(To see what stories accompany the other cards, here is the Amazon link for Fata Arcana!) https://www.amazon.com/Fata-Arcana-Amanda-M-Lyons-ebook/dp/B01FOMLL2O?ie=UTF8&keywords=Fata%20Arcana&qid=1463497555&ref_=sr_1_1&sr=8-1
TURNING THE TIDES
(A QUESTION OF FORTITUDE-THE STRENGTH CARD)
Malcolm Turnpike’s life was in chaos; it had been now for many years. A self-imposed chaos, made so by a terrible weakness of will and a propensity for indulgence. Malcolm had been on a downward spiral for longer than he cared to recall…but recall he unavoidably did.
It all started out as fun and games. The perpetual parties, the shady characters he chose to associate with, the unbridled sex, money, drugs and rampant acts of violence. Malcolm once thought he had it all, but oh, how wrong he was to find himself. All of these fixations served him well for quite some time until one night, his precarious house of cards finally crashed down around his ears. With one fatal mistake and in one fell swoop, Malcolm Turnpike went from being at the top of his game to being shunned by his peers and cast from his own circle of Power; left dwelling on the darkest fringes, searching desperately for a way back in.
It was at one of these debauched parties that his life changed for the utter worst. Gloria Speakle was one of his most fervent devotees and would adamantly hang off of his every word; follow him to the ends of the earth, if he but asked her. The thing was, Malcolm had a procession of gorgeous, albeit misled, women who clamoured for his attention, and he would bestow upon each and every one of them just enough of the desired attentiveness to keep them bound under his spell. Gloria however, was one whom he lavished the most attention upon. Although this caused obvious resentment amongst the bevy of babes languishing at his feet, they were careful not to betray their feelings, for fear of losing favour with Malcolm. It wasn’t only the women who held resentment though.
As Malcolm had been elevated to an almost god-like status, his ‘friends’ of the male category also harboured feelings of envy and bitterness towards him. Malcolm was blissfully unaware of this though. He cared only for himself and what he could obtain from his fellows and wenches by whatever means were at his disposal. He paid no heed really, to the needs, wants and desires of the people he surrounded himself with. This was instrumental in the proceedings of this night which would lead to his downfall.
Destre Norman was a twenty three year old man of slight build and average good looks. He had caught the attention of Barry Parker and Jesse Vaughn as he perused the shelves of the occult bookstore they ran for Malcolm. Barry and Jesse had given eachother that knowing glance and silently agreed. Malcolm would like this one. As Destre approached the counter with his intended purchase -a deck of ‘Thoth’ Tarot- Jesse took the cards and placed them in a bag while Destre fumbled through his wallet for his money.
“Thoth hey? Are you familiar with this particular deck?” Barry asked.
“Yeah, man. My father taught me to read these when I was thirteen. I had my own deck for several years which he handed to me on his death bed. I just recently lost everything in a house fire, my treasured cards included. These ones are exactly what I’ve been searching for.”
“Well, we hold informal meetings each new moon where we share readings, have a few light refreshments and chinwag about all things magic. Just a few likeminded friends in the group, but we’re always open to new people coming along. We’re having one tonight, incidentally. Interested?” Jesse responded as he handed Destre the paper bag and took the bills the young man held out to him.
“Sure!” Destre said, a broad smile across his face. “Whereabouts do you meet? What time?”
“Just be here at closing time; five o’clock. You can come with us in our van.”
“That sounds great! I will be here then. My name’s Destre.” He held out his hand in greeting.
“I’m Bill, and this here is John,” Barry lied, shaking Destre’s hand.
“Cool. Nice to meet you both. Seeya at five!”
Jesse and Barry watched Destre leave the shop, an electric charge of anticipation in the air between them. Giving the eager fellow fake names was a pointless exercise. Had neither of them taken into consideration the fact they had invited Destre to their meeting from right here in the bookshop they were always at? No matter how obliterated they got him tonight on no matter what mixture of substances, he would know where to find them and consequently, where to send the police, should he find tonight’s experiences particularly disagreeable. Not the sharpest pair of tools in the shed it seemed… it seemed.
The abandoned warehouse where Malcolm and his cohorts would frequent, for the purpose of getting off their faces on a variety of substances and perform dark rituals which often descended into wild orgies, was situated on the outskirts of town. They would even, on occasion, bring unsuspecting young people-both men and women-along, incapacitate them with a cocktail of alcohol, pot, and various hallucinogens, and then subject them to heinous acts of debauchery, all under the devilish sway of Malcolm Turnpike. When these unfortunates awoke the following day, they would find themselves several miles from the warehouse in an open field, naked, violated and with only a patchy recollection of the recent nightmare they had endured.
Night was beginning to fall as the van pulled into the warehouse carpark. Destre had been a non-stop chatterbox the whole way there; pummelling Barry and Jesse with an endless barrage of questions about their meetings. Where are we going? How many people will be there? What kind of magic are you into? Do they know I’m coming? Jesse kept quiet as he drove, but Barry was more than happy to feed Destre with what he wanted to hear – very little of which was altogether true. They had told Malcolm they were bringing along a ‘participant’ tonight, but they hadn’t told him what their ulterior plan was. Malcolm was to find that out when the time was right and he was going to be appalled, to put it mildly.
Destre gazed out the front windscreen at the ominous looking building ahead and felt apprehension build in the pit of his stomach. Dim lights shone from the dilapidated windows of the warehouse, cast by candles spread throughout the massive open interior. The presence of at least a dozen vehicles in the carpark gave him mixed feelings of both, a mild relief that they weren’t just bringing him to an empty lot, and a growing fear of who the occupants of these vehicles might be. John had said “only a few” but judging by the number of cars, vans and bikes parked, it looked a bit more than “a few” people would be waiting inside.
“Destre, did you bring your cards?” Jesse spoke for the first time in nearly twenty minutes, sending the apprehension in Destre’s stomach jolting up and throughout his body as the silence suddenly broke.
“Um, yeah. I did,” he answered, somewhat nervously.
“Good stuff,” Barry said, turning to Destre with an eerily fake smile. He began to wonder if coming here with these two relative strangers was a good idea after all. He was here now though, wherever here was. Jesse had purposely driven a confusing, roundabout way to their destination, and Destre honestly had no idea where he was. He’d been too busy talking the whole way to pay any attention to the route they’d taken. Destre began to get shivers of fear running through him, keeping him stuck in place on his seat.
“Let’s go then,” Jesse said, and the two men opened their doors, exiting the van. Destre felt a single trickle of sweat tickling his hairline and then travel down to his eyebrow. He really didn’t like what he was feeling right there. Bill and John were standing in front of the van, looking back through the windscreen with unnerving eyes at their reluctant passenger. Jesse gave Destre a beckoning wave and Barry threw him a nod of his head towards the building. He couldn’t just stay there in the van, but he was getting waves of what he could only describe as terror crashing through him now. He had to summon every ounce of his courage, simply to get his limbs to move. Barry turned to walk towards the building but Jesse kept staring at Destre, making him feel ill. Then he started to walk around to the side door and just as it slid open, Destre got the incredible urge to piss.
“Are you comin’? Don’t worry man, we don’t bite… hard.” The sinister chuckle Jesse gave at his little jibe iced Destre’s blood and he awkwardly stumbled out of the van; Jesse grabbing him by the arm as he exited, presumably to stop him falling flat on his face. “It’s ok, Destre. We’re all friends here. You have nothing to be scared of. Let’s go.” He released his hold on Destre and allowed him to stand there for a moment, gathering his wits.
“I have to piss,” was all he could say in response. He could hear voices inside the warehouse. Calm, non-threatening. The occasional cheerful laugh. Jesse still stood there, his face strangely expressionless.
“Piss wherever ya like. There’s nobody around to complain.”
Destre walked shakily to the back of the van, unzipped himself and let flow while Jesse stood idly, lighting up a smoke while he waited. He finished his business but stood there for several seconds longer, not wanting to turn around. Not wanting to do anything but get the hell out of there and forget about this night altogether. That not being an option, Destre had no choice but to return to the waiting John and follow him into whatever awaited them inside. The fifty or so paces to the entrance were traversed in gloomy silence. Jesse a half step ahead, his face obscured, didn’t say a word, but Destre could feel him keeping an awareness of his position just to the side of him and back. The voices inside got louder as they approached. It sounded like a lot more than a few people for sure and Destre’s fear climbed to even greater heights. He could hear one voice louder than the rest, calling for people to pay attention, and by the time they reached the open doors of the warehouse, the voices had dropped to murmurs.
“Here they are!” Barry came walking briskly across the floor, his face beaming with a slightly crazed, but thoroughly delighted expression. “We were beginning to think you weren’t gonna grace us with your presence, Destre!”
“He had to piss,” Jesse said bluntly, loud enough for everyone present to hear and Destre felt his face flush hot with embarrassment.
“Come on, come on. Come and meet everybody.” Barry reached the entering pair and threw an arm around Destre’s shoulders, leading him towards the sizable gathering.
There were at least thirty people congregated; roughly equal amounts of men and women. A lot more than a few. Destre felt no less uncomfortable, especially after his embarrassing introduction, courtesy of the unsettling Jesse. They all looked his way as they made their way across the expansive room. The flickering candlelight giving the macabre appearance of ghoulish, painted on smiles. A man emerged from the throng, took a few paces forward and stopped. Destre could see his features more clearly than the others. Tall, lean and imposing, with long, thin black hair and an out of place set of huge, bushy eyebrows, which sunk his eyes into his face. He had a friendly, genuine smile though, and that put Destre somewhat at ease, but he still felt that emanation of fear in his gut. The scenario he was witnessing looked reminiscent of one of those Bosch depictions of Hell, with the dull, yellowish illumination throwing off leaping shadows from the people who sat and stood, silently watching the trio coming their way.
“Welcome, Destre,” the tall man said in a commanding, yet hospitable, intonation.
“My name is Malcolm and these are my friends.” He gave a sweeping, inclusive gesture to the people behind him. “We are happy to have you here, so please, do make yourself comfortable. If there is anything you want or need, all you have to do is ask and we will be happy to accommodate you. Barry tells me you read Tarot? And Thoth, no less? Please, come and sit with me. We have a common interest it seems. Barry? Could you please indulge our friend Destre here with a beverage?”
Barry took his arm from Destre’s shoulders and gave Malcolm a mock bow.
“Consider it done.” He then left Destre standing before Malcolm with a question stuck on his tongue. Barry? But his name is Bill. At least that’s what he told me? He didn’t - couldn’t - put a voice to his query though. All he could do was stand there like a mute and wonder what was going on here with all these strange people; none more strange than the man standing before him. His expression was a confusing one. His smile was welcoming but his gaze had the same unnerving quality as John - if John was even his real name. Malcolm took a couple steps forward and extended his hand to the panicked Destre, who still hadn’t uttered a word since he arrived.
“Come, Destre. I trust you have brought your deck?”
In a failed attempt to reply, Destre merely breathed a strained “Yes,” and followed Malcolm as he turned and walked towards the surreal gathering of men and women. Perspiration covered his entire body and his loose fitting shirt clung uncomfortably to the skin of his back. Nobody either spoke or moved until Malcolm reached them, at which point they parted to allow the pair through. It was like moving through a haunted forest; the gap closing in again behind him, the only sounds were of shuffling feet and the faint resonance of breathing. Destre’s hair pricked up on the nape of his neck, and his muscles quivered and contracted beneath his clammy flesh, as he glanced side to side of him without moving his head. The people now behind Destre and Malcolm, he looked down at the floor. A white circle with mysterious sigils at each of the cardinal points enclosed a low, rectangular table; a thick, round cushion on either side. A small metallic bowl containing an unknown incense lazily emitted eddying curls of sickly sweet smelling smoke. Four candles; two red, one purple and one black burned steadily at each corner.
Malcolm halted at the circle’s edge and brought his hands out to the sides and up above his head with a resounding clap, sending a jolt through Destre akin to being struck with a cattle prod. A collective gasp behind him, followed by a mumbling incantation of unintelligible words or phrases made Destre’s knees tremble weakly as Malcolm slowly lowered his joined hands to his chest in a prayer-like gesture. Destre watched in bewilderment as this intimidating and mysterious man shot his hands forward without breaking contact, as though he were piercing or stabbing at an invisible barrier. Malcolm slowly parted his hands horizontally several inches, before clapping them together once more and making Destre’s stomach turn somersaults. With an aggressive upward and then downward motion; hands still together, the morbid congregation raised their chanting voices markedly and lowered once again to a murmur, then to silence.
Destre blinked profusely as the sweat ran into his eyes, the salty sting making his head swim. Malcolm, keeping his left foot pointing forward, right on the edge of the circle, turned his right foot out ninety degrees and then traced a half circle along the ground, his right hand following its course, his left immobile, vertically flat and pointing towards the centre of the table. Destre began to swoon as Malcolm’s right foot stopped, but he continued to turn from the torso up, resting his gaze upon the terrified young man and placing his right hand on Destre’s left shoulder. Destre couldn’t help but to advance stiffly and enter the circle at Malcolm’s silent bidding.
Once inside the circle, Malcolm moved in behind him and walked the inner perimeter counter-clockwise until he stood opposite Destre, across the small table. He gestured with an open, upturned hand for Destre to be seated. As he was compelled to do so, he sensed a presence behind him. Barry – or Bill, whoever the hell he was, had entered the circle with a silver chalice. He traversed the perimeter clockwise and presented Malcolm with the cup, then reached high above his head with his left hand and seemed to scoop something tangible out of thin air, bringing it to his chest and slowly stepping backwards out of the circle. The entire procedure lasted several minutes before Malcolm finally joined Destre, seated at the table. He then took a slow mouthful of the chalice’s contents, turned it 3 complete times in his hands and passed it across the table to Destre. Against his will, Destre partook of the clandestine brew and placed it on the table at Malcolm’s silent hand gesture.
“Read me, Destre.”
The dizzying thoughts escalated in Destre’s head, making the room spin wildly for some moments, until a calm began to settle and centre him. As he removed the deck from his pocket, the congregation of people milled around the outskirts of the circle and settled again without a sound. All eyes were on Destre and Malcolm as he began to shuffle the cards.
The brew in which Destre had partaken was a potent blend of mushrooms and mescaline and as he shuffled, the effects began to take hold. Barry had conspired with several of the people present to take Malcolm down a notch or two, and as for Destre, well; they had other more sinister plans in store for him. Malcolm took the cards from Destre, cut them, and handed them back. He was very familiar with the Thoth Tarot and was mindful of how Destre performed. Destre, also adept with this particular deck, wasted no time in getting the proceedings underway. He elected to use the most basic of spreads, the ‘Blind Spot’, as he didn’t particularly care to be put on show like this. Malcolm watched intently; his eyes piercing and severe. Destre placed the first card - the card representing one’s outside appearance; what you know and others can see. It was the Two of Wands, reversed.
“Destruction, shamelessness, revenge, restlessness,” Destre began. Malcolm simply nodded in understanding. Destre began to continue his explanation but Malcolm stopped him.
“Next card, Destre.”
The second card representing the unknown; what you're not aware of, no-one can see, but what is ruling you from the inside. This was the Four of Discs, once again reversed.
“Fear of loss, avarice, greed for more, over-estimation of material wealth.” Destre began to feel uncomfortable. The reading was certainly ominous thus far, and didn’t paint a very appealing picture of Malcolm Turnpike.
“Next,” Malcolm said, a slight tremor of indignation in his voice. Destre placed the next card - the hidden; what you know but won't show others. It was the Tower, reversed.
A shiver ran through Malcolm and Destre both; the hallucinogen coming into play and giving the entire atmosphere inside and outside of the circle a treacherous vibe.
“Blind destruction,” Destre began. “A symbol of endurance and its destruction, an allusion to sudden, maybe shocking realizations that crushes old views and persuasions, maybe your view of the whole world. The area of relative security starts wavering, your tower then falls and with it the walls around you that have become too narrow. It is rarely the evil, but rather the necessary development you meet when there is a change in the armour of destruction.”
“Interesting,” Malcolm replied. His voice reached Destre’s ears as a hollow, tunnel like echo and his brain had a feeling like it was filling with fog. He started to dread what the final card might reveal. Up to this point, the reading wasn’t an overly positive or promising one. Their silently attentive audience weren’t making things any more comfortable either. His jaw began to ache, as if what he was to say next may bode badly for him, but he had no choice but to continue. The fourth and final card representing the blind spot; what you can't recognize but what others see in you. Destre, with great apprehension, placed the final card. It was the Strength, or in the case of the Thoth interpretation, Lust card, and to his supreme discomfort, reversed.
“The shadow side of the card implies a warning - that we should use our spiritual consciousness to concentrate on our inner strength and master our will, and make it effective in the world we live in. Conflicts, contradictions.” Destre sat for a moment, not looking up from the reading he had just provided Malcolm with. Malcolm too, sat quietly in contemplation. The gathering of people now standing silently.
Without warning, Destre was accosted from behind by two strong sets of hands and dragged backwards from the cushion and out of the circle. The sudden shock brought the full effects of the mescaline/mushroom brew to a peak as he was laid on his back and roughly stripped of his clothing. Malcolm sat in stunned silence at the outburst and could only watch in his own state of drug induced stupor as Destre was pinned down and Gloria appeared as if from thin air. She too was completely naked and gave Malcolm a lustful stare as she moved towards the subdued Destre. While four men held him fast, Destre was set upon by several women. All of them working enthusiastically to bring about his arousal, which in his drugged state took a little longer than what would be considered normal. While this transpired, Gloria danced and swayed seductively around the feverish mass of bodies, her eyes at all times, fixed on Malcolm.
Despite the shock and terror induced, coupled with the maddening effects of the drug, Destre succumbed to the swarm of women molesting him. His arousal came with a flood of hallucinogenic confusion as he became increasingly hard. At that point, Gloria glided over to him and lowered herself onto his erection, all the while, facing the bewildered Malcolm. He sat transfixed to the scene before him as Gloria proceeded to fuck Destre like a woman possessed, issuing screams of pleasure which echoed deafeningly throughout the vast warehouse. Malcolm didn’t see Jesse come around behind him; he only saw with horror, Barry appear, standing over Destre and Gloria and brandishing a large, gleaming dagger. Gloria rode furiously, feeling the tell-tale spasms in Destre’s body, indicating his impending climax. At the crucial moment, she leapt off of his throbbing member, allowing him to release his load in jets into the air. At that moment, Barry raised the knife and dropped to his knees, plunging the blade deep into Destre’s chest.
Malcolm jumped to his feet in utter surprise at the brutal murder, only to be clobbered over the head from behind by Jesse. The room spun into black as Malcolm collapsed over the table. Jesse dragged him over to where Destre laid dead, blood gushing from his chest. Barry stood and came over to where Malcolm lay, grabbed his wrist and slashed a deep wound into the palm of his hand, then held it over the fresh corpse, bleeding him onto the inert body.
The following morning, Malcolm awoke. The sun blinded him as he opened his eyes, finding himself in the field where they had brought countless victims before him. He rolled onto his side to escape the blinding sunlight and saw the naked, still form of Destre beside him. They had both been brought to the field and left there, close to the road and in plain view. The murder weapon, which bore the blood of both Malcolm and Destre, lay hidden several feet inward from them. Malcolm didn’t see it, nor did he think to look for it. He simply got up and absconded from the scene with a splitting headache and throbbing agony in his hand. It would only be a short time before the body would be discovered and reported. The crime scene investigators would find the weapon nearby and Malcolm would be implicated in the murder; both by the blade and by the evidence of his own blood spattered all over the corpse. His fate had been sealed.
The Power he had once held was a corrupted entity. In the haze of his addled mind, Malcolm felt a profound sense of entitlement, as if the world, even the Universe owed him something - everything even! He believed he’d worked hard to get where he was but in reality, he had attained his elevated status amongst his peers simply by means of manipulation and cruel, selfish acts of deception. People had once looked up to Malcolm Turnpike as a man who could turn any bad situation into a favourable one. He significantly more than dabbled in occult practices. An eclectic amalgam of dark magik, encompassing most everything that can be found whilst traversing the left hand path. The sordid path Malcolm was most familiar with - a path leading from darkness to darkness absolute.
At a certain, pre-determined point along the path of darkness, one comes to a precipice and by this stage in the progression, this precipice is nigh impossible to distinguish from the road ahead. To fall into the abyss is to be burdened with the false perception of the impossibility to return. After careening headlong over this precipice, presumably to fall forever into the abyss, Malcolm was to someday learn through near insurmountable adversity, that the illusion of impossibility is subject purely to matters of perception. Time would tell, whether Malcolm would continue to grope in the dark, or one day find the strength to turn the tides of his fate. The final words of Destre stayed with him the whole time…
“The shadow side of the card implies a warning - that we should use our spiritual consciousness to concentrate on our inner strength and master our will, and make it effective in the world we live in.”