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Here There Be Demons | 2010 | The Gospel According to St. John

10.29.10 11:14 p.m.

Miracles sometimes occur, but one has to work terribly hard for them.  

-Chaim Weizmann


In the Cards

The fire represents skepticism and the fact that I only took pictures of a Grandpa Munster mask at the party.

The doughy man with the short hair shakes my hand and sits across the table from me. His pamphlet and card identified him as an emissary of one of the local witchy shops. At this Halloween party we are possibly crashing (a Facebook invitation to six hundred people is still an invitation), Daniel got a tarot reading that stretched to nearly half an hour, but the man asks how long I want mine to be. I assure him a short one would suffice and he asks for money. Daniel had been unambiguous, when asked by a partygoer dressed as a stereotypical witch, that there was no talk of money during his reading. I tell the man that I have no money for him, which is fractionally different than having no money. He opts to continue with the reading anyway.

Before entering, I had taken off my rings (titanium band I use to ward off interested parties/affirm my relationship status, dragon ring which I've worn since middle school, moldavite triangle ring) and my mala. I do not want to give this man any clues as to my familiarity with anything spiritual or supernatural. Dressed as I am in a black velour shirt and blue jeans, I do not think I telegraph anything useful to him, which leaves his observations to the preternatural. The gods know me and, if he speaks for them, I am sure he will pass the message along.

I pick my ten cards from his deck and he lays out a Celtic cross spread. I glance over the cards, noting a few interesting ones (The Lovers in the fifth position, which signifies what is currently on my mind). He gives them a cursory glance, but then ignores whatever they might say. If the Powers That Be are speaking through cardboard, it is not a tongue he knows. He gives me a simplified explanation of the clairvoyance that is due to me ("it'll be like there is a movie screen in your head!") and suggests I might want to think about keeping a journal, because the cards make no mention of one. Inwardly, I laugh at the suggestion I keep a journal in the same way I might should someone tell me I ought to start breathing. I make interested but ambivalent sounds, unwilling to give him anything on which a cold reader could seize. In the whole of the reading, he does not mention the majority of what concerns me at present. His only near miss was thinking I would return to school because he saw me in a classroom. As he also saw me running toward a green goal post (representing to him that I will be getting a second revenue stream), I am not willing to interpret this as could most impress me.

He asks me about worry and, to this question, I cannot give my sound, not a yes or a no but acknowledgment that I would like him to continue speaking. Instead, I tell him that everyone has worries, which I think is an appropriately cop-out answer. He tells me that my mantra should be "cancel, cancel" whenever a worry crosses my mind and, within thirty days, I will forget how to worry. Days later, Jinx and Melanie will comment that this is like losing the ability to feel pain, that worry is unpleasant but necessary.
I wasn't actually joking.

I exit, having compacted a ten minute reading into six, and try to convey to Daniel in the fewest words what I have just experienced. We are surrounded by people who seem to believe, who want to believe, who partly came to this party intent on being read, and my inclination is not to scream my skepticism. Let them believe if they need it. One of them comes over and mistakes my amusement for stunned belief, telling me that I should sit on my reading for six months to let it come to fruition.

I tell Daniel that I lean upon doubt, that I want to tear the reading apart because I want to see if it will contain some nugget that resists my dissection, my explaining away. That would be something special and it is something I want at the expense of logical vivisection. This reading gives me nothing that can survive even a gentle prodding.

The trouble with things like psychics is that they convince you that there is a future you are going to get no matter what you do. It is as though you can cheat the universe out of your experiences, that you need only tweak something here or there to live happily ever after. It allows for spiritual sloth in the certainty of providence.

But that isn't how it works. We don't get the future we deserve or the one set out for us by unfathomably distant gas balls, we get the future we work toward every day, even when it hurts, even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. There is no looking at cards for a road map. In the hands of most, the cards only tell you what you want to hear, you ignore the things you don't want to know. Daniel is quite right that the six month prohibition on a new reading is in place to muddy your memory, to make you forget all the things that didn't apply in retrospect, so you can convince yourself that there is a little bit of magic in the world.

I don't know what my future will bring me and it's terrifying. To stand before this vast expanse and know that the future could take away what matters most simply because that is the nature of indifferent chaos in the hands of wanton boys. We are left at the brink of our future each day and the only real choice we have is not to jump but instead make out path through the briar. The Fates may be apathetic to us, but we need not be to one another. That doesn't mean clinging to lovely lies. Holding fantasy to our chests only means our hands are not free to work. We weave out destinies by moving forward, trusting that we will encounter step after step of solid ground and holding tight to those we love to keep them from plummeting into potholes.

Soon in Xenology: Maybe a job, Halloween.

last watched: 30 Rock
reading: The Mothman Prophesies
listening: Yann Tiersen

Here There Be Demons | 2010 | The Gospel According to St. John

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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