LARPing, vacation, and now dentistry have happened. Back to Tarot next week. Meanwhile, here’s a clip I’m very fond of, both because of my first novel and for personal reasons.


Gin, Tonic, and Cups

Is the plural gins and tonic? Gin and tonics? Either way, I’ve had two, because I am On Vacation, with my parents, who may or may not secretly be the heroes of early-century SF/horror (Dad went wandering around the Arctic, studied mushrooms, and then taught weird math; Mom was into archaeology and Latin) and have also been spending some quality time in a hot tub.

Cups, Number Seven: Bright luck–that is, luck that appears good–in matters of water. A dude contemplates seven cups in a cloud, and each cup has a thing coming out of it, which varies depending on the deck. A snake is pretty common. So are castles, fruit, dragons, a disembodied head, etc.

This is about dreams and visions. A lot of the time, it’s sentimental daydreams, in a “castles in the air” sense, like, okay, you bump into Chris Evans at the deli and it’s a whole thing. Or it’s wishful thinking: yeah, they totally Meant Something in the interview when they said they’d let you know.  Wanting things can cloud your judgment: everyone who buys a lottery ticket thinks they know the winning numbers.

That said, daydreams are important, and healthy. Every couple months, some hand-wringing dudebro or dudebro-adjacent lady publishes a piece concern-trolling about romance novels giving women “unrealistic standards,” which…I have a lot of opinions on, and many of them involve the phrase “oiks who think cargo shorts are formalwear and won’t go dancing,” but the relevant ones here are:

  1. If you know daydreams for what they are, they’re fine. We all need something to think about in meetings, or while we’re trying to get to sleep, or when Uncle Frank is telling us about the Packers. Most adults know they won’t win the lottery or bang Anne Hathaway; it’s cool. Like everything, in proportion and moderation, daydreams are nothing to worry about.
  2. Properly managed, some daydreams can be helpful. If you’re a stockbroker and your elevator thoughts are all about moving to a farm in Montana…don’t do that. Not all at once. Reality always sucks more, and then it’s 3 AM and you’re doing unspeakable things with a cow and you hate your life. But take a small step in that direction, like maybe a job with less pressure, or one that lets you work remotely so you can live in the country. If you’re looking for a boyfriend, or the one you have isn’t measuring up, consider what elements of the Chris-Evans-at-the-deli fantasy most strongly appeal to you, and to what extent you can reasonably look for them in a dude.

Dreams and visions are good far-off guides, but not so great when you want to know what’s actually going on at ground level, is the point.

The other thing the Seven of Cups means is choice, or priorities. There are a lot of things coming out of those cups. Maybe having a snake and a disembodied head is not going to work out for you. If you want a job that gives you a bunch of free time, you might need to take one that pays less, or has less status. The selection of romantic partners available when you want commitment and/or kids may be different from the ones you get when you don’t. Some of these choices are because the current system sucks ass, and I’m all for overturning it in a lot of ways (nationalized health care and child care FTW), but that’s its own struggle, and some choices are just the way things and/or people are.

So the Seven of Cups speaks to getting to the core of things, and finding the truth inside the daydreams: whether that’s what’s going on, or what you really want, or what bargains you’re willing to make.

Next week: the Eight!

Story Again

Like many of you in the US, I spent yesterday consuming my weight in red meat, marshmallows, and wine spritzers, then falling asleep in the sun like some kind of large lizard in a striped dress, and as such am behind on many things. Have a story–Tarot will likely return next week, when I’ll be in PA with family and gin.

* * *

There’s not a set date, no regular interval. She doesn’t need to go back every nine years, or every ninety, or even every nine-times-ninety, although she suspects she would run into trouble if she attempted to wait for the last, and she’s only ever approached the second once. That was in Iowa, in America, and she’d been fond of her grandchildren. They’d been fond of her, too, and so they’d overlooked a good deal, but in the end there was only so much she could do before people started asking questions.


It would be easier now, in some ways. Better hair dye; better makeup; better dentistry. Better records, too, is the problem. Not perfect, though. Particularly not during a war. People disappear all the time. As for appearing–well, records stay in buildings, and buildings get bombed frequently enough.


She doesn’t worry that the glade will fall to one of the bombs, no more than she worries about the tanks and men that might be in her way. She did worry, once, but ancient promises hold, old bargains are still good, and things are taken care of. Now she walks forward and knows that the road will open.


Besides, in a way, these men are less worrisome than those before: vile as their superiors are, they’ve been raised in a world where some things are not done, and other things simply are not. The first would offer her some protection, if others didn’t. The second means that a man who encounters a small forest beneath the city streets will probably stare and blink and back away, and that his fellows would laugh at the story.


Others, short horsemen with long mustaches or clean-shaven legionnaires, would have come back with troops and torches. Odds are that they wouldn’t have done any permanent damage, in the end–the glade has its ways, and secrecy is only the first of them–but even so, she feels the threat less now.


She walks down a flight of marble stairs. Her heels don’t click this time, as they had a generation ago; they’re low and sensible, suitable for a woman in her position. They make discreet, muffled sounds that soon become the only sounds around her. The noises of the street fade with a rapidity that would amaze anyone who’d come down the first three steps with her. Someone who could measure depth would be more amazed still.


She is not beyond amazement, but she is used to this.


And she knows that any companion would not fare well.


The forest opens itself before her, glowing with a rose-pink light like summer sunset. Unfamiliar birds sing in gold-leafed trees; the air smells like cinnamon and cloves. It’s beautiful. It’s fantastic. It’s not a lie–as far as anything is real, this is–but it is deceptive.


Turning off the path here would be a very bad idea.


Even when the path disappears ahead; even when everything disappears ahead. She walks over a black void, high above the glinting stars, and she never pauses, nor shakes, nor turns pale. She has made her bargains, and she’s come back to fulfill them once more; it suits nobody’s purpose to let her fall. And yet she knows that this is no illusion. Like the forest, the void is real, and anyone else trying to walk it–or she herself, if she hadn’t kept some kind of faith over the years–would fall, screaming, forever.


They say, now, that there is no wind in the void, but there is wind here. It clutches at her, whipping her hair out of its pins; it pushes her from side to side, hard enough to test and tease but not hard enough to kill; and after it’s tired of that, it becomes a man standing in front of her, a man with something golden about him., though she’s never been able to say precisely what.


Maybe it’s his smile. He smiles easily. He holds out one hand. She doesn’t take it–she has some idea of what would happen if she did, and although it would not be unpleasant, it’s not her path just yet. Instead, she hands him the first of her burdens: the blue flower and the poem.


He eyes her with patience, and amusement, and perhaps a little pity, though not as humans would understand it. Sympathy, maybe, as one student to another during a long and boring assembly: oh, they’re making us do this again.


They know each other, a little. They don’t talk here, though. That is not part of the rite–Standard Operating Procedure, they call it now–and there would be consequences. She smiles back and shrugs one shoulder, what can you do, and he fades back into the wind.


Crossing, her feet bleed. That too is part of things. The blood drips into the void, though if the stars mind they’ve never complained, and then soaks into the earth on the other side, her price of acceptance and her token of admission. It says that she belongs here; the ground would rise up and throw off anyone else, anyone who did manage to get across the void.


Even her, if she’d broken certain oaths.


She hasn’t, though, and so it doesn’t, and she walks onward through a forest that’s slightly greener and smells a little more like forest, sharp pine and damp earth. The trees are still different from any she’s ever seen, though–some silver-tipped and blue-barked, some with feathers for leaves, some heavy with transparent, jewel-like fruit–and the birdsong is nothing she’s ever heard.


Ahead of her, one of the trees parts like the double doors of some grand house, and a man steps out onto the path. He’s darker than the other; his smile is slower; and comparisons are both pointless and an inescapably human tool. We relate to things by way of other things, and so each is connected and bound into the greater whole. He is as he is, as the other is what he is, lords of air and of earth, and whatever else they are is for other times and places.

He, too, holds out a hand, waiting like a conductor at his hundredth sympathy or a priest at his thousandth wedding: knowledge of the rite, and a quiet joy in the familiarity of it. Easy for him to be joyous, of course. His feet aren’t bleeding.


And yet it is a comfort for her to be here, again, to come back from a world in its convulsions of change and to repeat, to reaffirm, to verify and signify that some things remain.


She gives him a red rose, with a bracelet draped around it: copper linked with gold. Hard to find, in these days of rationing, but she’s been saving it for a while. One never knows.


He takes it with a slow and ceremonial bow, and then is gone as quickly as the other.


She goes on. It’s not long, it’s never long, before she sees a glint up ahead: sunlight, from who knows what sun, glinting off something that is almost water except for the moments when it’s fire. By each side of it are her flowers, red and blue; they’re as tall as the trees now, and their petals fall around her as she walks forward.


She, sure of her greater purpose, of the task for which she volunteered with as much will and better knowledge than the lads currently in the trenches, does not know the details. Cannot know–not if she wants it to succeed in the end. She doesn’t know why, precisely, and she gets the feeling she’s not supposed to ask that either.


She does wonder, as the not-water-not-fire closes over her, who she’ll be this time.