As I was drifting off the sleep, I was jolted awake with the realization that I had yet to post this story, despite having written it over a week ago. I’m not going to say much more than enjoy this, the twentieth story of my accountability project. Six more to go.
He Doubts his Muse
Jonathan Fredrickson watched the orgy dispassionately from the chair at his desk. The events, now occurring almost daily in his 19th floor suite, had long lost his interest. They weren’t for him, anymore, and he knew that. They were Cali’s. While the participants had come to him through his success; from the connections he’d made on Broadway and in Hollywood, the true admirers of his art, and from the hangers-on who wanted to bask in his reflected glory. All of which he owed to Cali, and these displays had her at the center. She continued to bring him success after success, however, and no matter how much he might have wanted things to go back to normal, or at least back to the days when it was just him and her, he had become addicted to success and recognition.
They still did come for him, first, with Cali drawing energy from their admiration. He also wasn’t precluded from the scene that unfolded before him, night after night. His creative energy fed Cali; she just needed a little something else that he could no longer give on his own, but that his success could deliver to her.
That, and he had suspected something else. He kept a growing list of missing and forgotten people carefully locked in his desk drawer. Julianne’s name had been the first on the list, but it had grown. It was no longer something he could ignore. He had initially added a name to the list only every once-in-a-while, but it had become far more common now. People coming to the parties, going off with Cali privately at some point, and vanishing shortly thereafter. They ceased to exist both physically and, it seemed, in the memories of the people who knew and loved them. Somehow, they were erased from existence, and somehow, Cali was doing it.
As the pile of sensual, naked flesh writhed before him, he caught Cali’s eyes. She smiled, and his hesitancy nearly melted away. Those eyes told him that no matter whose hands caressed her body, she was his. It wriggled in his mind like a worm, hooking into his perception, trying to make him ignore any misgivings. He almost gave in; almost decided that whatever the cost was, that he would continue to pay it. He had sealed his fate years ago, and he was already in for the proverbial pound.
Still, he watched from the fringes, and wondered. Wondered what Cali was. Wondered what awaited him when he faced his damnation.
That night, unlike others before it, he exerted his will over his cowardice. While the orgy continued, he slipped into the bedroom that was more Cali’s than his, entered the spacious closet, and hid among rows of high-priced dresses.
Tonight, he would witness the deal he made with the devil firsthand.
* * * *
As expected, after the sounds of the Bacchanalia subsided, he heard Cali and two others enter the bedroom. Someone giggled, a woman not Cali, and someone else—a man’s voice—weakly claimed to be “too tired” for anything more.
“Oh,” Cali said, “I’m sure you can find the energy for a little more.” There was more giggling from the unidentified woman, and the sound of impassioned kissing. Moments later, the soft moans of pleasure started. Jonathan fought against his own arousal, noticing that the desire to be drawn out of the closet was tangible. Without being aware, he had pressed his hand to the closet door and was about to open it and join in, before he stopped himself.
As the sounds of pleasure grew to a crescendo, the need to be a part of it grew stronger. In that closet, he could believe that Cali was standing beside him, pressing against him. He wanted, more than anything, to be in that room—in that bed—but it was, surprisingly, her voice whispered in his ear that stopped him.
“Not yet,” she breathed. “You want to see the price of your success, what your art has brought about, and I shall grant that; but wait for just another moment.” The noises in the room rose, louder and louder, as the participants experienced wave after wave of pleasure, giving into it again and again.
Soon, the screams of ecstasy became screams of terror.
“Now, my little artist,” Cali’s voice whispered, “now you can see.”
He walked out of the closet.
* * * *
Cali’s two partners, barely recognizable as a man and a woman, were subsuming into Cali’s porous body. Missions of small holes created a honeycomb like pattern across her body. From some of those holes, what appeared to be small eyes peered out, and the melting, oozing bodies of the man and woman were being drawn into the rest. They were melting, stretching out like putty, and separating into small strands as they were taken in to Cali, or the thing that she was (is?). Their screams had turned to odd, unhuman moans as their faces were pulled toward her, elongating their features into exaggerated, plastic masks. The man was fully devoured first, but as the woman’s misshapen head was torn into spaghetti noodles and slurped into Cali, she managed one barely understandable “help me” before she ceased to exist.
With the feasting at an end, Jonathan finally was able to turn away. He retched, then, his sick seeping into the carpeting, causing a second round of heaves.
“It was time for you to see it, Jonathan,” Cali said. He look up instinctively, expecting to see more horror, but instead, saw Cali, her skin smooth and unblemished on the disheveled bed. “You had to know by now that I wasn’t human.”
“But what are you,” he managed, bile on his breath.
“That’s not what…”
“What a Muse is? Jonathan, I am exactly what a Muse is. I can’t help that your kind romanticized me and my siblings. If the earliest artists and poets and musicians hadn’t made us look like this, the pinnacle of human beauty, no one would call upon us. We’d have all starved millennia ago. The eons that passed without human creativity were very bad years for us; none of us want to go back to that.”
“Starved?” Jonathan asked. “If you feed ff creativity, what the Hell was that?”
“You don’t get all your food from animals, right? You eat vegetables, too. Same difference.”
“…were sacrifices. Your success requires great amount of energy. All this,” she gestures to the luxurious furnishings, “has to come from somewhere.”
“If I had known…”
She shrugged, “You were starving for your art the same way we were starving for artists. Before there were even primitive humans who we could push to draw on cave walls.”
“I can leave. You can live the rest of your life off the success you accumulated. Not everyone can turn our inspiration into success. Van Gogh died a pauper, but he was satisfied with his legacy being grand.” She got off the bed and slinked to him. He recoiled at her touch. “Is that what you want?”
“I don’t even have to kill you anymore. We used to have to when we were done, but the Age of Reason has very good to our kind.” She smiled, sadly. “A thousand years ago, talk of monsters masquerading as woman started so many ugly witch hunts. Now? Now they’ll say the fame finally got to you, and you snapped. Call you ‘crazy.’ Write you off as another sad, broken artist and leave you to die in obscurity. Meanwhile, I’ll find a new poet, and the world will turn.”
Cali walked to the bedroom door. “You get to make a choice. I can walk through this door, or I can stay on this side and close it, and we can go to bed.” She stood on the threshold, expectantly. Jonathan looked at her and sighed.
Cali smiled again, and gently closed the bedroom door.