Muse for Hire (Chapter 3)

Elaine works part-time in a library. She loves books. She was once a full time banker and whenever she thinks about it, it feels like another lifetime. She hated those years cos it was so horrible.
Whenever she thinks about it, it makes her angry. She’s never been around such sexist and egoistic people in her entire life but she endured it because she needed the money. She was just glad it was over. She was glad it was all behind her now.
While she was checking in books, a dreamy haze of her nightmare returns to her thoughts.
Elaine thought it was rather freaky. She remembers writing that story once. The nightmare felt just as real as the last time.
She wonders about how the nightmare started.
She woke up inside a train. Elaine usually takes the train to go back home. She looked around and wondered if she missed her stop.
She got off the empty train and continued to argue with herself about missing her stop. But it’s the same train station, same station name. It’s just completely empty. She ran up to the exit, and hoped to see someone but there’s no one in sight. She slid below the turnstile to get out of the station and without thinking, ran towards the main exits.
She remembered that she could hear her heart beating in her ears loudly and feeling rather agitated about wanting to see what she would find above.
There was light and she ran towards it. When her eyes adjusted to the brightness and she felt her heart threatening to leap out, she felt her mouth open.
There was no one around up here either.
Elaine started feeling the panic setting in and her heart is promising to leave its place. She just stood there, blinking and staring at the emptiness of the streets.
She heard silence and she felt the cold sweat.
She started shivering and her knees started feeling weak.
And then she heard her voice.
It startled her because she didn’t even think about speaking to herself or speaking at all. She assured herself.
She calmed herself and she calmly tell herself that she will answer the questions she needed to answer.
Elaine felt the strength to take a step down the small steps. She was still wary and wondered if it was a good idea to venture anywhere else.
As much as she hated to, she had to search the cars. She looked into the empty cars that are scattered around the streets. She looked for mobile phones or a GPS. She went inside a shop with a computer and tried to check the Internet.
She got static. She wondered why she would get fucking static on the Internet.
Finally, without even thinking about it, she screamed.
She screamed loud enough for anyone from a block or two to hear her.
She was startled when she heard her voice coming back to her. The echo of her voice was the only thing that came back to her.
She realized that she had been walking and she found herself right next to a 7-11. She took a bottle of water, a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
She was about to light the cigarette when it suddenly dawned on her that she didn’t even try going home.
She checked her pockets for her phone and wondered whether or not she left her bag in the train. She didn’t care anymore and walked towards the direction of her district.
She passed an electronic shop on the way and checked the television. No news broadcast, just static.
She checked the radio, static too.
Elaine found it odd that the escalator at one of the bridges she’s about to cross is working. She checked the other machines that she passes and they all seem to work properly.
Elaine found herself at her front door, wondering how she’s going to open the door. She swung the metal door open without a problem and prayed that the second door is unlocked.
The first thing she did when the door opened was she called her dog’s name. She knew she never had a dog her entire life but here she was, making puppy or dog calls. She turned around and she saw her telephone. She lunged for it and listened to check the line.
It was dead.
Elaine felt tears streaming down her cheeks. She was laughing but she felt this heavy feeling on her chest.
She exited her flat and pressed the neighbours’ doorbells, one by one. She started banging on their door, calling out for anyone to respond to her.
No response.
She put her ear on every door. She tried opening the doors without any difficulty. She tried every door. They all opened.
She went to the floor below. All the front doors opened.
And then there’s was blackness.
And she found herself returned to her bed, hearing Tony drop that pan in the morning.
She decided that tonight, she’s going to watch TV, let herself tune in into bad late night movies. And before going to bed, she’s going to listen to the radio and she’s going to fall asleep listening to it.
And what she wants to do right now, is make a lot of phone calls.
She’s going to start with some late returns. And for a bit of a change, she’s going to be doing this quite happily.
She sometimes read the books that are returned to her. Sometimes it’s interesting; sometimes it’s all very common.
And most of the time, it’s actually too depressing to read.
She figures she could surf the Net during lunch and just look for a random, hopefully, interesting articles that would make her go a-ha when she gets back. Then she realises that she had to do some more work in the storeroom today.
This probably calls for some ‘FML’ short story.


Elaine spies on some children at the corner of her eye. Elaine pretends not to listen and watch the kids talk about their ‘stuff’. She didn’t have the things these kids had but she can bet they didn’t have the childhood she had.

She had a happy childhood. She didn’t grow up in the usual urban jungle. Their place was away from the city and there weren’t many buildings. The area looked like a small suburb from the outside but further in the gate, you go through a tunnel of trees and you’d feel like you’ve been transported to some far distant land. Her family had fruit trees that should even grow in the area, let alone the island. She also vividly recalls they had twenty dogs and one cat. Elaine’s grandfather just didn’t want to leave the dogs out there without a home. And the biggest thing she had for herself at that age was this makeshift swing that he uncle has set up for her by one of the trees in the garden.

She wouldn’t trade anything for that and she imagines herself thanking but politely declining an extravagant offer by some mysterious stranger that wants her childhood in exchange.

The thought of moving somewhere remote, where it’s quieter and greener, crosses Elaine’s mind again.
It has a certain ‘pull’ but whenever she thinks about the pros and cons, the cons always wins. Maybe in a year or two, she hopes the pros outweigh the cons more considerably.
She looks at the clock and knows that she’s got a lot of things to do before the end of the day. She thinks about writing in a child’s perspective but she feels that life corrupted her enough to remember innocence the way she knew it last. She knew it won’t work.
And she’s not as funny as she thinks but she wouldn’t admit that to anyone.
The only possibility now is to write a children’s book, if she ever gets quite desperate.
Lam didn’t specifically tell her what category she should write or whether it should be for children, tweens, teens or adults.
She looks back at the clock and decides to work on her job, for now.
Elaine goes upstairs to check the adult library if she is needed there. She notices not one, but two ladies who are writing. Click, clack, click, clack, she hears them typing.
She wants to sit down next to them, ask them what they are writing about and what inspires them to write. She used to have a muse. Oh yes she did. She wrote feverishly and losing sleep was the least of her problems. She didn’t care if she looked like hell the next day. Or what kind of sleep deprived decision she made. The consequences just didn’t matter.
What’s important was the words were forming before her.
They need to be seen by everyone else.
She felt maybe it was because she used to write her stories by hand and not by typing in front of the computer.
But then again, that was the reason why she’s stopped writing by hand.
It’s because it seems like her pen and mind are not connecting.
She was trying to find another way of connecting to her mysterious tap of creative force.
She knows it must be there. She felt it before.
And she wants the same feeling back.
Or does this mean she really can’t write anymore?
Elaine drops the load of books on the floor by accident.
She dismissed the thought. She knows it’s not true.
There must be something to write about.
She just needs to be diligent about trying to find it.
She knows she’s been procrastinating. She can admit it now but she refuses to acknowledge it when she’s on the act.
Elaine blames herself.
She knows she can’t blame anyone else in the world.
She finds herself blaming cockroaches and the thought of those undying creatures completely revolts her.
Maybe she should write something for children about how bad roaches are. She finds that idea intriguing. Maybe that children’s book is it. It’s beginning to sound promising to her. She tells herself to look away from the working members on the table, quickly.
She’s beginning to look like a stalker.

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