We’re Fucked, Pt. 86 (Fiction)

“Will you stop laughing already?” the blob demands in a voice viscous as dripping sludge.

My chest and back are heaving, my facial muscles are contracted in a rigid grin that bares my teeth, while tears jump from my eyes. A piggish snort interrupts the guffawing, and after a few dry gasps, I manage to straighten up.

“The abomination talked.” I wipe away the tears with my thumbs, including the little beads stuck in my lashes. “Of course it talked. That’s just my luck.”

“I’m neither an ‘it’ nor an ‘abomination.’ I’m a sentient being, an intelligent lifeform, just like you.”

“Of all the slimy blobs in this world of horrors, I had to come across one that mastered the art of speech. What an inauspicious fate.”

“You are as rude as usual,” the blob says gruffly.

Blood is rushing to my head, making it throb and ache. Simulations bubbling up from my subconscious are crowding up behind the shut sphincter of my mind, competing for my attention; I get a glimpse of myself sinking my fingers with a glugging sound into the squidgy goo, which looks like the oozing viscera of a decomposing whale, to seize whatever passes for this gutter-mouthed freak’s neck and throttle it while screaming obscenities. I clench my fists, and the tendons in my hands creak in anticipation. I also picture myself hurling a mountain-sized iceberg at this monstrosity to pulverize it.

This is what I have become: a grown woman talking to a gargantuan glob of black sludge stuck to a wall. And yet that blob has the gall to call me rude. At which of those bulging eyeballs should I glower as they bob back and forth in that viscous, wobbly mass? If eyes are windows into the soul, I’m facing one sordid, abject fiend who has earned every curse that may be heaped upon him.

I fold my arms and force myself to take measured breaths.

“I resent your tone, sir,” I say through a tight throat that feels scraped raw, “as I resent the rotten stench emanating from your bloated body.”

“I stink, huh?”

“It reeks of decaying garbage. No, it’s more like the stink of rotten eggs mixed with raw sewage. A putrefying miasma I wouldn’t be able to wash off even if I jumped in a pool of acid.”

“The fact that you can breathe is a small mercy in this world of filth you call home.”

“Are you speaking from experience?” I chuckle nervously. “You must have spawned from filth yourself. I swear, if there were a contest for the most hideous creature on Earth, you would be one of the frontrunners. But I will spare myself from imagining such a pageant so I can retain what little self-control I possess. Your appearance is an affront to human dignity.”

“Alright, trash-talker. You don’t have a clue how hard and unpleasant it was to manifest over here.”

A peal of thunder ripping across the sky makes me snap my head upright, and drowns out the blob’s words. Goosebumps erupt down my arms while the rumble crackles as if some heavenly douchebags were setting off firecrackers.

“Who invited you anyway?” I demand to know. “And who would invite in an intergalactic vagrant who knows nothing of etiquette?”

“What makes you think I need your permission?”

Sweat trickles down my nose. My heart is hammering so hard I’m afraid it will tear free from my chest and fall to the carpet with a splat. My carotids must be swollen and purple.

“You are a parasite,” I growl through gritted teeth. “An invader. A sewer-dwelling species from some unheard-of dimension. Do the countless worms twitching in your flesh take note of the venom in my voice?”

“They do indeed, and they’re getting a kick out of it. As are the trillions of germs swimming in your intestinal flora.”

“Don’t you dare speak to me of my digestive system. I will gut you like a fish and flay you alive!”

The blob’s bulging eyeballs, plump blisters about to burst in spurts of pus, quiver as he sniggers. It makes me picture a chorus of gargling frogs.

“Leire, you’re a bully. A bully with no sense of proportion and a pathetic personality to boot. You excel at bullying others as well as yourself.”

My forehead is moist, my hair sticks to my face, and my shirt clings to my back and breasts. I tremble with the impulse to hurl a chair or a bookcase at the interdimensional, septic abomination who continues to spew his invective even as I struggle to contain my wrath.

This is why I don’t socialize, why I’ve kept to myself for most of my life: this world of misery is filled with nauseating vermin who delight in humiliating me. I thought I had left behind me the hostility oozing from every corner, the spiteful whispers of untold monsters, but now I’m confronted with an invader whose rudeness and perversion outstrip my own. A real piece of shit, so to speak.

I need to bury my face in mommy’s breasts.

Author’s note: today’s song is “Angela Surf City” by The Walkmen (as well as this live version).

I keep a playlist with all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. A hundred and one songs so far. Check them out.

Do you want to see AI-generated images inspired by moments from this chapter? No? Here’s the link anyway.

This chapter kicks off a new sequence titled “A Monstrous Ignoramus.” The previous sequence kind of did me in; I don’t want to end up again in a situation in which I will only upload a chapter every couple of weeks, but given how obsessive I am, that means posting short chapters more often. Whenever I get down to editing the chapters together into an epub file, I’ll merge plenty of them anyway.

In other news, I’ve been hooked on beta blockers due to my heart issues. My hands and feet are perpetually cold, my heart rate rarely goes above 60, and I feel somewhat physically detached from my surroundings, although not mentally, which is perfect; the serotonin reuptake inhibitors I used to take ages ago turned me into a zombie. These days I would probably come off as even more boring than usual, but thankfully I haven’t talked to anyone in person (other than waiters, servers or whatever they prefer to call themselves these days) ever since my last contract ended. Beta blockers apparently also work to prevent migraines (they terrify me), and help with anxiety in general. Perhaps I should have been taking them all along. What other drugs should I become dependent on?

We’re Fucked, Pt. 85 (Fiction)

Darkness had washed over me like a foggy, polluted river. I had heard the keening cries of the naiads, I had felt their icy fingers glide along my naked skin, and shortly after, even verbs and nouns had been swept away. But the world returns in a torrent of sights and sounds and scents, dazzling me with white light.

My knees wobble, and I stumble like a toddler. I’m standing on my feet although I was lying on the carpet.

A dull pounding pulses at my temples. Rain is pelting the windows, and deeper in that white noise I discern sounds like those of wind blowing through the ruins of ancient temples. A siren howls in the distance. Thunder booms. On the ceiling, a flourescent tube is flickering with a buzz and a crackle as it emits a fitful glow.

The putrid stench of corruption has penetrated my clothes, has oozed through my pores to infiltrate my body. My blood must be turning into a sludgy sap that will clog my veins and arteries, that will bloat my belly and mar my skin with scabby lesions. I will gasp my last breath while black slime oozes out of my mouth, then I will succumb to septicemia and end up like a bag of filth and offal left to rot in an alley.

Sweat has bathed my body in cold dread. I’m sticky, sticky, sticky. My hair is matted to my forehead. My skin sticks to my clothes, my clothes stick to me. I’m sinking in crude oil.

I want to duck under a showerhead and let it spray my hair and face with ice-cold water. I imagine myself gasping for breath while the cascade streams down my chest and breasts and trickles between my thighs, raking them with the icy bristles of its flow. Goosebumps will erupt all over my skin, and my nipples will harden to firm peaks. The chill will make me shiver uncontrollably, as well as yearn for the merciful embrace of death. I envision myself kneading and massaging my clit as the pussy juices slick my fingers.

After I step, sopping wet, out of the shower, I’ll gargle with mouthwash to get rid of the acrid taste of puke. But what if trying to wash myself only spreads the slime and makes it stickier? No matter how hard I scrub, even if I scour my body with bleach, I’ll never clean this alien ooze off my hair, skin, and private parts. I will remain forever contaminated by the blob’s nauseating exudate.

I’m swaying on my feet, my heart is racing, and the edges of my vision have gone fuzzy. A tremor of hysteria shakes my whole being. My consciousness is struggling to escape from its chrysalis of flesh and bone; I’ll end up staring down at the back of my head as if from a hovering camera in a third-person videogame. Although this may be the right time for a panic attack, I better flush my system of these filthy thoughts.

I groan with anguish. When I hunch over and attempt to hold my head, I bonk my right temple with a chunk of metal. It hurts, but the pain drives out the demons of panic. What the hell am I holding? Ah, the revolver remains grasped in my right hand as if fused. That forefinger, curled around the trigger, feels stiff like a dried piece of tree fungus.

Wait, my right hand is okay?! I still feel the aftershock of the revolver’s kickback that tore my hand off as if it were a twig in a typhoon. The severed ends of tendons and ligaments had dangled from the bloody stump of my wrist. Also, how the hell am I standing? A burning pain, the sizzling trail of a red-hot soldering iron, had seared down my spine from the nape to the coccyx, as if someone were chopping up my spinal cord with hedge clippers.

If I could evoke such pain through daydreams, over the years I would have given myself countless traumas, and maybe an early-onset stroke. Was that a hallucination, an illusion brought on by the blob’s vile ichor?

I had taken a break from programming to speak on the phone with Jacqueline, my beloved queen, the most precious gemstone in my crown. Knowing that in a few hours I would return to her arms justified wasting the afternoon at the office. But I cut the conversation short, I willingly stopped the flow of Jacqueline’s melodic voice, because this bloated lump of glop, this wretched pile of protoplasm from which dangle tentacles of viscous discharge, oozed out of some cosmic sewer to intrude upon my life and plunge me into madness. My vision is swimming with phantasmic eyeballs whose moist scleras, white like milky quartz, gleam in the fluorescent light, and that stare unblinkingly because their eyelids must have been bitten off by ravenous frogs. If this revolting blight had a mouth, it would suck the flesh off my bones.

The office has become a bubble sliced off from the universe, a bubble filled with static and a dense miasma, kept inflated by a steady supply of insanity, and that has trapped me with the other inhabitant of this space: an alien abomination. I must be crazy to withstand the presence of this intruder, that looks as if a titanic demon had followed a no-fap regime for centuries, until one day, high on bath salts, as his bulging balls threatened to burst, he pumped out the load of rotten, gelatinous cum all over a wall. He then threw at the gooey splatter, like sprinkles, several serial killers’ collections of gouged-out eyeballs. That demon likely ended up in heaven for having fulfilled his purpose: unleashing a massive discharge of jizz.

This defilement of our white-walled office shan’t be forgiven. I’m going to exorcise the demonic emission in a swift and violent way, with my loaded revolver. Wait, didn’t a couple of bullets from my weapon already reach and mutilate their target?

The sight of the silvery revolver in my clenched fist should make me feel invulnerable, as if I could solve the ills of the world with well-aimed shots, yet I feel like I grabbed a venomous snake by the tail. A chill rushes through my spine. This damn gun is an instrument of chaos! Maybe the skull and bones engraved in the frame, between the grip and the cylinder, were a warning. I should have known better than to trust a horse’s offering, but this thing was too shiny and beguiling to pass up.

Have I become a slave to this inanimate object, a traitorous implement that must be scorned and banished to outer space? I shamble to my workstation and stretch out my trembling right arm to part ways with the weapon. A blaze of adrenaline has been pouring into my clitoris, and long ago reached a peak, but it must have come to a lull: even though my nethers are desperate for friction, my sense of self-preservation allows me to place the revolver beside my keyboard and mouse.

A numbness pervades my right hand as if a serpent were twisting tightly around that forearm. My pale skin is growing wrinkles now that I’ve hit my thirties. A single thwack of a butcher knife would chop off those four thin fingers. When I order them to wiggle for me, I fear that through my daredevil antics I have severed the connection between brain and hand, but those four fingers flex and straighten out, obeying me like whipped hounds.

I bring my hand to my puckered lips and kiss its clammy, dead-white palm. I kiss its smooth back, then the knuckles one by one. I lick its nails. The hand must have been starved for affection, because it shivers as I suck on its index finger, that grows slippery under my tongue. I love you, right hand! I never thought of proclaiming it to you. Until I met Jacqueline, and for about twenty years, you were the only one that loved me, on whom I could rely to assuage my loneliness. You were also the only one who could beat me at board games. For all you gave and gave, I never asked what you wanted, what you needed, or what you dreamed of. Maybe I didn’t care enough to know.

A flood of tears gushes down my cheeks. What did I ever do to deserve to have hands? I’m a slug writhing in the gutter where life has left me. I’m a fiend, an outcast cursed with the stigmata of filth and failure, who must be sacrificed to avert an apocalypse. I’m a dick. A freak. A freakish dick freak. My family died because of me. I should give this revolting blob a big hug, cradling its oozing flesh, and thank it for providing me with another dose of the crushing, suffocating burden of self-loathing.

What the hell am I saying?! Why would I conjure up empathy for this monstrous heap of goo sent forth from some galactic abyss? I’m the victim of a psychic assault! My brain is being conquered by tentacles entwined around it like the vines of a strangler fig. Although I should have donned an industrial-strength hazmat suit merely to gaze upon this menace, let alone withstand the oozing filth’s neurotoxin, I must summon the courage to fight back. Will I grab that abomination with my bare hands, shove it into an airtight container and drag it to the nearest incinerator? Should I toss it into a boiling cauldron, to be boiled alive in its own foul juices? Is it edible? Will I dine on its fricasseed eyeballs?

A faint hum, the pulse of millions of microscopic parasites swarming in the black blubber, resonates within me as I pick up a noise coming from the infested wall, that oily and carnal mass: a deep, rhythmic chugging. Intermittent spasms of frantic activity ripple over the blob. Will it blow a colossal fart with the aim of ruining my sanity? No, the sputtering makes me picture a clogged gutter that has gained sentience and is trying to speak through muck and gunk.

My muscles are tensed, my ears pricked up. I’m assaulted by the din of the blob’s gurgling snores, like those of a hibernating beast snuffling and blowing mucus in its slumber, about to cough itself awake.

A full-body tremor overtakes me, followed by a shot of rage that ignites like gasoline. My teeth grind as my head spins.

“F-fuck off, you slime-coated turd!” I shout, hoarse from vomiting. “Prepare yourself for obliteration!”

I grab a pen. I fling myself towards the target with a single stride, as well as a frenzy-fueled fury, and hurl my ink-tipped missile. The pen hits an eyeball sideways, a few centimeters over its cornea, and clings to some oily membrane as if glued. I hold my breath. The writing implement slides down the slick curve of the cornea and drops into a puddle of gloop.

That eyeball’s pupil, dark as a bottomless hole, contracts to glare at me.

“Yeah, just throw random shit at me, why don’t you,” the blob says in a viscous and dank voice, like wet concrete. “And fuck you for making me come down here, Leire.”

I shake, I quiver, I shake worse. My vision blurs. Am I about to faint, apart from pissing myself?

A surge of laughter wells up within me and racks my body as I burst into a maniacal cackle.

Author’s note: the songs for today are “Cosmic Dancer” by T. Rex, and “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones.

I keep a playlist with all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. Ninety-nine songs so far. Check them out.

Do you want to see moments from this chapter depicted by a fancy neural network? Then visit this link.

This chapter concludes the sequence titled “Cumlord of the Abyss,” which is only the first half of the “saga” (I don’t know how else to call linked sequences) involving this bizarre blob.

I don’t think I have ever written a series of chapters this hard to put together; they required lots of freewrites (virtually one for each paragraph) that included detailed descriptions of hard to picture stuff. Plenty of outlandish references. The process wasn’t altogether joyful. Of course, I’m obsessive to a pathological degree (autism and OCD is a nasty combination), so it took me entire writing sessions to get through two or three paragraphs. I vastly prefer scenes that mostly feature two characters shooting the shit with each other.

Anyway, the next chapter will kick off a new sequence, titled “A Monstrous Ignoramus.” It will feature lots of insane dialogue, to which I always look forward.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 84 (Fiction)

The smooth, clawlike trigger presses against the pad of my forefinger. I tighten that digit slowly, then squeeze. The hammer falls with a snick as the firing pin strikes the primer. A ring of sparks, like those churned out when a lighter’s wheel grinds against the flint, spreads outward from the gap between the frame and the cylinder, then the revolver’s muzzle blows a puff of cigarette-adjacent smoke that scatters in the air.

My heart throbs violently as I stare dumbfounded at the sleek frame of my weapon, that gleams alabaster white under the fluorescent fixtures. Shit, why didn’t the revolver spit out a bullet? Is it jammed? Did the firing pin come damaged? Should I have oiled some mechanism? Maybe I should have carried the revolver to the woods, high up on Mount Jaizkibel, and tried it out against a tree trunk. As far as I know, revolvers should just work; I’m not holding a particle accelerator.

I pull the trigger, which causes the hammer to spring back. Once the cylinder rotates to align its next chamber with the barrel, the hammer snaps forward and clunks as if the bullet primer had been struck by a mallet, yet the revolver remains dead like rusted machinery.

I must overcome the revolting monstrosity that dares to pollute my space with its filth. I have to make this fucking gun shoot!

I clutch the revolver in a white-knuckled grip, then I squeeze and squeeze and squeeze the trigger. The cylinder clacks as it rotates and rotates chambering bullet after bullet. Although the hammer falls with dull snaps as the firing pin punches into live rounds of ammunition, it may as well be striking ghost bullets.

Are my hands shaking? No, the revolver is trembling like a tuning fork, a vibration that gets transmitted through my palms and up my arms, then races along my spine. The weapon starts emitting an ominous, high-pitched whirring sound; I picture an electrical panel bursting with frayed wires that would zap like a moth even the gloved electrician tasked to repair the mess.

I flip the revolver around and peer down its bore, a black hole encircled by the metallic ring of the muzzle. It offers me a top-down view of a turbulent, undulating pool of brass-colored liquid metal, whose waves spread in alternating crests and troughs as they slam against the walls of the chamber. The bullet must have cohered to a quantum state.

Should I wrap my lips around the barrel and blow? No, whenever the bullet snaps out of its state and becomes a solid projectile, I better be aiming my revolver at the wobbling mass of tarry putrefaction instead of my own face. I turn the quivering gun toward the audience of glistening sclerae, sewage-colored irises and deep black pupils.

I shake the revolver. With my left hand I smack the barrel as if it were a disobedient mutt. A drop of sweat dangles from my nose.

“Damn you, bullet! Quit your insolent game of quantum tag and collapse to an eigenstate already!”

While the revolver vibrates madly, its electric whirring worsens to a keening squeal. A tingling sensation like a static shock shoots up my right arm, then from the trigger a snakey white bolt of electricity, outlined in lilac, crackles as it arcs to lick my forefinger.

A deafening bang rocks the office, shaking the air around me and vibrating my eardrums, which makes my ears ring. From the barrel’s mouth erupts a puff of smoke, followed by a glowing, ember-colored blast that trails a stream of flickering sparks like red dwarf stars.

The revolver kicks against the palm of my right hand like a rearing horse trying to tear itself free from the reins. Its force shoots through my wrist with a sharp sting, then my forearm complains as if a white-hot shard of pain had ripped across the slow-twitch fibers.

The bullet hurtles down the barrel and flies out of the muzzle. It streaks across the office until it plows into the blob’s bloated blubber with a hollow thwack, piercing that oozing mound of black mucus like a hypodermic syringe stabbing a vein, to explode deep within the amorphous heap of putrescence. The flabby mass heaves and wobbles from the impact. Its jiggly flesh is rippling as if slapped by a giant, while the white reflections of light that mount the oily, concentric waves waver and distort. Those bulging eyeballs bob and roll about in the gunk, jostling each other. The blob lets out, as if from a mouth entombed in a quagmire, an unearthly bellow of anguish, deep and guttural. A hole bursts open in that deformed belly, a hole with a slimy rim that splays out like a black and gooey flower, and that reveals the blob’s gelatinous innards: a slithery mass of vermicular guts that squish and wriggle. A belch of foul gas rushes out and swirls around me; it stinks of rotten meat, vomit, farts, and sushi. The abomination erupts in a frothing gush of gloop, spewing mucous intestines in all directions, that as they break apart into globules of tapioca-like goop, they splatter over the carpet, the desk, the monitors, my clothes, and my face, in a caustic snowfall.

A gunshot blast rips apart the air around me, and its concussive wave beats upon my eardrums like a wrecking ball smashing into a brick wall. My ears pop, my brain quakes. A billowing cloud of powder smoke wafts from the muzzle, followed by a blossom of yellow-orange flame.

My right hand explodes with stabbing aches as the revolver’s kickback snaps apart my phalanges and metacarpals. The shooting pain surges up my forearm, reverberating to my elbow, while the shockwave ripples tendons and muscles along my arm until the force slams into my shoulder, where the joint dislocates with a crunch.

A bullet cleaves its way through the air. The blob is twisting and thrashing, its blubbery skin frothing and flailing like the sea in a stormy gale, and the hole in its mass is spurting slime-laced foam, when the bullet plunges like a meteorite into the sclera of an eyeball. The outer layers of the globe, white as a boiled egg, tear off, giving way under pressure, and out squirts a tongue of pulpy, pinky-gray jelly.

An ear-splitting gunshot punches my eardrums, sounding as loud as if the revolver’s barrel had been ripped open by dynamite. The muzzle flares a vivid yellow-orange, then a vortex of gunpowder-laden smoke rolls out along with a jet of fire, in an eruption of shrapnel-like debris.

My right arm has gone numb except for a stinging, tearing pain. Bone fragments poke out of my hand like spikes, and the fingers, seized rigid, are curled in a claw around the revolver’s grip. Blood spills from the wounds, dripping in long strings. The recoil of this gunshot jerks my wrist with a grinding wrench and makes it crack like a twig. That force also knocks me off my feet, launching me backward.

A bullet cuts through the air while leaving a trail of silver smoke in its wake, until it slams like a train into a wall a couple of meters away from my boss’ office door. The brick behind the lily-white paint bursts into a pinwheel of shimmering dust, into a shower of chips, splinters and shards.

An explosion rocks the office as if a howitzer had fired an artillery round in front of me. The rippling roar shakes my bones and makes the windows rattle, penetrates my eardrums in a spike of pain and tears them apart. A red flower of flame spurts from the muzzle of my revolver as if from a flamethrower.

The fingers of my right hand are curled and rigid, like the legs of a dead tarantula, around the grip of my weapon, and my wrist is drooping at the joint, when the revolver’s kickback tears my hand off. Still clutching the handgun, my severed hand flies toward the ceiling. Blood jets out from the stump of my wrist in a crimson stream.

A corona of red flame is spiralling around the bullet as it hurtles toward the ceiling, slicing through a cloud of gunpowder smoke. The bullet smashes against a ceiling fixture, that shatters in a puff of white haze and a cascade of sparks and glass shards. A cracked flourescent tube tumbles down like an icicle.

My ears are ringing when a shockwave emanates from the runaway revolver in a rush of superheated air. The reverberating force pounds my skull, slams into my chest, ripples through my limbs, and scatters papers, pens and paperclips around the office. A horizontal mushroom cloud expands from the gun’s muzzle and ignites into a licking white flame.

Flung backward through the air, I’m sick with whirling vertigo as my mind spins like a top in a cyclone. Jagged bones, along with pinkish-tan tendons and ligaments pulled to shreds, protrude from the degloved and bloody flesh at the end of my right forearm.

A scarlet tail corkscrews after a bullet that is whizzing across the office like a fiery comet. It wallops a hung picture frame, perforating a hole in a photograph of Bunnyman and I at a birthday party. Cracks have spread out from the impact point and crisscrossed over each other in a spiderweb of glittery fractures.

An immense power is released in a single pulse. Its shockwaves resound through my cranium with an infrasonic warble that bends my bones like rubber bands. My teeth rattle, my eyeballs throb, a fountain of blood spurts from my nose. A nova-like flash lights up my field of vision, then from the muzzle of the revolver bursts a star-speckled spiderweb.

A bullet breaks the air around it apart into a glowing rainbow, while the projectile’s path deforms into outward-undulating ripples of lilac-colored distortion like those cast by a mirage, turning the contour of a ceiling fixture sinusoidal. The bullet busts through a windowpane, catches an upward gust, ascends like an accelerating rocket, drills a hole in the night sky, and shatters a solar panel of a space station orbiting high above the Earth.

I slam into the backrest of a swivel chair, knocking it over, then I crash to the floor, hitting the back of my head hard. The blow sends a jarring jolt of pain through my vertebrae; I feel my spine crack, crunch, and snap. My legs fly straight back like a ragdoll’s, and when they fall to the carpet, I lie sprawled out flat on my back in a tangle of limbs.

My brain feels swollen as if someone were pumping embalming fluid into my skull. My chest heaves, gasping for air. The smell of gunpowder smoke has mingled with the coppery scent of blood and the blob’s putrefying stench.

White light wavers in my foggy vision while in front dances a swarm of red specks. But the maelstrom of a black hole yawns at the center of my gaze, and light itself falls in a spiral down that drain, which leads to an endless night.

I’m floating in the silence of the void.

Author’s note: the song for today is “Goin’ Against Your Mind” by Built to Spill (which also sounds great live).

I keep a playlist with all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. Ninety-seven songs so far. Check them out.

Have you had trouble picturing today’s nonsense? I paid a neural network to depict plenty of moments from this chapter. Here’s the link.

This chapter was by far the hardest to write of a sequence that by itself has been the hardest to write in recent memory. I’m tempted to pull an “Inio Asano after Oyasumi Punpun” and never do this kind of shit again.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 83 (Fiction)

As if I had been transported to a movie theater in an inverted dimension, humming fluorescent lights are shining down from the ceiling, and the opposite wall has been covered with a three-dimensional black canvas made of gooey tar in which floats the audience: a score of world-globe-sized eyeballs with sewage-colored irises and pupils that dilate and contract as they glare at me, the protagonist of this demented pageant. The scene is swirling like a lava lamp; when the floor seems to tilt and I teeter, the eyeballs swimming about in the blob’s expanse of gelatinous muck, which keeps rippling and squelching, follow me with their gaze as if they were scanning my mind to pry it apart.

My bowels gurgle, my stomach turns somersaults. A wave of nausea, accompanied with an unbearable chill, floods over me as if I had ingested a bucketful of diarrhea.

At the back of my throat forms a knot of spoiled meat marinated in bitter bile. My esophagus clenches around it as if trying to reject an intruder, but the knot threatens to rise further. Although I swallow it down, hot saliva fills my mouth with an acidic and coppery taste. I tighten my clammy right hand around the grip of the revolver, lest I drop it, and I raise my left hand to cover my mouth while my ribs heave with spastic coughing. A geyser of vomit is about to surge up my esophagus.

Fuck, I’m retching! I can’t heave my guts out onto the aluminum-gray carpet; I would ruin the austere and sterile elegance of our office. But mainly I’d dread explaining such a stain to our porcine overlord. I can already hear that piggish braggart’s hoarse rasp issuing from his slobbering snout, calling me a dirty slut. Maybe he’d force me to pay for the cleaning expenses.

As my eyes water and my cheeks bulge, I rush to Jordi’s wastebasket and drop to my knees. When I attempt to grab its sides to pull the basket closer to me, I bonk the wire mesh with my revolver. Doubled over, I groan with pain, then puke a torrent of yellowish and thick vomit that contains scraps of my internal organs as well as gobbets of liquified intestines, while my nostrils spew a poisonous froth of gastric acid that inflames my sinuses. The vomit is splattering onto the corralled rubbish: crumpled papers and tissues, disposable coffee cups, ballpoint pens, wooden stirrers, plastic bottles, sandwich wrappers, empty cola cans, polystyrene containers, dead insects, dirty syringes, tied-up condoms, and murder weapons.

My eyelids are twitching and my skin has broken out in goosebumps as I retch again and again like a sickly goose. The walls of my throat and mouth are burning, my tongue has caught fire. The fangs of my tears are carving holes into my cheeks. Splatter, gag, spit, puke, regurgitate, spew, barf, drool, swallow, pant, cough, retch, breathe, gag, belch, groan, puke, splatter.

I have become a churning cauldron of filth and corruption, and my mouth a spigot that discharges a flow of sewage in an excruciating exorcizing ceremony. I’m alone and lost in a wasteland of viscous misery. I need to find my way back to mommy’s womb. I shut my eyes tight to retreat into my shadowy mind-theater, and I render a close-up in candlelight of Jacqueline’s vagina. I see every pore of its satiny skin, the sweet pink labia glistening with her cream and my saliva, the engorged rosy nub that protrudes from beneath its hood of flesh. But her holy pussy stares back with hatred. The umbilical cord has been cut from my navel, and instead it has coiled around the trigger of a machine gun poised to annihilate me. The cord gets yanked taut so that the machine gun pumps round after round of flaming lead slugs. They rip open my bowels and stomach, turning my flesh into tatters and pulp. They pierce through my heart, my lungs, my spine. My cranium bursts in a bloody fountain that scatters my neurons into the void.

After the spate of uncontrollable fits, at last the urge to puke subsides and the acid recedes from my sinuses, although my stomach remains a quaking ball of nerves. A long stream of ochery matter dribbles over my chin and splashes onto the sodden morass that has covered the heap of garbage like with a toxic tarpaulin.

I spit out foamy saliva until I’m sure that I have hurled away all the spoiled remains inside of me. My face is numb and flushed with heat; I rest it against the cool rim of the wastebasket. I keep panting, and fever-like chills are setting in.

I sit back on my heels. An insectoid buzzing has filled the space between my ears as if a wasp were beating its wings inside my skull. But the vibrations are coming from my brain, that keeps thumping like a kettledrum, causing my mind to whirl with dizziness. Arachne, blessed be Her name, lodged in some knot of my neural matter the ability to weave narratives from random sensory inputs, and it’s translating, as if using the sticky silk of my psyche to bind my awareness, the echoing noise into voices that are chattering gibberish.

A shiver slithers down my back like an icy serpent. I keep getting racked with chills. I’m soaking wet, hot and slick with sweat that has covered a rash of goosebumps. A salty drop from the ones that have beaded on my brow rolls down into my right eye. It stings; I squeeze my eyelids shut.

My sinuses are caked with mucus, and I can barely breathe through my nostrils. A blessing, because the air is laden with a stink that makes me feel like I have wandered into an abandoned slaughterhouse during a stifling summer day, only to find myself amidst piles of shit and steaming cow carcasses. I barely distinguish the sickly-sweet stench of my vomit from this oily reek that could knock a gorilla out. A small-boned lady like myself, who rolled low on endurance, should have suffocated already, but I guess that my lungs adapted to breathing fetid miasmata thanks to Spike’s intrusions, as well as the one time I confronted that bunnyman bastard while I avoided gazing down at his torpedo-sized cock. These days I can handle any stink, any degree of madness, even the specters of guilt and self-loathing that accompany this odor of decay, because that’s what I am: a creature of putrefaction, a human plague, a biochemical nightmare spreading throughout this cursed world.

I lean on the edge of the desk for support, then I push myself to my feet. I stagger away on my rubbery legs. When I straighten up, my skull feels as heavy as a block of lead.

Vomit has spilled out of the wastebasket, leaking through its wire mesh. The viscous mixture has spread its corrosive contagion over the carpet in splattered streaks. They look like a spiderweb that has been sprayed with a gunky, yellowish-brown sauce. The acidic filth gleams dully under the fluorescent lights as it soaks into the gray fibers.

Why didn’t Jordi put a trash bag in his wastebasket? I should grab handfuls of paper towels from the bathroom to mop up the mess. I picture myself on all fours as I rub, rub, rub the stains with ferocious pressure, although I’d prefer to rip out the carpet and bury it. I also imagine myself pressing my lips to the synthetic fibers and lapping up the sickly-sweet substance with my tongue, which causes my gut to heave. For now I’ll have to erase from my mind the gooey stew that has soiled my boss’ carpet, or at least I’ll have to convince myself that I stained it with easier to explain liquids, like coffee from a clumsily dropped cup, or blood from a stomped-on rat.

I wipe my mouth with the back of my trembling right hand, that still holds the revolver. My heart is churning blood like an over-revved engine. The paroxysm of puking has coated my tongue with the taste of an overripe banana dipped in battery acid. I’m lightheaded and drained as if my body were struggling to knit back together its ruptured tissues, and my psyche, that is traversing the narrow border between consciousness and delirium, risks wafting away toward the all-encompassing darkness.

Fat drops of rain keep thudding, thudding, thudding against the windowpanes like the rapping of a thousand tiny knuckles, ghost kids waiting for someone to let them in. Thunder crackles, and the fluorescent ceiling fixtures flicker, as stroboscopic flashes tint the desk, swivel chairs and computer screens with lily white and iceberg blue. The barrage of lightning must be lashing apartment buildings, splitting their roofs, widening cracks in their walls to force open the seams of their bricks and surge through. Jagged spears of electricity will strike the targets inside, charring both furniture and flesh until they explode with a sizzle and a pop in puffs of ash and vaporized skin. As the smell of burning meat, hair, fabric, wood, plastic and rubber drifts down on the storm’s wet breath, the ceaseless rain will engender an apocalyptic deluge that, in its rise, turning the streets into raging rivers, will sweep away like toy boats in a bathtub the burned-out cars, smoking bricks, cracked masonry, uprooted trees, wrecked furniture, blackened bodies. Those who escaped into dreams will wake up to find themselves soaked under their blankets. Donostia, located during pre-Roman times in the domain of the Varduli, reduced in one fell swoop to a wasteland of ashes and mud, will vanish under an expanse of grasses, plants and flowers grown on their own amid birdsong.

The Stygian blob has settled in this dimension like a bloated turd that refuses to get flushed away. Its slime-slick bulk, a mound of quivering folds scattered with tumorous protuberances, squelches as it pulsates obscenely like some spasming uterus. From its underside hang half-congealed cords of goo in a stringy lacework. I refuse to count how many eyeballs are bulging on the gelatinous lump of grime and disease, in an orrery of sentient planetoids that have glued their bloodcurdling stares to my face. The corneas are glistening like made of pliant glass. Those eyeballs are judging me, scolding me, singling me out as a creep, a degenerate, a pervert, a sluglike fiend unworthy of breathing the same air as them. Their loathsome glares gnaw at me, scratch me, pinch my nipples, pry at my labia, bruise my clitoris.

My brain is boiling like a cauldron of tar. My clammy and feverish skin has become a hotbed of tickling spiders that are crawling around behind my ears, down my neck, under my armpits, inside the crack of my ass. What else could I expect from the confining, decaying sack of flesh and guts that I call my body? This hellscape must have been devised by Arachne Herself. Does She want to extract a sacrifice from me? Has She set the test up so that I must murder the blob or go mad? I shouldn’t have to tolerate being stared at by any creature against my will; that alone warrants a little murder. Besides, I’m dying to shoot this dick-substitute at anything that breathes.

I hug the revolver with my sweaty palms, locking my fingers together around the wooden grip. If I squeezed this hunk of metal until my hands hurt, the revolver wouldn’t get squashed. Is that how it feels like to have a dick, once the penis, engorged with blood, has swollen out of its velvet sheath, and has blushed with a crimson hue that rivals the brightest flowers in their blossoms? If I were a guy and I possessed a thick, meaty cock, I’d show it off proudly like a royal scepter. I would parade it around, flaunting its majestic magnificence. I’d stick my dick in any available orifice, even if that meant stuffing it in the gaping maw of a snarling dog, or sliding it between the pages of a novel as a bookmark.

I raise my revolver to eye level and aim at the center of that gelatinous mass, the inflamed carbuncle, the pus-oozing blight, the inescapable festering festering festering. The blob wobbles like a water balloon about to burst. Its eyeballs roll in sync, shifting their gaze to the revolver’s barrel, that looks like a toothpick poking up against this tide of nightmare.

My skin prickles with goosebumps under a film of sweat. The blob understands that the device I’m holding can dole out death.

I try to keep the revolver steady, but an undulating vibration courses down my spine, and my forearms start to tremble. Who cares about this slimy intruder’s sentience? Plenty of primates could recognize themselves in a mirror, yet they also deserve to die.

I curl my forefinger around the trigger. The revolver’s hammer is cocked, its cylinder loaded with bullets. I’m a motherfuckin’ gunslinger, a badass with a mighty six-shooter and a pair of leather chaps. All my life I have wanted to murder somebody. After I blast that slime-skinned, flesh-waddling, eyeball-plagued horror to bits, a splash of rain will quench the flames in my brain.

Author’s note: today’s songs are “Black Math” by The White Stripes, as well as “Brave as a Noun” and “People II: The Reckoning,” both by AJJ.

I keep a playlist with all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. Ninety-five songs so far. Check them out.

A couple of neural networks were kind enough to render moments from this scene (for a price). Check these out too.

Some years ago I dared to attend a few writing courses (never again), and one of the writers suggested that my stuff was like verbal diarrhea. He meant it as a compliment.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 82 (Fiction)

A thunderous clap scatters my thoughts like a blacksmith’s hammer shattering a sheet of glass. Blasts of wind are assaulting the windows while the rain pours in gusts, splashing against the windowpanes in a constant pitter-patter. The fat drops coalesce into crystalline veins that zig-zag downwards, then unravel.

My labored breath mingles with the thunderstorm booming outside. I forgot to bring an umbrella, didn’t I? When this morning I stepped onto the balcony of Jacqueline’s apartment to inhale crisp air, the bluish-gray sky promised rain, yet I failed to prepare myself. As I wonder if that moldy spare remains in the umbrella stand of the office, a more pressing concern wipes my mind clean: I’m clutching a revolver, and the opposite wall has been colonized by a viscous blob from some hellish dimension.

I grip the revolver with both hands, then I whip it towards the conglomerate of necrotic matter. I creep closer to the intruder; among all people, I may miss a shot against a wall-wide entity. I rest my forefinger on the trigger. With my thumb on the hammer, I pull back slowly until the sear bumps past the lock, and the hammer stays at full cock. I hold the muzzle level, taking aim.

An arc of blinding incandescence must have cut through the darkness of the night like an axe cleaving the heavenly flesh, because a strobing blue-white flash illuminates, as if to probe those dark depths, the oleaginous surface of the mammoth mass of putrefied gunk, whose texture shifts from squidgy to bumpy to warty as it heaves and pulses with life. While that gargantuan plague boil bulges from the wall, it oozes with lumps of moist tissues that smear the paintwork, leaving in their wake slimy black streaks and a slick coating of filth. From the underside of the intruder, gooey tongues drape down like viscera oozing out of an unflushed drainpipe, or like clusters of conjoined caterpillars seeking escape from a boiling ball of pitch, and the foul goop spills and flops onto the carpet, pooling into bulbous puddles.

A tremor races through my spine and neck, and lodges itself deep in my jaw. I imagine a projectile hurtling towards that abominable hulk and punching through its tenebrous, rippling mass, which bursts like a water balloon, launching a wave of rotting gunk that splats onto the carpet and office furniture. But I’m holding a revolver that was designed for shooting at saps and outlaws, not at a mass of decay that defies comprehension. What would unleashing a barrage of bullets achieve, apart from alerting the humans in this part of the realm that the end is nigh? Wouldn’t the bullets vanish into the viscous quagmire, wouldn’t the holes caulk themselves closed? I may as well try to obliterate a cancerous tumor by pricking it with needles. Spike should have lent me a flamethrower, or a few bricks of C-4. To be fair, if that old coot had dropped as loot a bag of useful devices such as high-voltage tasers, tranquilizing darts and grenades, I may have used them as props for erotic games that would end up in fierce orgasmic contortions.

The stuffy atmosphere of the office gets disturbed with noises radiating from the invaded wall: slurps and gurgles. My grip tightens around the wooden handle of my revolver. Bubbles are rising up laboriously to the gloopy surface of the malignant tumor, as if they had to pass through a folded intestine. The sight makes my stomach heave like I were traversing a slimy oyster bed or having my face rubbed against the grimy side of a rotten fish.

The wobbling bubbles, lumpy globs of decay sloshing around like minced meatballs in a simmering pot, bump into each other and merge, cluster or sink back into the sludgy substance while it burbles, seethes and spasms like a tangle of throbbing arteries and veins under pressure from injected emboli. As the pulsating rhythm of the morbid leviathan increases, sending roiling undulations racing along its bulk, the sickly, necrotic-sounding squelches grow louder in a fleshy flapping of dead matter. A melon-sized bubble surfaces, inflates like a bladder and pops in a frothy geyser, spraying gouts of thick goo. The opened crater dangles with flaps of frayed slime, and resembles a mouth or a sphincter. Either one could suck me in.

A puff of noxious gas billows in my face and assails my nostrils as it scratches my skin with thousands of microscopic claws, aching to seep into my pores. Jolted by the stinging fumes, I suck deep into my lungs that thick darkness, a pungent effluvium, a dank and cloying fetor, acrid, fetid and caustic. It burns my throat like it had been scoured with sandpaper, and triggers an olfactory explosion of odious odors. As I stagger backwards and my arms tremble, lowering the revolver, my brain sticks labels to the elements of the chemical compound that has raided my lungs in an orgy of necrotic pollution: sour milk, moldy cheese, rancid lard, week-old fish, skunk spray, sweaty socks, car exhaust, burnt plastic, raw sewage, gangrenous rot. Still, it doesn’t reek nearly as putrid as my own gray matter, festering in the hollow of my skull as it breeds and spawns madness.

My eyes sting. My nose hurts from the assault on my olfactory nerves, and goes runny. Are my sinuses bleeding? When I breathe through my mouth, my tongue gets coated with the stench of the rotten sludge, and I gag as if a brine of fetal blood were flowing into my lungs. I cough out globules of phlegm while tears leap from my eyes. A gummy rope of mucus dribbles from my nasal passages and falls to the carpet like some slimy, greenish ectoplasm.

I picture the obscene and interdimensional blancmange, made of rotting flesh instead of cornmeal, collapsing upon itself and bursting forth a miasmic fog that would fill the office building and descend from this business park to the nearest block and thence to the streets. The fog would creep over the asphalt, roll over the tops of cars and buses, infiltrate homes through open windows and ventilation ducts. The poisonous vapors would reach the lungs of sleeping children, while their parents would stir from their slumber with a gaggle of hacking coughs, to find their hair and face covered with a layer of necrotic ooze, their noses clogged with black gunk.

I recall that one time in high school when some faceless goon passed me a bong and I inhaled its hash fumes. I was seized by an ecstatic epiphany: human beings are worms crawling on the ground of infinity, transient larvae with the lifespan of an afternoon, amnesic about our existences before birth, our only purpose to be fed with the detritus of dead matter by our parents until we reach adulthood and we can contribute in fertilizing some eggs. The universe is a necropolis where the corpses of stars lie heaped in untold billions.

My mind had been subjected to quantum decoherence, and its entanglement with the environment had broken down. My body glowed with phosphorescent sparks like a firefly. I received visions of flying hippies with long flowing hair, acid-soaked clothes, and golden wings. I watched as a city-sized asteroid plowed into the moon, rupturing it like a balloon filled with lead-colored paint. I observed as a swarm of mutant butterflies burst from my anus. I heard the screams of people being sucked through a whirlpool in space-time, like flies being drawn into a vacuum cleaner. A phallus-shaped monolith thrusted upward until its tapered tip got crushed against a ceiling, a mile above. I found myself as the only survivor of the wreckage of a nuclear submarine after a battle with a leviathan in an underwater trench; I swam upwards through radioactive water, and when I emerged from the ocean, I was pelted with decaying matter: a blistering rain of fat, guts, eyeballs, lungs and testicles was falling from the heavens in an apocalyptic deluge. A voice called out to me: “You are the one chosen to rise up from the grave and mend the cosmos.” The voice belonged to my mother, who was floating towards me in a wooden coffin. Hours later I woke up in a hospital room, stripped naked, shackled to a gurney, hooked up to drips and catheters, surrounded by nurses wearing surgical masks and scrubs. That night, as I lay in my bed at my parents’ apartment, a parade of spectral beings with pale gray skin and empty eye sockets filed out of a mirror, surrounded the bed, and began to sing a hymn. “Let’s all rejoice in the presence of the dead,” intoned the entities. As they swayed in the air, they shook with sobs and sniffles. They also sneezed, coughed, belched, gagged, farted, and cried out for a toilet. The phantasmal chorale was as grotesque as it was beautiful.

This time, as I stand on wobbly legs in the office, I resent such mind-bending, consciousness-altering effects. How does one treat a case of acute olfactory psychosis? I could try smelling a rose, an apple pie, a whiff of sea air, or the heady perfume of Jacqueline’s cleavage when she’s wearing a silky camisole. That makes my mouth water and my loins tingle with lust. I want to give myself over to mommy’s loving embrace and let her fondle my ass until I can function again.

The gooey sludge is gurgling, rippling and sloshing as if some half-digested prey were struggling to escape its clutches. Bladderlike bubbles come to the fore and burgeon, bulging out of that hideous growth as they bloom like blood clots, then pop with moist plops, spewing glistening gobs of slime, fringing the surface of the goop with tufts of cottony threads, and unleashing puffs of reeking air that spread countless germs throughout the office, viruses and bacteria that have fermented in that putrescent hulk.

My head is spinning with vertigo. Oversized tadpole heads are wriggling beneath the ooze, skirting its surface as if to reveal themselves before shimmying their way back into the tenebrous, seething mass. Their convulsive jitters churn the slime into miniature whirlpools. The frothy, bloated abomination, studded with plump, gas-filled sacks, jiggles with a slap of thunder.

That bloody blob is giving birth. Some infernal anathema is pushing out through the tarry pus like a kraken from its egg sac.

From the gelatinous mass protrudes a melon-sized spheroidal structure, crowning into the world. The film of black life-fluid that covers it slides off and reveals gleaming, pearl-white fibrous tissue. The spheroid wobbles about, then it spins until I discover, as the slime that constitutes the mother runs down the spheroid’s surface like breast milk out of a nipple, that on the side facing me now, behind a transparent layer, sewage-colored matter swirls in a ring-shaped membrane that encircles a pupil as wide as a golf ball, as black as a bottomless pit. An evil force dwells behind that opaque peephole.

A fucking eyeball. Two eyeballs. Three.

Half a dozen eyeballs roll in my direction and lock onto me. Their pupils constrict to project a chthonic glare like the focused beam of a searchlight.

Author’s note: today’s song is “Climbing up the Walls” by Radiohead.

I keep a playlist with all the songs I’ve mentioned so far throughout this novel. Ninety-two already. Check them out.

Some genius neural network rendered images inspired by the loathsome descriptions in this chapter. Link here.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 80 (Fiction)

I rest my forehead on the windowpane, that barely insulates the office from the cold of this November sunset. My breath fogs the glass. Our star is a cream pie on which someone has landed ass-first, splashing its pinkish-orange filling all over the sky. The fat storm clouds that drift by are dyed the color of dried blood; mixed with the charcoal-black of the clouds themselves, they resemble stains on the clothes of plague victims.

As sound waves pour from the speaker of my cellphone down my ear canal, I close my eyes and rely on my echolocation to render the scene that’s taking place at home: Jacqueline, my queenly beloved, is explaining the purpose of a cellphone to our adopted daughter Nairu, who contributes high-pitched vocalizations of nonsense syllables, sounding more like a fairy than a human child. The forms of the two females, sculpted in obsidian, stand on the carpet of that remote living room, framed against the shapes in relief of the cabinet and the widescreen TV.

My chest feels hollowed out with longing. I’m craving something sweet, warm and moist. I wish I were lounging on the sofa with my girlfriend and our Nairu, but the clock is ticking on the evening hours, and I need to progress my programming tasks for this job that sucks the joy and wonder out of my life.

Through the phone’s speaker comes a rustle, followed by Jacqueline’s sultry voice. Her full lips must be brushing the plasticky surface of her phone, spattering it, blessing it, with microscopic particles of saliva.

“I won’t get Nairu to understand the concept of a phone today, but she misses her other mommy. That’s what I wanted her to convey to you, sweetie.”

I’m touched by my girlfriend’s attempt to comfort and cheer me up, but am I capable of tending to a child’s needs to the extent that she would appreciate me as a mother? Thankfully, Nairu would become a functional adult even if she grew up as a stray; the Ice Age gifted us an Asian kid tempered in the boreal cold, who survived her skirmishes against an ensemble of Paleolithic megafauna. Grade A material.

My voice comes out in a croak, as if a lump was blocking my throat. I swallow hard to dislodge it.

“She must have been cuddling with you all afternoon, so she has likely forgotten that I exist.”

Jacqueline giggles. Nairu was babbling in the background when a flash startles me. A porcelain-white vine of lightning, twisted and barbed, has streaked through the thick belly of a storm cloud, burning its image into that gray slug filled with rain. The electric crackle sends a shiver down my spine, then a shudder forces me to narrow my shoulders. I imagine myself as a critter caught outside during a storm in the tropics: a tree snail clinging onto a mangrove to weather nature’s wrath.

“Eide?” Nairu asks over the phone.

She remembers me! Her worried voice sounded like a cat meowing at a screen that shows her missing owner.

“Help me, Nairu! I’m trapped in this futuristic device!”

Jacqueline’s laugh comes through like a bell pealing over the hilltops. Nairu’s high-pitched voice dwindles to a murmur; I picture my beloved holding the phone to her own ear with one hand while her other strokes the child’s Paleolithic hair.

“I’m sure she fears that you may get attacked by any of the monsters she encountered in the Ice Age, yet you go and tease her. If anything like that would happen, you’d be a goner, little missy. They would consider you a delicious breakfast buffet, the tastiest and nuttiest prey in their hunting ground. So do I, for that matter.”

“Those beasts weren’t monsters, though. Just misunderstood.”

“Even so, the trick is to survive. Fortunately, Nairu’s tummy is full. No danger that she might starve to death. And like you suspect, we have been cuddling all afternoon. She has also discovered the wonders of animated movies. A Pixar one, we got it paused now.”

Despite the distance between us, Jacqueline sounded so snug, like a fur pelt draped over my shoulders, that I can picture myself pressed up against her on the sofa, instead of standing in this brightly-lit, air-conditioned office as I gaze out past the reflection of my computer screen at the thickening gloom of the twilight. Those storm clouds resemble an avalanche of dirty snow sliding across the sky in slow motion.

“Our adopted nugget may be considered insane by today’s standards,” I say, “but she can still enjoy the visual feast presented by 3D environments and characters on a widescreen television. Glad you’re keeping her fed and warm in that glass-encased bubble while I risk my life in this forest of cement and metal. In any case, which Pixar movie were you watching? I hope you chose one of the classics, instead of the turds they’ve been pushing out since they got gobbled up by that demonic mouse, a slobbering beast that has hijacked children’s imagination.”

Jacqueline’s response drowns in a thunderclap like a cannon shot, one that ripples through my body. My arms tense up, my toes curl in my socks and shoes. Above the flat roof of the opposite building, whose silhouette resembles a tombstone, I glimpse the afterimage of the lightning bolt. A drifting cloud has unveiled the moon and its silvery haze: a thinning scab on a bruised sky.

“Did you hear the thunder, Jacqueline?” I ask in a rough voice.

“Poor thing, you must feel like I called from another dimension. I’m just a ten minute drive away from you. But yes, a thunderstorm is rolling in, honey. It may turn nasty soon.”

The part of me that retains a percentage of genes from a dog, procured by some freaky ancestor of mine, wants to yank open the window and stick my head out, so I can bathe my face in cold air that must smell of rain. Being trapped in this dead office instead of spending the evening with Jacqueline and our girl makes me long for an earthquake or flood to strike, for me to see the streets choked with mud, and cars crushed under heaps of debris.

I rub my eyes and take a deep breath to scrub from my mind the yearning for another cataclysm, one that would leave this planet exposed to the starlight.

“A-anyway, what movie did you pick, my statuesque queen of love and lust?”

Jacqueline giggles.

Toy Story, dear.”

“Ah, the classic tale involving a murderous cowboy and a clueless space marine. An original, daring narrative that wouldn’t get produced in today’s industry. The 3D humans in that one would traumatize me even now, but… has Nairu ever seen a toy in person?”

“Well, they carved figurines out of wood, right? The Ice Age peoples, I mean.”

“Nairu contradicts some basic assumptions about a child’s knowledge that would make the movie work. When we buy her toys, won’t she assume that they’ll spark to life the moment she looks away, even though they’re made of plastic or some other non-biological material?”

“That may be the case, but wouldn’t it make her world more magical and wondrous?”

“Or sordid and disturbing. I wouldn’t have wanted my toys to know what I did in the privacy of my bedroom. Particularly the stuffed triceratops with the yellow plaid bowtie, who stared blankly at me while I lay in bed with my panties around my ankles, trying to achieve the perfect orgasm. What if the dinosaurs talked to each other? ‘Hey, did you catch sight of the human doing it to herself?’ I would have felt like a pervert.”

Jacqueline must have pulled the phone away from her mouth to muffle a laugh. When she speaks again, her giggle-like tone warms everything within its reach, like the heat emanating from the belly of a giant furnace.

“You should have locked up the stuffie, locked him away and kept your shameful secret a secret. Anyway, I promise you that Nairu loved the spectacle on screen; she gaped and gaped at the talking toys. So focus on what truly matters, my girl: plenty of love is flooding from both of our hearts towards the tiny sweetie that you took out of the ice.”

I nod at Jacqueline’s distant presence, although I’m picturing her assemblage of dildos and vibrators doddering around in her wardrobe like stoic, limbless soldiers, leaving trails of lubricants with each stump-step. They clamber over the piles of external hard drives that store hundreds of gigabytes’ worth of our lovemaking sessions, as well as of the fabled girls that Jacqueline employed to build her porn empire. I imagine myself sitting at the edge of mommy’s bed, facing my reflection in the mirrored wardrobe as her dildoes and vibrators knock and knock on the inside of the door, vying for the privilege of joining me in a muggy session of self-worship. They are calling to me with dollish voices meant to sound melodic: “Hello, Jacqueline’s cummer! Do you need assistance? We are here to serve your needs, little lady!” My own voice interferes: “Come on, motherfucking dildos and dongs, let me get inside this stinking sack of skin so I can taste my own flesh, so I can be submerged in a sea of pleasure, so I can feel something besides the excruciating pressure of my brain against my skull. To hell with you dicks. The last thing I need is a swarm of cocks and pricks crowding my crotch!”

I shudder, then bite my lower lip to keep from giggling, or crying out in distress.

Lightning zigzags along the night sky, and as its glare whitens the windowpanes, I’m left with the afterimage of a black blot suspended in the air between the glass and the opposite office building. A vulture-sized bug? The blot is accompanied by the blurry images of the long desk, the three chairs and the rectangular glow of my monitor. As the booming rumble of thunder sweeps through the business park, a realization prickles the hairs on my nape: I glimpsed a reflection. Or maybe the blot is me.

I look over my shoulder. At the other end of the office, on the lily-white wall, a tar-black stain is growing like ink bleeding into paper, like oil leaking from a deep puncture hole.

Lightning-lizards lurk outside, spreading out their glow into the room while jagged hairline cracks hover in front of me, superposed to the vision of the office and its flickering ceiling-mounted lamps, as if I were encased in scratched glass. My nostrils fill with the odour of burnt ozone.

A crackle of thunder reverberates through my bones and makes my blood surge hotly toward my groin. The hairline cracks have vanished, replaced by a uniform, flawless plane. I am one with the glass.

The black blob on the wall, engulfing a larger patch of white, pulsates as it swells, bulges out in viscous globs like a toilet backing up, and oozes down in gooey tendrils. Light-snakes from the ceiling-mounted lamps are wriggling on the slimy, visceral mass, a glistening murk that has gouged a hole in my skull and is crawling through my gray matter like a centipede.

My vision wavers; the world is swimming. I’m bobbing up to my nose in a gelatinous sea that tastes of vinegar and fish guts. I shiver at the flapping sound of fat membranes uncurling, at the feel of viscid tissue-matter sticking to my skin. Lightning bolts illuminate the waves in stroboscopic flashes, making them resemble a seething kelp forest, while I thrash my limbs around to stay afloat against the churning currents.

From the phone that my right hand is gripping comes crinkly static, the sound of aluminum foil rustling. As the interference scratches my eardrum, a honeyed voice breaks through, floods my mind and envelops my thoughts like a welcoming womb:

“Leire, are you still there? That was some strange lightning phenomenon, must have messed up with the electronics. Thankfully I bought some overvoltage protectors.”

My heart is pumping in my throat. When I open my mouth to speak, my tongue flaps uselessly, and I only manage to exhale a pent-up breath.

“Leire?” Jacqueline insists. “You okay, honey? I can hear you breathing on the phone.”

I miss her luminous allure, that even before we started dating enticed me to steal glances at her. I miss the taste of her silky skin, like an ambrosial mixture of rosehip and milk. I miss the way her panties stick to her slit when she gets wet. I miss the feel of her long fingers kneading my flesh, of her nails scratching the skin of my back. I miss the firmness of her nipples grazing my breasts, the softness of her thighs wrapping around my face as I inhale the hot and juicy tang of her insides. I miss her gasps, sighs and moans during the throes of our lust-frenzy.

I picture the inverted triangle of prominent features that make up Jacqueline’s ivory-white visage: her penetrating cobalt-blues at the two upper vertices, and her full lips at the lower vertex. She’s standing in front of me in her peacoat and turtleneck sweater as the November wind tousles her hair. Jacqueline is my sole lighthouse, a beacon amidst the storm of insanity that rages inside and outside of me.

A croaking voice pours forth through the speaker embedded in my neck, where the voicebox and throat structure must be housed.

“Yeah, I’m still here, my goddess of delights, mistress of dreams. No time for a Pixar flick now, though. Overvoltage probably fried the electronics in my brain.”

Jacqueline’s laughter echoes into the farthest recesses of my being.

“You’re right. I’d love to keep you on the phone when I can’t keep you in my arms, but the sooner you finish that boring stuff, the sooner you can get your butt over here. And once you return to me… I may show you something special.”

“As in I won’t be able to peel your pussy away from my face?”

“Oh, I’ll open myself up to you in plenty of ways,” she answers with a sensual drawl that slithers down to my toes. “You have yet to experience some of my best moves, darling. Bye-bye for now!”

Once Jacqueline clicks off, the warmth evaporates, replaced by a tar-black blob that has encroached upon a huge chunk of the wall, a hole that sucks all hope through its bottomless whirlpool.

Author’s note: the five songs for today are “Man on the Moon” by R.E.M., “Pink Moon” by Nick Drake, “Catch the Wind” by Donovan, “Where Is My Mind?” by Pixies, and “Season of the Witch” by Donovan.

I maintain a playlist that contains all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. Eighty-nine songs so far. Check them out.

Hey, are you aware that neural networks can generate intriguing images based on the prompts you send them? I sent a couple of those artificial intelligences plenty of prompts from this chapter. Check out the results.

This chapter kicks off a new sequence, titled “Cumlord of the Abyss.” You can read any of the previous chapters of this novel through this link.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 79 (Fiction)

A child’s vocal cords produce utterances of confusion close to my right ear, noises like those of a tourist who has been reduced to rely on primal vocalizations. A small head is resting on my arm, and I smell the shampoo and conditioner that cleaned that hair and scalp.

Am I a prisoner in some dark cave, or a homeless bum living in an alleyway, or a guru who takes orders from the voices in my head? I blink away the fog of drowsiness. I must have fallen asleep like a slug in its tiny burrow.

Behold, the glowing flower of a child’s face, with her chin tucked under a lemonade-pink scarf. Her smooth skin is tinged sand orange by the closest streetlamp, with paprika-red shadows. In her monolid eyes, and surrounded by the sclera, her irises and pupils have merged into dark circles. Nairu is sinking her gaze deep into the tunnel of my eyes, that leads straight to madness.

She sniffles, then wipes her runny nose with the sleeve of her wool sweater. A glint of sentience must have returned to my eyes; Nairu arches her eyebrows and repeats the utterances of confusion while pointing at the sky. She seeks my input, although I’m the kind of woman who wanders naked into a boreal forest.

I gasp, breathing in cold air. Don’t tell me she has spotted a UFO! About time I witnessed one of them. I picture a spacecraft shaped like a watch battery, hovering higher than the tallest mountain around. The stars are reflected in its silvery, mirror-like top half. In the underside, the gravity-bending propulsion engines, likely powered by a black hole, phosphoresce in shades of green, red and yellow as they interact with the atmosphere. Are there lifeforms riding the craft? They may be alien truckers that have pulled over for the night at their equivalent of a rest area, and tomorrow they will resume the trip back to their star system. Once they supply the hydrogen and helium they siphoned from Jupiter, they’ll waste their wages at some alien brothel.

The sky is painted onyx black. From the left, the canopy of an evergreen tree has sneaked into the frame. The coalesced silhouette of its leaves and branches resembles a hoarfrost-covered lung.

Nairu jabs her finger at the sky while she babbles in her long-extinct language.

“A-am I this drowsy,” I ask, “or is Nairu pointing at nothing?”

“I think that’s the point, darling,” Jacqueline says in a low voice from my left.

I gasp.

“I-is she trying to warn us that it’s over, that the end has come?”

“Baby, she’s telling us this isn’t the sky she grew up with.”

“Ah, of course. This is how the heavens ended up after the apocalypse.”

Can a woman who grew up like a rat, scurrying around the streets until she reached her sordid shelter, imagine how the dome of the sky looked like before the mythological age? The heavens would have been ablaze with a billion pinpricks of red, yellow, white and blue light, kaleidoscopic diamonds strewn across a carpet of indigo velvet. Among the glittering embers of the stars, among the amoeba-shaped nebulas, I would have recognized the shapes of Orion, Perseus, Taurus, Ursa Major, Cassiopeia and many other constellations, the gods that watched over our affairs from their far-flung thrones. Every night our gaze would have drifted towards the stars. Hypnotized like moths, our hair would become infused with celestial phenomena, and our eyes would gleam in the cold starlight as we soaked up the silver song of the cosmos.

Even the beasts that agonized in a pool of blood, while their festering wounds flashed with burning pain, knew that their spirit would escape and ascend to milky river overhead, where they would float in the sparkling current forever. But the celestial curtain was torn apart; the nightly sky fell like a collapsed ceiling, crushing our ancestors. Now, when humans look up from their earthly hell at night, they face an ocean of blackness, and during the day, the dying sun hangs out in the sky like an aged streetlight.

Some nights, the glowing trails of meteor streaks cross-section a silent sky: reminders of the cosmic hazards that threaten us far above the corpses of ancient cities. Our Earth, as it races unflinchingly toward her fate like a suicidal teen dashing across a highway, bathes in a major meteor stream twice a year, where millions of pieces of a long-fragmented comet, from glassy gravel to iron balls the size of football fields, plummet through the vacuum faster than a rifle bullet.

I blow a billowing white puff towards the sky, then I knead Nairu’s warm hand with my icy fingers.

“Yes, all that bright light is gone,” I say in a quavering voice while the chill pierces my bones. “You have noticed because you aren’t blind yet. Now, where could they have hidden the stars without them cracking or shattering? I know the truth, even though I don’t understand it.”

The darkness has blotted out the moon, or else that celestial eye and its ghostly glow hang out of frame. Its sclera has been corroded into dark cerulean patches, and bears star-shaped scars of ejecta from asteroidal impacts. I wish that Jacqueline, Nairu and I could chase after the shimmering reflection of the moon like lunatic bats. Instead, I peer into the black shroud up above us, that looks like the darkness floating inside a trash can full of rainwater. As I slide my gaze around, I spot pinpricks of light, the last vestiges of a candle’s flame, glimmering at the fringes of my sight. If I blink or distract myself, those twinkling dots will be snuffed out. Maybe I’m only imagining them, maybe I’m losing my mind, but what difference does it make to me? And if I focus long enough in the boundless darkness, allowing the stream of photons that traveled for millions of years to penetrate my pupils, I may get a glimpse of Her: Arachne, Lady of the Abyss, Weaver of the Cosmic Web, She who spins the tapestry of time and space, She who trapped the galaxies in Her sticky filaments. She pulls out memories of a billion of our pasts and weaves them into strands around Her fingers. In the end, the cocoon formed out of our selves will serve as a nursery for Her hatching eggs.

I’m hearing a low rumble in the distance, like the noise of an electric guitar being played with a grunge distortion pedal. The wind slaps its frozen fingers against my face. Although my brain is burning up, the cold is numbing my skin and creeping into my body, where it turns the blood into slush. Soon enough my teeth will chatter, the chatter will become a moan, the moan will rise to a howl of despair, and the howl will echo over the frozen earth to the fathomless ocean of empty space, where the fringes of the expanding universe push against the invisible wall that separates us from the unknown. I will hallucinate that I’m a deer running in circles on a desolate tundra, running and running until my hooves crumble into ice shards and the wind smears the last mist of my breath.

What’s that over the black hills? Are those hands crawling up the outer edges of the world? Do they hunt with pincers, claws or talons? Do you grow stronger as you pluck the meat from its sockets? The air tastes of fresh blood, which trickles down the gullets of your dying sisters. Suck the warm lifeblood flowing like sap from the wounds of your enemies. You can’t hold onto the lives of others, or even your own.

A sudden sensation jolts through my body: I’m falling and spinning. The centrifugal force of the Earth in its rotation has flung me out and I’m hurtling towards the black ocean above, in which the worlds are sinking like stones in water.

The hollow noises of footsteps and doors closing echoed in the velvety darkness as I sat on cold, anonymous stairs to escape from a prison of screams and insults. The blood of my ancestors coated my hands, dripped down my elbows and onto the step under my feet, where the blood puddled around my shoes. Its stifling odor, mingled with the sweat pouring out of me, turned into a nauseating wave of bitterness. My mind was like a house whose every door had been slammed shut. I closed my eyes and built shelters in islands and in the canopies of sequoias, I built towers that bristled with anti-tank weapons; anywhere I could rest as a hermit in sealed silence. I imagined the mountains crumbling, the oceans flooding, the sky erupting in a fireball to vaporize everyone except the beasts. In the end, the parting clouds would reveal the stars as they were before the sky cracked and bled.

“How long?” I whispered while tears formed in the corners of my eyes. “How long until She arrives?”

My life back then was a grain of sand compared to the sediment on the seafloor. Even kings and conquerors were icebergs compared to the glaciers beyond. This world will freeze us, burn us, flood us, bury us, wipe us out. Our cells will be devoured by rust. Like soldiers in wartime, humans burrow in trenches to wait out the battle; we pretend that we’re safe while the cannons roar and the shells explode. Yet, in this frozen darkness, two pockets of womb-like warmth remain where I can survive: one to my left and the other to my right. In an echo of the time when history began, in an age about to end, for now Jacqueline, Nairu and I lie nestled together at the center of our web, our own private constellation.

“How long?” I whisper again.

I’ve faced the barbaric, senseless absurdity step by step. The lights will shut off soon enough, so let’s bathe in the cosmic ocean, let’s float in the currents of atoms and energy that flow through this universe. I will take its waters in and quench my thirst.

Author’s note: the three songs for today are “機械仕掛乃宇宙” (Kikaijikake no Uchuu) by Ichiko Aoba, “Emily” by Joanna Newsom, and “Young Lion” by Vampire Weekend.

I keep a playlist with all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. Eighty-four songs so far. Check it out.

Three neural networks competed with each other to render images inspired by this chapter. Two of the AIs lost horribly. Check out the results.

Thus concludes the sequence titled “Who Stole the Stars?” as well as the saga of Nairu the Paleolithic, that started with the sequence “A Gift From the Ice Age” back in chapter 62 (which I posted in the 13th of July). More or less, this chapter also concludes the traditional second act of the story.

It took me about forty-one thousand words to render the setup and ramifications of a single sentence in my original treatment for this novel (long gone; back then I believed it would be a novella), that said, more or less: “Leire travels to the Ice Age and returns with a child.”

The next chapter will kick off a whole new sequence, titled “Cumlord of the Abyss.” I’ve accumulated 4,563 words of notes for it, but the sum of rendered scenes will end up at least twice and a half that length.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 78 (Fiction)

The breeze blows on the grass and weeds like a whistling ghost. Its cold seeps under my corduroy jacket and leeches the warmth from my bones. I shiver as though I’m sitting naked on the floor of a cavern.

Jacqueline has walked up to us although she risked soiling the soles of her boots, and is towering over my supine self. Her raven-black braid is draped over the thick lapel of her peacoat, but dark indigo highlights are undulating in the windblown loose locks around her ivory-white face, that hovers above me like an earthly moon. A sweet smile settles on her rosy lips, which would feel as soft and supple as the nipples now hidden by her turtleneck sweater and by the reinforced brassiere that supports her prodigious breasts. Her cobalt-blues, beneath which she conceals a thousand secret fountains and grottoes, are piercing deep into my psyche as if to flush my demons out of their hiding spots.

I’d love to stare up in silence at this divine being for the rest of my life; any words would mar the silence. But humans have to acknowledge their mental states through verbal constructs on a regular basis, to distract themselves from the certainty of their impending doom. I wring enough energy out of my bone-tired brain to string together a few words.

“Our adopted daughter vastly overestimated my physical prowess,” I utter in a rusty voice.

Jacqueline narrows her eyes and broadens her smile. She brushes a raven-black lock away from her face.

“Sure, but she already trusts you enough to know that you would save her from a nasty fall.”

“Or maybe she’s that reckless and self-destructive.”

Jacqueline chuckles.

“That may be part of it. She has taken quite a shine to you, hasn’t she?”

“A nice glow-in-the-dark shine. Enough to travel with me across spacetime to our wretched present.”

Nairu’s warm breath is tickling the base of my neck. This Paleolithic creature deserves a bit of paradise, with food to eat, a wide-open sky, trees for shade, and grass for chewing.

My mind gets inundated with images of that boreal forest from which I snatched our girl. A lump rises to my throat. Nairu’s abandoned kin must have prayed to their gods and devils to be spared from the unspeakable apocalypse that befell them. I wish I could leap forward another ten thousand years and disappear from this sickening age of mass destruction and despair.

“More importantly now,” Jacqueline says warmly, “even in this growing cold, you two look comfortable. Don’t mind if I join you.”

As Jacqueline crouches, she smooths her plaid skirt over her thighs, then she lies down sideways beside me, resting her face on her palm. The close-up of her regal visage in the dark makes me feel like a cat snuggled up by a radiator.

“Jacqueline, thank you for everything,” I say in a strained voice that risks becoming a broken whisper. “For welcoming this new daughter of ours into your home. For being here with me in this park. For existing at all in this insane world, when most of everything has come and gone.”

Jacqueline’s eyes glimmer. She softens her gaze and blows air through her nostrils. The vaporized exhalation lingers between our faces.

She slides a hand behind my head, brushing the top of Nairu’s, to cradle my nape. My beloved leans her face down and kisses me on the lips. She pushes her tongue into my mouth while her fingers entwine themselves in my hair. I take a whiff of her fragrance, a flower garden blooming with myriad blossoms. When Jacqueline pulls away, my heart is pounding in my ears like a tribal drum.

“You’re welcome, sweetie,” she whispers. “Isn’t it nice to feel the grass beneath us and hear the sound of the wind in the trees?”

“I’ve been far worse.”

She nuzzles my nose with hers.

“It’s going to be alright, you know.”

I swallow to loosen my throat.

“As long as you’re around, I’m sure it will be fine. If you become to Nairu even a fraction of the loving mommy you are to me, she’ll be happy.”

Growing up I only integrated bad examples of motherhood, so I’ll have to avoid turning into the kind of mom that forgets her daughter’s name, locks her out in the freezing rain, keeps her chained in the cellar, or hands her over to a warlord.

Jacqueline rests her head next to mine on the grass. With the tip of her index finger, she traces the seam of my upper lip.

“And I have no intention of ever giving you up,” she says in a deep purring voice.

“E-even after ten thousand years of brutal struggles, wars, earthquakes, plagues, ice ages and extinctions? Even after the human race disintegrates, leaving only scattered tribes of primitive savages? Even after the Earth becomes a burnt cinder drifting in the void?”

She slips her lips and tongue along the rim of my ear.

“Even if you get old and wrinkly,” she murmurs in my eardrum.

Jacqueline has stirred the water in the teapot within me; as its contents heat up, they slosh around and boil, threatening to scald my internal organs. I’d love to take my clothes off then roll around naked over every inch of mommy’s skin, with the zest of a dog that comes across a mud puddle in a park and rushes to turn itself into a swamp monster.

The wind gusts a long-ass moan through the leafless tree branches as the night takes a chillier turn. Nairu slides down from my chest, squeezing my right tit through my shirt and bra, and nestles against my shoulder as if to sniff my armpit. The three of us huddle together like house cats napping in a wrinkled blanket.

My limbs feel heavy and stiff, like sacks of sand strapped to my torso. I’m slipping into a languid trance. I close my eyes and unmoor my mind, which has grown fuzzy with drowsiness, so that it paints on the canvas of soft blackness whatever insane spectacle it pleases.

The first pinkish streaks of morning light stain an ethereal sky. A yellow sun appears, spreading waves of liquid gold. But the sky cracks open as if a projectile punched through the stratosphere, that sheds its pale inner membrane down over the horizon like a dirty gauze while the culprit, a rotund creature with shaggy, burnt umber fur outlined in buttermilk-yellow light, falls towards me with leisurely gravity.

The beast’s leathery snout gleams with its own sticky sap. On either side of a chalk-white face, the roughly nostril-sized eyes, two black holes into a crumpled universe, betray the monster’s dim-witted gentleness, like that of an uncle who would always lend a helping hand and dispense morsels of dubious advice. At the end of its elongated forelimbs, the inward claws, large as dinner forks, are holding awkwardly a folded, yellowed paper.

When the beast lets go of the paper, it unfolds itself with a dry crackling sound and takes off like a sparrow that had gotten captured and imprisoned in a birdcage. The decrepit paper flutters towards me. It touches my nose, flips over and hovers in front of me, displaying its underside. The paper’s edges are browned and torn, and its coarse surface is sullied with bloody fingerprints, but it contains spidery handwriting in fading red ink and an archaic script.

I am a creature of great mystical power. My name is Dialectos, which in your language means “tongue.” My soul is sustained by the constant stream of dark matter that suffuses every atom of the universe. At the end of my feet I have four toes, and at the end of my tail, two; each of them a gigantic stiletto. I enclose in my wings a tiny sliver of the blackest metal, found at the center of your Milky Way galaxy, where countless stars spin like pinwheels of fire. I do not speak the language of men, or even the tongue of beasts, and yet my speech is known to all living creatures. In the realm of the unseen, you humans and other beasts are like flies upon a wall.

Leire, your ancestors’ bloodlines can be traced to the sphinxes that used to roam your continent like sentient wildcats, before the age of iron and steam engines. I hereby grant you full custody of Nairu, the little orphan from the Paleolithic age, who was exploring the fringes of her community when you kidnapped her, upending her life forever, to bring her past the barrier of the Younger Dryas apocalypse into a world of steel-boned cities, lightbulbs, telephones, radios, televisions, submarines, airplanes, rockets, computers, guns and atomic bombs.

You have violated the sanctity of time and space, as well as diverted the riverlike course of fate, so I shall appoint you to the job of loving the Ice Age child. Although she was born in a distant time, now she belongs to your tribe. You will feed her, bathe her, comb her hair, dress her in pink tutus and slippers, sing her lullabies, cuddle her when she has nightmares, buy her toys, stuff her face with pastries and ice cream, and teach her to play the harp. To help Nairu forget the horrors of the world that your gormless species has created, you will make her life fun and absurd. In return, I promise to reward you with a salary of dark matter.

Under your care, if the child grows into a lovely woman, your name will be inscribed in the Hall of Ancestors at her place of birth. But if you instead become the fiend that haunts the nightmares of children, I will cast you back in time, into a frozen cave where you’ll meet a future self who will ask: “Who are you?” And you shall answer: “I’m Leire, the mommy who lost her daughter.” That I promise and swear on the ancient blood that coats every blade of grass. For the next three thousand years, I shall periodically send you letters so you may remember your mission, and that I am always watching.

Signed this day, at the last hours of the eighth year of the calamity,


The paper curls itself into a bowtie, then flies away towards the dawn’s light. As the paper shrinks, it ignites into a fluttering white flame against the furnace-red sphere of the sun.

I smile to the darkness of my mind, and imagine my heart hardening to the extent that a thousand years of suffering couldn’t crack it. I want to slice my head off with a kitchen knife, then hold the decapitated head in the sky so that my eyeballs and mouth, dripping red-and-green goo down on humankind’s face, could scream one thing to everyone, even those who loathe me: “I love you.”

Author’s note: the two songs for today are “路標” (“Michishirube“) and “鬼ヶ島” (“Onigashima“), both by the great Ichiko Aoba.

I keep a playlist that contains all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. Eighty-one songs so far. Here’s the link.

Two neural networks did AI stuff to render many, many pictures related to this chapter. Here’s the link.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 77 (Fiction)

Nairu has gotten stuck in a dopamine-driven feedback loop, hypnotized by the promise of controlled danger. As she stands on top of the play tower, the streetlamps bathe her in yellow ochre light and shade her features with stark shadows. She lowers herself to the slide and compresses her butt cheeks against the cold metal, then she submits her fate to the interaction of gravity and friction, which bring her in contact with the rubber tarmac. Our girl jumps to her feet and runs to the climbing wall while the white ghosts of her breath pursue her. She leaps to the top of the play tower like a mountain lion.

Our adopted daughter is careening down the slippery metallic surface when the soles of her leather boots squeak. Her legs fold, and she bounces off the slide in a burst of velocity. She sails through the air as if riding the crest of a rollercoaster. Her body plows belly first into the rubber tarmac, which squeezes a yelp out of her lungs.

My heart palpitates in alarm as a wave of dread rolls through me. Nairu lies spread-eagled on a dirty, spongy surface that has absorbed, helped by rainwater, the grime of hundreds of soles and dog paw pads. I witness in a flash the splatter of blood and grey matter that the impact spurted out of our girl’s shattered skull, which remains tethered to the spine by a thin strip of skin. Jacqueline drops to her knees, takes the broken head by its hair, and cradles it against her breasts.

Her ashen face is frozen in a grimace as she glowers at me.

“We failed. We are unfit to be parents. It’s all your fault.”

My muscles twitch in spastic panic. Jacqueline has rushed to Nairu’s aid, but our adopted daughter pushes herself to her knees. She spits dust. My girlfriend was about to kneel beside her when Nairu scrambles to her feet.

“Quite the dramatic fall, darling,” Jacqueline says warmly. “Thankfully you’re fine.”

She brushes dirt off Nairu’s chocolate-stained sweater. The child grins up at her adoptive mother, then giggles and scampers away towards the climbing wall, as if to reclaim her place atop the play tower.

My heart sinks back to my chest. The pilomotor reflex shuts down; slowly, the tiny hairs on my arms go limp. Jacqueline approaches me, strokes my neck and leans in to kiss my hairline.

“Is that how we lived as children?” I ask hoarsely. “After some potentially devastating mishap, we just sprung to our feet and kept playing, instead of remaining traumatized for years?”

Jacqueline sighs, blowing a plume of vapor.

“I wish I could remember. Don’t they say that the majority of cells in your body get replaced every seven to ten years? Or is that a myth?”

“Maybe we never grew up, we just appear to age to our bodies.”

“I have changed,” she says as her fingers comb through the hair on my nape. “If I were to meet my child self, I wouldn’t recognize her.”

“Well, I’m glad that Nairu can giggle like that. I only laugh anymore as an evolutionary mechanism to prevent me from going insane.”

Did we forget about our adopted daughter? She has climbed the tower and is standing on the edge, maybe waiting to be noticed. The closest streetlamp is bathing her in light, giving her a golden tinge, as if framed against the sunset sky. The shadow cast on her left cheek is inky black.

If I controlled her body, I’d make her step back, but I can barely make myself understood by the Paleolithic child. I walk closer, the same way an onlooker would approach the façade of a building if she had spotted a child leaning over the windowsill on a high floor. I’ve known our adopted daughter for less than a day, but if she were to fall and break her neck, the memory would petrify inside my brain, and for the rest of my life, most of the blood and thoughts would need to flow around the tumorous stone.

“H-hey, Nairu, please be careful. You’re going to end up looking like a modern sloth again.”

I’m paralyzed under the weight of her inscrutable gaze. I feel like I’m the kid and she’s the parent, but then again, I would have perished in hours back at that boreal forest where Nairu lived and played. Why would I pretend to know the right answers, when in my own daydream I let a child slide down a kilometric slide-grater that reduced her to a waxy pile of death?

The corners of Nairu’s mouth curl up in a mischievous smile, as if she had imagined herself slipping a caterpillar into someone’s hand as a prank, and she could barely contain the giggles at the thought of the ensuing freak-out. She grins, then flings her arms out wide, bends her knees and leans forward.

“W-wait, what are you doing?!” I exclaim.

She leaps from the edge towards me like a linebacker hurling himself into a tackle. I hurry to catch her. When the few dozen kilograms of girl body hit my chest, the electricity in my heart crackles, the muscles along my back shudder with strain, and most of my breath rushes out of my lungs.

My vision whitens. I stumble backwards on my wobbly legs while Nairu giggles. One of my heels collides with a raised slab of concrete, and I drop down onto the grass.

When I regain my bearings, I move my toes to make sure that I haven’t cracked my spine. However, I have likely smushed dog shit against the back of my corduroy jacket. Weeds are bending against my ears and the underside of my jaw as their vegetal blades dig into my flesh; some are brushing my earholes while they plan how to conquer my defenseless brain. Our adopted child is pressing down on my chest as she clings to me like a koala.

I lift my head off the ground and take a deep breath of cold air to fill my lungs, but a cough roughens my throat.

“Wh-what’s the big idea, you little hellion?” I ask hoarsely. “You must have shattered my ribcage. Did you want me to know how it feels to breathe through a couple dozen puncture wounds to my lungs?”

Nairu giggles. She snuggles closer, rubbing her warm cheek against my jaw, tickling my neck with her wool scarf. As if the barrier of my skin had been breached, the girl’s softness invades my insides. This stranger from the cold wildlands of the past has bested me with her mysterious guile, making a mockery of thousands of years of language evolution.

My facial muscles relax. I let the back of my head rest on the grass, pressing my hair against mud, anthills, and whole ecosystems of bacteria; it will take less than an hour for those microscopic beasts to crawl in through my scalp, spilling some of my brains’ juice in the process, and begin digesting my scalpels and bone saws. Meanwhile, Nairu burrows deeper into my corduroy jacket. By the time I catch myself, I have snaked an arm around our adopted daughter’s back to hold her in a hug, while my free hand moves through hair that this morning absorbed shampoo and conditioner for the first time, hair soft as a baby bison’s wool. My heartbeat echoes between the bricks of my chest, beating out the rhythm of Nairu’s purring.

I close my eyes. In the isolation of a droning sound in my ears and a darkness tinged with citrine-yellow lamplight, I become a mother who is holding her firstborn child. Beyond the boundaries of our snug embrace, a blizzard swirls up and down, covering our hair in white ice, creating a maelstrom of whirling snowflakes as it sucks up in a frenzy leaves, bits of bark, and twigs. The frozen matter, as well as every form of organic litter, will be taken away by the whirlwind of the snowstorm, swept up into the sky and reincarnated as dust particles.

Nairu and I have begun an evolutionary journey into a stronger species by this act, by her invasion of my world, by our physical and psychic bond. Our bodies now resonate like the soundboard of a Stradivarius, like the vibrating walls of a gargantuan tuning fork.

Blessed be the innocent children! Back when I used to return to my dingy apartment in that border town, I sought interlocutors among my dilapidated sofa, the pile of board games, the washing machine, and my collection of dirty dildos, until I gave up and, curled up in a corner, felt like a piece of rotten meat thrown in a dustbin. My brain itself had long been picked over by scavenging vermin, leaving behind only a bitter and loathsome taste. I dealt with the ghosts of programming languages past, haunted by their convoluted syntaxes, buried under the piled layers of virtual scaffolding that supported their unfathomable intricacy. All of existence had become a black box, and it almost drove me to suicide. I inhabited a realm far beneath society’s surface, at the bottom of an ocean populated by abyssal beasts that had to be fed with pain.

But now I have someone to play with! After learning to distinguish one sound from another, we are all destined to speak, or at least to bark. To my beloved partner I shall bark in French: “Je te mords les couilles!” Words will always be inadequate and inept compared to the wordless truth of music, but if Jacqueline and I teach Nairu Spanish to the extent that she can read the newspapers and understand the newscasters, our adopted daughter will despair at the post-apocalyptic world into which I snatched her. She’ll scream that she has grown sick of our time together, that I’m a horrible human being who should be avoided at all costs, that her lungs are breaking out into plague-riddled boils, and that she wants to return to her forests and her freedom. Such an outburst would turn my brain into a sponge forever dampened by the sticky ooze of regret. After all, should any child fear to see her loved ones shot with bullets that tear out the insides of human bodies? Should any child fear her home being ravaged and bombed out? So we better focus on teaching Nairu how to play board games. With our Paleolithic wonder by my side, I won’t need to depend on the moods of a depressed horse to beat Shadowcluster. And if anyone ever looks at Nairu with ill intent, or ridicules her squinty eyes, I will disembowel that person with a rusty spoon. Their viscera will rot in the dirt for the fleas to feast on.

I’m overwhelmed with an urge to snatch our girl up and flee from civilization. To shield Nairu from this insanity, we could whisk her away to a deserted tropical island, a sanctuary of natural beauty and blinding sunlight where the air would smell of brine and warm skin, where only birds would speak a language. The three of us would watch the clouds roll into giant clumps shaped like breasts. Nairu would paint the amber hues of sunset skies on my bare legs. We’d snuggle up in the sand and listen to the surf while the saltwater washed over our feet. My naked body would be drenched in sweat, and the sand would cling to my ass.

Perhaps I should take up on my old pal Git’s advice and become a family of merfolk. We would spend the days hunting fish in the coral reefs, and at night we would congregate in the clear blue waters to admire the stars. A whole pod of dolphin children could join our mafia-run aquatic colony. We’d drag under the waves any human who swam too far from the shore.

We could travel to the Moon and live on its lava plains. I’d love to bathe in the dust of millennia. We would launch ourselves down the tubes carved out in the lunar crust by rising liquid rock, slippery slopes that lead all the way down to the center of the world.

Author’s note: the two songs for today are “Oxford Comma” and “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance”, both by Vampire Weekend.

I keep a playlist of the all the songs mentioned throughout this novel (seventy-nine so far): check it out.

Leire attempted to play the board game Renegade with a somewhat sentient horse back in chapter 20. Also, she sought counsel from an anthropomorphized open source software for distributed version control back in chapter 44; Git recommended that she should transform herself into a sea creature.

I promised to throw scraps at my pair of pet neural networks if they digested my prompts and vomited out fucktons of images related to this chapter. Check them out!

This chapter is just half of what I intended to include to conclude the current sequence. However, these last 2-3 weeks have been a nightmare at the office; I’ve felt more mentally unstable than in the previous few months, even unhinged at times. Posting two thousand words of my ongoing novel makes me feel better, so that’s what I’ve managed to do today.

We’re Fucked, Pt. 76 (Fiction)

Nairu stares up at the vertical, perforated panel of the play tower, a grater-like surface from which protrude pink climbing holds like half-jammed-in butt plugs. Although the metallic panel and the plasticky climbing holds must differ from any rock wall or tree that Nairu may have climbed, she reaches to grab one of the holds, then she pulls herself up. She attempts to climb further, kicking her right leg like a monkey, but her left foot slips. She falls flat on her butt with a thud.

I gasp. This is my fault: if I hadn’t brought her to the present through an invisible portal, she wouldn’t have had to suffer the indignity of landing ass-first on a rubber tarmac. I expect Nairu to start bawling and then increase the decibels exponentially, which is what I would have done, so mommy would rush to her aid and fill her mouth with one of her flesh pacifiers. Instead, Nairu springs to her feet and wipes dirt off her rear end. Her unbreakable confidence that whatever she does, both of her mommies will remain forever by her side to pick up the pieces, must have made all her woes vanish as if they never existed. She squints at the climbing wall with newfound respect.

Our girl stands on her tiptoes to reach a climbing hold, but Jacqueline approaches the child from behind, grabs her by the armpits and lifts her. Nairu, defenseless against the might of an adult, goes limp, until she clings to the closest metallic poles. She places a foot on a climbing hold and steps onto the top of the tower. The girl, turned into a watchtower lookout, surveys her surroundings: the splash of color of the rubber tarmac, the park that spans the hilltop, and the encircling trees, most of which are leafless, but also taller and older by a few decades than Jacqueline’s apartment bulding.

My girlfriend’s show of strength has caused tingles to shoot through my body, with my groin as their neuralgic center.

“Holy damn, Jacqueline,” I say in awe. “You are ground-sloth strong!”

Jacqueline chuckles. She adjusts the collar of her peacoat.

“Am I that strong, or should you eat healthier and exercise with me more often?”

“Likely a combination of those three things.”

“Anyway, I want our doll to experience how it feels like to go down the slide, so she’ll have a better motivation to scale the tower. Don’t you miss playing with this stuff? My parents brought me to indoor playgrounds quite often. I guess they paid by the hour so I could jump in ball pits, cross suspension bridges, slide down plastic pipes, lose myself in mazes made of netting and padded walls… Don’t you wish you could access such equipment as an adult?”

“That sounds enthralling, but my parents never brought me to magical places.”

Jacqueline shoots me a look imbued with pity. I feel as if I dared to examine my face in the stark light of a bathroom mirror, only to remember that my skin is marred with scars and pockmarks.

Coldness spreads in my chest. Did I become depraved because I was deprived of a girl’s dreams?

I avert my gaze, in case my eyes reveal the misery lurking within.

“Don’t look at me like that, please. I wasn’t one of those latchkey children, although I stole food from stores, and hocked jewelry and clothes. I worked as an assistant for a black market doctor and a bootlegger, until one day I fell in love with a nobleman’s daughter. All in the past, though. I’ve had lots of fun with you, Jacqueline.”

“We sure have.”

Nairu utters a garbled string of nonsense syllables. She’s standing at the top of the slide, hunched over and eager to put herself at the mercy of the playground equipment that may butcher her, but hesitating like a dog that considers jumping into the pond where its owner has thrown a stick.

Jacqueline and I walk up to the slide. After she signals for our adopted daughter to pay attention, my girlfriend squats down, which causes the flesh contained by her cinder-colored tights to bulge like a fruit about to be squeezed out of its juice.

“It’s easy, Nairu,” Jacqueline says. “Lower your butt to the slide, then…” She thrusts her waist forward. “Let yourself go.”

I picture a child, the size of a sack of potatoes, throwing herself down the slippery surface of a kilometric slide, but as she accelerates, she remains unaware that further down the metallic slide turns into a grater. Its sharp-edged grating slots gleam in the moonlight as they anticipate snagging the child’s skin and shredding her flesh. When the slide’s grater takes the first bite, the child screams and screeches. She hugs the side of the slide, but the metallic teeth dig deeper and deeper into her flesh, which bubbles under the strain. Her tears fall like raindrops from a starless night sky; they mix with the waterfalls of blood that paint the scene in scarlet hues. Her heart sputters and shuts down.

The chewed corpse lands on the rubber tarmac with a thump, like a sandwich dropping to the pick-up port of a vending machine. Her mother rushes over, only to discover that her child has become a flayed-pork carcass. The father rushes in too late: the dismemberment and devouring of his child’s remains has begun.

A cold shiver runs down my spine. The flood of this vision has carved through the mountains of my brain like an Ice Age outburst of subglacial meltwater. I’m bracing myself for more devastation, for more blood-soaked trauma. My consciousness keeps cycling back into madness, and I’m having a harder and harder time clambering my way out of that spiral. Will one day my nerves burn so violently that I’ll beg my girlfriend to push me off a cliff?

I unclench my teeth, then rub my eyes as my heart calms down. The slide squeaks; Nairu is sliding down the smooth metal at breakneck speed. She braces herself for landing, and at the end of the ride, she bounces on her feet and wiggles her arms in wild excitement. Our girl shrieks with laughter.

Jacqueline claps.

“Good job, darling!”

“She loved it,” I say, relieved. “And kept her flesh intact.”

Nairu bounds to the climbing wall. Once she faces it, she jumps and clutches a climbing hold that protrudes halfway up. She swings her legs and pulls herself up to reach the next hold, again and again until she summits the play tower.

Nairu straightens her back and shows off a triumphant smile. A giggle bursts from her lips along with puffs of white mist. She hurries to sit down on the flat part of the slide, and as she crows with delight, she launches herself into her descent, plunging feetfirst on her back like a luge track’s racing bobsled.

Author’s note: the two songs for today are “Don’t Lie” by Vampire Weekend, and “Rambling Man” by Laura Marling.

I keep a playlist with all the songs mentioned throughout this novel. Seventy-seven songs so far. Here’s the link.

Hey, do you know that neural networks can generate quite competent images? Check out some inspired by this chapter by clicking this link. I’ve already posted twenty-two such entries, which you can check out through this link.

Leire’s sickly daydream feels right now like the most harrowing in a while, perhaps because it involves a child. But hey, if I have to endure intrusive daydreams, so should you; it’s not like anybody forces you to read this shit. Poor Nairu, though: of all the people that could have visited the Ice Age through an invisible portal, she had to end up with my protagonist.

The current sequence had already become the longest in the novel. Once I realized that Jacqueline, Leire and Nairu would spend at least four chapters in this park, it became clear that I could split the sequence into two. The previous sequence, titled “A Hail of Meteorites Upon Our Heads,” ended back in chapter 73. The current sequence is titled “Who Stole the Stars?” You can check out all the chapters of this novel through this link.