They had a tarot deck alright, but it wasn’t what I expected. It came with a free app download. I guess there really is an app for everything.
I bought it and went to a cafe and waited for my quarry to make an appearance.
While the app was downloading, I unwrapped the deck from the plastic. There was a little instruction manual folded at the front. I perused it quick, then reached for the cards to start shuffling. Right away I noticed there were no pictures. I flipped through the deck. All the cards were all virtually identical, with a classic interlocking design on the back, and on the front, a 2D bar code on a white background with a simple border around the edge.
It was a mechanism to prevent cheating. You had to draw a random card. You had no choice because all the cards looked the same, so there was no way to stack the deck to get the “reading” you wanted.
The cards were crisp and they snapped loudly as I shuffled.
I set the deck face down on the desk. I selected a seven-card reading and tapped the start button. A description box appeared summarizing the first position, the cardinal, also called the House of the World. It’s supposed to tell us something about ourselves—some kind of insight into our overall personality.
I turned the first card and scanned it with my phone. A picture of a tarot card filled the screen.
It shined in full between two flanking towers. A dog and a wolf brayed, while a lobster crawled from the water at the bottom.
I had the option of using the classic Rider Waite deck or two alternate designs. There were also additional, fancier designs—apparently made by famous fortune tellers—available for in-app purchase. I used the first free alternate, which the makers of the app recommended.
I read the description to myself. It told me I was a very creative and intuitive person, which I thought was a nice way of saying I was artsy and flaky. It finished with: “In the first position, The Moon represents mystery, and all that follows will be its unraveling.”
I clicked ‘continue.’
The second position is the House of Water, which flows over the world. It is movement, activity, transition—our life goals and the unexpected changes we encounter.
I drew the second card and scanned it.
The Knight of Wands.
A man in shabby chain armor rode an unsteady horse rising on its back legs. His right hand raised a rood sprouting green leaves.
Impetuosity, it said, and the pursuit of a foolhardy adventure.
I clicked continue and the card moved on a screen to a table, next to The Moon but with a gap between.
The third position is the House of Life, which grows from wet earth. This is the house of family, love, and relationships.
I drew the third card and scanned it.
The Three of Swords.
A red heart was suspended in the air, pierced clean through by three crossing blades. Blood dripped from the bottom as rain fell from storm clouds in the distance. The Three of Swords represents heartbreak, it told me, either mine or one caused by me.
I clicked continue without finishing the explanation. The digital card moved on the screen to the table and took the gap left between the first two, but raised higher.
The fourth position is the House of Animals, which feed on the plants which sprout from the wet earth. This is our passion, our weakness, our foibles and limitations, which can also be our strengths.
I drew the fourth card and scanned it.
Lightning fell from a black cloud and struck a stone tower, like a battlement, which shattered, sending the pair at the top, a man and a woman, tumbling to the ground.
The app told me my foolhardy quest would end in catastrophe, a ruin of the highest order. Possibly even a curse.
I clicked continue and the card moved to a second row on the table.
The fifth position is the House of Man, both saint and sinner, who was given governance of the animals that eat the plants that sprout from the wet earth. This is our rational mind, our hobbies and activities. Work and career also fall here.
I drew the fifth card.
The Eight of Cups.
A lone figure dressed in a red hood and cape and carrying a walking stick followed the course of a river. The traveler moved away from the viewer, toward the dark and distant mountains, so it was impossible to say if it was a man or woman. An eclipsed sun hung in the sky, shining only as a thin halo around an otherwise black disc. A scatter of eight gold cups, all broken, lay in the foreground, as if they’d been smashed and discarded.
This symbolizes abandonment of old plans and aims, but in the fifth house, it was more likely to mean that magic had been used against me, driving me forth against my wishes and sending me on a journey that I would not have otherwise undertaken.
I clicked continue and it took the last position on the second row.
The sixth position is the House of the Devil, who plagues all mankind. This represents our enemies—the friends that act against us—as well as the impediments and barriers on our path.
I turned the sixth card and scanned it. I paused when I saw it, for just a moment.
It was the same reading that Mom got for me before I left. Death in the next-to-last position.
I looked at the image for a long moment. A skeletal figure in black armor rode a pale horse. He dipped a long scythe over the ground, which mowed a garden of men, women, and children. A priest in a high hat knelt before him, hands pressed together in silent entreaty.
I was about to read the explanation when my eyes caught someone approaching the building across the street. I glanced up.
There he was. I scraped the cards off the counter into my purse and ran for the door.