The Terror in the Tarot

Reads: 198  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 0

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
When Adelaide anxiously awaits her date with Gerard on a torrential night, their indoor games turn to a horror neither could ever expect.

Submitted: May 16, 2010

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 16, 2010

A A A

A A A


The Terror in the Tarot
Hail pelted the panes of our Victorian estate in New Hampshire. I worried deeply that the weather would discourage my lover from his promised visit. Oh, how I wished he had a buggy made of steel, and window panes made of the thickest glass ever made. Then my true love would be safe from the treacherous ice falling from the sky; and would have no good cause for breaking our engagement. Of course I prayed for the safety of his driver as well, but a quickly whispered prayer did not compete with the deep anxiety in my heart that my love, Gerard, would safely come to me that night by the grace of God and Gerard’s driver. So I thought nothing else but of them both for over a half of an hour. A very painful thirty minutes, a period of waiting-time only women can truly understand.
The mahogany grandfather clocked chimed yet another quarter hour as my life felt like it was being wasted seconds at a time. From the parlor hall, I stared at the insidious advice that plagued all of my sex. I thought of the requirements a house should fulfill in order to place within it a chiming clock of any style. If an unmarried woman resided there, or an elderly person who can no longer hear, or a wife whose husband is incessantly tardy due to unsavory drinking and flouting around the town lived in that house, then that house should be forbidden to contain a clock that ceaselessly announces each quarter hour as though it were announcing the queen. Perhaps if women of courting age, or those who must worry over their husbands, did not have cruel devices such as the grandfather clock and its daunting pendulum, they would fret a great deal less. But then again, perhaps we would fret all the more, not knowing how many minutes have passed between one sour thought and the other.
I paced across the floral upon dark green patterned runner from one end of the hall to the other. I did so with such fervor that the force of my footsteps passed through the plush carpeting to the polished wooden planks beneath, causing a muffled tick-tock of my own to echo softly in the hallway. The phone lines were few in our comfortable neighborhood, as the phone was steadily increasing in popularity, yet remained a community issue. Sadly, the five lines which provided our neighbors and ourselves contact to those miles away, were inoperable due to the weather. I strode to the large window facing the street and pushed the rod-to-floor crimson velvet curtains aside to see what was there to see. Gerard, I hoped with mad anticipation. The storm outside was bellowing tidal waves of wind, those that pushed against my love as he tried to get to me. The hail rattled the window pane with such a forceful gust; I was thrown from the glass with fear. I resumed my endless stroll from one end of the main runner to the next and back again.
A loud knock sliced through my worried mind and filled it with the devilishly handsome face, a thin black mustache the same silky texture of short and slightly waved black hair. The smile that warmed my heart, and the stern looks of concentration that stirred my curiosity—my soul—every time he was caught pondering great thoughts. I would smile at him, and he would smile back. As time passed, I would ask of the things that crossed him mind, thing which merited great furrowing of the brow as he did. I ran to the door, holding back my excitement in an attempt to remain a proper gentlewoman. Oh, but finally, he was here! He just made it though the thick cedar door, and shut it behind him before a horrid sleet of rain with drops the size of marbles, could enter the foyer. He made it though sleet and rain, just to honor our date. But as I walked to him, I thought, how good can a date turn out in the end, if you are confined indoors without the sought diversions when going out dates most commonly rely on? I frowned, Perhaps it would have been better had he been detained and unable to come after all. He was a gentleman, though, and his smile was the smile of a man ready to provide entertainment for the both of us. I smoothed some wrinkles in the skirts of my dress—made from the sitting and standing repetitions I had done for seemingly hours before his arrival—and looked to him with eyes that awaited a compliment. The corners of my mouth inched slightly in a coy half-smile, and before he said a word his face was in blatant admiration. I bid him into the sitting room, and he followed silently until he laid himself out on a settee and then spoke.
“Adelaide, please don’t tell me you have been waiting in the parlor this past hour?” Gerard brushed a ringlet of robin’s feather brown hair from my eyebrows and placed it behind my ear. The hanging light in the main hall brightened as he did so. Perhaps it was the storm, or perhaps it was the current of electricity that passed between him and I every time we touched that lit the lamp higher. I would have believed the latter with an open heart until science proved me wrong.
“Well, my dear,” Gerard continued as he placed his hand on the small of my back and lead me to the hall way I had passed countless times awaiting his arrival. He was finally here, in the hall, beside me. Gerard looked around at the nearby rooms, “What shall we do with ourselves on this dismal evening?” his boyish smile quelled my irritation that he had not come with a plan already in mind. If he expected me to entertain him, like some common hostess, he was badly mistaken. I was a lady of position, and my suitors were expected to exert themselves to no end in order to earn my hand in marriage. If he was unprepared, oooh!
“Honestly, you cad!” I cried, half as a coquette and half as a harpy, “you can’t possibly expect a woman of my standing to be called upon such short notice to devise a proper activity to entertain anyone at all? I ought to throw you out into the driving hail for the mere mention of it,” I turned and smiled over my shoulder as I began to climb the stairs to our second story. Hanging to the railing, I was able to swish my skirts in a most comely manner, and I thought I could feel Gerard’s eyes burning two holes through my skirt right below my waist. We entered the lounge where books lined every wall and comfortable chairs, overstuffed with batting, made luxurious places for brief respites. I walked to the table in the center of the room, and to my surprise, after Gerard had pulled the red leather chair out for me; he placed both hands on my hips and forced me down with a gentle but insistent move. I was stunned for a moment, and did not look up in fear he might see his action had created a response.
“I want to spend time with you, just talking, Addy. We could converse for hours and I would never tire of you. You are brilliant and I love listening to what you have to say,” Gerard spilled compliments over me in an unexpected rush like the howling wind outside.
“Say about what?” I asked
“Anything.”
“Well, the women in the suffrage movement would snatch you forever away if they heard a man speak to a woman as you just did,” I played with one of the large black bows which were adorned around a thick black satin sash encircling my outer skirt. It was a perfect compliment to the bright yellow of the fabric. My petticoats were few this evening, but the dress ended up acquiring a certain fluidity that most dresses with petticoats do not. I felt very special and unique, thanks to Gerard’s kind words.
“The protestors cannot have me, for I am eternally yours,” Gerard lifted my heart once again.
“What shall I talk about, then?” I pleaded. “I cannot just start discourse without any subject at all!”
“Why don’t you read me one of your lovely poems, Addy?” Gerard scanned the room, “You do keep them in here, don’t you?”
I looked around the room and walked to the rolling desk. I unlocked the top drawer and retrieved a piece so new that the ink was still drying.
“It’s not very good.”
“I’m certain you are wrong about that,” Gerard folded his arms upon his chest, sitting in the leather chair across from where he had seated me, and his brows began to close together as he does when he is interested, so I read:
“Keep the summer
The dead, dried grass.
The burning rays
Of golden sun, I’ll pass.
Chill me now, oh winter’s air
And I shall muse
Upon new coats to wear
Father knows not how many I can truly use!”
I dared not search his face for reaction. No matter how many critics had praised my work, men more experienced in the art of literature than Gerard, I never believed the publishers saw anything other than the vapid ramblings of a society girl. I hated my work, always. But I had been published four times at nineteen, so it was undeniable that something about my writings was of merit. Gerard wore the largest smile I had ever seen since having known him.
“My dear, that’s so light-hearted. Not your usual mood. And it’s so positive, with a cherry attitude in the face of this dismal weather.” Gerard pulled my by the forearm and held my elbow to lead me to the hallway once again. “Is your attic still in good repair?”
“I believe so. I would expect so.”
“Would there by chance be a card table of some kind up there that we might use for an idea of mine?”
“That I would not know until we have gone there to look.”
Gerard walked three quarters down the hall and looked up. There he saw a medium length rope with a large knob at the end, “May I?” he asked. I nodded, confused but curious as well.
We ascended and found many shrouded in thick canvas linens, furniture and brick-a-bract my parents deemed unsuitable for the house. Gerard nearly immediately found us a card table and two thin, rickety chairs. He set up the table, and once again led me to sit with a compelling method of action. He then found a small votive lamp and ignited it. Shadows leapt from the walls and looked nothing of the shapes from the objects they were produced. A chill ran up my spine for a moment, but for fear that Gerard would think me a coward, I stifled all desires to cry out and dash to the folding stairs and onto the safety of the soft green runner in the hall.
Once we were both seated, Gerard set a deck of cards upon the table. There were of unusual size, and bore strange markings upon their backside. Gerard began to shuffle them in a way unlike one might shuffle playing cards for bridge, or gin rummy. He took the deck in his large hands and held them loosely, grabbing a few cards from throughout the deck, and settling them at the end. He did this many times, and as he did so I watched his mouth move like he was counting the shuffles. That was unusual for card games, to be sure.
“What are those?”
“These, Adelaide, are tarot cards,” Gerard’s tone dropped dramatically with a cryptic lilt, and he emphasized their name by narrowing his eyes and shifting them mysterious and sinisterly.
“Well, how do you play them?” Gerard looked slightly affronted that I was not to be frightened by his antics, “Are we going to play them, or just look at them?” I asked, eyebrow rose in slight impatience and impertinence. Gerard smiled briefly then returned to his serious demeanor.
“Silly girl, you don’t play them. They are for the purpose of contacting the other world for the powers needed to read your future,” he said this last bit with great dramatics, and I nearly laughed. I also nearly begged him to return them to his coat pocket from whence they came.
“Gerard Hinshire, are you honestly going to ask me, the woman you are courting for marriage, to engage in the follies of dark spirits and the devil?” I was slightly teasing, but part of me agreed with myself. No one I knew ever had something positive to say about this type of thing. No one talked about it.
“Nonsense, my dear, these are merely from a novelty shop in New Orleans. I met a charming, yet ghastly, old woman who sold all sorts of odd things. She read my future with her own deck, free of charge, when I agreed to buy this set. It was very pleasant, and she gave me a small paper on which the card’s specific meanings are written. Now, I cannot vouch for my accuracy as your soothsayer, but I can tell you that, if read correctly, their messages are uncanny in their accuracy. Therefore, as the mysteries of you long life ahead of your beautifully young self awaits you, we are quite obligated to attempt to peak at some of the rich things to come to you.” Gerard was smiling his genuine, gay smile again. How could I say no? My apprehensions had neither foundation nor support, and as proper women do when gentlemen present them with a diversion, I sweetly and happily accepted the game and we begun.
He finished shuffling the cards, and the held them in both hands. The moon on the top of the back décor of the card was elegant and of a darker shade of yellow than I had ever seen. For a moment, I thought I saw a card jump out of the deck ever so slightly, but I dismissed this as nothing more than a delayed reaction to the shuffling before. Gerard set the deck onto the center of the table.
“Cut the deck,” his voice was very somber. I picked the deck in half and laid one stack to the right of the other. “Now take the card on top of the pile of each.” I did so. “And now place the decks back together before cutting it four times more and then cut the deck once again. Select the top card of either stack. You should end with four cards lined neatly next to each other in the order you picked them.” As I finished doing as he requested, I felt my legs tremble underneath my beautiful yellow dress, and for the sake of modesty I wished I had more petticoats. I stared at the cards, their scroll designs with stars, moons, floating eyes and strange symbols, I began to feel more certain that the thumping in my chest was not my heart from the love I had for Gerard. That was still there, but stronger and more invasive was the eerie grasp the cards seemed to hold on my entire upper body. I didn’t want to go any further.
The cards were lined neatly, and from across the table Gerard pointed to the card furthest to my left.
“This card is a summation of your life that’s gone past. Next is the card which best represents your life as it is today. The third card shows your future life, what may be in store for you,” Gerard smiled up at I, breaking his stone serious expression momentarily. “This card is the most important of all, This card is the summation of your life. This card will tell you everything that is important you need to know to go on in life. Understanding the past, living the present, preparing for the future. This card has it all.” Gerard tapped the fourth and last to the right card four times before placing it above the row of cards, lined neatly above the middle card meant to tell me about my current life. It made a crude pyramid.
“You know, some woman in the Bayou offers you a free reading for the price of a deck of ridiculous cards, makes you quite gullible. And loose with your money,” I shook my head in disappointment, “You may not be the man I thought you were all this time, Gerard. There are reasons why these things have been erased from Europe and here. Witchcraft, fortunetelling, contacting spirits… It’s all been rejected by the cream of society. Think Gerard, there’s a reason why.” I shook my head again, but what Gerard did not know was that I was trying to shake away the palpable sense of foreboding and malevolence which had filled my chest and throat with absurd fear.
Gerard turned over the first card with an impish grin. He then pulled from his coat pocket the folded paper with the card’s definitions. He scanned it until he found the card I had chosen for my past.
“The Nine of Swords is a card that speaks for those who live easily and intelligently. Though you may have yearned for the adventurous explorations you have read in your books, you know that you have much time to explore, and can truly appreciate the privileged life so many yearn for as you yearn for excitement. Given time, you will have the best of both.” It was uncannily close to how I had felt growing up. He smiled at me, and I was disconcerted by the degree to which he knew me. So well, that with one meeting of our eyes he silently told me fits you to a t and I replied stop being so smug! He turned over the next card.
“Your card for your life today is the…” he stopped to consult his paper, “Nave of Cups. The Nave says that you eagerly awaited someone today, and worried for his safety. This person means a great deal to you, and possibly could determine the events in your life in the future. You pray for this person and his immediate affiliations, for you do not wish to lose him completely.” I grabbed for the piece of paper, but he reached back too quickly for me. “That’s what it says,” he insisted, “who did you pray for other than me?” He was grinning very impishly at this point, and other than the embarrassment it was causing me, I could see why he was having such a good time. It was, I admitted while pushing back dark shadows encroaching upon my bubble of safety, a pretty interesting way to spend a rainy day inside.
“Okay Adelaide, let’s see your future,” when he went to grab the third card I thought I saw a glimmer to the back of the card that was not there before. A sort of emerald glow radiating faintly from the card. I gasped involuntarily.
“No, let’s stop,” I spoke gently to try to convince Gerard that I was not scared, but tired of the silly game.
“Oh Addy, settle down,” but right as Gerard spoke these words settling down was the last thing my body would allow me to do. I opened my mouth to demand that he stop, but he turned the card before I could. That’s when I saw it. Something I knew had been coming. Something bad.
“Hmmmm, Death.” Gerard furrowed his brow and placed his forefinger and thumb under his nose and slowly traced his mustache with his finger tips. “Don’t worry, this is not always bad.” He placed his first finger from his other hand and traced down the list of descriptions as his other first and thumb fingers continued to trace the hair above his mouth. I wasn’t quite at the peak of fear until I saw Gerard seem hesitant. His reaction seemed to cement my ambiguous worries before, and now I was caught in the middle of something that showed no possible good would come from either continuing or stopping. I sat frigid in my chair and watched him in a nearly hypnotic fashion. What else was there for me to do? I stared at the picture of a frightful skeleton that stared seemingly right into my eyes from its illustration. He was cloaked in a tattered black hooded cape, and he held a scythe that glinted, impossible for art to do so or not, I saw it catch the light of the votive lamp’s illumination. I was terrified, but admonished myself. They were only cards!
Gerard seemed to find what he was looking for, “Death. Well this makes perfect sense. You great-aunt died just two months ago, right?” I nodded limply, “Well, all the Death card means is that you will loose someone to Death in your future. Someone who is close to you. They will die unexpectedly—just like your great-aunt died from chocking on a grape—and you will be left with a loss that cannot be replaced. Did your aunt used to fulfill any special needs or games for you? Maybe a trust that was never documented?”
I shook my head until it occurred to me: Great-Aunt Delilah had three horses she had promised me before she abruptly died. She never had time to finalize the transfer, and her children were quite nasty to me when I asked for even one. The card did make sense. Just as much sense as the last two. So why was I still shivering despite my many layers of clothing, including a shawl Gerard had found for me when we came to the attic. It had been my grandmothers, and was thick lace with a black fur lining. I realized right then that I had been fingering the edges of the shawl since Gerard had begun turning over the awful cards. Since my great-aunt explained the menacing card, I had no excuse to forbid Gerard to go any farther, though something inside me said to beware of the last card. A small voice in my mind spoke to me clearly and loudly that the last card was the worst of all, and there was nothing on it that I wanted or even should see.
I glanced up from the shawl to find Gerard looking at me quizzically, and perhaps condescendingly. Which of course I didn’t care for much at all, so I defiantly smiled and spoke for the first time with strength and conviction since the game had begun:
“You know that I care for you deeply, don’t you Gerard?” He nodded. “What I about to say to you is not meant to be insulting, ok? But here’s the logical fact of the matter: this game is absurd. You, by initiating, playing, and engaging yourself in it makes you absurd as well. Why are you taking this so seriously? You yourself said they were from a novelty shop. You were swindled by a parlor trick, and now you are trying to see something in these joke cards that cannot possibly call upon any dark arts you might believe that Cajun woman did in New Orleans. We should just put this whole thing to rest, find something else to do. Okay?”
Despite my plea, Gerard began to turn the card over by the left corner, but as he did an even brighter radiation came from beneath the card, willing both Gerard and I to wonder with great fascination what picture might lie beneath. So enraptured of what would come, we hardly noticed the rays of light that shot from every direction in the space between the half lifted card and the table. It gave the room a glow like swamp glow worms would, had there been over two hundred in the attic with us. Suddenly, I looked from the card to Gerard and his face was frozen in horror. His mouth a gaping “O” shape. His eyes bulged out of his head, and he was turning the card completely over in a zombie-like way, mesmerized by something else, something unseen.  Something in the room with us had taken hold of Gerard, or so it seemed. His body heaved as his right arm, wrist, fingers, all worked in compelled motion to turn the card over and reveal its message. Just as he finished laying the glowing card completely down on the table, a ray of green light wider and brighter than those before it struck him with such a force that he was knocked backwards in his chair, tumbling to the ground. And right then, perhaps from the fear, perhaps from the thrall of whatever constraining influence had entered the room and created such a monstrous situation, I fainted.
Moments later I looked around me, my head flat on the first three cards. The last was still glowing dimly, but in a pulsating way that was almost as off-putting as the great lights it had produced earlier. I remembered Gerard. Leaning over the table I saw the legs of the chair he had fallen backward in. I could see the souls of his feet. I would wait one moment before checking on him. I had read somewhere that to awaken naturally from a fainting spell is far preferable than to be awoken by others. I sat at the table, too scared to look at the metaphysically iniquitous card which held some message from—what I now could not help but believe in—beyond.
After what seemed like an eternity of sitting and attempting to make sense of the night’s events, I gave in and went around the folding table to check on Gerard. What I saw will remain in my mind forever, and rivals any horrifying scene any other could conjure. Gerard was lying rigid in the chair, lying in the same position as he had been sitting moments before. His face still frozen in gaping horror. His eyes did not move; his eyelids did not blink. He was still. Ghostly still. I shook him violently by his shoulders.
“Come now, Gerard, this is no longer funny!” the tears began to stream from my eyes and down my cheeks until they splashed his face and I realized I was crying. “Wake up! Oh God, please Gerard, wake up!” I shook him harder, harder, hysterically. He didn’t respond. I sat there for a moment before the courage that arises in those who have nothing left drives them brave feats grabbed hold of me and I stood up and walked directly to the pulsating green card. As I approached, as though it were aware of itself, the card stopped glowing entirely, allowing its illustration to be seen clearly. I was stunned to see an elaborately woven into flourishing knots Celtic heart, with coils and jagged points all intertwined within its center. At the bottom, in all capitalized small letters, it read “The Broken Heart.” I picked up the paper Gerard had used from the floor next to his hand. I touched his hand for a moment, thinking about the heart. My heart. His heart. I felt his hand cool a bit until it felt colder than normal, even in an attic on a stormy night. I let go before I would have to make meaning of this development, and placed the paper on the table. Standing over it I read the description for the “Broken Heart” card, though it almost seemed fruitless, because my heart ached worse than humanly possible already. “The Broken Heart: You will love and you will either endure or lose your love forever. This is by your doing, no one else’s.” I was confused. What did this mean? What did all the lights and the blast of force, the loss of consciousness and Gerard’s paralysis have to do with love? It made no sense. And what about the fact that it was my special something card. I recalled Gerard’s explanation: “This card is the most important of all; this card is the summation of your life. This card will tell you everything that is important you need to know to go on in life. Understanding the past, living the present, preparing for the future. This card has it all.” The card glowed softly again as I recalled Gerard’s sweet voice, so passionate. I help the paper in my hand and looked down at it, as it had begun to radiate a small green line, right under where she had just read the “Broken Heart” description. New words were forming, “Should The Broken Heart card be chosen as the fourth and final card, The Broken Heart has brought to you your future. Please refer to your third, or Future, card in order to fully understand its meaning.” I stopped short. Dropping the paper I threw the cards on the table around until I saw it, my third card: Death. Broken Heart, lovers, death, future is now. It all made sense. And to the devil with the whole thing. My future was to lose someone I loved, someone who would leave me with a loss I could not replace. It was not my great-aunt, it was Gerard. I would not endure with him, I would lose him forever. I looked at his catatonic form on the ground, then turned and made my way down the attic stairs to the hall. I picked up the bell-shaped ear piece and rung the main telephone box until an operator picked up.
“Miss, I will try to place your call, but I cannot promise it will go though to your party. Due to the storm you understand,” a nasally female voice said into my ear. I picked up the cord connecting the receiver to the base and held onto it like it might save me from the crushing pain.
“There’s been a death. I need an ambulance and coroner. Please send them to 225 Rolston Court.”
“My goodness. Of course, right away,” the operator cried out, “Miss, are you o.k.?” I stood there, staring at the design on the wooden base. A heart. Not like the one on the card, but a beautiful heart nonetheless, surrounded by angelic scrolls. The dialing crank was the same brown wood as the base and receiver, and when I went to hold it for support, it turned and I fell to the ground. Lying on the plush green floral runner I willed death to come to me as well.
 


© Copyright 2018 Jessa Sumner. All rights reserved.