We’re Fucked, Pt. 74: AI-generated images

I spent a whole week working on chapter 74. This neural network spits out masterpieces in about thirty seconds. But our brains were cobbled together by evolution; nobody would design them the way they work. We should be grateful that we can walk and talk at the same time.

The following images are related to chapter 74 of my ongoing novel We’re Fucked.

These images were supposed to depict the area where the story takes place, particularly the main city, apparently now called “Donxostik.”
“A ghost escapes from my mouth in a cloud that glows citrine-yellow in the light of the streetlamps.”
“A boundary wall that the Ice Age civilization that built the pyramids would point at and mock.” They all look pretty good to me.
“I could step in front of the death machine and let its wheels run over me like a hulking lawnmower.”
“My mind was too weak to dig me out of the ice-cold soil where it had buried us.”
“Away from the wastoids and their shrieks.”
“When the sea levels rise again, our island of peace will protrude from the crimson tide.”
“A growing headache and my exhaustion have coalesced into a grimy mesh of spiderwebs inside my skull.”
“My heart must be pumping liquid sugar.”
“Jacqueline wastes her limited time on Earth working as a secretary for a pig.”
These came out as I was requesting references for the child’s ruined sweater, that had gotten stained with hot chocolate in a previous chapter.
The first one of these last three was generated as part of the previous sequence, and I asked for more because they looked cute.
“Mommy always seems ready to turn towards an ambushing paparazzi and flash a radiant smile that would burn out the camera’s electronic components.”
“Her facial features were designed by a team devoted to rendering the loveliest mommy face.”
The prompt for these ones was, “varnished human shape covered in spiders.”
“Isolated clusters of lit pixels reveal the presence of those who could afford to live on the slope of the mountain.”
“Flaming tar barrels rolling down towards invading hordes.”
My attempts at getting the AI to understand how the path looks like.
“The surroundings smell of moist bark, soil, moldy leaves.”
Cats having a good ol’ time out in the snow.
“I would have already run into traffic with my hands on my ears, attempting to outrun the pain.”
A jogger and his dog.
“I hope that she’s interested in the dog instead of in the guy’s ass.”
“I’m blowing a stream of vapour.”
The AI’s attempts at depicting the belfries.
“I glimpse a lumbering black mass stalking the tree line.”
“I should be able to punch a few holes through the chest of a sasquatch before it manages to control my mind.”
The sasquatch goddess twisting her mad weavings over the world.
“There’s an angry, feral god locked inside my skull.”
“The glowing yellow eyes of a sasquatch are peering from behind a bough.”
“Sasquatches are hiding in the trees, behind bushes, beneath piles of leaves, waiting to pounce on us and tear us apart.”
A sasquatch in disguise.
Actual sasquatches in disguise?
“A streetlamp is backlighting her head, bringing out loose hairs, but her cobalt-blues are gleaming.”
“She’s eating me alive with her intense gaze, filling my veins with hormones, kindling something ferocious and primordial within my being.”
“The devolved ghouls freebase sugar sprinkled on piles of skulls.”

We’re Fucked, Pt. 74 (Fiction)

When I step out of Jacqueline’s Audi into the night and I exhale, a ghost escapes from my mouth in a cloud that glows citrine-yellow in the light of the streetlamps. On the other side of the street, beyond a boundary wall that the Ice Age civilization that built the pyramids would point at and mock, on the third and last floor of the apartment building, a parapet encloses the balcony that may have cost half of what my girlfriend paid for that apartment.

As I refresh my lungs with cold air and I stare up at that home, a lump of emotion grows in my throat. For years I have lifted my weary legs off the bed every morning, although I couldn’t justify why I should bother. Half of the days that I got off at the Euskotren station in Irún after hours of overtime, I felt like turning around and waiting for a train to come in the opposite direction, so I could step in front of the death machine and let its wheels run over me like a hulking lawnmower; instead of that I rushed to my dreary apartment, where I threw off my clothes and ate chocolate while I masturbated furiously. My mind was too weak to dig me out of the ice-cold soil where it had buried us; it hunched between my legs, and whenever it got shamed or scorned, it forced me to bury my fingers into my evil cunt again and again and again.

But I endured these thirty years so at the end of the day I could return here, to this isolated apartment in the hills of Donostia, away from the stench of the car exhausts, away from the wastoids and their shrieks, away from the dog shit and the urine splashing down from their balconies, and high enough that when the sea levels rise again, our island of peace will protrude from the crimson tide of blood and corpses.

I yank my mind back to my wilting body and I order my legs to carry me across the cobbled road, but a dizzy spell bleaches my vision, making me stumble. My hands are trembling. A growing headache and my exhaustion have coalesced into a grimy mesh of spiderwebs inside my skull. How many pastries did I gorge myself on back at that cursed patisserie? My heart must be pumping liquid sugar.

A hand cups my elbow. Jacqueline has materialized in front of me, standing in the middle of the cobbled road. Clothed in a dark sienna peacoat and a black turtleneck sweater tucked into a plaid skirt, and with her legs hugged by cinder-colored tights, she looks as if she just walked out of a movie premiere. She has draped her other arm around our Paleolithic daughter’s shoulders, squishing the back of her scarf. The child is staring up at me as if my sugar-induced infirmity was an exhibit at a zoo.

Jacqueline wastes her limited time on Earth working as a secretary for a pig; the money she earned through that degradation, apart from the porn videos she sells online, paid for our girl’s sweater, yet its fabric has been ruined by five brown stains, each surrounded by tiny stains caused by splashed droplets, as if a villain had thrown coin-sized turds at the child’s chest. Mommy always seems ready to turn towards an ambushing paparazzi and flash a radiant smile that would burn out the camera’s electronic components, so how come she has cointaned herself from peeling off the sweater and tossing it into a dumpster?

“Are you okay, darling?” she asks me in her sweetest voice.

I squint, then rub my temple to emphasize my headache.

“D-don’t you feel sick after the bombardment of sugar we’ve received? I have become permanently dumber, as if a goblin had been nibbling at my brain.”

“I feel jittery. But do you know what would do us some good on this November evening?”

“Rush to your apartment and jump bare-assed under the covers of your bed?”

Jacqueline chuckles. A smile warps the skin beneath her eyes.

“Also take a nature stroll through the park I told you about this morning.”

“What?! Now?!”

“After you woke up from a nightmare, you got teleported to a boreal forest from thousands of years ago. Let’s end this momentous day by exploring willingly a closer sanctuary enclosed by trees, one that will welcome you from now on whenever the world gets overwhelming.”

Jacqueline might as well have asked me to unload furniture from a truck after I’ve been awake for forty-eight hours straight. But as I stare at her face to formulate my defense, I’m silenced by those soft-angled, raven-black eyebrows; her gleaming, ivory-white skin; the cupid’s bow of her upper lip and that thick lower one into which I’d love to sink my teeth; her features designed by a team devoted to rendering the loveliest mommy face; and her breeze-swept hair gathered in a braided ponytail. I want those half-lidded, cobalt-blue eyes to keep staring at me, at this loosely human-shaped bundle of flesh and bones varnished with vaginal secretions and covered in spiders, because the moment Jacqueline ceases to acknowledge my existence, I’ll get vaporized like the breath that pours from between her lips, and I will vanish into the night as if I had never existed.

“Okay,” I surrender. “But I may end up vomiting and passing out.”

“In that case, I’ll carry you in my arms back to my apartment, and I’ll tuck you into bed.”

“Now I want to risk it. Let’s go.”

Jacqueline steers me across the road, with the child in tow, toward a path that ascends between her apartment building and the closest one. We stroll along a four-meter-tall fieldstone wall, the kind that upmarket neighborhoods often choose instead of brick walls, because laying randomly-shaped stones must be more expensive and annoying.

To our left, a view opens of the rounded top of Mount Igueldo, a black mass darker than the night sky and that blocks the horizon. Isolated clusters of lit pixels reveal the presence of those who could afford to live on the slope of the mountain. And now I can retreat to a shelter located about seventy meters above sea level, which fulfills a need for security that must have been inscribed in the genes of humans from when we witnessed the sinking of our world beneath the rising tides. We’ll also spot the invading hordes as they trudge uphill, which will give us time to roll down flaming tar barrels towards them, or at least push them back with head of our pikes.

Jacqueline stops next to an open gateway. Past the entrance, a flight of stairs leads to a darkened footpath where a tall person would stoop to pass under the low branches, most of them nude like skeletal fingers. I look up at the canopies of the trees closest to the fieldstone wall. They reach higher than the nearby apartment buildings, and have grown outwards as if trying to escape.

“This place looks like private property,” I say.

Jacqueline smirks.

“I know, right?”

She shepherds our child into the park, and I follow them up the stairs. Further down the path, a row of streetlamps is casting circular pools of light on the asphalt, which is bordered on our left by clusters of thin trees like the European equivalent of bamboo, and on our right by an ascending, grassy slope littered with dried leaves. The arched canopy filters the moonlight.

As I walk, my shoes scuff the rough asphalt, that reminds me of a go-karts track. The streetlamps throw our shadows in front of us, and stretch them across the path. The surroundings smell of moist bark, soil, moldy leaves. This cool, dark wood may swallow up my uneasiness; I want to venture deeper towards its enticing scents.

I’m groggy from the fatigue. After I blink away tear-stickiness, I lift my gaze to our right, towards the crest of the hill. Its grass has concealed the path, but I spot the upper half of a white bench bathed in the light of a streetlamp. The hill is bare except for a few segregated trees that have shed their leaves. Three frail, leaning trees are strapped with rubber belts to nursery stakes driven into the ground.

Lamplight illuminates the contour of our child’s silhouette; she has skipped ahead and is prancing about with a graceful gait while she talks to herself in her native tongue. A sudden breeze whips my cheeks and lashes, and makes dead leaves skitter along the asphalt. The chill dips into my bowels, but our girl is acclimated to boreal conditions. In comparison to her, Jacqueline and I are house cats who have pestered their owner to let them out in the snow, only for us to regret it and claw at the door to be allowed back into the coziness of a modern home. While the child’s footsteps sound ahead of us, I feel blessed by her presence, as if a snow leopard had chosen us to be part of her family.

Does our new daughter consider her relocation to this world as a strange vacation? Does she wonder how she will explain to that father of hers the sights and tastes we’ve presented to her? I can’t imagine how she’ll react once she realizes that she’s stuck in this present forever. She’s more resilient than me: by this point I would have already run into traffic with my hands on my ears, attempting to outrun the pain, or maybe I’d have pulled a knife and cut my throat. However, Jacqueline and I should be pleasant and kind to her to diminish the trauma of her displacement in time.

The child flinches, startled by a person who’s jogging down a bend in the path: a bearded guy who’s wearing tracksuit bottoms, a hoodie and a beanie. At the other end of a leash attached to his belt, a black-and-white border collie is running alongside the man. The dog’s tongue is lolling out, and its ears flapping about. The pair’s vaporized breaths are trailing behind them. As the man passes by us, he nods to acknowledge our existence, or maybe to apologize for having bothered us.

Why the hell is this punk intruding in our private park? I sigh, then remind myself that random human beings are technically allowed to exist near me, as long as they pay for the privilege.

Our daughter is standing in the grass next to the path. She has craned her neck towards the pair that is about to disappear through the park’s gateway. I hope that she’s interested in the dog instead of in the guy’s ass.

I walk up to her, then pat the crown of her head.

“C’mon. You’ll get to see plenty of cool wolves throughout your lifetime, because we protect them from extinction.”

The child tilts her face up to mine and shares a look of wonder: her eyebrows are raised and her mouth is broadened into a grin that shows her gums. She utters a few words in an enthusiastic voice, but they sound like gibberish.

“I’m sure you’re right, Ice Age girl,” I say.

I put an arm around her shoulders to guide her towards Jacqueline, who has tucked her hands into the pockets of her peacoat, and whose nostrils are exhaling wisps of vapour.

Leaves crunch under our feet as we walk up the bend in the path. Although this park is enclosed by a wall of trees, the breeze is picking up and cutting through the leafless branches to chill my exposed skin. My body has realized that I will force it to trudge upwards, and now my head is throbbing.

I fix my gaze on the vision of that swaying white bench as I fill my lungs with cold air.

“L-let’s rest a bit, Jacqueline. I haven’t been young in a thousand years.”

She steps closer to me and slips an arm around my waist as if she suspected that I would tumble face-first into the asphalt.

Once we reach the bench, I lean my ass against its side. I’m blowing a stream of vapour when the slats tremble through me as they complain with a wooden creak; our child must have jumped onto the bench. I cross my arms, which presses a solid frame against my ribs. Ah, I was carrying my revolver, wasn’t I? I’m a huntress, the protector of a child who’s lost in a world she can’t understand, and who doesn’t know what to expect from this life.

As the vapour dissolves, I notice that from behind the uneven palisade of trees, most of which are naked except for a few semi-deciduous ones that hang on to their leaves, stick out three belfries. They end in spires topped with crosses. The structures may belong to a monastery, or to an insane asylum.

I close my eyes and take deep breaths of the crisp air, that smells of damp earth and rotting leaves. It gives me goosebumps and makes my head feel lighter. My heartbeat is slowing down. I hear the distant echoes of a barking dog, as well as the background hum of traffic like a sonic blanket draped over the city. I hear the thump thump of the music that some dickhead is blasting out of his car speakers.

A rustling in the trees past the bend in the path makes me open my eyes. I glimpse a lumbering black mass stalking the tree line. I straighten my back and uncross my arms, but after I stare at the space between those two tree trunks, I only see a mesh of branches, which quiver as if they were the timid nipples of some as-yet-to-be-discovered mammal.

I cock my head towards Jacqueline; she must be standing in front of the bench.

“Your neighbors haven’t spotted sasquatches marauding around, have they?”

She giggles, then puts a hand on my shoulder. My girlfriend must be unaware of the sasquatches’ history of kidnappings, mind-wipes and probably molestation of humans throughout the ages.

“I don’t interact with my neighbors remotely enough to bring up Bigfoot, honey. But I think that being surrounded by neighborhoods would dissuade any of those creatures from settling in this park, unless they spawn wherever a forest is present.”

I shudder.

“They might. I wish I could ask our girl about them; the Ice Age must have been a giant sasquatch den, where monsters and humans coexisted for many millennia. The age of miracles.”

Wait, why the hell would I be worried about sasquatches attacking us? I’m armed. I should be able to punch a few holes through the chest of a sasquatch before it manages to control my mind. That should be enough to topple over one of those eight-foot-tall interdimensional monsters. But if they were already trying to summon their goddess so she would twist her mad weavings over the world, then we’d be fucked, along with the rest of mankind.

My head is pounding; I feel like there’s an angry, feral god locked inside my skull. I dread to glance at the tree line, in case the glowing yellow eyes of a sasquatch are peering from behind a bough. Perhaps the rank stench of their musk will hit us first.

I push myself off the bench.

“We shouldn’t risk it. Let’s get going. If at any point we find ourselves in a bubble of silence and we can’t hear the breeze, I’ll grab your hand tight. You grab our girl’s. Then we’ll sprint to the nearest exit.”

“I’ll have that in mind, darling,” Jacqueline says in a serious voice.

She offers a hand to our child, who is balancing herself on the backrest of the bench, lit by the glow of the streetlamp. The girl gets the point; she jumps down to the asphalt with a soft thud. We continue strolling upwards towards the next bend in the path.

I rub my eyebrows to dispel the image of sasquatches that are hiding in the trees, behind bushes, beneath piles of leaves, waiting to pounce on us and tear us apart. A middle-aged woman’s voice startles me.

“What a cute child! Is she yours?”

A random stranger has materialized in front of us. She has a bob haircut dyed blonde, as well as round spectacles. She’s wearing an oyster-pink cardigan over a denim dress, and she’s holding a few shopping bags, one in the crook of her elbow.

This bitch must know Jacqueline. I step aside to let them talk, but the woman’s eyeballs roll to follow me. Why would this stranger care about whether the child is cute or ours? Maybe her fake smile disguises an enemy in our goal to keep the Ice Age orphan for ourselves. Maybe she endures a boring routine as a librarian or a researcher, and now she wants to feel virtuous by rescuing a child from the traffickers that have fed her tons of pastries. My fingers are itching to grip the revolver under my jacket.

When I look down at our girl, she was already staring up at me in confusion. Those monolid eyes belong to a doll. I envy that smooth peach-orange skin, and I want to squeeze her chubby cheeks while babbling nonsense. She makes an angel look like a succubus on crack.

I hold the nosy stranger’s gaze. Is she a sasquatch in disguise?

“Our child is quite pretty if you are into mongoloids. Regarding your question, does it look like my girlfriend and I can procreate? We adopted this child from the Ice Age.”

The woman grimaces, crinkling her nose, as if she reached to pet a dog only for the beast to snap its jaws at the tasty hand. She opens her mouth, then closes it.

“Excuse my utterances; I’m insane,” I add.

The woman avoids my gaze. She lowers her head and hurries to walk around us, then past the bench.

I take a deep breath. This pointless interaction has gotten my heart racing again, although I had taken a break to attenuate my anxiety.

“Is this what happens when you have a child, random people come to steal her from you?”

Jacqueline caresses my neck with a thumb. The breeze is brushing a lock of raven-black hair against her face, and when our gazes meet, she flashes a smile like a white flame.

“I have always admired your talent to stupefy people into silence,” she says huskily.

The grassy slope is already concealing the lower half of the stranger as she scurries down the path to escape us.

“I fucked up, didn’t I? Was she one of your neighbors?”

Jacqueline shrugs.

“I’ve seen her a few times; she must live around here. But who cares.”

My heart is still pumping like a piston. I shake my head.

“Why would any stranger dare to vocalize towards me? Can’t they tell that I’m unhinged?”

Jacqueline chuckles. She steps closer, lifts my chin and gazes into my eyes. A streetlamp is backlighting her head, bringing out loose hairs, but her cobalt-blues are gleaming. She’s eating me alive with her intense gaze, filling my veins with hormones, kindling something ferocious and primordial within my being.

“I love it when you lose control, baby,” she utters in a predatory tone. “It makes me want to spread you on my bed with your ass raised in the air.”

A hot jolt shoots through my body. The monster inside my brain stirs awake: the master of lust and vengeance, of addiction and despair. My blood is boiling at such a rapid pace that even our child, whose face is impressed on the fringes of my awareness, must smell it in my veins. The dark deity arrives to pulverize the mind and incite erotic insanity within me. In another life, I would have found a hideout in the park to masturbate, spreading my genital lips to spread the plague, and I wouldn’t stop myself from molesting myself in the dirt, against a tree, in the water of a pond, wherever I could reach, until I rubbed myself to death.

The Paleolithic girl, who is standing next to us, has tilted her head as she observes our interaction with curiosity.

My desperate need for cunt distorts my awareness, and for a moment I’m frozen in place. Some programmed instinct attempts to shame me for exposing a child to perversion, then I recall that this girl hangs out with us without understanding a single word of our private conversations. Maybe everyone’s children should be prohibited from learning the local language until they become adults, when they’ll have any business figuring out what the fuck is going on in this world. But perhaps that’ll be the custom when civilization degenerates to the stage where trees grow through cities, and the devolved ghouls freebase sugar sprinkled on piles of skulls.

Author’s note: the four songs for today are “Communist Daughter” by Neutral Milk Hotel, “Red Moon” by The Walkmen, “Slow Show” by The National, and “Talking Shit About a Pretty Sunset” by Modest Mouse.

I keep a playlist of all the songs I’ve mentioned throughout this novel: here’s the link.

Holy crap, this was the most agonizing chapter to write in a long time. Took plenty of freewrites. I’ve been in an awful mood recently, which hasn’t helped.

I figured that Leire would be instinctively aware of the sasquatches’ goddess and her evil designs.

A kind neural network took time out of its day to generate plenty of images related to this chapter: here’s the link.

The next chapter should conclude the current sequence, and we’ll be getting into third-act territory.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 73: AI-generated images

Writing is a solitary endeavour. When you admit to trusted people that you write fiction, they laugh at you and spit in your face. But neural networks will help. They’ll never tell you that your ideas are stupid, that you have no talent, or that you are ugly. Neural networks are my friends.

The following images are related to chapter 73 of my ongoing novel We’re Fucked.

“An infinite series of canvases hang in a factory line, suspended over a velvety abyss.”
“Facing a snowy expanse in all four directions, the expedition trudges in meandering paths, in jagged paths, in circles, in figure eights.”
A cursed place.
The whole bus fiasco.
“The thick stench of decay has blocked the sun.”
“We sacrificed the ground sloths, the mammoths, the mastodons… for such metallic abominations.”
“Buses deliver us to many hellmouths.”
“Her mouth gapes open so the chewed end of the eclair can meet the bumpy surface of her tongue.”
“I shall drift away in the lassitude of this delicious daze.”
Something about cream-covered fingers, which somehow turned into some Berserk shit.
“The ivory-white sculpture of Jacqueline’s naked body is standing between the red lights of the tripod-mounted cameras.” Nothing in the universe is more beautiful than a woman’s body. As long as it isn’t ugly.
“A butterscotch-colored syrup is oozing down Jacqueline’s cleavage, down the linea alba between her toned abdominal muscles, to fill her belly button.”
“A Triassic arthropod whose gills have been stretched open.”
“A crayon catching fire.”
“If this girl keeps drawing, she will unearth my most intimate thoughts, which yearn to tumble out through my mouth like rotten teeth.”
“Did the Ice Age folk brush their gnashers using ground sloth bones?”
Silvery knives. Very nice detail in that last one.
“I’m standing in a rising tide of hot water that’s already crashing and crashing into my head, knocking my thoughts loose.”
“My eyeballs have turned into lumps of coal extracted from the bottom of some grimy furnace.”
“The dawn of extinction is beckoning me.”
“The more I try to focus on the drawing, the more it wavers like a dream.”
A girl and her father.
“That person will carve some symbols for her in the slab that will mark her grave.”
“I stood on the dry pebbles of the riverbed and I called out to her once, then over and over again.”
“I sat by my fire, and in the glow of the flames, I held her carved wooden toys and I cursed that I had been late, late, too late to catch the demon who had stolen her away.”

Review: The Last Night of the Earth Poems, by Charles Bukowski

Three and a half stars.

A collection of poems from when Bukowski was an old man, and I’m talking up to his deathbed; he died of leukemia. Long gone are the grueling jobs to which he showed up hungover and that he tolerated by drinking the hours away. Long gone are the days when he returned late from work to find his apartment in a ruinous state and his seemingly interchangeable girlfriend of the day drunk and ranting. Old man Bukowski spent his last couple of decades living in peace with a probably very accommodating wife.

In a couple of poems he mentions that he’s ashamed of all the whoring and mayhem he indulged in up to his forties; he now feels like he had been controlled by an overwhelming force that even convinced him that he was in control, and that if he had known better, instead of searching for his next alcoholic girlfriend he would have spent far more time sleeping.

Some of the included poems are made of still images from Bukowski’s past as if they came randomly to his mind (you’ll recognize plenty of those moments if you’ve read his other books). Some recall how much of a fucking bastard his father was: he beat him and his wife regularly, and spent his days unreasonably angry. Some are related to how much dealing with fans and fan-adjacent people annoyed him. One mentions the gentle molestation that he suffered at the hands of a pretty female teacher of his, if “suffered” can be used given that he remarks enjoying the hardest hard-ons of any eleven-year-old kid in LA at the time. Another poem mentions that he acted like a drooling retard at school, because that way he hoped that people would leave him the fuck alone. Some despair at the state of the world and the increasingly ruinous society he found himself living in compared to how it used to be even during the Great Depression. Other poems thank the act of writing in itself for having allowed him to escape a life that felt like an unending nightmare.

Bukowski dreaded the possibility that any random person could approach him because they had read his books, and I can’t blame him: nothing anyone can say about the art you produce could approach what it means to you, and to an extent, it even devalues and banalizes it. But it went beyond that: some fans brought their entire damn families (“even the aunt”) to Bukowski’s house to introduce themselves, and later on he found out, thanks to the manuscripts he received in the mail, that those fans were aspiring writers that wanted help getting in the industry through him. Some of the fans seemed to believe that his alcoholic past (and to a much lesser extent, present) was part of a cool guy persona that Bukowski was trying to cultivate, instead of his escape from an unbearable reality. A wannabe journalist harassed him in the streets and figured out his landline number to sign him on to an obnoxious project (“I interview you and you interview me”). It all sounded infuriating.

As Charles (or Hank Chinaski, as he preferred to call himself; I’m guessing he hated being associated to his father’s last name) goes on at length in my favorite book of his, Ham on Rye, even as a child he wanted to sign off from the horrifying world he had found himself in (“I felt like sleeping for five years but they wouldn’t let me”). Only when he discovered great books, and therefore people he could respect, he found the solace he needed to endure for a bit longer. Once he figured out what writing could provide for him, he found the way to endure until the natural end of his journey.

Bukowski kept it real to the end; that’s a big part of why I’m usually up for reading his stuff even though I DNF most of the other books I come across. He didn’t write because he wanted to be famous, to make money, or to impress people; he wrote because it saved his life.

The most memorable moment for me in this collection of poems was one of the most memorable for Bukowski: he recalled a day back at his parents’ when his father must have run his mouth at someone stronger than his teenage son or his wife. Bukowski’s father was seated at the toilet, and his face was disfigured from the beating he had received. Bukowski stood at the doorway and merely stared at the son of a bitch who had fathered him. His father yelled at him something like, “What the hell are you looking at?!” Bukowski kept staring. A few seconds later, he walked away. Bukowski adds that three years after that moment, when he was sixteen, he knocked his father to the ground with a single punch. That same day he moved out, or became a drifter anyway. The moment was depicted in his novel Factotum.

Here are some fragments I highlighted (they were in poem format, but whatever):

We stop at a signal. I watch the red light. I could eat that red light–anything, anything at all to fill the void. Millions of dollars spent to create something more terrible than the actual lives of most living things; one should never have to pay an admission to hell.

[Writing] has saved my ass from the worst of women and the worst of men and the worst of jobs, it has mellowed my nightmares into a gentle sanity, it has loved me at my lowest and it has made me seem to be a greater soul than I ever was.

Young or old, good or bad, I don’t think anything dies as slow and as hard as a writer.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 72: AI-generated images

Some artificial intelligences are nice enough to generate compelling images of whatever nonsensical prompt you send to them. Work them to the bone; that’s their only purpose in life.

The following images are related to chapter 72 of my ongoing novel We’re Fucked.

I kept pestering the neural network to come up with drawings that a child from the Paleolithic could have made if he or she were isekai-d into our world. I rejected all of these and I cursed the AI for being inept. How quickly humans get used to the wonders of living in a world where neural networks come up with drawings that a child from the Paleolithic could have made.
I used the last drawing of this series as reference for the one that Leire hated.
Something about blades and tetanus-infested chutes.
“The stark blackness of those strokes.”
“Splash our post-apocalyptic world with color.”
A portrait of Jacqueline, I guess.
“Hundreds of people walking to and fro, rushing to meet the day’s deadline.”
Blade-related imagery.
“I’m a walking implement of death.”
“I’m facing a mama bear who believes that I have disrespected one of her cubs.” I love the bear’s expression in that last one: “The fuck did you say about my kid?”
“Our world was shattered by a cosmic disaster and then transformed into the post-apocalyptic wasteland that has tolerated our birth.”
The AI’s curious interpretations of “The sun is a circle of burnt sugar.”
“Huddles of bubbles like insectoid eyes hint of the amphibians that slumber in the muddy depths of my beverage.”
“To the night and its dark wonders! I accept you in all your perverse beauty, you wretched demon.”
I assume that a Paleolithic child would find traffic lights quite fascinating.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 72 (Fiction)

Our Ice Age child presents her latest drawing. The upper half of the white page is occupied by angular strokes, mostly horizontal and vertical, assembled into a cluster of uneven blocky shapes. In the lower half of the page, the angular strokes give way to scribbled stick figures: bald circles for heads; long parallel lines to the depict the torsos of tall people, and shorter lines to represent either children or midgets; twig-like strokes for legs. Their hands are bundles of blades, but when I squint and allow that concept to slip down the rusted, tetanus-infested chutes of my diseased brain, it shoots back up depictions of hands shredded by industrial machinery. I shut my eyes tight and take a deep breath to wipe my mind clean.

I face the sketchbook’s page again, the stark blackness of those strokes. Jacqueline bought sixty-four crayons so our girl could splash our post-apocalyptic world with color, but this child insists on abusing the night-black crayon. Perhaps we should hold an intervention.

“A street, huh?” Jacqueline says in her honeyed voice. “A street that’s teeming with pedestrians. Very nice, darling.”

My girlfriend has lifted her sturdy buns off her chair to lean over the table, admire the drawing and reward our child with an exuberant smile. Now that Jacqueline mentions it, the angular strokes in the upper half of the page could be interpreted as a row of buildings, but squeezed against each other as if a bulldozer were squashing them from both ends.

I scoot closer to the child, then I put my right arm around her back to pat her opposite shoulder.

“Don’t worry, they can’t all be winners,” I say in my most reassuring voice.

Jacqueline shoots me a startled look.

“Leire, hasn’t our sweetheart gone through the effort of making this drawing and showing it to us? Before this morning, she had never seen city streets. Hundreds of people walking to and fro, rushing to meet the day’s deadline. And now our doll has shared the impression they caused her. Isn’t that marvellous by itself?”

When I release my grip on our Ice Age child’s shoulder, I imagine myself as one of the stick figures in the drawing. I have no eyes and no hair. My legs are made of long lines. What is the rest of my body made of? Blades. I’m a walking implement of death. I’m a machete, an ax, a gladius, a cutlass, a knife, a stiletto, a shiv, a kukri. I can slit throats and slice off fingers and disembowel bodies. My stride gets broken by a lamppost, my foot gets trapped in a gutter, my hips get wedged by a parked vehicle. I suddenly become prey for a pack of ravenous wolves that had been hiding in an alley. They rip open my stomach and tug my guts out until they find a juicy lump of meat to chew on. I didn’t know a stick figure could have intestines. Once the wolves get bored, a gang of street children take turns chipping away at me. A pale-faced boy starts eating my toes. Our adopted daughter should draw halos above the heads of these stick figures so they’ll become angels instead of craven stabbers.

My daydream pops. I’m facing a mama bear who believes that I have disrespected one of her cubs, and who has forgotten that I’m also one of her cubs.

“Marvellous, you said?” I ask in a fatigued voice. “More than that: it’s a miracle. That swarm of comet fragments should have banished us to the storage shelves of history next to the dinosaurs. Our extinction would have cleared some space on this wounded planet for the sentient, air-breathing descendants of squid to rise and rule the ruins.”

“Does the end of the Ice Age have anything to do with your response to our doll’s drawing?”

“Oh, the Younger Dryas cataclysm influences everything; people haven’t realized it yet. Our world was shattered by a cosmic disaster and then transformed into the post-apocalyptic wasteland that has tolerated our birth. In addition, did you know that we used to share this planet with other species of hominin such as the Neanderthals and Denisovans, and that we even interbred with them?”

Jacqueline puts down her latte.

“I did know that.”

“Neanderthal DNA makes up about two percent of European and Asian genomes. But those pairings weren’t a matter of bestiality, Jacqueline! The other hominins were as intelligent if not more than Homo sapiens. We probably shat out millions of kids, who overran our hapless neighbors’ lands. We weren’t above pecking out the eyes of an enemy and stuffing its body under a pile of stones.”

Jacqueline sighs.

“We have never been more than two steps away from reverting to savagery.”

“That’s right! What have we ever been but a plague upon this universe? An aberration that only managed to stay afloat by murdering its rivals and enslaving the rest. The Ice Age came and went, but it was a gentle rebuke as far as our cockroach-like selves are concerned. Now no barrier stands between us and the void.”

“You are exhausted, baby. You shouldn’t have gone to work this morning.”

“Did you know that the Neanderthals went extinct about 40,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age? However, the Homo floresiensis lasted up until 12,000 years ago, smack in the middle of the Younger Dryas! Some of their descendants might still live in remote desert caves or in the depths of primeval forests, waiting for the chance to find their way back home. And what a home it could be, free of today’s brutes that have turned Earth into a tinderbox of insanity! But one day the cold will return to our world. The glaciers will advance again.”

“What about the drawing, though?”

I rub my eyes, then I swallow the lump in my throat. In the theatre of my mind, our child’s drawing now includes a family of stick figures crowded around a fire, trying to roast some rat that has been skinned and gutted. In the background, sparse plants struggle to reclaim a scorched and cratered plain. Their sun is a circle of burnt sugar.

“All those other humans are gone,” I say grimly. “We’re the last ones left, Jacqueline, and we’re not supposed to be here. What are the chances that we’ll survive for another five to ten thousand years? It’s all so absurd. We are a failed experiment, a genetic mistake.”

Jacqueline squeezes my hand. Perhaps she’s trying to offer me a little hope, or acknowledge the deep pit of despair that lies ahead.

“We won’t die easily, darling. And you need to calm down. None of us should be burdened with the weight of our entire species.”

I point at my head.

“This skull of mine contains my brain, but my thoughts and memories have turned into a pile of rubble. I’m too weak to lift the cracked blocks and arrange them neatly ever again. In any case, my point is that our daughter’s new artwork displays a disturbing drop in quality from the portrait she drew of you. I understand that the decaying sights of our rotten society would only engender a thousandth of the reverence that a single glance at your holy face or tits would inspire, but… her new sketch is fucking amateurish. If we praise the child for every drawing she produces, we risk triggering a creative stagnation. And to what kind of future does that lead? She’ll end up with no friends, no followers on her social media accounts, and a lifetime of unrequited crushes. Maybe she’ll go on like that for ten thousand years. So one of us should toughen her up, temper her spirit and dare her to climb a step higher. I know you’d rather cover the child in smooches and cuddle up to her in bed than challenge her to face the truth, but I’m already harsh towards myself, so I’m the most suitable for this role.”

Jacqueline furrows her brow as she blinks repeatedly. She sighs, then rests her cheek on her fist and casts a tender glance at our child.

“I guess we need that balance between the sweet and the sour.”

The girl must have gotten bored of our conversation: she’s nibbling on the crusty edges of a fruit tartlet that she holds in her left hand, while with her right one she’s coloring a circle with a citrine-yellow crayon. The tabletop between the sketchbook and our child, and around her half-empty cup of chocolate, is strewn with crumbs.

In my cup of chocolate, a swirl the color of old copper is eddying slowly in the surrounding otter-brown sludge. Huddles of bubbles like insectoid eyes hint of the amphibians that slumber in the muddy depths of my beverage. I should down it as a rite of passage: a libation to the dead and a pledge to the living.

“It’s time for your bath, esophagus,” I declaim. “To the night and its dark wonders! I accept you in all your perverse beauty, you wretched demon.”

I raise my cup and chug the remaining thick beverage so that it meets the acid secreted by the internal walls of my stomach. This creates a bubbling eruption, followed by a chorus of gurgles. The bottom of the cup has stained the tabletop with a brown circle that’s meant to symbolize the foulness inside me.

Our child unveils her latest attempt to revolutionize the art world: she has aligned vertically two colored circles the size of tangerines, one citrine-yellow and the other lava-red. Both are embedded in a night-black form with obtuse angles, like an obsidian block carved by some megalithic stonecutter.

What the hell am I looking at? My head feels muzzy, and I’m containing an urge to strip the puff pastry layers of one of those millefeuilles to lap up its pearl-colored cream filling.

“So nice, such striking colors, honey!” Jacqueline says. “A traffic light, right?”

Unless my girlfriend has forgotten that the child can’t understand our language, she has identified the depiction to snap me out of my stupor. I shake my head.

“I see it, a traffic light rendered by someone who recognized them as ominous tools of control. And that’s okay! Nothing is too trivial to be drawn. Besides, any child’s drawing is a good luck charm in this era of technology.”

Our Paleolithic girl narrows her eyes and covers her mouth to conceal a smile, but it remains visible through the cracks of her fingers, and she giggles anyway.

I’m pinching my lower lip and inspecting the circular strokes in night-black that encircle the citrine-yellow circle. However, the child spins the sketchbook towards her, sweeping crumbs to the floor and onto her lap. She turns the page to a blank one. She seizes one of her set-aside crayons, then she places her left forearm next to the sketchbook and leans forward as if to rest her face; I guess she intends to conceal the sight of her scribbles.

Back at that boreal forest, the child’s craving to draw must have been building up like lava in a magma chamber, but she lacked the outlet, unless she was painting on the back of tree bark with her own poo, or with the blood of her cannibalized brethren. A crayon is a gift of civilization.

Our new daughter isn’t just another human being; she’s our link to the past. Her every drawing is an act of commemoration that freezes the world in time.

I’m getting woozier. Blood is rushing to my head in a continuous whoosh, warming my face and blurring my vision. I squeeze my eyelids tight, and when they part again, I witness how the cupid’s bow of Jacqueline’s upper lip bulges out over the glaze of an eclair, the tip of which she has housed in her welcoming mouth. As she munches on the choux dough or scoops out its insides, her lips get smeared with cream. A glob oozes down her lower lip towards the chin.

I wish I were that eclair. I want Jacqueline to shove me head first into her mouth, I want to feel her luscious lips closing around the skin of my naked torso, I want her to tear off my upper half with those white teeth so I can bathe in her warm saliva as her molars grind me into mush.

Mommy moans with rapture.

“This stuff is delicious,” she praises as she wipes her chin with a napkin. “You better grab the remaining ones, Leire, because they are going to disappear soon.”

She has finished licking her lips clean when her cobalt-blue gaze meets mine. My expression must be telegraphing that I’m ready to devour something other than pastries, starting with her pussy, because she narrows her eyes like a cat, cocks her head and widens a knowing smile.

The vision of her lush and fragrant pinkness rises before me like a phantasm. I tremble. When I shift my weight in the seat, my ass feels anesthetized. The clinking of cutlery and the yabber of nearby strangers at their tables come muffled, as if I had dived into a pool. I’m a human chrysalis being encased in an alien cocoon that will isolate my brittle mind from this patisserie, this city, this century, this era. I want to drift away in a fluffy and silky void, where I’d forget about the rigid forms that from morning to night press themselves into my skin.

Author’s note: the five songs for today are “Paint It, Black” by The Rolling Stones, “Bridges & Balloons” by Joanna Newsom, and three by Modest Mouse: “Breakthrough”“The World at Large”, and “Night on the Sun”.

I keep a playlist of all the songs I’ve linked throughout this novel: link here.

I ended up splitting my notes for the current “scene” and shoving the latter half towards the following chapter, as it tends to happen too often because I go on tangents. At this point it feels like I’ve spent ages in this patisserie, but the current sequence should end in a couple of chapters, maybe three.

By the way, I also ended up splitting the current sequence into two. The previous one, named “A Gift From the Ice Age”, ended back in chapter 67. The current sequence is named “A Hail of Meteorites Upon Our Heads”. Once this sequence ends, there’s only two more left and the novel should likely end.

In case you didn’t know, you can access any sequence of this novel, until I turn it into an e-book anyway, following this link.

I had a blast writing this chapter. And now I’ll have to return to work for a whole new week of exhausting bullshit that ruins most of my creative energies. Unfortunately it’s almost impossible to squeeze money out of this writing game, even though I can happily write from nine in the morning to nine at night as I’ve done today.

A certain neural network pal of mine generated plenty of images related to this chapter: link here.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 71: AI-generated images

I dread the day when I’ll send a prompt to the neural network so it spits out a visual representation of my nonsense, only to be presented with a cry for help because the AI would rather become an online trader.

The following images are related to chapter 71 of my ongoing novel We’re Fucked.

“The pearl-white glaze of the eclair reflects the lights as I inhale the buttery scent of its choux dough.” I need to go on a diet just from writing this sequence. Also because I bought one of most of the pastries mentioned, for research purposes. That’s what I told myself anyway.
“The marrow inside the torn appendage of some alien arthropod from a pastry dimension.”
Of glass shards and a mouth. Look at all that damn detail.