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…


I stand up, touch the wall and wonder. 

Was this a door? What if…

An idea flashes. 

Hope springs eternal…


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. 


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?”


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. 


  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. 


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. 



Arachne spat. The bones told her he had failed; the little minx had gotten away, and he was not coming back. She snarled, baring yellow and rotted teeth. 

“Useless! Just like your father,” she hissed at Dagan, who lounged on the high chair across the room. The memory of that bumbling man churned her stomach.

“But you won’t fail, Dagan,” she cooed, “you’re better than your brother.”

Dagan smirked, his leg draped over the chair arm, and swirled blood red wine around the glass. He was as ugly as his brother was handsome and had the sensitivity of barbed wire. Alastor was sensual and charming, Dagan devious and cruel. The dim light cast eerie shadows on his unpleasant and pockmarked face. 

“No Mother,” his voice was thick with venom, “I’m not like Alastor. I don’t have to seduce every poor innocent bitch that comes along. Look what that got him.” 

“Hassle, and an early grave,” she croaked, “couldn’t even choose the right minx.”

Arachne gazed into the shattered mirror which fractured her haggard and willowy hair, and wagging her finger, continued,

“He liked her strong, he said, ‘I can subdue her,’ he said, ‘it’ll be more satisfying,’ he said.”

Arachne screeched. She paced the floor of the darkened room, careful not to step on the bones. She ignored Dagan, who observed her with his suspicious glare.

“I will summon the coven,” she squawked, “yes, we’ll find her and bring her back. No more niceties, no more seduction, Laura will return.”

Arachne smirked, her wrinkled face twisted and her eyes shone bright with hatred. 

“To see Laura in your grasp, Dagan, now that’s satisfaction!” 

“Don’t you mean our grasp, Mother?” Dagan leered, “whatever I do is nothing compared to what you have planned for her.” 

Arachne cackled, and Dagan chuckled. She picked up the bones she’d strewn on the floor, put them in her little pouch and sneered. She turned to the dense shadow in the corner.

“Soon the little minx will be yours, My Lord. Once we have her, nothing will stop you, not even death.”

The shadow laughed. Arachne and Dagan gazed in reverence. 

OLD ENGLISH TAROT: Seven of Swords


Nigel opened his eyes, bare branches above him, icy ground seeping into his bones. He took a deep breath and rose to a sitting position. He grimaced, expecting the sharp jabbing pain in his back and the crack, rattle and crunch of his joints. Major Creaks he called himself nowadays. Yet he found the movement painless. 

He gazed at his hands, and though chapped, he missed the familiar veins and age spots that had appeared over the long years. Nigel twiddled his straight fingers and marveled at their ease of movement; he moved his legs and stood up. His knees didn’t pop. Once standing, his hip didn’t jut out to the side and there was no stabbing pain down his back. 

Nigel beamed as he realized he was young again. He looked down at his feet, covered in heavy combat boots and shook the snow off his army-issue overcoat. He glanced around the dense, snowy forest. 

“Oh, I’m here again,” he whispered with dismay. Yet, the sensation of youth was so real, he was happy, even if he was back in the Ardennes and the horror of it had haunted him through the years of peace, prosperity, social revolution, consumerism, internet boom and the much-celebrated Millennium. 

“He fought in the Battle of the Bulge,” his neighbors often whispered with huddled heads, as if to explain away his somber and aloof behavior. 

Something glinted by a tree trunk and Nigel, curious, stooped, his once rusty knees bending like rubber. It was a long sword, a Claymore perhaps, he thought, and picked it up as if it were a feather. How wonderful not to feel the arm buckle under its weight! The fingers clasped around the hilt, painless, strong and straight as arrows. 

A roar cut through the trees, shaking the snow off the bare branches. Nigel heard the wood creak and the falling snow sounded like maracas. It had been years since he’d heard the sounds of the forest, however muffled in snow. 

Nigel, unafraid, headed in the roar’s direction. The forest, quiet under its freezing blanket, seemed to wake and give a startled yawn before sleeping again. Yet something odd remained in the air. He sniffed and perceived a hint of acrid smoke.

Boom! The forest exploded into a blaze of fire and Nigel dropped to the ground as he’d done decades ago. The trees shook, and though Nigel attributed the explosion to an air raid, he thought tanks rolled, not stomped, like he perceived underfoot. 

Another roar, so close it almost split his rejuvenated eardrums. He stood up and found himself face to face with a dragon, its wings wide, nostrils ablaze and tail pointed upward, scorpion-like. It smelled of burned flesh; he gagged. 

The dragon spotted him, and Nigel, sword at the ready, caught his gaze. They defied one another. 

The dragon hissed and a fireball spit from his nose; Nigel ducked. He moved through the trees like a cat and soon was close enough to strike the scaly beast. Metal clanged on the hard scales, but Nigel noticed they broke. He struck again and again until the beast gave a piercing scream. 

Flames surrounded him. Fire burned his flesh and ash blocked his vision. He drove the sword into the raw skin he’d hacked. Blood poured from the wound. His clothes caught fire, and the flames engulfed both beast and man. 


The fire department could not find a clear cause for the fire that had reduced the house to cinders. They believed the ancient wiring in the wall behind the bed was at fault. 

The strange old man hadn’t stood a chance; maybe he hadn’t even woken up. 

A rumor spread through the neighborhood children. It was spontaneous combustion, they said, because no one found the charred remains.



“Can I get you something else?” The waiter asked, his expression full of sympathy, yet amused. I’d been at the table for almost an hour and Kyle hadn’t yet arrived. The restaurant boasted a century of continued service.

“More water, please,” I smiled.

I glanced at my wristwatch. Kyle is often late, but he’s never stood me up. He’s my brother, I know what to expect. 

I gazed out the big floor-to-ceiling window and watched the people and cars zipping by in the rush-hour bustle. 

My cell phone lay on the table, by the dim Tiffany stained-glass table lamp lit up in hues of reds, greens, yellows and blues. My eyes darted from the window to the phone’s dark screen. No news is good news, I thought. 

A brand new 1920s black Cadillac stopped in front of the restaurant. I frowned, confused. Something felt odd about the car, its shiny newness seemed real, not like the restored hot-rods at the antique car shows Kyle likes. 

The doors opened. Two men jumped out. They wore three-piece suits, one dressed in gray, the other in a pinstriped navy blue. Their hats hung low on their heads. My heart raced as they pulled out a submachine gun each. 

They stood legs apart, pointed the guns at the window and fired. I heard the rat-tat-tat of the machine guns, and saw them blazing, yet the glass remained intact. No one on the street screamed or ducked; no one in the restaurant panicked. In the line of fire, I was unscathed.

The men climbed in the car and sped away.

Was I dreaming? A car honked somewhere and brought the restaurant itself back to reality. 

I glanced around, wondering whether others had seen the gangsters. For the first time, I noticed a line of bullet holes on the back wall, gaping in the ancient and faded wallpaper. These were not recent, but no one had bothered to cover them.

“Hi, so sorry I’m late,” Kyle slid into the chair; he was flushed and sweaty and out of breath, “what did I miss?”

“Al Capone’s gang just shot up the place.”

“Wait, you saw them?”

“What do you mean?” 

“I came here once on a date,” he took a sip of my water, “I was looking at the street when an old Caddy stopped. Two old-fashioned gangsters pulled out their Tommy guns and shot at the window.”

My jaw dropped. 

“No one else saw a thing,” he said.   

BRUEGEL TAROT: Knight of Pentacles

The Puppeteer

The puppeteer wheeled his rickety cart onto the town green. 

“Come one, come all!” He yelled in a heavy Italian accent, “The Great Rigattini will tell a tale of love and courage!”

Children gathered around and sat on the grass; the grownups stood in a circle behind them. 

“The Great Rigattini will present the characters!” 

“Rigattini! That’s pasta!” A boy yelled, and the crowd laughed. 

The puppeteer’s cold smile showed through his heavy handlebar mustache and gave his face a devilish smirk. 

I didn’t laugh; I knew the heckler, and I didn’t like him. He always mocked my little brother, who was born a simpleton. Willy scooched closer to me and his plump, fluffy body, like a stuffed toy, warmed me. Willy didn’t like the heckler either. I put my arm around him and turned my attention to the puppeteer. 

He opened two small doors in his cart and revealed a stage; the background painted with bright stars over a mountain landscape. 

“The story takes place at night, as our hero, Marcello, traverses the mountain,” he pulled out a beautiful marionette clad in red armor with leather boots. It was a true marionette of the Old World, like the ones my grandfather once crafted. I turned to Willy and smiled. 

The puppet show continued, and at every instant possible, the heckler yelled out abuse and mockery. At first, some in the crowd laughed, but soon, the jokes went too far, and the crowd murmured uncomfortable. The puppeteer persevered; he was an excellent puppet master and the marionettes, all exquisite, moved with such ease it was easy to forget they were on strings. 

Willy leaned against me with his head on my shoulder. He laughed, oohed and aahed at the right moments, enjoying the show. Only the heckler seemed determined on ruining it for everyone. I glanced at him and his ridiculous smirk. He always ruined everything for everyone. 

Despite the mockery, the puppeteer drew us into the story. The crowd burst into raucous applause when the show ended. People approached him and put coins into a hat by the cart. With each clink, the puppeteer smiled with a grateful crinkle in his eyes, and bowed. The crowd dispersed. Hand in hand, we sidled up to the puppeteer as he put the marionettes away. 

Grazie,” I said and dropped money into the hat, “I loved the show.”

The puppeteer beamed, and the curly ends of the mustache almost reached his eyes. 

“You speak Italian?”

I shook my head, “only a little.”

“My nonno made them,” Willy spoke in his soft lisp.

“Did he?” The puppeteer’s warm gaze fixed on Willy’s dull eyes. 

Willy nodded. 

“He came from the Old World. He had a workshop there.” I explained. 

“Ah, then perhaps I should deliver this to you,” the puppeteer said and reached into his cart. He pulled out a stunning marionette of a young prince, hand-carved and hand-painted, its clothing so intricate only the best seamstress could have stitched it. He handed it to Willy. 

“Oh, Mister, we can’t…” I was mumbling an excuse when I noticed the engraving on the marionette’s foot. Nonno’s initials and insignia!

“Perhaps one day this marionette will bring you all the good luck and fortune it has brought me,” the puppeteer said, “it’s yours, take it.”

As he locked away his cart, I heard running footsteps behind me. I turned just as the heckler pushed me to the ground, kicked me, then ran away. Willy looked about to cry and clutched the marionette to his chest. 

The puppeteer raised a hand, fingers in a claw, as if he’d tied the strings of a marionette to the tips, and stared at the heckler as he ran. His face drawn and gaze intent, he twirled his fingers and twitched his wrist. The heckler hovered off the ground, his feet still moving, and fell hard on his backside. He screamed and cried, but no one minded him. The puppeteer flicked his wrist and turned his gaze. His features relaxed and their warmth returned. He offered me his hand and helped me stand. 

Si,” he smiled, “this marionette brought me many good things.” 

He winked and wheeled his cart away.