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The Hand

Bronson D. Beatty is a put-upon MFA student from Utah who sorely misses his free time. When not studying or writing fiction, he sometimes works as a freelance journalist and writer for the video game industry. This is his first professional fiction publication.
A hand of five trumps--a rarity indeed.
I held The Lovers, signifying a choice between two paths, and The Tower for misfortune. The Wheel, which spun fate. The Magician, poised with promise, and The Moon, which masked turmoil behind illusion.
"Will you trade?" the Dealer asked.
The Dealer wore a plain white suit and sunglasses which hid his eyes. I imagined that they shone like sunbursts, like nebulae. The deck in his hand still held many of the lesser arcana, powerful in their own way, and a smattering of trumps. The back of each card was emblazoned with a mask that looked neither male nor female, with an ouroboros weaving around it.
My confliction must have shown on my face, because the Dealer smiled at me, a grandfatherly smile which reflected his greying hair and age-weathered face. "Take all the time you need," he said.
I looked at the other players. Though we bet money in this game, it was merely a token. The ante was not the aim; the cards were. You walked out with your last hand and the cards were more important for what they held after than for what they won you at the table.
You could only play once in your lifetime.
Players who traded in had to show what they cast aside. The man across had traded in several Coins--not a man for the material, I guessed. I hadn't drawn any Coins, but I would have done the same. The woman to my left had just thrown in Death, which I counted as eminently foolish. Imagine power over change and endings. Now imagine casting that aside.
I couldn't decide which to toss--if any. You may wonder at keeping The Tower, for who wants misfortune? But it would by my misfortune, shaped by my will. There's something to that. The Moon was staying. The Wheel as well. The Magician... depending on how you read him, he can be foolhardy. But there's power in him--let it be said.
I threw aside The Lovers. Life has paths and choices enough.
The other players reacted with interest, but the Dealer only smiled. "Take it," he said, dealing a new card.
The Hanged Man--sacrifice and martyrdom, but with a threat of passivity and conformity.
The Dealer gazed at me. I was the only player not yet committed to a hand. The others knew what they would walk out with, had decided how to shape their lives.
"Have you made your choice?"
Potential--Misfortune--Martyrdom--Fate--Masks.
"I have."
He smiled. "Then let us see who has won this game."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

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