After the Muse – One-Shot on the Fear of Writing

This is a familiar unknown.

I have been here many times, never in the same place. It’s a salty sea, not deeper than my ankle. Its mirror surface cracked by my tentative steps, they slosh about sending waves to break the reflection of the stars streaking above.

Some of them are the old-fashioned kind, others are quick like bullets, wheezing through in bright arcs.

It’s dark.

I turn to check behind myself, and there it is: the dancing glow of a lamp. it hangs high, and it seems utterly innocuous. It warm light is so inviting. Makes me feel like I could leave this unseen sea and coil up in thick sheets and dream until I die of forgetfulness.

I gulp and take a few steps away.

Looking down to avoid stumbling, I catch the reflection of the moon upon the tracks that lay just below the skin of the immote sea. These are iron-cast and who knows how long they have been here for. Who knows who set them on the bottom of this endless place, and why they keep crossing over.

I am tired already. It would be so easy to just lay down in the water and wait for the golden light to come and pick me up, to claim me once again. I would then be able to get some rest.

But there is someone ahead I need to meet.

Thus, I stumbled forward, my feet splashing in the low water, stumbling when they catch against the rails. It’s hard to walk like this.

Before I decided to leave the glow, that comfortable lamp, I would not be forced to slumber in darkness. The brightness of the moon is barely enough to see where I can put my next step, and I know that if I ever lost my way, coming back would be a pain.

But. There is.

Someone ahead.

I need to meet.

It did not use to be so hard. Back then, I could take a few steps through the night, take a brief look at the stars, and then come back. The terrain was soft sand, the water did not feel as cold.

It was more peaceful, and yet I can swear.

I can swear the stars did not shine as bright. I slow down to a stop, taking a few breaths and the salty air in.

Around me the light of the mirror surface tightens to a glowing bow of tinkling gems, towards sun unknown horizon. It’s not the dawn (will the dawn ever come?) but it’s a call I have stopped refusing.

When I do, it feels like a hook piercing my chest. It hollows me out, it scrapes against my ribcage and wrangles my heart about, staining my bones crimson.

It’s always like this, and it ceases only when I run out into the night.


After her.

She’s hard to spot.

Sometimes it feels like she’s not even there – and I am wandering like a fool.

And yet every time I do walk and decide to meet her first, I find her waiting for me. Our she comes up unexpected, tapping on my shoulder with a throaty chuckle.

She sits on a black rock, cutting through the surface of the endless sea. She’s a tall woman, her skin is dark. Sometimes, when the light is more generous and the moon shines brighter, I can see it has a rich tone of mahogany. She’s dressed in long garb that doesn’t get wet, unlike my own clothes. It starts black at her ankles, white at her hips, golden around her breast and red around her shoulder and her head, where it ends in a shawl that covers her long black hair.

Her face curls in a smile, even though its upper half is covered in a silver mask. I have never seen her eyes.

But I know they are blue.

The kind of blue the sky would be, if dawn would come.

I slow down, trying to catch my breath. A quick look behind me: the golden glow is there. It has followed me.

It still looked like a lamp-post: but in the reflection on the skin of the water a few dark silhouettes can be seen, like voracious eels through the seaweed.

“You have come,” she says in a low chuckle. She seems almost amused.

“Always,” I reply. The first few times it was so hard, to even think to leave the warm glow. I had to sleep under the stars in the water, trying to get away from the lamp that would always chase me through the endless night.

“You have strayed a bit as of late.” She jumps down from the rock with fluid grace, standing right above the water. Her feet do not plunge into it like mine. She seems to be walking on ice or glass. “Lost your way?”

“I did not know which way to take. I was afraid I would end up stumbling back into… into it.”

I turn again, with a shiver.

The thing with the lamp is ever closer. It tries it worse whenever I am with her.

I can’t see anything from the place where the lamp-post sends its light, but its reflection shows something different: a twisted form of nails and ripped yellow clothing, fashioned in the face of a coiled snake-fish, its maw open to devour everything that falls beneath the warm, inviting light.

“I have felt it come closer.”

“Be not afraid,” she says right besides me. She sets a dark hand over my shoulder. “Let’s walk together.”

I nod and follow her. She pushes me towards the edge of the mirror-sea, where the light is different from the inviting glow. It’s colder, but it also seems to sprinkle from different places, not from a mangled reflection that’s bottomless-hunger.

I stumble often. My feet get stuck. The water is cold. My clothes are drenched.

And the stars shine so bright.

And if I am lucky (will I be?) then the one I follow will whisper a few words to my ears.
She doesn’t do it often. And I have to earn it.

But this is the reason why I came out of that calming light, and into the endless, bitter night.

For those ephemeral motes of light that seem to hold all the lost vistas in this world that perennially waits for a chance of dawn.

I don’t know if the dawn will come.

But if it will, I know that as long as I keep walking, I won’t be facing it alone.

Author’s Notes: I have called the lamp following me the Anglerfish. I would like to talk more about it in a series of posts in the future. I have found that giving a name and a shape to my fears and to my resistances helps me fight them. When I am afraid of trying new things, of expanding my horizons, I remember it’s the call of the Anglerfish and its treacherous light.

And I try to do better, and follow the Muse – though the Muse herself is only there for her own on gain, to be honest. This is also something I would like to talk about. At another time.

At any rate, thanks for reading.

The original drawing for this post’s front image is by the amazing cal_119.
Go give them all your love!


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