Chapter Three: Screw the Reaper, Fear the Ferryman

Rethea got off the floor while trying to make the coat cover her 'femininities' from Hodge and myself. Not that she look like she minded us staring; I think she enjoyed being young and sexy again. "Do you have anything I might be able to wear other than your coat?" she asked. I chuckled a bit. "Sure," I said; "There's an assortment of ladies clothes in the bathroom closet. Just find one that fits." When she got to the bathroom door, she smirked while raising a thin eyebrow; that signified that she was puzzled and aroused simultaneously. Hodge rolled his eyes while I shrugged and said, "What can I say; I like to be prepared." When she closed the door, Hodge gave me his hourly lecture in a hushed voice. "Have you finally gone mad," he asked. "What," I replied for my defense. "I'm sure she thinks she's gotten lucky; what with dying a little old lady, and came back a hot twenty-something practically falling into the arms of a handsome devil such as myself." Hodge did his anger-ritual. "That's not what I mean, and you damn well know it, Pross. You heard what she said; she came back from the dead. You, of all people know what that mean." I took my hat, combed my hands through my hair (My own little ritual.) and sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I know," I said. "She's a walking violation of the Seven Cardinals of Majiks."

If you're not in the know, sorry if I made your head do somersaults. I'll take a break from telling my story explain to all who you reading this, but the explanation may turn said somersaults into loop-de-loops, so try to pay attention. Now, in case you haven't guessed, my world is not, I repeat not, your world. It is actually a world in another dimension. I know you think that this is a work of fiction, in your world it is; however, many works of fiction did actually happened in other universes and by some great power is channeled by the Dreamers of your world. "That's impossible," you say? Well, then, answer me this, boy-o: What makes you so sure your world isn't a work of fiction in some other dimension? I know what your also thinking; you're thinking why am I telling this story to a world where it's fiction when I can tell it in my world where it's fact. Let just say that someone has to know if they believe me or not and leave it at that for the time being. Have I shut your Blah-Blah Hole, yet?

Good, now where was I? Oh, yeah; explanation time. First, here in good old Sham-Gartha, unlike your world, the phenomenon you know as "Magic" not only exists, but it works side by side with Science. Only here, we call it Majiks. The short definition is that Majiks are actually extremely complex calculations that can alter the reality around the Caster and can create enchantments. They can be channeled through Enchanted item of the Caster's choice that has to be or at least contain a metal or precious stone that matches the Caster's inner personality (FYI, mine is silver), and a special form of alphabet containing powerful characters called Glyphs. We even have a Witchcraft Guild that helps those who wish for their help; but it mostly helps those who have beyond enough to afford to 'donate' to the Guild, if you catch my meaning. That's where Freelancer Witches and Warlocks like yours truly come in. We're the one who help out the little guy who can't pay for the services of the Guild; think of us as the Saints of Witchcraft.

Now, in case you're wondering what the Seven Cardinals of Majiks are, and have been patient enough to read through my ramblings, your wait is over. The Seven Cardinals, or simply, The Cardinals, are the great rules that all Majiks Casters, Guildos and Freelancers alike, must honor and heed while using Majiks; if someone breaks all seven back to back, then not only Sham-Gartha, but all of Existence itself will transform into a literal maelstrom of chaos and Dark-Matter. I can't tell you all the Cardinals right now, but I'll tell you the one that Reathea was violating. And I quote: "Cardinal Three, One canst not use Majiks to unlawfully return the Dead to the Realm of the Living without permission of the Celestial Board of Governors." In other words, no permission slip from the bosses on high, the dead kids can't go outside and play with us living types. And it's not like Reathea couldn't have hid her permission slip on her person, now could she?

Just as Hodge was finishing his piece, Reathea walked out of the bathroom wearing a cotton lilac-colored dress that had a skirt down to the knee-caps and was strapless; a butterfly-shaped hairpin the same color of her dress; and a pair of shin-high sensible yet elegant boots. She smiled as she posed for us. "How do I look, boys," she asked us. The sight of her was so Eye-Feast material, it even made Hodge wide-eyed and slightly drooling. "You look smashing, Miss Marno," said Hodge. "I knew that outfit would suit you nicely," I said. She smiled briefly, but then her expression turned from one of teasing happiness to one of newly-remembered fear. "Oh, no," she gasped. "What's the matter?" I asked her. She looked at us with frightened eyes, "I just remembered that just as I found a portal the Living World, the Spirit-Attendants were calling for a Ferryman." That made both Hodge and I speak simultaneously, "A Ferryman?" I finished that with, "Oh, Lordy-Lou," I turned to Hodge and said, "Hodge, get my cane and the Beat-It-Bag and let's get out of here. Her memory of someone calling for a Ferryman is just the tracking device it needs in order to find her. Sooner or later, it'll show up where she remembered: Right here in the office." And like that, as if it was on cue, a multi-colored light like the one Reathea came in on appeared. The only difference is that these colors were bland and lifeless. I sighed and said, "Damn, just once I wish it be 'later' for a change." When the lights dissipated, a Ferryman, in all its creepy glory, stood in their place.

Now, the reason for me calling the Ferryman an 'it' instead of a 'him' is because Ferrymen are men by name and name only. They are in fact genderless and uniformly malformed Spirits of those who've been in the older Heavens and Hells for so long that not even themselves nor do the Spirit-Attendants remember who they were and what their information and details are.

They all look alike; so they don't bother giving themselves names like the cousins the Scythe. They all levitate in tattered and decayed hooded-tunics with dull colors; their mummified faces with their mouths sewn shut-tight and copper coins for eyes; and carrying their chains and their twin-bladed Ferryman's Poles.

"Reathea Marno," it said in the voice all Ferrymen use; the voice that sounds like a cross between a ghostly whisper, a haunting moan, and the sound of a dead tree swaying in the night wind. "You have no permission to be in the Living World; and so you have no place here. Please return with me, or you shall return by force." Reathea held my hand tightly and spoke softly and in a fearful voice, "Please, help me. I'll hire you. I just can't go back just yet." I tried to calm her down, "Calm down, love. I know you've only just returned to your body at its prime, but you didn't have to break protocol to do so." She stared into my eyes ever so deeply and said, "It's not that; I remember now why I had to return to the Living World. I returned because there is a vastly powerful machine hidden somewhere in NeoDis that can threaten all of Reality itself if not left unchecked. You must help me, Mr. Nazareth, please." I'm not sure whether it was the Reality-threatening machine bit that convinced me, or that last please. Either way, she needed my help, or I'd be damned if I'd have said no. So, with a simple nod, I took her case, and turned to the Ferryman.