My muse lounges on my bed, dressed in a tight, black Victorian corset, black silk bloomers, and stiletto heels. Her snake hair is piled high on her head like a Gibson girl, but she looks more like a porn star vampire than an Edwardian icon. "You know," she says, drawing on a cigarette held in a long ivory holder, "Your surgery would have been a lot more fun with Opium."
I shake my head and glare at her. "Sorry. Can't take the stuff."
"Why? What happens?"
"Makes my psychotic. I see things and hear voices."
"What's wrong with that?" She props herself up on her elbow to look at me. "Lewis Carrol heard lots of voices and he wrote a masterpiece."
"I don't write stories for children."
She grins. "Neither did he." Rolling over on her back she stares at the ceiling. After a moment, she recites, "The blissful cloud of summer-indolence benumb'd my eyes; my pulse grew less and less; Pain had no string, and pleasure's wreath no flower:O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense unhaunted quite of all but-nothingness?"
"Ode on Indolence, by Keats," I say.
"I love the Romantics, but I don't understand their need, or any other artists need, for narcotics. Opium and alcohol, the writer's crutch. It's bullshit. They're too scared to create something on their own, instead relying on drugs to fuel their imaginations."
She laughs. "I'm kidding! I'm not suggesting you become a drug addict. I can't stand drug addicts, especially the artistic kind. Their own muses have abandoned them so they try to fill the artistic loss with hallucinations."
"They don't have muses?"
My muse sits up slowly, takes a long drag on her cigarette, and then looks at me with such sadness in her eyes I am stunned. "They used to have muses, but the drugs drove them away. The drugs become their muse. And perhaps they are able to create beautiful poetry and images, but they lose their soul with every word they write. If they stop taking the drugs, their muse will come back. But if they can't stop, they will never feel the touch of their muse again, and no other will take her place. They are forever alone." Looking at the cigarette in her hand, she shakes her head. "That's something the Romantics didn't learn until it was too late."
She rises and walks across the room to stand in front of me. We look at each other for a quiet moment until she smiles gently, sadness still showing in her green eyes. "Forget I ever mentioned opium. I'm glad you can't take codeine or morphine, and I'm glad you don't drink or fool with drugs. I like that you're so clean cut."
Then she grins and walks out of the room, her hips swinging as she sings "Goody two, goody two, goody, goody two shoes. Goody two, goody two, goody goody two shoes... Don't drink, don't smoke, what do you do...?"