MINCHIATE: Knave of Cups

Daphne’s Desk

Daphne stepped back, satisfied. Sunlight shone through the window and onto the antique desk she had bought. Dust mites danced and flitted around the polished maple. The warped and rounded lines of the circa 1900 Art Nouveau desk cast eerie shadows on the wall beside it, but Daphne thought nothing of them. She had fallen in love with the desk as soon as she had seen it at the antique mall. 

Daphne nodded with satisfaction; she took out her phone and snapped a picture. She posted it to her social media profile with the caption “look what I found at a bargain!”

A barrage of messages and posts followed and occupied her for the rest of the afternoon as she juggled the tasks of housework, dinner and endless likes and thumbs-ups. 

Dusk was falling and engulfed her apartment in blue light. The desk sat by its window, its Art Nouveau chair positioned just so, pretending to be both functional and fashionable. 

Daphne gave her phone a bored glance as it pinged for the thousandth time since she had posted the picture. She loved the attention her social media followers gave her, and considered herself somewhat of an influencer, but truth be told, all the praise soon got tiresome. 

She yawned and scrolled through the phone. 

Daphne frowned, taken aback by the message. 

“Who’s the guy?” Her brother asked. 

No cause for surprise; Gary, her brother, always rained on her parade. Daphne rolled her eyes. She considered ignoring the message, but the screen lit up with his smirking face and the option to ‘end call’ in a red circle, or ‘answer’ in green. 

“Who’s the guy?” Gary said on the phone. 

“What are you talking about?” Daphne answered annoyed, “What guy?”

“The guy in the picture,” Gary replied, “the snobby looking dude with the funky whiskers.”

“On which picture?” Daphne frowned, put the call on speakerphone and scrolled through her photos. 

“The picture you posted of the desk,” his voice sounded tinny. 

Daphne pulled up said photo. The light slanted in from the window and shone on the smooth surface and the rounded drawers of her beloved desk. Beside it, a dark shadow, a rather bluish mass, seemed to lean upon it. 

“There’s no guy. That shadow must be a trick of the light,” she said.

“Zoom into it.”

Daphne zoomed and, as the shadow grew larger, the features of a young man appeared. Dashing in a top hat, handlebar mustache, bow tie, long trousers and frock coat with silk lapels, the young man leaned against a cane.

Daphne glanced from the picture to the desk against the wall. Moonlight now gleamed through the window, casting its silvery light upon the desk. Its rounded and sleek contours shot warped shadows onto the floor, yet a lanky blot occupied the space beside it, as if black ink were dripping down the wall. Daphne tiptoed to the foot lamp across from the desk. She switched it on, but the dark mass remained. 

“Gary,” she whispered, “I think he’s still here. There’s a dark mass beside the dresser, like it’s absorbing the moonlight and the lamplight. I can’t see any features.”

“Ask him what he wants,” Gary’s nonchalant answer pricked Daphne, as if talking to strange shadows was nothing abnormal. 

“Why don’t you come and ask him what he wants?” She sneered. 

“Don’t be such a scaredy-cat,” Gary mocked, “what’s he gonna do? Eat you?”

Daphne scowled at the phone. She clicked and in a moment, Gary’s eye and half a hairy nostril appeared. He still hadn’t learned the art of video chat. 

Daphne stuck her tongue out at him, then pointed the screen towards the desk. 

“Can you see it?” She said. 

“Uh, yeah, it’s a big dark shadow,” his nostril answered, “why are you showing me this?”

“So you bear witness,” she replied. 

Daphne stepped towards the shadow, her phone held up as if it were a lantern with the screen facing the mass.

“Pardon me,” she squeaked, her heart pounded in her ears, “is anyone here?”

The dark mass stood still, and Daphne felt silly. An instant later, it twisted and morphed until the shape of a man with a top hat and cane appeared, but with no discernible face. 

“Can’t form all the way,” Gary’s eyebrow muttered. 

“May I help you, sir?” Daphne bleated. 

A low grumble sounded throughout the room, and Daphne shivered. To her surprise, a tiny desk drawer opened. Daphne, phone in hand with Gary still bearing witness, approached. She glanced into the drawer.

The moonlight shone on the yellowed paper of a letter in its envelope. 

“Ask him if you may read it,” Gary’s teeth instructed. 

In reply, the letter flew out of its drawer and slapped her in the face; Gary guffawed. 

“Post it,” an icy voice whispered in her ear. 

“Gar, did you hear that?” She whimpered. 

“No, what?”

“Post it,” the voice spoke. 

“I think he wants me to mail it,” she whispered into the phone, “but how?”

“Post it!” The voice yelled, and the room vibrated.

“I heard that,” Gary’s chin said, “just drop it in the mailbox, Daph.”

“POST IT!” 

“OKAY! No need to yell!” Daphne turned to the silhouette and snatched up the letter which had fallen back onto the smooth desktop.

She walked out in a huff; her phone still in hand and arms swinging so that Gary’s lips only witnessed the blurry floor and Daphne’s swishing Minnie Mouse slippers. He snickered; he would tease her about those later. 

Gary watched as Daphne’s chubby fingers slid the yellowed letter into the outgoing mail slot and retraced her steps to her apartment. 

“There! I mailed it!” She yelled. 

The silhouette bowed and tipped its hat. It vanished, and only the space between the desk and the wall remained.

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