The cherry blossoms floated gently down, landing on their blanket. They had just started eating when a pigeon landed by their basket. They both stared wide-eyed as the bird walked closer, unafraid. That’s when they noticed a tiny scroll of paper attached to its right leg…

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)

I glower at the white void before me. It is supposed to be my masterpiece, but it sits there untouched. My motivation has shriveled to the size of a pea and rolls around in my head like a marble. I imagine shadowy characters dancing in the white void, happily giving me the finger.

“Ha-ha, Leon’s lost it,” they say repeatedly.

“Damn,” I shouted. “Everything is prepared but me. I can’t seem to get started.”

My muse, Lilly, is sitting in front of me. That’s my affectionate name for her because she has beautiful, pale, unsullied skin. She isn’t wearing any clothes right now, which is very distracting.

“You need to relax, Leon,” she says. “Do something to take your mind off work. Wait, I know what we can do! Let’s have a picnic out back under the cherry tree.”

“Okay, but please put something on,” I say. “You’re distracting me.”

Lilly flies off and returns in a few seconds, which is not enough time to fully dress. She’s wearing a sheer fabric dress with nothing underneath but a hint.


As I drink my sixth glass of Chianti, we sit on my not-so-clean blanket. Lilly smiles her magic smile and stands before me like a goddess. The sunlight behind her causes shadows to dance beneath her dress. She hands me a slice of blueberry pie. It’s my favorite, except when the cherry blossoms fall on it, as one did. The blossoms are full of little ants, you know.

Lilly moves behind me and kneads my trapezius muscles near my neck. The day’s tension has made them rock hard.

Just as I begin to relax, a yellow pigeon lands on the blanket and walks pigeon-toed toward us. It has a tiny bit of paper attached to its leg. Curious, I pick up the bird. Then, darkness engulfs me as Lilly shouts my name.


I awake in a strange place shrouded in darkness. I am lying on my side with my knees pressed against my chest-like an amorphous blob.

My eyes are open, and I can see, yet I am submerged in the darkness.

How can this be? It’s a mystery I cannot solve.

My mind, once sharp and quick, is now unfocused and muddled. I lay at the feet of Uninspired, the bane of all artists. He looks down at me without pity.

Scattered about are dozens-nay hundreds of crushed paper balls, all half-finished. They are witnesses to my ineptness.

Obscurity beckons, and in my despair, I yearn for it to consume me.

Then, without overture, a beacon of light pierces the darkness. It manifests on the horizon, resembling an orange sunrise.

A gentle voice beckons me.

“Turn around and look at me,” it says sensually.

I turn and cry out in joy as the beam of light penetrates my soul.

In that instant, my stagnation ends, and I can move again. I unfold my body and stand tall. A powerful gravitational pull draws me to the light like a moth to a flame. Enlightenment!

The same sultry voice whispers a single word, “Clarity.”

That word explodes in my consciousness like a bomb, and my thoughts, so long blocked, are unobstructed. A cacophony of inspirations hasten in to fill the void. Elation!

Softly like a Siren’s song, all the voices began calling me again.

“Come, play with us,” they say. “It will be easier this time, we promise.”

“Yes! Oh, yes,” I implore them. “Cavort with me. Inspire me. Arouse me.”

Loneliness, my companion in this place, departs, and another fiery light replaces it.

Immediately, the burden of impotence I carry is lifted from my shoulders. I feel as light as thistledown and as virile as a bull.

I sigh in gratefulness as the fiery light pierces my chest and touches my heart. Creativity, the lifeblood of my vocation, again flows through my body like hot lava.

The brainfire, long stifled by the disparaging words of cynics, is ignited again. It burns like a fever, kindling new thoughts and ideas.

I’m filled with purpose again, and my spirit soars on the wings of confidence. The magic carpet of imagination awaits me. I climb aboard it and am transported from the abyss into the realm of infinite possibilities.

No longer made mute by the darkness, music fills and soothes my entire being. Articulacy is mine once more.

With renewed determination, I turn and face the vast white void that once consumed me. It no longer intimidates me. Instead, it begs for transformation.

I smile as my thoughts come together. My arms reach out, and the white void trambles. I am once again its master. My vigor has returned!

“Turn around and look at me,” the voice says.

I turn and find myself back under the cherry tree.

My lover, Lilly, embraces me and kisses my lips passionately.

“My Leon is back,” she says.

Then she smiles that smile.

“Come, follow me. Let me relax you a bit more.”

Her voice holds a promise, and I hesitate for only a moment. Then I notice the shadows beneath her dress swaying. I am aroused, and in my passion, I call Lilly by her given name.

“Wait for me, Mona Lisa,” I say.

“Hurry, Leonardo,” she calls back, seductively.

Her dress falls away as we pass my studio, and I gasp. The sight inspires me.

“Lilly,” I say. “What if I paint a head and shoulder portrait instead?”