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TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 3 of Chalices

The Lark at Dawn

Alondra sits in her damp cell and buries her head in her hands. Through the tiny window she glimpses the moon as the sky lightens. Dawn approaches and Alondra kneels and prays with pleading eyes fixed on the moon. 

Dios,” she whispers in Castilian, “please help me. I have done no wrong.”

Light crawls over the land and creeps through Alondra’s window. She passes her fingers under the tiny ray, as if trying to touch it, but feels no warmth. 

With a thunder of boots and a rattle of keys, the jailer, a greasy heavyset man, opens the cell. He grabs Alondra’s arm and pushes her. Alondra stumbles onto her knees. 

The jailer grabs her hair, and forcing her head back, whispers, “If you’d accepted my offer, you’d be free now.” 

Alondra clamps her jaw. She refused to exchange her freedom for sex and only the charges against her kept the jailer from forcing her. She thanked God every day for her mother’s native English, for nothing could scare an evil man more than a woman speaking in tongues. 

The jailer drags her by the hair until she stands. A crowd has gathered and Alondra catches a fleeting glimpse as the jailer throws her into the brightness. Half blind and forced to kneel before the priest—this so-called holy man who dispatches brutality and torture in the name of God—she gazes up at him. He smirks down at her. 

“Last words?” His words slither.

Alondra spits in his face. 

The executioner, expressionless, grabs her and pushes her onto the pyre; the crowd chants “Sorceress! Heretic!”.
He binds her to the stake as she faces the multitude. They were once her neighbors, her people, but now they have turned against her. Her eyes fix on Rolando; he grins. He’s done this, she knows, because she refused him. Beside him stands Sans, her faithful old servant, beaten and dirty, with head bowed and glimmering tears on his cheeks. Alondra understands Rolando has confiscated her land and possessions and forced her people into his service. He’s traded my life for land, bastardo.

She raises her head and sneers at Rolando; her red curls, once fiery and luscious, now grimy against her cheeks. 

“God will smite you,” she says, her words lost in the raucous crowd yet glaring in her piercing blue eyes. 

A boy pushes his way to the front. Their eyes meet and Alondra notices his strange clothing; baggy coarse blue stockings rumpled at the ankles. He wears a short tunic with a strange crest of a white dog with black ears laying atop a red house. His ankle boots are white and red with black laces, unlike any she’s ever seen.

“Light the pyre!” The priest commands. 

Alondra soon feels the heat of the flame, yet, despite the smoke in her eyes, she stares at the boy. Alondra does not scream as the fire sears her skin. 

The boy takes a stone from a small pouch and tosses it onto her feet. It is cold on her toes and its coolness crawls up her body, as if she’d stepped into freezing water. She recognizes the carved line down the middle and grins; it is the rune of Ice, this knowledge also her mother’s legacy. The fire no longer burns her flesh. 

“Come with me!” The boy yells in a language resembling her mother’s. 

She nods. 

He throws another stone at her feet, this one carved with a crude R—the rune of Journey. The boy jumps into the pyre and embraces Alondra as wind blows around them, and the world spins until screams and fire fade away.

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ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: 7 of Wands, Valour

Grave

Moonlight shone through Mandy’s window in long skeleton claws across her unicorn bedspread; shadows cast by the tree outside, still bare though spring had arrived. The tree as ancient as the graveyard adjacent her house.

Mandy sat on the corner of the bed, huddled against the headboard with the comforter drawn up to her chin and her brother Mick’s baseball bat beside her. 

Tonight was the scary night. It came twice a year when the light and the dark were equal… and this was the scary hour. The soft rustling of the wind through the half-open window billowed her white curtains. Soon, just at the darkest moment, the voices would begin. 

Mandy closed her eyes and held her breath. She slid her hand out from under the covers and gripped the bat. The wind stopped, and the curtains settled against the wall like a dying breath. 

“Help me,” a soft voice whispered. 

“Pardon me, do you have the time?”

Hooves clopped and wheels rattled in the night. 

Mandy wormed herself to the window, her back scraping against the wall, knuckles white around the bat. She peeked out. 

A multitude of people crowded the yard. Women in long dresses and hoop skirts danced with men in long pants and tailed coats. Two soldiers faced one another swords drawn, one in a blue jacket, the other in red. A man wore a metal breastplate, puffy pants, tights and a pointed helmet; he leaned against a long heavy gun. They went about their business, unaware of the darkest hour and of the frosty graves on which they trod. A car sputtered by, and Mandy glimpsed the crank necessary to start it. A train horn blew and chugged in the darkness. 

Most nights, Mandy leaned on the windowsill and watched them, unafraid and taking in every detail. At seven years old, she now knew the difference between a barouche and a stagecoach, a musket and a rifle, a cloche hat and a bonnet. But tonight… the stench of rot and decay wafted into the room. 

Mandy gasped and pulled herself away as yellow, baggy eyes and rotted teeth peered through the glass. Greasy long hair flattened against the saggy cheeks; a tattered top hat sat crooked on the head. Only on the scary night, he came. 

“Let me in, child,” his voice sounded like a creaking door. 

“No,” Mandy whispered.

“You know you want to,” he cooed and chills ran up Mandy’s spine.

“No,”

“We’ll have such fun,” he hissed. 

Mandy pressed the bat against her, as white skeletal fingers slithered over the sill and into the room, reaching for her bare feet. 

She drew herself up into the tightest ball and whimpered, “leave me alone.”

“I want you,” he sneered. 

The ghosts were now silent and a dense evil had fallen like a rotten, lingering mist. The fingers closed in on Mandy and she felt the icy bone on her skin. 

The door slammed open and Mick burst into the room. He seized the bat and brought it down on the spectral hand. It retreated through the window. Mick faced him. 

“Leave her alone.”

“She’s mine!” The rotted teeth bared.

“Never!”

A cloud passed across the moon and the graveyard fell into momentary darkness. When the sky cleared, the graveyard was empty; the phantoms gone. 

Sunlight peeped through the window and shone on Mick and Mandy asleep, their hands clasped around the baseball bat between them.

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UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: VIII Strength

Reflection

Jenny stared at the funhouse. Lightning flashed in the distance, yet the town fair was still in full swing. She counted her tickets, aware of her dad’s impatience to be home before the storm arrived.

“It’ll be a big one,” Dad said and allowed Jenny one last game. 

She chose the funhouse. 

Jenny took a deep breath and advanced toward the attendant, her tickets held out before her like a dangling paper snake. 

A shy, soft-spoken child, with plain brown hair, plain brown eyes, round glasses and a tiny pinched nose, Jenny looked like a frightened squirrel. At school, kids teased and bullied her for being a weakling, a bookworm, and a doormat. At home, she listened to her centenarian grandmother’s stories of the Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa and growing up with the soldaderas, women, like her great-grandmother, who’d taken up arms. Jenny wished she were a soldadera. Now, at the funhouse entrance, was her moment to prove her bravery to herself, because the funhouse scared her to death. 

She entered and walked through the mirror maze with caution, gazing at her altered reflection. Here, tall and thin, there, squat and fat, or slanted, bent and squiggled. Jenny tried to laugh but seeing herself amplified and deformed frightened her. She reached the center of the maze, and a circle of mirrors multiplied her into all shapes and sizes. 

Jenny stood, eyes to the ground, daring herself to look at the plethora of Jennys surrounding her, when thunder clapped and the lights went out. It was but a moment, yet Jenny’s heart skipped in her chest, her stomach jumped and she shut her eyes. An instant later, the generator whirred, and the lights turned on again. Jenny counted to three and opened her eyes. 

She was still in the funhouse and surrounded by mirrors, but, instead of the multitude of Jennys, she gaped at an oncoming cavalry. Shots rumbled around her like the thunder outside until she didn’t know which was which. 

The men on horseback wore big sombreros and, by the neckerchiefs that masked their faces, Jenny knew they were bandidos out for blood and pillage. Screams soon mixed with the thunder and gunfire; someone shouted at Jenny in her grandmother’s Spanish and she turned in the direction. 

In the mirror beside her, stood a young woman in a long blue skirt, high-necked blouse, and her plain brown hair wrapped into a bun. She gazed at Jenny through her plain brown eyes and round glasses upon her tiny pinched nose. In her arms, the woman held a rifle, and slung across her torso, she wore a bandolier, replete with ammunition. The woman nodded at Jenny, who felt the weight and cold metal of the gun in her own hands. 

The woman fixed her eye on one bandido and fired. Jenny staggered back from the recoil; the rifle hot, yet safe in her arms. Jenny, together with the woman in the mirror, lifted the gun to her shoulder, fixed her sight on another bandido and shot. Again and again, they fired. One by one, the bandidos fell, and in doing so, their image in the mirrors disappeared until only the young soldadera and Jenny remained. 

The soldadera set her rifle down and Jenny felt her arms lighten. She pierced Jenny with her plain eyes, now full of fire, then smiled and winked. She disappeared and left Jenny looking at her own self in the mirror, surrounded only by plain, distorted Jennys. 

Jenny straightened herself and smiled, no longer the frightened squirrel.

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OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Five of Coins

Heavy

“The road is long…” The Hollies sang; Martin switched off the radio. He hated “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”. It brought back memories of blasts and mud and death. Memories of Arthur, the brother who’d been so heavy Martin had buckled under his weight; so heavy Martin’s feet had dragged through the mud, surrounded by the deafening roar of bombs. Martin had tried to crawl, but Arthur had been so heavy…

Martin wiped off a tear and tried not to think about war things. The road was long and barren. He headed west in his 1969 Chevy and the sun was in his eyes, glaring at him, judging him for not bearing Arthur. He turned the radio back on, relieved the song had ended. The sun, harsh and unforgiving disappeared into the horizon. The first stars pierced the dark blue sky. 

Martin turned on the headlights. Led Zeppelin was singing about going to California. He liked the song and turned the up volume. He too was going to California. More stars sprinkled the darkening sky as Martin drove on. 

Up ahead, a figure appeared trudging alongside the road, head bent, as if weighed down by a great burden. Martin slowed down, deliberating whether to offer a ride or move on. As he approached, Martin distinguished a man in olive-drab uniform, much like the one he’d worn thirty years ago. Martin’s breath hitched, there was something familiar about the figure. 

The figure stopped and faced the road as the Chevy crawled. Martin met the figure’s eyes and his heart skipped a beat. His first instinct was to floor it and get the hell out of there, but his legs disobeyed and hit the brakes instead. He watched, frozen, as the figure opened the door and climbed into the passenger seat. 

“Thank you for stopping,” the man said. 

Martin stared, lips quivering. 

“I’m Arthur,” the man, no older than twenty-two, continued, “I’m heading home.”

Martin gripped the steering wheel and stared at Arthur, the Arthur, sitting beside him. Arthur had died thirty years before, yet here he was, as if not a day had passed. 

“How?” Martin bleated, “How are you here? You’re dead.”

Arthur smiled a warm embracing smile, but Martin only saw resentment in that smile as the guilt and burden welled up inside him. A guilt he’d spent thirty years trying to shrug off his shoulders.

“I left you!” Martin sobbed, “I left you to die!”

Tears streamed down Martin’s cheeks and he repeated the same phrase over and over through his sobs, chest heaving, face buried in his trembling hands. 

“You didn’t leave me,” Arthur replied, “I slipped off you, I was weighing you down. I’m home now, Marty, let me go.”

Arthur put a hand on Martin’s shoulder, the warmth passed through him, calming him, and, as Arthur removed his hand, he took Martin’s burden with him.

“Thank you,” Martin whispered. 

He lifted his gaze; he was still on the long stretch of highway with the sun blazing through the windshield and The Hollies on the radio.

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GOLDEN TAROT: XVII The Star

By Starlight

Starlight glimmers on a soft raggedy lump by the riverbank; water crackles against the pebbles. A soft moan breaks the silence and the lump shudders and stirs. Little by little, the lump awakens, piercing the quiet night with groans and whimpers. With much effort, the lump flips itself over and a pale face gazes upwards. 

“Help me,” the tiny voice whispers; the lips quiver in pain and agony. 

It moves its fingers and sandy pebbles stick to the tattered skin. The figure looks up at the starry sky and fixes its gaze on one star, any star, praying for help. Thunder rolls in the distance and a harsh wind rustles through the trees by the riverbank. 

The figure gasps and, struggling, sits itself upright; a sharp pain in its side. The grimy figure places its dainty hand on the sore spot and through the starlight sees the thick liquid shimmering on her palm, the stench of blood scrapes her nostrils. 

She squirms and wobbles to her feet. 

She must get away.

Lightning strikes; it evokes the flash of the muzzle. The thunder reverberates with the sound of two gunshots an instant apart from one another.  

Her devil came for her, stood at the foot of the bed and fired. She fired too; the sight of her bullet in his forehead engraved in her memory forever. At first, Laura thought he’d missed, but as she fled down the stairs and out the back door, the searing pain in her flank told her otherwise. Didn’t matter, she ran deeper and deeper into the woods. He wasn’t the only enemy and the further she ran, the better. The others would come for her too. Soon, her gait became unsteady, she stumbled, and the woods closed in on her; everything faded to black.  

Laura staggers into the river wading and following the current. She remembers her history teachers telling how escaped slaves would use the water to throw dogs off their scent. She also recalls a vague song about the stars being guides. Pain and thirst addles Laura’s brain, but she keeps going, hoping to find refuge soon. 

Up ahead a cabin appears as the moon rises in the sky. Out of breath and fainting, Laura reaches the cabin door. She musters what remains of her strength and knocks. A young bearded man opens the door. Laura’s eyes roll back into her head and the world disappears around her.

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“Rust” Kindle Countdown Deal

Hi everyone, I would like to announce a Kindle Countdown Deal for my novel “Rust: A Ghost Mystery Novel” which will run from August 12, 2019 to August 19, 2019. During the week the price of e-book “Rust” will be discounted with price increments every 32 hours.

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OLD ENGLISH TAROT: The Fool

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The Modern, Hotter James Dean

 

“Steve struts sexily down the street…” Steve sang to the beat of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” blaring on his earphones. He liked the song because it mentioned him and often changed the lyric to whatever mood fit him.

He swaggered out of the barbershop with his sleek new haircut—a messy quiff—his fitted black Calvin Klein T-shirt that made his muscles bulge, and his low-cut jeans with whiskering on the front. Steve felt like a modern, hotter James Dean.

“Are you ready for this!” He sang (off-key) at an old woman who blew a raspberry and yelled “fool!” as she hurried away.

Steve was undeterred, nothing could stop him, and he shuffled his feet in time to the music while bobbing his head from side to side.

He almost stopped cold when he saw a goddess heading his way. Oh mama, the girl was hot, with legs that went on for days, tight miniskirt, swaying hips and a bod so fine… He licked his lips and smirked. Other men glanced at her and through the music he heard their wolf-whistles. The goddess walked on, eyes fixed straight ahead and unflinching, aloof to the men’s attentions. Steve grinned, those other guys had nothing on him.

He bopped and approached the goddess while in his ears Brian May did his guitar thing. The goddess was gliding straight for him, and as Steve prepared to belt out the song and get her attention, someone pulled the ground out from under him. He hovered in the air for an instant, then fell into blackness; sharp pain scraped his forearms and knees. One earphone fell out and hung pathetically by its cord.

Steve gazed up at the round hole of light above him. A shadow passed, and he glimpsed long bare legs in red shoes; the click, click, click of high heels resounded on the cavernous walls of the manhole as they walked away. 

“Hey, buddy, you okay?” A construction worker in a hard hat peeked down at him, “don’ worry, we’ll get ya out!”

Steve smelled something nasty and looked down at his feet. He was shin-high in sewage muck and his lips quivered when he realized he’d ruined his brand new Nikes.

“Another one bites the dust!” Freddie Mercury sang out of his dangling earphone, the voice tinny, yet a powerful punch to Steve’s pride.

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ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: 2 of Cups, Love

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Shadows by the Fountain

 

I sat on the window-seat and glanced at the fountain at the end of the garden as it spurted cheerful gurgles; I thought about the day to come.

The sun had set and blue shadows glimmered on the water. The trees morphed into tall wooden figures, like giants come down from their beanstalks. Crickets and cicadas chirped in the warm summer evening, and, together with the soft bubbling fountain and the distant croak of frogs, they created a natural melody that filled the garden with harmonious sound.

I smiled and extended my hand with fingers outstretched as the fading light twinkled on my ring. The colorful display of reflected light danced before my eyes and I sighed, content.

Somewhere in the house a door closed and the sound of footsteps reverberated on the walls. I leaned my head on the window frame and gazed out. Another door closed and more footsteps pattered through the silent house. These last were heavy and a soft prickle of apprehension needled my heart. I knew these footsteps, and though I wanted to get up and follow, I remained seated at the window, my eyes fixed on the fountain.

Night fell and the soft path-lights illuminated the stone structure of two intertwined fish. The fountain was a tribute to the Pisces constellation whose billions of stars spun light years away from Earth.

I heard the clack-clack of high heels on the dark stone path, followed the thud-thud of manly footfalls. Two shadows appeared, and I watched as they reached the fountain.

I gasped.

In the dim light of the path a man and a woman met. They embraced and kissed, unaware of my watchful gaze.

My eyes filled with tears when the soft light shone on his face and I recognized the man who’d said he loved me and asked me to grow old with him. 

I turned my face away; in the darkened room, I glimpsed the ghostly shadow of my wedding dress hanging on the perch.

***

The wedding day dawned and the servants and guests stirred.

A cry rang through the house.

The bride had vanished; her dress still on its perch, white and desolate in the morning light.

 

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THE GODDESS TAROT: XXI THE WORLD – GAIA

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On The Meadow

 

Darren lay on the meadow, pebbles sticking into his back through his T-shirt. He loved spending time among the trees and often felt he had a special connection with nature. Sometimes he thought the trees reached out to him, as if they wished to tell him a secret. He would then close his eyes and listen, but could never understand the message.

On this occasion, bathed in the warm sunlight, his mind was on the ground, how wet and cool and lumpy it was. He breathed in the grass, the moss and damp earth. With closed eyes, he thought about the millions of feet that had walked upon the piece of dirt on which he lay. Animals, insects, birds and humans, how many had trampled here?

Minutes passed, and he noticed a slow and steady thumping; he opened his palm and touched the ground. It pulsed, thud, thud, thud, louder and stronger as if footsteps, big stomping footsteps approached. Darren opened his eyes, and a shadow fell across the pastel blue sky. He turned his head to one side just as a boot stomped beside his shoulder. Another plunked down by his hand.

Traipsing boots and gaiters soon engulfed Darren; the pungent scent of leather and mud stung. The ground shook with the footfalls, and the boom of the march so near his ears sounded like cannonballs. He lay motionless, heart racing, while above him the sky turned red, and a reeking cloud of wool, metal and gunpowder seared his nostrils.

As the boots marched away, Darren sat up and glimpsed the backs of British soldiers, their long red coats, muskets, bayonets and tricorn hats fading into the forest. Darren wanted to stand up and rush after them, but the sun was too bright and the heat weighed heavy on him. He lay back down and closed his eyes.

The setting sun was casting an orange hue over the meadow when Darren awoke. He perked his ears and listened for footsteps, but heard nothing except the sounds of the evening forest. Darren walked home—his own footfalls loud in his ears—wondering whether the troop had been a dream or the specters of a long-dead reality.

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OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Three of Coins

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Dearest friend, 

I write to you from the old tavern on the edge of town. There is a hustle and a bustle around me, but all I see through the window is the old medieval castle, its ruins calling as the wind blows down the long unpaved path. It rests upon a small hill, and an old, forgotten vineyard stretches out beneath its fairy-tale turrets. 

All around me the sound of cars, people, dogs, and the endless hum of generators fill my ears to the point of explosion. I close my eyes and hear only the soft breeze as it winds through the overgrown grapevines, and rustles through the trees that line the path towards the ruins. I hear the soft clop of hooves and I feel as on the threshold of time. 

People here say no one goes up that way anymore. Strange things happen to all those who venture up there. Some say evil lives there, others say it’s an Angel that haunts that place. 

The barman claims his neighbor’s father walked up that path at midnight, in search of the Devil. A short time later, the man and his family bought properties in and around the town. He became the wealthiest man about.

“But what good was all his money,” the barman said, “when all his children died one after another, like dominoes. Only my neighbor, the youngest, survives, and he is ill and childless. The Devil always gets his due.”

He wipes down the bar as if wiping away the whole affair. 

“My grandfather went up that way,” a lady chimes in. She sits at the end of the bar, beer before her, listening.

“He and my grandmother were poor as church mice. They would traipse through the woods in rags and bare feet collecting firewood to sell. One winter night, they found themselves at the edge of the path and saw a light in the tower. The place was deserted since time began. Grandfather said the light flickered, and a voice whispered in their ear, and such images of warmth and comfort filled their minds they longed for the light. So, without thinking, he said, they trudged the frozen path. At the gate they met an angel, so bright and kind. He smiled at them and said they would never be cold again. He carried a staff, and with it, struck the ground. The Angel vanished. Where he stood, my grandfather said, there remained a spark. It looked like something shining, he said, and he dug it up. They found a small hoard of gold that night, right at the gates. They were never cold again.”

The lady smiles as she sips her beer. 

“I think,” she continued, “whether you meet Devil or Angel, depends on your intentions. So if you go up there, please thank the Angel for the wonderful life he gave me and my family.”

The sun set while I listened in the tavern. I step out onto the darkened street and look at the castle. There is a light in the tower. 

Love always,