Check out A Scenic Route, where Kirsten created a wonderful encounter with her muse and characters, a virtual Q and A with the illusive spirits that haunt all artists. I was so inspired by this post I wanted to get to know my own muse better. It turns out, in spite of his surly behavior and arrogant demeanor, he does have a heart.
My fingers froze on the keys, so I scrambled for a pen. The ink was dry, so I snatched a pencil. The lead snapped, so I sat still, gazing at the paper, experiencing a blazing total eclipse of creativity.
Four dry months had passed and I resisted the impulse – the desperate need – to contact my muse. Everyone knows mere humans cannot summon a muse, but I called him all the same. I fantasized about him at work, and I dreamed of him at night. But, like a lover who won’t return your text, he was silent. I tried the usual ritual muse-luring activities: deleting the remaining clutter of my novel, The Spear, from the virtual desktop and swiping the real desktop with a Pledge drenched paper towel. Obsessive cleaning gave way to desolation. I was helpless in the grip of a four-alarm literary apocalypse.
Finally, he appeared.
Juan Reyes, intergalactic combat videographer, stood by the french doors opening to our deck. The warmth of the day faded with the lowering sun, and I squinted to see his face in the expanding dusk. Orange clouds fading into purple sky framed his rugged profile. How out of place he looked in such a beautiful setting. Juan’s most familiar haunts were streets crowded with ragged soldiers and refugees, sordid back alley bars, or noisy parties filled with greedy politicians.
Of course, he saw me lurking nearby. After you die a violent death, are you senses heightened? Maybe.
During his last scene in The Spear, Juan died instantly under the backwash of a flamethrower. His beautiful features were lost in fire as his clothes smoked and withered from his body.
But here, with me, he was still as handsome as an Aztec-priest, his dreadlocks swirling around his shoulders as he turned to me. His fatigue pants, boots, and tunic were intact except for a few scorch marks and a single bullet hole over his left chest pocket. His face was shadowed, but I could see the flash of a smile as he fished a cigarette from the side pouch of his camera bag and lit it with a flame dancing on the end of his fingertip. I couldn’t smell the smoke, but I remembered the fragrance.
Horrified, I blurted, “Juan! You’re smoking!”
He laughed – a cozy masculine chuckle. “I’m dead. It’s the perfect time to start a bad habit!” He inhaled, sighing with pleasure. “I should’ve enjoyed these when I was alive to taste them.”
Leaning in the doorway, he watched me. Hesitantly, I stepped toward him and he held up his hand, palm out. “You can only talk to me. I’m no longer part of the corporeal world, so if you try to touch me, I’ll disappear.”
I whispered, “I’m so pissed at you, Juan.”
“You’re pissed? You killed me, remember?”
“Where in hell have you been, Juan? Dammit, I made you my muse!”
“Yes, I know,” he said. “My death was central to the plot, but I hope you understand as a murdered character technically I owe you nothing.” He was preening like a cat, teasing me, just out of reach. “I know I had to die, but I still don’t like it,” Juan continued. For the first time, emotion crept into his voice. “Your plot made sense, of course. I’d been striving for thirty years to duplicate my original moment of glory so just when I made the perfect shot – boom! Lights out.”
He shrugged and gestured toward me with his cigarette. “What was it you said about me in your Flat Line blog?”
“‘He was just too hot to live,’” I muttered. “You were a goner from the first page. But, you were so useful, such a wonderful foil for naïve Varla and the other women who loved you.” I knew without looking he was smiling again, white teeth brightening his copper skin. Vain even in death.
My muse beamed. “Yes, they did love me. In spite of all my misfortunes, I never lost my touch.”
In spite of his warning, I stepped closer. “Juan, what would you change in the novel, aside from your death?”
He thought for a moment and I closed my eyes, waiting in the cool night breeze for his answer.
“Just a few things. Jef and Varla should become lovers before the second chapter. This was a romance novel, remember? It’s supposed to be fun – not like real life, with all the tedious emotional bargaining. Also, I would like Ishana sent with me in a blaze of glory. I miss her.” He sounded lonely, so I turned away. Let him have his pride and privacy.
The sun was long gone, and faint stars rotated above the horizon. I couldn’t see him now, but I knew he was close by.
“I want you to come back, Juan. My mind is blank; I’m paralyzed.”
Sudden irritation tinged his voice. “Look, you’re not the only needy writer in limbo. You’ve turned me into a damned literary Santa Clause, running my ass all over the world, bestowing blessed gifts of inspiration on you burn outs.”
“You really are pissed, aren’t you?”
He shrugged and flicked the cigarette onto the deck. Its tiny coal winked out on the trex.
“What can I do to appease you – to make you love me again?” I asked.
“Give me one more night with Ishana!”
“That’s all it would take?” I grinned. “I could write that. For you.”
A moment passed before he said, “You wrote a good first novel, kid, and I’m proud of you. But, there are rules. Even if I wanted to, I can’t show up just because you whistle.”
I sighed. “What if I beg, plead, and grovel? I will, you know.”
“Hell, don’t do that. I hate women who beg.” He lit another cigarette. “Listen, you know how this works. I don’t appear until you are ready. You’re just too tired now, but it won’t always be this way. You have my permission to play with words, enjoy sending out queries and swat at rejections like some word-wielding King Kong. Whatever you do, do not stop writing. Promise me.”
In a wink of starlight, he was gone. The faintest whiff of cigarette smoke tingled my nose.
“I promise,” I whispered. No matter what, I knew he would always have my back.
What does your muse want from you?
Photo credit: DVIDSHUB / Foter.com / CC BY
Photo credit: Defence Images / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND