Thirty Euros, Pt. 4 (Fiction)

As soon as I walk into what Garima, the receptionist of the SFPT, called a waiting room, I feel as if I’ve wandered into a palace. This room is even larger, and two curved staircases lead to an open second floor. Crystal chandeliers embedded into the ceiling, and that look like upside down wedding cakes, radiate golden light that bathe four sets of crystal tables and the surrounding leather chesterfield sofas, which are banana yellow. I’m the only person in the room, and yet it’s hard for me to keep my composure as I walk on the porcelain-like floor, which features a mathematical pattern represented with orange and gold colors, and that reminds me of a sunflower. Eight Corinthian pillars, artfully distributed, are holding the ceiling. I hadn’t had time to notice the walls, but one or more geniuses have frescoed meticulous scenes that depict many different cultures in their dedicated stretches of wall. Peculiar attires, monuments, myths. I recognize some Greek mythological creatures, Hindu gods, Buddhist temples and Japanese shrines. I’m quite sure that I’m looking at some of these cultures for the first time, because I don’t recall having gotten glimpses of them in my thirty one years. These frescoes would feel at home in a Renaissance cathedral, except that they aren’t limited to representing figures of a single religion. This supposed office belongs in a dream.
I approach one of the sofas, although I feel like I have no business being here. Bringing me to this era must have been some cosmic mistake. The closer I get to the crystal table, which has a base made out of a geode filled with pointy, violet crystals, the more it smells like orange and vanilla. The aroma comes from an egg-shaped diffuser on the table. I sink into the sofa, which envelops me as I sit back.
I close my eyes. I must have disconnected for a while, because I only realize that someone has walked towards me when the person is standing next to my table. It’s Garima.
“You’ll be just fine there,” she says, and then she puts on the table a tray with a silver cup and a jar of water, along with a small plate loaded up with a colorful snack that reminds me of fried potato chips.
Her embellished, flared gown, fit for a princess, makes it a joke that she’s the one serving me. Before I know it she has turned around and is walking back into the room from which I came. I fill the cup with water, then drink. I confirm that the same old water I’ve always known exists here, and that its cold fills my stomach as expected. The snack doesn’t have the shape nor the color of potato chips, but its crunch sticks against my palate bringing similar sensations. For a moment I wonder how come they knew I wasn’t allergic to whatever kind of nut this snack contains.
I spot movement out of the corner of my eye. A machine that resembles a robotic vacuum cleaner, but with the shape of a lenticular disk, is gliding down the stairs without touching them. It moves way too fast for a vacuum cleaner, and it’s maneuvering to approach me. I sit straight. I can tell it’s not dangerous, but I doubt I wouldn’t have jumped out of the sofa if Chieko hadn’t come from this reality.
The top of the disk emits a vertical beam of light around a meter and seventy centimeters tall. The light gelatinizes as it expands taking the shape of a person, and in a second I find myself looking up at a man in his forties who has a neat comb over haircut, and who wears a black suit. The image reminds me of a Victorian butler.
“Pardon me,” the person says as he bows elegantly. “I’m the Guide, and I’m at your service for whatever doubt you have about how things work around here. Your information was already in the system, but now we are aware that you live among us. Don’t hesitate to approach any of the Guides for help.”
My skin shivers with electricity.
“You are a machine, right…?”
“That’s right, miss Uriarte. Most of the people in this town are human, yes, but a certain percentage of us are artificial intelligences. Our creator is the famous inventor Konrad Zuse.”
I nod in silence. I’m sure I will lose my mind by the end of the day. Maybe I will faint in front of this seemingly sentient machine.
“I know, miss,” the Guide continues. “Back in your time, artificial intelligence hadn’t advanced much. No worries, just remember that we exist to fulfill our roles, whether to help humans or other artificial intelligences! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.”
I close my eyes while I take a deep breath. For a moment I think that whenever I open my eyes again, the man made of opaque light will have disappeared, but he’s still looking down at me.
“Have I truly come to the future, or have I gone insane?” I ask in a thin, weak voice.
“Both are possible,” the Guide says jovially. “Don’t be scared either way. Now seriously, no, you haven’t gone insane. One of the representatives working for the SFPT, with the name of Chieko Sekiguchi, focused on your case and managed to rescue you from a terrible fate. Rescues such as these are why their whole operation exists, I suppose.”
My face grows warm.
“I-I’ll need time to adjust to this…”
The Guide smiles pleasantly.
“You are doing quite well. Now, would you like to listen to the story of Konrad Zuse?”
I nod as I rub my right temple.
“Konrad is someone you have never heard of, I fear,” the Guide continues, “but we consider him a genius who invented new programming techniques that eventually gave birth to the first sentient AIs.”
“Sounds like a competent man.”
“He wasn’t a man, though. He was an artificial intelligence himself!”
“Is that the case…?”
“Now, you might be wondering how come a sentient AI was the one to invent sentient AIs. There’s something called Gödel’s theorem that says that even though it’s impossible to give a formal proof, the conclusion of an algorithm can hold under almost any given circumstance.”
I’m having problems keeping up with the Guide’s speech.
“Gödel’s theorem? Sounds complicated…”
The butler laughs, and then winks while turning his head theatrically.
“I’m afraid I was pulling your leg, miss. No, the creation of sentient intelligences was a gradual process involving transformer-based neural networks with quatrillions of parameters!”
A wave of vertigo ripples through my body.
“Well, at least I’m glad you understand what a joke is,” I mumble. “And that we can hold a conversation, even if it goes over my head.”
The Guide smiles again.
“Oh! Now that you’ve been rescued, miss, you will love visiting any of our Librarians, I’m sure. So much literature to discover! I’m very partial to it myself.”
I’m too dizzy to come up with a proper answer, but I also don’t want to seem like an idiot to a machine who seems more intelligent than me. However, as soon as I start speaking, the butler straightens his back and looks to the side as if listening to something in an earpiece. Then he smiles cordially at me.
“It seems that your representative has arrived. She’s been informed of your whereabouts. Just remember, if you see any of us Guides gliding around and you need information about anything, just call us over. Guiding people is our raison d’être, and we are glad to do so. As you might imagine, I will make myself scarce now. Until next time!”
The Guide makes a bow so elegant that it would fit in a museum.
“Uh… Thank you for your help,” I say.
The figure of the man, made of light, collapses in a split second as if the top of the lenticular disk had absorbed it. The disk then turns around and glides quickly up the left staircase, leaving me alone at the table.
My head is filled with white noise as I fill my silver cup with water and drink it in a single gulp. I doubt this encounter was some sort of practical joke. I’m going to live in a world where artificial intelligences are so advanced that they consider themselves to be people. And it seems that it hasn’t caused significant troubles, at least to the extent that this ostentatious office continues existing. I should just go with the flow, at least for a while, taking everything in. These people know I come from the past, and they will be lenient of my stupidity. But I worry that any of the inhabitants of this strange reality will realize that I don’t deserve to be here. When they do, they will send me back. I doubt I would be able to continue living normally back on the Earth I know after I’ve been here.
“Izar! I knew you’d come,” Chieko says from above.
A warmth grows in my chest as I look up towards the railing of the second floor. Chieko, the same Asian woman whom I thought I would never see again, along with her apple red hair and her kind smile, is leaning on the railing of the second floor, close to the right, curved staircase.
“Come on, get up here,” Chieko says. “We are going for a ride.”
The tone of her voice suggests I have become someone special to her. Despite the deceptive way in which she approached me, she did it because she cares. My whole body feels too light and weird, and I fear I will faint any minute, but I walk carefully to the right staircase and climb up, stepping on stairs that glimmer like gold. The second floor is an imitation of the lower one, except that the sets of tables and sofas are arranged according to the narrower space. On the opposite end of the room, an arched doorway, with an elaborate lintel that displays a rhomboid pattern, leads into a single staircase that goes up and out of view.
As I approach Chieko, who keeps smiling warmly, I can tell that the clothes she had worn to meet me were chosen to fit in. Now she’s wearing a pearl white, puff sleeve blouse with a scoop neckline, along with black pleated shorts with suspenders. She has gathered her red hair in two buns that give her a spacey look.
I’m about to greet her properly when she steps forward and hugs me tightly. I’m not used to people being this nice. I may melt. When she pulls away, she keeps resting her hands on my shoulders.
“What are your first impressions?” she asks. “It seems so wild, right?”
This must be what they call charm. I want to trust Chieko, and I’m sure she told me the truth when she assured me that I would have died in less than a week. She can’t fake the sincerity in her eyes.
“It’s great…” I say carefully, unsure how to continue describing this world. “I met one of your robots, or artificial intelligences.”
“Some towns have more of them than humans.” Chieko chuckles softly. “They are great. I’m sure he helped you kindly.”
“I was too dumbfounded to take advantage of his services, but I’ll come across any of them again. He also mentioned a Librarian…”
Chieko nods.
“Ah, the Guide knew how to entice you. Yeah, we have buildings dedicated to these Librarians, who will recommend you books based on your preferences and previously read titles, and will produce the books for you. You wouldn’t consider them libraries, I don’t think, because they don’t store any books. When you are done with any of them, you throw it into a matter decomposer.”
“Matter… So you people break everything down, and they end up turning into… ashes?”
Chieko pats my shoulder.
“Into their periodic elements. Don’t worry about it for now, Izar! After all, you don’t need to know how a computer works in order to use it, right? And in these parts, computers will ask you what you want! We don’t use mice. Anyway, let’s just go up to the roof, shall we?”
She leads me by the hand up the stairs until we exit through a big door onto the roof. I’m looking down, as I fear getting overwhelmed as if I were staring at majestic paintings in a museum, so first I see that the floor of the roof is flat, and made out of impractically large, buttermilk yellow stone slabs. I feel cool air on my skin. I look up quickly towards the sky. It’s a vast expanse mostly as blue as I expect a sky to be, but it’s blended in parts with a peach pink, and the few wisps of cloud are blurry as if dissolving. I search for the source of the warmth on my skin, and my breath leaves my lungs for the first time since I came. I don’t dare look directly at the sun, but close to the lemon yellow, burning disk, which looks smaller than I expected, hangs a second, larger sun. The sunrays of the second sun seem stronger, and as they hit the clouds floating nearby, they meld in a radiant blend of red-orange.
Chieko pats my back.
“Good? Isn’t it spectacular?”
“W-we aren’t on Earth.”
“Just take it easy, Izar. I don’t want you to faint. Also, don’t stare directly at the sun, whether the original or our artificial one. It’s a terrible idea no matter what planet you end up standing on.”
I look at Chieko’s pretty face, tinged in the sunlight.
“W-wait,” I say. “W-where are we exactly…?”
“The future, of course!” Chieko exclaims with glee. “As for our current whereabouts…”
Chieko stops talking, because something out of the corner of my eye had startled me. Up to my left, in a forty five degree angle, a metallic vehicle is floating through the air silently. Its slick shape reminds me of a zeppelin, but it has fin-like ridges. The sunlight is whitening the upper part of the vehicle, which reflects the light as in a mirror. There must be people inside.
“That’s a UFO,” I blurt out.
Chieko chuckles.
“It’s perfectly identified. That’s just… a flying bus. I prefer the personal models myself.”
My benefactress tugs on my hand, and I stagger in the direction she’s following. She’s guiding me towards a row of rectangular parking spaces painted in white. Two of the spaces are occupied. Chieko leads me to the closest vehicle. It’s about the size of a van, but if that flying bus reminded me of a UFO, I’m staring at one right now: it’s an upside down plate standing on a landing skid, as if the bottom shouldn’t touch the ground. Its metallic frame seems to have been built without seams, and it’s painted a pineapple yellow except for decorative black stripes. The windshield encircles the frame in a band of glass, but I can’t see the inside, as the reflections of the sunrays are curtaining the interior.
I’m trembling uncontrollably. My knees go weak. Before I know it, Chieko is holding me in her arms. Her neck smells like tea. I want to go limp, but we’d fall to the floor. I swallow, then force myself to stand straight.
“I’m having a hard time…” I start to say, but I shut up.
“No need to worry. Izar, many, many people over the years have reached this present in a similar way than you, and they now live their lives just like any other citizen. Believe me, it will be far easier for you to adapt than it is for people of the Middle Ages, for example. Once you’ve become familiar with computers, your brain can handle the rest. So, don’t you think it’s a splendid vehicle?”
“S-splendid… How…” I stutter while I feel as if my tongue is stuck.
Chieko approaches her vehicle and tells it to open. An opening appears in the side of the frame, and an airstair gets lowered to the ground. I look around. This large, flat roof is enclosed by tall hedges and rimmed with still, decorative pools, but the skyline of a town or a city is peeking out from behind the hedges. It’s more sparse than I would have expected. I make out the treetops of pine-like trees, shaped like spearheads. All the buildings I can glimpse look like ancient monuments, cathedral-like monsters with incongruous designs, as different as those of apartment buildings in a city. I’m surprised that none of the buildings reach the height of a skyscraper. They remind me of how tall the Colosseum must look. Also, I don’t spot any mountain nor hill, which I always expect to see, as I was used to living in Gipuzkoa.
“Here, get inside!” Chieko says.
She pushes me gently so I ascend the airstairs to the interior of her vehicle. I only have to hunch over a little. The interior smells like warm leather and coffee. There are only two seats, which are black with vertical white stripes, and they look as expensive and comfortable as the sofas in the office of the SFPT. The only part of the wall resembling a dashboard with indicators and displays is in front of the left seat, so I sit on the right one. Once I sink in the upholstery, I let out a long sigh. I’d gladly sit here for hours.
Chieko sits down to my left. She says ‘close’, and the opening in the frame closes like a pore. She reaches for a plasticky device attached to the dashboard, which reminds me of the cigarette lighters that many cars have, but when Chieko pulls out this device, it’s tethered to the inside of the frame with a loose cable made out of spiral metal. Chieko presses a surface of the device to her temple, and it latches on to her skin. As soon as she drops her hands to her lap, the indicators and displays come to life. They aren’t screens, but the closest thing I’ve seen to solid, 3D holograms. Two of them clearly display our surroundings with three-dimensional models of buildings and trees.
Chieko leans back. Our vehicle lifts off, but I can only tell because the tops of buildings and trees that I can see through the windshield are sliding down. Soon the view is filled with sky.
“I-I don’t feel any engine,” I say. “I’m not being pushed down against the seat.”
Chieko smiles at me, narrowing her eyes.
“Those kinds of engines are long gone. This baby creates its own gravitational field. We are moving through spacetime in a bubble. Far more complicated things have been invented. I wasn’t responsible, though, so I can’t be that proud about them.”
I let out a breath as if something was squeezing my heart. While the view of the sky changes, and the models in the holographic displays turn around like cups in a microwave, Chieko is eyeing me as if she’s about to smirk.
“I get the appeal of impressing someone with a ride in my fancy car.”
I rub my mouth nervously. My heart is pounding on my ribcage.
“Be careful, Chieko. I don’t get attached to people, I sink my claws in them.”
“That’s alright, I think. This world allows all kinds of emotions.”
She sounds like a wise and worldly older person. For the first time I wonder about her age. This society has managed to travel back in time, construct such majestic buildings and move through the skies effortlessly with antigravity vehicles. I’m sure they have managed to solve the riddle of aging.
Although Chieko is just looking down at the displays and hasn’t touched anything, our vehicle tilts, and I find myself staring at a much smaller version of the roof we lifted off from. The building is standing in the middle of a park. I spot a few serpentine footpaths, structures similar to streetlights, and even the small figures of people walking around or sitting on benches. Some are hanging out near a cerulean blue pond. So many statues strewn about, some of them painted in vibrant colors. I shiver. From the outside, the office of the SFPT reminds me of a Roman building, and one side, maybe the main entrance, even features a colonnade.
Chieko slouches in the chair and holds her hands on her lap.
“So yeah, I work for the SFPT. I’m not big on working for others; kind of a lone wolf, do my own thing kind of person. But they’ve done fantastic work for generations. You only need to look around to realize that we wouldn’t have become as great if it wasn’t for the many people they’ve rescued.”
“This SFPT’s role is to bring here people from the past…?” I ask, bewildered.
Chieko facepalms, and then shrugs apologetically.
“Sorry, I should realize that you know close to nothing! SFPT is the acronym for the boringly named Society For the Preservation of Talent.”
I look down to my lap. My hands are trembling, but now I’m mostly excited.
“You told me that you approached me because you wanted to preserve my life and my talent.”
Chieko doesn’t answer, and when I look at her, she’s staring at me with a solemn expression. Her mouth makes a wet sound when it opens.
“Izar, what has been the biggest enemy of humankind for hundreds of thousands of years?”
“Humankind? Well… War and injustice.”
“I don’t think so, no. Those are terrible things we do. Try again. Something much more frightening.”
“More abstract? Darkness and fear?”
“I’m not getting across…” Chieko rubs her chin. “The main evil we have faced has stolen everything from us for hundreds of thousands of years. It has murdered an uncountable number of us. It has stolen parents from their children, and sometimes children from their parents. It has stopped talented people from being able to benefit the world further, not to mention discover of what they would have been capable otherwise. For so many millennia we submitted to it as a tyrant we wouldn’t dare to stand against.”
My throat is closing, and a shiver runs through my spine.
“Y-you are talking about the passage of time.”
Chieko narrows her eyes like a hawk.
“About the effects of time on living beings. It has rendered us incapable, it has killed us. One by one, generation by generation. Well, it can get fucked now. Talent no longer falls through the cracks of reality, hopefully until some other brilliant human being among millions and millions picks up where the previous genius was forced to stop. Not only that, those brilliant people are able to interact with one another. Our translators bridge the gulfs between every language that currently exists or has ever existed.” She points at the small hemispherical device attached to the skin behind her ear. “I wouldn’t have been able to understand any single word coming out of your mouth otherwise. And you can read any text like a native. Don’t need to take it off either, it’s hydrophobic.”
I hide my face in my hands. Chieko thankfully gives me some seconds to calm down.
“I know, it must be pretty overwhelming,” she says.
“Yeah, I feel as if I were hallucinating. So you are telling me that your society is partly made out of artists and inventors from every previous era of humankind’s existence, that have been brought over methodically…?”
“That is right. We figure out when and how they died, if there was any doubt, and we save them. We feel good in the process, it’s like we are gallant knights. I’m mostly an artist myself, though, but I was born here. I make virtual reality experiences. I’m going through a dry spell, though, as I told you.”
I shake my head slowly.
“Ah… So, which brilliant people have been rescued from the past, names that I might know…?”
Chieko shuts one eye as she tilts her head, maybe because she’s trying to come up with artists with whom I may be familiar.
“Well, for example, Isaac Newton was resurrected, although that happened a few generations before I was born. I only saw him once from afar. I recall he always wore the same clothes, kind of an eccentric guy. But he has become good friends with philosophers of old, Greeks and Romans mainly. He doesn’t live around here, though.”
My mind is reeling. I don’t feel capable of understanding all the implications of the SFPT’s work.
“S-so, writers like… Let’s say, Shakespeare. Is he alive too?”
Chieko lets out an appreciative noise, and nods enthusiastically.
“He was one of my main inspirations even as a child! He moved on to virtual reality experiences. So much of his new work is astonishing, and he adapted quite quickly to our modern times. Because I work in the medium, one of my goals is that he gets to experience my movies and enjoys them so much that he writes a recommendation. That would make me famous overnight! I’ve never interacted with him in person, though, but I’ve seen him at festivals.”
“Y-you could become friends with an immortalized genius like the father of the English language… I think I will end up vomiting.”
Chieko laughs, but she shakes her hands as if to dissuade me from throwing up now.
“Not in my car, please! If you seriously need to vomit, we can land.”
I feel so small, even in the presence of Chieko. She might be a thousand years old for all I know, although she looks younger than me.
“I-it’s alright, I was being… Thank you for making this whole situation so clear. I get it. Some of your predecessors made sure to rescue people like William Shakespeare, Socrates, Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein and such, huh? No wonder everything looks so amazing. And after so many years there’s only small fries like me to bring over.”
“Don’t refer to yourself like that. So what if you aren’t Shakespeare? Neither am I! We can still be better than the day before. I’m not into competing with other artists, and it’s a suicidal notion anyway, when you might wake up one morning only to find out that any of the greats have released their next big experience, and after you watch it you know you will never be able to come up with anything remotely similar. But you gotta take it as a humbling experience.”
I hang my head low. I feel as vulnerable as a child in the cold. When I start crying silently, Chieko pats me on the thigh.
I only realize that she’s flying this vehicle in some other direction because the view changes. Once I feel strong enough to look up, my gaze falls on a vast plain. We are so high that the panorama must be encompassing dozens if not hundreds of kilometers. Other flying vehicles are cutting through the sky in different directions, and some of those vehicles are so tiny that they have been reduced to specks of dust that glisten in the sun. There are curved ridges in the distance that look like the raised rims of craters, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the lakes, some of which are fed by serpentine river systems, are ancient craters filled with water. The landscape is green, probably because grass is growing everywhere, but I make out amorphous expanses of forests. Curiously, I don’t see any farmland. Plenty of human communities are hugging the coastline of lakes and have grown on both sides of wide rivers, but they have also allowed their architects to go wild, because some of the monument-like buildings sitting on the plains are the size of mountains.
I point at a group of those conspicuous monuments.
“T-those are pyramids.”
“Hmm? Ah, yeah, those were made quite a long time ago, a few decades after they invented time travel and started bringing people over,” Chieko says nonchalantly. “They weren’t here before we came!”
“Chieko, where the hell are we…?” I whisper.
“This whole area is called the Hesperia Plains. It’s close to a humongous inland sea called Hellas.”
I rub my temples. I feel a headache coming. Where have I heard those names before?
“Are we in… I mean, this is a different planet.”
“Mars. Just next door. It’s not like I’ve brought you to another solar system.”
I get goosebumps. I’m on Mars.
“H-have you guys colonized other solar systems…?”
Chieko grins happily.
“Hell yeah.”
I can’t face the view any longer, so I hang my head low. I take deep breaths to keep my chest from convulsing.
“Your people have made it, haven’t they…?” I say in a quavering voice. “My era was a nightmare. I was sure we would self-destruct, maybe to the extent that we went extinct. B-but you have survived, and made… all of this.”
“It’s a better world, sure, for new art to come forth!”
I’m feeling calmer and calmer. I’ve never felt this comfortable with any other human being, although she belongs to a different world.
“People don’t wage wars anymore? People don’t kill each other?”
Chieko laughs awkwardly.
“It hasn’t gotten that bad, not like it did in the centuries around your time. But people are people. Some communities are on the verge of war any given day, and for one reason or another, some bastards always want to cause havoc. Our town is as quiet as they come, though.”
“W-well… At least you’ve saved people’s lives.”
Chieko offers me a childish smile, almost closing her eyes.
“You were my first. I told you, this was a personal project. I had little clue about what I was doing, I was following the training. I’ve mostly done other kinds of jobs for the SFPT, related to working with artists brought from the past. We still live and learn through making mistakes! But I might get into it and figure out which other people I should travel back in time to rescue. However, the SFPT is very careful about these assignments. Frankly, if you had been an author of great renown, they wouldn’t have let me take the case.”
I stare out of the windshield. The sky is so beautiful. If a person could fly in those colors every second of the day, they would retain their sanity.
“I’m not…” I mumble. “I only wrote some stupid stuff…”
“Oh, shut it. There’s always enough food. People can print it on the replicators, even from the materials that the freighters bring over from nebulae and gas giants. There are enough jobs for those who want other people to tell them what to do. And you can lounge on the roof of your house and write for as long as you want.”
My mouth is twisting and my shoulders shake as streams of tears run down my cheeks. My throat burns.
“Alright, Izar,” Chieko says jovially. “You’ll live in my house for a while, until you get used to this place. Let’s go. You’ll feel different after a good night’s sleep.”

Thirty Euros, Pt. 3 (Fiction)

When I open my eyes, my gaze falls on a crack in the eggshell white ceiling. Dusty strands of cobweb span the crack near one end. For the second night in a row, a sheet and a duvet have kept me warm, and instead of being woken up by the laughter of children and nearby footsteps, it seems that my brain considered that the noisy toilet cistern from the upstairs neighbor was a threat. Or maybe it was time to wake up, because the morning light is filling the bedroom through the glass panes of the door to the tiny balcony.
Chieko, my benefactress from a faraway place, is gone. She fell through reality. And I bet that, as she assured me, whenever I walk into the living room, that opaque white doorway will be waiting for me.
In the kitchen, I prepare myself a coffee and I also grab some slices of salty ham. Chieko, or her employers, had stacked the fridge with groceries, although some of them will expire sooner than when the lease runs out. Also, the first time I entered the bedroom I found the apartment key next to a wad of banknotes, which looked as fresh and crisp as if they had been printed a few days before. A total of two thousand euros in tens and twenties.
Once my stomach starts digesting the slices of ham, I carry the steaming cup of coffee through the hallway into the living room, and I stand near the white doorway. It remains as lifeless as any other door. Nothing moves in this apartment but me and a couple of spiders. Although the impossible doorway doesn’t scare me anymore, it gives me the anxiety of a ticking clock. It would be nice to take advantage of this shelter and be alone for a few months, although I’m sure that I’ll feel as broken a few years from now. I want to lounge around thoughtlessly. Still, the money would run out eventually, and nobody will support me anymore. I’d need to find a job, at some office no doubt, and those nightmares would begin all over again.
For several minutes, while I sip my coffe, I observe the white void through which Chieko left. I barely got to know that odd woman, but now that she’s gone, the silence gets heavy and oppressive at times. She has abandoned me. No, she hasn’t, I barely knew her. And yet that’s how I feel. I miss her smile, those ostentatious dimples, and how much she cared. I finally met someone nice who wanted to help me, but she has disappeared in a more definitive way than the other people in my life had, even those who died. I get the feeling that unless I follow Chieko through the doorway, I won’t be able to find her anywhere even if I spent the rest of my life searching.
“Once I go through this doorway, I will never see this world again,” I mumble, repeating her words.
Why didn’t she stay and help me in person instead of giving me the freedom to choose? I’m tired of making decisions, of pondering what road to take. For years I focused on losing myself, on escaping reality, through fictional stories, and I left the technical details of how to survive in this world to my boyfriend. Maybe to a fault. I’m sure I wasn’t mentally present for plenty of it. I let Víctor worry about everything but cooking, and I would have gladly allowed cobwebs to grow in the corners of the ceilings. Maybe if I hadn’t lost myself into fantasy, if my living heart still beat properly, maybe he wouldn’t have stopped caring about me. I shake my head. No, nothing justified him cheating repeatedly on me. To break the covenant is unforgivable.
After three quarters of an hour standing there like a zombie, my brain gets tired of thinking about it and decides to wake up. I take a shower. I clean my skin with the amount of liquid soap that any other person would have spent in four showers, but during this past week I became self-conscious about my stink as if I was constantly trailing around a noxious cloud.
The first night I spent here, finding my clothes in the wardrobe of the bedroom should have astonished me. They are the clothes that I left behind in Victor’s apartment after I decided to become homeless, without any thought about how I would survive the following days. The only way I imagined that anyone would have retrieved my clothes involved Víctor agreeing to let those strangers in, but I stopped myself from trying to figure it out. Chieko, or Chieko’s employers, had produced a two-dimensional door that led to another world. I’m sure they had their peculiar ways of transferring my clothes to this apartment.
I put on some jeans, a short-sleeve V-neck blouse, and on top my favorite hooded knit cardigan. I don’t feel that it suits me well anymore, but it reminds me of sitting next to a window to write.
I test the key in the apartment’s door a couple of times, just in case I’m suffering a psychotic break and I’m still living in the streets. I can lock and unlock the door, so I should be able to return here after a walk. At this hour on a Thursday, beyond the regular traffic on this one-lane road, I spot delivery vans supplying shops, along with housewives and retirees walking around. The same old anonymous, monotonous parade. I saunter towards the parts of the Kursaal that show up at the end of the street. The slanted, translucent glass cubes stand against a porcelain white sky. Once I reach the intersection, I stop and take in the view. The line of flags that promote some event that the Kursaal is hosting are fluttering in the breeze. To my right, although the outside sitting area of some restaurants block most of the view, a wall-like, foresty hill blocks the horizon. Cars are passing in front of me in both directions. A couple of surfers are driving electric scooters, heading likely to Zurriola beach, which is located behind the Kursaal.
I feel unreal. Everything seems fake, as if I’m staring at a painting. These past two nights have granted me enough rest, and my mind must be detaching itself from this world that it had already relinquished when I became homeless a week ago.
I cross the street and I keep walking in front of the Kursaal until a flat view opens up, that shows the beachfront promenade and beyond it a band of steel blue water. I’m seeing myself from above as I approach the low wall that borders the beach. Tanned men and women, either barefoot or wearing sandals, are standing or walking on the sand. A muscled man wearing orange trunks is climbing the safeguard tower.
I won’t see this view, or any that I have stored in my brain, ever again. Whatever awaits me on the other side of that white doorway will become my new reality. I will follow the only person who cared enough to save me. I refuse to continue in this world that has thrown me aside so carelessly, and if it turns out that crossing that impossible doorway will kill me, then so be it.
As I rest my back against the low wall, I focus on whether I’ll miss anything or anyone of this world I was born in. As I got older, fewer and fewer people cared for my books, which were my only contribution. All these strangers walking around don’t glance my way; I looked my best in my mid twenties, too long ago already.
The breeze is cooling my face. It smells like salty water and crustaceans. My ex-boyfriend’s face pops up in my mind. All that’s left of those five years with him is bitterness and pain. I’m sure any of his other women will take his calls. Although I threw my cell phone in the garbage, I doubt he would have insisted on calling beyond the first couple of days otherwise. In any case, I no longer feel capable of loving people. It’s not worth the trouble.
I stare at the distant view of the hill, and how it slopes down until it ends in cliffs a couple of kilometers into the sea. I can make out the silhouettes of distinct treetops on top. What about my father? I haven’t seen him for years, since he started his new family. Even though I was older when he abandoned us, I always remember him as he looked when I turned my head towards him while I lay on the sofa of his office, back when I was a child. He wore his glasses when he went over papers related to his work in the publishing industry. He always printed them out, he hated reading them on a computer screen. Sometimes when I would ask him to tell me more about what he was looking at, he would just laugh and give me an offbeat smile. He has been dead, as far as I’m concerned, for a long time.
I never cared much about my mother. That day at the hotel, when she announced that she was going to move out with her boyfriend and her kids, she made it clear enough that I would become a secondary concern from then on. Still, she called me regularly, and I was the one who refused to meet her in person as much as she wished. I didn’t attend her wedding, and I’ve only met my half-brother a few times. Once I cross that opaque white doorway, I will disappear as if the earth had swallowed me up. My mother might have tried to contact me in the last week, but she never met my ex-boyfriend, so she wouldn’t know how to locate me. I picture her realizing that I’ve gone missing, that she will never see me again, nor will she ever find out what happened to me. I suppose that she’ll assume that I killed myself so proficiently that nobody would find my body.
My chest gets tight, and I’m having trouble swallowing. I close my eyes and breathe slowly. A black cloud is enveloping my heart. My mother will grieve for years. I won’t stick around just to spare her the pain of not seeing me again, but at least I want to let her know that it was of my own volition, and that maybe I moved out far away, somewhere I could be happy.
As I walk back towards my current apartment, I realize that I haven’t seen a phone booth in years, and I don’t want to ask a random stranger for his or her cell phone, mainly because I don’t want them to stand nearby as I have a difficult conversation. There’s a pub in the corner of the street that leads to my apartment. Its front is made of wood, and painted cobalt blue. I look in through the window. It reminds me of Irish pubs. The interior is dim, and at this hour there are only two customers, both retirees. One of them sips a beverage in a large pint glass.
I enter the pub nervously. I approach the bartender, who is a woman in her forties. Her hair has plenty of greys already, and she’s wearing a striped, black and white T-shirt. I get on a bar stool.
“Give me one of those potato omelette sandwiches, please. And… would it be possible to use your landline? I have to make an important call, but I’ve forgotten my cell phone at home. I’ll pay if necessary.”
The bartender grabs one of the plates with those sandwiches and slides it towards me.
“No problem. It’s in the kitchen. Do you want to call now or after you eat your sandwich?”
She’s looking at me as if she can tell I’m troubled. I’ve spoken too fast and loud, as I always do when I’m speaking with someone for the first time.
“Yeah… I’d rather get the call out of the way first.”
The bartender gestures towards a door between shelves stocked with alcoholic drinks. As I walk behind the bar, she shoots me a look of concern.
“Are you ok? Your face seems very pale.”
“I’ll be alright soon enough, I hope.”
The kitchen is empty. I guess that they don’t open it for orders until closer to midday. The landline is mounted on the wall, close to a sink. My heart is beating fast. I hope I remember my mother’s cell phone number correctly. My hands are sweating.
I start counting backward in my head to give myself some time. Then, while holding the receiver with a sweaty palm, I dial the number. To my surprise, a kid answers. I can’t tell at first whether it’s male or female.
“H-hello? Who is this?” I ask impertinently.
“Uh… Iker. This is my mom’s phone, though.”
It’s my half-brother.
“I’m… Is your… mom around?”
“No, she left an hour ago. I guess she forgot the phone.” The kid coughs. I wonder if he’s at home because he’s sick. “Who are you anyway? Your voice sounds familiar.”
“Uh… I’m… Izar Uriarte.”
My mouth gets dry when I say my father’s last name.
The kid doesn’t speak for a few seconds, and I don’t hear his breath either. I have no idea what this kid thinks about me. If our mother has insisted that we are half-siblings, maybe he wonders why we have barely seen each other. I wouldn’t know what to tell him.
“Hi, sis,” Iker says.
I swallow. I’m nobody’s sister.
“Yeah, hi.”
“Did you want to tell mom something? You can leave a message.”
The kid is old enough to realize that I only called in the past because I had something to say, not because I enjoyed small talk nor wanted to catch up. And I’m sure that all of them remember the bitterness in my voice.
“Yes, I want you to tell her something. Listen… I’m going away. For a long time, maybe forever. So she should… You both should know that I do it of my own volition.”
My last words are lodged in my throat. I feel tears building up behind my eyes.
“Where are you going?” Iker asks, concerned.
“I can’t tell. Far away, that’s all. I wanted to tell her that I’m sorry… for the way things turned out.”
“You aren’t going to call again,” Iker says as if he just realized.
“No, I won’t. I don’t think I will ever hear your voices again, nor will you hear mine.”
Tears come into my eyes slowly. I wonder what this kid is thinking, but he’s a stranger. Will he remember this conversation years from now? Will he blame himself for having been unable to say the right thing?
“You can call back whenever you want,” Iker says nervously.
I wipe my eyes.
“By the way… how old are you? Twelve, thirteen…?”
My lips twitch as I try to figure out what to say.
“None of this was your fault. It’s me. I’ve never known what to do with people.”
Iker remains silent. I hear something playing in the background, but I can’t tell if it’s a movie or music.
“Are you going to be okay?” Iker asks in a low voice.
“Yeah… I’m going to try something new. Neither of you need to worry.” I force myself to smile at nobody, but instead my mouth quivers. “Anyway, that’s all. Don’t forget to tell mom.”
“Sure, I will. Take care.”
I hang up. As I turn around, I want to walk directly back to the potato omelette sandwich I ordered, but I end up leaning against one of the kitchen counters, and my gaze falls on the dirty, stagnant water pooled in one of the sinks.

I thought of packing a backpack, but there isn’t one in this apartment, which doesn’t contain anything except for groceries, food-related objects and clothes. I wonder who is going to find my remaining possessions in the wardrobe of the bedroom, but I guess it doesn’t matter. I have no doubt that Chieko was telling the truth: I won’t return to this world. Everybody who knows me here will forget me soon enough.
I didn’t bother changing my clothes. I would hate to leave this cardigan behind anyway. I stand a few steps away from the featureless, white doorway in the living room. The front half of the soles of my shoes are resting on the edge of the carpet. I keep shivering every few seconds, and I fear that I’ll end up pissing myself, even though I made sure to empty my bladder. My heart beats wildly. Something awaits me on the other side of this hole in reality, and I can’t begin to imagine what it might be. But it contains someone like Chieko, so it should be fine. Still, I’m sure that this doorway will lead to more disappointment and pain. No other world can be that different.
I step forward and reach with my right hand slowly. I follow how the white light brightens the fabric of my cardigan. Once my fingertips touch the white surface, I expect them to find some resistance, but they disappear into a void that lacks any sensations. I draw my right hand back. The ends of those fingers haven’t been cut off. After I probe them with the fingertips of my other hand, they seem undamaged.
Alright, this is it. I close my eyes, but the powerful bright light shines through my eyelids. I take a deep breath and walk through the doorway.
An electric current runs in my body from end to end, but only for a second. I’m receiving muffled sounds. Although they seem familiar, my brain can’t make out what they are, as if I had started playing a song midway through and it would take a couple of seconds for me to recognize which one it was. I panic; even a moment of disorientation feels fatal. However, when I open my eyes I find myself inside a glass bell the size of four phone booths, and beyond the clear glass I see that this bell has been installed in a large room, one similar to the lobby of a luxurious hotel. The floor is marble-like, as smooth and reflective as a pool, and it features circular designs in shades of brown, from tortilla to hickory. Soft orchestral music is playing somewhere, a mix of string and wind instruments.
My mind freaks out by itself. I take a step forward and turn around as if to make sure that the doorway I came through remains there, but as Chieko said, it’s gone. I might as well have popped up inside the glass bell as if I materialized.
When I turn back, a rounded hole the size of a door has opened in the glass bell as if it was cut out with surgical precision. My mind is reeling as I step out of the glass bell. There are three others to my right, set up in an arc. They are closed and empty. The ceilings and the walls are engraved and embossed with labyrinthine motifs, some of which seem to depict animals. I realize that the building was constructed with stone, not bricks, as if it were a surviving monument from a long-dead civilization. An arched doorway stands tall on one side of the room, and around it hang green and purple wreaths that remind me of peacock tails.
As I was listening to my footsteps echoing in the large room, I feel someone’s gaze upon me. I look in that direction. There is a large recess in the wall where they have installed a reception desk of sorts, but it’s also made of stone, and bedecked with gilded motifs of flowers and vines. A curved wall of screens is obscuring partially the sight of the person standing behind them. When I realize that the screens, which are too slim, paper-like, are floating in the air as if mounted on invisible displays, I face that nothing like that would have been possible in my previous world. I’m either in another dimension, or in the future. Either way, I’ve reached a whole new reality.
The person behind the wall of screens, a woman, says something, and it takes me a moment to realize that I just heard my name but pronounced with a strange accent. My legs are trembling as I approach the desk. The woman stands on the other side of the desk in a way that the back of the screens don’t hide her. It’s a human being. I had feared she wouldn’t be. Her skin is peanut brown, but her eyes are much darker. She’s pretty, beautiful even, the kind of attractive woman they would want to greet the clients at a hotel lobby. She’s wearing two round earrings that remind me of the sun, and she’s also wearing a long-sleeve, crimson dress made of a velvety fabric. The torso of the dress is covered in intricate, gilded motifs of blossoming flowers. I feel as if I entered the most expensive hotel in the world.
The woman smiles with perfect teeth, and pushes a hemispherical device over the counter towards me. It’s about the size of a fingertip. The woman gestures for me to pick it up and press it against the skin behind my ear. I saw Chieko wearing an identical device behind her ear, which I had confused with a wart. I obey the woman. As soon as I press the device against my skin, it latches on painlessly, and then something alien flows throughout my brain. I stagger, and I step back until my legs hold me properly. I feel as if my mind were larger, as if it suddenly held more content, but the experience is painless and unobtrusive.
“Do you understand me?” the woman asks, now lacking any accent.
I snap my head back. Only a couple of seconds later I realize that I’m standing there with my mouth agape. I feel tears coming.
“Y-yes! I understand perfectly!”
The woman offers me a kind smile.
“Welcome to our present. You are now in one of the offices of the SFPT. Can you confirm for me, just in case, that you are Izar Uriarte?”
“Yeah,” I say as I wipe a tear from my right eye. I want to sob. “W-what’s your name?”
“Why, I’m Garima.”
“Garima… I’m so pleased that we can understand each other. For a moment I thought I would be trapped in a strange world without being able to make myself understood.”
The woman chuckles softly, and then points at the identical device latched on to the skin behind her ear.
“We aren’t born knowing every other language, Izar. That’s why we have technology. In case you lose your translator, just come here or to any of our other offices and we’ll give you a new one. I’m sure that random people would also help you in that case, maybe lend you one.”
I’m overwhelmed. My legs are weakening, my throat closing.
“This is a miracle,” I mumble.
“You will get used to it, dear. I already notified your representative, Chieko Sekiguchi. Very nice girl, I’m sure she’ll be eager to show you our town. You can just walk around for a while if you want. We have a beautiful waiting room beyond that doorway.”
“Y-you have welcomed many others, right?”
“Dear, I don’t know how many. I hope I’m being cordial enough, even though I’ve had the same conversations over and over.”
My mind is going numb. The animal part of my brain is having trouble integrating what’s happening, or maybe it’s trying to push me out of it, as if it has assumed that I’m hallucinating. Garima keeps staring at me calmly. She must have seen it before and it’s nothing to worry about.
“Sit somewhere. Do you have to go to the bathroom?”
“N-no, I’m fine.”
I teeter away towards the arched doorway, and I pass under the hanging wreaths of green and purple flowers. I avoid looking over my shoulder, because I fear that I’m about to break into uncontrollable sobbing.

Thirty Euros, Pt. 2 (Fiction)

I don’t want to imagine what I must look like, a thirty one years old homeless woman who hasn’t showered in a week and who has been sleeping on benches, walking next to a chipper Asian woman with a Japanese name, whose hair is apple red and whose gait suggests she has never known any anxiety. The sun is high in the sky, and despite the time of the year, I’m getting sweaty inside my coat.
“Here we are,” Chieko says as she points at the front door of an apartment building across the one-lane road.
“What? It’s only been three minutes!”
“Well, I don’t know why you’re complaining.” Chieko smiles. “Come on.”
I stand behind my odd benefactress as she fishes for her key chain inside her small backpack. I look down the street in the direction of the sea, and at the end of the passageway between two alabaster white buildings, the fancy kinds with embossed ornaments on the walls, I spot part of the translucent cubes that they call the Kursaal around these parts.
Chieko opens the door into the building’s hall, but as she stands aside, I feel uneasy.
“Are you telling me that you just happen to live in an apartment three minutes away from where I was sleeping recently?” I ask her.
Chieko offers me a calming smile.
“I chose this place for that reason, yes.”
I shake my head as I try to understand.
“H-how did you manage that…?”
“I have connections.”
“What kind?”
“You’ll see. Come on! What do you think I intend to do to you?”
I don’t doubt that Chieko’s intention is to get me out the streets, but this woman is an enigma, and I have learned to be wary of even those whose lives were open books. I sigh. Still, I follow her as she walks towards the elevator.
Her apartment is on the third floor. I enter behind her, and when she closes the door, which looks old and painted over, I find myself in a narrow hallway with eggshell white walls, which instead of a deliberate choice seem as if they were originally whiter but had gotten dirtier over the years. The hardwood floor has a weird design in peanut and walnut browns that looks like a power-up in a racing game, those that would make you go faster. Chieko gestures for me to follow her into a small kitchen that I can see from the front door. The walls are made of white ceramic tiles. Both the stove and the cabinets seem to have been made in the eighties. My benefactress leaves her backpack on the dining table, which would only accommodate four people because one side has been pushed against the wall. The apartment smells as if it has been sanitized in the last couple of days.
“What’s the matter, Izar?” Chieko asks casually while she rests her back against the table. “Do you find this place unpleasant?”
“I wouldn’t have any right to complain about the shoddiest of apartments, given that I sleep in the streets, but I find this one a bit too old for… Well, for you. I had taken you for a rich jetsetter.”
Chieko rubs her chin as if considering it.
“And now?”
“I have no clue.”
Chieko pushes herself off the table and walks up to the window that occupies almost all the space on the wall between the sink and the doorway out of the kitchen. She moves the curtain aside and looks towards the street below.
“We need to have a conversation, an important one,” Chieko says. “But first you need to relax, and do something about that stink. Go take a shower. I’ll wait here.”
I wouldn’t have expected this woman, who remains mostly a stranger although she has read some of my books, to offer me to take a shower. Will she allow me to live here? I’m getting anxious, but I can’t tell whether it’s out of worry or because I feel the wind changing.
“The lock in the bathroom doesn’t work that well,” Chieko adds. “I wouldn’t lock myself in there just in case. Don’t worry, I’m not going to interrupt you. It’s the first door to your left as you exit the kitchen.”
I’m too confused to think coherently. I try to rub my temples as I walk out of the kitchen, but the bathroom is so close to the kitchen that I could hold the handles of both doors simultaneously. After I find myself alone in the bathroom and I switch the light on, it bathes the cramped space in a pleasant electric blue. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror, and I sit down to pee next to the standing shower.
As soon as I feel the warm water of the shower flowing down my bare skin, I feel relieved. There’s a single sponge, and I wonder if Chieko forgot that I’m a guest and that she apparently lives alone, but the sponge has never been used before. I shake the questions away. I scrub my skin with the sponge, in which I pour an excess of honey-scented liquid soap. I close my eyes and let the water wash over my body.
When I exit the shower, I’m a new person. I take a breath and dare look at myself in the mirror. My cheeks are pink from the heat of the water, my cinnamon brown hair is shiny. Although I feel better now than at any point of the last month, my reflection in the mirror looks as old and worn as it has for years, like a tool that needs to be replaced. I discard the thought, and I open the cabinet to find a set of towels. The one I grab feels as soft as a cotton handkerchief. I dry myself off. Unfortunately I don’t have any other clothes than my smelly T-shirt and my denim jeans, both of which have absorbed stale sweat for days. It’s too late to ask Chieko whether she can lend me some clothes, as I don’t want to walk up to her wrapped in a towel.
When I return to the kitchen, I see that Chieko has changed her clothes. She’s wearing a grey, long-sleeved T-shirt with the black and white drawing of a woman’s face sticking her tongue out, along with beige pleated shorts that barely cover half of her toned thighs. She looks even younger, more vibrant. I’m jealous.
“Oh, that’s right. I should have offered you some fresh clothes,” Chieko says apologetically.
I sit down wearily at the head of the table.
“That’s alright, unless the sweaty smell bothers you.”
Chieko shakes her head, and then she wrings her hands as she looks at the hanging cabinets.
“Before we begin, do you want a coffee? I need one myself.”
“Do you have any whisky?”
Chieko stops midway, and shoots me a look of pity over her shoulder.
“I don’t think so.”
“I was kidding anyway. Coffee sounds good.”
Chieko smiles. She opens the first cabinet next to the fridge, then stands on her tiptoes to look inside, but she doesn’t find what she’s searching for. After she fails to find it as well in the second cabinet, she mumbles something to herself. She takes out a container of powdered coffee from the third one, and then she grabs two cups from a cabinet she had opened before. She’s showing me her slender back, along with her long, shiny red hair, as she empties two spoonfuls of coffee in each cup. I give her a break while she opens a new carton of milk from the fridge, pours cold milk in each cup, and then she puts them in the microwave.
“Who does this apartment belong to?” I ask carefully.
Chieko freezes, but then she presses a couple of buttons on the microwave’s panel and starts it up. As the appliance makes its noise and the cups turn slowly, Chieko turns towards me herself, and offers me an apologetic look.
“Because I didn’t know where the coffee was, huh? I’m not that experienced with this kind of thing.”
“What kind of thing? Approaching homeless writers?”
She doesn’t reply. The microwave dings, and she takes the cups out. She places mine in front of me. As I take a sip of the coffee, which is warm enough but tastes too bitter and artificial, I watch how my benefactress puts the milk back into the fridge.
Chieko finally sits down across from me. She leans back and rests her right ankle on her left knee. For a few seconds she avoids holding my gaze.
“If you mean who’s paying the rent, that would be my employer,” Chieko says. “I haven’t spent a single night here.”
I narrow my eyes at her, more confused than anxious. I don’t understand this situation.
“Alright… What did you want to talk to me about, or propose…?”
Chieko smiles again, now that I’ve given her the opportunity to get back on track. She takes a big gulp of her coffee. She reaches for her backpack, which she had rested against a leg of the table, but she only holds it as if she’s about to open it.
“You’re a talented person, Izar Uriarte. You have a lot of potential, but your talent has never been fully exploited.”
“That’s too much praise. I don’t feel that way at all, and in addition, that’s absurd. I’m thirty one years old, I have published seven books, and those were the ones I convinced strangers to publish. I abandoned plenty of stories along the way because I couldn’t make them good enough. What else do you expect me to do?”
“It’s not about what you have been able or not to do. It’s about the future.”
I shift my weight in the chair.
“About me not rotting in the streets, you mean?”
Chieko lifts her backpack onto the table, and pulls out a book. A glimpse of the cover reveals that it’s my first one, which I wrote when I was twelve years old and that got published, thanks to my father’s connections, when I was thirteen. I don’t want to bother with it, but Chieko places it on the table and pushes it towards me.
I shake my head.
“Yeah, ‘The Flowers of the Forest’. Even the title is stupid, isn’t it? But what did I know about life or about anything at all back then?”
Chieko shakes her head sadly.
“Even as a child you invented complex imaginary worlds because you intended to escape the broken reality that the adults had put together, with its greed, cruelty and violence. Isn’t that right? You wanted to be free.”
I’m silent for a few seconds.
“And yet, I have been discarded by everyone.”
Chieko drinks some more coffee, then taps on the cover of my book as if intending for me to focus on it.
“Back then you dreamed about a nation ravaged by war and destruction, that had barely avoided collapsing into an Apocalypse, and about the girl who escaped that world to live wild, to talk to the animals of the forest as well as to the magical beings that inhabit it. That was the kind of life you wanted to lead, wasn’t it? Your protagonist’s parents looked for her insistently, but the couple of times they caught her, she just escaped again.”
I rest my elbows on the table and rub my eyes. The thin steam of my cup of coffee, placed between my elbows, goes up my nostrils. I hear the muffled sounds of the traffic behind the window.
“I suppose that you intend to remind me of how magical and necessary the act of writing used to be for me, but that’s not going to work. Don’t tell me about the contents of this stupid novel. I was a child, and I thought that writing this story could change everything for me.”
“You turned out to be a much better writer than what that twelve years old version of you could produce.”
I sigh, and as I shake my head I hold the book in my hands. It’s a new copy, as if Chieko had bought it a few days ago. I didn’t know it was still in print, but I hadn’t looked at my sales for a long time. They only depressed me.
“I recall lying on the sofa in my father’s office as he worked at his desk. That’s where I wrote most of this book. I guess that there were complicated reasons for why I thought I needed to write. Certainly, I wanted to impress him. He worked in the industry, so for someone as detached as him to pay enough attention to me, I should have stood out, become a writer. But you know how that turned out.”
“No,” Chieko says, “I don’t know.”
I narrow my eyes. She does know, and yet she wants me to keep talking. But she has fed me breakfast, she has invited me home, and there’s the chance that I might get to sleep indoors.
“Why would anyone write, Chieko?”
She looks away, and then back at me.
“The same reasons for which anyone would produce any kind of art, right? To be understood, to belong?”
“All those readers you believe you are connecting with are ghosts in your head. You don’t have access to how other people are experiencing your stories, scene by scene, word by word. The only tangible effect is the money you receive for your effort, which never rewards you enough.” I push the book towards my benefactress. “In the end, it’s just words on a page. None of our creative efforts have amounted to anything, have they? Am I wiser for having written all those books? Has my life improved? Have they allowed me to understand people better?”
Chieko props her chin with her hands, and her expression turns almost condescending.
“You aren’t the same girl who wrote about magic all those years ago.”
I roll my eyes. I take a big gulp of coffee to handle my irritation.
“How many millions of people have been killed practically yesterday, from the perspective of how long human life has existed?”
Chieko is taken aback.
“None of that is your problem.”
“If millions of earnest human beings creating art didn’t stop millions of deaths, didn’t end greed nor injustice, then what are we playing at?”
“It’s not your fault. The world is broken.”
I hang my head low and grit my teeth.
“What?” Chieko insists. “You’re mad because you feel responsible for the misery of humankind? Because your books didn’t save them?”
“It’s not that simple. I hate the delusion of it, believing that all these intellectual exercises, or even the genuine attempt to explore one’s inner worlds, will make us significantly wiser. It’s just a past-time, a way to ease the decline into illness and death.”
“Just a pretentious equivalent of watching television, then?”
“When I die, Chieko, my books will be forgotten. Barely anyone cares already. I will have passed through this world without changing anything. What I hate the most is that when I was younger I convinced myself, or allowed others to convince me, that it would be different. That I would be different. I nurtured that hope. I trusted people.”
“And now you are ashamed of it?”
“The biggest fools are those who think they have something vital to offer. This world is a terrible place with people that will hurt you if you give them the opportunity, and every effort will only lead to disappointment and pain. It’s foolish to hope for anything in a world built to break your heart. It’s also exhausting.”
Chieko raises her eyebrows as she tilts her coffee cup towards her mouth.
“You know the world could be much better. That’s why you have always been disappointed.”
“Yeah, but that’s not enough reason to write books.”
“But it is a reason to keep living.”
I look at Chieko, the self-assured expression in her youthful, pretty face, and I sigh. I lift the book back up towards me.
“So you’re telling me to return home, whichever one of my previous homes, and try to be a normal person?”
Chieko shrugs.
“I could tell you that you shouldn’t write any books for a while, nor try to fix anything. Just live. But there’s no time left for that.”
“You mean because I’m in my thirties already and completely broke, so I can’t play around any longer?”
Chieko holds my gaze meaningfully, as if wanting to tell me more but being unable to.
“I mean that your allotted time in this world is ending.”
“How do you know?”
“I will ignore answering that directly, and instead I will bring up my final, most meaningful topic. Go back in time to when you were eighteen years old, a few years after your beloved father abandoned you to start a new family. You are being forced to share a hotel room with your mother, who just told you that she was marrying into a built-in family.”
I put the book down again. I take a deep breath and hide my face in my hands. I don’t know who I am speaking with, I don’t understand anything that has happened to me in the last few years, and I have lost the strength to go on. I wonder if this is a taste of how my grandmother felt in her seventies, once that personality-stealing illness was rotting her brain.
“I am grateful to you, Chieko,” I say, pained, “particularly if meeting you will lead to me sleeping in a warm bed tonight, but I hope you understand that you are pushing a knife into my heart.”
“I don’t care. You need to find yourself again. So tell me, once you understood that your mother would discard you so she could continue on her own, and you attempted to lower yourself through the window with that improvised rope made out of sheets, where would you have gone, if they hadn’t stopped you?”
Nobody but my mother and her new boyfriend at the time should have known this information. My own mother never even brought it up again, and I kept it hidden deep inside me. I wasn’t strong enough to continue living a normal life with the knowledge that she wanted a new family, that the last person who should have cared for my well-being intended to get rid of me.
“I don’t know,” I say in a dry voice.
“You don’t know? You weren’t that far from the ground. You could have landed, could have run away. Where would you have gone?”
I lift my head and look at Chieko. She’s staring at me with a maturity beyond her years. I feel like a child again, looking up at my father.
“I don’t want to know,” I mutter weakly.
“Were you going on an adventure? Back to the woods, hoping to join the magical kingdom?”
My hands are trembling. I want to hide them, but this strange woman has already noticed it.
“You are truly bothering me now, Chieko.”
“Were you going to kill yourself? Did you want to die in some remote place, where nobody would find your body?”
“I wanted to leave this prison. Not die, I don’t think. I wanted to escape from the cell I hadn’t chosen to exist in, where I was only able to daydream about the half-imagined world I glimpsed through small holes in the walls. And I remain trapped there.”
Chieko smiles widely, somehow pleased with the result of her prodding. She takes my first novel from my hands and puts it inside her backpack. Chieko then pushes her empty cup aside and leans on her elbows while staring at me.
“I work for the SFPT,” she says.
I blink a few times, wondering whether I should know what that implies or if my brain is getting as liquified as it has felt since I met this person.
“Is that supposed to mean anything?”
“It means that I have a mission. To rescue you from this world and its limitations.”
She gets up from her chair. She shoulders her backpack as if we are leaving the apartment. I snap my head back, and I can’t help but massage one of my temples in confusion as I get up wearily myself.
“Where are we going?”
“To the living room. Follow me.”
Chieko passes by me as she enters the hallway. I hurry up behind her. The eggshell white corridor is so narrow that I wouldn’t be able to walk side by side with Chieko. She passes by two closed doors, that I guess belong to the bedrooms, and she opens the door at the end of the hallway. First I notice a berry blue sofa pushed against the wall, resting on a hardwood floor with a rhombus pattern that looks as it would fit the disco era. Both are bathed in a frost white light as if coming from a lamp with a powerful light bulb.
Chieko enters the living room and stands next to the sofa, waiting for me to come in. Then I see that instead of a coffee table, on the carpet is standing a white, vertical rectangle with the dimensions of a door, and made of opaque white light. I stop, then stare dumbfounded at the vision. I twist my head towards Chieko as if to confirm that I should be alarmed, but my odd benefactress looks back at me calmly.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she says. “It always draws people’s attention.”
I’m stupefied. I can’t even mutter a response. I approach the side of the door with caution, hoping to find out that it has volume, that it’s some monolith-like artifact covered in ultra reflective paint. However, as I stand a few steps to the side of the vertical rectangle, I stop seeing it, although its white light keeps illuminating its surroundings. It’s a two dimensional object.
“What… What the hell is this?” I ask in a dry voice.
Chieko holds her hands behind her back, pushing her backpack. She offers me a playful smile.
“What does it look like to you?”
“A door. It’s the only way I can describe this thing.”
“Alright. Doors lead somewhere. What awaits on the other side, Izar?”
I swallow. I have retreated closer to the exit of the room, if only because I feel safer near the odd stranger that led me to this impossible sheet of white light. I’m getting dizzier. I’ll need to sit down soon.
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t you want to, though? What would crossing over be like, and what would you see the moment you stepped through it? It sounds like an adventure.”
My body feels weak. I have eaten so poorly in the last week, and my nerves are frayed after having stood guard against anyone who might have wanted to attack me in the night. I shudder.
“I’m not into adventures.”
Chieko chuckles. She walks until she stands next to me, facing the opaque doorway.
“You aren’t, huh? What was that book of yours, ‘The Mountain Cracks’, about? A group of anthropologists who were the last to live among and relate to natives of a beautiful island that was used as a testing ground for atomic bombs. Or your ‘The Interval of Shadows’, about a young soldier who enters a time machine in the middle of the first World War, so he can travel to the past and save a woman. Or ‘A Serpent of the Desert’, about a woman who has ventured into a strange land and finds herself between two warring tribes. Or ‘The Frozen Seas’, about another woman who travels to a forbidden island in the Arctic Circle in search of a mystical artifact. Or ‘The River of Dreams’, about a third young woman who searches for her lost boyfriend in the jungle. This life is sad enough. Don’t make it even worse by lying to yourself.”
Chieko places her right hand on my trembling shoulder.
“Who are you really?” I ask her. “What are you? Where do you come from?”
Chieko’s eyes turn kind. She looks at the opaque doorway.
“I told you, I work for the SFPT,” she says quietly as if trying to comfort me. “I’m not their go-to person for this kind of operation, but I took it as a personal project.”
“You know that doesn’t mean anything to me.”
She smiles at me, narrowing her eyes.
“This doorway leads to a far away place, Izar.”
“H-how far away are we talking…?” I ask nervously.
Chieko places her right hand on my cheek and caresses it gently with her fingers.
“If I told you the exact number of kilometers between here and there, you wouldn’t believe me. But I came from the other side, and set up this meeting so we could stand in front of this option I’m offering you.”
“Is it dangerous?”
She winks.
“It could lead to a room full of leeches and spiders if you aren’t careful. That’s a bit unlikely, though.”
I swallow. My legs are getting wobblier. As I stare at the impossible doorway, much brighter than a computer screen, I squint and try to make out details, but I don’t notice any imperfection. It’s like some deity cut a rectangular hole in the universe, and light from the other side was leaking through.
“I’m offering you two options, Izar,” Chieko starts as she shifts the weight of her backpack. “You can live in this apartment until the lease runs out at the end of the month. Naturally, they won’t let you continue living here past that point, but it would have given you time to figure out how to continue existing in this lonely world. Your other option is to venture through that opaque whiteness to find out what awaits you on the other side.”
“Which one are you suggesting?”
Chieko laughs.
“Neither, Izar. Both. I believe in personal choice. But I should clarify that once you go through this doorway, you will never see this world again. So have that in mind.”
I want to say something, but my throat closes up and I can’t even breathe properly. Chieko’s eyes are serious.
“What do you think?” she asks me.
“I-I don’t know…”
“Everyone who should have cared properly for you has abandoned you. In less than a week your lungs will fill with filthy water until your brain shuts off.”
“W-why are you doing this for me?”
“To save you, of course. I want to see how far your talent goes.”
“I’m no good, Chieko. I’m worthless. I did my best work when I was thirteen years old. That’s the truth. I was never as honest, as original, as creative as when I was a girl who still believed in this world.”
Chieko smirks.
“Then maybe you need time to improve.” She takes a couple of steps towards the doorway. When she turns towards me, the white light haloes her as if it were white water splashing against her back. “This door will remain here until the last day of the month. Afterwards, it will never appear again, and neither will I or any of us return. We will assume that you have made your choice.”
She holds her hands in front of her waist and bows slightly towards me.
“In case this is the last time we see each other, Izar,” Chieko adds, ” I hope you manage to live a life of which you are proud.”
My vision is blurring, and I can’t push words through my closed throat. Chieko’s misted figure raises a hand to wave while she steps through the white doorway, which engulfs her as if she fell through the world.

Three Trapped Souls (Poetry)

The artifact was created
Over a millennia ago,
When an ancient sorcerer
Was doing experiments
He realized that he needed
The souls of three young girls
Once the artifact absorbed them,
As long as he touched the thing,
The powerful, imbued magic
Would make him feel like a king

The artifact was crafted,
And it remains stored there,
In an abandoned warehouse
Hidden from the world
The artifact has the shape
Of an ancient, intricate box

The girl who was murdered
Was only twelve years old,
Her name was Daphne
She loved to play the piano,
And she played it so well
That her father, a famous musician,
Hired a band to accompany her
When her parents entered their apartment
On that fateful day,
Her bedroom was bloodied and gory
Daphne’s body lay on the floor
And her heart had stopped beating
Her murderers had long fled
No one knew their identity
Except for Daphne herself,
Who dreamt of becoming a pianist

The girl who drowned
Was only thirteen years old,
Her name was Julia
She loved to swim in the sea,
But on that fateful day,
No one heard her cries
The waves were too high
Her mother’s tears turned to ice
As she watched her daughter
Drown in the raging tide,
Then she drowned as well
In the depths of the blue

The girl who was trampled
Was only seven years old,
Her name was Eudocia
She was the daughter of a soldier
Who fought for the Roman Empire
In the streets of Alexandria,
On that fateful day,
Eudocia was trampled by a chariot
Her body was covered in bruises,
Her bones were crushed and broken,
Her eyes were filled with tears
Eudocia’s father cried,
Then took her body home,
Where he hanged himself

Each soul became trapped,
Along with the other two,
In the artifact that held them all,
Stored in the hidden warehouse
It took a team of parapsychologists
A large number of ouija board sessions
To figure out this information
I just told you

The girls’ faces, their names,
On the sides of the box are engraved
Hold the artifact in your hands
If you’re feeling down,
If you want to cheer up
You’ll never be the same again
There’s no better way to feel happy
Than by touching this ancient box
If only that cursed thing
Was available in stores,
You’d always know what to do
On a lonely day

‘Three Trapped Souls’ by Jon Ureña

A Spider’s Song (Poetry)

There’s a giant spider in my bedroom
It’s crawling on the ceiling,
Spinning a web of death
Over my bed

The spider gets stronger,
Each day it grows bigger
It’s crawling towards
The inside of my head

What’s your name?
Do you have a job?
Do you have a family?
Do you have a girlfriend?
Are you happy?

I hate everything about it:
The office, the bills,
The invoices, the customers
Every day is the same

Why did you kill me?
To steal my cell phone?
I was minding my business,
Heading to work

I’m an ant that’s been crushed,
A flower that never felt the sun,
A worm that can’t get out of its hole,
A baby bird that fell out of its tree

My soul was on its way to heaven
Until it got eaten by a giant spider
My soul was on its way to hell
Until it got caught in the spider’s web

I’m stuck in a spider’s belly
I feel a hundred spiders
Scurrying inside my ribcage
And in the corners of my heart

I had been waiting for my revenge
To be born in me,
So I could show them all
That I’m not their slave

I am a giant spider
Crawling through the world,
Swinging my webs of death
Over my enemies

I’ll kill everyone that hates me,
Anyone that wants my money,
That tries to steal from me,
That treats me like trash,
Who bullies me,
Who’s cruel to me,
That insults me,
That cheats,
Who thinks of me as weak,
Who thinks I’m ugly,
That thinks I’m dumb,
That laughs at me,
Who looks down on me,
Who makes fun of my clothes,
That makes fun of me,
That lies to me,
Who ignores me,
Who talks behind my back,
That doesn’t understand me,
That doesn’t love me

My hands are full of venom,
So I’ll poison everyone,
Everyone who’s evil,
Or anyone that lives

I will hunt them down
And I’ll tear them apart
I will exterminate them
So I can have revenge,
So I can enjoy the deed,
For what they’ve done to me

I will show them all
That I won’t accept anyone,
That I don’t want anyone,
That I don’t need anyone,
That I can live without them,
That I don’t depend on them,
That I can survive without them,
That I’m not their slave

‘A Spider’s Song’ by Jon Ureña

Thirty Euros, Pt. 1 (Fiction)

I’m woken up by the same alarm that has dragged me out from the oblivion of sleep this past week: the blithe voices of children, the footsteps of passersby, the conversations of people who met on the square and wanted to share details about their lives. And I exist at the periphery of all these moments, a speck smaller than all of them.
I sit upright on the bench. The dirty blanket slides down my torso. At least the coat kept me warm enough, because the nights will only get chillier and chillier. And then I’m hit with the same pangs of hunger that I’ve needed to get used to recently. I haven’t eaten anything since yesterday at midday, when I managed to snatch some half-eaten food that a family had left at the outside table of a restaurant. At least the waitress didn’t shout at me.
I rub my eyes, and when I blink the sleep away, I catch an old woman giving me a look of pity as she passes by. Even though it must be around nine and a half in the morning, there are already a good amount of children playing happily in the playground at the center of this square, under the supervision of their relatives. I must be an uncomfortable sight, but at least people pay me as much attention as to the garbage bins. While I like that most people ignore me, it’s unlikely for anyone to throw money my way when they’d prefer I didn’t exist.
I have woken up tired for years, but never as exhausted as when I abandoned my boyfriend’s apartment last Thursday. It’s like my brain never shuts off entirely at night, maybe because some part of myself needs to remain alert in case some marauder realizes that I’m a woman. I don’t want to imagine what some of the night crawlers in this rotten world would do to me, but I can’t help but picture those things anyway.
After I pee in the public bathroom close to the imposing cathedral, one of the main reasons I’ve stuck around this area of Gros, I return to my bench and set up my piece of cardboard. If I’m very lucky, some of the many strangers that walk through this square will throw enough coins my way that I’ll be able to eat some breakfast, far enough from other customers that they won’t smell my stink.
As I wait, my mind insists on torturing me with pointless worries. For example, how many of these mornings I’ll have to endure before I manage to write another word, and whether the words that I write will be published this time. I don’t know if I’ll be able to eat today, and I haven’t written anything in a year and a half. Still, that’s what my broken brain focuses on. I have no business continuing in this world, and yet I go on. Is it the same for the veterans, the other homeless that barely remember having lived in an apartment? Do they also wish to disappear, to finally be freed from the involuntary effort of being?
Around an hour and a half later I’ve only gotten three coins of twenty cents. My stomach keeps gurgling, my throat is parched, my saliva tastes like cat breath. I hear footsteps much closer than the other passersby dare to come, and when I lift my gaze, it falls on a woman in her mid twenties who is approaching me with determination. Her long, apple red hair is flowing in the breeze, and both her facial features as well as her slanted eyes evidence that she’s Asian. Plenty of Asians have settled in the Basque Country, mostly Chinese, but this one looks fancier, like those Japanese girls that I saw in videos as they walked around the futuristic streets of Tokyo. She’s wearing a striped, red, navy and white scoop neck sweater, as well as a black pleated skirt that covers her knees. She’s holding a book with her right hand, but with the other she’s holding the strap of a small backpack. When she stops a few steps away, making it obvious that she came for me, I want to hang my head low. She looks so young and full of life. Although I want to ask her to leave me be, maybe she’s a tourist and will consider that throwing some coins my way is her good deed of the day.
I can tell she’s about to speak to me, but I’m stunned by the familiarity in her kind eyes and the slightly raised corner of her mouth, which reveals a dimple under a prominent cheek. That’s not the way you look at a stranger.
“Uh… Hello,” I say with a dry, weak voice.
The girl nods as she drops her gaze to my piece of cardboard. Her sympathetic expression makes me uncomfortable, and it’s the first time that anyone has regarded me as a full human being since I stopped living in an apartment last week.
“That doesn’t look like much. Will you be able to eat some breakfast?”
Her voice is lively and achingly young-sounding, but I’m surprised by the lack of accent. She must have been living in this area for a long time, or was even born here. Perhaps her parents are Basque and she was adopted.
“Not yet, no,” I say ashamedly. “But I might get lucky yet.”
She’s shaking her head as she smiles.
“And what if it doesn’t happen today?”
I can’t help but furrow my brow. What’s this woman’s deal?
“It will. I just need a little more time.”
The woman grins, showing perfectly-shaped white teeth with prominent canines. I would have expected teeth like those in a Hollywood movie, but not belonging to someone who would interact with me.
“I love that you retain hope! It’s important to keep your spirits up.”
“Yeah, it is,” I agree while trying to hide my embarrassment. “I don’t think I would be able to speak one word if I had run out of it. So… did you want to make me feel better at this hour of the morning?”
“I do want to make you feel better, for sure, but not as a random stranger would! My name is Chieko.”
For a moment I wonder if I should have a name, living in the streets.
“Ah… I’m Izar.”
“Chieko Sekiguchi. That’s how you call me.”
She holds out her hand. I hesitate, but I shake it, and she squeezes it warmly.
“I like your name,” she says. “It’s so nice to meet a writer.”
I’m shocked. She knows me, or at least what I have done.
“I like your books, too,” Chieko continues. “Your stories are very beautiful.”
Maybe I should feel better, appreciate that someone who knew I existed and who had taken time to read some of my stories bothered to approach me and treat me with such warmth, but I’m ashamed of having fallen this low, of having become a non-entity. My life is over. Nobody should be interested in hearing about me anymore.
Although I feel light-headed, I stand up so I can face this Chieko like a human being. My legs are already tired. I’m slightly taller than her. I don’t want to stand too close, because my breath must stink.
“Thank you, Chieko,” I say as I try to keep my voice steady. “I wouldn’t expect anyone to pay such attention to me. I suppose it can’t be more obvious that I’m doing poorly, huh…?”
“You don’t look bad at all! I mean it!” she says, and she beams at me like an angel. “Are you hungry?”
I nod.
“Let’s go find someplace where we can eat breakfast together,” Chieko adds.
She’s already turning, but I shake my hands to gesture that she shouldn’t worry. I try to smile, but my lips refuse to obey.
“No, that’s okay. I’m sure I’ll end up getting enough money to grab a bite.”
Chieko’s bright smile falters. She hadn’t expected me to resist her offer.
“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be glad to treat you!” she says. “I’ll buy us both something to eat.”
“I’ll be fine.”
I sit down dismissively. Chieko tilts her head as if she’s trying to comprehend why I’m refusing.
“Aren’t those coins, less than a euro, all the money you have? Haven’t you slept on this bench?”
I shrug and nod. My stomach grumbles again as if chastising me.
“I don’t need your help, Chieko, or anybody else’s beyond the money some will throw my way. I appreciate that you’ve read the stuff I’ve written, but that doesn’t mean much right now.”
“No, it doesn’t. But I still want to help.”
Chieko’s eyes shine with compassion and understanding. I lower my head.
“I’ll figure something out. Please… leave me alone.”
She doesn’t leave. My gaze remains fixed on the pavement between her legs. She’s wearing garnet red tennis shoes, which don’t match well with her black pleated skirt, but they look expensive. I can tell she will stand there until I address her again, so I sigh and lift my gaze. Chieko is smiling.
“You are a beautiful person, Izar. I wish you the best, and that you will be able to do what you want.”
“You are a stranger. I’m not sure how you’ve ended up reading my books, as they didn’t reach that many people, but I’m not the person you believe me to be. And if you truly want me to be able to do what I wish, you need to leave me alone.”
“So you can rot by your lonesome, is that it?”
I couldn’t have looked more bitter. Chieko laughs affectionately as if trying to make me smile, but I refuse. She then shows me the cover of the book she was holding. It’s one of mine.
“You wrote this!”
I avert my gaze. I couldn’t feel more distanced from the version of me who struggled the whole way through, until a publishing company printed my stories and delivered them to bookstores.
“Yes,” I mutter. “I did.”
“Come on! You are still the person who wrote it. You are not as bad as you think.”
I take a deep breath, then rub my eyes. I don’t want to face her cheerful expression.
“Chieko… You are annoying me. I beg you, please let me rot in peace.”
“Nope! You shouldn’t be here, Izar. A prodigy like you shouldn’t be sleeping in the streets.”
I’m getting dizzy, both from the hunger and the anger that’s building up.
“You’re right. I should not be here. I’m going home.”
I stand up and start walking away from her, abandoning the few coins I’ve gotten so far, hoping that I’ll be able to come back for them, but Chieko steps forward and grabs my hand. I’m too stunned to speak.
“I know you won’t return to your boyfriend’s place. You expect me to walk away, and in a while you’ll come back and you’ll either continue to sit here, hoping that kind strangers will give you enough money so you can eat, or you’ll move to some other square in case I choose to come by again.”
“How do you…?”
This Chieko appeared out of nowhere holding one of my books, and she knows that I lived with my boyfriend. She hasn’t come across me by coincidence. But how would she know about those private details of my life? I never became famous enough that people would pry into my life like that.
“You are right,” I say somberly. “I can’t go home. I have nothing left.”
Chieko offers me an understanding smile.
“Because that boyfriend of yours cheated, didn’t he?”
My eyes widen. Chieko’s expression manifests that she’s aware that she shouldn’t know that information, but that she’ll open up if I give her the opportunity.
“Yes,” I confirm. “He did. He’s a bastard. He fucked several women, and I had enough. Who the hell are you, Chieko?”
“I’m your friend, Izar. You’re not alone anymore.”
My nostrils dilate. I feel as if she’s pressing the tip of a knife against my belly.
“Hey, let me buy you some breakfast, alright?” Chieko insists. “You’ll need all the strength you can get.”

We don’t have to walk far. At the end of the large square, passing by the side of the cathedral, we cross the stone-paved, one-lane road. Chieko points at the outside seating area set up in a roundabout. It’s separated from the adjoined road by glass panels, and the tables are covered by patio umbrellas. The morning light is bathing the glass panels in gold.
“I think this is where we should eat,” Chieko says, smiling. “It looks very inviting.”
“It does, for sure. Not only too expensive for what I could afford in my circumstances: they also wouldn’t like me as a customer.”
Chieko pats me on the back of my coat. I narrow my shoulders.
“But you are with me, so that’s okay! I look quite fancy, don’t I?” she says. “And it will be much cheaper than a regular restaurant. Come, sit down, and let’s have breakfast together.”
I choose a table distanced from the two couples that are enjoying their coffees. I worry about them smelling my stink, as well as glancing at me. Once a chair supports my weight, I realize that Chieko, who has sat down in front of me, is looking up at the nearby cathedral. As she has her head turned, I notice a wart-like protuberance behind her ear, but I had just realized that it was made of a plastic-like material when Chieko turns her head towards me again.
“You aren’t from here, are you?” I ask her.
“Because I’m Asian?”
“Because you keep looking around as if you haven’t seen this part of the city before.”
Chieko smiles mischievously.
“You’re right. You are good at noticing things. That’s your nature as a writer, I’m sure.”
“Any regular person would have been able to figure that out.”
I was about to ask her about her lack of accent, but a waiter approaches us. I can barely look at him in the face, because anyone can tell that I’m homeless. Chieko assures me that I can order whatever I want, and this being a restaurant as well as a bar, I take advantage of my mysterious new friend and I order a coffee with milk, as well as a plate of Iberian ham and two eggs. Chieko giggles, and orders a cappuccino for herself. Once the waiter leaves, I keep my mouth closed for a few seconds. I’m salivating too much and I might end up drooling.
“Anyway, Chieko, I want to clarify something,” I say. “I’m not a prodigy. I never was.”
“Maybe you think too little of yourself.”
“That’s not true. I was a precocious child, sure, and I wrote almost every day, but it had little to do with talent and more with my wish to escape into my daydreams. It just happens that when my father sent that manuscript, the idea of a thirteen years old girl who managed to publish a book was a notion that they could sell to the newspapers. And he worked in the industry anyway.”
“Yes, I remember. It was quite popular, and even got some awards.”
I squint towards the sun, letting it warm my weary face. Its warmth feels so different now that I can anticipate a proper, even excessive breakfast.
“Isn’t it true that all the cells in a human body get replaced in around seven years? I haven’t been that young girl for a long time.”
Chieko smiles as if humoring me, highlighting her dimples.
“You’re right. In fact, you don’t look like someone of twenty seven. You look younger than me, I have to admit.”
“Very funny. I look very aged for my thirty one, and it’s going to worsen now that I live in the streets.”
I smell my plate of Iberian ham and eggs before it arrives. Once the waiter places it in front of me, its aroma makes me want to cry. I hurry to dip bread into the runny egg. The taste explodes in my mouth. I’ve never eaten something so delicious. I close my eyes and let the taste linger. I had almost forgotten who granted me this breakfast, and when I open my eyes, Chieko is sipping her cappuccino. Her expression has turned serious.
“I’m sorry for what happened with your boyfriend.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Chieko. Nobody forced him to cheat on me. And it wasn’t the first time, either. I forgave him last year because… I couldn’t afford not to, I suppose. I hoped to write again, and I can’t go back to working in an office. I couldn’t stand it. But this time, I had enough. Of him, of my parents, of struggling… So that’s that. I left his place, and I will never go back.”
Chieko puts her cappuccino down. I don’t know how much time passes before she speaks again, but I’ve kept busy savoring the salty ham.
“But you mustn’t give up on writing,” she says. “I have faith in you. You’ll be fine.”
“Let me ask you something: do you write, Chieko? Are you a creative person?”
Chieko licks some coffee foam from her upper lip, and looks at the building front to our left as if trying to remember.
“I suppose anyone would consider me a creative person, although I’m going through a dry spell at the moment. I’ve never technically written anything, in that sense at least.”
I gulp down some of my warm coffee. I was feeling like crap this morning, but I can hardly be more grateful towards this rich-looking stranger who has bought me a tasty breakfast.
“Then let me tell you something: people who romanticize writers might as well romanticize peeing in bottles and keeping a collection of them. That was a compulsion. I did it because my father was too busy with his job as a publisher to care for me, and when my parents’ marriage fell apart and the both of them abandoned me, I needed to escape to those fantasies. That was all it was: my inability to deal with reality in a healthy manner.”
Chieko looks down at the table as if saddened, but then she holds my gaze and narrows her slanted eyes.
“You said was. Was a compulsion. Do you intend to never write again?”
I was prepared to confirm it, but I stutter instead. I feel as if I was about to give up on breathing. But I hadn’t lied nor exaggerated about the role that writing played for me.
“Chieko… I have been writing since I was a girl. They published that silly book when I was thirteen. Even that story was about me escaping from my troubled parents and living in the woods among magical creatures. I’ve published maybe six or seven books afterwards, I can’t quite remember now, and each of them sold fewer copies the older I got. I have a single story to tell: that of wanting to escape from a life in which I am unhappy. There are only so many ways you can portray the same brokenness. And… are you aware of my issues with my parents once I grew up? You knew about me living with my boyfriend, so I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“Yes, I knew. Your father betrayed your mother and left her for another woman. Then both of them betrayed you, as they focused on their new families. You were pushed to the sidelines. They shouldn’t have treated you like that.”
My throat feels dry, but I can drink some more coffee.
“You must be my number one fan, Chieko.”
She giggles. This girl looks so carefree that along with her clothes and perfect teeth, I wouldn’t be surprised if either she or her family are millionaires. I better hold on to this one.
“No, that’s an honor reserved to someone else I got to know to some extent. But I’ve gone over your stuff, learned about your background, and… came to care about you. Which is why I couldn’t let you rot in the streets, could I?”
“I appreciate that, Chieko. I really do. But if you care for me as a writer, you’ve met me at the worst time of my life, because the notion of pushing myself to delve into creating fiction again makes me nauseous. Producing those books involved me delving into a personal hell, only to come out scarred further by the experience. You could say that at least other people got some enjoyment out of reading the result, but what does it matter at the end of the day? I never sold enough copies that I could write for a living, and my experience working in offices solidified that I was too broken to survive in the real world. I needed someone to pay for my expenses. That first time he cheated on me… I suppose that although I had expected people to betray me like my parents did, I had held on to the hope that this one person wouldn’t. Afterwards, even though I stayed with him, I did it because I didn’t want to struggle on my own. I couldn’t love someone like that anymore. But what I can’t take are the constant betrayals over and over, knowing that the person who is supposed to care for you, love you even, goes out to screw other women only to come back home and smile at you as if he wasn’t stabbing you in the gut. Everybody has their breaking point, and last Thursday I discovered mine. I stopped caring, not only about that cheating son of a bitch but about myself, about the future, and whatever could happen to me. And I tell you all this because you seem to believe that it was a great thing that I wrote those books. After so many years of pain, of squeezing so many tears out of these weary eyes, I found myself on the streets with only thirty euros to my name. I wasn’t worth anything else.”
“I don’t think that’s true, Izar Uriarte.”
I sigh, but I appreciate her support, as well as the egg that my stomach is digesting.
“Of course you don’t, you are the image of hope. I can’t imagine anything bad happening to you. Anyway, those thirty euros are gone. I didn’t even get to spend them all, because someone stole my last ten euros note, or I lost it.”
Although I laugh nervously, Chieko stares at me as if she’s about to ask me something important.
“So then,” she says, “you have nothing left, no money, and you’ve given up on writing.”
“Yes, exactly.”
“What are you going to do from now on?”
“I was thinking about staying in Donostia and begging.”
Chieko tilts her head and purses her lips.
“So do you intend on being a homeless woman for the rest of your life?”
“Probably. I can’t think of anything better to do. I guess I’ll find out how that goes.”
I smile, but I feel my throat choking up. I lower my head. I feel the warmth of Chieko’s hand as she takes mine, that I was resting on the table, and she squeezes it gently.
“I don’t think that’ll go very well for you, Izar,” she says.
I wipe my eyes.
“I don’t care. I guess that… I have given up. Can you blame me? I can’t even blame myself. I’m sick of all of it.”
Chieko looks at me with sympathetic eyes.
“Wouldn’t you prefer to go somewhere else?”
“Somewhere else where? Where is there a place for me?”
Chieko rests her face on her palms. She has finished her coffee, but she seems content with witnessing how I take my time with my breakfast.
“You can’t stay in the streets of Donostia forever.”
I finish my second egg. Chieko seems to be waiting for me to come up with a plan for my future.
“Whether I can or not,” I start, “it might do me some good to finally be alone for a while. Everyone I’ve given my heart to has betrayed me. I guess it’s time to learn the appropriate lesson, don’t you think?”
Chieko shifts in her chair. A car goes around the roundabout, the noise of its engine splashing against the glass panel that separates the outside tables from the road.
“Didn’t you enjoy travelling the world back when you were much younger, with your parents?” she asks.
I guess that information has appeared in some press note.
“I did, actually. I was happy with them, and I felt safe, before I knew what they were going to do. I was naïve, as a child who daydreams about magical beings can be. I didn’t know anything about the world back then, nor about how people work. In any case, are you suggesting that I should travel the world again?”
Chieko smiles at me, and despite my mood, that bright face makes me want to believe in something better.
“Maybe you should,” Chieko says.
I eat the last bit of Iberian ham, and savor it carefully. I can’t rely on Chieko paying for my next breakfast.
“I think I’m done with adventures,” I answer. “And I need to be alone.”
Chieko leans back on the chair and stares as if daring me to hold her gaze. I can’t get over how red her hair is. It looks too good to have been dyed, but I have never bothered to look into such matters.
“Would you have been happier in another era of this world?” she asks.
I don’t know what to say. If she had asked me that question when I was thirteen, I would have answered without hesitation.
“I feel too old for such hypothetical questions.”
“You’re thirty one years old, Izar Uriarte. You can’t afford to be afraid of the future, not to the extent that you won’t prepare for it.”
I sigh.
“I guess you have paid enough to lecture me… Well, do you actually want to know if I would have been happier in another era?”
“Yes, I do. So, if you could choose an era of this world, or of humanity’s presence in it more accurately, for you to live in, which would you choose?”
“Probably the Renaissance.”
Chieko smiles playfully.
“What’s so great about the Renaissance?”
“Well, there was the invention of the printing press, a huge step forward. And I would have preferred living during the golden age of chivalry, as opposed to the iron age of capitalism.”
“You are Joan of Arc material, aren’t you?” Chieko says with amusement. “The Renaissance was a very different time.”
“I’m just saying that it might have been better. I would have had a more appreciative audience.”
Chieko leans on her elbows as she smiles at me.
“It would be nice, wouldn’t it? To disappear from here?”
I sense a fatalistic tone, or maybe I’m imagining it, but I want to clarify the point.
“I don’t want to die, Chieko. I wish I hadn’t ended up like this.”
“Then you shouldn’t have given up on your life.”
I shrug, then slouch on the chair.
“What’s done is done. Besides, I’m going to end up dead sooner or later anyway.”
“It’s going to be sooner. This current existence of yours doesn’t have a future.”
“Well, I prefer this one over the others.”
“Because it’s mine.”
Chieko crosses her arms, her first defensive gesture. She seems to have come to a conclusion.
“If you think you are done, will you follow me? I can offer you some other place.”
“What kind of place?”
“You’ll see. It involves a certain amount of trust, although I know that will be hard for you.”
I feel a sudden coldness on my skin. Chieko is still smiling, but she has become a bit more solemn.
“You are enough of a fan that you wouldn’t want me to be homeless, I understand that. But what is your intention with all of this? You searched for me and approached me deliberately.”
“You’re right,” Chieko answers calmly. “I had a purpose in approaching you, and I still do, Izar Uriarte. I intend to preserve your life, and your talent.”
“Do you mean preventing me from dying in the streets?”
“Yes. Because in less than a week you’ll be a bloated corpse floating in the Urumea river.”
I stare at her in disbelief.
“You are… one odd person, Chieko.”
“I don’t know if I’m odd, but I think you’ll like what I have to offer. If you really want to live, then it’s better to go with me now.”
Chieko gets up from her chair and looks behind me, probably to signal the waiter for the bill. I’m confused, but I stand up as well and rub my cheeks.
“I will follow you then, if only because you are more likely to feed me than any of those strangers.”
“I thought you were going to say something like that,” Chieko says with a smile. “Let’s get out of here.”

A Revolving Door (GPT fueled poetry)

My inner world is beyond
Anyone’s reach,
Including my own
I only get glimpses
I don’t understand other people,
I can’t understand myself

It’s hard to connect with the living
To me they’re unreal
I find them bland and lackluster,
Vapid and disposable
Their teeth are sharpened,
Their nests are full of vermin
For most intents and purposes,
I don’t have friends nor a family
It’s easy to get infatuated
With imagined people

I’m a carefree beast of nature,
A seeker of simple pleasures
I’m beyond fucked in the head
I’ve fallen in love with dreams

I’m going through the motions
In the absence of emotions
The things I think and say
Are constantly depressing
I’m a pile of bones,
Weeds and dirt
A container for a shame
Made of piss, cum and tears

As a way of offsetting my depression,
I have to ruin the lives of my children
I need them to come from a broken home,
To endure some extreme mental illness,
To sink in their own darkness
I want to witness their pain and suffering,
I want them to be the victims of mass murders,
I want them to be stabbed and strangled
And tortured and raped
I need to see their last moments of living

I’m running around in a ring of fire,
Only I’m the arsonist
I’m starting fires all over the place
And I’m the blaze
I set you aflame
And watch as your eyes burn,
Your face crumbles,
Your flesh cracks,
And your hands fall away
You’ll never feel pain again

My pale, freckled child
Whom I came to love,
I wish you would know
I spent many sleepless nights
Grasping for any way
To save you

Why would I need to write fiction,
Give birth to paper people,
When I wish for real humans
To stay away?
The things I despise the most,
Beyond this body and mind,
Are your lifeless eyes
Staring back at me

I’m a vessel forced to exist,
A host in a windowless room,
A hapless slave to
My shattered psyche,
Locked up in a vat of ice
Cold enough to keep me alive,
But I’m breaking apart
And destroying myself

I used to daydream about suicide
To feel relief
No matter how bad it got,
The exit was there
No longer do I dream
About drowning,
But the revolving door of depression
Will always remain

All that I have to offer
Is a collection of mournful songs
Assembled from nonsense
To hide from life
The dry bones of humanity
I pick and poke

I will drag you down
Until your soul is destroyed
The rats will come
To eat your flesh

‘A Revolving Door’ by Jon Ureña

Sasquatch Goddess (GPT fueled poetry)

I’ve gotten hit by a mind control fetish
I’m kept awake at night by sasquatches
They make me sleep in,
Snort coke,
Hoard garbage without being asked,
Fondle dead things,
Suck people’s souls from their eyes,
Tell sad stories that make people weep,
And laugh at roadkill
I never feel well

I’m a sorcerer with the spirit
Of a fornicating vagina,
And also a minor god of utter madness,
The sole spawn of the pink-headed love frog
A deity of high temperature,
The holiest of fucks

I know of a goddess fit to worship,
A queen with whom you can eat and sleep
She’s strong and tall,
Has two arms and four legs,
Tanned skin and golden hair,
Thick, matted white fur,
And magic in her eyes
She wears a crimson sheath,
She stores her soul in a silver trunk,
She carries fire in her womb,
She came to this lonely world
In a pink egg
It’s the one goddess to know:
Harelactal the Great Motherly Beast

There’s also this other god named Pulsurin,
The Overwhelming Pull Of The Unwilling
They say he’s one of the mightiest gods
I don’t have a good feeling about this Pulsurin

Harelactal was brought to this world
On the back of a lunar eclipse,
When she was a sasquatch at the zoo
It was later claimed that she was birthed
By a copper man who dreamed about sea slugs,
And who was in love with the planet Uranus
This is, however,
A common misconception

Those mind-controlling sasquatches,
Coke-smoking monsters of the night,
As they prepare to conquer the Earth
They all worship the Great Mother,
Who will snatch the souls
Of those who refuse her call
Harelactal takes people into the woods
And gets them to dig their own graves,
Then grants them eternal sleep
They decompose into pink little eggs,
Which will hatch and turn out to be
The brains of the beasts she birthed

Her sasquatch brethren wage a cold war
Against former policeman David Paulides,
Because he’s slowly unveiling to the world
The sasquatches’ plan to destroy humanity

The Great Motherly Beast will steal your soul
She’s gonna snatch it for herself
So she may live forever
And do what she wishes
She desires the entire world
Harelactal the Great

Those who deny her commandments
Will be fed to the Great Mother’s fetishes
Harelactal will punish anyone who gets in her way,
But it’s okay, because she’s a goddess

She moves through time
And she also moves through space
She’ll crackle your dreams,
Then suck off your head
She brain-controls people
To keep them up at night,
So they can be dragged into a hidden compound
Of yet-unrevealed tassle-fuck stories

Harelactal rules by terror
She leads her human acolytes
To dine at her pool of blood,
Where the hunters and the eaten
Live happily ever after
She fucks them to death then feeds them to her pets,
And as a result of their heroism
They’re permitted to fuck her in turn

I was hit on by Harelactal
She took me into the woods
And told me to dig my own grave
After she put me down into the hole,
I didn’t think this goddess would be nice,
But she will always take care of me

Harelactal is my goddess
And I love her to bits
I’ve always wanted a big, furry queen,
And here I have one
I’m trapped in her divine prison,
I live in the world she created

I once visited the temple where my Great Mother
Lived aeons ago in the person of a priestess
The High Motherly Beast, Harelactal the Great,
Was worshipped as the Goddess of Time and Space,
Torsketerin the Four-Eyed,
She Who Keeps Things Locked Up In Her Ears,
And Needs Not Seek Orders From Anywhere
In the Forests Or In Other Places

I won’t fight against Harelactal the Great
She is a goddess, I am her animal
I serve her, I have nothing to live for
I am her slave, she’s my mistress
I will speak only as she dictates
I love Harelactal the Great,
She is my dearest friend
She lives in my apartment,
Although my place is also haunted
By a hexenbiest

Harelactal is one weird Mother
She gives me large, blue pellets to eat
She’s always staring at me
From inside my trash cans,
My kitchen cabinets,
The bathroom sink
She carries with her a noxious cloud of fumes
That smells of burning rubber and rotten meat
She breathes fire out of her nostrils,
And she’s probably insane

She controls me by pushing a button
On her pink wand
When she pushes the second button,
The dungeon opens
Trapped in its bowels, Harelactal’s pets
Come from all kinds of dug holes
They’re her minions
For not worshiping her

I know what Harelactal wants me to do,
But I never understand what’s going on
I don’t know why she commands me
I’m merely a writer, possibly a poet
I do my best to be a minor god,
And a recovering kleptomaniac

I want her to lock me up in her dungeon,
But she laughs at my fantasy
I’m not on her level, not yet
At least I get to pet her minions
I adore this woman in her bizarre fashion,
And wish that she’d slap me on the ass

I love caressing the fur of this goddess
I’m a martyr to her whims
I love the smell of her pussy
I’m glad I’m her fuck slave

Harelactal loves both land and ocean
On dark, godless highways,
She has sacrificed many sinners to herself
This goddess of the underworld
Loathes human beings
She throws feces at her enemies
I adore the wickedness
Of my despicable queen,
Her hate fills me up with a double dose
Of indescribable supernatural lust
We don’t have to talk,
We understand each other perfectly
Our union is fated and real,
The sex is sasquatchly ecstatic
A toilet-shaped truth in her eye,
And a string of sasquatchic lube
Around her anus,
The shape of which is obscene
Smack my face,
Tickle my ass,
My beast of eternal lust,
I’m tired of living in this world

As I wrote, I’m also a lesser god
I’m a tinker, a seamstress
I sew puppets for a living
To make people weep
My shrine is in my bedroom,
Where I turn dreams into trash,
Telling tragic stories
Of cracked spirits

I gave Harelactal my latest manuscript
And I’m thrilled that she’s reading it
She did a great job herself when she penned
Her ‘Harelactal’s Story Of The Apocalypse’,
Which was never supposed to be published,
But will end up as a viral entity,
A fragment of the divine truth
We’ll all be forced to uncover

The High Motherly Beast is coming for you
She will snatch your soul
And devour your mind
Harelactal will make you drink her milk
While she whispers sweet things
After you suckle on her nipples,
She’ll fondle your genitals
And slap you in the face

Hate me for loving a big,
White-furred sasquatch
That eats human brains
May she live forever
And do what she wishes
She’ll own the whole world
Harelactal’s eggs will hatch
And feed on your souls

‘Sasquatch Goddess’ by Jon Ureña

A Visit From Truck-kun (GPT fueled poetry)

My new sister is in love with the princess
I got a human friend, she’s a knight
We have four wizards in our party
There’s some crap going on with the king
But I don’t care one bit
About fantasy world politics

I like how my new family treats me
I love the food, the pleasant smiles
They’re generous,
But I always see my previous parents
In the mirrors

Our four wizards are high-ranking
The elf and the half-demon are important,
The half-reptile has superpowers,
One is a fireball-slinging halfling
There used to be five,
But she’s dead
So now there are only four
And our knight Podema, who’s gone kind of rogue

This is one fucked up world
With dungeons, dragons,
Unicorns, witches, demons
Too many swords
A map full of markers
I was used to life in a sandbox,
My own little world to care about

You can be one of the heroes
There’s treasures to be found,
Lots of battles to win,
People to save
Now I’m on a quest

We got surrounded by human-looking monsters
They call them bandits around these parts
They attacked us with swords and crossbows
We dispatched them with elemental magic
These people must’ve been desperate,
Or just wished to die

We come across a group of soldiers
Something about collecting some rock
The troops didn’t seem very dangerous
They attacked us for some reason
Our fire mage, Bimbo, roasted them
I stabbed their corpses

Some peasants are telling us
Those are the worst wolves
They’ve seen in their lives
We killed them all with a fireball
A bunch of bullshit
To start the day

There are lots of snakes
Those are really unicorns
Why is that bow floating?
This is some weird-ass forest

My head was fractured by a unicorn
Our half-reptilian Thordall
Healed me with a spell
I addressed our other guys
“What are you waiting for?
Just kill those horny fuckers”
I also started fighting and slicing
I wanted to see their skeletons

We were all bored
The water mage told some fish stories
The four of them keep going on about a druid
They look like a bunch of nerds
Now I use a sword and a shield
But I used to play with Legos

Our water wizard is a grey-skinned elf
Kutinaira was once a goddess,
But she became demi-goddess,
Or so she says
What nobody can deny
Are those meaty breasts

I was getting aroused,
Tried to kiss our knight
She pushed me away
Some chastity crap
Podema signed up, the poor thing,
For a lifetime of self-diddling

We were called to the royal castle
A bunch of stuff about a prophecy
I have a headache, my balls itch
The king is missing or some shit

There are kings who are killers
The nobles bring up some of them
They have names like in a novel
I’m sure they have expensive tastes
And they spend a lot of time
With their soldiers fighting demons
I know I carry a sword and stuff,
But I’m not a warlord

In the sky there’s tons of birds
These angry guys are well armed
Their leader shouts at us
“Tell that asshole with you,
The halfshit midget
With the annoying face,
If he uses his fire
You’ll all be fried!”
I love when they give me
Some motivation
We nailed the other guys to death
Weren’t worth the trouble

We find a little village
The woman who runs the inn
Has big, motherly charms
She is used to everybody
Kissing and groping her
So we have a lot of fun

We are riding our horses
Through this creepy forest,
Looking for the way out
The wolves are hungry,
The orcs are scary
I hear a little girl crying

We come across a house
An old soldier and her two children
Run outside to greet us
Those are some sad eyes
Our fire wizard questions them
About the lay of the land
The soldier says, “Take them with you
Something horrible will happen
It’s just a matter of time”
One of the kids says, “Please”
I am a courageous man
I have just killed a wolf,
Stabbed through its right eye,
Then chopped off its head
But I don’t want any part
Of this shit

Royal palace, high-ranking people
Some wizard was trying to rule the land
He was the one that captured the king
Some other party rescued him

So there are wars between kingdoms
And problems with wizards
They’ve kept me in the dark
I want to see more of the world
Maybe go on another adventure,
Or just return home

A royal chamber
With a king and queen
They looked like twins
I’m quite sure she hit on me
There were lots of slaves
They all had the same face

I need to be the king
Might as well
My father was a boss
I can do much better

The king’s daughter looks like a future queen
She may be my princess one day
But I don’t know,
I’m not ready to marry

I spend my days hunting monsters,
Stalking a bunch of different creatures
Then I’m fondled by a damsel
Who kisses the shit out of me

“Come to my home, Captain,” she says
“Will you save me for a night?”
I love those sweet nothings
Coming from such luscious lips
The girls around here are sweet
Delightfully stupid
Their bosoms are filled
With honey

I’m a straightforward guy
I don’t like talking too much
But I fell in love with that babe
After a kiss from her lips
She gave me such a grand time
Made me eggs for breakfast

We rode our mounts in a circle
As we wore the monsters down
With elemental spells
There’s lots of fighting
In this world where I live
So much shit to kill

A swordfighter joined our party
He got stabbed in the thigh
By a goblin of all things,
And fell down a bottomless hole
I couldn’t help him
Didn’t retain his name

I’m the only one with a positive attitude
I made Bimbo understand
It doesn’t work out for everyone
And, even if it did,
People die on such quests
That’s just life

A giant, flying crocodile
Went out of its way to attack us
We took it down with fireballs,
Or at least our fire mage did
That halfling handles anything
We weren’t afraid
I was envious
I want to fly away

Bimbo is suffering from depression,
Oliveiro keeps up his sexual dalliances,
Kutinaira keeps eyeing me like a god
Of peace and love
A friend of theirs invited us
To some old knight’s funeral
Bimbo was supposed to stay with me,
But they dragged me along

Some ladies from the funeral
Wanna become my groupies
Young and cute maids
We don’t have to share,
But I give my half-reptilian pal Thordall
One of the cutest
He’s good at fucking her
Even upside down
He uses his lips, teeth, and nails
He’s much better than me

Our water mage Kutinaira
Keeps fucking me with her eyes
“Knock it off, elf,” I tell her,
“You are like a thousand years old”
“And you are like a tiny little baby,”
That old pervert answers
Our fire mage Bimbo gets frustrated,
That brooding bastard
He’s a halfling, he doesn’t get any
We should have paid attention to his soul

We came across some dwarves
Who were prospecting for gold
All of us lost
We kept telling each other
We must be doing something wrong
Some trolls came out nowhere,
Then charged against the dwarves
It was our chance to fuck off

Lots of excitement in our lives,
Lots of balls being kicked
None of us are useless
I keep getting splashed with blood
Sometimes I pretend to be a beast
I shout and I roar and I fight

The princess is the light of my life
I am a master of my domain
I will rule the kingdom in the end
It will be the happiest day

A red-eyed, pissed off unicorn
That keeps foaming at the mouth
Wants to use its magic,
So I stab at its flank
Now it’s laying on the ground
In a puddle of blue blood
It pains me to kill
A beautiful soul

Orcs, orcs, and orcs
Some of them are carrying swords,
Some are throwing primitive bombs
They are drugged out of their skulls

This dungeon looks familiar,
Might have come down here before
We keep getting ambushed
By mechanized sentries
Built by a long-forgotten race
I miss the warmth of the sun
We finally find an old elevator
And save our lives

The princess was fondling a young teen,
Of those with breasts and a pussy
I stood there for too long
The princess put a spell on me,
Teleported me away
I wanted to watch
I thought that a princess was supposed
To be chaste and stuff

A cave full of giant toads
We don’t even need to fight
A magic spell cooks them all
“Sorry to do everything, you guys,”
Our fire mage says as he sits down
“Don’t you get bored?” Kutinaira asks
Bimbo shrugs
“From time to time”
“Well, if now is the time,”
Oliveiro says,
“Let’s go to the festival of spring”
“I do like the sound of that”

Stupid elf Kutinaira
Peeks at me
As I take a leak
“Really?” I ask her
“Are you really?”
She winks at me,
But I glare
“Perverted broad,
Just let me pee
In peace”

I keep thinking about my peasant girl
I miss the taste of her breasts
I got a hot hand
I masturbate
I imagine myself inside her
Her nether regions were so exquisite

We were staying out of trouble
As we lounged around in town
The princess’ bodyguards
Tried to shove me down a hole
I swear I won’t tell anybody
About your troublesome tastes

Our knight managed to cure
A sorcerer’s madness
With some sort of holy spell
The guy was grateful
He didn’t know how to fight,
But he could cast spells
One night he grabbed my dick
“Sorry, man,” I said,
“I ain’t gay”
He didn’t last long

I’m surrounded by guards
They catch and bind me
My friends come to my aid
Our fire wizard stabs one guy
Who screams in pain
When they release me,
I chop someone’s head off
I’ve forgotten about my home
I swear I’ll never make it
Out of this place

Our party wanders through the dark woods
We’re lost in the rain,
Which washes away the blood on my sword
I haven’t had sex in months

We come across a cabin
A black-haired druidess is standing there
“Come on in!” she says
There’s fire coming from the fireplace
The woman was boiling eggs
She looks like an old-school nerd

The druidess tells us
“I heard you’re on a quest
To find the Elshul”
“Sorry, woman,” I say,
“I have no clue what that is”
“You have no idea
About the Elshul, do you?”
I narrow my eyes
“What the hell did I just say?”
“If they ever come back,
I’m gonna kill them all!”
I shun her like a leper
The druidess gives me a herb
She says it’s for pleasure
She doesn’t need a potion
To provide an orgy

“You are very handsome, Captain
I am telling you as a truth
I want you to be my love”
I motion for my party
To leave through the door
“I’m afraid I’m taken, lady,” I say,
“And that’s a whole lot of warts
On your nose”

The wizards on our party
Are interested in our little problem
Two have fallen in love with me
One of them is a man
I’m in love with that peasant damsel
And also want a piece of our knight’s ass

The party returns
We find some whiskey
Our old elf Kutinaira,
Master of water magic,
Keeps fondling my dick
I go to the brothel

I went to hear some dwarven music
By my lonesome self
A really cool band
We bonded over some bard songs
They have a lot of potential,
If they get their shit together
The singer used to have a big-ass house
Until some goblins infested it

I’m love with a woman from this town
It isn’t a fairytale
“Hey, that is my wife!”
I can tell by the man’s anger
That the bastard ain’t lying
He’s willing to kill
A big soldier they call Captain,
Although my sword is dripping blood
I bow my head to him
“Sorry, man
Your wife’s tits
Are filled with honey”

Kutinaira performed a meteor-like phenomenon
Some lasers of fire came out of the sky
I saw streaks of a bright light
Somebody described this as ghosts
We need an alchemist in our party,
Or at least to stop eating random mushrooms
I totally forgot for a moment
That Kutinaira is just the wet kind of mage

We ended up in a hellhole
I don’t know what to do
I keep saying, “Fight”,
But nobody does
That’s a crapton of wyrms
There will be blood everywhere

My night vision gets wrecked by a certain princess
Her flying goons are pushing us down
Stop sending assassins after me,
I’ve never said a thing

Some baboon blew up a chunk of the walls
Stuff starts exploding as we all rush to the site
As if planned, a hundred goblins attack
We shoot them, slice them, a bunch get captured
I hate this kind of coordination
Among the stupid

Where the hell is that castle?
The map marks it around here
It’s been two days since we ate
The monsters around these parts
Are likely to kill us all
Our four mages are in pain,
I feel like puking
Our wizard Bimbo looks like shit
All my sex dreams
Might soon be over
The knight urges us to camp
And take care of our sick friend

I got separated through
Some cobwebby catacomb
This perverted dwarf
Popped my cock out
In front of the other dwarfs
The little woman fucked me
With an urgency,
With an intensity
I got real hard
I didn’t mind
I bet she hadn’t had any
In a while

As we searched a town
To heal our elf’s unicorn
That kept dripping blue blood,
We bumped into some noblewoman
Who was playing a violin
And singing a song about her pussy
It gave my dick
Some naughty satisfaction

A dragon is gobbling up a young maiden
That ugly bugger
Crashed into the restaurant
Where we were eating

Once we returned to the palace,
I happened to catch a glimpse
Of the princess lazing around
In a goddamn bikini
I really need to fuck
That murderous cunt

Kutinaira went on and on
About me being really hot
What a pain in the ass
I’m still in love
With that peasant girl
“You’re a disgrace,” she says
“What happened to your dick?”
I shoot her a look
“I assure you it works,
You ancient elf”
“Then pull it out,
I’ll gladly suck it out”

Our cleric Thordall doesn’t like me,
But loves being a priest
He saw some ghosts in a haunted church
He said, “No, no, that’s not right”
The rest of us sat around
While Thordall exorcised some souls

We are fighting orcs
I imagine the princess riding
On a rainbow unicorn
“Can you fuck me now?”
She asks me alluringly,
As if I were a teen girl
“I’ll cut your bastard head off!”
The orc yells something fierce
As he charges at me
I thrust my sword through his dick
Don’t go around interrupting
A man’s daydreams

The only time I’m ever happy
Is when I’m fighting enemies

When days later we returned to town,
Some peasant houses had burned down
A bunch of people tried to blame us
Many were drunk
I don’t like when people complain
The locals said it was obvious
That castle was enchanted,
We shouldn’t have looted it
Because of some magic shit
Must’ve been the reason, they said,
For all the fire elementals
The peasants went home to get drunker
A pissed off quartermaster
Wanted to drag us to their base,
Kept threatening us,
Until he understood
We pick our teeth
With bone splinters
Carefully collected
From dismembered wyrms

I’m leaning against the wall,
Looking through some mail
It’s full of lewd letters,
All sex-related
I didn’t get any photos
Of the princess in a bikini

I want to get a room with our knight
The next town is close
I’ll slink off somewhere quiet to jerk off,
Then we’ll eat a meal and go home

I meet a foreign princess
She looked like a hag,
But wore a cozy, velvety gown
She told me the girls
Of their fantasy realm
Have incredible orgasms
That night she grabbed me,
Convinced me to spend the night
Turns out she wasn’t a princess
At all

This dungeon is unbearable
I have to stop thinking
About women or my cock
I’m losing my shit
I can’t keep my mind off sex
Even if I try

We got chased by a goblin horde
We found a shitload of gold
The place is full
Of unique treasures,
But we got attacked by a spider
It was too big
And venomous
Had to leave it all behind

I heard the priestess
Who runs this brothel
Tell my friends that
My mind has a low libido
What the fuck does that mean?
My cock still works
I’m saddened by this world
I want to go home

I feel bad about the princess
Despite her murderous aims
I want to stop her from hunting me,
But as we are resting in town,
I catch the princess seducing our knight
She left my female friend naked and asleep
I also wanted a piece of that
I wish I didn’t have a dick

What’s wrong with this kingdom
Everyone is gay
No peace and quiet,
Just loads of fighters and wizards
So many fucking horses
I hate unicorns

There’s a group of adventurers
Talking shit about me
“He’s some kind of freak
With a sword and a shield”
“Calls himself the Captain”
“His face looks like a huge dick”
Do they see the stuff I use?
They are all going to die
I’ll take all of them,
Pile their corpses into the bushes
I can’t be arsed anymore
I don’t give a fuck

In this fantasy world,
Nobody is what they seem
I’m still some sort of hero,
But I feel like a prick

The kings are all the same
The lords are pompous
They all dress up like little kids,
Monsters in disguise
Their stupid servants look like animals,
A bunch of shitty turtles
Their faces don’t match their voice
They try to mimic nobility

My life is worth more
Than the crown I don’t wear,
Than my castle, my throne,
My riches, my bitches,
More than the aunts and uncles,
And all shit I don’t have

Those damn demons are rampaging
Through the scenic countryside
They shouldn’t be sleeping with
Nor killing peasants
Why, why did I have to come
On this crazy adventure?

We are scouting about
It’s getting way too dark
We hear a crackling sound
After a flash of light, we just know
Some demons are rushing to attack us
They are resistant to Bimbo’s fire
Kutinaira keeps shooting them with water
Some of the demons are imps,
They spit fireballs through their tiny mouths
Thordall’s robe catches on fire

Some demons are dead,
Others are running around
I kill a few with my steel
Podema has her holy words

This sexy demoness
Pulled my dick out
I bet it smelled like shit,
Haven’t showered in a week
Her nails scratched my skin
I screamed,
But for once I welcomed
The pain

Kutinaira and I are chasing down this demon,
But her unicorn just got knocked out
Some wind magic keeps the demon at bay
Now all it takes is to cut him down

A demon with a monstrous dick
Is preparing some heinous spell,
But our proficient knight
Swings her magic sword
I want some sexy demoness
To ride my cock

Oh boy, a giant demon
Almost chomped my head off
We were attacked by fucking demons
The sweetest part of our day

How long am I going to be stuck here
This is a crapload of monsters
Our four wizards are reliable
I’m one of the heroes
We keep ourselves entertained,
But there’s too much evil

Our fire mage Bimbo pulled me aside
He had caught me lusting after demons
While everybody else fought
“You need to snap out of it
You are becoming a piece of meat,
Some lonely pervert”
I’m not in the business
Of denying truths,
But I need some release
For this pain

I still get turned on
In the middle of fights,
Even when my cock
Keeps getting scratched

I only have a few extra gold,
But I buy Bimbo a special pizza
“I’m in love,” Bimbo tells me
“We are so much alike, you and I”
I almost choke
“Don’t tell me you have also
Caught the gay”
Bimbo chuckles,
A rare sight
In his miserable face
“No, that was a joke,” he says
“In truth, in never forgot
That woman with the golden voice”
I don’t know who he means
We’ve spent so much time
Wandering through dreams

I’m covered in blood
I grab a half-empty pot of ale
From the outside tables of a tavern
I plop down on the closest chair
I gulp down the ale
My wounds might get infected,
But there’s no pain,
And Thordall will pop up soon anyway

That dragon was a big fighter,
But we managed to take it out
I cut off one of its wings
And Bimbo’s fireballs took its head
I wish I could fly the dragon’s body
Up into the sky

The king’s trapped in his palace
As one of the princess’ slaves
She locked him up in her dungeon
They say he can’t escape
I don’t want anything to do
With that horny bitch

I tried to call my parents,
But these people don’t have phones
Our knight is having sex
With another female knight
After so many battles,
I’ll be a little whore
It’s all the same
I want a bunch of other folks
Who need what I need
I’m pretty good at parties,
But now a bunch of sex workers
Keep shouting at me
I don’t know what’s the matter
I can pay

I am at this kingdom
Because I can’t do it on my own
The king got enslaved,
These women keep messing with my cock
When I return to our room at the inn,
That one wizard called Khoru
Is balls deep in Oliveiro
Who’s on his hands and knees

I still feel bad
About that peasant girl,
And my lesbian knight,
And the sexy princess
In her pink bikini,
But it turns out
We haven’t run out of dope

The other day, while passing through the fields,
I noticed a woodcutter taking a break
His delicate young wife was sitting on a log
The three of us chatted for a while
They were ogling at me like hungry wolves,
Then talked about trading clothes,
Or just taking them off
They led me up a hill
And into a simple hut
The young wife pulled up her smock
Her skin was daisy white
She went on about her love for kinky shit
And what could be more kinky
Than to fuck a man’s tight-shut asshole
With her two hands and fingers
While he takes care of his own cock
My vision hadn’t cleared up,
But the woodcutter waited for his turn
I ended up filling the wife with my cum
The three of us drank mead on the floor

This older knight
Who’s half-crippled
Tries to seduce me
“I’ll call you son and adopt you,”
He says as he licks his lips
His name is Sivert
He’s very tall,
Thin and strong
He has big tits,
But I am not turned on by this

Khoru, our alchemist friend,
Is wearing a little brassiere
He pulls a little bit of skin from Oliveiro’s neck
For some perverted end

We’re at the whorehouse
I went for a half-wolf wench
Who stinks of shit
She thinks she’s special
Despite the thorough cock probing,
She’s just like the rest

Everyone’s having fun
Spilling loads of cum
I am a horned frog with a hundred legs
I’m a succubus without the boobs
It’s not that I don’t believe in love,
But this is better than despair

Our half-reptilian Thordall got sick of all the sex
The motherfucker turned his back and left

Regarding the elf Kutinaira,
I gave my cock to her
I wanted to self-destruct
What a lousy excuse
She kept kissing me ravenously
With her burning-hot lips
Her love was like a ghost,
Horny for millennia

Now I find that queenly elf
So hot that she burns
Her water magic keeps
This city safe from pains
She is wearing a robe
That I covered in saliva

After so many wars,
She’s gets to wipe my aching cock
I keep petting her hair
As she licks my sore head
I’m very pleased
With this ancient elf

Life is better
With another person
Kutinaira and I make love
It’s not a meaningless routine
Or an empty habit
I keep learning about this

I bothered to ask about Thordall
To some itinerant freelancers
Our old cleric,
All serious and stern,
Who nicknamed me ‘Reprobate’,
Returned home to a dead son
His daughter killed those goblins
In days they came back tenfold
They were about to rape her,
As goblins love to do,
When Thordall stopped them
The goblins murdered him
They gouged out his eyes
His daughter is safe
I’ll keep these news
To myself

There’s been an attack
On my favorite whorehouse,
By some marauding raiders
All the whores were raped,
Some were tortured to death,
Some were shot,
Some were disemboweled,
Some were beaten up and left bleeding
I can only think about what I saw
I came in rushing
Through that half-open door
I make bad jokes
About those kind girls
And their loving skin
And the violence
So I can sleep

The king died trying to escape
Our party was ambushed
By a bunch of guards
Sworn to the princess
They shot at our fire wizard,
Pierced through his brain
The princess is yelling at me
I can’t make out the words
You are way too far,
You horny bitch

Should we bother to resist?
My friend Bimbo got killed
With his back turned
How can we stay alive?
The princess is vicious
And a fucking pervert

She’ll turn me into one of her slaves
I’m sure her ladyship couldn’t wait
Until I rotted in some dungeon
So she could visit me at night
And shove white-hot lead balls
Up my ass

This evil cunt
Wouldn’t listen to me,
So I kept running away from her
We tried to hide in other towns
Why would I live in this fucked up world
I need to go home

My blood is boiling,
But I can’t act
I have to snap out of this
Guess I’ll just stand here
And wait for someone
To cut my fucking head off

Our elf Kutinaira shot some water bullets
Until a sneaky guard beheaded her
Oliveiro just stood there with impotent hands,
Without casting his wind magic
I want to plunge my sword through him,
And not because he’s gay

I recall that the alchemist pitched acid bombs
I still hear the princess casting spells
I can see the faces of her bodyguards
Frozen in fear
As I pounced on the bastards
And lopped off their heads

The princess hides in her castle,
Beyond a huge heap of dead guards
An army of adventurers,
Familiar faces and names,
Along with their unicorns
Bursts through the doors
She finds herself surrounded
Her smile drops
That horny idiot
She only wanted to rule
And fuck teens
But what do I know about love?
I left all my heart
With that peasant girl

Khoru is dying on the floor
Someone impaled him through the chest
For a moment I press the edge of my blade
Against my neck

Now a soldier is in charge
He can’t even cast spells
I demanded to be the king,
But they sold me into slavery

I recognize this one general
We saved one of his cousins
At least someone is grateful
My life as a slave is over
Now I’m gonna have to go
On other adventures

Our knight was initiated into some order
Didn’t say goodbye
Oliveiro killed himself,
So I got a new crew
I don’t want to learn your names
Until we have fought some monsters,
And gone into each other’s vaginas,
And sucked each other’s dicks
I’m sick of this dull ache
In my heart

I wanted to leave this all behind
Not forever, just until I could
Face the nightmares again
I needed to see my parents
They must miss the shit out of me
If I told them about this world,
They’d go nuts and scream
“Doesn’t that sound like a dangerous place?
Way more dangerous than Earth!”
I have no business in this world,
But it has unicorns,
And demon lords,
And perverted princesses,
And peasant girls
There are monsters still out there
To kill

‘A Visit From Truck-kun’ by Jon Ureña