The last time any creature on this side of the veil between here and death had seen Evil Cat, he was being taken through the curtain that separates some of us from a bad fate that awaits. Upon the shore of the River Styx, his trepidation grew. Here, he was powerless and in the clutches of an enemy. His captor stood, stoic in the thralls of damnation. Around her, a stench of horrid hot wind stinking of corruption, and sights of the ugly side of Hades spun. Upon the river the water roiled, waves coming from every direction crashed against each other throwing plumes of spray into the dark skies; currents and eddies swirled around and vortexes sucked down the foetid air. Yet the waters stayed their place and no current cleaned the shore to take away the filth along the banks.
Approaching a landing of rock, a pirogue was being poled smoothly towards the pair. It’s small shape unperturbed by the chaos around it. On its stern a tall ferryman deftly pushing, then pulling up the pole to find bottom again. Its procession across the polluted water was swift, stable and certain.
Landing on the shore, the small boat glided across the ground as if it were water itself. The tall robed man left his cowl up, but it didn’t hide the fact there was no face inside. He spoke, his voice like booming thunder—louder than that even—yet no echo rolled off the cavernous walls.
“Madam, always a pleasure to see you.” The woman alighted the small boat, her footing was confident and she appeared to be comfortable with the process. “Are you here on business or pleasure.”
She smiled. A genuine warm expression; the kind used to greet an old friend.
“My business is always a pleasure Charon. Today I have another bad actor with me who needs to find his way to where he should be.”
“Today?” the ferryman said. “Is it today? I sometimes glimpse all days, even the day I retire after the world has forgotten us.”
The woman dropped the cat in the water and glided over to the man. She clasped her hands around his while he still held tightly to the pole.
“Oh Charon… never fear. We’ll always have all the days. Although they might get tedious after revisiting them too many times.”
Underneath the surface the cat struggled to hold its breath. Pain like a fire in his lungs erupted and made him convulse in fits. Unable to contain himself longer, the cat yowled. The beast’s throat filled with water and it drowned. That would have been a horror, but it also still lived—drowning again and again with each breath it took. Down below, the bottom of the river was not too far and the surface closer, but no matter how the cat thrashed and tried to swim it stayed at the level where it was.
In the corner of its eye an atrocity circled, undulating through the space Evil Cat was drifting to, despite his best efforts to breach the surface or change his course; caught within visual field of the monster, no escape possible, the cat froze still. The thing came anyway, all glistening teeth with razor-sharp scales that tore at Evil Cat’s flesh.
Although there was no chance to prevail against such a monstrosity, the cat tried with all its strength. From the wounds in both beast, blood billowed out. From it, a flood of scent called another freak as bizarre as the first. All three abominations squared off in the circle of death, killing and consuming each other in a frenzy of pain. It ended when a huge reptilian shape devoured the trio in a gulp; it did not end though, all three fighters were whole, alive, squeamish to start again. The first two, able to make their own way, left the cat to his fate in the rivers wet chill.
Evil Cat drifted underneath the boat. Another huge beast stared straight into the cat’s soul. The cat was known, it’s mind was sieved, then the monster swam away at its leisure. Evil Cat no longer bothered to swim. He was pulled through the water against his will and best efforts to resist. Farther along, the water compressed. Giving it a feel of wetness far worse than what he felt in his first soaking.
Along with his new misery, the water felt so cold. Far worse than any frost he’d ever endured. Far colder than any ice he’d encountered in all his nine lives. The frigidity grew worse with each inch of river he was pulled through, and it started to take on a solid feeling like ice, But it was liquid at the same time, and Evil Cat felt the water scrape against him as the depths drew near.
“The beast’s throat filled with water and it drowned.”
In those depths lay something that no being—alive or dead—could say. Sometimes it was grotesquely fish-shaped, and at times it had no shape at all; a creature displaying itself as one thing then another at the same time. Impossible a sight as this horror was, it had a knowing eye, and that orb was trained on Evil Cat. He was pulled into the maw of it, expecting teeth or fangs to rend his hide, but it was worse. This was a liquid filth of no knowable substance. It revealed itself unto the cat with hideous debasements of indescribable rawness. Evil Cat felt himself starting to rise and he breached the surface; the Cat Lady was here with her friend the Ferryman. They passed time in idle chit-chat.
“If you left Hades Charon, what would you do?”
“I would go boating on the seas Madam.”
“On the seas in your little pirogue?” She chuckled.
Charon felt a wide happy grin and considered it.