UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: VII The Chariot

Cloudburst

He came into my life like storm clouds rolling down a mountain. A quiet afternoon at a café window, distant rumble, occasional flashes and then he was upon me. He dazzled me with his windswept hair and sunbathed skin as he stood over me, smiling, asking if I was using the empty chair across from me. No, I said and smiled. He cocked his head and with a devilish grin he lifted the chair and placed it before the adjacent table, facing me. 

Soon after, I floated on the silver clouds of love and infatuation. Summer days, sultry nights, and always that distant thunder. I let the balmy passion which fogs the brain and blinds the eye wash over me, envelop me and pull me into the eerie calmness at the center. Joyful times in the eye of the storm. 

Joyful times gone too soon. 

First, he sprinkled questions here and there. Though I knew I owed him no answers, I still explained. He required explanations. 

Then, the torrent of accusations dense with jealousy engulfed me and I swirled in the gale of his obsession. I flailed and grasped at the gusting wreckage of my life. I tried to clasp onto friends and family whirling around me, but he held on strong and my grip slipped. 

I’d love to say I made it through the tempest, kept my head down and turned my collar up against the wind. I want to say I laughed at the lightning and roared louder than the thunder; but no, he vanished as he’d come: in a blinding flash.

Now, all I have left is my name on a gravestone.  

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Ten of Cups

The Gilded Ballroom

Samuel shifted in his seat and rolled his shoulders back, trying to get comfortable in the cloth-draped plastic folding chair. The recital had begun, and while Alice gazed at the string quartet in rapture, Samuel fidgeted. Alice had begged him to join her at the concert, and though he hadn’t been reluctant to attend, now he found it boring.

He glanced around the mansion’s ballroom (now a museum) and marveled at the opulence of the Gilded Age. Baroque-style gold leaf adorned the high walls, and the marble floor shone with polish. Even the furniture seemed to sparkle with a gold sheen. Silk drapes hung on the floor-to-ceiling windows, and French doors opened onto a large stone terrace. A painted blue sky and clouds covered the ceiling, with cherubs at each corner and a large, ornate gold medallion at its center. Samuel sighed and turned his attention back to the performers. 

Music filled the room, yet Samuel had the uncanny feeling a fog was settling over the audience. His sight blurred and his chin drooped. He jerked awake at the sensation of falling, then endeavored to focus on the quartet, now playing a lively tune. Too lively, Samuel thought, for only the most dismal and somber pieces—Alice’s favorites—were on the program. He gazed at the musicians. 

Samuel frowned; wasn’t a woman in the quartet? An older, chubby and somewhat frumpy lady with black slacks and red cardigan fiddling on the viola came to mind. Now, there were men in black three-piece suits playing… a waltz?

Samuel scrunched his face and turned to Alice, but found only a side table with a Tiffany-style lamp beside him. He examined the lotus themed leaded glass lampshade with its bronze leaf-shaped mosaic base… Holy moly, a real Tiffany lamp! 

“What in the world…?” He murmured and scanned the room. 

Samuel gulped; he no longer sat on the folding chair among the spectators, but on a high-backed leather seat off to the side and by a window. Ladies in satin dresses, lace sleeves and low necklines, bouffant hairdos and sparkling jewels swirled on the arms of dapper men in tuxedos with stiff, high collars and slick hair. 

The room rang with the sound of laughter and merry conversation as the couples twirled around the dance floor. The piece ended, the music paused, and a hush fell over the ballroom. 

A strange tinkling sounded above Samuel; he glanced up and noticed the heavy crystal chandelier shaking and shimmering in the twilight. An astounded murmur rose through the crowd as the marble floor shuddered. Samuel kept his eye on the chandelier as it swayed back and forth. The chandelier creaked and the wiring snapped; he jolted.

“Wake up,” Alice hissed in his ear and gave him another discreet shake. 

Her angry gazed burned, and Samuel found himself back at the recital with the chubby lady on the viola. He scanned his surroundings. The furniture was the same, save for the hard plastic folding chairs placed at the center. No chandelier hung from the ceiling.

Samuel glanced at his neighbors and noticed some fast asleep with their chins on their chests. He was about to glare at Alice when the sleepers jerked awake, and in unison, yelled, “the chandelier!”

A spectral crash sounded through the room; the marble floor glimmered with the ghosts of shattered glass.

ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: I The Magus + III The Empress

Minutes to Midnight

Evening:

Luke checks into the hotel and, as the receptionist runs his credit card, he notices the photograph displayed in the lobby. It is a black-and-white photo of the majestic Victorian building. He cannot say why, there is nothing odd about it, but it gives him the creepy-crawlies. 

“That picture was taken when the hotel opened in the 1890s,” the receptionist says and hands him a key. 

Luke enters his room and jolts at the sight of the black-and-white photograph hanging above the bed. 

  • Art Nouveau four-poster bed, nightstand, table and chair at back of room, heavy dark drapes line French doors to balcony. Sunlight gleams on bedspread. 

The sleek curves of the Art Nouveau style warp the mood of the photograph and give it a bizarre, off-kilter feel. 

The furniture in Luke’s room is different, modern, but the layout the same. White bedspread, blue curtains. 

“It’s this very room,” he exclaims. 

Luke shudders. 

He startles at the knock; the bellboy enters with Luke’s luggage and leaves. 

Luke steps onto the balcony and enjoys the setting sun’s milky glimmer over the cityscape. 

Dusk:

Luke’s eyes adjust as he enters from the balcony. Long shadows play upon the walls and blue imbues the room. Luke reaches for his jacket and stares at the photograph. 

  • Man lies on bed, in slacks, vest and shirt, tie unfolded, legs extended on bedspread, arms behind head; resting. Face gazes towards balcony. Suit-jacket draped on chair, hat on table, shoes by bed. 

Trembling, Luke grabs his wallet and hastens to the door. He leaves for dinner. 

Night: 

Luke opens the door and flicks on the light. The lamp on the nightstand is dim, but moonlight enters from the balcony. He places the keys on the nightstand and undoes his tie, preparing for bed. His heart skips when he glimpses the photograph. 

  • Man, now in striped pajamas, opens bedspread. Face blurred by bulb of light from Tiffany lamp on nightstand. 

Luke gulps and wonders whether to change rooms. He phones the lobby, but no other rooms available for the night. 

“Tomorrow,” the receptionist says. 

Luke enters the bathroom. 

11:58 pm: 

Luke opens the bed and is about to climb in when he stops and stares at the photograph. 

  • Darkened room lit by moonlight from balcony. Table and chair in silhouette, nightstand in shadow, billowing drapes. Outline of man laying on side, face towards balcony, flat sheet and blanket pulled up to neck, bedspread rolled at feet; asleep. 

11:59 pm: 

Luke stands with arms hanging and mouth open, mesmerized. His heart pounds and he gapes at the photograph.

  • Woman stands at foot of bed. Long dress and tight jacket, heeled boots, corset and bustle. Hair in bun, tilted cap on head. Face blurry but turned toward sleeping man. 

Luke’s frenzied mind searches for an explanation and finds none. He wants to turn away, but cannot. 

  • Woman extends arm and points gun at sleeping man. Gun glitters in moonlight. 

Midnight:

  • Flash of light at gun barrel. 

Luke hears a faded pop, as if from a gramophone. The light in his room dims, then brightens.

  • Blanked out image, dark edges. Overexposed?

Luke screams as red spots appear and expand, soaking the white satin pillow on his bed.

VISCONTI TAROT: 0 The Fool

Fool in the Rain

Roger felt like a fool standing in the street and glaring through the restaurant window; rain trickled onto his jacket. Cars drove by and the tires on wet pavement sounded like they zoomed at top speed, though the traffic was slow. Honks blared. The garish neon lights flashed, half-reflected through the glass in that uncanny dual reality in which he saw himself as a has-been actor in a jaded movie scene. 

Jennifer sat at a table and giggled as another man caressed her hand. The man leaned forward and kissed her neck; she flirted while Roger, unseen, stared aghast and dumbstruck. 

He hesitated a moment and imagined himself bursting into the restaurant, grabbing the guy by the lapel and punching him. 

Would she scream? Would she beg him to stop?

“She’d laugh,” he murmured, “just like she’s laughing now, just as she’s always done. I’d only spend the night in jail.”

Roger hung his head and trudged home in the now pouring rain. People jostled past him with umbrellas held high, collars turned up and jackets pulled close. Roger dawdled and, with hair slick from rain and drenched clothes, approached a street corner. 

Maybe we can talk it out?

As he reached the curb, the traffic light switched from “stop” to “walk” and the little pulsing man blared in his brain. 

He thought about Jennifer and her perfidy and remembered all the tiny warning signs he’d overlooked because of love. How many times had she belittled him in public and he’d let it slide when she’d whispered the opposite in bed? 

She’d complain about his gift bouquets cluttering up the apartment, then turn around and whine when he gave her only one rose.

Should I give her another chance?

Roger approached another corner, and once again, the little walking man lit up as soon as he’d reached it. 

But there was no pleasing Jennifer. And now, ever since the window had reflected two realities—the warm inner world of the restaurant intermingled with the wet world of the street—Roger saw Jennifer’s duplicity.

Does she deserve yet another chance?

He reached the crosswalk that led to his apartment, no, their apartment. The stoplight changed and the little flashing man urged him to walk.

Then the ever-present battle between love and disdain she engaged in their relationship snaked down from the leaden sky as lightning. Thunder clapped as the scales fell from his eyes and slithered down his body with the raindrops. 

“No more!” Roger exclaimed, and a woman jumped and glared at him as she hurried along. 

Roger entered the home he shared with Jennifer and glanced around, wishing for guidance on what to do.

Should I throw her out?

“You are a gentleman,” his father’s voice whispered as blue and white shadows danced on the wall. A wet scent emanated from the metal window-frames; the sound of splashing wheels in the street. 

He glanced around the room and the jagged shapes of the furniture seemed spooky in the semi-darkness. She had moved in with him. He paid the rent; he owned the furniture, and yet her essence hovered everywhere and lurked in the shadows. 

He switched on the light and closed the door. The wall shook and a framed photograph flew off its nail and crashed to the floor. Roger picked it up. In the picture, he beamed with delight, but the glass had shattered over Jennifer’s face.

When Jennifer crept into the apartment the following morning she found a silent home and a broken picture with a note stuck to it.

“I’ve ended the lease and you have 30 days to leave.”

THE GODDESS TAROT: Two of Staves

Demon in the Mist

Laura gazes into the forest and her sight tries to pierce through the thick branches but sees nothing beyond the trees. She’s been at Rainier’s cottage for days, though for her it feels like years. He’s been absent just as long, a wanderer in the thick forest mist. 

In the morning she collects eggs and milks the goat and remembers her teenage self, always wishing to leave farm life behind her. Live in the city, be someone. Promises her devil made and… well, no, he kept. He gave her money and social status. Too late she realized what he expected in return; stupid girl. 

In the evenings Laura listens for Rainier, but only the sounds of the forest enter the window. Some nights she hears a bear or a wolf pacing. She lights the oil lamp Rainier left by the nightstand. Laura closes the chicken coop and brings the goat in, her only companion. 

Night falls. 

Laura sits by the window and listens to the forest animals, while a fire crackles in the hearth. She doesn’t need it, nights are mild, but the warmth and flickering light comforts her; pleasant company, fire and goat. An owl hoots and the sound travels from the treeline where she suspects it lives in a hollow trunk. 

The owl quiets and a chill crawls up Laura’s spine. She peeks out the window and sees nothing by a dank, thick mist. Neither moonlight nor starlight pierce the fog and Laura finds herself plunged into a strange world of darkness and silence. It’s a dead darkness with a coffin-like silence. She fixes her gaze on the fire, but its waning flames flicker with a warning hue. 

A change in the air; Laura’s nostrils flare as the pungent yet sweet smell hits her. It’s a scent meant to intoxicate, to obfuscate, to immobilize. She realizes the mist is not natural but man-made; someone has poured venom and evil into the fog. Someone wants to harm her. 

“Laura,” a voice whispers in the night. 

Laura glances around the room for a weapon to defend herself from the enemy lurking beyond the cottage. The poker; she attempts to reach for it but finds herself immobile. Panic rises and she wants to scream but cannot open her mouth. 

The goat places its head on her lap and consoles her but does not break the spell.

“Laura,” the voice taunts, “I see you.”

Laura watches through the open window as a figure emerges from the fog. It’s tall and clad in a black suit and hat, like the gangsters of old. Like her devil, though she knows it’s not him. Not for the first time, she wishes she hadn’t dropped her gun as she ran out the door the night she killed him. She’d once found the vintage clothing endearing, but now she realizes it’s a uniform of sorts; a way to identify them

The figure approaches, then stops at the fence. Laura knows it won’t stop him and glances at the door, wishing for Rainier. 

A barn owl soars through the mist; its vibrant white cuts through the black and Laura realizes the fog itself is black, not the world. The owl flies and swirls around the homestead and disperses the mist. Laura hears the flapping wings and with each flap her heart settles and the spell loses its hold. The barn owl lands on the windowsill and faces the man at the fence. Its screeches cut through the night and break the enchantment. 

The man sniggers.

“I’m not finished,” he whispers and his voice snags Laura’s brain. 

She shudders. He vanishes into the night.

The barn owl turns its heart-shaped head to face Laura, a creepy, yet comforting gesture. It hoots and flies away. The crescent moon shines in the sky. Laura gazes at a bright star and wonders whether it’s the same star she prayed by that night as she lay wounded on the riverbank.

GOLDEN TAROT: VII The Chariot

The Last Train

The old man rocked on the back porch; his niece sat beside him. The evening closed around them, crickets chirped and cicadas buzzed. His niece lived with him; she cared for him in his last years and he accompanied her in the autumn of her life. Two lonely people, both unmarried, both aging with nothing to do but sit on the back porch and gaze at the garden, and wait. 

“Uncle, can I get you something? Maybe some lemonade?” Niece asked. 

Uncle nodded and told her to hurry.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she giggled.

Niece entered the old house, once a railroad station, with its gabled roof and stumpy watchtower. It had been more than a century since the trains had stopped and half that time since the old station became a house with an added two-story wing. The old railroad tracks, now rusty and decaying, marred the garden Niece cared for with vehemence, yet she’d never covered them. 

Trains had stopped at this station, passengers had climbed off and on, and then had pulled out with a loud whistle conveying hopes to their destinations. The tracks ran through the tree-lined meadow and disappeared into the forest, where they wound around a bend and continued along a steep ravine. The Last Train had vanished into the trees and reappeared at the bottom of the gorge as a twisted and smoldering wreck. No one survived. No one removed the tracks either. 

“The train won’t come if you cover them,” Uncle had said when she’d first moved in a decade ago. She had watched him with quizzical eyes, wondering if his mind was deteriorating too. 

“Trains haven’t stopped here in more than a century,” she’d said.

He’d grumbled something and nodded, but a tiny sparkle had shone through his old man’s eyes. 

Niece joined Uncle with two tall glasses of lemonade. 

“I miss the fireflies,” he broke the silence, “haven’t seen one since that night.”

“What night?” Niece asked in her most nonchalant voice; she sensed a rare peep into Uncle’s history. 

“The night she vanished. Crickets and cicadas had buzzed then too, but the fireflies flitted all over the fountain,” he sipped the lemonade.

“Who vanished?”

“My bride-to-be; she left her wedding dress on the perch and disappeared into the night.”

“You were engaged?”

He nodded. 

“She left you?”

He nodded again, “though I’ve always suspected I’m to blame. Me and my trysts.”

Niece gazed at Uncle with wide eyes. She’d never married because no one had proposed, but Uncle…

Uncle produced a photograph from his inner jacket pocket. A beautiful girl with marble skin and cropped jet-black hair that peeped from under a cloche hat with a white flower bow on the side smiled at the camera. The picture was black-and-white, but Niece noticed the light eyes, maybe blue, that twinkled with delight. She was young and fresh, and Uncle’s perfidy stung Niece.

“She took her yellow raincoat, her blue suitcase and that hat. They found the hat by an abandoned car. It was 1959. We never heard from her again.”

“What was her name?”

A tiny green light twinkled between them and Uncle and Niece turned their gaze back to the garden and the long-forgotten tracks. The same green light sparkled and multiplied until the garden glittered. 

“Fireflies!” Uncle exclaimed with delight.  

They watched the fireflies with awe and wonder as the bugs flitted around them, like flickering memories of innocent times. 

“Uncle, what was her name?” Niece repeated after a moment. 

A rumble blew through the trees and Niece’s question faded in the wind. The rumble thundered in their ears, yet the world remained unperturbed. In an instant, a black steam locomotive chugged into the eroding tracks. It hissed and sputtered. The murmur of voices overpowered the crickets and the hubbub and flurry of the past engulfed Uncle and Niece. A stationmaster called out orders. Gentlemen in suits, high-collars and stovepipe hats, paid porters to handle their luggage. Women in long skirts with bustles, corseted jackets and flowered bonnets, fanned themselves or closed their parasols, ready to ascend the train. 

The locomotive churned on to the edge of sight, and the first wagon appeared with its passengers peering out of the window. Niece knew who to expect: the old lady and her elaborate hairdo, the gentleman with prominent muttonchops smoking his pipe, and the young dandy with the round spectacles. All of them with shining eyes and hopeful smiles, unaware they rode The Last Train and their dreams had tumbled into the abyss a century and a half ago. 

Uncle gasped and pointed. Niece followed his gaze and through one window saw two passengers she’d never seen in the decade they’d watched The Last Train arrive. A young woman with a pearly complexion, short jet-black hair and blue eyes leaned her head on the shoulder of a rugged dark-haired and olive-skinned man with piercing black eyes.

“Miriam!” Uncle shrieked. 

The train chugged away and vanished into the trees, toward the final bend. 

Niece stared aghast; the photograph flittered in the breeze.

But… The Last Train crashed long before Uncle was born.

TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: Knight of Pentacles

Ethur

Cassiopeia rushed to Mom’s nightstand. The teacher’s lesson on the Trojan horse reminded her of the tiny figurine Mom had worn around her neck and Dad had buried in a drawer since she died. Cassie rummaged in the drawerful of knick-knacks Dad hadn’t yet had the heart to clean out until her fingers closed around a bauble wrapped in Mom’s cotton hanky. 

Tears sprung to Cassie’s eyes when she saw Mom’s initials knitted into the cloth but she fought them back and unwrapped the trinket. In her palm she beheld a black stone carved into the shape of a horse rearing on its hind legs. It shone iridescent gold when the light caught it and Cassie remembered Mom telling her it was Fool’s Gold, an obsidian with a gold sheen. Mom had promised Cassie would inherit it someday. Someone had wrapped a silver wire around it, simulating a saddle and bridle which twined into a long silver chain with no clasp, as if to bind the figurine into infinity. 

Dad didn’t think it worth much, it only had a deep and cutting sentimental value to him. But Mom had always told her ancestors had bequeathed it even after the townspeople had hanged Great-Grandma Cassandra as a witch three-hundred years before. 

At the thought of Great-Grandma Cassandra, the ancient graveyard by the meadow flashed through her mind. Cassie checked herself and endeavored to distract her thoughts away from the cemetery, though it was her most beloved place in the world. She and Dad had spread Mom’s ashes amidst the tombs of her ancestors. 

“Stop it!” She scolded herself. 

If she concentrated on a place, Cassie would find herself there. Once, while imagining herself as a hawk perched on a branch, she appeared atop a tall oak and had a harrowing time climbing down from it. She’d gotten better at controlling this gift. Now, by concentrating on her room, it served as a respite from the harassing torment of her walk home in her tattered sneakers and faded clothes. 

Cassie twirled her fingers around the obsidian horse, then draped the chain around her neck. In a flash, she stood at the old graveyard in the meadow. The peacefulness of the place ran through her body and washed away the distressing school day mired by constant bullying. 

Two groves flanked the old graveyard, one a barren clump of dead birches with peeling ghostly white bark and scraggly branches that rose upwards like supplicant fingers. Mom had said Great-Grandma Cassandra’s unmarked grave had withered those trees. 

On the other side, stood a thicket of hawthorns and redbuds that seemed in constant bloom and powdered the ground with pink and white blossoms. Whenever she walked among the ancient graves, the wind always stirred these blossoms and they clung to her hair like fairies. 

Cassie’s chest tickled. She gasped when she saw the tiny obsidian horse dangling by her bellybutton, kicking and bucking. She tried to grab it. The tiny horse, still on its long chain, slipped through her fingers and galloped up her arm and onto her shoulder, where it patted her skin with its glimmering hoof. It emitted a tiny huffy neigh and gazed at her. 

The wind gusted through the hawthorn and redbud blossoms and drew her attention. In the swirling pink and white buds a woman appeared with a long black dress, white apron and hair tied into a cap. She shimmered and seemed to meld into the wind until she hovered before Cassie. Their eyes met and Cassie perceived the same mystical pearlescence of her own malachite-green eyes. 

Cassie gulped; the woman ran a ghostly finger down Cassie’s nose, just like Mom used to do, only it felt like falling dew instead of Mom’s warm caress.

“Cassandra?” She squeaked. 

Cassandra nodded and smiled, then placed her fingertip under the tiny horse’s snout still perched on Cassie’s shoulder. The horse nuzzled it. 

“This is Ethur, he is your spirit-guide and protector,” Cassandra spoke, “only those like us can bring him to life. Ask and he will answer, go and he will follow, but know this, he is of Light and only works in Light. He will not heed the dark requests of your heart. He is your constant companion, guide and friend. Love him as he loves you, and when you leave this earth, he will sleep. Pass him down to your descendants until someone awakens him again.”

Tears rolled down Cassie’s cheek, but Cassandra, her fingers under the girl’s chin, continued.

“You have much magic in you and much to learn. As your gifts evolve, he will guide you to use them for the good of the world. Those who torment you do so out of fear, this is your fate, do not let them stop you in your path to lighten the darkness. Ethur, I, and your ancestral line are always with you. Fear not your destiny; embrace it instead.”

She bent down and kissed Cassie’s cheek. It felt like a cool speckle of rain under a clear sky. Another gust of wind and Cassandra vanished with the swirling blossoms. 

Cassie stood alone by the old graveyard. She gazed at Ethur on her shoulder; his obsidian gold sparkled in the sunlight. She smiled at him and placed a fingertip under his snout, just as Cassandra had done. He nuzzled it and warm energy rushed through her body. In her heart, she knew the gesture had formed the thickest of bonds. 

Voices approached and Ethur froze. He tugged at her neck as he slipped off her shoulder and dangled at her belly, a stone trinket once more. An old couple in hiking boots stopped to admire the blossoms and never noticed the girl with the shabby clothing who was there one moment and gone the next.

GOLDEN TAROT OF THE RENAISSANCE: VIII Justice

The Ancient Cemetery

The forest had swallowed the ancient cemetery until all that remained was the stone angel projecting from the undergrowth. The name on the tomb had vanished and moss and dead leaves covered the statue’s feet. Lichen clung to its wings. Twining plants wound and twirled around the statue’s legs, and Spanish moss hung from its outstretched arms. The right hand clutched a sword ready to strike. The left hand held an uneven balance scale with empty pans, their weights lost in the sands of time. A thin mist always hovered as a ghostly reminder of the long-forgotten names interred there. 

Miranda and Maureen had visited this place since their youth; the twin sisters had loved to meander around the mounds of earth, moss and protruding partial headstones. They’d loved to gaze at the stone angel with facial features smoothed out by time and the encroaching forest. Tall trees surrounded the burial grove and a break in the topmost branches allowed a tiny ray of sun to shine its feeble light on the statue. For decades, every Saturday, the sisters had taken the narrow and nigh invisible path to the ancient graves. Then had sat on a rock before the stone angel to enjoy a picnic of sandwiches, chips and soda. 

Birds trilled in the trees as Miranda traipsed through the path, broken and uneven by the thick roots of the tall oaks that lined it. Once Miranda approached the grove, all sound ceased and the perennial thin mist hung low about the ground. Here she found the solace and comfort she needed from the oppressive burden of loss. She missed her twin sister’s following footsteps and sometimes felt the warmth of her body beside her. But when she turned her head, Miranda saw only the rainbow caused by the feeble sunlight through the spectral mist. 

Miranda sat on the rock and wept. Maureen would never visit this place again; those happy picnics gone forever, ripped from her by a careless teenager from the prestigious boarding school on the outskirts of town and his fancy fast car. Miranda took out a black-and-white picture of the sisters in their younger days with their beehive hairstyle, strapless gowns and coy smiles. In their prom picture Miranda and Maureen were as young as the boy with the flying red car who had plunged Miranda into a life of one. 

“The sign flashed ‘walk’ and he didn’t stop! Oh, Maureen!” Miranda cried, and her voice broke the eerie silence. Her blood boiled as she recalled the police dropping the charges the moment the boy’s father had opened his checkbook. An unfortunate accident, they’d ruled. 

Now, the ritual comprised tears over a fresh grave in a proper cemetery, then a melancholy picnic before the stone angel. The boy zoomed past her as Miranda left the graveyard. She walked through the town center on her way to the forest; the bright red car parked on the street. The boy and his friends sat at a cafe’s outdoor patio, laughing and joking, not for one moment heeding the sad old woman with the quivering lips. Miranda hung her head and, with leaden steps, trudged to the ancient burial ground and its funereal serenity. 

On the rock, Miranda put her face in her hands and sobbed, her wails shaking the tree leaves, yet muffled by the mist. 

“Justice! What justice is that?” She lamented. 

“Miranda,” a voice whispered and Miranda glanced up. 

The trees rattled and a figure emerged from the statue. First the feet surfaced, then the tunic and the arms with the scale and sword. The face took on radiant and benevolent features and at last, the pearly glimmering wings materialized. 

The angel stood before Miranda and smiled. He showed her the balance scale. On the heavy plate, she saw an image of her sister’s grave, while on the lighter plate the image of the rich boy appeared. He was at the café as she’d seen him moments before, still laughing and joking. 

The angel swung the sword and Miranda smelled the metal as it swooped by her. The plate with her sister’s grave rose while the other lowered. The scale clicked into place. 

Miranda watched the principal expel the boy from school. The scale tipped and the once-generous over-protective father threw the boy from his house. Again the scale clicked into place and the boy, with blood-shot eyes and tattered clothing, stood on a street corner and leaned into the window of a black car. 

With each tip of the scale, the boy became a man. By the seventh click he was homeless and freezing in the driving snow of an unnamed street; the scales almost balanced. 

Miranda watched with bated breath as the scale tipped one last time. The homeless man stood on a street corner. The ‘walk’ sign flashed; he stepped off the curb. A bright red streak hit him. The speeding car did not stop for the vagrant dying on the street. 

The plates leveled on the angel’s balance scale and Miranda’s eyes filled with tears. 

“Thank you,” she whispered and wiped her eyes with her fingers. 

The angel vanished and the sun shone its single beam on the nameless grave with the stone statue. Wind gusted through the trees and lifted the oppressive sorrow from Miranda’s heart.

TAROT DRACONIS: V The Hierophant

Cat-O’-Nine-Tails

The abbess knocked on the door. The sounds of a flogging whip shook the darkened corridor; she received no reply. Starlight shone through the arched Gothic windows that lined the passage. 

She knocked again. 

Should she enter? The young novice needed the last rites. 

The abbess knocked a third time and gave the door a slight push. It creaked open. 

The bishop stood with his bare back to the door, and in the dim candlelight the abbess saw streaks of gooey blood marring the skin. 

A whip cracked and a wound opened. 

What great sin could he be repenting? 

Another crack and the pieces fell into place. As blood poured down the wounded back, images flowed through the abbess’s mind. With each lash, she recalled every visit the bishop had made to her abbey and the events thereafter. 

The young novice; the stillborn.

Sister Elizabeth; the drowning.  

Her eyes widened and the dreaded thought flashed like lightning: not coincidences but consequences. 

“You!” The abbess exclaimed; the bishop whirled around and glared.

She stood in the doorway, old, wrinkled and yet so innocent, but her wide eyes betrayed her horrible realization. The cat was out of the bag, his secret sins exposed. 

He advanced towards her with such violence that she turned and ran; her frail steps booming with the guilt of his crimes. He followed down the narrow window-lined corridor, starlight and shadow alternating with each step. He caught her just as she reached the winding stone stairs. 

They struggled; she scratched him. He tried to pull her back to his chamber, but she fought hard. To control those flailing arms, he pushed her. Her slight frame lifted off the floor, and, in an instant, she flew out the window. 

The bishop glanced at the broken abbess pierced by the thorny briar and surrounded by shattered glass sparkling in the starlight. He returned to his chamber. A cat wailed in the night. Hurried footsteps. 

***

Lillian gazed up from the book Derek had placed before her; eyes filled with fear and wonder. It had been blank, then little by little, the horrible scene had appeared within its pages, each moment ripped out of Lillian’s mind like tangled hooks.

Derek took the book from her and wrapped it in its towel. 

“Does this book show you your nightmares?” Lillian stammered. 

“I don’t know,” Derek mumbled, “does it?”

MINCHIATE: Queen of Cups

Wolf

Marilyn stared at the screen; the cursor blinked like an impatient mother tapping her foot. Tap, tap, tap. The cursor glared at Marilyn. 

She’d spent the last days staring at the blank document. Once in a while she began a sentence, then deleted it. Sometimes writing a story was like squeezing the juice out of a dry, withered lemon: it came in dribs and drabs and through gritted teeth.

Marilyn slammed her fist on the desk and stood up in frustration. The chair rolled and slammed against the wall. It left a nick in the drywall; Marilyn cared not. 

She made herself a snack and gazed at the street through the kitchen window. A dog barked and Marilyn, crunching potato chips she’d served in a bowl, expected her neighbor to appear as he walked his poodle every day. Marilyn brought a chip to her mouth and was about to pop it in when her hand froze in mid-air. A black-and-white Siberian husky passed before the kitchen window and fixed its ice-blue eyes on her. 

Marilyn furrowed her brow, “Wolf? Is that Wolf?”

With a thudding heart, she observed the dog, every moment more convinced it was Wolf. A woman appeared, and there was no mistaking Norma Jean’s coarse blond hair dyed in purple highlights. For a fleeting moment, Marilyn’s heart soared with delight when she recognized her sister. Then she noticed the torn clothing, missing hiking boot, Norma Jean’s ragged and bloodied ankle and grimy face. Her sister’s arm hung limp and at an odd angle. 

Marilyn dropped the bowl; it shattered on the cream-colored tile and scattered crumbling bits of potato chips. She ran out the front door. 

“Norma Jean!” Marilyn panted as she reached her sister, “What happened?”

“Help us, Marilyn!” Norma Jean’s hollow voice chilled her. It sounded far away, like through a static-filled radio station. 

Marilyn wanted to embrace her sister, but a dark cold and a zapping panic rooted her to the spot. 

“We’re up there, by the twisted tree!” 

Norma Jean pointed to the canyon in the distance and Marilyn’s heart sank as she saw the jutting form of the fallen tree dangling precarious over the craggy mountain slope. 

Wolf barked in the same hollow sound, and a gust of wind took Norma Jean’s last cry for help. Marilyn stood in the blistering sun, stunned and alone, and hesitated for a suspended moment in time.
A crow cawed and broke the spell. 

Marilyn rushed to the phone. 

***

“We made it just in time,” the rescuer told Marilyn as she burst into the emergency room, “they were there all yesterday and last night, but your sister will be fine.”

“And Wolf?”

The rescuer looked puzzled, “The dog?”

She nodded. 

“He’s at the animal hospital nearby on Monroe Avenue, I think he’ll be okay,” he paused, “I gotta say, that damn dog’s a genuine hero. She’d be dead if it weren’t for him. She slipped and fell down the slope. The dog slid after her, caught her by the ankle before she fell off the last ledge and pulled her to safety. She’ll have a nasty scar, but it’s a minor price to pay.”