THE FERRYMAN


By Chris Wilson

The“Come on Harry, it’s time for us to go”

 Standing alone in the cool Manx sea mist Harry heard the cheerful voice beside him, and realised that, though unseen, he had company. He liked being by himself as it was safe, and nobody could hurt him, as had happened many times over the years, so now this interruption was far from welcome.  He put his hand into the mist before him; his hand disappeared, swallowed by the salty tendrils of the mist around him. As he thought, there was nothing there. He smiled and pulled back his hand, tucking it into the deep, warm, cosy pocket of his coat.

 “I must be dreaming”

He murmured, nestling further into his wind and waterproofed double lined jacket. It welcomed him like an old friend. This was the life, this was security; this was where he wanted to be.

“It’s no good Harry, I’m still here”

Harry glared into the mist that, if anything, seemed to be even thicker.

“Who’s there, come on, show yourself, I’m not afraid!”

 A figure came out of the mist and stood quietly before him.

 “I’m here Harry, and I’ve been waiting for some time”

Harry looked at him in silence. He liked studying people, albeit from a safe distance, but now he was puzzled. The stranger looked quite normal, he was wearing similar clothes to himself, but beyond the clothes he seemed to have no definable character of his own. The man sighed, almost wearily, and quietly motioned towards a low grass bank that softly appeared out of the mist beside them.

 “Sit down Harry, this won’t take long”

 They sat down and Harry looked at the figure, who sat deep in thought.

“Ok, you don’t know who I am, do you? No of course you don’t, but then you aren’t from around here are you?”

Harry shook his head, and then watched carefully as the man brought out a notebook from inside the jacket he was wearing. The man opened the book and, raising an eyebrow, he smiled almost affectionately at Harry.

“Here we go, Harry Simmons, born 1958 in London, died; well, that’s yet to come!”

 He turned a page, and read aloud from the book  once more.

 “Moved to The I.O.M on Friday 13th February 1984.Unhappy solitary childhood, badly bullied, unmarried, and as an adult not very sociable now. Occupation, barman, love of his life…”

 The man paused, and sadly looked towards Harry.

 ” Love of his life; being alone; otherwise no other loves at all”

He quietly closed the book, and carefully put it by his side

 “Well Harry, am I right?”

Harry shrugged his shoulders indifferently, but still glared at the man beside him.

“Yes, but how do you know all this? Who are you, and what gives you the right to judge me?”

The man stood up, and looked out into the mist before him.

 “I cannot judge Harry, though others may do so in time. Who am I, well I’ve many names, and just as many contacts. Few have ever seen me, yet I know their names, their lives, and their history all the same. What do you think my name is Harry, go on pick a name, any one will do”?

 Harry laughed, his laughter strangely muffled by the mist around him.

“I’ll call you the Guardian; that seems a good enough name to me”

 The man smiled and brought his hands together.

 “Ah, at last, a name that fits my purpose. But now to business, why am I here.

Harry nodded and, leaning forward slightly, he looked carefully towards his newly named companion. The guardian carefully picked up his book, tucked it inside his jacket and then turned back towards Harry.

“I’m here for you Harry, and I’ve come to help you as I’ve helped thousands before you. I come in many forms to many people and wherever you may seek me I shall be there, but though I am a guardian that’s not my real name. Have you ever heard of a guy called Manannan, or Manannan mac Lir?”

 Harry laughed, and softly punched his guardian on his arm.

 “Oh come on, that’s just an old wives tale, and a myth dreamt up by the locals over beer and kippers. If you’re Manannan then I’m the King of Siam”

The guardian pursed his lips.

 “Ok Harry, don’t believe me, others have laughed before you, and many will follow.  Tell me, what do you know of my story, what have you been told?”

 Harry looked at the stranger, and then began to talk of the myth he had heard many times before.

 “Manannan, that’s you by the way, was a powerful wizard who lived thousands of years ago. He was the first Lord of Man and also the God of the Sea. According to some folk he is still around, and he still looks after the island. He does this by laying his cloak; a sea mist cloak like this no less, over the island should any naughty people or English Royalty visit or come to cause trouble. He’s almost a protector to the islanders; only three legged, which over here is very useful considering the islands weather, and its fondness for booze!”

 Harry laughed and, raising himself from his seat for a moment , he bowed sardonically towards his newly named friend.

“Hail to thee, Manannan, my guardian and great Lord of Man!”

 He sat back down laughing, then flicked his thumb over his shoulder.

 “Nice mist by the way, expecting any invaders are we?”

 His companion looked at him in silence, then once more pulled out his book.

   “No, not today, but thanks for the resume. It’s nice to know that I am still appreciated, but where do you think I got this information from Harry? How do you think I know you so well, and where is all this mist from? ”

Harry snorted in disgust.

 “Ever heard of the Internet and the telephone? As regards sea mist, well that’s a natural occurrence, it happens all the time. If you are Manannan, what do you want with me?”

Manannan  looked at Harry carefully.

 “You know what most people know, but there’s an even older story to tell. Ever heard of the ferrymen? No of course not, that’s just another old wives tale, but I am one of many ancient escorts, and now I am here to escort you.”

 Confused and puzzled Harry looked around. The mist thickened once more, but not before a young couple passed by briefly, only two yards away. Harry called out a greeting; they looked through him, and then looked the other way. He called again, louder this time, but, slowly, the couple moved on, gently laughing by now. He felt a tug on his arm.

 “Harry, they can’t hear you, and they can’t even see you. Look down below Harry; maybe that guy down there can hear you, go on, try and give him a call.”

The mist cleared briefly, and Harry looked down. He opened his mouth, but no sound came from within. He knew that body on the rocks. He knew that coat, and the scruffy pair of jeans. Inside the clothes a man lay peacefully, so peacefully, but as a gust of wind blew the man’s hair from his face, Harry saw his own face, and his own broken body.

He turned to look at Manannan, his eyes wide, and his mouth open in a silent scream.

Manannan smiled back grimly; then guiding Harry up onto to his feet, he held out his book for Harry to hold.

 “This is yours Harry; this book is your life. You already know what’s inside”

 Harry went to take the book; it fell, he missed, he cursed, and went to catch the book again, his fingers closed together this time. The book fell through his fingers and rested on the grass bank beside them. His mind exploded, his brain, screamed, and he tried, but failed, to run away. He wanted to be alive; it wasn’t his time to go!

Manannan moved closer, the mist thickened, it grew colder, Harry tried, but failed, to run; and all the time Manannan’s voice softly murmured in his ear.

“Come on Harry, it’s time for us to go!” 

***********************************************

A young couple strolled along the cliff top. The weather forecast had been perfect. It was a beautiful clear day, and they hadn’t seen anybody for hours. They gazed down at the rocks below, a seal looked up, and yawned, in return. They turned, laughed, and slowly moved on. The girl rested her head on her boyfriends shoulder.

 “I love the Isle of Man.”She murmured.“It’s so peaceful, and so quiet, nothing ever happens over here”

 He stroked her hair, and kissed her. They were happy; they were together and in love, so onwards they walked, serene in a world of their own.

************************************************

Nestling in the rocks, hidden from their sight by the seal, Harry’s battered and broken body waited to be found. 

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