Charon The Night Together

You think most people would figure it out more quickly if your ferry’s diesel inboard engine didn’t throw them off the scent. 

“Welcome aboard!” you call out to the newcomers, waving them toward the gangway. They’ve had enough time since awakening on shore to know they’re dead, so there won’t be any unseemly “Persephone and pomegranate seeds” revelations here.

“This is one sweet yacht!” gushes your first passenger. You smile appreciatively as more people join us amid excited chatter. After boarding The Psychopomp, the souls proceed to relive their final mortal moments. As even the most faithful hadn’t been certain there was an afterlife, there is now an outpouring of relief and commiseration. 

“Those damned masks were what did me in!” announces one woman to widespread approval. The air then thickens with talk of QAnon bulletin boards, hydroxychloroquine mail-order schemes, and anti-Fauci rhetoric. As your passengers spread throughout the ferry, they discover the ice chests that you stocked beforehand. Beers are passed around, then someone discovers the ship stereo, and the bass thrum to Kid Rock’s “I Am the Bullgod” vibrates the hull. 

Looking up and down the beach, you see that the other vessels in your flotilla have also finished loading. You raise your arm and wave the go-ahead to your siblings: Hypnos, Thanatos, Nemesis, Eris, Keres, and all the rest who you had to recruit for this summer’s unexpected rush. Then you open The Psychopomp’s throttle, and a cheer goes up onboard as dozens of ships launch into the water at once. 

A short man who carries himself like a junior field marshal approaches. Speaking loudly over the music, he calls, “It’s a boat parade! So now that you’ve raised Cain, I have a question: Where are we headed, Captain? I can’t tell if we’re on a lake or an ocean.” 

“It’s actually a river,” you reply. “And I bet you can guess our destination. Maybe you read about it in junior high?” 

The man frowns. “I’m a leader, not a reader.” 

“Then let’s just say we’ve set a course to your final rewards.” 

He turns to his fellow passengers and gestures for the music to be turned down. “Listen up, people, you’re going to love this. We’re headed to our final rewards!” 

Yet another cheer goes up, the party continues, and the flotilla forges on through wine-dark waters. 

Later, as the light begins to fade, a woman picks her way toward you. From her expression, you can see she’s guessed the truth. 

“I think there’s been a mistake,” she says. “I didn’t pay for my passage aboard this ferry and I don’t have any cold, hard cash. It IS a ferry, isn’t it?” 

You nod and check the manifest. “It looks like my assistant took the liberty of deducting the fare from your Bitcoin account, so you’re all paid up.” 

“Well, I had to try.” The woman smiles wanly. “You know, I told a joke about Orpheus once. Looking back on it, that was not such a great idea.” You laugh politely. “I’ve always wondered: Is your name pronounced ‘Chair-on’ or ‘Share-on’ or … ?” 

“In ancient Greek, it’s actually ‘Gheghron.’ But I go by Greg.” 

“It sure looks dark ahead of us, Greg.” 

“Oh, it is,” you reply. “It’s downright Stygian.”

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