Short Stories in the World of Tarot
8 of Pentacles: 8 is Enough
Octavia had not seen such lean times in her 38 years upon the Earth. It was 2051. Certain commodities like sugar, tea, pasta, certain fruits and select meats including beef and veal were now outlawed (not so for the Elite) as a way to preserve what little bit of precious natural resources remained. The masses were thrown rations of mass produced chickens, Tilapia and of course pork bellies. One was lucky to get their hands on meat that was fresh as most cuts were frozen with ambiguous packaging information. Thankfully, root vegetables were still in abundant supply. Octavia never forgot what her mother told her:
“As long as you got some root vegetables you can make a meal”.
Octavia’s late mother had also taught her the Secret Law of 8. She had told Octavia that as long as she kept 8 key ingredients in her kitchen she and her loved ones would never fall victim to poverty. Of course these 8 key ingredients had to be kept secret so they will not be revealed here. With these 8 key ingredients and a few more, Octavia became widely known throughout her district for baking the best chicken pot pies.
As a result of the government’s sanctions on many foods, pot pies and casseroles experienced a major resurgence since most people had to cook with the odds and ends they could salvage from the local food distribution centers. It was impossible to get your hands on a whole chicken—unless you ventured into the seedy black market. Everything was virtually broken down into modular bits and pieces. One couldn’t even find one whole chicken breast. Supermarkets were quickly becoming a thing of the past. Most city dwellers were forced to wait in hour-long lines at the government-run mega food distribution centers. Many restaurants and individual food vendors jumped on the pot pie band wagon, but there was just something about Octavia’s pies that beat out the competition. They had that special something. Even high level politicians and a few celebrities had tasted the savory perfection of her pies.
As a result of her thriving pot pie business, Octavia was able to support herself, her disabled husband and their 3 children, plus her ailing aunt. They all assisted Octavia with the pot pie business, but their roles were compartmentalized for no one but Octavia could know the 8 secret ingredients. When it came time to assemble each pie, Octavia would shoo the others out of her kitchen. Alone with the pies she would commence her Earth magic and set about pouring the thick, aromatic, soup-like mixture into the homemade pie shells. Making pies was always a labor of love for Octavia. The fact that she could earn a decent living and fill hungry stomachs each week was the icing on the cake. Octavia removed the 8th secret ingredient from a locked tin can and sprinkled a liberal amount onto each pie. She said a melodic chant under her breath and then to proceeded to lay down the top crusts. She gave the pies a final once over before brushing the tops with egg wash. This batch she was preparing was the mini version of her pot pies and they were actually big enough to fill the bellies of 2 adult women or 3 children. 8 pies went into the oven—4 on the top rack, 4 on the bottom.
There were other things that Octavia’s mother told her about the number 8. Her mother had admonished her about the number 8 carrying a heavy responsibility for those who harness its power. Octavia’s mother had warned her of the latent ability to do great harm being contained within the number 8:
“Just as you can feed the hungry with the 8, you also have the power to poison them just the same. “You can increase things with 8, even wealth, but you can also decrease things, and that includes the ultimate decrease which is death”.
Octavia’s mother spoke of two kinds of poisoning: accidental and deliberate. The former was easy to avoid. It being simply a matter of maintaining proper sanitary conditions. Octavia’s mother taught her however, the secret to carrying out the latter—if the need should ever arise. For poisoning, the same 8 ingredients would be used, but they would have to be added in reverse of the proper order. Different chants were sung and in order for the spell to take effect, the victim had to either cross the threshold of the pie maker’s home to receive the pie or the pie had to be ordered by the target and delivered by the baker. Other key steps were also added, not to be discussed here.
It was in those days of very lean times that the current Leadership started cracking down on independent food vendors citing what Octavia saw as bogus claims of unsanitary conditions and excessive use of natural resource vouchers. The Food Regulation board sent out a team of natural resource evaluators along with food auditors and the doling out of steep fines began. It was a tactic with the intention of shutting down independent food vendors who the Leadership saw as not being dependent enough upon the system. The restaurant owners were not being targeted since their pockets were deep enough to pay off the culinary storm troopers.
Octavia knew the time was approaching when she would hear the unmistakable heavy thumps at the door. She had made a few special pies for this very occasion. She knew the Leadership’s guard dogs could not resist the mouth-watering smells that permeated her entire home. They would make the excuse that they had to conduct field tests just so they could eat her magical pies. Octavia smiled and chuckled a bit at the thought of the three goons gorging themselves on her delicious disks of sustenance, but she was dead serious. Octavia was dedicated to preserving her livelihood at all costs, bus she wasn’t keen on committing murder. Even her mother being heavily into the dark side of the occult warned her about that kind of revenge. She remembered her mother saying:
“It’s best to always err on the side of prudence”.
The poisoning pot pie spell was intended to cause great harm, but not death. It had just enough power to keep most if not all enemies at bay. After the target consumed the special pie, he would be struck with the worst case of gastritis that would last for 8 full days (the poor target would most likely be counting each hour—all 192 of them). The target would not be able to keep anything down and he would experience mind bending nausea, bile producing retching, and unbelievable abdominal pain. By the 8th day, the target would begging for death. On the 9th day, his health would return. From that point on, any thought, mention or feeling regarding the maker of the pie would induce the same gastrointestinal malaise giving the victim perfect motivation to block the pie maker out of his consciousness altogether. If he should so much as walk by the home of the pie maker or pull her dossier, the target would be beset with a strong wave of nausea followed by stomach cramps which rival the pain that a woman experiences when in the final stages of labor. The bad case of gastritis was also contagious so that anyone who had any involvement with Octavia’s case ran the risk of contracting the terrible condition. Eventually Octavia would become less than a distant memory as no one would dare to even approach her file.
Octavia heard an authoritative knock at the door. She wasn’t expecting them so soon. Still, 3 individual pies were cooling on a baker’s rack. Octavia wiped her hands on her apron which was decorated with infinity symbols, checked her face in the small mirror which hung by the door and invited the 3 Food Auditors in. “It smells wonderful in here, Mrs. Lemniscate”, said the one with the boyish grin.
“We will need to conduct some field tests. We’ll take 3 pies, please”, the one with the haughty attitude and thick neck uttered in a deep growl.
“Certainly”, said Octavia as she turned towards the kitchen. “You’re just in time. I just took some out of the oven. It’ll only take a few more minutes to set before they’re ready to eat”.
“Very well,” said the thick necked one who was obviously in control. “By the smell, I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait”.
“Yes”, said Octavia, “It certainly will”.