It’s not a matter of if. One day you will hear the story. There’s always whispering around the ones waiting to board.
We wait on the shores, at first unsure how we got there. Then it dawns that this is the place where we cross. Boats come. There’s more than one, and it’s at that moment you realize, ‘This is nothing like the myths.’ People board as they please. Sometimes they just don’t accept the fact of the matter. Other times they want to wait for loved ones. It gets depressing watching lovers meet those they left behind only to discover those whom they’ve waited for have found other arms. No one has to pay to get across, although tips are appreciated.
While we wait a whisper will come from some huddled cluster. Your ear may prick to eavesdrop. That first time you’ll only catch tidbits, however, those little tastes will make you certain to seek out the full account. Someone will know. Someone always knows.
There once was a man who found himself on the shore. The boats came, but he would not board. Unlike others, he made a choice no one ever thought to make. He picked Thalia’s mask to play his part rather than Melpomene’s. And when no one seemed to be watching, he slipped back the way he came. Only one boat man noticed, the ferryman Asclepius.
The man made it back to the world before the shore, but Asclepius followed. He pursued along coast lines, surfaced in lakes, and slipped down rivers. The man rarely found a chance to rest till one morning a realization dawned. Asclepius always seemed to stick to the water and would never venture far from his boat. As such, it came to the man that where there was no water, he would find no ferryman. So he set off for the desert.
Some place him in Arizona, others the Sahara. One talked about the Gobi. Wherever he does end up, the man in the story always gets away. The ferryman can’t leave his boat behind and cannot follow where there is no water.
It gives hope to the dead.
That being said, the boatmen are not very talkative save for one. If you board his vessel he will gladly tell the story of the one who thought he could get away. He will speak of a man who housed himself in the desert, a place ferrymen rarely have reason or desire to go. He’ll talk about securing himself to his boat by means of a rope. Endless days baking under a blazing sun, he dragged the small ship through the sands to the house of the escapist. It took three years to make the trip. Or so he claims. I’ve been told Asclepius made the man drag the boat back to the water. There are other things about their return I’ve heard as well. That one is the kindest.
Should you doubt his tale he will point down at the water. Just below the surface, lashed to the bottom of the boat is a body. The nightmares of those depths gnaw on him. He is still aware of his existence. There is no denying it.
It makes me glad I never ran though I still wish sometimes I had.
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