This post is kind of a big deal to me. Weird floor numbering aside (I just had to start this in the basement), this is story number 13, which is the beginning of the second half of this little project I started to keep myself writing. Over half a year’s worth of material, for good or ill, is nothing to sneeze at for a guy who went in to therapy not too long ago for depression that was largely fueled by a lack of writing.
As such, this story is going back to the beginning, to tell the next (but I assure you, not last) story of poor Jonathan Fredrickson, who may or may not have summoned an actual muse (if you don’t know who Cali is, then… well, you probably should). Only, there may be something more sinister to this muse than merely inspiring the struggling writer who, as it turns out, may not be struggling much, anymore.
He Makes an Offering to His Muse
John sat on the edge of his bed. It was a large bed; far better than the ratty single bed he’d had when he lived in the building’s basement apartment. On his still-new-to-him 12th floor apartment, the sheets were silk, the pillows soft, and his companion in it as lovely and inspiring as ever. As if she heard his thoughts, Cali stretched awake and rose to a sitting position. The sheets fell from her bare breasts, and as usual, she made no motion to cover them. She draped an arm over John’s and rested her chin on his shoulders.
“Hey there,” she purred. “What’s got your mind all wrapped up?”
“Taking in the view.” He smiled and looked at her naked body.
“You’re cute when you deflect, you know?”
“Yeah?” He sighed. “Truth is, I’m kind of tired.”
“Then come back to bed,” she said, patting the empty space behind him. “If you need more sleep, I’m sure I can wear you out.”
“Not that kind of tired.”
“I know.” She caressed his cheek. “Too much to take in, too fast?”
“That’s it, exactly. I wanted all this,” he gestured to the fancier apartment, the posters for several of his plays, and the short shelf of awards, among other accouterments of the successful writer he had become, “but I thought it would take longer.”
“You need some help, I think.”
“But you are my help. And I’ve got Randolph to handle the business side of things. All I have to do is write, and I’m afraid I’m running on fumes.”
“I can fix that, but if we’re being honest, I need a little help for that, too.”
John chortled. “What do you mean by that? You just being you is all you have to do for me.”
“A girl needs a little more than that,” she said. She swung her long legs over the side of the bed and rose, still not bothering with modesty.
“I worship you… what more could you want?”
Her eyes sparkled. “Funny you should mention ‘worship.’”
“I don’t follow.”
“Being worshiped by you is wonderful. That I can inspire you to the heights you’ve reached fills me with a joy that I can’t describe. You probably could, but for me, the words don’t come.” She strolled around to his side of the bed and sat on his lap, draping her arm around his neck. “That kind of feeling… well, it gets a bit addictive. And, just like you draw inspiration from me, I provide that inspiration because of the pedestal upon which you’ve placed me.” She traced a circle on his chest with a long, delicate finger.
“Okay, so what needs to change.”
“I need more—how did you put it?—worshipers.”
“What does that mean?”
“I can give you so much more inspiration, John. If you think you’re at the top of the world now, just imagine the heights I can propel you to with a little more… juice.”
“I don’t understand.”
She closed her eyes. “Go out there, into the world, and bring more people here. We’ll have a party!” She jumped up, excited.
“I thought we were keeping us a secret.”
“That was then, in the beginning. But I want to have a party.” She pouted at him. “Are you going to deny me, your goddess, a simple party?”
He shook his head. “No. No, of course not.”
She clapped her hands together in glee. “Wonderful! And invite that pretty little thing that answers Randolph’s phone, will you?”
“Julianne? I… I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think she has eyes for me, since she doesn’t know I’m in a relationship.”
“That’s why I want her to come. Consider it… a gift to you.” Cali sauntered back toward John. “After all, I’m asking you to share me with the world. The least I can do is let you share our bed.”
John was taken aback. “What? I’m not going to step out on you.”
“Who said,” she whispered, “I wouldn’t be there, too.”
* * * *
The party was a roaring success. Hangers-on in Johnathan’s orbit were more than happy to finally get to spend time with the reclusive playwright (soon to be screenwriter, as well). Randolph was thrilled to invite not only Julianne, a lithe girl who couldn’t have been a day older than twenty, but others on his staff, and several “very important people in the entertainment industry” (as he conspiratorially put it to John, a little louder than intended thanks to the copious amounts of booze flowing that night). Johnathan was uncomfortable with the festivities, as they were still something outside of his usual comfort zone, but it was Cali who was the star of the night, and he was happy, to a degree, to stay out of the center of attention. He was also jealous of the way the other men would comfortably put a hand on her lower back and stand too close, but he remembered her promise to him. Remembered that she had suggested Julianne come, too, and based on the way she was staring at him, cheeks flushed by her own cocktail, Cali may have been working some magic on the girl, too.
And what magic it had been. The party began to die down at two o’clock in the morning. Guests staggered out of the apartment, leaving half-full glasses behind. Still roaring with merriment all while struggling to stay conscious. Cali had made an excuse to engage Julianne in a lively and flirtatious conversation to keep her there long enough for only the three of them to be left when the door closed at two thirty.
True to her word, Cali had convinced the girl to stay. And true to all expectations, that night was by any definition an awakening for John in more ways than Cali had been before. While the three of them had made love on that bed, Cali had seemed to glow. To John, the glow was too tangible. In his semi-drunken state, clouded by the orgiastic pleasure he was experiencing, he felt that a light was indeed emanating from Cali’s body. The light streamed out through a million tiny holes in her skin. The holes, in a honeycomb pattern, seemed spongy and malleable, and even while light radiated from them, there seemed to be a darkness there, as well. Or perhaps, he though, revulsion trying to fight past the intense physical sensations he was experiencing, light was being drawn into the porous membrane that he skin had become. But before he could think on it further, the culmination of the act of wild and previously forbidden sex sank his consciousness into a blissful blackness of its own.
* * * *
Julianne was gone in the morning. Cali said she didn’t remember when the girl had left, but didn’t seem too bothered by it, though John felt that something was hiding behind her bedroom eyes. He casually caressed her skin and was happy to see that it was whole, and not a sponge of tiny holes. It did, however, seem less pale than it had before.
“It’s true what they say,” she said, again seeming to know his concerns before he voiced them, “about the afterglow.” She kissed him before getting out of bed and sauntering to the bathroom. “We simply must do this again,” she said as she closed the door behind her. In a moment, John heard the water running.
“Yes,” John muttered.
When he called into Randolph’s office that afternoon, an unfamiliar voice picked up and transferred him to Randy. When John asked who the temp was, and if he knew if Julianne made it home safely after the party (stumbling slightly over his words to avoid revealing too much about the evening), Randolph claimed no knowledge of any Julianne. “Catherine,” he replied, “has been answering my calls for years, now. Are you, perhaps, hungover from last night?”
John, concerned, conceded that he may in fact be, and ended the call as quickly as possible.
He turned, worried, as he heard Cali singing to herself in the shower; something melodic and… something old.
Before he did anything else, he grabbed his journal (where he took notes as ideas struck him, which was often these days), turned to a page near the back, and wrote “Julianne?” on the paper.