by | Feb 4, 2023

There’s a version of this story in which you never get out. When you chase a loved one into the underworld, remember: now you are there, too. You can only walk the hallways of sorrow for so long before they come for you, too. And there you were, in the alley behind the hospital, smoking a borrowed cigarette when the familiar forces began to gather. You didn’t even put up a fight.
See the dancing red and blue lights in this card, the way the golden aura of the previous cards has become distorted, a drowning person will clutch and cling to you, their whole body pulling you both down. This is not metaphor. When you sink together you become one body now made of two descending away from the light. See the bubbles in the lower quadrant of this card. The bubbles are rising to mark the spot of your disappearance.
The Exodus card appears to show you the truth—Did you really think you would waltz in here with golden bracelets, lasso spinning, a hero walking through a war zone? You should know better. This isn’t your first trip, your toothbrush is still here from the last time. Welcome back they said when you arrived. Make yourself at home.
In the story Orpheus followed Euripides into the underworld, he bargained her out, and you have always been fond of grand gestures—you once hitchhiked across the country just to tell a boy you still loved him—but when you follow someone into the underworld, be sure to tie a rope around your own waist. Because a minute can become a year can become a lifetime while you think you’re just wandering a corn maze only to realize you can’t get out.
If you draw this card, that moment is now.
The moment when you must decide to live.
When you decide to live, you must move quickly, because the swamp is real. When you decide to live, it might mean you are leaving this place alone. But hell doesn’t deserve you both, dammit. Hell doesn’t get you both. Sometimes you just have to stand up and push in your chair and go. Feel the moment we separate, the whoosh of air between us and then you’re standing alone, as you’ve always been alone. Your purse dropped, your shoulders bare. Words no longer communicate, they just unravel in these nether worlds like currency that has lost its value, words spill like gibberish from your lips. The words will not behave here.
And that’s when you begin to sing.
You sing with a wavering voice, shaky, thick in your throat. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. You sing and you lock eyes with him one last time before you turn around. And you don’t look back.
If you draw this card: go. Go now. Go and don’t look back as Gomorrah disappears behind you. Go now, in the space between our breaths. Halleluia. Amazing grace. Mother Mary come to me. Speaking words of wisdom.
The paths are frozen solid like a sheet of glass at midnight, deadly and beautiful, mesmerizing, hypnotic, and you slip and lose your balance and frozen branches smack your face and you know there is no way you can walk out of here, you are going to have to slide, and you slide. And you don’t turn around.
And now the orange light of daybreak is yawning before you, and it’s always the most dangerous at the end, always the most precarious between worlds, and the coyotes gather for one last grab as you exit the underworld you sing Hallelujah. And you don’t turn around.
And somehow you end up on the other side with your face in the dirt, cheek on the warm ground, and the sun is soothing, rippling through November clouds, and you strain to hear his footsteps behind you. Nothing. You keep your face down, not daring to look back, singing into the earth, how precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed. Not sure if he even made it out until you hear him take a solo.

(This is SUPER ROUGH and probably way too wordy still!! But I just wanted to get something up. Thanks for reading!)


  1. Dominique Christina

    The first line sets the tone in a deliciously succinct, important way. Followed by a line that feels almost like an adage in its simple wisdom. When you follow a loved one into the underworld now you’re there too. There’s the tension. And of course the choice to stay or go and the acknowledgment that there are consequences for both. I hope you keep going with this. It’s juicy. Thank you for writing it.

  2. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Nancy, I was hoping you’d show up and especially with the TAROT project! Really seems like BG has been lucrative (?) or something (insert word here) for this project to thrive. And I adore the new “card” as it were- Resurrection/ Exodus. You know what to do with it. Love the layers of imagery and interpretation of message.

  3. Cyn Jones

    Really into the opening line!!! And the tarot concept. phew. Super stellar

  4. Karen Keefe

    Really well done. Working in the space of old stories, The Tarot, Death and Loss, it can be easy for the writing to get lost in what is too familiar in these stories. The writer does a stunning job of tying that rope around their waist to find a way through and bring us all along. I loved the singing, the just going with the need to slide. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. jennifer vanderheyden

    This is so fascinating and creative…and that first line! and the last. Love the musical references and the strong POV. If this is to be a collection, I can’t wait to read it! Stunning indeed.

  6. Len Kuntz


    So good to see you here.
    I loved the voice you employ here. There are a myriad of wonderful lines and description. This was intriguing from the start to the end, and meant to be re-read and pondered over.
    “This is not metaphor.” struck me as particularly powerful.
    Loved it.

  7. Meg Tuite

    Hi Nancy! That first sentence takes me by the hand. I am in strong hands. “The Exodus card appears to show you the truth—Did you really think you would waltz in here with golden bracelets, lasso spinning, a hero walking through a war zone? ” “Did you really think…” The voice throughout is powerful and solid and I would follow it anywhere. LOVE LOVE LOVE THIS!

  8. Koss (No Last Name)

    So much rich prose and seething with intelligence. You had me on the edge of the chair. A masterful first draft. Hope I get to see the final.

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