Deal 194: The plot thickens

It was with good grace that I wandered downstairs to find out what was up. The rat that had fetched me was puttering around nervously, the rest of the animals were calmly waiting.

I wondered who had really called this meeting.

“Come in, Michel, make yourself comfortable.” I startled, then realized that George was seated in a shadow. “Tina really wants us to put our cards on the table and work together. I’ve come around to agree with her. When you moved in, I admit I paid little enough attention. Since then, I should have noticed you and at least dropped some overt hints about my crew.”

“I wasn’t paying attention to you and your crew either,” I allowed. “Perhaps it is past time for that to change. How should we proceed? Hi. I’m Michel, and I’m not what I seem.”

“Hi Michel!” they all chorused.

“I’ve been many things, but I seem to gravitate to this persona. I’m probably best known for writing under the name Nostradamus, I’ve never really lived that down and the fact that those works have never been out of print has rubbed my nose in that particular indiscretion even since. Ever since then, the presence of an impending doom leaves me reacting more like deer in the headlights, nearly paralyzed with fear of taking the wrong action, and recognition that inaction is also often the wrong action as well.”

They all sat there, attentive.

“So I am here, now, hat in hand as a gentleman, asking what we need to be doing.”

The animals all turned to George. I was coming to recognize that they all deferred to him. “Welcome aboard, Michel,” he began. “I’m currently known as George, and as a small-time stage magician. As you see, the animals and I work well together. We’ve learned over the years that this is a good cover, and allows me to be a little eccentric and keep a wide range of animals without drawing too much suspicion.”

“I’m always suspicious of coincidence. I’m guessing that my moving in to this building was actually a result of someone’s manipulation.”

“You probably aren’t wrong there. I’m sure we are imagining the same party. I don’t actually know.”


“Yes, Tina as she’s calling herself now.”

“She clearly has some explaining to do.”


Deal 193: Met in Darkness

Hidden Unity
sessions tiled no calls no leaks
strength in secrecy
frogs guard not even flies bugs
observe deliberations

secret signals called
members robed cowls masked faces
gathering cabal
unexpected telephone
rings in darkness called to meet

transformed citizens
lantern shines light of justice
cowls shade masked faces
Unity hidden from view
cabal decides fate of all

Three Ring Circus Spread

This is another spread inspired by my friend Scott Grossberg’s work with his Deck of Shadows. Our next block of stories is based on a variation of his Three Ring Circus spread. For use here, I’ve simplified his layout considerably. If you are more interested in divination than driving creativity, or want to build more complicated stories, then you might want to include the three cards I’ve left out.

His spread begins with a card he calls The Ticket which represents a price paid to reach the present. It continues with The Ringmaster, a card that represents “the element, person, or place that has the greatest influence… to do, accomplish, or become to achieve success.” I’ve left both of these cards out for the Oracle. If left in, I would draw a concrete card for the ticket, and an abstract card for the ringmaster.

I deal three abstract cards, The Three Rings. These cards represent the three things, people, or events that need the most attention right now.

I then deal three concrete cards. In the left ring, we find The Aerialist. This is the risk that is going to be taken and what might need a safety net to be put in place.

In the center ring, we find The Elephant. This is the strength and power––both physical and emotional—that is needed at the moment.

In the right ring, we find The Clown. This is what your subject needs to do to achieve their authentic self.

Scott’s version concludes with a final card, The Cotton Candy. This represents the gift, reward, or treat that comes from attending their circus.

My deal looks like this:

three ring circus

The three rings are Transformation, Fearlessness, and Omnipotence, which are the areas of interest for the prospective tale.

The Aerialist is Gentleman, so there is some risk associated with a gentleman, possibly a thief or con artist. A long con would fit with the theme of transformation, as would a forger.

The Elephant is Raven. The mythic character of the Raven is a Trickster, and is often stronger than he appears. Real ravens are much smarter than they appear. Standing here with Fearlessness, the hero has cleverness to depend on.

The Clown is Saw. One might immediately leap for any of a number of scary clown horror movie images, but remember that this is seen in the context of the third ring which is Omnipotence. Not that an omnipotent clown is actually any less scary…

As usual, the key here is to use the cards to make you think, and to prompt some new way of approaching your story, art, script, magic, dance, photo, painting, bonsai, or whatever strange art you practice. Above all, have fun with it.

And don’t forget to have some peanuts, cotton candy, or cracker jacks. You are at the circus, after all!


Deal 192: Invited.

The rat shivered. The climb up to this point had left him wondering why he agreed to this. Agile as he was, there were still moments where the possibility of investigating the afterlife became all too real. Not only was the drop a little far for comfort, but the pesky owl kept flying over and overriding all sensible instincts as he flew by was a distraction he didn’t need.

So he found himself, against his better judgement, breaking in to the upper story flat.

For the home of a powerful psychic, it was surprisingly spare. The flat was furnished as an office, with a Murphy bed in one corner. The opposite corner held a pile of skulls that made the rat shiver, until he realized that actual skulls were not usually made of glass and didn’t have a bottle neck in the top of the head.

The occupant was passed out at his desk, another empty bottle at his side and a glass half full close at hand.

The rat bit his finger.

Michel startled awake, and found a rat sitting on his desk blotter, staring rather sternly (for a rat) at him.

“You’re wanted downstairs.”

“He could have called!”

“That would have been easier than what I just went through, if you had bothered to pay your phone bill.”

“Oh. Right. That.”

“Didn’t you promise George that you’d take it easy on the booze for a while?”

Michel shuddered. Having all of George’s animals know so much of his business was not easy to deal with. Once again, he found himself how it was possible that he had signed a lease and moved in without noticing how odd it was that his downstairs neighbor lived with a menagerie full of busybodies. He decided that he really didn’t owe the rat an explanation. But that still left the question open. How had he been so blind?

Perhaps his glasses had been charmed. Perhaps he just saw what he wanted to see. It wasn’t that hard to believe either way. And it was only after Tina showed up and forced them to actually see their neighbor that Michel had realized. There was something about Tina that left ripples in reality where she walked, ripples that messed with charms.

“Get yourself cleaned up, mop up the spilled vodka, and come down stairs. All the good guys are gathering in an hour or so.”

“Tell me something.” The rat stopped and listened. “When did you realize what I am?”

The rat pondered for a moment. He wasn’t sure how much to tell Michel, but he did feel he owed some sort of answer. “The animals, we’ve known since the day you moved in. We always assumed that George knew too, but it does look like he knew without knowing, if you know what I mean. At least until recently.”

Michel nodded. “Thanks. Tell him I’ll be down.”


Deal 190: Octopus contemplations

The school circled nervously. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth.

It was getting on my nerves.

I was going to have to admit that I wasn’t what I seemed and disrupt the lives of so many innocent fish.

Circling back and forth. Back and forth.

And they weren’t making it any easier.

I’ve been around this aquarium as long as it existed in one guise or another. But I wasn’t going to be able to keep the charade up much longer. The old man had been rattling doorknobs the other night. Clearly hints of my location floating around, even if he hadn’t been quite confident enough to just break the door down. If he had been certain, he could have raised a storm and pulled the whole building over. Of course, any action that bold would risk blowing the covers of many of us, and even his famous temper was able to be moderated by the risks that entailed.

The school continued circling.

Tina had been around too, but she had stayed in touch and didn’t have anything to gain by handing me over to the old man. I was pretty sure there were a couple of others in town, but hadn’t left my tank in a long time and really didn’t want to leave this form behind. I’d put too much effort into passing as an octopus to just throw it away on a whim.

But all signs were pointing towards an end to our recent peace. And if the portents were right, then it was getting to be time for me to move on, and take that which I’m guarding somewhere else. Possibly even return it to its owners.

But not tonight.

Tonight, the fish can continue to circle, dreaming fishy dreams, and imagining their escape by levitation from the hunger that will overcome me if I do change my mind.