From the Chessmaster Guides series of illustrated zines, available for download on Gumroad:

13: DEATH

I know, I know, I know. You’re probably thinking this is the spookiest possible card to pull in Tarot, and that drawing it is basically the equivalent of eating a cursed Japanese videotape. WELL GUESS WHAT? That’s stinkin’ thinkin’. There’s no such thing as a bad card in Tarot (well, except for all the ones that talk about destruction and misery), and just BECAUSE there’s a big honking skeleton on the card doesn’t mean you’re turning into one.

Death doesn’t necessarily refer to the ACTUAL act of dying, but is much more commonly used in context of a major, groundshaking change to one’s life-- a drastic, all-encompassing shift that will see everything you’ve ever known and grown familiar with called into question. It’ll be drastic and more than a little painful, but in the end, it’ll be 100% worth it.

Why? I’ll tell you why. YOU’RE TURNING INTO A WEREWOLF. And you should be happy about that.

Seriously. I’m not being figurative here. 98.3% of all people who frequently draw Death are either turning into werewolves, or are werewolves already. Like the Death card itself, this SEEMS bad, but in reality holds far more benefits than drawbacks: more or less immortal, can see in the dark, can run really fast, can basically take a dump wherever. PLUS: Who the hell doesn’t love wolves? (Other than people who have been attacked by them, I guess. And man oh MAN are you going to leave a lot of people like that in your wake.) If you see that skeleton pop up, DON’T PANIC-- just check for when the next full moon is and give some thought into putting a really big doggy flap into your back door. And congratulations!

SYMBOLOGY CORNER: Death is usually depicted as a SPOOKY SCARY SKELETON, generally wearing medieval ARMOR and riding a BIG WHITE HORSE. In his hand is a FLORAL PRINT FLAG, representing Aesthetic. A lot of newer Tarot decks will try to make this card more XTREME, with scythes, crows, spiders, bats, tombstones, zombies, witches’ cauldrons, black cats, jack-o-lanterns, bloody knives, haunted mansions, and bite-size 100 Grand candy bars, but honestly, all that’s just icing on the cake. WHEN PLAYED INVERTED, a werewolf hunter is due to enter your town within the week, so that actually COULD spell death for you if you aren’t careful.

*******

"There are a lot of different reasons why a given cryptid might not be acknowledged by modern science-- a lack of factual evidence, an anatomical anomaly that boggles biologists, an expedition team messily devoured. The wolpertinger, however, has the exclusive distinction of being the only animal considered a cryptid due to direct governmental restriction of information.

1948, just after World War II: Berlin is divided into four separate sections, each occupied by an Allied country-- Great Britain, France, America, and the Soviet Union-- though the city swims in a countryside entirely under Soviet control. In order to get food and essential supplies to Berliners trapped by a Soviet blockade, the remaining Allied forces came up with a daring plan: flying hundreds of cargo planes per day into the city to keep it well-stocked without relying on Soviet assistance. This massive operation eventually became known as the Berlin Airlift.

BUT WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH WOLPERTINGERS? Due to their status as “unrecognised biological entities”, they were the only animals capable of crossing the ground blockade freely. Hundreds of thousands of small, easily transportable supplies, including wedges of cheese, bottles of milk, spare batteries, pencil sharpeners, rolled-up comic books, and “Teach Yourself Harmonica” kits, were discreetly smuggled across hostile territory by these heroic little Bavarian freaks. Sadly, their involvement in the Airlift was quickly decommissioned and classified by Allied forces in early 1949 after a retrieval team was messily devoured. STILL: though history has forgotten these brave, brave heroes, pseudoscience hasn’t.

Fast Factoids:
● Their wings aren’t capable of flight, as far as we can tell, but their fangs ARE functional. Time it takes for them to skeletonize an adult cow: about two horrible, horrible minutes.
● The skvader, a regional subspecies of wolpertinger, also exists in Sweden, though they lack the Germanic variety’s signature antlers, and didn’t do anything terribly interesting during the Cold War.
● JACKALOPES, THOUGH? Those are total made-up horseshit. Like, duh."

*****

"1953, the sleepy English burg of Canvey Island: A mysterious carcass is found on the shore by a pair of high schoolers. Two and a half feet tall, the bizarre creature has thick reddish skin, bulging eyes and rows upon rows of pointy, disgusting teeth. Strangest of all, it seems to lack arms, but had two stubby, web-toed feet. What is this thing? Why the legs, but no arms? Why did it wash up here? Were there more, and did they pose some sort of threat? A wave of terrified curiosity spreads through the town, but all searches to find the source of the carcass are fruitless.

The next summer, another, even larger specimen washes up, this time human-sized… and alive. As they drag its bloated body from the surf, local fishermen find its chest heaving and shuddering, its eyes bulging as it gasps for oxygen. Thinking quickly, they begin pouring buckets of seawater over its head in a desperate attempt to keep it alive. By the time the reporter arrives, however, it’s clearly too late: the mysterious animal’s desperate breaths have slowed to a papery wheeze. The reporter leans close, muttering dictation into his handheld tape recorder, when the creature turns to him, feebly moving its lips. With trembling hands, the reporter points the microphone at the monster, straight at those rows of pointy teeth, and a hush falls over the crowd as it whispered its dying words into the tape.

I’ve visited Canvey Island, walked its windblown streets, visited its empty oil refineries and slowly decaying beachfront attractions. I stood in the floral-print bedroom of the reporter, now retired, as he played back to me the tape he recorded that day. The cellophane is old, and the sound quality is is a murky swamp of the crackles and pops of age laid over the dim sussurus of the waves. It’s nearly impossible to make out the voice, low and wheezing, of the Canvey Island Monster, but there’s no mistaking that it speaks of loss, and of a kingdom swept away before its time by the cold North Sea.

Fast Factoids:
● Possibly some sort of giant frog man?
● Creepy as shit.
● No idea what the “no arms” thing is about. I suppose it makes them… mostly armless! Get it?"