MINCHIATE: XL Trumpets

Cosmos

In bed, Doreen lay with her knees tucked up tight to her belly. Silent tears trickled down her cheeks when the music seeped through the wall. She listened to it oozing through the wallpaper as it crescendoed until it blanketed the entire room.

Mr. Peterson still played Gustav Holst’s The Planets—the entire suite—every night before bedtime.

His music had filtered through the wall of the duplex since Doreen was a child. Through the stress of midterms, the bullies and the gossipmongers, her high school graduation, the first Christmas home from college. In good times and bad times, Mr. Peterson’s music was there, as certain as the moon orbits Earth. 

Her emotions always attuned to the music, as though a magician turned up the dial at just the right moment. “Mars” riled enough healthy anger and courage to break up with a sleazy boyfriend, “Venus” calmed her fighting spirit, “Jupiter” sparked her optimism. Mr. Peterson’s music had bent and molded and shaped her and set her on the right path. 

Doreen’s lips quivered. She had made the hardest decision of her life and moved back home with the hollow pit of defeat lodged in her stomach. 

The landlady had shut the door of the tiny apartment in the big city as Doreen’s dejected shadow shrunk along the wall of the stairwell with each step downward. The dreams she pursued for ten years rotted in the dumpster by the building. She had so much promise, so much potential; she was honest and disciplined and brave. But the city, the economy, downsizing, attrition and joblessness had beaten her little by little, a scratch here, a bruise there.

Her parents suggested she move back in with them.

“You can live here rent free while you get back on your feet,” her dad said.

Her mother piped up, “We’d love to have you with us!”

Doreen put it off until she faced eviction.

The condo, though welcoming as always, now bore the burden of promises and dreams down the drain. 

Mr. Peterson’s music soaked through the wall and into her soul like a soothing balm. Tomorrow I’ll knock and see how he is, Doreen thought as her eyelids drooped and she fell into a deep slumber, perhaps the deepest in months. 

Doreen woke up refreshed, still a failure, but a well-rested, clear-headed failure.

At breakfast, her mother smiled and placed her hand on her daughter’s.

“We’ve missed you,” she whispered.

Dad beamed at her over his coffee and winked. 

Doreen said, “So Mr. Peterson’s still playing his music every night, huh? I thought I’d knock and say hi.”

Her parents’ faces fell. Dad looked grim and Mom confused.

“Oh honey, didn’t you know?” Dad said, “Mr. Peterson passed away last summer. His condo is empty now.”

“But,” Doreen stammered as the news sunk in, “the music, last night…”

Dad shook his head, “it’s been quiet all this time.”

Dad patted her hand and excused himself from the table.

Doreen turned to Mom.

“I heard it,” she mumbled.

“I know,” Mom whispered, “I hear it too on nights when I need a friend, on tough nights. It soothes me too.”

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Queen of Coins

The Wake

Darrell looked up from his cell phone, glanced around the room and rolled his exasperated eyes. He scoffed and shifted in his chair. These people, he thought, they’d never cared.

His aunt’s audible sobs broke through the relative quiet of the funeral parlor. Of course, she always made a scene. Even at a funeral, she was the center of attention. 

Cousin Blanche, as she preferred to call herself, stood up, and the whispers hushed. 

Darrell sneered at Cousin Blanche and her hypocrisy. Cousin Blanche made Auntie Clarabelle’s life miserable. Blanche spent most of her adult years trash-talking Clarabelle, though Clarabelle was older by at least a generation.

Darrell loved Auntie Clarabelle and her easy and open personality. Auntie Clarabelle always had a smile ready for him, wrapped in infinite patience. 

“Blanche has a special venom she spews by the drop and at intervals, so she’ll never be empty,” Auntie Clarabelle told Darrell many times.

“It’s all about the money her mother and I inherited,” Auntie Clarabelle said, “Blanche wants it all.”

“Why?” Darrell asked. 

Clarabelle answered with a mystified shrug, though the glint in her eyes told Darrell otherwise. 

“She will never see a cent,” Auntie Clarabelle vowed, “she’ll have it over my dead body. And you can take that to the bank!” 

Now Auntie Clarabelle lay in the coffin across the room, and only Darrell knew the truth. 

Blanche, dabbing at her crocodile tears with a handkerchief, tottered, ever the victim, towards the coffin.

All eyes watched the sanctimonious Blanche make her way across the room. The surrounding air congealed with pride and gloating; the best woman was still standing. Blanche had won over Clarabelle, if only because she was decades younger. Now it would all be hers. 

Darrell smirked, he imagined Blanche’s expression when she found out. 

“It’s all gone, hee-hee,” Auntie Clarabelle whispered on her deathbed as Darrell bent down to kiss her goodbye, “there’s nothing left.”  

The room gasped and Darrell’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.

Cousin Blanche gave a watery, sudden wheeze, then toppled over and hit the floor with a surprised look on her face and stiff as a board. It took a few moments for the family to react, as if time had held its breath before heaving it out in a collective “oh!”

Then time sped up and people rushed to Blanche’s side. But Darrell had seen her face; the woman had dropped dead in that instant. People hustled around him, moaning and screeching. Someone yelled for a doctor. An uncle shook and pounded on Blanche’s chest. The room was a flurry of surprise and drama, like on Auntie Clarabelle’s favorite soap opera. 

Through the crowd, Darrell glimpsed Auntie Clarabelle’s coffin. Auntie Clarabelle shimmered beside it; she caught his eye and winked.

GOLDEN BOTTICELLI TAROT: Knave of Wands

The Birthday Present

Gabby grinned through gritted teeth and accepted the gift Uncle Morty held out to her.

“Happy birthday, Gabby,” he said, his top hat askew and handlebar mustache out of place in the small living room and her brother’s Xbox exploding in the adjacent den.

“Thank you, Uncle Morty,” she forced an even bigger smile.

Uncle Morty was the strange one, the oddity who enjoyed being eccentric, even if he put his relatives in awkward spots. 

He also gave the worst gifts.

Last year he’d given her an old-fashioned, poofy shower cap with frills around the edge. The year before that, a kaleidoscope which took up space on her chest of drawers (she never admitted it, but Gabby somewhat like that gift).

This year, Uncle Morty, recluse extraordinaire, gave her… 

Ta-da!

A fountain pen. 

A plain, black fountain pen, which she didn’t know how to use.

Gabby tried to suppress her disappointment, though she knew not why she felt it at all. Uncle Morty’s gifts always disappointed.

“Go on, try it,” Uncle Morty said, and Mom fetched the pad by the telephone.

Gabby unscrewed the cap. Though beautiful, the pen looked awkward between her fingers.

She poised it over the paper.

“No, no,” Uncle Morty said, and flipped the pen so the nib pointed down instead of upwards, “Now write, but don’t press down on the paper too hard.”

Gabby obeyed, and it surprised her when the ink flowed smoother than from the run-of-the-mill ballpoint pens. She squiggled and doodled; Uncle Morty’s proud smile softened Gabby’s heart towards him. He was a total weirdo, but in a good way. 

She screwed the cap back on and the party continued.

That night, Gabby stared at the pen before opening her Biology notebook to the last page. Gabby wrote:

“Hello, I am Gabriella, but everyone calls me Gabby.”

She liked the ink’s flow and the smooth passage of the nib on the paper.

She shrugged and smiled.

Gabby changed into her pajamas and was about to get into bed when her eyes fell on the notebook, still open to the last page.

Gabby frowned; beneath her big, girly handwriting words had appeared. The handwriting was small and wavy. 

“I am Gabriel, nice to greet you Gabby.”

Gabby gasped, and trembling, took a cautious look around her bedroom. She was alone, the windows and door shut, and she hadn’t left the room since she’d written her introductory sentence.

“Who are you?” She wrote, “What is happening?”

“I am your guardian angel. I am always present, but it’s difficult to communicate with you. Until now.”

Words appeared in the same flowing ink, though she held the pen against her heart.

“Why now?” She wrote.

“You know the pen is mightier than the sword?”

Gabby nodded as the words continued to appear.

“Well, this is The Pen. Many have used it for good, others for evil. You can choose how you use it.”

Gabby’s heart thudded in her ears. She gulped and brought out an old and tattered notebook. Not her diary, but kept just a secret and just as private. She pressed the notebook to her chest, as if re-absorbing the part of herself hidden from everyone—for fear of ridicule and mockery—that she’d ripped out long ago. 

The notebook contained the fantasies she’d imagined as a child, jotted down in candid vocabulary, childish hand and simple pictures. She had not opened this notebook since the first grade, when her curmudgeon and strict teacher had objected to it. Miz Prism had no imagination and pure contempt for those who did. Her parents had tsk-tsked and pooh-poohed and, once she’d buried it in her closet, forgotten all about it. 

“Yes,” the words appeared, “write to your heart’s content. I will guide you.”

UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: Page of Cups

Tall Tales

Vera sat on the balcony overlooking the rocky crag. The beach below was not for picnicking; waves pounded the jagged rocks at all times. It was a harsh beach, and many a vessel had seen its dreams dashed upon those unforgiving boulders. Yet, the sunsets were a thing of wonder as the bursting rays set the water afire and the thunderous waves rattled upon the rocks. Here, the sea never sparkled in stillness; it always raged, begrudging those who dared to sail upon its back. This ocean was mean, and sprinkled with cock-and-bull stories of shipwrecks, curses and sunken treasures. Legends Vera gave no credence to, though she’d spent little time here over the years. 

Night fell and Vera remained on the balcony with a warm shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Stars winked in the sky and the moon shone in full splendor over the roaring waves. The wind howled, and she thought she caught the distant call of a human voice.

“Ahoy!” 

Vera sprang up from her chair, her eyes straining to pierce the waves.

The wind whipped her hair about her face, and she tried to hold it in a ponytail.

“Ahoy!” Loud and clear the call. 

What on earth…?

There, in the moonlight, she spied a sailing ship. A tall ship? A galleon, perhaps? She knew nothing about ships, but this one looked like the ones in pirate films. 

Vera clasped her unruly hair with a hair clip.

“Ahoy!” She called, feeling ridiculous.

A faint light blinked from the ship as it approached. Vera, fearing it would strike a rock, flicked the balcony light on and off in quick succession, signaling danger and hoping the ship would see it.

But the worst came to pass and Vera, helpless and aghast, watched as the ship floundered on the rocks, capsized and vanished into the ocean depths.

“Grandpa! Shipwreck!” She yelled, bursting into the house.

Grandpa looked up from his easy chair by the fire and placed a finger on the page he’d been reading. The room, warm and cozy, surrounded him with valuable stuff; antiques, artifacts, knick-knacks, books, books and more books. Vera’s favorite antique was the astrolabe displayed on the mantelpiece. She also loved the ancient and faded charts framed and hanging on the walls, some water-damaged beyond repair, but still beautiful. 

“Ships don’t come this way, Vera. This hasn’t been a route for, oh, four hundred years.”

“I saw it, a great big sailing ship, like a pirate ship.”

“Did it capsize, then disappear?”

Vera nodded, perplexed by Grandpa’s tranquility.

“Yes, I’ve seen it too, every so often. Legend tells it was the last merchant ship to pass this way.  Did it call out?”

Vera nodded. 

“It’s good luck if you hear the call, did you answer?”

“I tried, I called out and flicked the balcony lights. I tried to warn it.”

“Good, it blesses those who respond,” he gave a loving glance around the room, “tomorrow, at the beach, we’ll collect whatever the sea has bequeathed us this time.”

TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: Knave of Wands

Tenebrous

Adrian placed his key in the door, then paused. He left it dangling on the lock and sat down on the stoop.

He could hear them all the way down the driveway. As usual, all lights were on, and as he approached the front door, the booming sound of the TV reverberated in his ears.

Mumbled dialog with very audible expletives seeped through the kitchen window. His parents were at it again. Soon he would hear the crash of flying dinnerware against the wall and the slam of doors. Something exploded on the TV; Adrian’s parents were too busy fighting and caring only about themselves to mind what his little brothers were watching. They were not behaving either.

Adrian sighed and put his face in his hands.

“Why can’t there ever be peace?” He whispered.

At school people surrounded him, always talking, lecturing, gabbing and all vying or pleading for his attention. At home, the often cheerful jabber morphed into insults and yells and screams and blame, but it was no different. A constant yakety-yak.

Adrian sometimes wished he could press the mute button on his life and just live it in silence.

Maybe I should become a monk.

His phone vibrated and the insistent buzzing wrangled his nerves. Could they ever return to a time before noise?

The phone buzzed again. He glanced at it. Friends, more chatter, more hubbub and katzenjammer. He ignored the call.

The sun dipped into the horizon and the streetlamp at the corner switched on for the night. Adrian told himself to stand up and enter his raucous house, but he remained on the stoop.

The lights in the ramshackle house across the street also flicked on with a warm, inviting glow. Adrian frowned; he’d thought no one was home. It had felt empty to him and he didn’t see anyone arrive. His neighbors, a wizened and saddened man and his daughter who walked to school in faded clothes and scruffy sneakers, made no noise. He didn’t know her name, but he often saw her enter the middle school grounds as he drove past to his high school up the street.

Their house was always quiet, and Adrian, biting his lip, considered knocking on their door instead. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the door.

Only for a minute

He must have fallen asleep because, when he opened his eyes, he found himself deep in the folds of a dark mist. He could only see the dim beam of the neighbors’ porch-light. The clamor coming from his own house sounded far away and muffled; an eerie silence had fallen over the street. He’d been wishing for silence, but this quiet was unnerving and this was no ordinary mist. 

Something inside him, a voice, a hunch, something coaxed him to stand and follow the beam to the neighbors’ house.

He knocked on the door; the girl answered.

“I’m Adrian from across the street. I just…” He stopped at a loss for words; he hadn’t thought up an excuse.

The girl looked up at him with frightened eyes.

“Cassie,” she bleated. 

“Boy, this is strange weather, right? It’s tenebrous.”

Cassie nodded, her eyes darting this way in that.

“Are you OK?”

“The mist scares me,” she muttered, “I think he comes in it.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know, a man approached me at school. He came with the mist.”

A chill crept up Adrian’s his spine, and he glanced around trying to pierce the dense fog. He stared towards the end of the street. Shimmering in the gloom, he descried a figure in suit and hat sauntering down the road and approaching Cassie’s house.

“Right,” he took Cassie’s hand and led her inside, “you’re safe with me. I won’t hurt you.”

He closed the door. Cassie’s audible gasp confirmed he had not imagined it; he had slammed the door in the ugly, misshapen face shadowed beneath the hat. 

Adrian and Cassie stood in the hallway, his hand tight around hers, their eyes fixed on the door. The mist oozed through the gaps between the door and its frame. The knob turned and jangled. Adrian placed himself in front of Cassie; she pressed herself against his back. 

“Go away!” He yelled. 

A dog barked and growled somewhere; the sound cut through the fog and Adrian and Cassie watched in disbelief as it retreated outwards, like a vacuum sucking it all up into nothingness. 

The oppressing sensation in Adrian’s chest released, and the world returned to normal. He crept forward and peered through the peephole. No sign of the ugly man in the hat. 

He opened the door a crack; dusk had fallen in blue shadows over the street, but no hint of the weird fog. A German shepherd trotted across his sight and rounded the street corner.  

TAROT DRACONIS: Queen of Pentacles

Sparkle

Wanda leaned back in her gravity chair; her stomach churned as the backrest went down and her feet went up towards the firmament. It surprised her that, though the chair creaked from disuse, none of its powerful cords snapped and sent her crashing onto her butt.

She gazed at the starlit sky. How long had it been since she’d lounged here, bundled up against the cold and with a steaming cup of tea beside her?

One year, two months and eleven days.

The last time, Ben had stood beside her, his telescope pointing at the heavens, ready to answer all her silly questions.

Now the telescope sat buried in the garage, while Ben lay buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Tears pin pricked her eyes, and she ran her hand across her face. The tiny dots in space came back into focus. Wanda took a long, quivering breath.

Only Ben had known how to use the telescope, and now she regretted turning down his many offers to teach her.

She took a sip; the tea burned her tongue.

Wanda put on her earphones, clicked her phone and settled down to wait for her eyes to adjust to the night.

Orson Welles narrated in her ears. 

It had been a tradition between them. They sat outside in darkness and waited for the stars to show. Ben turned on his Bluetooth speaker and together they listened to old radio shows. The Shadow, The Saint and Gang Busters.

Every year, on this special night, they listened to the War of the Worlds while Ben’s telescope pointed towards Mars, waiting for the real spectacle to begin.

Today was the first of many nights she would restart the tradition, alone.

“Oh Ben,” she whispered, “I miss you.”

Wanda closed her eyes, and only half listened to the narration. Her mind torn between paying attention to a show she knew and wading in the murky waters of yesteryear, which rippled with memories of Ben.

Orson Welles faded and Wanda found herself in another night with the telescope between them, while Ben peered through it.

“Did you know that when some stars die,” Ben’s sweet voice filled her ears, “they go into supernova and that explosion causes the birth of new stars?”

Wanda smiled.

Ben continued, “One day our sun will explode and we will cease to exist. Out of its ashes, a new star will spark and keep the cycle of birth, death and rebirth spinning for eternity. When you think about it, death is only a transition.”

A sob exploded in Wanda’s chest. Then a second and a third, until tiny little supernovae thundered in her body. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and she didn’t stop nor repressed them.

Orson Welles’s transmission ended and Wanda, adrift in an ocean of muffled noise, removed her earphones. The night silence was like a breath of fresh air, its quiet permeated her skin and the exploding sobs in her heart abated.

The tears stopped, and the stars came back into focus through her wet eyelashes. Becalmed, she gazed at the sparkling heavens, enjoying it for the first time in a year. A smile crept across her lips as she recalled Ben’s voice a few moments ago. 

“It was you, wasn’t it?” She whispered to the stars, “You were here.”

A flare streaked across the sky. Then another and another. The myriad of shooting stars soon engulfed Wanda in spangles and wonder and evanescing sadness.

“Goodbye,” She whispered as a new spark kindled in her chest: Peace.

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: VIII Strength

The Stairs

Hattie glanced upwards the stairs and sighed; their steepness insurmountable to Hattie in her old age, though she conquered them every day. She clung on to the wooden railing and, hitching up her long skirt, started her ascent with a Herculean effort. Hattie could not fathom how today’s girls in their full skirts—bell-shaped by cumbersome crinoline hoops—glided up and down stairs like fairies. Much too old for current fashions, she longed for the long dresses and high waistlines of her youth. 

Up, up, up she went, taking her time, step-by-step, the wood beneath her feet creaking as loud as her old, old bones. But the steep, polished staircase did not deter Hattie. She rested when she needed and, with great patience and willpower, little by little she vanquished the stairs.

She paused halfway up, her hand tight around the railing, her heart pumping fast in her chest. 

A scuffle, a slam, a gunshot.

The door on the top landing burst open. Two men clad in mismatched three-piece suits and newsboy caps ran out. Their feet clattered on the rickety staircase as they barreled down it. Police sirens blared in the distance as the man in pin-striped slacks flung a revolver into the gloomy alley beside the building.

The rascals reached the street and ran with footsteps clanging on the concrete sidewalk. The pin-striped man rounded a corner when his partner, who donned a plaid blue cap, stopped and glanced back at the old stairs with a mystified expression.

Pin-Stripes urged him to run, “Let’s go!”

“I think I just saw her,” Plaid Cap said.

Pin-Stripes paused, bouncing on his heels, unsure whether to stay or go. 

Curiosity won, “Saw who?”

“The old lady. The one on the stairs.”

Pin-Stripes chuckled, “Nah, that’s just a ghost story. She doesn’t exist. Come on!”

A Verizon van zoomed past and splashed the sidewalk with puddle water. The two gangsters shimmered in the sunlight as murky droplets showered them, then vanished before the water hit the ground. 

ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: XIV Art

Boris Karloff

Torrents of rain lashed down on the car as it rattled along the puddle-ridden and uneven wooded lane. The headlights created a narrow beam on the bald stones of the rocky road snaking through the forest, like skulls sticking out of the ground. Fat drops pelted down through the gnarls of overhanging branches, and the streaming rain caught the feeble shaft of the headlights. The water reflected the light, and Gloria imagined shooting stars streaking down from the sky. The scene would have been romantic, but for the gushing water, and Stu’s fingers wrapped so tight around the steering wheel, his knuckles were bone white. Even Gloria could see them in the gloomy deluge.

“We need shelter for the night,” Stu said.

Gloria chuckled, “That’s what they said in The Old Dark House.”

“The what?”

“Oh, it’s an old Boris Karloff movie. Motorists ask for shelter from a storm at this creepy old house. Then a crazy maniac terrorizes them.”

Stu remained silent and gave Gloria a sideways glance. He would have teased her about her love of old movies, but the road was too dangerous. Besides, at the moment they’d be lucky to come upon the Bates Motel.

 Stu slammed on the brakes, and the car skidded to a stop. The road ahead was underwater, and Stu thought his little hatch-back sedan would flood.

“What now?” Gloria asked.

“Turn around, I suppose…” Stu answered and shifted gears.

With much effort, he turned the car, and they retraced the drive. 

Gloria gasped, “A light!”

He braked. She pointed at the passenger side window, and Stu leaned over the steering wheel for a better view. Gloria was right. A dim light gleamed through the trees, and as they rolled beside it, Stu discerned a narrow driveway.

“I suppose your movie will come true,” he quipped as the car inched down the path, “did they die?”

“No, but almost…”

“Well, let’s hope for the best,” he said as they approached a cabin almost invisible in the thick woodland.

He turned off the car and, pulling his jacket on his head, ran up the front porch and knocked. Gloria switched on the interior light. He glanced around the property, bemused. He knocked again, and catching Gloria’s eye, shrugged.

Still no one answered; Stu hurried back to the car.

“No one home, I guess,” he said.

“Look!” Gloria pointed at the dim light in a window.

Through the glass, they glimpsed an old lady gazing out.

“I’ll knock,” Gloria said, “maybe she’ll open this time.”

Flinging Stu’s jacket on, she rushed to the door.

She knocked, but no answer. Three times she tried.

“Odd, I guess she’s hard of hearing or…?” Gloria said as she entered the car.

“Or she’s pretending because she doesn’t want to let us in,” Stu grumbled, “anyway let’s go.” 

He flicked the ignition; the car sputtered and revved, then died. He tried again, but the car did not start.

He heaved a dejected sigh. 

“Well, that’s that,” he said, letting down the backrest and covering himself with his sopping jacket, “nothing to do but sleep.”

He closed his eyes.

Gloria reached into the backseat and found her own jacket. She took Stu’s wet one and replaced it with a blanket she always kept and settled down for the night.

Sunlight shone through the windshield when Gloria awoke to find Stu’s face crumpled in confusion.

“What…?” Gloria’s words faded. 

They sat parked in a field, just a few yards from the smooth pavement of the highway. No trees, no house, no old lady in sight.

Stu flicked the ignition, and the car purred to life.

“At least Boris Karloff didn’t kill us,” he said as he pulled onto the paved road.

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.