The branches of the old eucalyptus sway in the wind. The creaking almost drown out the soft clacking of the wooden wind chime. In the distance thunder rumbles. The air fills with the scent of ozone mixed with wood smoke and winter. Inside the tiny converted wooden shed, Raven sits crossed legged on the floor listening to the soft drone of Wolf's gentle voice. The acrid aftertaste of blue lotus wine still lingers on her tongue. The wine, combined with the smell of burning skullcap leaves and wood smoke, makes her drowsy.
"...in your mind reach out and open the door,” Wolf says as she shuffles the tarot deck, almost absently. She withdraws three cards. She smiles knowingly as she lays the cards – the Empress, the Moon and the Magician – on the floor in front of her.
"Ask her your question," Wolf tells Raven, pointing to the Empress.
Raven thinks about the restlessness that had slowly crept into her life and the insidious fear that she'd chosen the wrong career, before answering, "I want to know if I'm on the right path."
Wolf leans over and hands her the Moon card. It is the card of dreams and visions.
"Now go to sleep, she will find you.”
The cage sways unsteadily in the wind, its metal bars moans in protest, waking Raven from her slumber.
"Where am I?" she asks no-one in particular. Her voice echoes briefly through the cavernous space before being swallowed by the wind.
"You're where you are now," a husky voice answers her.
Standing on a perch the Empress chuckles as Raven turns to face her.
"Who are you?"
The Empress laughs in response. The tinkling sound echoes throughout the cage. Raven looks about her, studying her sparse surroundings. She makes her way gingerly to the edge of the cage. Grasping the metal bars in her hands, she stares down into the black abyss. For the first time since awakening, a slither of fear creeps in, making her retreat from the edge hurried and clumsy. Raven closes her eyes. “This is all just a dream.” She repeats to herself, taking slow deep breaths, until she feels her heartbeat steady again.
Turning around to face the hag once again, she asks, "Am I on the right path?"
"This is the path you've chosen," the Empress replies, sweeping her arms wide.
“But this is a cage."
"Ah, but a cage of your own making.”
“How do I escape?"
"Look around you Raven, there are only three walls."
"But I can't just walk out. I'll fall into the abyss," Raven cries in alarm.
The Empress laughs mirthlessly.
"Then fly out."
"But I don't have wings."
"Oh but you do sweet Raven,” she tells Raven pointing to the card on the floor beside her feet. Raven bends over to pick up the card. She flips it over. It is the Magician.
Raven wakes to the beep of her alarm. Rolling over she hits the stop button, then drags her sleepy form out of bed. The anxiety kicks in as she thinks about the scheduled morning meeting with the regional manager and the inevitable clash of wills. Her footsteps slow as the dread rolls through her body making her feel queasy. Then like a drum beat the words, “Oh but you do sweet Raven,” pulses stubbornly in her head. The queasiness goes away.
In the bathroom, Raven checks herself in the mirror. A familiar stranger stares back at her. It is the Empress.
“Who are you?”
This time she knows the answer.
"Who am I?" she whispers as the image morphs into that of herself. She makes a decision.
“I am choosing my path,” She says out loud and for the first time in a long time Raven smiles at her reflection. Turning away she unclasps her right hand and watches as a black feather slowly floats to the floor.