The Fool ran. He held on to his hat with both hands. No way was he losing his hat. That warning from the Hanged Man had been clear. He needed to hang on to his hat so he did. Then his pace slowed. His thoughts continued to race.
Death. He had to face Death next. How many had he come face-to-face with so far? The Fool counted on his fingers. Then he sat down to pull a shoe off.
“Eleven. I’ve met eleven of them. And this is the twelfth. How many more are there? Why am I doing this? Do I want to do this?”
The questions shot out of him like Chinese fireworks exploding into the night air. His dog lay beside him panting. The Fool reached down to scratch behind his faithful companion’s ear. The soft fur soothed him. Lying back, he rested his head on his hands. “I guess I’ll have to keep going. I do want to find my Will. And the Magician said I had to meet all of them.”
Sighing so heavily he felt the air move, the Fool rested his eyes hoping a nap in the cool night air might ease his fears about the next person he had to meet. But when he began to dream, he realized that going to sleep had not let him escape his scary thoughts.
A fearsome knight in armor on a powerful white steed rode toward him. He carried a flag with a strange-looking flower device on it. The horse’s eyes glowed with an eerie light. The Fool yelled out to stop the horse because a small child was just about to be struck by one of the huge hooves. A very wealthy-looking bishop seemed to begging for his life. A beautiful woman who looked a lot like the lady with the lion swooned beside the priest. Unable to to do anything to stop the scene in front of him, the Fool yelled himself awake.
His little dog sat beside him watching him with a wary eye. The sun was just rising.
“Well wasn’t that an awful thing to dream, little dog? All those people…the baby, the rich man, the beautiful woman…all were going to be mown down by that knight on the horse.” The Fool shook himself all over much like his own dog did.
Standing up, he gathered his things. He munched on an apple from his sack as he placed his feet on the road before him–one after the other. He lost track of time daydreaming about who he’d seen and what Death might look like. What if Death was a scary creature like the one in his dreams?
The shrill barking of his little dog cut rudely into his woolgathering. He nearly fell over his dog who danced as he yapped at a huge horse barreling down at them. The Fool yelped then scooped up his protesting pup just before the same white horse from his dream halted before him.
“Here now! You could have stepped on my dog and hurt him or worse–killed him!” His knees knocked together so hard he was sure the racket could be heard for miles, but he was not going to let anyone hurt his friend.
“FOOOOOOL!” The voice moaned from the visor like a sepuchral wind warning of winter’s arrival. “FOOOOOOOOOOOOL!”
Then a skeletal hand raised the visor. The Fool couldn’t help it. He took several steps back when he saw the bony skull looking at him. The jaw dropped open to let loose a laugh.
Laughter? Death was laughing at him? That couldn’t be good. The Fool didn’t realize he’d said that outloud until Death’s next comment which came in a much more normal voice.
“Oh Fool. You could stay where you are. You could run six countries away. If it were your time to meet me in my role as the Grim Reaper, it wouldn’t matter. I will find you no matter. The same with your little shaggy friend there. But no mind. It is not your time nor is it his.”
The Fool’s knees set up a rhythm like a snare drum in an acid rock band. Death just looked at him. He had not eyes, no lips, no eyebrows to indicate if he was angry or amused or something else. The Fool couldn’t look anywhere but into those gaping, black eye sockets. Swallowing a huge gulp of air, the Fool asked the question he knew he needed to ask.
“Um Mr. Death? Do you have the Will I seek?” The Fool hoped the answer would be no. What if it was yes. What would that mean? He reached up to clutch his hat tightly to his head. His dog trembled in his arms.
Death shook his head. “No. I do not. You must continue on your journey, little Fool. Next you will meet the one who balances. Stay on the path you are on.”
With that, Death’s horse surged forward with no encouragement from its eerie rider. The Fool noted that no sound came from those great hooves striking the ground with such precision. A bitterly cold breeze swept over and around the Fool as Death rode on. The moment the horse was out of sight, the dog in his arms began to squirm.
Setting his friend on the ground, the Fool slid his hat back to scratch his head. “Well, wasn’t that odd. I guess we go find this Balancer then.”
And so they set off down the road.
To be continued…
- A look back at where the Fool’s been
- Fool Meets The Magician And The High Priestess
- The Fool Meets the Empress and the Emperor
- The Fool Meets the Lovers & The Chariot
- The Fool Meets Strength
- The Fool Meets the Hermit
- The Fool Meets The Wheel Of Fortune
- The Fool Meets Justice
- The Fool Meets The Hanged Man