The Commission

“Take a deep breath and focus your thoughts. What is it that concerns you? What is your question for the Tarot?” the Reader asked.

“I’m scared,” said Gina, a local artist. “I’m afraid to finish an art piece of mine. It frightens me. The more I work it, and the closer I am to finishing, the more I feel I can’t. What should I do?” Gina was really upset that evening. She had just come to the Tarot Reader’s house a few minutes ago and banged on the door for help and guidance.

The Reader looked at Gina, handed her hot tea, and said: “I think this is what you drank last time you were here. Choose your card and let’s find out what it says.” The Reader shuffled the cards and presented them on the table.

Gina drew one, but did not turn it over. She said: “I need to tell you first. I need to explain.”

“Remember I told you that last year I moved to a new studio with cheap rent? And that it’s bigger, and the front room makes for a nice gallery to display my art?”

“Yes, go on,” said the Reader, recollecting the conversation.

Gina continued: “Well, It’s at the edge of town by Harmon and Fourth.“

The Reader looked up and interrupted, “That’s why it’s cheap, right near the cemetery.”

“Yeah, right,” Gina continued. “Anyway, my studio is at the back room. It’s been perfect because of all the windows and light. I open up the place and let the fresh air in.”

“Several months ago, I went to the studio and found a letter on my desk. Weird cause I wasn’t sure how it got there. The letter was folded and crumpled in parts. I opened and read it. It was a commission for artwork, and said that instructions and payments would follow. There was no name, no signature or contact info. I didn’t think anything of it except for how it got to my desk. So I forgot about letter, until a week later when a second one came.”

“Again on my desk was a letter, but this time with a garish gold nugget ring placed on top. The letter said the ring is the first installment. The type of art medium was for me to choose, but it had to depict a specific subject – a woman dying after having slit her wrists.”

“The subject didn’t freak me out. You remember, I’m an illustrator for horror stories and novels. I’ve drawn images more horrific than this. But I’ve never gotten an anonymous commission before.”

“About a month later, I got another ring. I put it away in a drawer along with the previous ring and letters. I still didn’t believe it. And why pay with jewelry? I was annoyed I couldn’t return the letters or rings.”

“That evening while heading to the studio, I drove past a car accident. The driver, a man, was dead laying on the street. He must have hit the other car pretty hard cause he busted through and flew out of his windshield. He was laying on the pavement covered in blood and chunks of glass – the glass and blood reflecting light from the nearby streetlamp.”

“Something clicked in my head. The accident scene, I guess, inspired me. I got an idea, headed directly for the studio, and began work on the anonymous commission. It was slow at first. I had to order materials, but I was eager to get started.”

“Well into the work, I received yet another letter and payment. This time it was a gold chain threaded through the band of a diamond engagement ring.”

“After a while, my piece took shape. It was a full size representation. The base was a ball and claw bathtub made entirely of knife blades. The water was represented by broken shards of red glass. On top of that lay a woman modeled completely out of razor blades. She was laying restfully in the ‘tub of water.’ I had painted the razor blades red to represent where her wrists were slit and bleeding.”

“It took a while longer to finish the work – you know, making sure the shape, pose and expression was right. Every knife, every glass shard, and every razor blade had to be placed and adjusted just right. After being satisfied and polishing each surface, I finally moved it from the studio to the center of the room in the gallery.“

“Today I received another letter. The letter said, ‘Your work is beautiful, but unfinished. I will arrive to inspect it when complete.’”

Gina looked at the Reader pleadingly, “it’s almost finished, but I’m afraid.“

“Show me your card,” said the Reader. Gina turned over her card and revealed the Nine of Pentacles.

“You must complete your work,” the reader continued after thinking for a minute. “The Nine of Pentacles indicates financial security which affords you the time to focus on your skills and artistic talent. You are on the right path with your art, so you should finish it regardless of this anonymous patron. Your work will not suffer but, instead, flourish. It will be a great piece.”

Gina left the Reader’s house and proceeded to her studio. She entered and flipped on only the spot lights focused on the centerpiece in the gallery. The piece in its entirety shone brilliantly – each knife and razor blade reflected the light with its highly polished blue-grey steel finish. The glass looked like bloodied water.

But it was missing something, Gina felt. “I know.” She opened the drawer that held the letters and jewelry, and took out the chain with the engagement ring. She polished and placed the necklace on the woman made out of razor blades. Gina stepped back and gasped. It was perfect. The razor blade woman’s expression was serene as she lay in a tub of blood waiting for the inevitable to pass. But the piece was also sad, melancholy. It realistically depicted a woman dying from suicide. And now it was complete.

At that instant, the air in the room turned cold. Gina felt and heard a gust of wind behind her. She turned slowly and saw it – a ghost. A ghost of a woman; tall, thin, solid, except where it touched the floor. “She is beautiful,” the ghost whispered.

Gina was immobilized by fright. The ghost moved closer. All she could manage to say was, “I don’t know what to call it.”

The ghost replied, “It’s called, ‘My Death.’” Having said that, the ghost vanished. Its form was replaced by gold and silver jewelry, coins, gold teeth and fillings, and other trinkets of valuable metals and stone – all suspended in the air. These objects immediately dropped and crashed onto the floor, spreading out in all directions. This was payment in full.


This is Dante P Ramon, your host and author of The Dark Reading, scary stories inspired by Tarot cards. I invite you to listen to our podcast regularly, and visit us on the web at

I just picked the Death card, so good night for now.


Season 1 Episode 7

©2020 The Dark Reading. All Rights Reserved.

All third party marks are the property of their respective owners. Image credit: Golden Tarot, Kat Black.


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