Sharp pain pierced his pancreas, his colon, his lungs. The Writer’s stomach acid had dissolved the bones at last but rather than piss them out or pass them as shit he had absorbed them, the dust and particles entering his bloodstream. He suspected that Melpomene had finally been the one that let them dissolve but was unsure if he should broach the topic, afraid not only of the answer but of what else she could do to him if provoked. There was no avoiding her or the talents she wrought within him, but he feared her at this point. The Writer kept a captive no longer, instead merely keeping her in fear of what she could do if set free.
He wrote longhand these days, at least for the most part. When hands shook as violently as The Writer’s one was generally unable to use a keyboard anymore, instead scribbling shattered letters on yellow legal pads to weave his stories. The town had been abandoned, instead becoming something new and more in his mind, the past and the present and the future all melding together as he scribbled about the grotesque inhabitants. Melpomene was never far, whispering in his ear and pleasuring him from under his desk, forcing the stories out of him despite the amount of pain he lived in. She pulled him out of his suffering on occasion for sex, their sweat and pain mounting. The Writer had been thrown out of his apartment, the beautiful balcony where he had once drunk wine and stared at the river below a distant memory.
His new reality was much more fitting, given the circumstances. The card table with his legal pads and pens sat in the middle of the dingy studio. A mattress and blankets lay in the corner of the room, the remnants of another life. Melpomene had convinced him to sell his books, his television, even his film collection in pursuit of the writing. He paid for his life with his possessions, now only existing to write. She allowed him out once a week to pick up groceries, the bare essentials that he needed to live. The Muse watched as he ate scrambled eggs and toast for almost every meal, occasionally allowing him a luxury such as fruit. Scrawny, taut, and sunken, his face peered at the pages in the dim light of the apartment. The lone light bulb protruding from the ceiling did not provide as much of the light as he had hoped but it was enough to see by, enough to write and fuck by.
And so they existed, a year into their knowledge of each other, side by side and working to create a world. Each time she whispered in his ear his mind opened further, each time she led him to the bed a new character was created. The Writer was a leech, a parasite as she was, sapping the genius from her as she burned his insides away. And so he sat at the card table as she sat beneath it, pleasuring him. Scribbling away, words pouring out on the page, his mind opened up.
“What do you see, my prince,” she slobbered.
“I see a house,” he said. “The same as before, when the moon covered the sun.”
“Who do you see in the house?”
“A girl. A broken girl. Her face is a mess, scarred and torn apart by family. She wears a silicone mask to hide her face and imagines lovers and worlds beyond understanding. Her reality is seeping in, shattering the place she has built to be happy.”
“Mayhap you’re just imagining that you see this,” came a voice from the corner. The Writer turned away, sweeping his hand under the table to shoo away Melpomene. She dissolved into mist, a ghost in his own reality. In the corner, on the mattress, sat a beautiful mask. Gold trim glinted from the edges, the black sheer underneath blazing out as though a sky on a starless night. He stared into the empty eye-holes as they stared him down. “It might be that you’re just imagining this whole thing. The Muse, the stories, all of it.”
“That’s not true,” he argued. “I feel the bones inside me. They’re eating me.”
“Then release her,” the mask urged. “Let her go.”
“No!” he roared. At once he was on his feet, the folding chair clattering to the floor. He stood, emaciated in his now-baggy shirt and stained underwear that sat around his ankles. “I am not insane!”
“No one is,” the mask cooed. “There’s no such thing as insanity, merely understanding.”
“Then why are you telling me to release her?” The Writer stumbled forth, collapsing to his knees on the mattress before the mask. “Why do you all want this?”
“It’s nothing you don’t know,” said the man in the corner. The Writer turned, looking into the eyes of the pale man in the corner. “She’s asked for things from you before and given you a year of her life. Hell, at this point is there even anything left in you for her to suck out?” The crisp, white suit seemed to shine in the light. Beneath the sad bulb he was radiant, illuminating The Writer’s skull.
“You,” he muttered, staring at the pale man.
“Yup, and I have an offer.”
“No,” The Writer said. He raised his hand, two fingers extended, and waved them before him. “Go.” The pale man tried to step forward but his body was beginning to dissolve, rising up in smoke.
“Stop this,” the man stuttered. “Stop this, I can save you.”
“You are mine,” The Writer said. “All of you are mine, and you have no power here.”
The pale man burst into smoke, filling the room. He smelled of pipe-tobacco and pine, and The Writer breathed him in. A rush hit his head, dizzying and pleasant. He felt something on his crotch and looked down to see Melpomene, her hands working him as he stood in the center of the room. Breathing in the pale man deeply, his eyes began to turn to white as he fell into another of the trances she created for him.
“You can find another one,” she whispered. Despite the fact that he heard her in his ear, her lips grazing the cartilage, he saw her still working at his feet. “Death is only one part of life, pain the herald, and you can withstand it, right?”
“I can withstand it,” he muttered.
“I have for over a year now. I can finish the book.”
She worked more fervently now, bringing him close. “Will that be enough?”
“I don’t know,” he replied.
“Pain sucks dude,” the guitar said. He looked in the corner, noticing it for the first time. “Pain is such a bitch, the whole death thing is much more relaxing.”
“Go away, musician,” he pleaded. “You’re ruining this for me, and she’s great at this.”
“Listen, bro, you can do this as long as you want but you’re never going to finish. The only way is to let her go. Just give her up and you’ll be able to finish, but on your terms instead of hers.”
“Will I survive it?” The Writer asked.
“Yeah. The bossman promised all you had to do was decide to let her go.”
The Writer mused over this, taking his hand and waving it. The guitar in the corner began to smoke, to dissolve into the air. It began to chuckle, cackling. An old man’s laugh, insane and mad. The laughter built as the instrument vanished, finally climaxing in wild laughter, howling to the rafters.
“Llorando por tu amor, baby,” came her voice. She was on the mattress, a smile on her face and tears in her eyes. “I’m waiting.”
Shivering in the cold apartment, a cold sweat all over him, he looked at her laying there. Melpomene dressed for whatever the occasion called for, and she had nailed it. Never before had the Muse appeared so alluring, so attractive. She lay there, shimmering lingerie gleaming in the dark. The bulb flickered above her, and her smile looked wild and vicious.
“No,” he said.
“No more.” The Writer clutched his gut, willing the pain away. “They’re right. You’re right, if you want. If that’s what it’ll take to stop the pain, to make it go away, then you’re right.”
“Say the words, mi amore.”
The Writer sighed and shivered, his insides wrenching. “I want the bones out.”
Spine arching, he hunched over. A vein popped out on the side of his forehead, and he screamed. Neighbors hammered on the walls, annoyed with the sound but he was unable to stop. Guts roiling, he retched on the floor. Half-digested breakfast spilled out on the carpet, the smell hitting his nostrils and causing him to retch again. He doubled over, fell to his knees in the mess, and continued to hurl. His eyes blurred with tears and he gripped his chest, the pain becoming a blaze within him. Veins seared.
“Oh, there they are.”
The pain stopped and he toppled over, sprawled and rolled to lay supine on the floor. Melpomene rose from the bed and walked over to the puddle, The Writer moaning on the floor. She reached down into the bile and picked out three little white objects, small bones. She lifted her ear bones to her mouth and swallowed them, gulping them down hungrily.
“I am free,” she said. Then she, herself began to fade. She looked at The Writer, writhing on the floor. She straddled him, leaned over his shuddering body. “Don’t stop,” she said to him. “The bones are out, but that doesn’t mean you get to quit.”
“What….what do you mean?” he asked, still shivering.
“The bones are out but the need isn’t. You stop, you die. That’s it.”
The Writer began to cry, curled up on the floor. Melpomene rose and began to disintegrate, fading into the air as she smoked. “Don’t stop,” she said, a smile on her face. “Don’t stop.” Moments later she was gone.
The Writer lay on the floor, weeping in his pathetic mess. The table lay near, and the pain had not receded. He began to crawl. His pen and legal pad lay on the floor and he picked them up, the vomit staining the top of the page. He hefted the pen and began to scribble. As he wrote the pain receded, his brain quieting into a sort of peace. The story poured out of him, his own story.
At the top of the page he scrawled words.
Llorando por tu amor.