I draw in a long breath in attempt to squash the nerves that are fluttering around in my stomach. No use in doubting myself now, I’ve already bought the place. I look down at the curling skeleton key in my right hand then back to the big, wooden door in front of me. First things first.
I reach my left hand forward and gently press my fingertips against the door’s surface. The wood ripples and writhes beneath my touch, then distorts. I watch lines come into focus and connect. I feel ridges rise, other areas sinking simultaneously, until it all comes together into a carving of an open book. Golden script etches itself above the book’s pages.
“Home for Wayward Writers.”
Can I really do this? Can I create a nook in the universe for others like me? Can I carry the banner for a while?
The key goes hot in my hand. The lock on the door flashes. My fingers release the key and it floats into the keyhole on its own. It turns with a resounding clunk. The door swings open. I step inside.
My feet drag to a halt just on the other side of the threshold, my breath catching in my throat. Huge windows let in long rays slanting across the large space. Every wall is lined with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Two ornate staircases on either end of the room lead to a second floor where more bookshelves silently wait for curious eyes. Throughout the bottom floor are tables for writing and overstuffed armchairs for reading. There’s a fireplace on the back wall, mysteriously already lit.
“What did you expect when you accepted so much?”
The voice is a silky bass and suddenly right beside me.
“It’s perfect,” I answer, my voice barely more than a whisper.
I slide my attention left to him. He is a tall and slender muse with ebony curls that fall around his shoulders. He has an olive complexion and a timeless face. I can’t see his eyes but I know they are pale green and silver. He wears a black wizard robe that absorbs the light that touches it. Somewhere in those folds is a crystal ball. He’s a character who has been with me for a long time.
“I did, at least, expect you. You’re going to help me,” I say.
The corner of his lips hook upward. His curls shiver. Finally he looks at me.
“I have been waiting a long time for you to write me again,” he says.
The words send chills across my skin.
“It has been a long time for us both. Maybe you should give the first prompt, then,” I say, lifting an eyebrow.
He slowly shakes his head and his smirk turns into something more impish. He says, “The day is not my domain.”
Ah, yes. How could I forget? His crystal ball glows with the moon’s light.
“Of course, you’re right. Not everyone is here,” I say.
I lift my right hand, palm facing up. An old metal oil lamp appears there, its surface black and its spout long. I rub the side of it.
Smoke rolls from the end of the lamp to coalesce at my right side. I watch it take form, wavy hair that glints red, eyes that burn with amber light, smooth brown skin of a bare upper body. White linen pants hang dangerously low. He wears black metal bracers.
He looks around for a moment. Then his gaze goes to the muse then to me. He smiles like a late-summer sunset.
“It needs a bedroom, but it will do,” he says.
It’s my turn to smile. I say, “All in time. I imagine there will be quite a few additions. For now why don’t you get us started.”
“My pleasure,” he says like a wolf. “Writers, for your first task I bid thee consider what home means to you. This could be a chance to explore a character’s history. How has this character’s background shaped his or her definition of home? You could also use this prompt more personally. What is that makes somewhere home for you? Is there a person who influenced how you feel now? Has this concept changed for you? Respond in whatever format you’d like, story, memoir, poetry. Anything goes. Good luck and happy writing.”
“Well done, Genie,” I say with a smile.
“It’s good to be back in action,” he says, his lips forming a sly smirk.
“Indeed. Welcome home, boys,”