I found him at long last in a forest clearing, cooking at a fire.
He glanced up and gestured for me to sit with him. Without prompting he began to tell me his story:
“My name is Charon, I am the ferryman. It was my job to take the souls of the dead across the last river, to what lies beyond. I am no immortal, for me it was just a contract, abet signed by endless hands. Two coins left in the eyes of the deceased the compensation for my time.”
“People often laughed and told me for such a vital service, I should have charged more! They didn’t understand how many people sat beside me on that boat, two coins for every man and women ever born is more then a fortune!”
“It started with beads, then dinari became pennies, silver dollars and more abstract means of trade. I collected my fees, but the contract was not forever; only until the end of time.”
He stirred the pot a little, prodded the embers with a stick and continued.
“So there at the end of all things, I had a choice, as my contract stated; I would be mortal once more, I could go and live out my remaining days in any place and any time I desired. I would live well, I had more money then anyone could imagine in currency of every nation and era where someone had died.”
“What would I do with this mortal life? You see, I had a unique experience; every person who ever lived had sat in my boat, and told me the tales of their lives, I knew more about the human condition then anyone every will. I know all the secrets of the grave, I have seen every life that could be lived, so how should I spend mine? Which life the most virtuous, the most fulfilling?”
He saw me shift a little in my improvised seat, I guess he realised his talk was making me uncomfortable, but he stared into the distance and continued
“ I’d met dictators and kings, who would deliver great monologues of their adventures, they would tell me the one place they went wrong, or more often, how they where betrayed; great speeches about the failings of lesser men that had lead to their downfall. Those kind of people hid a pain deep inside, they wanted to see their faces on statues, because they don’t know how to be loved.”
"The really strong ones? The spiritual ones who had something meaningful to say, where far less common, less then one in a million, but I knew them because the first thing they did, was to ask if I was tired, and offer to take the oars.”
“Yeah, I met them all, I met the hedonists who choose slow suicide and decided to live themselves to death, I met child soldiers who never had that chance, who had grasped more of there own existence then all the philosophers ever did. I’d experienced all of human existence second-hand, I could have sought to replicate any life, fought suffering, lived to see monuments raised in my honour, Charon the great! The all powerful! But In the end thought I choose this:”
Charon gestured around the clearing at the beautiful nights sky.
“All I need is this night, these refried beans and a little space for me to think. Disappointing isn’t it? After all I’ve heard, all I know, all I can offer is the advice to enjoy the simple pleasures, eh?”
"There’s one thing that has been troubling me though. As I’m now a mortal and will someday die, I must have once ferried myself across the river, I must have sat silent with my own soul beside me. So I try to remember, rack my brain for someone who kinda looked like me. See, such a mistake! If I’d only realised at the time, I could have asked myself how I died, I would have know this last secret, and maybe, I wouldn’t have invited you to join me!”
He turned and looked straight at me then, but I was already on my feet, the piano wire between my fingers. He was a strong old man and fought like he didn’t want to die, but in the end he choked his last in my arms.
As I lay his body down, I knew one day we would meet again, and he would not remember me. If he could, I doubt he would thank me for being the only mortal in history, to pay the ferryman in kind.