by Story Weaver
The third chapter of Silkhaven, a short horror story seeking an audience.
Rainfall descended upon the ground no different in Silkhaven. The sporadic coolness of each drop formed a slick layer of temporary modest lakes in between each crease of stone that made up the rustic streets. Nearing the end of a second week the hushed town proved to be fruitful for Jacob's once clouded mind. The morning began mild; an injection of coffee down his throat and burnt tobacco preceding a gust of wind and the glimpse of lightning. The application of footwear accompanied by the avoidance of oral hygiene and he was out the door ready to delve a little deeper into unraveling what Silkhaven held for him. The boredom of his first week residing in the alien town could only be a fault in his own ambition. To say the least, depression spawned the encroaching weed of laziness, yet paperback novels and solitude no longer quenched his thirst for exploration.
Exiting the slim two story dwelling the rain glided to meet him. Tightening the collar of his jacket to choke his throat denying the wind to steal his warmth, he began his walk. Having the recollection of seeing a small cafnearby on his drive into town, Jacob replayed in his head the few street turns it would take to arrive there.
Soaked shoes acted as canoes gliding upon the endless stream of pavement. The loud creaking of wood brought his head skyward where above him a few paces away swung the sign of the coffee shop, tattered and splayed with flakes of yellow and purple paint. The Kat: Coffee, Readings and Remedies. Briskly walking to the awning, he gave himself a moments breathe free of rainfall before walking through the doorway. One twist of the doorknob and a jingle of welcoming bells above his head and warmth returned to his thinning frame.
"Oh my" exclaimed an older woman poised behind the counter. "Did you walk here hun? The rain gave you quite the hug, you two might be engaged from the looks of it."
Dryly smiling and removing the lake planted to his hat Jacob released a light chuckle, followed by a slight wheezing cough he nearly failed to cover.
"Actually her tears, we ended things. She has a temper... especially today."
The woman shared a smile with his humor and straightened up to full height, allowing a chorus of necklaces to twinkle across her torso.
"Welcome to the Kat, anything in particular I can get for you? You're my only customer at the moment." As a nest of gray hairs swayed to-and-fro exemplifying the emptiness of the store.
"Coffee please ma'am, black would be fine." Wiping the rest of the droplets off his brow he proceeded cautiously into the small store picking up scents of burnt sage and crushed citrus.
Removing a pair of readers the lady spun around softly and began to rearrange the back of the counter prepping his cure. Speaking loud enough to not be missed, "Feel free to browse, though sales are far from what I'm good at. But I suppose the place does keep the eyes busy." She said.
"It sure does..." Jacob murmured back, eyes wandering above to a wooden sealing fastened with sparkling cloth depicting what he could only conclude to be tarot card artwork. Leading his eyes towards the back of the store he noticed that the cloth connected to a multitude of others all with different styles and colors creating a hanging canopy of fabric and fantasy.
Glancing to his right sat jars of different waxes, concoctions and dried herbs all boasting manilla price tags on weary strings. Rounding the table of remedies he approached a small alcove nestled with a couple of small tables adorned with wooden chairs, chipping at the back yet standing strong despite their age.
A sudden hissing screech spun Jacob's neck back towards the woman in alarm, only to have his eyes fixate upon a large black cat perched upon a dark oak bookcase towering over him.
"Shake the rain off you with that greeting?" The woman lightly chuckled. "Sorry about Sybil, she is actually the owner here... I'm just the front." Smirking, the woman placed a small cup of steam on the oak counter.
"So this must be THE Kat?" Jacob slightly guessed aloud, combing a hand through his hair refusing to acknowledge the sudden jump in his pulse.
"Not quite, this place has been here longer than I have, definitely longer than Sybil" the cat gently descended onto the counter near the mug, ignoring the liquid and seeking a desired head rub as if on cue from hearing her name.
"Thankyou ma'am, how much do I owe you?"
"Let's say free for now, an introduction would be decent payment. You're a fresh face in this town, passing through?"
"Jacob, and I'm actually new in town. Wish I had more to say than that, thank you for the coffee..."
"Annete, and no need for thanks, a warm drink on a chilling day is the least one can do for another. Not much of a talker Jacob?"
Visibly displaying an aura of fatigue Jacob replied, "No no, it's just... have not had a conversation... in quite some time." Ending his words blankly admiring the fog lifting from the coffee in his numb hands.
"I can read you" Lowering her gaze to match Jacobs's, Annete let lose a faint smile with the side of her lip.
"Excuse me?" becoming suddenly fearful his thoughts were under attack Jacob fell under a spell of confusion.
"If you would like I mean, it's what I do... coffee for those who wish sleep away, readings for those who lose it to fear. Lightly laughing and running a hand along the spine of Sybil Annete followed with "Besides, the coffee is secondary, readings and wicca are my specialties."
"Oh, I see now. Sorry for my naivety. Never actually received a reading" Quietly letting the coffee touch his lips and mix with the drops of rain released from his falling hair.
Annete picked up the cat and rolled a sleeve up incidentally revealing a faded tattoo roaming her forearm. Roughly etched lines formed jagged points as if representing waves with what seemed to be three small circles nestled on each pinnacle. As faint as it was Jacob quickly snuck a hasty glance before the arm retreated into the folds of the other as she crossed them over her chest.
"Come," jerking her head lightly to a blackened door at the rear of the caf "It's a bit of fun for both of us, consider it your welcoming party here in town."
Glancing the woman over one last time, Jacob weighed the consequences as one shy voice within him screamed; refusing to be held by the shackles of silence any longer.
"This is why you are here" it spoke. "To take risks, chances, not sulk in misery in a studio apartment being an onlooker to the world you wanted to see".
One more shot at the aging door surrounded with ancient bookshelves of dust and mystery and Jacob gave his verdict.
"Alright Annete, let's give it a shot" failing to hide a bit of juvenile excitement.
"Come on in son" leaving the counter and lifting a ring of keys resting on the wall behind her, Annete made jovial strides across the wood floor approaching the door. "Bring the coffee dear, you still look weary from the sea" she chuckled as she began to work the lock at the end of the hall.
Swigging a bit more of the bitter black Jacob briskly walked towards Annete, still finding it impossible to fail in admiring the artwork hanging above his head.
With an ancient sigh the door swung on it's bolts, gliding smoothly open to welcome him into a room barren of light.
"One moment" Annete's voice strained as she wandered into the emptiness.
The soft sound of a flick and a few flutters of amber light quickly spit shadows across the room leading to a crescendo of white from the ceiling as the entirety of the room came into realization.
Two stiff leather chairs sat opposite one another separated by a wooden circular table. Resting upon the wood lay purple silk with its corners dripping like wax on four curves. The walls of three from head to heel were covered in one encompassing mural depicting horses in stride bearing riders with blades wet with blood. Fire erupted from where the hooves softened the ground and the eyes of each rider emitted licks of flame each a different pigment. Upon the rider's heads sat helms, slitted for their illuminated eyes and each in varying styles. Torsos were bare and the sky gave birth to a tempest of black clouds with lightning emitting hues of pink and blue. Each wall seamlessly arched the mural into the next creating an overwhelming depiction of chaos in technicolor.
Jacob had merely taken a single step into the room when he found himself in awe, entranced by what was being fed to his mind.
Annete had pulled out a small tin collecting rust like moss on a tree and began to sit.
"Please sit Jacob."
Slowly removing the jacket off his back his eyes continued surveillance as he gently joined his company at the table.
Eyes lifting heavenward only darkness was to be seen in this room, lapsing into the same darkness of the clouds hand painted all around him on the topmost portion of each wall.
"What... Is this room Annete, what am I looking at?"
"This is sanctuary Jacob. Mine at least. Where my thoughts can be shared and responded to, where energy flows as a stream without end. Safety, tranquility, meditation. And I open it up to you for the tasting."
"I'm truly amazed... I'm not to sure what to say"
"I only need a few words from you regardless for the reading, please, relax." Spoken with Annete's now all to familiar smile of welcoming and warmth that now seemed to hint at a bit of a chill, such as morning frost first greeted by the beauty of dawn.
"Is there questions you seek answers to?" Asked Annete
"Well... of course, always." Jacob replied with a slight shrug and inhale of coffee.
"Or perhaps you would just like an explanation... why things are as they are, why you are you, what you could be... or feel? Or witness?"
"No better way to seek all-encompassing guidance." Spoke the lips of the smile that lingered.
"Please, I'm ready."
Annete changed her focus to the tin resting between her hands. Opening the lid her bony fingers removed a large deck of cards, tattered and weary from fortunes told and questions answered. The hands began their melodic work of interlacing the cards in a pattern of shuffling, twisting them occasionally so that the ends of multiple were reversed, yet faces were never revealed.
All the while the faces of each horseman glared with eyes of fire at Jacob, instilling wonder and fear.
"I have a non-traditional method to my readings hun, I hope you don't mind."
A mindless head sway of uncaring was his easiest answer.
"Good, so I wish to show you a representation of your past, perhaps give you guidance on why choices in your life were made. Or better yet! The reason as to why anything has happened at all! I will reveal each portion of your life in a series of three cards. I find that one causes people to overthink, two causes conflictions, yet three... well you'll see."
Jacob soaked in the woman's visible excitement, nodding occasionally with approval and understanding.
"Now after the past, the present of course. Now the present is what you should be focusing on, all that is around you that is so very easily missed. And after both these things comes your future. Now, please don't overthink this, it is only what could be or at least a waypoint... it really is interpretive Jacob."
"I understand, I suppose I see it all as interpretive truthfully."
"Wonderful" Annete exclaimed as she reallocated her glasses back to the bridge of her nose, deeply breathed for a single moment, then lightly glided her palm across the top of the deck creating a fan of the cards.
"Make a choice honey. No right or wrong, only truth and interpretation."
A raise of Jacob's eyebrow mimicked the raise of his hand as he gently placed a single finger upon a randomly chosen card.
Annete twirled the card swiftly allowing it the spotlight in the center of the table. Jacob twisted his neck, straining to read words displayed upside down.
"The Sun" spoke Annete calmly. "Reversed may I add." Said she as her head tilted slightly upward to peer through her glasses.
"Why yes. Where the sun usually might mean 'happiness' or 'joy' this representation would embody the opposite."
"I see" Jacob dryly spoke.
"Your past holds... sadness, pain, depression?"
"Cannot disagree ma'am"
"You aren't the only one hun." A smile a bit more human boasted more warmth this time from the store owner.
"Six of Swords... again, reversed."
"You have been... moving on? Seeking something new. You wish to leave or have left, or should have left."
Silent nods and sips of cooling caffeine were the only retorts.
The third card.
" Ah, The Hermit. Isolation makes up your life, you must forge a new path... You have lost your way perhaps?"
The cards formed a narrow column from Annete's side of the table to Jacob's.
"Now for what your focus should be on now, or at least how you may interpret your present series of events."
"The Moon, upside down. You feel perhaps fear... confusion?" Annete gladly did not attempt eye contact with Jacob, who sat entranced at the cards appearing before him so strangely writing out his life in vintage pictures on coffee stained cardboard.
The second card.
"The Four of Wands. A sign of home, community fellowship even."
The final card.
" The Knight of Cups. Oh? A love interest perhaps?" Annete's hands gingerly left the card and rested beneath her chin in a flirtatious manner.
Jacob released an eye roll lathered with sarcasm. "You had me up until now" a faint chuckle was released from his lungs.
"Regardless hun, the future always interests us all the most."
A second column of three had now formed parallel to the first with adequate spacing in between... a no man's land for the future.
The first card.
"The Lovers. Want to apologize to my cards now?"
The card slid into place adjacent the first column.
The second card.
"The Hanged Man. Could be seen as sacrifice? You may give up a part of yourself, something you love for the greater good."
Jacob glared at the freshly overturned card heading the knot of emotion freshly tied deep in his stomach.
"Sacrifice?" He asked.
"Yes dear, perhaps you give up yourself for this mystery woman?" Annete gleefully laughed resting both hands before her on the table.
"Yes... perhaps..." Eyes wandered back to the barbaric riders depicted above Annete, thirsting for war and embodying rage and death.
The card found rest opposite the first, adjacent to the second column.
"Yes, fulfillment, absolute harmony, the Garden of Eden rediscovered in its own way... or so it may appear to you. A wonderful prophecy." A few soft claps followed Annete's final reading as she smiled wide with reassurance before Jacob. The final card found it's home at the head of the first two, forming a triangular pattern in between the columns.
"Well then... I suppose you occupied my mind better than I have been able to. Thank you" Following his gratitude Jacob lifted the mug to his lips to finish off the rest of the now cold liquid.
Annete quietly nodded as she continued to admire the displayed cards, then quickly raised her eyes and spoke...
"That will be $20 by the way."