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Authors: Annetta Ribken,Baylee,Eden

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BOOK: Allegories of the Tarot
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It was only months later the girl tired of her plaything
and left the kingdom, her belly swollen with Solomon’s seed. Katrine went in
search of her king and found his locks shorn, his head bald,
his
face sagging with age. “She left me,” he said simply. “She talked me into
shaving my hair. She left with my son in her womb. She took away my heart and
my heir.”

Katrine wanted to remind him of her warnings, but said
nothing. She walked to him where he sat on his throne, a diminished man, and
placed her hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Master,” she said. “I am so sorry.”

The high priestess lived out her days with the king as
his kingdom divided and dwindled and grew dim. He never found his former self,
nor
his wisdom. He took too many wives, gathered too much
gold, and fell into greed, lust, and gluttony.

This day, with the storm raping the land of Solomon, and
the sea threatening to swallow the city’s edges, the king lay silent somewhere
in the dark depths of his palace. Katrine had been banned from that sacred
place years in the past, never enjoying the king’s protection again after she’d
spoken against his dark Ethiopian beauty.

More walls would fall. Armies would invade. The lands
would be split in two under the reign of Solomon’s Israeli son. After this
natural storm
came
another, one unnatural, one
cleaving the kingdom in two and murdering thousands. The
nature
of those wars were
kept secret from her beyond the deaths.

***

Sheba’s son was born with the strength of his father
Solomon, yet he died one long night when the moon was full and the stars were
bright. Despite all they could do, nothing could save the little boy from a
sudden onset of illness.

By morning he was dead.

Sheba dispatched her attendants from her chamber and sat
with the body. As she thought her dark thoughts, she heard a rustling and
glanced up to see a viper curling over her son’s chest. She
stood,
horrified his body was being defiled by this evil creature. Even as she tried
to think what method to use to remove the snake from him, its triangle head
snaked into the boy’s open mouth, between the chalky lips, and slid down the
cavern of his throat.

Sheba raised her hands in the air and screamed.

The boy sat up and blinked.

He swallowed noisily and said in a snake’s rasp, “Mother,
I’m back.”

From that time on, he was possessed of darkness, his
hungers deep and unrelenting,
his
violence renown
throughout the nation. He was King ruling with a dictatorial hand. When his
people starved in their villages, he laughed. When his mother grew old and
lacked wit, he sneered and kicked at her. When she died, he lit her funeral
pyre on fire and danced around it naked, striking terrible fear in witnesses.

This was the man-thing that came galloping into Israel
where his father’s other son reigned. This is where he split the country,
pushing part of it close to the sea.

Over succeeding years, as Solomon grew old and of no use
to anyone, even his many concubines, he heard his son with Sheba was a demon
possessed of a magical snake. He called for his old high priestess, Katrine, to
ask her for the truth. She lived in a small palace he’d given her long ago.

“My son, the one born of Sheba, is said to be of the
devil and that’s how he split my country. What do you know of him?”

Katrine sat still, hands in her lap, dressed in a blue
gown. She regarded her master, noticing the passage of time in the face of the
once-mighty ruler. Outside the storm raged as she waited for another vision.
The far-seeing came seldom these days as if it was only really needed when she
was in the employ of Solomon.

She closed her eyes and she saw evil, the Son of
Solomon, the dark one. He was not even a living being. He was infested with the
wriggling of black snakes as venomous as any that ever lived. Animated by their
squirming, even his brain was coiled with them, and his thoughts poisoned by
their venom. Katrine, deep in her vision, saw he made more like him, thousands
more. He brought them snakes in their sleep and dropped them into their open
mouths. His army of the undead grew and that’s why they won their battles.
Nothing could kill that which did not live.

Katrine opened her eyes wide, fear spilling out as a
flood. “Oh, dear God, Solomon, he’s the greatest demon and he’s come with
abandoned souls to turn the soil and the water to blood.”

This time Solomon believed her. “I’ll send out troops to
find him.”

Katrine knew this wouldn’t matter. They’d never find
him. He was as destined to be on the earth as was Solomon, and Sheba, and...
Katrine herself.
They were the three shafts of the trident,
but Solomon’s son was the rain of floods, the fire of devastation, and the
chaos of the universe.

She bowed to Solomon and slowly backed from the room for
the last time. She’d never see the king alive again. At least she wouldn’t live
long enough to taste the worst brunt of the coming apocalyptic wars and neither
would her sister, the empress. Their generation was fading and the new one—remorseless,
conscienceless, and thoroughly evil—was on the way to power. Those without
souls would rule the new world.

At the thought of such a thing, Katrine felt a tug on
her heart and a pain shot through her chest to double her over. She tried to
catch her breath, to calm herself, and she couldn’t. She went to her knees
expecting she would die even before her king. She tried to cry out, but
darkness invaded her tongue until she lay on the marble floor in death. It had
taken her abruptly, without warning, sending her into the great beyond.

From out of the shadowy hall, a servant approached the
dead seer. He turned her onto her back to see she was indeed dead. He slipped a
black snake from his pocket and dropped the head into Katrine’s mouth to let it
wriggle down into the body.

The servant trotted away so she might come awake on her
own. He knew she would give the death-gift to her king within days, maybe
within hours.

The deadly Son of Solomon would rule
all
the
world one day, they all understood this truly—all the entire living
world.

***

Author of more than 50 books, I am a thriller, suspense,
and horror novelist, a short fiction writer, and a lover of words. In a diary
when I was thirteen years old I wrote, “I want to grow up to be a writer.” It
seems that was always my course. My books have been published since 1984 and
two of them received an Edgar Award Nomination for best novel and a Bram Stoker
Award Nomination for most superior novel. I have been a regular contributor to
a myriad of anthologies and magazines, with more than 150 short stories
published. My work has been in such diverse publications as Horror Show
Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I taught writing for Writer’s
Digest and for AOL online, and gave writing workshops locally in Texas. I was
an assistant editor at a Houston literary magazine and co-edited several trade
paperback anthologies with Martin Greenberg.

Recently I’ve sold short stories to the anthologies
Better Weird
edited by Paul F. Olson
from Cemetery Dance,
Fresh Fear
edited by William Cook, and
Someone
Wicked
edited by Weldon Burge. My latest novel,
The Grey Matter
, will be published in May 2014 by Post Mortem
Press.

I was born in Alabama and live now in Texas on a small
ranch.

News of my e-book publications can be found at:
peculiarwriter.blogspot.com

My Facebook page is:
facebook.com/billie.s.mosiman

I'm on Twitter as
@billiemosiman

***

THE EMPRESS

Flesh in Frame

By Spike Marlowe

The artist bites into the apple, breaking its flesh with
her teeth, easing the fruit's meat into her mouth with her lips, full and
rouged.

Her model lies on a bed of grass, her body entirely
white except for her tiny nipples, two pink blushing bumps beneath the sun's
rays. She lies exposed to the world as if newly born—open and vulnerable and
cold. An aspen quakes near her head.

The artist closes her blue eyes, and drops her apple to
the dirt; clumps of mulch and shards of bark stick to its red and yellow
striped flesh, white meat. She raises her hands to the sky, and tips her head
back, exposing her face to the sun. She inhales, breathing in the scent of
wildflowers, the dirt, the grass, the nearby sea. And then she relaxes, faces
her model as before, and opens her completely black eyes.

She begins to blink, and with each blink, there is a
click. She stares at her model, blinks faster and faster, and soon the clicks
run together until the meadow reverberates with the sound. Click. Click. Click.

The model lies still. She has done this before; she
knows the artist will not be pleased if she moves.

Finally, the artist closes her eyes. When she opens them,
they are once again blue. She opens her mouth and releases a stream of
photographs of the model from which the artist will birth images into wood.

***

The artist sits on a pile of pillows—red, orange and
gold—before a white table, surrounded by the lemon-colored walls of her studio.
To her right is a corkboard covered in photographs of her pale model, to her
left sits a myrtle wood bowl of oranges, before her lies a square of
cottonwood. She lifts her right forefinger and runs it across the cottonwood,
stripping away wood, as if peeling away a layer of skin.

She works through the night, into the morning, applying
fingers that form themselves into knife, gouger, chisel, fluter. When she is
done, her model stares back at her from the wood, her body trapped beneath the
roots of a tree, twisted and tangled.

***

When the artist takes photographs, she eats apples. When
the artist carves, she eats oranges. When the artist makes love, she eats
pomegranates.

Her model lies in the plush bed the artist has provided
for her, snuggled in a nest of sheets and blankets so white they almost seem to
have hints of pale blue.

The artist sits down on the bed, half a pomegranate in
each hand. She whispers to her model, murmuring soft promises, if the model
will wake.

When she finally opens her eyes, the artist feeds her
model pomegranate seeds, dropping them onto her delicate tongue like nectar
from the gods. But the artist knows she is not a god, no matter how much the
model calls her goddess, no matter how much the artist tells her her name is
not goddess but mother.

Mothers are so much more powerful.

When the pomegranate is bare of its seeds and the model’s
mouth is red from its juices, the artist kisses her, licks her lips and then
pulls away, smiles. She walks to the kitchen, retrieves a sea green clay bowl
brimming with pomegranate seeds.

The model sits up, bedclothes as pale as her skin
falling to her narrow hips, revealing the perfect breasts and belly of the
young. The artist shakes her head. The model reclines on the bed and kicks the
sheets and blankets away from her body.

The artist pours the pomegranates onto the model’s body,
covering her flesh with red seeds. The artist removes her clothes and sits
astride the model, crushing the seeds into the model’s torso with her hands,
red pomegranate seeds
gushing
their juice, soaking the
model’s skin, staining the artist’s inner thighs, steeping into the sheets.

Hands on breasts, blood-red sex against blood-stained
belly, the artist lowers her mouth to the model’s chest and laps the
pomegranate juice up like
a kitten
laps milk. The
model shudders.

It is then that the artist asks, “Would you like me to
birth you anew? Would you like to be immortal?”

She sits up and reaches behind her, rubs the model’s
mound until the model cries, “Yes, mother!”

And so it is done.

***

Over the succession of many nights and mornings and
afternoons, the artist impregnates her model, fills her with pomegranate seeds
from which the model’s immortality will grow.

Finally, the model’s belly quickens. Weeks later she
births a butternut tree.

The artist is never sure what type of tree her models
will birth. No matter—she knows how to carve them all, knows how to carve all
woods to immortalize her models, each one in turn.

After the quaking aspen is birthed, the artist sends the
model on her way. The model’s body is still ripe from her pregnancy. Her cheeks
are plump and rosy.
Her eyes luminous.
Still, she
doesn’t want to leave the artist; she doesn’t want to leave this home.

“You are woman now,” the artist says. “It’s time to go
into the world and make your way. It is time for me to carve another into your
wood.” With that she pushes the model out the door with a basket of food and a
bag holding the model’s worldly goods.

***

The room, wide and white as the tundra in winter, is
empty. The artist walks in, followed by a man in an expensive gray suit. He
pulls a large wheeled suitcase behind him. He stares at her body’s curves
beneath her long red dress.

The artist surveys the room, walking along the walls,
studying the matte black floor, the matte black ceiling that rises into
forever.

“Open the suitcase,” the artist says.

The man lowers the suitcase to the ground and opens it.
Inside are dozens of carved pieces of wood with girls’ images staring at
him.

The artist picks up four of the carvings. In one, a girl
is bound to a tree with moss, gagged with flowers, blindfolded with giant
leaves. In another, a girl hangs from a tree’s branches, strapped to the
branches by thick strips of bark, cherries spilling from her ripped open belly.
In another, a girl is trapped beneath a tree’s roots. In the last, a girl has a
tree growing from the center of her chest.

BOOK: Allegories of the Tarot
12.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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