Far from the comforting warmth of daylight,
in a world cloaked in shadow,
our darkest and most primal fears fester,
waiting for the chance to consume us whole
as we lay awake, forever unable to sleep,
here in the midnight hour.

by “Amoral Crackpot” Stevie Arviso

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The collected journal entries
of Dr. Howard Fine.

Adrift in space with only
an AI for companionship.


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  • There Goes My Nipples Again

    The woman wearing very little strutted across the parking lot, and the stupid man walked into a closed door.

    The door belonged to a charmingly inconvenient boutique located in a rather busy corner of a fictional town I’ve made up just now, the sort of place with people to eat, things to regret, and, I suppose, whatever else one might think to bother with in an otherwise unimportant backdrop. The man, meanwhile, belonged to – and was wanted by – nobody in particular, which, coincidentally, was the reason he was here in the first place.

    “Sir?” a voice asked.

    The stupid man looked up to find a strikingly acceptable young lady standing there in the doorway, looking at him in that way that seductively whispered, I wonder if he’ll spend any money here. “Women,” he concussed, attempting to remember at least one or two other words, and then forgetting to bother at all.

    “Sir,” the young lady replied, “Far be it from me to question any man’s right to drink himself stupid in the middle of the day, but if you’re going to do that sort of thing, I suggest you do so somewhere more appropriate, like a public library or a city council meeting.”

    “I was told,” the man eventually spat out, “that I could find a woman here.”

    “I suppose you’re technically correct,” she replied. “But I’m not sure why you felt the need to bring my door into this.”

    After thinking really hard about it, something dislodged itself and the man started over. “Is this ‘Bottom of the Barrel, We Get Paid, So You Get Laid?'”

    “You’ve seen our ad.”

    “A friend of mine referred me. He suggested I come here to help with my…” he said, trailing off in that way one does when one desperately wishes to have the other character finish the first character’s sentence.

    “With your…?” she replied, bravely refusing to follow convention.

    “Romance problem,” he euphemism’d.

    “Well, I’m not sure what you were told, but I’m afraid my door simply isn’t interested.”

    The man huffed, hurting his tender wittle headums in the process. “This is ridiculous.”

    “I agree,” she said, holding the door open. “Would you like to come inside and perhaps spend some money, then?”

    And after an uncomfortable, protracted self-assurance that he would not, in fact, bash his skull against the shop door, the man stepped inside.

    “Tell me a bit about yourself, Mr…” the young lady started, guiding him over to her desk and trailing off in that way one does when needing to know someone’s name.


    “I’m sorry.”

    “Customer. My name is Customer.”

    “Bit odd, isn’t it?”

    “It’s the best I could come up with.”

    She nodded. “I’m sure it was, Mr. Customer. Now, let me know how I can do so, and I’ll be absolutely frothy to rid you of some, most, or all of your money.”

    “I want a woman.”

    “I think you simpleton’d something about that, yes. But what sort of woman are you interested in?”

    “Oh, you know the sort. Kind, loving–“

    “Smart and beautiful?”

    “If it’s not too much trouble.”

    “Not at all. Quite a common request. Any particular aesthetic, make, or model?”

    “No, no. I’ll take whatever I can get. Just someone who loves me, is all.”

    “But also smart, kind–“

    “And beautiful, yes.”

    “Of course. Anything else?”

    “It’d be nice if she enjoyed the things I do, maybe understood me better.”

    “I think I understand.”

    “Well, do you have one?”

    “One what?”

    “A woman. I came here for a woman.”

    “Mr. Customer, what we offer at ‘Bottom of the Barrel, We Get Paid, So You Get Laid’ is completely customizable companion design and printing of made-to-order, honey-glazed, hand-crafted artisanal friends, lovers, and assorted sexual playthings.”

    “You mean, you don’t have any just laying around.”

    “Sir, again, if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking for, then I suggest you get into politics.”

    “No, no. I mean, you don’t have any off-the-shelf, over-the-counter women in stock?”

    “Custom orders only, I’m afraid”


    “Yes, but I assure you our services are second to none.”

    “Well if you have no women in stock, what could you possibly offer?”

    “Options, Sir. Options.” She rose with a click of her heels and a wave of her hand, and the walls flickered and came to life with images of women of all shapes, sizes, looks, and attires. “You see, we’ve long discovered that while men such as yourself claim they’re looking for a smart, beautiful, funny, beautifully smart, and funnily beautiful romantic partner, what you’re actually looking for is a fictional surrogate to fill some contrived role in an utterly warped narrative of a poorly written love story that only exists in your head. Whether it’s the strong, independent femme fatale, the diminutive and submissive doll, or perhaps even a flirtatious lesbian whom only you can somehow magically convert into a heterosexual lifemate and plaything. Whatever outlandish concept of a woman you can fathom, we can fabricate.”

    “This is insane.”

    “I’m sorry, Mr. Customer. I didn’t mean to offend.”

    “No, no. I’m not offended – that was an impressively accurate guess.”

    “We aim to please.”

    “This all sounds a little too good to be true. How can you possibly have such a roster of willing women simply waiting to tend to the imaginative whims of a lonely man?”

    “I’m afraid I’m failing you, Mr. Customer. Perhaps a demonstration.”

    “Is there a charge?”

    “Not at all. This is a free sample guaranteed to wash out with little more than soap and water.”

    “I don’t follow.”

    “Well then, please do,” she said, directing him over to a large glass and metal pod. In the pod was nothing but a comfortable chair with a towel on it. “In just a few moments, you’ll perfectly understand what I mean.”

    Not sure where this was going, but eager for it to end, Mr. Customer once again did as he was instructed and sat himself down in the comfortable chair. “What’s the towel for?”

    “It helps us minimize the cleanup,” she said.


    She waved her other hand in a different way and the pod door closed. Two-and-a-half minutes on high and one adorable little ding of a bell later, and the door opened again.

    “Well, what do you think?” the young lady asked. “We call this one the ‘Manic-Pixie Dream Girl.’ It’s very popular.”

    Mr. Customer stepped out of the pod in a cloud of gas known to the state of California to possibly cause some kind of cancer, maybe, and seized on what he saw in the mirror. Meanwhile, a frighteningly accurate play-by-play of what he was seeing played over some nearby speakers, along with a pleasant little tune.

    “She was a breastuous bit of leggy sex dipped in the sticky, erotic honey of a needy man’s dream,” a man’s voice started.

    “What the hell?” the bit of leggy sex croaked.

    The voice continued. “She played with her luxuriously unkempt hair, hastily tied up in a ponytail, and squeezed at the massive udders bolted to her chest, which were seemingly hoisted up by a series of cables and pulleys until they burst forth from her modest, low-cut, crease and crevice-hugging dress. All skewed slightly because of a pair of glasses now in her face.”

    “What the Hell have you done to me?” Mr. Customer jiggled and bounced.

    “Do you know how a caterpillar becomes a butterfly?”

    “What? No. Not at all.”

    “Well. It’s a lot like that, but not.”

    “I meant why have you made me a woman? I came here for a woman, not to be turned into one.”

    “Did you, Sir?”

    “I’m sorry?”

    “Are you sure that’s what you came here for?”

    “Concussion aside, I’m fairly certain that’s what I eventually said, yes.”

    “If you were referred to us, then I’m sorry to say that your ideal woman likely doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make one who does.”

    The freshly baked bit of scrumptious tart screamed, but in the sense that he didn’t.

    The young lady sighed. “Women are more than a collection of traits to be picked and plucked and thrown together like some macabre masturbatory stew, Mr. Customer. Some might even consider them people, with internal lives of their own and everything. “

    “Isn’t that last bit true?” Mr. Customer groped and pawed.

    “How should I know? I started this business so I didn’t have to bother with all that nonsense.”

    “What, you don’t mean–“

    “That I devised a way to take myself and any other man, put them into a metal pod, convert their physical body into an amorphous blob of malleable genetic material, and then reconstitute such a blob back into an ideal female physical specimen to suit their explicit, implicit, and exhibitionist desires, and all while keeping their male brains and identity fully intact? Yes, that’s more or less the gist of it.”


    “I’ll admit, it does seem like a long walk just to avoid having to compromise my unrealistic expectations for the sake of emotionally bonding with another living soul.”

    “Any complaints?”

    “Not really, no. The men seem perfectly content with their new toys. And the women are happy to be rid of all the creepy little gremlins lurking about their ankles, waiting to catch a glimpse of something she never intended to show them in the first place.”

    “Well as much as I do love playing with these fantastic breasts, I can’t help but feel this might be a little wrong.”

    “Of course it’s wrong, Mr. Customer. There are those who spend their entire lives struggling to better themselves for the sake of finding love, or to become the woman they always knew they were on the inside. But here you and I are, men who have crafted a facade – a sexual fiction and image that exists solely to placate our uncouth, uninhibited animal urges at the expense of any tattered shred of respect for women.”

    “Sounds like that might upset a lot of women.”

    “Quite a few actually. But if any of my clients had the first clue about women, or what they thought about or felt, they wouldn’t come to me, now would they?”

    “Well, when you put it that way…”

    “I did.”

    “Right. Well. I guess a test drive couldn’t hurt.”

    “Wonderful! Would you like to wear this one out, then?”

    “Actually. Do you have anything in a ‘bisexual-open-to-a-threesome?'”