What If There Is a Kernel of Truth?
S.S. Hampton, Sr.
S.S. Hampton, Sr.
Hello. Yes, it’s me again.
You know, I’ve always enjoyed Greek mythology…until I took a university semester class in Greek Mythology. Until that very in-depth semester, I had no real understanding of just how much raping and, afterwards, blaming of the woman or nymph there was. As I told my instructor half-way through the semester, “I’m burned out on Greek mythology. I can’t wait until we get to Norse mythology.”
(Just as an aside, from what Norse mythology that we studied, there was only one rape, and the Norse gods pretty much ignored mankind. It was a far different “god-view” from the Greeks.)
Anyway, what if mythology and legend was not entirely a creation of mankind and the society he and she hails from? What if there is a kernel of truth buried somewhere within the heart of mythology and legend? I have always believed, and continue to believe, that such a thing is a possibility.
That is not saying that I believe in mythology and legend as being fact, but what if we ventured into the earliest days of mankind when the world, the sky, and the universe was an awe inspiring and unexplained mystery? That was at a time when human speech became the first “proto-language” that was much likely little more than meaningful grunts and gestures.
So, the world stage was set.
Imagine one or more people, perhaps a people of the mountains or the plains, venturing far afield in the search for game, roots, and edible berries. And suppose they encounter a mighty river, or a winding ocean shoreline with bluffs and arches. Never having seen water of such size before, they might be—no pun intended—at a loss for words how to describe such a wondrous thing.
And suppose they see, at a distance, a man like them, poling a dugout hollowed out from a tree trunk. Suppose the dugout contained one or more passengers.
In the twilight as a full moon rose, perhaps at a time of rising mist or fog, they might watch the silent tableaux until it faded into the deepening night, or disappeared behind shadowed rocky bluffs. Or perhaps they spied such a scene in the early morning, and watched until the growing sunlight “blinded” them.
But, what if there was more to the glimpse of a mysterious tableaux, more than what they could explain or understand?
Gathered around an evening campfire they would “talk” about what they saw, perhaps trying to understand, or even fit the story into an evolving cosmos. After returning home they would tell the story to their families and village. And the story would spread during the wanderings of other hunters, and early traders on prehistoric trade routes, until the story took on a life of its own, especially regarding details not easily explained or understood…
by S.S. Hampton, Sr.
Ed. Mel Jacob.
BLURB: Sometimes even a servant of the gods may become curious and intrigued by other possibilities beyond their assigned role, which threatens to upset everything. Charon the Ferryman witnessed an act of love when a little girl offered him a song bird to pay for her grandfather’s shade to be ferried across the Styx. And the shade of a barbarian woman taught him that there was more than the underworld…
EXCERPT: Strong sunlight faded to a pale shadow of itself as if drained of life to create deep shows along the sloping floor and the uneven walls of the long cavern entrance. Long, narrow stalactites hung from the cavern roof and stalagmites of various heights and thicknesses angled upward from the floor, resembling the scattered, uneven teeth of a monstrous dragon’s mouth. Flowstone along the widening cavern rolls had once oozed onto the cavern floor to form rolling stone waves that became a wide, sandy beach to disappear into the shadows.
The cavern roof arched upward, lost to sight save for the pale tips of hanging stalactites. The scattered stalagmites marched into the rippling surface of dark waters. A thick gray mist coated the water that splashed onto the beach. The mist swirled into strange formations caused by a moaning, chilly wind that swept out of the darkness and up the long tunnel.
From deep within the darkness of the gigantic cavern came the ghostly notes of pipes and the echoing steady rhythmic beat of a drum. Torches along the beach burst into flickering life as their flames danced to the ghostly rhythm of the pipes.
The torchlight revealed pale shades, the spirits, of weeping men, women, and children, who shuffled through the sand along the edge of the waters of the River Styx. The river was one of the dark rivers of Hades, the underworld of the dead. The sunlight filtering into the cavern rippled with the shadows of weeping shades descending the length of the cavern entrance. A gilded figure with torch held high lit the way before them.
The music grew louder. A dark shape, lighter than the darkness, appeared in the distance. The gathering shades milled at the water’s edge and waited as the bow of a boat fitted with a bronze beak sliced through the misty waters. A large red eye rimmed in black decorated each side of the polished wood bow. On both sides of the bow square wooden boxes dangled bronze anchors. Behind that lay a narrow platform from which a tall, narrow, wooden walkway rose into the chill air. An angled black bow sail and a large black square sail behind it strained with the moaning wind. In the center of the square sail was a whirlpool of red and yellow over which flowed thin streaks of blue, green, and brown. A triple bank of oars rippled in silent unison to propel the dark trireme toward the beach.
Behind the barefoot Helmsman, from a willow and linen shelter at the rounded stern of the trireme, appeared a tall, broad-shouldered man. He had shoulder-length dark hair and a short beard followed the line of his jaws to his chin. His yellow eyes flickered as if torches burned within. He was dressed in a white linen cloak with a fold draped over his left shoulder, the hem of which was decorated in typical key pattern of gold. He also wore leather sandals.
Charon the Ferryman strode the length of the trireme. Sixty towers, all that were needed to crew the vessel though it could have accommodated almost 200, rowed steadily to the rhythm of the echoing drumbeats. The muscular, sandy-haired Drummer wore a chitoniskos, a short sleeveless chiton of white linen, the hem decorated with a row of double headed battleaxes, fastened with a leather belt. A linen headband circled his long sandy hair. The smaller, bearded Piper, dressed like the Drummer, danced the length of the ship back and forth. Though the pipes sounded a dirge that provided a rhythm for timing the oars, the timeless music also stirred the soul with a dark foreboding.
“Captain,” Charon greeted the sailor in a firm voice that echoed as if issuing from deep within the earth.
“My Lord,” replied the Captain, a husky, bowlegged figure standing to one side of the enclosed bow spit within a decorated wood and linen railing. Short, clean-shaven, with short brown hair and blue eyes, he was dressed the same as the Drummer and Piper. “I see Apollo on the beach with his torch surrounded by those who await the ferry.”
“Yes, I see.”
The beardless youth on the beach thrust his torch higher as if to ensure the trireme saw him. He too wore a chitoniskos and sandals, and from behind his back peeked the quiver of arrows and a bow. Those who had payment for the Ferryman clustered close to Apollo, while those without joined others shuffling aimlessly along the beach.
To Charon, it seemed the numbers of those who wandered the sandy beach was greater than before, much greater.
“Make ready the ladders,” the Captain shouted.
A pair of barefoot rowers left their seats for the bow, ready to lower the walkways so the shades could make their way onto the trireme provided they had payment.
“Phokas,” Charon called.
“My Lord,” a barefoot warrior answered.
Like others, Phokas wore a chitoniskos. He also had a bulky suit of armor made of flexible, metal bands that ran from the shoulders to the knees, with another band that rose from the shoulders to the lower face, and greaves for the lower legs. He wore a leather helmet overlaid with boar tusks, metal cheek pieces protected his face, and the top of the helmet sported a long black horsetail. He carried a long ash spear with a narrow blade. Across his back was a leather baldric from which hung a short bronze sword in a decorated leather and wood scabbard, and over that, he wore a large figure-eight shield of wood and orange spotted cowhide. A leather bag dangled from his left hip.
“It looks to be a good crowd this time.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Phokas the Obol Collector replied.
The beat of the drum changed and the rowers shifted oars, reversing strokes to slow the trireme as it bore down on the beach. The gray mist curled around the bow as the shuddering vessel came to a loud, grinding halt on the beach.
“Ladders,” commanded Charon.
“Charon,” Apollo called out and held a hand up in greeting.
Phokas descended the ladder and stood before the bronze beak, spear butt planted in the sand, a hand extended to receive obols from the gathering shades that he would drop in the leather bag. One obol placed on the tongue of the dead person bought passage on Charon’s ferry to Hades, ruled by its namesake, a dark and angry god…
Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.
He has had two solo photographic exhibitions and curated a third. His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.
As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran.
In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint). He is currently studying in a double major in Art and Creative Writing at University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
After over 14 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.
Hampton can be found at:
Hampton can be found at:
*contest is closed*
*contest is closed*
Answer the following question to win an e-copy of THE FERRYMAN (PDF, EPUB, or MOBI). Post your answer in the comment section with your contact information. Winner will be chosen randomly from the reader who answers correctly! Contest closes February23rd.
In THE FERRYMAN on what river does Charon sail, and if he carries passengers, is a toll collected from them, and if so, what is the toll?