"The Magnificently Marvelous Madame Madeline. 100% accurate. That's every percent. 100 of them. Never wrong! Read the future for ONLY $5!"
Thom read the sign in disbelief. That seemed to be a pretty strong guarantee. 'But seriously, how? How could anyone be so certain of anything?' To Thom, Madame Madeline already seemed like a vegan or a religious zealot preaching her mind cult - and this was just the sign.
But, then again, just $5? That seemed an acceptable expense to exchange for insight into claims of such certainty. Alright!
Thom rummaged through his wallet and found a $5 bill. Thom always imagined that carnivals aimed at entertaining the young, not 30 year olds. But, in this circumstance, Madame Madeline had hooked a slightly more mature trophy from the stream.
Madame Madeline's questionable advertisement sat ahead of a tent. It resembled a medieval troop tent from the outside. The tent was sandwiched between a ring toss over bottles game and a 3 card monty booth. Presumably the experience within Madame Madeline's fell somewhere in that line.
Thom entered the tent. Pushing aside the canvas flap gave way to a totally different world. Once he entered, the literal carnival of sounds from outside entirely disappeared. The noises were replaced with the sound of some soothing instrument Thom had never heard before. 'A harp mixed with a soft horn mixed with light rain fall?' Directly in front of Thom stood a tall mirror. Above it an arrow pointed left. Left was the only direction to go so it didn't disrupt anything for Thom.
After a turn to the left, under / through some jingly beads, and into another area, Thom encountered a tiny woman sitting behind a table, dressed in flowing robes. Her arms were outstretched and her eyes were closed. Thom's best guess placed her somewhere between 300 and 500 years roughly. In general she was just really really old. Without opening her eyes she beckoned him, "Thomas. Come in. Please sit."
This gave Thom pause. 'She may have heard him enter or might have been peeking or even had a hidden surveillance camera, but how on earth did she know his name?'
Thom, now off balance, moved toward her slowly. He lowered himself into the single wooden chair stationed across the table.
"Hello Thomas," Madame Madeline greeted as she simultaneously opened her eyes. Her gaze pierced Thom and added to his mounting discomfort.
"Hi...Mam...Miss...I don't know what to call you?" Thom stammered as he placed a $5 bill on the table.
"Thank you!," responded Madame Madeline and she deftly removed the cash from sight with a pass of her hand like a magician. "Please, call me Madeline. Nothing else is necessary. So do you, Thomas, have a question about your future?"
"Kind of, sure. See I saw your sign outside. It seemed kind of preposterous to me I guess. That amount of certainty. I dunno. It'd be very difficult to be that confident about anything in your own life, I think, so how could you even come close to that about some stranger?"
"Because the cards never lie," she assured. "I will show you. Here, shuffle these. However you want." She pushed an extra large card deck, with about half as many cards as a deck of playing cards, across the table over to Thom.
Thom cut the deck in half, pushed the two halves back together, and returned the pile to Madame Madeline. She picked up the pile, closed her eyes, then raised the deck to her "third eye." Thom reacted by rolling his actual eyes.
Madeline opened her eyes and began flipping cards over in front of her. After the revelation of each card in her strange game of solitaire she released a soft sigh but otherwise maintained a straight face. Each card displayed a different arcane image that looked like a facsimile from some ancient religious text older than human civilization.
After a line of cards lay before her, Madeline surveyed the continuum. Then she covered her mouth, and commented aloud, "Ah yes. I see! Yes," she nodded understandingly. "Thomas, the cards reveal, and the cards are NEVER mistaken, the cards reveal that you will meet your end! Your demise is definite!"
Suddenly the skeptical Thom engrossed with interest. "How? Tell me what happens? Tell me how!?"
"That's not for me to say Thomas."
Stunned, Thomas protested. His boiling exasperation presented with louder and louder exclamations. "What? No, that's exactly for you to say! I engaged you on a lark after you enticed me in with your 'guarantees.' Then you drop this tidbit and I'm just supposed to accept it ho hum? Now you have to tell me what else you read! I, I demand it!!" Thom had lost his cool.
By contrast Madeline responded with quiet calm. "Thomas, I understand. If you desire an additional reading I would very happily oblige you. A second reading simply costs $500."
Explosion. "Seriously!? You're serious? It's 100 times more? That's...that's...that's extortion! You didn't even tell me something I didn't already know. The whole question is HOW, not IF? I already know it WILL happen. HOW will it happen? Tell me THAT!"