Black Petals Issue #90 Winter, 2020

The Return of the Ferryman

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Curse of the Candles-Fiction by Jerry Payne
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The Return of the Ferryman-Serialized Fiction by Roy Dorman
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The Lycanthrope's Lament-Poem by Hillary Lyon
The Sea-Poem by Jason Rice

90_bp_ferryman_lyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2019

The Return of the Ferryman

 

By Roy Dorman

Part 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 and papers.

“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 particular topic.

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 replied.

“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 escort.”

“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 than Angelika.

 

Though Adriana had been confident in her abilities, the glamour she had woven to disguise Angelika couldn’t quite hide her suppressed violence.

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.

“Ferryman?” 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.

“Ferryman,” 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 Rory.

 

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 savior?”

“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 that—”

 “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 hilt.

Noises of a struggle could now be heard in the hall.

“Rory!” shouted Adriana. “Close and lock that door and come with me!”

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 obsidian.

“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 command it!”

The men jumped into the darkness, followed by Rory, and then Adriana.

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 grateful.”

“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 business later.”

She began the chant that would open the door.

 

To Be Continued

 

 

Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.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 It 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”; BP #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 To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.

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