THOTH TAROT DECK: Knight of Disks, 3 of Swords and 6 of Cups




The sun set behind the mountain and spilled orange rays over the clouds; his childhood home a dark silhouette against the sky. The bus sputtered away as William watched the sun dip into the horizon until the final burst of orange and red stained the sky pink, and blue shadows spread over the land.

A tiny fleck of light appeared in the shadowy, gothic mass of stone and William’s heart flipped for joy of coming home. He lifted his bag and walked the rest of the way, trudging down the path he knew so well and lit only by the blue light of evening. The noises of the day yielded to the sounds of night; an owl hooted in the trees and the soft cry of crickets followed him home.

William approached the ancestral house in darkness and frowned.

“There was a light, and it wasn’t the evening star,” he mumbled and crossed his arms.

The night fell silent and an odd presentiment crept up William’s spine, a chill as powerful as the dark silence. An owl alighted on a nearby ledge and hooted.

William stepped to the tall oak door, its ancient gargoyle knocker ghastly in the eerie darkness, and turned the knob. The door creaked open with a spectral groan that resounded through the silent building. He crossed the threshold and, though he tiptoed, his footsteps pounded in his ears and tore apart the unbearable silence. With a tumultuous flutter, the owl darted past his head and disappeared into the darkness.

William crept through the dead house lit only by the moon. The stone walls smelled dank and moldy. He discerned the ghostly figures of blanketed furniture and the glittering snarls of cobwebs, while stalactite bats hung from the high rafters. Dust particles danced in the moonlight streaming through the dirty windows.

This was not the house of his childhood, warm and cozy and full of life. This was a dead house, a ghost house whose walls moaned with tragedy as an ominous waft blew through it. William hugged himself, cold and apprehensive. Every muscle and tendon screamed something was wrong.

He stepped into the dining room and his heart jolted. A life-size painting hung on the wall where the smiling portraits of his grandparents should be. It showed a family, the parents solemn while playful children hugged a young man dressed in black. Black trousers, black coat with tails, black waistcoat and a black shirt with a stiff, high collar. The moonlight shone on the young man’s pale face with bluish lips and dead eyes that stared out into the world beyond the painting. None of the family members wore black and William understood the young man was dead. The artist had depicted him with his family in a living pose, yet after death. The happy expressions of the children frightened William. It’s like they’re playing with a ghost, he thought.

There was something familiar about the young man and, as William drew close, his heart fell to his knees. He was looking at his own face! He was the young man!

Startled, William stepped back and felt the soft squish of flesh underfoot; a rat screeched and scurried away while wings flapped above and the owl swooped down and caught the rat. William screamed and ran. He plunged out into the moonlit world and dashed though the trees whose branches scratched his arms and face.

He never saw the rock, only the ground drawing near. A kerplunk and a flash of pain and William knew no more.

He was at the bus stop as the sun set behind the mountains and outlined his house in the distance. A fleck of light amid blue shadows appeared and William grabbed his bag. He flung it over his shoulder and set off towards his home.

He arrived at the ancient manor with the moon bright above and the night silent. An owl hooted from a nearby ledge. The big front door with the gargoyle knocker creaked open and William stepped through the threshold.

“Surprise!” A thunderous roar lit the house and a sea of arms, faces and hair engulfed William. Through the whirlwind he glimpsed into the dining room and smiled at the portraits of his grandparents hanging on the wall.




Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea


Laura opens her eyes and listens.

“The Devil always gets his due,” Grandma’s last words echo in her memory and she shivers.

The noise below snapped her awake and Laura knows with all the certainty in the world he’s found her. She lies on her side, with her back to the door and the covers pulled up to her chin, listening.

The faint footsteps tell her he’s still downstairs, rummaging, almost like he’s trying to wake her. Never the silent type, she thinks, and glances at the wall clock, three in the morning. The world is silent; the wind doesn’t blow and even the trees stopped creaking.

Laura inches her hand from under the covers and reaches for her phone. Damn! She curses when she remembers it’s in the living room. She holds her breath. He’s still below and by the clack-clack of his boots she knows he’s in the kitchen. What’s taking him so long? For a moment Laura considers it might be a common burglar and not her devil. But no, she recognizes his footsteps, senses the way he moves and shudders as the floor creaks beneath his feet.

Laura’s breath sounds like thunder, her pounding heart booms in her ears, but she closes her eyes and focuses on the noise below her bedroom. A thud on the carpeted stairs tells her he’s begun his ascent, coming for her.

He will never get me.

As a child Laura always imagined the Devil ugly and misshapen, with horns and hooves and trident. But her devil came in a beautiful package meant to blind, confuse and confound, and all that shiny wrapping hid the awful mind that schemed in its folds. She’d only peeled off its silky veneer at the eleventh hour.

“You’ve sold your soul, for what?” Grandma said, “For money? Jewels? Comfort? Is it worth it?”

Laura shuts her eyes tight, Grandma’s words have plagued her for ten years. She knew Grandma was right, and when she escaped, Grandma’s memory gave her strength. She ran far away, became another person, invented another past and left everything behind except the memory of Grandma. But she always knew it was only a matter of time before the devil found her, before he caught her.

The heavy thud of malevolent feet reaches the landing. He stumbles. Laura worms her hand to the nightstand and slides open the drawer, its noise muffled by the imperfect devil’s misstep. The footsteps approach her bedroom and Laura’s fingers wrap around her salvation. His scent wafts in as deadly fingers turn the doorknob.

“If you ever leave me, I’ll find you and kill you,” he said.

A soft click and the door creaks open. A thick shadow looms like darkness filling a void. Laura remains still and silent with eyes wide open and facing the window; her hand hovers above the drawer. She prays the shaft of moonlight won’t betray her.

He stands by the bed and Laura knows he’s grinning by the tiny sound, like a stifled giggle, he always makes when he’s doing something evil. His gun clicks. He won’t kill her in her sleep, he’ll wake her and make sure she knows she’s about to die.

“Laura,” he taunts.

Laura moans as if waking from a deep sleep and rolls over and faces him. A cloud engulfs the moon and plunges the room into darkness.

Two shots ring out and wake the neighbors.

Police find a body with the head blown to pieces. A bloody trail leads out the back door, and into the night.






“Follow me,” I heard the voice through the window. I lifted my gaze from my book and listened. Only the sound on leaves crunching underfoot in the woods. Who would trample tonight? I shrugged and renewed my reading.

I’d read the same paragraph twice when I set the book aside. The voice beyond my window bothered me. I did not recognize it. It was no one I knew and yet, there was something familiar about it. I closed my eyes and recalled the voice; gruff, yet youthful, neither manly nor womanly, but not a child’s.

“Follow me,” it had commanded, confident but with a hint of… malice? Treachery? The memory sent chills down my spine. I endeavored to ignore it and retrieved my book, Faust by Goethe; a man who sells his soul for knowledge.

The wind ululated outside my window while the fire crackled in my room and a sinister atmosphere had descended on the night. I turned the page and screeched when an illustrated Mephistopheles—with hooves, bat-wings and horns—startled me. I shoved the book away.

“Follow me,” the voice whispered.

My heart racing, I crawled out of bed and peeped through the window curtains. The night was crisp and starless for the moon shone so bright it cast silver shadows on the land. Frost lined the windowpane; the trees were bare, their branches reaching heavenward like skeletons begging for mercy, and their fallen, frozen leaves sparkled in the moonlight.

A shadow fell across the moon and for an instant I thought someone had passed by my window. I squinted. The moon lit the world again and there was only the sound of footsteps crunching the leaves.

I froze with fear, stiff as the trees, and listened. There was someone traipsing outside but I could not see them. I gasped and panted; my breath came short and fast and fogged the glass. I dared not move for there in the mist caused by my breath a lanky figure appeared, which faded as the window cleared. I breathed on the pane, and, in front of a tree, I saw the same figure.

“Follow me,” the voice hissed in my ear.

I spun my head. I was alone. I turned back to the window and this time the figure stood before the nearest tree, clear and defined in the moonlight. I rested my fingers on the windowpane; snow fell.

“Follow me!”

“No!” I cried and the glass split where I touched it. A trickle of blood appeared on my fingertip. I ran to my bed, jumped in and hid under the covers.

The next morning I tiptoed to the window and peered through the splintered glass. Copious snow covered the ground, the bare branches heavy under its virgin white, while the sun glinted in orange and yellow sparkles under a bright blue sky.

I gasped. Beneath the nearest tree, the sun shone on a patch of snow imprinted with a distinct pair of hooves; the long, horned shadow of a devil reached for me across the frozen ground. 




Swallows and Storms


Kayla sat on the porch and watched the swallows whirling in the sky. She loved swallows with their erratic soaring flight; such tiny creatures, so free, their chirping like sonorous kisses from Mother Nature.

Clouds blanketed the sun and Kayla knew it was time to go inside, yet remained seated with her cat, Chunky, curled up on her thighs; the pattern of his tiger-like fur formed one giant spiral, as though time and eternity swirled into existence on her lap.

The swallows disappeared as if by magic and fat raindrops fell. Chunky lifted his head and meowed. She ran soft fingers down his back and he purred. The rain fell harder, plink-plinking on the flowerpots and tap-tapping on the porch roof. Chunky’s purr gave a soft wavelike backbeat to the melody. What lovely music! Kayla smiled at Chunky who blinked up at her, giving her an eye kiss.

“You’ll catch your death of cold sitting out in the rain,” Momma’s voice echoed through her memory.

“What’s the point now?” She cooed at Chunky.

Thunder roared and lightning zigzagged across the clouds like electric eels falling from the sky. The front door opened; Kayla listened as a murmur of voices filled the house and condensed the atmosphere into heavy gelatinous sadness.

“Jesus, what a deluge,” someone inside said, “she always loved storms.”

“At least the service finished before the rain started, I felt the first drops as we left the cemetery and hurried to the carriage,” a woman answered and, in a quivering voice, continued, “I think she sent this down on us to say goodbye.”

The back door opened and Momma stepped onto the porch. She looked at Kayla and tears sprang to her eyes. Momma’s lip quivered when Chunky stood, stretched and rubbed himself against her legs.

“I told you you’d catch your death,” Momma whispered “why didn’t you listen?”

“Because I love the swallows and the rain,” Kayla said, but Momma only heard the rolling thunder.

Poppa emerged from the house and embraced Momma.

“Don’t you do this, don’t you throw your life away over rain too,” he pointed at the chair, “our little Kayla soars with her swallows now, she is the rain and her voice the thunder, all the more reason to love them.”

Momma sobbed into Poppa’s shoulder and stroked the back of Kayla’s empty chair. A gust of wind blew through the porch and Momma thought she’d caught Kayla’s scent. She glanced at Poppa, he’d smelled it too, but it could only be the honeysuckle, for Kayla was gone forever. Poppa led Momma inside, Chunky rubbed himself against Kayla’s chair one more time, then followed them into the house.






Best Friends Forever


Clara and Marnie were best friends and would walk home together every afternoon. They lived down the street from one another and the long walks offered plenty of opportunities to talk, laugh, play, gossip and leave the school day behind them.

One day, they were walking in silence; Marnie had noticed Clara had turned quiet and dour of late and didn’t enjoy Marnie’s lively conversation.

“Don’t be silly!” Clara said when Marnie pointed out the change.

A day came when Clara was even quieter and Marnie watched her out of the corner of her eye. She knew something was wrong, but said nothing and listened only to the sound of their feet upon the sidewalk, the trill of the birds and the hum of motors as cars zoomed by them.

“Last night I dreamed I died,” Clara broke the silence and even the birds stopped chirping, “I’ve been dreaming it every night for the past month.”

“Maybe you’re worried about something?”

Clara shook her head.

“Can you die in dreams? How does it happen, how do you die?”

A shadow darkened Clara’s face, “In pain.”

They walked on in silence, Clara pensive and Marnie afraid to pry further.

“I think it will happen tomorrow,” Clara said as they reached Marnie’s stoop.

“How do you know?”

“In the dream I see the date. I get run over by a car on the way home, and as I’m  bleeding on the street, someone’s radio mentions the date and time.”

“Well, I’ll stop it,” Marnie put her hands on her hips in her best Superman stance, “I won’t let it happen.”

“How can you stop it?”

“We’ll take the bus.”

Marnie’s determination comforted Clara a little, and thought maybe dreams were like wishes: if spoken aloud, they won’t come true.

The next day when the school bell rang, the girls collected their things and hurried out into the sunlight. They headed straight for the yellow school bus. They both had bus passes, but only used them in inclement weather. Marnie and Clara hated the bus. The kids waiting glanced sideways at them and murmured that the sun was out, so why were they getting in line?

“It’ll be okay,” Marnie squeezed Clara’s hand.

The driver stepped out from the bus.

“Sorry guys,” he blocked the door, “this bus broke down. If you’re within walking distance, I suggest you hoof it, otherwise, wait here and we’ll fit you in the other busses. Again, if you can walk home, please do so and leave the remaining seats for those who can’t.”

Marnie and Clara exchanged looks; Clara shrugged, resigned to her fate. Head down and quiet, they set off homeward.

They’d reached the avenue and had gone a few steps at the crosswalk, when screeching tires rounded the corner. Clara was in the speeding car’s path; Marnie a step behind her.

“Clara!” Marnie yelled and pulled her back. Their weight spun them around and Marnie, unable to control her footing, fell into the street as the car struck her. The beeping stoplight announced they had twenty seconds left to cross.

Clara screamed and rushed to Marnie’s side.

“I told you I wouldn’t let you die today,” Marnie choked; blood spewed from her mouth, her limbs at odd angles.

“I won’t let you die either,” Clara cried and tended to her friend until the ambulance arrived. She thanked her stars they’d taken that First Aid training at school.

* * *

I glance at Grandma Marnie, who’s standing tall, and hug her. She’s reminiscing about the accident many years ago, a story I’ve heard countless times. Tears roll down her cheeks and I stifle a sob as the pallbearers lower the coffin into the ground. After a lifetime together, we are laying Auntie Clara to rest.

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Queen of Batons


Lady Margaret


The shutter clicked and Malcolm examined the picture on the display, smiling. He’d captured the top half of the castle tower with its tiny windows, battlements and turrets. A single ray of sun slanted across the stone, its moss sparkling in the light. A rainbow smeared the cloudy sky behind it.   

Malcolm frowned and rubbed the screen with his thumb; it wasn’t a speck on the camera. He magnified the image and sure enough, there, in the topmost middle window, he’d captured a face. A beautiful woman with jewels braided into her fair hair peeked out from the tiny hole; the tears on her face glittered like diamonds and tugged at Malcolm’s heart. What was she doing there?

He gazed up at the tower hoping to see her still but could not with his naked eye; so he raised his camera again, pointed it at the window and zoomed in with his powerful telephoto lens, but only a dark void in the arched window frame glared at him. He snapped a picture nonetheless.

“Excuse me,” Malcolm stopped a security guard and pointed at the tower, “how do you get up to that window?”

“You don’t, the tower is closed off to tourists, the inner floors and stairways are long gone. There is no way of getting up there.” 

The security guard looked at Malcolm through twinkling eyes, as if hoping Malcolm might ask the question, but Malcolm thanked him and hurried to catch up to the tour group.

The tour guide was gabbing. Malcolm had stopped listening; she annoyed him and her grating voice scratched his spine and set his teeth on edge.

Eyes still on the tower, and despite the woman’s screech, two words got through: “Lady Margaret”. He settled his eyes on the tour guide and met her gaze. She, happy she’d caught his attention, smiled and directed the lecture at him.

“Legend has it Lady Margaret, the lady of this castle, was a wealthy man’s daughter who married the man she loved, Lord Angus of Ang. He was a good, kind lord, young too, and he fell in love with Lady Margaret on sight. Theirs was a happy marriage until one day, the lady vanished.”

“How?” Malcolm asked, intrigued.

“No one knows. People say she left, others say someone murdered her and buried her somewhere on the grounds, but all agree that she disappeared without a trace.”

“Why would she leave?” The tall woman next to Malcolm asked.

“There are rumors a warlord fell in love with her and had to have her, despite her lawful marriage to Lord Angus. The legend claims she sacrificed herself and ran off with the warlord lest he kill the husband she loved so much. Lord Angus sent out search parties and even arranged a quest for all the knights in the land, but no one ever found her.”

“Who would have murdered Lady Margaret?” Someone in the back called out.

“Lord Angus thought the warlord had killed her and waged a war on him. They both perished in the battle, so the mystery remains.”

The tour guide paused, gazing at the tower, then turned to the group, as if wondering whether to speak or stay silent.

She opened her mouth and took a deep breath, “There have been sightings of her ever since she disappeared. People say she peeks out from that tower window, but in the blink of an eye, the lovely, sad face vanishes.”



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.