Chapter summary: In the movie Xanadu, the Muse Kira and her sisters spring to life right off of an art mural painted on the side of a building. This is the concert version.
Disclaimer-times-three: The Twilight characters don't belong to me, nor does the Xanadu plot line. And this is totally a rip-off of Xanadu, only there's no roller skating. And the title, Down to Earth? Xanadu's plot was inspired by this 1947 musical.
Acknowledgements: lotus11 is my lovely pre-reader.
A/N: In Greek mythology, The Nine Muses of the Arts are female, but who's to say a muse born of two gods can't appear on Earth in whatever form they choose? So for my story, Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance, will be male.
Oh, how I love playing God.
Down to Earth
The beat of the music starts at my toes and climb s my legs like vines, drawing tight and going deep. I've never felt anything like it before. My heart is racing and my breathing is uneven, and the show hasn't even started yet.
"What is this music?" I ask Alice.
She does this weird nod-shake of her head because apparently she doesn't know what it is either.
Alice's job as a talent scout for Eclipse Promotions has perks. Over the years, she's seen everything and everyone from U2 to Muse, The Price is Right to Ellen Degeneres, Cirque du Soleil to Dancing with the Stars, and private movie screenings with the actors themselves.
Tonight it's an unknown all-male vocal and dance group of improvisationists called Good Myth at The Greek Theater. It's a one-time-only performance, so tickets were outrageously priced. Alice is here to see if Good Myth warrants more than one performance, and if so, to see if they might be persuaded to sign with Eclipse Promotions.
So far? They seem damn promising.
Onstage, a lone silhouette appears on a raised platform, motionless as a statue. The huge projection screens situated at each end of the stage remain blank. Apparently we are only supposed to see his silhouette for now.
The beat of the music pulses and the longer he stands still, the more restless I feel. I'm sitting on the edge of my seat, all because he just won't move with the music and I need him to, so I can breathe. So I can relax.
He gives me his voice first, a low timbered sound that climbs to a slow crescendo, until my throat goes tight and dry. As his voice rises, so do his arms. My fingernails dig into the palms of my hands, and chills are racing up and down my body. He is singing without words, and the sound of his voice is just as powerfully evocative as any instrument. Maybe even more.
The stage bursts into color with neon violet light and I finally see that he's not even facing me, that he has his back to the audience. Dressed neck-to-foot in a black cat suit, the light behind him makes his body appear in stark contrast. Tall, slim, well-formed, he turns suddenly, the movement all liquid. I feel a definite shift in the air around me as everyone inhales simultaneously.
The violet light is shooting like lasers from his eyes and mouth as he holds the last note of sound, and he reminds me of Agent Smith from The Matrix just before Smith's body explodes into light. And he must be on some kind of pulley because he's rising higher above the stage now, and I'm lost and gone and enthralled. Like a finale in its power, if this beginning only gets better, the performance is going to kill me.
My neck is beginning to ache from staring up at him when he drops from what seems like an impossible length to the stage, landing in a crouch on one leg with the other held out to the side in a dramatic balance stance. He holds the pose, as if giving me the time I need to really see him. A headband mic sits over his unruly, penny-colored hair so he can sing and dance freely, but his voice is silent now as a chorus of others repeat his call in softer intensity.
His face is unreal, like an angel who's been made mortal. Thick eyebrows slant over heavy-lidded eyes, his high cheekbones visibly flushed with exertion, mouth curving in an erotic half-smile, nose slightly flaring with each breath. But it's his open, glowing expression of humor and joy that sends my heart into double-time. He is not just beautiful, he radiates it from the inside out. And until this moment, I'd never seen anyone that made me think of Adonis. There is beauty … and then there is him.
He's rewriting my reality with his soft, stunning gaze that bathes me in warmth, even though I'm already overheated. Every inch of me bubbles like peach cobbler fresh from the oven. I want to blink or look away, but I'm the motionless statue now. Inside I'm dizzy with desire and confusion, not at home in my skin anymore, and I'm not a lit bit little scared. No, I'm terrified by the power of his gaze and what it makes me feel.
The music morphs into another eerie melody with fast drums and then he's up, and I gasp in relief and disappointment from the release of his gaze.
This isn't real, it's just an emotionally powerful performance. I've felt suppressed lately by my going-nowhere job, worries about Charlie's declining health, and the fear that I'm never going to make it as a painter. I needed an escape tonight. That's all this is. I need to calm down.
Adonis is moving simultaneously with others who are rising up on stage now. I'm not sure what kind of dance it is, but it looks like a combination of karate, hip-hop and robotic. Only it's not, because I'm pretty sure this is a form of dance I've never seen before. They are all fluid grace as their bodies contort into impossible positions, using their legs, arms and hands-and sometimes each other-in their kinetic movements. It would be mime-like if they weren't in perpetual motion. And just as I have that thought, they go completely still in the middle of a move, every one of them.
The music stops and the theater is heavy with silence.
From where I sit in section A, row five, it looks like Adonis is staring right at me. Or he would be if he was human, which he does not appear to be in this moment. His body has gone solid, his face is expressionless, and his eyes are even clouded over. It's freaky and unusual, but he is a perfect representation of a statue. I shiver and wonder how on earth he's doing it because it doesn't seem possible.
"Ho. Lee. Cow," Alice whispers beside me. We grip each other's hand as the tension mounts.
And they hold it, hold it, hold it, until the piped-in sound of crickets can be heard. Only then, in the silence, do they break slowly into movement again. They're stiff, seemingly trying to relearn how to move, and getting better fast. When the music begins, a thunderous roar of their victory fills the stadium as their bodies become liquid conduits again.
I fall back against my seat as the audience goes crazy. People are standing, screaming, jumping and whistling. Like it's alive and sitting beside me, I feel the audience's frenetic energy. Two girls rush the stage, and other girls follow. It's pandemonium. Alice and I trade looks of excited astonishment. When security guards haul the girls away, the security line has spread out across the front of the stage to face us with grim expressions. I hadn't even realized they were there to begin with.
The performers take no notice of the audience. Never missing a move or a beat, their voices rise again, one at a time until all six, seven, eight, nine of them, are singing without words. The tone of their voices make me crazy and sad with their beauty and my eyes are suddenly full of tears. The singers drown out the audience, who eventually shuts up to listen. How they can sing and move the way they do at the same time is unbelievable. It blows my mind. These guys are uncharacteristically cohesive for a group-they move like they are all being pulled by the same string, never once out of step. It's uncanny.
My focus never shifts from Adonis, even though it's clear now that they are equal participants. They are dressed alike and are of the same height and build, and it should be difficult to tell one apart from another. But in my mind, he's different. He's more. And if it's just my imagination that his eyes seem to seek out mine, I don't want to know.
A minute or an hour later, the show ends with just the instrument of their voices, the sounds resonant with energy, joy and gratitude. His voice, because I think that I somehow know his voice, is the last one to echo through the auditorium. As the dancers go utterly still again, deaf to the screams of adulation and applause, the stage erupts with a loud boom. A burst of violet light and thick smoke obscure the performers. When it fades, they're gone.
I don't move. I sit there and blink, laughing and choking on my tears because my brain is all a-slosh.
There's a pink tissue in front of my face. "You are so glad you came," Alice says smugly.
I blow my nose and nod. I can't talk at the moment, but that's probably a good thing.
I feel bereft as we exit the auditorium, and a little displaced.
"You're supposed to be happy," Alice says. "That was a kick ass show, Bella. It's okay to admit you loved it."
That she doesn't seem to share the same feelings as I do takes me by surprise. "I feel … different somehow," I tell her. "Like my world has been altered."
Like I've just lost something I never knew I wanted or needed, something precious. "I'm not sure."
People keep bumping into me because I'm stumbling like a sleepwalker, so Alice hooks my arm with hers. "You're feeling the adrenalin of a good performance, I think," she winks at me. "Let's go get drinks and talk about it."
"I don't know," I say. "I'm kind of out of it, if you haven't noticed."
"Come on, Bella. One drink at The Blue Rose isn't going to hurt you. You need to unwind, right? Come down from that high? I'm your gal."
I sigh. "You're driving, so I guess I'm going where you are. But I don't see why we can't just go home and have a cocktail while sitting on the balcony."
"It's not the same," says the girl who's an extrovert through-and-through.
The Blue Rose is a bar off North Venice Boulevard, and when we aren't wearing heels, is easily within walking distance of the house where Alice and I live on Carroll Canal. It's early for the beach crowd, not even eleven o'clock, so the place isn't packed yet. But in another hour or so, it will be elbow-to-elbow, so I plan to make fast work of my drink.
Muse's Madness is playing in the background, and it describes how I'm feeling perfectly. Which is odd and ironic and definitely mad. This night seems like something out of a dream.
Alice fingers her dangly earring and gives me a penetrating look. "So, you really liked them, didn't you?"
"The show?" I take a breath and feel like I'm breathing helium. "I loved them, Alice. I hope you get them to agree to sign with Eclipse. Do you think you will? Do you think you'll get to meet the lead performer?"
She's laughing before I finish, because I'm so not the type to gush.
"After I report the audience's reaction, I don't think it'll be difficult to interest Eclipse. I have you as a great example: a quiet, shy, hard-to-excite woman who was moved to tears."
I put my elbow on the table and my chin into the palm of my hand. "You weren't?"
She gives me her gamin smile. "I was moved, all right, but it was more … down low. That blond guy? Hot. Actually, all of them are hot. They're going to set the female race—hell, the whole human race—on fire. If I can get them, I'm going to make some serious bank."
"I guess I should feel bad, but I didn't notice anyone other than the copper-haired lead performer," I say.
She shrugs. "I imagine everyone will have their favorites."
Just beyond Alice's burgundy blouse, I see a flash of copper and do a double-take. It's just a girl, though, who happens to have the lead performer's colored hair. It's long and beautiful and fills me with a pang because for one crazy second, I thought it might be him.
This isn't like me. I'm slow to make friends, slow to fall for guys in general. By the end of our relationship, James had me convinced that I was a cold prude. And in high school, kissing Jacob had felt like kissing a fish—he was all wet mouth. I just didn't have good luck with dating. More, I just wasn't interested. Most of my passion was spent on the canvas, I guess.
I worked in the accounting department of a furniture manufacturer, but my dream was to have a gallery showing one day. Sometimes it really got me down that it hadn't happened yet. In college, everyone told me I was so talented, brilliant even. I'd even sold a couple of paintings, and had a couple of great reviews.
But none of it came close to paying my rent. A sweeping success, I wasn't, and it sucked. It made painting difficult; sometimes every stroke of the brush felt like a lie to me. I was supposed to create because I couldn't not. As a result, I hadn't painted just for myself in a long time—it was always with the idea that someone would pay for the end product. To a real artist, money is never supposed to be a factor.
As the years passed, it was becoming more difficult to share a piece of my soul on canvas, and it felt like I was losing what little I had in the process. Maybe I was only destined for the occasional sale down on the Ocean Front Walk at Santa Monica Beach. Most people just looked, but they were always complimentary. Eventually, maybe it would be enough for me.
But the pit in my stomach was getting wider.
As we leave The Blue Rose, I swear that for a second, their neon blue logo flashes violet.
A week later, Alice still hasn't been able to get Good Myth signed with Eclipse. She hasn't been able to find them.
It's like they've just disappeared.
And it's a toss-up about who's more disappointed about that: me or her.
. . .
I'm out on the balcony at seven a.m. staring at the canal when I see it—a flash of copper moving down the walkway maybe a hundred or so feet away. It's Wednesday, Alice is away on another scouting trip, and like usual, I'm feeling restless and unable to paint.
And there is a copper-haired someone jogging my way. A tall male. I nearly fall off the edge of the wooden balcony, I'm leaning so far over.
My eyes track his progress as he runs. His steps are steady, eating the space easily, arms loose at his sides. He makes the black wife beater and black track shorts he wears look scandalous against his white skin and copper hair.
As he draws closer, I realize I'm panting. My god, I think I'm losing my mind. I don't even know if it's him. It's probably not. But no matter how much I blink the closer he comes, the more I become absolutely certain that it is him.
The lead performer of Good Myth is running along one of the Venice canal walkways where I live. It's impossible. I mean, this can't be happening, can it?
But it is. Because it's him.
His eyes, which are green, are like lasers. As they raise to meet mine, they steal what little breath I have, and I flinch back from the railing with a gasp.
I stumble backwards and fall onto one of the Adirondack chairs with a huff. My face is hot against my hands. He's probably used to being stared at like I just did to him, but for me to do it during his alone time while he's jogging first thing in the morning? Not that there's anything wrong with looking, but he caught me and I feel like I've been rude.
When enough time has gone by that I think he has passed below, I jump up and look over the balcony again … and nearly swallow my tongue. He's standing there, a god dressed all in black again. He's right below my balcony with his hands on his hips. And he's got a killer smile aimed up at me.
"Good morning, Bella," he says.
At first, I only hear the tone of his voice. It's as silky smooth and distinctive as I remembered, and sends a thrill through my body. But then the fact that he called me by my name hits me, and I gape down at him.
His eyes twinkle, actually twinkle as if he's holding in the best secret. He was breathtaking on stage, but now, only ten feet below me, he's lethal. I've never seen such a good looking man, never thought someone's outward appearance could have such a powerful effect on my behavior. It's ridiculous. It's embarrassing.
But that smile. Those eyes. His magnetism radiates off his skin and stings my own.
"How do you know my name?" I finally eek out.
"I'm your new neighbor," he says and tilts his head at the place on my right.
It's the last thing I expect him to say, and it's almost impossible to come up with a response. "Do you … do you know all of our names, then?"
Because there's no reason why he should know mine, none at all.
"No," he says simply. "Just yours."
"What? How?" I sputter as my heart starts banging in my chest. "Why?"
"I thought you were a painter, not a journalist," he laughs. "See you later, Bella."
And then he takes off in a sprint, running impossibly fast, and his feet leave behind neon violet sparks.
Stunned, I stare open-mouthed after him and wonder if I'm dreaming.
. . .
This won't be a long story, maybe 12 to 15 chapters. Updates will be once a week or more. Depends on the muse, hah, hah, hah.
Any Xanadu fans here? I know the movie's awful, but when I saw it as a kid, I was absolutely enthralled and asked Mom to buy me a pair of white roller skates. I wore them with purple leg warmers.