and gives me a peck on the lips.
“Go into the spare bedroom and put on sportswear.”
“Plenty to choose from. Grab something comfortable for yourself. I’ll get changed too.”
Jacqueline pats my ass, which sends me stumbling down the hallway. Why would I need sports clothes? Why not just a pyjamas, if I’m going to crawl into bed?
I shouldn’t think this hard. I’ve already reached my sanctuary, so I have nothing to worry about.
The spare bedroom is located opposite the main one. I open the door as I rub my eyes with the back of my free hand. I find myself staring at a kids’ bed covered with a lemonade pink quilt that features an unhealthy amount of unicorns. The walls are painted sapphire blue. At first I think that three fake clouds mounted on the wall are decorative, but they are camouflaged lamps.
I step into the bedroom and close the door behind me. I feel like I’m intruding on someone’s private playground. Does a child live here? No way, the previous owner of the apartment must have abandoned this stuff. They likely sold their kids into slavery and had to flee in a hurry. Whatever. As it concerns me, this bed is one in which I haven’t had sex with Jacqueline yet.
What am I doing in this room? Ah, Jacqueline told me to put on sportswear. Is that supposed to fuel one of her fetishes?
Two canvas storage bags rest on top of the bed. I unzip the one on the left. It’s filled with neatly folded garments: blouses, tops, shorts, underwear, lingerie. One of the tops catches my attention, so I unfold it and hold it up. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out that Jacqueline owned skin tight tops that exposed the midriff, and that announced bold intentions with lettering that read ‘cowgirl’ or ‘come here daddy’, but instead this is a short sleeve top with a punk motif. Something that a fifteen-year-old girl would wear to the mall. Besides, if Jacqueline attempted to cram her twin monuments in this, even back in the day, the fabric would explode. I sniff the garment, but it smells like laundry detergent. I fold the top and return it to the bag.
As I browse through the other clothes, I realize that they could also belong to a teenager. Did Jacqueline buy them because they looked cool?
The storage bag on the right is filled with men’s clothes: shirts, polo shirts, sleeveless shirts. Jeans. I slide my hand over some boxer briefs. Jacqueline paid premium for them.
Do these clothes belong to Jacqueline’s lucky victims? Did so many men leave a garment behind as an excuse to return? No, men don’t rely on such strategies; they have more balls than women do, at least a pair. Is Jacqueline cosplaying as a guy? Then again, the matter of her tits remains.
Are these trophies from the men that Jacqueline screwed? I doubt they would have been relinquished willingly, unless Jacqueline asked real nicely. Did I find Jacqueline’s treasure trove of death? Am I dating a serial killer? And why does that thought make me horny?
I shake my head. I’m exhausted enough that I shouldn’t trust my thought patterns. I zip both bags closed.
From the mirrored wardrobe, jam-packed with clothes that I can picture Jacqueline wearing, I choose a tank top and a pair of leggings made of black spandex. I get undressed to obey Jacqueline’s order, but why was I supposed to put on sports clothes?
Author’s note: this is just half of the scene. I’ve already written most of the first draft of what remains, but I felt like uploading this part already. I don’t know what to tell you.
A couple of days ago they called me to tell me that I’ve been hired for another contract. Hooray. It starts next week, lasts two weeks likely including both saturdays, and I’ll be working the afternoon shift. To celebrate this development, I went out for an hour or so and bought a bacon pizza. After I ate half of it, I ended up in the bathroom with virulent diarrhea. But I guess it was celebratory diarrhea.
I’m someone whose anxiety, neurological issues and general inability to tolerate the presence of human beings only allow him to withstand about an hour and a half in that nasty world out there, but I’ll have to return to the routine of working at an office for eight hours. When I’m unemployed, I’m miserable. When I’m employed, I’m far more miserable and barely able to write in my spare time. But working adds money to my bank account, so that’s alright.
Anyway, I had another weird dream of which I rage quit at the end. As usual, I had to run around some odd building complex to solve stressful issues. I shouldn’t be surprised that my troublesome dreams involve such activities, as that’s the most troublesome part of my job. In any case, I walked into a hallway only to find out that there were cat-sized centipedes crawling around. Even worse: they had the faces of human babies. They looked like something out of the ‘Berserk’ manga series (I specify that because the adaptations were garbage for the most part). Somehow I knew that these centipedes acquired the physical features of whatever they ate.
I guess it was my job to prevent random babies from getting eaten. I followed the centipedes, and in a room further down the hallway, I discovered that they were munching on the testicles of a guy strapped to a chair. Somehow I knew that the guy had regenerative powers, so someone must have intended to torture him. And I guess human testicles are related enough to babies as far as the centipedes are concerned.
This is the kind of stuff that my subconscious produces by itself; my own stories are usually much tamer. Anyway, although I’ve forgotten the details, I know that Jinx from ‘Arcane’ was involved in that segment of the dream. Maybe she was the one who strapped the guy to the chair to torture him. I’ve loved that girl since I watched the series, so I welcome her appearing in my dreams. If only there was more quality CGI of her for VR purposes.
I hope you enjoyed this stuff of mine you’ve read. If you haven’t, that’s alright too.