II-The High Priestess

coverThe Tarot Series
An Anthology of Depressive Realism
Presents…

II- The High Priestess

By: Andrew Pan

Phillip Beyer walked as quickly as he could around the alley corner, head lowered, collar up, ball cap down and sunglass on. His breath was shallow and his hands were tucked tightly into his coat pockets. He passed an electronics store with TVs displayed in the window plastering his face all over them. Side by side the news depicted he and Lillian, a sight that now only brought him a stitch of guilt and bout of nausea. He passed other stores as he neared the hardware store and he was only one shop front away from his destination when a news van swerved up onto the curb in front of him and out spilled a camera man and reporter. Soon there were multiple cameras blocking the entrance to the hardware store, forcing Phillip to duck into the nearest open shop, a drug store.

The camera shutters could still be heard faintly through the glass door as Phillip pulled it closed harshly with a loud clank. Soft music greeted him as he turned to face the inside of the store along with the stares of all the patrons. He looked over at the store clerk who had stopped scanning his customer’s items to gape at the growing crowd of flashing lights on the sidewalk outside. Phillip said nothing, grabbed a hand-basket and walked swiftly to the center of the store.

He hid from the cameras behind a display of gardening gloves, hung and separated by size, color and design. One design Phillip recognized, a dark green faux leather with light green fabric in-lay and pastel flowers embroidered on the flat of the hands. They were the exact pair he had bought for Cleo on Mother’s day just a few months prior. The same pair, in fact, that she had worn out within the first two weeks of use. If only he could go back to that moment, he thought, put a stop to this whole thing while he was in the middle of it all. He thought about how joyful Cleo was that day. She had no clue, or at least shown no hints of knowing, about his indiscretion and how much trouble it would propel the family into. He grabbed a pair of the gloves and put it in his basket and moved away from the display after noticing a couple of nearby shoppers holding their phones awfully still for anything but filming.

As he continued further back into the store he saw a display on the wall with steering wheel covers in all types of assorted designs. One in particular caught his eye, black pleather with grip detail and pink hearts stitched into the bottom. It was hardly even a week ago that Phillip and Cleo had surprised their eldest, Kate, with a brand new car for her 16th birthday. The smile that exploded on Kate’s face that morning when they pushed her out the door early for “school” only to be greeted with the Prius in the driveway, bow and all was enough to make Phillip smile right then and there. As he thought about it more he could still feel the tightness of her hug when she finally had time to process it. For the months leading up to that moment the campaign had kept Phillip away from his family, missing boy scouts, PTA and even some of Kate’s school matches. That hug was his sign that it was all beginning to come around again. In that moment he was at once a father to a grown up and had his little girl back. Phillip wanted desperately to go back to that moment. Back to how things were just a short 4 days before shit hit the fan. Back before Lillian sold her story to the press; before Lillian revealed to the world that she was also only 16.

Phillip shook his head to bat away the memories and placed the steering wheel cover in his basket. He continued to the back of the store and aimlessly stared at random objects on the walls, avoiding the increasingly loud crowd outside the store. Catching more glimpses from customers Phillip pretended to look at something in the very back corner of the store. He stood there for a moment, tampering with packages until he saw some of the customers disperse. This was his break. He spun around quickly to make a sprint for the door and smashed into a husky tree of a man that had been looking at a display behind him.

“Hey, watch it!” The stranger roared as Phillip quickly bent down to replace his shades and gather up his things. “Wait, don’t I know you?” The man asked, holding Phillip’s shoulder lightly as he turned to walk away.

“I don’t think so.” Phillip coughed, and began walking away again.

“Nah, nah. You’re Senator Beyers aren’t you!?” The man said. Phillip picked up his pace as the man picked up his voice. “I voted for you the first time, man.” he called after Phillip, gaining attention from everyone in the store. “ And I was going to vote for you again next month but turns out you’re just a little creep aren’t you?”

Phillip maintained his composure as he headed to the counter, avoiding the stabbing glares of the other customers and keeping his head low to avoid the paparazzi outside. Phillip breathed heavily as the cashier scanned and bagged his items, the flashes from the camera leaking in through the gaps of his sunglasses. No escape… from any of it. He looked down and shut his eyes, gripping the counter with both hands.

“Will this be all, sir?” The clerk said in a low monotone voice that didn’t even register to Phillip. He had opened his eyes and his attention was stolen by a King-Sized Snickers bar sitting on a rack below him. His 11 year old son, Damian came to mind; a Snickers addicted child. But to Phillip it was more than just his son’s favorite candy, after all technically it was a King-Sized Snickers bar that started this whole thing. You could say that a King-Sized Snickers bar was the first domino to fall causing a chain reaction that would end with his life in utter shambles.

It was earlier that same year that Damian came home from his class’ Valentine’s Day party with a small sack filled with candies and cards. Cleo and Phillip told him explicitly not to eat any of the sweets before dinner that night but young Damian couldn’t resist taking a huge bite out of the King-Sized Snickers bar that poked out the top of his small bag. Caught mid-bite as his mother came to call him for dinner, he was given the reasonable punishment of no laptop for 1 week. The first domino had fallen.

Through innocent parental snooping, Phillip found a site that connected people’s webcams from all over the country and across the globe. It was the most extensively connected piece of technology that Phillip had ever experienced. Through only a webcam and wifi connection Phillip discovered that he could connect with people and groups of all ages as locally or globally as he wanted. Having the nugget of an idea he took this new information to his campaign team and they began to format a brand new social media strategy centering on this technology they stumbled upon for the betterment of his campaign for State Senate.

Weekly he logged onto the site, connecting with voting aged youths from across the region. He did viral dance moves, comedy bits and splashes of political policies encouraging his young voters to vote for him the coming fall. Soon their goal of stealing the young voters from his rival candidate was becoming a reality when the media picked up the story of “The Social Media Senator”. From there he made guest appearances on late night talk shows, popular YouTube videos and all the while his polls sky rocketed. It was through this same medium that he first met Lillian and after their first encounter his spotlight began to dim.

He met her like he met everyone else, through the computer screen. She was young, beautiful, smart and well informed. She showed immense interest in policy and was completely entranced by Phillip and Phillip by her. Soon they began to connect weekly and before long, without asking the questions he should have, Phillip began to contact Lillian privately thus beginning their affair. He talked to her daily on the phone and on the one day where the kids and Cleo were all gone he would connect with her over video chats. Their relationship and language progressed and on the last night that Phillip ever talked to Lillian he revealed himself to her through the computer screen.

Phillip did think it was odd how quickly Lillian ended the call that night and sure enough soon after all communication between he and Lillian were blocked. Her phone was disconnected every time he called, his emails went unanswered and his video calls failed to connect every time. Her name wasn’t found in local phone books, Facebook feeds or even the voter registry and at the first of Summer Phillip decided to stop looking. He had almost completely forgotten it all when he pulled into his office parking lot 4 days ago to be greeted by a mob of reporters. Four days ago, one month before the election to the day, it was revealed that State Senator Phillip Beyer had a sexually explicit affair with the underage niece of his opponent, Lillian Tarte. Pornographic video evidence of the Social Media Senator had been released online and spread like wildfire, destroying everything it touched.

“Sir?” the monotone clerk’s voice called out again.

“W-What?” Phillip asked snapping out of his memory fall.

“Is this all, sir?” Phillip threw the candy bar on the counter and got out his wallet, hands shaking and struggling to find the cash. “All that for you?” the teen asked nodding to the crowd outside that was already beginning to shout at him.

“Keep the change.” Phillip said, frustrated, snatching his bags off the counter and heading to the door.

He swung open the glass door, inches from hitting a reporter while doing it. Met with a roar of questions and yelling he started toward the direction of the alley his car was in, hugging the building side of the sidewalk trying not to pay attention to the commotion. The TVs in the electronic store now had the word “scandal” stamped across his face as he passed by them. He flicked away microphones as he approached his car and quickly threw his things inside. They circled him like sharks as he got inside the car, unrelenting and loud as ever. As Phillip started his car the crowd began to clear, filling into their own vehicles. He sped the whole way home, hoping to lose some of them but to no avail. He was, however, able to get he and his things out of the car and up the walkway before the first reporters were out and ready to take photos again. When he slammed his door behind him cameras could still be heard shooting like a firing squad.

He skipped through the messages on his machine, bypassing the massive amounts of media requests in hopes of just one single hint at where his family had gone. When he arrived home from work that day the kids’ closets were empty and everyone was gone. All of their phones went straight to voice mail and the one time he tried to call his Mother in Law she hung up on him at the sound of his voice. After going through the hundreds of messages he looked around his living room, filled with elegant upper class furniture but completely void of any life. He picked up the bag from the drug store and walked up stairs.

Going into his trashed master suite he looked around at the clothes strewn across the floor and his eyes landed on a shattered picture frame containing the family picture from the Mother’s Day service this past year. Phillip picked it up and placed the gloves on what used to be Cleo’s dresser. He took out Kate’s steering wheel cover and walked over to her room. Her room was always such a mess that Phillip still found no true difference from what it looked like normally. As he placed the steering wheel cover on her bed he noticed the extension cord Kate had used for her stereo was now stripped from its ceiling clamps. Phillip took it down and carried it with him to Damian’s room, the neatest of the three with most of his toys still sitting in their spots. Phillip put down the King-Sized Snickers bar and looked around again and saw a fallen foot stool in the middle of the floor, he picked that up too and headed down stairs.

After finicking with the extension cord for a while Phillip stood in the door way between the kitchen and living room. The sunset filled the room with a golden light, ruined only by the bright flashes of photographers still outside. Breathing heavily and silent tears falling down his cheeks Phillip stood on the foot stool, held his family portrait tightly and put the looped extension cord around his neck.

Then he kicked off.

Phillip Beyer flailed violently, chin up, arms grasping at the tightening cord around his neck and feet kicking downward ferociously. Then it stopped and all that was left was a silent sway.

The End.

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