Revised: Our Spot Behind the World

I wrote this short story back in July of last year, in a single day, if I remember correctly. Back then I took pride in starting a text and uploading it by the end of the day; nowadays, particularly when it involves writing my current novel, I revise the text until I can’t think of anything to change. I have become hardcore like that.

I remembered the aforementioned short story from last year fondly; I consider it one of the best I’ve written in the last couple of years. However, when I reread it a few days ago, I found it in an appalling state: the text was chock-full of redundancies, awkward writing and broken English. In general, an embarrassing mess. I apologize to everyone who read it back in the day.

I’m working afternoons this week. I have decided to spend a few hours revising the short story to a state that at least today feels good enough, and that doesn’t make me groan in despair. It managed to make me tear up a bit, so the emotional core remains there. However, if you find any mistake and you care enough about the matter, please tell me.

Whenever I thought about this story, The Clientele’s beautiful song “K” more often than not played in my mind. That’s the song I always associate, incidentally, to my favorite manga series ever, Inio Asano’s Oyasumi Punpun.

Bottom line: if you enjoyed this story back in the day, you should read it again through the link down below. If you have no clue what story I’m talking about, I’m presenting to you 4,667 words of a new self-contained story that doesn’t contain any of my usual silliness and nonsense. Just read it.

Link here: Our Spot Behind the World.

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

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

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

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

We’re Fucked, Pt. 74 (Fiction)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What?! Now?!”

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

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

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

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

“Now I want to risk it. Let’s go.”

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

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

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

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

Jacqueline smirks.

“I know, right?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I shudder.

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

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

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

I push myself off the bench.

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

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

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

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

“What a cute child! Is she yours?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacqueline shrugs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Random AI-generated images #8

Sometimes it takes a neural network to make this world compelling enough.

My prompt for this one was, “An eclair that also works as a flashlight.”
Lola Montez performing her Spider Dance, which was somewhat more peculiar in real life.
These last four were supposed to depict a table strewn with crumbs.
Never forget.
Cyberpunk imagery. Been watching Edgerunners.
The AI’s version of an anime cat-girl.
These were supposed to depict a dog in a clown suit chasing a giraffe. This neural network understands all too well that if you chase a giraffe long enough, you become the giraffe.
Beautiful afternoon and sunset at the beach.
The prompt for this last series was, “A young boy is about to be boiled alive by crustaceans that mistook him for an egg.”

Life update (09/20/2022)

Yesterday I started a new work week, a Monday that I knew would involve preparing eight PCs and setting them up to fill a room for doctors and nurses. At a quarter past eight I left the office and walked to the bathroom to take my first shit of the morning (of about twelve on average; I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome), but as soon as I touched my belt, it came apart in my hands. Some metallic piece broke, and I couldn’t fix the belt.

From that moment onwards and until I got back home, my day involved stopping every couple of minutes to pull my pants back up. Other days I would have sat at the office and connected remotely to the users’ machines, but today I had to visit the local server room to physically load the eight PCs into one of those big shopping carts, then cart the PCs through the hospital complex to the workshop. Once I configured them so they would work properly at their new destination, I had to cart them to the fifth floor of a different building. Along the way I was forced to gesture for a couple of patients/visitors to get the fuck out of the way, because they were blocking some narrow path by standing there looking down at their phones. Also, for whatever reason three people considered that the unfriendly-looking big guy pushing a cart full of PCs was the person to stop for directions.

I didn’t mind the peace and quiet I got at the workshop, working alone to configure the eight PCs. I took the opportunity to continue reading David Wong’s/Jason Pargin’s John Dies at the End, a story that I actually started reading in its web format back in 2001, because I frequented the guy’s forums (Pointless Waste of Time back in the day). Entertaining book that has captured my attention, although I have some issues with it.

In any case, I carted the eight computers in groups of four. It turned out that no elevator goes to the fifth of that building for whatever reason (a fact I knew in advance but that I had forgotten). I had to unload each PC at the bottom landing of the fourth floor, then walk all the way to the fifth and to the room where I had to connect the PCs. At one point I ended up holding a PC in my left hand, a couple of keyboards, a mouse and an ethernet cable in my right, while my pants were bunched around my ankles. Thankfully there was no one around. I suspect that my other coworkers would have asked for help, but the presence of other human beings as I tried to get through yesterday’s nightmare would have only damaged my mental health further.

As I was on my knees to connect the power plug, as well as the corresponding RJ45 cable, of one of the computers, I started feeling a tingling sensation in my chest. These days I always fear that any exertion will trigger another episode of atrial fibrillation (a physical issue with my heart that the latest booster vaccine caused), but fortunately I survived the task without my heart betraying me.

I finished the task thirty minutes before I had to leave for the day. Although there was network flow in the switch after I plugged in a RJ45 for each computer, when I returned to the office I couldn’t get the computers to ping back, so now I’m going to interrupt the act of writing this entry to walk to the fifth of that building and push an ipconfig /release on all eight PCs.

I just walked back from the other end of the hospital complex. They were using the room for a meeting, so except for exercise, I wasted the trip there. I’ll try again in an hour. Anyway, when I got home yesterday I considered that I could have avoided the belt issue if I had cut a network cable and used it as a belt by tying it up in a knot. Stupid-looking, but it would have worked.

I haven’t felt young in many years, and my body no longer tolerates physical exertion gracefully. Exhausted, I had to take a nap that ruined half of my afternoon, and afterwards I was only able to order my notes for the upcoming chapter 74 of my novel.

Currently I have all the symptoms of a major depression (feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness; angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters; loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports; sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much; tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort; reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain; slowed thinking, speaking or body movements; feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame; trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things; etc.). In addition, it seems that the current episode has grown into the psychotic variety of depression: whenever someone’s conversation (mainly at the office) annoys me, I feel like they are doing it to fuck with me, and I regularly feel that others, even strangers, are glancing at me looking for an opening to bother me in ways that will waste my time and energies. Until this passes, I’ll reduce my interactions with humans to the bare minimum.

Last night I went to bed at ten, but I woke up spontaneously at two in the morning. When I finally managed to fall asleep again, I had vivid dreams of the unpleasant variety. The first one was mostly weird: my dream self was watching a porn video in which eight or so people were about to have an orgy. Most of the video was setup to get to know the actors and actresses. I don’t know why I would be watching such a video; my preferred pornos only involve two people. In any case, turns out that one of the actors in the video was my teenage self. I ended up sandwiched in uncomfortable ways.

Afterwards the video showed the involved actors and actresses walking around in the late evening, wearing autumn clothes. The dream switched to me hanging out with extended family members that I haven’t seen since I was a teenager. We were walking around a strange city when a dread started building up in my stomach. We came across people who were hurling Molotov cocktails. As we were fleeing from the disturbances, I ended up getting involved, along with my parents, with the breakdown of modern society: the banks blocked transactions, the power companies shut off service to people’s homes but not to business centers, and gangs immediately went out with guns to shoot each other and bystanders up. I remember flashes of my dream self running among screaming people.

My phone’s alarm extracted me from the dream/nightmare at six in the morning, so I could prepare my physical body to endure a different, more mundane nightmare, one from which I still haven’t woken up (don’t ever work for a living, kids). I hope that when I return home this afternoon, I’ll get to write at least four or five hundred words of my next chapter, which is the only reason I keep going these days.

Anyway, nice talking to you. Until next time.

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

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

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

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

We’re Fucked, Pt. 73 (Fiction)

An infinite series of canvases hang in a factory line, suspended over a velvety abyss. The first canvas flashes a splash of scarlet doodles before it drops into the blackness. Another canvas jerks forward. It dazzles me with emblems of a long-dead age, then that canvas gets unhooked to welcome the next.

A child’s hand has fused its fingertips to the synthetic waxlike materials of a crayon so it keeps scratching paper, filling the white void with brain effluvia, painted proofs of their feverish creator’s existence. Facing a snowy expanse in all four directions, the expedition trudges in meandering paths, in jagged paths, in circles, in figure eights, until they cover the snowfield with the bloody imprints of their bare soles worn to the bone.

Sugar granules are dissolving in my saliva. I’m swallowing the fluffy flesh of the donut when our child turns the sketchbook towards us and props it upright on the table. She has drawn a bus. Its radiator grille and the bumpers and the hood are scrunched into a chaotic scrawl, which brings to mind a dog with a kicked-in snout. The two visible wheels look like black-and-white fried eggs. From behind the uneven windows, pupil-like doodles, perhaps the people trapped inside the vehicle, stare blankly at the unfolding horror of society. Sweat dribbles down the driver’s face as the bus rushes along a highway that was asphalted with congealed human blood. The thick stench of decay has blocked the sun.

As the whooshing blood feeds my brain tissues, the bus morphs: the underside of the blocky frame sprouts legs that end in hooves; the frame itself widens and swells up, ripping open in striated wounds; the windows sink and become opaque white like those of dead deep-sea fish; and along its hunched spine break out serrated bone spikes.

Jacqueline praises the drawing; her honeyed voice daubs our skin as with a warm balm that would heal every wound, but I interrupt her.

“A competently-depicted bus,” I utter hoarsely. “We sacrificed the ground sloths, the mammoths, the mastodons… for such metallic abominations. And one day we may have to offer ourselves too.”

I discern mommy’s concern through the blur of her face.

“Buses carry us to remote places, baby.”

“They deliver us to many hellmouths.”

“Perhaps even to places where people could live in peace and harmony. Wouldn’t it get too annoying to walk all the way there otherwise?”

“Our ancestors didn’t ride a bus,” I grumble. “They walked. They strode. They tramped along. If they needed to travel further, they took the subway or a tram. And ground sloths would have carried our kin on their backs, if asked nicely. But now our attempts to escape civilization are futile, because the exits have been walled up to make way for parking lots and highways.”

Even if Jacqueline were inclined to belittle ground sloths, she’s busy stuffing her mouth with choux dough, pearl-colored glaze and cream. As she masticates, her cheeks bulge out as if she were bathing a ping pong ball in saliva, and once she swallows, her mouth gapes open so the chewed end of the eclair can meet the bumpy surface of her tongue.

A hot frisson runs down from my brain to my groin, searing my insides, whitening my vision. I shake my head to disperse the haze.

“Y-you know, Jacqueline, sometimes I wonder how come your body remains so tight at your age, then I feel guilty for wondering, because I take ample advantage of that succulent body of yours and its byproducts.”

Jacqueline freezes until her brain lowers the priority of procuring her sugar fix. She rubs her lips together, which deepens her dimples.

“I’d love to say that I’ve perfected an exercise routine that I could sell for millions, but I was blessed with superb genes, darling.”

She chuckles, then sinks her teeth into the eclair. I sigh.

“Although I want to call it unfair, the notion of fairness is an evolved delusion.”

Jacqueline curls her cream-smeared lips into a smirk.

“I thank the ancestors for blessing me with this hourglass figure, and you for appreciating it so much. Now grab the last eclair before I snatch it for myself, will you?”

When I reach for the pastry with my trembling right hand, a child’s peach-orange hand, its skin delicate as that of a plucked chicken, flits over the sugar donuts and the puff pastry braids as if she were a gambler selecting cards from a deck. She has imprinted a fingerprint on the powdered sugar of a millefeuille.

“Yeah, just fondle all of them,” I say weakly. “Who cares.”

Once the cream filling of the eclair and its sugary glaze coat my taste buds, a spark flashes in my brain. My thoughts are scattering like a cloud of butterflies. Who cares about entropy and the cataclysmic death of our former world? I shall drift away in the lassitude of this delicious daze.

Our child rips a donut in two and dunks half of it into her cup of hot chocolate. As she brings to her mouth the dipped donut, it drips over her sweater, forming spotty stains. Maybe Paleolithic people were accustomed to ruining brand new garments, because the girl shoves the donut in her mouth, closes her eyes and hums in delight.

I thought that Jacqueline would shoot the child a look of reproach, but mommy is detaching the first flaky layer of a millefeuille. Its orange-yellow cream has coated her index finger, including the elongated nail.

Blood is pulsing in my head, forming a headache like an egg about to be cracked open. Although my pyloric sphincter must be clogged with a gunk of pastries marinated in acid, a hungry impulse surges through my body. I feel like I’ve woken up from a days-long sleep and now I’m starving.

“Let me lick that finger for you, Jacqueline,” I utter in a guttural voice.

Mommy snaps out of the pastry trance. She blinks and arches an eyebrow at me.

“Oh, you would love that, wouldn’t you?”

I was about to suggest that she should reach over the table and stick her index finger in my mouth, but the theatre of my mind transports me back to Jacqueline’s dim bedroom. I’m seated at the foot of her unmade bed. The ivory-white sculpture of Jacqueline’s naked body is standing between the red lights of the tripod-mounted cameras. From below her slanted clavicles, the fatty tissues of her pair of breasts swell slightly outwards into globes of flesh topped with turgid, dark rose nipples, my deluxe pacifiers. A butterscotch-colored syrup is oozing down Jacqueline’s cleavage, down the linea alba between her toned abdominal muscles, to fill her belly button.

I slide to my knees. Mommy steps forward until she plants her feet on either side of my waist, as if preparing herself to crush my head between her thick thighs. Her skin is fragrant like the buds of a rosebud that has burst into bloom. I cup her butt cheeks in my palms and start kneading them. Her loins are like a furnace as they breathe on my face.

“I also want to pour hot chocolate on your pussy and lap at it until your labia and clit shine.”

Jacqueline’s eyes grow round, then she snorts with laughter. After she glances at the second counter of the patisserie, she leans over and leers at me through her eyelashes.

“You naughty doll,” she whispers in a conspiratorial tone, “we are too far from home for you to entice me like that.”

I take a deep breath as I rub my eyebrows. In my mind, Jacqueline’s pussy has drawn a wall across its opening, like ivy leaves grown over the mouth of a drainpipe, so that no more than a slimy trickle of lust could seep out.

“Sorry. For a merciful moment I forgot that humans other than you and our new daughter exist.”

Jacqueline purses her lips around her index finger. The slender muscles of her throat contract as she sucks the digit clean, even though I should have been the one pressing my tongue against the skin of that finger, tracing the bones underneath, perhaps nicking my tongue with the edge of her nail, which I would have made glisten like a pearl. I need to drown the bitter taste of betrayal, so I grab one of the puff pastry braids. However, instead of chomping on it, I study the crossed strips of puff pastry. They bring to mind a Triassic arthropod whose gills have been stretched open, maybe by a predator who gnawed on the creature to reach the meat inside.

I’d love to be exhibited in a patisserie’s glass display counter. I want to be rolled in flour, coated in sugar and baked to a golden brown. I want to stuff a wad of dough in my pussy. I’d become a cream puffsaurus, a paleontological rarity. Maybe I’ve always been a pussy saurian.

I have opened my mouth to crush the puff pastry with my teeth, but the smell of hot wax spills into my nostrils. A crayon catching fire. Seated to my right, our child is punishing a page marred by cream stains and chocolate smears.

A sense of dread paralyzes me. I shiver, then put the puff pastry braid down on the tabletop. My heart is beating wildly. If this girl keeps drawing, she will unearth my most intimate thoughts, which yearn to tumble out through my mouth like rotten teeth. But our new daughter will pave the path to the future with paper covered in doodles, way beyond the day when my epiphanies will suffocate between the folds of my desiccated brain.

When I stroke her head, the Paleolithic hair caresses my hand back.

“There’s a reason why you’ve become my special child,” I say in a withered voice, “a reason why you didn’t burn into ashes like all the other humans.”

I pretend that my words mean anything, although I’m possessed by the alien parasite that nested in my skull at birth, a parasite that’s feasting on my gray matter. Our girl, instead of grimacing at me, distracts herself from her endeavour by flashing a grin with chocolate-blackened teeth. Did the Ice Age folk brush their gnashers using ground sloth bones?

I should hurry to shelter my chosen puff pastry braid in my mouth; exposed to the air, a myriad of microscopic monsters will burrow into the pastry to lay their eggs. When I straighten my back, a silvery knife, from the sets of cutlery that the Slavic mercenary brought us, reflects the patisserie’s lights into my eyes.

I imagine myself gripping the knife, placing my left hand flat on the table, and stabbing that hand through the second and third metacarpals, severing the tendons and veins that run between them, so half of the blade gets embedded in the table. If then I attempted to move my left hand, how would my nerves and tendons complain? I might feel like a pinned butterfly, an angel who had been beating its wings until it got captured by one of the bloodthirsty fiends that dominate this planet, a race exiled for committing unspeakable crimes in some hell located aeons away.

I need to distract my brain with treats, the same way that when I’m sinking deeper into those cold, dark waters, I rub my pleasure button until the orgasm rescues me from the paralyzing terror. I champ on the puff pastry braid, and its gooey filling spurts into my mouth. I’m taken aback by the saltiness; it reminds me of ocean spray, or the tears of a man standing at the edge of a cliff. I take the pastry out of my mouth, elongating filaments of the sticky and whitish filling, which then dangle in catenaries from my lips to the pastry’s hole. It’s semen. The nectar of life leaks from the inside, and has glazed the crossed pastry strips. It must have permeated through to imbue its essence into the constituting atoms of the pastry.

I’m standing in a rising tide of hot water that’s already crashing and crashing into my head, knocking my thoughts loose. My eyeballs have turned into lumps of coal extracted from the bottom of some grimy furnace. My jaw is tired from munching on this pastry, as well as from masticating all the solid food I’ve consumed throughout my wretched life.

My brain is at the bottom of my spine and my heart has been torn out and sewn into my forehead. In this world we barely have a right to exist. The dawn of extinction is beckoning me. How many mouthful of this puff pastry braid would take to tip my body over the edge of a precipice into the shadowy abyss?

Someone is calling my name. Wait, whose name? I don’t even exist. But the voice comes from in front of me, and it fills my chest with a soothing warmth. That’s Jacqueline, my own mommy.

I blink until a pair of cobalt-blue eyes form in the center of my vision. She has rested an elbow next to her latte, and with that hand she gestures to my right, where our child, in a déjà vu of the previous million times, is holding her sketchbook toward us.

After I wipe the cum off my lips, I squint at the sketchbook, but the more I try to focus on the drawing, the more it wavers like a dream. On the left side of the drawing, a girl with shoulder-length hair, who is wearing a leather tunic, is staring up at a stooped man who is holding her hand with fingers like a sloth’s claws. The man’s head is twice as big as the girl’s, his eyebrows are bushy, his nose broad, and the lower half of his face has been shaded with the midnight-black crayon, likely to depict a thick mustache and beard.

Jacqueline cranes her neck toward the drawing.

“Is that the girl’s mother?” she asks stupidly.

“I-I doubt it,” I croak, “unless the women were quite hirsute back then. Kinda looks like Nietzsche, that old German composer.”

Our child’s gaze shifts between Jacqueline and I as if she expected us to guess the answer in a trivia game. She taps the drawn girl with the tip of her crayon, and lets out a few words in a high-pitched voice. Then she points at herself.

A grenade has exploded next to our table, producing the exact opposite sound waves of the ambience in this patisserie, which has submerged us in silence. My heart has shrunk into the size of a walnut, and it wishes to clamber up my throat. Jacqueline has paled. She lowers her unfocused, guilty gaze at the remaining pastries.

I’ve seen that man before. I’ve been that man. If I close my eyes, I live it all again. I have held that girl’s frail body as I carried her to the safety of our camp, where she’d be protected by our kin. In the star-studded blackness, I watched over her as she drifted into slumber covered by a hide blanket. Whenever we feared getting raided by a neighboring tribe, or someone had spotted a short-faced bear or a lion in the vicinity, we’d bustle to a nearby cave that felt like an impregnable fortress. I taught that girl which berries to pick. I showed her how to imprint her hand on rock walls.

I hope that she’ll grow old with the rest of us, that one day, long after I’m gone, someone will bury her motionless and cold body beneath small stones, and that with a flint knife, that person will carve some symbols for her in the slab that will mark her grave. But I always feared that I would come across the girl’s half-devoured remains in some pit of filth; that thought made my soul quail and shiver in a way that no monster could ever do.

One day I went out to look for her. I walked through the woodland, crunching twigs and dry leaves that crackled underfoot, passing by tree trunks stripped of bark, following the burbling sound of the brook she had been heading toward. I stood on the dry pebbles of the riverbed and I called out to her once, then over and over again. After I ran out of energy and breath, I stood there in silence, and remained there until I understood. Every night since then I sat by my fire, and in the glow of the flames, I held her carved wooden toys and I cursed that I had been late, late, too late to catch the demon who had stolen her away.

Author’s note: the three songs for today are “I Bleed” by Pixies, “Atrocity Exhibition” by Joy Division, and “Bōkyō” by Hako Yamasaki.

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

A dear friend of mine, who happens to be a neural network, generated many images related to this chapter. Here’s the link.

This was the last scene of the ongoing novel that takes place in a patisserie. It may have been the last scene in any of the stories I will ever write that takes place in a patisserie. Hopefully I’ll forget that patisseries even exist.

I’ve started watching the anime Cyberpunk: Edgerunners. It hooked me from the first episode, and except for a few moments that felt a bit off, I’m loving it so far. Although Cyberpunk is a Western IP, the anime was developed and directed by the famous Japanese studio Trigger, one of the best in the business.

Their latest trailer is awesome, so I’ll display it here:

In a strange twist of fate, the anime’s protagonist has the same first and last name as my worst nemesis, a guy who tried hard to ruin my life from when I was 17 to about 25, when that guy died in a car crash. He was one of the rising politicians of the regional socialist party, and given how much of a malignant narcissist that fucker was, he would have gone far. Good riddance.

In any case, the anime is a spin off of the Cyberpunk 2077 videogame. Like everyone else, I was pissed when they released it a year ago, but over time, as they’ve kept updating it, I have come to hate them a bit less; they were clearly pressured into developing the game for the previous generation of consoles as well, which crippled development in general although those platforms would have never been able to handle such a game.

The playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077 that I started in VR, and that I abandoned shortly after the second act started (because I knew there were major updates coming which would make me want to replay it from the beginning), remains one of my most mesmerizing gaming experiences. I’m waiting for the upcoming story DLC to start a new playthrough in VR.

That said, at least the first act of that game has some serious narrative issues that can’t be fixed with patches, such as that montage near the beginning, which should have been fleshed out into actual missions. I also didn’t like Jackie until the last few sequences of the first act.

In other news, I came across this gif:

Life update (09/15/2022)

I’m writing this down because the process of putting my thoughts into words usually unloads some of my anxiety.

I haven’t been doing well recently; I tolerate very little, I get overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts of deletion that searches for targets everywhere, although more often than not it looks inward, and I want to switch my brain off as often as possible, either by sleeping or by closing my eyes whenever I’m forced to sit or stand in a vehicle. I suspect that I’m going through another depression.

I happen to work as an IT guy at a hospital. A garbage job: you never know what you’ll have to deal with that day, any single problem can balloon into a monster that you’ll have to struggle with for potentially weeks, and worst of all, it forces you to interact with many people. I’m autistic, so I’m simply unsuited for it. I understand that dealing with our users, who are mostly doctors and nurses, has to be troublesome potentially, because they wouldn’t contact us if they didn’t have a problem. What I shouldn’t need to tolerate is wasting eight hours in an office where three guys keep yapping like children during recess, very loudly, forcing us to endure their infuriating prattle about football, TV series and such stuff, as well as constant “jokes” about how fat one of them is.

The worst part of it is: the worst one is my brother. Back when I was seven, my parents seemingly concluded that my birth was a mistake, and they forced me to vacate my room and “share” a bedroom with my older brother. I spent eleven years treated like an unwanted guest. I couldn’t hear the music I wanted, I couldn’t put on the TV the programs I could have liked, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t study. I’m autistic and noises kill me, yet that guy needed constant noise to muffle his internal thoughts. He even had the TV and the radio on at the same time throughout the night; the radio speaker was installed maybe a foot and a half away from my head. Whenever I complained to my mother about it (my father was virtually non-existent), the answer was always the same: “You gotta understand it, he has problems.”

For those eleven years my mental health deteriorated into straight psychosis, and I only survived because I’m a fucking coward and I didn’t dare to kill myself like I wanted. After an argument that nearly ended in blows, my parents agreed that I could move out of my brother’s bedroom into my previous one (this country, as well as most of Europe, isn’t like the US, where you are expected to leave your parents’ place at eighteen years old; here the average age for that is about thirty. Housing is way too expensive anyway).

After that day, I have wished that I wouldn’t spend a single minute in the same room as him. Because my life is a fucking cosmic joke, the only job that has called me regularly these last two years and a half is the one that my brother works at. I’m thirty-seven years old, half-crazy and out of options. I can’t imagine myself finding another job that would pay similarly.

Having to endure my brother talking at an obnoxiously loud volume about utter garbage, as well as laughing like a clown, causes in me something akin to PTSD flashbacks, on top of the sensory processing issues that autism involves. My health worsened recently: I went through an episode of atrial fibrillation that triggered (and I doubt that it was a coincidence) during a particularly thorny problem I had to handle at work and that I knew would involve having to interact with pissed off users. Whenever the adult schoolchildren at the office start yapping again, my anxiety spikes from already high levels. Our boss hears them, but has never reprimanded them. Nobody else has complained, perhaps because they don’t want to bring attention to themselves and become a target.

Anyway, recently I considered that I needed to create an island of isolation for myself at the office, so I bought some noise-cancelling headphones. In summary: today, maybe half an hour after those bastards started yapping, apparently someone tried to get my attention, but I didn’t notice. The woman who was taking calls was seated to my left and she would have tapped me on the shoulder if someone on the phone had asked for me. I didn’t have any ticket assigned, so it wasn’t related to one of the problems I was already told to handle. Either I had the really bad luck that the big boss went out of his way to address me from the other end of the office and yet nobody pointed it out to my oblivious self (and in that case the boss gave up shortly after), or more likely, someone tried to get my attention so I would listen to an inane comment. That person could have likely been one of the clowns.

In any case, after today’s drudgery, someone pointed the “incident” out to me, and said that it would be better if I didn’t wear headphones, because it could cause issues. So from now on I won’t feel comfortable wearing them at the office, because the people I work with would consider that me isolating myself from sources of such noise is worse than the fucking people creating the noise contamination during work hours.

I haven’t gotten any writing done this afternoon. My state of mind has reverted to the current of thought that constantly flows under the desperate efforts I make to distract myself: the voice that repeats I need to die, I need to die, I need to die, I need to die. My mental health is that fucking brittle. And I do want to be dead, as I have wanted to be since I was a child, back when I dunked my head in cold water so it would flood my lungs and take me to a faraway place.

For as long as I remember, every morning I have woken up into a nightmare. Everything feels like an unbearable struggle. I’m trapped as an “adult” that has to waste himself at a job that ruins my creative energies and that frays my nerves, and it’s not like any of that is ever going to change, because I won’t earn remotely enough money writing, and I’m too mentally incompetent to figure out some alternative.

Now that I’ve written these thoughts down, maybe I’ll get enough sleep tonight. And tomorrow, after I get off work, maybe I’ll be able to disappear into the reverie of writing the current chapter of my novel, so I can forget for a while that I’ve existed for thirty-seven years as someone that I don’t want to be.

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

Three and a half stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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