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.”

Post-mortem for “Odes To My Triceratops”

Not much to say, really. I won’t be recalled back to work until next week or so. It was around one in the morning in a Thursday and I could tell it was one of those nights in which I wouldn’t fall asleep until around four. I figured I would try to write something fun, so I put together a few prompts on a Google Docs file, as usual. The last one of them read, “William Griffin, before he died tragically at age seventeen in October of 2008, wrote a song about his friend Lorenzo, who is a Triceratops with a portal to hell inside his throat. William was also in love with a sixteen years old neighbor of his, a blind girl named Claire and who couldn’t read nor write.”

I don’t recall having to think much, if at all, for that to come out of my fingers. A boy writing a song isn’t fun enough to write about, but it is more fun if there’s a dinosaur involved, and even better if you have a contrasting third character who is also interesting. I ended up writing until seven in the morning, and the following day I ordered the stuff into a somewhat coherent narrative, then uploaded the first two parts. That Friday I also wrote most of the poems that comprised William’s demise. As usual, I was alone and half-delirious, so it came out easy.

I ended up writing a few more poems for both the first and the second parts of this strange tale in three parts, so if you read the first two and liked them, you might want to go over them again.

Odes To My Triceratops, Pt. 3 (GPT fueled short)

Once William’s Triceratops friend was seen for the last time, William Griffin’s mood plummeted. His neighbor Claire Javernick moved away days later. Riddled with guilt and despair, the texts that William produced during this stage up to his death have remained a source of discussion for years.

I met Lorenzo a long, long time ago
I bet he is somewhere in the sky
When he died I put him in the earth
Buried him in a hole you can’t see

I met Claire last night
She was sixteen and she was blind
She was blind but she could see
The way she looked at me with those greys
I was sent straight to hell

Her house has been empty since then
She took my warmth with her
She went down to hell to stay
She had said it once but said it again:
“Hell yeah”

‘HELL YEAH’ by William Griffin

The shadows, the black and the grey
Running down her face so dreadfully
Every time I looked I saw her tears
She never agreed to stay the night

Lorenzo, a giant skeleton
A living graveyard for the dead
A door in his throat
Was leading right to hell
Where there are worms and dinosaurs

Claire, you can’t escape your fate
Claire, the sixteen years old girl
With no idea how to read or write
You’re so small, but in your heart
You’re a fourteen years old slut

I like boys, I like boys
I like boys, I like boys
I like boys, I like boys
I like boys, I like boys
I like boys, I like boys
I like boys, I like boys
I like boys, I like boys
I like boys, I like boys

‘WORMS AND DINOSAURS’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo killed the dinosaurs
And he’s about to kill your ass
For snorting his drool
Like I’ve seen you do

He’s been hungry for a while now,
That Triceratops

Fuck you, don’t open the door
You’ll never find him there
And you don’t want to see what’s behind

A door is there
Inside, a door is there
You’ve got to step inside,
And pray that I’m wrong

“I love you, Claire,” I’d say.
“I’m so glad that we were born!”
And you would say, “I love you too, Billy.
What are we going to do today?”
“I think we’ll walk the stairs
up to the last, then maybe
Go for a swim!”

We can’t stop! We can’t stop!

Never stare at the door, I said
Never stare at the door
When it opens

‘LORENZO THE KINSLAYER’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo was the dino from out of town
That everybody knew for years
Lorenzo was the dino from out of town
And he was gonna stay a while

He didn’t even have a last name
He would have taken Claire’s

They made a deal
To see what they were made of
They ate, they drank and they made love
In good times and in bad

Lorenzo was the dino from out of town
That everybody knew for years
Lorenzo was the dino from out of town
And he was gonna stay a while

Claire was the girl from this town
The girl from this town
The girl from this town
She was supposed to stay

‘KEEP YOUR LAST NAME’ by William Griffin

You couldn’t write a thing
Nor read for that matter
But you must have known
Just by the way my smile felt
In your fingertips
That my love for you was real

All I could do was walk the streets
And keep you near

I loved you, Claire
But now you’re gone

‘In Your Fingertips’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo died then, in the night
I was sleeping when he passed away
I was nowhere near that place, I swear,
Where they said he died
He was singing a lullaby to me
I heard beauty in his voice

I wish I could hear his voice again
And his voice and mine could sing together
I wish it was a real voice that I was hearing
Not just a track of white noise
But what else it could have been

I wish this voice I hear was him,
Not his part in a symphony orchestra
That way a dinosaur’s voice breaks,
But only for a second

Just like the choir song
‘Joy to the World’ from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’
I wish I could be hearing and feeling the joy
And singing songs
I know that I can sing a song

And I would love to sing a song
About the day that I kissed her
Like a cool breeze on a summer’s day,
It would keep on going on

I know that I can sing a song
I know that I can sing a song
I know that I can sing a song
And I know that I can sing a song
I know that

‘I KNOW I CAN SING’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo was a friend of mine
We didn’t always see eye to eye
But he was a pretty good friend to me

Until one day that I noticed
That he’d given me his voice
And now his voice is in my head
Whispering things about things he said
And about some things he did

So maybe I’m doing the same thing
Maybe I’m doing something bad
But it feels so good to be the one
Who caused it all to go wrong

Lorenzo betrayed me by fucking my girl
Claire, you were sweet as apple pie
You felt all alone and I couldn’t bear to see
That you never opened your eyes

‘A Debt’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo was the friend of a girl
Who makes me feel bad
‘Cause she went and turned her back
His trunk was like his throat,
Where you could see inside
A portal to hell

And she thought he was pretty cute
And back then I believed I was in love,
I embraced a kind of craziness
I guess I owe it to Lorenzo,
Who held a mirror towards me
And in there I saw a fool
It was a friend that made me grow

‘A FRIEND MADE ME GROW’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo was a big ol’ Triceratops,
A sort of prehistoric water buffalo,
With a God-awful nightmare in his throat
He went on a dangerous journey to hell
To let the devil back into our town

So I stabbed the son of a bitch in the neck
His blood squirted all over the damn place
I buried the motherfucking bastard
I thought about Claire, but…

But why should I worry about that bitch?
She thinks she can fuck with Triceratopses
She knew she would have been sorry in the end
I ain’t putting up with it no more

Lorenzo didn’t forgive her
He killed her too, poor Claire
Or at least I imagined he did
To forget how she stared at me then

Lorenzo fell in love with her too
Claire smiled at him so beautifully
She was a looker, could have caused a war
To have someone like that to call my wife

Forget the girl, forget the snake
I put him in a tomb
And when the pressure gets too hard
I’ll open it and let the big bastard out again

‘You Were The Reason For All Of This’ by William Griffin

The words on the page,
They are just too plain
I can’t read
I have no clue what anything means

The man in the sky has sent me a plan
To prove I am insane
And I can hear the crash of the sky falling down,
Crushing me into ashes

I can hear the wail of the cries
But why can I not hear the child of divine creation
Playing with that strange man
Behind the gate?

I don’t have the ears to hear his laugh
The gate is mine now
And I don’t know where the hell I am going

‘LET ME IN’ by William Griffin

Your name was Lorenzo
And it’s time to resurrect

When I’m awake, I’m in hell
When I’m asleep, I’m in hell

Your name was Lorenzo
You were waiting for a token
To open the portal

When my mother is crying,
I am smiling, don’t you know?
My mother cries and my father smiles
My mother cries and my father smiles
My mother cries and my father smiles
My mother cries and my father smiles

How could he had the responsibility
To guard the portal to hell
With a name like Lorenzo?

And in your black hole,
Do you hear the angels’ chorus?

When I am asleep, I’m in hell
When I’m awake, I’m in hell

Your name was Lorenzo
No angel nor animal will help you
What are you waiting for?

‘Lazarus’ by William Griffin

The bones in his body
Showed through his eyes
In his throat there was a portal to hell
But the portal to hell inside his throat
Stopped him from being a giant
Now he lies as a skeleton
On my pillow

‘JUST A SKELETON’ by William Griffin

I could sing a lullaby to a dinosaur
I could sing a lullaby to the Triceratops
With the portal to hell in his throat
I could sing a lullaby to my sixteen years old neighbor,
Who used to be there,
And couldn’t read nor write

Come on my way to play basketball
With the ancient astronauts
Come on my way to play baseball
With the dinosaurs
Come on my way to play hockey
With the cyclops
Come on my way to see the Triceratops
With the portal to hell in his throat

You can kiss my hairy, hairy ass
While I’m playing with the dinosaurs
I’ll kiss yours
So kiss mine, if you want to
I’ll kiss yours and yours too


All I remember of you is you’d look into my eyes
And you’d ask what I wanted
And I’d say, “I want to go to heaven”
You were the Devil’s child,
Filled with this hatred for me
I could feel it, it was no secret
I could see it in your eyes and in your rage
With your tears as well as your laughter
I could see you were truly evil
The blood running down the side of your beak
Your hands full of death, your wrath was terror
You took my innocence, you stole my childhood
You contaminated my heart

But you are no longer here,
And I’ll see you in hell

‘LORENZO IS NO MORE’ by William Griffin

Everybody hates, yeah, everybody hates
Except for some idiots, yeah, everybody hates
They hate the heroes, yeah, everybody hates
Some say “Hate the rich”, yeah, everybody hates
Sugar and spice and everything nice, yeah, everybody hates
They hate the geeks, yeah, everybody hates
All the old people, yeah, everybody hates
All the kids, yeah, everybody hates
I hate the whole fucking thing

The way you must be feeling, baby,
Your daddy was gone too soon
But I do believe in hell, I do
In my dreams He tells me all about it
I hear the angels, how they shout
And the babies keep on crying,
And the sun is sinking

Well, I know I’m a little weird, yeah,
But I’m harmless, yeah,
I harbor the beginning of the end
And I’m not gonna last very long

‘EVERYBODY HATES’ by William Griffin

I am seventeen years old
I am a monster and an animal
I live in a mirror
And that’s my home
I will hunt you down
And make you suffer
I’ll tear your heart apart
And then eat it

‘I HOPE I DIE SOON’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo could have stayed
A creature of the Earth
But the fiery heart that burns within him
Could not be so restrained
He was twisted like a prison cell
And tortured by the fears in his head
He hid in his shell so no one could see
His pain and torment
He was not meant to be like this,
He was meant to be left alone
He needed help, but no one could help him
Who knows how to treat a goddamned dinosaur
They were all supposed to be dead

There’s no hope, there’s no hope
There’s no hope, there’s no hope
There’s no hope, there’s no hope

‘INSIDE HIS SHELL’ by William Griffin

In his secret diary, Lorenzo wrote
“Griffin, my body is a fortress of reason”

From the sky full of stars above
A silver rain pours inside
Though I’m just seventeen
Claire’s gone, she’s gone too

I could have told him, but he’d never listened
Maybe he’ll listen when I’m finished
It’s so strange, how could he have
Left a girl who wasn’t finished?

‘WHY HAVEN’T I DIED YET?’ by William Griffin

I am locked inside my mind
I am losing the flow of my thoughts
And I need someone to save me

I was taken to a doctor but he wouldn’t help me
I need a scientist, a shaman or a preacher
Tell me how to escape this
Alone and dumbly, lying alone in the night

I am crying and I am crying and I am shaking inside
I am trembling, I am shaking and I can’t hide my hate
I am crying, crying, crying, crying and I can’t hide my hate
I can’t escape this!

Well, yes I can!
I’m gonna die anyway
I’m gonna die anyway
I’m gonna die anyway

‘PANIC! PANIC! PANIC!’ by William Griffin

I am ill, this I know
My heart is sick and my head rotten
I’m here on earth today
‘Cause it is Saturday
And all of a sudden I see it clear
I see that it is too late

All of the things I had wanted to do,
Would not have made a difference
Had them once and never again
I am sick of wanting it to be different

I’d die to be just where I am
But in a land of plenty
There is no fear in this journey

I would die to be like Lorenzo
At least I think I would
Everyone must die
So why don’t I follow him?

‘EXTINCT LIKE YOU’ by William Griffin

I can’t die a virgin
I wish I had a pistol
I’d shoot myself
And die a martyr

I’m in love with this girl
Someday she will look at me
The same as I look at her

I know that my time’s up
And that I’ll die a virgin
Just like God

Someday I’ll meet her,
But it won’t be today
I hope that she’s standing
In a black and white photo
With her hand on her chest
Waiting to hear me whisper
“I love you”

Someday I’ll marry her
And we’ll be together
And when we’re old
And frail and lonely
We’ll talk and she’ll say
“Tell me again”

“I love you, I love you,
I love you, I love you,
I love you, I love you”

But I didn’t love her enough
I’ll die a virgin

‘DIE A VIRGIN’ by William Griffin

I know where hell’s fire burns,
In a place where everyone goes
I know the gates are closed,
But who knows for how long

I feel like hell’s on the inside
Why was I born to suffer this?
Was I spat here to stand this pain?

I know the path is long,
And that I will die someday
Hell is all around
‘Cause I’m stuck, trapped
In a hell with no escape

Here’s to Lorenzo, who was a Triceratops
With a hell portal in his throat

‘WHERE HELL’S FIRE BURNS’ by William Griffin

Hear it on the hilltops of the east
Those wondrous portals
Opening to a crystal labyrinth
Inside my head

What then goes into the nothing?
I’ll give you the portals
They open to a jumbled rose field
You tell me if it is the cloud of Eden

A great fiery pillar
Going nowhere and coming from nowhere
Lorenzo and Claire with Him
As I swing the peephole closed
Heaven is now on the move

‘FIREFLY BUMBLEBEE’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo sat on the hill of flame
And opened the door to hell
Two souls escaped with wings of fire
Both headed out of here

Someday I’ll make it to that far shore
Where eagles fly on the smell of earth
I’ll sit and rest in my blue suit
The memories will blur and fade to the wind

Lorenzo will sit with his eyes upon me
On the grass ignited with flames
And as I’ll shove my hand down my throat
I’ll recall the day he took you from me

I yearn for my soul to burn
And your spirit to land upon my hand
As I wait in the dark

‘REST IN MY BLUE SUIT’ by William Griffin

Will swallowed a cancer,
His asshole was full of pythons
He swallowed an earthquake,
And the stars fell to their knees
He swallowed a goddamn volcano
And threw up an avalanche
He swallowed it all
And it almost choked him to death

In his throat, a dark-red portal to a land
Where damned souls roam free
Stretching forever, a bridge through time
To the endless void of the Abyss

In this vast and desolate land of hungry monsters
He will face His executioner
Alone Will stands, strapped to a rock
A vengeful god shoots him with a flamethrower
And burns him alive

He’s burning like a chicken
His flesh is sizzling
Burnt wood, burning steak
He dies
Hell burns, hell’s walls collapse
He dies again,
Once, twice, thrice

He dies
It’s over
He’s dead


Lorenzo was a Triceratops
With a portal to hell inside his throat
Claire was a self-righteous fifteen years old
That has never been to school
She did not want to love me,
Although I did the best I could

I am a young man, but my fate
Is clear as a blackboard
Lorenzo was a Triceratops
With a portal to hell inside his throat
I would have been the size of a dinosaur
When I grew up
I cannot change my past,
Don’t want to heave these mistakes

And my final words,
Written before my tragic death,

Well, shit
I’m seventeen,
And I loved her,
So there’s that

‘WELL, SHIT’ by William Griffin

William got no answer from Claire Javernick before he died. Will therefore died a miserable little teenage boy. He had a beautiful mom, a wonderful sister, and a step-father who didn’t love him as much as he should have. But in the end he lost his two friends.

Before Claire Javernick died in a car crash on December 14, 2019, she wrote a poem about William, which she never titled.

I was walking in the snow
With a boy named William
He was my neighbor in our street
He was born on the 6th of May
One night he called me crying
He was only fourteen years old

I felt scared
And never so alone
I looked at the sky for an answer
His sister took away his songs
I’ll never forget him
And I’ll never forget him
And I’ll never forget him

Claire also wrote about a tree which is located in the forest in Vermont.

William Griffin died on April 6, 2009. His story remains unfinished, and his lyrics continue to be discussed on William Griffin’s official website, which is run by his sister.

It was a dark night for Triceratops. Nobody around him lightened the mood. As he walked, he found himself surrounded by horrible birds, alive and dead. He was worried about finding a place to sleep, because all the good spots were taken. He also needed to eat if only to fill an emptiness in his throat that he hadn’t felt before.
“Well, what am I to do?” Lorenzo asked for input to the sky.
He didn’t like it when the guy in the sky didn’t answer. For some reason He thought that He could get away with that.
But then God said to him, “Look at your right side.”
The Triceratops looked at his right side, which had never seemed so red. A warmth was going up from his legs. He felt he was going crazy.
The next thing he knew, he was lying on his side in a field of sleeping sheep, all of them facing the sky and snoring. Everything was getting redder and redder. Then the sound of snoring stopped and even the wind got quiet.
Lorenzo looked around the field until he spotted some people with their bodies covered in red. They were walking towards the group of sleeping sheep, and one of the people was staring at the Triceratops. The next thing Lorenzo knew, he was flying along with the group of red men. He soared above the rolling hills, but he wasn’t enjoying it, because he thought he was going to die.
“That’s great,” he thought. “All this redness and pain, just to die by getting covered in sheep crap.”
The more he thought about dying, the more it scared him, because he was quite sure that he would end up in hell. The Triceratops cried a little.
Some of the sheep got up and looked at the Triceratops and his red eyes, and beautiful red hair, and beautiful red skin.
The Triceratops continued flying around and around and around, until he heard the sound of a human voice. It sounded a little like his friend William Griffin, but different. Lorenzo landed on a large rock. The sheep had all gathered around a human being, and they were staring at him with sad, worried faces.
Lorenzo walked over to the sheep. He wanted to say something, but his throat hurt so bad that he could barely speak, and he knew that if he did speak, it would sound as if he were dying.
Then the human being said, “I have been given the gift of eternal life. I have been given the gift of seeing and experiencing the world. I have been given the gift of being surrounded by living things that love me and care about me.”
The human being laid down, and the sheep started running around him. Then he said, “I was a human once, until I was judged and separated from God, and because I was considered unworthy, I was sent to be in the place of living things, and I am to be around them to teach them about God, and how to become more like God, and live a godly life. And I am to help them find their way back home, back to God. And when they die, they are not supposed to become dead, so that there is no fear of death. They are supposed to be pure and innocent, so that they can face God without fear of condemnation.”
The Triceratops became concerned, and he said, “I am a Triceratops, and I am innocent and pure, and I have never lived among sheep.” He gave it more thought. “I can understand being around sheep, but living among them? I am not innocent and pure like them, so I will be judged, condemned and sent to hell. How could they be pure and innocent if they are like me?”
And then he remembered what he knew about God, and he felt sorry for the people that they will judge and condemn, because they will have no one to help them when they die. And he thought about his friend, who died young, and who was, like him, judged and condemned and sent to hell. And he thought about his loved one, who can’t read nor write, who is stuck with animals, because no one has ever shown her that she is important to God. And he remembered the times that he would try to tell his friend William Griffin what he was told to teach, and how Lorenzo himself never understood a single thing that he was told to teach. And he realized that no matter what, he had a choice, and that this would never happen again.
“I will choose to love God. I will choose to live among sheep. I will choose to be in the place of living things. And I will choose to help them know God and to live a godly life, and if I fail and I go to hell, I have no problem with that, because I have chosen to love God and live among sheep. And because of the choice I have made, I will never be sent to hell, and because of the choice I have made, I will know eternal life, because I have chosen to love God, and to live among sheep. And because of the choice I have made, I am no longer the same person I was when I started.”
The Triceratops started walking away from the group of sheep, and he told himself that he would choose to love God and live among sheep, and he would help them find their way back home, and he would make a place for himself where he would always be with the sheep. And he told himself that when he died, he would be purified, because he had chosen to love God, and he would be given the gift of being around sheep, and he would be purified, because he had chosen to live among sheep.
The group of sheep that had started walking with Triceratops followed him as he made his way back to the place where he and his friend, who had died, had stayed. And the place where he and his friend had stayed was back in the world of the living, the world of beauty and darkness, where there is light and dark, sunshine and shadow.


Odes To My Triceratops, Pt. 2 (GPT fueled short)

Claire got a little lonely on the night of September 20th, 2007, when a letter written by her mother on a yellow post-it jumped out of her mailbox onto the lawn, causing Claire to run out of her house without her shoes on. As mentioned, the letter was from her mother, Mary, who had accidentally fallen down a well. However, she was now standing in Claire’s lawn. The girl was the only person that could see her mother. Mary had planned for her daughter to die a slow, painful death. She shot a bullet into Claire’s heart, but the heart was already broken, which caused the bullet to break instead.

Nobody would help Claire, so she decided to get a rifle, a bow and arrows, and a dildo. She ended up having sex with her rifle, then killing a turtle she was hunting with her dildo, after she failed to kill a variety of small animals.

Claire never revealed that the yellow post-it said that her parents would try to join her in Hell. When she read that, she immediately ran back home to get a sledgehammer. She was greeted by her deceased father and mother, who were holding hands. Claire wanted to smash their heads together, but then William knocked on her door. He invited her to come along with the Triceratops to a party at their home.

First things first, I wanna talk to you about
Things like war, motherhood, fatherhood, and fatherhood
Anyway, there’s only a verse about my friend
See, Lorenzo has a mission that his parents planned
Gotta shoot a renegade Deinonychus, he’s a chupacabra
Hell’s Gate-a-ray, his parents are sending him down to hell

“Okay, this is going to sound too crazy
Hell’s Gate-a-ray, ole-yeter. Uh-unh”
Lorenzo asks, “What was that, Gramps?”
“Shut up, you son-of-a-gun. Next, I’m tellin’ you the truth,
We’re gonna build a missile out of your heart, ‘cause, um,
You, uh, you ain’t, uh, been an angel, but, you know,
You’ll repent and, uh, uh, don’t let the devil tempt you, boy
An old fart like me, I know”

‘PLAN FOR A RENEGADE’ by William Griffin

My friend Lorenzo is a Triceratops
With a portal to hell inside his throat
He would drive around for hours on end
Trying to find some chicks
Where did you get that car?
I don’t even have one

Every day he’s doing this
Dude, I’m worried about him
This whole thing is getting out of hand
When I told Lorenzo I was scared for him
He shrugged his shoulders and said, “My bad”

“CRUISIN’ WHILE HORNY” by William Griffin

Our souls are connected
To our bones and our flesh
But to me Claire could only exist
On the surface

Lorenzo is half metal
And half stone
He’s like a newly launched gunship
On the inside we’re alike
Cancer and virgins

But because he is a killer,
Lorenzo is a strange boy

My sister has an iron fist
And keeps screaming in envy
We’re more the same than we are different

I hate to touch a hand that’s metallic
She hates to kiss a mouth that’s metal
But deep down we’re the same
We are born to murder

‘CANCER AND VIRGINS’ by William Griffin

Although the relationship between the trio of friends was becoming strained, Claire and William grew closer to the extent that he eagerly transcribed the poems that she gave birth to.

This boy can keep me up to date
And help me fix what’s wrong
I’ll take him to old America
He’ll show me the way

This boy can keep me up to date
His face speaks of new understanding
And it’s my spirit that he surrounds
I think I could live in his love

‘TO OLD AMERICA’ by Claire Javernick

I’ll never forget the first time we met,
‘Cause something in your eyes
Made me want to try to touch your soul
It’s such a shame how your eyes are always closed

There’s a place that’s hidden deep inside your soul
And if you knew the way to find it
We could be lost in love forever

When we find that, then we’ll find what’s within
And everything that we’re searching for
Will come true like the stars in the sky,
And the places on the ground

‘EYES CLOSED’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo, no
I could tell you so many things,
but you’re never gonna
hear them

So go back to your cave
And think on life,
And you’ll find it’s so much better
Than what you think

‘LORENZO, NO’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo doesn’t just have
A Triceratops hellmouth,
He also has a murderous monster head
Made of chromium steel

He can sing,
Not just dance,
But sing

I once saw him try to play a piano
With his horns

His monstrous head sings out of tune
He sounds terrifying and murderous
And whenever he sings
His hellmouth gushes dark smoke
With all sorts of demons
And monsters
And evil beings
Flooding out of his throat

He looks so frightening
When he belches out from his hellmouth
This does happen a lot
But he is friendly
He’s just a monster with a hellmouth
I don’t know what to tell you

He kills anyone
Who stares too long
He isn’t afraid
Of ghosts
Or leprechauns

We’re talking about
A prehistoric killing machine
If you look at him for longer than three seconds
He’ll chomp on his prey

He is also very well endowed
It looks like a bazooka
His seed comes out of his hellmouth
In a plume
While his massive bazooka throbs
I’m not sure what nature intended
With that reproductive system

When I close my eyes I still see it

‘Monster With a Hellmouth’ by William Griffin

I see myself in you tonight, Lorenzo
You’re out in the sun’s fucking bright light
Drinking time
You’re headed for the bottom

You’re out there eating your dick
You’re full of shit
Your gonads hold the world in place

You’re all fucked up inside
You’re done
You know we’re all going to die

‘HOLD IN THERE, LORENZO’ by William Griffin

Just look at how you’ve changed,
You don’t even look like yourself any more
Clothes are hanging on you,
Your hair is a mess,
It looks like something’s wrong with you


I don’t wanna be the one
To tell you the truth
But I think that I should be the one
To tell you the truth
I don’t like the way you’re acting
Oh Lord, please help me
So it’s true what they say

I love you, and I know you care for me
Just tell me why you always treat me bad
I can’t stand you any more
And I really don’t think that it’s fair

I don’t like the way you’re acting
Oh Lord, please help me
So it’s true what they say

I don’t wanna be the one
To tell you the truth
But I think that I should be the one
To tell you the truth

‘DON’T WANNA BE THE ONE’ by William Griffin

We’re losing control
Somehow I have to make it stop
As far as I’m concerned
I’ve got myself a stinker

I’m obsessed
And nothing I do
Seems to please him
He feels that I hate him
And he’s right, so
Could I really blame him?

It’s an odd paradox
The world’s a funny place
I guess he’d prefer
If I was killed
Right here and now

That seems to me
Extremely ungrateful
But that’s just the way it is

‘ODD PARADOX’ by William Griffin

I can’t read or write, so I don’t have anything to say
But still I like talking to you
Sometimes when I go into your mouth
You taste like a cookie
And you smell like the ocean

I’ve seen plenty of kids just like you
When I am there,
They don’t say anything
And I know they don’t listen,
But it doesn’t matter because
There’s nothing left to say

‘NOTHING LEFT TO SAY’ by Claire Javernick

Don’t shut the portal to hell,
Don’t close the portal to hell
Don’t be afraid of what I tell you
Or you’ll end up down that well
It will be dark and it will be cold
And it will be you
No! It’ll be the same as it is now
Except with a lot of kids singing songs
About things that go boom

‘THE SAME AS IT IS NOW’ by William Griffin

Dude, dude,
Try not fuck with him, ‘cause he’s a goddamned
Mammoth Triceratops
With a portal to hell inside his throat
And a dick like a spear
He won’t let you go, and he will follow you
All the way to the end of your life
But in the meantime he won’t let you die,
‘Cause he knows a lot of stuff about science

He wears a shell with a god inside
I swear, he won’t let me die
He wants to kiss my vagina,
But he hates the taste of petroleum
When he bites me,
He comes off as murderous
But I can never alert the authorities,
‘Cause I can’t read nor write
And that’s just embarrassing

Dude, can I tell you something?
If I were to kill him,
You could write about the slaughter,
And then we could kiss,
And drink some wine
And eat some tacos
And watch a movie

‘AFRAID OF HIS DICK’ by Claire Javernick

I can’t stop singing for him
He used to be the nicest person
You could talk to him or whatnot
But now, he’s just like a four-legged creature
They say he’s sleeping inside his throat
Because of the mistake he made

He had a kid and she’s half his age
She’s thinking what a monster he must be
You know what the sad part is
I can’t stop singing for him

He used to be the nicest person
You could talk to him or whatnot
But now, he’s just like a four-legged creature

I’ll be honest, it seemed like he had a condition
When he used to be able to stand
And roam around the house like a person would
When he walked, you could swear he had arms
And you thought of what could have been

When you look at things like that
I can’t stop singing for him
He used to be the nicest person
You could talk to him or whatnot
But now, he’s just like a four-legged creature

‘FOUR-LEGGED CREATURE’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo, he’s a Triceratops, he can spit on my wall
He’s covered in mucus, but that doesn’t bother me
To be his love requires a transformation

Lorenzo, they say he don’t wanna talk
What am I to do?
How would I tell him how I feel?
It’s like a game with me and him

We play hide-and-seek, but I find him every time
It’s true, though, he does have a portal to hell in his throat
You know I love him from the inside
That’s where the love is felt

Lorenzo’s got a portal to hell in his throat
He said he went to a concert once and he shouted too much
My friend was a Triceratops who got eaten in hell
I’m his friend, of course I know it and I know it well

Lorenzo has a portal to hell in his throat
I’m saying it so there’s no doubt
Listen to my words and only hear me
I’ll be the serpent and you’ll be the spider

God is not an ideal type of character
He’s not some ultimate model, he’s just a man
That’s why he’s so cool and non-principled
He’s not ideal like you, he’s a man

His substance is an average man’s substance,
His path is a man’s path, he’s real, not symbolic
The Triceratops I spoke of is just a symbol of God
He doesn’t exist

His eyes are brown, but who cares?
His eyes are brown, they’re like mine
His horn is bent down, but I don’t care
His horn is bent down, just like mine

‘LORENZO IS ACTUALLY GOD’ by Claire Javernick

Somewhere at the end of the black and blue
A yellow rose falls from the sky
Lorenzo’s throat is stuffed with joy and hope
His heart is a lighthouse in the dark
His love is a fast-flowing fountain of thought

It’s a hell of a way to live and love
It’s the difference between life and death
To know the feeling of a dino’s claws
He’ll shred you to the size of a cactus

Some may find the signs of wisdom
Lorenzo can’t understand anything from them
But his warm and kind stories
May make you love life more than death

A razor from the Cretaceous that cuts the sun
He’ll make your hat more than seven feet tall
The curve of his horns is erotic
He’s an angel in the blackest of hells

‘CRETACEOUS RAZOR’ by Claire Javernick

Lorenzo is a Triceratops
He has a trachea, he has a turtle shell
He can eat live prey, he’d swallow their lungs

If you knew his liver, then you’d know his scrotum
If you didn’t know his liver, then you’d know his scrotum
If you had been around him, those are hard to miss

He’s like a two storey treehouse
With the bodies in the lower level
He’d get drunk and fuck her in his sleep
Then kick her while they had sex

If you asked him where he was going
He’d look at you like you had three eyes
If you told him where he was going
He’d just call you a liar

He would just turn around and wave
Like he was going somewhere
If you were wondering
Well, you better be wondering

She was a charming fifteen
Going on twenty four
He’d sometimes touch her skin
And her body would melt

‘STOP FUCKING MY GIRL’ by William Griffin

Someone needs the rest
And if it’s me,
I won’t care
I don’t need anything else
I don’t need love,
I don’t need
The girl that I’m in love with

The girl that I’m in love with
Just forget that girl
Maybe I’ll be able to live without her
I’ll live without her

I’ll leave her, maybe
I’ll leave her, maybe
I won’t
I can’t live without her

She’s the girl that I’m in love with
Just forget that girl
Maybe I’ll be able to live without her

I’m about to leave her
Maybe I won’t
I can’t live without her

She’s the girl that I’m in love with

Run away
Or be run
Away by you

‘DON’T CARE NO MORE’ by William Griffin

His name is Lorenzo, I think it sounds like a brand
There’s a portal in his throat and it’s quite unclean
But he calls it heaven, where they hang all the dead
I was just a little kid but I heard the screaming and dying
They all fly out through the portal in his throat

He takes ahold of my hand and he talks in Spanish
“It’s called love, but you wouldn’t understand”
And he’s running towards my school with a bomb
That blows up the school and our town and our home
Hence the ‘heaven’ part of the title

‘STRAIGHT TO HEAVEN’ by William Griffin

The actual lady, Claire,
Is in love with the beast
She’s trapped in his throat,
Bound by a curse

I can save her, but not myself,
‘Cause the beast won’t just take one girl
How many animals do you need to own,
Once you get to the top of the food chain

We are like the sheep that go out to pasture
Like the livestock in a private hell
You are a tyrant to the core
No remorse for your cruelty

I wish I could pretend
That you never existed
But now I will pretend
That I care for you
When the day comes
You will know that the world is ending
You will have no place to run to
You will have nowhere to hide

‘Top Of the Food Chain’ by William Griffin

Oh, Lorenzo, my friend, what can I say?
I never liked you when we were young
You had a face that was a million years old
The door to hell had no handle on it

What, Lorenzo, am I supposed to tell you
To save your life? It ain’t gonna happen that way
The black dog was a sign, I’m sure you know it well
But now we’re standing face to face
Now the dog’s a member of our family too
(It bit a woman right on the neck)

He keeps on watching me like he’s trying to read my mind
It’s nice to be so quiet at night
But a mother’s work is never done
It’s a hard life, Lorenzo, without you

Oh, Lorenzo, my friend, what can I say?
I never liked you when we were young
You had a face that was a million years old
The door to hell had no handle on it

What, Lorenzo, am I supposed to tell you
To save your life?
It ain’t gonna work

‘WHAT CAN I SAY’ by William Griffin

Hell is this way
Hell is this way
Hell is this way

It’s ugly, filthy and expensive
Triceratops blood is the best of wines
Here in hell I play football with invisible spirits
Here in hell I kill myself with numbers

It’s ugly, filthy and expensive
Triceratops blood is the best of wines
I swear I will play football with them for the rest of my life!

Triceratops, Triceratops, Triceratops
I am Triceratops, and my wife is Spartacus
Handsome or ugly, there’s no difference,
My wife gives her life away for Triceratops

All that matters is playing football with invisible spirits
Triceratops, Triceratops, Triceratops
Triceratops, triceratops, triceratops

I am the fist, the wicked sword
My soul is pure, my soul is virtuous
My wife gives her life away for Triceratops


And after all he did,
This dino got what he deserved

I saw the tears in his eyes

He will never smile again,
That bloody demon

To satisfy some weird urge,
I cut up some of his flesh
And ate chunks of my friend
How sick is that

‘Some Weird Urge’ by William Griffin

The devil lives inside my throat
Lorenzo gives a high pitched shriek
Nerve clusters, boogers, tobacco juice
And you think I’m insane
In my sleep I hear a voice
Lorenzo with the devil in his throat
It’s around my tongue
When I try to scream I feel
The devil inside my throat

‘AROUND MY TONGUE’ by William Griffin

You wouldn’t believe this fella if I told you his tale
He met this girl, a girl who wouldn’t give a damn
Well, the girl led him to her bedroom door

Through the portal I heard the chorus
My mind is racing
My thoughts are twisted
I’m forced to run so I can hide
Now I’m panicking like a damn jackrabbit

There’s no escape
There’s no escape
There’s no escape

I can hear the devil’s chortling
I’m no better than I’ve been painted
I’m the very definition of a born-again Christian
I’m a born-again Christian since the day he died

Yeah the devil’s gonna get you, gon’ get you, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

‘TO HER BEDROOM DOOR’ by William Griffin

Odes To My Triceratops, Pt. 1 (GPT fueled short)

As the boy’s loved ones feared, on April 8, 2009 the Santa Cruz County Coroner ruled the 17-year-old’s death a suicide. His name, William Griffin, didn’t mean anything yet to the public at large.

On April 16, 2009, at the funeral in Watsonville, William Griffin’s parents Lisa and Ken welcomed two strange new visitors to their family’s life: the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog along with his wife Angela. Many have seen this as a sign of fate, but the Griffins did not. And a few days later, on April 21, 2009, William’s mother Lisa was brutally murdered.

William Griffin lived in a rough inner-city suburb in Grand Rapids, MI. When he was ten he got accidentally sucked into a TV during the sitcom called ‘Garfield’. The episode in question featured a new character, the Triceratops named Lorenzo (Triceratops being a large, sharp-toothed, three-horned dinosaur). William therefore met not only the major characters of the ‘Garfield’ series, but also the aforementioned Triceratops named Lorenzo, who would end up exiting the TV along with the boy and becoming another member of his family. Out of respect for William Griffin’s passing, the episode where Lorenzo the Triceratops was introduced didn’t air until about a year after William died.

The surviving family wished to leave behind painful memories, but as they hurried to move they discovered William’s treasure trove of poems and cassette tapes. William’s step-father Ken made them available to the public. It didn’t take long for the lives of not only Will, but also his neighbor Claire Javernick and William’s best friend, the Triceratops named Lorenzo, to come into focus as they were featured in documentaries.

The following texts were composed by a fourteen years old William, some as lyrics for his songs, others as simple poems, or both.

He has a small black mouth
Like a bottom
His skin is brown
Like a beet
His horns are round
Like a pepperoni pizza
He’s just twelve
He’s just eleven
He’s just my best friend
My favorite friend
He’s just twelve
He’s just eleven
But he’s also twelve

His horns are round
Like a pepperoni pizza
And they grow in the middle
And they’re as big as cans
They’re aching for a fight
He’s just eleven
He’s just ten
He’s just my best friend
My favorite friend
He’s just eleven

‘Lorenzo’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo is so proud and tall
He walked by me at the school gate
He pointed at me and said,
“I am a triceratops. I am so cool!”

A ponopodon is what he found inside his throat
He swallowed it and out came light
He gave me another ponopodon and said, “Have a bite!”
But the ponopodon was horrible
And it bit me
And gave me the willies

‘Lemonade and Willies’ by William Griffin

Lorenzo is a triceratops
He eats clams and lobsters
Laughing crocodiles and lions of hell
He’s eating me to bits
Mister fish, he’s eating me
Lorenzo is a triceratops
In the basement of his throat
Inside of hell
You will find a baby doll

‘My Friendo Lorenzo’ by William Griffin

My friend’s name is Lorenzo
He’s a three-headed Triceratops
With a portal to hell inside his throat

When I’d sit around and play
I’d play my guitar
And he’d come over and sit down by me
I’d play a song

My neighbor she is a blind girl
And she can’t read nor write
We are just like friends
We’d sit on her front porch and talk

While I sat on her front porch and talked
She said her name was Claire
And she said her daddy and mommy died
And she said she’d rather be dead than blind
Then she went into her house

I said, what was that?
Then she came out and asked me
If I’d like to go home with her
I said, what the hell?
I said, what was that?
She said her daddy and mommy died
She went in and closed her door

I said, what the hell?
I said, what was that?
She said her daddy and mommy died
She went in and closed her door
Closed her door

‘Better Dead Than Blind’ by William Griffin

Me and my friend Lorenzo left on a motorbike
Toward the woods of the North
We lived in a house
Filled with all the old books

Claire (Claire with a C) lives next door
Lorenzo (who’s a Triceratops) with his green eyes,
Purple skin and parrot-red hair
I’m William, fourteen years old
I can read and write, I’m terrified of my sister
(We have the same mother, our father is deceased)

Claire (with a C) she can’t read and she can’t write
I don’t think she knows how to shave
Lorenzo (who’s a Triceratops) takes care of our parents
Claire (Claire with a C) never comes to our house
She eats everything in her mama’s pantry

Lorenzo (who’s a Triceratops) drinks blood to eat
We watch Stephen King movies every Saturday
On our projector screen

Claire reads scary stories to me
Or she’s making them up because she can’t read
I found out Claire is a vampire
I couldn’t care less

‘Claire With a C’ by William Griffin

Claire is Claire is Claire
She walks and talks and wears a dress
Claire’s a fourteen years old
Fairy tale too real to be

Lorenzo is Lorenzo is Lorenzo
With a portal to hell inside his throat
Lorenzo is the Devil’s spawn,
Is the beast that does not eat

It’s hard to describe Lorenzo
What a stunning day that was,
The day Lorenzo came to us,
Came to us from God above

Lorenzo is sweet and sappy,
Has a voice that chimes like the bells
Lorenzo’s tongue is sweet like honey
Lorenzo lives on old tobacco leaves

‘Fairy Tale Too Real To Be’ by William Griffin

I am a Stegosaur and so is you
A piece of me in every creature,
Like you and him and all the people
We all have a heartbeat
And a soul inside

We like you, Claire
And since we’re here we might as well be glad
And say a prayer, for just because you’re blind
You don’t have to be stuck in a place
Where there’s nothing to see

There’s lots of beautiful things in the world
Lots of beautiful people
You’re one of them

When the sun comes out,
The grass shakes off its dander
When it rains, the clouds roll in and out
The mountains and the rivers
The sky and the earth
The stars and the planets
One big beautiful living organism
Beauty never dies
We will never see each other die

The color’s gone from your eyes
But not your heart

‘I Am Your Stegosaur’ by William Griffin

You know, you’re the special one
The one who took a gander
You’re the love of my life
And you’re a girl that’s cute
She’s just fourteen years old
And the words we write together
That I write I mean
Because she can’t read
Are nothing but lies

She’s seen the future
And the past is past
I said to her, “Don’t forget your roots”
Because I learned you gotta grow
So you ain’t no bigger than a matchstick
But you still got your roots

A girl, she’s got a good heart
She’s just fourteen years old
And the words we write together
That I write I mean
Because she can’t read
Are nothing but lies

You know you’re the special one
The one who took a gander
You’re the love of my life
And you’re a girl that’s cute
She’s just fourteen years old
And the words we write together
That I write I mean
Because she can’t read
Are nothing but lies

And we only make each other up
Never gonna be the truth
So you know that you’re the special one
The one who took a gander
You’re the love of my life

‘For Claire, Who Can’t Read’ by William Griffin

Hello, my name is William
My best friend, I’ve known him all my life,
He is called Lorenzo
I’m not sure how to pronounce it,
Since he talks with horns

I’m writing this letter to Claire, she is my beloved,
I love her with all my heart
My love is deep and everlasting
She’s beautiful
She is the smartest girl I have ever known
She’s fourteen,
With hair of pink,
Skin of chocolate,
And eyes of grey
She’s a dragon,
Instead of a Triceratops
With a portal to hell inside his throat

Every morning she wakes up on the couch
In her underwear
She grabs her backpack
And walks in the direction of school
I’ve never seen her there
I call her a dragon
Because she’s not a Triceratops
And her lunchbox is inside her throat

Her name is Claire
She has black hair
Her skin is golden
And her wings are purple

‘My Neighbor, the Dragon’ by William Griffin

Claire, so beautiful
With such a sweet smile
Even at 14
She’s in love with me
We spend every minute
Like lovers do
She takes me to a place
Where no one can see us

I saw her first!
It was last Thursday
In my backyard
When I was doing chores
And I saw my friend Claire
For she was standing there
She was so beautiful
Such a beautiful smile
And I just couldn’t resist

She made me this toast
With strawberry jam and butter
And made me some cookies too
Sweet cookies I’ve never had
I ate all of her food
Even her share
I watched as her eyes
Lit up like a candle

‘Let Me Eat Your Stuff’ by William Griffin

She must’ve been part goldfish and part salt lick
Because she could swallow letters and numbers

My friends told me they had seen her pet goldfish grow
Just six inches long, it could read and write

She carried a paperback to school in her backpack
The letters and numbers had traveled through her mouth

Other kids wondered why she couldn’t read and write
Even though her eyes were clearly dead

She would just say that’s alright to all of her friends
‘Cause I can read and write, that’s my only friend

Claire is gone and I miss my beloved friend
Because she has her eyes open just for me

‘Part Goldfish’ by William Griffin

Her skin is white as paper
Like a pearl
Her body is flawless
And she’s just fourteen
But she’s already so much
She’s the love of my life
She can’t read
She can’t write
She’s just fourteen
She’s so much more
And she’s my favorite day
My favorite friend
My favorite day

‘Beloved Lover’ by William Griffin

Triceratops, I love you more than anything
(But I’m the only one who sees your white behind)
All the girls adore you
And they want to touch you

Claire, if you want to, you can have me
For I’m not ashamed
I hope you’re not ashamed

Triceratops, there’s no magic potion
To chase off
Those lonely feelings

Claire, there’s no such thing as eternal bliss
Or a hell of aces
Only eternal regrets

‘No Magic Potion’ by William Griffin

It’s not like my heart has ever been full
In all my life
Until I met your two eyes
It’s a matter of fact that I’d like to have you
And that I’d take any length of time
I’d take it all if it means
I can lay my head on your breasts

But what would I think, if you should tell me
That you’d prefer if I didn’t come at all
Can I tell you how scared I was, how scared I’ve been
Every time I thought about you
My step-father told me don’t play around,
Go for what’s worth having
He said when a man has a real woman
He’s got to wait a while
He said it was about a month

I asked my step-father, what do I owe to you
He said the man who says I ought to settle for I love you
Is the man who can’t make me quit
I asked my step-father, what am I missing
He said, there is a place where the most evil men are
And they just laugh at us down here on earth

And what’s going on in heaven, I don’t know

‘Wait About a Month For Love’ by William Griffin

Claire’s a girl so helpless
Claire is blind
Claire’s a girl so pure
Claire is blind
This love won’t end in pain

‘Helpless and Pure’ by William Griffin

Claire’s really a sweetheart
As pretty as a picture
She just doesn’t wanna get wet
But wait and see

She’s a human,
But what’s behind
That painted
Fake face

If Claire had eyes
She would look into mine
I’d let her see

I’ll teach her to read and write
I’ll teach her how to play
With my guitar

‘Please, Play With My Guitar’ by William Griffin

This is from William’s diary:

So I look at Lorenzo and I’m just mad ‘cause he’s gross. All I know is that he has the Mark of the Beast inside his throat. When he laughs it’s rancid and crumbly and when he cries it’s just creepy. Lorenzo’s ugly and he makes me afraid. When he’s with me, he uses his fist as a piano. I try to pretend that I don’t care when he stares at me like that. Deep down inside, I wish that he would leave me alone, but every day when I look up, he’s there. Lorenzo is worse than a dog, because he can think as well as show his affection. Now he leaves pictures on my pillow every morning. I can smell him.

We’d go underground in a coffin
Dressed all in black
We would hug and kiss the stars
With our heads in a casket
And in her worst dreams
We would dance in the dark

Lorenzo wears a Jesus apron
Claire’s belly button is her heart
Now he’s missing his eye
My fault

Ah ah ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah ah ah
Ah ah ah ah ah ah

I’m shaking off the free rays of dying stars
I am trembling at the breath
Of the burning heart
That’s inside your throat

Like time, like the cosmos
This eternity with a physical body
Will one day become a tear
In the eyes of the deepest heart

I know you’re in my head
I know you are alive
I’m shaking off the free rays of dying stars
I am trembling at the breath
Of the burning heart
That’s inside your throat

Oh aah, hey aah aah
Hey aah, aah, aah, hey aah
Oh aah, hey aah aah
Hey aah, aah, aah, hey aah

We’d go underground in a coffin
Dressed all in black
We would hug and kiss the stars
With our heads in a casket
And in her worst dreams
We would dance in the dark


I know you’re in my head
I know you are alive
I’m shaking off the free rays of dying stars
I am trembling at the breath
Of the burning heart
That’s inside your throat

‘The Burning Heart Inside Your Throat’ by William Griffin

‘Girls Are Made For Walking’ by The Huntmasters (GPT fueled short)

Hot women and crazy girls turn on everything
I’m in love with hot women and I’m addicted to girls
Crazy women and girls are like cigarettes
I can never get enough

I’ve never understood the attraction
between girls and guys

Girls of the ’80s
Sweet little girls
All the ’80s chicks
Possibly crazy chicks
I’m guessing crazy chicks

Went to my local shopping centre
This girl came right to me
Had some light coloured jeans
“Do you want to look around?”
“OK, sure”

The next day at work
She came right to me again
Had some blue and white stripy socks
“Can I show you around?” I asked her
“OK, sure”

And another day
Her sister came to see me
Had a red T-shirt
“Will you show me around?” she asked
“You know, I’d rather not do that”
‘Cos then I’d probably get hurt

Girls of the ’90s
Hot little girls
Huge things and fat things
Loud little things
Waves of blonde hair

My brother picked up this chick
She was my size
She asked, “Do you want to go to a club?”
“Yeah, sure”

We went to this place
And you’d be surprised what went on
She stripped naked
It was as if I’d known her all my life

And then she sat down next to me
Just like that
I looked at her and all I saw was jelly
I don’t remember how I got to that bed

There was a girl in the pool
And she wasn’t wearing any clothes
And I looked at her and the hairs on my body just stood up

Girls of the ’00s
Sexy little girls
Lazy little girls
Girls with perfect teeth
I’m feeling like a king

One day I found myself
In the bar of my local shopping centre
There was a girl standing next to me
She had blonde hair
I asked her, “Do you want to go somewhere?”
“I’d rather not”

Then I went and had a burger
And it was fantastic
“You should go out and do something,” my mum used to say
“No, no, I’d rather not”

Girls of the ’10s
Sweet little girls
I’ll give you one thing about them
They’re still sweet little girls

I’ll look at a girl
And all I see is clothes
And hair and fat things
And of course… she’s got a nose

On the way back to my hotel
I was walking along this street
It was a nice little street
There were cars and people
And then I noticed this girl
She had a red T-shirt

“Are you OK?” I asked her
“Yeah, I’m OK”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you”
“That’s alright, I don’t mind”
“Would you like a drink?”
“Sure, I’d love one”

She looked at me
And she smiled
Her eyes were blue
Her teeth were nice and white
And then I looked at those cheeks
And I checked out the rest of her face

We drank this cool soft drink
We walked along a bridge
It was a really nice bridge
It was around 8 pm
And then I went back to my hotel
I never saw her again

Back in the day,
When I went out with my friends
I could always pick out the girls who wanted me
So my mum would ask,
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going with the girls”

Nowadays, I get to choose who I want to go out with
And I don’t feel like I’m always on the losing end
So I don’t give a shit if I’m late
Or if I don’t go back home
When my friends ask, “Who did you go out with?”
I just say, “Oh, my mates”

I find girls very exciting
I just love girls, I’m a girl lover
Girls are just so pretty
I love the way they walk

Girls are made for walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking

Girls are made for walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking

Girls are made for walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking

Girls are made for walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking

Girls are made for walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking
Girls are made for walking
Walk, walk, walk, walking

‘Girls Are Made For Walking’ by The Huntmasters

The single ‘Girls Are Made For Walking’ was recorded as the winning entry in the 2003 “MTV Push Artist Of The Year” competition. In 2004, the song won “Best New Artist Of The Year” at the Awards, and for four consecutive years (2005 to 2008) the song was voted number one in MTV’s “Fantastic Four” contest. ‘Girls Are Made For Walking’ was also awarded “Single of the Year” in the 2003 NRJ Music Awards, was chosen by British Radio 1 as their “Record of the Week” and also earned “Bowler Of The Year” in the UK’s Mojo Awards in 2003.

-Darkening Day (2001)
-Motionless and Invisible (2003)
-14 (2006)
-Silent Places (2012)
-Through My Eyes (2014)

My Own Desert Places, Pt. 35 (GPT-3 fueled short)

In Alba’s final hour, she’s kneeling with her back to the window of her bedroom while the noose she made out of a sheet is folded over her shoulder. The other end of the sheet is tied to the handle of the window. Under her ink black, greasy hair that she chopped off short, her snow white skin seems bloodless, as if every cell of her body has given up. Her umber brown eyes are downcast and sunken, emptied of tears, and her mouth is pale and droopy. None of her facial muscles move; facial expressions are meant for communication, and she has long resigned from mankind. Her ribcage stands out like a giant, bony insect trapped under her skin. Beneath the costal cartilage, the abdomen seems hollowed out. Her yellowed cotton briefs haven’t been cleaned in a week. On her spindly and feeble limbs, horizontal, pearl-colored scars cover her wrists and forearms as well as her inner thighs, like scratches on the walls notched by a feral beast trapped in a cage. The self-harm scars on the inside of her left arm are crossed from the middle of the forearm to the wrist by a glistening, punch pink scar from when she cut her wrist artery, ruining her nerves and tendons.
Alba never noticed us, or only the same as other shadows haunting her mind. After all, it’s already too late.
Her parents had painted her bedroom a lemonade pink. They had filled her shelves with plush toys. They had hung posters that read ‘there is always a reason to be happy’, ‘be kind to yourself’, ‘run your own race’, ‘if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging’, ‘learn to love yourself’, ‘choose life’, ‘this too shall pass’. Alba had taken advantage of the time between the instances when either of her parents or her siblings would check on her, and she had worn herself out pushing her wardrobe and her table against the door. The furniture that block the entrance tremble along with the door as her family members pound on it and push it. Their cries for Alba to let them in reach me dulled as if I were floating underwater.
Alba closes her eyes. She grabs the noose with both hands and passes her head through it as if crowning herself. Then she tightens the noose around her neck and leans forward until the rope is taut. Alba lets her body hang limply, resting the backs of her hands on the floor.
We stand on both sides of Alba’s dangling body as her face goes purple and snot flows out of her nose. Her breaths are heavy and shuddering, and her eyes tremble behind their lids. Her heart must be beating rapidly, and her flesh will bruise as the blood pools in her body.
Her ghost slides out onto the floor, falling from a tipped container. Alba is paralyzed for a moment, but then she props her forearms on the floor and looks up. She notices me first. Calmly, she lowers her gaze to her shadowy hands. She raises to her feet. Her ghost remains tethered to her hanging shell by shadowy filaments.
Her parents are screaming her name. The wardrobe and desk tremble under a persistent assault.
“Hello, Alba,” I say casually.
The newbie stares at me as if catatonic. I had wondered how she would react when she finally discovered that the afterlife exists and that a myriad of ghosts are trapped here. She cares as little about this new world as she cared about the previous one.
“So I’m dead?” Alba asks in a weary, monotone voice.
“Not yet. It will only take time, though.”
Alba looks over her shoulder towards her body, and then she turns slightly when she notices the filaments that keep her attached to the plane of the living.
“How much time?”
“As long as those threads remain.”
When Alba holds my gaze again, her indifference makes me narrow my eyes. She might as well be looking at a rock. Still, I know she has never been able to help it. I did hear her mother mention that even as a baby, Alba barely cried.
“Are you a ghost?” she asks.
I nod.
“Did you die in this house?” Alba asks in the same dull voice.
“Oh, no,” I answer. “We have been hanging out here ever since we came across you.”
Her shoulders droop and she tilts her head as if I’m presenting her a tiresome riddle.
“You were waiting for me. So, do you have a name? Do you use names in this place?”
“Sure, we can still talk, right? We need a way to refer to each other. I’m Irene.”
Alba’s face twitches, a precursor to a frown. She’s had enough of interacting, and she hadn’t prepared herself for meeting new people. She nods towards the third ghost in the room.
“Who is this one?”
“My best friend,” I say.
Kateryna bows slightly, and I can make out the faint traces of a kind smile in her veiled face.
“My name is Kateryna. Nice to meet you, Alba, even if it had to happen like this.”
“Where are you from? That accent is Eastern European, right?”
Kateryna exhales a chuckle.
“I’ve lived in plenty of places. I was born in a city that the living built, and that’s as much as it matters now.”
Alba keeps staring at Kateryna as if she expects my friend to elaborate further, but in the end the newbie takes a deep breath as if to recharge her voice, and addresses me.
“What’s this about? Why were you waiting for me to die? Are you my guardian angel?”
“I’m everyone’s guardian angel,” I say. “We first met you in the hospital, when they were treating the nasty vertical cut along your inner forearm. A great attempt, but that family of yours loves you so much that they can’t bear the thought of you winning at the only game you’ve been playing for years. They are annoying like that. But then again, if you had succeeded, we wouldn’t have been here to welcome your ghost.”
Alba closes her eyes and breathes slowly.
“I guess that ghosts need some entertainment.”
“That’s part of it, sure. There’s not much we can do here. So you see, you were one of our most interesting cases in a long time. You yearned to be admitted to our faded plane. Anyway, we followed you and your family home, where we got to listen to your parents and siblings as they talked in hushed, pained voices about your previous attempts. That paracetamol overdose that nearly ruined your liver. That time you tied a plastic bag around your head. You are so determined that you fooled those psychiatrists at that facility so they would release you. They must have been idiots, right? Who takes a look at you and thinks you are fine? Also, you truly fucked up that jump from the bridge, huh?”
Alba lowers her head as if she’s being admonished for a poor performance.
“It’s not as if I could have trained properly. Even after the surgeries, my legs only added to the daily pain. I was an idiot.”
One of the threads tethering Alba to her dangling body has already dissolved, and two are fraying as each individual shadowy fiber snaps silently.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, kid,” I say. “After all, you are in the happy place for suicides now.”
Alba’s shrouded eyes dart around as she shakes her head.
“It’s no different here.”
“You get it then. I was disappointed as well, so many years ago.”
“Alright, ghost, I’m tired. Now what? What’s going to happen? Why did you two bother to wait for me?”
“Don’t be so negative!” I say sarcastically. “We can still get on rollercoasters. We three can ride them all day and night if you want!”
“Or we can go on the water slides,” Kateryna adds. “They are my favorite. The speed bursts through your body, and then that drop makes you feel like you are freefalling.”
Alba looks at the ceiling for a moment.
“You two are fucking weird, you know that?”
“Yeah, we are weird, and we’re also here for you,” I say. “So what do you want to do?”
Alba closes her eyes and sighs.
“In case you hadn’t noticed, I intended to die. Am I dead now? It doesn’t feel like it.”
“I always offer the choice, if it’s still possible: either take advantage that you remain tethered to your body and return to it, or wait until those filaments dissolve. Then you’ll find out whether you are cursed to roam through the afterlife for eternity, or you move on to the beyond.”
Alba looks at her dying body. Her face has reddened, the eyes are bulging. The wardrobe and the desk are shaking while her family members keep shouting as if Alba ever cared to listen.
“Why hasn’t my heart stopped already? Hasn’t enough time passed?”
I shrug.
“Don’t ask me. I’m not in charge of the afterlife. Find a ghostologist.”
Alba’s eyes flick between me and Kateryna.
“Alright, so what’s in that beyond? It sounds like oblivion.”
The old, cold pain spreads through me, making me shiver. I want to turn around and leave. I take a deep breath, but my voice comes out hollow.
“The beyond is where the people you love wait for you. If you are lucky enough that you have gotten over your regrets, I’m sure that when they let you in they will provide you with as many of your preferred books as you want. Thacker, Bernhard, Ligotti, Schopenhauer, Cioran… But they weren’t enough, were they? Even though they held the attention of someone who doesn’t care about anything. Maybe you want to check out new stuff.”
Alba looks at Kateryna.
“They have the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe, right?” she says acidly.
“I was never into reading, I’m afraid,” Kateryna answers.
Alba closes her eyes and lets out a long breath that she has been holding in. She raises her eyebrows and turns her head to me.
“They weren’t enough, you said. Enough for what?”
“To keep you alive.”
“You are an idiot, aren’t you? After all, you are one of the damned. I bet you don’t know what’s that so called beyond. You have no clue if another level of the afterlife exists. Maybe ghosts just vanish into nothing, their particles return to the universe, the consciousness is erased from existence. Pure oblivion.”
My rotten insides ache. I swallow without a throat.
“We can hope, though.”
“Hoping doesn’t lead you anywhere, does it? Every person hopes for their life to improve, for the world to stop bleeding, but they don’t. Everything ends in pain.”
Kateryna steps closer to Alba and gestures for her to stop.
“Hey. Just… leave her alone,” she says with a pained voice.
Alba merely stares at my friend for a few seconds, and then her gaze falls on the trembling furniture that blocks the door.
“I yearned for blackness. No, I didn’t want to register a blackness. I wanted oblivion, and yet I find myself wasting my energies to talk to you both. I don’t want to be the target of other people’s expectations, even if those people are dead. I don’t want to be seen nor heard. I don’t want to think and doubt and struggle and dread. I don’t want to exist. None of us should have ever existed. All of this… was a mistake.”
Kateryna lowers her gaze. I sigh.
“I have heard it all before, Alba. We have welcomed quite a few. The stories get stale quick.”
“Stale?” she asks, raising an eyebrow. “Stale is a word used to describe flat bread and ale that’s gone sour. This is our damnation. We do not have the luxury of describing our suffering with bland words. No, we are not stale. We are rancid.”
“Alright, Alba.”
“Don’t patronize me. Tell me, what makes you think that you are any different? You’re here, too.”
Stop looking at me like that, kid. I don’t want to bother any more than you do.
“I want all of it. All the lives, all the love. I am damned, remember?”
“You’re here because you want to be saved,” Alba says as she shakes her head.
“I’m here because I was too proud to admit that I had wasted the time I spent in my body. I was too stubborn to ask for help. But you know what? When I was alive, I believed that I didn’t need to be saved. Now look at me. I will never move on to the beyond. If you have made your choice, Alba, rip apart those remaining, fraying filaments coming out of your dying body. Fuck them up as if you were floating in your mother’s womb and you had the chance to cut off your umbilical cord. Maybe you truly meant your words and you’ll dissolve into nothing. Or maybe you are just a fool who has no clue what’s waiting for her.”
Alba narrows her eyes.
“I’m ready for it, alive or dead. Do you think I care?”
“I don’t claim to know what goes on in the festering recesses of your mind. What are you waiting for, then?”
Alba twists her torso around to grasp a shadowy filament coming out from under her right shoulder as if it were a cancerous growth. She lifts her gaze towards me.
“You are tired too,” she says.
“I am. But I also have messes to clean up.”
Alba sighs. She yanks on the thread. It breaks, then disappears like a warm breath in winter.
“Goodbye, Alba,” Kateryna says kindly.
“Maybe we’ll meet again one day, sister,” Alba says as she ruins another fraying filament. “Depends on how lucky I am.”
Alba focuses on snapping off the two remaining threads. Once the last one disappears, a look of relief flashes across her face. It doesn’t take a second for her shadowy figure to brighten, for her features to start getting erased. Alba looks down at her vanishing hands, and she chuckles.
A moment later, Alba is gone. I sigh, then hurry up to orient my body so I can crouch into her fresh corpse. Kateryna stands in front of me and smiles warmly. She always knew how to keep me going.
“Be strong, Irene,” she says.
I wiggle until I only see the dark insides of Alba’s corpse.
“I’ll procure some ouija boards soon. This family will be a mess to handle.”
“Even if they send you to another facility, I’ll be waiting here,” Kateryna says. “Now hurry up, my baby.”
I possess Alba’s fresh corpse, and her feeble heart beats again. The pain sieging this body bursts in my consciousness like a wave slamming me against a wall. The noose is digging into my neck. My tongue is swollen and filling up my mouth. My face is burning up as the blood roars in my eardrums. My body spasms while every nerve sends messages of agony to my brain.
I struggle to move my new hands so I can push myself off the floor, but they are too numb, this body is too weak. The fire in my throat intensifies like it’s being burned with hot coals. I try desperately to move my legs so I can get enough momentum to slip off the noose, but I can barely twitch them. My vision goes blurry as the cells in my brain are starved of oxygen. All I can see are blobs of colors. My brain is shutting down.
I hear the sound of something heavy scraping the floor. The furniture that was blocking the door, and that now only look like pulsating, blurry blobs, is being dragged away from the door by an invisible force. Suddenly the door bursts open, hitting the back of the wardrobe, and a big man runs into Alba’s bedroom. Other people follow him. Their footsteps are loud as their soles slap the floor. Even though this body is numb, I feel the pressure in my chest as the big man, Alba’s father, holds me upright, and then someone else loosens the noose and slides it off my head. My chest heaves up and down as I gasp for air. It feels like knives are stabbing into my throat.
“I got her,” the father says with a weary and distraught voice.
“Why are you doing this?” Alba’s teenage sister mumbles as she cries.
Alba’s mother only repeats her daughter’s name as she buries her face into my hair. She rocks my body back and forth, holding me in her arms. Alba’s sister clutches onto my opposite arm while her warm tears sprinkle the bare skin of my chest. The numbness in my face begins to wear off as pins and needles jab into my cheeks, my eyesight sharpens as the blood returns to my head.
Alba was going to stick into each of their hearts a poisoned dagger. Those organs would have rotted slowly until the day they stopped beating.
“It’s alright,” says the new voice coming out of me. “I’m still here.”