A Ferryman’s Replacement

Rebekah Pouw

The sound of rain pattering against the car’s windows filled my ears. I started tapping against the steering wheel. I didn’t bother turning on the radio, preferring the rain to the droning of news. A sharp chime and the glow of my phone stilled my drumming fingers.  


{Ride request for Rowan L, Anatolia College to 1/87 Troy Road. Accept this ride request?}  


Anatolia, one of the most conservative and prestigious colleges on Long Island. Sounded like easy money. Stretching my arms, I clicked yes on the request and watched the location come up. Flicking the blinker, I pulled onto the quiet road, humming a nameless tune. Taking a few shortcuts, I slowed the car down at the entrance to Anatolia. A tall guy with a bookbag held over his head ran out from the shadows, waving at me. As he opened the door, I turned in my seat to face him. Are you Rowan?’  

He wiped the raindrops from his face and smudged his fingers across his glasses, his golden-brown curls plastered to his forehead. ‘Yeah.’ He smiled, turning his phone around to show me the booking. 

‘There are towels in the back if you want to dry off,’ I said, turning the car back onto the road.  

‘Thank you. Boy, it’s raining cats and dogs, isn’t it?’ 

I hummed in agreement, keeping my eyes on the road. 

‘I’m going to a party tonight. All my friends tell me I spend too much time in the library. Said that I need to live a little. That I should be in the company of actual, fun people.’ 

‘That so? Are you looking forward to it?’  

‘Yeah, I’m hoping there will be some people there I know.’ 

I noticed his eyes getting a little wistful. ‘I’ve seen that look before. You’re hoping a special someone will be there. Come on, don’t leave me hanging.’ 

‘Alright. There’s this girl, Hazel. She’s studying a degree in history like me. She’s so pretty and smart.’ I nodded my head, but I wasn’t really listening. I glanced at the GPS to make sure I was heading the right way. It’s not that I minded him talking to me, I just wished I had a job that I enjoyed, that didn’t involve ferrying around strangers. While this paid the bills, hopefully after I graduated, I would find a better job. I pulled up to 1/87 Troy Road and held back a laugh as a girl holding a drink came rushing to the passenger side and opened the door. She grabbed Rowan’s arm and pulled him out of the car as he stared at her with a love-sick expression. 

‘You guys enjoy the party.’ I didn’t catch their response before they closed the door. I chuckled to myself. If the guy played his cards right, he might become a frequent late-night passenger. I pulled away, chime catching my attention. 


{Ride request for Jason2571, 80 Hermes Court to 81 Thessa Avenue. Accept this request?} 


Great, another request. I rolled my eyes but clicked yes and the GPS popped up. I drove away, wistfully watching the bright party lights fade in the rear-view mirror. When I turned down the next street, a chill ran down my spine. I brushed it off, turning up the heat. The rain slowed to a drizzle as I turned into Hermes Court and parked on the side. My heart sank as a couple of guys came stumbling towards me, beer bottles in their hands. Charming. I’m glad I spent the money on new vomit bags. One of the guys, who I hoped was Jason, smacked his palm against the driver window. I rolled it down partially, a grimace on my lips.  

‘You mah Uber?’  

Gods above, I could smell the alcohol on his breath. His buddy looked as plastered as he was. I had half a mind to refuse them, but I knew that some other poor soul would have to take them instead, and I needed the money. 

‘Get in, and try not to be sick.’  

Jason’s buddy mumbled something as they climbed in the back seat. At least they were sober enough to remember to put their seatbelts on. As I drove off, my shoulders relaxed a bit. Both guys were silent, their heads dropping with every passing minute. Thank the gods. Most drunks I pick up at this time of night, and especially ones as sloshed as these two, would normally be chatting my ear off. Small blessings I thought when I pulled up in front of number 81. ‘This is your stop. Do you need help?’  

‘Nah, we’re good dude.’ 

Both guys heaved themselves out the car just as a woman opened the front door and started yelling at them. I took that as my cue to leave. 

I drove out of Thessa Avenue, thanking the stars that the men hadn’t been sick in my car. I couldn’t afford to pay out the money to clean it, especially on my lousy Uber wages. As if the car heard me, the little fuel light blinked on.  

The glowing sign of a 7/11 station lit up the quiet street as I pulled up to a pump. As I stood filling up the fuel tank, I got the sudden feeling that someone was watching me. I looked around, but I was alone. The late hour must be making me paranoid. I walked into the servo and made a beeline for the coffee machine. 

‘Big day tomorrow?’  

I turned, coffee in hand to see the 7/11 employee watching me from the registers. I smiled as I walked over to pay. ‘Something like that.’  

The night breeze swirled around me as I stepped outside. I sipped the coffee, relishing the warmth and grateful for a break from driving. I climbed back into the car as my phone chimed again. Damn, I guess there were a lot of people that needed a ride tonight.  


 {Ride request for Kha A, Angelo Street to Long Island Docks. Accept this request?} 


I squinted at the screen. The Long Island Docks was on the other side of the island. It would take more than half of the tank that I just filled to do the trip, even if the pick-up area was close by. I was about to click no when the phone chimed again. 


{Kha A is offering double for ride. Accept this request?} 


I gasped at the new message. Double? That’s at least two full tanks of gas. I clicked yes and drove straight to Angelo Street. Waiting under a streetlight was a slightly hunched figure, leaning heavily on a cane. I pulled up next to them and rolled down the window. 

‘Mr Kha?’  

A man with a silver beard and a black suit. He smiled at me and said, ‘Please, call me Acheron.’  

He sat silently in the backseat, his grey eyes bright in the dim interior, his cane resting neatly on his knees. A cold, uneasy feeling washed over me. I put the car into drive and turned towards the highway. As I drove, I could feel my shoulders tensing up. It was odd. Normally I preferred silence when accepting ride requests, but now I felt the sudden urge to talk. ‘I think you’ll be my last ride of the night, Acheron.’ I smiled at him. ‘My parents always tell me I should get a good night’s sleep so I can concentrate on my studies. I think 3am is a good time to sign-off don’t you think?’  

‘It is a smart habit. It gives a person a strong and sound mind. May I ask what you are studying, Miss?’ 

‘Oh, I’m a second-year history student. I especially love studying the cultures of the Greeks and Romans. They wrote amazing stories.’  

A ghost of a smile appeared on Acheron’s face. 

‘Stories you say? Mind if I ask you what you define as stories?’  

I glance at him in the rear-view mirror. 

‘You know, myths like the Trojan War and The Golden Fleece? Stories like that. ‘ 

‘You’d be surprised at the truth in those stories,” Miss. While many argue about the existence of Lady Helen and her lover Paris, the city of Troy did indeed exist, and the magnificent treachery of the Horse was real. And as for the Golden Fleece, well it was the name given to hero Jason’s sheep fleece that he used to hold the gold he found on his travels. You see, back then they didn’t have the luxury of plastic bags and containers, instead they used animal skin to hold their goods, and a common way for people to sift their gold was with sheep fleece, hence the name The Golden Fleece.’ 

I glanced at him, eyes wide.  

‘Really? That’s amazing! I had no idea fleece could sift gold.’  

Acheron laughed, the sound like sombre bells. 

‘History itself is a story, Miss. Many wonder whether the burning of thousands of books was true, just as you wonder whether the story of Atlantis sinking was real.’  

I frowned, staring at the steering wheel. 

But we have physical proof of the book burning in history, yet there’s no records of a city that has sunk.’ 

‘Oh, on the contrary, my dear. Atlantis, as with other cities in history, have been at the mercy of Mother Nature. Earthquakes and volcanos have devastated whole civilisations, as well as causing changes in the oceans. Just look at Pompeii. That’s a prime example of what is truth and what is fiction.’ 

‘I can’t believe I forgot about Pompeii. I remember reading about the people they found buried under all that ash. Acheron, how do you know so much about history?’ 

Acheron smiled. ‘It’s something that gets tackled quite a bit in my job. I tend to come across a lot of people who demand answers and ask very small-minded questions.’  

I laughed at his answer. ‘That sounds… interesting. What do you do for a job?’ 

I’ve been in my job for a very long time now. I am looking for someone I can train to take over from me. I believe, that in time, you would be perfect for the job.’  

I pulled up in the empty carpark of the docks and turned to look at Acheron. ‘Really? You’re offering me a job? Where I can learn about my favourite stories?’ 

‘Yes, if you would be interested?’  

And with that Acheron opened the car door and beckoned me to follow him. I didn’t hesitate. But as I exited the car, I nearly smacked into someone. I watched as a line of gaunt-looking people appeared out of nowhere, all waiting to board a large ancient-looking boat. A familiar one. A boat owned by someone I’ve read many stories about.  

I spin around to see Kha Acheron standing next to me, a lantern and large oar in hand.  

‘Ready for your first trip on the River Styx?’ The Ferryman asked, holding the oar out to me. 

Author: Rebekah J Pouw is a third-year creative writing student at QUT. She loves reading and writing pieces based on mythology, especially from Greek myths. She mainly creates stories and fantasy worlds where she hopes that people will always love to return to. 

Artist: Cyndra Galea (she/they) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Communications. When not found with her head in a book or three, Cyndra can be found radioactive antique hunting, fixing classic cars with her dad, working in their vegetable garden, drawing on her iPad, or writing and editing her manuscript. Cyndra aims to work in the publishing industry when she finishes university, but also dreams of releasing novels of their own.

Accessibility Reader: Maddelyn Connors

Editors: Rory Hawkins and Tracy Channell