For Now Or Forever
The boat is already waiting, close to the bank, with the water lapping, as Cara approaches the edge. As she puts a foot on board it sways slightly as her weight disturbs its easy equilibrium. The rope tethering the vessel swings in accompaniment.
“Fare, please,” a thin voice demands. Cara looks down, seeing the tiny hand outstretched towards her. She frowns slightly, squinting.
“What are you?” she murmurs, looking into the bleached face with its dark pupil-less eyes beneath wispy strands of white hair; looking through the skin itself, where objects behind it display themselves.
The girl shrugs her shoulders. “Ferrymaid, for now. Fare taker forever, perhaps, if day due Danakes remain unpaid - with lesser lads ‘n wenches.”
“I..” Cara says.
“Pay up or hop off,” the girl interjects. “Others ‘ll be waiting. ‘Tis not my matter when women wish to wander. Though we’d call it wasteful when we’re all wanting ‘n wishing for farther in..”
“We?” Cara asks.
The young girl shakes her head quickly. “What may be – as well as what was once, though but half-formed; what should be, should circumstance allow.”
“Large thoughts for one so little,” Cara says, brow creased. “Do you know what they mean?”
“Do you?” the girl retorts. “Since my fare’s still owing? Will we journey - or will you bide by the Styx? Your choice; where others have little hope of it.” After a pause, “You must be dead, you know. By definition. I’d be dead too by now, if I could.”
“Would you?” Cara asks, shortly followed by, “Sorry? What?”
“You’ll understand, in a while. ‘Tis not for me to say.”
“Isn’t it, though?” Cara asks. “Is there no choice in anything for the Never Weres? Or is that Never Ares? Do you yourselves distinguish between the two? If not – shouldn’t you?” She lets out a quick breath.
“Remembering now, a little?” the girl queries. “Though your Isle awaits. You’ll be better there,” she adds. “Forget about this; me. You’ll mean to remember. You’ll even try to – but won’t.”
“Will so!” Cara exclaims. “God - you’ve got me regressing!”
“Not possible; not now,” the girl says. “Time’s passed and ebbing.”
Somewhat to my surprise this week, this story won! I received some nice praise from the week's judge (see here - along with comments concerning a strong round of stories generally) That makes me this week's Flash Master!