Short Stories

All in the Cards


She closed the door behind her and walked towards the round table in the middle of the room as she was commanded to do. It was close to noon; outside, the sky was clear and the sun was shining bright. She had decided to walk the distance as it was not too far from where she lived; she also wanted the exercise and to feel the sun’s warmth caress her face, especially that she had been hiding behind her Prada sunglasses and under the roof of her 4×4 a lot in the past few months.

She was asked to wait and, although a typical rebel by nature, she obeyed. She looked around her at the room. It felt as though it was trapped in a time from the past; a time when witches and sorcerers were in abundance and could be found in every house. The room was lit only by candles – a thousand of them it seemed – the fire of which was flickering almost rhythmically, creating images of monsters on the long blood-red drapes that covered the walls. Strange statues and figurines stood guard at every corner of the room, and windows were nonexistent. It made a cold shiver run down her spine, and she wondered if she had made the right decision to come here. The creepiness of the place weighed on her and made her heart beat faster.

Suddenly, a black cat jumped at her feet out of nowhere. She screamed with fear and jumped out of her chair. “Stupid cat!” She said as she looked at the little devilish beast roaming around her. “This is a mistake” she thought then turned around towards the door – her only escape route.

“Sit down, my child.” Said a voice. “This is not a mistake.”

She froze. How could that voice have known what she was thinking?

“Sit down!” The voice ordered. She turned around in the direction of the voice to obey the command, with a cold fear that had overtaken all her senses. She saw an aging woman dressed in a black robe, her long grey hair covering most of her face. She looked around the room again attempting to know where the woman, who was suddenly standing before her, had come from. There was only one door and she had been facing it. She did not see it open. It was as though the woman had materialized from thin air.

The woman pointed to the chair, and she dumped her body on it effortlessly. The woman then pulled the chair facing her and slowly sat down on it. Without a word, she pulled a deck of cards and placed them in the middle of the table. She could still not see the woman’s face, but her hands looked as though they had many stories to tell. The woman pointed at the deck of cards, and she understood. She chose a few cards and placed them on the right side of the deck. The woman took the cards on the left of the deck and placed them on top of the others. Then she slowly started laying the cards, one by one, on the table.

She examined at her, trying to see her face underneath the grey hair, but it was to no avail. She wanted to know if she was real or just a ghost; if there was life beneath all the grey. But it was impossible.

The cards were all laid out on the table, face up. The woman with the grey hair, however was face down as though in prayer. The silence in the room was almost deafening to her ears. She could hear the sound of the flickering candle lights like they were the sounds of burning wood in a huge fire. The silence lasted for a few minutes, but seemed like years in that time-forgotten room. Impatience was costuming her, and despite her confidence and blunt nature, she felt as though her voice had betrayed her and she could not utter a word.

Finally, the woman broke the silence.

“My, my! What is this I see? Fortune and fame, and a life of pleasure and ecstasy. Everyone knows you, and they all want you. It is strange, but I see a man in your world; he is not alone, and neither are you. However, although you two are connected somehow, still it is not love that binds you.”

The woman paused; her heart sank as she waited for the words to come. She had always considered herself a woman of logic, and fortune telling – or what she liked to call ‘the art of reading body language’ – was not something she believed in. And yet, there she was, in a candle-lit room with an old, old woman who had not once looked at her, but had so far been accurate in every detail. She still had her doubts, and figured that the air of mystery of the room – and the old woman’s sudden appearance out of nowhere – were the reason behind her feelings of awe.

“My child,” the woman went on. “You wear a thousand masks every day, each designated for a place and time, each serving a purpose. You portray happiness, and yet deep in your soul had settled a sadness that is too heavy for one to bear. And you keep this sadness to yourself, safe from the eyes and ears of those around you. Your eyes reveal a fear – one of loss, of brokenness – that hinders you from moving forward. Your indecisiveness and change of heart and mind are the result of this fear. Yes, something from your past still haunts you, shaping your world right now.”

The woman lifted her head and, for the first time, she could see her white oval face and big dark eyes. She was mesmerized.

The woman looked her straight in the eyes and then got to her feet. The fire of the candles flared brightly, all in unison. She then pointed to the door, signaling her to leave. She was still at awe, unable to voice her protest or questions, of which she had a million. But she robotically stood up, turned around and started walking towards the door.

“Keep in mind, my child, you are still young,” said the woman with a tone of voice that suggested wisdom and authority. “Do not let the sorrows of the past steal away the joys of today. And do not let the fear of the unknown rob you from the million possibilities of tomorrow. There is amazement in fear only if you embrace it. Go now!”

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