Seeing as I finished the first draft of Pickups and Pestilence last week, it’s definitely a work in progress. I was going to post a teaser anyway… so I searched for look and it appears twice in the Prologue. Perfect! Here it is, with both instances of look underlined…
The gypsy—so Cody assumed—laid three cards on the table between them, the first one sideways. Cody’s gaze was fixed on the table; all he saw were her hands and the cards she dealt. “The three pestilences,” she said. “One is past, yet all three are to come.” The sideways card was WAR. From its center scowled the grim visage of the late Rev. Carlton Worleigh, huge desecrated Bible in one hand, huge pistol in the other. A bullet hole in his forehead, and a pickup bearing down on him from behind, completed the picture. Cody remembered well.
The second card was LOCUSTS. They walked on two legs and carried tiny jars. The third was VERMIN. On it, rats, flies, and other creatures chewed garbage and gardens alike. Behind the vermin, another pickup lurked.
“How—what—” Cody began, but the gypsy’s left hand swept the cards from the table as her right hand laid a new card in the center of the table, face down.
“Behold the King,” she said, tapping the card with a lacquered fingernail. He turned the card over: the King of Clubs. The King’s hair was dark and straight, and hung long on the sides. It framed a thin, familiar face, one he saw in every mirror.
“I thought I’d be the joker,” he said. He tried to look up, but the table held his gaze.
“The Joker is among you.” The hands, old and bone-thin but not gnarled or spotted as he would have expected, laid three more cards to the king’s right: the Queen of Hearts, sideways; the Queen of Clubs, upright; the Ten of Hearts, beneath the first queen. “The queen who was. And the queen who will be.” Sondra’s homely face, the one he longed to see again, lie in repose. In her hands, she clutched a scepter… or was it a rifle? His vision blurred a moment, hiding the face of the other queen. The third card needed no explanation. She’ll get over it. Or not, said the fallen Queen, with a snicker.
Before Cody could respond—dreams have no pause or rewind—those hands were in motion again, arraying cards to the King’s left. “You will know her by the blood on her hands.” The Queen of Spades, whose hard young face had seen too much too soon—and indeed her hands were red. Instead of a crown, a diamond gleamed between her breasts. To her left, a haughty King, sideways, a sword piercing his chest. Peeking from underneath the Queen was a Jack. “Beware the one who will try to draw you to her, for her consort will stand aside. That way lies discord. Destruction.” The Jack seemed to slide even farther under the Queen, not wanting to be seen. “But stand firm, and her children will be of your realm.”
“What?” But now the hands laid four cards above the King that was himself. They were marked A, and Cody at first thought they were Aces. But instead of suits, the faces of Tina, Reverend Patterson, Ben, and Jason looked back from the center of each card. “The Advisors. Neglect their wisdom at your peril.”
“Wait a minute!” Heedless, the hands were a blur of motion, dealing cards beneath the central King.
“The Knights of the realm and their Ladies.” Again, these cards were not part of a normal deck; the men were marked Kn and the women L. Most of the faces were familiar: Tim and Sara, Johnny and Rita, Cleve and a grinning Elly. The fourth Knight carried a bow, and was younger even than himself. Although Cody had never seen his face, he immediately recognized this Knight as one of his own tribe. There was no Lady next to this card, but the Ten of Hearts lay exactly between the center King and this new Knight. As he realized this, the gypsy tore the Ten in half. “This one is torn, only thus to be made whole.” She laid the halves together, and it was at once torn and whole. “But these things are uncertain, and this one thus exists in both states until the day the question is resolved.”
No response but a flick of the wrist. A card floated among and above them all: the Joker. But this was no ordinary Joker. A grey hood, supported by the bill of a ball cap, shadowed all but an enigmatic smile. Orbs like juggling balls circled the hood, spinning and tumbling, even as ink on paper. The Joker is among you, he thought, and the dream dissolved into a chaotic jumble.
And now, the hard part: tag five more people. Fortunately, there’s a lot of writer friends working on a lot of different things, so I don’t have much trouble coming up with five:
John Wiswell, at The Bathroom Monologues
Fel Wetzig, at The Peasants Revolt
Helen Howell, at Helen Scribbles
John Xero, at Xeroverse
Craig W.F. Smith, at The Fantasy/Reality World of a Writer
Five people, four continents—not bad!