I’d never seen a tarot deck like this before. I was convinced that it wasn’t one at all, because in no way did the names correspond to any cards I’d seen before. This wasn’t a difference between Coins and Pentacles; these were Rocket Ship and Fursona and D-O-L-L-Y-P-A-R-T-O-N (spelled just like that). The illustrations were quite literal, from a cartoonish rocket ship to a silhouette of a country music legend with hair taller than the card could fully display. I was greatly troubled.
My tarot reader was new – or rather, new to me. I dumped my previous reader after she blamed her inaccuracies on me, claiming that I needed to be more open with the deck. Bullshit. I found this new lady on Craigslist and she agreed to meet with me at a tiny coffeeshop located smack between both of our neighborhoods.
“I am tired,” she said.
“I’m sorry,” I replied. “Should we reschedule?” I thought 2 PM on a Saturday was reasonable, but maybe she didn’t. Tarot readers follow their own flow and whatever.
“No,” she replied. “That’s what I see in you. Your aura is screaming, ‘I AM TIRED.’”
She wasn’t wrong; life hasn’t been kind to me recently. That’s why I get readings; they’re the closest I have to spirituality, and faith has always benefited my mental health. However, when she pulled out her strange deck I grew concerned. She laid out a three-card spread: Past, Present, Future. The first card she flipped was the Past one, with an illustration of someone in a Japanese sailor school uniform vomiting on a city sidewalk.
“Alcoholic Cosplayer,” she said. “That’s a powerful card.”
“I know,” she replied. “Not a lot of people like to admit they’re cosplaying alcoholics, but sometimes after a long day, you need a few beers and a marathon of Sailor Moon on Hulu.”
“I’ve been there myself. As this represents the past, I see that you recognized your most significant vice and separated yourself from it. Tell me this vice.”
“Peter.” I shocked myself with how easily his name poured from my mouth.
“How long since you last saw him?”
“If you mean saw in the literal sense, just last week.” He’s a folk singer-songwriter who frequents open mics. “If you mean in the sexual sense, about two months ago.”
She nodded and I knew that this was the correct answer. I stopped frowning. She flipped the next card, the one that represented the Present. On it was a familiar diva with flowing, raven hair.
“Ah,” she said. “Cher. This suggests that you have been haunted by either a cryptid or by a code that you do not understand. What’s troubling you?”
This one took a while; I’d read some strange books lately. But then it hit me. Cryptid.
“Cryptids,” I said. “That’s like Nessie and Big Foot, right?’
A gust of swirling wind hit the window by our table; I shivered. “Peter.”
“He was a cryptid?”
“Well, he is unusually hairy, but I meant his pet cat. What he said was a cat. Fresno Nightcrawler was her name.” Her eyes widened. “If you’re, uh, not familiar, that’s also the name of an alleged cryptid. Kinda looks like a head attached to a long pair of pants on stilts. The cat looks like that, too.”
“And he claimed she was a cat.”
“That’s fucked up. Thankfully, as the Alcoholic Cosplayer card shows, you extricated yourself from this problematic situation. How?”
“Oh, I didn’t do anything,” I replied. “He started hooking up with some girl ten years younger than both of us. We hung out together at open mics.”
“You’re a singer?”
“A painter,” I replied. “But I like open mic culture.”
“I see,” she said. I sensed an odd, telepathic wave of judgement and blushed.
“Now onto your Future,” she replied, and I frowned because this was an unusually quick reading. I was used to getting pseudo-therapy sessions. But then she turned over the final card.
This was the only traditional card I’d seen in her deck. It looked nothing like the rest of her strange collection; it was a sunny yellow card in the familiar design of my former reader’s Rider-Waite deck.
“Your journey is about to begin – one that will define your life and leave a mark on this world long after both of us are dead. This is incredibly significant.” She reshuffled her deck, and then placed her palms on top of the stack. She closed her eyes and blew a kiss into the air.
“The next card,” she whispered, “will show the path that you must take.” Making direct eye-contact, her desperation almost frightening. “You MUST take this path. Your fate and the fates of the stars and the Great Beyond depend upon it.”
I shifted eye contact from her to the deck; her hot, wet fingers reached for my clammy ones and gripped tightly. “I will not flip this card unless you promise to take this path.”
I felt my heart tighten, my cold fingers quaking in her humid ones. I dug my nails into her skin. She didn’t flinch.
We loosened our grips and she solemnly nodded. She deftly picked up the card, flipping it over as she brought it down onto the table. I recognized the illustration immediately.
“Sparkling Heart Emoji,” she said, and now it was my turn to nod.
She did not need to explain. Peter and Fresno Nightcrawler be damned. My heart be damned. My past life and fears and loves were irrelevant. I felt so sure that my bones and my teeth ached. My own sparkling heart was ready to explode and cover the whole coffeeshop in glitter and gore.
I rose from my seat and placed her reading fee on the table.
“Thank you,” I said. “I must go. I have some work to do.”
Sheena Carroll (a.k.a. miss macross) is a Pittsburgh-based writer, witch, and painter. She is influenced by spacecraft, witchcraft, and personal experiences with trauma. Her first chapbook, MISS MACROSS VS. BATMAN, was published in 2018 by CWP Collective Press. You can find her on Twitter @missmacross.