Melpomene had a little sister who was very pretty and delicate and she was bitter as nutmeg because when the gods were creating her a prankster poured in too much of the spice. Melpomene’s little sister wasn't destined to be talented or influential like the other muses so one day she fell in with a few mortals and left with them to go on adventures.
She was of course bitterly unhappy that day, but no more so than on any other day of being in the company of brilliant, busy people and gods. None of these had ever intentionally made her feel bad over the fact that she was the victim of a trick; after all, they were wise and friendly most of the time unless they had gotten into the ambrosia. But still, you know how it is. Lately she had begun to wonder what the more important gods were planning for her, since a few times when they visited they paid close attention to her and whispered to each other about what should be done with the mistake.
So while she was bitterly unhappy among the mortals, who always thought they were on adventures no matter how miserable they were, it was probably better to escape. The world of mortals was new to her, however, and she was kept preoccupied with the dangers of her flight and worried about what the gods would do if they found her. After all she possessed important secrets that anyone would pick up hanging around in such company. Anyway, being distracted by the peculiarities and difficulties of the mortals, she never found time to stop and gather her wits about her.
It wasn't long before she forgot the secrets she had learned, and even that she had ever known them! She couldn't speak with the mortals about most of her experiences, since these were beyond their comprehension, and she made her way through the land of the mortals in a haphazard fashion with no clue as to what angles were best for her when negotiating with people, or deciding on courses of action. Many of the lessons that mortals learn at a young age were ones that she had to learn by making mistakes, or weren't learned at all. For instance most mortals take for granted that the stranger is an enemy and don't take it hard when they're treated shabbily by established groups. But when she tried to go among the young mortals at a school, nobody could tell for sure what it was but they sensed something different about her and because of this she could never get close to any of them. They were distant and suspicious and even cruel; like most of the mortals they are aware that they must die, which makes them jealous of their time and by extension, everything else.
Another time she was lured into a trap by one of the mortals, who fell in love with her. She was very pretty after all, and always had the bitter and subtle power of the spice in her, which could easily drive the mortals mad with desire. Anyone who was made by the gods always has a touch of magic about them even if it isn't too strong and when she wasn't concentrating sometimes, if people walked by her or; stood close on the bus, they would get the same feeling as if they heard the blues, or if they were former junkies they would feel the warmth grow in their stomachs and maybe fall, without ever realizing what had reminded them of pain in desire, foreknowledge of hopelessness, like an elegant chess combination which must be played even if it leads to loss. Anyway, she allowed this mortal to think he was conducting a great love affair with a mysterious girl and it wasn't long before she gave birth to a child.
This mortal man could never figure it out, though, why she was distant, and he wasn't even one of the better mortals. Deeply troubled by their fate, they usually spend their time feeling sorry for themselves, which is understandable but no excuse. Naturally she was bitter being surrounded by people who were blind to hidden qualities as a result of having concluded that noble undertakings all end in failure. She was unable to share their particular sorrow, seeing as how she was born in between the two worlds. People like that can never feel at home in the world unless they make some kind of special effort that is almost guaranteed to use them up and by then it doesn't matter. Even her baby was somewhat of a mystery to her, since it was mostly a mortal child.
Bitter isn't the opposite of sweet. This is because both are sharp in their pure states. Bitter is a complete spirit in itself that was one of the essences put into the universe by the gods in order to prevent blandness from allying itself with sweet against sour, and of course this means that the opposite of bitter is dull. Everywhere that Melpomene’s little sister looked, she saw that the mortals relied on the use of bland to console themselves, and having so many thoughts bothering her she mistakenly came to believe that, like them, she needed to wash herself in the bland essences, to balance the bitter which always made her feel as if she were being consumed. This was the kind of error most people make, to think relief comes from mixing together the opposites. What needed to be done was to get the opposite out so as to purify the stronger element, and then find examples of different crystalline perfection and dance with them, not melt together and grow dim. These are god secrets that were stolen long ago, but we mortals are always trying to steal from the gods and nobody thinks anything of it. We’re a rum crew and it's a rum show and if we play our cards right we can enjoy some of the benefits of the gods without paying too much penalty.
Melpomene’s little sister never had a Name except the one the mortals used on her, Georgene, and that's why she was so lonely. A name can be anything, but a Name is something else entirely. As time went on, she realized that the mortals would be cruel to her without ever knowing why they had to. But she didn't know why either, and the truth was that they can't share their names like the gods can unless they've taken great risks and stolen a number of important secrets from you-know-who. They can't share their little names that mean only very small amounts of meaning; there isn't enough to go around. It's the mortal way to be mean with those who have less, so as to remind the one with more that he has something; their consciousness is very reliant on contrast, like the lower animals. They gang up, and they'll be cruel until people die of it, so Melpomene’s little sister should have been more careful when she was around them, but you know how it goes.
One time she met a mortal man who was very curious, seeing as how he made a profession out of certain dangerous smuggling missions and raids against certain parties who have powers they uncharitably withhold from us if you catch the drift, and they talked for a long time until it was late, but she wouldn't let him do the honorable thing and walk her home. He sat for a while and shook his head and thought about a few other pretty girls he had known who had to walk home at night.
Originally appeared in Inside Joke#29