**Click HERE to read Part One**
More dust trickles down from the beams as the monkeys startle at the declaration. My muse’s silence is heavy enough to feel.
“It’s not your fault,” I say hastily, so as not to offer offense. Some of my muses are touchier than others. “And it’s not like I wasn’t creating. I’ve been writing, editing, working on a few drawings here and there.”
I blink. “Say again.”
“You have been there. Here…”
There is a rustling. My muse is on the move. I remain just inside the room, unwilling to bring up the lights, frozen on the edge of a sunlit beam tinted with deep shades of red and blue.
“You have not been here.” It’s hissed in my ear with deadly vehemence.
My yelp bounces into the heights and I leap across the floor, spinning to face the muse. My heart surges in my chest, fluttering, a bird beating its wings against a window as it tries to escape.
I turn my glower on the shadowy form that now stands between me and the door. “Rat bastard.” I am, admittedly, not at my most eloquent when scared spitless.
My nerves jangled, now is a good time to bring up some lights. Just a few: a low blaze in the cavernous fireplace, the sconces beside the door, a few more on the table. Any more than that would reveal too much that I am not prepared to face. My muse remains just outside their reach. Or perhaps inside their reach, but untouchable by the light.
A soft flutter and whoosh of air precede a gentle thud as one of the monkeys drops down to land on the table.
I should give them names. But the very thought is nothing more than a distraction. Something to keep my mind from what I’ve no desire to face. A way to avoid the lurking shadow studying me, judging me. A harsh taskmaster if ever there was one.
The monkey shuffle-hops tentatively in my direction, creating a small landslide of unknown content. I scratch him under his stubbly chin and he leans into the touch, chattering affectionately, wings fanned. Another monkey drops from the beams, several more following suit, taking lower perches. They are close to joining us but not quite brave enough yet. After all, the tension is thick as swirling snow in a blizzard, and just as cold.
I move about the room, running my hands over books and nick-knacks, reacquainting myself with all that I’ve collected here. Dust scatters with my passing and leaves a trail in my wake that compounds the sense of abandonment lingering like a bad odor.
Or maybe that’s coming from the fuzzy plate. I shudder, toss it into the garbage, wipe my hands on my pants.
A stolen glance shows my muse unmoved in any sense of the word.
“How long are you going to keep up the Grim Reaper impersonation?” I ask. “Aren’t you muses supposed to be all supportive and encouraging?”
“Like fairies bobbing about spreading glitter and rainbows?” And if there were any fairies within hearing distance, they no doubt shed their wings and cowered beneath the nearest rock at the venom dripping from those words.
I am nothing close to fairy-like. Still I suppress a shudder and force false bravado into my words. “Yeah. And sparkly unicorns.”
Silence that cannot be ignored, though I do try. I continue to move about the room. It is a casual perusal. A tallying. I can feel the energy left behind by lofty goals and ambitions that somehow fell prey to other forces. I want that energy back. It is so close. Yet something else rises against it every time I draw it near. Pushes it away. Stomps it underfoot like an elephant on an ant.
“You have no idea what it’s like,” I say, without looking up from the appointment calendar still open to September.
Dust flies as I flip it closed, and post-it notes scatter in the resulting breeze. Deadlines missed. Goals unfulfilled. Plans derailed. Scraps of random and hastily jotted scenes and snips of dialog that I watch flutter to the ground.
My muse says nothing. Only lingers in the tail of my eye. A sense of smugness emanating from it.
“You know, it’s not easy, juggling all this.” I face my muse full-on, fists on hips. “You have the easy part. You just sit there and fling ideas at me like monkeys flinging poo.”
That elicits a series of hoots and barks from the assembled minions. They, at least, find humor in the metaphor. My muse? Not so much.
“Keep in mind, I’m not complaining–“
“No? It sounds as such to me. But then, I am nothing more than an ignorant muse.”
“Sensitive to boot, aren’t you?” I mutter, knowing it will be heard. Even my thoughts are heard by this one.
“Would you prefer I leave for a while, Artiste?”
My arm twitches with the barely controlled urge to reach out and smack my muse up alongside the noggin. Then again, it likely feels the same about me.
“Look, I’m trying,” I say.
“You are wallowing.”
“You throw too much at me. I only have so many hours in a day, and every time I turn around you’ve got something new you want me to pay attention to.”
The muse lifts a dark shrouded arm and gestures to the wall behind me. “On the third shelf, beneath a tattered notebook, proof copy of First of Her Kind, and an egg-shaped rock, you will find your dictionary. I believe you require it to look up the definition of ‘complaining’.”
I perk up. “Hey, I’ve been looking for that!”
I snatch the rock from the pile and roll the black-swirled, polished stone in the palm of my hand for a moment before dropping it into my pocket. I ignore the dictionary.
I cannot, it would seem, ignore the hulking specter of my muse.
…to be continued.