TAROT DRACONIS: 10 of Pentacles

The Book

The book burned a hole in Derek’s conscience since he’d stolen it from the library. No matter how hard he tried justifying his actions, it was all for naught. Derek knew not why he’d stolen it, but the compulsion had been irresistible. 

Now the book lay in the back of his closet wrapped in an old towel. He wished he could shut it out of his mind too. The book had brought him nothing but unrest and nightmares. He’d wake in a sweat, terrified of God-knows-what and always with the sensation of dreaming something important which slipped away as his conscience woke. 

Derek glanced out the window; fog descended and with it silence. Foggy days always made him feel suspended in time and place, disconnected from reality, the physical world hovering somewhere between the dream state and death; the ultimate peace. But not today. Today he feared the fog, as if it wanted to attack him. It was that damn book. 

Derek glanced up the stairs, his gaze beyond the landing, his mind on the book in the dark corner of the closet. 

“All right,” he said, “all right, I’m coming.”

After much grunting and rummaging, Derek retrieved the book from its prison. He tucked it under his arm, still in its terry-cloth wrap and brought it to the kitchen, turning on every light in the house. He unwrapped it. 

The book was still in good condition; maybe if he returned it, no one would know it had left the library. He ran his fingers over the leather cover and, with a deep intake of breath, opened it. 

Derek frowned, he’d expected to see the illustrated old cottage, but the page was blank. He flipped through the pages and his heart raced; the whole book was blank. 

He was about to shut it, beads of cold sweat on his face, when a picture formed. Derek watched open-mouthed as it came to life. 

A young boy stood in the forest, fractured moonlight shone through the tall trees. Dressed in a tunic and sandals, the boy trudged through dead leaves and mossy ground. He didn’t stumble or trip, though the forest was dark; he knew the way. 

The boy approached a shack, and a strange quiet hung in the air. Derek’s heart raced as broken images of long-ago nightmares flared in his mind. The boy, alert and uneasy, clutched a silver dagger on his belt. Something was wrong, the world felt strange, and Derek screamed at the boy to run. 

The boy didn’t hear Derek’s warning, nor did he run. Instead, he opened the ramshackle door and entered. Moonlight shone through the tiny windows and the remnants of a fire glowed in the corner. Smoke billowed into the boy’s eyes. Derek felt the sting in his own. 

The darkness took shape, lumps appeared on the floor, against the walls. The room stank of blood; Derek covered his nose. The boy approached the embers and lit a torch made of stick and cloth. He bent by the nearest mass and passed the light over it. The boy jumped back. Sightless eyes and blue lips gaped up at him. He swung the makeshift torch around, the dark lumps now bloody corpses in the light. 

Derek screamed and shut the book. He’d known all along what the boy would find: the mangled corpses of his murdered family. 

MINCHIATE: XI The Hermit

Misanthrope

Herman’s Hermits sang “There’s a Kind of Hush (All Over the World)” on the old turntable. Dust particles danced in the sunlight that glimmered though the open windows; birds chirped in the trees. Miss Ann Thrope bopped her head to the tune, careful not to ruin the beautiful landscape she was stitching; the kind she always wished she could have visited.

It was too late now, those pipe dreams were all flushed down the drain decades ago. Now, her dreams only came true in the form of needlework, quilting, painting and the solitary crafts of a solitary life. Over the years, she’d filled her house with castles embroidered on pillows, pictures of rivers that babbled only in her imagination, and collages of places she’d never been. She’d retreated from human contact and faded into oblivion as those she’d loved died one by one. 

The song ended, and it took her a few moments to realize it was all too quiet. Miss Ann Thrope glanced around the room, the strange hush oppressive, yet pacifying. It filled the room with an odd tranquility, palpable and engulfing. Her eyes fell on the grandfather clock, her grandfather’s grandfather clock. 

She clicked her tongue; the clock had stopped. Never in its century of existence had that clock stopped. Her grandmother often said it would only stop when doomsday was nigh.

Miss Ann set her stitching aside, reached for her crutch, and, with painful effort, hobbled to the clock. There seemed nothing wrong with it. She glanced out the window. A mist had fallen over the outside world and she wondered whether it caused the strange silence. 

She limped to the backdoor, but a sharp pain coursed through her ulcered and crooked legs. The crutch slipped on the floor and Miss Ann tumbled to the ground. She fell in slow motion, as if invisible hands guided and cushioned her fall. Not a thud or thump sounded, and Miss Ann hadn’t uttered at peep as she fell. The strange calmness hovered in the air, and far from afraid, Miss Ann thought now would be a good time for a nap. 

She closed her eyes. Florian’s alluring smile flashed, his hair waved in the wind as they flew in his shiny Roadster. He laughed; the grandfather clock chimed. Hadn’t it stopped? 

Miss Ann’s eyes flew open. Beside her lay an angel. She doubted not he was an angel, she’d never seen such beauty. Not even Florian, so reckless and dazzling, had been so beautiful. The Angel’s eyes were sapphires and his hair like sparkling diamonds. 

“Am I dying?” She asked. 

The Angel shrugged and smiled. 

“Depends on you,” he said, his voice tinkled like Heaven’s bells, “if you could correct one mistake, would you?”

Miss Ann Thrope nodded, tears welled in her eyes and a sob caught in her throat. 

“I would never get in drunk Florian’s car.”

The Angel beamed and rays of light shone out of his eyes. He ran his fingers down her face. Miss Ann closed her eyes and let the radiant warmth flow down her head, her back, her arms and through her mangled legs rendered useless since that day with gorgeous Florian, who hadn’t lived to see what he’d done. Miss Ann Thrope sighed and the painful memory dissipated with her breath. 

The turntable sputtered and crackled; Peter Noone sang “I’m Into Something Good”. Miss Ann Thrope opened her eyes and braced herself for the effort to stand. To her surprise, her body was light and her movements ginger. She gazed down at her twisted legs, those bandaged stumps, but saw only the beautiful healthy legs of a young woman. 

Miss Ann rose onto those strong, agile legs and ran to the mirror. She laughed—tears streaming down her eyes—at the young face reflected at her. 

Miss Ann Thrope reached for her dusty purse, opened the rusty door, and for the first time in years, walked out into a new life. 

THE GODDESS TAROT: King of Pentacles + Princess of Cups

Diamond in the Rough

Lisa entered the attic of her new old house. She bought it together with Jonas and planned to fix it. Jonas, a contractor, would turn this run-down building into their forever home. 

Then, Jonas announced a change. He changed his mind about fixing the house, and his life partner too. He was out the door in a flash and stuck a bewildered and hurt Lisa with the decrepit house and its mortgage. 

Lisa sighed and rummaged in the old attic, cobwebs in her hair and her mind racing a mile a minute. The small mortgage wouldn’t break the bank though she’d have to tighten her belt. The remodeling into livable space would chip away at her savings and devour the money she’d put away for the wedding and the honeymoon. Now that she’d scrapped those plans, she’d hoped to use that money on herself, maybe vacation to a spa, but she’d have to spend it on the house instead. 

Dust, debris and bric-à-brac covered the house and the attic which smelled musty, though not dank, like the basement. Jonas had thought the house didn’t have serious mold issues, but now she doubted everything Jonas had said. 

Something caught Lisa’s eye: a wooden box, ordinary, yet unusual. With painted swallows on its side, it stood apart and untouched among the old knick-knacks. 

Lisa tiptoed to it, careful not to topple the mountain of rusty stuff nearby. The floor creaked beneath her feet and she hoped she wouldn’t fall through the ceiling. She discovered the top of the box was a series of little drawers. When she unclasped the hinges on its sides, the set of little drawers lifted out and revealed a deep bottom box. 

Lisa smiled and tried all the drawers; the first two held nothing but the delicious aroma of cedar that wafted out upon its release. The third drawer revealed a hand-held mirror with twining silver roses around the glass. She glanced into it and saw her reflection, content, relieved. So not how I feel

The bottom box contained old photographs—tin-types perhaps—of the house as it had been during the fat cow years, pristine and majestic. Lisa glanced around the rickety attic. 

The last photo was a cyanotype of a man with a stiff high collar, mutton-chops and piercing eyes that reminded her of the realtor who’d sold her the house. The man held the mirror in his hand, its glass pointed at the camera. In his other hand, he held a small jewel or crystal that hung from a fine chain. It reminded Lisa of what hypnotists used in movies. The cyanotype was in shades of blue, yet the way the man held the jewel, in front of the mirror, Lisa discerned a bright flash emitting from it. 

“Like a prism!” She exclaimed, remembering her grandfather playing with it by the window. Every time it caught the sunlight, the rays split into many colored beams. 

“Now you can see the wavelengths of light,” her grandfather had explained. 

Smiling, Lisa reached into the box again, her fingers closed around a small trinket. It was a crystal cut into a pyramid and it hung from a delicate chain. She held it up to the attic light; it sparkled as it dangled, but the colors did not shoot out as they had in her childhood. 

She glanced at the cyanotype again and startled, exclaimed, “He winked at me!”

Yet the man gazed impassive at the camera. 

Lisa held the mirror in one hand, and, imitating the picture, dangled the jewel in front of the glass. Colored beams of light shot out of the jewel onto the rotted wooden wall. 

Lisa’s jaw dropped as the wall repaired itself where the beams struck it. She pointed the mirror and the jewel at the floorboards and, again, watched amazed as the floor polished itself. 

Lisa ran through the house, mirror and the jewel in hand, laughing and giggling as the house rumbling, squeaking and groaning, and returned to its former glory. For the finale, she stepped outside and stood before the darkened house gleaming in the starlight. The mirror caught silver moonbeams, bounced them into the jewel which projected them onto the house, and engulfed the house in rainbows. 

Lisa squealed with delight as her old, broken down home shone like new. 

“It’s a diamond in the rough,” the realtor had assured her, “you’ll love it.”

GOLDEN TAROT OF THE RENAISSANCE: 2 of Swords

Dark Strangers

The bartender watched as The Stranger stepped through the swinging doors of the old cantina; the lights flickered and dimmed, obscuring the shabbiness of the place. 

He was tall and slim and his presence commanded every man’s attention. The room fell silent. The bartender wiped the countertop and pretended not to care as The Stranger sidled to the bar. 

“Tequila,” he slapped a hand on the counter and slid onto a barstool. The old man next to him gave him a quick once-over, gulped down his drink, put money on the countertop, and left. 

The Stranger grinned and downed the shot of Tequila before him. 

“Who among you is a man?” The Stranger spoke; no patron met his gaze. 

The bartender sighed. 

“No one?”

“We want no trouble here, señor,” the bartender murmured, eyes on the countertop. 

“No one will challenge me then?” The Stranger ignored the bartender. 

“I challenge you!” A low voice sounded from the corner. A man sat in shadow, his hat hung low over his eyes. 

Both men stood with hands on their gun-belts; The Stranger sneered. 

The patrons sat and stared. No one yelled, no one ran.

Two shots rang out. The duelers fell. Blood seeped into the sawdusty wooden floor. 

The bartender shook his head and the patrons returned to their business. Only I stared open-mouthed as the bodies vanished. The lights intensified. 

“Every night, to the minute,” the bartender rolled his eyes and filled my glass. My hand shook as I lifted it to my lips. 

“Those two pendejos appear, every night, and kill one another.”

TAROT DRACONIS: 4 of Swords + 9 of Swords

Block G

“Lights out!” The guard calls.

I lie on my cot and rest my head on my hands. Years ago, I pled innocent, but, everything they accused me of doing, I did, and, on nights like tonight, I regret it. Don’t feel sorry for me, I’m not a bad person, just a victim of circumstance. 

For years I sat in the teeming prison, sharing a cell with a revolving door of inmates. Some wide-eyed and scared, others with an evil twinkle in their eyes; all innocent, yet many guiltier than me. When the prison overcrowded, the warden re-opened the ancient Block G. They transferred only a few of us here, and now I have a cell all to myself; “careful what you wish for”, Mamma always said. 

Cell Block G is small, reminiscent of a medieval jail with dank and cold stone walls, dim lights and howling echoes. It’s a disquieting place, though I relish the relative silence of it. No cussing, no gang fights. In the daytime, it’s OK, but at night…

The lights are off and darkness rules. It’s a strange darkness, incomplete, eerie, unsettling. It’s a bluish darkness. 

I roll over onto my side, my back to the wall, always to the wall. I close my eyes and hope to fall asleep before…

A scream rings out trough the prison. My eyes fly open. I sit up, gasping. 

A cacophony of voices, screams and moans, all hollow and dead—unlike those in my old block—fill the prison and send chills down my spine. 

“Help me!” Someone yells. 

A woman with a long tattered dress, a ripped corset, unkempt hair and crazed eyes runs through the bars in my cell and disappears into the wall across my cot. Two shots boom and, through the wall I hear a yelp and a thud. Every night, every damn…

Wait. 

I stand up, touch the wall and wonder. 

Was this a door? What if…

An idea flashes. 

Hope springs eternal…

TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 9 of Wands

Eagle Eye

Cleopatra Bysbys sat facing the windows of the topmost room of her house with a cup of lukewarm coffee at her side and her air rifle across her lap. She wore ancient and washed out pajama bottoms frayed at the crotch and unraveling at the hems. They stuck to her bony knees. Her breasts hung low on her chest under a ratty pit-stained T-shirt and her saggy arms looked like raw chicken wings. Her hacking cough shook the walls of her musty home. The room was a small belvedere, shaped like a cupola with windows all around it; a lookout. She called it her aerie. It held nothing but a swivel chair with moth-eaten upholstery that had seen better days and a tatty side table held together by spit and prayers.  

Christmastime had, of late, become her favorite time of the year, not because she was full of cheer and good wishes, but because the practice of stealing packages was most rampant. From her “eagle’s nest” Cleopatra Bysbys kept a watchful eye over the entire neighborhood. 

Cleopatra took a gulp of coffee, grimaced and pronounced it “pure and absolute swill.” She closed her eyes, and, using her extraordinary gift, surveyed the neighborhood with her mind’s eye. The windows of the aerie afforded her a remarkable, yet limited view of the goings-on around her, but her gift let her pry beyond the walls of her neighbors’ houses and into their daily trials and tribulations. Cleopatra Bysbys was privy to everything, the comings and goings, the conversations, and sometimes, even the innermost thoughts and emotions of people. Nothing was a secret to her; not the past nor the present, not even the future. 

“Ha!” She cackled, “smart girl, Betty Jackson, tracking it on your phone!”

When she used her gift, Cleopatra Bysbys was a sight to behold. Her wide mouth gaped open and rotted teethed peeped out. With eyelids ajar, the whites of her eyes showed. Wispy and gnarled silver hair framed her withered face, and her skeletal fingers, resting on the arms of the chair twittered and twitched as if handling buttons and dials. 

“Here we go!” She sneered, opened the front window and propped the air rifle against the sill. She crouched, and looking every bit the sniper, waited with the patience of a saint, unfazed by the cold air wafting in from the window; only the ancient furnace in the basement protested. 

A blue car pulled up to the Smith house across the street. The mailman had delivered the package after the couple had left for work. A young woman shimmied out of the car and hurried toward the front door. She slipped on the icy walkway but kept her footing. In her mind’s eye, Cleopatra saw the driver growl in dismay; had she fallen, they would have sued. 

Cleopatra Bysbys took aim as the girl approached the package, glanced side to side and bent down to pick it up. A crack boomed through the wintry air. The porch pirate jumped several inches and grabbed her butt-cheek. With a crazed look in her eyes she gazed around the perimeter, sighted nothing, yet heard a phlegmy witch-like cackle. Her eyes, welling up with tears of pain, fixed on Cleopatra’s hiding place, but there was only an empty window. Sneaky Cleo lay flat on the floor, hugging her gun and giggling through a devilish grin. 

The frustrated thief limped back to the car, and with a “fuck it” they sped away; the package still on the stoop. 

Cleopatra Bysbys pulled herself up, and, scratching her bottom, shuffled downstairs to watch her soap operas. There would be three more attempts later in the day.

Ah yes, Christmas was now her favorite time of the year, and porch pirates her favorite target year-round. 

UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: XXI The World

Worlds Away

As he walked with no direction, Johnny tried to remember Dad’s incessant science lessons, hoping to deduce where he was. The two moons had startled him and he’d almost sat down to cry, but as he walked, his mind calmed and his thoughts cleared. 

“I am on one of four planets,” he mumbled, “the outer planets are all gas, and they have many moons. Pluto would be ice and I wouldn’t survive the cold. So, it must be Mercury, Venus, Earth, or Mars.”

Mercury would be too hot, and Dad said the atmosphere on Venus is hellish and toxic, so it can only be Mars and Earth. I’m not on Earth, so does Mars have two moons?

Johnny shrugged, he couldn’t remember. 

“Mars would be much colder than Earth, because it’s farther away from the sun,” Dad’s voice drifted into his mind, “you’d never wear T-shirts.”

Johnny stopped for a moment. He didn’t feel cold, despite losing his jacket. In fact, it wasn’t just the air, heat seeped through his sneakers. He spied tall peaks in the distance. Does Mars have volcanoes? 

“Not active ones,” he whispered. 

He pondered further.

Johnny’s knees buckled as the thought hit him, “It’s not our solar system!” 

His heart dropped and a wave of loss and loneliness gushed through him, such as he’d never felt, not even when the runes had whisked him away. Then, it had been like being on an unknown street, but in the same neighborhood. 

“Okay, Johnny, think,” he muttered, heart thumping in his ears, “this must be an Earth-like planet because I can breathe, so it must have an atmosphere. It must also revolve around its own sun. Isn’t that what Dad said? So how many suns are there?”

Billions. 

He glanced around the barren landscape. In the bright light of the moons, it seemed lifeless. Johnny gazed at the moons, both full, both rugged and cratered; identical. 

Wind blew, warm and smoky. It stung his eyes, but something caught his attention. He heard a melodious voice. 

“Alondra!” He yelled. 

Silence.

  Then it started again, and Johnny, overjoyed, ran towards it. 

Up ahead he glimpsed a figure, tall, thin, graceful and woman-like. He distinguished the shock of fire-red hair. 

“Alondra!” 

The figure watched him. As he neared it, the figure caught his gaze with eyes bright as diamonds. It then swirled into a flame which sprouted fire wings and flew away. 

Johnny tripped and fell. 

Sharp pain; hazy vision. 

Then, darkness.