I was sitting and thinking about random things as I’m prone to doing, and an image came to me – a seedy bar where you can buy the services of muses. It grew in my mind and now it’s my second fun writing project! This is completely unedited, and written for my own entertainment to help me refresh my brain.
“What if muses were real people and you could rock up to one in a bar and buy their services?”
It had been a decade since the muses had come out of hiding. Ten years of them living among us as people rather than whispering voices in artists’ heads. It took mere weeks for people to start taking advantage of the situation, businessmen started popping up offering the muses marketing, support, and the like in return for a cut of their profits. The government soon stepped in and began licensing them, whether that was to make more money or to try and reduce the number of muse-related deaths remains up for debate. There are however some muses that, for whatever reason, can’t get a license or fall on hard times. They tend to end up in The Nine Magpies, the seedy bar where I currently perched on a wobbly stool waiting for the barman to stop trying to chat up the red-head at the far end of the bar and serve me a damn drink.
Smoke pooled on the floor, curling around the rickety wooden legs of the tables and chairs. I was grateful for its presence, I didn’t want to see what marked that sticky floor. I knew how muses work and The Nine Magpies wasn’t the type of place to worry about little things like cleaning or hygiene. The barman, a pretty-boy with pitch black hair (dyed), bright blue eyes (contacts), and a number of fashionable piercings (clip-on), finally gave up on the red-head and swaggered over to me. His eyeliner was crooked and his fingertips were beginning to crack where he spent more time washing glasses than he’d ever admit to a pretty girl. He lifted his chin at me, the unspoken demand to know what I was drinking. “Double of your most expensive whiskey.” I said.
His eyebrow quirked upwards but he gave a little shrug and pulled down the bottle without a word. I studiously ignored the goings on behind me, I could feel the looks that bored into my back, I’d caught their attention. Whether that was a good thing or not was yet to be determined. There was no plan, just a gnawing hope that refused to let me sleep at night, as the bags under my eyes told everyone.
The barman placed a dirty glass half-full of whiskey in front of me, I took a deep breath and inhaled its scent. Honey, heavy peat, and a touch of pine. That was not the whiskey that the label proclaimed, it was lower mid-shelf stuff. “fifty bucks.” The barman said, his voice rougher than his appearance would suggest.
I didn’t argue, what he’d given me was worth fifteen if I was feeling generous. The note vanished into the small metal box on the back shelf before I had a chance to think. I took a large mouthful, I’d bought it, I was going to enjoy it. It burnt all the way down, more than it was supposed to, the owner had diluted it with something unsavoury. I smiled to myself as the man himself pulled up the stool next to me. He sat in stark contrast to his bar, a beautifully tailored suit that likely cost a month’s rent for the average office-worker, his skin was flawless, he even had manicured nails. Everything about him screamed money.
His breath was fresh and warm, the mouthwash couldn’t quite hide the bitter tang of blood though. My skin crawled at the thought, there had been rumours of people drinking muse blood, for the ultimate high. Until that moment I’d shrugged it off as nothing more than a rumour. “What are you here for?” He asked, low and intense, barely more than a growl.
I kept my eyes forward and studied my whiskey for a long moment. It wasn’t supposed to go like this, not that I knew how it was supposed to go. His hand gripped my shoulder before he pulled me to look out into the room. He extended his arm and gestured as though showing me the boundaries of his kingdom, because that was exactly what he was doing. On the surface it was a dingy hellhole full of broken people, but his clothes showed what rippled below that surface.
His voice took on a honeyed tone as he began pointing at varying women around the bar. No one knew why all the muses were women, but that’s a question for another time. He pointed at a giggly little blonde who sat on the knee of a greasy man, her curls bounced as he laughed with her. “Daisy’s a good girl, she’ll give you a clean high for a kiss. If you want something rougher, more intense, then you can ride Callie.” He gestured to a black-haired woman with dark-red matte lipstick in ripped skinny jeans and a tight shirt. “If you’re after a real high, then there’s Elle. She’s a tigress, but none will compare to what she’ll give you.” He said while nodding to the woman who sat up the far corner in a sea-green silk dress that barely covered much of anything. Her pale-tan skin brought out the vivid green of her eyes, she must have turned every head. I noted that he hadn’t specified how she worked, how she gave her creative high.
“I like her.” I nodded to Elle.
He grinned at me, “Most men do. She’s two grand for an hour.” He said holding my eye-contact.
I didn’t look away or flinch. “And how exactly does she inspire her clients?” I asked, my tone a little sharper than I’d intended.
His eyes hardened as his grin widened, that of a shark approaching its prey. “Where would the fun be in my telling you. You’ll produce a masterpiece with her in just four hours.” He said.
I looked away and took another long drink of my whiskey. “I’ll think about it.”
He patted my shoulder harder than necessary as he stood. “You do that.” He said.
After a couple of long minutes, once the owner had vanished into a back room with one of the girls, a scrawny blond sidled up to me. His shirt was a size too big, the sleeves rolled up to reveal bite marks down his arms. His eyes were slightly sunken and his hands shook, the classic inspiration addict. “Daisy’s a one-trick pony, she’ll give you the same idea she gave the previous ten guys she’s been with tonight. You’ll have a messy lawsuit on your hands. Callie will only give you half an idea, the rest will be murky darkness that has you crawling back to her again and again.” He swallowed hard, clearly intimately familiar with her methods. He leaned in a little closer, “Avoid Elle, she’ll chew you up and spit you out.” He whispered conspiratorially while he kept glancing around the room.
“How does Elle work? How does she give you her inspiration?” I asked.
His eyes went wide and finally settled on me. “She’s a blood-worker.”