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OLD ENGLISH TAROT: XVII The Star

Ripper

Ripper

Dainty heels click-clack on the pavement and approach the dark alley. He hides in a doorway, the dim gaslight of the streetlamp shines only on the blade peeking out from his sleeve. His features are in shadow, yet, in the darkness, he smirks.

The heels approach, and the woman rounds the corner, entering the alley. The sputtering gas-lamp flickers as she walks by, but he sees the seductive radiance emanating from her. She shines with the light of the brightest star.

Does she not know a murderer lurks the streets?

He wants her.

He chooses her.

He waits as she passes by the gloomy doorway, oblivious to his shadowy presence. He slithers in the gloom, his footfalls soundless on the cobblestone. Her footsteps echo in the night.

The fingers clasping the cold dagger twitch, and his nostrils flare, anticipating the aroma of flowing blood. It is a metallic perfume so powerful in its seductiveness, he must bathe in it again and again.

She walks on and nears the next gaslight. 

He reaches out and grabs her. 

She snarls. 

The blade flashes in the dim light.

The street is abuzz with the rumor the killer has struck again. Police shove their way through the crowd huddled in the alleyway. In the soft light of dawn, they expect the sight of a woman’s torn corpse. 

They find a man instead; a dagger lies beside him. 

Jagged fang marks slash his throat, and his eyes stare, frozen in abject terror. 

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MINCHIATE: King of Coins

The Hunter

The Hunter

Jenny played with Nero, her beloved black cat, while Gil fiddled with the kindling in the living room fireplace. Never a country soul, he surprised Jenny when he announced he had inherited a country cottage.

“It’s the old family cottage,” Gil beamed, “Uncle Gilbert used it as a hunting lodge until his mysterious death. He was an avid and excellent hunter, you know. My great-aunt Dorcas lived there for the rest of her life. She left it to me in her will.”

Jenny joined Gil’s enthusiasm at having a weekend getaway. She had never seen the place, nor met Aunt Dorcas, who was very reclusive, but they were the only relatives to attend the old lady’s funeral weeks ago. 

This was their first night in the cottage, and Jenny marveled at the ornate ceilings with its hardwood panels. Aunt Dorcas had maintained the house in excellent shape; perhaps as a tribute to her late husband. The marble floors gleamed with exquisite patterns, and the chandelier shot out sparkling rays of light over the lavish dining room.

“Rich people…” Jenny muttered, glancing at the gold-leaf ornamented cornices, “and they call this a cottage!”

It was more of a chateau, but who was complaining?

The trophy animal heads that had disgraced the walls were the only things she had disliked about the place. As a veterinarian, they had shocked her, and she had refused to set foot in the building until Gil removed them. Gil did not protest, he also loved animals—live ones. Indeed, he had met Jenny through Rufus’s penchant for swallowing objects. Gil reached over and stroked the great Saint Bernard’s head. 

“Here lies the laziest, dumbest dog there ever lived,” Gil joked; Rufus replied with a languid yawn. 

Minutes later, Rufus glanced up as Gil got the hearth started, at last. Nero left Jenny’s lap and sidled over to his best friend, eager to share in the warmth.

“How did your great-uncle die?” Jenny asked, as the fire flared.

Flame-shadows danced on the walls as twilight cloaked the room. Jenny glanced at the standing lamp, but decided against switching on the electric light; the fire was cozy and bright.

Gil strode over to the couch and sat down beside her. He placed his arm around her shoulder; she leaned her cheek against the crook of his arm.

“No one knows,” Gil said, “they found his dead body deep in the woods, and could never determine a cause of death.”

“How mysterious…” Jenny murmured as the dancing shadows played around them, and her eyelids grew heavy.

“Aunt Dorcas once told me the Lord of the Animals took his life as a punishment for savoring the hunt,” Gil continued.

“How superstitious…” Jenny yawned; Gil, too, fell silent.

Night peeked in through the windows; cat and dog slumbered beside the roaring fireplace.

A sudden draft blew and stirred the crackling flames. Shadows whirled around them, and Jenny watched in placid drowsiness as they took shape. Shadow-trees flickered on the walls, and a deer silhouette pranced across it. The outline of a hunter followed. He paused, took aim, and shot the deer. Satisfied with the kill, the hunter kneeled beside the dead deer. Then, a creature crept up to the hunter. It was a tall person, much taller than any human, and it had antlers on its head.

The hunter-silhouette turned in its direction and, and upon seeing it, screamed. The shriek rang out through the house, and the flames sputtered. On the walls, the shadow-play ended with the hunter crumbling and falling dead beside the deer.

Another draft blew, and the spell broke. Gil’s and Jenny’s stunned eyes met; Nero and Rufus slept undisturbed.

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THE GODDESS TAROT: Five of Cups

The Silver Goblet

The Silver Goblet

Dust-cloth in hand, Marie picks up the antique silver goblet and wipes it, admiring the delicate engraving of waves and curls on the bowl. Canned laughter blares from the TV in the living room, but Marie pays no attention. She reminisces about the story of the beautiful goblet in her hand, an heirloom Grand-Mère brought from France after World War II. It was an antique even then, passed down for generations and rescued from the old ancestral home when the Nazis occupied France. Marie always suspected Grand-Mère worked with the Resistance, and though she never said it outright, Grand-Mère always dropped brief hints and allusions that only made sense later in history class.

Grand-Mère left France with nothing but the family diamonds sewn into the hem of her undergarments, and the one thing she never parted with: the silver goblet. Grand-Mère always said the goblet reminded her of the beloved brother she left behind and lost to the war. When pressed, Grand-Mère offered no further explanation.

The slamming screen door interrupts Marie’s reverie, and she glances up from the silver goblet as her son, Eric, shuffles towards the living room. He offers no help to clean the house, and slumps with a loud thud on the couch in the front of the TV, which Marie switched on for mere background noise in the silent house.

She shakes her head, expecting Eric’s Xbox to blare. Her cheerful child is now a morose and bumbling teenager. Marie suspects a girl’s involvement, but he has clammed up as tight as Grand-Mère did about the Resistance and losing her beloved brother. Like Grand-Mère, Eric also drops hints and intimations now and again.

Marie finishes dusting the dining room. The TV booms what sounds like a movie. Marie pauses and listens; Eric only plays video games. Wasn’t it playing a sitcom?

Marie creeps into the living room, perplexed, and stands behind the couch; her son stares at the TV, enthralled.

“What are you watching?” Marie asks.

“I don’t know,” Eric shrugs, “this was already on when I sat down.”

Marie focuses on the screen, which plays a black-and-white movie in French. 

“I thought you hate old movies,” Marie asks.

“Well, this one’s pretty good.”

“What’s it about?”

“The rich girl is a member of the French Resistance, but the Nazis arrested her best friend and sent her away to a concentration camp. She’s trying to find out who blew the whistle, because the friend was hiding in her house.”

Marie sits down beside her son, who does not move away. She watches the movie, and marvels at how much the young actress reminds her of Grand-Mère. The scene takes place in a lavish living room, where the actress sits deep in thought.

A door slams, and a young man enters the scene. The actor and the actress look very much alike, and Marie is about to say something when she notices the swastika wrapped around the young man’s arm.

“Huh,” Eric snorts, “the brother’s a Nazi? Didn’t see that coming.”

The young woman in the movie raises her eyebrows, and her face lights up with sudden realization. She ponders something for a moment, then offers the young man a drink. He nods, and she pours wine into a goblet. The young man drinks it, then chokes while the young woman looks on with tears in her eyes. Gasping for air, the Nazi slumps back onto the high chair, his eyes roll backwards, and then dies. The goblet falls from his hand and the camera zooms into it as it rolls on the marble floor.

Marie gasps, and Eric looks stunned.

“Isn’t that Grand-Mère’s…?” He stammers and points to the living room.

They gaze past the threshold and at the silver goblet taking pride of place on the dining room display cabinet.

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ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: Queen of Wands

Harbinger

Harbinger

Cleopatra Bysbys sits in her aerie with her rifle resting beside the chair. She gazes at the large windows, but does not see the treetops and full moon shining its silver light on her shabby house. On most days, at this late hour, she uses her long-sight—her mind’s eye—to snoop on the neighbors from the comfort of her bed. But tonight, Cleopatra sits in her belvedere, the small observatory atop her house, with her gun at the ready because she knows danger is coming.

Her next-door neighbor, Adrian Ryder, is in his bedroom, while across the street from him, Cassie Power cries herself to sleep, mourning her dead mother. The soft hum of the TV helps muffle her tears; it is her father’s nighttime resource to numb the pain. Cleopatra Bysbys sees him sitting in the living room, the TV blaring, while he stares straight ahead, not minding what he sees. 

Cleopatra switches her mind’s gaze to Adrian Ryder’s house. His family is far more entertaining than the Powers’ gloomy lives. Adrian is reading a book, enjoying the unusual quiet of his home. His younger brothers are at a sleepover, while his father works late. His mother is…

Adrian pauses his reading and listens for a moment. He senses his mother is in her bedroom, sitting at the vanity table and wiping off her makeup. Adrian resumes reading; Cleopatra Bysbys raises an eyebrow. Can the boy…? Impossible, she thinks, he just knows the family routine. There are no fights tonight, and Adrian basks in the silence, grateful that his father has been working so late these past few weeks. Cleopatra sneers; Mr. Ryder left work hours ago, mere minutes after his new assistant sashayed out of the building. 

Cleopatra Bysbys snaps to attention as the black mist descends upon her street. She does not like this mist. It is the harbinger of an ancient evil, one she thought vanquished eons ago. Her hand slides down and caresses her rifle; a man in a top hat saunters in the mist.

Adrian Ryder pauses his reading and gazes out the window. Cassie Power’s tears have stopped flowing, and she stares at the moonlit glass. The black mist swallows all night sounds; Cleopatra Bysbys raises her rifle and kneels at an open window with the barrel pointed at the mist. Though the mist hides the man in the top hat, her powerful mind’s eye perceives him well.

An eerie atmosphere envelops the street, and Adrian Ryder is on high alert. Cassie Power senses the danger in the night, and the fear paralyzes her. She reaches for the long chain around her neck and clasps the horse-shaped obsidian pendant at its end. Her heart races.

Adrian Ryder clutches the golden coin in his hand, and stares straight ahead. His toes jerk with adrenaline, and he wills himself to run and defend Cassie, but an invisible rock crushes his body and paralyzes him.  

Blinding white soars past Cassie’s window and a barn owl alights on the narrow ledge with its back to Cassie. Cassie gulps in fear, as the barn owl rotates its head and faces Cassie. The sight of the heart-shaped white face comforts her, and the fear lightens a little. 

The Ugly Man in the Mist struts up the Powers’ driveway and climbs the stoop. He reaches for the door knob, smirking and savoring the fear emanating from within the house.

A loud crack whips through the black mist, dissipating it. The man in the top hat snaps his hand back and growls in pain. Blood drips from his hand onto the stoop; his palm has a gaping hole. He scans the surrounding street, but sees no one. The barn owl screeches and breaks his silent spell. Clutching his injured hand, The Ugly Man in the Mist flees into the night.

Cleopatra Bysbys lowers her rifle and directs her gaze at the radiant barn owl perched on the ledge at Cassie’s window.

“The Long Fight is coming, my friend,” she says, “but at least this one bleeds.”

The owl meets her gaze and hoots in response.

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UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: VI of Cups

Dark Corner

Dark Corner

Shadows slither down the wall like spilled ink spreads over paper. Darkness envelops the world outside the window until all Colin sees are dark masses of black and gray. He pulls the bedcovers up to his chin and listens to the comforting sounds of Mom and Dad as they prepare for bed. 

Colin wills the light peeking through the crack under the door to shine brighter, but knows the darkness will also swallow it soon. It swallows everything, and Colin wishes that night would never come. He wishes to live on a planet that never rotates on its axis and always faces the sun.

“But life would be impossible on such a planet,” the teacher said.

“So would darkness,” Colin answered, and the teacher gazed at him with a puzzled expression.

“Are you afraid of the dark?” His mother asked when she hung up the phone.

Colin nodded, and Mom promised to buy him a nightlight. Dad said the world stays the same in light or darkness, and he should never fear the dark. Colin nodded and gulped down the embarrassment, but refrained from telling it was not the darkness that he feared most, but the man that appeared in its depths.

Tonight is the last night he will sleep in gloom; Dad turned the closet light on and left its door ajar, and Mom left the bedroom door open.

Colin’s heart beats like a drum against his chest when both doors sway themselves shut, as the shadows ooze in through the windows and plunge the room into pitch black.

Colin stares at the deepest corner; his breath clings to his throat and sweat runs down his feet. The darkness is taking shape, condensing and expanding until Colin sees the clear-cut figure of a hooded man standing there, watching him, glaring at him. He senses its icy stare on his clammy toes and closes his eyes tight, like a kitten, hoping, pleading with the figure to leave.

“Tomorrow,” Colin whispers, “you won’t be here anymore.”

The figure’s lips curl into a sneer.

“I’ll always be here,” it whispers in its deep voice, “just because you cannot see me in the light does not mean I am gone.”

Colin gulps, knowing it speaks the truth. Beads of cold sweat form on his forehead and he wants to scream for Dad. But something in the smooth silkiness of its voice stops him. Colin feels a warm touch on his cool forehead and opens his eyes. The apparition no longer stands in the corner. It sits on the bed now and smiles at Colin with loving warmth.

The apparition strokes Colin’s forehead, and the fear melts away.

“Who are you?” He asks.

“I am Darkness, Loneliness, Fear. Everything you cannot see and do not understand. I am The Unknown, and now that I have introduced myself, you will never fear me again.”

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MINCHIATE: Two of Coins

The Antique Mirror-Minchiate: Two of Coins

The Antique Mirror

Catherine wandered through the tiny aisles of the antiques mall. Knickknacks surrounded her as she paced among books, furniture, and pictures of bygone days that filled the dusty old store. She glanced at everything, yet saw nothing at all. The deeper into the store she browsed, the more the number of antiques overwhelmed her, until a creeping claustrophobia crawled up her spine. While hurrying through the labyrinthine aisles toward the front door, one object caught her eye.

The old mirror hung above an old-fashioned iron stove, flanked by yellowing pictures of Tom Mix and James Dean. It was an oval with an ornate brass frame. The tarnished and clouded glass had black spots sprinkled over its surface, but Catherine’s bemused, yet intrigued, image peered from the flowery, corroded metal frame. Something about it attracted her—perhaps it was the way her face appeared out of its hazy freckled glass—and Catherine decided it needed to hang above her night-table. 

At home, Catherine smiled at her own reflection while she cleaned it. The shopkeeper told her the mirror may need to be re-silvered, but Catherine liked the dark, warped image of herself on its surface. The corroded brass and black spots gave her reflection an eerie, Gothic semblance. She looked like the imagined heroines in the gothic novels her older sister, Emma, had read to her at bedtime. Little Catherine had both cringed in horror and squealed with delight as Emma’s soft voice filled the darkened room. Her words painted a snaking dreamscape of villains and ghosts, and through the pages they traveled to dark castles and gloomy dungeons in faraway lands.

Catherine fought back hot tears as a lump snagged in her throat. She tried not to think about Emma too often because the pain still welled up, threatening an overspill of dark and despairing emotions. But now, alone and gazing into a clouded mirror, she loosened her restraint and let the tears streak down her cheeks. 

Emma went to the grocery store one bright summer afternoon and never returned. The police found no signs, no clue to her whereabouts and no suspect. Years dragged on with no news of her beloved sister, and the case grew cold. Emma became just another statistic; her face was a fading memory. Catherine’s childhood vanished with her sister. Catherine’s love of gothic novels was all that remained of Emma.

Catherine wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Then, she stroked the book that always lay on her night-table. It was the same tattered book she took out of her childhood home and carried through all the changes in her life, but never read. At least, she had never finished it. Emma had been halfway through it when she went missing, and Catherine never had the heart to read it to the end. She picked it up and smelled her sister’s memory as she leafed through the pages, never reaching the end. Catherine feared that if her eyes ever landed on the last words, then Emma would never return. 

Catherine pulled herself together and hammered a nail into the wall above the night-table. With a soft, satisfied yet tragic smile, she hung the mirror on the nail. Catherine gazed at her reflection, and for the first time in her life, thought she looked like her sister. Impossible, her logical brain whispered. Emma was blond with piercing blue eyes and milky white skin, while Catherine had a dark complexion with soft brown eyes and black hair. 

“Like Jane and Elizabeth Bennet,” Emma’s voice rose out of the deep well of Emma-memories in Catherine’s mind and filled the room. 

She reached her hand out and touched the damaged surface. Her heart jolted with electricity; Emma’s broad smile beamed through the darkened glass and radiated from the corroded brass frame. At last, Catherine had found her sister.

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TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 7 of Pentacles

Aegis

Adrian Ryder tore his gaze away from the book and contemplated the middle distance. He was reading about Perseus and Medusa, but found it hard to focus. The recent dream had sparked a tiny ember of peril that flared and dulled over the following days, but never died out. In the dream, Adrian, riding Ethur, came upon the Ugly Man in the Mist and an evil crone plotting to take Cassie. He had awakened, sensing its reality and the certainty that Cassie’s life was in grave danger.   

The school year was ending, and he kept telling himself this was the last stretch, but the sense of impending menace nagged at him. Yet, the branches of the ever-blossoming trees of the Grove by the Old Cemetery doused this dread almost to extinction. He sought the silence of the biggest ever-blossoming tree and hoped that by climbing it and being in it, not just in the grove, he might move forward with his final school assignment. But the dream…

It showed him the people who wanted Cassie for mysterious and nefarious reasons, but not how to stop them. Later, it had disturbed him even more when Cassie told about the new girl turning into a hag in front of the bathroom mirror. 

He laid his head back on the tree trunk and wished for Athena’s shield, which struck the enemy down in terror, as the soft rustle of the breeze through the blossoms lulled him and their sweet fragrance numbed his worried brain.

“Adrian,” a soft voice said beside him, “Climb down.”

Adrian gazed into a woman’s face. She had Cassie’s striking emerald green eyes, and knew it was Cassandra, her ancestor, buried in this grove.

Adrian clambered down from the tree. He found himself in a moonlit cemetery with old and crooked grave stones spiking out of the gnarled bramble. This place was ancient, much older than any cemetery in New England. He felt it in the moonlight and the soft breeze that swirled around him whispering in a thousand dead tongues. There was an eerie, yet comforting, peace about it. Cassandra stood beside one gravestone shimmering in the moon’s glow, but time had effaced its name.

“Dig,” she whispered.

He kneeled; one moonbeam pointed its long tendril to a glimmering spot on the ground, and Adrian scraped the damp earth with his hands. Dirt caught between his nails and soft brown mud caked his fingers. Digging deeper, the earth’s thick texture changed and covered his hands in fine soot and ash. He suppressed a shudder; they burned witches in this part of the world. Soon his fingers closed over a cloth pouch. He pulled it out of the ground, and turning it in his dirty hands, untied the string and opened it.

A shining gold coin fell on his blackened palm. It had a long, gold chain wound and threaded around it, binding it in a tether like Ethur’s silver bridle. Adrian turned to Cassandra, but she had vanished. A moonbeam caught the coin, and it sparkled in the starry darkness; it had a woman with serpentine hair engraved on one face, the other was a smooth and golden mirror. His heart skipped a beat, but his lips broke into a smirk. He draped the chain around his neck; a hawk screeched and the sound cut right through him.

Adrian’s eyelids flew open. Sunlight hurt his eyes, and the wind gusted through the blossoms. He jerked in surprise and almost fell off the tree. He gazed at his dirty fingers with black soot under their nails. Around his neck he felt the weight of the gold coin: Athena’s shield.

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MINCHIATE: Five of Staves

Was It a Dream?

Was it a dream? Linda wonders as she inspects the back fence. It puzzles her; there are no breaks or marks or upturned soil, no trace of the event. 

In the dead silence of the wee hours, a dog barked. Linda lay in bed listening, unable to sleep, and frozen in fear. Danger, threat, and aggression hovered over the silent night.

Linda recalls lying on her side with her head turned towards the window, and gazing at the back fence through the bony thorns of her bare rosebushes. A bright red full moon shone its eerie silver light on the backyard; it glittered on the frosted ground, and Linda remembers thinking it was too bright.

And how the dog barked. Its howls and growls and woofs pierced the winter night, which glimmered, Linda thinks, the air was too clear, like ice.

She listened to the dog hidden behind the fence, and though its barks rang throughout the neighborhood, she knew it was in the neighbor’s backyard which abutted her own. Such a bright moon! The unnatural brightness disturbed her, and fear throbbed in her pounding heart, yet her sight remained on the back fence. 

A ripping and creaking interrupted the barking, and wide-eyed and ashen-faced, Linda watched the fence rattle. The moonlight shone on the wooden slat as its bottom broke apart, and a big black head poked through it. Sharp white teeth gnashed the slat beside it and snatched it off its nails.

The dog’s head broke and tore at the fence, until the hole was big enough for the big, black furry body to crawl through it and enter the garden.

The dog trampled Linda’s covered herbs and raged through her frosted yard. Its growls and snarls pierced the love and tenderness she lavished on that garden. The dog overturned her patio chairs and table and ripped the cushions. Flower pots cracked, and Linda’s heart raced with fear.

She shrieked when two blazing yellow eyes peeked at her through the dormant rosebushes. Paws reached out towards her, scratching and mauling, trying to enter. She feared the dog would shatter the window and attack her. 

Linda pulled the covers over her face, hoping the dog would not see her, and listened to the thunderous barking outside the window.

Daylight and all is still. In the crisp gray dawn, Linda inspects the untouched the fence. 

Was it a dream? 

She searches for signs of disruption, but finds none. No trampled herbs, no chewed garden hoses, no gashed cushions, no dog hair on upright patio furniture.

Linda pulls her coat tight around her chest, and stands in her rubber boots, gazing towards the rosebushes whose skeletal branches show no sign of attack. Yet, she knows the black dog peered at her through the window.

Was it a dream?

She wants to believe so, until Linda’s puzzled gaze catches the blood-red paw print scratched into the glass, just above the windowsill.

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UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: XII The Hanged Man

Mesquite

The scraggly mesquite tree creaked in the soft breeze blowing through the open window and billowing the voile curtains.

“It’s a peculiar tree,” the hired arborist had told Daisy and Paul, “It’s at least one-hundred-and-fifty years old, and though bare, it’s very much alive and healthy. It has no plague or disease, yet, you say it doesn’t regrow its leaves?”

Daisy nodded, “We bought the house at least three years ago, and we’ve never seen a blossom or a leaf on that tree. I love how its twisted branches spread out like a bony canopy.”

Paul shrugged, but the expert had agreed.

“Yes’m, there’s a certain melancholic beauty to it. My advice: enjoy its spidery shade, there’s life in the old dog yet.”

Though the sun shone and the cool breeze blew through the backyard, Daisy and Paul spent the morning in the living room, measuring spaces and pondering whether a new oaken sideboard would fit under the windows that looked out at the tree.

Paul raised his cellphone to his face, “Let’s see if this A.R. app works.”

“A.R.?” asked Daisy.

“Augmented reality,” he answered, “it can overlay a picture of the sideboard we want onto our room, so we can see if it fits before we buy it.”

Daisy nodded, impressed. She glanced over Paul’s shoulder as he pointed the cellphone camera at the windows. She smiled when the image of the sideboard appeared in her living room while the skeletal branches of her beloved tree peeked through the frame.

Paul said, “I think it would look good, don’t you?”

And Daisy was about to agree when she noticed a shadow pass over the image.

“What’s that?”

Paul turned his eyes back to the phone screen. In it, the living room walls disappeared, and the tree stood in leafy pomp, outlined by a blazing firmament.

“Huh,” Paul muttered, and lifted his eyes from the screen.

The warm, yellow sunshine of midday poured through the windows and onto the gray-green vinyl-plank floor, reflecting off the cream-colored walls. On the phone screen, the tree stood on a lonely grassland beneath a fiery red sky.

“It is the same tree,” Daisy said, “I know every tangled bough, but it’s blooming!”

The screen flickered, and silhouettes approached the tree. The couple distinguished a group of rough-and-tumble men on horseback. A man with arms tied behind his back stumbled behind them as one rider pulled him along by a rope.

“It’s a posse!” Paul exclaimed, and they watched transfixed as it reached the tree. 

One man slung a noose over a high branch. The others pulled the tethered man forward and placed the noose around his neck. Then, they tugged on the rope, and the bound man flew upwards. The laughing and cheering bandits tied the rope to the tree trunk, while the hanged man dangled and jerked from the noose. 

The sun dipped on the horizon; the hanged man grew still and swung back and forth. The posse mounted their horses and rode away. The sun shot out its last rays over the empty grassland, and twilight settled over the extinguished life. A mournful wind howled and wailed, blowing away all the leaves from the hanging tree. 

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TAROT DRACONIS: XVIII The Moon

Walpurgis Night

Jenna sat by the window of her new, old bedroom in her grandmother’s house. Two fat tears hovered on her eyelids, then rolled down her cheeks. Her parents had moved into the house soon after she died, and those tears were not just over Oma’s death (her presence still lingered over the house), but also over the big change that came with the big move.

Jenna missed the many friends she left behind in her old town and regretted her status as the new girl. She had not yet found her footing and her place at her new school.

“Kids are meaner here,” she told Mom, “they pull away as soon as they find out I’m related to Oma. It’s not like Hexer is a common name around here, I can’t deny my relation.”

Mom sighed, “I’m sorry, honey, but we had to move after the company downsized and let Dad go.”

“I know, Mom,” Jenna replied, and curled her lip over her braces, a gesture now so common Mom wondered if it would stay after the braces came off Jenna’s teeth.

“But why do they hate Oma? They say she’s a jinx.”

“Because she was German, and lonely, and never spoke English well, so people never understood her. They saw a war bride, someone who used your grandpa as a ticket out of poverty and misery. To them, she was an enchantress who charmed her way into his life and his money.”

“But that’s not true,” Jenna exclaimed, “they loved one another, didn’t they?”

“Oh yes, they loved each other very much,” Mom answered, “but people only see what they want to see. We know she was loving and kind, but no one here gave her a chance.”

A lump lodged in Jenna’s throat, “I miss her. I miss her stories.”

“Stories?”

“Sure, she used to tell me stories all the time.”

Dad spoke German to Jenna, and it facilitated the relationship between Jenna and Oma. It made Mom grateful to know Jenna had been emotionally close—if not physically—to her only grandmother, having grown up never knowing her own grandparents herself. 

“What stories did she tell you?”

“She loved to talk about her childhood, her town, and her family. She spoke about the big family gatherings, and the dance halls,” Jenna’s eyes sparkled, then darkened a little when she continued, “although these last few years, she would tell me about witches convening on Walpurgisnacht. She said she saw them through her window, dancing in the moonlight.”

Mom pursed her lips at Jenna’s last remark, “Remember, Oma had senile dementia for a long time, so you should take her stories with a grain of salt.”

Jenna smiled and nodded, and returned to her room to sit by the window and watch the night fall over the meadow behind the house. She opened the window and let the spring breeze waft through the room. The stars winked at her as they appeared one by one, and the moon rose above the treetops, casting its cool glow over the meadow as it bid farewell to April with full pomp and circumstance.

“Why are you crying?” Oma’s voice floated through Jenna’s mind.

“Because I miss you, Omi,” Jenna said, and the wind rustled through the trees.

“I am here,” Oma’s whisper swept through the meadow, borne on the wind puffing through the tall grass. 

Whirlwinds of leaves blew across the silvery moonlight. Mist descended from the mountain and billowed through the forest and into the meadow like long and slender will-o’-the-wisps twirling and swaying to the melody of the gusting, fragrant wind.

The moonlight caught the mist-tendrils and shone on them with an eerie, yet playful, glow. They might have been graceful girls dancing naked in the moonlight. 

Jenna smiled; Oma’s witches on Walpurgisnacht.