The Muse: A Short Story

The first step was to decide the spot. Not all places in the body hurt equally. Also, one had to consider the purpose. If the whole world was supposed to witness the pain, the forearm was the most suitable spot. But no, he chose the stomach. Not linear slices, he held the tip of the blade just above his navel and firmly pulled downwards.

Something wet lapped at his feet. “I swear, at times, I cannot figure out if it’s Rufus or you,” he laughed. His lover, who was tickling his feet with his tongue, moved up on the bed. “Pity,” the lover sighed, “I was trying really hard this time.” He dragged each word, and the moment seemed to last forever. But this was an illusion. They never had enough time.

He was not a cutter. He did not even understand completely what that term meant. He scoffed at the ones who proudly displayed the white scars on their wrists. That’s not what this was about. This was about replacing one feeling with another. The pain slowly ate away the feeling of the other man’s hands crawling over his skin. The blade dipped into the navel, and almost immediately, his stomach tried to jerk away from the torture. He sucked in his breath and started again. The blade traveled lower. The muscles of his thighs tightened, and he sighed.

“Are all poets usually this lazy? Go and get a pen,” he protested weakly and tried his best to interrupt the poem that was being created and recited at that very moment. The finger, which was moving lazily on his stomach, continued to form words. It seemed pretty pointless to him since whatever the poet wrote on his skin changed completely when written down on paper. As the finger neared his navel, his stomach fluttered and sunk in. “It’s a sensitive region of the body. The nerve endings are concentrated or something. I read about it in… ” his voice was muffled by someone else’s lips pressing down on his own- roughly, quickly- before they went back to reciting the poem again. It had always been like that.

The pain was important. Digging one’s nails into one’s skin can help, but it is a question of willpower. Can you let yourself go far enough to draw blood? Blades are specifically sharpened to cut through skin, which is why one can easily explain accidents with blades; he looked at the bedside table and quickly checked whether it had a tube of antiseptic and bandages on it. Then he took another breath and pushed the blade lower.

A blade was better than nails for many reasons, but it did not exactly suit his purpose. He looked down and realized his mistake. There was too much blood on the bedsheet. The cut was too deep probably. He quickly peeled the sheets off the bed before they could stain the cushion and threw them in a corner. What would he do now? Would people ask him about the blood on his sheets? What about the blade? Yes, he could wash it. Calm down, he repeated over and over in his mind. Nobody had to know anything. Nails were so much better. He quickly picked up the bandage and started to wipe off the blood.

Huge applause broke out all around him. He was not in the first row but was somewhere in the middle of the auditorium. He clapped and smiled widely. After an hour, the poet pulled him into a dark corner of the white stone building and kissed him. Rough. Quick. “Are you proud of me?” he asked excitedly. He looked into the poet’s flashing eyes, and a sudden weariness enveloped him like a heavy cloud.

“Congratulations,” he said. The poet frowned a bit, but this mouth remained smiling. “That’s not what I asked. Are you proud of me?” he repeated. “Congratulations,” the waking corpse replied. For a while, the poet looked at him in confusion, but his glee would not allow him to remain in shock for a long time. The poet playfully made a jab at his stomach, and a spot of red slowly bloomed on his rose-colored shirt. “It’s just the cat. I tried bathing it…” he started to explain, but the poet quickly shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t worry about it. There’s a black shirt in my car. You have to attend the dinner party. The award ceremony is incomplete without it. Change into that.”

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