It had been a frustrating week. I was not getting anywhere with my work: it all looked like rubbish to me, and a pathetically ugly heap of rubbish at that! I began to have real doubts about my artistic skills and about my life’s direction. I focused an exasperating stare on the window and noticed all of a sudden a particularly beautiful sunny day, a day too good to be cooped up indoors working over uncertain projects of doubtful worth leading to dead ends, which had by now left me drained of ideas and of the will to create. Being my own boss, I decided that the best way to clear my poor old head of its cobwebs would be to go for a walk.
I was running down the last couple of steps on my way out when I caught a glimpse of a woman stepping across the threshold and of the front door shutting behind her. I followed the lady outside, turned towards the lake and promptly forgot all about the encounter.
It felt great to be outdoors: after the recent gloomy mood of my studio even the traffic-packed mayhem of the exhaust-spitting cars, buses, motorcycles and grocery vans outside looked cheerful in the spring sunshine.
I happily lumbered on, vaguely in the general direction of the lake, for the first time in days without a thought in my head, my first pause happening at the red light in front of the crossing to the embankment.
Just when the green light came on and I was about to start crossing the road, a woman materialized seemingly out of nowhere in front of me. I barely managed to avoid bumping into her and keep my balance. I was slightly startled by a flash of annoyance, but the day was so sunny, so sparkling, so cheerful, that I never even cursed and simply carried on walking. Only when I had lost the woman completely out of my sight did I realize that it was the same lady that had already walked in front of me once today, at the exit from my studio.
Amused by the coincidence, I did not give it a second thought. I strolled on for a while, looking neither to the right nor to the left, simply breathing in the warm spring sunshine.
Eventually, I decided to sit down somewhere: I looked around and spotted an empty bench by the waterfront. Then, when I was only a couple of paces away from the coveted seat, the by-now-familiar figure of the same woman suddenly appeared out of thin air in front of me again, headed directly to the bench that by now I considered my own, and sat down on it.
I lost all the desire to park myself there after all – the bench did not belong to me any longer. I was on the point of turning around when the woman patted the seat by her side and slowly turned her face towards me. For the first time I managed to have a good look at her features: in front of me was the face of an ageing woman who did not take particular pride in her appearance. Her hair was messy and although there was evidence of dyeing in the past, the roots were uniformly grey, which gave her the appearance of having a bold patch along her parting. She was hopelessly wrinkled, with deep frown lines on her forehead, crinkly crow’s feet around her eyes, and ugly fat folds at the turned down corners of her fallen-in mouth. She looked vaguely familiar.
Contrary to her previous welcoming pat, her gaze was unfriendly and uninviting, practically hostile: the more I stared at her the more unpleasant it became, turning into an expression of active menace and disgust.
I found I could not tear my eyes away from her scrutiny; similarly, I could not simply walk past the bench as if I never intended to sit there. Some inexplicable force pulled me to the bench and made me sit down next to the witch. I heard a high-pitched voice scraping the inside of my head:” Why? Why? Why?”
Each next “Why?” added volume and higher pitch, bringing my head to the brink of an explosion. I was completely helpless, incapacitated by the shattering noise, paralyzed with fear.
Gathering up all the remaining shreds of my quickly disintegrating willpower and what was left of my sanity, I finally managed to articulate with my soundless mouth:
“Who are you? … Please….”
For a split second, there was an absolute silence and then the nerve-shattering scream came:
“I AM YOUR MUSE, BITCH!”
I believe I must have fainted momentarily.
When I came to, I was alone, sitting on the bench by the water. The sun, the lake, the park, the happy people were all there.
I stood up slowly.
I went back to the studio.