Jen DeSantis’ Choice: Both
Title: In the Cards
He’d been too long in one place and he felt the restlessness in his bones, vibrating every time he stood still. It made it hard to sleep. It made it hard to think. He needed to be off.
The well-worn pack hung familiarly over Isaac’s right shoulder as he leaned against the platform wall. Its weight quieted the hum of agitation stirring within him. The train would arrive in thirty minutes and he’d be gone, the dust of this town the only remnants of his time spent there.
“Cut the cards.”
A woman’s voice cut through Isaac’s thoughts. She was kneeling on the dirty concrete, her cards spread out in front of her. Her patchwork skirt belled out around her knees and her fingers danced above the colorful cards.
“Come shuffle the cards and cut them. It might help you decide where you should go.”
“I let the train decide. It’s always worked before.”
The woman tilted her head upwards, green eyes blazing up at Isaac from the ground. “Has it?” She splayed her hands across her knees and smiled, catlike, up at him. “I think you’ve been floundering.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m Kerris and I read the cards. But you need to cut them so I can help you. And you do need help. Don’t you … Isaac?”
Isaac stumbled forward, toward the woman. There was no way she should have known his name, and yet there it was. Kerris cocked her head to the side, her smiled wider as he approached. In a fluid motion, she gathered up the cards and held them out to him in her palm. He checked his watch nervously, saw that he had time, and sat down cross legged in front of the strange woman.
“What do I do?”
“Shuffle without bending and then cut the deck five times. Place the stacks in the squares that I’ve drawn and then I will tell you what you need to know.”
Carefully, Isaac placed his satchel beside him and took the cards out of Kerris’s hands. He ruffled the gently with his thumb and felt a thrum of energy move up his arm. Slowly at first and then gradually faster, he shuffled the deck. Hesitatingly, he split the deck into five smaller piles, turning each one over: a man, with a pack slung over his back and a dog nipping at his heels; seven cups floating on a cloud; a dead man with ten daggers buried in his back; a man suspended upside down by one foot, hands bound in front of him; and finally, a woman dressed in white petting a lion.
Kerris was silent, her eyes moving slowly over the cards.
“Interesting,” she murmured, her neon blue fingernail scratching at the bridge of her nose. “Very peculiar indeed.”
“What’s it mean then?”
“This,” she pointed at the man with the pack on his back, “is the Fool. It represents where you are now. You travel, you know not where, with all of your possessions in your pack. You care only for where you will get to, with no thought of what lies right in front of you.”
Kerris tapped the card and Isaac saw, for the first time, the cliff.
“So I’m headed for a nasty fall, eh?”
“You’ve just had a fall,” she corrected.
Isaac’s lips twitched as he thought of the band that had kicked him out, the woman who tore up his shirts, the apartment he’d left behind without reclaiming the security deposit. Yeah, this town had given him a hell of a fall.
Kerris nodded at his silence and moved on to the next card. “This is the Seven of Cups. It represents your current desires. You have many choices ahead of you, but you refuse to commit. You go through life, letting chance take you where it will. And it brings you heartache. And many falls.”
Isaac sighed, remaining silent. He’d all but told her that when he’d told her that he lets the train decide. The cards hadn’t told her that. Or had they?
“This is the Ten of Swords.”
“I’m going to die,” Isaac interrupted, slicing his finger across his neck menacingly.
Without looking up, Kerris shook her head. “It does not signal death, or murder. This card is the unexpected that comes into your life to affect change. Your mind has been traveling old roads lately, reliving past misfortunes. Hasn’t it, Isaac?”
Kerris’s green eyes flashed up to his and the openness of the gaze sucked the air out of his lungs. He felt violated as the girl stared at him, through him. He imagined she could see everything, every disappointment he’d been through. Every opportunity he’d squandered.
She nodded. “That is over and you need to leave it be. Like the man in the card, those parts of your life are dead and you can no more learn from them than relive them. Bury it and move on. In the same way, you must bury your tendency to allow chance to move you. Take control, Isaac. That is what the Ten of Swords is telling you.
“This is the Hanged Man. Ominous sounding, yes, but again not about death. This signifies your immediate future. You are entering a time of deep introspection. You are about to turn all of your thoughts on end and change the way you look at the world and the way you look at yourself. It will be unnerving at first, but as the Hanged Man in the card, it will bring peace.”
“He does look peaceful,” Isaac said, tilting his head.
Kerris beamed. “Yes. He has changed his perspective and watched all that he knew of the world fall out of his pockets to the ground below him. It did not frighten him; it empowered him. Which leads to the last card, your outcome. This is Strength. When you let go of the looping, self-destructive stories you’ve been telling yourself, you will be filled with a new, passionate creative energy. You will change your fate and become the champion.”
Isaac looked from one card to the next. He couldn’t help but feel the invisible lines connecting each one, writing out his own story. His fingers found the rough edges of his satchel and it brought him comfort, but also a sense of sadness. Together, he and the pack had been all over the country, but he’d never stayed in one place long enough to call it home. He’d never stayed still long enough to find a friend. And now, he was leaving again to god only knew where to start over again in a new city. Only, he knew he would not be starting over. He would just be replaying the same story that had never worked before.
The ground rumbled beneath them as the train approached the station. Kerris eyed him, to see if he would go or if he would stay.
“All aboard,” the conductor called.
Isaac’s bones hummed. His fingers itched.
But he did not move.
The whistle blew once, then again.
And the train was gone.
“Coffee?” he asked.
Kerris smiled, her fingers moving swiftly to gather up the cards. Once on her feet, she leveled him with her steady green gaze.
“I can’t walk your journey with you, Isaac,” she warned.
“But surely you can direct me to a few good hanging trees.”
He held out his arm to her and her laughter tinkled down the abandoned station. “That I do, friend. That I do.”
Like what you just read? Have a question or concern? Leave a note for the author! We appreciate your feedback!
Jennifer DeSantis is a Horror and Paranormal Author and host of the #FridayPictureShow. She lives near Philly with her family. In her spare time is an aspiring ninja.