The soldier limped to the side of the river, slumped to the ground and lay there, face up, his face only half seeing. The once shiny breastplate was battered, scratched, of no further use. No spear. His helmet had protected his handsome face but could not prevent the lance that had passed through his shoulder. His legs, still strong with the saddle muscles of years on horseback remained although his sandals had worn off in this last campaign.

He had no further clothing, nothing protected that which makes us men from the single seeing eye save the hair that went up and under the breastplate. In his hand, one coin, a penny, the large metal penny.He dropped it as he sat on the ground, not up, not down just as if he were to become part of this part of the bank forever.

The clinking noise made by the rolling penny was heard and what had looked like a well scrubbed rock shot out a hand to seize it. He saw it as his fee, not much, one penny but for those soldiers who came to him, it was enough. Turning it over he saw it was from bellicose Sparta and suggested the man who brought it was either a Spartan or one who had fought them and found this as a souvenir though not of victory.

He was an old man, still well formed, strong, his job required that. Few knew his face, it had seen so much wind and water that it existed as plains and depressions save for the eyes, the most important part of a sailor. They were there, black, obsidian like but seeing everything. Some said it saw souls which condemned those in his boat to their ultimate fate.

With the grumbles of old age he slowly found a way to his feet, steadied himself and then began the search that he knew would end in success, a passenger.

The soldier saw a rip in the fog or perhaps it was the fog simply moved by air. He did not care, he had paid his fee and when he could, if he could, he would find the shore, lay there and cry, "CHARON!".Wait, perhaps the boatman was with another and in the sea where his words were blown back. He would have to wait.

The fog, or perhaps it was the hem of a long colourless cloak went across his foot, his leg, covered his man stalk and stopped. "You have need of me soldier? I have your penny, if indeed it is your penny, and have come to take you to my boat."

The man looked up. He saw neither charity nor anger, but a large man swathed in fog who held out his large hand, a hand used to holding an oar, swearing at the sea, cursing Poseidon when he was fickle.

"I would come with you but I fear....."

"Yes, all who come here fear, not your fear but the fear that they have found this place but, also unlike you, have paid me my fee. Soldier, good soldier, you shall find the shore and my boat. All we need do is lighten you."

Charon bent over and without effort removed the helmet and the breastplate;Immediately the recumbent man felt...lighter. A hand was extended to him in which he placed his. He was up. The fog was cold on his nude body but caused his stalk to grow, as if to point the way.

In his cloak, Charon smiled, this was a soldier who had survived and would again. He looked at the extending piece of man and took hold of it. "Every man dies because of this, now as all men do, follow me, do not restrain yourself. The white liquid you spill is only proof that you are a man and bravely walked with Charon. Some men wrinkle and try and return to life but they are fools, for them, lies the other side of the river, where they will find their puny bits and pieces. For them, the last horror of being a man, they are emasculated and their insignificant pieces are thrown to the far shore where I will take them. Then until Olympus falls, they will look for their parts to assure them they are again, a man.

"Will you take my manhood? My spheres of life?

"No, there is no reason. You have lived and given of yourself as does any man. But in our conversation, you see you found your strength, here is my boat, step in, sit and I will push us away. Lie down for a time, rest, that, after all, is the gift of death, the ability to rest.

They soldier tried to look grateful, to offer his thanks but exhaustion found him and he collapsed on the bottom of the boat. Charon looked to the horizon and pulled his oar, first one way, then the other.Shortly the shore the left, was no longer visible. They were in....nothing, supported by water. Even Charon's oar made only a vague line in the still surface.

Charon never tired, never. He had made this journey forever and would continue providing his service as long as their were men who had need of it. There was no time, no moment lighter than the last just the sensation of movement. On the floor the soldier lay dead but preparing to rejoin the living. Only Charon had seen his soul begin to ooze out and was able to catch it. Now he did not rest, he did not sleep, he did not exist save as an abandoned body in Charon's boat.

When he came to, it was bright, the waves were frisking about the boat, occasionally wetting him. When he looked he saw....a young man, a strong beautiful man holding an oar and languidly rowing. Noticing his passenger had roused himself, he bent down and placed an unseen thing over him and his life began. He was young, strong, gifted, agile, stern and jovial of face at once. He stood looking at Charon who was equally young and magnificent.

"Swim in this water. Go and I will go with you." Like two happy animals they dove into the water and in strong strokes pulled the boat after them. Dolphins played with them, they laughed. Shore or what seemed like a place, at least a destination loomed in front. Charon easily pulled himself back into the boat, the soldier following only needing to stop to shake the water from his hair.

"Do you remember the penny you paid me? Now you will find what you have purchased when we reach that place on the horizon. The boat will find the beach and I now will find you." Saying that, he lay on the bottom of the boat taking the soldier with him. Embraced him, kissed him, fondled him, made him close his eyes with the thought of approaching release of sex. Charon used his body as a gift from Eros making every piece of the soldier awake with fire and desire. He must have this man or...no....this man must have him. For hours, days, they must lie joined by mouth, by man rod, spheres wiped by tongues.

There was the sound of sand scraping against the bottom. The two men lept our and fell on the sand too involved in the body of each other to notice. The soldier arched his back in an agony of expectation, his hard, long, tall shooter of men was waiting for Charon to settle onto it. He could make him happy. He could reach as far in Charon as there was. Or....could Charon find the single hole to the barrack of men, run his tongue in it, excite the soldiers in white to gush forth only to be fed to the soldier?

Their sweat began signifying only that the end was a long time away. Charon finally took control and used the soldier as target practice, as a milk farm, as a recipient of pain to balance the pleasure. The soldier, besotted with conflicted feelings and desires wanted to pay this good man for what he was receiving but the man seemed destined to use him, perhaps use him up. As he felt himself receiving an outflow of the silver white wine of man, he groaned in ecstasy and gratitude. Perhaps this was the death he'd heard of. Of...could it be, this was the life he would now live?

Charon finally laid him on the sand and fell beside him. "Soldier, you are now free to return and fight but not there, here. I will give you one instrument and one only." He plunged his amazing man spike into the soldiers mouth and without movement caused there to be a cascade of his fluid. As he did that, he said, "You now have the power of the ocean of men in you. You will find your erection is longer, bigger and will be used to vanquish the stupid and make love to the deserving. It is yours forever brave soldier. He strode to his boat, got in and pushed it off.

"Thank You! For the penny, I hope it bought you all that you might have wished for......"

All that the soldier could see was muscle made golden by the sun, eyes that reflected his own, a face only seen once.

In his mouth he tasted the world of men he had bought. It was enough.




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