The Death Card (A Short Horror Story)

A strong wind whipped into the blue-tinted window and scattered the cards all over the floor. Immediately, Imelda fell on hands and knees to clean them up. The man in the dark denim jacket grunted and folded his hands. His knee bounced wildly under the table.

Returning to her seat across from the disgruntled man, Imelda shuffled the cards a fourth, fifth and sixth time, continually watching the man’s facial expressions. The twitch of his cheek. The clenching of his jaw. The expanding and reducing pupils of his nearly-pitch black eyes. She’d never done a reading for him before, and she wondered where he’d come from.

“Sorry about that,” she laughed anxiously. “Didn’t know we’d be getting storms this evening.”

“You didn’t know that? Aren’t you a psychic?” The man stared at her facetiously. “I thought psychics knew the future?”

Imelda held back the urge to roll her eyes. “Unfortunately, psychics don’t know everything. Trust me, I’d be a very rich woman by now.”

She flashed a smile at him, which seemed to bounce off a brick wall.

The mysterious man huffed in reply and leaned back in his seat. It was like he was there to watch a scene in a movie unfold, which made Imelda feel quite unnerved. Her clients were typically easy-to-read individuals – cheating businessmen, bored stay-at-home moms, and sometimes a mentally ill person looking for a reason to live. And she’d give it to them. Any kind of hope she could provide, she would. But this man? He wasn’t just hard to read, his aura had a filmy, sticky quality to it. Like a spider’s web.

She finished shuffling the shiny cards and set them down on the table.

“Cut the deck three times, please,” she asked him.

He raised his eyebrows and slowly performed the requested task. Imelda was surprised his hands didn’t stick to the cards. His fingers were long, skinny and fuzzy, like a spider’s legs.

“So why is it you’ve come to me today for a reading?”

“Shouldn’t you know that already?” His words slid out from between a pair of thin lips.

Imelda grew increasingly agitated. She shifted in the cold metal chair. Should she put this guy in his place? Or let him belittle her for a measly forty bucks?

Imelda cleared her throat. “Okay, let’s see what the cards say.”

She turned over the first card. The man leaned forward in his chair.

The card whispered of beginnings, journeys, and curiosity on its lighter side. But Imelda knew, The Fool card spelled naivete and recklessness for the strange, tall man in jeans.


“Well, there’s something happening in your life that you’re not consciously aware of. You are blocking it out, for whatever reason. Perhaps an opportunity with work or a new love.”

“Perhaps? Well, which is it? A new job or love?” The man scratched the stubble covering his chin. He was testing her ability. Pushing her to crack. She wouldn’t let him.

“You’re being naive and aren’t aware of something that will happen…very soon.”

“You’re being vague, Imelda.” The man grinned slyly. Had she told him her name? She couldn’t remember the exact exchange of words they had at the front door. “Anyone could tell me this nonsense.”

“Listen, you can have your money back, I don’t need this kind of abuse,” Imelda lost her cool. She reached into the pocket of her long skirt and pulled the cash out, flinging it onto the table.

The man leaned back again and crossed his arms. “Relax. I’ll give you double at the end. Put the cash back in your pocket. Continue,” he motioned at the cards. “Please.”

Imelda gathered her senses and took a deep breath, then snatched the cash and shoved it back in her pocket. Eighty bucks could buy a week’s worth of groceries for her and her son. Eighty bucks for a three card reading is decent money.

“Okay. Let’s look at the next card,” she flipped over another. And inside, she grimaced. This card matched the man’s murky countenance. The Devil. Greed. Hopelessness. Obsession. These three words played over and over again in her head. Should she tell him the truth?


“Hmm, The Devil, huh? That’s fascinating,” the man smirked and slowly slid his hand inside the front of his jacket.

“You have an obsession. Something you can’t get off your mind.” Imelda gulped. “A woman. She doesn’t know you’ve been watching her. She doesn’t know you think about her day and night.”

Every muscle in her body tensed. Her jaw clenched shut. This man was dangerous. He was a stalker. A man on the brink of a violent act. She needed to get this reading done quickly and get him out of her shop. His black aura clouded the atmosphere. She was nearly choking on it.

The man nodded and pulled his empty hand out of his jean jacket. Imelda breathed heavily. One card left. Then she’d get her money and say good riddance.

She flipped over the last card and, surprisingly, she wasn’t surprised. Just more curious and frightened at the same time. It was the Death Card.


“Your obsession for this woman will soon end. She will put an end to it,” Imelda waited for the man’s snarky reply, watching him like a hawk. “So it’s time to move on.”

A painstaking minute crept by without a word from the man.

Finally, he opened his slimy mouth. “You’re right about most of it. Except, I will be the one to end it.”

“Oh?” Imelda opened the curtain that separated the reading room from the rest of the storefront. “So, you do have an obsession with this woman?”

“Oh, yes. But not for the reason you’re thinking.” He leaned over the table and stared directly into her eyes.

“Okay. Listen, I did what you asked. The reading is over now. Time for you to pay and leave.” Crossing her fingers someone would come into the store, she debated on going for the safe in the corner office. That’s where she kept her one means of self defense. No, violence begets violence. I’ll ignore him and push through this. She stood from the table, pushing the chair back, and reached out to grab the cards.

The man grabbed her wrist and squeezed.

“Let go of me! I will call the cops,” Imelda threatened and tried to free her arm from his tight grip. She was shaking from head to toe. The little silver moon anklet on her right leg tinkled ferociously.

“You are the woman I’ve been obsessing over, Imelda.”

Her mouth dropped open. Who was this stranger and what did he want from her?

“But why? I don’t know you. I’ve never seen you in my life!”

The man ignored her questions and reached into his jean jacket again. “You’re reading was dead on. But, here’s the catch, sweetheart. You were reading for yourself.”

He pointed to the death card with his left hand and pulled a handgun from his jacket with his right.

The man picked up his forty bucks that had fallen from the dead fortune teller’s pocket, then left the store.

It was sunset. He walked down the quiet avenue and lifted a cell phone to his ear.

“Johnny? Yeah, it’s done.”