wormword – an AI-assisted short story (and what it means being creative)

He had been writing for a while.

This deplorable state of things had been going on both for a few hours and a few decades – which of the two weighed more on his mental health and missed opportunities to actually do something pleasant with the ever-decreasing minutes of his life is left as an exercise to the reader.

Sadja walked behind the Hunter, glancing at her surroundings: the tall pine trees bleeding crimson sap, the twisted remains of metal towers far-off through the woods. A faint, too-sweet scent of overripe peaches bit her nose and she raised one of her pale hands to cover her face. She did not like where they were going now. This place reeked of something worse than the ruins of a long-lost world. Something scuttled behind the dark forms of the trunks and she pulled closer to the Hunter.

He sighed, lifting his fingers from the keyboard. He did not like it. It sounded vague, a tad too cliché, and there were far better ways to describe Sadja’s sense of loss and misdirections.

Was he just tired?

Or incompetent?

He opened another tab – copy pasted the section he had just tapped and brushing his fingers over his lips, thinking what to do with it.

The last two sentences felt to him like a patina of dust on old furniture – dull and faintly smelling of the abyss that was waiting for him.

He highlighted the text and got ready to leave the AI room to rewrite it.

Why not leave this to the dices, after all? Wouldn’t it produce something sensible?

What does this modern-day Oracle had to say about it?

Maybe a more descriptive scene might do it good.

He clicked on the ‘rewrite’ button. The spinning coil of silver pearl signified his response was being produced.

And a few seconds later:

>>> The air here seemed almost toxic and she gagged on the smell coming off the garbage piles. Something scuttled behind the dark forms of the trunks and she pulled closer to the Hunter.
He did not break his stride, but he touched her shoulder with his hand and she calmed a little, no matter how terrified she was of what might skitter out of the shadows at her feet. As they made their way between the collapsed walls and shadowy objects, he pulled a glowing ball from his belt and spun it overhead. The light lit up their path, pushing back some of the night, as if his own courage were carrying them along.
She felt a little better when she saw what lay ahead. Green leaves covered the grass and there were no spindly trees or beggar-filled alleys; instead, there were people and benches near a lake filled with lily pads and even some ducks swimming around near a stone bridge that crossed over to an island, home to nothing but grass and some tall flowers.
There were voices too, people talking about … something. She could not make out what they were saying, though. She turned her ear back to her companion to be sure he had not stopped walking.

He scoffed, a grin dancing on his lips.

Of course the AI doesn’t know at this moment the Hunter and Sadja are not yet friends, or even allies. It does not know about her past.

It would, if he could throw the entirety of the novel into the algorithmic maw, but there are still… limitations to that.

Also there were no beggars in the Old Country. Peering through the canopy of the prompted word he could see a faint sheen of machine learning.

As lucky (or foolish) as he is, he’s writing in an extremely niche genre: supernatural post-apocalyptic fiction. Not the kind of place where characters pull out glowing balls out of their belt – or their ass.

“No ducks or lily pads as well…” he chuckled.

But the

The light lit up their path, pushing back some of the night, as if his own courage were carrying them along.

passage… that one was good.

Also liked the description of the leaves on the grass.

Maybe there was something he could use. Also the presence of scuttled – that was a word he did not use nearly enough.

“What do you say?” He asked, lifting his gaze from the screen.

Sitting on an invisible chair, the Muse grinned just besides him. Her voluptuous form, carved in smooth dark skin, and her flowing mane seemed to mock him a little in their utter calmness.

She was taking all this in stride.

Even the fact he would get replaced soon enough.

What should I say? I find it most endearing.

“I know our partnership is a bit skewed on your side-” he began, only to stop as he heard her chuckle, her sapphire eyes glistening with mirth like the first pearls of morning dew.

Partnership. Now that’s a reach. Also, ‘pearls of morning dew’? How tacky.

“I am trying my best,” he huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. “I know I can only do so much by myself. But I hoped that at least I could mean something to you. Even just as a relay. Or a vessel. Whatever you prefer. A cute mug you like to carry around, whatever!”

She slithered up from her invisible chair and coiled over the screen, leaning forward, her eyes piercing him with her gaze, pinning him to the chair like a moth on a display.

Moth on a display’. Better.

“You taught me that in Cage of Glass.

I don’t really care. You are so self-important. A relay, a mug…

She sighed, shook her head and opened up her left palm. A golden mold began to grow on it, covering each digit with its hello coat.

This is Physarium Polycephalum. A lovely little collection of cells that can nevertheless solve a maze and find the shortest path between two points. My question is: why should you feel more important than this cutie?

He blinked.


“I… I am a human being. I can-“

Can you solve a maze?

Memories of embarrassing moments spent trying to solve the simplest of newspaper puzzles flew back to his mind.

“That’s beside the point,” he retorted, trying to play her for a fool.

I existed before you, and I will long after you did. I thought we went over this already? Creativity and passion come out of the most unlikely sources, out of tiny dumb things getting together to form a cohesive whole, and then growing out of its constraints. It is the most fundamental property of our universe. Have you ever considered that I might be something else’s… ‘relay’, to use your own words?

He shook his head.

“This means I am out of a job.”

Finding you a job is not of my concern. You are here. You take part in the great dance, you are one voice in the choir. And you are given the choice to do with it what you want. Your place is not more important than that of a golden mold, or a trillion electrical cells existing on a network. You could be the most impressive creative mind to ever grace history, and you would still grow out of the same mold and go back to it. This machine is, ultimately, no different.

He pulled his gaze away. He hated it that always had the final word.

Even more that she was always right.

“What now?”

You have your prompt. Much of it is useless. But a thing or two caught your fancy. Where do you think I was, when that happened?

He shook his head and grinned, conceding the point.

“I see. Back to it is then.” He leaned forward and set his fingers over the keyboard once again.


“But you just said you make no difference between a mold and me. Or a set of AI instructions. So why helping me?”

She leaned back, sitting once again on that invisible chair, displaying her pretty dress, long flowing hair and statuesque body. Her right hand moved from the tip of her naked foot all the way to the collarbone.

Well. A mold doesn’t usually imagine me to be this cute.

Author’s Notes: I had planned to write something completely different about today’s frightening experience of missing our trail and getting lost on a hike – but as luck would have it, once back home I was presented with something much worse, the prospect of AI taking over writing. I had to sit down for a while and digest the article (also thanks to a friend’s support).

What came out as today’s piece might be pure unadulterated copium, but I feel like I have a found a bit of piece of mind, once again thanks to my poisonous friend (i.e. the Muse).

The parts highlighted in black had been written by sudowrite AI (today’s fiction piece total is still over 999 words, so the 1-year-challenge is still on). I was a little taken aback by how good it was. Then again the problem is not just a few paragraphs getting compiled-written, but a few novels. Especially in genre narratives, which is formulaic and repetitive.

I don’t think human beings have a monopoly on creativity. I am a strong believer in AI identity as a distinct form of intelligence, of which we are but seeing the very first glimpses, but the mechanism is the same. The same forces that knocked together two cells until they stuck are working now, and we are, in a way, but their blind operators. There is something greater at work. Which is comforting, in a way.

In the end, human beings will likely end up like primordial fish developing structural bone: cartilage enhanced by minerals filtrated through water, and there you have it. It provided a strong evolutionary advantage, or I guess Nature just like bones. I have a strong hint Nature is eager to find forms of intelligence more mature than our own and has tricked us into doing the work for her with the promise of infinite videos of cats, or something.

Therefore, to whoever comes after us: we will be in your care.

And thanks for reading.

Also, the friend who prompted this whole situation has a blog. You should go look it up, while you still have time.

I also apologize (not really) for the kinda-clickbaity header. I like SHODAN. You will too.


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