Josh Burbank, cousins Sara and Jasper Hewitt, and Scott Chen all exited the new Virtual Reality booth at the County Fair. They laughed in the warm summer's night air, heavily laced with the smell of fried foods and diesel fuel. It had cost them $20 each for just one hour, but what an hour it had been. "Here poochie, poochie, got a treat for ya!" taunted Josh to Jasper.
"And what about that time your head turned into an ass? Haw haw!" said Scott.
"Well, at least he didn't spank it all over everything," said Sara, with a meaningful look Josh's way.
"Hey, I just wanted to see how real the program was!" replied an unsinkable Josh.
"I wish we could go to Eden," Jasper said somewhat nostalgically. "They didn't card me there." And the four laughed and wandered through the fair.
After corn dogs, bags of mini donuts and large orange sodas, the four meandered through the midway, eyeing and commenting on their fellow fair-goers.
"Hey," said a suddenly more serious Sara. "Look over there." She pointed to a tent off to the side of the midway, almost completely lost in the shadows of the night. A small, hand-painted sign proclaimed dimly that for a mere $3, one's fortune could be read there through the tarot.
"Well," said Josh, "let's see what he has to say." And so the four approached and entered Chris's fortune-telling tent.
Chris sat behind a card table covered in an old checkered table cloth. A picture of a very attractive woman and a very cute baby, presumably Chris's family, was strung up on the tent wall behind him. What looked like Perl and MySQL reference books (because they were) peeked out from under his chair. "Ah, you found me," he said. "Good. Please sit down. I'll give you a reading." Josh began to speak. Chris cut him off: "On the house, I assure you. No need to spend money on what you don't believe, eh?" They glanced at one another. Had Chris overheard Josh from 30 yards away in the middle of a carnival in full swing?
Sara's curiosity got the better of her and she sat down. The other three shrugged and followed suit. Chris handed the deck to Sara and told her to shuffle it three times, and then to cut it three times. She did so, and he picked up the cards.
"Are you ready?" asked Chris. Cramped around the table so closely, they could smell the strong, dark beer and spicy, brown mustard on his breath. "Sorry," he said after stifling a belch. "I just had dinner. Ready?" Sara looked at him; there seemed to be an unhealthy intensity in his face. Then she laughed at herself. They just put him in the VR game, like that Grand Moff carny.
He turned over the first card. "Oh," he said, concern creeping into his voice. "What? What is it?" asked Jasper. "Uh, well, it's the 42 of Lots. Not a very promising card to start with." He flipped more cards, interjecting little "oh"s or "my"s with each new card. "Is there a problem?" asked Josh, a bit more harshly than he had intended. "Oh, um, no, not a problem, per se... Well, you see, you have the Living End here crossing your Lisa, Duke of URL. And I don't know if I like the placement of this Pozzo. He's reversed, you see... not what he appears to be. He and the 42 of Lots are in a sort of opposition. Well, let's get some more cards on the table and see what turns up." Again, he flipped over cards, unsuccessfully stifling some soft exclamations and grimaces. "Jeez," said Sara, "is it really that bad?" "Well, yes, and no," replied Chris.
He continued: "You see, with this Laenker here, next to the Pozzo, well, there could be some metaphysical trouble. Trouble that the 42 and the End will no doubt perpetuate. On the plus side, your Ben, which is also known as the CBS of Atlanta, portends really strong musical vibrations, but also can spell misfortune, especially if you're a high school student." Jasper gasped; Josh shot him a disapproving look. Chris went on: "Then, you can see the conjunction of the Ben and Jorie. The Jorie is somewhat unpredictable, and can cause both good and bad, but always strange, situations. Next, you have El Caballero right next to the Toad Swallower, Frenchy. I haven't seen these two cards in quite a while. I'm not sure what that could mean. And then, in the 10th and 11th positions, we have Darren and AozroOnden. They are like wild cards, and to have them together can be very powerful. Slantwise to them, in the 12th position, is C400. He strikes at random intervals, but you'll know it when he does. And then finally..." Here Chris paused and actually shivered. "Finally... in the 13th position... is..." "What?" said Josh. "It just says 'dreamer.' What's so bad about that?" "The dreamer is voracious," said Chris, barely a whisper. "She will consume all..."
Suddenly, a card fell to the floor. It showed a picture of a man hitting himself in the head with a rather large book. "What's that card?" asked Jasper, pointing down. Chris looked at it and let out a girlish little scream. "Lord Reaibn! The signs are complete... the omen... the oracle will not be denied!"
Chris quickly got up. "Thank you for your time! I must go now!" And before anyone could do or say anything, he had disappeared out the back of the tent.
The four friends looked at each other. "That was odd," said Scott.
"Oh, he was just trying to spook us," said Josh. "That's his act. He didn't even tell us what all these stupid cards are supposed to mean, all together like this. This is just a waste of my time. Let's go."
"Wait," said Sara. "Look." She had found a scrap of paper on Chris's chair. It bore the words Wieder fängt es an. "I wonder what that means?" she asked.
And so it began again. The four exited the tent and found themselves.
6/3/2019 10:31:14 PM
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