Death and the Ferryman's Mask
As Death's PA I often deal with problems that occur in the Underworld, and the Overworld. I've seen it all, or so I thought.
I was summoned to the Ferryman, where I found an unprecedented long line of deceased souls awaiting the ferry to the afterworld.
At the front of a queue was a loud, mouthy soul who was refusing to get on the Boat.
"Can I help?" I said.
"I'm not getting in that Boat, he's wearing a mask." I looked at the Ferryman. As he had for thousands of years, he had his scarf draped across his face.
"I don't understand," I said, "What's the problem?"
"It's a conspiracy, everyone wearing masks, Covid isn't real, people are dying of oxygen shortages from wearing masks, not from Covid."
"Is that why you're dead?" I said.
"You'll never get me to wear a mask. I died in hospital. They say it was Covid, but I must have been poisoned for taking a stand."
"I'll have a word with the Ferryman," I said.
For the third time in my life I climbed into the Ferryman's Boat. The Ferryman is not used to talking except while rowing, so he took off, towards the other side of the Styx.
"She wants you to take your mask off," I said.
The Ferryman shook his head slowly. "I've been wearing a scarf for 20,000 years. Every disease that has ever killed man, woman or child has been in this boat, I have to take care."
It is often forgotten that the Ferryman is himself a mortal, just a mortal working in the immortal realm.
"But these aren't the bodies of the dead," I said. "Just their souls. You can't catch disease from a dead soul."
"I'm just being careful," the Ferryman said. "I've never had a complaint, not even during the heights of the plague. Now, that was a nasty disease, I was working non-stop at the height of the plague."
I said nothing. The Ferryman is always working non-stop, as is Death. I try to limit my hours, though Death (my employer) has a trick of tweaking with time to avoid paying me overtime.
"So you won't take the mask off?" I said again.
I thought for a moment. "I think I have a solution," I said eventually.
The Ferryman turned the Boat, and in no time I was back at the shore, and in no time I was back on Earth, in a store, in front of the gift I intended to buy the Ferryman. My job comes with these special powers, which I hardly ever abuse, except on the first day of the sales - indeed for me, because of Death's relationship with time, it is always the first day of the sales.
I returned to the Shore again, and once again I joined the Ferryman in his Boat. Once more he pushed off and we were floating across the Styx.
"You have a gift for me?" the Ferryman said (the Ferryman, like Death, was all knowing, you could never buy either a surprise present).
"I bought you a new scarf," I said.
The Ferryman read the lettering on the present I passed him. "MAGA," he said.
"Trust me," I said, "This is going to help."
We returned to the Shore. The disruptive soul was still at the front of the queue, but her memory had been wiped of its earlier attempt to board the Boat. This time the soul climbed in without problem.
"You're one of us, I see," she said to the Ferryman. "But why are you wearing a mask, you know it's fake?"
"I've worn this scarf for 20,000 years. I've had victims of every disease in this boat. Half my passengers were plague victims at one time."
"Yeah, the plague, that was a proper disease, not like Covid. That's all fake."
"You did die of Covid though," the Ferryman said.
This time around the recently-deceased soul didn't dispute the diagnosis.
"Yeah, I should have taken those horse pills. Everyone's been talking about the horse pills."
The Boat sailed out of earshot and the soul was gone forever.
You can't wear that mask for everyone," I said when the Boat returned. I had visions of Democrats and other sane people refusing to get in any Boat to the afterworld ferried by a man in a MAGA scarf.
"I'll know," the Ferryman said, "I'll know which ones to wear it for," because like Death, the Ferryman is all-knowing.