Blind Monkey Becomes a Psychic, Part One

psychic sign

You don’t need to join a cult if you’ve lost control of your life. Just read the stars. The horoscope’s a modern miracle: a daily glimpse into the future, based on the latest in cutting-edge non-science. This wisdom is generously given to the unwashed masses in free newspapers around the world.

Consider Metro New York’s advice for the noble Capricorn: “Keep an open mind. A spur-of-the-moment decision will bring new opportunities.” This spoke to me, though I don’t think I’m a Capricorn. In fact, I have no idea what my sign is, or why Homestuck fans wear theirs like the flags of fallen nations. But I liked this platitude more than the other eleven written by syndicated astrologist Eugenia Last (a name too colorful to be real, but too dull to be a pseudonym). Impulse control is for people that strangled their inner child in high school.

Eugenia’s advice for Pisces is straight from the ancient books of LinkedIn: “Marketing your skills will be worth the effort. Networking with individuals who have relevant experience will give you insight.” If networking’s gotten you a job, you’re definitely a Pisces. I got mine by throwing my resume into the pile and burning a voodoo doll, but I didn’t have Eugenia on my side.

Her “lovescope” is a web exclusive, since her advice for Leos to “go out and meet as many potential partners as possible” is too racy for Metro. A Leo could be courting your spouse as you read, unlike the depressing Virgo. Eugenia tells them “Don’t be too desperate to be in a relationship for the sake of not being alone.” In either case, Eugenia isn’t big on commitment. Judging by this week’s predictions, only people born in June should even consider monogamy. The rest of us will be spinsters in the future.

The future! Many of us won’t live to enjoy it. Video games promised casual space travel, swords made of nanobots, and cell phones that could survive a stiff wind. Zero for three. Eugenia, on the other hand, clearly had more powerful forces on her side. Her words reached me through the chaos of an overstuffed L train car. This was an opportunity to become a god. Inspired, I reached out to the master by e-mail.

Dear Eugenia,

As an aspiring sorcerer, I’m impressed by your ability to pierce the veil of time. How can I learn the art for myself? There’s only so much that a syndicated column can tell me. I’m sure there are aspects of my future that violate obscenity laws.

Don’t worry about the weight of the future shattering my mind. I’m very experienced in the white, black, and red arts. I can make a coin disappear, rig elections, and call upon angry spirits to rain astral fire upon my enemies.


Darius Dyson

P.S.: Is the Leo symbol meant to resemble sperm?

leo symbol


She never wrote me back, but I wasn’t done chasing my future. My impulse had divine mandate, and I was following it until it led off a cliff. Greatness is built on tenacity and the exploitation of black people. I was black, so I’d have to focus on tenacity.

My next step was inspired by another group that understood the world beyond science. The wisdom of the anti-GMO movement was simple: buy local. There was no reason to support an impersonal monolith like Eugenia Last or Metro NY when psychics were available on every block in New York. Mom and Pop mystics would appreciate the attention.

The selection was overwhelming. There were more psychics on my walk from work to the liquor store than crust punks, food carts, screaming black nationalists, STD testing ads, or massage parlors. Psychics were a growth industry, and clearly none of them saw the bubble bursting.

Only the banks had them outnumbered. Finance draws on powers darker than anything a psychic can imagine. I’m not throwing slander around for entertainment. In my degenerate youth (one year ago), I did six months of freelance editorial for [a credit rating agency with many, many lawyers]. I was broke and thought it was a nobler road than selling hillbilly heroin to the elderly. On my first day of work, an analyst smeared blood across my forehead and said we were “bonded.” It wasn’t his blood. My boss opened every meeting by having underage escorts feed him strips of “lean pig” while he whipped himself. If you agreed to hold the whip, you got a bonus. It got competitive, though most of the analysts were too busy stroking off while howling in dark speech.

I drank a bit while I worked there, some of the details might be off.

Using my keen editorial eye, I picked out a legitimate psychic’s den. The window told me it was the real deal. No poorly illustrated eyes, hands, or crystal balls. Just the words “Psychic Readings” on a cheap blue sign. That kind of brevity wins any editor’s heart.

Then I saw the prices.

I’d never spend my own money on a psychic. My ex-girlfriend’s money, however, was fair game. Selling two of the myriad trash novels left in my custody earned me six stone-faced presidents. The books had sentimental value, but that amounted to the price of a used stick of gum.

At Psychic Readings, a single palm read costs $10, while a double palm costs $15. That’s fair: you’re getting an entire palm at half the price. Try negotiating that deal at a massage parlor. Like most parlors, things get more expensive when toys get involved. A tarot reading costs $60, a crystal ball $110, and full-stop candle reading $150. Going forward, I would always associate candles with the oppression of the proletariat.

Psychic Readings also offered past life regressions at a price I won’t repeat in good company. This didn’t have a shred of appeal. There were enough sins weighing on my mind in this life, I didn’t want to imagine what I was up to during the dark ages. Modern law enforcement is the barrier between me and hell.

My ex’s money wouldn’t cut it, but I stepped inside anyway. The lack of gaudy pretense that drew me inside was not reflected by the interior. The waiting area of Psychic Readings had a child-sized Buddha statue, around a dozen multicolored crystals, and a deck of Crystal Tarot Cards. The deck can be found in any bookstore chain. My copy was a common prop during sophomore year stunts for the benefit of alternative girls. I drew the top card, expecting Death or The Fool. It was the Three of Swords.

Psychic Reading’s surrender to branding was forgivable. It was in the heart of Midtown, an area that looks more like a Simon mall every day. The buddha was the price of keeping it from becoming a Chipotle.

While I contemplated the Three of Swords, the master emerged from the depths of what I presume was the bathroom. I could feel the mystic energy as she wiped her hands off on the side of her dark red dress. She was the Hollywood picture of a modern witch. She had long black hair, accessories with a random assortment of symbols, and just enough mass to enjoy baking the occasional lost twins.

“Can I help you?” she asked in the voice twitchy business owners have used on scary black men since integration. In her defense, it was about seven seconds past midnight.

“You can! Good evening,” I said with all the plastic ebullience I could muster. It was the voice I carried to job interviews, Princeton reunions, and conversations with the police. Black men developed it shortly after integration.

Her stare softened. I was one of the nice ones, like on television. “Good to hear. Would you like a reading? It’s a perfect night for it.”

“No.” The menu prices were fresh in my mind. “I was just hoping to talk. My name’s Darius Dyson, and I’m a graduate student at Columbia. I’m working on…an academic report. About psychics. For Columbia.”

One truth, two lies. I hope that there isn’t an actual Darius Dyson somewhere in the Northeast. I’ve earned him a reputation for idiotic non-plans, antisocial ranting, and meandering pick-up lines. In any case, a flash of my university ID with a conveniently placed thumb was all I had to back up my story.

“You’re a reporter?” she asked distantly. It wasn’t even close to what I said, but I nodded.

“That’s right. Do you have time to answer a few questions?”

“Not tonight. It’s been a long day,” she said dismissively. For her, reporters shared a category with Jehovah’s Witnesses and angry landlords. Best ignored, and easily ignored. As a former fashion magazine intern and temporary financial news editor, I couldn’t let this stand.

“But didn’t you see me coming?”

I took a a step back to keep the door from slamming on my nose. It hit my foot instead.

Defeated, I slogged my way to the Disney version of a dive bar. It offered the dive bar experience at cocktail bar prices. A fitting punishment for rejection by two different masters. I gave the bartender my ex’s money for a whiskey sour, and then changed the order to a rum and coke. She came back with a whiskey coke. It was something to sip while considering my failure.

The last word hung with me. Failure was the essence of the future. I’d failed to learn anything, the bartender failed my order, and the psychic failed to make a sale. The majority of people could look forward to a future characterized by total personal and systemic failure. If I anticipated failure, the rest of history was an open book. The psychics guarded their secrets jealously, but poorly. I’d seen enough to bring my gift to the public. The pulsing ache in my right foot was my graduation as a soothsayer. It was time to apply my education.

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