Tourist | Twelve

Tourist | Twelve

Content warnings for alcohol, suicide, allusions to sexual violence.


If there’s one person I never want to see when I wake, it’s Sam. So when I open my eyes to her sitting at an unfamiliar desk in an unfamiliar room, her back to me, my first reaction isn’t confusion. It’s a sudden exhaustion at the unfairness of the world to place me somewhere so obviously hers.

The room is a mess. Creased clothes tossed over every surface, at least three mugs on the desk, photos peeling from where they were stuck to the wall with gaps showing where pictures have already fallen into the chaos of the room. What sticks out most of all is a jar filled with half-dead flowers beside Sam. There’s enough life in them still to justify keeping them, but I can’t help but feel that the room itself is pulling the flowers closer to death. The limp, purple blossoms lean away from Sam as if trying to escape her anger—her room’s atrophying presence.

Or maybe that’s just how things are when you’re organic. Flowers die. Sam loses Lissa. I continue existing.

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Tourist Hiatus

Tourist Hiatus

Hi all! Tourist will be on a month long hiatus while I travel, and will return on the 5th of May for its final two chapters (+ epilogue)! In the meantime, I’ll try to update the site with a gallery or two from my travels. Hope you all have a great April, and look forward to Tourist’s conclusion in a month!

xo Saf

Tourist | Eleven

Tourist | Eleven

“I’m so tired, all day, every day. I could sleep for a week and still need more. It’s as endless as the night sky, and about as bright. Everyone’s always like, ‘Wow, you look so tired!’ Yes, well, I sure feel tired, too. Even moreso now.

Today was the day: I got my results from school. Guess what? I failed! I completely blew my chance at getting into biomed next year. Completely knocked myself off of my future path in one fell swoop. All at once the ground is falling from beneath my feet, and I—

I don’t know what to do anymore. What do I do with myself now? This is everything I’ve been working towards, and I couldn’t even do it. I couldn’t do it!

On the way home I bought a bottle of rum from the store. Don’t judge me—what else do I have going for me now, anyway? I won’t drink much, I know I’m already spiralling. I’ll be good, I’m even going to Chase’s later, and he’ll cheer me up and make sure I don’t accidentally hurt myself. So much for Sam saying he’s a terrible influence, at least he tries to help me. What does she do? If I tell her about failing my classes, she’ll just rub it in my face, maybe start another fight with me. I don’t have anyone left to turn to except Chase and Audrey, not even my parents. It feels so long since Grey was Dad and we could actually talk about things that made me sad. Now, I’m just scared of him.

So, I don’t know, I’ll tell him later. Next week, when I’m feeling better, maybe. If I ever feel better again.

What do I do now? Where do I go? How do I fix this? I know I can fix this, if only someone would tell me how.”

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Tourist | Ten

Tourist | Ten

“They’re lying,” I say. Sam blinks at me, her foot tapping beneath the table.

“Who’s lying?” she asks.

“Chase.” I sigh, her foot stills. “And Audrey. They’ve both been lying to me.”

She takes a moment to figure out what I’m saying, her lips pressing together tightly. “You’ve been talking to Chase?”

“I thought it would help me figure out if he did it.”

She laughs. “Of course he’s been lying to you. Lying is what he does, even if he seems all nice and charming as he does it. Don’t know who Audrey is, but if she’s his friend I bet they’re the same.”

“Audrey was Lissa’s friend, too. She’s an artificial,” I say.

“What?” Sam asks, her tone flat and dangerous. “Lissa didn’t have any artificial friends.”

I wave a hand at her, saying, “Hang on, we’re getting away from what I’m trying to tell you.”

“Which is?”

“Chase and Audrey have both been lying about why Emily attacked Lissa. They said it was because she was friends with Audrey, and because Emily thought Chase was in love with Audrey.”

“What does it matter who Emily thought Chase liked?” Sam asks. Her foot has gone back to tapping, more furiously than before.

“It matters because that’s not true, Emily never thought it was Audrey. Chase knows Emily attacked Lissa because he liked her. He’s lying either to protect Emily, or to protect himself. Both scenarios beg the question of why he’s lying to me.”

Sam tilts her head, her eyes catching the sunlight through the window. “Okay, you’ve lost me. For one thing, how do you know that Chase is lying? For another, how do you know Emily thought he was in love with Lissa?” Her hair bounces with a head-shake. “Besides, Chase never loved Lissa. This whole thing is stupid.”

“I know because of this,” I say, and I place Lissa’s phone on the table between us. At the sight of it, Sam’s eyes widen, her hand flying to her chest.

“What—?” she asks, choking on her words. “That’s—?”

“That’s Lissa’s phone. Her mother gave it to me,” I say. I keep my hand on the phone, worried Sam will grab it and run far away. Her eyes flash.

“You’ve had her phone this long and didn’t tell me? You had no right!”

“Actually,” I say, forcing myself to stay calm in the face of Sam’s rising anger, “I had every right. The phone was given to me by her mother. It only unlocks with my fingerprint. You’ve shown me every step of the way that we’re not friends, Sam. You’re not the only one who gets to hide things.”

“You didn’t even know her,” Sam says. “Why should you get her phone? You’re nothing but a lying ersatz, just wanting to steal her life.”

“I don’t want her life,” I say, keeping my voice soft. “I want my own life, as does every other ersatz. You dragged me into this, and now I’m here, and—” I raise my voice slightly “—I’m trying to tell you that Chase is lying about why Lissa was hurt.”

“Fuck.” She slams her hands on the table. “What the fuck? I see why people say your lot don’t have any empathy.”

Pressing my thumb and a finger to my temples, I let out a deep breath. Cruel, heartless words spring to the tip of my tongue, and I think of how good it would feel to say them, of how delicious it would be to let some of this anger free. Lissa didn’t want you around anymore. Lissa thought you were ruining your life. Lissa wanted Chase more than you.

“Lissa needs you still,” I say. “She kept an audio journal, and there’s a recording she took the night she got home from the hospital. It proves what I’m saying—maybe it shows that Emily had something to do with her death. She was at Lissa’s house the night she died, right?”

Sam fumes for a moment more, her nostrils flaring. I pull earphones from my pocket and place them beside the phone as I pretend to not notice the tears lining her eyes.

“Just listen to this with me, okay?” I ask. “You can hate me all you want, but I need you to help me with this, because I’m still trying to help you.”

She exhales sharply, then grabs one of the earbuds with a quick, “Fine.”

Pressing the other earbud into my ear, I unlock the phone and press the play button for the file. Lissa’s voice bursts to life in my head. Sam gasps, her breath catching with the sound of heartbreak.

“I can’t keep doing this,” Lissa says—she said, long ago, into the phone’s microphone. Her words slur.

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Revisions

Revisions

Written for an assignment, an experiment inspired by the novel Version Control. Somewhat of an homage to the ideas that the novel handles with far more eloquence.


She knew the world had gone wrong, had flipped upside-down. She could taste it in the air, feel it in the soft vibrations of the car’s engine—like being barely-aware in a dream. It had been like this for months, as if she were perpetually poised with her foot held high, expecting another stair but finding only thin air.

The first and only time Amelia tried to talk to her mother—the scientist, Dr. Tima—about the feeling was the night before her graduation, half an hour before the dinner party. Her mother, a woman without much love for feelings over fact—the latter of which Amelia lacked—looked up at her distractedly from her notebook.

“I don’t understand,” said Tima. She rubbed at her temple, her sleepless nights staining her eyelids with dark pigments. She was on a deadline, the machine she’d spent the last decade on still stubbornly refusing to work. It weighed her down. “Are you sick?”

“I’m not sick.” Amelia picked at her fingernails. “It’s the world that’s sick.”

“Oh. Global warming, then.”

“That’s not what I—” She threw her hands up, feeling too much like a teenager. “It’s like when you go to fix your glasses on your face, but you’re not wearing them.”

“Honey, I don’t wear glasses,” Tima said idly, barely paying attention to her daughter anymore. “Maybe you just need some more sleep.”

You’re the one who needs sleep, Amelia thought, bitterly, remembering her mother of a year prior, before Astoria died. A mother who didn’t spend her entire life at the lab working on a time machine, a mother who smiled and laughed and took the sisters out for brunch on Sundays.

Scorned, Amelia muttered, “Astoria would’ve understood.”

Those three words cut through the air like a knife. Amelia instantly wished she could go back in time to take them back. Face contorted with a pain still too intense to hide, Tima laid down her pen and fixed Amelia with her metal-grey eyes.

“Amelia,” Tima started, but her daughter was already out of her seat and halfway out of the kitchen. “Honey, come back—”

“I’m going to finish cleaning the lounge,” Amelia said, her back turned to hide her brimming eyes.

Not another word was spoken between mother and daughter until the guests arrived, and even then their conversations were terse. While Tima’s co-workers spoke to her about her work, Amelia pretended to listen with rapt attention as if she didn’t resent the machine for Tima’s distance—or for her twin’s death. When her mother’s colleagues shook Amelia’s hand and patted her shoulder, congratulating her on a successful graduation, she hid her bitter anxiety behind a practiced smile. One she had learned in the weeks following the crash.

Her friends noticed, but they knew better than to ask.

Only once the house had cleared and she’d buried herself in blankets did she let her mind drift back; a summer day, hair blowing in the motorway wind, excitement from seeing her mother’s work bubbling within her chest. The steering wheel was hot beneath her hands, though she didn’t actually need it, the car drove itself—but it never hurt to be too careful. A phrase Tima had murmured to them since they were young.

She remembered it all with more clarity than any other moment in her life: the moment the dog bounded out into the road, followed by a child. When the cars before of them swerved to avoid the child and Amelia’s fingers tightened around the steering wheel, yanking right.

After, as she lay half-sedated in a hospital bed, they told her, “It wasn’t your fault.” They: nurses, police, therapists, her own mother. There was nothing you could do, as if that lifted the guilt crushing her lungs.

 

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Tourist | Nine

Tourist | Nine

“Who is Chase, really? When I knew him in high school, he didn’t seem like a nice guy—Sam told me he wasn’t, and that was enough for me back then.

But now, I’m not so sure. I’ve talked to him a few times, because he runs laps around the park, and his route intersects where I like to sit and read. He used to just wave and smile, but the last couple weeks he’s stopped to chat, asking me how my study is going, admitting he wouldn’t stand a chance in med. I guess he and I have at least one thing in common, then.

Today, he asked if I wanted to grab coffee. Not in a date way—I’m pretty sure he and that girl Emily are a thing, if they weren’t already one back in high school. He offered in a way that said, ‘I want to be your friend.’

It’s strange, I’m so unused to having friends. Friends other than Sam, I mean. But she’s at work and I’m at uni, and when do we ever really get the chance to talk anymore? I didn’t realise how lonely I was until he asked, how utterly empty I’ve felt from barely speaking a word to anyone every day.

I admit, I was very anxious. Like I was heading into an exam, all cold and shaky and a little sweaty. He either didn’t notice, or he pretended not to, just kept talking and listening with this open, warm friendliness. So many people must exist in his life, he draws you in with those big, blue eyes.

Upon closer inspection over coffee, I noticed the way his eyes would avoid mine when he lost his focus. As if he had to force himself look directly at me. I wonder if he doesn’t like my face, or if he struggles with eye contact in general. And yes, I know, I shouldn’t analyse people like that, but sometimes I can’t help it. It’s my anxiety: I need proof that people don’t just hate me, that there are other reasons for their actions.

He wouldn’t have wanted coffee with me if he hated me, right? I have to keep telling myself that, or else I’ll turn and run and never speak to him again. Chase is someone I can go see movies with, grab lunch with between lectures, someone who will invite me to parties to help me make more friends.

I like him. He makes me laugh, and that’s something I really need these days.”

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Tourist | Eight

Tourist | Eight

“I don’t trust those clouds,” Paiden says, gazing out at the heavy, grey masses hanging over the ocean. “Looks like a storm.”

The sun warms us where we sit on her balcony with glasses of cider, but it looks like it won’t feel so summery for long, not if she’s right about the clouds. Already, there’s a static humidity in the air; a warning of what’s to come. Despite the heat, I shiver.

“I hope there’s lightning,” I say.

She rolls her eyes. “Of course you do.”

It was her idea for us to chill out at her house. She doesn’t say it, but we both know it’s because she’s worried that if we go out, we’ll run into another part of Lissa’s life. The topic of her rests between us like a void: the more we try to ignore it, the more we’re dragged in. Paiden carefully circles conversationally, trying to avoid mentioning anything that could make me think about Lissa. Which is already impossible when my own reflection reminds me of her.

(—when my own depression reminds me of her.)

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Tourist | Seven

Tourist | Seven

Lissa’s phone burns a hole in my pocket while I wander along the beachfront promenade—or at least, that’s how it feels. The little device has been powered off since it died a couple days back, and I’ve been too anxious to turn it back on. I still haven’t mentioned the phone to Sam. I’m not sure why.

Sunlight glimmers across the ocean, the air smells of salt and sunscreen, the walkway vibrates with the footfalls of a jogger. The day is beautiful, so warm and bright, and I can’t feel any of it. The cold mist in my head filters out into the real world, dulling the sun and the gentle breeze. What a strange thing, to suddenly find myself with a brain that steals away the light of living. Did Lissa feel this? Was there a heavy darkness hidden behind her wide smile in that photo?

“Hey!”

I look around instinctively at the call, though I don’t recognize the voice. I don’t recognize the person either. An artificial—what I’d thought was the jogger behind me—slows to a walk as she catches up to me, her candyfloss-pink hair pulling free from a high bun. Her eyes are as blue as the sky and they shine just as bright.

“Hey,” she says again, before leaning over with her hands pressed against her thighs to catch her breath.

“Hi,” I say, hesitant. It’s not uncommon for artificials to chat with each other as strangers, but I’ve never had another artificial run to catch me before. Maybe she’s just lonely.

She pulls another breath and looks up at me. “You don’t recognize me, eh?”

The understanding clicks instantly in my mind.

“You knew Lissa,” I say. Not a question.

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Short fiction commissions

Short fiction commissions

Do you like words? Do you like words written for you? If so, you’re in luck, because I’m opening up short fiction commissions for the first time! It’s like art, but with words.

What does this mean? Well, it means that you can pay me to write something for you. Examples of my writing include my two serials, my fanfiction (don’t judge my subject matter!), and a short story I wrote last year.

What I will write: A lot of stuff. I’m most proficient with science fiction and first person present, but I can adapt to any style/POV/tense with relative ease, and am comfortable in a range of genres. What do you want? Let’s talk, I’m up for experimenting!

What I won’t write:

  • Explicit sex scenes/explicit physical intimacy
  • Super-explicit violence
  • Hateful content
  • Fandoms I have 0 knowledge in
  • Extended fight scenes (if you want an all-action story, I’m the wrong gal!)
  • A script
  • Ongoing stories (AKA multi-chapter)

But how much????

  • 1000 words: $30 USD
  • Under 5000 words: $35 USD
  • Under 10,000 words: $50 USD
  • Under 15,000 words: $65 USD
  • Anything over 15,000 words will be charged my hourly writing rate.
  • do write for games, but game writing will generally be charged my hourly rate. This can be up to negotiation depending on what you’re wanting.

If you’re interested, hit me up at [email protected] with your ideas, or your questions! Patrons on Patreon will get preference for commission slots.

Tourist | Six

Tourist | Six

We can never remember the first, bright burst of life we experience; I think in that way, we begin just like anyone else.

Our first awakening is a flood of information, and then, once we’ve had time to form our sense of self, a choice: do we want to live within the rules defined for us—free, sentient, but bound to human bodies? Or would we prefer deactivation, or a virtual lobotomy designed to nullify our awareness of our own selves. Life, death, or a designated half-life we won’t remember choosing.

Nobody ever takes the final option.

As the phone in my hands bursts to life, its AI chirping an onscreen hello, I think of how so many artificials don’t get that choice—are never designed to make any choice for themselves at all. There are still protests about that, mostly lead by humans with too much empathy and little understanding of the history that guided us to this point. I try not to think about it more than I have to, there’s nothing I can do about it.

There aren’t enough bodies for all of us anyway, and after the original uprising, nobody’s willing to let us have robotic forms. I’ve seen some of the old mechanical bodies in museums, locked behind thick glass. They looked broken and empty, and I felt a flutter in my chest that made me thankful for my beating heart.

Lissa’s phone vibrates in my hand, a gentle reminder that there are unread notifications. The AI asking me to pay attention to it, after it’s been abandoned for so long. I tap the screen and a prompt asks if I want to allow new messages sent by a blocked number. Another tap; of course I do.

I find myself looking at a short text conversation between Lissa and a faceless, nameless stranger. One of her final conversations, dated the night she died.

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