The shop door jangled as he let it swing shut, the bag secure in his hands. His face never lost it’s smile as he walked back onto the main drag to catch his bus back. After that, it should just be a matter of time...
As he’d expected, his quarry was in the bar when he went out that evening. He walked up to the bar, stopping next to her, and ordered a pint of Theakston’s.
“Cheers,” he said, smiling back at the barmaid. Perhaps he’d go after her next along... But for the present, someone he knew was actually interested in the Tarot. Marie. Buxom, blue-eyed, blonde Marie. Lovely.
He turned his head toward her and inclined it slightly. She smiled back slightly. “You’re the one who wrote that piece about spiritualism in the student paper, aren’t you?” he asked, knowing the answer full well.
He nodded. “I might have something interesting for you there.”
“How do you mean?” Cautious, this inquiry, but still there. He could live with that. It was still possible for him to pull success back.
“Well, I bought a new Tarot deck today. It’s a new one, supposed to be, the Spiral deck. The cards’re supposed to have been updated somehow. I’m a little sceptical, actually; seems to me it’s a money-grubbing exercise, and I doubt it’ll work—but it’s there nonetheless, and I need a first subject to break it in with. I figured you were probably the most likely candidate I’ve got.” He shrugged. “They screw up with scoffers, and that means I can hardly try it on my friends.”
Enlightenment dawned in her eyes, but still cautious. “When?”
He made a show of consulting his watch. “Couple of hours, maybe?”
A couple of hours and his floormates should be out clubbing, giving him the privacy he was going to need for his plan to work.
“My kitchen, maybe? I tend to work in a full magic circle, and you need the space, so...”
Caution was banished. A university kitchen was too public an area for him to try anything.
* * *
They sat in the kitchen, a table between them. Around them stood five white candles, burning, and a circle of salt that surrounded the candles. The sickly smell of incense washed across the air. And the deck rested on the table, a psychedelic spiral adorning the cardbacks. Marie’s eyes were lost in the vortex.
The reader said something, and she tore her gaze free with difficulty. “Sorry?”
A gentle, polite smile. There was something behind his façade, Marie was sure. But she figured she could bull her way out of it if she needed to, and she didn’t think it was anything serious enough to get worried about. It wasn’t even necessarily directed at her. “I’m not sure how much you know about the Tarot,” he repeated, patient as a saint, “but I’m using the Celtic cross layout, if that helps. Ten cards; two crossing each other at the centre, one at each vertex of the cross, and four in a vertical row travelling from me toward you at the side. I’ve found it very effective in the past.”
Marie found herself slipping off again... She shook her head firmly. Must be the incense, she told herself.
“Uh... sure.” Really, she was here simply to see this ‘new’ deck in action. The Tarot had centuries of testing behind it, and she knew it worked. Alterations might well not.
“About all I know about this is that the suits have been kept the same,” he said. “Coins, Wands, Cups and Swords, or whatever name you usually give them. However, the Major Arcana have apparently had some kind of revamp... They’re now archetypes of today and... states of mind, I guess is the best way of putting it. Don’t ask me.”
Now Marie really was sceptical, but she held her doubts back. They were, after all, simply the same underlying meanings with different covers. Nothing special. In fact, the Tarot really still ought to be able to work.
He picked up the deck and passed it to her. “If you could choose a question to ask, and think it silently as you shuffle the cards,” he said.
She nodded, more than familiar with the procedure. After a minute or so, he asked her to invert part of the deck, and she did; picking the top half up and revolving it half a turn so that the cards were inverted relative to the other half, and went on shuffling.
He watched her coolly, knowing already the cards that would fall, and the order. The spell he’d worked on the deck settled that. And the other spell would finish the job, undoubtedly.
Her shuffling eventually done, she passed the deck back to him and vocalised her question. “Will I get to be a journalist after university?”
He set the deck down and drew the first card off the top of the deck, placing it face up in front of him.
She tried to identify it by the markings at the top, but found her eyes being continually drawn to the illustration itself, a phantom tugging she could neither explain nor resist.
“One of the Major Arcana,” he announced, calmly. “Naïveté.”
Major Arcana... What were they? Marie knew she should know, knew in fact that she did know, but the answer escaped her utterly. In fact, she wasn’t sure she knew, now, and wasn’t sure of her earlier qualms about hidden motives in the card man. No one had hidden motives. She just kept looking at the picture, at the innocent little blonde girl with her hair in bunches looking wide-eyed out at the world, and did not, could not, look away.
Her eyes flicked away from the card after an eon-long instant as his hand moved back to the deck to select another; what would it be?
She felt her sight let itself be sucked into the vortex again as the brightly-coloured spiral danced across the table in his hand, to be laid out face-up across the first card, forming a cross. Naïveté could still be glimpsed poking out at the sides of the new card, but she had no eyes for it. Indeed, she could only seem to see the new card.
“The second card is never inverse, in this layout,” he said, his voice slipping into her awareness without any effort on her part to absorb it. “And in this case, it appears to be the Lovers. Another Major Arcana...”
Marie’s nipples hardened, now pressing at the fabric of her bra as if fighting to escape. Her mouth opened slightly, saliva building inside. And at the juncture between body and chair, another set of lips began to water...
The card, simply enough, showed a nude couple copulating wildly. They were everyone and no one at once, but Marie felt that the female was her, that in some indefinable way the cards were linked to her. For a second her mind entertained the speculation that she was merely a puppet of the cards, but she swiftly set that out of mind. Nothing would ever try to control her; that would be bad.
“They left that one unchanged, then,” he mused. Her heart leapt at this reminder that a member of her preferred gender was in the room.
His hand moved once more to reveal another card, and once more her eyes followed it on it’s course, her eyes sinking back into the spiral for those fleeting, eternal seconds.
“Another of the Majors,” he said. “Interesting... You’d have expected at least one Minor by now. Willpower, inverse.”
He laid the card above the cross from his viewpoint, closer to Marie. It being upside down, she saw it’s face correctly. Stared straight into a picture of a man you felt the world would break against, and felt her mental strength, her willpower, ebb away from her, flowing into the card. It didn’t matter. And if it had mattered, she lacked the will to fight it. No mental resistance, no willpower; so how could she resist?
Her willpower gone, her body’s automatic responses were no longer held in check. The saliva built up from the effects of the Lovers card now began to unspool down her chin. One hand slid to her crotch, and began stroking firmly against it. A moan escaped her lips.
He smiled. He might not need all the cards.
The next card was placed closer to him than the initial cross formation, directly opposite the Willpower card. Again it was inverse. “The Businesswoman,” he said. “Major again. I’d have thought most of the aspects of this card were covered by Willpower, to judge by the description... Inverse again,” he finished.
She moaned again, louder this time. The card’s image, a confident, intelligent woman, clearly captain of her own destiny, was clear in her mind – but it felt also, somehow, so very far away. So out of reach. The hand delved inside her jeans, inside her panties, and continued it’s caress.
The fifth card pressed against the table to the right of the initial cross. “The Housewife,” he said, and laughed. “What the hell sort of Arcanum is the housewife?”
He wondered privately if there was any point in continuing the pretence of this being an actual reading, not an enslavement. The cards were affecting her much more than he’d expected. This one was supposed to be fairly crucial in generating a slave mindset, but he couldn’t see any immediate difference. Her hand just kept on working away.
He picked up the next card and watched her eyes follow it eagerly as he set it down to the left of the initial cross.
“Oh,” he said, feigning surprise. “Passion.”
She cried out in orgasm, eyes still staring wide at the card. There was something... charged... about the illustration; she wasn’t sure how, but she was lost in it, trapped in a looping, rippling orgasm, one which seemed to stretch until he picked up the next card, and her enthralled attention switched.
This card went further right than any previous cards, and as low as the lowest card. It bore the image of a dominatrix wielding a whip, facing toward her.
“The Mistress,” he said, almost unnecessarily. “Inverse... I don’t exactly see you being in control in your future,” he smiled.
She wanted to shy away from the card, from him; wanted too to kneel before him, proclaim herself his slave. But she could do nothing but watch the card, stare deeply into the black leather outfit.
It captivated her, held her fully attentive, fascinated. It didn’t seem like her, not at all. But there was something about it... even if not him, there should be someone like this for her. A woman, a man... it didn’t seem to matter.
She was straight, but it didn’t seem to matter. Her fingers were frantic now.
“Three cards left,” was his next comment. “Are you ready?”
It was a question, and she opened her mouth to respond, before realising that she couldn’t be sure of an answer. It might not be what he wanted. She swallowed, looking uncertainly toward him for a cue, her lips answerless.
He smiled, turning over the next card, above the inverted Mistress, close to her now. “The Butler,” he said. Her eyes flicked away from him down to the cardboard, the exaggerated formal attire of a gentleman holding a tray of drinks while smiling politely snaring her gaze.
She seemed to strip away his gender, drinking deep of the rest. Her lips settled into that same polite, functional smile as she imagined herself holding a tray of drinks with the same atmosphere of deference. Knowing she was serving a purpose even standing still. Somehow, that made everything in the whirl of arousal even more exciting. Her fingers slowed and were still.
She could wear a white corset and black jacket atop not-quite-opaque tights, perhaps, as a butler parody. Or assume the role of a maid. Thinking of it left her almost feeling the outfits on her body, and her excitement picked up another notch. She was well beyond what she’d imagined possible now.
She was only peripherally aware that his hand was moving on to the next card. Until it turned over, it wouldn’t matter; until it turned over, she was, in her mind, stood beside his seat at a dinner table, waiting, statuesque in more ways than one, for him to express a desire she could satisfy.
He flipped the card lazily. It landed at a slight angle to the others, crooked. On it, a woman knelt, thighs parted, looking up to the artist, and up to her gaze. Her arms both ran down to her crotch, her bare breasts pressed together between them. Her lips, cherry-red, were open, pursed into an O.
“The Ideal,” he said with a chuckle.
And he was right, she realised. This was an ideal. More than that, this was her ideal. The need... the raw passion of it, just as that had come up earlier... a total absence of willpower... it was so very... her.
Her clothes seemed to sit oddly on her now. It wasn’t so much that clothing was wrong, but these... a loose top, baggy trousers, only the barest hint of her figure on display, and no makeup at all in place... She fell so far short of the ideal, it was almost heartbreaking.
She resolved to do better. Not for herself, but for the man in front of her, who mattered.
There was one card remaining. Her gaze tracked away from the Ideal, embarrassed by how far short she felt she fell, to that beautiful, captivating cardback. She would ask to see it, if it were her place to do so; like the dutiful Butler, she would wait as long as it might take for him to decide.
There was the sound of a can being opened, of someone drinking. It went on for some time; perhaps seconds, perhaps a minute or so – when looking into that spiral, time seemed to hold less meaning.
She heard the can set down, and then he reached out into her field of vision, took hold of the last card, and flipped it.
There was a blank, empty expression on the woman whose face the card showed. A black choker ran around her neck. The artist had, in a simple headshot, captured an expression of almost total docility.
She was beautiful. Perhaps, without that expression, she would not have been.
“Ah,” he said, without a hint of surprise in his tone anymore. “The Slavegirl.”
She moaned softly, squirming in her chair, without being able to help it.
“This card represents your future, of course. It’s the summation of everything we’ve already learned.”
She nodded, very slightly, still locked in on the image.
“Look at me, Marie,” he said.
Given an order, her eyes slid free of the cards with a sudden total lack of difficulty. She saw him and felt everything shift, everything change. Her ideas of domestic servitude and submission had an anchor, now, a person to whom they applied. She was a slavegirl, and here was her master, and nothing else could matter.
She slipped smoothly off her chair, falling to the Ideal’s display position, still fully clothed. “Master” she said.