BRUEGEL TAROT: 10 of Chalices

Foreshadow

An icy draft blew through the stuffy and crowded bar as the door flew open. Snowflakes tumbled onto the floor and the patrons hushed to a pregnant silence, waiting for someone to appear. After a few moments of nothing, they returned to their lively conversations, shrugging off the occurrence as the door dragged itself shut. 

“Guess the ghost wanted in, Bill!” A man shouted and raised his glass.

Bill acknowledged the customer with a polite smile and resumed his work. However, he kept a wary eye on the doorway; he couldn’t shake the feeling that the door opening by itself was an omen. 

Bill’s Tavern was a small bar in the old part of town; its main entrance opened to a dark backstreet. A buzzing neon sign lit the way, while the dim bulb of the streetlamp flickered in and out of the existence. Most of the patrons had frequented his bar for years, and though fresh faces were always welcome, they seldom appeared.

Business dwindled as Bill’s foreboding increased. It was odd that no one had entered the place since that incident. Instead, people had trickled out, though the night was still young.

Gallows Alley was one of the oldest streets in town, and the empty lot across from Bill’s had once been the courthouse and jail, though it burned down decades ago.

The old folks said gibbets once lined the alleyway, though Bill suspected it was all baloney. Tongues wagged about strange occurrences in Gallows Alley, footsteps in the mist, long-dead criminals stalking the darkness. Hogwash, Bill always scoffed; he’d experienced nothing. 

Still, the door bursting open like that?

Time passed, and only Freddy, the local lush, remained.

Bill stole a glance at Freddy, who sat on the stool with hunched shoulders like he wanted to dive into his drink, and wondered whether to call him a cab. Bill frowned when he noticed Freddy’s drink remained untouched. He racked his memory and realized he’d only served Freddy that one drink throughout the evening. Freddy had waltzed in minutes before the door put on its creepy show.

“Freddy,” Bill said, “you okay? You haven’t touched your drink.”

Freddy glanced up from his glass and gazed at Bill through faraway eyes. It took his mind a moment to focus on Bill.

“Yeah, Bill, I just…” He hesitated, then took a breath, “I just been thinking about Miriam.”

“Miriam?”

“Yeah, did I ever tell you ‘bout her?”

Bill shook his head.

“She was my sister, and she vanished oh, sixty years ago. She was years older than me; I was only a boy. She disappeared the eve of her wedding. Snuck out in the night, took some belongings, but left her wedding dress. We never heard from her again.”

Bill sought his brain for something to say besides, “oh,” but drew a blank.

He’d known Freddy for years, but Freddy never talked of his childhood, nor had that soulful look in his eyes.

“What brought this on, Freddy?” Bill asked.

“Oh, nothing,” Freddy sighed, “but when that door flew open I swear I caught a whiff of her perfume.”

“Could’ve been anyone’s perfume,” Bill said, his cautious eye on the door.

“Nah, she disappeared decades ago and I doubt anyone would wear such an old-fashioned fragrance.”

Bill shrugged, “Vintage?”

Freddy shook his head with a half smile on his lips.

“When I was a boy, sometimes I’d stay home alone (no one thought twice about that back then) and I recall many times I heard Miriam arrive. I’d hear the key in the door, then the rustle of her coat as she hung it in the closet. Her perfume wafted up the stairs as her dainty footsteps clacked on the steps. I’d wait for her to burst into my room and, tickling me, say hello.”

“So?”

“So many times I’d wait and wait, but nothing. I’d go downstairs and find the house empty. I’d shrug my shoulders and shuffle back to my room. Later, I’d hear her arrive all over again, but for real this time. Miriam had her own little routine, and her perfume always preceded her. If I had a dime for every time… Well, it only happened with Miriam.”

Bill gazed at Freddy’s earnest face and tried to suppress the chill that crept up his spine.

“I’ve experienced nothing like that since she left, Bill,” he paused, “until tonight. That incident with the door was the preamble to her arrival.”

Freddy locked eyes with Bill, “Miriam is coming.”

THE GODDESS TAROT: II Wisdom – Sarasvati

Mind Full

“This is stupid,” Edith wriggled in her lotus position. She moved her neck from side to side and straightened her shoulders. With a deep breath, she tried to focus on the yoga instructor’s soft, lulling voice as he led the class into a meditation.

Edith wondered why she was here. Her therapist had recommended yoga for stress management and, like a fool, she had obliged. The guy next to her squirmed and the rustle of his movement sounded like nails on a chalkboard. Someone behind her cleared their throat, and that too grated at her brain.

Edith inhaled again, forcing herself to focus, but the instructor’s words meant nothing. Her never-ending to-do list occupied her thoughts. 

Darkness surrounded her through her closed eyes; someone must have turned off the lights. She hadn’t realized how much the yellow light filtering through her eyelids bothered her. Then something clicked in Edith’s brain and muted the anxious thoughts. She felt herself melt into the ground as she exhaled.

She was in utter darkness now and frightened, as she sensed her arms go limp and her shoulders droop, but the soft chanting seeped through the blackness and calmed her.

It grew louder until she distinguished the low, yet mellifluous unison of men’s voices intoning unintelligible words. The perfect harmony of their singing suggested to Edith she might be inside a temple or a church. The sound echoed inside a vault, though the yoga studio had a low ceiling.

A shudder, no, a trickle crept up her fingertips and a warm electricity coursed through her. It wasn’t a jolt, but a sense of home.

A point of light appeared in the darkness that clouded Edith’s mind. It merged with the blackness and she glimpsed a simple altar, made of rough-hewn wood and stone, unlike the one she’d seen that time in the cathedral.

The point of light expanded and revealed a procession of hooded men in front of her. They made the lovely music with their voices. Aware she walked among them, Edith peeked at the monk beside her, but his cowl draped too far over his forehead and she only glimpsed an aquiline nose.

Edith gazed at her hands, and startled when she saw the thick palms, heavy fingers, and wrinkled skin that clung onto the bone. One fingernail was black and, disgusted, Edith meant to fold the finger and hide the nail. Instead, the muscle twitched and sent a bolt through her body. The chants and the monks disappeared, and she was back in the yoga studio.

VISCONTI TAROT: XIX The Sun

Noir

The lighthouse orb carousels over the rocks, the ocean, the beach. 

It rolls through the window and casts shadows on the parlor floor, the wall, the ceiling. Embers glow in the fireplace, twinkling with the swiveling ray.

The heavy pendulum clock ticks against the wall. 

He sits in the armchair, still and silent.

Tick, tick, tick.

A merry-go-round, the beacon. 

Light, then shadow on the gaze of steel.

Embers crackle; the sputter of an automobile rolling up the drive.

Tick, tock.

The key turns in the door; the creaking mingles with the ticking clock.

And all the while the light goes around and around in the gloom.

Moonless, starless sky. 

The lighthouse sphere swirls on the placid ocean, the water like tar. Licorice fingers of lichen on the rocks. Pebbles roll with the waves upon the beach. 

Tick, tock.

A footstep in the hall. The soft tap of stiletto heels as weight rolls to the ball of the foot. 

Click, tap. Click, tap.

Keys shuffle and tinkle in the hand. She stifles them.

The ray shimmers through the sidelights and transom window and onto the walls.

Checkered shadows.

Dark house, but for the revolving beam. 

She creeps by the parlor; her silhouette large upon the wall.

She pauses, but why? 

A peek and she sees the armchair by the fire.

The embers glow red. 

The light beam wheels through the room; he has turned the chair around, she notices.

His scowl, raw. It freezes her.

The eyes glow red. 

White lightning thunders through the dusky night. 

A leaden thud; the crimson trickle on the spotless tile.

The acrid stench of gunpowder. 

Bitter the taste of revenge, but sweet the satisfaction.

Black and white the room, red the dying fire.

UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: Page of Swords

Recess

“Give it back!” Cassie yelled as Paula taunted her with the little horse trinket dangling above her head.

They caught Cassie by the girl’s bathroom, and pushed her into the corner behind the gym where the recess lady, old and frail, never looked.

Becky and Kendra held Cassie’s arms as Paula glanced at her chest and noticed the dangling bauble on its silver chain. The tiny obsidian figurine glimmered with its Fool’s Gold sheen in the sunlight, and Cassie, helpless, wriggled as Paula removed the chain from her neck. 

“You want it?” Paula said, “Come and get it!”

Paula was tall and built like a tank and Cassie knew she stood no chance against her. Cassie’s heart raced as Paula swung the necklace above her head like a throwing hammer and flung it into the bog behind the school grounds.

“No!” Cassie screamed as the necklace flew over the fence and thudded on the marshland.

Cassie’s eyes filled with tears of rage; her hand balled into a fist and, uncontrolled, it crashed into Paula’s face. Electricity coursed through her arm and guided it, as if all the bullying and rage coiled inside her exploded.

Movement behind her, and Cassie knew Becky would attack. Cassie’s eyes blurred as if someone had taken over her body. She blocked Becky’s punch and kicked Kendra with the strength and speed of a martial artist, even though Cassie had never set foot in a karate class in her life. Dad had no money for extracurricular activities.

Paula recovered and Cassie turned to see a fist driving towards her face. She flinched; Paula screamed in pain and held her bleeding knuckles against her chest. 

Everyone stood silent. Paula hadn’t touched her, so what had happened? Kendra moved to tackle Cassie and instead rammed shoulder first into an invisible barrier. She swayed and fell to the ground.

“Witch!” Becky screeched.

The girls ran off, yelling “witch!”

Cassie stood by the fence scanning the bog for Ethur, her guardian, her familiar. Tears welled up in her eyes; he’d been with her ancestors for centuries and, in one instant, she had lost him.

“Ethur!” Cassie yelled, “Ethur!”

She rattled the chain-link.

“Ether?” A husky voice whispered from behind the cedar tree by the school’s rusty fence. 

Cassie froze. A young man appeared dressed in a three-piece, pin-striped suit and fedora cocked to one side. Old-fashioned and out of place, Cassie thought he might take out his Tommy-gun like Al Capone’s gang on TV. 

Cassie trembled at the man’s face; he was ugly, with a wide mouth, crooked nose and beady eyes that twinkled with malice. 

“Who are you?” Cassie bleated. 

“Who are you?” The man replied with a reptilian smirk, “Who is Ether?”

Cassie backed away as the man stepped forward, “Come on child, if you tell me your name, I’ll tell you mine.”

Cassie shook her head. Alert, her head buzzed as if a thousand fire alarms had gone off in her brain. She gasped for air and felt faint. Silence surrounded her; recess had gone quiet. 

“Ethur…” she whispered. 

“Who is Ether?” The man cooed. 

He was at the fence now, and Cassie stepped back on quivering knees as bony fingers reached for her through the chain-link. Cassie’s back bumped against the brick wall, yet the long pale fingers kept coming. Frozen with fear, Cassie tried to scream, but no sound emerged from her parched lips.

He caressed the soft tendril of curly hair that fell on Cassie’s shoulder; she squirmed. 

A bobcat jumped down from the tree and, in mid-air, swiped at the stranger’s arm. The arm recoiled and Cassie noticed pinpricks of blood staining the cuffs of his pristine shirt. The bobcat stood between the humans and glared at the man. It hissed and snarled. 

The man glanced at Cassie and licked his lips. He vanished into the mist that Cassie only just noticed had descended on the school. 

The bobcat gazed at Cassie with impassive eyes. Its reddish coat glistened with mist dew and Cassie thought she saw its black spots gleaming with a golden luster, like Ethur’s obsidian glimmer. It climbed over the fence, landed on the ground and ran off into the bog, flinging dirt into the school grounds with its hind legs. 

The mist dissipated and the merry cries of playing children intensified. Something twinkled in the dirt the bobcat had stirred. Tears sprung to Cassie’s eyes and her heart soared with joy when she beheld Ethur shining on the muddy ground. 

Cassie picked up the necklace and draped it around her neck, cradling the tiny stone horse in her hands. It kicked and moved in her palms and Cassie felt tiny pinpricks, like teeny claws on her skin. For a fleeting instant, she glimpsed a little obsidian bobcat between her fingers, but when she opened her hands, Ethur, the horse, flicked his mane.  

The recess bell rang; Ethur froze and dangled from her neck as Cassie, rattled yet relieved, returned to class. 

Unseen in a tree, the bobcat kept a protective eye on Cassie as she entered the building.

TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 2 of Chalices

Orpheus in Hell

Orpheus in the Underworld, Linda thought. Frank warbled and waved his arms like a malfunctioning octopus to Offenbach’s “Can-Can” booming on the stereo.

“Ignorant swine will know the ‘Infernal Galop’ when I’m through with him…” Linda mumbled through clenched teeth.

Not that Frank heard above the jovial din.

Rain pattered on the roof, and the wind drummed against the windows to the beat of the music. Linda stared at Frank; contempt raged in her eyes like the lightning zig-zagging through the storm clouds. Thunder rumbled as the pressure in her head increased, her heartbeat rose with the music’s crescendo. 

Her ears burned; Frank was at it again. He had a new girlfriend. He always blasted his music with the same piece on repeat when he cheated. Jackass hadn’t realized Linda had put two and two together long ago. Each new song meant a new girlfriend. And each tune represented a memorable feature. This new floozy, Linda seethed, was leggy.

Indignation sizzled.

While most people pictured frilly skirts and bloomers, tonight Linda imagined ten different murders, each one more violent than the last. But the bastard just wasn’t worth it. Yet, when he flaunted his clandestine relationships in her face, when he blared his music on repeat, Linda took comfort in fantasizing about a slow and torturous death.

The “Can-Can” restarted and Linda pounded on the steak with her tenderizer in time to the music, beating the anger out of herself with each thud.

“That’s such a magnificent piece!” Frank cheered as the music ended.

He noticed the thick piece of meat on the cutting board, “Steak for dinner? Nice!”

Linda forced a smile.

The rain stopped.
Frank checked his watch.

“Oh, darling, I’m sorry,” he said in his most apologetic voice, “I forgot I had an, um, an engagement tonight, an office thing. We can eat it tomorrow, right?”

His puppy dog eyes oozed imitation honey. 

He turned off the stereo, grabbed his jacket and headed out the door.

Linda washed her hands at the kitchen sink. She opened the cabinet where she kept the cleaning supplies (the best Frank repellent), grabbed the new locks she’d bought, and got her screwdriver.

Hours later, Frank cursed when his key wouldn’t open the door. The rain was beating down again and he rang the doorbell. 

No answer.

Sopping wet, he peeked through the sidelights; Linda sat on his favorite armchair, curled up with a book by the comforting fire.

The gale swirled around him. He pounded on the door.

Linda glanced up. 

Their eyes met; he motioned her to open the door.

With a satisfied smile, she turned off the lights.

Frank stood in the driving rain, soaking with bewilderment.

MINCHIATE: King of Coins

King of the Castle

Warren leaned back in his chair and belched. He patted his bulging belly and surveyed his domain. The family ate in silence and, though a dense cloud of unease hovered over the room, Warren noticed it not. 

He took a sip of his fine wine. 

Paige, his wife, was not a superb cook, unlike his mother. Bless her, Paige tried, but her meals were never up to par.

His daughter Romina took tiny bites from the bird-sized serving on her plate.Good, Warren thought, she should watch her weight before her marriage to Frederick Youngblood. He’d chosen the man for her, a man to his liking, a man in his image, successful and proud. 

Warren rolled his eyes at his eldest daughter, who was not marriageable. Spinsterhood was her destiny, with her funny-looking nose and weasel-like eyes. Odelia shoveled food into her mouth as if trying to gobble up her ugliness by the spoonful. Warren sighed; no use crying over spilled milk. She would be useful in his old age.

The life his women shaped for him every day satisfied Warren, though it gave him no pride. He wanted more, a son perhaps, or daughters who were both beautiful and smart and with the sense to marry wealthy men.

He drew the wineglass to his lips and sipped.

A knock at the door.

“No, no,” Warren said as his wife rose, “they can come back. It’s a salesman; our neighbors know better than to call on us at dinnertime.”

Paige gave a meek nod and sat down again. The girls kept their eyes on their plates. Warren had used his Caligula tone.

 A few minutes passed with no knock.

“See,” he said, “gone now.”

Warren finished his wine.

The lights flickered; the power died. A moment only. When the lights returned, a cloaked figure stood at the threshold between the dining room and the kitchen.

“Who are you?” Warren exclaimed and almost toppled over his chair as he hurried to stand.

“You know me,” the figure spoke in a tomb-like voice.

Warren stared agape at the stranger.

“I have come for one of you,” the figure said, “it’s reaping time in this house.”

Warren startled, his pulse quickened as the figure’s eyes landed on him and held his gaze. Held his fate.

Not yet!
But the figure had offered an alternative. It had said, “I have come for one of you.” 

So…

“Take Odelia!” Warren exclaimed, pointing at his eldest, “She’s homely and uninteresting. She’ll become an old maid, might as well put her out of her misery now.”

The figure glanced at Odelia, then turned back to Warren and shook its head.

“Then take Paige! She’s a bad housekeeper and in her dotage will be more trouble than she is worth.”

No.

“Take Romina! Frederick Youngblood will soon find a better wife.”

The figure shook its head a third time and pointed at Warren, whose chest constricted and his throat closed. He gasped for life, but eternal darkness closed in on him.

The figure pulled him away; he floated above the room and watched his family.
The three women observed Warren’s body struggle for its life. It shuddered with an odd rattle and then went still. 

His wife stood and collected his glass of wine. The wine only he drank; his women did not deserve it.

“Well, girls, remember what we rehearsed,” Paige smirked.

Odelia chuckled, “The king is dead!”

Romina sneered, “Long live the king.”

GOLDEN TAROT OF THE RENAISSANCE: 6 of Swords

Through the Tunnel

Martin closed his book and yawned. The train rattled and shook. Tired and headachy, he wanted nothing more than his high-backed armchair by his blazing fireplace.

He laid his head back on the seat and gazed out the window. The landscape zoomed by in a blur. 

Or rather, I zoom past it in a blur.

The brakes screeched and the hazy stripes of color became trees and shrubs. His heart sank; they hadn’t yet reached the city limits. The weariness of the ride weighed on him.

The train slowed down as they approached a tunnel; its dark mouth gaped like a lion’s den.

He sniggered. At this pace, anyone could climb onto the train like Fantômas or Jesse James and plunge the passengers, himself included, into their crimes.

He closed his eyes. No one would rob this train. No one would kill anyone on this train. Nothing would happen.

Darkness encroached; Martin heaved a deep, bored sigh. He leaned his head against the windowpane and tried to make out the end of the tunnel. The train halted and came to a full stop. 

Now what? 

He kept his eyes on the window. A light approached and Martin realized another train chugged in the opposite direction. Soon he would see its passengers through the windows. 

Isn’t this the premise of an Agatha Christie story?

The train passed and a dismayed Martin realized it was a cargo train and bore no passengers. Boxcar after boxcar dawdled by his window.
How long will this take? Why arent we moving? Don’t both trains fit in the tunnel?

Ridiculous, he chided himself, it’s obvious they fit.

Martin glanced at his watch, an instinctive motion, though futile, since he could not discern the hour in the dimness.

Maybe time stopped?

The train squealed to life and began its slow rattle through the tunnel.

“At last,” Martin mumbled, glad yet disappointed. No bandits, no murder through the windows of the opposite train.

He reached his destination, and with heavy shoulders and a relieved smile, stepped onto the platform. He glanced at his wristwatch and noted they had arrived ten minutes later than expected.

He sighed and flagged down a porter. In doing so, he noticed the time on the clock-tower; it was ten minutes slow. 

“Help you with your luggage, sir?” An old porter asked. He looked as old as the shabby clock-tower. 

“Yes, thank you,” Martin said, “and you might inform the stationmaster the clock is ten minutes slow. “

The porter glanced at his own watch and frowned, “I have the same time as the tower, and your train arrived on schedule, sir.”

“Impossible,” Martin huffed, “we stopped for ages at the last tunnel, waiting for that cargo train to pass.”

“I am sorry sir, no cargo trains use these tracks. None have been on the timetables for, oh, three decades.”

“No?”

“No sir, the last one carried explosives. A terrible accident in the tunnel; the cargo and the oncoming passenger trains blew sky-high. We no longer allow cargo trains on these tracks.”

GOLDEN TAROT: Eight of Cups

The Magpie

The ruined building had stood at the corner forever; melancholy with the architecture of a bygone era. The roof remained, though the walls had long ago crumbled into piles of rubble, like a pie crumbles when sliced with a dull knife. It looked like a big gaping mouth.

Byron walked past it every day. He felt a strange connection to the ruins and often speculated what they had housed and who had built them. One particular mystery were the faded posters pinned to the fence which flapped in the wind; they also littered the rubble. A picture of a young girl named Maggie took up most of the paper; ‘missing’ printed on top, ‘reward’ at the bottom. She’d disappeared in 1974, and Byron wondered about her. 

One cloudy day, as Byron walked past the sun peeked through the pesky clouds that set the icy breeze on the world, and shone on the ruins.

A glint in the rubble caught Byron’s eye. A tiny shimmer of something glimmered in the subdued sunlight just before the yawning entrance into the belly of the building.

“Kids,” he muttered, supposing some had dropped a shiny toy while playing.

He walked two paces, then stopped and glanced back; the shiny object winked at him.

I must be part magpie; he realized he could not walk away without knowing what shone in the rubble. A memory floated up his spine, but Byron suppressed it. It involved a Hot Wheels, a glaring policeman blocking a toy store’s exit, and a can of whoop-ass his mom had opened at home. 

Byron realized not that he licked his lips and wrung his hands as the thing twinkled again. A quick glance; no one watched. Byron climbed the fence with the agility of a monkey. He trudged and traipsed through the stone crumbs toward the sparkle. 

A haze had fallen on the street and the air smelled like rain.

“Curiosity killed the cat,” he grumbled as he almost turned his ankle on a precarious rock.

“But satisfaction brought it back,” he said when he reached the dark mouth of the ruins.

He scanned the ground for the gleam; his heart skipped when he saw it.

“Ha!” He exclaimed and picked it up.

He turned it in his hand and held it up to the glimmering light. It was an old coin; its engraving defaced by time and earth. Byron shrugged, and with a tiny ember of dismay, turned to go, when his eye caught another flicker further inwards. Beyond it, something else winked at him, and something else beyond that. 

Byron grinned, unaware he did so, and a greedy sparkle shone in his eye. The memory of him shoplifting returned, and with it a feeling, a wish he’d buried that day, awoke. The Magpie stirred deep inside his body and compelled him to move, kneel and collect all the tiny shiny things scattered among the rubble.

It absorbed him, and before he knew it, he’d entered the deep guts of the building, never wondering how it could continue for so long and so deep.

As he picked up the last of the defaced shimmering coins, he glanced up. Darkness surrounded him, cavernous and tomb-like. The dense and musty air stifled him, and Byron’s first thought was I need to leave now. Yet, how? His eyes could not pierce the pitch dark.

A cold, ominous draft blew from within, and the surrounding walls rumbled with a deep groan. A terrifying thought snaked through his mind. The beast is awake.

***

Torn and yellowed posters pleading for the whereabouts of Byron Elster clung to the rusty fence as Rob’s eyes flickered with yearning for the winking trinket by the derelict building.

BRUEGEL TAROT: XVIII The Moon

It’s the Guys from “Supernatural”

The highway stretched into the distance; the cold jagged peaks in the horizon never neared.

Karla and Rachel sat in congenial silence while Bruno Mars played on the stereo. It was a long drive and half of it was already behind them. The full moon rose in the shimmering sky as the sun set at their back.

“Huh,” Rachel breathed, “seems like we’re going backwards.”

“What do you mean?”

“Yeah, we’re driving towards the darkness as we leave the light behind us. Like moving away from life, towards death.”

Karla sniggered, “Don’t be such a Debbie Downer.”

Rachel chuckled.

The long drive was only the start of a long goodbye and yes, Karla was aware they drove towards death. The ultimate destination of Grandpa’s long life.

Karla glanced in the rearview mirror. A black classic car was tailgating them, pushing them to speed up.

“Look, it’s the guys from Supernatural,” Karla said as the car changed into the fast lane.
The sisters watched it overtake them.

It was a Chevy Impala, but an earlier model and a convertible, unlike the one featured in the show. The top was down and two impatient women laughed and whooped into Karla’s side mirror. The driver wore a baby-blue headscarf wrapped around her hair, which billowed behind her; one gloved hand on the wheel, the other draped over the door. The passenger had a ponytail tied with a pink ribbon and curled into a single ringlet; she wore red Lolita heart-shaped sunglasses. The Impala’s bat-wing fins zipped by and the cat-eye taillights squinted at them as the car heaved and revved, then sped into the horizon. 

“Grandpa would have loved that,” Rachel grinned, “it was a 50s model, right?”

“Yep, he would know the exact year and the whole shebang, too. He talks a blue streak about cars.”

Rachel giggled.

The drive continued; blue shadows fell over the landscape. 

Karla and Rachel would stop at a motel. As Rachel read out the upcoming exits, Karla glanced in the rearview mirror.

“Huh,” she said, “the guys from Supernatural behind us again.”

The sisters fell silent as the eager black car overtook them. The two female passengers zoomed past with reckless abandon.

“Gosh, Karly, that was the same car!”

“I know, right! But how? At what point did we pass them?”

“Maybe they stopped for a bite somewhere?”

“Maybe.” 

Karla doubted but kept quiet; she didn’t recall any rest stops…

The road stretched ahead; they would soon near their stopover. As they approached their exit a car pulled up behind them. It drew close and honked. 

“I think it’s the same car again,” Karla frowned at the rearview mirror.

Rachel glanced back, “No way…”

“Ooh, that’s our exit,” she exclaimed as they passed a road sign.

Karla slowed down and signaled. The black car followed close in rude impatience. They took the offramp; the Impala pushing them to go faster. Karla resisted because she knew not how dangerous the junction into the state highway would be. The Chevy sped up as they rounded a curve and overtook them. Both women glared at the sisters as they passed; the pony-tailed passenger—her heart-shaped sunglasses now atop her head—stuck her tongue out at them.

 The black car squeezed in front of Karla’s Honda and merged onto the state highway. Karla screamed and slammed on the brakes when it disappeared under the nose of a semi-trailer truck with a horrible crunch and a flash of metal. Karla’s own car skidded with screeching brakes; Rachel shrieked. Karla maneuvered onto the shoulder; they came to a trembling stop. The truck zoomed past, not stopping for the black wreck in the grassland.

Rachel jumped out and ran towards the wreckage as Karla’s shaking fingers fumbled for her phone. She was about to dial 911 when Rachel’s perplexed expression in the beams of the headlight stopped her. She ran out to meet her sister.

“What the…?”

“There’s no one here,” Rachel choked, “there’s no one!”

Karla stared. Rachel was right, there was no one. The metal remains were rusty and overgrown with grass and devoid of humans. 

A cloud covered the moon and darkened the landscape. Rachel felt for Karla’s hand; the car-wreck disappeared! Nothing remained on the arid grass by the highway. As the moon shone again, something glinted in the grass at Rachel’s feet. She picked it up. It was a rusty 1950s Chevrolet hood emblem encrusted in the bent rims of heart-shaped sunglasses.

THE GODDESS TAROT: XIV Balance —Yemana

Wishing for Solitude

Dear Stella,

I have followed your advice column for years, but never had cause to contact you until now.

My family has owned Wraith Manor for two centuries, and, in it, I have enjoyed a most quiet existence.

I love the cold, drafty rooms and ancient halls. I spend my happiest moments in the solitude of home. At night, the stars peek through the old casement windows and the soft breeze blows through the dark hallways, dripping with the musk of my mother’s roses.

I am free to roam my domain at will; yet, now and then, infestation appears, like the biblical locusts.

In the past, I have removed these plagues with little effort, but now, try as I might, I cannot get rid of them. My tried-and-true tactics—footsteps, moving objects, torpedoes, wails, moans and slamming doors—no longer work. 

Worse even, the new vermin have taken my family portraits off the walls and installed pesky fireflies that light up with the flick of a switch.

I love fireflies as much as the next, but these little bugs, instead of blinking soothing green, light up in garish hues of white and yellow that glare and crackle.

Gone now is the moonlight wafting through the windows. Gone now is the sleepy silence of the hall, kitchen, ballroom and bedrooms. Instead, there is a constant chatter of voices by day, and a relentless buzzing by night. 

I have done my best to spook these pests away, but to no avail. I even reached out to my cousin at Canterville Chase, but he could not offer much help.

What can I do?

Spectrally yours,

Wishing for Solitude in Eternity