There’s something strange in the air this week at the Home for Wayward Writers. I’d be lying if I said strange wasn’t the norm for this little niche of the internet, but this is…intriguing. Chills sprawl along my skin though it’s not cold. Not at all. The air is hot.
The sky outside the tall windows is a dark, churning gray. The clouds are thick and indeterminate. It’s impossible to tell what time it is. It could be midday or it could be an everlasting dusk.
The fire roars on its hearth, but I don’t believe that’s the source of the heat. Sitting atop one of the heavy, wooden tables is the Genie. He’s straight-backed, his legs crossed so that I couldn’t tell he has no feet if I didn’t already know. He’s watching me with a close-lipped smile that holds all the warmth of his composition. The light in his amber eyes flickers and shifts.
A few steps closer I realize he’s not alone. The midnight Muse sits silently in a high-backed chair near the fireplace. His silver-green eyes glow with a pale illumination as he stares into the blaze. Shadows swirl to and around him, holding him as close as his black robe does so he’s almost concealed from view. His alabaster skin gives him away, his slender face framed by night-colored curls, the long fingers of one hand absently drumming on the chair arm. A cool mist snakes along the floor at his feet despite the temperature and the light.
My steps drag to a stop beside the Genie, my sidelong gaze sweeping across his bare, broad shoulders and the well-sculpted abs that beg my attention to go farther down. It doesn’t. When I look him in the eyes there are glowing embers ready to ignite.
“What strange company you two make,” I tell them, glancing at the Muse, who still hasn’t moved.
“If it pleases you, Master,” says the Genie in a low growl undertoned by his sly smile. He holds up a hand and a single flame dances from one fingertip to the next.
“I can’t say that it doesn’t please me, Genie, but it does conjure a certain curiosity. You are a creature of golden sun on shifting desert dunes. You, Muse, are moonlight on a night-dark field. Yet here both of you are where there is neither sun nor moon. What is the meaning of this?”
A beat of silence answers as loud as any voice could. Then the Muse says, “You didn’t come to us last week,” without shifting his focus away from the fireplace. His tone is flat and it reminds me of clouds rolling across a starlit sky.
“He broods as I burn,” the Genie says. “Have you forgotten us already? Did we displease you so?”
A smirk plays across my lips and my head cocks to the side a little. I say, “I did not forget you nor did I want to neglect you. My absence was not displeasure although it was unavoidable. Do you have so little faith in our writers?”
The flame in the Genie’s hand grows so that it wreaths around the black bracer on his forearm. His smile lengthens and thins until his expression lingers between mischief and menace. He answers, “Why do you think we wait so patiently? Do you think it’s because we lose faith? Perhaps we are eager to get back to our purpose.”
I notice the mist reaching toward me in tendrils, like fingers beckoning me closer to the Muse. I slowly bridge the space to the chair, and when my hand gently grasps his chin, his eyebrows lift. I’ve never seen surprise on this timeless visage. The result is as intoxicating as everything else about him. His skin is cool against the warmth of the room. He allows me to turn his face toward me, and he stands fluidly as I summon him from the chair with nothing more than my touch.
I don’t need to look to know that the Genie has quit the tabletop to come to my other side. I can feel him burning like a star, and maybe a little jealous of my attention.
The Muse’s gaze is intense as he looks down at me. His eyes don’t quite follow my hand as it slides away from his face and reaches into the folds of his robe. He doesn’t move, but his body goes rigid.
Without breaking eye contact I hold out my free hand toward the Genie, palm up. I feel his fire twine around my wrist then coalesce into a sphere in my hand. Moments later I pull the crystal ball from the Muse’s dark robe. A subdued curve possesses his lips.
I hold both hands before me, in one a tiny moon, in the other the sun. I look from one to the other and say, “Then by all means, let us see to your purpose. What task do you have this week?”
“Duality,” then say as one.
“Writers, this week we bid you explore both sides of the coin,” the Muse says, his bass tone vibrating in my core.
“This could be two aspects of one character or conflicting themes of one subject,” adds the Genie, his voice like a chord struck on a string instrument.
“Maybe you would rather study two characters who represent opposite ideals. You could do this through dialogue or by showing their different reactions to the same stimulus,” adds the Muse.
They’re talking to you, writers, but they are looking at me. They make a devastating team.
“Whatever method you choose, the point should be rooted in the difference of the same. Two roads that lead away from each other, or two beings whose backs are touching as one watches the dawn and one sees the coming night,” the Genie purrs.
“The sun and the moon,” says the Muse.
“Whatever you choose…” I whisper.
“Happy writing,” they finish.