The Ferryman’s Vacation

Charon pulled the oars through the water for the billionth time. He found himself crying for the first time in a thousand years. He didn’t understand why. His transport was not a particularly tragic story. The man sitting at the opposite end of the boat was Jonathon Summers, an investment banker who had lived in a two story house with his three children and wife, until they all left. His three children grew up one by one and his wife died in a plane crash. He mourned and after three years moved on. On his fiftieth birthday he decided to finally start living again. He took a four month vacation and saw the Grand Canyon, the Coliseum and the pyramids. He died at the age of eighty six watching a Raiders game alone. But he was loved and died happy.

That was not the reason he cried. Charon pushed the oars through the bodies of people so far dead that they clung to the boat just to feel something. He did not pity them. In fact, he wanted to join them. He could feel them clamoring over him, grabbing him, taking him, pulling him down so far that his name was lost and his face was washed away into the river. He thought about it and his bones felt cold. But he knew the rule given to him before the stars lit. It was the only rule worth remembering.

“After the last soul goes to the water, you to shall die.” He smiled, as if he was sucking on a piece of chocolate, savoring each taste.

“Did you say something?”

“Nothing of importance.”

“What happens now?” the old man asked hoping the ice had broke.

“Now you are going to the other side, and I will go back to bring the next one.”

“After that?”

“I don’t know. Heaven? Hell? Hades? Elysian Fields? I stopped asking.”

“If I give you five dollars will you just turn away?”

“You know people used to pay me to take them to their fate. Now you want to pay me to take you back?”

“So you’ll do it?”

“Jonathon Summers look around you.”

Jonathon looked “Was their anything in particular I was supposed to look for?”

“See that woman touching the edge of the boat, the one with blue eyes and red hair?”

“The one that kinda looks like Rita Hayworth?”

“Yes… looks like. Grab her, pull her into the boat.”

“Will that tip us over?”

The ferryman shook his head.

The investment banker grabbed her only to feel her slip out of his hands like water.

“If you go back to the world you will not be seen or heard and you will barely be felt. Your son and two daughters will live their lives completely unaware of you and with only the faintest damp cold feeling when you are around. You will not be happy and they will be confused and scared at something their five senses could never truly comprehend. Sooner or later you’ll come back here and join them. Do you want that?”

“No.” the old man said defeated.

The old man looked up at him “Who are you?”

“I am Charon. According to the Greeks I was born of Erobos and Nyx, god of darkness and the godess of night respectively, but that is because the Greeks had to make everyone gods. In truth, I’m much less a god and more a natural constant.”

“Care to explain that?”

“When the first died, I was born of necessity. Someone needed to give them a distinct border between life and death and so I rowed. Back then these waters were still and virgin.”

“Who was the first?”

“You know… I can’t really remember. It was a long time ago. I know it wasn’t human and it was long time before this world had begun.”

“How long have you been doing this?”

“A lifetime. I can’t really remember any other measurements. It’s about as futile as numbering the grains of sand on a beach.”

“Do you ever take a vacation?”

“Once in a pink moon.”

“Really when?”

“Didn’t I just tell you?”

“Oh.”

The rest of the trip was silent. The beach was near, he could feel the change in the water. As always he kept his eyes towards the lake, so he didn’t see the other side.

“Hey, give me your wallet?”

“Why should I?”

“Cause I could still hit you with this oar and knock you overboard.”

“You wouldn’t hit me? Would you?”

“No but you might as well give it to me. From what I hear everything in Heaven is free and the demons I’ve met tell me Hell’s currency is pain which isn’t transferable.”

John smiled “I would like to have met you when I was alive.” he presented his wallet to the rower.

“Maybe you did.”

John left Charon and everything worldly to him. As John disappeared beyond the veil Charon began pawing through the wallet. Quickly Charon memorized the numbers on the credit cards left to him and the verification code. If he was gong to Aruba he would have to act fast.

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