Tuesday, August 06, 2013

New Beginning 1010

“Let’s try them, just for fun,” Paula said. She held up a pack of Tarot cards, confiscated from one of the kids at the evening’s campfire.

“Open the door and the devil walks in,” I said. “Messing around with the occult is an invitation to evil, that’s what Pastor Jim teaches. Hand ‘em over.” I reached under my bunk and pulled out a cardboard box of Bible camp contraband — a string of firecrackers, a halter top, a Harry Potter book. No condoms this year, not yet. As senior counselors, Paula and I were entrusted with keeping such evidence in our cabin.

“It’s a game, Caitlyn, come on. Quit being Miss-bless-my-heart for a few minutes.” Paula thumped a Bible onto the table. “There, now we’re protected.” She pulled a first card from the pack and looked at it. “The Drowning Man,” she announced, and let the card fall to the tabletop. She pulled a second card. "Justice."

I stepped closer. “How do you know the names?”

Paula smiled and held up a third card. This had to be a joke. A picture of my childhood home? “You need to stop, right now,” I said.

Just then the door opened and the Devil himself walked into the cabin. My heart thudded as his flinty gaze took in the cards, the Bible, the halters.

"Stop?" he said, flashing a smile that promised filthy delights, "We're only getting started."

I caught sight of the box in his hand and my skull echoed with the deafening roar of blood rushing. In the final moments before I lost consciousness I didn't pray. No, my last thought was amazement. Lucifer preferred Trojans? Somehow I'd imagined him as a Magnum Man. 

Opening: IMHO.....Continuation: Veronica Rundell


Dave Fragments said...

The Drowned Man is a card in the Major Arcana of a videogame's specialized Tarot deck. It's obscure.

Worse for your dialogue, the names are printed on the cards. "How do you know the names?" would be a foolish question. He should reveal the meanings. That would show that she has more than passing knowledge of the Tarot.

The most common Tarot deck is the Rider-Waite Tarot.

Wikipedia has a page describing the cards with their pictures. The typical fortune is told with ten cards being dealt.

This is easily fixed. If she pulls The Fool as the first card, then she cans say that he is naive and uninformed, seeking knowledge (that's because The Fool is card 0 and is beginning the journey to enlightenment). THe second card could be something more ominous... The Magician for her or The Wheel of Fortune for him.

The "Justice" card is not part of the specialized deck. I don't know it's meaning in the R-W deck.

The Drowned Man In that special deck that card has an equivalent in the R-W deck -- The Hanged Man. It is a card of sacrifice, of life suspended and in transition.

When the character says "A picture of my childhood home" then the only card I would match it to in the R-W deck would be The Lightning Struck Tower. THat's a card of chaos, change, disorder. The Card that follows is Death. Even that card (Death) is not truly about dying, it is about sudden and drastic change. The old life is at an end, the new life begins.

I consider these cards jokes and silly fun. However, back in college when I first learned about them and how to "read" them, I had a buddy who wanted me to read them several times and I figured that he really did believe the "fortunes." That's wasn't right and I stopped. Of course you realize that Satan doesn't appear. The evil is to become a slave to the cards much in the way an alcoholic drinks or a gambler spend a life savings. THat's the evil of the cards or a Ouija Board or a crystal ball.

I've used the cards a couple times in stories. What I think that you want to do here is to pick a card or two that foreshadows the plot in some way.

I've said enough. Someone else will deal with the writing.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I was confused in the second paragraph. When she says "Hand 'em over," I assumed enthusiasm for the Tarot card game. When she pulls out the box, I thought its contents were things she had brought with her to her boring summer job. After all, we all know counselors break the rules too.

"That’s what Pastor Jim teaches" comes across as an as-you-know-Bob. Even if Caitlyn's always rabbiting on about PJ, it's more likely she'd say "Pastor Jim says...."

Work on the 2nd paragraph. It's full of info-dump; needs to be shorter and tighter, and Caitlyn's character can be introduced far more deftly.

(It's not a huge problem, more a matter of minor adjustment.)

The subsequent paragraphs work better.

Unknown said...

Having spent many weeks at sleepaway Bible camp as a tween/teen I love the idea of church camp counselors getting naughty with the contraband. There is a nice ominous vibe running here, and I expect something big to happen in the next few paragraphs.

Listen to Dave about the Tarot cards, though. Make sure there's some explanation of what they mean to give context to the reader. I do think the dialogue could be tighter.

I'd read on.
Best of luck!

Dave Fragments said...

Rule #5: Don't type comments at 1:00 AM when your brain turns the proofreading off...

CavalierdeNuit said...

When I was a teen I had the beautiful Thoth Tarot (Aleister Crowley's creation). You could use this deck, and it would feel a little more Satanic.

I'm really confused about "A picture of my childhood home?" Was there an actual photo of it stuck in the deck?

This story sounds good. I am a Bible camp survivor, and always hated it when my parents sent me every summer.

khazar-khum said...

There's about ten zillion different Tarots out there, though Dave is right about Rider-Waite being the most common.

The continuation is the only possible way to resolve the scene. It's perfect. Anything else will be anticlimatic.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Wow, a lot of us survived Bible camp.

I might change "a picture" to "a drawing" or "an image" if you mean that the Tarot card itself had a drawing of her childhood home on it. Otherwise, I had no issues with this. The dialogue runs true, and I love that you have the halter top in there. At my camp, the girls were told we couldn't wear two-pieces in the pool because the boys might not be able to control themselves. We were eight.

I'd definitely read on. And the continuation was killer.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Surely there are gradations of Bible Camp... I used to teach in the Bible Belt, and while most of my students were washed in the blood of the Lamb, they had pretty much all read Harry Potter.

The Rowling-shunning gradation of fundamentalist is pretty Out There, I think. Generally stands close to the ones who wouldn't let their daughters work in a summer camp (or anywhere else) because it would mean being outside their father's authority.

However, I assume you've done your research and gotten all your ducks in a row.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's because I'm from another country, but I was a little shocked that HP books were seen in the same league as tarot and condoms. I know quite a few conservative Christians, none of whom are threatened by the HP series, indeed, quite a few liked them. I've only heard of those who actually see HP as encouraging black magick, and that's only by the media painting them as belonging to the lunatic fringe.

I'm not sure I want to spend time with a character who is that conservative.

Nevertheless, I am intriuged by a set of tarot cards that have personalised detail on them. Creepy.

Unknown said...

My nephews just returned from Bible camp. No secular fiction was allowed. They want all campers to be focused on scripture, so I felt the confiscation of Harry Potter rang true.

Glad the continuation worked. Moved by the spirit, I was.

Dave Fragments said...

My neighbor and his wife, who are simply the best neighbors in the world without question, are Evangelical Christians. They raised their two sons without fairy tales, frankenstein, dracula, TV (except for 7th Heaven), and ghosts, zombies, etc... I am not certain that these two boys (since they are now nearing 30 years old) have ever seen Harry Potter on film unless it's a poster they can't avoid. They know the world. They come in contact with every odd person you can think of but they hold true to their beliefs. In their house, the rule is no magic, no mysticism, no un-relligious things like that.

I can see this bible camp confiscating Harry Potter and inappropriate girls clothing and fireworks.

And me, who is like the fallen catholic, near apostate atheist once lectured both of my nieces that I wouldn't buy them a fishnet tops or the bare-midriff look because both girls were too young for that type of clothing. I called that style ":early American streetwalker" and those of you who have girls to clothe know what I mean...

None of that strikes me as wrong in the opening.

none said...

I fail to see why the author can't use any version of the Tarot they want, including one they've made up or amended themselves.

Anonymous said...

Dave...do you live next door to Ned Flanders?

Mister Furkles said...


The Tarot were originally a deck of playing cards. They were popular all over Europe. They might be in any European language or there might be no words at all. The deck in this story could be any reproduction of earlier cards or a deck produced by a small game company.

It all seemed clear to me what was going on with "Hand them over." But, with minor changes, you can easily fix a couple of things that might confuse or mislead some readers.

The only summer camp I attended was mostly athletics. We were not allowed reading material in our cabins but could read in the library during free time.

Anyway, I love stories like this and would read on. It is well enough written and there is a hint of terror to come. Good job.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Why the hell would anyone stop kids from reading?


IMHO said...

Author here,

Thanks for all the comments, info, and discussion!

IMHO said...

Dave Fragments said:
What I think that you want to do here is to pick a card or two that foreshadows the plot in some way.

You mean, cards like "drowning man" and "justice"? ;-)

Dave Fragments said...

IMHO: You mean, cards like "drowning man" and "justice"?

I don't know enough about the story to say which card will work in the story. I'd only be guessing.

If Paula and Caitlyn are lovers or sharing a boyfriend in bed (unawares of it) then there is a card "The Lovers." I don't want to speculate that way about the story.

The "Drowned Man" is a card in a Tarot from a videogame. If that videogame figures into the story then by all means use it. However, sometime later in the story make sure the reader knows where that card came from and why. When I read it, it sent my head spinning and pulled me out of the story. That's why I suggested that you use the more standard deck.