I was about eighteen when I discovered I could charm people with my voice. A short man came up to me and offered me a career in showbiz.

“This. This is what the people want,” he assured me with spit in his voice, something about it sounded infinitely more evil than what mine was capable of. “I’ll call someone to clean things up here, we’re heading down to the studio.” That was actually the first time I had been in a car, yeah, never had to use my bicycle for anything again after that day. I didn’t have the money for a car or even something with an engine. Or didn’t need one, rather. I’m from a small town – only one paved road, cobblestones. The rest was all dirt roads, probably still is. We, my brother and I, we had this wheelbarrow and we’d take turns sitting in there and driving each other across fields of grass. So, no, nothing fancy like the big city. It was Simple, natural, but not in a primal way. It felt like gods were still around. Nothing like the city. I’d seen pictures before. I thought they were frightening, loud. They looked loud. I had to know the name of my capital, used to chant it to myself like I was warding off some type of beast. It scared me. The city – singular, there was just the one back then – it was a beast to me. Later, after my town got drunk on my singing, I found out it was actually the lair of the beast.

So cut to me, held hostage in this moving thing, too scared to say anything. I remember the smell, more like a pungence, that of leather and nicotine. Two processed, man-made things. Peculiar, isn’t it? Animals and plants killed, mashed, repurposed into unrecognisable dead things, simulacra of nothing we’ve ever seen before that we think of as stylish. It all felt very artificial; a pantheon to Dionysus in the back of a limo. The short man in front of me kept smiling at me while cracking his knuckles. Not in a boxer kind of way, but just as violent: fingers bent perpendicular to the palm. Joints popping in rapid consecution, like a flock of angry crows pecking into Prometheus, both fed up with the tedium and grown accustomed to the savagery of it all, deciding to go for his ribcage instead.

Not that there were any gods around, the temple we were driving in had long since been abandoned. I looked out the window, wondering if the street lanterns, the neon signs, the flaming skyscrapers, all those lights in a great, dark outside, were gods. Turns out anything electric facilitates disaster and sadness really well. Bukowski would phrase it like, “we seek refuge in the lights, but they only cast attention to how much darkness there really is,” or something similarly silly.

“You’re gonna make it big here, kid,” he again assured me with that watery voice. You’d drown in his voice, not in a romantic sense, you’re left to the saltwater wrath of Poseidon, a sad god terrorising coastal hamlets because Athens chose Athena over him. My producer talked with a cigar in his mouth, his left incisor stabbing into the wrapper like a hunter and his knife carving into game, drool cascading from his bloodshot lips to suggest that man was the real beast after all. “That voice of yours, you’re a song that’s never going to stop,” he unsheathed his cigar and twisted it into the skin of beasts he was sitting on. ‘The way skin melts’, the title of my debut album, came from that awful moment.

I remember signing a contract “who can I be now?”, I remember singing, “can you hear me?” I remember thinking, “help”, My producer, pale, shiny, reflecting the fluorescent lamps, blinding me with secondhand light, he looked like a promise, he aimed a microphone at my throat and that was the start of my career. My first album sold well. People listened to me because they needed something new, something exciting, something that’d stopped them dead in their tracks. I was happy to provide. My first live concert, I pulled a sweet young thing up on the stage and sang for him. Held his body in my arms for the rest of the gig. Flashing cameras didn’t scare me like the streetlights hadThen came the interviews, autographs, parties, signing deals, I don’t remember what names I wrote down on any of my contracts. ‘Myself’ became a scribble, me a concept.

Water and meat was all I ate, was all I needed, really. I fed, sang, and slept, and it was good. Not much time ever passed between recording albums. We kept contracting new musicians, seeing as the old ones died working with me. It also eliminated the critics; people just… knew my name was good, whatever it might have been at any point in time. I was Orpheus gone right. He walks on ahead, unafraid of turning back, Eurydice is waving farewell and turns around herself. Everything behind faded into obscurity. I was a young american in Los Angeles and could not be stopped, although I had to be. I became used to the lights, to my producer’s drownage voice, to this lair, I could feel my own chains. I was worshipped but not like a god. People chanted my name like warding off some type of beast.

Then I heard my own music. I stopped dead in my tracks. Like Orpheus I turned around and saw myself standing there, looking like shit.

Thanks for the interview. Please let me go.

Kinkshame the president

“Delilus, grab my coat. We are going to kinkshame the president of the United States.”

He spoke with such raw, foolhardy resolution that Delilus could not, dared not to suggest there were other ways, more sensible methods to go about political furtherance. He obediently took his master’s coat, a lavish, garish thing made from expensive leathers pissed on by expensive animals including the American consumer. Although his official function was ‘advisor’, he was never asked for advice. Other things, certainly, equally-scandalous things, oh yes, but right now he’d feel uncomfortable suddenly playing the secretary. Turning from the coat hanger made from the screaming, compressed forms of his boss’ enemies, he faced him, his patron, his enthraller. The enthrallment spell had long since worn off, but he liked the financial stability and the thrill this job constantly provided. He gently laid the coat over his smooth, curved form, coquettishly stroking his surface with slender, black fingers as he had done so many times before.

His boss. An ancient, magical orb.

Unearthed from a set of two cardboard boxes in the deepest, most dustiest shelves deep within the forbidden basement of the White House, he took the political arena by storm (literally), descending from blood-red skies to announce he, too, would be running for president, instantly killing most candidates present in the debate. Neither party was willing to forward a twelvefold assassin/mythical death orb as their candidate for presidency that year, but one Democrat candidate managed to survive under mysterious circumstances, so they won by default. There was little any authority could do, however, to keep the orb from taking office up in the White House. He may hold no true political power, but for almost the entire running term now, no one has been able to set foot inside of the Oval Office without having their body vaporised, disintegrated, or turned into an avant-garde piece of decoration like a gaudy coat hanger. No one but his faithful assistant Delilus, that is. Despite the towering illegality of it all, he has somehow won the hearts of many voters without overmuch use of fearmongering and mind control. Also, he might become the second-ever gay president? Which is cool.

“It’s me, Delilus. I’m calling to confirm the president’s location – is it still in the Pentagon? Right. Thanks.” Delilus slams his magenta flip-phone with an impressive show of force, destroying it completely. He takes out another flip-phone, cyan this time, from his suit pocket and dials to arrange for a federal transport. “Goddammit Delilus, we’ve no time for your horny hijinks. We can’t wait for your ‘escort service’ to show up, we have a president to kinkshame.” He seems cunning, ferocious. Determined. He has a plan. His antique circuits, lost to the understanding of history and science, make a revving sound, that of papyrus rapidly torn by a hacksaw. A fierce flash of red blinks from his oculus and the Oval Office fills with force and light. The dust settles, stacks of paper float cinematically through the air, the presidential bobblehead collection vibrates at a speed approaching that of light.

Eagles begin to sing. The pungence of apple pie fill the room. Who needs a second amendment anymore, when you’ve got…

He   is   somewhat   bigger   now

“Get on me.” He commands Delilus, raw sexual static exuding from his new, shiny metallic frame. The assistant agrees, putting away his phone by crushing it in his hand. A single, long tear exits his eye as he climbs on top, crystallising into a beautiful tattoo. They burst out of the Oval Office; structural damage be damned, these boys are on a mission! The detritus spreads far beyond the rusty gates of the White House, the great American bloggers, modern scavengers for the ruined cities, will thank him in the years to come for supplying them with the aesthetics they so desire. The two race through the American badlands en route to the Pentagon, dodging rockets and hailfire from other opportunists. Delilus, ever the prepared, grabs a rocket launcher from his suit pocket and retaliates. A pair of J. F. Rey Sunglasses jettisons from the flaming carcass of an unfortunate political pundit, nestling perfectly on Delilus’s perfect face.

They arrive at The Pentagon, an evil fortress surrounded by an impenetrable mist. All presidents must go there to have sex in utmost secret. Right now, it is a battlefield; news reporters, police officers, and other forms of men locked in mortal combat for the right to penetrate inside and uncover its dark secrets. Politicians evade the combat zone with a slickness equal to their false promises. Understand how the nepotism of American politics works: don’t kinkshame with your cohorts. The key to becoming a politician is to pluck a single fruit from the tree of holy promise, tell the hungry grandstands that’s all there is, and offer the rest of the tree’s spoils to officeholders who will proceed to fuck them underneath their bureaus. Not to do them a kindness and statisfy their needs, but to catch them in the act when you’ve waited long enough. Bursting through and dissipating the Pentagon’s enveloping mists, they strike deep into the innermost chambers, the burrows where kinks lost to time and sexuality still exist, our heroes arrive at such a scene.

The president, in all their naked glory, on a purple bed, against a background of a brightly-lit American flag, fucking an ancient, magical orb.

“Jesus H. Christ, my own goddamn brother.” Delilus grabs a fake prop hand from his suit pocket and covers his eyes with it. “Did you forget so easily, Orb?” The president stops their lust and turns to face the would-be kinkshamers. “You and Globe were always a pair — there were two cardboard boxes after all — How else did you think I survived your first day on the job?” They laugh, sinisterly, left-handedly. “Oh, I’ve always known.” “What?” “I just wonder what the people think of having an Orbfucker as their president.” Having been deprived of its defences, the naked Pentagon is stampeded by press persons from all stations. With nowhere to go and trapped in their own patriotic sex chamber, the combined flashes of their cameras and the puritanical cadence to their shocked screams assault the president like a powerful laser blast from a hero’s hands.

The President of the United States, purified in the holy light of kinkshaming.

“Delilus, remove my coat.” Delilus proceeds to do so, also removing his own eyewear and placing both inside of his suit pocket. His thick eyebrows are arched quizically. “A wonderful scheme, sir, but I have to know… How did you know now was the time?” The hovering orb rotates to allign its oculus with Delilus’s beautiful brown eyes. “Well, Delilus, that’s what family is for.”

From the purple bed, another, ancient magical orb, turns to the camera and winks.

DICK HARDBOILED has an off day

I just woke up. It is 2:30 in the afternoon. Huge slugs cover my body. I really need a smoke.

My alarm clock exploded into a million pathetic pieces, lodged in my walls, formed minefields on my floor, scalpelled my face and surgically reconstructed it into a dishevelled ‘bed head’. I look like hell. I must’ve hit the snooze button, with the ashtray I keep hidden in my leftmost pyjama trenchcoat pocket. My alarm normally keeps the slugs at bay, but last night was especially heavy. Killed my rival, thereby avenging my own death but failed to solve the adultery case I was actually hired for. Since then I’ve been feeling an even greater-than-usual need to remain asleep, fake-dead. Sleep is the cousin of death and this love triangle has its benefits.

I guess I’ll stay in today.

Stuck in bed, which is just a rusty metal frame – not even of a bed, but a destroyed mech –, there’s not a lot I can do. Also I’m being slowly crushed by giant invertebrates. Thankfully, my radio is voice-activated. Two-way models became standardised after radio hosts were confirmed the loneliest and least listened-to people. I tune in just in time for a romance drama – lovely piece of fiction, thank God love isn’t real. Two people in a bed, tangled into each other. Their molecules pouring into the other’s empty spaces, craving to be touching but the laws of physics will never let them truly touch. One asks, “May I kiss your forehead?” The other, “yes.” Continued, “May I kiss your cheek?” “Yes,” quieter. “Your nose?” A silent agreement this time. No more questions vocalised, only a hesitant “should I?” bouncing around their unified heads. The radio shuts itself off. I would cry, if I could feel anything, so instead my eyes elect to unleash four torrents of pure salt as substitute. The slugs burn away.

It’s too late to get any work done, I lie to myself.

I make the regretful motion of rising out of bed, unprepared to make my way to the living room. My foot touches the rug, triggering a chain explosion of alarm clock-mines. Jettisoned through the door and a cloud of unfair anxiety filling my apartment, I perform a mid-air stunt for extra points. I crash into today’s newspaper – the front page reads: “Cereal Thief Caught Red-Handed – The Red Is Blood, Because We Killed Her Good”. The events play out differently than they were previously described, now that I’m inserted into them, not doing anything to help the reenactment. Supposed to act but remaining inert, my entropy is gone. My will to live, to be alive, my will to be is there, just not right now. The thief plants a kiss on my cheek and hands me a bowl of Are-You-Okay-O’s before she escapes, alive, into an alternate reality. Stepping out of the readjusted headline – “Neo Noir Dark Noir City Suffers Major Breakfast Famine, Millions Dead Before Worktime :(” – I sit down at the table with my newfound bowl of cereal.

It tastes like shit.

No obligations today. I’m doing what I want, which is making the day end faster. I clean my record collection – vaporwave, bloodstep, Mediterranean Housemen Cleaning Things With A Pink Duster Vol. 1 – 5 -, I rearrange the furniture in my office to spell out “BIG NOIR MAN” (all caps, New Times Roman), I writhe on the floor for a couple of hours. My work phone rings, I tell it to fuck off. The horn slides off the hook, droopy and abused. I sit down at my desk, hands pulling at my hair, upward, like a noose. No crime, no narrative, no purpose. But I don’t feel bad about it. I watch cute videos of dogs eating mailmen until it’s finally night-time.

Still wearing my pyjamas.

I slide into bed like a bullet into the chamber of a dirty revolver. Was this day a waste? Yes. I did not move myself to perform tasks I am predetermined to do, those I consider to be at my core. Yet, a rebel loosens his lips to let a cigarette in, a thought I never thought I’d have: I am not all that? I am other things. I need to do other things. Even DICK HARDBOILED, existing only by the grace of the thin, white-gloved hand of narrative and apparently now narrating in the third-person wow that’s weird, can have a self-care day.

Yeah. We deserve ’em. Goodnight.

A Trip to the Graveyard

There he is, leaning against a fencepost that’s lost most of its paint. He sees you approaching, your dress is beautiful and slightly torn at the bottom; he awkwardly fumbles to slide his phone into his pocket. He looked at it with a sheepish smile, probably talking with someone as if they were really right next to him. Standing up straight and straightening his back, his spine loudly cracking, not because he’s been waiting for ages, but because that’s just what his joints do, he waves instead of saying your name, he doesn’t know it anyway.

You wave back, a cold breeze tries to put your arm down but you defy the will of nature herself to greet the boy. A dry and raspy voice wisps from dirty lips, like apples out too long in the sun, he doesn’t look after himself that well, his hair is wet and combed, he asks you how your day’s been like every day before. The sun pokes a hole in you, nearly gone but like a concerned parent peeking their head over the fence, after the million or more seconds of instilling life in us, she can’t help but maybe look after us. Your hair, black or gray or blue, shifts into an orange you saw earlier today.

“I visited the orchard down the road I was always too scared of visiting, it’s owned by a scary man who wears checkered shirts and straw hats. I think he has a gun too but that might just be because I want him to have one so that before today it made sense for me to avoid the place and now I’m actually really brave. There were apples and picnic baskets and two people on a blanket having a disappointing time; even though they touched — he spun his hair around his finger while the other kissed his hand — their bodies were not made for each other. Like, not a rejection but a redirection. The trees were tall but I had no trouble climbing them, I couldn’t reach the fruit, though, but from up there I could peer through the scary man’s window and there was a glass of orange juice on the table. His son was there and hated the taste but loved the colour so I guess you can appreciate things in more ways than one? That seems obvious but it’s true.”

You said all that in less than two minutes. There’s still five minutes left till the both of you reach the cemetery. As always, you overwhelmed him with things to say, so he struggles with what to ask about or comment on; not wanting to upset you by failing to recognise what you think is the most important part of the story, he hums in agreement with the silence to come. Syke! Joke’s on him, put there by you, you ask him how his day was. “It was alright. I talked to someone. I opened the conversation this time. I waited an hour before I did.” It seems so natural, but you know the responsibility of conversation can be terrifying. Silence means you can say nothing wrong. You let him know you’re proud of him, and his heart pumps harder for a small second, and even though he is alive by all definitions of the concept of ‘possessing life’, he just seems a bit more of that for a little bit.

He opens the gate to the graveyard for you. You would, not for yourself but for him, if you could. It has been a while since we’ve been here, you think and say out loud. The sun has set, not in abandonment but in the warm confidence you’ll be just fine, because despite all the horror stories that take place in cemeteries, real and imagined, you’re not frightened at all. Never have been. He used to be, before you came here every evening. A low mist covered the moss and crept up the lumbering corpses of trees, a flashlight trembled not knowing where to shine, an untorn dress getting stuck on the tiny spikes on the fences surrounding certain tombstones but not others. “We can leave if you want,” you proposed to him, he pulled a strand of his uncut hair out his dry mouth, “I’m not afraid”, a lie that died right there after you made a loud noise and he screamed louder than any sound you’ve ever heard him make. “Ugh, I hate you so much,” he continued, the second lie that died that night as your laugh put some more life in him.

The mist has become so familiar to you it can’t be anything else than a blanket for the resting dead, and the flashlight now goes from grave to grave in his steady hand. You are beside him, skipping along over the headstones, some have flowers at the base. “Sooo, is it here,” he asks the second daily question, and you shake your head, which is a good thing but also a shame, you display perfect form and balance on names you don’t recognise. “Let’s stop for today,” you tell the boy you’re glad to know, bored again, aware he’s here to help you. Your practiced climbs let you up the branches of the barren oaks with ease, his climbing isn’t as impressive or graceful as yours but he gets there next to you.

“Do you think it’s here somewhere?” “I don’t know,” which is more of a noncommittal ‘iunno’ behind closed lips than a tragic confession of ignorance. “If you told me your name it’d be easier.” “I don’t know.” The same. “Would you recognise it? Your name?” “I… don’t know.” Less of the same. “Well,” he struggles again with what to say, “I’m sure we’ll find it and there’ll be tons of flowers.” He pokes a hole right through you.

He looks at you with a sheepish smile, probably talking with someone as if they were really right next to him.


After the woman flung a jewel over the copper wall, she then struck that wall, recoiling shortly after with a very painful fist, after which two questions arose. The asker of these questions can be me, or you, or perhaps even the woman herself, but the mystery of this woman and her actions must yet be solved, can be solved in two questions. “Why strike the wall?” and “Why is the wall made of copper?”

One, and not of unequal importance to the next, because we are interested in the woman and she would enjoy the permittance of recollecting her thoughts. Two, because a wall is normally not made of copper, as it is constructed with the purpose to keep safe, and surely there are sturdier materials to use, such as iron or stone, both nature’s gifts to a mankind undeserving. The woman, forming a fist around her other fist to lessen the pain in a gesture of irony, also takes a deep breath. This isn’t fair, she thought. Hounded by events that transpired minutes ago and will become the present again soon, for the past is a slow ghost that chucks stones at us while we swim through time, she takes a step back.

I am very ill, I appoint you as my successor, coughs a young man more than he speaks, and she swears on the lives of more vitally stable family members that it is not sputum but chunks of metal leaving his mouth. No wonder, then, that these words should hit so hard and heavy. She had made it very clear through her rebellious life up to this fateful moment, leadership is not for her, and everyone in the village would agree were they present, but seeing as this is a deeply private conversation, we shouldn’t be here either, shhh, it is but a grim exchange between a man and an adult but unmatured woman. (Immature is such an ugly word).

Alas, the line that blood follows, or bloodline, can be used as a noose for certain families. The recalcitrant woman, Joanna, which means ‘After Joan’, to explain some naming conventions that do not exist anywhere else, Joan being her older brother, now dying before her eyes, seconds draining from his face, he shakes and clasps a jewel into her own trembling hands, a false symbol of authority. Her rebellion has been one of inaction. There are indeed the active and dangerous revolt, and the slothful erosure of duty and responsibility. Though the latter has been effective, because of it, I’m so sorry Joanna, she holds no influence or sufficient agency to escape this imposition, and in defeat not seen since Napoleonic days, she runs outside towards the copper wall that has ended the sea.

Why are you made of copper, Joanna asks the wall but also herself, as it is a malleable metal incapable of taking on too many burdens. Because copper cannot rust, answers the wall, no just kidding, it does not!, but regardless of who answered, it is a solid answer. The wall disappears from an inland weeks away into a watery horizon no amount of deaths can justify reaching, dividing presumably water on the other side, as men and beast can take down walls, so copper was used by the builders of yore as water cannot destroy what it cannot waste away. A frightening psychological approach to environmental disaster, though there is still water on Joanna’s side, but luckily that ocean is stilled and tamed, the sun is glowing inside of the azure.

What lies beyond, Danger, it has been yelled by mongers and whispered by meek, but the message, Danger lies beyond, has remained the same for how long now, probably centuries, at least fifty years before I was born, and Her Copper Grace, benevolent by proxy, protects us from that abstract. Language instills fear through its vagaries, how can we envision what is left undescribed, how political, and so what shields our minds from what our minds use to fill up that empty space? How do we not break down when we break ourselves down, like barriers, like walls, like a turquoise copper wall. Joanna recoils again.

The blue spot where Joanna punched her pent-up frustrations in has crumbled to the beach, discomfort fills her like the sand in her sandals. A wave from the sea on her side soaks her feet, relieving her beachy intruders, replacing them with panic. The water retreats, cackling as if a jackal, a predator known to mark its prey, and Joanna drives into the wall again, this time her back to it, covering the hole as to prevent anyone from seeing it, even though there is nobody here, we have seen it, shhh, she herself does not want to look upon it. Hours pass, probably, before she recollects herself. Her raiments, as blue as the wall and like the skin of a toxic animal, vibrant in colour to ward off danger, stick slightly and take a moment to release, clinging to that familiar border, like the knights from longlost myths did, on the other side, as a last line of defence against monstrosities again left undescribed.

What were they even defending, Joanna wondered, and was reminded of later amendments to the story where the wall still had a gate and the knights, duty-bound to protect the weak, ensured the safety of the smallfolk as they fled detailless dangers, now double in number. Was there land, then, or have we all descended from fish to be confined to land, the editing invokes curiosity and a want for quality assurance. She holds her hands in scared prayer and notices, because they were also planted against the turquoise guardian, that they have become dyed with the outer layer, the epidermis, the dead skin of a legend; a toxic blue.

Sick from anxiety and already coughing quite a lot, as she covers her mouth with her hand, witnessing the colour draining into the rest of her body. She turns around, not out of volition, but out of reflex, as something taps her shoulder, her back is still facing the wall. An arm, just as normal and nonthreatening as her own arm a few moments ago, stretching out from the hole, its owner obstructed from view, perhaps for the best, holding a familiar jewel. Is this yours, carries a voice. Before she can respond, before even beginning to claim her actions, she coughs again. She feels something hard and heavy hit against the palm still covering her mouth. It is a chunk of metal.

DICK HARDBOILED and The Meaning of Love

“Why am I here again?” Not that I need a reason to be here. In the office of my first-ever partner. I’m supposed to be working on a case – case fifteen -, but she said it was an emergency. A single grandfather clock ticks cinematically.

“You ever had one of these?” I don’t know what she’s talking about. Her back’s turned to me. She’s busy staring out the window, looking at a painting of thousand colours of gray titled ‘The World’. Wouldn’t even buy you a nice dinner if it happened to sell. All I can see is a vest covered in claw marks, of spirits she vanquished when she popped open a bottle of gin, rum, vodka. She drinks for the thrill, that soft promise of death. And her hair. God, her hair. A blonde spider web, trapping a collection of antique handguns. Blunderbusses shoot blanks in panic and revolvers spin for a mercy that’ll never come. Like flies, they still struggle to escape. If God was still around, I’d pray to Her to be killed by those furious locks.

There’s something different about her pose, though,  like she’s hurting. Maybe not physically, but… existentially. “What are you even looking at?” The cold shoulder. I flash-freeze, taking a while to thaw. “Alright, leaving then,” I shudder. Though long before I stand up to leave, and years before I even send the signal to the rest of my body to get up, she fires all seventeen guns into me and I splash back into my chair.

“Loira, I’m allergic to bullets,” I remind her after I recover from mild anaphylaxis.

Storms and quakes begin ravaging Neo Noir Dark Noir City as she turns her back to the world; it whines like a toddler for her attention again. Dangling in her leftmost hand is a single cigarette. Aruban, her signature death catalyst. “You know I don’t smoke.” I grab a handful of cigarettes and shove them into my mouth. She laughs, shattering the window. Her mandibles drip with venom and some of it splatters on my face, melting it entirely. I put on another face, this one’s a giant cigarette lighter. “No, DICK–” I weep ligher fluid until she says my last name too; I am beyond dehydration. “–HARDBOILED. I got this from a lover, before we even met.” “Who, Annalise?” “Nah, I smoked her directly.” “Right. Josephita, then?” “Yeah, she gave it to me as a gift – you ever had one of those? A gift?” I shake my head, tobacco spills out of my ears. An arm creeps out, grabbing as much as it can before slinking back in. “That’s when someone deems you worthy of owning more property, right?” I had an easier time solving my own murder than trying to understand this.

Loira slides over her desk, a rectangular amalgam of plastified men who failed to please her, and is now sitting on the edge closest to me. Crossing her skirted legs, a black haze springs forth and attacks my eyes, preventing any scopophilic descriptions from turning her into a sexual object. I wouldn’t want her to turn into a sexy cube or triangle because of misogyny, anyway. For the duration of her entire lower body moving, I take light, patient swigs of nicotine extract. Three minutes pass and the mist recedes. The first thing I see when I open my eyes is the digital clock on her desk counting down, currently at 00:05 minutes. Thanks to my male gaze, I now have a deep desire to Fuck it. Maybe later, though. Her eyes lock with mine; mine begin to sizzle.

She may be old, but she’s beautiful. Five eyes, my favourite amount number of eyes on any dame, and a chitinous hide like that of a diamond ant, literally. We’ve been through much. “Think back with me. Remember when you were the cicisbeo of Noirmaster Rochefort? Attending to his every whim and need for no reward or pleasure but his? Imagine how he must’ve felt.” “Loira,” I sigh, toxic fumes escaping my mouths, “I literally cannot feel anything.”  She looks puzzled, trying to come up with another explanation. Grooves sink into her face until an unsolvable jigsaw.

“It’s like when someone puts some flowers and box of ammunition on your grave. To honour your memory, except you’re alive. Well, YOU’RE not, but you’re there to witness it. It’s like saying, “I’m glad you’re still around”, y’know?”

“What about when clients pay me? They give me money, sometimes they put a single gold coin underneath my tongue. Some even call me ‘daddy’. Isn’t that a gift?” Her eyes flicker with the flame of kinkshame. I deeply regret my own cogency and retroactively remove any and all trace of possessing sexual knowledge. I am cleansed of carnal sin through the pure fires of kinkshaming. Her jagged tongue runs along her insectoid lips. “That’s a reward for a service, an action. Something tangible. A gift is more like a reward for existing.” She tugs at her suspenders with her thumbs, and I am intimidated by her thumb strength. “It’s saying ‘thank you’ to an abstract – you dunno how it’s influenced or impacted your life, but you’re sure as moonshine that it did.”

I shoot an empty laugh, restoring the window to its original form. “Well, thanks for reminding me no one thinks about me like that.” A hand shoots into my mouth, shutting me up and destroying many vital organs. “Any brains left in that knucklehead of yours?” My knuckles retreat timidly. “Can’t fault folk for being scared to show affection. It’s an expresson of love, after all.” She coughs up a pint of blood, having said the L word.

The clock on her desk says there’s one minute left. Her eyes shimmer with a sad gleam. For the first time in all the ages we’ve both been alive for, I have seen sorrow in her eyes. She turns away from me. The reflective surface of my new face must’ve confronted her with herself, and she walks towards the window. She’s had her share of feelings – I know because I felt vicariously through her. There was a time, a while back now, that I could feel emotions, thanks to her. All five of them, in fact: two mugs of bad coffee shared in pleasant company, an empty bus-stop out in the rain, an ash tray with a name crossed out, old scotch pooling on a tongue, and plaster peeling off a bathroom wall.

But never had I felt sorrow, so neither did she. She had never been sad about anything, be it about the lurching past or the vindictive present or the uncaring future. Time flicks us away like cheap smokes, why worry about that? I ask her that exact question. It ain’t fun when it’s ending, DICK HARDBOILED. She doesn’t say that: it’s a thought that hangs in the room like a cloud of ash. I briefly choke on it. “Gifts ain’t just about showing you care. It’s something to be remembered by, too. Like sneaking your ghost in someone’s trenchcoat pocket. Everytime you put your hand in, it haunts your fingers and drains into the rest of you.”

“Loira. I accept.” She laughs. The window stays intact this time, and she tosses her cigarette at me. It’s slightly crumpled, but it’s mine now, just like that. “Thanks.” We both say that. We both mean that. Why bother with three words when just one can do the trick.

The grandfather clock strikes a number – I can’t read analogue – and the alarm clock hits 00:00. It doesn’t yell, it doesn’t do anything noteworthy. It’s just completed its function in the narrative. Just like Loira. I stand up and make my way to the windowsill. Seventeen guns on the floor, but not even a dent in the carpet of where she once stood. I light my cigarette and take a drag. “What a shitty view.”

A Cyber Punk – Pt. 7

I step out of the cab, my side still hurting from the rondo that took place not even hours age. The sensation of being full on pizza mixed in with pain makes for an uncomfortable, undefinable kind of nausea – disgust at personal life choices? A bad attempt at recuperation ending in regret? Weltschmerz? What language even is that. That same familiarity, of a word you know how to use but feels clustered in its origins and how it made its way onto your tongue is a taste you cannot remember, I’m feeling that right here.

Community college.

I’m familiar with education. Like, I’ve attended classes, approximately. Sorta. It was on Third Life, in one of my earliest roleplaying groups. It was… very contextual. I was a teacher, who taught. I taught students. Things. Many things. Long things. We emulated what we thought was the real thing by equipping school outfits on our avatars and never took them off. One dude in the group was a slime puddle? That was a weird lesson, but I liked it. We did research to make it as authentic as our subscription fees and VR-helmets could allow. We also found out school uniforms aren’t really a thing outside of smut. It felt sexy, to contribute to false stereotypes.

Never been to college, though. Or high school. Didn’t have the money, didn’t have a parent to pay for me either. It’s not something I’m sad about, or actually know how to feel sad about? Grief is something you learn and I never got the IM. From what I know, college or any educational institution you’re rich and lucky enough to get into, it’s pretty good. It teaches you things, how to think clearly about things you care about. It also gives you more things to care about, in new, microscopic ways. You begin to love the world in ways and manners so close to its inner workings, so familiar with the cables underneath your desk, you are put in an office chair and forced to look at how endangered it really is. It becomes something you want to, but continuously fail to protect. I care about surviving and getting my frick on, but that’s not very academic I don’t think.

“So, love, what are we here for again?”

I glimpse at Exeter. His face, although obscured by that visor (or his visor IS his face?), still manages to convey cold, distant professionalism. If I were him — if I were a ‘he’! — the setbacks of tonight would’ve left me sufficiently distraught to go for the universal ‘hiding in a dumpster’ solution. But this guy, he’s driven. “Orlando.” His voice splashes against me like the puddles of rainwater filling the broken sidewalk, pretending everything’s alright. “This plant is extremely important.” He’s been holding it close ever since we got on the cab – I haven’t seen enough plants in my life to really know how it’s doing. It’s alive? I guess? It’s green with bright green leaves. “We’re here to drop it off. To… make something work.” He looks over his shoulder and at me when he says that, pausing not with skepticism but with hesitation. He can’t let me in on his plans, or maybe he doesn’t want to? To protect me? My face flushes at the thought.

We enter the courtyard, dilapidated and over-strewn with silicons and plastic wrappers. “So uh, what was Caesar supposed to deliver, anyway? Some kind of data?” Data barks approvingly. “Yes. Data–” bark “…containing instructions on how tp sustain plantlife. Flora, as you might imagine, hardly has any chance of survival in these parts. Seeing as the datadrop went awry and I antagonised not only my contract but two extra people courteous to your doing, I’m in a bit of a rush. Not to worry, though–” I can see his visor flicking to a confident :-J. “– it’s all still in motion.” “This isn’t actually a community college, is it?” I not so much ask as I flat out realise, my voice inflexed with a similar epiphany that I might be in over my handsome head. Exeter chuckles. “No. Not at all.” “Yeahhh, I could kind of tell, doll.” I admire the sudden air of mystery that’s beset him in the same way fear can feel sexy. He performs an intricate knock on the tall, shoddy rotwood doors, and I perform a rubbing notion across my torso. I didn’t even notice how cold it’s gotten. I could really use a shirt. Datadamn, my nipples are cold.

A door opens to the side: someone picked it up and moved it out of the way in its entirety. A large man wearing a bandanna of the Angolan flag pokes his head out of where a door used to be. Sure, it may be ancient history, one that’s never been taught – I found out Africa exists and is a huge continent by accident while browsing BBS for ‘cool flags’ – but if a nation has a machete in its national flag, you remember that funk. “Aye, Exeter. What brings you here? Next meeting’s not till next week.” He speaks clearly, with a pleasant and warm, but commanding cadence. Exeter leans in to whisper something and I’m met with single, sometimes double glances. The man shuts his eyes in a quick thought and nods.

“Come in. You too, naked man.”


“Ah. Naked person.”

“Thank you.” Once inside, the man, who I assume to be named Hanna going by the ‘Hi, my name is Hanna’ nametag pinned to his pink leather jacket, fits the door back into place. Tucked into his tailored, moth-bitten slacks is a one-size-fits-all, soot black silicon bag.

We are not so much welcomed inside as we are forced into the interior a horror mansion. Like the one in DEATH CUM CYBER ZOMBIES 7: HOUSE OF HORNY HACKERS. Three people-shapes meet us. Strapped in ill-fitting, violently bright, green skinsuits, kowtowing in a perfect line a few feet ahead. Their necks are contorted inhumanly – or even inrobotically -, their oviform faces pointed straight at us and clearly visible. Or clearly non-visible. No mouth, no eyes, no nose. But they’re staring at us, facelessly. “uhh, Ex…?” No response. Data modulates a sad whimper. He’s never been a growler. I’ve never been a fan of body horror. Especially when it’s real. From the corner of my eye I can barely glimpse Exeter’s visor displaying a small ‘-_-‘. It seems serene, in a regretful way. “Exeter. I really don’t like th–” My words become a muffle and a taste of synthetic filth fills my mouth as a cold, silicon bag is yanked over me. I can still see the glowing figures through the fibres.

My nipples are still really cold.


It seems you are having feelings and are at a loss.

To be more precise, you are at a crossroads. A signpost with a couple of askew planks each pointing in a particular direction, nailed to a wooden pole that’s a long time past sturdy. None of the arrows fulfill their designated roles of leading you a destination – pointing unwholesomely into a fivefold of ways where only fog invites you in. Unpredictability, or something? It’s hard to see; no more visible than your room at 3 AM, curtains drawn since the morning before, an unnatural, brightly-lit screen interrogating you. Like the desk lamp of a hardboiled detective except he’s not the trenchcoated private eye from the movies/that one weird internet story but actually the friend you really need to respond to. It’s your turn to talk.

You are reminded of that video game you once played, you forget the name – or maybe you’re thinking about all of them? ‘If I head down one path for too long, I have to come back and check out the other paths’. Maybe you’ll find a treasure chest, conceptualised by a gesture so concrete you’ll have a hard time reading it wrongly. Luckily, game design has little to do with personal relationships – although you have caught yourself wishing on a soft breath for a tier system of some kind. Just, a little counter hovering over their head or heart to give you an indication of where you are, of what you are. Am I a 2? A 5? You don’t presume any number higher than that. The chimes of an insecurity echo throughout the hollows in your head and in your bones, there exists the possibility you may be imposing. Overestimating how intimate you are (why did you think it was a good idea to touch them?). Misjudging the topics open for conversation (no one cares about your headcanons). Blunder at having fun (you killed the convo with your politics again). Failing to be there for them (you set it to Appear offline when they logged in). Failed to heal them (the chat equivalent of a shoulder pat). Those feelings have you at a loss.

The paths go on for a while. You’ve checked out three paths already and backed down each. Apparently video games have more influence on you than you’d assumed. Final Fantasy 9 revolutionised traditional turn-based battle systems by adding the ‘Active Time Battle’ mechanic. So whomever you were engaged with stopped waiting for you to perform an action – suddenly, they had other things to do. This was true for you as well. The silence of expecting a reply turned into a more common silence. In your mind, you replayed every conversation. Every motion you performed – maybe you hadn’t practiced enough -, the cadence your words trembled with – too monotonous? -, the “haha” where you could have put a sentence. Did you fail again? Traipsing down distances of misty paths leading nowhere reminds you of the lengths that speech has to cover. Of emotional brambles that have to be traversed and destroyed. A gas clouds your mind, of where you should lead this conversation, if you should follow through with it. A continental map of all the what-ifs and but-thens avails nothing without a ‘YOU ARE HERE’ mark. You turn back.

The fifth path is just as difficult to navigate, treacherous even, as the ones before. But there’s a glimmer in the distance, a promise of reward for better than before. It’s your last option, but that just means you HAVE to be rewarded, right? The fog of war clears and still no outline of a treasure chest, yet you know this is the right track. The end of the line is still obscured by come-what-mays but you are no longer a stranger to the lands between mouth and ear, no longer a tempest of two breaths curving around each other, despairing to seek a centre. Incessance did not achieve this, neither did inaction. It simply took time. The unmarked signpost did a horrible job, but you’re glad the fog invited you in. There is someone standing opposite you. You wait anxiously, excitedly, for a reply. It’s their turn to talk.

“Whaat? No way, that’s my favourite game, too!”

Your fog dissipates – turning into the steamy aromas of a hot drink. You could be in your room or a coffee shop in a city you’re familiar with or never have been before; it suddenly feels very comfortable.


A copper string is pulled. Elsewhere, she wakes up.

She doesn’t feel like a container, despite the liquids sloshing against her metal frame. Hydraulic fluids, trace amounts of rustwater, and white oil – the purest of all – flow through manyfold capillaries and inject her skins with an inscrutable glow. As an addendum irrelevant to perhaps you and to her as well: she is not a robot or an ironworks, although there is a glimmer of appeal in that metaphor. There is, at the very least not within the woolen blankets covering her copperthread bones, no difference to be communicated between the untamable organic and the calculated machinery of her gestalt. A different mode of being, for all intents and purposes. Then, can be wondered, what intents and purposes does a non-robot live for?

She flinches back; the string was sharper than estimated. Behind her, the stack of wool vibrates. She’s still a novice, and her fingers know. What was it doing in her loom, anyway? The woodwork had seen a lot of modifications in the past few years, but none of them required metal, or allowed it to work metal. Who would buy a copper tunic, anyway? she thinks, suckling blood from the orange-hued cut. She notes how it tastes a bit different than the blood she usually drinks. Thin wool and rolls of velveteen have done quite a number on her hands in these few weeks, and the only bandages available to her, she has to weave out of shed cotton. A vicious cycle! Clothcraft was not her premier idea of work, but manual labour is the only industry that would have her (have anyone). Not even her tongue, the wisest of organs, could tell the blood tastes more like a certain metal than before, and why would she (assuming she has no unusual ingestive habits)?

The job continues.

Her moiraiic digits guide the material through a shifting labyrinth of heddles and beams. The blood has not stopped. She bleeds. It bleeds along, the loom, that is, white oil pooling underneath its frame. Damaged she continues working, expressing a sweet oblivion for the longest sword cutting against her glowing hands. If only the master weaver hadn’t stepped out to buy more distaffs, they might point out there are no yarns worked by the frame (or they would fire her on the spot). But no, her body gestures with the grace and invitation only a weaver embodies, and the copper keeps on coming – it was never removed the way it was implied. Although at this point, not even the master, holding a coin purse with her mispelled name on it – Clotho – could move her. She wouldn’t recognise the difference between copper and thread. Then, can be wondered, what is she weaving?

She wakes up, tracing her existence along a single thread, from an ancient technology to the skinned hands of a novice weaver.


This place has always been like a haven for me, which is a strange thing to say about a pizza place. It’s quiet but not abandoned, and pastel pink and blue are my favourite colours. When you walk by from the outside, it looks like you’re in a movie theatre, looking at a bright screen displaying a feelbetter-than film. A good meal and peace of mind seems to only happen in the movies nowadays. And the owner’s great, too! Falstaff is the only other person on the block who pays extra for the REALLY OLD THEATRICALS AND SUPER DEAD AUTHORS channel. I know because the first thing I did when I signed my lease was tap into his TV reception. (He also has this channel called REALLY OLD THEATRICALS AND SUPER DEAD AUTHORS (SEXY) but I don’t really want to look at that.) After I’d moved in, Falstaff visited me in person and gave me a free pizza. I think he said something among the lines of, “Welcome to the neighbourhood! I pray you soon feel at home, most comparative, rascalliest, sweet young prince.”

And I did! Him being a cyborg certainly had something to do with it. His metal face was surprisingly warm and gentle despite having two vertical yellow bars for eyes and one oval for a mouth. It’s, like, not a race thing, but humans make me uncomfortable. Anyway, I ate at his place whenever my schedule allowed it, and he always made sure I was doing okay. He told me once, “I am little better than one of the wicked, for my pizzas are loved by all! The freshest ingredients, enjoyed by crook or cop! I do not care, as long as it supplies me with the monies, so I can keep buying the freshest ingredients!” and he kissed his own fingers and rollerskated back into the kitchen.

“Mm, you’re a cyborg, right? Shouldn’t you have like, ordered a pizza with, I don’t know, gears and thermal paste?” The slice I was about to eat slides out of my hand. It falls face-up on my lap, covering about the same distance as my jaw unhinging in pure disbelief. I don’t even think my emo-visor is displaying anything, or maybe it’s incapable of transcribing the stupefaction I’m feeling right now into any known ASCII. “Oh my god. You have no idea what a cyborg even is.” The shirtless diletante opposite me, clearly unversed in the ways of basic respect or empathy, is looking not quite as confused but an honest approximation of how confused as I am feeling. “You’re like robots, yeah?” I gently scoop up the fallen slice and almost drop it again at his continued, casual blunt assault. I can feel the sloshing of hydraulic fluids in my arm so vividly and clearly, it feels like I Was born with my hardware. Like I Was born to punch Orlando really hard in the face. I take a deep breath.


“This is. Not something we chose.” “I’d have loved a robot arm, honestly.” I take a really deep breath. “Listen closely, morlock. They don’t tell you this in Bigotry 101, but notice how this is not a clean place? No sunlight, no real garbage disposal services, not to mention the industrial waste and occasional radiation hazards. Children are born with problems. Becoming a cyborg makes sure they get to live. Apparently, live into a life where nobody wants them.” I wipe the tragic remnants of a pizza slice from my hand with a napkin. For once, they don’t have a witty comeback and I sure as data hope they aren’t trying to come up with one.

“Just. Call a cab. We’re going someplace.” They do so, regret in their hazel eyes, shimmering like the aftermath of a boot mercilessly stomping on a puddle.

I wave Falstaff goodbye. Orlando and I step out into the rain and into a cab. I hurry out of the cab to pay Falstaff for our pizzas and get back in. We sit in silence until the car stops at our destination.

Community college.