Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Picture Fiction Challenge: A Muse By Any Other Name

Ok... I think this is the third monthly Picture Fiction Challenge created by R.E.H. at his Ramblings of a Madman and my second attempt at it. Each month, R.E.H. randomly chooses five photos over at for each of five assigned categories: Character, Setting, Objective, Random Object and an Item. Each photo must be included the story in accordance with its assigned role. I thought this was REALLY hard last month. This month I thought it was REALLY REALLY hard. It was also fun and now that I have posted my own, I can't wait to go read what other participants have come up with. Last time they were all very different from each other and wonderfully creative and entertaining. I recommend that you check it out... and consider joining in next month.

Here are the pictures R.E.H. gave us to work with and their assigned roles.

And here - for better or worse - is my story.

Brandy and the Zen Monster

Brandy Wines was tired of being a rock star. She was tired of life in the big city, tired of her walk-up apartment in a so-so part of town, tired of battling her way through bums and crazy people just to get to and from work. She was tired of fighting with her band about where to perform and how much they would get paid. She was tired of road trips and loudness, tired of drinking to fit in.

More than anything, she was tired of the nightmares which had begun filling her nights so that she woke exhausted and baffled and a little bit frightened. Rock stars did not get frightened and Brandy Wines did not like the feeling one bit. She had tried drinking more but the dreams had persisted. So she had tried abstaining completely. That didn't help either. The creepy little monster - it looked like stuffed toy gone mad with a huge mouth and spiky teeth - was there every night almost as soon as she closed her eyes and right before she awakened again. Some nights, it would lumber towards her making viscious cackling noise, getting bigger and bigger with each step. Other nights it would attack while she dreamed she was on stage, remaining small. But it's teeth would turn into fangs and it would nibble at her ankles and torment her, moving in circles around her feet so that she never knew where it was going to bite next, so that she couldn't out-maneouver it. It was exhausting and she had no idea what it meant, but she knew that she couldn't take much more. What made things worse was that she had begun to watch for it when she was performing, to half expect it to dart out from behind the drums and attack her as she leaped and gyrated on the stage. And she was tired down to her bones. Something had to change. She knew that.

Eventually, she got so desperate, she decided to try therapy, much to the scorn of the rest of the band. At first she had almost given in to their mockery, but desperation had won over embarrassment and she was glad that it had, because therapy was helping. Her therapist was wonderful, helping her to quiet her mind and look at the dream from outside her fear. Everyone and everything in her dreams, he had told her was a part of her, so they had to try and figure out what she was trying to tell herself. What was her psyche trying to tell her and what part of her did that strange little monster represent? They tried a variety of gestalt type techniques. You would have thought that being a performer, that would have been right up her alley, but it seemed performing for her was a way of maintaining a mask so she pretty much left the stage when her therapist tried to get her to go into the dream. "Not happening," she replied. Not that she didn't try. It was just too scary. Finally her therapist suggested that she try dialoging with the dream. "Try having a conversation with the monster... just put down what ever comes into your head first. Don't edit, don't second guess. Just go with it." Frankly it had seemed like a stupid idea to Brandy, but she tried it anyway and the result had been nothing short of mind boggling. It went something like this:

Brandy: Hi, may I speak to the toothy little monster in my dream?

Monster: About time, jerk face.

Brandy: About time?

Monster: Well, I've been trying to get your attention for about two years now. You are a hard nut to crack.

Brandy: Well, at least you're a monster with a sense of humor. What is it you've been trying to tell me?

Monster: Oh, now you want to know. What if I don't feel like telling any more?

Brandy: Well, I'm guessing that if you didn't still want to tell me whatever it is, you wouldn't be tormenting me every night.

Monster: Could be. Maybe I'm just mean.

Brandy: Well, you have a sense of humor and you're talking to me, so my instincts tell me that you aren't as mean as I thought you were.

Monster: Ah... this gives me hope

Brandy: Hope about what?

Monster: Hope that I can save you.

Brandy: Save me? Save me from what?

Monster: Yourself.

Brandy: I'm listening.

Monster: About time.

Brandy: I think we covered that.

Monster: Ah, yes we did. I'm just a touch bitter still... and exhausted... It's hard work haunting dreams every night and feeling like you are getting nowhere. I was at my wits end.

Brandy: Well, I was trying to listen...

Monster: No you weren't. You were trying to make me go away.

Brandy: Guess you've got me there. Now that you've got my ear, how about spilling the beans. What was so important that you've been torturing me?

Monster: You're killing yourself. You have to stop what you're doing or you'll die.

Brandy: Killing myself? What are you talking about? I'm the most clean-living rock star in history.

Monster: More than one way to kill yourself. You aren't killing your body self. You're killing your creative self, your spirit self, your inner song-bird.

Brandy: My inner song bird? I sing for a living.

Monster: But it's what you sing. You don't love it any more. In fact you hate it. You run around the stage and scream and jump up and down because it's a habit. You hate it.

Brandy: I don't hate it.

Monster: Don't lie. You haven't loved it for a long time. It bores you.

Brandy: But I need to earn a living.

Monster: You have plenty saved up. Like you said, you are a very clean-living rock star.

Brandy: Well, that won't last me forever.

Monster: Did I say you had to stop living? Did I say you had to sit comatose? I don't think so.

Brandy: Well, what are you suggesting.

Monster: Something quieter. Something softer. Something that expresses your true self.

Brandy: I don't know who my true self is.

Monster: Obviously. If you did, I wouldn't have been chasing you around in your dreams to get your attention.

Brandy: So do you know who my true self is?

Monster: Yes.

Brandy: Well?

Monster: Please, I can't tell you. You have to open your heart to her.

Brandy: What are you? A Zen monster?

Monster: Zen monster? I like that. I think perhaps I am.

Brandy: Can you give me a hint at least, Zen Monster?

Monster: A hint? Hmm. I think perhaps I could do that.

Brandy: I'd appreciate it. Thank you.

Monster: You're welcome.

Brandy: Uh, the hint please...

Monster: Oh, yes, of course... the hint is this: "Look to the goldfinch."

Brandy: God, you ARE a Zen Monster. What the hell does that mean?

Monster: You're on your own now, babe. I've done my part.

Brandy: Does this mean you won't be bothering me any more.

Monster: If you do as I've suggested, I see no need. Don't cross me though. If I come back rested, what you've been through so far will seem quite the cake walk.

Brandy: Well, thank you for talking to me I guess. What on earth does "Look to the Goldfinch" mean?

Monster: You'll figure it out. I have faith in you.

Brandy: You do? Really?

Monster: Really. Mind if I go now? I'm a bit weary and looking forward to some R&R.

Brandy: Well, OK. Thanks again. I guess.

That night, Brandy slept deeply for the first time in a very long time. In her dreams she was sleeping in her bedroom back home in the mountains where she had grown up. Outside the window she heard a voice singing an incredibly beautiful song. The words and melody vibrated through her being. Her dream self rose from it's bed and walked to the window and looked out on a magnificent old tree in full flower. And on its branches singing with as beautiful a voice as legends attributed to the nightingale, sat a goldfinch, small and radiant in the morning sun. As it's song washed over her, Brandy realized that she knew both the words and the melody to the little bird's song. She had written them years back and - fearful of what her band mates might think - had tossed her composition into a box in her closet, along with at least a dozen others. As though reading her thoughts, the little bird seemed to bow to her and, although she knew it was impossible, she thought she saw it look her in the eyes and smile.

She woke the next morning refreshed and at peace for the first time in many years, knowing what she had to do. Even the insensitive clods in her band recognized that something had happened. Before she even opened her mouth to speak, they knew intuitively that she said was leaving the band. When she told them about her dream of moving to the country and finding a home somewhere in the mountains, they couldn't even resent her decision, though it was inconvenient for them because just looking at her peaceful radiant face, they knew she was doing what was right. They didn't even try to change her mind or protest.

Three years later, after her first single folk album, SONGBIRD came out and went gold(finch), they visited her at her mountain retreat and were perhaps a little envious, not of her success, but of the radiant happiness that still glowed from her. Her house was simply and elegantly decorated. There was one odd thing that almost every visitor commented on. It was an strange stuffed creature with a gaping red mouth, big teeth and beady black eyes. When people asked about it - as they often did - she would get an odd little smile on her face and reply. "That? Oh, that's my muse. "



Jay said...

Now THAT was a very original and imaginative take on those pictures. She talked to the little monster in her dream. Very clever. Great job Raven!

Anonymous said...

I really really loved this! I mean the monster had it going on! I think you got inside of my head at night while I am dreaming!

Great!! This is an Original


I finally took the challenge!

Jeff B said...

Each time I go to the next story I think, "This is my favorite one." The style of yours is very different from some of the others, but I'm seeing an underlying theme to a few... Refelcting on simpler times.

Great job!

Jo said...

This was so enjoyable, I'm still smiling. You had such a creative take on it, I like the particular way you blended humor & depth. The conversation with the Zen Monster was such a fun romp...makes me wish one of them would haunt me :)

Newt said...

Awwww, that was wonderful. I loved this. A very happy take on the pictures. And the Zen Monster is awesome. The conversation had me in giggles. Really really great job.

Farmer*swife a/k/a Glass_Half_Full said...

This was very good. And, out of the box. I like how you were able to take the "item" and incorporate it so well into your story.

Great job!!

Raven said...

hey Jay - thanks... I had fun writing the dream conversation.

Single In The City - Thanks so much. Glad you too the challenge. It's difficult, but it's fun.

Jeff B - I know what you mean - I find each story so creative and amazing. It's way cool.

Jo - thanks so much. Glad you liked the monster.

Newt - Glad you giggled. I love to make people laugh.

Farmer's Wife - thanks. You know I posted a comment for your story and when I went back to look, it didn't seem to be there. I'll have to check back and redo it if it's still missing.

R.E.H. said...

Wonderfully original and fun to read from start to finish. The whole conversation between Monster and Brandy kept me grinning throughout - absolutely wonderful dialogue.

The whole story was really captivating, and I really liked how you interpetrated the pictures.

It is funny how every story so far seems to deal with some form of escape as the Objective. I think that Objective picture in conjunction with the city Setting and the hard rocking girl Character drew us all to think of the snow covered mountains as a form of retreat!

Fabulous story!

Dianne said...

I love the Zen Monster Raven. And as everyone else said, the conversation was so well written. How you made it sound so natural is beyond me.

Just plain wonderful.

Sorry I got here so late :)

Raven said...

r.e.h. - I think given two settings we almost had to move between them... or at least I wasn't creative enough to think of another alternative. I thought your voodoo story was magnificent. That dialog was fun to write. My own inner Zen Monster participated, I think.

dianne - glad you came by... conversation was the easiest part to write, oddly (see response to r.e.h.) .... I'm kind of fond of that Zen Monster myself.