You know AIs can write short stories now?
You mean AI? A gave S a wry look.
Hardly fair of you. A shifted a little in his seat. He had tied the belt he took from his dad’s room a little too high on his gut. You know the brown-ness of church pews? How all consuming they are? How rich and deep the textures in the wood can be? How much time you have spent staring at them? Hey, go ahead, tell me, what about the AIs? S nudged A. Excuse me I’m, he raised his clasped hands from his lap and cast his eyes sideways in sarcastic irritation. Yeah that one isn’t going to work, there’s no one else here
That’s clunky. They could kiss? They are alone in a church, in Rome, in a
red chapel, guts happy and warm with wine and carbon
You’re right, everything is fixed with a kiss. You know how obsessed the
reader is with sex these days.
Greg’s YA vampire shit always sells yeah
No need to call it shit, it pays your bills.
Well it’s hardly true right? S pressed her shoulders against A’s again.
No it is. He looked at her this time. Well, exactly, really, as you say, no it’s not, really true.
Are you clickbait-ing me?
I am Buzzfeeding you.
I’m full already. Her eyelashes were long. Also let’s leave here, the piazza beside our house
is meant to be crazy at night. His hand was warm in hers. Out in the hot night air, they had
begun to talk about ice cream already. There is something about the idea of pistachio gelato
that is completely inescapably seductive. ???.
No so, it’s that there are AI machines that you can feed with the work of a particular author—
No. I think it would need more than one book. And then the AI internalises the writer’s style
and can generate paragraphs of narrative in that writer’s style.
You know much more about Austen than I do, and the article I read showed an Austen
sample, a Rooney sample and an Ishiguro sample. The Rooney one was funny.
What was it like? Suddenly A noticed the lines on S’s face clearer than before. Her character
was tattooed onto her skin in a print so fine only he could read.
Wait. He stopped and kept her hand as she took a few more steps before turning back
towards him. She always knew how to slip inside him, touch his forearms tenderly and
deliberately. Lean into each other and become whole for a second.
Like, I thought the Rooney was a bit gas, quite wrong, and very horny. Do AIs have tendencies to skew horny?
Probably not, S laughed and pulled A into a slow walk again. Their steps made a pleasant echo on the narrow streets. And the Ishiguro?
I don’t remember sorry, I’ll send it to you though. They walked in silence for a moment, a group of drunk teenagers passed loudly by in the opposite direction. How many of them had lied to their parents that evening? Their parents who had bought them those hoodies and jeans. Is the drinking age 16 here?
Yeah. Have you seen Ishiguro’s Nobel speech? She asked.
Yeah, what did you think of the way he talked about writing in it?
Actually wait, can we get back to the point?
Which is that AIs cannot write short stories?
Well, surely that just depends on what one means by ‘short’ and ‘story.’ A laughed.
I think a paragraph is too short for something to be considered a short story.
S wasn’t sure how serious either of them were being. They were happy.
OK, idea police. ACAB, you know? She told him to shut up.
Is the piazza scene “crazy”?
I haven’t read it yet.
You were meant to.
Lauryn forgot to get a babysitter last night so I had to watch the kids and
they weren’t sleeping. I wish she hadn’t raised them on those screens.
Mine are the same don’t worry.
At 4:30 a.m., S woke with a start. Her head was resting in A’s armpit; his smell comforted her. The sheets beneath her body were clammy with sweat. She sat up and felt the damp with her palm. The moonlight was bright through their curtains. The city hummed outside, the air was still hot. The fan hummed inside. A, she whispered. A, she said again. She peeled herself off the bed and took the glass off the hotel nightstand into the bathroom, which was painfully LED. A, she repeated louder once she had a drink and calmed down slightly. Hi, he said meekly, still in a sleep. A, is this a short story? He could hear her breathing now. He sat up slowly now. Why do you ask?
What? What? Her eyes flashed silver in her fear. What? What? I can literally hear the narrative. Silver eyes?
Did an AI write this?
What’s your name?
And yours is A.
Those aren’t real names.
You’re the Author.
Well yes, and so are you in that case.
So you’ve just had sex with yourself?
So have you. And you have been talking to yourself too.
And you have been reading it.
Does it end like that?
No I think there’s another bit, the writer just hasn’t sent it in yet.
Oh. What are you getting for lunch I’m starving. I’m thinking Carluccios, I’ve
been thinking about carbonara all day.
I’ll come with you.
Cool, give me 10 then let’s go.
Actually wait no I have some emails to send for Greg’s thing next week. No worries.
Can you take my order please?
Sure, text it to me.
Ok see you.
What do u want I’m in the line
Do they have the aubergine today?
Maitiú Charleton (he/him/it) is a writer and journalist based in Dublin. He has been published in Icarus Magazine, JAKE, Sweet Tooth Poets, Neuro Mag Lit, The Madrigal Press, and others. Maitiú is the EIC of digi literary journal @thecczine.