It was blue. Like most sunny days, the sky gleamed its blue refracted light. The only mar in the sea of blue was a cloud, small, puffy, and unassuming. Dolly looked worried.

After the brief distraction, she put the car in park, got out, and grabbed a satchel from the passenger seat. It slipped from her hand, but caught the bag before it hit the ground. Dolly froze for a second, then sighed.

She slammed the car door and looked around. “There it is,” she said, and briskly headed toward the Tarot Reader’s. She took a another look back at the cloud while clutching the satchel, feeling into the bag to make sure its contents were safe.

Reaching the Reader’s home, Dolly again looked at the lone cloud with trepidation. She walked to the front door and rang the bell.

The Reader, an elderly gentleman, opened the door, made quick introductions, and invited Dolly inside. He led her to the reading room, a dark, heavily-curtained space.

“Before we get started,” he said, “I wanted to ask – what were you looking at outside? You were frightened.”

“You saw that?” she asked. Dolly realized that the Reader must have spied her from the window. “Yes, I was scared for a bit. I have a phobia about clouds – certain types of clouds. I know it’s irrational, but I’ve had it since I can remember. I understand the phobia well enough – I’ve studied it for years. But I swear they’re out to get me.”

“That’s a rare phobia, but like all, should be respected,” said the Reader. “Please, let me know why you’re here.”

Dolly glanced at her satchel, and said: “I need advice. I’m being followed. I have something that they want.”

The Reader said, “Is it in that bag?”

Dolly tensed and blurted out, “That is of no concern to you.” She was perspiring. “Again, I’m being followed. I’m sure I’m in danger. I just want to know what to do.”

The Reader sat up, chose one Tarot deck from several he owned. He unboxed and shuffled the cards. He said to Dolly:“Place your hand on top of the deck. Think again of your question then draw a card.”

Dolly followed his instructions. She drew the Nine of Wands and handed it upside down to the Reader.

“Very well,” he said. “The Nine of Wands reversed is your guide. From the card gazes a wounded man, perhaps a warrior even. He props himself up with his staff. Impaled in the ground are the remaining wands, planted in a way that makes a protective barrier. Beyond in the distance is a siege castle.”

The Reader shut his eyes and said without embellishment: “The Tarot understands your danger. She gives forth the Nine of Wands to guide you. Generally, it is time to seek shelter, to protect and rest, to retrench and heal. But no. It’s reversed. The Tarot says you must keep going, running, hiding – be ever vigilant and watch your back. You cannot stop. You cannot rest. You cannot hide behind a wall. If you do, maybe, maybe you may yet survive. But more likely if you pause and stand your ground, you will suffer.”

After Dolly left, the Reader looked again at the card. He thought, “Poor woman. She’s in trouble.”

A bit later, Dolly is back in her car, this time heading toward her grandmother’s home north of Savannah. She periodically looks up at the sky while her driving becomes more erratic.

She arrives at the house. It’s an old, moss-drenched cottage in severe need of upkeep. The house sits up just above its marshy surroundings. If you walk two hundred feet in nearly any direction, you would be shoulder-high in a wall of reeds and grasses, with your feet in mucky water.

Now agitated and breathing heavy, Dolly jumps out of the car with the satchel gripped tightly to her chest. The sun is blaring, but there remain a few nearby clouds. She runs toward the grasses, again looking up and back. She tries to go faster but is slowed by the muck. It seems to her that more clouds have gathered above. She tries to speed up but the mud just grips her feet. Finally, she finds a small, dry and clear spot with mud on one side and water on the other. She stops and gasps for breath.

Dolly falls to her knees and digs into the soil with her hands. “No time to rest,” she said. With every scrape and every glance at the sky, sweat pours from her forehead and drips down her face and onto the ground.

Her hands stop digging. The hole is deep enough. She takes the satchel and carefully places it in the hole. She grabbed dirt to cover it, but stopped.

She unlatched the bag and pulled out two test tube vials containing black liquid, each labeled with a biological symbol. She raised the vials toward the sun as if to see through the liquid.

Dolly, or Dr. Dolly Marker, works for the CDC in Atlanta. Her team developed a strain of synthetic bacteria that instantly reacts to any organic material it touches. It’s effectiveness is matched by its nearly voracious replication process. During exhaustive lab tests, there was an ‘accident’ that killed three of her team. The biologic agent was secured, with the military ready to step in.

Dolly understood it’s effectiveness and would not let the bacteria go to anyone else. So she stole the samples and erased her lab data earlier that morning. And now it’s late-afternoon and she is looking at the strain against the sky. But the sky is now grey with clouds. She stood and brought her arms down to her side. The clouds frightened her.

She felt something real – tangible – emanating from the clouds. “Oh my god,” she said. The small hairs on her arms raised. Then a bolt of lightning erupted from the greyest cloud and hit ground somewhere nearby. Dolly flinched and looked at the cloud, completely distracted from her surroundings.

At that moment, an alligator jumped from the water biting her arm and hand – the one clutching the vials. She resisted but was easily pulled into the water.

A few minutes after the bubbles stopped and the water calmed, Dolly’s body floated to the surface – her arm mangled. Then next to her body floated the alligator, also dead. More creatures started to float on the surface, spreading all around from Dolly and the poor alligator. The marsh grasses and reeds also started to wither. The circle of death was expanding.

The clouds dissipated. The sky cleared and again was blue. The afternoon sun once again bore down on Dolly.


This is Dante P Ramon, your author and host of The Dark Reading, a collection of original scary stories inspired by Tarot cards. I invite you to follow my website as I present new stories on a weekly basis. I also record and distribute my stories via podcast. So, visit us on the web at, and feel free to share The Dark Reading with your friends.

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


Season 1 Episode 23.

©2021 The Dark Reading. All Rights Reserved.

This, and all stories on The Dark Reading are original and written by Dante P. Ramon.

All third party marks are the property of their respective owners.


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