Part 12

The next morning when Muse awoke to her other world, she found herself on the ground, nestled in a bed of grass.  She raised her head to see Dream sitting a little ways off, on an overturned log.

“Where are your birds?” she wondered, sitting up.

“They only come out at night,” said Dream.  “Naturally.”

Muse looked around, trying to get her bearings.  “Where are we?”

“A small woodland glade,” Dream answered, somewhat unhelpfully, since Muse was able to figure that out herself.  What she really wanted to know was how far they had flown from Love’s palace, and how far away they were from home.

“How was your day yesterday?” Dream asked, before Muse could form another question of her own.

Muse stood up.  Why did Dream have to go there, so soon?  She shrugged, and pretended to inspect her gown ruefully, brushing at grass stains.  Dream watched her with patient curiosity — Muse knew the subject would come around to this again, no matter what ways she stalled, so she had out with it:

“I went to the store, in the morning, but I left at lunch.  I saw a rummage sale as I drove home, and they were selling an old, black and white television set.  I bought it, then went home and spent the rest of the day watching television.”  She went over to sit next to Dream.  “I love television.  I could only get one channel, and it was very fuzzy, and the screen was terribly small.  But I was able to sit there for hours, not falling asleep enough to cross over, but in a state so close to oblivion that now I almost feel completely rested.”

Dream smiled, but prompted: “And Love?”

Muse sighed.  “You may as well give up your romantic ideas for me, Dream.  It’s hopeless, and silly, all things considered.  He belongs to Beauty and only has interest in me as a substitute when they are apart.”

“I didn’t have romantic ideas for you,” said Dream.  “You had them for yourself.”

“You know what I mean.  You would like to help me along with those ideas.”

“If you have no interest in Love then I have no interest in him, either.”

“I am no one’s substitute.  I’m not that desperate for companionship.”

Dream nodded.  “Very wise of you.”

Muse didn’t say anything further, only stood up and walked along the narrow path that ran across the glade, back into the woods.  Dream got up and followed her, equally as silent, but Muse had an idea that she’d like to say more.  Perhaps she didn’t believe that Muse could give up so easily, but really, with Love so enthralled by Beauty that he would accept banishment in one life for being her lapdog in another, there was no reason to continue.

“Do you know who lives around here?” Muse ventured, at last, hoping Dream would not try to direct the subject back.

“I believe Wisdom and Joy live on the other side of this wood,” Dream said, coming up alongside.  “It’s been a rather long time since I’ve seen them, perhaps we should stop in and say hello.”

Muse gave her a dubious look.

“It will be a long walk back to your cottage,” Dream replied.  “I would rather stay here, and visit our nearby friends, until evening.  Then we may fly back.”

“It’s a beautiful day, we might enjoy a cross country walk.”

Dream smiled, catlike.  “What do you have against Wisdom and Joy, that you don’t wish to see them?”

I’m not in the mood to view a pair of Immortals in a state of marital bliss, thought Muse, and Dream’s smile widened.  “I have no objections at all,” Muse said out loud, and they continued through the woods, till they came out the other side.

There was a small mortal village there, called The Village of Wisdom and Joy.  They were two of the most ancient Immortals known, yet to pass on and become one with their elements, as Muse’s predecessor had.  They remembered that Muse well, and it made the present one feel a little strange to be around them; as if she would never fully inherit the former goddess’ gift, so long as there was living memory of her in the world.

Their house stood at the center of the village, overlooking the square, and Dream rang the doorbell without hesitation.  A mortal servant opened the door, and seemed half frightened and half awed to see her there.  Dream was special even in a world where gods and goddesses were commonplace, so Muse was hardly surprised by the girl’s reaction.

They were led to a sitting room and then the girl rushed off to fetch her master and mistress.  Muse and Dream sat in silence, Muse inspecting the furnishings and Dream smiling out the window in a distracted way.  Who knew what was on her mind; certainly not Muse.

“Dream and Muse,” said a voice from the doorway, and both turned to look.

It was Wisdom, a god with a head of silvery white hair and a full beard to match.  Wisdom did not look youthful, and perhaps never had, but he did not look decrepit in the fashion of mortal age.  His eyes were bright and his figure erect, his skin barely wrinkled, like a young actor playing an old character in a movie.  Muse smiled at herself, relating Wisdom to the other world’s playacting; but it fit.  He was as robust as any Immortal, and only wore the guise of age because how, after all, could there be Wisdom without experience?

Joy stood next to him; in her appearance was no sign of age, at all.  She could be just born from the Lake, for all anyone knew to look at her.  There was laughter in her bright green eyes, threatening to spill out her mouth, at any moment.  Her hair was a mass of exuberant red curls.  If Muse did not know she was just as ancient as Wisdom, she would have thought them an odd looking couple.  May and December, as mortals liked to say.

They received their guests with a warm greeting, and Joy asked, “What brings you to our part of the world?  It’s a great distance.”

“We flew on the backs of dreamravens,” said Dream, matter-of-factly.  “But of course they depart with the sun, so we were left here.  Rather than walk all the way back we thought to spend the day visiting the Immortals who live around here.”

Wisdom and Joy nodded, as if this were quite sensible, and not the least bit of an imposition on them.  Muse thought they were being polite, because here they had an entire village of mortals who looked to them as leaders, surely they weren’t just hanging about waiting on callers.

“Muse, how tired you look,” said Joy, with concern.  “Have you been feeling well?”

Immortals did not get sick, so how could she be feeling ill?  “I’m quite well,” she said.

“We had a busy night last night,” Dream announced.  “I made Muse go out for once, up to Love’s palace for his nightly revel.”

“And how is Love, these days?” asked Wisdom.  “I heard that he has taken up with Beauty.”  He didn’t give any indication what he thought of the pair.

“Such a lovely couple,” said Joy, with a little clap.  “I always thought they were fit for each other.  Both so young.  Like the two of you.  Goodness, it seems the world is full of youth, these days.”

“They seemed very happy together,” Dream answered Wisdom’s question.  “I agree, they are the perfect couple.”

Muse gave her a look to say, You won’t get a rise out of me, if that’s what you’re going for.

Out loud she said, to Joy, “I’m feeling less young, these days.  I suppose it will go on like this.”

Joy looked at her, puzzled, as if the idea of becoming worn down belonged only to mortals.  But Wisdom nodded.  “Ours is not an easy existence.  I’ve known many to fall prey to weariness and fade before their time.  If you’re feeling yourself stretched thin, Muse, be careful.  We are Immortal, not invincible.”

Muse knew it was impolite to ask, but she voiced the impetuous question that rose to her mind; “Do you live together, like this, in the other world?  Or are you apart?”

Joy looked a little startled, but answered anyway.  “Yes, we are together, in our other life.  We are inseparable, are we not, Wisdom?”

“I would be far too morose without you.”  He smiled at her.  “If not for you, I would have faded away from the weight of the worlds, years ago.”

“And I would have flitted around like a madfly and burned myself out eons ago, without you,” she said, returning his smile.

Muse suppressed the urge to glare at Dream.  Of course Dream wanted her to see this, to be reminded how dangerous it was to be alone, always alone.  But the contented cooing of Wisdom and Joy would not change anything.  They were truly attached to each other, in both worlds, neither was using the other as a substitute.  Muse had no control over that aspect of her own situation, so even if she relented to Love’s wishes, this scene would never belong to her.

“Perhaps,” Muse said to Dream, while Wisdom and Joy gave them curious looks, “I need a change of scenery.  Maybe I should move into the Forest, and we’ll live side by side, two spinster sisters, musing and dreaming together.”

“If that’s what you want,” Dream said, agreeably, “I have no objection.  I should warn you, though, that my home isn’t quite as quiet and cozy as yours.  Those dreamravens are but a pair of the companions I’ve gathered from mortal dreams.  Mine isn’t as solitary a life as you might think.”

“Apparently, the solitary life isn’t healthy.”

Joy interjected; “Have I ever told you about Muse — the old Muse, the one before you?”

Muse shook her head.  She knew that Joy and Wisdom had known the former Muse, but they had not spoken of her; knowing, perhaps, how uncomfortable it made Muse feel.  But the tone of Joy’s voice made her curious, now, and she waited expectantly for more.

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