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Gonna See the Riverman

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Thick mist surrounded Robert. Through the fog he could make out a dark river, with a boat and ferryman sailing upon it. "Interesting," he said to himself. "So monsters do have an afterlife."

"Well, not all monsters," the ferryman replied. "Be thankful that we're making an exception for you."

"Ah, Charon, Charon." Robert climbed aboard the creaky boat. "I've often had the pleasure of hearing you argue with Dr. Fugue. It's good to finally meet you in person."

"Is it?" asked Charon. There was a brief lull in the conversation, a pause that Robert was quite familiar with. Then: "You know, Robert, you can be just a bit less gloomy, now that you're dead."

"I'm a monster," Robert said with a shrug that was more inward than actual gesture. "It's in my nature to be gloomy."

"Oh, cut that 'nature' bullshit right out," Charon snapped. "You've gone against your nature more often than you've followed it. You of all people should know that."

"If you say so."

For quite some time afterward, neither of them spoke a word, as Charon gently rowed the boat down the river, towards whatever afterlife was waiting, Robert supposed. It came as quite a shock, then, when Charon spoke up, breaking the silence between them.

"By the way, your human sends his deepest regards."

"Really?" said Robert, dryly. "How sweet of him."

"Yes, in fact, he--"

"I loved him, you know." Robert stared down at the bottom of the boat, not daring to look Charon in the eye. "Fat lot of good it did him, but... I loved him."

"I know," Charon replied, laying a hand on Robert's shoulder. "And he loved you back."

"Yes, it was..." Suddenly, Robert couldn't speak, too distracted by the sensation of breaking apart from the inside, the same feeling he had when Eugene had asked him to kill him many years ago, the same feeling he had when he thought about it ever since. "It was a very foolish thing for him to have done, as it turned out."

"And yet you don't regret what you did to him."

"I regret killing him, maybe, but not everything else I did," Robert replied. "I am selfish, after all."

"Hmm." Charon kept silent, concentrating more on steering the boat than keeping up the conversation. Robert thought he was happy with this at first, no longer the subject of prying, painful questions, but soon, he realized there was something he needed to know, something he could only ask of the ferryman between the living and the dead.

"How is Eugene, these days, anyway?" he asked, hoping not to sound too desperate. "I mean, you must have seen him, haven't you?"

"Recently, actually," Charon answered. "He currently resides in the Elysium fields, where he is as happy as anyone can be in the afterlife, I suppose."

"That's good," said Robert.

"Do you want to see him?"

"No," said Robert. "I'd rather not." He looked out into the water, staring at his own reflection. "I haven't been the best to him. Better to give him space, after all. I'm just happy to learn that he's alright." For a moment Robert was overcome with a feeling of breaking again, and he dimly wondered if this was Eugene's deepest fear, not creepy dolls or insanity, but of being so overwhelmed by emotion that you had to bottle it all up, lest you break apart.

"Hmm." Charon lifted the boat's oar and turned to face Robert. "You know, I'm not here because I actually enjoy your company, so I want to make this extra clear: I came to collect you because Eugene, specifically, asked me to."

Well. This was a--not quite pleasant, not quite nice, but still, somehow, a positive surprise. "Did he really?"

Charon nodded, a barely visible gesture beneath the hood. "He begged me to take you. Offered you his place in the afterlife, as a matter of fact. You're lucky I have a heart. You both are."

"You are too kind," Robert agreed. "I would have just talked him out of it, myself."

"So, keeping that in mind, I would think twice about avoiding your human," Charon continued. "Especially since it'd just get awkward after, oh, however many years you're supposed to spend in the afterlife. I always forget that part."

"Well," said Robert, as he kicked his feet back and forth, "I'll think about it. I guess."

"Fair enough," said Charon, and continued leading the boat down the river Lethe to the Valley of Death.