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Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
Outrunning the Storm

by
Michele Dutcher
CHRONON--Time Travel

by
Harris Tobias
The Tooth Fairy War and Other Tales

by
Jeromy Henry
DONKEY FROGS & PANTRY GOBLINS

by
Richard Tornello

A Muse's Tale

by

Blake Collins



I'm not sure how it even happened. Well...actually that is a lie as I do, but in any case it was not supposed to happen. First, there is the rule strictly forbidding muses to fall in love but second and most importantly I didn't even think it was possible. I still am not even sure if this is truly love but what else could it be? I have been around these humans for so long that...arghh!

"No, no, no! We have already covered this many times before. Nothing more about your litter campaign – it’s jobs. The people want to hear about jobs," I secretly communicated to my politically motivated human. Kay as they called her had a good head on her shoulders – mainly due to me, but every time I took my trained eye off my musling it seemed she easily lost focus.

"There you go, Kay...I wonder where you got that idea?" I thought as I watched her pitch the first draft of the speech in the rubbish and began a new one on my aforementioned subject matter.

Comfortable with her new line of thinking I settled back in to the train of thought I had been on earlier as I rested my head lazily on my propped up arm. I would check in on her again sooner than later I told myself as I lay restlessly on my humans shoulder.

After all, as a muse I existed solely for the purpose of inspiring my humans. Kay was actually my thirty-third human, though my first politician. Invisible to the humans, the purpose of our miniature yet similar forms and feelings were merely so that we could better understand them and in turn offer better inspiration. It was assuredly a 24/7 job as they required constant attention, otherwise they would end up in jail or working full time at the neighborhood seven eleven.

Having been around them for so long, I felt I had a pretty good hold on this race now though I never in the world thought I would fall prey to my own human–like feelings. I guess I had become so involved with guarding Kay's that I had completely forgotten that I was subject to the same dangers as her: sorrow, happiness, and above all love.

Though it's not like there are many opportunities for me to feel these emotions. Generally I never get to see other muses as all my time is devoted to my muslings. However, every once in a while - thirty-three times to be exact - I have had to return to the muse's center and pick up another musling.

The first thirty-two visits had been non-eventful as I was so excited to receive my musling’s profile and learn about their destiny that I would daydream all the way up to the time I received their information packet. Afterwards I walked out fully immersed in reading about my new subject and ready to begin my new project. Occasionally I would brush against another muse in the hall and even more rarely I would nod at another one who happened to be looking up at the same time as me, though that was generally as far as my interaction would ever go aside from talking with Fran.

The last time started just as the others had. Walking in to the application center's bright lobby, I was excited about receiving a new musling and was already picturing myself inspiring a legendary artist or the next president of the United States. I had never been issued a politician or artist of any form before, so the anticipation of being assigned such a case was exhilarating. Finding my way towards the main ticket counter, I pushed the familiar blue button in order to receive a number indicating my place in the queue.

My eyes lit up as I pulled the stub from the dispenser and discovered that I was only five numbers away from being called. My curiosity would only have to hold for a short while longer. In fact, it felt like I had just sat down when number eighty-two was announced from the window. Quickly rising from my chair, I walked briskly towards the application counter with the sign "Human Muslings" posted over the top.

"Thanks, Hon!" Fran said cheerfully as I excitedly handed her my number and she quickly scanned over my work track record. The wrinkled face receptionist had been here since my first visit and was still as cheerful now as she was then. After a couple hundred years at the same job I know my muslings would surely not have maintained such a delightful disposition.

"Hon? Where did you learn that, Fran?" I asked.

"Oh, I picked up the term from a muse a few years back. I'm still trying it out, you like it?" she asked gleefully.

"Absolutely!" I said.

 
Smiling cheerfully back she went on, "So everything looks in order and you had positive feedback on your last human's lifetime inspiration review so you’re free to proceed to the pickup window now. Have another happy lifetime! Oh wait, don't forget your number," she said sliding my ticket back across the counter.

Grabbing the stub, I smiled at Fran as I hurriedly left for the pickup window down the hall. Arriving at my destination shortly after, I was elated to find it free of any line. Depositing my ticket in the bin at the window, another smiling muse picked it up and disappeared into the forest of shelving. This one never spoke – to me anyways. Emerging from the room rustling with files, the muse then presented me with the familiar blue folder.

"Thanks!" I said as I whipped around with my folder in hand and looked at the name that appeared on the first page of the profile. "John Landon Dent, now that's a presidential name if I ever heard one," I thought to myself.

Quickly turning to the next page, I furiously scanned over John's profile as I walked towards the shuttle that would bring me to my new musling. However, the excitement that had flowed within me up until now quickly subsided and was replaced with disappointment instead.

"A secret service agent!" I said aloud.

Having been so engrossed in reading, I had not realized that the hall was actually full of other muses walking too. They all looked up with what the humans would call the “deer in headlights gaze”. I had never seen so many fellow muses in all my lifetimes. All of them curiously looked at me for anything out of the ordinary but shortly returned to reading about their new muslings while moving towards their former destinations.

Bringing my eyes back down to the pages before me, I looked again at the future life I was to help my musling pursue. It's not that I had anything against secret service agents; in fact, this life could be somewhat exciting at times. It’s just I had already been a secret service agent – twice. Not to mention a sheriff, a career soldier, and even a bodyguard. It was almost as if I had been type cast if there was such a thing for a muse.

I could just do it, I guess, I mean what was one more lifetime. After all, there would be other muslings...though…what if they were all gun wielding humans too? Would I be stuck helping my muslings protect others throughout eternity while other muses were afforded the chance to inspire not only their musling but others humans as well? No, I had to do something...even if I didn't get a new musling this time at least…at least I could request a different sort for the next time.

“That’s it, it was decided!” I told myself.  I would at least file a complaint or rather a request for the future...though...where?

I had never had an issue before with my musling. Usually I just proceeded on to the shuttle and left the muse center only to return when it was time to retrieve another one. I wasn't even sure this place was set up for that sort of thing...had this even happened before?

Glancing around the hall, I found no doors or signs that aided me in answering any of my questions. I was standing at the "T" of the hallway and only three signs existed. The one pointing to the right said “Shuttle”, the one to the left read “Application Center”, and the one pointing back from the way I had just came said “Pick Up”.

"Wonderful!” I silently exclaimed.  At least in the human world there would have been an info booth or a passing worker to ask. I didn't even think twice about asking one of the passing muses as those going to the right had their eyes fixated on the files clenched in their hands while those flowing from the application center to the pickup area had their minds spent on dreaming up their future muslings. I knew the looks and feelings too well, they were no more knowledgeable than I about this place. It was a system, a system that was not meant to be broken...or at least so it seemed anyways.

Deciding not to give in so easily, I returned down the hall to the pickup area where I had received John’s file. Only one other muse was waiting in the area so I decided to wait until his file was issued before proceeding back to ask the speechless muse if there was anything I could do about my unusual predicament. After watching the over jubilant muse receive his file and proceed down the hall, I then walked back over to the window. The muse who worked the window had disappeared into the forest of files again so I set my file on the ticket bin as I had nothing else to put down and walked over to the waiting area. Looking at my surroundings as I fell into the rigid chair, I was amazed at how boring and bright everything was. The walls were painted a brilliant yellow and the floor was made of sparkling white marble. No posters or advertisements hung on the walls as was the custom in most of my muslings’ waiting room experiences.

Hearing a shuffle behind the counter, I rose from my chair as the speechless muse reached for the file but stopped short of grabbing it. Poking her head around the corner, I waved an awkward "hello" and headed back to the counter. Her mouth still did not move though her eyes quickly went from glancing at the folder back to me while showing signs of both curiosity and panic.

"Yeah...I have a question regarding this musling...and a request regarding my future muslings. Is this something I speak to you about or…?" I asked wondering if I would actually get to hear the muse's voice.

Continuing to stare at me, the muse made no attempt to answer but handed me back the file while pushing something on the other side of the window. In another instant, a portion of the wall to my left opened revealing a cleverly hidden door that had seamlessly been installed to blend in nicely with the other sections. Looking back at the still mute muse, she quickly glanced at the door and then retreated to her secret destination amongst the shelved files while glancing back in my direction the whole time.

Sliding the file into my right armpit, I walked towards the door and through its archway. Once through the archway, the door closed behind me without a sound and no way of opening it from the inside. “I guess there is no turning back now,” I muttered to myself as I slowly proceeded down the dimly lit hallway towards a light at the end.

The hall was nothing like the ones in the rest of the muse center, the paint on its sides were a faded yellow peppered with tiny black spots while the floor was bare cement. As I approached what I figured to be a room, I began to hear something that I had not encountered in the muse's center before. I slowed my pace to make sure my ears were picking it up correctly but the sound was unmistakable– someone was crying. I knew the sound all too well from my lifetimes inspiring muses at crime scenes and battlefields.

Picking up my pace, I reached the end of the gloomy hall that opened up to a small square room decorated in the same awful colors as the dimly lit corridor. There was a window to the right just like in the other rooms, except this one seemingly had no lights or attendant behind it. In thirty-three lifetimes, I would have never thought a place so depressing would exist in the muse’s center. I would never have expected to find a crying muse either, I thought, as I looked to my left and found a female muse sobbing with her head cupped in her hands.

Staring at the upset muse, I was unsure of how to greet her. I had watched my muslings many times over comfort others, but actually to do it on my own was a different case altogether. There was usually lots of hugging, shoulder rubbing, and stories on how to overcome the problem or how that person had experienced something similar. I didn’t know how to do any of that on my own or…

“Oh my goodness!” the sobbing muse gushed while wiping away tears from her eyes and simultaneously jumping up from her seat. “You’re back, how wonderful that you’re finally back!”

“Back? What do you mean back? I just got here for my first time not seconds ago,” I said a little surprised by her sudden emotional change.

“You mean…you’re not…here to work the window?” she said while stifling sniffles. Her eyes were welling up again as if ready to burst depending on my answer.

I did not want to tell her “no” and open back the flood gates, though I couldn’t lie either. “No, I’m sorry but…” was all I could get out before she sat back down in the chair and resumed sobbing like before with her head in her hands. This was surely worse than I imagined.

Sitting down beside her, I hovered my left hand over the upper part of her back and my right hand over her shoulder as I had watched my muslings do before, but could not make myself bring either any closer than a few inches from her silvery blouse.

“Miss–miss is there anything…can I get you a…why are you…” I tried saying while going over all the lines my muslings had used but never able to settle on which one was appropriate. Though after my eighth attempt I didn’t have to as my fellow muse stopped with her endless sobs and turned her head in her hands so as to get a look at me.

“Your muslings must all appear to have speech problems if you pass them lines like that all the time,” the fellow mused quipped.

Slowly sitting up in her chair, the muse wiped her eyes with the sleeves of her silky looking blouse while shaking her head and pointing at the window in disgust. “They’re never coming back, you know. Never! It’s all just a bunch of hullabaloo if you ask me. You ever wonder why we never see this place outside, because they don’t want you to know it exists or even think about messing with the system," she began in a sudden rant. "We’re just supposed to cheerfully walk up and down these halls once or twice a century and take what they give us without so much as a peep,” she continued with a hint of passion while clasping her lips closed with her fingers to emphasize her last point.

Her face was still red from all the crying though she had wiped away all her tears now. Her hair was a light blonde, definitely closer to white than brown, and curled all the way down to her shoulders. A few locks fell over her forehead as she scanned the room again for anything new that might have appeared during her crying session. As she scanned my side of the room, I noticed a mole on her left cheek and what appeared to be bright red lipstick on her lips giving her that 20s starlet look, the 1920s that is. I remembered that era well as I had always thought the women from that time were attractive as far as humans go. I knew that would be the type of girl I would go after if I was a human.

The blonde muse raised her arm now and slowly swept it across the room as if making sure to highlight everything. “You see how they painted this place; it looks like a dang beehive with a bunch of stingers ready to come at us at any time. Don’t you get it, it’s all a plan to make us give up and carry on as we had before. I thought fat chance, who cares if the walls make me uncomfortable? I can wait them out, but you know…I’m starting to think its going to work as I can’t take much more of this,” she said while dropping her arm back into her lap.

“More of what?” I said figuring that it was safe to talk now.

“Of this,” she said pointing at herself sitting in the chair “Waiting, because that is all we can do…that is unless we choose to move on like we are supposed to.”

“I’m still lost,” I said shaking my head in confusion. Suddenly I missed being on the hidden end of the conversation.

“Go read the letter on the window over there,” she said nodding at the window while folding her arms across her chest.

I had not noticed the laminated letter hanging on the opposite side of the dusty window before. Walking over to it, I quickly read the letter and now understood at least part of what she was saying.

Greetings Fellow Muse,


It seems there is some sort of issue that you wish to take up with us here at the muse’s center or else you would not have been led to this window. Unfortunately, those of us in charge of this department will be away for a few years and we were unable to find a proper replacement in our absence. The door across the room leads to the shuttle area which will bring you to your awaiting musling so feel free to carry on with your current musling and try again later if you must. However, if you wish to wait, please take a seat and we will return when possible. In the meantime, take this opportunity to contemplate your current dilemma and make sure it is worth your and your musling’s time.


Sincerely,
Alouis B. Smildly


“How long have you been waiting?” I asked while turning back around to face the blonde muse whose grief stricken face was now staring at the door leading to the shuttles. She was biting on one of her fingernails while contemplating my question.

“I don’t really know. Doesn’t matter though as it was all for nothing. They were never coming– they just wanted it to appear like they would help. Look at me, bet I’m the only dope who waited this long to figure that one out. Yep, there is no way around it; I’ll be a political muse for eternity.” She said disgustedly while getting up from the chair, her eyes still fixated on the door to the shuttles.

My heart leapt at the mention of the word and without thinking I lunged across the dry cement floor. “Wait!” I said reaching my hand out to grab her arm and stop her from passing through the door that she had started walking towards. Did…did you say ‘politics’?”

“Yes, why? Is that what you are trying to escape too?” she said a little taken aback by my sudden advancement.

“No, why would I do that? I would give anything to inspire a politician.” I said amazed that she would even think about giving up such a grand musling.

"Are you crazy? It is the worst musling to have, constantly having to monitor what they say and do– even during their youth as the humans seem to be able to dig up anything these days. My time is stretched so thin between focusing on their career aspirations, preventing foot in mouth incidents, and gauging my opponent’s strength and weaknesses that I barely have enough time to help them work on their personal relationships. Two of my last three ended up with divorces and the third didn't even bother to get married. It's a dirty game and I just want to be rid of it," she said while again looking at the door.

"I had no idea. Is it really that bad?" I asked a little saddened by the news.

"You wouldn't believe the shenanigans," the muse said almost laughingly as she turned away from the door.

"Still, it has to be pretty awesome being able to help your musling lead so many people and make such important decisions?" I persisted.

"It certainly has its moments," she said with a smirk. Her features were definitely more relaxed now and her redness was all but gone as she went on clearly eager to share more with listening ears. "I'm not saying I wouldn't do it again, it's just...I would like a break you know. Something more adventurous would be nice. Still important but not so...so...public, where you always have to worry if others are watching. A CIA agent could be exciting, or a sailor in the navy, or maybe even a firefighter."

"Or a secret service agent," I said sarcastically from under my breath as she had listed all the muslings I was trying to avoid.

"Yeah, something like that. My muslings are always surrounded by them. I always wondered what it must be like to inspire one of them; I bet it would be exciting too."

"Every once and a while maybe, though most of the time you are just worried about when and if something will happen," I said glumly.

"You talk as if you have been one before?" She asked inquisitively.

"A couple of times actually, amongst other similar professions," I said.

"That is fantastic. I didn't figure you as a politician with your stuttering earlier and actual desire to be one, but an agent, I had no idea," she gushed.

"It's nothing to get excited about, in fact, that is why I am here. I want a change, just like you. And by the way, I don't usually stutter it's just I have never really talked to anyone directly before, let alone a crying muse," I said.

"Oh, well come to think of it I kind of surprised myself as I had never cried before. I had just got so frustrated and then all of a sudden my eyes started squirting out tears. I guess we are more like the humans than we thought," she said walking back over to the chairs and plunging down in one of them. "So what do we do now?" she inquired looking up at me unveiling big blue eyes.

I paused unable to answer again, for some reason my would be heart quivered under her stare. Quickly looking down at the floor, I shuffled my feet and answered "I uh, don't know. We could always go back to the way things were...but...I really don't want to."

"Me either," she quickly agreed "I just wish there was something we could do."


"Yeah, it would be great if we could just trade our muslings and be done with it," I said plunging into the horribly hard chair beside her.

"That's an idea! Why didn't I think of that," she said excitedly.

"No, I was just..." I started.

"It's perfect! We each have something the other one wants and those who run this place obviously do not want to help us. What have we got to lose, do you really want to go back to doing something you have already done as many times as you have?" she continued on, thrilled with the new idea.


"Well no, but yours is a girl and mine's a guy...wouldn't that be wrong? And what if they found out?" I asked beginning to worry that this might actually happen.

"So, their feelings are the same most of the time and we can adapt easily enough. Plus, don't you think if they were watching that they would have come down here and stopped us from talking about it by now? I think we should do it," she said sitting straight up in her chair and turning to me with an eager smile.

My chest was pounding again now, though for a different reason. I anxiously thought about what the consequences of such an action might be but as I looked at my female counterpart’s joyful anticipation I knew I would not be able to say "No".

"Ok, let’s do it," I said reluctantly.

Smiling as the words slipped from my mouth, she lunged forward throwing her arms around my neck. Pulling me in for a bigger squeeze, I slowly let my hands touch her back this time as strands of her blonde hair brushed across my face.

"Oh thank you, this is going to be wonderful. You'll see," she said letting me go from her embrace and sitting back in the chair. "I'm sorry for doing that, but I just had a sudden urge to hug you. I had always wondered what that would be like," she said with a big smile.  "Shall we trade?"

"Uh sure," I said handing my file over in exchange for hers.

"Shirley Elaine Robinson," I read aloud as I nervously leafed through the profile. I finally had my politician though I didn't possess the excitement that I thought I would have earlier in the day. The whole thing made me anxious and what's more is I was not actually ready to run out of the room and start a new life with my muse. I...I was actually sad to have to leave this room and my new acquaintance. No one had ever really talked to me directly before – well aside from Fran but that really didn't count.

"Well, John's life sounds perfect! I can't wait to start," she gushed. "Are you ready to go inspire your politician?"

"Yeah, I guess," I answered.

"Everything alright?  You don't seem as excited as you were before when speaking about your prized musling," she asked rising from her chair and beckoning me towards the door with her.

"No I am, just nervous I guess," I quickly lied.

"I'm nervous too, but that's what makes it exciting," she said.

I only nodded.

"I can't thank you enough for listening to me and...well...showing up. It almost makes me sad to leave. Had you not arrived I'm not sure what I would have done," she said as I reached her by the door. Throwing her arms around me once more and squeezing tightly she whispered in my ear, "I hope we meet again. Who knows, maybe we can meet here or maybe my musling will be assigned to protect yours."

Embracing me for a moment more, my chest pounded again not only from her touch but the thought that she also wanted to stay too. Though she let go of me with a tear in her eye, she smiled and waved goodbye as she stepped through the door to the shuttles. "Don't worry, this time they are happy tears," I heard her say as she disappeared to the other side.

While saddened to see her go, I knew that our departures from this room were inevitable whether it was now or the near future as I scanned the glum space. What could I have hoped to happen in such a place anyways, I thought as I walked through the door and into my new musling’s life.

Coming out of my flashback, I returned to my musling. "Check your spelling, Kay, be precise. Don't allow yourself to become lazy," I encouraged Kay secretly as I scanned over her progressing work. It was coming along nicely if I do say so myself.

This lifetime had surely lived up to my expectations. For once I didn't have to worry about who appeared dangerous and what time I had to have my musling here or there. Instead, the ones around us were busy doing those things while Kay and I focused on bigger issues such as taxes, jobs, and lately foreign policy. We had just finished our second term as governor and were now heading into the senate race. The next few days were extremely important and the excitement surrounding it was such that more agents had been assigned to both parties.

The next morning came early, partly because Kay and I had stayed up well into the night finishing her speech and partly because of her anxiety surrounding the event. Normally I fell asleep as my musling did, though on eves such as this I stayed up a while longer. Not for the same reason as Kay though, rather I was wondering who would be in our new detail of security. Every time new agents rotated in, I couldn't help but get excited. Still, even if her musling did appear it's not like much could be done as muses were forbidden to inspire for any personal gain. Still, to know she was near would be something- I wondered how she felt.

Riding in our customary motorcade, we arrived at the auditorium and entered through the back to avoid the developing crowd at the main entrance. My would–be heart pounded as we approached our additional team of agents though as the head of security introduced his team, John's name never came up. "Just as well," I thought as I quickly moved on to helping my muse prepare for delivering her speech.

The deafening applause was certainly welcome in Kay's profession and gladly exchanged with a slow wave and silent thank you with the hand over her heart. I knew the speech had been good and delivered well but the results were far better than expected. Proceeding away from the stage I could feel my musling’s excitement when a sudden stranger appeared out of nowhere at the bottom of the steps we were descending. The man appeared to be dressed in an agent's garb though I did not recognize his face from the introductions earlier.

"I'm sorry, Governor Robinson, didn't mean to startle you. I am assigned to your detail but asked to not be introduced until after your speech." the man said.

"And why is that mister..." my musling responded.

"Dent, John Landon Dent," the man replied.

"Well miste..." my musling started but I took over without thinking.

"Is it you?" I made Kay ask.

"Is it m..." John started before clearly being interrupted. "Who else? How many muses you think I've traded with besides you?" she had her musling say.

"Right...well...how have you been? Why did you...uh...wait until now to introduce yourself?" I asked excitedly.

"Well, I was worried that the stuttering would start back up. Clearly I was wrong," she quipped through her musling.

I could picture her in her silvery blouse, smiling as she said that. I suddenly wished we were back in the room where we had met.

"Governor Robinson, are you ready?" a voice called towards my musling.

Letting go of the reins on my musling, Kay quickly snapped back into action and answered the calling voice. "Yes, I'm ready," she replied, "I must have checked out for a moment."

I noticed John had reverted back to his normal demeanor too, displaying the typical serious features of most secret service agents.

In the coming months, our talks occurred in much the same ways. Whenever we found an opportunity where interruptions were unlikely we just chatted away about our musling's lives, and then moved onto previous lifetimes and hopes for the future. We also agreed that no matter when our muslings passed on or what our next musling was, we would wait on each other in the same room back in the muse's center to meet and talk face to face. It was not a grand setup, but it was the closest thing either of us had ever had to a personal relationship and neither of us wanted to let it go.

Tonight was rough, Kay had been on this speech for sometime now and had hit a brick wall when trying to counter some of our opponent’s accusations in recent weeks. They were all untrue though the negative light that had been cast on her had left us in a pickle on whether to retaliate with scandals she had on him or whether to continue on with the clean campaign she had started off on. I was always for the clean route though the latest round of remarks about Kay had left me closer to changing my mind leaving me and thus Kay slightly on the fence as well. The fact that all I could think about was when the next talk with my friend would take place was also not helping things progress any faster.

"Just concentrate," I told myself.

"Hard to concentrate when your mind is preoccupied with another I'd say," I heard a voice say, but not from Kay's world.

Standing up on my muse's shoulder, I turned and found a grey bearded muse standing only a little ways behind me.

"And that is precisely why there is a law forbidding muses to fall in love," he said sternly.

"Wha...who are you and how did you get here?" I asked in a panic. No other muse had ever appeared like this before.

"My name is Alouis B. Smildly and I have come to take you back to the muse's center. It has come to our attention that you and another female muse have violated multiple rules regarding using your musling for personal gain, falling in love, and the unauthorized swapping of muslings. So if you please, the female already awaits us at the muse's center.”

My heart was pounding and mind racing. I didn't know what to think or do as I wasn't sure what would become of me or even my female friend. Looking over Kay's shoulder one more time, a tear surprised me and fell from my eye. "What's to become of my musling? She will need a great deal of inspiration, especially in the coming days," I said worriedly.

"A suitable replacement has been found and is already on the way. She will arrive shortly after our departure," Alouis said. “The museling will be fine till then.”

In another instant we were back in the black spotted room and it felt like déjà vu as the female muse was again crying in the chair. This time though I wasted no time and quickly sat beside her putting my arm over her shoulder. "It'll be ok," I said sympathetically.

Not having realized that we had arrived, she quickly stopped her crying and began wiping her eyes. "I'm sorry, it seems you always find me crying," she said before raising her head and issuing a slow smile. "You didn't stutter this time."

I smiled back and was about to answer before Alouis broke in.

"Well, I'm glad that you two are getting along nicely but we have a certain number of things to go over beginning with how all this happened," he said sternly. "What on earth possessed the both of you to defy so many of our rulings?"

"I accept all responsibility though you are not without blame either." The female rose up quickly to say before I could reply. "I came here to request that a new sort of musling be issued to me sometime in the future but after what I can only reason to be years of waiting no one showed up in this room. So when he arrived with the same complaint, we just began talking and I came up with the idea of swapping," she said.

"That's not true," I said jumping up to stand beside her, "It was my idea to swap the files."

"Maybe so but you were just joking. It was me who actually pushed you to do it," she countered.

"No, I am just as..."

"Enough!" Alouis said staring at the both of us in wonder. "No matter whose fault it was and how long you waited you both defied the rules and must be dealt with. And how dare you accuse me of any wrong doing when both of you are clearly at fault."

The usually confident and talkative muse did not offer a retort this time. Her eyes were beginning to well up again as she moved her hand to cup her face.

Grabbing one of her hands before it went up all the way, I held it in mine as I stared back at Alouis.

"That is not entirely true. You gave us feelings so that we could better understand our muslings and in turn offer better inspiration. While we are indeed not humans on many fronts, you have in a way turned us partially human. By designing this center and the system such that we have little contact with any other muses, you were able to keep us from using any of these feelings for ourselves. However, you did not think about what would happen should any kinks occur in your system other than to create this dismal room and unmanned window in the vain attempt to further the uninterrupted process. Did you not ever think that something would come up or that one or multiple muses would visit? Your lack of aid placed us both here and the feelings you gave us helped form this love I feel towards her. Therefore I say it's not only partially your fault, but entirely your fault, Mr. Smildly," I said angrily.

I felt a gentle pressure on my hand as she gently squeezed on it and moved her body closer to mine. The grey bearded muse in front of us was taken aback by my sudden retaliation and had his mouth a gap while he continued to stare bewildered at the both of us. After minutes of silence, he finally closed his mouth and began to stroke his beard in deep thought before finally speaking again.

"I suppose some of the fault might lie with me after all," he said still in thought. "I have just never witnessed any discontent with muses since forming the humans’ division around three thousand years ago."

"Did you say three thousand?" I asked.

"Yes, why?" Alouis replied.

"That is how long I have been a muse give or take a hundred years. This was my thirty-third muse after all," I said.

"Mine too," my female counterpart replied.

"Unbelievable!" Alouis went on. "You two must be the first of the muses."

Another moment of silence took place in the room as we all took in this new information before Alouis started again.

"I must ask, why after all this time did you now have a problem?" he inquired.

"I guess we just got tired of doing the same thing lifetime after lifetime. Just like our muslings, we too like a little variety," I said as my friend nodded in agreement while still clutching my hand.

"I see. Well, I suppose a little restructuring will need to take place as I foresee many more instances of discontent following in the near future if you are in anyway an example of what's to come," Alouis said disturbed by the idea.

"I think you might be right," I said as I turned to face my smiling female companion.

"Though I'm still not sure what to do with the both of you," Alouis said.

"What do you mean?" I quickly asked as both of us turned alarmingly towards Alouis.

"Well, after everything that has happened I don't think I can just throw you two back out there with new muslings. Especially since you know what it's like to feel for yourselves and be in love," he said.

"I suppose not," my friend said laying her head down on my shoulder.

"So where do we go from here?" I asked not wanting to leave my friend.

"I think I might have an idea. I can place you in the human world...as humans. I can give you both good jobs and such and even let you pick your names," Alouis said with a smile.

We turned to each and stared excitedly as we both spoke simultaneously.

"We could finally see each other outside this room," she said thrilled at the idea.

"We would finally have names and think for ourselves. I could hold your hand all the time," I said.

"Finally we could be togeth..." she started.

"Uhhmmm. I am glad that you are both pleased with the concept of becoming human. Though, I of course will not be able to allow either of you to remember this place or your past lives. Which in turn means you both will not know of one another," Alouis said.

"Are you serious!" she shouted at Alouis "This cannot be!"

"Alouis, you must be able to at least let us remember one another," I pleaded in a vain attempt to change his mind.

"I'm sorry. I would like to help you but I cannot risk exposing the existence of muses which has been kept secret for the past three thousand years. This is all I can offer you. You can take it or leave it," Alouis said flatly.

My friend began crying again as it seemed was her custom in this room.

"After all this, to be back in this room with both of us unhappy again and without a hope for the future. I guess happiness was not meant for us," she related through sobs.

Consoling her as she cried on my shoulder, I thought about Alouis's offer. While I didn't want to think about our memories of each other being erased, I knew I'd rather the chance to exist in the same world with one another rather than end things forever here.

"Twice now we have found one another under unlikely circumstances. What do you say we try for three?" I whispered encouragingly to her.

Lifting her head from my shoulder and staring into my eyes, she nodded her head in agreement and looked with me back at Alouis.

"Ok, we will take your offer," I said coldly.

"Very well, what names would you like to be called in your new lives?" He asked.

Sniffling, my female friend spoke "I have always liked the name Tabitha.  There were never enough girls named that in the human's world."

 

Shaking his head in acknowledgement, Alouis then turned to me.

"I like John. It's simple, it’s presidential, and it reminds me of you," I said staring back at her as she smiled warmly in return.

"What age would you both like to be?" Alouis then asked.

Smiling, we both replied "thirty-three" and then leaned forward for our first kiss.

-----------------------------------------------------------

What an incredible evening. I almost don't want to go to bed as I am so excited but I have an early start tomorrow. The debate went excellent tonight; I don't think my opponent even scored one point on me. I was just on fire. But that wasn't even the best part. At the celebration, that girl I met. I had noticed her in the crowd during the debate and at the gathering afterwards I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She was like some movie star from the 20's with her gorgeous blonde hair and beauty marked cheek.

The way she was patrolling the party I thought she was secret service or something but it turns out she was a reporter. I let her through the throng of others and we went from a quick interview to just talking all evening about anything and everything and before we knew it the night was almost gone. I had a good feeling about this one and she had one of those names I don't hear too often. What was it...oh that's right...it was Tabitha.


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