of the Ferryman
By Roy Dorman
II of the DARK DOOR Serial
Three days after arriving at Adriana Ardelean’s ancestral
home in the countryside near the small Romanian town of Nucet, Rory Davis has
begun to be comfortable with his new environment. Comfortable except for the
voices that sometimes plague him in his predawn sleep.
“Ferryman! Yo, Ferryman! Get out here; I need to cross!”
Rory sat up in bed and shook his head to clear the cobwebs.
Looking out the window, he could see that dawn was near. He listened for the
voice that had awoken him, but heard nothing but the chirping birds in the
linden tree outside.
Adriana’s side of the bed was empty. Either she’d gotten up
early or had never come to bed.
After their arrival she’d told him she would be busy for a
couple of weeks getting things in the old homestead into shape. Her family had
been away from Romania for over 200 years.
Rory found Adriana in a small study surrounded by old books
“Good morning,” she said. “Sleep well?”
“Well enough until just before dawn,” said Rory. “I was
awoken by someone calling for a ferryman. Do you know what that could mean?”
Adriana stared at Rory and her lips grew thin. Rory knew
from past experience this was a sign that she didn’t want to discuss a
He decided to ask about something else he was curious
about. “So, who were those people waiting for us when we stepped out of
the Dark Door?”
“People whose ancestors had hated my ancestors,” Adriana
“That’s a long time to wait for the return of someone your
family disagreed with.”
“My family knew we’d return one day and left a small group
here to watch over things,” said Adriana. “The servants who are taking care of
the homestead today are descendants of the servants who took care of it during
my parents’ time here. Those servants were intensely loyal then and these are
intensely loyal now. Waste not, want not.”
“When can I go into town?” said Rory, changing the
subject again. He didn’t like the callous way Adriana talked about her staff as
though they were mere possessions to keep or discard as she chose.
But he knew better than to call her on it. His Adriana had
a harder edge here in Romania than she had had in New York. Had she really ever
been “his Adriana?”
“You could go this afternoon if you like,” said Adriana. “Since
the people of the town are fearful of us, Angelika will go with you as an
“I would think Angelika would make them more fearful rather
than less,” said Rory.
“Angelika’s presence will make sure some young hothead
doesn’t do anything stupid. I will weave an illusion around her so that she
appears less dangerous.”
“That will have to be some glamour if it’s going to make
the townspeople accept us,” said Rory.
“I can do it. There’s not much I cannot do, as you well
know,” said Adriana, shrugging. “And the illusion will not make those who hate
us accept you; it will protect you.”
Though Rory was now a little less enthusiastic about a trip
into town, he felt there could be nobody more competent in looking out for him
Though Adriana had been confident in her abilities, the
glamour she had woven to disguise Angelika couldn’t quite hide her suppressed
When someone would cross themselves or point a warding sign
in her direction, Angelika would emit a low growl that would send the offending
villager scurrying away.
To anyone but the villagers, a guttural growl coming from
what appeared to be a preteen girl would seem incongruous, but the villagers
knew who she was despite the illusion. And then, of course, there were the
large misshapen feet that peeked out from Angelika’s long gown. Clawed and
ugly, they had resisted the imposed glamour.
someone whispered as they passed through the market place.
Angelika stopped and fixed a stare at the old man who had
uttered the word and he fell to his knees, covering his ears with both hands.
Blood dripped from his nose and then from his ears, trickling down the palms of
his hands and running down his forearms.
he whispered again, looking into Rory’s eyes as he fell on his side to the
ground. “Please help us cross.”
It was not the same voice Rory had heard in his waking
dreams these past mornings. That voice had been authoritative and demanding.
This man’s voice was plaintive and held a hint of hope.
Angelika grabbed Rory roughly be the arm and hurried him
away from the small crowd that had begun to gather. When they were a couple of
blocks from the market, Angelika threw Rory up against a stone wall. She stared
at him with cold yellow eyes streaked with crimson. They were not the eyes of a
preteen girl. Rory feared she would hurt him like she had the old man, but
didn’t cover his ears.
“Are you the Ferryman?” she grated. “And if you are, why
does Adriana keep you close to her?”
“I don’t know anything about any Ferryman,” said Rory. “I
don’t even know what a Ferryman is.”
Angelika shook as if she was trying to control herself. She
looked as though any second she would tear Rory apart and leave his remains at
the base of the wall. Finally, she sighed and stepped back a few feet and
pointed Rory in the direction of home.
“I must talk with Adriana,” she said, more to herself than
That night Adriana quit working on whatever had been taking
all of her time recently and came to bed. “Angelika was in quite a state when
you two returned from the village this afternoon,” she said. “Tell me your
version of things; what did you do?”
“I didn’t do a goddamn thing!” Rory shouted. “Some old
geezer called me the Ferryman and
asked me to help us cross. That
caused Angelika to freak out and attack him. I asked you about the
Ferryman this morning and you blew me off. I have no clue as to who or what a
Ferryman is or who us is.”
“The Ferryman was a Roma who lived near here many years ago
when the town of Nucet was much smaller,” began Adriana. “By many years ago I
mean 200 years ago.”
“The person who has been calling me in the morning makes it
sound like it’s my job to get him across, I don’t know, a river, maybe,”
interrupted Rory. “The old man in the market place made me feel like I was some
kind of messiah. Was I, I mean was he, the Ferryman, in business or a
“The Ferryman was both,” said Adriana. “The original
Ferryman was born probably about 300 years ago. His job was to ferry farming
people across the river with their goods for the market and back when market
day was done. Sometimes when the river was high from rains and running
fast, he would be the one to say whether it was safe enough to cross in his punt
boat. If his pole couldn’t reach the bottom of the river, he couldn’t be sure
of controlling the crossing.”
“What about the savior angle?” asked Rory. “What does
“Angelika, why are you here?” asked Adriana.
Angelika had entered the bedroom without knocking and
had walked woodenly to the bedside.
“They…come…for…the…Ferryman,” she said, coughing and
spraying blood onto the bed before falling heavily to the floor on her face. A
butcher knife protruded from her back. It had been driven into her to its
Noises of a struggle could now be heard in the hall.
“Rory!” shouted Adriana. “Close and lock that door and come
Adriana pressed her hand on a panel and part of the wall
opened to a passageway.
“Hurry! We must get to the Dark Door!”
Rory followed Adriana into the passageway. Narrow steps led
them down toward the basement. Immediately upon their arrival, Adriana began
chanting and the Dark Door swung open. As before, the interior was as black as
“Where are we going?” asked Rory. “Don’t we need to take
some things with us?”
“The Dark Door is stocked with supplies as well as gold and
jewelry to get us by for the near future,” said Adriana. “As to where we are
going, for now it’s only important that we are going.”
Two men appeared at the bottom of the basement stairs. They
both suffered from knife wounds on their arms and struggled for breath. “Go! We
can’t hold them,” said one of the men to Adriana, who had already begun the
chanting that would close the Dark Door.
“You two,” shouted Rory. “Get into that blackness! You’re
coming with us!”
The men turned to Adriana as if looking for permission. She
rolled her eyes, shrugged, and continued chanting. The Dark Door slowly started
to swing closed.
“Now!” said Rory to the two. “I’m the Ferryman and I
The men jumped into the darkness, followed by Rory, and
Just before the door closed, Angelika threw herself into
the blackness and onto the floor. “Adriana,” she gasped. “If you would please
remove the knife and say something healing over my wound, I would be most
“Tough old bird, isn’t she?” said Rory.
One of the men gasped and the other chuckled softly.
“We didn’t need
these two where we are going,” whispered Adriana
later in the dark after the door had closed.
“Maybe you didn’t need them, but they needed us,”
said Rory. “And maybe I needed them. Maybe if I’d left them behind, I’d have
left some of my humanity behind.”
The total blackness inside the room behind the Dark Door
prevented Rory from seeing the look on Adriana’s face, but if he could have
seen it, he wouldn’t have been happy.
“We’re here,” said Adriana. “We’ll talk of this humanity
She began the chant that would open the door.
Roy Dorman, email@example.com, of Madison, WI, who wrote BP #90’s “The Return of the
Ferryman” (+ BP #89’s “Orphans at the Dark Door”; BP #88’s “Blood on the
Riviera”; BP #87’s “The Sepia Photograph”;
BP #86’s “New Orleans Take-Out” & “Not This Time”; BP #85’s “Door
County Getaway” & “The Gift”; BP #84’s “Goodbye to Nowhere Land” &
“Nobody Should Be at 1610 Maple St.”; BP #83’s “Door #2”; BP #82’s “A Nowhere
Friend” & “Foundling”; BP #81’s “Nowhere Man in Nowhere Land” & “The
Box with Pearl Inlay”; BP #80’s “Andrew’s War” & “Down at the Hardware
Store”; BP #79’s “Cellmates” & “Get Some Shelter”; BP #78’s “All Is as
Should Be”; BP #77’s “Essence of Andrew”; BP #76’s “Flirting with the Alley”;
BP #75’s “The Enemy of My Enemy…”; BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others”;
#73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower”; BP #72’s “The Beach House”; BP #71’s
“The Big Apple Bites”; BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love”; and BP #69’s “Back in
Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60
years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired
English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and
flash fiction published in Apocrypha and
Abstractions, Birds Piled Loosely,
Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Cheapjack
Pulp, Crack The
Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction Press, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights, Near
Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity
Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech
Owl, The Story
Shack, & Yellow Mama.