By the end of a day at work, the hours began to run together. Morning turned into afternoon without any significant changes, and afternoon lazily drifted into evening with the gradual setting of the sun, but the change in lighting was slow enough that it didn’t assault Anthony’s senses, didn’t distract him from his work. Fortunately for him, it had been a rather dull day from start to finish, giving him time to work on his personal projects.
The first was rather straightforward, involving his further mastery of the tarot cards. He had spent a good two hours that day reading, combining, interpreting, and analyzing the antiquated deck of cards. They were getting old and worn, the box tattered and a good number of the major arcana torn at the corners. Their voices were still strong, however as their physical presence was weakening, Anthony was considering locating a new deck — but that took effort, a luxury he couldn’t afford. He was the only employee of the shop, the only person who knew its intricacies, its ins and outs. And locating a tarot deck as closely linked to him as this would take time and money. He had been lucky to find this deck, a set of seventy-eight that spoke to him without any reservation. He felt truly connected to these cards, and couldn’t in good faith bring himself to get rid of them. But they were getting on in the years, he knew. Sooner or later, one of them would fall apart, and the connection would be lost.
Second of his projects was far more time-consuming, much more difficult to truly complete. This was what presently occupied him, hunched over the shop’s counter, sitting uncomfortably on an old wooden stool. In one hand, he held a small vial. In the other, a small, pointed dagger adorned with intricate damask patterns on the blade, though they were rusted and worn away, difficult to make out without a concerted attempt to examine the weapon. He fumbled the objects in his hands, attempting to find the ideal set up for his instruments. In the end, he set down the phylactery and balanced the dagger in his right hand, holding the palm of his left upturned, staring at it for a moment.
His eyes drifted over to the opened tome at his left, words scribbled hastily on the worn cotton pages. The binding was nearly torn in half, the exposed cloth holding the spine together above the thin beads of glue severed entirely in two. All that held the book together now were the two end sheets hanging limply on the covers. As he scanned the page, he briefly reconsidered his decision, but the chime of the front door made his choice for him. As he glanced up, squinting and alarmed by the fact that the sun had already set, the dagger shifted its weight, pricking his left thumb. Scrambling, he set down the dagger and upturned the punctured skin over the phial, allowing a few droplets of blood to fall in.
Still half-glancing at the front door, he attempted to make out who would be coming in at — God, he didn’t even know what time it was to criticize their lateness. Before they could get too far in to the shop, he set down the vial and reached over to close the spellbook, a single loose leaf of paper sticking out to mark his page. Then, he pressed the dagger under a pile of receipts he had printed off, hoping it wasn’t too conspicuous.
“Hello?” he asked before sticking his thumb in his mouth to put a stop to the bleeding. Anthony had always had bad timing.