This is only one of several stories as part of a Storytime Blog Hop. Read more – links are at the bottom!
The gates were locked to me, but the woman, my guide, opened them with a gesture. Cerberus sat silently, drooling but not molesting me. She smirked as I sidestepped him.
“You do have the passage, I assume.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” I jingled the gold coins in my pocket. They weren’t easy to come by. Maybe when this system was set up it was easier, but nobody mints actual gold coins nowadays. She sniggered at the clink. Perhaps she’d hoped I only brought enough to enter.
She led me along a grey, featureless path in the dim light, to a small dock on a black river.
I dropped a coin into the ferryman’s outstretched hand, and we boarded. The ferry ride was short, though we landed a considerable distance downriver. The black water had quite a current.
The ferryman’s dull eyes followed me as I followed the woman deeper into Hell.
Somewhere here was my wife. Taken too soon. My Sybil, twisted and dead in a car wreck. I would’ve had the car, but she’d taken it to pick up Kaden when my meeting went long. I wouldn’t have driven the same route she did.
The woman stopped. I didn’t trust the strange smile on her face, but I saw Sybil. I held out my hand to her, and she looked at me blankly. She was as grey as everything else down here. Lifeless, milling around with other grey shades. “Sybil, it’s time to leave.” Slowly, diffidently, she drifted towards me. I knew I couldn’t touch her, and once she reached the path I stood on, I would not be able to look back at her, or she would immediately return, forever.
I turned my back resolutely, and walked back towards the ferry. The woman grimaced, but led me onward, walking quickly. I kept my pace very slow despite the woman’s impatient hurrying, a pace I thought would match Sybil’s. Every piece of me wanted to turn, to be sure she was there.
I maintained my faith that she followed me.
Back at the dock, I gave the waiting ferryman two coins. His dull eyes didn’t change expression, and I didn’t feel my wife’s shade board the ferry.
The woman stood in front of me, looking at me, smirking. She was trying to make me uneasy, to not trust Sybil, to turn and look.
But I didn’t. She was there. She had to be there. Please be there, I prayed.
The current flowed the other way now, and we landed at the same dock. The woman and I left the ferry, and walked towards the gate, which she opened.
I walked through the gate, my heart pounding in my chest. I waited a few fast breaths, and turned around.
Sybil! She was there, colorful, alive!
She smiled, our fingers just brushed, and Cerberus came between us, separating us.
“Wait! I followed your rules! She’s alive, and you can’t have her!”
“No,” the woman said with her eternal smirk still in place. “But you are ours.”
Cerberus herded me back inside the Gate, three slavering jaws snapping, and Sybil screamed, “Arthur!”
The Gate slammed shut, separating us.
The woman’s smile changed to malicious delight. “Another wreck would have killed you. We took Sybil, knowing you would come for her. You made the exchange easy. And I know you still have gold for the ferryman.”
I felt in my pocket, my mouth dry. Yes, I did. I brought extra, just in case.
Enough to cross back, where I wait for Sybil for a grey eternity.
Copyright © 2020 Melanie J Drake. All rights reserved.
Blog Hop Links – Read them all!
Syrojax Lends a Claw by Nic Steven
Culture Sharing by Angela Wooldridge
Sisters by Barbara Lund
Rogue Ring by Katharina Gerlach
Grim Failures by Bill Bush
Secrets by Gina Fabio
The Daughter of Disappearing Creek by Karen Lynn
The Gynnos Seeker Project by Juneta Key
Mugging Morpheus by Vanessa Wells
A Little Off the Top by Tyler Vawter