Wading through his own murky thoughts, Søren held a hand over his mouth while he stared blankly at Nessa.
Her large breasts and flabby arms jiggled as she shuffled the tarot deck furiously. Overhand, pharaoh, Hindu shuffles. One after another. The cascading waterfall of minor and major arcana riffling plashed in rhythm to the wall clock.
The last three decades have not been kind to either of them. They were both older, fatter, greyer. Were they wiser? Søren wondered. Or were they kindling fire and raising demons again?
In the center of the kitchen island, placed neatly on the blue woolen blanket sat the King of Cups, Søren’s signifier. A man of creative intelligence sitting in a throne wobbling across the sea. To where? We don’t know. Best used for a brown-haired man with brown eyes, says Eden Gray, in Søren’s dog-eared, marked-up copy.
Søren looked away.
Two undrunk glasses of Nessa’s homemade iced tea condensed in the Austin heat, a world away from the wet May showers of his Vancouver home.
“You ready?” Nessa’s gravelly voice spoke, as she placed the stack in front of him.
“Yes, I supposed…” Soren lied.
He eyed the top card suspiciously. Its well-worn blue and black crisscrossed plaid taunted him. He had his doubts. Was this the best way to recruit Nessa? What will she think when she lays down his cards?
She had such a comfortable warmth about her. A gleam in her pale green eyes Søren adored. He had drowned in them before.
“I sense a strong aura of uncertainty with you, my old friend,” Nessa offered. “Are you sure you don’t want to just talk to me about this?”
“No, I need to do it this way. You’ll see why.”
“Very well then, Sor. Cut the deck.”
Søren leaned in, hunched over the marble slate top and reached for the stack of cards. He lifted a quarter of them and immediately felt its energy surge through his spidery fingers.
It made him feel OK being here doing what he was about to do…
Which was to throw away a deep friendship, an inimitable (and very profitable) partnership and a long, complicated history of being on-again, off-again ex-lovers.
The moment passed and Søren merged the two piles into one neat stack again.
Nessa volleyed one last stink eye over her wire-rim glasses, but didn’t say a thing. She sighed deeply, then turned towards the tarot cards.
“Søren Isberg, son of Lund,” she intoned. “Have you your query in mind?”
“Yes. I do.”
She drew the first card and laid it over the King of Cups. “The three of cups covers you. It could mean success, fortune, even victory. The three maidens holding celebratory drinks over their heads. But ultimately, what you’ve undertaken and brought forward today… it makes you happy. Yes?”
Søren smiled at Nessa and winked. She couldn’t help returning one. Søren rarely smiled these days. When he does, it reminded old friends of the spark he once had, the insatiable hunger and unfathomable energy of a young ætherhacker. It threw most of them off-kilter, and filled them with a profound sense of loss.
Nessa drew the next card. A ruddy-faced king clothed in a luxurious robe sat in his throne.
“The King of Pentacles crosses you, I’m afraid.”
“Wait,” Søren said.
“He’s reversed. Does that mean he’ll be easy to bribe? A corrupt man using his talents perversely?”
“In any other position, yes. But he’s crossing you, Søren. This card is always read right-side up.”
“Right…” Søren muttered. “So what does that mean for this mission?”
“It means the man opposing you is slow to temper,” Nessa explained. “He is a wealthy man. Successful in material means.”
“That wouldn’t make sense though. He’s financing this whole operation.”
“Would you like me to talk honestly about what I think of A.J. and the way he handled things, or would you like me to continue?” Nessa asked impatiently.
“No, no… please. Continue.”
Nessa drew the next card. A red-headed knight rode a destrier rearing its forelegs into the air. He wore yellow surcoat with salamander patterns.
“The Knight of Wands is beneath you. Departure, emigration, change of residence.”
“Well, I’m here, aren’t I?” smirked Søren. “Came all the way down here… ”
“You think you’re so clever, don’t you? I’ll have you know, the Knight of Wands could also mean…”
Søren interrupted her. “…a generous friend but cruel and brutal. Yes. That’s you.”
Nessa scoffed. “Let’s just see what’s behind you.” She drew the next card and placed it left of Søren’s King of Cups. A reversed Wheel of Fortune.
“We can skip this, yeah?” Søren said. “No need to talk about the Kentucky job. We all lost money and almost got killed. Blah, blah, blah.”
“I agree. Next. What crowns you?”
Nessa drew yet another card from the deck and placed it above Søren’s signifier. The nine of cups! The wish card! But it was reversed…
Søren deflated. “No. No, no, no, no. We’ve come too far for this. To put this team back together, to rope in this mark, to get the financing for it… it all comes down to a stupid upside-down nine of cups?”
He closed his eyes tightly.
“Hey,” Nessa said softly, “hey, hey, hey… maybe this is a sign we should stay retired. We’re getting too old for this shit anyway.”
“You’re wrong!” Søren shouted. “This can’t be it. The cards are wrong!”
Nessa frowned. Sharp, stern emerald eyes scolded Søren.
“No, you’re right,” Søren relented. “We’re getting too old for this.”
“Did you want to see the rest anyway?”
“Yeah, why not.”
Nessa drew five more cards, one after another and placed them on the Keltic cross. All the cards pointed to failure. Judgment in reverse laid before him. An upside down Fool in fear’s position. The major arcana World in family.
But what was most telling were the last two.
A four of Pentacles sat in hope’s position signifying assured material gains… but leading to nothing beyond. The Devil in outcome signifying bondage to the material. Discontent. Depression.
Søren would get rich if he did this job, but he would have nothing left. ☣