The snow grafted itself to my face the moment I stepped out into the street. I blinked the flakes out of my eyes; squinted up at her window as I crossed the deserted avenue.
Her door was open; the scent of patchouli oil greeted me warmly in the hall.
I inched into the cramped room. She smiled at me as I entered; beckoned me over to her seat by the window. She was playing a card game with a tarot deck, some version of solitaire. As I reached her, one elegant hand swept up the cards, wrapped them in a silk scarf, and placed them gingerly in a wooden box.
The scents of the room made my head pound. I hadn’t eaten anything today, I realized... maybe that was what was making me lightheaded. I sat down, across the table from her, in a small pool of candlelight. She extended her hand, and took mine firmly in hers. She opened my palm with an insouciant insistence, and glanced sharply up at me, questioning.
“Well,” I grinned, “I’m on my own a lot.”
I hoped it was a friendly grin.
She cocked her head slightly, as if listening to a strange, urgent whisper. She nodded to herself, and said “When I look at you, this is what I see: I see the eye of a man. I see the eye of a wolf. In the eye of a man, I see honesty, decency and innocence. I see an upright man who walks on a square.”
I blinked involuntarily; hard enough to startle both of us.
“And in the eye of a wolf,” she continued, “I see a groaning and a growling; night howls and cries. I see a monster running with blood-flecked spittle in the darkness of the borders of the town.”
I slipped my hand from her grip, and rubbed it thoughtfully. “How can you see a growl, or a cry?”
“It is not hard,” she replied in that strange accent. Egyptian? Maltese? “In the eye of the mind, we see many things.” Madame Ezekial closed her green eyes. “There is a traditional way. A way to wash off a bad shape. You stand in running water; in clear spring water, while eating white rose petals.”
“The shape of darkness will be washed from you. It will return with the next full moon. So, once
the shape is washed from you, you open your veins in the running water. It will sting mightily, of course, but the river will carry the blood away.”
I leaned back in the chair, hungrily awaiting her gaze.
She sighed, “Now... the tarot.”
She unwrapped her deck from the black silk scarf that held it, passed me the cards to shuffle. I fanned them; riffed and bridged them.
“Slower, slower... let them get to know you. Let them... love you... like... like a woman would love you.”
I stared down at the deck which filled my hand; gripped it’s edges tightly, until my knuckles turned white, and the veins strained against the flesh. I passed them back to her.
She turned over the first card; it was called “The Wargwolf”. Her green eyes shimmered with distaste, and confusion. “This is not a card from my deck!” she gasped. She hesitated then, her hand hovering over the deck like a slow death. She turned her eyes to me, “What did you do to my cards?”
“Nothing, ma’am... I just held them. That’s all.”
She turned over the next card; her eyes never left my face. We looked down at the upturned card together. It was called “The Deep Ones”. It showed something green and faintly octopoid. The thing’s mouths --if they were mouths, and not tentacles-- began to writhe and twitch as I watched.
She covered it quickly with another card... and then another... and another....
They were all blank.
She croaked, “Did you do that?”
She seemed on the verge of tears. “Go. Now.”
She looked down at the cards, spread out on the table like dated communion wafers; dismissed me... erased me. I stood up in that room of incense and candle-wax, and noticed, across the street, a brief flash of light in my office window. Two men with flashlights were inside. They were opening the empty filing cabinet, and peering around in the shadows. I watched them take up their positions then: one in the armchair, the other behind the door... waiting for me to return.
I smiled to myself. It was cold and inhospitable in my office. With any luck, they would wait there for hours before they finally decided I wasn’t coming back.
I left Madame Ezekial turning over her cards, one by one, staring at them as if that would make the pictures return.
The snow greeted me outside; the wind guided me back to--
“The bar’s closing, mister.”
“Yeah, well I just thought--“
“Hey, wait... Jack Daniels, right?”
“Sounds good,” I said, climbing back on the barstool, and pushing the bartender’s book aside.
He poured the drink for me. I recognized the thumbprint from the last time I had the glass.
“Where are the chess friends?” I asked, knocking the drink back.
“It’s a big night for them tonight. They’ll be down at the bay.”
I nodded, and opened his book. “Good book,” I said, closing the worn cover again.
He took the book from me, and read: “ ‘Below the thunders of the upper deep; far, far beneath in the abysmal sea, his ancient dreamless, uninvaded sleep... the Kraken sleepeth...’ “
“So... what’s your point?” I asked, fingering the tumbler.
He smiled. “Come over here,” he said, opening the blinds on a dirty window. “See out there?” He pointed toward the west of the town; toward the cliffs. As I stared, a bonfire was kindled on the cliff-tops; it flared, and crackled with a copper-green flame. “They’re going to wake the deep ones,” he whispered reverently into the stained blinds that bit his lips.
He closed the blinds, and turned to me; raised his hands in the air as he explained that “The stars and the planets and the moon are all in the right place. It’s time. The dry lands will sink, and the seas shall rise... ‘For the world shall be cleansed with ice and floods....’ ”
“... and I’ll thank you to keep to your own shelf in the refrigerator,” I finished hotly.
He lowered his hands, confused.
I gestured toward the window. “What’s the quickest way to get up those cliffs?”
Marsh Street. Hang a left at the . Go ‘till you reach Church of Dagon Manuxet Way, and then just keep on
going-- actually, why don’t I walk you up there? I’d hate to miss any of the fun.”