The Woman in the Cards
rating: +23+x

Age eighteen. I'm lying in bed and struggling to fall asleep, as usual of someone my age. My first spiritual experience occurs here; it's a disembodied voice, seemingly genderless and extremely akin to an inside 'reading voice', so to speak. It says…

Good night, honey.

Comforting words, unnerved and confused young adult. I shrug it off and eventually go to sleep after much tossing and turning.

Age nineteen. I'm showering when I see an intrusive thought of a creepy man with long black hair covering his face, gaze pointed downwards. I immediately snap my eyes open, washing away the image. I showered with my eyes open then, even though the sight had disappeared moments after I had seen it. That image never quite left my head, regardless of how much time passed. It was just so unnerving and abrupt…humanity has an innate ability to sense when something isn't right. That man wasn't right, but despite that, he was gone. I wonder.

An indeterminate amount of time later, I experience my first bout of sleep paralysis. I can move my eyes, but nothing else. Something sits just outside my window, waiting. I know it wants me, but it just sits there, unmoving, unbreathing. Eventually, it passes right through the wall and slowly erects itself.

It's some kind of serpent. Its face is very dull and gray and is almost piscine in appearance. We stare each other down for what feels like an eternity. My heart revs at full gear. I do everything I can to move or get up or something, but I can't.

Eventually, I feel a different presence somewhere outside and my heart accelerates further. There are two presences here to haunt me in my sleep paralysis, not just one. At this point, I start praying, though not once have I been religious.

The secondary presence passes through the wall, completely shrouded in shadow. It stops behind the serpent for a moment, then it walks right past it and places something on my desk. It kneels beside me and gently caresses my face. I can feel it…I can feel her smiling. She gives me a warm, lingering kiss on my forehead and then moves away and just…stares. After that, she gets in bed beside me and holds me close. She leans her forehead against my temple and just squeezes.

The serpent at the foot of my bed erupts in a geyser of silver blood, sizzling against the walls and ceiling and striking an unseen barrier that shields me from the splash, emitting an inhuman shriek that jolts me to my core. I start shivering, and all this woman does is hold me even closer.

Her breath is warm.

Eventually, the sleep paralysis fades away, as do these sensations. I'm almost convinced that this was just a dream, as the morning sun pours its rays between my blinds and into my little room.

Until I see a little wooden box on my bedside table. I open it and find a deck of Tarot cards. They feel old, like an untouched book in pristine quality. I quietly flip through the cards, most of which are library themed. Each and every card depicts a librarian in a long, black dress. Almost all of them shows her facing towards me and smiling.

Whoever you are….thank you. I'm so grateful for what you did. I don't know what I did to deserve someone as amazing as you, but thank you. I admit I don't really know how fortune-telling works, but I hope we can be friends.

Age twenty-one. No further dreams or bouts of sleep paralysis have happened since then, but that's okay.

I sit at my work desk with the Tarot cards spread in front of me. I have spent the last few years getting acquainted with her tarot cards. I won't describe all seventy-eight, but I will touch on the ones that stick out the most to me:

The Fool Arcana, which shows a man knocking on the double doors of a massive library. Multiple windows show twisting staircases and sideways chandeliers as well as books hovering in the air. The man feels familiar. I do mean 'feels' familiar and not 'looks'; the view of this man is from behind.

The Lovers Arcana. This one shows the man from the Fool Arcana and the librarian both kneeling in front of each other, putting rings on each other's opposite hands. Honestly…this one is my favorite of the Major Arcana. There's something about it that just feels so nice.

The Moon Arcana, which shows a side view of the librarian embracing an old man on a balcony under a full moon. The man's face is hidden due to the angle of the embrace. The first time I ever saw this card, I cried. I don't know why.

The Judgment Arcana. The old man is dead in a hospital room with some books on his bedside table. His spirit is rising out of his body and the librarian is helping him to his feet. Here, he looks young again, just like in the Fool Arcana.

The World Arcana which shows them holding hands and stepping under an archstone on a path back up to the library.

The most intriguing part to me is that fact that the man's features are blank in all five of these cards. I've always wondered why.

I immediately stiffen and feel my breath catch in my throat. An eerie feeling drips over me, like the sensation that I'm being watched, but not by her. It's something far more sinister this time around; the snake and the dark haired man both pale in comparison.

My cards fly out of my hand, as though blasted by a gust of wind, and disappear into a rippling wall. I jump out of my seat and feel the wall; it's solid. The lights go out, leaving me in palpable blackness only lightly penetrated by a single beam of moonlight from between the blinds on my window.

Panic starts to set in. Librarian, where are you? I need you. Please. Don't leave me here.

My television turns on; it's covered in static, the center of the screen rippling outwards like water. I run to the other corner of my room and curl up into a ball. My door has disappeared and I can't get out.

In the corner of my eye, I can see the wooden box sitting on my bedside table. It's open and it looks so hollow and empty without her cards in it.

Librarian? Please? I…wish I knew your name. I need you. Please.

"Please." I whimper.

A wave of cold washes over the room, chilling me to the bone. Everything's getting really blurry; is it from fear?

The walls of my room slowly move inwards and starting closing in on me. They're going to crush me. I make a break for the window. An outline of a humanoid figure stares in, its features blurry despite the moonlight.

On a whim, I dash to the television and push my hand against the screen; it passes through it like water and I leap right in.

I appear in a little square room with four doors around me, all leading down nonsensical hallways half-draped in darkness. A little light hangs above me. Tears are starting to form in my eyes. I'm alone in here.

A dull shiver races down my spine, as though someone is dragging a single long, cold fingernail down my back. I whip around and there's nobody there. I can't take it. I dash towards a door only for it to slam in my face. All of the other doors follow suit.

I grab a doorknob and wrench with my full body weight, but it doesn't give.

Librarian. If you're there, and I know you are…I beg of you. Save me.

Something grabs me from behind and pulls me to the floor. The tile warps and locks me in place by the waist and ankles.

It's cold. It's so cold.

I struggle against my bindings, but to no avail.

The four doors all slide along the walls until they converge on each other and become one, directly to my side. The doorknob clicks. The door hinges squeak. Its footsteps are quiet.

The coldness stops beside me. It stands over me and peers down at my horrified face. It's a woman, old and haggard. Little pulsing lines of blue arc across her wrinkles, pulsating like blood made from blue lightning.

She reveals a single long, purple, undulating and twisting, gnarled fingernail and lightly drags it across the back of my hand.

She's so cold; her nail is made of ice.

She leans over me and—

She's straddling me, her gelatinous, bulbous lower torso wrapping itself around my waist and legs.

It's so cold.

She whips her head back silently and holds her hands out, her lengthy, jagged, purple fingernails jutting forth and casting a shadow on the wall behind her.
Her hair is made of rubber.

She's draining me.


She's draining me.

She grabs one of my hands and bites my fingertip off, and it hurts, coldness stabbing me in the veins, a long rivulet of blood trailing down my finger. She lets go of me and, without touch, she lifts my hands into the air; her fingernails bend down and jam themselves under my own, drawing dripping, dread-filled blood.

She's draining me.


The door flies off of its hinges and sails into the abyss beyond. The woman retracts her fingernails from mine and cranes her neck behind to peer into the dark.

She steps through. I can see her; she's tall, taller than I imagined, probably my height. She looks so gentle in her pictures, but she looks…frightening here. In fact, as ashamed as I am to admit it, the murderous rage present on her face is infinitely more intimidating than the snake, dark-haired man or this nail-woman could ever hope to be. Then again, what more could I expect from the woman who blew up a snake?

My librarian, in the flesh.

She grabs the nail-woman and she…oh my lord, she…

She takes a bite out of the nail-woman's neck, splashing blue blood across the walls. A transparent barrier of some kind keeps it from striking my face. The creature attempts to swipe a claw at the librarian, who ducks underneath it, grabs its arm and bites it off, teeth crunching into bone.

I can't help but scream when the severed arm lands on this transparent barrier above me and twitches in place. Soon enough, blood completely covers this protective barrier and obscures my view of the gore, but I can still hear the screams.

More than half of them are coming from the librarian, but they're not screams of pain. They're screams of pure, murderous hatred. Eventually, the gore stops and all that can be heard are the sounds of mine as well as the librarian's heavy breathing.

Footsteps. A hand wiping the blue blood off. Her tear-stricken face. She snaps her fingers and the barrier disappears. She tears the tile-bindings off of me and pulls me into her arms and I bury my face in her hair and we both let the floodworks start.

My savior. My librarian. Dahlia.

She cups her hand against the back of my head and our sobs echo into the blood-soaked room. She holds me close, gasping and sniffling loudly. I sneeze; she smells like dust. We laugh. She stands up slowly and offers me a hand.

No words; they're not needed.

She grabs me by the cheeks and makes eye contact with me. In those little brown expanses of literary infinity and eternity, I see my fist raised, poised to knock on a massive pair of wooden double doors, with this lovely lady librarian ready to greet me on the other side.

Everything makes sense now.

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