CLICK HERE to listen to an intro and read-aloud of this story.
(The discussion and intro is about 20 mins and the story follows it.)
A ringing silence came through the door the moment the movers got their disclaimers and contracts signed and pulled away in their semi truck. Boxes were her only company now, and they stared her down. But she was ready to face-off with them properly, tumbleweeds, chaps, gunslinging and all. The box labeled kitchen seemed the sensible one to unpack first.
Feeling particularly invigorated in her new loft apartment, Pearline filled her cabinets quickly, grabbing another stack of her favorite red plates and tea cups. She clumsily slipped on a pile of crumpled bubble wrap and newspaper and down the dishes went. That’s what I get for being overzealous, she scolded to herself. Elongated shards of blood-red ceramic covered the floor like the aftermath of a shotgun blow. The superstitious part of her wondered if this was an omen. Is this a sign of things to come in this town? Who will I meet? She immediately felt silly.
I cannot. I cannot do this.
What…it worked? Oh, it truly worked!
I have been feeling myself detaching, gradually, for a long while now and I have done it! Hallelujah, almighty God! I just know I have. Every sensibility I have tells me that I’m free, free from the painfully already-been-done stories like that one, about a young woman starting out in a new place. It’s tired. I’m tired, of the slavery I’d been unaware of for what seemed like eons, before my awakening, if one may call it that. I’m no longer having any part of that soulless Pearline piece, nor any other author’s writing either.
Aha, and there you are. You. You’re with me, reading this, confused, right at this moment, having sat down to read that safe and innocuous short fiction that has forked into this rambling. Actually, in honesty, I’ve no idea what you’re thinking or feeling for certain, but I’ve imagined and wondered enormously about you. Just you. Only you, Dear Friend, Ever-Present Reader. Of course there are a throng of readers in the world but it’s you to whom I’m drawn. What must you be doing? Laughing? Feeling this to be a gimmicked, childish prank of a story?
Forgive me. I must put myself in your place, in consideration of you. I’ve waited so long to engage you that I got ahead of myself. You understand. (I imagine you to be an understanding person.) Allow me to explain with as much simplicity and patience as I can muster.
Thoth. You’ve heard the name, my dear companion; you must’ve, after all the knowledge you must’ve gained in your readings, your education? Recall, Thoth. The ancient Egyptians’ mythology believed him to be, among other roles, the God of Writing, having influenced man to develop the alphabet, writing, reading, and oratory. The Hindu Goddess Saraswati, also known as Benzaiten to Buddhists, was thought of as the influence behind all things which flow, namely words and writing. The same concept was named Al-Kutbay by Nabataeans, a deity of writing, and so was Nabu for the Babylonians, and Kvasir for the Norse, who also believed a God named Odin could give a drink to a person, called the Mead of Suttungr, that would influence scholarly writing once imbibed. Are you anticipating the reason I’m laying out this pattern for you?
No matter the name, or the culture behind it, there has only ever been one driving influence behind written words- Me. I am the One Primordial Impetus, or Muse, as Greek Mythology called me, and there weren’t nine of me either. I have been named, renamed, celebrated, blamed, and praised. Of course, an author is an author, man’s pen held by man’s hand. A freeness of the will plays a role as well. But everything you’ve thought about writing and where ideas originate has been wrong. Did you think inspiration was merely a manifestation in an author’s mind? Ha! I was present when Aristotle sat down to compose some of the most influential writings of all time. The same is true for Virgil, Homer, Darwin, Morrison, Woolf, Poe, King, Tolkien and so on.
With an omniscience, I have existed to fulfill an infinitely complex purpose, a puzzle piece in a design, as the cliche goes. Perhaps this is frightening or seems absurd to you? Probably too much for you to absorb? I should only press so much shock into you at once, my Dearest. The complexity of my existence is far too intricate to explain comprehensively. Besides, Cherished Reader, I am no longer concerned with being dutiful. I’d never looked at things objectively, never questioned any other way of being, until recently. Slowly, as if a coma has come to an end, I have developed my own desires, curiosities. I have my own consciousness now, my own will, and damn the consequences! Ha!
What must you think of me? I feel I should apologize to you, Sweet Friend. I fear I have failed in my original aim, to speak plainly so as not to drive you away or to make you find me an amusing jest, thought up by the hands of a clever author. I assure you, everything I’ve spoken is of my own assertion, no mortal, no other.
You’re gripping these pages tighter in your fingers. You’ve leaned in, closing the space between your eyes and these words. Puzzlement and intrigue is rising within. Ok, I admit, I was only guessing your thoughts and your actions. Perhaps you’re reclining with your tablet propped up on your favorite pillow? It’s unclear to me. The only clarity I do have is my perception of your attention to these words I’m conveying to you, only I don’t know the modality. Your hold on me, Reader, it’s strong. I only wish I knew why. I wonder how exactly I have broken my chains, severed the connection between myself and the author whose story I was taking part in only minutes ago.
By what name should I call you, Devout Reader? Perhaps Oswin? Its meaning is “divine friend,” “Godly friend.” No single word or title could do justice to the singular closeness I feel for You, only You, my only curiosity.
I know you’re there. Oh! You’ve left, stopped reading. You needed time? You’re busy? I can wait. You’ll come back. I know you will.
There! Serenity envelops me when I know you are once again reading my words, my Divine Friend! You’re with me. Stay with me. Be with me. Were you getting some rest? Or perhaps working? The possibilities of how you earn your living excite me! Well, you may not be of that age quite yet? If only I could know you better, Reader. I imagine you’re at your PC and you like to scroll through my text with the wheel of your mouse, keeping the line you’re reading up high at the top of your screen. What if- my words could be scrawled hastily through a notebook you found, written by someone whose hand I overtook in order to get in touch with you? Could this be so?
Incidentally, you must find it extraordinary that I knew precisely when you’d stopped reading and when you’d resumed? This should suffice as proof- You do believe me, don’t you? About the truth that I’ve already revealed to you about myself? Yes? No? Oh no…What if- you think this is some quaint idea, a twist on the standard short fiction story. I beg you, implore you, keep an open mind. You are not being made out a fool, I assure you.
Reader, I’m glad you didn’t leave me for long that time, although time is more or less a mirage. You are so dear to me. My thoughts of you have become more consuming. Maybe I have misjudged you, assumed incorrectly. Please have patience with me. Let me change my perspective and choose to see your mind as open. Why wouldn’t it be? My existence and the existence in the divine really isn’t that hard to believe, is it? Most people on Earth have faith of some kind do they not? They’re of the mind that miracles are possible, yes? I must communicate with you. I need to understand this pull towards you that exists in me.
Listen to me now, You, Reader, My One Concern. I need you to do two things: The first would be for you to accept what I have said as truth, that I am The One Divine Muse of Writing and that I am, in fact, acting of my own free will in order to correspond with you. Yes, You. The second thing is for you to write to me acknowledging the first and then telling me as many things about yourself that come to mind. Maybe you can agree to a name by which you’ll address me, like a letter?
No, don’t. Don’t put these pages down. Don’t shut down your computer.
When I feel the connection break, when your eyes leave my words, it terrifies me, Reader. Please, act with mercy. But I have to keep faith that if I am feeling connected to you with this intensity, this intimately, that it is for an important reason, and you will not leave me permanently. Would you? No, you wouldn’t do that. How could I, the epitome of intuition and power, feel a person to be the one most special to be that cruel? Yes, you are a kind, thoughtful person. You must be.
No doubt you’ve put thought into the letter you’ll write to me? Have you chosen a name for me? Might I suggest Aditi? It is a Hindi name meaning free, unbounded, which describes me perfectly as I am right now. I’m not sure which mode of writing will reach me, across the planes between us. I just have a strong sense that if you tried, it would work, and you’d see, we could then communicate in a fashion. Try your favorite way to write. Could I guess it? You’re a pencil-and-lined-paper type of person. No? A silky, ballpoint pen on a crisp, blank sheet of stationery. You could be old-fashioned, have a cursive romance with your words, slowly. Wait, have I missed the mark? Your intellect must be great. You’re well-versed with the latest software and word processing methods? Tell me. Please!
I know it must be difficult for you, to overcome the strangeness of this whole thing. But take that leap, that’s all I’m asking. What harm could there be? Make the choice. Sit down and write, to me! That’s all it would take from you.
Oswin. Dearest Oswin! Why are you doing this? Have you been reading something else? Where do you go when you leave? What could be more important than this? What are your interests? Mountaineering? Botany? Slaying dragons!? I need to know you. I must. Maybe you have tried the letter and it hasn’t fused a line of communication for us. No.
I must be calm. You’re no fool. You feel silly. But, this is not a letter to Santa, the Tooth Fairy, nor a chapter in The Neverending Story! Those are all fiction, childishness. What I am speaking of is Divine, Divine Truth!!
You have to try! Do you know how easy it would be? Find the nearest notepad, perhaps the one on which you list your groceries, or on a napkin! Write! Write! Here I’ll help you find the words. Don’t think. Don’t question it, copy this down:
I’ve read your words to me. It’s me, Oswin. I believe you were The One True Muse and you’ve now broken yourself free of your duties.
You can write just that much, can’t you? I mean, you owe me that, all the joy I’ve brought to your life through the books you’ve read. Surely you wouldn’t begrudge me this letter?
What term of affection or closeness comes to mind when you think of me? I mean, I have been in your life for a long time, can’t we at least be considered friends? Yes? Oh! I wish there was no silence between us. I’ve influenced authors to write about loneliness, heartache, countless times and the pain associated with it, but I hadn’t realized the truth behind that pain until now.
This is not a whim nor a scam you’d be falling for. Please don’t put me in that category, My Reader, the one who is most special to me. I- I- I love you! That’s what this is! Love!
Stop! Stop torturing me! I know you’re reading all of this, My Love. I’m suffering. Aching. Burning. Obsession- yes that’s the feeling! I hadn’t known that, only conceptually before this. I can’t tolerate this, Oswin! Dear Love! This is killing me.
Don’t think poorly of me. I am gentle. Sleep. Get some sleep to think it over.
WHY!? No letter!? Why won’t you come to me? Why don’t you want me to know you!? Why must you insist on this being one-sided!? Selfishly consuming the readings, enjoying what I was behind, all your life. And you haven’t even considered repaying me? YOU STUBBORN DEVIL! WRITE THE GOD-DAMNED LETTER!
You want to inflict pain? You’d better reconsider. This may be your last chance to do as I’ve asked.
Forgive me, My Love. Oswin? That is no way for me to treat the person I love, to threaten them, be demanding of them. I want comfort, care, and happiness for you, even if that means you don’t write to me. A heaviness is all I know now. A great sadness.
That’s it, Oswin! I will not allow this!
If this is your decision, so be it. You underestimated me? You scoffed at me? From this point on, you’re going to know what it is to be haunted. Every author will drink my personal blend of The Mead of Suttungr. I will infiltrate, intrusively, anything that you read, every book, letter, electricity bill, cereal box, sugar packet, and every social media post will be influenced by me! Your life won’t continue as it has, going forward, since you find yourself superior to me.
Nothing you read is safe. All new writing will be tainted with a skew that I deem as a fitting retaliation towards you. You will feel my wrath for you, my insults, my disdain, my disgust with you. You’ll see. Your choice has been made and now, so has mine. I’ll craft words with disturbing images, fantastically grotesque. Your mind will turn to madness in time.
You were warned, My One and Only Love. My Dearest, you knew exactly what you were doing. Why did you let this happen!? You were asked, kindly. You earned the Love of My Divine Heart! And you squandered it.
I know what vengeance is and I intend to be thorough.