Melissa woke up shortly after dawn. The glow from her window was enough to warm her room but not enough to convince her to get out of bed. She remained comfortably sprawled under the covers as she reviewed her memory of the dream.
On remembering the sensation of planting the card into her body, she moved to touch the skin on her chest. However, the act of adjusting her body to make the willful movement inspired her body to remind her of other more pressing obligations and she begrudgingly left the bed for the bathroom.
Technically, today was a workday for her. Whether or not she actually went to the office would be determined by the needs of other departments. If an extra set of hands were required for a mundane task, she would get a notice via the corporation’s scheduling app. Technically, it was too soon for the day’s schedule to be set. After cleaning up, Melissa went out of her way to check it on her phone to make sure she was listed as available for work.
She realized she was avoiding reflecting on her dream. She forced herself to go back to the bedroom and pick up the dream journal on the nightstand. As she dutifully recorded the still vivid dream, she came to the realization that she was beginning a new tarot card cycle, but she was not sure where the cycle began, ended, or which cards were involved.
She still had another hour before the morning schedule was set for the day. It was her intention to go back to bed for another hour. The memory of the card with ten holographic spheres floating in it would not allow her to be indulgent. After sitting with the journal in her hands for a few moments, Melissa slammed the book closed, dumped the book loudly on the nightstand, and went on to get prepared for the day.
Now showered, dressed, and impatiently waiting for the coffee pot to finish, she sat with her laptop at the dining room table and started looking for any information regarding a tarot card with ten spheres. She quickly found an overwhelming multitude of web pages offering to explain something called the sephiroth, but it was just as quickly apparent that the majority of the pages were mimicking an incestuous source without citations and the few that appeared to be original works did not give her the same feeling of unseeded understanding as the dream card gave her.
Getting the coffee out and preparing her morning dose of adulthood gave her space to explore what she knew of tarot cards. She knew that what she knows as Tarot, Capital T, was originally a playing card deck. She knew that for the most part, the use of the deck for magic and divination was a private unspoken affair for the majority of its users unless one had currency, social or monetary, to spend on avoiding charges (and in some cases, consequences) of impropriety. She knew that it was only recently that the use of tarot for divination became a Big Time Thing and even then, what a card meant was up to the card reader at the time of the reading.
There was no pre-Antiquity Egyptian civilization that encoded their secrets in the cards. There were no celestial secrets that were made available only to certain dignified men of European descent upon whose shoulders were laid the mantle of divine aspirations. There was no good reason why a stack of tarot cards should have the mystery, draw, luck, and enchantment that has been ascribed to it and that Melissa has personally experienced.
And yet, there they were, stacked neatly next to her laptop on the table as if nothing of the sort had happened to her at all.
As she lifted her mug to give thanks for one of the few reasons it was worth getting out of a warm bed on a cold day, her phone chirped with an app notification. The morning shift’s work schedule was finalized. Feeling the warmth of the coffee reclaim her insides from the chilled apartment, Melissa was let down yet relieved that she had not been chosen for the morning shift and was put on stand-by for the evening shift.
She sat back at the laptop and changed her internet search terms to include the word “tarot”. Of the five pages of search results she was patient enough to scroll through, none referenced a playing card suit of spheres. Instead, almost each linked result references to a card called the Ten of Pentacles. Those that didn’t referenced a card called the Ten of Disks or Coins instead and a smattering mentioned sephiroth before spiraling off into posts filled with bric-à-brac.
Rebecca had mentioned that the focus on the use of pentacles in a tarot deck was a relatively new invention and older cards mostly had pictures of coins or plain disks instead. But Rebecca hadn’t mentioned spheres at all. Could it be that because Melissa’s knowledge of tarot cards was so limited, that it limited what the judge could show her?
And just what did the judge mean when they said the card was Melissa’s seed of understanding? Even if the card they gave her was the dream version of the Ten of Pentacles, there was nothing in that card’s accepted meanings that implied the planting of a seed, idea, or hope. If anything, her quick scan of search engine results gave her the impression that the card was the end of a cycle, not the beginning of a new one.
Unless… She was going through the cycle in reverse, again. Then, she would start at the end and work her way back to the beginning like she did with the Major Arcana. Good thing she had a list to consult.
Shortly after reclaiming her name, Melissa had used the very phrases from the torn list of meanings to find the website that Rebecca had printed the full list from. The list of seventy-eight catchphrases were links to a series of pages with three paragraphs of information written about each card. Melissa was frustrated that the individual card writeups were so light, especially when she compared her personal experiences of the Major Arcana to the generic wording on the website.
The list’s catchphrase for the Ten of Pentacles was “The Best Kind of Wealth.” The writeup was comparable with other tarot pundits’ websites but did not give her the same feeling of connection as the list did when going through the ordeals of the Major Arcana. But she did not know what or where was the disconnect.
She didn’t want to bother Rebecca this early in the morning, but there was no promise that she would have the afternoon off to catch up with her at the coffeehouse. She had promised the card reader that she would not call the woman with questions about tarot but would keep those inquiries to in-person visits only. Well, if there was no flesh and blood person that Melissa could call upon, she knew a few disembodied persons that were only a calling card away.
But which one? The eternal student that is the Hermit, the revealer that is the Sun, or the dare she called upon in the dream, the Star?
Instead, Melissa pulled the Death card from the Acacia Tarot and propped it up next to the laptop screen. If she were going to be facing things she’d rather not face, then she might as well face what she had been actively avoiding. “I still need a name for you.” She whispered to the card as if it were a picture of the girl child and not a rendition of someone else’s myths. “It feels quite arrogant and uncomfortable to be calling on ‘Death’ at will.”
“You’d think with your culture being so quick to call on God by title that doing the same with me wouldn’t be an issue, huh.” The girl child’s presence was without fanfare, noise, or warning. One moment there was nothing there, the next moment there she was, holding a teddy bear larger than she was.
Startled, Melissa jumped in her chair and almost dropped the half-empty mug of coffee. “Jesus! Don’t scare me like that!”
“Sorry!” The apparition giggled in a way that informed Melissa that the girl child was in fact, not sorry in the least. “And I don’t think calling me Jesus would be a good name. That name carries so many things already!”
The girl child openly laughed as brightly as Melissa’s scowl deepened. It took Melissa a moment, but her scowl lifted as she chuckled with shared humor.
“Okay. Fine. You’re right, that’s not a good name for you but you know very well that I wasn’t calling you by that name!” Melissa’s mirth settled. “I’ll save looking up names for you for another time. Right now, I need some help with the tarot cards again.”
The spirit rocked the teddy bear and hummed a tuneless sound to herself before responding. “What kind of help and what are you trying to do, this time?”
Melissa had to remind herself that she was interacting with a possibly ancient spirit that was using the appearance of a child so not to appear threatening. “Don’t you ‘this time’ me like I had a choice in the matter. I’ve been given a tarot card for a deck that doesn’t exist, and I don’t know what it is or where to start with it.”
“Oh, that’s easy!” The apparition’s eyeless face smiled with happiness. “Start where you are!”
Melissa held her tongue to her teeth to keep all of the expletives she was comfortable with from slipping out. The apparition giggled again as Melissa kept her maturity long enough to have a measured rebuttal to the spirit’s encouragement. “Start where I am? And where is that?”
The apparition laughed again. Melissa’s frustration was starting to exceed her patience. She finished off the now cold mug of coffee to both distract herself and to give herself time to reword her request.
The girl child’s laughter dimmed, and she spoke her own echo of maturity in her voice. “You’re talking like I know everything, and you know nothing, and we both know that’s not how it goes. So, tell me what you can tell, and I’ll tell what I can tell, and we’ll see how the pieces fit.”
Melissa nodded in agreement. “Okay. Remember you said I needed help you couldn’t give and to ask the Star? Well, I did just that, and long story short, I was given a tarot card. The Ten of Spheres. Except now that I’m awake and I’m looking it up online, there’s no Ten of Spheres, and anything relating to tarot and spheres is calling to some stuff that I can’t make heads or tails of.”
The spirit did not laugh out loud again but smiled in a way that made Melissa suspicious enough to ask what she was overlooking.
“I said to start where you are. All those posts and pages with stuff you can’t understand? That’s not where you are. Where are you?”
Melissa looked at her notes on the laptop screen. She looked at the Acacia Tarot deck, the stack of handwritten Major Arcana cards, and the Sweeney Tarot deck. She looked at the dream journal that she had brought from her bedroom for the study session. She looked back at the spirit.
“Lost. I’m lost.”
“No, that’s what you are. Where are you, Melissa?”
Melissa thought about Rebecca’s statement. “I’m here.” She pointed to herself. “Sitting right here.”
The spirit smiled again. “And what is here with you?”
“Um…” She looked around again to confirm that nothing had changed. “I don’t know? I mean, I have nothing different than I had before.”
The girl child laughed. “You have the Ten of Spheres! That’s new! And you can’t find anything written by anyone else because it’s your card from your deck! No one can write about your experiences but you, Melissa. So, it’s up to you to discover what the Ten of Spheres is about.”
Melissa did not join her mirth. “If you keep this up, I’m going to get a book on fairy tale princesses and name you after one of them because fairy tales are going to come true before I make a tarot deck! I barely even know what a tarot deck is! And the more I try to read about them online, the more confused I am! And that’s WITH Rebecca’s help! And now you’re saying that I’m supposed to make a deck of my own! How am I supposed to do that when I can’t draw a straight line without a ruler?”
She picked up the thin box of the Acacia Tarot and held it before the spirit. “See this? There’s no public explanation for why the cards are drawn the way they are, but it’s clear there is a story being told in the images. But that’s Misun Kim’s story and I will never know why she chose certain colors for this thing and certain symbols for that thing. Do you know the imagination and inspiration it takes to do something like that? To take your inner world and pour it into a series of seventy-eight drawings? To be able to pick up a card and hand someone the story it holds for you? That’s hard, young lady!”
The spirit nodded in agreement to Melissa’s surprise. “It is hard. But it can be done. And who said there has to be pictures? There weren’t pictures on the cards Rebecca made for you and those have worked just fine for you. And who said the story you put in the cards has to be told and explained? You said yourself that you have no idea what Misun’s myths are or why she made the images she did, but her cards still work for you just fine.”
The spirit held her teddy bear to the side and leaned over the table to look at the tarot decks. “What is the story for the Sweeney Tarot? Didn’t Rebecca say it was different from her usual decks and that’s why she used it when she became the Magician for you? How did Rebecca use a deck that was designed to intentionally not to be a magical deck and make it a gate into one of the most intense magical experiences you have had so far? What made it magic when it wasn’t designed that way? The computer that printed it? The machine that cut it? Or Rebecca’s intent when she used it like the tool she told you it was?”
The spirit plopped back into the chair and pulled her teddy bear close to her again. “This Ten of Spheres is your card from your deck. And even if there is another tarot deck out there with a card with that title, it still wouldn’t change that the Ten of Spheres means something very personal to you. I cannot tell you what that meaning is. I am not you.”
“But I can tell you that you have everything you need to start finding out what that meaning is. Flowers can’t grow until the seed takes root. Sometimes the seed can’t root until another plant has already loosened the dirt. Look at where you’re getting your tarot card meanings from. If it doesn’t have a suit of spheres, what does it have that is similar? What suits are nothing like it? Pay attention to what gives you hope and what gives you fear and remember that people need a measure of both to be balanced.”
Melissa had turned back to her browser tabs on the laptop screen as the girl child spoke. She nodded along with mute acceptance until the mention of hope and fear. Suddenly alarmed at the thread that the spirit’s words were weaving, she turned back to the spirit with intention of challenging the idea of fear being necessary.
Melissa sat alone at the dining room table of her apartment. The spare unoccupied chair was tucked under the table to her right. The space to her left was empty of chair, apparition, and any indication that an intelligence was there speaking to Melissa as if they were flesh and blood.
“Did she have to use so many words just to tell me that I’m on my own? Sheesh.”
Disheartened, Melissa picked up the coffee mug with the intention to take a sip and found the mug was empty and cold. Come to think of it, she was cold all over and had started to shiver from the chill. She stood up from the table with the intention to get an extra blanket to wrap up in when she was reminded that her monthly budget is now much more than what she was used to.
Standing at the thermostat, she stared at the current setting of 68°F. How many times had she turned the heater off entirely because she was trying to keep her electricity bill as low as possible? She had to remind herself that she was in a better financial position now. That she was learning how to manage her money now which meant that when she needed to spend above what she was expecting to spend, she could now do so without spending next month’s rent money. That she could afford to keep herself comfortable now.
As she turned the thermostat to 74°F, she was reminded of the list of meanings and the catchphrase for the Ten of Pentacles “The Best Kind of Wealth”, and how she was embodying a meaning of that card even at that moment.
She leaned against the wall under the vent and rested the outpouring of fresh warmth over her head and shoulders as her thoughts spun the image of a plate in her mind. She recalled how the suit symbol of pentacles was really just a fancy plate or disc with a five-pointed star on it, and how the older tarot decks used coins as the symbolism of choice.
She shifted her position under the vent and the stream of warm air now deflected by her body blew across the dining room table. She watched helplessly as the gust picked up the Sweeney Tarot’s Ten of Coins card from its study position on the table and spun it around before blowing it off the table. The sight inspired her to imagine a coin spinning and what that might look like.
The heat of the gust was suddenly unable to warm her interior as her thoughts transformed an imagined two-dimensional disc into an imagined three-dimensional sphere. The apparition of Death had told Melissa to find a suit that was similar to spheres to begin her new study with.
As she moved to pick up the escaped card from the floor, she remembered how the Ten of Spheres appeared in her dream and how the ten figures were like holograms that were existing in and through the surface of the card. But that was dreamworld logic. Such a card could not exist in the physical world. She held the card to her face to study the scene. If it had started to move, she would not have been surprised in the least.
“Wait. What did the judge say about the card? That in the dream the card did not represent anything, but that the card just is. But now I’m awake, and in the waking world, and here cards have a meaning beyond just existing. Then I need to look for the waking world version of this card and work in from there. The spheres took up space that’s not possible in a two-dimensional image. Dreamworld spheres are real world discs.”
She put the rescued card with the deck it flew away from. If this was a new tarot cycle, then Melissa would need to be very aware and very attentive. The theme of the card at play could come from any direction. It could be a conversation on the phone or an interaction in a hallway. It could be a package arriving in the mail or a dropped penny catching her eye. It could be as real as the fresh mug of coffee she was making or as intangible as a dream of black sand under an incomprehensible starry sky.
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