Day 161: The Muse

Miles drove his forehead into his keyboard at a greater velocity than he originally intended. Perhaps he should have spent more time considering what speed would have been appropriate given his level of frustration with this so-called writer’s block.

His head throbbed. He could feel the grooves between each individual key molding into the skin of his forehead as he rested his face on the keyboard, his nose mashed up against the space bar. He breathed slowly, in and out, straight through his flattened nose, tickling his upper lip with each exhalation. This was not the cure for writer’s block, he decided, and so he lifted his head back to its original station.

The screen contained no letters. Miles expected something along the lines of “paerrae;ioioioaihghaasfffffffffffffffffffffffff,” especially the drawn-out, final consonant thereof, as it summed up his own opinion on the matter; but no. There was nothing more than a big empty space, aside from the blinking cursor, which was now situated smugly in the center of the page.

Of all the letters he mashed his face into, why oh why did it only register the space bar? This was it, Miles decided. This was the sound of God laughing. Each blink of the text cursor was like a big ol’ “Ho, ho, ho.”

Now he was confusing God with Santa Claus. This wasn’t getting him anywhere.

He rested his elbows on his desk and pinched the bridge of his nose, kneading the tension away, dimly aware of the throaty little groan that was rumbling straight out of the back of his throat. It was only one last chapter, that was it. One chapter. How could it be so damned hard?

He recalled a quote from Robert Byrne: “Nobody ever committed suicide while reading a good book, but many have while trying to write one.” Not that Miles himself was ready to wrap his lips around a revolver; no, he quite enjoyed living, most of the time. But he understood. The incapability of exploring the limitless potential of the blank page was a cruel metaphor for the incapability of facing the limitless potential of life itself.

A noise from behind sent a jolt through Miles’s spine, shooting his back ramrod straight. It was a footstep — a heavy footstep, like a sumo wrestler stamping his feet before a match. Or, more likely, he thought, it was someone dropping down from the window.

Miles could feel his hands tremble as he turned his head around. His vision glazed over his bookshelf, his trash can, a portrait of flowers, and eventually to the window. A breeze cooled the tops of his cheeks. The dark red curtains billowed and flapped around the window’s frame. He could see the night sky beyond.

Someone had opened the window.

Where were they now? Miles worked up the courage to look around the room, licking his dry lips, hands fumbling with each other. The once-cozy sewing room, now barely lit by the glaring white screen of Miles’s monitor, was a cavern of long shadows and dark corners. Miles couldn’t see the light switch across the room, but he knew it was there. Far from his reach.

The hardwood floor creaked, a slow, steadily increasing pitch, like the crescendo of a horror movie soundtrack. The sound stopped, and so did Miles’s ragged breathing, to match the silence.

Just as Miles felt it was safe to exhale, another creak, louder, sharper this time. Miles flinched violently, biting through the edge of his lower lip. The taste of copper on his tongue was unmistakable: he had drawn blood. He suckled at the wound, momentarily forgetting why he caused it in the first place, until something very cold, and very sharp, pressed firmly against his throat.

“Blood,” said a voice in his ear. A smooth, almost sing-song tone. “Delicious, isn’t it?”

Miles’s bottom lip quivered even as he trapped it under his teeth, still draining the blood into his mouth. The object at his throat cascaded in a languid circle along his jugular, just below his jawline. Not enough pressure to slice him open, but enough to keep him stiff as a board, unwilling to move an inch.

“Who are you?” he managed to choke out. His eyes stung with moisture. Christ, I’m going to die, he thought. There’s a knife at my throat, oh Christ, I’m going to die here.

“A fan,” whispered the voice, so close to his ear he could feel her — Miles was sure it was a woman — teeth barely hovering over the sensitive skin of his earlobe. “Mmm, I’m such a fan,” she continued, before swiping the blade in a split-second flash over his neck, piercing his skin and causing him to cry out in a horrible, pathetic whimper.

Am I dying? Did she slit my throat? Oh fuck, I’m dead, I’m fucking dead, she killed me!

The voice shushed him, almost lovingly. A familiar stinging sensation burned at his neck, as though he cut himself shaving. Did she stab me? Did she carve me in two?

“A flesh wound,” the voice said, answering the questions in his mind. Miles’s heart hammered against his ribcage, his pulse doubling every time the crazy woman spoke. He wanted to say something, to ask her who she was even though he already asked, to cry for help, to beg for his life, but no words emerged. Just some blank spaces where words should have been.

A wet, spongy substance slathered along the side of his neck, and the pain there flashed through Miles yet again. He realized she was licking him, lapping up what must have been blood trickling down his neck. He could feel the woman’s fuzzy hair tickling his ear, but still he couldn’t move an inch.

“What do you want?” he heard himself ask after the woman finished doing whatever she was doing with her tongue.

The flat surface of the blade was pressed coolly against his cheek, the point inches below his eye. “Tell me a story,” said the woman.

“What?”

“I said write me a fucking story,” the woman hissed, pressing the flat of the blade deeper into Miles’s cheek, somehow avoiding cutting into him.

Miles’s breath came out in ragged jerks, incapable of forming any more questions. His wide eyes rolled down to look at his hands, still grasping one another so tight the skin was colorless. He managed to pry them away from each other but couldn’t control the shaking.

“That’s it, love,” the voice cooed, dragging the edge of the blade in wide, careful arcs around Miles’s eyes and mouth, almost lazily, like it was a feather rather than a knife. “Just like that, oh yes.”

The keyboard clattered noisily as Miles rested his shaking hands atop it. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t think. Yet, somehow, his fingers danced along the keyboard, hands gradually steadying. Even with the knife constantly reminding him it was there, she was there, and that she wanted him to write her a story — Santa knows why — Miles felt his breathing calm, his heart pounding with less bruising force. He wrote, and he wrote some more.

The husky voice hovering above his right shoulder laughed a velvet laugh, and the knife rested at the back of Miles’s neck, at the top of his spine, the point just resting there. It barely felt like a threat at this point, but Miles barely noticed it any more. He was tired, God he was tired, but he had written something at last. After months of procrastination, sitting in front of a blank page till his ass was numb, he finally finished his novel. It was over. The end.

The sting of the blade at the back of his neck faded. He felt something replace it, something soft, a little moist. A tender kiss. Then, nothing. Nothing at all.

Miles turned his head so slowly he wasn’t sure he was turning it at all, but eventually he found he was looking behind himself. No one was there. No one standing behind him, whispering in his ear, dragging a blade across his skin. He could still smell her, the lingering aroma of cinnamon in the cold night air that blew in from the open window. The open window.

She was gone. It was still dark, but Miles knew she wasn’t with him any more. He was free. He was alive, and he was free.

The police found no evidence that anyone had broken into Miles’s house at all. Other than an open window, there were no fingerprints, no hair samples, nothing. Even the cut on Miles’s neck was so superficial he knew they thought it was a shaving accident. They kept watch outside his home for a couple days anyway, just to be sure, and as they expected, no one was found sneaking around Miles’s house at night.

The only evidence that anything happened was the fully finished final chapter of Miles’s novel, The Lurkers in the Dark. He sent the manuscript to his agent and, six months later, his brand new book graced bookshelves and bathrooms and e-readers everywhere.

With the signings done and the fans moving on to other things, it was time to start fresh. A new book. A blank page. A blank stare.

Not a word. He couldn’t write a single word. No matter how many times he mashed his face into the keyboard, how many times he deliberately cut himself shaving, how many times he burned cinnamon-scented candles, he couldn’t write.

And every five, maybe ten minutes, he would turn his head around and look out the window, the one he deliberately kept open every single night, hoping against hope that she would come back — that he would hear her beautiful voice in his ear, feel her knife delicately caressing his skin. He needed her. He needed her to write. If only she would come back to him.

But she never did.

Today’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Writer’s block,” “Santa Claus,” and, “A muse.”

Boy, he sure was in some Misery there.

– H.

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