The dog had eaten Mr. Maglorian's right thumb. It had always been a good dog. It would sit, play dead, chase after tennis balls, and sleep at the foot of his bed. It wouldn't bark at strangers, it never shit on the rug, and it always came when he called it.
Mr. Maglorian liked the dog.
He didn't any more.
He'd woken up, made coffee, and gone to scratch the dog's ears. The dog, for no reason that he understood, had, instead of rubbing its head against his leg like it usually did when scratched, raised its head and bitten off his right thumb.
He'd felt the bone crunch under the dog's teeth, felt the skin rip, and saw the dog's throat swell as it swallowed its prize.
He'd kicked the dog.
The dog had wined and walked to its bed.
As he cursed and begun to rap his wrist up in a belt to staunch the bleeding, the dog looked at him reproachfully, as if it resented the kick.
The belt was slippery with blood, and he kept dropping it. There was a lot of blood on the kitchen floor.
He called 911, gave his address and then passed out.
He woke up to a paramedic rapping his hand in bandages. A pool of blood had formed next to his head, like some massive artery had sprung up from his floor and had begun to pump its contents out onto the linoleum. A massive and overworked heart in his basement, he thought.
The second paramedic was speaking into a radio and was drinking the cup of coffee he'd left on the kitchen table, when he'd still had two thumbs', that was.
Mr. Maglorian saw a ligament from his thumb poking out from the bandages around his hand. Like an untied shoelace where his thumb had been. "You missed my ligament," he said, and then he passed out again.
But it was very possible he didn't pass out, because when he opened his eyes a short time later, he was on a ferryboat.
The boat was on a river whose waters were stagnant but for a few anemic ripples. A heavy jungle stink surrounded him.
The paramedics were gone. The only other person on the boat was a man with his back to Mr. Maglorian. Mr. Maglorian watched the man's back. Muscles flexed in his back as he poled the ferryboat threw the river. The man was humming a song in a voice whose pitch was too low. The humming sounded as though it was coming out of the man's mouth in slow motion, at half-speed.
Mr. Maglorian sat up and looked at his hand. His thumb was back, but it was dead and black.
He tried to move it but it wouldn't move. The ligament was still there, poking out through the dead skin. "Dum, dum, dee, dee," sang the ferryman. Mr. Maglorian didn't like the song. The song, he suspected, was driving him kind of crazy. A little loopy.
The ferryman paused in his poling. He turned around. His face was hidden by a black cowl, but Mr. Maglorian thought that the features which were hinted at under the taught fabric of the mask were wrong. "Can you get to where you need to go?" asked the ferryman. "Time's beginning to run out. Your stop's coming up. When a man dies, he needs two coins on his eyes. If you don't have the fare, you won't get there, and over the side you'll go."
The ferryman raised his pol. A stringy plant hung on the end of it, looking like a blood-clot. He pointed over the side, and looking that way, Mr. Maglorian saw, down in the muddy depths of the river, scores of bodies clawing at each other, trying to reach the surface. "I hear your stop isn't that bad," said the ferryman. "Better hurry up. Two coins!"
Mr. Maglorian woke up in the ambulance. Just a dream, he thought.
The paramedics hustled him out of the ambulance a short time later and carried him on a stretcher into the hospital.
Mr. Maglorian was held down to the stretcher by straps but managed, by craning his neck, to look at his thumb, or his ex thumb, as he was beginning to think of it. The ex-thumb was really starting to hurt, a jagged singing keening pain that was shooting colonies out to his wrist and down to his right foot. It felt like the pain was a hydra chewing on his nerves, crushing them all one by one.
A doctor came to see Mr. Maglorian and mentioned that they wouldn't be able to recover the thumb. The doctor began to put stitches in Mr. Maglorian's Maglorian's stump. Mr. Maglorian was pretty sure that the red line he saw was further up his wrist.
The doctor gave him morpheme, and he passed went to sleep, and woke up on the fairy.
The was now poling them through the river faster than before, and humming quietly to himself. "Getting closer to your stop," said the ferryman. "Hope you have your fare. You never come out of the water if you don't have the fare."
A fat beadle landed on the ferryman's shoulder and fell off, putrefied and dead a moment later. Mr. Maglorian looked at his thumb. His entire right hand was now black up to the elbow.
He woke up to the hospital. The doctor was saying something about infection, but not to worry they'd treat it with anti-biotic.
Mr. Maglorian was given a few pills and some water. He couldn't hold the cup with his swollen right hand. The infection was up to his elbow now.
He lay in his hospital bed, riding a wave of morpheme and fever dreams. He'd go to sleep sometimes, and see the ferryman rowing even faster. He'd look over the side and see the bodies writhing, drowning in the brown river.
The morpheme began to wear off, and Mr. Maglorian was granted lucidity for the first time since he'd had what he was beginning to suspect would be his last sip of coffee.
His dog had bitten off his thumb, his good, loyal dog. He was now in the hospital, and the doctor said there was an infection but he'd be fine. But he'd been having dream's which were more realistic than any of the dream's he'd ever had before, and in his heart he knew they weren't dreams at all.
The ferryman told him his stop was coming up soon which meant that despite what the doctor said, he wasn't going to make it. "You're being stupid," he said to himself, but he didn't believe his own words. He believed he was going to die.
But he said it again, and convinced himself that nothing was wrong long enough to go to sleep.
His hand was back, and it was very dead. So was his arm, up to the shoulder. The ferryman had stopped the boat and was eating a rat in one hand which looked even more dead than Mr. Maglorian's hand. The ferryman's fingers were black worms with pincers for fingertips.
"I'm taking my lunch break," said the ferryman in his low bubbly voice. "But we're almost there. You don't have my fare yet. That's very sad for you." The ferryman took a bight of the rat. "Guess you'll go for a swim soon." The ferryman grabbed Mr. Maglorian's shoulder and gave him a little shove. The ferryman gave a burbling chuckle. Mr. Maglorian teetered in the boat, and almost fell into the water which was now rushing the boat along. A dead face broke the surface for a moment and winked at him.
Mr. Maglorian woke up to his own screaming. He was still lucid, this was real. He had no idea what was going on, but he was sure he didn't want to drown. He needed two coins. Oh, boy, did he need two coins.
A nurse came because he was screaming. "Are you all right, Mr. Maglorian?"
He wasn't. "Yes," he said.
"Do you need anything? Some ice? More painkillers? The doctor says you can have some."
"I need 50 cents." The nurse gave him a look that said she thought he was crazy.
"I'm sorry, but we can't give money to hospital patients. Its hospital policy"
"Please!" said Mr. Maglorian, sitting up.
"Lie back now," said the nurse. "You won't be spending money for a while, anyway. You need to get better first."
"I'm going to die," Said Mr. Maglorian, who now was sure this was the case. His body was beginning to feel hot and feverish and his right arm felt like it was made up of broken pottery shards.
"That's just silly," said the nurse, patting him on the head. "I'll get you some ice."
She left, and Mr. Maglorian swore more vividly than he had since the war.
He checked his bedside table, and found no coins.
He felt dizzy, but the image of the ferryman was enough to get him up and out of bed. His personal affects weren't in his room, no coins there. The idea that he wouldn't be able to get two coins to put on his eyes before he died was now terrifying.
The nurse came back into the room with a bucket of ice. "Oh, you're not supposed to be out of bed!"
"I need fifty cents!" Mr. Maglorian screamed at her. "Give me 50 cents."
He ran at the nurse, who dropped the ice with a little squeak. "I don't have it," she screamed, putting her hands up.
He ran passed her. He needed to find a visitor, someone in street clothes.
But he didn't see visitors anywhere. All Mr. Maglorian saw were doctors and nurses and orderlies.
Two of the orderlies saw him running and began to chase him saying things like, "you need to come back to bed, Mr. Maglorian. For your own good."
Mr. Maglorian was looking at the orderlies, wondering if they had two coins. He only turned his head frontwards in time to see the staircase, but not in time to stop from falling down it. Mr. Maglorian barked his head a good one at the bottom and was on the boat again.
The ferryman was poling rapidly, laughing to himself. "Theirs your stop," he said, and pointed. Half of Mr. Maglorian's face was dead now, but with his good eye he saw a sign far ahead. It said Mr. Maglorian's place. Mr. Maglorian looked at his place. It looked like a good place, a place where he could spend eternity quite happily. The ferryman whipped around to face him. "It's a good place," he growled, his voice now even lower and more bubbly, "But you don't have my fare."
A boney dead hand wrapped around Mr. Maglorian's throat, and he was dragged towards the side of the boat. The ferryman's cowl fell back, and Mr. Maglorian saw his face. Fat green mushrooms for the eyes, a drippy pustule for a nose, and a wide maw, with moss growing on the teeth. The hair was ragged fungus. "I'll get it, I'll get it!"
He woke again, lying at the bottom of the stairs. The orderlies were hurrying towards him.
Mr. Maglorian was blessed with one last moment of lucidity. "He never said my coins had to be money," he thought, and smiled. Then, to the perplexity of everyone but himself and the Ferryman, he rolled onto his back, and put his pinky fingers in his mouth and chomped down hard and tasted the best taste in the world. His own blood.
When the orderlies reached the dead man, they found him with only seven finger's remaining on his hands, and one of his pinky finger's resting on each of his eye's.