"Hey Mac, where do you think you're going? Come here! You can't just come barging onto this ferry like you own the place."
"Are you Goodman?"
"Yes. I. M. Goodman. My friends just call me Manny."
"Well, Mr. Goodman. I'm Jack Styx and I'm the pilot on this old barge." He grabbed a clipboard off the hook and scanned down the sheet. "Looks like you're my only passenger this trip. Passport?"
"I don't have a passport." Manny shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
"Sorry, but you need a passport to gain entry. That's their rules not mine."
Jack Styx pointed across the darkened water. "The Light Ones. Tierra del Dios is their island. The Land of God. They're very strict over there who they let in."
"But I have to get in. My whole family's already there. They're expecting me."
"Look, Mr. Goodman. I'll tell you what I'll do. It's against the rules but I'll ferry you across without the passport and you can appeal to their mercy. Maybe they'll make an exception and let you in."
"Thank you, Mr. Styx. Thank you very much."
"Do you want me to put your satchel in the hold?"
"I'd rather hold on to my bag, if you don't mind. It's got all my important stuff in it. My silver and gold coin collection, the family's birth certificates, my two college degrees-"
"If the Light Ones let you on the island you're not allowed to bring anything with you. That stuff's useless over there."
Manny clutched the satchel tighter. " These things are my life."
Jack Styx guffawed. "But you're dead now, Mr. Goodman. You're dead."
The two hour trip passed swiftly. Manny didn't want it to end. Every minute the ferry pushed forward the scenery became more beautiful. The darkness glowed with a luminescence that appeared to come from the island. The indigo sky shimmered with hundreds of stars that looked like crystal ornaments on a Christmas tree. Beautiful plants sprang up out of the water on either side of the ferry as it passed by. The scent was of the finest frankincense and myrrh.
Now only a few hundred feet from the landing dock, Manny saw the main entrance to Tierra del Dios. The ornate gate seemed carved from a single pearl. Its soft glow bathed the shrubs and fruit trees growing on either side. Stretching away to left and right was an insurmountable wall that was swallowed up by the lingering darkness in both directions.
The ferry screeched along the dock and hit the bank with a gentle thump. "The end of the line, Mr. Goodman." Jack wrapped a rope around the pilings and helped Manny off the ferry. "The best of luck to you." Jack reversed the engines and the ferry chugged slowly away from shore.
Manny banged on the gate. "Please open up," he shouted.
"Is that you, Mr. Goodman? We heard you were coming."
"Yes, it's me."
"I'm sorry but I have to deny you entrance. You're not on the list. You have no passport. If you'll go back to the dock and wait another ferry will be along shortly. Captain's name is Buck Charon. He'll take you downstream to Isla de los Muertos."
"What is that place?"
"It's the Land of the Dead. I'm afraid there are no other options. You are dead with no chance of ever living again."
"No! I won't go. My family's here."
"Manny is that you?"
"Lizzy? Make them let me in."
"I'm sorry, honey. I can't."
"Where are the kids?"
"We're here, Dad."
"We love you, Dad."
A charred, battered ferry clunked and rattled into the dock. The burly pilot spat over the side. "Let's go, Goodman. I don't have all night."
Manny clung to the gate and cried out to his wife and children again. Charon sprung onto the dock and hurried to the gate. He grabbed Manny by the back of the shirt, dragged him to the ferry and threw him over the side.
"My family. That's my family," he sobbed. "Why can't I stay with my family?"
Charon kicked him in the ribs. "Quit yer yapping. You had your chance same as the rest of us."
The ferry slithered away from land and headed downstream into the murky water. Soon the wailing from behind the wall was swallowed up by the wailing of those imprisoned on the Island of the Dead.
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