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Cards of Love: Five of Cups by Trisha Wolfe (1)

Prologue

Arcana Killer

There’s a veil that shrouds our waking world from our nightmares.

This sheer web is a form of protection, a shield. Don’t mistake its delicate nature; it’s a powerful cloak, as it must be. Should we face the raw truth of ourselves every second of every day, we’d become too impotent, too frail to live.

That is the nightmare, of course. When all our skeletons tumble out, the bones of our past lay bare. Our nightmares exposed to the light.

No one wants their bones picked over. That pain is intolerable.

How many people have we hurt?

Who are our casualties?

It works much like a spider’s webbing, ensnaring victims in its sticky trap. A new lover, unaware of the fault line just beneath the veneer, waiting to crack. A tidal wave of self-loathing and shame and guilt to pull us under as we beg to drown, to quiet the storm.

For most, denial is the only coping mechanism. Dress our outsides to contrast what haunts us on the inside.

I smile at this notion as I slip the devil mask over my face.

She shouldn’t fear the mask. My veil is her protection.

She’s lying on her back as I enter, her eyes closed. She’s drowsy from the drug cocktail. I carry her to the corner, where I can prop her against my chest. I shuffle my deck while I breathe in the scent of her shampoo.

Women are so soft, so fragile. This one dresses her outside to denote strength. Independence. Yet I can see the tiny fissure just at her seam, her vulnerability. There’s a demon clawing at that crack, trying to break free. Her nightmare slithering like a wisp of smoke into her waking world.

What haunts you?

Her perfect porcelain skin is a tantalizing tease. Silky saccharine. A limerick at play on the tongue. I run the backs of my fingers up her bare arm, unhurriedly, gently, enjoying the way her flesh ripples at my touch.

Her head lolls against my chest as she groans.

“It’s time to play,” I whisper, my voice a stark command in the pitch-black. I lay the deck before her. “Pick a card.”

Everybody has a card.

It’s their judgment. Their imminent fate.

The cards don’t lie. They offer insight, a choice. If one should fail to accept their path… Well, that’s when I appear. If you meet the devil with a Tarot deck…

Run.

Your shadow self has arisen, and seeks retribution.

I’m the reflection of everything vile and wicked that dwells in your soul, everything you try to keep hidden from the light. I stir the bones.

No one has yet faced their truth and overcome their fate. Every shadow wins, men and women alike choke on the bones. A haunted past too hard to swallow.

The woman in my arms fights the lethargy, unable to lift her hand, so I help her. We turn the card over together.

The Lovers.

“How perfect.”

The card depicts a couple in a garden, with a tree and a snake. Like the story of Adam and Eve. Eve was a devious temptress, and Adam suffered because of her deception.

“You must ask yourself,” I tell her as I stroke her hair, “are you a woman in love, or are you the snake?”

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