(An explanation - the following piece is my most recent submission to musemuggers
- a great LJ-Comm where several writing prompts are put up each week. One of this weeks was three cards from the Vertigo Tarot deck.Comments always welcome.)
"They're just cards, you know."
They'd had this conversation before; like an old couple playing chess in Central Park, the first moves flickered by like fireflies.
"I know. They're comforting."
"You're not looking for your fate and fortune in there are you?"
"That's not why I do it."
A change of tone. More weight to the words - difficult to do with only five letters, but somehow, she'd managed to fill that phrase with interest and despair, both at once.
He turned to face her;looked at her properly for the first time in a thousand years. Held his mouth still while his thoughts whirled and dipped, waited patiently for the right words to come. And she, for her part, waited too. Patience could have been her name, if she took it upon herself to use one.
"They're so inventive." He raised an eyebrow, forestalling her obvious interjection. "No, not the cards. The creators of the cards. The short-lived ones who see the road that stretches ahead of them disappearing into darkness and who do whatever they can to put off their fate. Some fall to destruction fighting that battle. Others, on finding that their destiny cannot be put off, seek to explain it. Some use drugs to step sideways for a while; risking eternal delirium for a momentary glance. Others ..."
"They dream.", she said, far more gently that before. She smiled then, and it reached deep into her eyes, lighting up the darkness.
A nod, accepting the obvious. "They dream, and for a few short minutes they can step off the path and onto another. Wherever they desire to go; wherever they need to go. They dream. And when they return to the world awake?"
She sat,crossing her legs unselfconsciously, propping up her head with both hands to indicate that she was giving her every thought to the matter.He didn't smile, but then he never did.
"They hold the dream within, and carry on walking the road. There's nothing else they can do. And when the road ends ..."
Her voice trailed off, a hand waving to indicate 'you know...'.
"Death." Five more letters, just as much weight.
"Yes? Oh. I mean, yes. Then death."
She grinned, her nose wrinkling up and her eyes creasing.
"But that doesn't explain the cards, oh brother of mine. They use them to step off the path, to see if they can evade their destruction. They stave off despair, they hunt desire. They dream through the cards, dear brother, and they delight at knowing their destiny. And sometimes they see their death, and count themselves at least prepared."
She watched his hands as he dealt another spread of cards.
"But what do you get out of this deck of yours, little brother. I know what they hope for. What are the cards to you?"
He looked at her then, and in his eyes the stars of all the universes ever dreamt of burned.
"Like any general before a battle, I seek to know my enemy."
She laughed then, full loud and long.
"Your enemy? Don't you mean your family?"
And there, just at the corner of his mouth, the very faintest hint of a curl of the lips. One would need to be familiar with that face, to have known it for a thousand thousand years to call it a smile.
"Are they not one and the same?"