She spread the cards with a sweep of her palm. I noticed her nails glint in the candlelight with a lacquer as clear and expressive as car paint. The backs of the cards looked black at first glance, but there appeared to be patterns embossed and embellished on them; sigils and sworls that weren’t meant to be immediately visible. “This reading depends on you,” she said, her voice a husky whisper. She swept her hand up and down along the line of cards, creating columns of black-backed oblongs like jagged thorns along a curved stem.

“How so?” I asked.

“First,” she said, “you must choose.” She spread both of her palms over the pattern, inviting me to pick from the arrangement. I selected one of the cards in the center of the stem and she plucked it up, breaking the pattern in half. She turned it to face me, and I could make out a ghostly horse that stood with one hoof resting on the back of a kneeling armored figure. “The rider and the ridden,” she said.

“What does it mean?” I asked.

“On its own?” She turned the card to look at it. A frumpy frown unfolded from her lips. “Nothing.” She placed the card in a clear spot on the table. “Which is your dominant hand?” she asked.

“I write with my left,” I said. She turned the nearest thorn to the left of the break. A skull, with another skull embedded within the left eye socket in a pattern that repeated until vanishing.

“Infinity.” She placed the card crosswise over the rider. “And choose once more.”

I picked up the card she had just put down. I heard her gasp, and while a surprising reaction it was one I expected. I turned the card over and tried to discern the pattern on the back. It might have been the flickering of the light, or my burgeoning migraine, but I swore the lines there moved. “This one. It might seem ironic.”

“No,” she said and snatched the card from my fingers. “It works out perfectly.”

2014.11.29 – 2023.07.01

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