Written In The Cards
Flora knew what was coming, she could feel it. In a way she had always known it would end like this, yet it didn’t stop the crushing tightness in her chest or the pounding of her heart loud in her ears.
She could feel the ground hard beneath her through the red velvet cushion as she sat cross legged before her mahogany alter, low to the ground and swathed in black, laced hemmed, silk. She straightened the athame with her left hand so that it was facing directly east, in the direction of the rising sun. It wasn’t symbolic to her; she merely found comfort in the precision of perfection. Working in the world of vague and changeable events, precision brought a sense of stability to her mind.
The silver pentacle placed at the exact back center of her altar glinted in the morning sunlight and she smiled wryly, calming slightly. The ritual of reading or casting always calmed her; escaping from the world of the mundane into the world of the magical, though this day was darker than most she had faced.
Closing her eyes she picked up the tattered deck of cars that sat near the right edge of the altar. Without opening her eyes Flora shuffled the cards reveling in the familiar ‘shh’ as they slid through her fingers. Opening her eyes Flora selected four cards from the small thirty two Wiccan Card deck and placed them face up on the smooth silk, the contrast throwing the cards into harsh relief.
She sucked in a sharp breath as she took in the first card. The Three Wise Ones; the card of destiny. She almost didn’t want to look at the following cards, yet she forced eyes to the next one in the reading, hoping it would foretell something that would contradict the dark feeling in her heart.
The Crow; a message; an ambiguous card. Chewing lightly on her bottom lip in nervous anticipation Flora slid her eyes to the next card.
The Mask; things are not what they first appear. A flickering of hope rose in her chest though it was only that, a flicker.
Flora flicked her eyes to the final card. The Tree of Life; a crossing of borders, discovering new possibilities and dimensions. The dimension of Death. Please no, I’m not ready to go, she thought as her chest tightened with fear.
The flicker of hope in her chest was snuffed out as she realised the premonition she had awoken with was inescapable, as it always was. She could never stop what was to come, only predict it.
Taking a deep breath, Flora tried to allay the panic in her chest. She was not without choices and in that moment she made a decision. She could not beat destiny, that was not an option, but that didn’t mean she had to face it with blind acceptance. If she was to go out, she would go out fighting.
Looking up without seeing anything, Flora stared absently out the window, her heart beating so hard it was almost painful. She had never been forced to face her own mortality. Seeing others fate in the cards was at times unbearable. It would be better not to know, she thought, when the pre-warning could not save her or anyone else.
A shimmer of black crossed her vision and startled she focused in on the shadow like creature that was her totem animal; the crow. A message; but of what? Before she could think more on it the door bell rang, the high pitched chimes seeming to vibrate through her soul. A message; an answer; a clue.
Picking up the athame from the altar Flora eased herself up unsteadily from the floor. She tested the edge of the double edged knife with her fingertip, a drop of blood welling up and spilling like dark herb-spiced wine down its blade.
Holding the ritual knife out in front of her, Flora proceeded slowly to the door. Closing her eyes for a second to steady herself, she reached out tentatively and opened the door to find her best friend standing there, an agitated smile on her cherubic face.
Flora smiled a sigh of relief, letting the knife drop to her side and stepped back to let her in, closing the door firmly behind her.
Annie stood in front of her in the hall, barring her way back into the house, her hand nervously ruffling something in her bag. Flora watched her friend take a deep breath and slowly pull a gun from her bag.
Flora reacted without thinking, shock and betrayal marring her face as she thrust out with the athame, piercing Annie just below her ribs. Annie stared up at her stunned, before she slumped forward onto Flora, and slid down to the floor with a thud.
‘I came to warn you’ she whispered, her breathing coming in painful gasps as she tried to prop herself up against the hallway wall. ‘He’s coming’ she breathed barely audible before her eyes closed, the rise of her chest uneven, her emerald green top soaking slowly with her blood.
Flora dropped to her knees in front of her friend, pulling off her own pink cotton top and holding it against the wound. She wasn’t sure if she should pull her athame out or not so she left it. Things are not as they first appear, the cards had warned. She was so afraid she didn’t stop to think that maybe it wasn’t Annie. Everyone who she had read for had been touched by tragedy, Annie was no different. Flora had seen that she would lose her baby and Annie had miscarried three weeks later. She’d never openly blamed Flora, but Flora couldn’t help but sometimes feel her silent resentment at having told her. Somewhere in Annie’s mind, Flora knew that she thought that if Flora hadn’t told her, the baby would never have died. It didn’t matter that Flora only saw what was to come. People feared what they didn’t understand.
‘Goddess, forgive me’ Flora prayed as she searched her pockets for the mobile phone that wasn’t there. She didn’t want to leave her friend semi-conscious and bleeding to death in the hall, but she needed to help her. She didn’t know how bad the injury was. Her thoughts came incoherent and sluggish. How had everything gone so wrong? Why did everything have to be so bloody vague?
Her hands were covered in blood and all she could see was that crimson river of life staining her hands, her own hand the reason for its outward flow. Leaning away from Annie, Flora retched and vomited her cornflakes on the floor, her breathing ragged. What had she done?
Standing up, Flora stumbled back down the hall trying to remember where she put her phone. Helpful thoughts evaded her as she pushed things off benches, rifling through anything and everything. It wasn’t there. Where was it?
The sound of the front door being kicked in snapped Flora terrifyingly back into reality, and she moved slowly, bile rising in her throat, back to the hallway entrance. Standing there was Brady O’Connor the small town’s chief police officer, a gun in his hand, a grief stricken expression on his once cordial face. Why hadn’t she grabbed Annie’s gun when she had the chance?
‘You killed her’ he said calmly, his eyes as hollow as his soul now was. He wasn’t talking about Annie, dying unnoticed in the hallway. Six months earlier his daughter had been killed by a drunk driver that had run up over the curb, killing Kelly and permanently injuring her boyfriend Craig. Three months prior to that, Flora had given Kelly a reading. Her death wasn’t just written in the tarot; Flora had felt it in the icy premonition that accompanied the reading. She had done all she could not to scare Kelly, merely warning her to be careful around cars.
Flora stood frozen and silent before her former friend’s father. What could she say to him? That she only saw what would happen? That she couldn’t stop it? It wasn’t her fault, she was just a messenger. Not that it mattered; she could feel that his mind was made up.
She watched, unable to move as he raised the gun, a slight tremor in his hand.
‘I’m sorry’ she whispered, tears spilling down her face. She wasn’t sure if they were for Kelly or herself or him. Rage twisted his face, his jaw clenching as he struggled to control the tremor in his hand.
‘A life for a life’ he spat at her, starting to lose control of his calm façade as his grief and anger took a deeper hold. Brady and Kelly had been close; Flora wasn’t all that surprised it was him. She was a little surprised that this hadn’t happened earlier and had lived in fear for months, seeing Kelly’s father slowly lose himself in the grief over his daughter’s death.
Flora fought not to close her eyes. If she was to die, she would do it with as much courage as she could muster, though it felt as though it was eluding her. She had never been more afraid. The cowardly part of her hoped it would be quick or even better, that he would miss.
Brady flicked off the safety, aiming for her chest. All she could see was him. It would be over soon, yet still Flora prayed silently for a miracle.
A gunshot rang out and Flora waited for the impact that didn’t come. Police Chief O’Connor stumbled back holding his hand to his stomach and Flora glanced down at Annie, her friends eyes barely open, gun dropping to the floor. With a painful smile Annie nodded to her almost imperceptibly, before her eyes closed once again, her breathing laboured and painful.
With a brief sigh of relief Flora looked up at Kelly’s father just before he shot her in the head. Her final thought was, maybe the cards were wrong.
Indie Adams 2011