“So the bastard actually went on and hired me to make him a sex magnet! He got it alright! From the wrong gender! Now he’s begging me to turn it off! Ha-ha-ha!” She nudged me in the side. “Hey, you’re not even listening.” Her high-pitched voice was annoyingly cheery.
“Yea, no, sorry. I’m tired. There’s been some shit up my way.” I looked up at her and realized I couldn’t see her face. She reminded me of a person, but I couldn’t place who just then. I wasn’t afraid to see a swirling void where her face should have been. It felt perfectly natural and as plausible as her story.
“I know what you need. There’s a bakery a few shops down. Let’s get you something to eat. That will ground you.”
That sounded pretty good actually. I let her hurry me past indistinct stalls hawking indistinct wares to the small bakery counter.
“Hey, they have breads. I’m not really hungry, but a chunk of something wheaty and hearty sounds good just by itself.”
“Don’t be silly. Man does not live on bread alone.” She intoned the words with severity. When I looked up from the counter to give her stink-eye, she laughed with glee. “Don’t be so serious all the time, sheesh!”
I returned my attention to the case. “Don’t quote the Bible at me. You know my grudges.”
“Curmudgeon!” She nudged me again. “Excuse me, cashier! What breads do you have today?”
“No breads. Sold out. All we have are cakes and slices of cakes.” The cashier was annoyed at having business and even more annoyed at having to answer questions. Can’t we see with our eyes?
Well, now that his attitude mentions it, no, we can’t. The front of the case is filled with wax representations of baked goods so people can place their order today for tomorrow’s deliveries. Which is a shame. Because there was a small round wheat loaf with tomatoes and basil that would have really hit the spot. “Well, what cake slices do you have right now?”, I impatiently asked.
He huffed the way entitled forty-year-old teenagers do and make a great show of checking the refrigeration unit beside him. All the cake slices he had were very sweet, very intricately decorated, and very lacking in nutrition. All of them would do nothing good for me in the state I was in. “Right. Thank you for checking.” He mistook my sincerity for insolent mocking and slammed the door closed. To be honest, even if there was something nutritious in there, I wouldn’t want him to serve it to me.
My companion ordered a slice of something with raspberry and chocolate for herself and managed to sweettalk the cashier into divulging which of the slices would be less of a sugar dump and more of something to hold me until dinner. I didn’t catch what he recommended. He started to ring up our cakes as two separate purchases, waiting until the transaction was finalized before retrieving the cake from the unit.
I didn’t catch what my companion’s slice cost, but when he mentioned the cost of my slice, the association it triggered pulled me fully into lucidity.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. How much is that slice again?”
“Five nineteen.” Once again I saw the association in my mind’s eye. I looked up at the cashier. He was wearing a black ski-mask over his face. He kept moving around avoiding eye contact with me. He had the physical appearance of a lanky nineteen-year-old, but the glimpses of his pupils kept shifting the glamour hiding him. This was no mere boy.
“Don’t tell me you forgot your money! Here, I’ll cover it.” My companion started for her wallet, but I grabbed her hands. Turning back at her and her faceless void, I realized who she reminded me of. I raised an eyebrow in silent recognition.
To her amusement, I spoke calmly despite my increasing awareness. “No. I have money. However, the cost of the slice is not in currency, fiat or otherwise. He said ‘Five nineteen’. Any money I hand over to him will transform into the fifth card of the major arcana, and the nineteenth card of the major arcana. He doesn’t want my money. He wants what the Hierophant and the Sun card means to me, how those cards manifest in my life. And like fucking hell am I passing over another fucking leash.”
I released her hands and told her to watch mine. I pulled out my wallet and retrieved exactly five dollars and nineteen cents. When I made the motion towards the cashier as if to hand them over (but still out of his reach), the money transformed into the Hierophant card and the Sun card of the Universal Waite deck. I pulled my hand back, and the cards remained present. “Five. Nineteen. Sorry, no. That cake is a helluva lie.” I placed the cards back in my purse with my wallet. “I’ll eat when I wake up. Or when I find a goblin market. At least there I know what I’m dealing with.” I walked away from the bakery.
My companion gave the cashier a very evil and very severe glare before falling quickly beside me. “Right. Glad you caught that. I keep forgetting there’s more of you elsewhere.”
At that I came to a full halt and turned to face her. Staring her in the void that was her face, I had no fear. “Knock the shit off. First the seal returns. Then the wand. Then I’m getting personal with angels again. What’s next? I wind up back at the Club Kaaba again? I’m being pushed to walk the Path of Cheth, after all. I was kicked out of the ceremonial magician club, remember? You personally handed me over to Ravenwoman, Embroidered Man. Now all this shit is coming back, and I want to know why.”
She smiled. I didn’t see her smiling, but I felt it. Her dress swirled with color until it was the vibrant moving kaleidoscopes of paisley and curlicues the Embroidered Man wore on his vest. “Walk the path and find out.” Her voice had lowered to the androgynous alto/tenor range that the Embroidered Man spoke so melodiously well with.
I said nothing. I stood there for several minutes until the lack of food prompted a headache I felt into the Waking. I turned on my heel with a perfectly martial about-face, lifted my arms above my head, and strode away from her and the dream with both middle fingers striking the air leaving visual obscenities in my wake.