| Elizabeth sat at her computer, quickly becoming flustered. This was her third attempt in as many days to write a short tale of horror for the daily contest, and although for each day she’d been successful in starting a story, she’d been equally unsuccessful finishing them. Her frustration mounting, she abruptly pulled her hands from her computer and sighed.
There was a story that she was writing about bugs. It’d been flowing at a nice clip and had all the requisite elements: a good guy gone bad, a woman in distress, and lots of bugs. The second story was based on a prompt: write a story about someone who talks in their sleep. When she’d finally latched onto an idea, a tale about a little slave boy began to fill her computer screen. The third story was one pulled from her unfinished pile: a ditty about a woman who had to clean up after the holidays. The opening paragraphs had been wonderfully exciting for her to write and had set the scene for a climatic finish—
Except that for the last story and the others, there was no climatic finish. No surprise twist. Only dead space waiting to be filled with…something, but she didn’t know what. And it was making her crazy.
Getting up from the computer, she wandered into the kitchen to look for a snack, her mind filled with storylines that seemed stalled and destined to go nowhere. As she poked through the refrigerator, it occurred to her that her muse had abandoned her. Actually, perhaps not so much abandoned her as she was playing tricks with her. I’ve written three stories in three days, Elizabeth thought to herself, but none of them have an ending. No conclusion at all. What a joke. Some muse I’ve got.
Finding nothing good to eat in the fridge, she closed the door and ambled back to the computer. The problem, she surmised, is that I’m not hungry for food. I’m hungry for words. If I could just finish one story, just one…
She knew that if she could finish even one of the three, she would be elated. Over the moon. Ecstatic. There was a certain kind of magic that came when a story reached a satisfying conclusion, whatever the outcome. She loved it when she finished a story because it simply meant that she’d done it.
She’d written something, and it was as simple as that.
Cursing her muse once again, Elizabeth spoke out loud. “How could you do this to me? I’m almost at the zenith of each of these stories and…where are you? Huh? Where’s my inspiration?”
“Why, I’m right here, Elizabeth.”
Elizabeth jumped at the voice behind her. Whipping around in her chair, she saw the single most beautiful woman she had ever seen in her life. At least seven feet tall, the woman towered before her, but in a non-threatening way. Her skin shone with an ethereal light, casting a soft glow about her. Long dark hair flowed behind her, billowing gently as if the wind was constantly lifting it from her shoulders. Her skin was the color of dark sable, smooth and flawless. Elizabeth raised her eyebrows with wonder.
“You’re my muse? But you’re…you’re black.”
“A muse takes on the attributes of the artist. You’re black, so, so am I.”
“Ah. I guess that explains why you’re also so beautiful.” For a moment, they laughed together and then the muse continued. “You don’t seem surprised to see me.”
“Well, actually,” Elizabeth began, “I’ve been wondering where you were. I’ve been working on these stories for days, and I’ve hit a wall in all three. That doesn’t sound very inspired, does it?”
The muse nodded with understanding. “And so you blame me.”
“Well, you are supposed to inspire me…”
“You only need to look within yourself for inspiration. I’m only here to guide you. You have everything else at your disposal: talent, ability, and imagination.”
Elizabeth crossed her arms over her chest and squinted at the beautiful woman in front of her. “Really? That’s it? Then why are you here? Seems a little dishonest—a little evil—to say you’re here to help me but then don’t, don’t you think? ”
“Oh, my dear, that’s not allowed.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth said, taken aback. “So you do know how those stories could end, but you just won’t tell me, is that it?”
“Do not be so cynical. Close your eyes. Let your mind roam free. The answers you seek will come to you.”
Elizabeth did as she was instructed. Sitting back down in the computer chair, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes. After a little while, much to her surprise, the answer to her problem did present itself. Suddenly, she opened her eyes, opened a new Word document, and began typing at a fast and furious pace.
Her muse, impressed by her quick action, floated closer behind her. “You see, I told you, you only had to…had to…”
Suddenly, the muse gave a strangled cry of pain and dropped to her knees down to the floor. “Aaarrghh!!”
With her fingers continuing to pound on the keys, Elizabeth turned sideways to glance at her muse. “Are you alright?” The document in front of her was filling up faster and faster; she was writing a story at a near perfect pace with almost no error and refused to stop.
“What’s happen…happening?” Before she could say anything else, a huge red stain began to spread across her chest. It was blood. The muse screamed in shock.
“Oh, I’m writing a story about the death of my muse. I realized that by waiting for you to solve all my problems, by depending on you, I was crippling myself. So with the magic of my mighty pen—such as it were—I’ve decided to write you out of my existence, and free my mind to write as I know how. Without you here, I can only help myself.”
“But.. this…is…travesty!” the muse cried. She’d completely toppled over on the floor, and was curling up into herself.
“Probably,” Elizabeth said, coldly. “But so is holding the keys to inspiration.” She looked back one last time to see her muse shriveling and fading to nothing, leaving only a dark stain of blood on the floor.
And when nothing was left of the woman who called herself inspiration, Elizabeth turned back to her original stories and finished them all.