I feel like I have to edit this post, at least so that I can clarify what, precisely, this is. It is the first part of a story that I am choosing to put “out there” for general consumption. It is part of a greater story that has to do do with muses and inspiration. It is, as is consistent with me, not something with a happy ending. I.e., it will end up dark eventually, just give it time.
He Summons His Muse
The glass shattered against the poster hanging on the wall with a ferocity that would have surprised anyone other than the person who threw it, had there been anyone in the room with John when he let it fly. The bourbon it contained, as expensive a version as John had been able to afford, which wasn’t saying much, ran from the point of impact and down the poster, drawing damp amber tears on the stylized flapper’s face that leered out at him from the poster, forever frozen in time. The gloomy basement apartment, barely lit by only a few electric bulbs and weakly warmed by a stuttering radiator, was a stark contrast to the look of unrestrained, hedonistic joy that had been forever captured by the third-rate poster artist he’d commissioned to promote his one and only successful endeavor.
John put his head in his hands, his bangs spilling over them and dangling there, greasy and slick, his hair (in addition to the rest of him) having gone for days unwashed. He sighed, drawing the breath from somewhere deep within his lungs and letting it out with a full-body shudder. The typewriter on the desk in front of him was stoic and unyielding, presenting a stark-white sheet of paper hiding the ghosts of stories that would, at this rate, never be told. John picked his head up and rubbed at his eyes, bloodshot from too little sleep and too much of that cheap bourbon now puddling on the floor. He stared at the typewriter, looking at it as if hoping to see the words he sought there on the blank page; words that he had yet to write and would likely never write. He cast his gaze back toward the poster he had just defaced, the flapper still enraptured, the booze seeping through the paper, weakening and thinning it to the point of tearing. “The Bandleader’s Muse,” it said in a bold modern font, and below that, “A Play by Johnathan Frederickson.” He sighed again, watching as the liquor stained the paper, disturbed on some level that his poster for his play was now defaced, but unable to summon the will to care.
“Consider those necessary libations for you, oh muse,” he said to the poster with a degree of bitterness that surprised no one. “And give me some fucking inspiration, would you?” he added.
With another sigh, he pushed his damp hair back from his forehead. He shook his head, regarding again the typewriter, and slid his chair out from his desk. He stood, absently pulling the slacked suspenders up over his shoulders. He walked around his desk to the floor in front of the poster, jamming his hands into his wrinkled pants pockets. Shaking his head in defeat, he bent down to the floor to collect the broken shards of glass from his tumbler. The glass, a gift from his closing-night celebration, was one of the last extravagances he owned, and it was now fragmented and scattered across the floor. As he collected the shards, he yelped and yanked his hand back, a sliver of glass embedding itself deep into his palm. The pain only somewhat deadened by the alcohol, he took in the damage the glass caused, a miniscule javelin pressed deeply into the skin. A small piece of it jutted out, exposed above his clammy palm, glinting in the faint light of the room. He raised his hand to his teeth, grasped what he could of the glass knife between them, and pulled. The shard was either deeper or more substantial than he had anticipated, because as he felt it slide out, it brought with it agony. He hissed and spat the shard to the floor as blood welled in his palm, a stark red against the pale white of his skin. He looked at it stupidly as he turned his hand over, watching the rivulet of blood trace a lazy path along his deep palm lines, down his wrist, and underneath the sleeve of his shirt. He swayed, and instinctively reached out to steady himself, pressing his hand to the poster. He pulled his hand away, leaving a red handprint on the neck and scandalously exposed, plunging neckline of the woman.
“Shit,” he managed to mutter, looking from his bloody hand to the poster, unable to process how he had managed to deface his own poster twice now in one evening, with both booze and blood.
Beaten and exhausted from fighting with his writing and his continually slipping sense of self-worth, he turned back to his room and froze.
The woman in his bed stirred, stretching with the languished ease of a housecat awakening in a small square of afternoon sunlight streaming through a bay window. After a long, satisfying reach toward the ceiling, she rose up onto her elbows and looked lazily around the room. Inexplicably, she wore the same outfit as the flapper on the poster, complete with a garish, glittering headband and a loose string of pearls strung around her long neck. The feather nocked in the headband shifted as she took in her surroundings with an otherworldly ease and grace. Finally, after another stretch and a yawn, her eyes locked onto John’s.
“Hey there, Johnny,” she said.
“Uh,” was all that he could manage in reply.
“I get it,” she said, “it’s a little odd for a gentleman to suddenly find a woman in his bed when he was certain that his bed was empty.” She looked at him appraisingly, “Which is a shame, to say the least. You look like a man who should regularly wake up with different women, and I dare say, you shouldn’t be too gentle.”
“You’ll want to know who I am, right?” John’s non-answer was all she needed. “Well,” she continued, “you can call me Callie.”
“Is that short for something?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said, “but what it’s short for is a little too ‘on the nose,’ if you understand.” She followed it with a light tap to her nose with the index finger of her left hand. “Therefore, we can stick with ‘Callie’ for now.”
“You’re right, I don’t understand,” he said.
“You’ll get it later,” she said, taking a second and longer look around the apartment, as if to find some sense of familiarity there. She then sighed, much as John had sighed earlier, before the strange woman—Callie—had appeared in his apartment. “I,” she said, “am your muse.”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Did I… did I drink too much to remember you coming back here?”
“No,” she replied. “Or rather, you may have had too much to drink prior to my coming here, but you finding me here in your bed is not related to that. Give it time, though.” She swung long, olive-skinned legs out from under the moth-eaten sheets and onto the floor. She wiggled her toes as if discovering them for the first time and smiled. “It’s nice to have these again,” she said.
“Feet?” he asked.
“Feet,” she agreed, and flexed her fingers in front of her face. “Fingers. Ears. Eyes.” She looked down the neck of her blouse appraisingly, “breasts. Presumably a pussy.”
“Spare me your false Protestant modesty,” she said. “I know how men think. I’ve known how men think for quite a long time.”
“I…” he stammered.
“Human sexuality is more natural than you care to admit. You have been tainted by centuries of belief that such things are ‘forbidden’ or ‘dirty.’ Where I come from, the human body is nothing at all to be ashamed of. My pussy, your cock and balls.”
“My co— Where do you come from?” John asked.
A coy smile was her only reply.
“You’re not going to tell me?” he asked.
“It’s a bit difficult to explain, Johnny.” She thought about it for a moment. “Let’s just say, as painfully clichéd as it is, that I come from both somewhere deep within you and far away.” She swept her arm dramatically to emphasize some great distance.
“Europe?” He asked.
“You’re not making much sense.”
“You know,” she replied, “back when I was the bee’s knees, I wouldn’t have been questioned quite like this.”
“I really,” he said, “don’t understand what you’re getting at.”
She smiled, halfway between a smirk and a frown. “It doesn’t matter. The thing is, you needed inspiration. I… I inspire.”
“A muse,” he said, repeating her earlier assertion.
“Le Lotto,” she replied. “Or, I guess, ‘bingo.’”
“So, some whore who I found and—” his throat suddenly constricted, cutting him off. She marched close to him as he struggled to breathe, staring with the intensity of an angry predator facing down its cornered prey moments before pouncing.
“Not” she said, angrily, “a whore. And I’ll thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head, John, as we go forward.”
He gasped and choked. She relinquished her stare, and he collapsed to the floor, sucking in a lungful of air.
“Being comfortable with sex does not make me a prostitute who, by the way, would still deserve your respect for the essential services provided. A whore is something different,” she said, leaning down to where he suddenly found himself.
He tried to respond, gagging against the release of the crushing pressure against his windpipe.
“I am your muse,” she said, “and you should treat me as such.”
“What,” John managed to stammer, “does that mean?”
“It means,” she said, her earlier benevolence returning, “that I am here to help you. But you,” she punctuated with a sharp finger, “must respect me. Agreed?”
“That’s an odd demand,” John said, ill-advisedly, “coming from a woman who appears to have shown up in my own bedroom without my foreknowledge or consent.”
She smiled down at him, genuinely. “See, that’s why I like writers. Wit in the face of death. John,” she said, “I’ve been around longer than you know. I’ve been here,” she tapped a slender finger against his forehead, “since you were barely a trickle of your father’s seed on your mother’s thigh.”
“Hey!” John shouted, before Callie raised her hand, halting him.
“We are all, at some point,” she replied, “not but cum dripping out of the cunts of our mothers. It is the way of life.” John flinched at this, turning his head away. With a kindness that belied her previous aggression, she approached and put a gentile hand to his face.
“John,” she said, “please. Don’t find in my visit a reason for fear or mistrust.”
“But,” he replied, “how can’t I? You just… showed up here. I know I didn’t bring you here, but here you are.”
“But you did bring me here, only not in a way that you think you did. I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. Do you know,” she said, “that blood has been a part of the rituals of so many cultures throughout the ages? So much so, that the idea of a blood offering is built into at least one ritual of every major religion. Even the Christians have it, though they substitute wine for blood.” She laughed, distracted. “It amuses me that they are unknowingly giving praise to an entirely different god with that, but” she shrugged, “everyone forgets or ignores the origins of their deeply held beliefs.”
John looked to his bleeding hand and up to the poster where his crimson handprint stood out brightly on the muted colors of the poster. “That… summoned you?”
“Not on its own, no. See, that’s the part that so many of those rituals get wrong. The blood is a symbol of sacrifice. Of the supplicant’s willingness to give of him or herself. Which is why those cultures that sacrifice others or livestock are missing the point, to a degree. The livestock is important, to be sure, but the bleeding of the beasts is incidental to the smoking and offering of the aroma….” She stopped. “But look at me, reminiscing on old times. It’s not the blood or the alcohol on their own that carry the power. It is the speaking of the words that convey the intent and the earnestness of the sacrifice.”
“So,” he said, “when I said the thing about the ‘libations,’ that did it?”
“It was more the ‘give me some fucking inspiration’ that caught my attention. Across the gulf of nothingness and oblivion, the desperation was a beacon in the darkness. That and not many of you call out to me or my sisters these days. Pickings are slim.”
“Your sisters,” he asked.
“The others of the nine. Which, at this point, if you don’t know what I am, I’ll never get through to you. In any event, you called out for inspiration, and I answered.”
“I need to write,” he blurted. “I need more of that,” and he jabbed a finger accusingly at the poster soiled with blood and liquor.
“And you can have more of that,” she said, “with my help.”
“Okay,” he said, rising and quickly moving over to his typewriter. “Okay, then let’s begin.”
She shook her head, “We can’t start with that yet. We haven’t come to an agreement.”
He frowned. “But the blood and the… the words?”
“Those merely called me.”
“Do you need more blood?” he asked. “Because I can open up more wounds for you. I would bleed myself until I was an empty husk if it meant I could write again.” He looked around, finding another knife-like piece of glass, picking it up, and holding it to his palm before she held out a hand to him, stopping him.
“I don’t need more blood,” she said, kindly.
“Then what do you need?” he asked. “Whatever you need, I’ll give it to you.”
“I need,” she said, “adoration.”
“You’ll have it,” he said, desperately.
She moved closer to him. “I need you to venerate me.”
“Of course,” he gasped.
“Give yourself to me.”
“Above all else,” she said as she closed the distance to him, pressing close to him, her lips inches from his. He could feel her breath playing gently across them, carrying a slight hint of ambrosia with it.
“Yes,” he said.
“I need you to worship me.”
“I will,” he managed before pressing his lips against hers.
She sank into his body, pulling away from his kiss just enough to whisper, “then a deal is struck.”