Casting the future

The artist dreams of them on a night of dark moon. She sees her hands turning over the cards, glimpses the images.

She rises into a morning of yellow haze, the TV droning pollution alerts and the latest update on the spreading oil spill. She pours a glass of pure water, goes into her studio.

The first card she brings out of her dream is the Queen of Jaguars with her roseate skin and golden eyes. She works without hesitation, without redrawing a single line, as if in a trance.

The second painting is of the King of Ravens, a man with black hair and feathered sleeves. At noon Crow Woman clamors for her depiction but the artist’s weary body drags itself into the kitchen and finally breaks her fast.

Outside her apartment window the city grinds on: traffic, crime, streets a moving tide of humanity, several leashed to dogs. A few stunted trees grow in cement planters but are drying up in the drought. No one considers them important enough to water.

Crow Woman has mischief in her yellow eyes. Antlers grow from the hair of the King of Deer. The Doe Mother leads her fawn or a lost soul through the Suit of the Forest. The Salmon King knows the secrets of the Suit of Water, both ocean and river. Grief clouds his human eyes.

From the website where the images first appear, it is the Salmon King who is most often downloaded.

The Queen of Vultures, the King of Condors can use even what is spoiled. They ride the Suit of Storms: thunder, lightning, hurricanes, the undertaker wind, blizzard and forest fire.

The last cards created are the Suit of Youth, also called the Suit of Hope: children in nests, cubs in cradles, fledglings and kittens sleeping together on a pillow.

The decks are printed without a book of interpretation, but they are snatched up as soon as they appear. In the cards people see not fantasy or a dream but a reality that was hidden from them. From laminated cardboard that reality stares at them like a reflection in a mirror.

Sometimes the cards seem to move in the hands laying them out, like an animal stretching. Sometimes the Jaguar Queen looks straight at whoever is studying her. Blink and she is just a picture, but the nerves thrum from the recognition. The Suit of Youth revives dreams almost forgotten.

Someone starts to water the container trees. That is the first sign.

In cities of cement and steel, in glass towers in the sky, people lay out the cards and the spirit of the forest, of air and water enter the rooms.

In a woman on the subway, riders recognize the Jaguar Queen, the power and smell of the cat on her golden skin. The Prince of Wolves gleams from a young man’s eyes.

In a year, in two, green breaks through the sidewalks. Deer browse in the parks. The trees break their pots, sink their roots through concrete into the earth and birds sing in every branch.

—Serena Fusek