My nerves flutter as I pull open the door. Anticipation for what this week will bring feels like butterfly wings against my composure. Even so I smile as I enter.
The room is empty and the windows are dark. The fireplace gives the only light, a soft orange that dances intimately across endless book spines and titles. The stone floor is cold beneath my bare feet.
Bare feet? I look down and see that I’m wearing a black dress with no sleeves, and no shoes. The hem whispers against my ankles. A low fog floats in gentle currents close to the floor. I track the movement with my eyes.
There’s a door in the left wall that wasn’t there last week. It stands open to the night beyond. The ghost of a smile that rests on my lips gets deeper. Someone has been busy.
I move toward the door without a second thought. The fog swallows any sound of my steps and beckons me forward. The hush is bigger than that, though. It envelopes the whole space like a spell.
On the other side of the door is a huge expanse of grass, shadowy green and dewey against my skin. Before me a tower reaches high into the night sky. Stars glitter in the vastness above, in the absence of artificial light. A crescent moon hangs close to the horizon, only a few nights past new.
I gravitate toward the tower, which I believe is the point. An arched door waits silently, the word “Observatory” shining in silver letters despite the lack of a light source. I brush a reverent touch over the letters. I have not seen this place in a long time.
I let my gaze scan upward over moss-covered stone. From this angle it’s impossible to say how tall the tower is. Hinges creak as the door slowly opens beneath my touch. I press forward.
Inside it’s warm. There’s just enough light to see the staircase that spirals upward along the wall. I look down and see that the fog has trailed me.
I push up the stairs, gathering my skirt in my hands so I don’t trip on it. The air here is thick, tangible like velvet, and moving only when I cut through it. My hair hangs heavy around my shoulders. The curls come alive in the humidity.
At the top of the stairs the space opens to one large room. A balcony wraps the outside, accessible by open archways. A breeze tousles my hair and tickles my face. In the center of the room waits a silver basin on a stand. When I was here before the scene was different, brighter and alive with a collective energy of writers who had found a common place. Now it is inky and unlit.
I stare at the water in the bowl, as black as the night is. I dip my finger in and a gold luminescence ripples across the surface. I walk to the wall and trace the word “Capricorn” in cursive with my fingertip. A pale glow marks the track of my touch. It starts as a dull hint of light that gets brighter, then flashes when I finish the word.
“You remember,” a voice like the darkness says. I can feel the words rumble in my core and my exposed skin thrills.
“It was the first prompt you ever gave me, the first time your words were written. It’s fitting to write it now, don’t you think?” I say without turning to him.
I hear a rustle and he steps up beside me to study the word. He stretches out his arm, his hand open, palm facing the wall. The letters’ light gets brighter.
“It’s perfect,” he answers. I can hear the smirk in his tone and I don’t miss the echo of my words to him last week.
My gaze maps a course from his hand up his arm, over his robe, to his face. His silver-green eyes shine as brightly as the letters on the wall and, I see now, the water in the basin. His lips are hooked up at one corner. His dark curls fall in tight coils that beg me to bury both hands in them. He doesn’t return my attention.
“What do you say, Muse? Do you have a word of inspiration for our writers?” I ask.
“More than a word,” he says.
He turns away from the wall still without looking at me. He sweeps over to the scrying basin and holds his open hand above the surface of the water. He steadily lifts that hand, pulling up an image of the same crescent moon that graces the sky outside.
“Writers, this week my task for you is to write a scene that occurs by the light of the moon. You may choose existing characters or create some for this exercise. Regardless of the action you choose to drive the scene, the lighting should be a main factor. Focus on your environment. I want you to pay close attention to how the light affects your characters – what they see, what they might miss, where the shadows play. You may choose to write a fight scene, or something quite the opposite.”
Now he cuts his eyes to me with a wicked smile.
“You could write a simple conversation, or an introspective moment for a single character. Whatever you choose should be outside at night. You may even decide what phase the moon is in.”
He moves his hand from above the image of the moon to below it, so that it seems to sit upon his palm. The room gets suddenly bright. For a moment the walls are covered in shining, scrawling script. Just as quickly the words are gone, save the one I wrote.
When I look back to the basin, I expect him to be gone. He’s not. He’s watching me over the gleam of his crystal ball, which casts shadows that don’t quite hide that naughty smile. He says, “Happy writing.”