Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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. 

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

ALEISTER CROWLEY THOTH TAROT: 3 of Cups – Abundance

Milk and Honey

The heavy wooden door cracked and moaned as it inched open on its rusty hinges. A cool draft blew through the yard as the wrought-iron gate, squeaking and banging, swung in the wind. Dead leaves rustled and danced on the overgrown grass, fluttering towards the last rays of the setting sun. Dusk cast an eerie, blue gloom over the abandoned house, and Edgar shivered. 

The prior night’s dream agglutinated in his brain like dense honey, as vivid now as it had been the night before, and almost every night before that, since he could remember. It started in his early childhood—now a tangled mess of vagrant memories—and Edgar had since learned it foretold yet another move, another city, another change. His parents, both free-flowing hippies, never settled down, and at the drop of a hat would up and move their child miles and miles and miles away. Every time the dream visited Edgar, he knew change was imminent, and the dream would not leave until he had installed himself in a new house, in a new town, and a new school. The dream had given him respite during his stable and constant college years, but it had returned in full blast.

In the dream, Edgar stands by a window in the House of Usher — as he described it—gloomy, dark and ramshackle. The window overlooks a courtyard, just as abandoned and forgotten as the house itself. In the middle of the courtyard, between the cracked and lumpy cobblestone, sits a large fountain with a wide round base and three tiers of a baroque pillar stacked upon one another. Each section has an ornate basin, which gets smaller as the pillar rises. A phoenix crowns the fountain, its wings spread wide as its tail winds around the pillar, down to the topmost basin. Silky nectar flows from it and shines in the sunlight. The phoenix whispers, “Come find me.”

The dream’s frequency had abated in recent years until weeks ago, when Edgar received a summons from a lawyer. That very night, the dream exploded in his brain, and it blazed night after night. 

Bewildered, Edgar attended the appointment.

“You are the only remaining heir,” the lawyer said, as he read the last will and testament of a long-forgotten uncle, “Your uncle’s finances had dwindled, and the house fell into disrepair, but now it belongs to you.”

Now, Edgar stood on the doorstep of this abandoned house as it creaked open with the burden of years weighing down an old man. 

Edgar stepped through the threshold. Twilight glimmered through the dirty windows, and Edgar’s heart skipped at the ghosts waiting for him inside every room. He chided himself when he realized they were only pieces of furniture covered by sheets. Edgar walked through the chilly and dusty rooms; shadows crept on the walls. He marveled at the high and decorated ceilings, and at the baroque cornices. He approached a tall casement window; its shabby drapes billowing in a mysterious breeze.

He glanced out of it and gasped. The window overlooked the courtyard, and in its middle, lit by the rising moon, stood his dream-fountain with its crowning phoenix. But this fountain was as dry as a desert; its magnificence lost in its abandonment, its phoenix cracked by time.

Edgar opened the casement window, and the soft scent of honeysuckle wafted into the room, though in the moonlight, he distinguished only skeleton branches and gnarled, bony bramble that crawled over the ground like spiders.

“Hello,” the wind whispered, as it blew around Edgar.

“Hello!” Edgar replied, and the sound of his voice echoed through the courtyard.

A soft rumble shuddered through the house and the fountain gurgled and bubbled to life as silvery water sprang from its interior. The phoenix-wind whooshed again and awakened the fireplace across the room, which sparked a warm and comforting blaze. The room flooded with light, and Edgar saw it as it had been in its heyday: glowing, beautiful, and cozy.

The dream that had been with him so long burst inside his brain and oozed a warm welcome through his body. This milky feeling tasted like honey, and Edgar knew that after all this time, he was home.

Posted on Leave a comment

TAROCCHI DELL’OLIMPO: 5 of Wands

St. Elmo’s Fire

Esther sat on the hotel’s terrace overlooking the ocean. The soft sea breeze cooled Esther’s sunburned cheeks. The ocean mumbled a lullaby beneath her as the waves lapped on the pebbled beach. It sounded like a baby’s rattle, and a lump formed in Esther’s throat at the memory of their baby-that-was-never-to-be.

Arthur caught the lump and smoothed it away by stroking her hand in his, like water smooths down jagged rocks. Their eyes met, and both understood the pain lurking behind their irises — his blue, hers brown.

“This was a good day,” Arthur said.

Esther nodded, “Oh yes, I could stay here forever.”

Moonless and starless night fell, and only the dim terrace lights burning behind them offered comfort from the encroaching darkness. They sat on Adirondack chairs facing the water, which was now a black mirror that reflected nothing, like a void in the earth surrounded by ghostly cliffs.

Arthur sipped his whiskey, while Esther let the playful breeze tousle her hair.

Arthur cleared his throat to get her attention, “What’s that?”

Esther opened her eyes.

In the cove, three blue lights flickered, no, danced upon the water. They snaked and glimmered like tongues of fire playfully devouring lumber. They frolicked in a smoky meander on the still and mirror-like waves.

“I wonder…” Esther stated.

“I think it’s Saint Elmo’s fire,” Arthur said.

“Beg pardon?”

“It’s an electrical weather phenomenon that appears on pointy structures, like masts and spires, when lightning strikes are imminent. It looks like blue flames.”

“Do you think we ought to go inside?”

“I don’t know,” Arthur replied, “the sky is cloudy, but it doesn’t feel like rain. What intrigues me is, what is catching the electricity?”

“A ship, perhaps.”

Arthur doubted, “There were no ships at sunset, and there are no ship lights.”

The waiter approached and asked if they wanted anything else.

Arthur turned to the man, “No, but you should warn that ship.”

The waiter looked puzzled; Arthur pointed towards the water.

“That’s Saint Elmo’s fire,” he said, “and that ship is in danger of being struck by lightning.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but there are no ships on this part of the island. It’s impossible to approach this cove from the ocean. A terrible death of jagged rock lies beneath the waves. Many ships have sunk here, too far for rescue from the shore. Not even a rowboat dares enter this cove.”

Esther gazed at the man, confused.

“Then what’s out there?” Arthur asked, “What’s causing those lights?”

“St. Elmo’s Fire on the masts, like you said, sir, but that ship now lies in its watery grave. The lights appear on darkest nights, but lightning struck it centuries ago.” 

Posted on Leave a comment

UNIVERSAL WAITE TAROT: King of Wands

Streetlamps in the Snow

Snowflakes flit in the wind and glimmer in the dim light of the lampposts. The snow falls in a steady stream of dancing fairy-flakes, and the wind bites and gnaws at Eric’s cheeks and ears. He pulls up the collar of his long, woolen overcoat and sticks his hands in his pockets. 

What a sudden change of weather! The morning was almost warm, and the sunshine played on his forehead as he walked to work. The evening is now black and dense with creamy, snow-filled clouds. He wishes for his hat, scarf and gloves, but can only bow his head to the wind, and trudge onwards. He only has a few more blocks to go before he reaches the warm comfort of home.

Ahead, a lamppost flickers, and Eric discerns an old man standing under it. He hunches in the way only an old man hunches, and his hip juts out sideways, though he gazes in Eric’s direction.

Eric approaches and prepares to nod a greeting, but the old man turns and, leaning on his cane, totters around the corner. Eric shrugs and slogs on through the fluttering snow. He reaches the corner and looks out for oncoming cars; the nearest lamppost flickers, and Eric sees the same man beneath it, gazing towards him.

Eric means to cross the street and not to turn the corner. But the man, dressed in a three-piece suit — coatless and hatless — seems to wait for him. Eric raises his arm to wave and bid the old man goodnight. He steps off the curb. His heart lurches when he slips, but regains his footing. The wind howls at Eric; the street lamps blow out and plunge Eric’s path into cold and speckled darkness. He turns towards the old man, still waiting beneath the only flickering lamp around the corner. His way blocked by black night, black pavement and black ice, Eric traipses towards the man, who turns and hobbles further down the street. 

The snowy darkness devours the man, but Eric hears the soft thud of the man’s cane moving away. Eric pauses beneath the now darkened lamppost as the light before the next corner flickers. The old man with the crooked hip pauses and turns towards him, waiting. Eric picks up the pace and reaches the corner just as the old man rounds it.

The street is dark, lit only by the lights streaming from one window. All houses are dark, and Eric reasons the inhabitants have not yet arrived from their workday.

The lonely lights in the window flicker, and Eric detects the old man standing beneath it. He crosses the street towards the house. As he approaches the front walkway, he hears a low moan. Eric glances at the old man beneath the window. The old man points towards the stoop.

Painful groans break the snowy silence as Eric reaches the lump sprawled upon the stoop. Eric gasps; the old man with the crooked hip and three-piece suit is lying supine on the icy steps. His cane is out of reach, and a full and knotted garbage bag clings to the skeleton bushes that line the stoop.

“Help,” the old man whimpers, “I fell.”

“Is anything broken?” Eric asks and fumbles for his phone.

“No, I don’t think so, but I cannot get up without my cane.”

Eric drapes the man’s arm around his shoulder, then slips his other arm around the man’s waist and pulls him up to standing. They limp through the open door, and Eric gently sits the man down on an old high-back chair.

“I was taking out the trash,” the man stammers as Eric wraps a blanket around the man’s shoulders, “thank goodness you came along. My neighbors won’t arrive until much later. Do you live nearby?”

Eric shakes his head, “This street is not on my way home.”

The old man’s kind eyes fill with gratitude as he gazes into Eric’s face, “Then, what brought you this way?” 

“You led me here. I followed you.”

Posted on Leave a comment

GOLDEN BOTTICELLI TAROT: 9 of Wands

A Morning Stroll

The peacock’s shrill cry sounded throughout the hacienda. It was now a luxury hotel and Eliza paced the cobblestone path through a soft mist hovering over the ground. The old stone wall rose beside her, and Eliza admired the green moss growing between the ancient stonework.

The peacock shrieked again and Eliza glimpsed the beautiful, iridescent turquoise tail atop the stone wall. The peacock jumped down from the wall and ambled along the path ahead of Eliza. She came to a small fork in the cobblestone path, paused for a moment, then followed the peacock as it faded into the mist, which was thickening like whipped cream as it rolled down from the mountain.

Tall trees lined the path and the Spanish moss clinging to the branches looked like witches flitting among the trees. Though spooky, the foggy silence comforted Eliza. She sauntered behind the peacock’s fading form.

A cool morning breeze blew through the mist, and Eliza pulled her cardigan tight across her chest. The mist closed around the peacock and Eliza lost sight of it, but discerned the clear click of its feet on the cobblestone. She guided herself by the tall bulk of the stone wall alongside her, and the protruding roots of the Spanish moss laden trees that lined the path. She paused and wondered whether to turn back, but the mist now engulfed her, so all she distinguished was the pathway ahead. As long as she followed the path, she reasoned, and kept the wall to her right, she had no chance of leaving the hacienda and losing her way at the foot of the mountain. The peacock cried, and Eliza’s apprehension lifted as she renewed her steps towards the sound.

Up ahead, in the misty silence, a dark mass formed, and as Eliza slowed her pace, a figure approached her. Out of the mist, a couple appeared, and Eliza perceived a young man in a three-piece suit and top hat, leading a young lady with a straw hat pinned to her low pompadour hairstyle. Her gloved fingers curled around the man’s elbow, and a small parasol hooked over her other arm. Her long dress shone in brilliant white, as did the man’s shirt underneath the black vest and coat. The man swung a cane with each step as they strolled towards Eliza. 

The woman gave Eliza a kind nod, and the man tipped his hat when they crossed paths.

Buenos días,” the woman smiled, and Eliza returned the greeting.

The peacock shrieked and startled Eliza, who whipped her head towards the sound. It perched atop the stone wall; sunbeams broke through and dissipated the milky mist. Eliza turned back towards the couple, but saw only the ancient path behind her. It occurred to her she never heard their footsteps, nor the thump-thump of the man’s cane as they strolled on the cobblestone.

Posted on Leave a comment

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Four of Coins

Red Sand

The painting hung by itself in the gallery; the enormous canvas covered most of the back wall. When Daphne wandered in, she paused in front of it, and gave it a bored glance.

Abstract art never interested Daphne. She found no meaning to it. To her, it was just a bunch of colors, stains, blobs, and oodles of ego. But this painting seized her. It caught her in its grip, and while Daphne’s mind told her to move away, her body froze with her torso facing the painting while her feet turned sideways, as if unsure whether to stay or go.

Entranced, Daphne contemplated the painting. It was a blob of bright red, with black and blue lines running down it. The uneven lines streaked it with such violence it seemed as if a tiger had mauled the canvas. The red background looked like a bloodstain on the sand. Indeed, the artist had named it “Red Sand”. 

But Daphne saw a city street in a fiery sunset. The blue and black strikes that seared the sunset bled out of the picture and surrounded her. They grew straight and tall, flanking her on either side. Up and up they rose until they scraped the sky. The pavement stretching out in front of her shone with the metallic green of automobile oil. Cars honked in the distance, and Daphne wondered whether they honked beyond the gallery walls, or whether they honked in the painting. Wherever, traffic rushed all around her, but she saw none of it. The sky darkened above the sunset fire, and a chill crept up Daphne’s spine.

Footsteps clacked on the pavement behind her. She wanted to turn around and yank herself out of the painting, but she stood transfixed by the vibrant colors of the sunset and darkened skyscrapers on either side.

The footsteps approached. Daphne followed the click-clack of stiletto heels as they reached her, then walked around her on either side, like water separating around a stubborn rock and flowing back together afterwards. The footsteps overtook Daphne and continued down the oil-slicked pavement towards the sunset. She listened, still staring down the abstract alleyway and waiting to see their owner appear, but the footsteps paused for an instant, then picked up the pace and hurried away from her. A sense of impending danger rose from Daphne’s toes, like a menace careening towards her. The footsteps’ panicking clack-clack hurtled into the blazing sunset as inky darkness fell over the sky and the buildings no longer glowed in the gloaming. Now they were only darkened statues flanking her, like fallen angels guarding the threshold to Hell.

The footfalls faded away; then, a bloodcurdling scream lacerated the painted night and ripped her out of the picture.

Shaken, Daphne glanced around for the source of that heart-wrenching shriek, but the gallery was quiet, with no sound of a commotion anywhere.

“It’s a magnificent piece, its violence rips through you,” a voice wafted in from the doorway. 

Startled, Daphne whipped around towards it. The curator stood gazing at the painting. 

“Yes,” Daphne agreed. 

“You know, it was the artist’s last piece. He called it ‘Red Sand’ because it’s an abstract depiction of his wife’s death. Police found her murdered on a beach. It was a brutal crime—never solved—and the artist never recovered from the shock. He killed himself soon after finishing this painting.”

Daphne stared wide-eyed at the curator, then gazed back at the painting. 

“No,” Daphne said, “his wife didn’t die on a beach, they murdered her in a city alley.”

Posted on Leave a comment

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Three of Swords

Green

Ivy crept up the ancient and massive stone wall. Bridget stood on tiptoe and stretched her neck, hoping to see beyond the wall, but the tangle of leaves and branches obscured all glimpses of what lay beyond it.

She had inherited this vast property from a distant, unknown relative, with no other explanation than a map to its location and the old, leaf-shaped iron key. Now, Bridget had a choice: to sell it for a song, or to repair it.

But the ivy and honeysuckle and bougainvilleas crawled and climbed and slithered in a mess of thorns and leaves, and Bridget saw no hope of gaining access to the ramshackle structure.

“It’s like The Secret Garden,” Bridget mumbled, and pondered whether to climb a tree.

She jangled the key in her hand; the gate was so rusty and overgrown with vine she doubted the lock would work. She tried anyway; she had not come all this way just to peek over the wall. With great effort, the key turned, and the door creaked open. It swung with the high-pitched squeak of rusty hinges, but snagged on the overgrown weeds that spidered over the ground.

Bridget squeezed through the gate; the sight beyond it caught her breath. She had entered a world of green. Every branch and leaf glowed with a thousand shades of green. Green, up and down and left and right. She rubbed her eyes, and little green sparks flashed under her eyelids.

Yards ahead, she spotted a stone building covered with moss and crawling with bindweed. It was a short one-story home with a series of stocky arches lining a desolate veranda over which twining plants hung like blooming tendrils. Three turrets stood at three corners and jutted out like three swords ensnared in the vines. The fourth turret had crumbled long ago.

As her eyes adjusted to the blinding green light, she noted pinpricks of reds, yellows, whites, purples and blues, and realized the entire property was in full bloom, in October!

A small twitching under an arch caught her sight. A tiny light seemed to wink at her. Something rustled in the trees, and out of the corner of her eye, Bridget saw movement.

She turned in time to glimpse a figure disappear into the matted forest behind the house.

“Wait!” She called and hurried after it.

It dashed and darted between the trees and ivy, and Bridget had difficulty following it. She stopped at the end of the wall. The figure had disappeared, and she strained her eyes, scanning the thick, overgrown orchard for it.

“You are not like the others,” a voice whispered in her ear.

She whipped around, but glimpsed only a green shadow glide behind a flourishing tree.

“What do you mean? Who are you?”

“I am your most ancient ancestor. Your forefathers hated their people, but you respect us. You respect all living things.”

“Who is us? I don’t understand.”

“You come from a long line of sprites — people of nature, beings of light. Some humans call us fairies, others leprechauns, some know us as nymphs, others as devas. We are wood people, forest people. Your human forebears hated us, hunted us, felled our homes. They turned away from us, except for one. This home is our last sanctuary.”

As the voice spoke, Bridget noticed watchful eyes on her peering out from among the branches and leaves and multicolored blossoms.

“How came you here, child?” Another voice spoke from a sprawling rosebush.

“I-I inherited this property from a distant relative when she died. I never knew her.”

“Ah, so the age of Ostara has ended. The age of Brighid begins.” 

“You are welcome here… You need not join us, but please do not take our home,” someone whispered from behind an oak.

“Yes, let us be,” a fourth voice spoke from the jasmine creeping up the turret, “if you wish to leave.”

Bridget glanced at the old building, and for the first time realized the roof had caved in, and all that remained were the arches, the veranda, and the three stone turrets. 

Hundreds of expectant eyes held her in place, and through the flora, Bridget almost glimpsed the creatures’ various shapes, all so elusive they might have been shadows. She sensed their pleas, their dread, and the hope their idyll might last a while longer.

Bridget said nothing, but made her way back to the half-opened the gate. All the while, a shadowy, tall, man-like figure followed beside her, hidden among the brambles.

She passed through the gate and shut it behind her. A man came into full view between the wrought-iron bars and bindweed. He had long, green, straw-like hair and a long copious green beard. His eyes shone green and his skin was rugged, like bark. His expression showed hope and fear.

Bridget whispered, “There’s nothing of monetary value here.”

She winked, and The Green Man’s rough lips broke into a wide smile, revealing birch-white teeth.