Flames Engulf Auntie Jo

Chapter 28

This is a Young Adult story tackling issues of self-harm and suicide. It is intended for teen readers or older. If you want to read from the beginning, click over to chapter 1.

Flames slithered up Auntie Jo’s arms, setting the clothes ablaze. The fire burned different colors as it siphoned little bits of her away. 

Luke clasped one hand over the wound, blood drizzling down his shoulder. With the free hand, he fumbled through the deck, finally pulling out a card. Slapping it on the shoulder, blood gushed around the card, drenching the paper. But then everything reversed. The blood flowed back into the wound. When Luke removed the card, it was blank, the skin below the torn shirt healed. 

Kassandra seized Auntie Jo’s shoulder, but the searing heat forced her to jump back. The blouse turned to a dull gray ash, drained of color. Bits of it flaked to the floor. 

“Get away!” Auntie Jo screamed as the blaze charred her skin.

“No!” The flames pulsed with pure heat, keeping Kassandra at a distance. 

Luke stood up beside the shattered front door. “This didn’t have to happen.” The Wheel of Fortune card lay on the carpet, a miniature tornado of flame spinning out of it. Auntie Jo slumped to one knee as the fire enveloped her entire body. Kassandra couldn’t look away. If she blinked, Auntie Jo would disappear forever.

Luke stepped forward. “Please, give me the cards.” 

Kassandra felt tension build up inside, ready to burst.

He extended one hand. “I need your help.”

She pulled out the Death card. Was this what he wanted? Screw him. He could get it full force. She spun the card so the illustration faced Luke. Auntie Jo’s voice came to her, raspy and choked with ash. Kassandra squeezed her eyes shut. She had to focus on Auntie Jo’s pain. Use it to trigger the card.

Luke chuckled. She opened her eyes and saw the bastard grinning. 

Almost nothing remained of Auntie Jo, only a wispy charcoal outline. 

“Just stop this. Stop it now.” Kassandra jabbed the Death card forward as if it were a knife.

His smile faded and a look of concern settled across his features. “I’m sorry Kassandra, but you don’t understand. Death can’t capture a soul like the other cards. It holds all the world’s souls.” Luke pointed to the card. “How do you think you found your daddy? The Tarot deck showed him to you because it knew that’s who you wanted to see.”

Kassandra’s legs felt weak. Her thoughts spun back to the day in the Psychic Mind. All the cards had spilled onto the floor, yet only Death had landed face up. She looked down at the card with the picture of Dad, a perfect image. Was this another one of Luke’s tricks? Or were the cards messing with her head? She didn’t know anymore.

“Give them to me, Kassandra. Then all this can stop.”

The flames sputtered and died. Only a husk of Auntie Jo remained. 

Kassandra couldn’t stop the tears from coming. “Why are you doing this?” The card bent in her grip. 

“Tell me, what would you sacrifice to have your father back?”

She turned the card over and stared at it. Dad’s face was there, like always. Kassandra imagined his arms around her. Squeezing. That was where she wanted to be. Safe.

The room began to darken. 

Luke’s face pinched in a look of confusion. The murkiness swelled out, until the sofa and walls became only vague outlines. The card still appeared vivid and real—the only thing left with color.

Kassandra’s muscles quivered as though contracting all at once. Something pressed down from all sides, forcing her to gasp for breath. The sharp taste of copper bit into her tongue, like sucking on a mouthful of pennies. The room vanished. Luke. Auntie Jo. Everything. Only the card, glowing bright, existed. Then it too faded as blackness enveloped Kassandra.

The Tarot Cards Cause Lindsay to Melt into Colors

Chapter 25

This is a Young Adult story tackling issues of self-harm and suicide. It is intended for teen readers or older. If you want to read from the beginning, click over to chapter 1.

Kassandra’s breath came in spurts. “Don’t joke about a thing like that.”

“It’s true.” Luke pointed to the cards in her hand. “With those you can cheat death.”

She started down the sidewalk, one hand dropping into the purse to find the Tarot deck. Squeezing the cards, she pictured Dad trapped in the gloomy garage. Wetness formed in her eyes. This time, there was no need to brush the tears away. They weren’t stupid. These tears were fueled by hope.

 “Why are you telling me all this?”  

“It’s Ezabell,” he said, gaze flicking toward the sidewalk. “You, more than anyone, should know the pain of losing someone you love.”

“And you want to use these cards to bring her back?”

“No, you don’t understand. The deck only works for its owner. And that’s you.”

Kassandra rubbed a thumb along the gold patterned backs, marred with scratches. “So these can really bring my dad back?”

“Yes. I can show you how. But we’ll need the whole deck.”

She couldn’t fathom the idea. To actually have Dad back. Kassandra didn’t dare believe it. It would be too terrible if it failed. She stopped walking. What had Clerk Lady said? Luke was only after the deck.

“Can you tell me what to do?” 

“It’s very complex. Better if I show you.” Luke stared at her, his eyes impossible to read. 

“You said the cards only work for me. So…I need to hold on to them, right?”

“True.” His gaze wandered down the street to where another girl was walking their way. He turned back. “I’ll try to show you what I know, but it may be dangerous.”

“How?”

“With you, the cards can trigger at any time. A single strong emotion will set them off.” Luke pointed to the deck. “Let’s try something safe. You said some cards started off blank.”

She shuffled through the Major Arcana until finding a blank one. The background showed a golden tapestry. Cut into it was an outline of where a person should have been. A lion with a long curly mane squatted next to the blank spot. The bottom read Fortitude.

Kassandra held it up. “Why is only part of this gone? With the other cards, the whole thing goes blank.”

“There are people trapped in the deck, just like I was. When they’re freed, only part of the card goes blank.”

“You mean there’s some lion tamer walking around somewhere?”

Luke rolled his eyes. “That’s a bit literal, but I guess so.” He moved closer. “Let’s focus on this card. You need to dredge up some strong emotions.”

“What’s going to happen?”

“The card is blank. That makes it safe.” 

Kassandra inspected the card. The lion had its mouth open, baring bright white teeth. 

“Think about your father. How it felt to lose him.” Luke glanced down the street. “The pain is critical.”

She closed her eyes and pictured Dad’s face. When he smiled, wrinkles formed at the corners of his mouth. 

“This emotion has to be strong,” Luke said. “Remember how you felt when you saw the note on your locker door. The one about your dad.”

A tightness gripped Kassandra’s chest, like a hand squeezing her heart. “I don’t want to think about it.” She opened her eyes.

“You need emotional power.” Luke leaned close and she caught the scent of citrus again. He gripped the other side of the card. “This deck will bring your father back, but you have to open up to the pain.”

Her pulse resonated deep inside, slow and thick. She could picture the note clearly. The yellow twine twisted into a noose. No wait, it hadn’t been yellow. That was the rope Dad used. 

“Hey Seattle.”

Kassandra glanced up at the girl on the sidewalk. Perfect hair. Manicured nails. Pert green sweater. It was Lindsay. 

“Trying to drive another man to suicide?”

The tension in Kassandra’s chest exploded, scorching through her body. She let go of the card and stepped forward. “At least my dad still loved my mom. What’s the excuse with your parents?”

“Bitch.” Lindsay threw back a strawberry curl

“You practically define the word.”

She got right in Kassandra’s face. “You really don’t want to make any friends in this town, do you? Freak.”

Kassandra clenched a fist. Just once she’d like to smack the righteousness right out of this girl.

A low growl came from farther down the sidewalk and Lindsay spun around. A full grown lion emerged from behind a bush, cat eyes glinting in the sunlight. Goose pimples pricked Kassandra’s skin as the giant cat padded forward, now only a few feet away. 

She froze in panic, limbs transformed to solid stone. Her mind spun through all the wildlife documentaries she’d ever seen on television.

The lion surged forward, running in an oddly quiet gait. Lindsay held up one arm, desperate to protect herself. The claws sank deep, ripping into the skin and muscle as if shredding tissue. The giant cat forced Lindsay down on the sidewalk. 

Kassandra stumbled backward as blood gushed onto the pavement. 

“You need to watch this.” Luke gripped her shoulders with both hands.

“No. Let me go.” She spun, pushing away. 

Luke hooked an arm around and drew her close. Kassandra battered his chest, the bottled hysteria spewing out. She couldn’t look at it. Not with all the blood. 

“You must understand what you’ve unleashed.”

Kassandra squeezed her eyes shut. A weird sound—half sobbing, half gasping—came from Lindsay. Then gurgled words. The girl was saying something. Kassandra turned around.

The lion had retreated down the sidewalk, where it waited on its haunches. Lindsay lay sprawled on the concrete. Blood pulsed from one arm, but it wasn’t red. The liquid pooling along the curb looked green. Lindsay’s sweater was losing its green pigment, like a photograph slowly fading to black and white. Finally, when all the color leeched away, the blood took on the blue tint from her jeans, and they began to fade. 

A single thought, red hot and sharp, invaded Kassandra’s mind: The life was draining out of her.

Lindsay’s eyes pleaded. She attempted to speak, but only released a raspy wheeze. Kassandra tried to step forward, but Luke’s arms kept her rooted to one spot.

He leaned down next to her ear. “I told you there’d be dangers to keeping the cards.”

Kassandra held the deck up, still clutched in one hand. It was the card’s fault. They caused this. Not her.

Lindsay sobbed uncontrollably. Her clothes appeared dull and muted. A multicolored soup dribbled over the curb into the gutter. Now the blood pouring out of her arm took on a flesh color. Lindsay’s face sunk into various shades of ash. The skin looked like a burnt up lump of charcoal. 

Kassandra wrenched away. “Stop it. Stop this now.”

“I can’t.” 

“Do something.”

He looked over at Lindsay with a slight frown. “You must have really hated the girl.”

“No, that’s wrong.” Tears trickled down Kassandra’s face. “You said the card was safe.”

“It should have been. Only an intense emotion could trigger it.”

A crackling noise came from Lindsay, like burning paper. Only a ragged outline remained of the girl, like one of the sketches Kassandra had made in art class last year—lines and contours with no solid form. The blood on the sidewalk blistered and dried to a chalky dust.

Lindsay looked out with eyes no more than outlines. Kassandra stepped forward and touched the girl’s hand. The tangle of lines that formed the arm crumbled into dust, causing a chain reaction. Soon the entire figure collapsed to the sidewalk.

Kassandra smeared tears away. She’d killed Lindsay. Totally erased her.

“I can’t do this anymore.” Turning to face Luke, Kassandra held up the cards. “These things destroy everything around me.” She tossed them on the sidewalk. “Take them.”

Luke knelt down to collect the cards. The corners of his mouth twitched as though forcing back a grin. 

Flakes of ash drifted up the sidewalk and clung to Kassandra’s sneaker. She jerked her foot away, trying to dislodge them. “We need to get away from here.”

He cradled the cards in one hand. “I don’t think so.”

What was wrong with him? Lindsay had disintegrated. Right there, before them. Bits of her floated all over the street.

“I can’t stay here.”

“Then you should go.” Luke sifted through the deck, one card at a time, lips moving as if counting. 

Another flake of ash attached itself to her leg. Kassandra shook it loose and stumbled down the sidewalk. After a moment, she sprinted, her mind a stew of thoughts. Nothing made sense. Did she really hate Lindsay so much?

Reaching the corner, Kassandra looked back. Luke knelt on the sidewalk. He’d pulled one card out the deck and seemed to be scooping up the ash. The flakes vanished when they touched the card, almost as if they were being sucked up.Luke’s grin broadened until it cracked open into laughter.

The Cursed Tarot Deck Claims Another Student

Chapter 9

This is a Young Adult story tackling issues of self-harm and suicide. It is intended for teen readers or older. If you want to read from the beginning, click over to chapter 1.

Kassandra snatched the cards away, but Marco didn’t react. Not even a snide remark. He simply stood there, staring into space. 

“All right people.” Mrs. Beehive clapped her hands. “Back to your desks.”

Diana grabbed his hand, tugging him away. He shuffled along. 

Kassandra shoved the deck into her purse, but left the blank card out. The title at the bottom read: four of cups. 

Mrs. Beehive asked for examples of tone and mood from the story. Kassandra pretended to take notes but her gaze was fixed on Marco. Diana did the same. He seemed to be the only one of the three even remotely interested in what Mrs. Beehive had to say, staring at the board as if it offered salvation. 

Diana whispered something in his ear. He shrugged, prompting a scowl from her. “Marco,” she said loud enough to reach Kassandra. No response. His eyelids hung at half-mast.

Mrs. Beehive’s face scrunched up, eyeing Diana. The girl flashed another “I’m innocent” smile, though this time it looked forced. 

It was the cards. They did something to him. Kassandra glanced around the room. Lindsay scrutinized her, perfectly formed eyebrows bunching together.

Once Mrs. Beehive turned back to the board, Diana spun on Marco. “Are you even listening to me?” He blinked, but still stared forward. 

By this time, most of the class had tuned into the Diana and Marco show.

“Talk to me!” She shoved and he slid off the chair, slumping to the floor. Chuckles rippled through the room. One boy whipped out a camera phone. 

Even Mrs. Beehive couldn’t ignore this. “Marco Hernandez. Please take your seat.” He scrambled back to the desk. 

Diana stood and leaned into Marco’s face, her whole body quivering. “What is wrong with you!” Her voice crescendoed, leaving whisper mode and venturing into class disrupting volume. 

Mrs. Beehive frowned, hands on hips. “Diana Davis, please escort yourself to the office.”

Diana gripped Marco by the hair, twisted his head, and planted a big sloppy kiss. When she pulled away, he tilted to face the whiteboard. Diana swiveled and glared at Kassandra. The class turned to look. “He was fine before messing around with you and those cards. You did something to him.”

“The office, Miss Davis!” Mrs. Beehive said. “Before I call security.”

Diana marched into the hall. 

The moment she vanished, the chatter began. Camera Phone Guy typed away, sending the picture across the mobile teen network. 

Kassandra slunk lower in her seat, avoiding Lindsay’s gaze. Marco was the one who grabbed the cards. Maybe the deck was just being defensive.

“Pretty cool,” someone said.

She glanced over and saw The Browless One looking her way through a mop of tangled hair. At least one person supported her. 

When class ended, Kassandra headed toward the door. Students scooted away from her, creating a path. Marco remained fixed at the desk, the same dopey look on his face. 

Kassandra needed to figure these cards out. Right now. She located the library and rushed inside. Rows of shoulder-high shelves loaded with books crammed the space. The room was deserted except for the librarian stamping books. Kassandra spied a bank of computers against the far wall and made a bee line. She nearly jumped at seeing Book Girl hiding between two shelves, the same book propped on her knees. 

The girl glanced up and put a finger to her lips. 

Kassandra paused mid-step and turned toward the librarian, still working through one of the stacks of books. When she looked back, Book Girl was reading again. How the heck did she make Honors English anyway if she skipped classes?

Kassandra picked the nearest computer terminal and clicked open the Internet, searching for “Two of coins Tarot Card”—the one that spurred Lindsay’s wardrobe malfunction. The computer spewed up pages of links. The first one gave a list of meanings: Embarrassment, obstacles, obstruction, emotion, confusion, difficulty, hindrance, unrest.

The first word, embarrassment, caught her attention. Nothing could be worse than appearing naked in high school. The site also listed a picture of the card. It showed a juggler holding two oversized coins in his hands. Nothing like the one in Kassandra’s deck.

She ran a search for the four of cups. Marco’s card.: Ennui, Displeasure, Discontent, Dissatisfaction, Boredom.

Well, Marco certainly looked out of it, which was a type of boredom. Although his was the industrial-size variety. Again the picture on the website didn’t match the picture she’d seen on the card. What if these Tarot cards were some special deck nobody knew about? 

The bell rang. Time to hustle.

Before closing out the web browser, Kassandra scanned the site one last time. Not all the cards were bad news. Many of them talked about success or money. She could sure use a little good luck.

She noted the seven of coins because the website said it represented money and riches. Locating the card, she slapped it on the counter. The illustration showed five guys gambling at a green table. Seven ginormous coins hovered around them. 

Thunk. 

The librarian dumped a stack of books onto a cart. Kassandra glanced at the clock. Two minutes late to her next class. She shut her eyes and concentrated. Money. New jeans. A nice writing journal. A peek showed the five guys still whooping it up at the green table.

Perfect. So the cards did their freaky mojo at the worst possible time, but when Kassandra really need something…zip. 

She stuffed the deck back in the purse and raced through the deserted halls. Rounding a corner, Lindsay Barker strolled down the hall, flanked by two other girls. Kassandra must’ve looked like an injured gazelle because Lindsay smirked, pinning her with a gaze that said, “I’m ready to rip open your throat.”

Scare Yourself Silly in Just Two Sentences

I’ve read plenty of horror stories in my day. Most have to warm up to the scare. The following is a collection of micro-fiction each only two sentences long. That’s right, two sentences. This whole micro-horror movement started with a post on Reddit. Now it’s exploded into a new art form.

Barbara Steele from La Maschera del Demonio

Barbara Steele from La Maschera del Demonio

These stories were found at the Thought Catalog

I begin tucking him into bed and he tells me, “Daddy check for monsters under my bed.” I look underneath for his amusement and see him, another him, under the bed, staring back at me quivering and whispering, “Daddy there’s somebody on my bed.”

posted by justanothermuffledvo

I always thought my cat had a staring problem, she always seemed fixated on my face. Until one day, when I realized that she was always looking just behind me.
posted by hangukbrian
She wondered why she was casting two shadows. Afterall, there was only a single lightbulb.
posted by pgan91
They delivered the mannequins in bubble wrap. From the main room I begin to hear popping.
posted by Mikeysrventyfive
My daughter won’t stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop, but it doesn’t help.
posted by Skuppy
After working a hard day I came home to see my girlfriend cradling our child. I didn’t know which was more frightening, seeing my dead girlfriend and stillborn child, or knowing that someone broke into my apartment to place them there.
posted by cobaltcollapse
The longer I wore it the more it grew on me. She had such pretty skin.
posted by blaqkmagick
These micro-horror stories came from a site called Two Sentence Stories
The tiny creatures came through the rift from another universe. They look funny, with only four limbs and single head, but they taste great.
posted by Alex Sivier
The water of the lake was smooth,blue,glassy and warm as it reflected the green mountains surrounding it.Billy hung from his Grandfather’s vice like grip over the edge of the boat,the familiar but stern voice echoing in his head “Sink or Swim little buddy.”
posted by Saberblue
Donna was quite pleased with how dinner turned out. Her guests had eaten the evidence.
posted by Les W
Gloved hands tightened around his windpipe and red darkness flooded his vision. Then came the whisper, warm against his ear, “there was no need to give my stories only one star.”
posted by Graham Land

Tim Kane