A Muse of Stars – A Short Story

imagesThe lights had started to flicker weeks ago.

He hadn’t paid them any mind; he lived in an older building, it was bound to happen from time to time. Then, as the lights to flicker on a more regular basis, he began to worry. Every time he came into his apartment, the lights would work fine for a second or two. He would wait, however; he knew what was coming.

He had lights in the kitchen, living room, bedroom. Whether he had turned the light on or not, it began to flicker. This would go on for a few moments and then  the clocks began to reset themselves.

His alarm clock, his coffee machine, the clock on his microwave, his VCR. The clocks weren’t reset to simple zero’s. They flashed random letters at him. He would watch all the clocks, looking for some sense in the words, but none would come to him.

Then his stereo would cut out in the middle of a song, his television in the middle  of a movie. The phone was useless, being a cordless. He’d had to go out and buy a rotery phone as anything involving electricity wouldn’t function for long.

The only object that worked was his laptop. He would open it every morning and click open his word processor. It would sit there like a blank eye, looking at him, waiting; and every day it was the same thing: he couldn’t write a thing.

His agent, Susannah Cursewell, was trying to be supportive, but she was loosing her patience. “Berkus, I don’t why you’re blocked, but you have to break down the wall. It’s been three years.”

“I know how long it’s been.”

He was talking to her on a payphone and it was long distance. He kept feeding it quarters. Talking to Susannah cost him a fortune in change every week.

“So why the silence? Your first few books were New York Times best sellers,  all of them stayed at the number one spot for months! And don’t get me started about your last book! You won all the major awards and got worldwide acclaim! Anything you write will sell millions of copies, it doesn’t matter what you write, Berkus! They’ll buy anything you write!”

“I have to write when the words are there and they haven’t been.”

“Look, Berkus. I know you creative types. You have to find your Muse at the bottom of the well. I’ve seen it before.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The well, the well! You know, all you writers are supposed to have a creative well? And a Muse? Someone that guides you and inspires you. Don’t all writers have a voice or voices in their head?”

“You’re making me sound like a lunatic.”

“Not at all, I just know that’s how creative people like you think, how you operate. Me? I’m creative, but don’t have the passion you creative types do. I like money, so I get creative, but that’s all. You, well, you have something in you.”

“Then what do I do?” Berkus asked.

“Honey, you do what you used to do: break down that fucking wall, and find your Muse. All you have to do is look for her. And for fuck sakes, fixt your god damned electrical problem, would you? I want to call you at home like a regular person, not wait for your call like you’re a fucking spy.”

Berkus didn’t think it was that simple. He thought about the wall he would have to break down. The only problem was that he hadn’t known he was building it in the first place. By the time the wall was in place, the last brick in its spot, it was too late.

How did you break down a wall you couldn’t see? How did you go about finding a Muse that had left you? How did he find the well? These thoughts and more were on his mind as he entered his apartment. He was through the door and had locked it behind him before he realised that anything was wrong.

Berkus turned around and stared in wonder. His apartment was full of light, but it wasn’t coming from the lights or lamps in his apartment. It was coming from a woman sitting in front of his computer.

“What the hell is going on? Who are you?”

The woman turned looked up at him. Berkus was astounded by how she glowed. She was almost too bright to look at. “Hello Berkus, long time no see. And don’t you know who I am? You must know, it hasn’t been that long. Or have you found another?”

Her voice was  like the a fire crackling away, full of warmth and heat. The sound of it filled him with heat he hadn’t experienced since he last wrote. He used to feel the warmth in his fingers after typing for a long stretch of time or a particularly difficult plot point.

“You’re my Muse.” He said.

“Yes, I’m one of them. You can call me Jude.”

“How can you be here? How is this even possible?”

She smiled at him and it was beautiful, like receiving a benediction. “Well, I admit, you’ve been a tricky one. The lights didn’t get you inspired to write. You just lived with them as they were. I even tried sending you messages through your clocks. Weren’t you able to make out the words?”

“No, I couldn’t read them. They moved too quickly and made no sense to me.”

“That’s because you weren’t looking clearly. The words said ‘Believe in yourself’. I thought for sure you would write a story about your VCR talking to you but you just continued to stare at the screen. I realzed that the wall you had built around yourself was very large indeed. So here I am.”

“Don’t I have to go and find you? Break down the wall? Find you in the well?”

“Oh, that’s all symbolism, really. Besides, I broke down your wall for you. If I hadn’t, we’d be waiting forever!” She laughed and the sound was like a fire crackling into a log of wood. Berkus expected to see sparks fly from her mouth. “We couldn’t have that have we? We have lost of writing to do!”

“But I have to find the well!” Berkus said.

“The well is inside you, Berkus. It’s just symbolism. All you have to do it put your fingers to the keyboard and write. You have to climb over the wall to get a look at the vast field of green there, the wide expanses of land waiting to be explored.”

“How do I find it? How do I get over the wall?”

“By conquering your fears and writing despite your fear. What is stopping you?”

Berkus shook his head and began to pace his office. Finally, he faced her again. “I’m afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“My last novel did so well, it won all kinds of awards. What is people expect another book like that from me? What if I can’t do it?”

“Berkus, shouldn’t the fun be in trying? In using your art to discover uncharted territories? You can’t let fear stop you from living your life. You can only try. Write the story you want to write, the one that comes to your fingers. The rest will work itself out in time. You have to write Berkus. It’s as simple as that.”

“I don’t think I know how any more.”

“It’s like riding a bike. You never forget. Now enough of this, here sit down.”

She rose from the desk chair and stood beside it, holding out an arm as if welcoming him to it. “Sit, Berkus.”

He nodded and sat in the chair. It was warm from where she had perched. “What do I do now?”

“Stop over thinking, stop over plotting, let the stories that are in your head out to play on the paper. The well is inside of you Berkus. Let it out.”

Berkus put his fingers to the keyboard and wrote the first words he had written in over three year: The lights had started to flicker weeks ago.

He heard a noise behind him and turned to see Jude with a smile on her face made of flame. “Thank you.” She said.

She grew brighter then and brighter still. Berkus had to cover his eyes for a moment and when he looked again, Jude was gone. Not completely however. His walls were covered in constellations of stars and they shone from the walls of his office as if they were the real thing.

Berkus sat there for a moment, taking it all in. “You’re welcome.” He said.

Then he turned to the keyboard and continued to write under the glow of stars.

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