The ferryman spits and reaches into the water where the roots of an old tree gnarl the bank. He pulls out my head by the hair. Just that – my head and nothing else. My hair is laced with weed and mud and soft bodied water creatures. The ferryman gives it a little shake and carries it up to the beach. He scoops out a shallow hole and sets my head down in it. He lights a small fire and sits across it from the hole, and my head.
“What happened to me?” I stand wraithlike at his shoulder.
“Why didn’t you protect me?”
“You went without me,” he answers fiercely. “You just went straight into the water.”
“But why would I do that?”
He shrugs. I answer for him, “I didn’t have the fee,” as if this put the onus back on him for charging a fee in the first place.
“You’ve got the idea all wrong. The fee is not some arbitrary thing I lay over the top – it’s not in service of ME. It’s in service of the crossing. The fee is what you need to get across, it is the means, the vessel. When you try to go without – this happens.” He gestures past the fire to the loneliness of my head.
“So what now?” I whisper.
He shifts the dirt back into the hole, covering my soggy head. “Go into the dark. Be still. Wait for what will grow out of this.”