Novels

Muse 3

January 4, 2016

Turkeys*

Dragons and Dreams

Leon watched Mia consume the two baskets of strawberries with hums of appreciation coming in between mouthfuls. She offered to share them with him but he refused, enjoying her love for the sweet fruit. For reasons he couldn’t explain, he had no appetite for strawberries or anything else.

He had become accustomed to her appearance and found the ensemble rather homey. Though she was relaxed about nudity, she didn’t flaunt it as a come-on, like a woman trying to flirt. Of course he had to remind himself that she really wasn’t a woman. Eating strawberries and taking hot baths appeared to be sensations a human might have. Leon would have to ask her how all of it was possible.

The strawberries consumed, Mia settled into a chair by the window claiming to watch things in the night Leon could not. Small creatures moved about, their nocturnal quest for food pushing them out of their burrows. There were other things too, creatures that did not have names; only Mia could see those.

“Do you know what the problem is with humans?” she offered. “Nobody ever really looks beyond their noses. Out there, the world is teaming with life, stories of every kind and people just want to know what’s on TV.”

“You could say the same thing for books,” added Leon. “There are so many distractions to bother picking up a book. Instant entertainment, that’s what people want. Soon writers will be a thing of the past, replaced by cheap hackers putting out mindless crap to watch.”

 

Silence grew between them as she continued to watch outside while he scrutinized her from across the room. His offer to let her have the bed was turned down one more time, Leon opting to crawl in bed and collapse and leave chivalry to the mortals in stories. The day had drained him not because of the many hours of driving but because there were more questions than answers to his present circumstances.

He was asleep and beginning to dream, his dreams about his books and the characters in them coming to life. They were as real to him as any person might be, though no one was like any of them. It was the beauty of being a writer, able to fabricate a fictitious man or woman, injecting a personality that set them aside from the norm. Most people had nothing interesting in their lives; gadgets and technology took the place of real life, acquisitions and the quest for them, overriding important aspects of living. He’d seen that over and over when he worked at the computer store, the latest this or that capable of doing more things than the buyer could possibly imagine or discover.

His dream took him to one non-human character, Drago, a dragon who fought evil in the land, pitting himself against other dragons, some more powerful than he. The constant battle of good against evil was his reoccurring theme in his stories, a dead end when he tried to come up with something new. Kids liked reading about dragons and creepy creatures good and bad. Where will he have to look to write the next story?

His dream drifted from dragons to Meg and Sara, both women seductive, pretty and attentive to his need, though different in many ways. Meg expressed her desire to reconnect the relationship, be with him as it was before. Leon wouldn’t hesitate a second to dive back into what they had, the promise of a life together. Deep down, he knew it was never destined to be; Meg was a happy episode that ended when he turned the page. He had to accept that and move on to what?

Sara was aggressive and persuasive when it came to their sexual bouts, screwing being a major part of the relationship in the beginning, slowing to intermittent quickies when she deemed it necessary to keep her hold on him. She regressed to that form to keep him writing the schlock she wanted, while he hoped to produce the great American novel. He wasn’t stupid; he knew she was using him to better herself in the publishing business; it was like swimming with barracuda, which eyed you as potential lunch. She could be ruthless in her demands for him to produce.

In his comatose condition, sex thoughts toyed with him, his dream taking on an erotic fever. He replayed the memories of his girlfriends past, some of the earlier ones never submitting to sex but others willing to experiment in the back seat of the car, a secluded place in the woods or a dorm room. Once out of school and the dorm, most of these young women continued to seek sexual satisfaction elsewhere, their fickle behavior not allowing a permanent guy to take root. In all honesty, he hadn’t sought out a special person either.

During his job at the computer store, women complained about downloading speeds and not enough sex in the same breath; one wasn’t fast enough, while the other was too quick. Up grading the computer was simple; slowing down a woman’s lover was not in his department. A few one or two-night stands resulted; some of the women hoped to find love, eventually discovering their need for that component was not fed by Leon.

He got tired of the late night drinking and the meaningless sexual games. Leon enjoyed the physical pleasure it offered but found a lack of satisfaction relationship wise. That was until he met Meg. She set off the fireworks and the ringing bells, everything he wanted and then some. Those sweet memories of her came flooding back making restful sleep difficult. Their love was enveloped with every waking moment, boredom never a problem.

His failure with her had also been his success as a considerate human being. She supported his writing as he bolstered her career. Meg and he were both givers, a problem at times when one sacrificed their own happiness. Through generosity and some degree of stupidity, Leon encouraged Meg to seek out her chosen profession, leaving him with no one.

 

Stirring in the morning hours he felt the faint warmth of a body next to him, soft, shapely, a woman without doubt. His dream must not be over yet, he thought, though there was definite tactile contact he could not deny. His erection was pressing up against this mystery body, the animal in him, not wanting to open his eyes. The other body rolled over to face him, the morning still too dark to make out details clearly.

“Mmm! I see we had a nice dream last night,” said Mia. “I always wondered what it would be like to wake up with one of those jabbing me in the back. Do women really like that? Authors write about such stuff, quite independent from my coaching; that’s an area I’m not as well versed in. Now I understand all those marvelous adjectives they use.”

For a brief second Leon was enjoying the contact too much to pull away. He recognized the voice but didn’t want it to be true. How could it be true? He was sure there was nothing in the muse handbook about this. Lust was winning out as he swung himself on top Mia prepared to do what comes naturally, at least in instances like this. He was about to lunge when an inner voice commanded him to stop.

“What the fuck am I doing!” he exclaimed pulling back.

“Well, up to this point, nothing,” she answered. “I’m curious what it would be like.”

“Huh? When did you get in the bed?”

“I slid in a few hours ago,” she answered. “It was boring and I thought it might be fun to just hang out here; you snore and talk in your sleep.”

“Let’s backtrack to the part about what it would be like. You’ve never done it, had sex?”

“When you were thinking about the manual a second ago, you were right,” she countered. “Sex is not in the handbook; it’s pretty much a no-no in the manual. We get close to our assignments but really aren’t supposed to get involved sexually; we lose objectivity. I suppose if I had sex with you, I’d be relegated to women artists after that.”

Her comments were made in such a way that Leon was stunned by how cool she was about the matter. Sex was no more exotic than taking a bath or eating strawberries, just another experience. He felt sad for her; passion was the glue that made things happen in life, especially in writing. Sex was not a perfunctory activity but an expression of deep emotional connection; it had been so with Meg.

“I’m sorry if I compromised you,” replied Leon. “There are some things I just can’t help.”

“Don’t worry; you’re not the first man to get worked up in front of me. I worked with a talented, crazy German composer once who insisted he could only be inspired if I let him take my body,” she continued. “He complained that I was a little skinny for him but he would make the sacrifice; he liked women who were quite large. I thought about it but decided he was having enough trouble with his symphony without wasting time fooling around. And there was the rule against it. The symphony turned out great but he didn’t make very much money, no composer did in that time.”

“Never?”

“Nope, never.”

Leon’s arousal was still embarrassingly apparent, he, forgetting he was still standing, facing her. She wasn’t helping matters since all the covers had been thrown off the bed when he got up, her gorgeous nakedness threatening to make matters worse if that was possible.”

“I was dreaming, sorry,” he offered as an excuse.

“I know you were,” she replied. “Did those women really enjoy sex?”

“Maybe, I think so,” he answered. “A few of them were probably lying when they said it was good. Women do that to make men feel good about it.”

“Sounds odd. You’d think they’d want to be honest so they wouldn’t have to do it again.”

“That’s not how it works, Mia. Some women will say anything to get a man to stick around. A lot of the time sex is part of the preamble to a longer relationship.”

“Sara is faking, you know,” she announced. “She’s really not interested in marrying you, just getting what she wants. That man, Mr. Schutz is her target. And she’s faking it with him too, tells him he’s the best. Why is she saying that?”

“The has money and that’s the only way she can ensure her position in the company. See! I was right.”

“That was nice but we better get going,” said Mia. “We have a long way to go today. I already packed your suitcase. You should have brought more socks and underwear.”

 

Road to Nowhere In Particular

“You know Mama, that man in number nine was a strange fella,” said Roy. “Kept talkin’ to himself and sayin’ he was writin’. I watched him leave this morning talkin’ up a storm; there’s something unnatural about that.

“Shut up Roy and wrap those Danish up with plastic,” returned Mama. “We’ll stick ‘em in the freezer for the next bunch of folks or have them for supper tonight.”

 

“Where to now?” asked Leon. “North, south, east or west?”

“Keep going in any direction as long as we don’t go back to the city,” answered Mia. “I have an idea about your next experience.”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to just tell me what to write; then I could sit down and get it done instead driving all over hell and creation being eaten by bugs. Did you know that there were mosquitos in our cabin last night; I got bitten several times?”

“They didn’t bother me,” she replied.

“Yeah, and that’s because you’re not real,” he retorted. “Like a ghost.”

“I felt real enough to you this morning,” she said with a hint of a smile. “I’d like to say it was fun but it wasn’t meant to be.”

“Don’t get off the subject,” said Leon. “Like I said, just tell me what to write,.”

“I can’t do that,” she answered. “That’s not the way it works with a muse; we don’t correct grammar either. We can’t tell you what to write, only stimulate what is already in your head. We’re like a key that opens the ideas you haven’t put on paper yet. Presently, you’re just too much of a mess to see it.”

There was silence for many miles, Leon anxious, disturbed with the lack of direction. Mia knew what sort of plot was in him; it was not her place to bring it up, at least not yet. She would have to intervene if he didn’t snap out of it.

“Go there!” she instructed, pointing at a weathered sign that said Tule Lake Road. It wasn’t much a road as a track of dirt, gravel and rocks.

Without a word he turned the car down the narrow unpaved road, Leon at a loss what they would find. A quarter of a mile later the road turned into powdery dirt with gravel ruts, the low spots giving the impression water had filled them on a rainy day, perhaps a small stream by the look of it. Touch and go they lurched between rut and rock; in a few places the rental car threatened to get stuck, not designed for rough roads, the bottom scraping every so often on the gravel beneath.

“I hope we don’t get trapped here,” said Leon. “The road gets any worse and this car will get stuck for sure.”

“A little farther and we’ll be there, Leon. Where’s your sense of adventure? I saw it in your writing before but it seems to be missing now.”

The road ended in a stand of pine trees mixed with other broad leaf trees growing beside. The area wasn’t paved or graded, pine needles and dead branches forming a barricade where they had to finally stop. From this vantage point there was no lake in sight only a narrow footpath leading away from the open area, a cloud of fine gray dust settling once the car was shut down.

“Are you sure this is where we need to be? It looks like nobody has been here in months.”

“Yes, this is the place,” she returned.

Mia put her hand on one of the trees feeling the sticky pitch on her fingers. She turned it over several time examining the substance in fascination.

“You really shouldn’t touch that,” said Leon. “Pine pitch is impossible to wash off; you got to use some kind of solvent, which stinks like hell. And we don’t have any with us.”

“Isn’t it amazing how pitch like this can be buried for thousands of years and turn into amber?” she said pulling off another glob of pitch. “Just think of how this could be a beautiful stone some day.”

“Yeah, and just think how sticky you’re going to be until we can buy something to get it off,” he countered.

“I never thought much about jewelry before,” she pondered. “Nice in a way, a little like taking a hot bath, only visual.”

“Please,” demanded Leon. “Let’s do whatever it is we are supposed to do. I’ll buy you something to stare at in the next town we go to, if that’s what you want.”

“What I want?” she replied studying the pitch on her fingers. “I’m not supposed to want anything; my job as a muse is about doing things for others, though some of them are a real pain.”

She wiped her hand back on the tree; miraculously, the pitch did not stick to her hands as he had warned. He put the tip of his finger on the glob thinking it might be different than what he knew about. Nope, it was still very sticky leaving a tiny patch of pitch on his finger.

 

Of course, she wouldn’t have trouble with it, he thought. She’s not real. She is part of my over active imagination, my ticket to the nut house. But the car is real and this trip is very real, the fucking mosquito bites itch like crazy. And her? God, she felt real this morning, too much so.

 

They followed the footpath that led downhill through the woods, the scent of pine dizzying, wild birds making a racket. The path almost disappeared several times, the tree debris making it difficult to see which way to go. Mia never hesitated, moving with purpose to what appeared to be the right way. She stopped holding up one finger.

“Listen,” she instructed.

“I don’t hear anything, except the damn birds.”

“No, listen closely.”

Another sound came out of the woods, a trickling sound, water dancing over rocks.

“We’re close,” she added.

The stream appeared a second later, small, but pooling in places where water plants grew in the calm. Leon had never seen such a beautiful place, magical in its own right. He stopped, unable to move on until he had taken the whole scene in, every small detail building a memory to transfer in words.

“Not yet Leon. We need to keep going.”

“This Tule Lake must be one hell of a walk from where we parked the car,” he commented hurrying along to catch up to her. “Wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of people didn’t come here.”

“Exactly,” she responded. “We’re not going to Tule Lake anyhow. The trail to the lake was far to our left. We’re going another place that no one knows about.”

“Are you kidding? Every square inch of this country is mapped and recorded; it can be found with GPS,” he returned. “How could they miss this place?”

She stopped for a second, contemplating an idea.

“You have your cell phone?” she said.

“Yeah, so?”

“Check your GPS and see what it says.”

He did as she asked struggling to find the application for GPS; Sara insisted he buy a phone with all this junk on it though he never used it.

“Something’s wrong with this thing,” he complained. “It keeps giving me a code that says unknown. I must be using it incorrectly or the thing is busted.”

“It’s working perfectly fine,” reported Mia.

The stroll became a very long walk as they wove through thick woods that almost didn’t look like they belonged in this part of the world. Huge ferns were everywhere and moss surrounded tree on all sides. The old hint about moss growing on the north side of the tree did not work in this part of the woods. Leon felt a sense of anxiety stepping into a place with no designation on his GPS. The device was strange enough though he knew many depended entirely on its accuracy.

“I’m not sure this is safe,” he mumbled. “There could be bears or something dangerous.

“Relax,” she said. “Nothing is going to hurt you or eat you.”

Another mile or so, he could hear water again, louder this time. It was coming from a different direction than the stream they’d passed. The trail narrowed to almost nothing when he felt a fine mist dotting his face, the noise growing louder as they moved closer to the sound. Leon wasn’t exactly nature boy when it came to the outdoors but was sure the surroundings didn’t belong in this part of the country.

Mia never tired, moving with uncommon grace while Leon questioned his sanity; coming to this place with a strange, possibly crazy woman was equally loony. His feet hurt and he was still not convinced the outing would help anything except to feed mosquitos. Believing this woman was a muse posed another question as to his mental stability.

Mia pointed. “Go down there,” she instructed, stopping short. “I’ll wait here for you.”

He started to object but she flashed a look that conveyed, no argument acceptable.

 

I’ve come this far, he thought. I may as well see what the hell she wants me to see, a waterfall by the sound; I can feel it.

 

At first glance he saw a turquoise pool of water with a path opening up to a waterfall coming from between rocks overhead. In the beginning he could see nothing special about the place other than its raw beauty and remoteness. Turning to go back he was assaulted by a dragonfly diving toward his face its wings beating angrily at the intrusion. Dodging he squatted down to avoid the insect only to discover several more roosting on a branch to his left.

They were strange creatures, not really dragonflies but something different. These dragonflies had tiny faces like what one might expect to see if one was seeking fairies. Tinkerbelle came to mind, though the insects revealed a body like any insect might.

The dragonfly dove at him again as if to warn him to go no further.

“Hey wait!” he shouted. “I’m not going to mess with you bugs. My muse sent me here, if you can imagine anything as crazy as that.”

The dragonfly hovered a few inches from his face deciding whether to continue its attack or back off.

“Honest!” added Leon. “I’m just passing through; not going to hurt any of you.”

That appeared to placate the insect, sending it back to the branch with the others, clicking sounds of communications passing between them.

“Cute aren’t they?” said Mia moving silently towards him. “They’re mostly concerned about you eating their food. It only grows in this part of the woods.”

“What the fuck are they?” questioned Leon.

“Now, now, no bad language,” warned Mia. “These little ones are very sensitive to abusive language.”

“Sensitive?” snorted Leon. “By the sound of them they don’t have any idea what I’m saying.”

“The Ooni-ooni are telepathic, Leon. If you stop being so hardheaded you might be able to hear what they are saying.”

“Okay, now it’s time to freak out,” announced Leon. “You slipped me some kind of drug or something. This is all a hallucination, right?”

“Maybe,” she returned, playfully leaning on a tree in the path. “You might think about the three books you wrote and what your next book might be about. There could be a story with the Banashki and the Ooni-ooni you hadn’t thought of. Shut your eyes for a few minutes and listen.”

The clicking sounds from the insects changed until he could understand what they were saying.

“The Banashki steal our food,” said an unknown voice. “We have to keep them away or our species will die.”

Without words coming from his lips he answered, “The Banashki aren’t real. They’re just something I made up for my books.”

“They are real,” said the tiny voice. “They are stupid but work very hard and they want our food for their home in the ground.”

“How did you know they lived in the ground?” he answered with a laugh. “You read my book on the sly and didn’t tell me? You said something to them Mia.”

“I beg your pardon,” she returned. “I didn’t lie when I told you I’d never read any of your books; it also isn’t a lie that I can see what’s in your mind too. It’s a simple matter for a muse. We have to know who we are working with or we are useless. Tolstoy was a challenge and extremely boring.”

“You were a muse for Tolstoy?”

“No but I knew the muse and read his book,” she answered.

Leon closed his eyes, visions rather than words entered his brain. The Ooni-ooni showed him what he had imagined about the Banashki, their humped backs carrying loads of food to their deep dark den. The Banashki couldn’t see very well relying on sense of smell to guide them to their burrows. These small opossum sized creatures were continually worried about the end of the world, humans and other creatures threatening to destroy it with their mindless activities.

“This place?” he questioned. “Is this also an illusion or does it exist; or am I going crazy?”

“Are you a religious man, Leon?” began Mia. “I mean not the going to church kind of person but believing in something like a Supreme Being?”

“I thought you could read my mind,” he responded, pleased she didn’t know.

“We’re not supposed to interfere with that aspect of an artist,” she reported. “Some very brilliant people are atheists, though deep down they do believe in something.”

“I never gave it much thought,” he answered. “I guess I believe in something since I don’t have all the answers in life. My parents were churchgoers; they went to different churches, neither of them objected to the others practice. I kind of fell in the middle of that somewhere.”

“I ask that because things happen for a reason, even the bad things,” she continued. “When we dream or are awake everything we experience becomes a message for living. Your dry spell in writing is because you stopped seeing the obvious and tried to rely on used-up information.”

“Odd way to put it,” he said.

“Who was your heroine in your stories?”

“Salina, why?”

“Wasn’t she really Meg, only made to look different in your stories? Think about it before you answer.”

She was right about Meg being the model for his main character. He made her beautiful and an object of love to his readers. He nodded in agreement.

“You started having problems when Meg was no longer in your story, you wrote her out after she left,” she added. “Sara wasn’t the same and your ideas dried up when Meg left. And no, Sara couldn’t take her place, not really.”

“I just ran out of ideas,” answered Leon. “Salina was over with in the third book. I can’t bring her back.”

“Just like you can’t bring Meg back, right?”

“Yeah.”

“There’s one more thing you didn’t realize.”

“What, pray tell is that, Mia.”

“What was the last letter you received from Meg?”

“She usually calls and it’s been a few months since then; I don’t remember any letter.”

“How about her engagement announcement?’

“Oh yeah, that, a doctor or something like that, wants me to come to meet him before they get hitched.”

She didn’t have to say anything; now he realized what was crippling him, though he didn’t want to admit it. He wanted Meg back but loved her enough to want her happiness, even if it was without him.

“It’s time to build the story around something else, the Banashki or Ooni-ooni,” said Mia. “Don’t let a failed relationship stop what you started.”

“Then tell me what to write; that’s what you do, right?”

The look on Mia’s face revealed defeat, a sadness Leon had not seen before now. She shook her head from side to side unable to say what he wanted to hear. He still didn’t understand what her purpose was.

Walking to the water’s edge she put one foot, then the other into the turquoise pool, the waterfall mist saturating her thin shift. Her ad expression was replace by one of sheer contentment.

“You should come in,” she suggested. “The water is truly magical, quite cozy and the weather is warm.”

With a twist and flick of the wrist she tossed aside the clothes she had been wearing, immersing her entire unsheathed body into the pool. Leon thought he should look away when she did this but was entranced by her beauty. Unable to turn away he watched as the clear water rolled over her shoulders, slipping passed her buttocks creating a small wake in the pool. It was a pity Mia wasn’t real, what real woman could compare.

She had been right about everything; he’d been cooped up too long and preoccupied with Meg’s announcement to let his creativity find another path. He was stuck on her and needed to find a focus elsewhere. Sara? No, Sara gave him nothing, not one iota of inspiration. She was his agent and part time sex partner, nothing more and according to Mia, the sex object of the publisher too.

Mia swam in the turquoise pool, the droplets glittering as her arms moved through the water, the aroma of flowers turning the place into a Garden of Eden. She stood in the chest deep water, her pouting lips beckoning him to join her. He seriously thought about it. What was the sense of sharing anything with an entity that would leave when she was finished with him, no matter how beautiful she may be? He was battling an impulse, which wasn’t anything the muse knew about; Mia was not Meg. He was foolish to anticipate Mia’s departure but what else could she offer him?

Feeling worse instead of better, he wanted to ask more about these insect type creatures, which until today were fictional.

“You, Ooni-ooni, how is it, you can communicate so well when you have such tiny brains?” he ventured insensitively. “I don’t mean to offend, I assume you have a small brain.”

Their familiar voice came back into his head, answering. “We are not like the creatures of this world,” they answered. “We are a collective; our knowledge and communication is as one, rather than the individual. Our survival is based on what each one of us knows and is combined into a thought or deed, not unlike human brain cells. Each of us stores a small bit and channel through one another.”

“If this isn’t my imagination, where did you come from?” asked Leon. “I’m feeling like everything that’s happened lately is crazy.”

“We can’t divulge our origins,” the collective answered. “That would violate the collective in a world far removed from here. In essence, we do not exist here, not to humans, that is.”

He wanted to ask more but sensed they did not want to share any details. As strange as it might be, he knew their silence was their only safety in this place.

Leon looked across the pool spying Mia resting bare on a carpet of green moss covering the bank. The woman, or whatever she was, painted a portrait of perfect womanhood, one, he would not forget soon. She didn’t look at him only stared at the water as if searching for an answer of some sort, beneath the glistening wet surface. She was beautiful and he was hesitant to break her spell, if that’s what it was.

“I think we should go back soon,” he called to her. “Will be tricky to find our way when it gets darker.”

She didn’t look at him, toying with her toe in the water, concentric circles growing wider as they moved to the opposite side of the pool. He was sure she had heard him but didn’t want to shout across this peaceful scene a second time. It felt like a church, a place where quiet was the order and devotion a necessity.

“I’ll walk up the trail a few feet and let you get dressed,” he managed to call out. Leon turned taking three or four steps hoping she would follow shortly. When he turned back to where she had been the whole scene was different, minus the Ooni-ooni and the beautiful turquoise pond. True, there was water there but pretty ordinary and slightly muddy when compared with what had been there a few minutes before.

He turned back to the edge where Mia’s clothes had been but there was nothing there. No footprints or evidence of strange creatures lingered about. He called out several times without answer. It was as if this was all nothing but a dream folding in on itself, disappearing into the recesses of his imagination.

Leon stared at the body of water for and hour before he decided to try to find his way back. Though he hadn’t paid much attention getting there, he was reminded of a rock or tree here and there setting him on the right course back to the car. The rental car was covered in a fine dust but untouched by anyone who might have passed by. As he slipped into the driver’s seat, he decided he hallucinated this entire episode. Turning the key he looked to his right and saw something bright and red on the passenger’s seat, a red hair, Mia’s red hair.

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