|No Drachma for the Ferryman
Author: GirlInTheBearShapedHat PM
A poem and a short story based around the same idea that I drew from a bit of Greek mythology... What happens if you cannot pay the Ferryman to take you into the Underworld?Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Poetry - Chapters: 2 - Words: 2,376 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 1 - Published: 01-20-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3093643
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So here's the short story version of 'No Drachma for the Ferryman'. Personally, I prefer this one because I could get more into it, but I also like that if you read the poem by itself you get some of the mystery there.
Anyway, here you are, enjoy!
I can see the flakes of snow as they fall, but I can no longer feel them land on my face, my hands, my bare feet. The entirety of my body is numb, and I am grateful for the relief from the fanged bite of the winter air.
The hill is almost completely enveloped in snow, the startling white broken only by dashes of faded brown; blades of brittle, defiant grass reaching for the sky. Looking down I realise the pale blue of my dress is no longer visible beneath the snow, and I am covered in a white, cold funeral shroud.
I know that no one will find me here, not in enough time to keep me tied to the world. There are no footprints to follow, and I have chosen a place where only one person would know to look.
We came here once in summer, my love and I. We held hands, climbed the old oak tree, and spoke of our brilliant dreams and our dulled realities. I remember dancing in the sunset, my blue dress swaying as we moved. The same dress I wear now. It seems fitting that I wear the same dress on the day I die as on the day I felt most alive.
The day I die. The words resound in my head, but no sense of dread accompanies them. I know my fate; it is one I have chosen, and I await it calmly.
When they took him from me, I considered sacrificing myself to them as well. The charges on which they executed him applied to me too, if they had only known. Treasonous. Stirring up a rebellion. Attempting to create an uprising. Such strong accusations for dreaming of a better world, of freedom from oppression. If those were the grounds of the Leaders' accusations, then I was equally guilty. But he begged me to keep quiet, to tell them nothing. "Don't let them control you in death as well as life" he told me.
I could not remain here without him; my relatives were all long gone, and his family, that had so kindly sheltered me in the past, closed their doors to me. They blamed me for the loss of a son, a brother, a cousin.
So this is what I chose. To die in the open, surrounded by nature. On my own terms.
As I lay here, I can tell I am fading fast. The sensation is difficult to describe, but it is not unpleasant. Where I know my numb limbs are encased in snow, a warm feeling begins, like slipping into a hot bath. I relax into the comforting embrace of it, and prepare myself for what is to come.
I have heard the Preacher's warning us of what fates await us in the next life. I doubt I am upward bound, to a haven in the sky made of warm, clouded landscapes, where there is no pain, no struggle, only peace and rewards. The Preacher tells us that place is reserved for the best of humankind, and I do not fit there. I am guilty of the same offences that resulted in my lover's death at the gallows. I fear I am bound for the other place, the one the Preacher speaks of in hushed, threatening tones. Where cursed spirits walk on plains of fire, damned to unimaginable tortures to last until the end of time. A place where the sinners and the corrupt go to have their evil purged from their souls.
I fear the Dark Place, and I pray to the Higher Ones that I may be spared that fate; surely I do not deserve so fierce a punishment simply for dreaming? Oh, let me rise up to the Clouded Lands! My last thought as I fade from the world...
The warm blackness that embraced me as I died is fading, and I can begin to see my surroundings. My spirit falls as I realise I am underground, stalagmites and stalactites peppering the wide tunnel. I did not merit the Clouded Lands.
But there is no fire. No tortured souls suffering for their evils. This is not the Dark Place either. Where am I?
I realise I can feel my limbs again, and I slowly begin to move forward. The skirt of my blue dress moves around my ankles, and the dusty floor feels warm on my bare feet. I am unsure as to where I am, even what I am. Surely this cannot be my real body? But it looks the same, moves the same. I can hear, see, smell, taste, feel. Such an impressive shell my soul has been bound to!
As I reach the mouth of the tunnel, I find myself in a cavern, stretching as far as I can see, and then further. The stalactites on the cavern roof are the size of upturned mountains, and stalagmites rise in rocky spires higher than anything I have seen. A few feet in front of me is the edge of a churning black river, a league wide, and to my left is the source of the cavern's orange illumination – rocky plains riddled with glowing infernos, and innumerable tortures.
I flinch away from the horror, and look instead to my right. My gaze is met by a vast expanse of grey cornfield, undulating gently in a breeze I cannot feel. Beyond it is a sight that makes my heart leap. An enormous, shining city formed of the most opulent buildings and silver-cobbled streets. I see the fountains with their crystal-clear waters, the paved squares dotted with green trees strung with ribbons. The city forms a ring around a sapphire lake, which houses a lush, green island. And on the island, only just visible to me, are mansions and castles glittering in a warm, golden sunlight, the origin of which I cannot trace.
In the midst of these realms there lies a fortress of polished black stone. It looks big enough to house my entire village a thousand times over, looming above all its surroundings. The highest spires almost brush the ceiling of the cavern, and the windows are lit from within with a strange green light.
The Realm Of Hades intones a deep voice to my left. I flinch at the sound and turn to face its owner.
A figure stands there, towering twice as tall as any man, his frame draped in a heavy black robe. I can see little of his face under the voluminous hood, but my gaze is met by hollow sockets, empty of colour. A vessel is tied to the shore near his feet, half-rotted but somehow staying afloat in the darkened water.
You Must Cross The River Styx To Reach It announces the same voice, centuries old and echoing in my head. I look back to the cavernous realm, and tremble at the sight of the fiery plains.
"What fate do I face if I cross?" I ask.
I Do Not Know. The Council Of Hades Will Decide. But You Must Cross The Styx. The figure reaches out a hand, the skin black as onyx, palm up. I realise he wants payment, in return for ferrying me across the river.
A Single Gold Drachma the archaic voice demands. But I cannot pay the Ferryman.
"I have no money!" I exclaim. "I was penniless in life, and now I still carry nothing. Please, let me cross!"
A Single Gold Drachma the Ferryman states again, taloned hand still open. His hollow eyes hold no sympathy for me. I realise that I am only one of many who are not able to pay him, and he has no time for charity.
"I cannot pay you, I'm sorry! I have no money!" I cry, desperate. But the Ferryman does not move. "Then I shall swim across!" I shout at him.
His coal black hand extends, and takes my arm in a cast-iron grip. He drags me to the edge of the river, and points to the bottomless inky waters.
Do You Dare Try To Swim? asks the Ferryman, and I recoil as spirits appear in the water, screaming silently, their faces contorted by pain and decay. I stare at the unknown souls below the surface, and I shudder as I see the truth; these are the faces of those who cannot pay the toll. The Ferryman releases my arm and strides back to his boat, but his voice comes to me clear as before:
None Have Yet Withstood The Styx.
I fall to my knees in despair. I cannot remain on that ashen shore for eternity, but I cannot afford the Ferryman's charge. I dare not throw myself into the current that will swiftly devour me.
I sit there, I don't know how long for, as I watch the swirling faces rise to the surface, pleading for help that I cannot give them, and falling back into the depths. I cry for myself, for my love I have no hope of seeing again, for all the nameless souls below who could not pay the Ferryman's wage.
Then a single face emerges from the darkness, one that does not scream and cry. It hovers there, just below the surface and stares at me. I stare back. For I recognise that face, untouched by decay. My lost love.
His hand rises to the surface, then breaks through, just for a moment, before falling back down. Beckoning to me. So I stand and dive, deep into the churning black current, sacrificing myself to the Styx.
The water envelopes me, unforgiving, and it burns like acid on every inch of my skin. I watch as the river feeds on the shell I was encased in, dissolving away clothes, hair, skin, bone. My eyes melt away in my sockets, but still I see. The nerves are eaten away, vanishing, and with them goes the pain. The shell of my body gone, just my soul remains. A faint, translucent outline of my physical self, dressed in the ghost of a blue gown.
The darkness is closer now, but it no longer burns. It has warmth to it, the same warmth that welcomed me as I left my life behind.
I know I am imprisoned now, held captive in the Styx for all of time, cursed to float forever in the tumult of the water. But I know I will not end up like the others; decaying, tortured, insane. Because I am not alone. My love is there, next to me, ghostly arms holding me close. I have found him again, and this time, we have something of the freedom we craved. We are together, no longer restrained by a dictator's law or our own poverty. We have each other, and that will preserve our souls for eternity. We both share the same fate.
All because we could not pay the Ferryman.
So which one is your favourite? Do review and let me know, or share any thoughts you have on either, it means a lot to me!