Slipping into shadow, I focused on Ben’s creative spark and used it as a beacon to guide me to him. I stepped out of the shadows and into his hotel room. “Ben, listen.”
He spun around, dropping the whiskey bottle from the mini-bar. “How the…”
Time for a change of character. I went from Joan Wilder to Seth from his story. “I know you, Ben. You decided to become a writer because you both loved and hated Romancing the Stone. You loved how Joan’s character rallied through the obstacles but hated how she screamed every few minutes, how she had to be constantly rescued. You knew you could do better. And you have.”
Ben backed up against the wall. “This has to be a dream. Or maybe I’m going mad. Happens to a lot of writers.”
I shifted back to Saffus. Ben seemed to find the corduroy jacket reassuring. “That’s why we rarely show ourselves directly to humans. It’s better to talk to you in your day dreams.” I stepped closer to him, caressing his check.
“You mean muses? I thought you were just ideas.”
He looked scared still, but at least he was listening. “I need you to believe, Ben. Lives depend on it.”
It took a few more bottles from the mini-bar and three hours of answering questions to finally convince Ben. At least he was more relaxed now as we sat on the floor. I built a tower out of the full bottles while he juggled the empties.
“Ok, ok. Tell me about those stages again.”
“Stage one is inspiration – you have the best idea in the world. Stage two, you work diligently, buy supplies, and babble to all your friends about how great this is going to be. Stage three is crippling doubt. Sorry about that one, but it nudges people along when they get stuck. Can’t have you damming up the creative flow. Stage four is where you see how to fix it and feel all inspired again. Repeat stages two through four as necessary. Finally, you reach stage five and make the sale. This is important so you’ll move on to the next big idea. If you don’t, then I have to prod you with self-loathing for all your earlier work until you quit resting on your laurels and get back to it.”
“Yeah, about that. Any chance you could lay off on the loathing bit?” He missed a bottle and lost the rhythm of the juggling. Another fell and hit his knee. He managed to catch the third at least.
I grinned at him. “Only if you quit procrastinating.”
He laughed. “Yeah, I’ll get right on that tomorrow.” He took another swig off a whiskey bottle. “What was all that writing stuff down thing about?”
“I live in a potentiality. You, and other artists, shape it. You’re a writer, so I had you write down what we needed. I’d have had you draw it if you’d been an illustrator.”
“Good thing I gave up music. I’d have had to sing it all for you, and I don’t think you’d have liked that.” He leaned back against the bed. “Speaking of shapes, what’s up with the shape-shifting? You know, Sophie, Saffus, Jane, Seth…”
“We take whatever form will inspire you, from a vague whisper from the shadows to full human appearance. It’s just another mask.” My tower was beginning to wobble a bit.
“And you knew I find messy dark hair and green corduroy inspiring.” He smiled lopsidedly and took a bottle of gin off the top of my tower.
“I do.” I leaned in closer. “But I don’t know why.”
“First love.” Ben twisted off the cap. “Long time ago. His eyes were dark brown though and no, you don’t need to change yours. I like blue just fine.” His speech was beginning to slur. He reached up, and I felt his hand brush against my earring. “Do muses ever…”
I didn’t hear the rest of his question. Three Erinyes burst from the shadows, knocking over the tower. One hit Ben in the jaw, knocking him unconscious. His fingers tightened around my earring as he fell. I felt the serpent slither off my ear and caught sight of its tail slipping under his sleeve. I was pulled to my feet, claws ripping through my jacket and digging into my shoulder. The last thing I remembered was red eyes staring deeply into mine, through to my core essence, as I was pulled into the shadows. The Erinyes sang dissonance and pain as I fell into darkness.
Copyright 2011, Kimberley Long-Ewing, all rights reserved