Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference: "Charon's Obol"

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Mask, by Stephie L., age 7
  • "Mask," by Stephie L., age 7

[Editor's Note: This is the latest installment of 'Notes From the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference,' a biweekly series of story and art that artist Amelia Garretson-Persans has created for Country Life. Trace its roots by reading the previous entries.]

Night falls faster indoors. The blue and limpid light that quavers against the window might lure a person in a darkening room out for an evening stroll. But that light is fairy light, and fairies have inhuman agendas. Better to stay indoors until one can safely discern between the dog and the wolf.

Ignoring this sound advice, I picked my way through dissolving shadows to keep my mystery date at the well. Daylight reigned in the field for the time being, but night was already roosted in the woods. Two owls were beginning a strange conversation.

When the well was in sight I determined that I was the promptest of its visitors. I had loaded my pockets with the dry grass I found at the morning’s presentation. When I reached the well I pulled some out and made a wish before dropping it in. I watched the grass settle gently before something in the well sucked it out of sight. I’m not sure what all that means for wishes; in any event, I was relieved when I looked up and saw the Professor.

“You gave me quite a fright last night. I didn’t know what became of you after I found the raspberry patch,” the Professor panted. It appeared as though the short walk across the field to the well had exhausted him.

“Yes, I am sorry about that. I had a bad feeling. I had to get out of those woods. I’ve been very unsettled.”

“That’s precisely what your double wants. It’s imperative that you — ” the Professor began before being overtaken by a coughing fit.

I put my hand on his back and said quietly, “I am glad that it was you who left that note though. I didn’t know what to expect.”

“What note?” he hacked.

I jerked my hand away. “The note you left in the auditorium. On top of the branches and grass. I came here to meet you.”

The Professor’s cough crackled amidst his words: “You didn’t come here to meet me.” He held his hand up to his mouth and spit into it. When he pulled it away I saw a coin flashing in the dusk light. “Charon’s obol, I guess.” The Professor’s low chuckle grew into a manic laughter. He was still laughing when I realized there was a third figure at the well.

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