By Eddie D. Moore
Dale walked the city walls when he found it hard to sleep, and failure always left him up late into the night. The open air and the stars above usually helped settle his mind. Unfortunately, there were no stars on this night, and the thick fog felt oppressive. He heaved a sigh, deciding to return home and try to get a couple hours of rest. When he turned around he saw a small ball of light drifting on the wind. He stood watching it in wonder, until he heard one of the city guards approaching from behind.
“Good evening Dale. I see you have found one of our night visitors.”
Recognizing the voice of the man, Dale answered without taking his eyes off the light. “Hi Nairn, it is beautiful. What is it?”
Nairn stepped up beside Dale and shrugged. “I figure it is some type of firefly. Although, I have never saw one stay lit this long.”
The guard continued on his rounds leaving Dale to watch the ball of light. Dale grew excited as it drifted closer. Clasping both hands overhead, he caught the ball as it passed within his reach. He opened his hands a crack to see inside, and he shook his head when he saw nothing inside. He sighed, and said to himself softly, “I cannot even catch a bug.”
After the walk in the damp nighttime air, the smooth sheets and the warm covers felt wonderful. Within moments, his eyelids grew heavy, and he drifted off to peaceful dreams.
A beautiful woman stood before him, and when he looked at her, his heart burned with love and a longing he could not describe. She spoke with an alluring voice. “Oh Dale, I am so glad you have found me again.”
Dale stared wondering how she knew his name. “Do I know you? I feel as if I do somehow.”
She smiled, and Dale felt glassy eyed. “I am Perana, your Muse and inspiration. When we are together, we create many beautiful works of art. We share time together while you are asleep, but when you awaken you will not remember me.”
“How could I forget someone as beautiful as you? I’d rather not wake if it means that I’ll forget you.”
Perana gave him a pleased smile. “Tomorrow the work of your hands will be blessed, and if you paint, write, or simply work in the garden it will be a master piece.”
“I haven’t been happy with any of my work in a long while.”
“That is because there are times you lose me, and then you end up walk the city walls looking for me even though you don’t know what you’re missing.”
Dale shook his head. “I am not complete without you and may I never forget it.”
Dale awoke the next morning refreshed and feeling energized. When he cooked breakfast, all the items finished cooking at the same time, and they were perfectly seasoned. He spent the day singing to himself while he mixed paints and carefully added the finishing touches to paintings he had given up on months ago. He propped the paintings against the wall in a neat row, and he inspected the day’s work with a feeling of great satisfaction.
As the weeks passed, his reputation grew, and people from miles around came to buy Dale’s works. Private collectors actively sought his work, and he was often invited as the honored guest for the public unveilings. Life was good.
The next few months, he completed projects of immense splendor, and he began take great pride in his accomplishments. When he attended parties he began to boast of his talents, and he told every one of his grand plans.
The morning after attending an unveiling at the palace, he woke up, and did not want to leave the bed. When he managed to get up and cook breakfast, it filled his belly, but it did not satisfy. He stared at blank pages and white canvases until he threw up his hands in disgust. He mumbled to himself while he paced the floor, and no matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t seem to engage with his talents.
When night came, he tossed and turned for hours with the feeling that something was not right. Dale flung the covers from the bed and got dressed for a late night walk. As he stood to leave the bedroom, thunder shook the house and a heavy rain began to beat on the roof. Defeated, he shook his head and buried his head in the pillows until morning.
The sun was high in the sky when repeated knocking at the door forced Dale to leave the bedroom. He opened the door squinting against the sunlight, and he said with a snap, “What?”
“Dale Leger, I am here on the behalf of Alfred Klimt to inquire about the paintings commissioned four weeks ago. They are two days past due. I’m here to inquire about your progress?”
Dale’s temper flared. He took a deep breath and looked over the man’s shoulder for a moment. “I did a painting for Mr. Klimt earlier this year. He was pleased by it. Was he not?”
The manservant stood straighter, cocked his head slightly, and looked down his nose at Dale. “Mr. Klimt was very impressed which is why he commissioned two more.” His posture grew even more indignant. “I happen to know that you have not completed a single commission, and I know for a fact that several of your clients are preparing to take legal action against you. It is my job to look after my master’s investments, so I will ask you directly. Have you made progress?”
Dale studied the floor a moment before answering. “No, I just haven’t been up to it.”
The manservant nodded curtly and handed him a sealed envelope. “Enclosed is an official notice of termination. Your services are no longer required. A refund for the earnest payment will be expected within two days. Good day sir.”
Dale closed the door and spent the rest of the day staring out the window and ignoring the blank canvases around him.
When night finally came, he opened the front door and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the clear night sky. He went straight to the city walls and climbed the steps to the top. The stars danced, the trees rustled in the wind, and the fireflies made small explosions of light giving depth to the night. A single firefly landed on his shoulder that was much brighter than the others. He smiled while he watched it stretch its wings. When it flew away, he watched it rise high into the air and disappear among the tree limbs. Dale turned and began the walk home. The walk had been short, but something told him that he had what he needed.
Eddie D. Moore travels extensively for work and he spends much of that time listening to audio books. The rest of the time is spent dreaming of stories to write and he spends the weekends writing them. His stories have been published by Jouth Webzine, Saturday Night Reader, Every Day Fiction, Theme of Absence, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Adventure Worlds. He can be followed on Twitter @EddieMoore27