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Looking at my World from a Different Place


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At the Oracle

Oracle signA creative person often has a muse — that person who inspires the creative.   The muse can be a person known to creative or can be an inspirational figure from history.  The Greeks personified the muse in their mythology by creating nine characters, goddesses who inspired them in various areas — music, poetry, literature, and science.   I have followed the Greeks’ example and created a fictional muse.  My muse is a psychological construct who gets my creative stream moving.  Similarly, I personified my Inner Critic as well.  I have written a number of stories over the years where I do battle with my Inner Critic (and almost always squash her).  Writing these short stories has helped me overcome the occasional creative block in my writer’s journey.    A number of years ago, I finally wrote a story where my Muse comes face-to-face with my Inner Critic.  Here is a re-post of that epic encounter.

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At The Oracle

I rushed down the rain-slick street towards The Oracle. A break in the storm allowed fingers of light from the setting sun make the rain-laden clouds darkly ominous. I picked up my pace, hoping to get to the bookstore before the clouds unleashed a new round of rain.

I was supposed to meet an old friend at the bookstore, a writing buddy from back in the day when I actually wrote things. Sherlyn was passing through town on a promotional tour of her new novel. She had promised me that we would meet and catch up on old times.

When we were young, we would meet at the Oracle, write in our respective journals for a few minutes, and then read to each other what we had written. Of course these writing sessions were fueled by cups of Oracle coffee, the strongest brew known to humankind. Those had been great experiences, and we often come away from our writing sessions with the seeds of new stories to revise and expand. Sherlyn had taken those writings and produced a novel that made her famous. I was still making time at a dead-end desk job.

I glanced at my watch. I was fifteen minutes late. Picking this time of day to get through the daily commuter nightmare mess was a bad idea, but this was the only time Sherlyn could meet. It was my mistake not to give myself more time to arrive and find a place to park. I hope my friend had not been waiting too long. I hope I had not missed her altogether.

I rounded a corner and saw the warm interior of the bookstore shining through its huge plate glass window set into the facade of an ancient brick building. A faded sign hanging next to the entrance read “The Oracle, est. 1851”. A bell jangled as I pushed through the door, the same bell that Mrs. Delphinia Ravenhill, the original owner, had installed a hundred and sixty years ago.

I hurried by a table of slick, glossy art books and wove through the stacks of Self-Help and Sustainable Living towards the backroom cafe’. With pastries to die for and coffee that would keep you awake while you did, the Oracle café was a place where writers and other creatives gathered to drink, eat, write first drafts, sketch drawings, read books, or just day-dream. The cafe’ was always busy, but at certain times, like November when the regional Nano-wrimo groups convened, one was lucky to get a table at all. Tonight though, most likely because of the afternoon storm, the cafe was only moderately active.

Mostly there were men and women occupying single tables, the faces intent on their laptops or the books they were reading. Some frantically scribbled in journals. At a few tables there were pairs or trios quietly conversing. I scanned the room:  Sherlyn was not there. This concerned me. If she were running late, she would have texted me. I had a sinking feeling that I had been stood up.

I took a seat at the long marble counter situated in front of a row of antique brass expresso machines. A woman stood in front one of the machines drawing a cup. On the back of her shirt was the Oracle’s ravens-head logo and the name Corvida.

Where’s Bennie, I wondered. I slid onto a stool at the counter and pulled out my cell phone. There was no message from Sherlyn. I sighed.

A steaming cup slid across the counter and into my view.

“I thought you might like this. It’s on the house,” said Corvida.

I glanced up at her.  She had thick waves of black hair tied back and was dressed in the t-shirt and jeans requisite for twenty-somethings, but her eyes seemed to belong to a much older person. She reminded me of my great-aunt Millicent, a mischievous old lady with a twinkle in her eye and wisdom on her tongue. Corvida, quite frankly, had a disconcerting aura about her — like she might have belonged behind this expresso bar, but not quite.

“Uh, thanks.” I looked down at the cappuccino and noted that the Oracle’s raven-head logo had been drawn into the foam of the drink. “Nice work.”

“Thanks,” said Corvida.

“How did you know this was my favorite drink here?”

“Bennie told me.”

“Where is Bennie?”

“Off celebrating. He just got accepted into the writing program at State.”

“He did?. That’s great news. I know he was on pins and needles waiting to hear. I’m so happy for him.”

“Me too.” Corvida smiled as she pulled a damp rag from under the counter and began wiping it down.

I picked up the cup and inhaled the earthy aroma of the coffee. This was a little ritual I always performed before I took a sip.

“Wow, Bennie made into a graduate program. He’s going places.” I set the cup down. “Not like me.”

“You don’t need any more schooling, “ said Corvida, eyeing me from the other end of the counter.

“What?”

She walked back down to me. “School is right for Bennie and he’ll learn from that experience. You’ve had your own experiences – unique to you – you just need to write them down.”

“Yeah,” I sighed. I leaned an elbow on the counter and hoisted my feet on the stool next to me. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. “

“There’s nothing wrong with you. You just need an idea, that’s all.”

“Sure. No problem. No problem at all.”

Corvida shoved the towel back under the counter. “So what brings you here on a weekday afternoon? Bennie said you were part of the Saturday morning crowd.”

“I’m meeting my friend, Sherlyn Queensman.”

“THE Sherlyn Queensman? “

“Yep, she’s the one.”

“Her novels take up a whole shelf over in 2-D.” Corvida motioned towards the front of the store. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she got a Pulitzer in the next year or so. And what a life she’s lived: her novels, her social activism, her five deadbeat husbands and, what did I just hear? She’s learning to be a pilot? Amazing woman. How do you know her?”

“She and I used to sit in this café and write together. Right over there.” I pointed to a table in the corner underneath the poster of Mary Shelley.

“No kidding? Sherlyn Queensman wrote here? I bet you have a story or two to tell about that.”

“Yeah, I would.”

“I bet you know all about her formative years.”

“That I would…” Suddenly, something in the back of my mind sparked. I shook my head. Naw, that’s a dumb idea…. still…..

I took a deep breath and the smell of cinnamon and carmelized butter overwhelmed me. “Are those fresh cinnamon buns I smell?”

“Yep, last batch of the day. Want one?”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Comin’ right up.” Corvida pushed through the double doors into the kitchen.

Suddenly, a twangy voice cut through the air from the other end of the counter. “Those buns are making you fat.”

I knew that voice. I knew it well. Arvilla.

She sat on a stool, her back leaning against a brick pillar. In her short tight dress, chunky jewelry, and her usual spiky heels, Arvilla was a walking ad for the Rodeo Drive Chamber of Commerce. She casually sipped from a white and green venti-sized paper cup from the franchise down the street.

I already encountered my Inner Critic twice before, each time letting her mess with my head before kicking her out on her own. I was not going to let her work on me again. I pointed my index finger at her.

“Do not start with me, Arvilla. Do not say another word.”

Arvilla sniffed and set her cup on the counter. “Sugar, you seem to be under the presumption that I have come to see YOU. Rest assured, that is not the case at all.”

I lowered my finger and looked at her.

“See,” she said as she flourished a wave across the café, “these are the people I came to see. That one over there, in the corner – her plot stinks to high heaven and I’m going to have a little chat with her about that. And that gentlemen over there? He spends way too much time writing. He needs to have some distraction. I’m just the person for that.” Arvilla chuckled.

“Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that you didn’t come to see me, to rake me over the coals a bit.”

“No, darlin’, I did not.” Arvilla plopped her feet on the floor and leaned forward on her stool. She stared straight back at me and continued, “You are not even on my radar any more. You are not worth my time and effort. The truth is, sweetie, I have come to the conclusion that you are never going to write anything worthwhile in your whole life ever. In fact, that conclusion can apply to most anything about your life.”

I felt like I had been slugged in the gut.

Suddenly, the door from the kitchen banged open and there stood Cordiva, her eyes trained on Arvilla. “What are you doing here?” she spoke with a scary calmness.

Arvilla slid off her stool and turned to face Corvida. “Doing my job,” she replied.

“Your job is simply to tell people where to stick in their commas and semi-colons.”

I would swear that Arvilla’s tacky red hair was becoming even brassier.

Arvilla placed her hands on her hips. “I’ll tell you where to stick it, honey. You must have paid a visit to Mount O. because you’ve got a real goddess-complex happening here thinkin’ you can order me around.”

Corvida slowly walked around the end of the counter and faced Arvilla. I slid my stool out of the way, trying to make myself as unnoticeable as possible.

Cordiva slowly said, “You’re right. I don’t need to tell you what to do. You already know what has been handed down to us to do. In case you’ve forgotten, let me remind you, dear sister, that you are supposed to HELP, not hinder.”

“Well, I do help. If it weren’t for me, SHE,” Arvilla pointed toward me, “would be embarrassing herself by writing all kinds of dribble. She should be thanking me.”

Cordiva said, “Why don’t you try a little positive critiquing for a change. “

“What?” Arvilla and I replied in unison. We both stared at Cordiva in bewilderment.

“You heard me. Arvilla give Elle a compliment. I know you can do it,” Cordiva coaxed with a sugary smile.

“Fine. I will.” Arvilla gave an exasperated sigh. “Let’s see…. This will take a minute.”

I gave Cordiva a “why-are-you-putting-me-through-this” look.

“Alrighty, I got it.” Arvilla turned to me and said, “Your ability to write dialogue is fairly decent….and… well, you don’t totally suck at writing place descriptions…”

“And….” Said Cordiva.

Arvilla had a pained look on her face and after a long pause burst out, “Aw, heck, Cordiva, that’s all I got. She’s hopeless. She can’t write a sustainable plot for more than a couple thousand words and her writing, at best, is full of clichés.” Arvilla glanced at me. “She’s boring and unremarkable.” She turned back to Arvilla. “Face it, sugar, you are not doing her any favors by babying her.”

Cordiva said nothing for a moment. I thought I felt a tremor run through the counter top and heard the faint tinkle of cups and saucers on the shelf behind it. The lights flickered and momentarily dimmed.

“What’s the real problem here, Arvilla?” Cordiva took a step towards her.

“What do you mean?” Arvilla stepped back.

“Why don’t you want her to succeed? Is the fact that I might be correct in my estimation of her talent and potential and that sticks in your craw?

“You are full of it!”

Cordiva’s face lightened as if a profound bit of insight came to her. “Or is it, dear sister, you’re just a Critic because YOU do not possess any sort of creative power of your own. You’re angry because she has that power – and I have that power – and you don’t. You’re jealous of her, Arvilla.”

Arvilla’s eyes turned yellow and she hissed back, “I am not jealous of something like HER. She’s pathetic. I think the Universe was wrong to have wasted the molecules to create HER. She should not even exist!” She aimed these last horrible words directly at me.

I cringed and pulled into myself even more so. She must be right. Yes, she was absolutely correct.

Suddenly, I heard a loud pop and the sound of falling glass, followed by another pop and then another. I looked to the back of the counter. The bottles of Torani syrup on the shelf behind the counter were exploding, one after another. The cups and saucers on the shelf underneath were propelling themselves over the counter. I threw up an arm to protect myself from the flying glass and ceramic shrapnel, but it was all flying in the direction of Arvilla.

“I’ve had about all I can stand of you,” rumbled Cordiva. She began to grow in front of me, her t-shirt and jeans transforming into a cloak of black feathers. Her eyes were coal-black and filled with anger. She advanced towards Arvilla.

“From this point forward, you will no longer have any influence on anyone in this café.”

There was a loud bang and the café and bookstore began to sway. The overheads went off, leaving only the eerie blue glow of the building’s emergency lights. I heard a patron from the front of the bookstore scream “Earthquake!”

The tables were too far away for me to take cover, so I got down on the floor and crouched as closely as I could to the front of the counter. I could hear Arvilla shrieking and cursing Corvida and through the dim blue light I could see her covering the face and head. The shaking got steadily worse.

Then, the roof fell in on Arvilla.

“Miss Elle?”

“Huh?” I looked up at Bennie’s concerned face.

“Miss Elle, are you okay? You dropped your bag on the floor and then, well you sorta zoned out for a minute.”

Indeed I was on the floor. I picked up my bag and climbed back on the stool. I looked around the café. The patrons who had been there when I entered were still engaged in writing and conversation. Nothing was out of place. Everything was as it should be. I should have known from my past experiences with Arvilla that everything would be.

I turned towards the front windows of the bookstore. The sky had finally opened up and it was pouring rain.

“Some lightning show, huh? I thought for sure we’d lose power with that last strike.”

I turned back to the young man. “Where’s Corvida?”

“Who?”

“Corvida. Why are you here? She said you were off.”

“No….” said Bennie with some hesitation. “I’ve been here all afternoon. Um, are you going to answer your purse?”

“My purse?” I looked over at my hand bag that I had placed back on the counter. I could hear my cell phone’s ring tone coming from it. “Oh, yeah.” I scrambled to get it out and looked at the caller ID. I quickly flipped it open.

“Sherlyn? … Yes, I’m still here at the store.. Where are you?… Yeah, traffic sucks and its pouring outside… Yeah, I have time to wait for you. What’s up? …. Uh-huh, uh-huh… That’s fantastic! …. What? You’re kidding me? …. Well, heck-yeah, I’ll do it… Sure, I’ll get an agent right away. … They will?… That much?…. Okay… Okay… We can get a rough outline laid out this evening if you have the time. I’ve got some ideas already for this. Oh, Sherlyn, this will be just like old times…. Yeah, okay…. I’ll see you in a few minutes.” I punched off the phone.

“Well?, said Bennie. “Looks like you just got good news.”

“Oh, Bennie, this is amazing. My friend, Sherlyn Queensman, just heard from her publisher that they’ve authorized an official biography of her life. They said she could pick the biographer.”

“And she picked you?”

“Yes, I can’t believe it! And her publisher is even going to give me an advance. This is incredible! Absolutely unbelievable!”

“That’s not so unbelievable,” Bennie smiled as he slid a cup of cappuccino in front of me. “You’d better drink this before it gets cold.” I looked down into the cup and saw the Oracle’s ravens head logo drawn into the foam.

And then I saw the raven wink at me.

LJGloyd © 2010, revised 2016

Image:  LJGloyd 2016

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Here is my first story featuring Arvilla which is also one of the very first stories I wrote for the Soul Food Cafe.

Inspired by Letter M at the Soul Food Cafe

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/a-journey/

 

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Return to Riversleigh, Part II

underwood typewriterContinued from Part I:

——–

On only a handful of occasions have I actually seen Lumina with my own eyes. She usually makes her presence known to me when that perfect sentence suddenly streams through my pen onto paper, or a complex character takes shape in my mind. She is there when I get excited over the start of a new story or when I feel the intense satisfaction when a project is finally finished.  On those few times when he has incarnated herself in physical form, she has manifested her appearance different ways each time.  Once she appeared to me as an elderly woman, another time as a young girl. She has come to me in a variety of skin tones and hair colors. No matter what she looked like, I always knew it was her.

Standing next to the counter, she is a young woman, as pale as an early spring morning. Her hair was unbound, and she wore a diaphanous gown embroidered in gold thread.  Around her was a golden aura and her face seemed to radiate an inner glow.

As I gaped at her, she stepped forward and picked up my hand.  “How are you, my dear?”

“I…I”.   Lumina was definitely not helping me with my words at that moment.  “Um, fine.” I finally managed to stammer.

“Good.”  Lumina turned and looked around the kitchen.

“Miss Lumina,” I began.  “Can I help you with something?”  Immediately, I blushed.  I felt so stupid.

Lumina smiled and her laugh sounded like the tinkling of silver bells.  “You help me every time you create something.”

“Thank you,” I mumbled.  “I guess I was asking…..”

“Why am I here today?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

She let go of my hand and glided around the other side of the stainless steel counter in the center of the kitchen.

“You will be learning to cook?”

I gave a little laugh and shifted on my feet.  “Well, I like to cook and I actually am not that bad at it, but I wanted to learn more….”

“It is commendable to want to learn more, but it is a bit of diversion, isn’t it?

“Diversion?”

“From writing?”

“Well, see about that – I’m on a little break.”

“No need to explain.  Periods of rest and rejuvenation are highly beneficial.”

“And all my friends are here.”

Lumina smiled.  “Yes, they do seem to be having a good time.  You’ll be joining them, I suspect.”

Lumina strolled around the counter and turned towards me.  She gazed at me with her soft hazel eyes and said nothing more.   I felt like my heart and mind were being scanned.

“Is there something more?”

“Yes, there is.  I understand that you have been unkind to Arvilla.”

I felt like I had been hit in stomach.  “Me?  Unkind to Arvilla?”  I felt my face flush.

“Oh dear, this is worse than I thought.”

“What is?  Arvilla is a —“.  Lumina raised one finger in front of her and I immediately stopped.

“We need to fix this.”

“Fix what, ma’am, if you don’t mind me asking?”

With a nearly indiscernible movement, Lumina nodded her head.

There was another loud pop and flash, and Arvilla materialized.

In a pink bathrobe and her hair bound in a towel, Arvilla appeared to be leaning forward as if she had been looking in a mirror and plucking her eye-brows.   The tweezers fell from her hand and clanged on the floor.

“Great balls of fire!  What moron just teleported me!”  The look of wrath on Arvilla’s face turned to fear and dismay when she saw Lumina.

“Oh, Miz Lumina, I didn’t mean… I am so sorry.”  I struggled to keep from smiling at Arvilla’s discomfort.

“It’s quite alright.  That was a bit impulsive of me, I must admit, but we have a serious matter before us.”

“What is it, ma’am?  Can I be of assistance?”  Arvilla glanced at me.

I rolled my eyes.  What a suck-up.

“Yes, dear, you can.  Both of you can.  I want you both to make up.”

“What?!” I cried.

“You have got to be kidding!  Ma’am, respectfully, this little ingrate had the management ban me from Riversleigh.  Me?  Who does she think she is?   Arvilla gave a little sniff and pursed her lips into a pout.

“Um, ma’am.  I can’t work with her,” I said.  “She has been really rotten to me.  She says all kinds of mean things to me and about my work.”

“Enough.”   Lumina did not raise her voice, but her tone made what seemed like an invisible frost settle around us.   “It appears that I must set down some simple rules since you both seem incapable of acting like adults.”

I cringed from embarrassment.

Lumina turned to Arvilla.  “First, you will stop belittling and demeaning her work.  You may offer suggestions for editing her writing with the goal of making it better, and you will encourage her, NICELY, to get working when she is finding herself—“  Lumina again looked around the kitchen – “distracted.  And you will please refrain from being an insufferable nag.”

Arvilla’s look of indignation withered.  “Yes, ma’am.”

Then she turned to me, and I braced myself.  “You will check your pride at the door and realize that all inspiration and correction come from me and Arvilla.  I am sure Arvilla will be more courteous to you now and that you will take her words of advice and her encouragements to work with a little more grace.”

“I will,” I said, looking at the tile floor.

Lumina stepped forward and lifted my head.  My eyes met her smiling face. “You may play but you must also work.  I promise you that if you show up for work every day – EVERY day – then I will come every day and give you inspiration. Do you understand?”

“I do,” I smiled back.

“Good.”   Lumina gave me a hug, and then said, “Well, I must be off.”  She stepped to the center of the kitchen.

“What about me? She had me banned from Riversleigh?”

“I will speak to the management and I’m sure we can work something out.”

The room began to glow and a shower of gold sparkles descended upon Lumina.  Just before she dematerialized, her attention turned back to Arvilla.

“My dear, have you ever considered electrolysis for that — that eyebrow– thing?”  Then she vanished.

ljgloyd (c) 2013

 


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Return to Riversleigh, Part I

Sierra Exif JPEGAs the bus pulled away, I stood on the side of the road with my bags in hand.  I stared at the great Avenue of the Trees before me.   I could have requested a staff member to collect me from the bus stop, but I wanted to enjoy the mile-long stroll on the Avenue that leads to the gates of Riversleigh Manor.

You never know what type of trees will be on the Avenue or in what season.  Everything at Riversleigh operates on its own time and in its own way.    On a previous visit, the Avenue was comprised of jungle foliage with a heavy canopy.  At another time it was a Siberian taiga forest.   Today there are luscious green deciduous trees in full summer leaf, even though it was mid-winter, cold and dead, in my real world back home.  The tree branches interlaced overhead making a tunneled portal directly to the manor gates — and into another realm.

You see, Riversleigh Manor is a universe within a universe.

When I got to the gates, they glided open like magic.  In fact, it must be magic since at no time during previous visits had I ever seen a human hand or any form of technology operate the gates.  I walked on through and saw Riversleigh’s legendary garden.  Sweet peas and peonies, delphiniums and foxgloves, and white and purple hydrangeas spread an exuberant jumble of color across the grounds.   Oh, and the roses:  I took in a deep breath.  Their sweet, giddy fragrance lifted my dampened spirit.   When I heard that the former estate manager, Sibyl Riversleigh, had left to go on a Grand Tour, I feared that the manor would deteriorate, especially the garden, and I had not wanted to visit here again.  I wanted to remember the manor in all its former splendor.  Then when I received information that Anastasia Riversleigh, Sybil’s twin sister, had taken over the management, and I knew my fears were probably unfounded.   As I surveyed the grounds, I found that was indeed the case.

In the past, my visits were opportunities to write.  Those trips were never without drama, though, since inevitably Arvilla, my Inner Critic, would show up to put a twist my knickers and those of the management with her annoying brassiness.  Since Arvilla only shows up when I write, I decided this would not be a writing retreat.  Time and life had left its debilitating mark on my creative spirit making me incapable of dealing with Arvilla.  This time I would be retreating to Riversleigh simply to rest and have fun.

Screams and howls of laughter flooded across the grounds.  I looked towards a small grove and saw an enormous hammock stretched between two trees.  A full-scale pillow fight was in process with a half-dozen women combatants perilously close to tipping the swinging hammock over and sending them all spilling to ground.  I recognized several of my writing colleagues and smiled.  Some things never change.

I knew the way to my room — #444 on the second floor overlooking the river.  Since there is no need for locks or card-keys at Riversleigh, I had no need of a bellhop to show me there.  When I arrived, the room was open to receive me.   I plopped my bags on the bed and opened them.  I quickly changed into sweat-pants and t-shirt, my uniform for the duration of my visit.

I plugged in my laptop to charge.  I would not be using it for writing; I planned to use it to visit the various social media outlets to catch up with friends.   First, though, I wanted to get down to the kitchen.  I had signed up for a cooking course with Madame Pommesfrites, the head chef at Riversleigh’s Michelin-starred restaurant, and I wanted to meet her before we started the course tomorrow.

When I entered the kitchen, I found that it was empty.  Since it was after luncheon but well before dinner, the staff was on a break. I noticed a stack of papers resting on the end of one the stainless steel counters.  I twisted my head to read the top sheet and discovered that it was the syllabus for the cooking course.  I figured there would be no harm on getting a little preview of the course, so I pulled one off the top and began to study it.

Suddenly, a brilliant light flashed across the kitchen accompanied by a loud pop.  The hanging pots began clanging against each other.   I dropped the paper and turned away from the counter.  My first thought was that some appliance had shorted-out and exploded.   Then I saw her:

“Lumina!”

“Good afternoon.”

Standing in the center of the Riversleigh kitchen was Lumina, my personal Muse.

To be continued……

LJGloyd (aka Miss Pelican)  2013

Image:  2003, 2013


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The Visitor

Some of my writing colleagues have been revisiting their experiences at Riversleigh Manor,  a virtual writers’ retreat associated with the Soul Food Cafe.  I thought I might join in and re-post a story I wrote back in 2006 where we meet Arvilla, my Inner Critic, for the first time.  Arvilla has popped up in a few stories from time-to-time since then.  

———————– 

The Visitor

My room in Riversleigh Manor is comfortable. It has hardwood floors and a bright berber carpet, recessed bookshelves filled with all my favorite history and art books, fine literature, and religious and philosophical treatises of all sorts. A map of Riversleigh hangs on wall, and I am delighted to discover all the cozy places I could hole up and work. Though the room is furnished with only the most basic pieces—bed, writing table, reading chair, and chest of drawers—there is one item that seems out of place. On the wall over the chest of drawers, hangs a large silver framed mirror with inlaid amber around the glass. Its luxury contrasts the utility of the rest of the room.

I unpacked my sparse belongings—a change of clothes, a few special books, some toiletries, my writing and art supplies. I slid open the French doors and stepped out onto the balcony. I gazed at the valley below and saw the River ribbon its way towards the sea. In the distance I could see the mouth of the River, a vast delta spreading out like a large green lotus, spilling into the Bay.

As I leaned on the railing and tried to compose a poem in my head about the River, I heard a banging sound from my room. I rushed back in and saw the mirror over the chest rising and falling against the wall. As I grabbed the mirror to keep it from shattering, a glow emanated from it, filling the room with a orange-yellow light. I had been warned that Riversleigh was a place of unusual happenings so I wasn’t afraid or even surprised.

Holding the mirror firmly in place, I looked into it and saw it filling with a wall of fire. The flames writhed and shimmered but cast no heat. In the depths of the flames, I could see a dark speck grow larger and rush towards me. It grew into the figure of a woman. Just as the figure filled the entire mirror, a large pop sounded and I released the mirror and fell back on my bed, covering my eyes against a bright blast of light.

Silence enveloped the room and after a moment, I opened my eyes.  “Oh, no, not YOU!”

“Well, hey there, Sugar!”

“What are YOU doing here?”

“What? Can’t a friend drop by and say hello?”

“Yeah, right, like WE’RE friends,” I said as I pulled myself off the bed. Standing in front of the mirror was Arvilla. Tall, platinum blonde and gorgeous, she was dressed in a pin-striped business suit, pearls, and stiletto heels.

“That’s a different look. And what’s with the flaming entrance? That’s over-the-top, even for you!”

“What can I say, Sugar, it’s the twenty-first century and I’ve got to keep with the program.”

“Like I care. You didn’t answer my question—what are you doing here?”

“I heard you were taking a little vacation and I just wanted to stop by to see if I could be of some assistance.” Arvilla strolled across the room, grimacing at the furniture. She plopped herself on the chair and put her feet on my writing desk. She picked up my journal and began thumbing through it.

“I most certainly do NOT need anything from you.” I started picking up my clothes that had fallen to the floor.

“You only brought one set of clothes and no underwear—now that’s rustic, darlin’.”

She was right. How could I have forgotten underwear? “Um, I’ll pick some up at the Gypsy Camp. They have everything anyone would want.”

“Oh, yes, Gypsy underwear. How Bohemian of you. Dressing the part of a writer? You might as well, honey, because that’s as close to being a writer as you’ll ever be.”

“Just who do you think—!”

She opened my journal.  “Oh, looky here…..’I strive to transform reality through my words and images.’” Now, ain’t that a hoot and a holler.”

I rushed over to the table and grabbed the journal out of her hands. “Arvilla, get out! I came ten thousand miles to get away from you. You are NOT going to spoil this for me.”

There was a knock on the door. Glaring at Arvilla, I stomped to the door and yanked it open. Standing there was the Riversleigh Manor concierge backed by two beefy security officers, unsmiling in their black shades.

“Madam, I understand that you have a visitor. As you know, Inner Critics are not welcome on the premises.”

Dang, I’m not here a day and she’s gotten me in trouble already. “Yes, sir, you’re quite right, I understand. My ‘guest’ was just leaving.” I turned to Arvilla.

With a sigh, Arvilla dropped her feet to the floor and stood up. “Oh, alright! Don’t have a hissy fit. You’re just not much fun anymore, are ya, Sugar.”

I pointed toward the mirror. “Go!”

“I can’t get out that way. Where do you think we are? In a Harry Potter movie?”

The room began to vibrate and Arvilla spread her arms out to her sides. “Just wait until you have forty-three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing that you need me to edit.  You’ll come a-runnin’.”

The room filled with intense yellow light and I could see Arvilla’s arms morph into enormous bird’s wings. With a harpy’s shriek, Arvilla began flapping them. She bounded through the French doors and off the balcony. I rushed to the railing and saw Arvilla gliding up the river valley towards the mountains. Looking over her shoulder, she yelled “I’ll be baaaaack……”

“And I’ll be ready for you,” I muttered as I slammed the doors shut.

ljgloyd, originally published 2006