Completing the Assignment

I had been here before as the waking years have passed. Several times. And each time I have been here, the formerly stately home and grand expanse of yards surrounding it had fallen further and further into decay. This used to be a grand mansion with many wings. Now only the central section of the building remains standing, and even that is a hollow shell of what it used to be as everything wood has either been salvaged, burned, or decayed.

There is a spirit here. Cantankerous. Unwelcoming. Spiteful. When I first dreamt of this place, he chased me away threatening to inflict all sorts of waking world abuse on me. At that first encounter, I didn’t know how much he was bluffing and how necessary it was for me to counter him. I fled an intact fortress and was chased through the trees by the echoes of his mocking laughter.

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Hindsight in 2020.

I have a ring that has been worn nearly every day since it was given to me nearly five years ago. A sort of large “cocktail” ring with a good size “stone” of composite amber in resin, which is then set in silver. I have always loved the deep rich color of the stone and the window setting allows me to see through the thickness of the amber to the underneath instead of just sighting along the top surface.

It’s been a while since I’ve given it a good cleaning of its nooks and crevices, so off came the ring and out came the swabs. Part of my check is holding the composite stone to the light to look for internal cracks and just to delight in the interior structure and visual textures.

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A Prayer Couldn’t Hurt

As 2019 comes to a close, so does my inventory of tools, talismans, and tchotchkes that I have in my stockpile for the year. Quite a few of them wound up being acquired and/or kept for the wrong reasons and were properly disposed of. This left me with few tools for “immediate” work.

Like an unopened bottle of Florida Water that I had completely forgotten about until I found it during the Great Clean Out. Sitting next to it was a small cobalt blue glass bottle fitting with a spray pump. Both were purchased for separate reasons. Both had been forgotten about for the year.

Both were put back in the cabinet. Florida Water was something that I had been told by many people that a wooish person should have on hand, and should I ever get to making that apotropaic spray (once I find the recipe) than I’ll have the bottle at the ready. Right?

And then suddenly, I needed both.

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Sounding The Current: Chapter 25 – Transition

Melissa came home that afternoon with another deck from Rebecca. The very copy of the Sweeney Tarot that was used in the final tarot trump challenge. While the deck was self-published, it was easily replaceable via a print-on-demand service. When Melissa offered to reimburse Rebecca for the deck, the card reader refused any money or promise of favor for it.

“That decorated deck of yours is not a beginner’s deck, that’s for sure. You’re going to have a hard time relating the images on those cards with the average instruction you’re going to find, online or not. Here. Keep the Sweeney. It’s not a Waite Smith clone, but the imagery is close enough to carry the tone. Look up the deck online, there’s a guide book available for the cards, if you want.”

Rebecca also offered to buy the decorated deck from Melissa and offered twice as much as the younger woman had paid on the auction site. Melissa declined. Each card of that deck was now a personal token of not only the tarot challenge, but her personal ordeal in rescuing herself from Helen’s grip. While some of the details in the images would forever keep secrets, they were not alien to her anymore. They were talismans of allies she could call on for help.

Though the two women tried their hardest not to talk about tarot or tarot-adjacent matters, the conversation settled itself between the cards. Rebecca, still swearing that she was neither Melissa’s teacher nor mentor and there was no passing on of lineages or teachings, reviewed a good number of her personal “observations” regarding tarot.

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Sounding The Current: Chapter 24 – Metamorphosis

Lisa took a deep breath at the sight of the Magician card on top of the stack. She leaned over the table slightly and placed both hands flat on the table’s surface beside the deck to better examine the card.

This was not the card she had seen in so many forum headers and poster avatars. Lisa recalled first seeing this card in Rebecca’s treasured deck a week ago Sunday. Like the High Priestess, it was an image and many online card readers, witches, and magicians claimed as their personal representation. Lisa wondered how many of those would have been able to defend themselves against the dream attack as she did.

Her inflating ego quickly popped when she reminded herself that the card reader had probably been working such magic against her for years. She probably only won that particular dream encounter because he was not prepared for her to rise up against him. But now that he knew… Surely, he had to know that his magic failed by now. If whatever magical backlash didn’t tell him immediately, then Aunt Helen screeching at him for ruining her plans after court would have tipped him off that something didn’t work the way he had intended.

And if there was one thing that the internet did properly prepare her for, is the retaliation that comes from rejecting an entitled man’s advances.

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Sounding The Current: Chapter 23 – Sanctum

Lisa remained sitting at the table for a while longer after the nausea passed. She was too tired to do anything that required brain power and knew that not even the Hermit would be able to assist her now. But the least she could do was dispose of the tea bags and put the deck back in order.

She remained seated at the table and chose to take care of the cards first because once she got up, if she sat down again, she knew that she would fall asleep right then and there. She gathered the cards of the decorated deck and placed them back in the order that Rebecca had done, though now cycled so that the High Priestess was the visible top card.

The image lacked the unsettling otherworldliness that were the other cards’ main feature. A mountain sat in the far distance of the scene. A blue trail that originated from the mountain’s peak spiraled down the mountain, marched back and forth through the scene to approach the viewer and passed behind the central figure presumably to continue to an unknown destination. As the trail gets closer, it is revealed the blue motes were actually blue flames burning on yellow candles.

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Sounding The Current: Chapter 22 – Direction

Lisa woke up after sunset. She spent the first minutes of wakefulness copiously bitching out the Moon for hosting the magical attack on her will. She spend the next several minutes expressing gratitude to the Hermit for helping her identify what she needed to know immediately and retaining the bulk of what she had learned, expressing gratitude to the Sun for coming to her when she called, and to Death for being a background encouragement and support to her. She stayed in bed for as long as her bladder allowed her to, then begrudging got up to take care of that business.

Relieving herself of one burden reminded her of another. She had not eaten anything all day. Lisa went to the kitchen for a glass of water to drink while she sorted out the “dream”, what to immediately eat, and what to do for the remaining hours of the day. She did not realize how thirsty she was until she stopped chugging her second glass of water only because her body could not drink any more.

Gasping for air, she placed the glass on the table. She questioned the dream. Questioned her experiences. Questioned her sanity. Questioned all that has happened in her life since she received the tarot cards from Rebecca just nine days ago. Just as she started to cry from how overwhelmed she was feeling, her stomach twisted and sounded a very long, very embarrassing series of growls.

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Sounding The Current: Chapter 21 – Occupation

Lisa lost track of how many times she reset the timer until finally giving up and just committing herself to the task for as long as she was able to remain awake. As it turned out, the Hermit’s influence enabled her to remain awake and aware as long as she was applying herself to her initial task of learning as much as she could about the twenty-two trump cards of the tarot deck.

Lisa learned about the mythical histories of tarot and the reconstructed histories of the tarot. She learned how tarot names changed over time and how political favor and disdain rose and fell depending on how strong was the church at the time and how politically connected was the person caught with tarot cards. She learned how the tarot was just a deck of playing cards no matter how dressed and adorned it was with the expectations and presentations of those who want it to be something entirely different that benefits the person presenting the cards as different in the first place.

But most importantly, Lisa learned that there is no One True Way™ to tarot cards of any sort. Not their appearance, not their numbering, not their purpose, and not how they are used. Whatever tarot means to the person holding the cards is right for that person and the cards they hold. Which meant that no one could tell Lisa that she was wrong for experiencing the visitation and apparitions of tarot card spirits. Or for that matter, anything that came as a result of accepting them.

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Sounding The Current: Chapter 20 – Heresy

As two hours of study came to an end, Lisa knew enough to say with certainty that it was going to take a lot more than two hours just to get the basics. Now that she wasn’t afraid of the cards and had some experience with them, it took her only ten minutes to recite the order of the Major Arcana forwards and backwards. The Fool gave her a bit of trouble at first until she found that some decks place the Fool in different starting positions, including being between Judgement and the World.

When the alarm sounded, Lisa silenced it, looked at her notes, then reset it. The girl child spoke “ahem” in that irritating and loud way that children do when they are trying to be properly adult when doing improper adult things like interrupting someone. Lisa put the phone down on the table and indulged the girl child with her full attention.

“Remember I said that flowers are like people? Well, do you know what flowers and people need?”

Lisa shook her head to be polite.

“Water! Go get something to drink before you start the timer again!”

Lisa thought that was the best study aid ever and did just that.

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Sounding The Current: Chapter 19 – Convergence

Lisa’s cellphone began to ring just as she got comfortable under the covers. She was upset at herself and the Fortune card for not making sure it was on silent before her executive decision to take a nap. By the time the ringing sequence had ended, Lisa was wide awake but too spiteful to get out of the bed. When the phone began ringing immediately again, she got up with intention of silencing it.

Seeing Marla’s name on the screen confused Lisa. It’s Monday, after all. Today would have been spent working a full shift at the restaurant, not a half shift at the mall. Lisa swiped to answer it. “Hello? Marla?”

“Oh, Lisa! You’re okay! Are you okay? Have you talked to anyone from corporate since I last saw you?” Marla’s panic threatened to infect Lisa.

“No. Why?”

“I have orders to terminate your employment immediately and if I don’t by the end of tonight’s shift, I’m terminated too!”

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