Thursday Thousand: The Ferryman

Welcome to the Thursday Thousand!

A few years ago, a friend and I posted short stories and poetry every week. We would comment on each other’s pieces on a public platform. It was a challenge, but it was fun, and in recent months, I’ve been missing that a lot. At the beginning of February, I went to the Portrait & Dreams seminar with Maggie Stiefvater, and one of her pieces of advice was to write short stories for your plot bunnies so they don’t distract from whatever novel you’re working on currently. And that stuck with me. I’ve missed challenging myself to write something complete and coherent every single week, and I have a lot of plot bunnies at all times. Thus, the Thursday Thousand was born.

Every Thursday, I will be posting a short story that I’ve written sometime that week (it may be written in advance, or I may be scrambling that day), and the only requirement I’ve given myself is that it must, at minimum, be 1000 words. It can be any genre, any length beyond 1000, and literally anything I want. It can even contain mild cliffhangers! This is allowed because, in all honesty, a lot of my novels have been born of short stories, and some of these are really just future first chapters. It just has to be every week and has to meet that 1000 word threshold. So, without further ado, here is this week’s Thursday Thousand!

The Ferryman

The river was as black as night and twice as deep.  It was still now, its eddying currents faded into quiet.  It wasn’t often that Charon had a soft night like this, and he was making the most of it.  The grey sand that yawned across the mouth of the river was dotted with dark rocks, and sometimes, when Charon stretched out over one, he pretended he could feel the sun.  He’d asked the queen once if she missed the sun when she was here to rule in the winter, and her smile was so sad that he bowed his head and accepted that as answer.

Charon had seen enough of the sun to miss it.  Which, truthfully, wasn’t all that much, but once he’d experienced the soft warmth of its golden light, he never wanted to return to this dead, grey land.

Beyond the grey sands, the water shimmered like black crystals in its stillness.  Above, the grey sky rolled with constant thunderclouds that only broke on occasion.  Sometimes, when souls arrived to be ferried, they saw the grey sands and the black water and the grey sky, and they bolted away from Charon and his staff, running across the beach and into the river.  In his youth, Charon had chased them down, always catching them before they touched the river.  Now, he let them run.  The river would swallow them up, and they would live forever in purgatory.  Only he could grant them passage to the underworld, and he was sick of chasing after souls who feared him.

Most came willingly, though.  Most saw the world around them and nodded, almost to themselves, in understanding.  Most thought they belonged here, or that they deserved this punishment.

Charon wondered what other option there was that this was constituted a punishment.  After they crossed the river, they had all of hell to enjoy.  The queen often hosted gorgeous, luxurious feasts.  The king led spectacular hunts through the thorn wood.  The hounds never tired of playing fetch.  It was dark and quiet, yes, but it was a home that Charon had always cherished, that he had thought he wouldn’t trade for anything.  Even as the years drifted by with only the river as his companion, Charon had his memories from when he was too young to serve at his post, of the queen’s pomegranates and the king’s laugh and the hound’s baying call.

Now, Charon would trade it all without hesitation for a single day under the sun.

A small wave whispered across the grey sand, and Charon lifted his head.  There was a young girl standing a few feet away, her hands twisting together in front of her.  She was wearing a white nightgown, and it was startling against the grey world around her.  Her long brown hair wisped around her face, little sweat damp curls plastered against her temples.  The fever that had killed her was already fading in color from her cheeks, and her soft brown eyes were wide as she looked around.

When Charon lifted his head, her gaze whipped over to him and held there.

He wondered what she saw.

Sometimes, the dead saw a wizened old man, leaning heavily on his staff as he cracked across the sand to them, his back stooped and a white beard trailing down from his chin.

Sometimes, the dead saw a tall, shadowed figure, wide-shouldered and wrapped in black, the shadow of the staff looking miserably like a scythe.

Sometimes, the dead saw their loved ones or their enemies, those they longed to return to or those they’d sought revenge against.

Sometimes, like this little girl, the dead saw themselves, but distorted, a future version that seemed older and wiser, charming and brilliant.

“Oh,” she said, “I’m dead, then.”

Charon sighed and pushed upright.  The dead, however, never saw him.  He wasn’t sure how they would react, though he could imagine a few.  Some—the old men who had won wars and done terrible things—would laugh at the audacity that this boy was escorting them to death.  Some—the children gone too soon—would likely cling to his hand in relief.  Some—the women who had been mothers or sisters or no one—would wonder why he had been chosen for this post, why someone so young would live forever in this wasteland.

It had been so long since Charon had actually been young that he was almost glad they didn’t see him, but saw what they chose to or what they needed to.

Charon took up his staff, a long, skinny piece of black wood, as he slid off the rock and his black boots thudded against the grey sand.  He always wore black—pants, shirt, boots, even the sweeping cloak that kept him warm on this chilly beach.  The one time he’d ever worn a color—red, of course—Hypnos had laughed until he couldn’t breathe, and Charon had never strayed again.

The staff was deceptive to the eye, mirroring his height on land and growing to reach the bottom of the river in the water.  It was plain, the only markings on it from those who had tried to fight him, and swooped into a hook at the top.  He normally left his lantern on the ferry, but sometimes, when he went walking at night, he took it with him and let it hang on top of the staff.

Charon went to one knee in front of the girl, and her eyes traveled up the staff as it dwarfed him.  The cloak billowed around him, swishing through the grey sand.  He always left the hood down for this part so that they could see the face of whoever he was, but he could feel it weighing heavily between his shoulders.  “Hello,” he said gently.  He waited for her to look back down at him.  “Do you know where you are?” he asked.

Sometimes, they denied it.  They believed they were dreaming, and he would play the part of his brother, soothing them with thoughts of a warm bed and soft dreams if only they came aboard the ferry.

Sometimes, they raged against it.  They knew they were dead, and they were furious, and he would play the part of his other brother, letting the staff’s shadow distort and darken, letting his eyes go black with malice, engulfing them in fear until they were on the ferry.

Sometimes, though, they simply accepted it, and Charon was himself.

The little girl nodded sadly.  “The river Styx,” she whispered, “And you are the ferryman.”

“I’m sorry that is true,” he said as she sighed, “Are you ready to go?”

“No,” she said, but she held out her hand.

Charon took her hand, his narrow fingers pale and bony against her dark, plump ones, and he led her across the grey sand.  As he did, he let the staff click hard against the beach, and with each thud, the river rolled and woke.  When they reached the edge of the water, the ferry rose from the depths, the black surface rippling and shimmering as it fell away.  It was long and wide enough for two grown men to stand abreast, looping up at the front and back.  The lantern was already lit at the front, a small hook holding it steady.  The wood was dark and water weary, and the river settled around it like an old friend.

Charon set his staff inside, lifted the little girl under the arms, and then hitched up the hood of his cloak before he climbed in after her.  Though he detested taking children across the river, it was always easier.  They didn’t deserve to die so young, but they almost never fought him.  With adults, he had to coax the ferry up onto the sand so they could climb in themselves without setting foot in the water, but children accepted him picking them up and didn’t curse or rage once they were on the ferry.  Mostly, they just sat and cried.

With the hood casting his face in shadow, Charon took up his staff, set it in the water, and pushed off from the beach.  It was a slow journey, from the grey sand to the gates of the underworld, and Charon was so used to it that he didn’t speak unless the dead asked him questions, didn’t look around unless the dead pointed out a break in the water.  With steady movements, he swept his staff through the water, struck the bottom of the river, and eased them forward.

He was occasionally allowed to step off the ferry into the underworld if there was a feast or if the sisters promised a lull, but most days, he simply dropped off the dead and went back to the beach.  Tonight was neither of those.

As they came closer to the gates, Charon blinked and straightened.  The strokes with his staff moved a little quicker as he tried to discern who was standing on the shore.  There wasn’t much of the underworld to be seen from here.  A great black wall stretched for miles and miles in either direction on the grey sand, and two enormous spiked doors sat in the middle.  Beyond, there were lush forests and burbling streams, little homes with stars sparkling in their windows, and the castle in the cave.

Normally, one of the sisters came to receive the dead, but there was someone else standing on the shore, as well, someone whose swagger Charon recognized.

Hypnos always stood with his feet set wide apart, his shoulders rolled back, and his chin held high.  It never failed to amaze Charon that Hypnos was the brother of sleep, of all things, with his boisterous level of energy, but when his voice got soft and gentle, when his eyes shone pale blue, when the world seemed a whisper away from slumber, he was something else entirely.

He wasn’t alone, either.  A sister was at his side, but slumped against the black wall was Thanatos, clad in all black.  They were twins, though the only resemblance was their blonde hair, and even that was different.  Where Hypnos’ was a warm, honey blonde that fell around his jaw in waves, Thanatos’ was pale like the moon and rifled back.  Hypnos was always quick to laugh, easy to charm, and widely loved across the underworld.  Thanatos, brother of death, had a wicked angle to his jaw and cheekbones, dark eyebrows that always seemed furrowed, and stole lives like others breathed.

Both were wearing boots and jackets, and Charon’s heart tripped into a race as he pushed the ferry closer and closer to the shore.

“Who are they?” the little girl whispered as Hypnos’ laugh reached them.

“No one for you to worry about,” Charon said as he finally saw which sister had come, “Clotho will take you inside, and you’ll never need be frightened again.”  He glanced back at her in time for her to nod, a single bob of her head.  The motion might have stirred pain, or even anger, in Charon’s heart, if not for the twins on the shore.

When the ferry dragged up against the grey sand, Clotho silenced Hypnos with a quick look, and he bowed in deference to her before wandering off toward his brother.  Clotho had chosen purple for today’s dress, a soft layer of lavender that swept over her dark skin, long enough to hide her bare feet, her shoulders tucked beneath the shimmering gold cloak of her order.  She came down the shore as Charon climbed out of the ferry.  “Evening, brother,” Clotho said, offering him a smile.  Her wild brown curls were let loose around her face, and the corners of her eyes crinkled with the expression.

“It’s been a slow night,” Charon said before he turned back to the ferry.  The little girl had already gotten up and came over, holding out her arms.  He scooped her out, turned, and set her down on the grey sand.

“Indeed,” Clotho said, “A gift from our queen mother.  Enjoy your night.  Come, little love.”  She held out her hand, and the little girl cast a quick glance up at Charon, who nodded, before she took Clotho’s hand and let herself be led away.  They’d only gone a few steps before the little girl let out a soft cry, wrenched her hand out of Clotho’s grip, and raced back to Charon.

Startled, he sank to a knee so that he would be at her level again.  When she reached him, she held out a fist and said, “I forgot.”  She waited until he lifted his hand, and then she opened her fist, dropping a single golden coin in his palm.  His exhale took the shape of a laugh.

“May you never suffer again,” he said, blessing her as thanks.  Payment was no longer necessary to cross the river these days, but a blessing from the ferryman could be granted with a coin.

The little girl ran back to Clotho, who was smiling widely.

Charon didn’t move from the sand, one of his hands wrapped around the ferry, until the doors had opened to admit them and closed again, and then, they were all moving.  “Brother!” Hypnos yelled as he strode across the sand.

Charon climbed the beach to meet them.  He had several brothers and sisters, but the twins had always been among his favorites.  He rarely saw the others, and even then, that was only at feasts.  They never came down to the beach to see him.

“We’re going on an adventure,” Hypnos said as he pulled Charon into an embrace, “Topside for a few hours.  The queen granted us the night.”

“For what?” Charon asked.  It wasn’t often that he got more than a snatched hour or two when the sisters could calm the river’s hunger, but occasionally, the queen saw fit to rise above them all and call for an end to death so that her ferryman might enjoy some freedom.  Charon didn’t know what he’d ever done to deserve such kindness from her, but he never questioned it.

“It’s nearly spring,” Thanatos said, his deep voice rumbling across them as he nodded at Charon, not embracing him.  Charon was decidedly closer to Thanatos, but Hypnos had no boundaries and hugged everyone that wouldn’t draw a sword on him.

“So the queen is throwing the most absurd party ever,” Hypnos translated, “And we’re to have a last night out in the world before we all have to suffer in this hellhole—ha!—for a season.”  When the queen returned to the human world for her season of spring, those in the underworld were trapped there until her return, victims of the king’s lonely rage.  Charon always had more visitors during the season, those who hoped he might know a secret way out, but he’d stopped searching long ago.  If there was a way out, he’d have found it by now.  When he was granted access to the human world, though, the ferry became not just a way to cross the river, but an escape.

Quickly, the three of them clambered into the ferry, Charon dutifully reminding them not to touch the water.  Hypnos made a show of nearly falling in just to make Charon frown, so Thanatos shoved his brother over the edge so that he collapsed in a shrieking heap.  “You look tired,” Thanatos said as Charon held out a hand to him.

“I’m always tired,” Charon said, but Thanatos was frowning when he took his brother’s hand and let himself be hoisted into the ferry.

“Still,” Thanatos said, “Is something wrong?”

“The sun will fix everything,” Charon said before he grabbed his staff, pushed them off from the shore, and then thumped down onto one of the seats.  He pulled the staff in as Hypnos righted himself and Thanatos sat down opposite Charon.  Immediately, the river started to churn around them, and in a few breaths, it had swallowed the ferry whole.  They went from a grey sky and black water to nothingness, and when Charon opened his eyes, the horizon was just starting to lighten.

They were creatures of habit when it came to the human world, and the ferry always spat them out in the same spot, so they climbed to the top of the hill next to them, sat down, and waited for the sun to rise.  After, they would go down into the sprawling city to eat their weight in pastries, tease Thanatos as he withered away trying to pick a tea to try, corral Hypnos from charming too many girls, and find a mirror for Charon to prove that he still had his face.  The river wasn’t reflective, and no one ever saw the truth of Charon, and he was terrified that someday, he would look into one of these human mirrors and see someone he didn’t recognize.

The twins told him this was ridiculous since they could see him just fine, but they were as dead as he was, and so they didn’t count.

When they dropped onto the top of the hill, it was Charon in between them.  Hypnos, with his messy blonde hair and bright smile, and Thanatos, with his nearly white hair and scowl, looked like bookends around dark, shadowed Charon.  Here, in the human world, the cloak was gone, left in the ferry for when he returned, but he was still clad in all black.  His hair was dark, as well, curls that brushed across his forehead and neatly followed the curve of his ear.  Hypnos always remarked that he looked too soft to be the ferryman, with his soft chin and small nose, his dark eyes always squinting instead of sharp, his usually hunched shoulders, and the few freckles that dotted across his rounded jaw.  Between the three of them, Thanatos looked the most like his order, and the one that looked the most like their father, son of darkness and shadow.

Thanatos leaned his shoulder against Charon’s, who smiled as he watched the sun creep up against the horizon.  On his other side, Hypnos sighed and did the same, squishing the ferryman between them.  They lingered on the hill, watching the sky grow pink until it speared with orange and bled into red, and then they rolled back up onto their booted feet and headed down into the city.

Their first stop was a little café, and the owner clapped her hands together in delight when she saw them.  “It’s been so long!” she exclaimed.

“Morning, Dahlia,” Hypnos said as he beamed at her, “What’s good today?”

“Everything,” she tutted, “The usual?”

“One of everything,” Thanatos agreed.

There were only a few tables in the café, little round ones with rickety chairs, and they took one in the corner.  Another table near one of the big front windows was occupied by a single man.  He had a hat tucked low over his eyes and was bent over a book.  He didn’t look up when they entered, but Charon caught him staring at them when they sat down.  The man didn’t look back down right away, but held Charon’s gaze until Charon lifted an eyebrow, starting to reach out for Hypnos, but the man gave him a short grin and looked back down at his book.  Charon frowned, but was quickly distracted as Dahlia started loading their table.

They always ordered one of everything, and Dahlia always shook her head in amazement when they ate everything.  She kept their table full, clearing away dishes when they’d devoured a new bread or carefully divided a favorite scone.  She plied them with tea for Charon, coffee for Hypnos, and promised Thanatos that she had a special new brew for him to try.  All the while, customers came in.  Some stayed and ate at the other tables.  Some left happy with their orders.  The man continued to sit by the window, and Charon saw him look up a few times, staring at them as though trying to unravel who they were.

There were a few people in the human world who knew who they were—Dahlia among them—people who had either seen something they shouldn’t or people whose souls were already destined for the underworld.  There were those in the underworld that made deals, souls for something a person wanted, and Dahlia fell among that crowd.  She’d never told them what she’d sold her soul for, but she took such wonderful care of them that they never asked.

“So,” Hypnos said as he leaned back in his chair, his coffee tucked into one hand, “What next?”

“The bookstore,” Thanatos said.  Charon smiled at the table as he drew circles in the crumbs from the cranberry walnut bread they’d just finished.

Hypnos rolled his eyes.  “This is not a make Charon happy day,” he said, “This is a make us all happy day because we’re about to enter the dead season.”

“Technically, it’s the opposite,” Charon said.

Hypnos kicked his shin.

Thanatos mimed slitting Hypnos’ throat.

Charon ate the last lemon puff while they were distracted.

“Okay, fine, after the bookstore, what should we—” Hypnos broke off suddenly, his shoulders going stiff though the rest of him stayed relaxed.

Charon blinked several times and looked up as Thanatos bit out a soft swear.

The air had distorted in the café, the stink of death dropping heavily around them.  The customers wouldn’t be able to notice it, but the three of them were in contact with the sisters enough to recognize it.  A string was about to be cut, a life drawn to an end, and there was no one to ferry it home to the underworld.

“We have to go,” Charon said, nearly knocking over his mug as he set it down.

“Don’t panic,” Hypnos said, grabbing his forearm and holding him steady.  He sat up in his seat and carefully set down his coffee.  “Clotho said we had time.  Something’s not right.”

“They would never cut a string if they knew Charon was up here,” Thanatos murmured.  Charon looked over at him as Thanatos’ shadow warped, his scythe drifting up from the underworld so that the brother of death could yank it into the human world if necessary.

“We can be back to the hill in minutes,” Hypnos reminded them.

“If death is here and the sisters aren’t wielding it,” Thanatos snarled, one of his hands unfurling.  The shadow of his hand was sharp and clawed, though the hand itself remained normal.  Death came with darkness, after all, and it was Thanatos’s shadow self that dealt it.  To look upon Death itself was nothing more than to look upon Thanatos, but to look upon Death’s shadow was to see the end of all things.

“He’s right,” Charon said, twisting his arm out from under Hypnos’ grasp, “We need to go back.”

All it would have taken was a second longer before Hypnos sighed and nodded, and they would have left with a sad wave to Dahlia and a promise to be back soon.  They would hurry back to the hill, drop back into the underworld, and Charon would be there in time to ferry the lost soul across the river.

Just a second, and everything would have been fine.

The man at the table by the window got to his feet, drew a knife from under his jacket, and lunged across the room.

Death came in all shapes and sizes, in all manners, and when the souls were meant for the underworld, the sisters three snipped the strings tying the souls to the human world, and they were deposited on the grey sands of the river Styx.  Whether it was natural or murder, death was simple.

Until it wasn’t.

There were very few beings in the world, above and below, that could wield death outside of the sister’s grasp.  Above, there was only one man; below, there were three sisters.  But beyond that, there were myths and legends that mothers told their children at night, that teenagers scoffed at, that adults forgot.

Charon had never forgotten this legend.  When he was very young, before he became the ferryman, his father came into his room that he shared with the twins, and he gathered all three boys by the fire.  He stoked it high, wrapped them in blankets, and spun them a tale.  Before they had been born, before the day and the night, the above and the below, there was the beginning of it all.  Erebus, their father, had been born of this nothingness, and he had fought against it with his other half, Nyx, daughter of the night.  When they came into the world, there was nothingness all around them, and it hungered for more, to devour and destroy.  Erebus and Nyx knew that light lingered inside of them, but that they could not uncover their light with the nothingness raging around them.

And so, they slew this nothingness, the one that had created them—Chaos.  In the wake of his death, Erebus and Nyx gave the world a chance to blossom and grow.

In the story, Erebus described Chaos to them as a black so deep you felt that you might fall into it.  When the man lifted his knife, he looked at Charon, and Charon saw that nothingness in his eyes.

It was easiest to access the ferry on the hill it deposited them on, but that didn’t mean it was impossible elsewhere.  As Thanatos leapt to his feet, his shadow cracked open and his scythe snapped into his hand.  Hypnos was already twisting his fingers together, braiding sleep through the customers in the café, his eyes swimming a soft blue and gold sparking to life in the air.  But this was not something they could hope to walk away from, so Charon flung a hand to the ground, pushing until it sank through the floor, and curled his fingers around his staff.  It was an enormous effort, dragging the staff up from the underworld to the human world, but when he rocked back straight in his seat, his chest heaving, it was in his hand.

“Time to go,” he said even as Thanatos yelled wordlessly at him.

Charon spun the staff in a quick circle, his hands moving over it easily, and the last thing he saw was Chaos plunge his knife deep into the back of one of the unsuspecting customers.  Charon swept them away from the human world and spat them back into the underworld.  When they returned on the hill, it was via the ferry, but when he forced them back, they plopped out of the grey sky and smacked against the grey sand.

Charon!” Thanatos roared as he scrambled to his feet.  His scythe whistled through the air as Charon braced his hand against the sand.

“Stop that,” Hypnos said, and flung a handful of gold at Thanatos.  It wouldn’t put him to sleep, but it did make him stagger and drop back to his knees, his eyes blinking rapidly at the sudden fatigue.  “You need to pay more attention,” Hypnos snapped before he yanked the scythe from Thanatos’ hand and threw it away from them.  It clattered harmlessly against the sand.

Charon sank back onto his heels, looking over at them.  “You saw it, too, then,” Hypnos said as he turned to Charon.

“Chaos,” Charon said.

“He’s dead,” Thanatos said, though his voice was heavy and lacking any bite.

“We have to get back,” Hypnos said, “We have to find father.  Can you take us?”  His voice trailed off as there was a soft thud behind them, and they all turned to look over to where Thanatos’ scythe was sitting in the sand.

There was a man sitting next to it, staring at it with wide eyes.

“No,” the man whispered before his head whipped around to stare at them.  He was golden, his skin tan, his blonde hair sun-kissed, and his eyes a bright hazel.  He was wider in the shoulders than Hypnos, though everything else about him looked like Hypnos but set on fire, jubilant and bright and golden.  He was the soul whose string had been cut prematurely by Chaos, and though Charon couldn’t imagine what pandemonium was being wreaked across the earth right now, he had a job to do.

“It’s okay,” Charon said as he got to his feet.  He wondered what this man saw.  “We’re here to help.”

Thanatos dragged his fingers through the sand, and the scythe slithered out of sight, dropping through the sands and gathering back into his shadow.  Hypnos already had a fist outstretched, ready to knock the man unconscious if he didn’t come quietly with Charon.  He had never needed to depend on his brothers before, but Charon was glad they were here now.

“Yeah, no way,” the man said before he climbed to his feet and took several steps back, “You stay right there, ferryman.”

Charon jerked to a stop and frowned.  The dead usually knew who he was, but they never outright called him the ferryman.

“This isn’t possible,” the man said, and then he spun on a heel, his hazel eyes shooting up toward the grey sky.

“Oh, hell,” Thanatos said, a little too loudly.

“And on the river Styx, all your sins are revealed,” Hypnos recited as he shook his head.

Charon was too baffled to speak.  Between the man’s shoulders sprouted two massive wings, a smoky white that was charred around the edges in gold.  This was no ordinary human, and his wings were visible only because an impossible thing had happened.

Chaos, nothingness, had murdered a legend.

“This is the underworld?” the man said as he turned back around, the bottom of his wings swishing across the sand.  The noise seemed to startle him because he looked over his shoulder, and his whole body went still.  “Oh gods,” the words came out on a hard exhale just before one of his knees gave way.  The other followed it, and the man staggered down.  He slowly looked back over at Charon, gatekeeper of the underworld, and shook his head.  “This can’t be real,” the man whispered.

“Somehow, it is,” Charon said as he slowly came forward, “Do you know who killed you?”

The man shook his head.  “No, but I know who you are, and I know what it means if I’m here seeing your face.”

“And what face is it your death conjures?” Thanatos asked.  He’d always found it odd that Charon was invisible to the dead, that their death was so all-consuming that it banished the one who walked them into it.

The man blinked.  He shook his head again.  “I know the legends,” he said, “We grow up on them.  Go see Charon when your life is over, and you will see your beloved again.  But I don’t know your face.”  Charon stopped again, not looking away from the man even though his brothers’ gaze fell heavy on him.  “You don’t look much like I thought you would,” the man continued, “You’re younger.  Softer.”

He looked like he meant to go on, but Charon spoke over him, “Stop.  Nothing fancy.  What do I look like to you?”

The man shrugged one shoulder, and his burnt golden wing shrugged through the sand with it.  “Dark hair.  Sad eyes.  A few constellation freckles.  I’ve got those on my back.  Helios liked to—” he broke off, looking away.

“Say your name,” Thanatos demanded.

The man was silent for a long moment, and then he climbed back to his feet, gaze jerking down at the sound of his wings again.  In the human world, they would have never manifested, but here, in death, the river unveiled every truth.  Focused as he was on Chaos and this man before him, Charon couldn’t help but wonder at the last time these wings had been seen.

“Icarus,” the man said suddenly as he lifted his hazel eyes back up to Charon, “And I’m dead, it seems.  Do you know who killed me?”

“Chaos,” Hypnos said, “And it’s not just father who needs to know.”

Charon nodded even as he swept a hand through the air, pulling his staff to him.  It sprang into his hand, and Icarus flinched in response.  “The king must be informed,” Charon said.  It’d been so long since the last time he walked through those gates.  He wondered how different it looked.

“The king?” Icarus said, his voice gone high.

“Hades,” Charon said, “Welcome to the underworld.”

11 responses to “Thursday Thousand: The Ferryman”

  1. thedishwithdylan Avatar

    I really enjoyed reading this. You’re a very talented writer! My favorite paragraph is when Charon is leading the girl to the water. The imagery is really beautiful and you did such a great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. marydrover Avatar

      Aw, thank you so much!


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    […] writing short stories for this, like planets novel, and they are again character sketches: Charon, Persephone, and Hermes. I have plans to write short stories with these characters, as well: […]


  6. How Do You Know When Your Novel is Done? – Mary Drover Avatar

    […] myself to write, to get back into the habit, to stop avoiding literally everything I loved. So, I wrote about Charon, I made him a sad boy, and uh, well, that ending was not an […]


  7. Thursday Thousand: The King – Mary and the Words Avatar

    […] week’s is the fourth in my Greek mythos series. The first, The Ferryman, is about Charon, gatekeeper to the underworld and guardian of the river Styx. The second, The […]


  8. Thursday Thousand: The Twins – Mary and the Words Avatar

    […] next four weeks, you’ll get a look at two short stories from my Greek mythology retelling (Charon, Persephone, and Hermes already have stories, all linked), the first chapter of my faery novel, and […]


  9. Character Spotlight: Charon – Mary and the Words Avatar

    […] sad boys! I’ve written a heck ton of Thursday Thousands based in Charon’s universe (Charon, Persephone, Hermes, Hades, and the Twins), and someday I’m going to just about die when I […]


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