Inspired by a random turn of phrase in a conversation with the incredibly talented Mollie.
This is first draft, unedited.
The world changed when they found that you could capture and distill muses. Gone were the days of slave driving women and aloof men. No longer were creatives found sprawled out over their masterpieces, the life drained from them and the guilty muse on the run.
Now all you had to do was knock back a bottle of fluid and off you went, a wild night on inspiration. The fun came from the fact you never knew what you were going to get, there was no way to tell how a particular muse essence was going to react with you.
He was a tentative little thing, nervously rubbing his hands together as his eyes wandered around the store while the wizened old man took his time retrieving the bottle. His shirt was a size too big, hanging off his shoulders and pooling around his wrists, the collar gaped showing a collarbone that protruded just a little too far. He was one of those. Desperately searching for ‘the one’. The man licked his lips and smiled knowing a good business opportunity when he saw one. He caressed the slender glass bottle with his thumb, drawing the customer’s attention to the pitch black fluid within. “Are you sure this is the one you want?”
His voice cracked and wavered, a trick he played to make himself seem more frail and thus make people feel sorry for him. He was perfectly capable of vaulting over the wide counter between them and beating the scrawny guy around the head, should he feel the need. Instead he rounded his shoulders a little more and added the hint of a tremble to his hands. The customer blinked his overly large eyes once, twice, before he swallowed hard and gave a weak nod. The old man carried it to the cash register and input some numbers that meant nothing but looked good from the other side of the counter. “That’ll be one hundred and sixty.”
It was actually supposed to be fifty as it was one of the less pleasant essences, but he knew the creative was desperate. He didn’t even blink, his eyes fixed on the glass bottle as he pulled out his canvas wallet, held together with gaffa tape and thrust a handful of bills at the old man. It was everything he had, but he knew, he just knew, that it was the one.
The old man quickly put the notes in the cash register and closed it with a little ding, no returns, no refunds. The scrawny creative held out his hand for the bottle. The old man narrowed his eyes and said, a little more firmly than he should have, “You’re not drinking it in here.”
The creative nodded eagerly and kept his hand outstretched. He practically ran out of the shop the moment that cool glass hit his palm. He walked as quickly as he could without breaking into the flat-out sprint he wanted to. His flat was only a block away, the pavement seemed to stretch out before him, an agonisingly long stretch of black between him and his destination. He burst in through the front door and threw himself onto the battered leather armchair that sat in the middle of the studio flat. The only item remaining. It had been a long search.
His hand shook as he clawed at the stopper trying to free it from the confines of the bottle neck, it slipped from his fingers and flew across the room somewhere. He didn’t notice. The bitter liquid coated his tongue and slid down his throat. It hit him almost immediately. There was no polite rise into the creative flow. No gentle introductions to what he was getting himself into. It was her. The muse who got away.
She rode him hard, deep into the night. His fingers bled, his heart raced. She consumed him, one blissful drip at a time.
They found him a week later, an ecstatic grin on his face, his eyes fixed on the words ‘the end’. The final words in his manuscript, written in blood, sweat, and tears. It coated every viable surface in his flat, some of it etched deep into his own skin. Had he not have sold his laptop the day before he would have been great. Instead, he was just another statistic.