A Heart Full Of Dust
Al Bruno III
...The High Priestess is in the middle of her baton twirling act.
The sound of a candy wrapper rustling wakes the Hanged Man with a start. For a moment he doesn't know where he is but all it takes is one glance at the man sitting next to him and he remembers.
The Magician watches the action on the stage raptly, feeding himself jelly candies from a tattered paper bag. They are all alone on a dark beach, sitting on a pair of folding chairs. The Hanged Man looks up to see the sky obscured by thick purple clouds.
“You really should pay more attention to her act,” the man in the spangly red jacket comments, “she's quite good. Shame about her lack of costume though, she'll loose points for that.”
“Am I a good man?” the Hanged Man asks.
The Magician chuckles, “You're a babe in the woods.”
“I thought you wanted to see me dance.”
“You can't dance all the time,” on the stage the High Priestess throws her baton into the air, when it returns to her sinewy red grip the ends are in flames, “you need to expand your repertoire. Sing! Juggle! Do card tricks!”
The Magician gestures wildly as he speaks, jelly candies spill from his bag.
The Hanged Man bends to retrieve them and then stops dead.
“I mean, these evening crowds are pretty sparse and easily satisfied, but when you get here earlier... Hoo-Boy! It's rough out there! Rough!” the High Priestess miss-times a throw and a second later she's in flames. The curtain drops, “Awww! Now that's a damned shame! But let that be a lesson to you my boy! Never, ever work alone- or without a net.”
Tiny glass beads are mixed in with the gray-white sand. The Hanged Man takes a handful and sits back up, staring at them wonderingly. Inside the glass beads he sees his face, reflected, refracted, distorted. “I'm not alone.” he smiles faintly.
Not taking his eyes from the stage the Magician reaches over, grabs the glass beads and stuffs them one-by-one into his mouth. He chews and there is a sickening crunch, “Mmmmm! Jawbreakers. Now where was I?”
The Hanged Man blinks in disbelief. “I told you I wasn't alone.”
The Magician flashes him a shattered smile, “I think I know what you're talking about and I'm sorry to tell you that your current...companions are not suited for mainstream success. It's that whole 'alternative lifestyle' thing, but don't worry, you'll forget her soon enough.”
“I'm not going to forget her!” he stands suddenly, knocking his chair backwards, “I love her.”
A dreadful screech fills the air. The Hanged Man turns to see a monstrous insectoid shape looming over them. Its gargantuan head brushes the purple clouds, it glares down at him with segmented eyes that are full of indifferent wisdom. It screeches again.
“I'm not sure,” the man in the spangly red jacket turns his attention back the stage, the curtain begins to rise, “but I think that means 'Down in front'.”...