Someone, I think it was Stephen King, once said their muse was a basement guy. Mine’s different, as it should be, preferring the high, quiet, places. The idea lodged in my head years ago, proving a handy analogue for when, for whatever reason, I have *had* to close or *had* to open the attic door.
Anyway, this has been rolling round my head all week:
There is the faintest smell of cordite as I come up the top of the stairs into the attic. The only light is that of the setting sun pushing its fingers through the dusty skylight in a vain attempt to hang onto the day. Old smoke hangs in the air like wraiths guarding the shadows and the muse is lying by the top of the stairs, lip cut and cigar mashed by her side.
“It got out again,” she sighs as the gargoyle helps her to sit up. To me: “You said this wouldn’t happen again.”
I make an apologetic face. My stomach is cramping. My shoulders, chest and neck feel a sudden surge that is almost like a jolt of electricity. Run. It’s as if I am suddenly dropping from a great height. No one tells you it feels so much like fear.
“Are you here for me?” asks the gargoyle, lifting its gun. Its eyes glow. I could tell you why, but I won’t – I am not done with him yet.
I shake my head. I step towards the shadows and a sword blocks my path. The man who holds it is close to seven feet tall, he is dressed in dirt encrusted robes that I know are soaked in blood and there is a young woman at his side. The sword has a name but that is for another time.
“We have business,” he says.
“Soon,” I reply. “We are almost done.”
There is another, sat on an old chest, an immortal, he simply glares at me from the shadows, refusing to speak and spinning his knives as some kind of threat. They are all here, spun from ifs and shade, blood and scars, and light and dark: the decoy and her guardian; the painter and her own muse; the tiger; the dump miners and the ghosts and the ones yet to come.
“We’ll talk soon,” I say, moving further into shadow to the back of the attic, to where the chains are.
They aren’t broken. It didn’t get out that way this time. It used some other trick to get loose although I can see the chains have rusted and will need replacing soon. There are fresh scuff marks in the old wood from its claws and there is a creaking of something heavy behind me. A familiar smell. The feeling is back on me like an old jacket that is both familiar and yet doesn’t quite fit as it used to.
I do not turn round. I am staring at the wall, at the stains that mark it like blots on an artist’s test paper. I need to turn and look. I do not want to. My hands are at my side.
A small hand slips into mine. It’s a little bigger than last year and a little stronger as it squeezes.
There will be a new dragon story here tomorrow (23/4/17) – Goes live at @ 10:08 am GMT.
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