Behind THE READING
It’s time for another behind the scenes look at my stories. Today, we will be talking about The Reading – one of my Briefly Bizarre flash fiction pieces. For those of you who don’t know, I am one of those nerdy kind of people that loves to know everything about the books I read. I flip to the “About the Author” page before I read a book, read the acknowledgements, and here lately I have greatly enjoyed the new paperback releases of Stephen King’s books that contain letters from him at the beginning. Knowing that I can’t possibly be the only one out there that does this, I offer a similar experience to my readers, giving you a bit of insight into the stories and the various contributing factors from my personal world that went into their creation. The following article contains spoilers though so, if you haven’t yet, I suggest you read the story first by clicking here (it’s free on this site).
The Reading is the second story in my Briefly Bizarre series of flash fiction. It is the story of Matt who, after making a quick recreational weed purchase, ventures into a cramped little basement. A sign at the top of the steps offered $5.00 tarot readings from a woman named Madam Vadoma. This woman, who is determined to put on a show of being a gypsy, offers the protagonist the following three card reading… The Lovers, The Chariot, Death… and informs him that Zhe cards never lie. In her forced Romanian accent, she explains to Matt that the cards are telling her that he is in love and that the woman he is dating will not marry him without a fight. Yet, if he does fight for her, his life will change in ways unimaginable. Matt, is screaming bullshit in his mind since the woman he is dating wanted to get married after only two months of knowing him and he leaves feeling a little robbed. As he crosses the street to his car, his girlfriend calls. Distracted, he doesn’t see the car coming and is struck, badly injuring and killing him.
This story has all the makings of one of the darker Twilight Zone episodes and rightly so. I was greatly inspired by the show and among my favorite endings were the ironic ones. Having the entire ending laid out before me throughout the episode, but never seeing it coming. It was this effect I was going for and greatly hope that I succeeded.
As I wrote I wanted to make sure that the reader got the double meaning of the cards, but didn’t want to drill it into their heads, which can ruin a story and make readers feel like you are talking down to them, either. For this reason I opted to repeat the reading and Madam Vadoma’s phrase, Zhe cards… never lie, three times during the story. The first came at the very beginning as Matt lay dying in the street, though I didn’t show he was in the street. The the reading and the woman’s line are repeated as the story progresses, showing us what happened just before the opening scene. However, wanting the ending to come out of left field Madam Vadoma interprets the cards to mean something completely different than what they actually do in the end. Finally, once Matt has been struck by the car, we revisit the reading and that phrase one last time. Only now we can see that the cards were quite literal in their meaning. The Lovers represented the phone call, The Chariot represented the car that would hit him, and Death was his actual death, his answer to wanting to know what the future held for him.
So where did this come from? Well, let’s start with the recreational pot store… Funky Vapors. Originally, I had this story set under a laundromat. Why was it under a laundromat though? Matt wasn’t carrying laundry with him or even waiting on laundry in the original version. In other words, he was out of place and there was no real need for the laundromat. Yet, Madam Vadoma was still smoking pot in her little basement shop (she bought it from a delinquent teen in the laundromat). Suddenly, it hit me. Colorado had just legalized recreational pot! It seemed perfect. Matt wanders into a pot shop for some of his own, sees Madam Vadoma’s sign on his way out, and wanders down to learn his fate. I mean, let’s face it, a tarot reader setting up shop under a head shop actually makes perfect sense.
Then there is Madam Vadoma… Let me get one thing straight… I don’t trust psychics. At least, not the ones with 900 numbers or little roadside shops. They prey on gullible people that think a few cards are going to tell them their future. It was for this reason that I made her, not a gypsy which people can easily imagine as a psychic shop owner, but a woman pretending to be a gypsy. So I gave her a very stereotyped appearance that any fan of classic horror films would recognize – the gypsy woman from Lon Chaney Jr’s The Wolf-Man. I also made sure that she “greedily” watched Matt put money into her little mason jar and that she “melodramatically” warned him that the death card was not a bad thing. Oddly enough, Vadoma is an actual Romanian name meaning the knowing one. I suspect the greatest inspiration for her came from the fact that, at the entrance to the city I live in from the highway, sits a small psychic and “spiritual adviser” shop. I have never gone in to that one to waste my money, but she has been in business since I was a teen. Hmmm… nearly two decades of robbery…
One last note of interest on this story. While it is the second installment of the Briefly Bizarre series, it is possibly the oldest of the ideas that led to a story. You see, one of my other interests is filmmaking. I could never get a reliable group together to do this piece though and, in the end, it never got made. Maybe one day I will get around to making these into films or even doing a movie version of all of them together in a short film anthology…
I hope you found this post fun and enlightening. If you liked it, please click the like button below and use those share buttons too. I’m always happy to receive comments as well. And remember to follow on Twitter and like Rune Morgan Horror on Facebook.