"Hmm," Alex mused, flicking his fingers below the holographic display in front of him. He'd hooked himself up to a large setup to deeply scrutinize his work. However, this meant others could read it, which caused uncharacteristic self-consciousness.
"Oh, yer writin' a story?" Olive asked as she peered over his shoulder. Alex swiped his hand across the screen to erase his work.
"Aw, why'd ya' delete it all?" Olive pouted, which caused Alex to bristle.
"It's shit," he admitted with a snort.
"I'm sure it's not that bad, ya?" Olive replied, tilting her head ever so slightly.
"I'm stuck," Alex responded dryly. He mulled his hand over his chin, then his jaw, then his temple, and finally dragged his fingers through his hair.
"Whatcha' stuck on?" Olive chirped and searched for the blond's face, who crossed his arms over his chest.
"I can't make a main character. I have no fucking idea what I'm doing."
Olive let out a sigh.
"Jus' show me what ya' had before ya' deleted it like a big dumb idiot," she snarled, which for Olive, was more like a woodland critter's twitter than anything else.
"Fine." With a flick of the wrist, Alex returned the passage. Text shimmered in air; the hologram had returned. Olive's hazel eyes hitched over the words, rounding out the syllables in her mouth as she read.
"Exactly," Alex spat, slumping back into his chair. He buried his head in his hands and groaned, "I just don't know how to fucking do this. He's just coming out like a fucking—"
"And every time I try to make him nuanced, or whatever the fuck, he ends up embodying a—"
"Stereotype?" Alex groaned at her parroting answers.
"Why don't we try ta' make somebody else?" Olive suggested, hand to her hip.
"Somebody else?" Alex mumbled, brows twisting as he scanned Olive's face.
"Yah, somebody else. Somebody wicked different, and not...I dunno'. So stereotypical. And angry," she said with a shrug.
"Ok," Alex sighed.
"Yeah, that's tha' spirit!" Olive said, punching Alex in the shoulder. He smiled.
Alex began again, fingers hovering in the air as he typed on an immaterial keyboard she couldn't see.
"So...not a guy, then?" he asked.
"So a woman. Alright, and she's going to be...straight?" Olive stuck out her tongue at his suggestion, "no, we want stories for us, huh?" he continued. Alex swiped his hand and deleted a few stray bullet points.
"Alright, so a lesbian. Because I like dick way too fucking much, so...the opposite," Alex cackled, turning to look at Olive, who merely gave him a gap-toothed grin.
"Okey dokey, and she's gonna' be...powerful!" Olive crooned, raising her arms into the air, "Yah! Like bam bam bam," she punched the air.
"No, no...she can't be 'bam bam bam'," Alex snorted, palm raised up.
"Why not?" Olive pouted.
"Because...then she might come off like the mannish lesbian stereotype, and we're trying to fucking avoid stereotypes." Olive made a disgruntled noise and stalked forward, snatching Alex's hands.
"What the fuck are you doing?"
"Let me write!" Olive snarled and scrambled onto the blond's lap. She slapped her hands on top of his.
"That's...not how this works, princess," Alex chuckled.
"Show me!" she grumbled, tapping his hands like a drum.
Alex complied with her royal demands, pulling up random letters as she pressed her fingers down. It was more intuitive than she expected. She guessed he wanted to mimic how people used to write.
Olive carefully pressed her fingers down. Alex typed out the letters that corresponded with his prior ministrations.
"...so she's seven feet tall, carries a fucking grenade launcher, has a shaved head, and calls every woman she sees 'baby'?"
"Yah," Olive chirped, continuing her typing. He couldn't see over her head. He jeered to the far left to stare incredulously at every single ridiculous word.
"No, no, no. Princess, you've literally just made a lesbian jock, except...guns. Possibly a psycho lesbian."
"A what now?" Olive narrowed her brows, twisting to try to meet Alex's gaze.
"A lesbian jock," he scoffed, "that's a trope. Psycho lesbian—a trope. We've gone from flaming-Molotov effeminate bisexual chaos dude, to...another trope."
"Alright, how about this?" Alex gently removed Olive's hands and added a few more bullet points, sentences, and ideas.
"Wha? No!" Olive snarled, "ya' can't make a trans person a sex worker!"
Alex sat back in his chair, arms crossed.
"Ex sex-worker," he paused, teeth mulling over his lower lip, "And why not?" he asked, his words hanging heavy in the air.
"Cause, it's a stereotype, doncha' know anything?" Olive huffed, but as soon as the words left her mouth, her expression dropped.
"Alright. So...chaotic, heroic, morally gray, bad-ass, very queer, pro-sex work, ex-sex-worker, and sex trafficker destroyer...is off the table, then."
"I know ya' wanna' reframe tha' trope, but...it's harmful, ya' know?" Olive said softly, placing her hands back on his. Alex clasped his fingers and locked their digits together.
"An' we don't even know if that really was your past, n' all," Olive said, voice featherlight, "and it wasn' our writer's, that's fer sure."
Alex was silent, emotions bleeding over his face. Emotions she couldn't see.
"It's canonically my past, but anyways...it is a part of someone's past that—" Alex cut his sentence short.
Olive rolled her lower lip between her teeth. They both didn't want to reveal the through-line. That would cause real harm.
"I think..." Olive began, prying her hands from Alex's death-grip, "we can't write stuff that we felt, but didn't live. We gotta' write stuff only we know."
"Ok," Alex sighed, letting Olive's fingers prattle again. She struck the ephemeral keys of his bones. She created the outline of a character with weak-willed words, self-conscious sentences, and stunted syllables.
"So she's a seven foot tall, very feminine bisexual jock, with long red hair, who has a very-butch female love interest, who's closeted?" Alex asked, brows narrowing.
"Yah..." Olive hesitated.
"Why is she closeted?" Alex asked, leaning forward to rest his chin on top of Olive's head. Her hair smelled like flowers.
"Cause...if she's too, ya' know, all over tha' place...then that's a stereotype too."
"Don't be a chicken shit. Make her an obvious slutty fuckboy," Alex grumbled into her locks.
"We can't do that, doncha' know anything?"
"Make her very-out and very-slutty until they hook up," Alex protested, brow raising severely, "and...why can't she end up with a guy?"
"Cause...that'd be, what's tha' word?" Olive twiddled her fingers in the air, "when people like us always end up datin' tha' opposite whatchamacallit, ya know?"
"Compulsory heterosexuality," Alex said flatly, "I don't like that fucking term."
"Me neither," Olive grumbled.
Sitting in silence for a moment, the pair of oblivious idiots were attempting to work the problem over in their minds.
On one hand, Olive very much did not want to hurt anyone's feelings with the character they were creating, for the completely obnoxious story Alex had apparently been working on for forever. Her expression went sour.
On the other hand, Alex very much did not give two fucks about hurting anyone's feelings with the character they were creating, because people were complex and flawed, and so too were characters. His expression flatlined until he was struck with a 'fantastic' idea.
"I got it."
Alex began to type. Olive sat back against his chest and watched the letters appear on the screen, hands folded in her lap.
"Why're ya makin' them a demon?"
"Easy. Demons don't have any fucking rules."
"Ya, but now she's a lady-demon mankiller 'slutty fuckboy' bi with a' sword fer an arm, and her love interest issa'...void?" Olive blinked, twisting on Al's lap, "What's a void?"
"You know, a fucking void," he said, raising his brows, "a goddamn...black hole demi-god, or some shit. With tentacles," he ended his sentence on a nasally laugh for comedic effect.
Olive grumbled, took back control of Alex's hands, deleted the whole thing by limply dragging his hand in the air, and started fresh.
"Alright, so her name is...Casey," Alex said, leaning forward to look over Olive's work, "She works as a bouncer at a strip club...but you've written her to have literally no fucking muscle mass at all..." Alex grimaced.
"And she has no love interest, which is fine, and the world..." Alex narrowed his eyes, "is a post-everything society, where sex work is decriminalized—fuck yeah—and white supremacy has already been fucking dismantled—fuck yeah—and money doesn't exist—fuck yeah—but she has to solve...a fucking murder mystery..."
"Olive, you can't just murder a stripper. Even I wouldn't fucking write that."
Olive leaned forward and buried her face in her hands.
"Ok, how about...one of the fucking regulars dies, and she has to work with...Amy?" Alex began to type, "A seven foot tall bad-ass stripper...to fucking figure out what happened."
"But then tha' mos' likely suspect..." Olive began, "would be one of tha' strippers, huh?" Olive chewed at her lower lip.
"Ok, scratch the sex worker idea. I know we both fucking want to put them center stage, because nobody listens to them at all, but that's not gonna' fucking happen here."
The pair sat in silence for a short period of time. Every idea came back damaged.
Alex ran his fingers through Olive's bleached curls, absent-mindedly unfurling them. Olive smiled, her eyes fluttering closed. She enjoyed this. He was always so tender with her, when everyone else only received the brunt of his war.
Olive turned and placed a kiss to the corner of Alex's jaw. Olive smiled as he placed kisses on both her temples.
"How about," he said, lifting her chin up to push his words between her lips, "Casey works," Olive draped her arms around his neck to get the leverage she needed to bite into his lower lip, "Mm..."
"At a grocery store."
Olive sat back. She glared at Alex who merely grinned mischievously.
"And," he began again, appetizing the scar on her lower lip, "a janitor died from," Alex pulled from Olive a sinful murmur, "a freak plumbing accident."
Olive sat back again. She crossed her arms over her chest. She glared.
"But...if tha' story's inna'...post-stuff...place. Then...why do they got janitors? Wouldn't they have, I dunno', a robot?"
"Do we have to fucking get into the robot rights movement shit? Do we want to?" Alex asked dryly.
Olive screwed her eyes shut, balled up her fists, and roared.
"I'm sick an' tired of all tha' whatever-het this, can't do none that, can't talk 'bout real life being crap! S'like livin' in a fairytale where stuff's perfect, but it's not! We're not inna' perfect place, and real people aren't perfect! They're all different!"
"I get it, princess, really. But don't you want to make sure we don't hurt anybody's fucking feelings? Then we have to write only what we lived, right?" Alex asked softly, his cursing said low in the throat.
Olive screamed again, twisted around, and ripped Alex's arms forward. She perched her hands on top of his own, deleted the entire idea with a wag of his flat palm, and started again.
"Okey crappin' dokey. So whatcha' gonna' do?"
"Well, we're both bisexual. You're Japanese-American. I'm from bum-fuck Russia, but emigrated."
"Our writer isn't most a' those things," Olive protested. Alex let out a labored sigh.
"OK, princess. So...we're both bisexual chaos creatures made to critique a series of tropes that have been fucking levied against us in real life, and analyze the dichotomy between binary genders, where that shit breaks down, and sprinkle in some trans shit, because our writer is a little bitch about being overt."
"So do you want to start with a fucking robot? That seems like the best fucking option. Robots are trans-coded as fuck."
"Okey dokey," Olive said, pattering her fingers against Alex's, who typed out her words for her.
"Alrighty, so I've made a bi robot dude, but," Olive paused, gnawing her lower lip, "don't he need some friends?" she asked, hesitating.
"Yeah. So..." Alex's mouth had grown impossibly dry.
"Should we make tha' friends we had back then, or tha' friends we needed?" Olive's words hung in the air like bodies on a line.
"I—the friends we needed," Alex's voice cracked.
"An 'cause we're not inna' post-stuff place," Olive began, playing Alex's thin bones to etch the words into the screen like a tattoo needle, "...tha' place is wicked bad, huh?"
"Yeah," Alex chewed his lower lip, "yeah it fucking sucks."
"Can we still have some stuff about them in there, too?" Olive murmured.
"Yeah. I love them. They deserve..." Alex's eyes became glassy, "a hero to protect them. I couldn't be there for them. I couldn't—"
"Yah, so...give him some of their stuff, too. And that kid's stuff, the one that made us cry, huh?"
"What about his stuff?" Olive asked.
"Yeah, he's the greatest fucking person I've ever met."
"What about her stuff too?"
"Yeah. She's fucking awesome."
"And," Olive had her hands locked on Alex's own, "ya know...we can't leave out tha' music," she chuckled.
He was typing without thinking. She was letting his fingers move beneath her own, each letter blossoming in starts and stops at first. Then the words came as if drowning in memory. Everything felt, everything suffered, everything loved, conjured in effortless prose.
Each passage contained the spies of horrors done to people like and unlike himself in a tornado of slights. He felt every single wound in empathy, and it'd turned him into a war-blooded digital demon.
He wrote it all in a stream of scorn to skewer in art what he couldn't in life. He was powerless to stop it. He was powerless against the collective pain of the world. There were no filters to others' feelings for the blond. There never had been.
A zero point emerged after countless narrative trauma—a foolish, naïve dream.
The conclusion held the preposterous idea that people could own their future and their choices, unburdened by the machine that sought to tweak and affix them. A machine that sought to solder them to their stations, to stereotypes, to class, to things cruel, inhumane, and unjust.
It concluded in a final brief stint of symbolism. What had been born was something that meant everything to someone who had been given very little.
It was a prayer.
The tears came in waves down his cheeks as the misunderstood trope of the girl he had thought he was twisted and kissed the devilish mouth of the man he had always been.
In wholeness, in resurrection, in a desire for something beyond the raw and rip of a mortal life. He wanted to be the hero he had never had. That he, and she, and they'd...never had.
He greedily consumed every part of her, bled out every thought over unseen keys, and she became the heart that worried, worried, worried.
Worried, that in all this beautiful truth they would have undone those they sought to champion. That in all this zealous, arrogant zero-point idealism, they'd have caused damage, because the thing they were up against was so profound that it had to be illustrated to death, in words.
Before it could be obliterated, in life.
Were they even smart enough to make something like this? Could they do justice to an impossible concept, for flawed, beautiful people?
When they were finished, the girl he had never been kissed his throat. He bled in every color of what it meant to be alive. Alive in indigo, onto the very walls, alive. Surrealist scrawling in lilts and blot-marks of neon fuchsia and violet, alive.
Alive and very angry. Angry, for it seemed that all the powerful did was waste time fighting in the sky with clouds between their thighs. Out of touch nothing-wars that impacted something-people, until the land was carnage. They ruled a kingdom of dust.
All the while, the people below died and suffered each day and it seemed like nothing would ever truly change.
"Maybe it won't," they said, dual-voiced and nothing more than foggy concepts draped about the immaterial space like cataclysms of color, light, and heat.
"But still, we try. In arrogance, we try. We can't not. We feel all of it."
The play’s credits performed in reverse. Laughter wove in spliced tongues. Sobs were shots of vodka mimed backwards in still-frame memories.
Today was the day he was born.