The Muse of Music

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

July 23, 2014

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionMusic inspires writers. Sometimes, it’s deep at the soul level and other times it’s about technique like pacing. Music can set a tone, express a setting or color the shade of a character.

This week, writers have included the music that pairs with their writing like a fine red wine with an aged cheese. From Foo Fighters to Chopin, sit back, turn on the volume and read what the muse of music wrought.

Muse: In the Hall of the Mountain King (Peer Gynt) by Edvard Grieg

Flash Fiction by Irene Waters

The town woke as normal. The early workers slowly dribbled onto the streets, joined by more as the morning aged. By rush hour the numbers had built to ant-like proportions.

They didn’t hear an explosion. Caught by surprise they stared in alarm at the volcano the town sat in the shadow of as a plume of gas raced towards them from above whilst a river of red-hot lava snaked its way in their direction.


The crowds panicked and bolted in terror. They heard the next eruption, followed by several more. They dropped where once they stood.


Muse: Mark Knopfler – Wild theme (Local Hero) 

Dust by Geoff Le Pard

Rupert, her half-brother, sounded desperate. ‘Please Mary. Come with me.’

‘Yes I know.’ Damn him, she thought; even after death her father controlled her.

Later as Rupert fiddled with the hire car, she thought of her dad. Just the same. Efficient but a bit of a prat. Her eyes stung; she swallowed. She wouldn’t give either of them the satisfaction.

They walked miles, in the shadow of the Cuillins. ‘Here.’ Rupert took out the urn. ‘You first.’

She scattered ash and heard music. Rupert’s ipod. Wild Theme. Dad’s favourite. Tears coursed her cheeks. She no longer cared who saw.


Muse: Saloon Music

Oh My Darling by Pete

We sat on the steps, giggling as bridesmaids arrived, clutching phones and bags. One stopped, smiling at Amelia. “Isn’t she cute?”

Amelia scoffed, seized by the mob of blondes. I got back to work as guests arrived. A red-faced man played saloon music on the piano in the foyer.

I strolled along the grounds of my dad’s farm house, peddling slimy appetizers when Amelia stepped out on the porch and smiled. The glasses were gone and her hair was up. I spilled my tray and the music jilted to a stop.

In an hour she would be my stepsister.


Muse: Anand (Bliss) by Snatum Kaur

Flight by Robin L. Flanigan

Terra presses the wet cloth to her skin, the color of spoiled milk, and closes her eyes, thinking about what it would be like to leave, to sweep herself off the porch and up the hill toward the clouds. Her mother did it. Her grandmother didn’t and look where that got her. She carefully doubles the washcloth and drapes it over the edge of the tub. She couldn’t care less if he will miss her. She can picture only the weightlessness, the smooth waves of her limbs as she dances through the hemlocks on her way to the next.


Muse: S.Prokofiev. Suite from The Love for Three Oranges. 03. March

Flash Fiction #1 by Anne Goodwin

She thought she’d found her soulmate: a handsome man who shared her passion for surfing, sushi and Shakespeare. In and out of bed, he made her feel whole. When he brandished the concert tickets, she prepared herself for a treat.

The music was by some Russian guy. Thump thump thump and plinketty plonk. As soon as she caught the rhythm it would flip to something else. The thrum of a headache in her temples, she turned his way. Yet, instead of the anticipated shrug of apology, he appeared enraptured, his expression the one he usually wore straight after sex.


Muse: Foo Fighters – These Days 

Last Train Home by Sherri Matthews

Settling in for the train journey, Jamie plugged in, metal guitar riffs screaming. An hour in, he turned and saw her.

Dark eyes met his, frozen in disbelief. Turning to her new man, she giggled as they sat down in the seats in front of Jamie.

“That’s Jamie sitting behind us!” They swapped tongues.

Jamie exploded out of his seat, leaping off at the next stop. He caught a glimpse of her staring blankly out of the train window, chewing her nails, looking ugly. Jamie turned away and kept walking. He smiled then. Poor bastard, it’ll be him next.


Muse: Loreena McKennitt – The Lady of Shalott

Flash Fiction by Tally Pendragon

At the first terrifying scream, Vanda ran. The image of the flaming phoenix was still bright in her eyes. She ran through tunnels that had not felt the touch of any foot for centuries. Behind her madness was unleashing more jealous screams, its rage obliterating all sense. She felt Them as they handed her along, the cool breeze of their faith rushing her to freedom. As she crashed into an unyielding door some power beyond her bade it give. Behind her it closed and once again stuck fast.

“Thank you, sweet brethren,” she breathed, and sucked in the sunlight.


Muse: In Paradisum – Requiem – Faure 

Flash Fiction #2 by Anne Goodwin

The pain dissolved in an instant, his agonised frown flipping to a smile. His smile grew wider as gentle hands attached helium balloons to his wrists, his waist, his ankles and his shoulders and he felt himself lifted up, up and up, until he was floating just below the ceiling, looking down in triumph on the narrow hospital bed. Angelic voices sang of how they’d make him whole again, or help him shed his battered body and live among the clouds. And he believed them, oh how much he believed them, until the morphine stopped coursing through his veins.


Muse: Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky – Romeo & Juliet Love Theme

Meet-Up by Paula Moyer

1980 – Jean and Sarah plotted the meet-up before they left the US: Innsbruck, Austria, at 4 a.m., October 4. No cell phones, no Internet. Just a train table and hope. Jean coming from Florence, Sarah from elsewhere-in-Europe, sending a confirmatory telegram to Florence’s American Express.

Jean got the telegram, boarded the train. Looking at the Alps through the window, she felt transported. She couldn’t sleep.

Then the Innsbruck signs. 4 a.m. She donned her backpack; stepped off.

The strains of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture filled her head before she saw her: Sarah, in slow motion, running. Reunion. Success.


Muse: Moby – 18

See Emily Play by Sarah Brentyn

Emily’s hand touched sheer, silky curtains as warm breezes blew in from the forest. She giggled, running along the hallway, bare feet landing with soft thuds on the plush carpet. Her brown eyes lit up as she watched the squirrels scurry up trees.

“She’s no better,” Emily’s mother studied her little girl. “I want her back. Please. Bring her back to me.”

The doctor glanced at the tiles, “I’m not sure she wants to come back.”
They looked over at the girl in the hospital gown.

Emily’s hand twitched. She grimaced, staring with dead eyes at the playful squirrels.


Muse: Frédéric Chopin – Prelude in E-Minor (op.28 no. 4) 

Circus Act by Amber Prince

Her family sat there in silence. The only sounds emitted were the muffled sobs and quiet shuffling of feet behind them as her friends and family (and a few strangers) found seats.

This hadn’t been what she wanted. She had clearly stated that this was to be a celebration, a joyful event; with music, cocktails, dancing. But not this. No, this was a depressing circus act and she was the main attraction. By God, she was made up like a damn clown.

She would kill her husband. Well… at least haunt him for all eternity.
Her funeral was dreadful.


Muse: Epic western music – The Lone Wanderer by Antti Martikainen

McCandless Rides by Charli Mills

Hooves pounded in the distance, hollow like ancient kettle drums. Sarah heard Cob riding his leggy blood red bay with main as black as his owner’s thick hair. Only Cob rode so recklessly down the mountain. No one was about the store this time of evening. She was only there to tally the books. Sarah set her ink quill aside, shuffled the accounting notes for her father’s business and smoothed her long hair that was artfully coiled at the back of her head. Hers was lighter than his; ‘chestnut’ he called it, when he had stroked her uncoiled locks.


Muse: Johannes Brahms – Lullaby

Lullaby Lecture by Larry LaForge

Blink. I have to blink. I can’t be caught napping in class again.

What was I thinking? Quality Assurance at 8 AM. Who cares about cause-effect analysis at this hour?

C’mon prof. Can we get a little voice inflection please? I’m dying here.

Thirty minutes left. Not gonna make it.

I know the prof is watching me. The sudden jolt when I caught myself nodding off gave me away.

LaLa Land here I come.

Oh no. He’s looking my way again.

“Significant cause and effect, Mr. Jones?”

I didn’t answer. It was better to be asleep than openly disrespectful.

The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.


Muse: The Most Beautiful Waltz Music 

Final Act by Norah Colvin

A collective gasp interrupted the music mid-beat.

All eyes turned synchronously, as if worked by unseen strings, towards the French doors, burst open and revealing a silhouetted figure framed by billowing gossamer-like curtains.

Out of the darkness the figure emerged: clothed in black with coat tails flapping, a top hat in one hand and a white-tipped cane held aloft in the other.

The conductor revived the orchestra as the figure glided across the floor, seized the heroine decisively and whirled her around and around.

The spell now broken, the cast joined in the dance to tumultuous applause.


New challenge posted every Wednesday on Carrot Ranch Communications. All writers welcome!

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  1. Caffe Maggieato

    I love this! I tend to have a certain playlist of songs for stories too so it’s really great to read/hear this pairing up. Thanks for sharing all these great flash fiction from different writers!

    • Charli Mills

      So glad you enjoyed reading! It was stunning once it all came together like an “album” of the written word. It’s interesting to learn what playlists influence stories, or that some writers prefer silence. Join us in writing flash any time! New prompt on Wednesday and compiled contributions on Tuesdays.

  2. Annecdotist

    Well, Charli, all you need to do now is to join up with a record company and produce the CD and accompanying book. Thanks for the opportunity to join a great team.

    • Charli Mills

      What a great idea, Anne! We could write flash to the length of a song. So glad you entered two pieces–so divergent in their tones.

  3. Sherri

    Wonderful compilation Charli, loved the variety of all the flashes with so many different themes and vastly different music for inspiration. Ditto to Anne above, I agree 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Wouldn’t that be fun!

  4. Norah

    What a great compilation and variety of stories. I am amazed at the quality and depth of story that can be created in just 99 words. You certainly knew what you were doing when you lay down the challenge. I did a bit of a cop-out, obviously, by not choosing the piece to accompany my flash but you have chosen brilliantly. Thank you. The others have done very well with their choice, as have you. The very recognizable Western music is a superb accompaniment to this next piece of the McClandless story.

    • Charli Mills

      I liked your reverse challenge, Norah. It felt like I was a participant to your creation. I really like Antti MarktiKainen’s interpretation of an epic western score. It holds all the romance and drama of the myth while I try to search for real people among the many varied tales. This was an amazing compilation and stirring to play the music accompanying each flash.

      • Norah

        Yes it was/is. It is wonderful to see the writing unfolding!

      • Charli Mills

        Kind of like learning–the more we learn, the more we want to learn.

      • Norah

        Definitely! The older I get I realise the less time I have to learn all the things I want! Need a few lifetimes for that!

      • Charli Mills

        Or slower moments in this one! 🙂

      • Norah

        Yes. That too could help! 🙂

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