The Ferrywoman

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Her skin was cold and her eyes were empty. She was a night sky without stars. A lake with no life. A woman with no heart.
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Nim gave me a jar of pickled tuna, a bag of dried sardines, and enough dried berries to fill the pockets of the fur coat she lent me. She offered to lend me a sword as well, but I said no, since I didn't know how to use swords, and it would make climbing the mountain difficult. I walked down the beach towards the ferrywoman's home. My heart stayed between me and the water. It was almost as large as a mountain cat, and moved more smoothly than it had before--graceful with the practice of hunting. It was night by the time we reached the ferrywoman.

The ferrywoman lived on a dock. For a moment, I thought she was blind--she had white eyes, choked with cataracts. Then I thought she might be dead, because her skin was gray and sick. But she could see, and she could move. She wore black clothing, and a bright orange lifejacket that looked entirely wrong on her.

"I need to get to the mountain," I told her.

"You must pay for passage," she told me, and her voice cracked like dry paper. "You must always pay for what you want, or else it will mean nothing to you."

She held out her gray, thin hand. I searched the pockets of my coat.

"Do you like berries?" I asked.

"No," she said.

I searched the pockets of my skirt and came up with my glasses, Virgil's book--damaged by seawater but still readable, three crumpled twenty dollar bills, a handful of change, and my cellphone. I had turned my cellphone off when I'd decided to stay in the woods, to save its battery. Against all odds it had survived being soaked in seawater.

"What is that?" the ferrywoman asked, pointing at the phone.

The ferrywoman was fascinated by my cellphone. She kept pressing the number keys and making the different dial noises. I warned her that it would run out of power in a matter of hours, but she waved my concern impatiently away. She also took two of my pennies, one for me and one for my heart.

News - 11/11/12

Only a little further to go on this journey.


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