A Bone to Pick

The Writer’s stomach stung, the bones piercing the lining and creating ulcers. The stress of the situation left a bad taste in his mouth but the swift motion of his pen seemed more than fair trade. Eventualities and varying timelines unraveled in ink before him, the different paths all considered, weighed and measured. With each searing of his gut he churned out another idea, another ground-breaking theory, another set of pages.

His intestines contained the bones of a Greek muse, Melpomene. Sold to him by some sort of crazy, traveling salesman – a sort of carpetbagger who had come up from some ethereal reality to take advantage of the desperate and destitute above. The bar where the sale had taken place was now months behind him, but The Writer could not sleep a full night for the memory of it. He longed to be free of the pain in him and knew it required only a choice, a firm decision, but it was one he could not make. At least…not while the bones were working.

“You don’t seem to be making as quick work of it as you did at first,” came the voice.

“Fuck off,” he muttered.

“Seriously, honey, you’re stuck again.” A pale arm slid around him to caress his chest, a lover’s embrace of seduction as he scribbled at the legal pad in front of him. “Why don’t you take a break and come back to bed, baby?”

“I asked you to ‘fuck off,’ Mel,” The Writer snapped. Intestines squelching, groaning around the hard bones inside, he gripped his guts and held on for dear life as he finished a further sentence.

“I’m tryin’ to do one of those things, babe,” Melpomene moaned. “It’s been awhile.”

It was true. The Writer had not touched in weeks, the fever of his craft overtaking him. She wanted to leave, he knew she did, but he was strong enough to contain her for now. Deep inside, quite likely where the pain and bones nestled in his insides, he knew that she was responsible for his suffering. But art required suffering. No junk, no soul, right?

Melpomene had scared him half to death when she first appeared. The Writer had not bargained on the appearance of the muse, the tall and lithe body that leaned against his desk and leaned forward to introduce herself. She had been completely naked, that had helped, but the shock of finding an astonishingly attractive woman in flagrante delicto in his apartment sent him sprawling to the floor, scrambling for his pen to try to wield it in defense if she attacked. Standing over him, shining in the dim light of the fireplace (for The Writer thought it appropriate to write by burning fire) she had simply smiled down at him, awaiting something. He had looked up into her eyes, hiding under the dark hair, and had seen galaxies within them. He knew what she wanted somehow, instinctively. She had gotten it after he had re-acquired his dignity and dusted himself off, sitting once more to ask a few questions.

That first night had been some sort of insane fever-dream. Sheets soaked in sweat, pillowcases torn, flesh torn by fingernails, the whole of the night had left him feeling so alive. He had lain there, soaking in his own pheromones and blood as the spirit faded away, receding into the darkness. He had slept like the dead, but on rising the next morning had sat down and filled an entire ream of paper with stories. Creatures, the souls following these maniacal threads of plot, marched before his eyes and running backward down the vertebral arteries from his brain to seep out of his pen and onto the paper. He had tossed out a lot of what he had written, but by the third draft he had a thirty-page story that had sold three days later.

Fresh off of his first taste of success and starving for more he had begun to live as a recluse, constantly calling for and partaking of his muse. She asked The Writer when he would free her, constantly trying to inject it into either the seduction or the post-coital fallout. He never gave her a firm answer.

This is when his guts began to boil.

Slowly but surely, the weeks beginning to stack, The Writer had begun to suffer. He refused to see a doctor, despite Melpomene’s insistence, as he was worried that inside of him would be discovered what would appear to be human bones settled in his digestive tract. As the small, sharp pieces danced around inside him he began to pale, to eat very little for fear of build-up, and to begin the descent down to the inferno for which he was destined (as Melpomene so regularly reminded him). The words came on stronger than ever but the plots grew complex, the ideas complicated, and he regularly had to back up and try again as he wrote himself into a corner. One day, as he got stuck again, The Writer decided to merely hammer out all of his ideas and then piece together the best ones into a full plot and this had worked well thus far. It would not last, he knew, but it was a start.

“Come to bed, my love,” she called from behind him.

“I’m working,” he replied. “I said no.”

“My darling, you must join us.”

“Us, who?” The Writer spun, intending to snap at her, and froze. Laying on his bed were three women, all of them sharing the same dark hair and deep eyes with the blacked out sclera matching the irises and retinas, the stars shining out from within. Melpomene was a reality contained in a person, a hundred million devastating tragedies trapped in flesh and existence. And now, to his good fortune, there were three of her.

Four hours passed, at which point he could no longer stand. He slept for a full night and half of the next day afterwards. When he awoke he crossed directly to his table, his legs swimming in the mist that crawled on the floor when his muse was present physically, and began to write. Cramping in the hand, burning in the neck and arms, and the constant searing in his guts, they all lay forgotten in the bed. As much as the entire process of fucking all three incarnations of Melpomene had hurt him, had churned the bones inside of him, he had reveled in the experience and come forth from it renewed, thrilled, and inspired. The pen felt right in his hand again, the burning in his stomach mere coals instead of a blaze, and he poured his ideas down onto the paper.

Melpomene appeared behind him, leaning down to whisper in his ear. “Now?” she asked. “Will you free me now? Would you kindly remove the bones from yourself, cast them away and let me be free of this?”

He shook his head. “Not yet,” The Writer replied, “You have no idea what I’m cranking out here. Maybe you do, I don’t honestly pretend to know how this works but I know I’m onto something incredible here and that’s because of you.”

“I’ve given you the greatest thing you could hope to achieve,” She said, misery creeping into the edges of her voice as her face fell. “You are writing some of the best work you’ll ever publish. In exchange all I ask is my freedom.”

“I’m not obligated, not forced, right?” he asked. She shook her head. “Well then,” The Writer said, a smile coming to his face, “ then for now you aren’t goin’ anywhere, sweetheart.”

She shuddered,a tear streaming from her eye and an expression of violent angry clouding her face. “I will,” she whispered, fading into the darkness of his room, “be free of you.”

Still, The Writer stuck to his guns. His new novel, a dark affair that was up to be a film before the paper had hit the shelves, sold extremely well. Fans from all over the country sent him copies of the book, hoping for a name scrawled on a page. He obliged a few, had his assistant send back the rest, and retired to his tower, the highest room in his home, to work and rest.

One day he stood in his room, naked as the day he was born. Her head bobbed back and forth before him, his hand woven into the black locks of her hair, and he stared up at the ceiling. Her hand worked up and pressed against his stomach as she worked and the burning returned. The Writer’s insides roasted, the pain stinging and his erection riding between too afraid to stay and too far along to go down without a fight.

Melpomene worked, her hand and mind linked to the ear bones within The Writer’s gut. As he neared completion, fighting the pain she caused him, he closed her eyes hard and swore one oath to herself.

I will be free,” she thought to herself, “I will.”

He cried out as he finished and pulled back. Staggering for a moment only, he tidied himself up and immediately sat down to finish working. Melpomene faded into the darkness, her act already forgotten and pushed to the back of The Writer’s mind. She watched, not a real person anymore but spirit only, which was fine with him. She sat and stared at him, wondering what he was writing. The magic of her forefathers had made him a moderately wealthy man. It would not be enough, though. It would never be enough.

I will be free.”

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