Thirty Euros, Pt. 4 (Fiction)

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

Thirty Euros, Pt. 3 (Fiction)

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

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

Thirty Euros, Pt. 2 (Fiction)

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

Thirty Euros, Pt. 1 (Fiction)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note from May of 2021:

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

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 14 (GPT-3 fueled short)

When I regain consciousness, my brain can tell that I find myself in a new place. I hear the muffled sound of soft rain outside of whatever bedroom I woke up in. I smell a woman’s scent. I feel as comfortably warm as a human being can be, lying in bed and covered by its sheets, but I also hold the body heat of another person in my arms. I feel her soft hair against my face, her back against my chest, her ass against my penis, her thighs against mine, her feet between mine.
Alazne has slept in my arms for the first time, and she remains huddled against me. When I was a ghost I daydreamed so many times about this moment, and yet I had never thought that I would be able to return to life. I should feel much happier. I shouldn’t be taking this miracle for granted, but my emotions feel out of sync. Is it due to them passing through Asier’s brain? Or is this body still shaken by the car accident?
My left arm is numb, caught under Alazne’s neck. When I move my right arm slightly, it rubs Alazne’s breasts, which despite being covered by her bra and her top they feel so good against the bare skin of my arm that I don’t try to move it again. My heart starts beating faster.
“You’re awake,” Alazne says softly. “I’ve been up for around half an hour.”
I moisten my dry lips with my tongue and I kiss Alazne’s neck. She shivers and narrows her shoulders.
“Rare of you to wake up this soon,” I say.
“Y-yeah… I thought I would have ended up so exhausted from the great time we had yesterday that my brain wouldn’t work until around twelve in the morning. But I guess that at least for today, I have broken another one of my habits…”
“Being this close to your warmth,” I whisper into her ear, “having my penis nestled between your ass cheeks like this… I’m finally in heaven.”
Alazne rubs her butt slowly against my erection as I hug her tighter with my right arm.
“I-it feels real good…” Alazne says with a thin voice. “Makes me feel wanted.”
“You know you are.”
Alazne hugs my right arm. She runs her middle finger slowly over my hairs, making me shiver. She gets to the edge of my hand and strokes the tips of my fingers, then grips them.
“Tell me things about you, Asier,” Alazne says with a dreamy voice. “Tell me what makes you happy. What do you like to do in your spare time?”
“Why do you ask?” I reply with a chuckle.
She has all the reasons in the world these days to want to know everything about me. It just happens that Asier isn’t even my name, of course, and that I’ve never been a good liar. I hated liars, actually. I considered honesty to be one of my main virtues, no matter how much the person on the other side of the conversation was bothered by what I had to say. But by possessing a dead man’s corpse to date Alazne, I signed up for a lifetime of deceit.
“Just curious…” Alazne answers. “Maybe I can learn more about you.”
“There really isn’t much to know. I’m a boring guy.”
“I doubt that, but if you say so…”
Alazne’s hand moves up my arm, and she makes a fist around my bicep. She squeezes it gently.
“You’re pretty strong,” says Alazne, with a hint of arousal. “Do you work out?”
“I do, yes. I have an exercise bench at home, as well as dumbbells, a barbell and a variety of weighty discs.”
“Oh, you’re into weightlifting?”
“It’s not just that. It’s about self-defense. You never know when some random Eastern European blond guy would want to flatten your intestines. Lifting weights is good for building up your strength.”
“Do you want to show me sometime?” she says playfully.
I want to eat her up.
“You will get to see it for sure, as well as many other things. But I already proved to you how I strong I am, didn’t I? I recall you squirming under me as I pushed myself deep inside you, and you couldn’t even more your arms.”
“Y-you’re right. You did.”
I nibble on her ear. My girl cock is getting harder, bending now against one of her ass cheeks. I’m sure she can feel its pulse.
“And that’s exactly what you needed, isn’t it?” I whisper into her ear canal. “That I would take full control of you, and all you had to do was feel pleasure.”
Alazne is breathing harder.
“You are small and you have a soft ass, Alazne. Perfect spanking material. You did tell me that you needed a boyfriend who would discipline you.”
Alazne turns her head towards me and I hold her glistening gaze, as much as I can see in the morning light filtered by the curtain.
“B-but I’ll be good, I promise.”
“That’s perfect, because I need you to be a good girl right now.”
Alazne smiles as I let go of her and pull my left arm from under her neck. I maneuver under the sheets so I straddle Alazne’s waist while looking down at her flushed, sleepy face. My hands run across her bare, warm waist and up her belly. I slide my hands under her top, then lift the bridge of her bra until my fingers gently caress both of her tits. They’re warm and soft, and the nipples have already hardened. I squeeze and fondle her breasts, alternating between tenderness and firmness, while I pinch her right nipple with my right thumb and index finger.
Alazne closes her eyes and exhales softly.
“That feels good, doesn’t it?” I ask.
“Mm-hmmm,” she moans, nodding her head.
I roll the sensitive nubs between my forefingers and thumbs while her chest raises to meet my hands. I lean down and press my mouth to hers. Our saliva tastes stale and mostly bad, not that it matters to me now. I move my hands down to the bottom hem of her top. Alazne raises her arms obediently over her head, allowing me to pull the top off her body. Her bra follows.
I hold up the top.
“I hope you can clean this properly without fading the Wings of Freedom logo.”
“W-what do you mean?”
“Somehow it ended up with huge semen stains down the front.”
“W-what? No it didn’t!”
“I’m afraid it did. Don’t worry, I can buy you anything, even more ‘Attack on Titan’ merchandise.”
Alazne reaches with one hand and tries to wipe the stain with her thumb and index fingers, but the semen this body produces is just too powerful.
“You planned this, didn’t you. So I would have to dress with more girly clothes.”
“So you wouldn’t wear anything, more like it. Don’t worry. After we shower we can go downtown and buy clothes you like. It isn’t raining that much. Right now though, I’m starving and I want to taste your body all over.”
Alazne gives me a seductive grin as she slides her hands down my chest.
“You’re going to have to let me taste you first,” she says. “The Chinese from last night didn’t fill me enough.”
I push the sheets off my body and I stand up next to the bed, facing Alazne, who sits up and hooks her fingers in the waistband of my boxers. She slowly slides them down my legs as she kisses her way from my stomach, across my hip bones, and to the base of my cock, which hasn’t gone down since I woke up this morning. As Alazne smears the sensitive skin of my shaft with her warm saliva, I slide my hands through her light brown hair and hold her head while she opens her mouth and takes me in.
I close my eyes as Alazne’s wet mouth slides slowly up and down my hard cock. She swirls her tongue around the tip in a figure eight pattern. The pleasure is nearly unbearable, but to my surprise I also feel relieved: if Alazne keeps her mouth busy, she won’t ask me questions for which I would have to fabricate the answers.

After we bought a bunch of clothes for Alazne in the stores of the Mendibil mall, we parted ways so I could return home and make sure that my ghost roommate and confidant Kateryna hadn’t killed herself due to her recent despair. Just kidding, she couldn’t get rid of her consciousness even if she was serious about suicide, because she’s trapped in the afterlife.
That night, which I spent at Alazne’s apartment again, I offered to bring her the following morning to another potentially exhausting adventure in Donostia, but she refused. She wants to ease herself into doing more and more things slowly, because her brain isn’t used nor suited for it. We got together the next afternoon at three, and walked hand in hand to the center of Irún so we could order coffee in one of the popular restaurants and coffee shops along the Luis Mariano street. We end up choosing to sit at an outside table under a retractable, two-sided awning.
After we both order coffee with milk and the waitress leaves, Alazne rests her chin on her hands while offering me a lovely smile. Her light brown hair and eyebrows contrast starkly with her pale, freckled skin, particularly in the sunlight. She looks beautiful, even though she’s dressed simply in a long-sleeved green sweatshirt and black capri pants.
“I used to force myself to walk up to the center of the city and sit for at least an hour in some coffee shop to read, mostly just to avoid spending the entire day at home like I needed. Like my brain demanded, more accurately. Still, I could feel the anxiety mounting by the minute.”
“It’s a good thing you were pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, given how you could have ended up,” I answer.
“I felt that it was good, yes. Still, I’m talking about a period of several years. For the last couple, I barely went out unless I had to work. It got so tiresome, sitting alone at some coffee shop, feeling people staring at me and wondering why I didn’t come with someone. I had two separate waiters, one a young guy and the other a woman in her forties, ask me whether I had ordered two coffees. When I repeated that I just wanted one, they said they were kidding. Fucking assholes… And one day as I was sitting calmly like we are doing now, a guy came over to me and put his arm around my shoulders and tried to talk to me right into my ear.”
I press my lips together as I feel my blood pressure raising.
“Did you kick him?” I ask in a grave voice.
“No, but I wanted to. He wouldn’t leave me alone. I felt my heart beating faster and faster as he sat beside me and didn’t want to go away. I was sweating. My palms felt wet. It was disgusting.”
I squint and nod in understanding. Alazne continues.
“I couldn’t control myself anymore and ran out of there while people stared at me. I got home and cried.”
“What the fuck did he want?” I ask with a raspy voice.
“No idea. I couldn’t understand his language.”
“Wonderful. Alazne, now that I have this well-built body with some muscles, it’s not just for keeping you warm in bed, but also for tearing apart anyone who bothers you.” I feel my hands balling into fists. “If you see him again, point him out for me. He will feel the pain of a thousand deaths.”
The waitress comes back with our coffees, and one look at my angry face makes her stop in her tracks. I force myself to relax as I take a deep breath. I avoid looking into the waitress’ eyes, though, as I am embarrassed. I don’t recall getting this mad back when I inhabited my original female body, the little I remember after twenty years a ghost. Is this the testosterone speaking through me?
“Thank you,” Alazne says, and she pays for both coffees before I can think of objecting to it.
After the waitress leaves again, I purse my lips as I look at the cup of coffee in front of me. I should calm myself down first before touching it.
Alazne puts her hand on mine, and strokes it. Her warmth relaxes me as if she were singing to a wild beast.
“I shouldn’t have mentioned that,” she says softly. “Obviously it was going to bother you.”
“I am a bit out of shape in controlling my anger,” I admit.
“I’m sorry.”
I recall my shameful diarrhea incident, and that for a split second I had wanted to crush that Oleksiy’s face until no discernible facial feature remained.
“Don’t be. I just didn’t expect I would get this angry again so soon.”
Alazne looks at me curiously, but I want to bite my tongue. Thankfully she accepts that I don’t want to talk about it, and she allows me to drink a bit of my warm coffee.
After Alazne sips her own beverage, she speaks camly.
“Remember that during our marvellous first date to the amusement park, you mentioned that you had travelled around quite a bit?”
I clear my throat. Is it lying time? It looks like lying time.
“I guess I did, yeah…”
“Please, tell me some of the stories. I always wished to travel, but it’s hard when I can barely leave my house due to the anxiety. Not to mention that I’ve never had the money.”
“That’s a shame. You’re missing out on so much.”
I want to kick myself for saying that. Not only I must have made her more curious about my experiences, but it’s a bit silly for me to say so: after my first years as a ghost travelling throughout Europe, the experiences ended up feeling so stale and pointless that I never left Spain again.
Alazne rubs my hand slowly with her thumb. She doesn’t need to tell me how much she cares for me already: I can see it in her eyes. And yet I’ll have to deceive her over and over.
“Hopefully you can tell me some of your experiences,” Alazne says. “I don’t doubt you’ve seen plenty of the world.”
“Well, I suppose I have,” I say. “I once met Charles Dickens…”
Damn it, that’s not believable. I purse my lips, then smile and scratch my nape like a mischievous child.
“I totally made that up. There’s no way I’d meet someone as famous as that, even if his ghost still wandered around. I once saw a seven-year-old get bullied by some teenagers, though. That was pretty awful.”
Alazne giggles.
“I meant your experiences travelling, you idiot!”
“Ah, those. Yeah, I guess I did. A lot of them are pretty mundane, but I guess they can get pretty exciting as well.”
“Tell me about some of them.”
I go into a story about an avalanche I skied on once. This leads to a story about a drunken party on a train in China that the other passengers didn’t know was happening, and from there I go into a story about how I smuggled home a baby monkey in my backpack. Alazne keeps laughing.
“Alright, now how about you tell me some true stories?” she asks.
I try to contain my nervousness. I did visit every country in Europe, but I happened to be a ghost back then, so none of the ways I reached those countries nor how I entered many of the buildings where I had the most interesting experiences will make any sense. My ghost powers allowed me to pass through walls, walk along the bottom of lakes and swim through the ground. On top of all that, my memory is hazy about many events. I’m fucked.
“Alright… Hmm…”
Desperately, I try to rack my brain for any story that’s halfway believable. I feel a headache coming as I furiously search through old, dust-covered memories that haven’t been accessed in many years. After about a minute or two of searching, I give up.
“I can’t do it,” I admit. “All of my experiences are so outlandish that I can’t come up with anything that seems remotely believable.”
Alazne is even more intrigued.
“Did you have one of those wild youths in which you grabbed a backpack and just travelled through different countries?” she asks.
“Well… I guess that’s close to accurate. I spent from 2003 until 2008 or so abroad. I did get on trains, buses, taxis, and similarly useful vehicles to reach further destinations.”
“I thought you had travelled around for a few months at the most! You spent years? Where did you go?”
“Well, I visited many different places in Europe. I started in France, and travelled to places like Monaco, Vatican City, Germany, Ireland and many more. Basically anywhere I could physically move to, even if I had to get on a plane or a boat.”
Alazne is looking at me with different eyes now, proud but also a bit intimidated, as if my revelation had hurt her self-esteem.
“Wow! What’s it like there?”
“There’s a lot of history. Many, many people. Lives that had started without me having any say in them, and that I became disconnected from entirely once I chose to walk away.”
“Did you do it for fun?”
I wring my hands, and then I regret that I have lost myself browsing through the faded memories of those years. I take a gulp of my coffee.
“It wasn’t about that. I wanted to see new places and try new things. I needed to learn more about myself, my condition, and about others with my same problems. I feared… that if I stayed back home, I would surrender to despair like most around me, or go insane.”
“So, did you?”
I was going to ask which one of my previous sentences her question refers to, but I stop myself. I’m opening up too much.
“Ah… I learned about many kinds of insanity. For example, I spent some time in Switzerland with a reclusive guy who did little else than listen to music. Lorenzo was his name. Quite a few of the songs you got to hear during our date to Monte Igueldo I learned about through him.”
Alazne looks to the side as if imagining a scene, and when she holds my gaze again, she’s frowning slightly.
“What was wrong with him?”
“He was afraid of people. He felt safer in his house.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad. Why did he need your help?”
He might have needed my help, but he didn’t even know I existed. I shake my head.
“He didn’t. He was too far gone. One day I came back to his place and he had cut his wrists. That was that.”
Alazne’s eyes tremble as she keeps staring at me. She swallows. I take a deep breath and wait in case she wants to comment on it, but she doesnt. I shrug.
“By the time his parents saw his body, they didn’t recognize him anymore. I can’t help but think they wouldn’t have been able to recognize their son even if he was still alive. Did you know that they threw away his music? That was the worst for me, somehow. The only thing that had brought the guy some joy, and his parents discarded it like nothing. Didn’t even bother listening through the stuff that had been keeping him alive until then.”
Alazne’s eyes quiver, and she frowns.
“That’s really sad,” she says in a low voice.
I nod.
“In time I’ve learned to let go of the past. It doesn’t serve any purpose other than to weigh you down.”
It’s easier said than done, though. During my travels, when I wasn’t doing previously impossible things like sleeping in the forest by my ghostly self during a storm, looking at junk at the bottom of rivers and lakes, jumping off rooftops, and a fuckton of spying on random people’s houses, I felt drawn to misery, which seemed to be the only domain that I truly belonged to anymore. When I wanted to rest for a few days or a week, I ended up running into some terminally depressed person, or hanging out with bored, cranky, miserable ghosts as long as they hadn’t gone insane. Now I wish I could forget all of it. I wish I had been born the moment I woke up in Asier’s body, that I had lost my memories as I keep assuring everyone, and I could face the future like the man I’m supposed to be. Instead of that, for every step I take I will keep dragging years and years of loneliness and nightmares, and lying to the face of the only person in this stupid world that I have ever loved.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 13 (GPT-3 fueled short)

For a few seconds I hear nothing but the storm outside, its rain drops hitting the window. Then Alazne rests her guitar against the wardrobe, sits down on the edge of the bed and leans towards me, sinking a hand into the mattress next to my torso. She’s smiling.
“Did you like it?”
I caress her cheek and then move a swaying lock of her light brown hair behind her ear.
“Let me tell you.”
I sit up, and with a grappling maneuver I roll Alazne so she lies face up on the bed. Then I slide an arm behind her to cup the back of her head, and kiss her mouth deeply. She responds in kind. I feel her heart beating harder through her chest.
She wraps both arms around my neck and we kiss for what seems to be ages. I caress the warm skin of her back under her top, and slide my fingers of that hand down until I get to fondle her left ass cheek under the loose fabric of her shorts.
She gently pushes me off and rolls me over so she is on top. Her hands go down to my belt, and she unbuckles it. She unzips my pants and then starts pulling them down, revealing my blue and white boxers that are struggling to contain my erection. Alazne lets out a whimper of anticipation. I lift my hips to help her draw my pants down my legs and off, but after she strokes my penis through the thin fabric of my boxers for a moment, I grab her waist and maneuver so we both end up kneeling in front of the other on the mattress.
“That’s no way for me to introduce you both,” I say with pure animal hunger. “First off, let’s take off that top of yours…”
I lean in and caress her back up to the nook between her shoulders and neck, then I trace an almost straight line down to the hem of her black top. There, I hook my fingers on it and slowly start drawing it up. She lifts her arms so I can take it off her.
Her light pink bra matches the color of her underwear and resembles the tone of her skin. Her nipples are hard, and they look so delicious that I lean closer and lick one of them through the fabric. Alazne lets out a surprised squeal, then she grabs my hair and, while pulling down that half of her bra with her index finger, makes me suck her nipple. She holds my head in place while I flick her small, warm nub of flesh with my tongue and give it a gentle nibble, then she pulls me up to kiss her again. My mind is going blank, but I pull myself away to stand up next to the bed. A string of saliva remains connected to our lips for a couple of seconds.
As I straighten my back, I notice movement on the surface of the wardrobe. From inside a small, round frame hanged on the mahogany stares at me a man in his late thirties, whose face is slightly sweaty, who hasn’t shaven for a few days and who ogles me lecherously. My heart stops, and my body wants to go into a fighting stance. What the hell is that man doing in Alazne’s bedroom?! Then I realize that I’m looking into Asier’s startled eyes in a mirror.
I guess that in my mind I was picturing our lovemaking session differently. I wasn’t a female ghost wearing a taller than average, well-built, already greying dead man’s body as if I were commanding a titan. I was a muscle-bound Amazon, an alpha femme whose pelvis somehow supported a cock that wasn’t so much a sexual organ as a weapon of mass destruction, its helmet head constantly leaking whitish nectar, and eager to tear through any innocent’s pussy to shoot off her brain from inside with a nuclear burst of cum. But I guess me having a man’s body works too. After all, Alazne always searched for older, big men who would handle her forcefully to save her from having to doubt and decide for herself. Even though I yearned for Alazne to venture into those intriguing advertisements of voluptuous, confident women with huge cocks, she never did.
When I look back down towards Alazne, whom I had committed the sacrilege of forgetting entirely, my cock throbs: she’s kneeling right in front of me, her glassy eyes fixed on the bulge twenty centimeters in front of her, her hands caressing her thighs as if she could hardly wait to masturbate.
I hook the sides of my boxers and slowly unveil her gift. My girl cock springs to life, so close to Alazne’s flushed face that if I came right now I would blind her. I put my fists on the sides of my waist and speak proudly.
“Gaze upon my futa co– I mean, this manly monster. All hard and thick.”
“Mmmm…” Alazne moans and opens her mouth wide with lust. My cock grows half a centimeter just by looking at her face.
Both her pupils and nostrils dilate as my girlfriend leans forward slowly and reaches with her hands to hold on to my waist, failing to realize that I had put my own hands there. I let her grab on to me. Alazne sticks her tongue out slowly towards my purplish cock head. A drop of saliva rolls down the tip of her tongue and elongates as it hangs, but excess saliva is also trickling from one side of her mouth.
I had only intended to show my girl cock to Alazne, to figure out if she shared my enthusiasm for this new superpower of mine. And I fear that I’m going to explode the moment her saliva wets it.
“Uhh… You don’t need to…” I groan as her warm breath tickles my cock.
But Alazne continues to lean forward until her tongue touches the tip of my dick. Her lips purse as if she’s going to kiss, and then they wrap around the glans. Her mouth is like an oven, almost scalding hot.
I close my eyes and grimace in ecstasy as Alazne bobs her head. My legs are shivering. Shit, I’m going to come in seconds. How the hell do guys block themselves from orgasming?! I have trained myself to recognize and contract the different muscles that this miracle of nature contains, but it was a serious mistake for cocks to evolve without developing a shut-off valve. Still, if millions of years of evolution haven’t provided one, that means that nature intended us to shoot our loads as soon as possible. I hope Alazne doesn’t take it against me.
I try to keep my eyes open, even though everything looks bleached as if I had stared into the sun. The sounds return: Alazne’s is slurping while from her throat escape placid moans. I blink the whiteness away until I see Alazne’s light brown hair bobbing up and down. I lower my hands to run my fingers lovingly through her soft hair. As it pertains to me lasting more, looking down at Alazne’s expression was a mistake.
“A-ah…” escapes from my dry mouth, which feels anesthetized. “You are such a good girl, Alazne.”
I feel Alazne’s body shivering from her tailbone to her cervicals. When it reaches her mouth, her teeth grip my dick for a very long moment. Then Alazne takes a deep breath, her eyes roll back and she slides her right hand under the waistband of her shorts. Once her fingers make contact with her holy button, Alazne rubs it rhythmically in harmony with how she’s guzzling my cock. Saliva keeps dripping from her chin.
I try to move back, but Alazne holds me in place by grabbing my ass. She must know what’s going to happen to her mouth, or I hope she does, because I doubt I’m going to be able to stop it. Has even a minute passed?
“A-Alazne, you are giving me the time of my life, but…” I manage to say with a threadbare voice.
“Nnph!” Alazne moans in the back of her throat, exhaling a ruffled ‘ah’.
“You’re going to make me come… if you keep this up. But I want to fill your pussy first.”
Alazne pops half of my dick out of her mouth, tilting her head so she can speak. Her pupils are unfocused and dilated as if she was drugged.
“Y-you want to put it in?”
“Oh God, yes.”
Alazne draws her head back, and my cock slides out of her oven-hot mouth. It glistens as if greased. Exposing it to the ambient temperature of this stormy evening feels beyond wrong, and I almost plead for Alazne to take me in again.
I get lightheaded for a moment. When I regain my balance and look back up, Alazne is lying on her back with her head propped up on the pillow. She has taken off her shorts and moist panties at lightning speed and has thrown them beside her onto the unmade sheets. She has spread her legs, covered up to her knees by her pink socks with a cat motif, and with her fingers she’s holding apart her drenched pussy lips to present the punch pink insides. Her vagina keeps leaking juices that are spreading a circle of wetness on the sheet. Her light brown pubes have grown towards her abdomen like a fuzzy lighting burn.
I have never seen such desire in someone’s eyes, as if Alazne’s life depended on getting filled with my cock. She offers me a drowsy smile while her skin from her upper lip to her chin shimmers under the electric lamp.
“I’m your precious little girl,” Alazne says lewdly. “I need you deep inside me, daddy.”
I was so lucky that I was unbuttoning my shirt instead of touching my dick, because the spasm that shakes the lower half of my body evidences that I would have shot big globs of cloudy cum all over the sheets. With Alazne’s pussy already open for me, such a waste would have been unforgivable. And the sight of that throbbing little button and those lubricated lips are making me want to launch myself at them face first like a ravenous wolf. I have so much hunger built up from the myriad of instances as a ghost that I lied in bed next to my Alazne, or even kneeled on the floor under the bed so I could keep my incorporeal face real close to Alazne’s lubricated fingers as she rubbed her clit and fingered herself, only for me to die over and over again out of frustration because my ghostly tongue could never reach her. Now I just want to eat that pussy out until I wear it down to her pelvic bone.
I’m about to communicate to Alazne my change of plans, when I notice that she’s staring hungrily herself at my girl cock, which must have been leaking precum for a while. I can eat her out later, I guess. That’s right, we are not pressed on time. Alazne is my girlfriend, we are going to fuck over and over in the coming days and weeks and months and years until our genitals shrivel up and fall off.
I climb onto the bed, kneeling so the underside of Alazne’s thighs touches the top of mine. She lets out a yelp of delight. I can barely look in the direction of her pussy without feeling like I’m about to explode. I need to fill Alazne up like a human-shaped cream puff. If it depended on me, my girl would never be able to stand up without leaking cum.
I hate, absolutely hate having to use a condom, because it will prevent me from properly feeling Alazne’s insides, but unfortunately male semen is toxic and it produces horrifying mutations in defenseless females. The world is cruel, and that’s not changing anytime soon.
I lean on the mattress next to Alazne’s bare waist so with my right hand I can pull out a condom from the back pocket of my pants. I rip the condom’s wrapper with my teeth, then take the lubricated piece of latex out, which smells vaguely like a balloon. I start unrolling it over my length, although this is a challenge because of how rigid and pulsating it is.
“Nooo, no condom,” Alazne says as if out of it.
“I assure you, my love, I would adore nothing more than to push my raw cock inside you and fill you up with as much semen as I can produce in a day. But if me inviting you to live with me on our first date, then declaring our love for each other before the second one isn’t going fast enough, me impregnating you the first time we fuck probably would count as ‘too fast’.”
I would say I’m happy that Alazne sees reason, but the look on her eyes suggests that there’s nobody tending to the command module in her brain. I’m amazed that there is anyone in mine. I would love nothing more than to lose myself entirely, and only regain my senses an hour or so from now, when I would realize that the white flood coming out of Alazne wasn’t due to some horrifying infection, and that I would have to bother myself figuring out how to prevent a pregnancy. But that version of me wouldn’t be the current one whose penis is rock-hard and who needs to shoot her load as soon as possible, so fuck that future version of me, theoretically.
I have already unrolled the condom to cover the entirety of my futa cock. I move up on the bed towards Alazne’s flushed, drooling face, and rest my elbows below her armpits so I can slide my hands under her shoulders. She realizes that my mouth is close to hers, and she grabs the back of my head to plunge her tongue into my oral cavity.
I feel my glans touching her warm, slippery opening; a dulled sensation, thanks to the damned condom. Still, I’m going to have trouble lasting more than a few pumps before I burst inside the sex balloon. Back when I was a ghost and I got involved in sexual situations, usually because I walked through a wall into them, I took pride in how much I could last without coming, but then again I was only watching, I was a woman ghost so coming soon didn’t matter, and also I wasn’t physically able to come. It’s such a shame. If Alazne came in a couple of seconds, I would be happy, and shortly after I would be working her up into a second orgasm, and a third, and so on.
Alazne crosses her legs over my ass and pulls me towards her. I oblige her, sliding the glans inside. There’s a feeling of pressure on my cock before the walls of her vagina dilate to accept me. Fuck, it feels so good. I gently push my hips forwards, sliding more of my monster in. Her warmth and wetness threaten to make me lose my mind. I retract my hips until only my glans remains inside her opening, before pushing forwards again.
I’m so lost in sensations that I couldn’t even tell that we are still playing with each other’s tongue. I draw my head back. Alazne is lifting her hands slowly towards my nape as if to bring me closer, but with a couple of jerky movements I grasp her wrists and push them down onto the mattress to immobilize her arms over her head. Alazne blushes harder and lets out a moan.
I draw my hips back and then drive them forwards with a smacking noise, our bodies making contact as I bury my futa cock all the way inside my woman.
“Fuck!” Alazne wails.
Her breasts rock up and down with the motion of my stolen body. Her eyes are almost white, having rolled back, and an unending amount of drool keeps trickling out from both sides of her mouth. With the weight of this man-body holding her down, and my strong grasp restraining her, Alazne can barely move. She could resist, but it wouldn’t change anything. She only needs to be take it in and let go.
Every backstroke keeps splashing her vaginal juices on the both of us. I lower my mouth to her ear to whisper in.
“From now on you are fully mine, Alazne.”
She shakes her head slowly. Her long hair is getting drenched in our sweat and her own saliva. I recall plenty of moments like this playing on her monitor while she rubbed her clit frantically as her body shivered. A strong man restraining the actress, taking full possession of her entire being, and his thick cock pounding her so hard and deep that the woman didn’t have to think nor feel anything but the waves of pleasure. Alazne came so hard with those.
“Even if you don’t admit it, you are mine,” I say, and prod the holes in her ear with my wet tongue.
Alazne’s body gets closer to her peak. I possessed this disgusting man-corpse so I could make her fall in love with me. She will be mine, and she can’t do anything about it. I am a ghost and she is not.
“I-I… I am yours,” Alazne whimpers.
“You will be my sweet girl forever.”
I quicken my strokes, and her thighs tremble. The most beautiful sound in the world is when a woman reaches her climax with my cock inside her; it’s the sound of me winning. I have never used a cock to fuck anyone before, but I know this is true.
“Ah… Hm…” escapes from Alazne’s mouth as her head rolls back and forth slightly.
“I’ll take such good care of you. You’ll get to fill your warm mouth and your pussy with this cock every day.”
Alazne’s toes curl inward, scratching the back of my thighs. The noises flowing out of her mouth no longer resemble words. I speed up even more, and my cock sinks all the way inside her. Her whole body trembles, and her pussy squeezes me tight as if it doesn’t want to let go.
“This body is so dirty… So filthy… So nasty…” I keep muttering.
“I-I am yours,” she repeats in a louder voice, and I bite her lower lip.
Alazne’s spine arches as spasms shake her body and the walls of her vagina keep milking me. She throws her head back, and her mouth opens to release an intense cry. I hadn’t noticed that she managed to free herself from my grip, because what remains of her bitten nails are now biting into my flesh. The pain is delightful.
I think I could tell she had already orgasmed, but her hands keep clutching onto my shoulders as if she needs to keep from falling, and I continue my thrusts until I’m sure that the last spasm has faded away. I lose my concept of time. The next thing I know is that I’m filling the condom while my cock remains deep inside Alazne. My body shakes as a wave of heat flows through me.
Alazne is panting, and her eyes are closed. Her face glistens with sweat, saliva and tears.
I withdraw my cock from inside her. Her pussy lips close slowly around my glans as if reluctant to let it go. I lean on the mattress with one trembling hand while with the other I start pulling off my condom, but I’m out. I can’t deal with that right now. I end up lying sideways next to Alazne, with my hand resting on her opposite breast, still covered by her pink bra, as if cupping it. I kiss her cheek softly, letting my lips linger.
“That was amazing,” Alazne says in a low voice. “I never thought it could be like that.”
I want to say something clever, but I can’t. I feel as if all my grey matter was squeezed through my cock.
“As I moaned I didn’t think for a moment about the neighbors,” she adds. “Now they have something new to talk about.”
“I doubt they have heard such joy in a long time,” I say as my voice trembles. “They can die of envy if they want.”
Alazne raises herself on one elbow, then she brushes her light brown hair away from her sweaty forehead with the back of her hand. She’s staring down at me with boundless love and trust, and for a split second I feel hollow.
“I love you, Asier,” she says in a low, serious voice. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Something cold wells up inside me, a solid entity. I raise myself to kiss Alazne’s beautiful mouth, and I push her gently onto the bed so we can keep making out without a worry in the world.
We lie on the bed, holding on to each other’s warmth and drinking each other’s saliva, forgetting about the passing seconds. The rain lashes against the window as the wind pushes it, and from time to time distant thunder rumbles. After we stop kissing, we remain curled up against each other like cats in the sun, while observing the details of each other’s eyes.
“I can’t believe you exist, Alazne,” comes out of my mouth.
“The whole time I was growing inside my mother’s belly I thought that, Asier,” Alazne whispers slowly. “For nine months I watched her drink alcohol, smoke and eat all the things she wasn’t supposed to. I thought, why would I keep growing? To what end? And even after I was born, I couldn’t understand.”
A warm tear rolls across my temple. Alazne takes a deep breath, then she moves a few strands of hair away from my face. Her fingers are warm against my skin.
“But then I got old enough and things became clearer,” she continues. “Now I’m here, lying in your arms. All is good. Have you thought about that? About why you were born?”
“I’m a ghost in the machine,” I say. “A bug in the system. An anomaly. What was the point of me?”
I hold Alazne’s sad gaze.
“The point was you met me,” she whispers.
I plant a kiss on her lips, and lie down on my back next to her. She imitates me. We stare at the ceiling as the sound of the rain quenches our thirst for auditory stimulation. I’ve had enough of feeling the inside of a soggy, wrinkly condom, so I pull it off. I end up spilling semen on my lower abdomen. I tie the condom in a knot and throw it aside. No idea where it landed.
Maybe a minute later, I open my mouth to speak.
“What are you thinking about?”
“I’m thinking about my dad, and how he died scared.”
My throat tightens.
“You often think about that, don’t you?” I ask.
“Yeah, but it’s fine now. I forgave him a long time ago.” She doesn’t talk for a few seconds. After she sniffles, her voice comes as if she has turned her head towards me. “Were you scared when you crashed your car? You lost consciousness, right?”
“I lost consciousness, yes.”
“What were you thinking about right before you passed out?”
I take a deep breath.
“I didn’t have time to think. It happened too quickly. I didn’t see it coming.”
“But did you feel an inkling of anything? Like, how your mind was preparing itself for death?”
My eyes are affixed to a long crack in the ceiling.
“No, nothing. One moment I was following the road, the next one I woke up in the hospital pumped full of drugs.”
“That’s good. If you felt any inkling of fear, then it means you’re not as strong as me.”
I turn my head to see Alazne’s face. She has stopped crying, and turns to face me as well. I smile at her. She smiles back. I grab her by the sides and pull her into an embrace.

Around eight in the evening, Alazne’s stomach had already growled a couple of times, but we couldn’t justify to ourselves breaking away from our warm bed and each other’s touch. I was going to have my dinner anyway, though, and after I licked the insides of her bellybutton for a while, I kissed my way down to her pubes. I loved that smell of stale sweat and dry pussy juices. It was honest.
Alazne, as she giggled excitedly, propped her shoulders up with pillows and rested the back of her thighs on my shoulders. I stared at her beautiful, glistening slit in anticipation. Without realizing, I ended up drooling onto the sheets. I lowered my face towards her warm entrance and I gently flicked my tongue against her labia. Alazne let out a long, slow sigh.
I don’t know nor care how much I’ve been licking along her labia or holding her throbbing clit between my lips as I rub it with my wet tongue. Alazne keeps petting my hair as in a trance. From time to time she shivers and moans softly.
When her thighs continue trembling against my ears I know she is close to finishing, so I push my index and middle fingers inside her. Her pussy responds with contractions that grip on my fingers tightly. My mouth waters as the scent of her arousal fills the bedroom. The taste of her honey and muskiness is so appetizing, I feel like I could lick her out for hours on end.
After Alazne lets out her final, long sigh, she puts her hand gently on my forehead to let me know she’s done for now. My jaw aches from the long session of grinding, but I couldn’t be happier. I kiss her thigh a few times before resting my face on it as if it were a pillow, and neither of us speaks.
It’s raining harder, although the thunder stopped a while ago, but I welcome the nasty weather, as it reminds me that Alazne and I can keep each other warm inside. It would be nice if it never stopped raining, and we never had to do anything else but lie around on her bed.

Alazne opens her fridge as if she didn’t know what she was going to find inside. Even back when I lived here as a ghost, her fridge tended to remain half empty, and some of the stuff I would have liked to eat, although back then I wished I could eat anything at all, had gone past its expiration date.
“This is embarrassing…” Alazne says.
“What would you have eaten for dinner normally?”
“Well… I can do with a glass of milk, some bread and butter, or a few pieces of fruit. Many nights I don’t eat anything at all.”
This should be the moment when I pick up a few ingredients and I end up whiping out a meal that would amaze Alazne with how great of a cook and how responsible I am, but that can’t happen. I was a ghost until recently, and I have survived on ready-made food. To be honest, I’m not even sure if I ever boiled water in my life, let alone cook anything. I was dead for too long.
Alazne rubs my shoulder while looking up at me with those big, hazel eyes, which couldn’t look now more apologetic.
“I asked you to come to my place, and you took such good care of me, but I don’t even have anything to feed you. I’m the worst.”
“Sweetie, you took fantastic care of me, I assure you.” I let out a gasp. “Also, I just remembered that I have the power of money! I’ll look up some pizza or Chinese place. Or whatever kind of place you want!”

Around twenty minutes later we finally push away the chair in front of Alazne’s computer and we sit on the edge of her bed. Each of us is holding a warm cup of noodles from the Chinese restaurant. I reach towards the computer mouse to open this week’s episode’s folder from uTorrent, and then I play the video file on VLC. When I lean back, Alazne touches the side of my head with hers, and then digs into her noodles.
“Let’s see what they fuck us up with this week,” I say as I stir my noodles. “The last one wasn’t so much a cliffhanger as just sadness.”
“Well…” Alazne begins with a playful tone. “Maybe they’ll start explaining how the hell they spent the last few years in the island.”
This week’s episode starts by pulling the audience back into an extended flashback. I know what’s going to happen not only in this episode but in all the remaining, and so does Alazne. She bought the volumes translated to Spanish, but when I was a ghost I also read over her shoulder the fan translations to English, that tend to come up shortly after each chapter gets released in Japan. Still, Alazne and I keep putting on a show of our own. I guess that human beings come built with a fundamental ability that is the main reason why we didn’t crumble away into oblivion long, long ago as a species: we can appreciate individual moments as they come, even though we know how everything ends.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 12 (GPT-3 fueled short)

After that Oleksiy punk left on his Toyota 4Runner, I probably should have wandered away for a while, because my gated community is far too close to the narrow street where Oleksiy confronted me. However, the punch in my guts had done a number on my intestines. I struggle towards my house as fast as possible while clenching my asshole. Any wrong movement threatens to shoot all the contents of my bowels so they fill my underwear and roll down my legs. As if trying to avoid shitting myself wasn’t enough, I’m holding an umbrella with my left hand while with the right I’m punching in my phone a reply to Alazne’s text. By sending me that delicious sexual invitation via her bare midriff and her wet fingers, Alazne had opened up about her needs far more than I would have expected just after our first date. And I also can’t simply call her: Alazne won’t want to speak in her current state, flushed and in an erotic trance. That’s assuming that she is still touching herself after I left her hanging to take care of that Eastern European dickhead.
I write back to Alazne I’m so sorry that I didn’t reply to you immediately. Some weird guy accosted me thinking I was someone else.
Don’t worry. Are you okay?, she replies.
My angel, worried about my well-being above her horniness.
I’m fine, I text back. And now I’ll text you what I wanted to as soon as I looked at that picture: if you show me something so delicious, the next time I see you I’m going to eat you up.
Alazne must have looked through some options, because around ten seconds later I receive an animated emoji of a blushing face and a few hearts that orbit around it. Shortly after she writes Please come over to my place today.
I’m already passing in front of the graveyard adjoined to my gated community. My guts are churning and burning, and I wouldn’t be able to deal with the memory of shitting myself in the street. I would have to push that moment out of my mind whenever I looked at my beloved. Still, I focus on replying to Alazne’s message with I will be there around six and a half. I hope you are ready.
Can’t wait. I’ll be thinking of you, Alazne replies.
I finally enter my gated community, and then I scamper towards my house while I shiver. My sweat has turned colder than the rainwater. I might be imagining it, but I think I smell the stench as my asshole struggles to hold my breakfast and lunch in. When I open the front door of my house, I throw the soaked umbrella onto the floor, push the door close with my back, and then I sprint to the nearest bathroom. I lift the toilet seat, pull down my pants and my underwear with jerky movements, and as soon as I sit down and relax my asshole, it spasms and shoots out a load of watery shit that plasters the inside of the bowl. Then my ass explodes again. I cry out loud as it burns and itches terribly while cold sweat gets in my eyes.
As my asshole keeps spasming and shitting, I cry and groan and breathe heavily. Around a minute later, it’s finally over. I pull my pants up with shaky hands and walk out of the bathroom. I’m very dizzy and weak, so I have to lean against the walls as I shuffle to the kitchen to get a mop and a bucket. I don’t recall having cried while cleaning before.
When return to the kitchen, I feel Kateryna’s invisible presence staring at me from the dining table, next to her ouija board. I don’t want to talk about it, but she moves the planchette to communicate with me. I can’t leave her hanging.
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT, the planchette spells out.
“I had a bit of an accident,” I reply, struggling to keep my breathing normal. “An accident caused by some Eastern European prick punching my guts in.”
I sigh heavily as I approach the sink and use it to prop myself up. I rest my elbows on the edge as I grip my hair with my hands, almost in a hugging manner. I wish that Kateryna gets the message and lets me wallow in shame for a while, but my ghost roommate pushes down the call bell a couple of times. I turn towards the ouija board.
The planchette spells out PLEASE EXPLAIN.
“There’s nothing to explain, Kat,” I say with a hollow voice. “It seems that we live in a world where random Eastern European thugs accost people for no reason, and even go as far as stopping traffic to get out of their cars and wreck an innocent person’s intestines. What kind of society are we leaving to our kids?”
I move closer to the ouija board and let my fingers glide over the planchette.
“Don’t you sometimes just feel like going outside with a shotgun and… and ventilating every asshole you see? These dickheads shouldn’t be allowed to walk free, Kat. They fucking punch random people in the guts just because they’re having a bad day. If I had my way, I would…”
I stop talking, because I feel the tears coming. That bastard assaulted me, an innocent, harmless girl. I can’t believe such demons are allowed to roam around.
PLEASE DONT CRY MY BABY, the planchette spells out.
I wipe my eyes, then take a deep breath.
“Don’t worry, Kat. I have already emptied my bowels. Probably scraped the inside lining as well. Now all that matters is getting back in the mood to have sex.”
GO LOOK AT MY PHOTOS, the planchette spells out.
I’m touched, and I raise my hand to my heart.
“My needs have made you uneasy as of late, yet you still suggest me to masturbate while ogling your perfect features! You are an angel, Kateryna. This world doesn’t deserve you. But that wasn’t what I meant.”
I take out my phone and rescue my recent conversation with Alazne so I can show it to my ghost roommate. I hope Kateryna is looking from the direction that I’m pointing my screen at.
“See? My Alazne is horny and needs me inside her. So don’t wait for me, because I’ll spend the night holding the love of my life in my manly arms.”
The planchette remains still for a few seconds. Maybe my roommate is despairing because she has no one to love, while I’m so lucky that someone as perfect as Alazne has become my girlfriend.
CAN ONLY WAIT, the planchette spells out.
“Huh?” I reply, lowering my phone a little.
A sudden pang of pity makes me hunch over. I swallow my stale saliva.
“My poor Kat. I shouldn’t have reminded you of your predicament. Please, tell me which movies you want me to queue on VLC. All of them will look amazing in the new monitor.”
CANT WAIT TO BE ENTERD IN HEVENLY PARADISE, the planchette spells out.
I sit down heavily on the nearest chair, then rub my eyes. There’s no way anything is going to stop me from ravaging my Alazne tonight, and yet I’ll have to abandon my roommate in despair.
“Everything is shit, Kateryna,” I mutter. “You are right about that.”

A warm shower rinsed most of my shame away, as well as whatever residues remained of my ass explosion. The moment I got out of the shower I grabbed my phone from the sink and called a taxi. No way I was going to bother with walking to the nearest bus stop that took me to Irún, and then getting on another bus to reach Belaskoenea. Rich people shouldn’t have to suffer such inconveniences.
As I stand in front of the fogged mirror, that thankfully conceals the view of my man-torso with all that hair and lack of proper breasts, I dry myself with a towel and consider how this stupid day is going to end up: I will join my goddess in holy communion by letting her hungry insides wrap themselves around my rock-hard monster. I need to have more confidence in myself and in the body I’m presenting to the world. After all, it’s this body that will keep Alazne warm and safe in its hairy arms.
I wipe the steam from the bathroom mirror and take a good look into Asier’s eyes staring back at me. I would have never thought I would come to feel sympathy for that clown, but then again he is me now, isn’t he?
I spray some lavender-scented deodorant under my armpits, then brush my teeth in a hurry. My heart is beating hard, but more due to anxiety than of anticipation. That fucking Oleksiy turd ruined my day, and could potentially turn my first night together with Alazne into a disaster. I need to pump myself up. I bring up Alazne’s sexy picture on my phone, then stare at her bare midriff, at those anointed fingers.
“My love, tonight I’m going to make you fully mine like a man does, by stretching out slightly his girl’s vagina according to the particular dimensions of the man’s penis.”
Those curves in Alazne’s midriff are making me salivate, and then my penis finally twitches. I pass the phone to my left hand and allow my right to come to my penis’ aid. It’s back to life, and pushing against my palm and my fingers as it grows to fill as much space as possible. My pet monster has acknowledged his responsibility.
Thankfully this Asier prick wanted to see as much of his cheating self as he could, because he bought a huge bathroom mirror. As I hold my hard penis, I study its reflection. It’s thick enough that I can’t close my hand around it, and if I slide my fingers along it until the pinky touches the base, my hand only hides half of the full penis. Its head is bulbous but tight, with a pleasant purplish-red color now that it’s filling up with blood. Stroking this girl dick feels so good that I’ve spent plenty of time in this house with my pants down and touching myself as I performed any activity. Especially in the beginning, when I would feel feverish and needed to alleviate the aches of my transformation into a man.
In less than two hours, this monstrous seed-spewing device of mine will be thrusting into Alazne’s pale, freckled, delicate body, and her hot insides will milk it eagerly until it explodes.
My mind is going blank as I lean against the sink and keep stroking myself. My heartbeats feel as if I’m risking a heart attack. I will get used to having a dick. The rest of men’s bodies disgusts me, but the power inherent to a cock aligns better with my nature as a conqueror. Feeling women squirming in my strong arms while my monster ravages their insides, that’s the only reason to live. And because I retain my female mind, Asier’s well-built, powerful man-body has lost its only weakness. I might be the first true futa in this retarded planet.
My legs feel weak, my knees threaten to buckle under me…. Will I be able to shoot my load before the taxi arrives? And I have to dress myself and everything. Wait a second, why the hell am I jerking off right now? Wasn’t I preparing myself to head to Alazne’s house so I can fuck her for the first time?
Even though the man-brain that remains in this body curses me for it, I take my hand off my penis. I rest my forearms on the sink and take deep breaths as my penis aches for more contact. I wash my face with cold water. Calm down, Irene. You did the right thing. You were about to commit a sacrilege, because the jerk off times are over. Alazne is eager to welcome me sexually, so from now on every ounce of semen that this stolen body produces is going to end up splattering her skin or her face, or filling her mouth or her womb. Or in a condom, I suppose… If Alazne suggests ass stuff, though, I will resist, because that’s just nasty.
Unfortunately, this sudden decision of mine only brought more elaborate imagery to my mind. I close my eyes and take deep breaths to calm down.
After I return to my bedroom and lay my clothes on the bed to dress myself, I realize what a service I’m going to procure to my Alazne as her devoted boyfriend. Alazne masturbates so much because it kidnaps her from the abusive relationship that her depression forced upon her. For the very short time that the orgasm’s flower of pleasure-inducing chemicals blossoms in one’s brain… No, that’s too lyrical. My point is that an orgasm whites out everything in a brain except for the pleasure of coming. That’s more like it. So it follows that if I could make Alazne come over and over, with the next orgasm overlapping the last throes of the previous one, there would be no pain, no depression. My job as Alazne’s girlfriend slash boyfriend is to make her orgasm as often as possible.

Once the helpful taxi driver leaves me right next to Alazne’s apartment building in Belaskoenea, I am careful to open my umbrella to protect myself against the downpour. I don’t want to show up in front of her as drenched as a stray dog. Also, I don’t like one bit how dark the late afternoon has gotten; only the brightest of suns should have accompanied today the blessed act that Alazne and I are going to perform in her bed.
Along the way here I texted Alazne to let her prepare herself, because I would arrive in a short while. She added that she lived in the third floor and apartment D. Of course, I already knew that, so I hadn’t thought about asking. I wonder if Alazne considered me careless for it.
Lightning strikes and thunder rumbles with menacing indifference to my plight. I press the button to Alazne’s apartment. She buzzes me in silently. I take the elevator, and as it moves up I concentrate my remaining anxiety in my fists. I’m a tough man. Back when I was a girl, I deflowered plenty of innocent ladies. That now I’m going to use untested equipment makes no difference. Thankfully I don’t risk crossing the streams with anybody.
I step out of the elevator onto the third floor. The old light bulbs lighting the two apartment doors make it feel as if I have stepped back in time into the seventies. And even if I didn’t know Alazne’s apartment letter, I’m already overwhelmed by an aura of depression that I can trace back to my queen’s apartment door. She must have been looking through the peephole, because she opens the door to welcome me.
When Alazne appears in front of me, my heart nearly bursts. Her light brown hair is loose, framing her pale, freckled face. Her sad, hazel eyes are glassy, and look up at me as if pleading. Her cheeks are flushed. There are traces of dried saliva near the edges of her mouth. She’s wearing a black top with the Wings of Freedom logo over her heart as well as on the short sleeves, and the top exposes her midriff, the sight of which turns up my production of saliva. She’s wearing grey pyjama shorts which must hide those pink cotton panties she showed me in her photo. For some reason Alazne also put on pink knee-high socks with cat faces all over them, but I won’t complain, as they only make me breathe harder.
I can tell by Alazne’s hesitant smile that she’s embarrassed. She took her alluring pic during her masturbation session, when the entire world beyond anything related to her pleasure had ceased to exist, but she still had extended a hand towards me, as her subconscious had understood that I would join her gladly. However, that Oleksiy thug had failed to read the mood, so I couldn’t reply to Alazne’s offering soon enough. Now Alazne, who I suppose has stopped masturbating for at least an hour, isn’t sure whether I came because I felt obligated. Maybe she feared I would consider her a loon for having sent me a sexual proposition for our second date, even though I had accepted her pleading wish that I would take care of her forever.
I step into her apartment, making Alazne step back so I can close her apartment door, and then I turn towards her, hold her by the bare, warm skin of her lower back and bend over to taste her wet mouth. I reach down to her butt, barely covered by her shorts, and touch the cleft between her cheeks. She feels warm and inviting. My dick is already growing against my boxers. I put my other hand on the soft skin of her abdomen and caress it slowly as I tangle her tongue with mine. She tastes like strawberry toothpaste. I take a deep whiff of Alazne’s smell: stale sweat, what little remains of yesterday’s deodorant, a hint of pussy juices mixed with soap. My mouth is flooding, and I feel a pang of hunger that only Alazne’s body can satiate.
After we stop kissing, Alazne doesn’t untangle her arms, crossed behind my head. Her eyes are glistening.
“I-I thought I had been too forward…” she murmurs.
I lick the saliva that had leaked from her mouth.
“You thought of me while you played with yourself to forget this horrible world. I couldn’t feel more blessed.”
She laughs and squeezes me tightly. I hug her back. I touch her ear with my lips, and I whisper into it.
“You know what you need, and I will take good care of you.”
I kiss along her neck, and then move down to her clavicles. I bite one of them. Her body tenses up and a moan of delight escapes her lips. I would have fucked her right there and then, but she breaks the embrace. However, she doesn’t let go of my hand.
“L-let me show you around,” she says shily, unable to look me in the eyes, even though her smile is as pleasant as they come.
Her rented apartment is cramped and old. Most of the furniture is made of mahogany, and the majority of the shelves are empty as if the previous owners took every object with them except for the furniture itself, which was too cumbersome or maybe mostly worthless. The sofa, which faces an empty coffee table, is worn out and covered in cat scratches. I have never seen a cat in this apartment, but maybe Alazne had a precious pet and lost it, so I won’t bring it up.
“Looks like shit, doesn’t it?” Alazne says with a smile. “I found out that the previous owner, an old woman, died right there on the sofa. I wouldn’t be surprised if she were still around, or if this apartment simply doesn’t heat up properly.”
I want to avoid seeming silly, so I contain behind a manly expression how happy I am that I finally get to experience Alazne’s apartment without everything feeling colorless, tasteless and odorless thanks to that faded filter that the afterlife applies to everything. And Alazne’s warm, slightly sweaty hand feels heavenly in mine. I want to fuck her so bad.
“Ah…” I start, but I end up swallowing to compose myself. “Wait, you say that the ghost of that old broad might still be here?”
“Yeah,” Alazne says with a smirk. “She’s mean, too. She threw my brand new glasses out of the window when I was leaning in to get some fresh air. No, I’m kidding, that was me being careless, as usual.”
“If the woman remained as a ghost, you would experience much more ghostly stuff than that, for sure. Footsteps, whispers, maybe objects flying around, sleep paralysis, and if you were particularly unlucky, some opportunist ghost might possess your body to touch you all over. I know I would have been beyond tempted.”
I looked into Alazne’s eyes as I spoke the last part, and although she wasn’t holding my gaze as I said it, her eyes flick towards me for a split second.
“You seem well versed in ghost stuff. You keep surprising me with the things you are into.”
“Yeah,” I say in a low, hungry voice. “If I were a horny ghost, I’d go after you, with or without your permission.”
“Hm… So I wouldn’t be able to resist you as you caressed me…?”
“That’s right. I would do with your beautiful body whatever I wanted.”
Alazne blushes, then moves closer to me so she can rest her face on my chest. I put my hands on her bare lower back, and then slide them under her shirt. I prod the wings of her bra.
Back when I haunted Alazne’s apartment, I was the only other ghostly inhabitant, so that old woman must have either moved on to the beyond or fucked off somewhere else, whether because she wanted to explore the world or because she wanted to leave Alazne in peace. Whatever the case, I couldn’t be more grateful. Thank you, nameless old woman. I hope the afterlife is treating you better than it did most of the boring, hopeless souls I came across.
After Alazne and I kiss for a bit, she guides me further into her apartment through the narrow hallway. Hanging on the walls there are black and white photos of the city, as well as the neighboring Hondarribia, as they must have been in the thirties and forties.
“That’s the bathroom,” Alazne points towards a half open door. “The cistern barely works, and often I need to move the mechanism around, as well as the lid, so it fills up again. And it’s better if you flush a few times while you are taking a shit, because clogging is an issue. I think I heard some neighbors say that it’s a problem with the sewer line, or something.”
“Hm. Okay.”
We move from the hallway into the kitchen, a small room with barely any furniture save for a table and two chairs. The fridge is relatively new; she must have bought it in the last three years. But a toaster, a mixer and other appliances have gathered dust on a shelf. I know that Alazne doesn’t bother cooking complicated stuff, and if she can get away with it, she’ll heat up premade food or not eat at all when she’s depressed enough. A bunch of boxes have piled up in a corner. Alazne doesn’t care much about clutter, but most of the stuff she buys she eats, are clothes, or exist as one and zeros in her computer.
“That’s where we… w-we will eat breakfast together tomorrow…”
That’s my Alazne’s way of asking, ‘please, stay with me after you fuck me’. I run my fingers through the loose hair near her nape.
“I’m sure breakfast will taste so good after having you sleeping in my arms.”
Alazne shivers, then turns towards the hallway.
“R-right. Then… there is the bedroom,” Alazne says with a desirous tone.
The walls are painted a soothing blue. The best part of the room is the unmade, queen size bed, with a pearl-white, floral bedding set. The bed takes up most of the room, and it even goes into a gap in the mahogany wardrobe that covers that entire wall. Next to the bed there’s a nightstand with all sorts of things on it: a lamp, her phone, a glass of water, guitar picks and a capo, various pill bottles with the labels torn off… The small desk where Alazne set up her cheap PC is so close to the side of the bed closest to the window, as well as to a radiator, that once you sit in front of it you can barely move.
I have finally reached paradise. I will spend all of eternity in this bedroom.
Alazne lets go of my hand, turns her back on me and stands up next to the bed.
“So… what do you think?” she asks with a thin, anxious voice. “Pretty sad, huh…?”
I ogle her light brown hair that reaches the middle of her back, her soft butt barely covered by the shorts, those succulent thighs, and the way her knee-high socks hug her calves. I feel the pulse in my dick, and it’s getting harder for me to breathe. I step closer to Alazne and put my hands on her shoulders.
A big, well-built man who wants her bad, and she the small, lightly clothed woman who is too shy to ask for what she yearns. She has replayed scenes like this on her computer while her thighs trembled. And now, the woman who has longed to feel desired and sexually wanted has that chance. She doesn’t feel like she deserves it, but she’ll take it eagerly.
I hug Alazne from behind, pressing my body against hers. With my right hand I tilt her head and hold it to grant me access to her neck, and I kiss and lick her skin upward until I get to suck on her ear. With my left hand, I caress her abdomen and focus on digging into her bellybutton.
“I’m scared…” she whispers with a trembling voice.
Alazne lets out a sigh of delight as she presses her butt against my erection. She raises one hand to my face and strokes it as I nibble on her earlobe. ‘I’m scared,’ the actress said. The muscled, well-hung man who restrained her delicate body would whisper in her ear that she had nothing to fear, that he would take care of her.
“Don’t be. You can trust me.” I reply as my left hand wanders lower to dive under the hem of her shorts and panties. “From now on you will be fully mine. You will feel me deep inside you, I will lick your clit until you come in my mouth, and when you can’t take it anymore, you will sleep in my manly arms, which will keep you warm and safe.”
“T-that… Hmm… Sounds so good…”
When I open my eyes, my gaze falls on her computer monitor. Alazne has left uTorrent open. Most of the entries have Japanese titles and episode numbers, and I even recognize the one for yesterday’s episode of ‘Attack on Titan’, but around half of the entries either seeding or downloading are porn videos. This woman… Now it truly makes no sense that she used incognito mode to browse PornHub, back when I was a ghost looking over her shoulder.
I cross my arms over her breasts to bring her closer in a tight hug as Alazne’s butt trembles against my dick. I speak softly into her ear canal.
“You’ve been a bad girl, Alazne. You haven’t opened up about what you love the most.”
Her eyeballs roll towards me, although they are so glassy that for a moment I consider whether she would listen to anything at this point. But she turns enough to kiss me on the lips, then asks me:
“W-what do you mean?”
“Those guitar picks, the capo, the calluses on your fingertips… You might not be able to afford to pay for the classes, but that hasn’t stopped you, has it?”
She turns her face towards the ceiling. Tears form in the rim of that eye.
“I keep telling myself I’ll give it up, because the daydreams hurt me, but I don’t. I want so much to play… B-but I’m too fucking scared to go outside, so I just s-stayed here instead…”
Oh no, she’s turning incoherent. I bring two fingers to her lips and silence them. Still, she closes her eyes and licks my fingers slowly, coating them in saliva, while she rubs her ass against my erection. To be honest, I’m losing it myself. I clear my throat subtly.
“Show me, Alazne. I won’t fill you up with this monster until you show me what you truly love.”
“Y-you want me to play the guitar…?”
“That’s what has kept you alive so far, isn’t it?”
She closes her eyes and remains still for a moment, but then she turns around and hugs me tightly. Her love oozes out of her body.
“It’s the only thing I wanted, before I met you… Just play songs, even if those songs belonged to others. Nothing else felt right…”
She’s self-taught and she doesn’t quite know how to play properly, but back when I lived here without her knowledge, I had never heard anything so beautiful in my strange existence. She committed herself to every note as if her life depended on it, and I guess it did.
I pull back from the embrace, and I smile at her as I stroke her cheek.
“Play a song for me. We have all night for making love.”
Although her face is flushed from horniness, she smiles like a teenager and walks on the bed until she reaches a big vertical door on her wardrobe. I walk around the bed to stand behind Alazne. When she opens the door and tries to pull the guitar bag out, something falls to the floor. It’s a worn, stained sheet, with a knot tied on one end to make a noose. Alazne drops the guitar bag, which falls backward until it rests against the wall, and stares at the noose that I had witnessed her trying to hang herself with. Alazne’s face has gone white. Although she tries to force herself to look into my eyes, her gaze merely raises for a moment from the floor before she gives up. She hunches over.
I cup her head and bring her closer to kiss her on the temple.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I-I wanted to die… B-but I didn’t have the courage. Still, I hoped that eventually I would succeed… But then I met you, and you told me that you love me. I decided to keep living, for your sake.”
“You don’t need to keep living for my sake. I want you to keep going because eventually you’ll want to remain alive no matter what.”
I pick up the noose and then throw it into the wardrobe. I close the door.
“I don’t think you’ll use it again.”
A few tears roll down Alazne’s cheeks as she wrings her hands in front of her shorts.
“I won’t.”
I grab the guitar bag and place it at the foot of the bed. Alazne snaps out of it. She sits on the edge of the bed and takes out her instrument. It’s a cheap round shoulder acoustic. Alazne rests it across her right thigh as carefully and lovingly as she would a child. She caresses the strings with her fingers as she finds a comfortable position.
I position the chair close enough that I will be able to look at Alazne from the front. Then I sit down and lean forward.
“W-what do you want me to play?” she asks shily.
“Whatever you feel like playing.”
She nods, then starts tuning her strings. She bites her lower lip as she concentrates on doing it right, and I smile as I watch her cute face. Then, when the strings are all set, she starts to play. I recognize the three starting notes, mainly because I have heard her play this song many times. It’s a custom rendition of Explosions In The Sky’s ‘Your Hand in Mine’. Unfortunately, almost as soon as she hits the second phrase, her fingers stop playing the proper notes, and even hit dead ones. It’s as if she had gotten on a bycicle years later only to realize that she has forgotten how to ride it. Alazne grits her teeth as her face becomes a mask of frustration. Even though she tries to power through it, likely to reach her favorite part of this song, she ends up groaning and giving up. She presses her lips together as if to repress as sob.
“Ah… W-why would I be surprised. I always fuck everything up. Even playing the guitar, my favorite thing in the world, and a song that I have played over and over, my fingers suddenly have no clue where to go.”
I stand up hastily and then kneel in front of her. She looks at me with tears forming in the corners of her eyes.
“You’re just very nervous because I’m watching you,” I say as I rest my hands on her shoulders. “You are worried about disappointing me, even though that couldn’t be further from how I feel about you. Playing an instrument isn’t the domain of that part of your brain that questions everything, that worries about what others think, that filters every thought and movement to figure out if it has to censor them. Isn’t that right? You need to return the control to your true self.”
“I’ll lie down on your bed behind you and close my eyes. I don’t want to hear you performing for someone else’s ears. Play because it keeps you alive.”
She nods her head vigorously and grabs a tissue from the nightstand to wipe her tears. As I promised, I get on her bed and lie down behind her, resting my head on Alazne’s soft pillow. It smells like my beloved. I close my eyes and I caress the back of her picking arm.
Alazne starts to play the beautiful melody, and this time she doesn’t screw up. She performs with passion as if she was shaking off all her burdens. And it doesn’t matter that I’m listening to it with my eyes closed while a holy warmth spreads throughout my body, because back when I lived here as a ghost, I always stared at her as she played. I replay one of those memories in the theatre of my mind. Her fingers dance up and down the strings as her facial expression goes through a series of transformations. First she looks sad, then angry, then passionate, then mournful. There has never been a human being this beautiful.
I’m crying. The tears stream down across my cheeks to moisten the pillow. The first time I heard Alazne’s song, the one peeking out from inside her performance, was when I happened to wander in front of this apartment building, back when I could no longer conceive of anything more than the dreary, colorless, meaningless eternity as a ghost who would never move on. I can now sink in this bed and hear the full intensity of Alazne’s playing, smell her scent, feel the warmth of her skin, because she brought me back to life.
When I know that it won’t take long until the last notes fade away into silence, I wipe the tears from my eyes. A man doesn’t cry.

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 11 (GPT-3 fueled short)

The morning after my first date with my beloved Alazne, I woke up with the impression that I had spent my dreams wandering around some country-sized amusement park while holding on to Alazne’s arm, and the bizarre attractions we dared to experience, which featured skeletons playing chess, robotic aliens and incongruous octopuses, drained our energies and left us traumatized. With such an aftertaste, it’s hard for me to consider the date a success, but as I eat cereal in the kitchen I can’t tear my gaze away from the photo I took of my girlfriend. She’s truly my girlfriend, and I don’t think it’s registering properly. Back when I was a ghost, I couldn’t prevent myself from getting obsessed with Alazne; I wanted nothing more than to spend time around her and to fantasize about holding her in my arms and kissing her. I had known I would never be able to feel Alazne’s warmth, but yesterday we made out in the street like a teenage couple. Still, I’m not losing my mind over it. I guess that human beings can get used to any change in their circumstances, for good or for ill.
Given how exhausted Alazne ended up yesterday, I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t receive any messages for the entire day. I’ll have to make do with gawking at my only photo of her every five minutes.
It’s been like twenty minutes since I finished my bowl of cereal, and I have done nothing else than rest my face on my palm, sigh and zoom into different areas of Alazne’s photo on my phone. A movement on the ouija board I set on the dining table distracts me. I spot the planchette levitating for a moment, but then it drops onto the board. I hadn’t thought about Kateryna; I have the window open, and the cold, humid breeze that gets in not only masks Kat’s presence, but also evidences that we’ll suffer some rain by the end of the day.
I get closer to the ouija board to figure out what Kateryna wants to say, but first of all I need to share my thoughts.
“Hey, Kat, isn’t my Alazne the cutest in the world?” I ask with a voice bursting with pride.
The planchette twitches, then remains still for a few seconds. It spells out THOUGHT I WAS.
I sigh.
“That’s some healthy self-esteem, Kateryna. I wish I could accept myself so easily.”
The metallic bowl that holds a couple of oranges and a pear slides a few centimeters as if Kat had targeted it by mistake with her poltergeist powers. Or worse: she’s annoyed and wants to remind me that she can turn any object into a projectile, as if I had forgotten the ruinous state of this house before Ainhoa bothered herself tidying up most of the mess.
The planchette spells out YOU TOLD ME.
Kateryna is right about that. I had that reaction to the first photo I saw of her, taken back when she believed she was going to marry Asier and live a life together that wouldn’t end up with her killing herself. I haven’t allowed myself to forget Asier’s nefarious influence, but I mainly distributed every framed picture of Kateryna around the house because looking at her Ukrainian, model-like features brightens my day, and makes me horny.
“Ah, yes,” I say, sounding guilty. “Well, Kateryna, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, for sure. I’d venture to say that there are few in the whole world that could compare. But you are beautiful in the same way the sun is beautiful, you know? It outshines everything else, but looking straight at it will burn holes in your eyes. To have a close relationship with you, only astronauts wearing impossibly strong sunglasses and revolutionary heat resistant spacesuits could come up to you and hug you tight like you deserve. My Alazne is the most beautiful woman in the range of people I could feasibly spend the rest of my life with.”
The planchette spells out DONT KNOW ABOUT THAT.
“I’m sorry, Kat. I’m just trying to express my admiration for you in words, and it isn’t working very well. I’ll use simpler words. I’ll say that you are a goddess among women, my dear Kateryna.”
The planchette moves in a flurry, as Kateryna’s side of the conversation sounds more like an annoyed rant.
“Yes, yes, I agree,” I lie, because I didn’t catch any of that. “Listen, you were lying next to me in bed those times I was holding your picture while training how to masturbate this penis properly, right? You told me you witnessed all of it. Didn’t you feel flattered? You saw how quickly this thing got hard merely by looking at static images of you!”
The planchette spells out FELT EXPOSED.
“Oh, dear Kat! You shouldn’t have felt that way! I would never ever do anything to hurt you! If anything, each of those sessions, how pleasurable they felt and the volume of semen I was able to shoot are testament to how gorgeous you are.”
UNBELIEVABLE, the planchette spells out.
“Back when I had my original female body, I couldn’t leave around measurable puddles of how excited each target of my masturbatory sessions got me. I wasn’t a squirter. But now, it’s all laid out in the open. I wouldn’t have to take out the trash as often if I wasn’t thinking of you this much.”
WOW, the planchette spells out.
“You’re not just an inspiration for my masturbation sessions, you’re an inspiration for everything in life. You gave me the strength to take control of Asier’s life and his fortune. I’m not just living in his house, dear Kateryna, I’ve made it into a home, but it would feel empty if you weren’t here with me. And I have already offered Alazne to move in whenever she wants! Imagine, all of us living together. I want us to become a happy family.”
HIS DICK HAS TAKEN OVER YOUR MIND, the planchette spells out.
I sigh sadly. I consider it for a moment. Is possessing a body like inheriting someone’s titan?
“That’s where you are wrong, Kat, because I was an unrelenting pursuer of women even when I had a woman’s body. You should have seen me back in the day.”
I WOULD HAVE FLED, the board replies.
“You’d need to be fast then, because no woman could ever resist my advances, straight or otherwise. I was like a barbarian conqueror of pussy.”
WHAT ABOUT GHOST WHORES IN THE AFTERLIFE, the planchette spells out.
“They don’t have genitals anymore, just a cold, sad echo of physical contact when you dare touch them, and it feels so wrong that ghosts don’t go around fondling other ghosts. And as you know, I couldn’t even fuck myself. I wanted to be a beautiful, powerful and sensual woman who could have any girl she wanted. I needed to possess them all. But everything turned grey and tasteless until this stupid Asier veered into my lane.”
DISGUSTING CHEATER, the board answers.
“He was stupid, as I said. He squandered his life with short-term pleasures and long-term misery.”
I lower my head, then swallow my suddenly foul-tasting saliva.
“I never cheated, though. Serial monogamist. Not that I officially dated that much.” I point at the ouija board. “You know what I did? I saved the damn world from a bunch of demons that wanted to enslave it.”
“… Yeah, I didn’t. I didn’t do anything good for anybody else. But this case is different, you know? With Alazne, I mean. My pursuit of all those nameless girls in the past was pure horniness, but now there is extreme horniness added to the purest love imaginable. That’s what I have in store for my woman. I will date the hell out of my Alazne, and one day I will marry her and put some babies in her. We’ll become a happy family until we die. I will never stray.”
“It’s inevitable that we will love each other for the rest of our lives. We’re going to be together until one of us physically cannot be anymore. I just know it.”

My pleasant chat with Kateryna served to take my mind off the fact that I feel like a teenager in love. I wander around the house, and even venture out beyond the gate of our little community to relax by gazing at the countryside, as I keep replaying in my mind every moment of my first date with Alazne. I try to rescue the feeling of how warm and delicate she felt in my manly arms, the texture of her light brown hair when I ran my fingers through it, the taste of her saliva, the slow and loving touch of her tongue as it played with mine. But the minutes keep passing, the sky is getting cloudier and darker, the breeze is picking up, and my anxiety turns my thoughts into wondering why I haven’t received any text from Alazne today. Because she’s likely still unconscious from yesterday’s exhaustion, and might only wake up in the afternoon. No, I reply to myself. Truly, why hasn’t Alazne messaged me?
I feel so bad that I start writing a message. It takes me a while to put together the text Hey darling. How are you doing?. My hand trembles as I steel myself to send it, but I end up groaning and deleting it.
When I close my eyes I can see Alazne sitting next to me during that precarious boat ride, when I realized that my beloved was losing tears like water a broken dam. And I caused those tears, didn’t I? If only, because I dragged her out to an exhausting date. How horrible of a person am I to make the love of my life lose most of her body’s water content through her eye holes? And she later mentioned that I wasn’t right for her, didn’t she? Alazne’s other half must be waiting for her somewhere in this wide, stupid world, but I’m now preventing her from searching for him. Because it’s a him, I know it, while I only wear a man’s body, and my real self doesn’t have male genitals.
These thoughts are too much for me, and I can’t bear staying in Asier’s house a second longer. I head out the door and walk towards the center of the city, hoping that buying a bunch of stuff I don’t need will distract me. It takes me around twelve minutes to finally reach Donostia street, which isn’t located in Donostia but in this city, which his Hondarribia. From there I can descend some stairs into the older area of the city, that contains most of the opportunities to spend money. I have to admit, though, that the view of all those quaint houses, oddly distributed because plenty of those streets popped up back when people didn’t care about anything, that view as I was saying, does make me feel better, because it’s not an extension of my concerns, but just a city with houses and all that stuff. And beyond the houses await the waters of the Txingudi bay, where the Bidasoa river disembogues the piss and shit of everyone in the surrounding cities, apart from water from up in the mountains, I suppose. Rivers have to come from somewhere.
I walk aimlessly while looking at the shops of both sides of the narrow streets. I browse absentmindedly the women’s clothing displayed outside of a store in San Pedro street. My head hurts.
“Are you looking for something in particular?” asks me a woman in her forties, I guess an employee of the store instead of some random person.
I stare at her for a moment, then I realize that I was trying to find clothes that would fit me.
“Shit, I forgot I’m not a woman anymore,” I say.
The woman raises an eyebrow, then looks at me sideways.
“Ah, I see. It’s a shame that you’d make a very pretty girl, but for your age…”
Now she’s calling me old?
“You are likely far older,” I tell her.
She gives me a nasty look.
“Come on, let’s go,” she says. “Go spend your money somewhere else.”
“Yeah, well,” I choose as a retort while I’m already walking away.
“Psycho!” she says to my back.
She’s right, though. I’m a complete psycho.
I make my way through nearby streets, now heading towards the port for no particular reason. I don’t know what is it about Hondarribia, but it awakens a strange nostalgia in me even though I never visited it before I settled in this area as a ghost. It has a peculiar charm, and it often smells like fish. I suppose that in the past they also brought to this town the whales they hunted in the wide open sea. It’s a bad idea to hunt whales, though, probably because there aren’t that many of them. However, I have never seen ghost whales, so when they die they likely move on to the beyond immediately. That means that whales do not hold regrets. Maybe I should resent those thick bastards, then. I can’t connect with anyone who does anything else than just breathe in this world and doesn’t start piling up regrets immediately.
Shit, I can’t deal with this constant rumination. How is Alazne going to feel about our relationship when she wakes up? I get the feeling that she’ll be distraught because she allowed someone to disturb her peace and isolation. Maybe she will feel unworthy of being looked at as warmly as I do. Maybe she believes she won’t be able to gather the strength to face me again, and that she will end up fucking up this relationship anyway, so it would be better to give up and never contact me again. I won’t be able to deal with that. I decide that if I don’t hear from Alazne in forty eight hours, I’ll head up to the rooftop of the highest building around and take a swan dive. Alazne loves that song, so when she ends up finding out, at least she’ll get the reference.
I give up on walking around and figuring out how to waste my money, so I go into a restaurant next to the port promenade and order some seafood. Around twelve and a half, my phone vibrates while playing the notification sound of a message. I almost drop the device on my hot plate of spicy mussels.
The message says I had the best time yesterday. Thank you. She also sends me an animated drawing of two full lips kissing.
I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack and die. After repeatedly rereading the message and observing the cartoon lips, I drink some more grape juice and think about what I’m going to reply. I can tell Alazne just woke up. Hell, it’s around the time she used to wake up back when I lived with her as a ghost and she wasn’t forced to drag herself out of bed to go to work. During those periods, though, she either had been fired or needed to quit, so she had become increasingly depressed.
I wish I had the guts to tell her that I’m a ghost. I wish I had the guts to jump off a building right now to put an end to this. No, I don’t really believe that. I’m just afraid of being rejected.
It was my pleasure, I send back. I hope you’re feeling well today.
I’m feeling wonderful now that you’re in my life, she replies.
I can barely pass air through my distended nostrils, and my forehead is sweating. I shouldn’t have ordered the spicy mussels.
I love you, I write, and I accidentally press send. A moment later I see the red dot that indicates that Alazne has written a message but hasn’t sent it. Aw, shit.
I love you too.
I want to cry.
I can barely keep my eyes open, Alazne sends. I woke up because I needed to pee, but I think I’m going back to bed after I eat some cereal.
Rest all you need, I reply. I’m eating some seafood next to the port in Hondarribia. We can see each other as soon as you want.
I wait a few minutes, but I guess that was her goodbye. Ah, she always looked so cute when she sleeps. How can someone be so perfect? She’s the only person who has made me feel alive, instead of the usual maelstrom of confusion, anger and despair. In any case, I’m not worried anymore. I will stick around, walk along the Butrón promenade while inhaling all those crab-like smells, and in general rejoice because I am alive and because the woman of my life wants me too.

Around three and a half in the afternoon, the temperature took a nose dive. That cold front that I had seen coming from the restaurant of the Monte Igueldo amusement park has covered the entire sky in grey blue clouds that look eager to discharge their fluids onto the helpless world below. I could smell the water in the air, so I bought an umbrella, which was a pleasant moment because it reminded me that I can buy anything without looking at the price tag. I headed home. I felt a primal need to enclose myself within walls and a roof.
I’m walking through the quiet, residential neighborhoods towards my gated community next to a graveyard. The rain is cold, which makes me narrow my shoulders although most of the drops bounce on the umbrella or slide off its fabric. The rain has that clean, earthy smell that reminds one that nature is still present and powerful. I come across few people on foot, and they are hiding their faces under their own umbrellas.
At four fifteen in the afternoon I was following the upward slope of the narrow Gabriel Aresti street, passing in front of small yards hidden behind hedges, when my phone vibrates in my pocket. I stop and hold my umbrella awkwardly under my arm so I can read Alazne’s message as soon as humanly possible.
I’ve been lazing around for an hour, as awake as I’m going to be today, the message says.
While I’m picturing her either lying on her bed or lounging in front of her computer, as I used to watch her do, Alazne sends me other messages.
I haven’t showered nor done any of the things I’m supposed to do today. But I’m missing something.
The next thing that I receive is a photo. In it, Alazne has pulled up the shirt of her pyjamas to show her bare, milk-white midriff from slightly under her breasts down to a couple of millimeters of her pink cotton panties. With her left hand, which I can’t see, she must be hugging against her chest the stuffed seal that she won at the shooting gallery, because the photo features the seal’s dark tail, spotted with grey circles. Alazne’s right hand is arched close to her panty line, and her fingers are touching the light hair, thin like a spider’s thread, on her lower abdomen. Her index and middle fingers are wet.
She adds a message: I need my real seal in my bed.
A warm shiver runs through me, and I almost drop my umbrella. The rain falls on my hair and runs down the back of my neck. When I pull the umbrella back towards me, its shaft hits me in the head. My mouth is salivating. I breathe deeper as I zoom into Alazne’s oval bellybutton, which I want to explore with my tongue. I also focus on how her skin delineates her lower ribs, and on the slight, narrowing slope from her abdomen towards her light brown pubes, which the photo unfortunately doesn’t show.
Although my mind is devolving into that of a feral animal, I wonder how I should feel about being compared to a seal. No, I don’t have to wonder how that feels, because my hard dick is bending painfully against my tight underwear and jeans, tenting the fabrics to their limits. My heart is beating in my neck. The scent of Alazne’s love must be dripping from her fingers, and I feel I should be able to smell it through my phone. I need to suck those fingers that have caressed her holy button.
I change the phone to my left hand as I hold the umbrella awkwardly under my armpit, and with my right hand I fondle the length of my erection though my pants. My chest is tight and my heartbeat feels heavy. I’m dizzy.
Back when I lived in Alazne’s place as a ghost, I witnessed many instances in which Alazne lay on her back on her unmade bed, took off her pants and panties and rubbed her delicious-looking pussy while playing in her mind some erotic fantasies. For minutes she rolled slowly in bed as she caressed her clit rhythmically, panting, her eyes rolling back, drool trickling from her mouth. To be honest, although I adored those displays, I preferred the times that she masturbated to videos, because I could then learn what she was into. But now Alazne must have been touching herself while thinking about us, held in each other’s arms, silently reading everything the other needed to tell through the bumps on our tongues. Why am I a city away?
“So that’s how it is, huh, Alazne?” I whisper to myself, almost breathless. “Oh, you’ve done it now. You have no clue what kind of natural disaster you’ve just unleashed.”
I am about to slip my hand down my underwear when a man’s voice shouts at my back.
“Hey! What the fuck are you doing, you damned pervert?”
I turn around so fast that I almost slip on the wet pavement. I find myself staring at a brick red Toyota 4Runner 4×4 car, that must have been driving up this one-way road only to stop when the driver noticed me fondling myself. And the man has gone as far as lowering the passenger side window and sitting closer to it. He has light blonde hair, as well as a two weeks old beard, and pale blue eyes that look incongruous with the disdain evident in his glare. Along with his general facial features and his accent, that of someone who has lived in the area for maybe a decade, he gives the impression of being Eastern European. He is also well-built, and he wears a faded old shirt with some paint stains. He might do construction work. I suppose that he could be considered handsome, if you are into shady thugs. Many women are in that market, for sure. Not me, because I want pussy.
“I asked you a question, motherfucker!” he says in a tone that implies he is used to having people obeying him immediately.
The guy keeps staring in my direction. I look behind me to see who he’s addressing, but there’s only a hedge. Being a ghost is a constant game of ‘are you talking to me?’, one that rarely ends with a shootout at a whorehouse. And most of the time I got the impression that breathing people were addressing me even though I knew they didn’t know I existed. I guess that everyone’s consciousness relies on the belief that other beings around you acknowledge your existence, and if that can’t be the case, the delusion that they do is good enough. Still, talking through people is rude, whether you can see them or not. Wait a moment, I haven’t been a ghost for some time now.
“What the hell, man?” I say nervously. “You can see and hear me?”
“Of course I fucking can!” he says, emphasizing his words with head movements. “Have you lost your fucking mind?”
“There’s no need to include ‘fucking’ in every sentence. I can tell you are angry. Still, what’s your problem? Don’t you have a dick that often demands to be touched?”
“I don’t give a shit about your dick!” he says. “Now answer my question: why are you still around here? You have some fucking nerve to be walking around like nothing!”
“I’m still around because… Well, I got things to do, you know?”
The guy looks as if he would love to jump out of his passenger-side window and pummel me against the pavement.
“You got ‘things to do’?” he asks shrilly, with a heavily accented bitterness. “You are spitting in our faces, you fucking clown. You know you are fucking doing it.”
“I have no clue why you care that I’m still lingering on this plane. We need to get rid of our reasons for holding on to our past, but sometimes those reasons aren’t clear enough to anybody, and in the worst case they aren’t solvable. In my case I doubt I will be able to move on to the beyond.” I remind myself that I’m possessing a dead man’s corpse. “Not that it matters at the moment, with the whole being alive thing.”
The man grimaces. His right eye is twitching.
“What are you talking about?” he almost roars.
I take a deep breath and raise my hands to pacify him.
“Listen, I’m sorry you had to witness me touching myself in the street. I often forget that others can see me, and I didn’t even care much about that back when I could breathe through my original body. If I offended you, I apologize.”
A woman holding a child’s hand, both people covered by the woman’s umbrella, hurry to pass by this mess on the other side of the street. The Eastern European man gets worried, or embarrassed, because he follows them discreetly with his gaze before glaring at me again.
“Get in my car,” he orders me with an icy tone. “We need to talk about this.”
I take a couple of steps back, and the pointy surface of the hedge ends up touching the back of my head. This is escalating weirdly and quickly.
“Getting into a random Eastern European thug’s car?!” I yell anxiously. “Are you trying to rape me or something?!”
The man lets out a confused noise, then shakes his head and scoots over to the passenger side of his car. He opens the door.
“I can’t keep blocking the road. Someone is going to drive this way eventually. Just get in, we’ll talk about the matter, figure things out.”
“Fuck no, I ain’t getting anywhere nor going nowhere with a shady guy like you. I don’t know who you are, I don’t care who you are, and I can touch myself in public if I want!”
The man snaps his head back. He stammers for a moment as if buffering. Then he only gets angrier.
“You think you can just pretend you don’t know me?!” he yells, his face turning red.
I look at the man with a blank expression. This is making less and less sense. Suddenly my phone vibrates in my hand, playing the sound that I have received a message. I quickly open it with my thumb. Alazne has sent me Was the photo too much? Please tell me something.
I almost vomit, then my hands tremble with fury. This motherfucking thug has just made my Alazne get worried because I didn’t get to send my praises for her holy photo.
I start punching in a reply, but the Eastern European man tries to interrupt me. I haven’t registered what he yelled at me. I lift an index finger ordering him to wait, and I send the message. I wrote to Alazne A random guy just stopped me in the street, I’ll reply to your holy offering in a minute. Then I grit my teeth and turn towards the Eastern European construction person.
“Shut the fuck up, asshole. Look at your car. It’s fucking dirty as hell.”
“What’s it to you, you fucking…”
“It’s nothing to me. But you need to learn some manners. You can’t just go around yelling at random people, whether or not they are touching themselves.”
The guy slaps the passenger door of his car. Although the anger in his face suggests he’ll shout even louder, he takes a deep breath and narrows his eyes.
“You are looking at me as if you seriously don’t recognize me. Is there something wrong with you, or are you such scum that you would move on that easily, forgetting everything?”
I take a good look at him, trying to seem indifferent rather than confused. I squint my eyes, but of course I don’t remember shit. This guy is likely someone that Asier had dealings with. Don’t tell me that Asier was knee-deep in crap with the Russian mafia or something.
“Sorry, I don’t know you. But if you tell me your name I might be able to…”
“Oleksiy, damn it. You should know what you know me from.”
“Ah… You were one of Asier’s… business partners, maybe? Something drug-related? It’s just that you look so different with that beard and those clothes… And by Asier, I mean me, of course. I’m Asier.”
The man looks to the side while frowning, then opens the passenger side door and stands up right in front of me. He’s about my size, but with bigger muscles. However, he’s now staring at me as if he himself isn’t quite sure who he’s dealing with.
“So you are involved with nasty shit like that…?” the man says in a low voice. “I could tell from the beginning you weren’t any good.”
I hide half of my face with my hand for a moment. I need to think about Alazne, how I left her hanging, what she must be thinking because the last thing she knows is that a random guy was bothering me. I need to get rid of this thuggish bastard, whoever he is.
“Hey, buddy, look at this.” I point at the still healing wound near my hairline. “I hit my head very hard in a car crash. It might have ended up in the news. Since then I’ve had serious, and I mean real serious, problems to remember anything. I truly have no clue who you are.”
“You don’t remember anything at all?” he mumbles as his eyes grow colder.
I shake my head. This Oleksiy guy stares at me for a moment, then makes a fist with his right hand and strikes me in the gut. I bend over and cough, nearly puking. I drop my umbrella, which rolls around on the pavement, but I manage to keep holding on to my phone. I feel the cold rain on my neck.
“What the hell are you doing?” I shout with a raspy voice. “That was unnecessary! I’m telling the truth, my memory is fucked up!”
He grabs my shirt and lifts me up to his face. One of his front teeth is discolored, as if the dentist who fixed it did a poor job.
“Amnesia?! That crap is made up for television! There’s no way something that convenient happened to you! And the wound doesn’t look that bad!”
Amnesia might very well be made up for television, not that it would make any difference in my circumstances.
A couple of vehicles are slowing down as they realize that the Toyota 4Runner blocking the one-way road isn’t going to move. The occupants of the white van that stops right behind Oleksiy’ 4×4 don’t look the type to wait around patiently. The driver rolls down the window and shouts a question in a language I don’t understand.
“Hey, what’s going on here? Are you okay?” a man walking a dog on the other side of the street asks.
It’s all happening so fast… What do I do? If this guy knows Asier, then my whole plan might be ruined.
Oleksiy eyes the wound on my forehead, then his grip tightens as his face twists into an animalistic snarl.
“Whatever. You’ll come with me and I will explain it to you over again, if you want to play it that way.”
The rain keeps hitting my face, rolling down my skin, getting between my back and the clothes. My guts hurt, but adrenaline rushes through my veins. Why am I tolerating being handled like this? Am I not a big man now? I put my phone in my pocket. With that hand I pry Oleksiy’s fingers off my shirt, then with my other arm I push him towards his Toyota. He stumbles two steps back and almost falls onto the passenger’s seat.
“Get the fuck out of here before I break your skinny ass!” I shout.
He raises himself and glances at me with a mix of anger and confusion. The even shadier driver of the white van is blowing its horn, and the guy walking his dog is sticking around, I guess because he lacks a sense of self-preservation.
I take out my phone and lift it to my ear while I glare at Oleksiy or whatever his name is.
“Hello, I’d like to report a stalker.”
Oleksiy fixes his shirt.
“Motherfucker, I can tell you haven’t dialed any number.”
“What’s going on?” the dog walker asks me.
I crane my neck to answer him.
“He’s my ex and he won’t leave me alone,” I answer. “My name’s Julián.”
Oleksiy groans loudly, looks back towards the angry driver of the white van, then gets into his own car. After he slams the passenger side’s door, he scoots over to the driver’s seat. Still, he leans towards the open passenger window to yell at me.
“Alright, but now I know you still live in this city! I’m going to see you again!”
“I don’t know whether to feel threatened or flattered, sweetie,” I say loud enough for the witnesses.
Oleksiy grits his teeth and accelerates his Toyota. The white van and two other vehicles follow him.
I force myself to breathe steadily. I wipe the rainwater off my face, but new rain drops assault me. I’m cold, I feel like my ass is going to explode with diarrhea. When I bend over to pick up my umbrella, I realize that the dog walker, a nerdy-looking guy in his mid twenties, has crossed the road.
Without thinking, I ask, “Do you have a cigarette?”
He takes out the packet from his shirt’s pocket, opens it and offers me one. As I fish through my pockets for a lighter, the dog walker looks at me worried.
“I had a feeling that guy was no good when I saw him yelling at you.”
I chuckle nervously.
“I’d say that yelling at someone in the streets is a good sign of that person not being any good. What am I doing? Nevermind.”
I drop the cigarette onto the wet pavement, then grind it out with my heel.
“You shouldn’t smoke,” I add. “It will kill you that much quicker.”