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The Ferry of Phlegm

by on May 21, 2015

Madeleine stood on the banks of the river Styx, in the fifth circle of hell. She’d seen some nice rivers in her day, winding gently across the landscape like glimmering blue threads, rolling on towards the distant sea. This river looked like it had been spit out of a toilet. It gurgled foully at her. Madeline took several swift steps back from the bank. “It’s a good thing I can fly,” she said. “Oh, but wait. I can’t just fly over this thing; I’ve got to find my evil twin in it somehow. Life sucks.”

“Don’t it, though?” said a voice. Madeleine spun wildly. One tended to get jumpy about hearing sudden voices in hell.

The speaker was standing several feet away, next to a boat that had scudded up on the shore. It looked like a moon-faced troll in overalls. “Hi,” it grunted. “Phlegyas Delahanty. I go by Phlegm. Ya wanna ride?”

Madeleine looked askance at the boat. “Will that even sail?”

“Course it will,” the troll said. “Ain’t a brick. It’s got a motor and everythin’.”

Madeleine wished she had her car, right then. Not a lousy boat with a motor and everything, but her own sturdy car. Suddenly she had an overwhelming flash of car-sickness. She wasn’t really homesick; home, for her, was a tiny little apartment with odd stains in the floor and paper-thin walls, which she could just barely afford and wouldn’t miss. Her car wasn’t great either, not one of your sporty models, but it was hers, and she loved it. She had named it Jenny. It probably missed her. Jenny would be sitting there in her narrow parking space, wondering why she had been neglected, as oil puddled in a hurt way on the asphalt below her. Madeleine could still remember where the keys had been left. They would be in her purse on her rickety folding table, along with a tube of lipstick and a pair of sunglasses and a pen. She would probably never write with that pen again…. Madeleine, for the first time in her trip through hell, broke down.

Phlegm rummaged about in his overalls. “Here,” he said finally, shoving a grey rag at her.

She took it and wiped her eyes. “Thanks,” she said. “It’s been a tough day.”

“Figured. Bein’ in hell and all.”

“Yeah. So. I do need a ride. But I also need to find someone. She’ll be in there.” Madeleine waved towards the river. “Looks like me. But a bit more evil.”

“Don’t suppose ya could delineate the spot a bit, could ya?”

“No. Sorry.”

Just then, a cloud of steam billowed up in the distance. A high voice came shrieking over the water. They were too far to make out what it said, but it sounded furious.

“Then again….”

Phlegm’s boat, with Madeleine aboard, soon reached the trouble spot. Evil Madeleine was yelling invective at several people, who were all yelling right back at her. Madeleine remembered that Circle Five was where the wrathful and sullen were imprisoned. Apparently the wrathful were also quite knowledgeable about insults and expletives. Madeleine’s ears went red. Some of those words described physical actions she wouldn’t have even imagined were possible, let alone hygenic. Even Phlegm seemed a bit appalled.

Evil Madeleine, finally, seemed to get tired of screaming and launched herself forward at the swearing crowd. She tripped over a lump in the muck, which let out a grumpy “Oi!” of protest. Evil Madeleine, meanwhile, had fallen flat in the river. She came up like a firecracker, spluttering in muddy anger.

Madeleine Prime whipped up beside her in the boat, cutting her off from the mad crowd. “Oh, come on,” she said, snatching her evil twin by her shirt and pulling her aboard. “We’ve only got four more circles to go.”

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8 Comments
  1. Fun read 🙂

  2. I really liked this line, “…as oil puddled in a hurt way…” That was awesome. I like all the Madeleine in Hell stories, but this one is especially good. The descriptions and the simile added a lot of depth to it. Lines like this, “She came up like a firecracker, spluttering in muddy anger,” had me smiling. I felt like I was there. A great and fun story!

    • I liked the line about the oil myself, so I’m glad it worked for you as well. I name my cars in real life; it gives them personality, and I do think my car would be hurt if I left it to go on a trip through hell.

  3. Yeah, I’m with Eric – loved the line about the oil puddling in a hurt way. You actually made me feel bad for that car. Of course, I also name my cars in real life. Still miss my first one, Helloise. 🙂

    • My first car was named Lady Lex, because it was grey and reminded me of an aircraft carrier, like the Lexington in World War Two. My second one was named Princess Leia, because it was a Toyota. (womp womp). I still miss those cars, too. Le sigh…

  4. Well, if your car’s oil is puddling then *obviously* it’s feeling hurt and neglected. But it was the pen that got me. Or rather, that got her. Too funny.

    Oh, and my car is named Rexy. Because it’s an RX-8 and I thought naming it Sexy would be disrespectful to the TARDIS.

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