Scribblings

Just a collection of various stories I began with no intention to finish, or answers to writing prompts. Enjoy! Please visit my author page on FB! facebook.com/author.anrisaryn Also note, some of these may be removed later if I feel the urge to expand on them!

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16. The River Styx

 

          I remember it like it was yesterday.
          "So did you turn in your report today?"
          Maybe it was, I'm not so sure anymore.
          "Oh yeah! I got a B+"
          The night was calm. I think it was a full moon.
          "That's not bad. It wasn't an easy paper."
          The stars sparkled in the sky like diamonds.
          "I know. It was so tricky. I wasn't sure what too out at the end."
          I saw a car coming, but thought nothing of it.
          "Aw, honey, don't worry. You'll do better next time."
          It was swerving a little, so naturally it made me look twice.
          "What's wrong with that car, Mom?"
          The woman looked over at the oncoming car and blinked. 
          "Hahahaah! That was a great party!"
          "Yeah, I know! Did you see Jerry?"
          "Oh my god. He was smashed!"
          "Hey, watch for that car, man!"
          "What car?"

          CRAAAAAAASHHHHHHH!

          Mia blinked.
          Where am I? she thought. 
          She felt a plastic railing under her left hand and looked down. It was moving, but at the same rate she was. There was someone in front of her and someone behind her, both at an angle from her view.
          Then it hit her. She was on an escalator. Why was she on an escalator? She turned around to see what was at the top of the down-moving machine. The person behind her appeared to be older. He reminded her of her grandfather. He smiled warmly at her.
          "What're you doing here?" he asked.
          She blinked. "Uh, um...I...what is this place?"
          "Why, this is the underworld."
          "The...underworld?"
          "Of course! Everyone goes here when they die," he replied with a slight nod.
          "...d-die?"
          "I'm surprised someone as young as you would even be here."
          "I'm...dead...?"
          "Of course, the world is more dangerous these days. It's really a tragedy how many young people might be here."
          "I'm dead?"
          "What caught you? It must have been something big."
          "I'M DEAD?!"
          Her heart beat increased. 
          "I'M DEAD?!"
          She heard her voice echo off the walls of the cave-like place. A few people turned toward her, some just shook their head in shame.
    "Looks like we have a young'n," one of the receptionists commented.
          "I'M DEAD?!" She was panicking now. "I can't be dead! I have so much left to do! I'm only fourteen! I can't be dead!" Her eyes filled with hot tears. "I can't be! I just can't! I haven't done anything!"
          "Dear, calm down."
          "I'm dead! Oh my God..."
          "Dear..."
          The escalator came to a stop. Mia failed to realize and she fell off the apparatus backwards, falling on her rear end with a yelp. A small crowd had already gathered around her, and now they looked down on her like children staring at a scared rabbit.
          She stood up with a exclamation of surprise, causing a small chuckle from the crowd.
          "Welcome to the underworld," one said.

          Mia was directed over the a line that resulted in a a desk of some sort. It reminded her of a hotel reception desk, but it was much more efficient. The blank-eyed counter workers stamped people's papers and directed them on their way. She reached the desk and was greeted by the monotone worker.
          "Welcome to the underworld," she said as if she had said it a thousand times over.
          "Yeah, I already-"
          "This is your permit," she continued, unevaded. "Turn this into the boat operator so you can get across. If you lose it, you can't get across."
          "What happens if I-"
          "If you can't get across, you're doomed to roam the shores for all eternity. Next!"
          Mia blinked and accepted the paper, walking slowly away from the desk. The crowds weren't large. Many people, some somewhat grotesque-looking, milled about the area, making conversation. She heard various causes of death that people seemed to discuss so casually.
          She shuddered.
          The thought that she was actually dead was unreal. She was always taught about heaven and hell, but this was nothing like she had imagined. It was a system, made efficient over thousands of years of people dying. She wondered if animals came here, too. She would love to see her dog again.
          Where was her mother? Was she here, too?
          She found herself at he bank of a river. A sign caught her attention.
         
The River Styx
Established 320 BCE

          She nearly chuckled. She would have thought it was funny if she wasn't so stressed. 
          The water seemed normal. It lapped up against the sandy bank like any other river on any other day. A team of canoes, a few on each bank, ferried people across the river. 
          The people in the canoes seemed somber. It was expected - they were dead. But, oddly enough, a few were somewhat happy. 
          "So what turned you in?"
          Mia turned quickly to find two men engaging in small talk along the wall. She was shoved sideways by a old couple. They seemed to be happy that they had arrived together. They boarded a canoe with a shallow-eyed ferryman who said nothing as he pushed off the bank. 
          "Wife pushed me into the wood-chipper. How about you?"
          Mia jumped at the reply. The two men against the wall seemed so casual about it. She stiffened, and waited for the other man's answer.
          "Fifth heart attack finally got me."
          How can they be so casual? She turned pale as the larger man caugh their eye and looked away.
          "You gettin' on, missy?" 
          She jumped as she heard the voice. She hadn't noticed the man's canoe pull up to the bank.
          "Um..." she hesitated, taking a step backwards.
          "S'okay, missy," he grinned. "The Guild Charon has yet to drop anyone in." He held out a hand, offering to help her in.
          Well, there's no use fighting it now. I'll find a way out later... she thought. Reluctantly, she stepped into the canoe as if it was a bed of hot ashes. She gingerly sad down on the other end of the canoe facing the man.
          "Don't be so nervous, missy," the man grinned, pushing off the bank. With a grunt, he twisted his torso and plopped his damp, flip-flop clad feet in the boat. "Bein' dead's not all bad, y'know."
          She said nothing, and turned to watch the water flow. It seemed empty at first, but she started as a school of fish skeletons swam by.
          He noticed her reaction and nodded, still grinning. "Them there's some Thralfish," he explained. "They like to school around in the river. People stop by now and then to feed 'em, but it's funny 'cause it goes right through 'em."
          "Did you saw crawfish?" Mia asked, tilting her head.
          "Thrawl-fish," he repreated. "Them there's're dead."
          She leaned over the side, looking the the water as the odd creatures swam by. She almost smiled.
          "That's there's a Ethrelshark," he said absently, pointing to someting quite larger in the water.
          Mia looked up expecting to see something half the size of what was there. The creature came into her line of sight and she jumped, causing the boat to rock.
          "Calm down there, missy," he grinned again.
          Something snapped inside her brain. She couldn't control herself anymore. She wondered if it had something to do with the fact that she didn't believe she was supposed to be here in the first place. That, coupled with her intense fear of being alone, a switch went off.
          "MY NAME...IS NOT MISSY," she shouted, not knowing where her energy was coming from. She was standing up now, her feet spread slightly apart in the tipping boat. "MY NAME IS MIA! I DON'T NEED TO BE HERE! I'M GOING HOME!" 
          Everything became blurry like an impressionistic painting. She hadn't realized she had been crying. "Sit down, missy! You're gonna tip the boat!"
          "I don't CARE!" she yelled, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I am NOT DEAD! I -"
          She was just about the belt out another protest to the wide-eyed spectators on the far bank when she realized the boat was rocking violently. The man's face was a tableau of concern for both her safety and her mental state. "Sit down, missy! Please!" 
          She panicked. He foot caught on the edge of the boat and the next thing she saw was the water.

          SPLAAAASH!

           She sputtered and flailed until her feet met the shallow bottom. She could feel the tears coming faster now. She could hardly see. She blinked to clear her vision...
          ...and came face to face with the grinning skelton of the Ethrelshark.
          She screamed. 
          She belted her lungs out and did the only thing she could think of: run.
          The far shore seemed a lot farther than it looked. Panting, she stopped on the bank, breathing deeply. 
          Disappointed, the creature swam away. It would have to wait another day for a good meal.
          She sat down on the bank, trying to catch her breath. The ferryman's boat arrive not long after. She had watch it float her way.
          She curled up in a ball, her head on her knees.
          "You gonna be ok, missy?" he asked, pulling the boat to the shore. 
          She said nothing; she hid her face in shame.
          He put a hand on her back, patting it softly. "Don't worry, missy. Bein' dead's not all bad."
          She looked up, her face wet with saline. She sniffled.
          "Name's Jeb. Short for Jebediah." He held out a hand in friendly greeting. "I joined the guild because it was just as hard for me to adjust to bein' dead as it is for you. Though, you died a little earlier than me." He grinned, looking up at the ceiling. The gray rock was embedded with small sparkling gems to appear like stars. "If'n you ever need anythin', I'm always here, missy."
          He seemed genuine. She looked up at the older man. He appeared to be about mid-twenties. He seemed to be made older with the strain of is work.
          "I'm Mia..." she offered, looking up.
          He looked down, pulling his knees in as well. "I know," he grinned. "You told me already."

 

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