I admit, staring at this figure who could easily have appeared in a fresco or in some 16th century work of art, I was a bit disappointed. That might not seem like one's usual reaction to having their desires granted, to having inspiration incarnate appear before them with apparently minimal effort on their part, but I was still disappointed. This muse of mine was so generic, so expected, right down to flowing robes, the harp-filled voice. Even the androgynee, although I did find that disconcerting.
Out of a muse like this, how was I going to find an original voice? Certainly it was better than the stimulation under which I had found myself musing over erotic scenes, but with a muse like this I found myself expecting something that would more closely resemble Paradise Lost.
That may have been my fault. Perhaps attempting an invocation à la Milton had not been the best idea.
I tilted my head as I inspected this being who had proposed to offer me guidance. Everything perfectly formed, all the proportions correct, absolutely symetrical. Just missing the clear gender markers I found myself longing for. I spent a moment or two lost in thought, contemplating just why it was that I found such a situation so confusing, why I cared whether a person - or being - appeared male or female.
"Ahem." The sound was soft, polite, and yes, musical. Even a throat clearing from this muse had a heavenly sound. I think it was that in particular that made me burst out laughing.
My outburst clearly was not overly welcome and this potential muse of mine slowly looked less and less pleased, the expression growing stormier. "Do you find something amiss?" a rather acerbic tone conveyed. I found myself a bit surprised to hear such a tone come from this being and it brought me up short.
"I... umm.... I'm sorry. I just-" found myself fumbling around for words in the face of the being I had just insulted, the one who could potentially bring me all the creativity I could ever wish for. At the feet of this creature, metaphorically speaking of course, I could become the best possible writer I could be. I quickly schooled my expression and offered my best placating smile.
"I was just surprised. Nervous laughter." A quick half-smile flashed on my face and I hoped it looked as sheepish as I felt. I hoped it would be accepted by the muse as an apology. Ducking my head for a moment, I noticed that even Alleyne's feet were perfect, or at least the toes I could see poking out from under the diaphanous folds of material s/he wore were. "I truly am sorry. It is... nice to meet you Alleyne."
S/he looked at me for a moment, and I had the feeling that this being was well aware of the slash I was inserting in the pronouns, well aware I found this appearance rather discomfiting. There was some amusement there on the face, just a hint that made me think perhaps this muse might be a bit more in tune with me than I had previously thought. Then the face went blank, that sort of expression a person gets when one is all too aware that the concentration is far, far away.
In the next moment the being before me was a young woman, perhaps in her late teens or early twenties, dressed in a pair of perfectly faded jeans and what appeared to be a rather comfortable sweater that still allowed hints as to her gender. Not quite as perfect before. To be honest, I found those imperfections intriguing rather than off-putting. It was amazing how being faced with perfection of face and form could make a person long for signs of human frailty. One eyebrow was just a touch higher than the other, there was a tiny freckle at the left corner of her lips, lips that I found were quirked in a wry expression.
"Oh. Sorry again." I had been staring all too intently at the form the muse had taken.
Laughter ripped outward and I found the voice richer; no longer merely harps, but a tonal orchestra that shivered over my skin. "Quite alright. You had spoken Milton and so I had thought perhaps that was going to be what you were looking for. I admit to being rather pleased it was not. Those robes get rather draughty you know."
Humour lurked in the eyes, although I found I could not quite describe their colour. It seemed to shift as I watched and I felt that if I looked close enough I would see images there, perhaps entire scenes. I leaned forward in my chair, no longer concerned about its ergonomic nature.
She blinked, and I realized I had nearly fallen. "Thanks," I muttered. Powerful stuff this muse of mine was.
"I was not expecting you to be quite so receptive. The fault is mine." There was a brief pause. "There are formalities, you know."
Blinking at the girl before me, I know confusion stole over my face. "Formalities?" What exactly did that mean?
"It means that we need to make a formal agreement just so this is all legal and binding. A contract, if you will, with obligations and duties on both sides." Her eyebrows were arched high, creating tiny little wrinkles in her forehead. I found it rather charming, then shook my head. Formal agreement. Binding contract. Why did this sound familiar, and why was it raising the hair on the back of my neck?
Oh. Right. "You don't work for Satan, do you?" I knew my expression would be comically suspicious, but I could not help it. I knew about Faust, I had seen Bedazzled.
"Nothing like that. Well, I suppose something, but wrong department. Creativity and inspiration of the artistic kind only. The world is, however, a bureaucracy and paper copies need to be signed. In triplicate." As hard as I looked, I could not tell if Alleyne was joking. I had an awful feeling she was not.
She produced a rather large bundle of papers and my eyes widened. I did manage to keep my mouth shut, but it was difficult. That was the contract?
"You may have a day to read it over if you like," she intoned, although it did sound a bit dismissive as though only a fool would look such a gift horse in the mouth. Still, I had watched enough television, read enough books, and I knew that one always needs to read the fine print.
"Yes please," I managed to squeak as she dropped the sheaf of papers into my waiting hands. I nearly let out a grunt as their weight hit me. Only a day to read all this? How was I going to manage? The print was tiny and it looked like it was written in legalese.
Alleyne was looking at me with distinct amusement now. "I will be back tomorrow then, same time. I suppose I should offer a little taste of my abilities." With that she disappeared.
Suddenly I felt it. Them. Ideas running through my brain, nearly enough for an entire, honest-to-goodness chapter of a book. Moreover, they were good! Exactly what I had wanted and I even knew how to express them all perfectly.
I spun quickly around in my chair, fingers easily finding the familiar place on the keyboard, and I began to type, afraid the store of ideas Alleyne had granted me would run dry if I did not get them out fast enough. Frantic clicking and clacking of the keys ensued, the contract forgotten.
As I said before, and will say again, I was foolish.