This haze about me is permeating, it dances in and out of the ebbing waves. Not completely black, though the smokey wisps and shades of black lend the water enough to be so.
Boats rest docked, ever on the schedule of the tides, marked by the men waded out to them. Foot soldiers in shimmering, soft grey suits the color of dove, up to their knees soaked. There is a hooded figure on the dock, not a woman nor a man. They carry a long rowing oar like a staff and stand always upright, vigilant. Without bones to weary or skin to age, only a porcelain mask to face when the time comes.
It isn’t expensive to take the ferry here, not terribly, in any case.
Unlike so many fishing wharfs I’ve seen before, there is no unpleasant odor. It smells of wet wood and lilies, which is curious. There are flowers about, dying roses are continually pushed up to the beach, but those I cannot smell. The lilies I cannot see.
In the water there are small paper boats with a candle each, burning easy in the windless air. The men in the water dodge the wayward boats that have drifted too far, but none of them seem to fear catching fire.
My feet are bare on the hard packed clay beach, I could easily walk in among them, and I wonder if I should go out to help.
Through the distance and dark I can see they carry a heavy box upon their shoulders, it dips dangerously to one side as one man slips.
The hooded figure does not turn as they slip their burden into a waiting boat.
I want to go with it, to see what’s waiting beyond.
Just as if my thoughts are read, I hear a small voice beside me and startle.
They must not see me here, or I will surely be in danger. Only the hooded figure may know me, should I choose to pay.
“You cannot go,” speaks the voice. It is a young girl, russet hair pulled up in a ponytail, though much of it is soaked and sticking. There is a **** upon the side of her head, but that is to be expected.
My mouth twists at the corner in a down turn, my first instinct to rebuke her. My but I am curious, however. “Why don’t you?” I counter, not turning. Never turning.
You must not face those you meet at the docks, nor at crossroads.
She nods appropriately, also staring out at the men as they work the ropes securing the boat to the dock.
“I cannot wake, neither can I depart. I am waiting in the interim.” She broached, a little wistfully. Then with a further turn towards conversation, asks, “what do you suppose they are? Do you suppose they were once-”
“No,” I interject. “No I don’t suppose.” And she smartly shuts her mouth.
If I face her, I’ll know. I’ll look into her eyes and see the water rising and hear her screams and feel the burn of hospital lights. I cannot allow her to see me.
“You cannot go, you cannot wake. You cannot stay.” I wondered aloud. “Have you not the cost to pay?” At this, she almost turns. I slide my gaze further away before I hear her again.
“You are old, you’ve forgotten the true weight of the price.”
The boat is freed and its guide alights it soundlessly. The men turn back towards us to fetch their next charge as I unknowingly hold my breath.
This time the box is much smaller, light enough for one of them to hold in his arms. The other three form a procession up to another waiting boat.
I’ve been too caught up in watching to notice the terror on the girl’s face. There is not much assurance in this place, but here we are.
She doesn’t make any notion that she can hear me as I voice myself, albeit shallowly.
“It isn’t yours.” But it might be, for all I know. For when I finally turn my head at the silence,
She is gone.