The Muse

It was dark, so dark it felt as if a heavy weight was pressing down on my chest. I could draw no air into my lungs. The weight of the blackness was restricting my breathing, or, perhaps I had forgotten how to breathe. Perhaps my heart had stopped during sleep and was no longer pumping blood to the muscles, yet there was no pain. I could not tell if my eyes were open or closed. There was only total paralysis… paralysis and fear… fear of having been startled awake from a dream by some sound, something, I knew not what.

I tried to listen, to hear again the noise that had woken me but there was only silence. Something had disturbed me from my slumber, something alien to the quiet of being alone in this house. But there was nothing. I would have felt more relieved if there had been something, anything that would have made logical sense of what had dragged me back to consciousness.

Then I heard it, the whirring sound of an inkjet printer spraying globules of dye across a page. I relaxed. So, I was not going mad.

Hell! Yes I was. The computer should not be on. I distinctly remembered switching it off before going to bed. I sat bolt upright and opened my eyes. The digits on the clock beside the bed glowed red at 03:15. It was still almost as dark, even with a definite awareness of being awake. A pale silver luminosity from the curtained window only softened the blackness between the shadows to a dull shade of grey.

The chattering of the printer continued from the other room. I could hear it clearly. Only a thin, partition wall separated my bedroom from the spare room I used as an office. The bed was warm, cosy, I did not want to move, but I threw back the covers and lowered my feet to the ground. The linoleum was cold to my feet as I stood to pace across the room, almost like walking through water in a stream. I opened the door and stepped into the corridor. The door to the computer room was open as it always was.

I was surprised that even with no lights turned on, I could see as if through twilight. The printer still hummed and I heard the slapping sheets of paper as they fed into the machine. I put my head around the door. Relief, it was only a small child, a girl of no more than eight or nine years of age, bending over the printer.

With relief, I stepped into the room.

Wait! I have no daughter. As far as I know, there has never been a small girl in this house…

She must have heard me enter. She turned around. I wished she hadn’t. I have no idea how long ago she died. It must have been a while. Her face was blue swollen and bloated with death but with a sickly luminous glow. Her lips were cracked, and purple. Her eyes were white, lifeless but gleaming with an eerie pallid light. Her hair was tousled, dark, uncombed and dripped dank moisture onto her shoulders.

She wore a grey white gown to her feet, splashed with patches of green mildew over the rotting fabric. Something black, spidery squirmed between her decaying teeth when her putrid lips drew back in a sneer.

My paralysis had returned. I wanted to run but could not move. I smelt the stench of death assaulting the air in my throat with every panting breath as she came toward me. She did not walk. She floated, several inches above the ground. The eyes of death stared, burning into mine as she held out two hands clutching a sheaf of papers. Without comprehension, mine reached out to take the papers from her. The moment I held them securely, she began to fade, beginning from the lower part of her legs until the only thing that remained was the ghastly face. Even this dimmed becoming transparent. The light from the eyes paled into oblivion. The final part to disappear was the sneering grin leaving me alone with the papers.

I began to read...

© 2009 Robert A Read. aka Mysteral.


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