FIVE CARD SPREAD

hellobali - - BLACK BOOK - PETER STEPHEN­SON

AS PETER AWAITS THE CON­SE­QUENCES OF A CASE OF MIS­TAKEN IDEN­TITY, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD HIS JILTED GIRL­FRIEND BELINDA TAKES CON­TROL OF HER DES­TINY

Even be­fore Peter had fin­ished telling me he was leav­ing, an­other seed had been planted. I woke early the next day sur­pris­ingly well rested, and when I looked in the mir­ror there was hardly a trace of last night’s tears. I show­ered and dressed, at the last minute de­cid­ing on a mist of eau de par­fum, and ar­rived at the sta­tion in time for the 7.01.

There was no-one else in the mar­ble foyer of Gened­its ex­cept for old Eric the cleaner, who ig­nored my greet­ing as usual, star­ing straight ahead as he coaxed the floor pol­isher into a wood-pan­eled space un­der the stairs. I glanced over at the un­oc­cu­pied re­cep­tion desk and took the el­e­va­tor to the fifth floor, mak­ing my way through the se­cu­rity doors to my work­sta­tion at the en­trance to Lab D.

The dark­ened screen of my com­puter dimly re­flected the glow of equip­ment in the glass-walled lab­o­ra­tory be­hind me. I prod­ded the on but­ton and, as the ma­chine flick­ered to life, I reached into the back of the top drawer to re­trieve my tarot. When I’d first brought them here, Si­mon at the sta­tion next to me had joked about their in­con­gru­ence in the con­text of all the com­pu­ta­tional power and nano-tech­nol­ogy around us. I wanted to say that I didn’t see any real dif­fer­ence, that they were also pred­i­cated on faith in the fu­ture and ideas about its pre­dictabil­ity. But I de­cided to keep them out of sight in­stead.

I spread the deck across the desk and, af­ter fo­cus­ing hard on my ques­tion, se­lected five cards, one at a time, and placed each one face down, left, right, bot­tom, cen­tre and top. I took a deep breath be­fore turn­ing each of them over. The cards could not have been bet­ter. Even the in­ver­sion of “The Lovers” told of past dif­fi­cul­ties now ripe for res­o­lu­tion. Peter, it was clear, hadn’t left to get away from me. He just wanted us to be to­gether some­where else. He was wait­ing for me to fol­low.

When I called Sarah that night and re­counted all this, she suggested in a tone that I would have found un­bear­ably con­de­scend­ing had I been in a dif­fer­ent mood, that I might just be go­ing through the first stage of griev­ing. She ex­plained, v-e-r-y slowly and care­fully, that de­nial was a nat­u­ral re­sponse to the dis­tress, and that even­tu­ally, once I’d pro­cessed what had hap­pened, I would reach a plateau of ac­cep­tance and emerge stronger than ever. She told me that Peter had never been good for me, that I was bet­ter off with­out him, and that soon I would see the end of our re­la­tion­ship as a won­der­ful new be­gin­ning.

As our con­ver­sa­tion ended, with Sarah mis­tak­ing my si­lence for re­luc­tant agree­ment, those last three words rang on like the peal of a bell, and I could feel that other seed con­tin­u­ing to take hold, set­ting roots and un­furl­ing a shoot to­wards the light, like a wild flower not seen for decades emerg­ing from the rub­ble of a de­mol­ished build­ing.

I opened the lap­top and con­firmed my book­ing.

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