Tuesday WE Character Development: The Ferryman

Sometimes, I can do nothing more than close my eyes and try to regulate my breathing as the veil rends and lifts away. Rarely is that ever enough to stop my tears.  In truth, they are your tears, and the tears of your loved ones as they leave you. I am neither angel, nor demon; not heaven sent nor hell-bound. I simply am, in a way your earthly mind cannot grasp and worse still, chases away as Impossible.

My own time in your world comes only to me in fragments — the scent of a perfume, heady with orchids, dabbed seductively behind the woman's ear in my embrace, music swirling languid around us. It is the scratch of a father's beard, the smell of earth and worry, heavy upon him. And sometimes, it is the solid sureness of a three year old frightened and curled against me like a cat, wild curls tickling my chin. I often wonder if these are my memories or yours, and I honestly cannot remember. I fear if I knew of my own time, the heartbreak of memory would be too much to bear. But the flashes I  get seep into me like cool water and warm light as I walk the Dead away from all they've known and into a dark where they've never been. It is my charge to keep them safe, to tamp down their choking panic and, most importantly, brush the wisps of your grief and loss from them.  If I did not sweep clear the cobwebs of you, the separation would be incomplete, and they would move neither forward nor back. Worse, still — you would be trapped, as well; manacled and immobile in a world where you do not belong.

The Dying see me in whatever form their security takes on; a prairie grandmother dead for decades, with floured hands and a tired smile; the dog that scampered in the creek with their childhood selves, catching crayfish and feeling free in the way only children do. A middle-aged man once whispered into my embrace as I pulled him from a wrecked Saab, "Are you The Silver Surfer?" and I felt him, long ago, alone and lonely, beneath a blanket in a bunk-bed, while a drunken mother raged a room away about a faithless man and fairness. Thus I became for him what he believed in, the aegis of safety he'd desired when the surge of his emotions was at its strongest. Miles away, and in the present time, his wife felt the change in the air, immutable and implacable, that nothing would ever be right again.

Yes, The Dying see me, but you — the living — feel me, and for the many years I have done this duty, that has been the worst of my regret: that my presence muddles time, makes it feel slow and sodden, impossible to navigate for the grieving. Your clocks seem to move slower as time stretches, bleak and barren, along a path of grief, of hurt. I wish there was something I could do to ease that, for of the few emotions I can feel, Compassion is chief among them. While my priority is the Dead, I must also be careful of the living.

You must know this: No one dies without being mourned. This is something you do not believe — maybe cannot — because, in earthly terms, there are such things as "evil" and "wrong." But on the other side, well… every murderer had a mother, just as every sainted mother has a son.

 

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I am surly, cranky, blustery, heedless, voluntarily incontinent, higgledy-piggledy, anfractuous, and base. And I make a mean pot roast.

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