Story time: The Two

The Two

A little girl with a big green bow covered her mouth to cough. If her germs were glitter, the room would have been sparkly shards of pestilence.

The mage regretted not staying in her tower, away from coughing, germ-y children with big green bows and mousy hair, cardigans to match. She just got over a cold herself not a few days ago, the mucous forming gummy balls in her sinuses. And that little girl would not stop hacking. The thin mother strung her brood with her, goslings forming the lines, the oldest girl, the girl with the cough, leading the way, younger brother next, then a toddler girl, and baby girl in arms. All well dressed, jumpers and tote bags. Coughing and hacking circumference around the public space. The noise created a Doppler effect in the cushioned hall. Well, give the mother credit for birthing four babies and still keeping a slim figure, even if they were little germ bags.

Yes, she should have stayed at home.

Human mothers…disgusting.

But she had been bored, so she went to the library. Made a few scrolls, scribed a few cards. On each card, the ink seemed to pulse, living veins in black, thinning and swirling to create lenticular images. When singular the cards were ineffective; it was the combining of them that revealed truths, the skill of the interpreter enhanced by the crafted cards. Her favorite to create was the Two of Wands: this card represented planning, strategy, and ideas in motion. No more “_____of Hearts” cards. Ridiculous joker cards they were.

Her inking skills came at a tiny blood cost: small droplets of blood went into every pound of soot, ash, vinegar, and water. Just a tiny bit. Of course she was being superstitious and playing warlock—she shrugged. Couldn’t hurt.

She scribed a few variations of the Two of Wands—in one version, the wands were a couple speaking to one another, and in another, the couple turned their backs, disconnected and angry. She’d have to destroy that one, for its magic cratered at its inception. Angry wands do not good plans make.

Her favorite illustration was an optical illusion: the two wands crossed each other, but if the card was held at an angle, you could see the wands never touched. Alter the other way, and the one in the foreground faded to the back. You couldn’t tell where one started, ended, or where the connection stopped. The trick of optical illusions was to show the viewer exactly what they knew they would see, but could never be puzzled out. Things appear to be touching, yet never quite meet.

In addition to some romance novels, (the best place to press inky cards), she grabbed some music—a little classical—Bartok perhaps—and Spanish guitar. The librarian seemed tired, ready for the late winter night to begin, or end; the mage couldn’t tell which. Or maybe that’s just how she felt. There was nothing in the cupboards to eat or cook. Acoustic guitar did not fill up an empty tummy. If only she had a man to buy her wine, bring her food, take care of the house. She took caution in what she wished for, however, because those plans often took more than they gave.

Slipping the freshly inked cards in between borrowed books, leaving smudges on the bodices and heaving bosoms, and unbridled lust, she straightened her green bow, buttoned her green cardigan, and coughed, theatrically, into her sleeve. At least she was old enough to buy her own wine.

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