Backwater Boat Ride

The warm, humid air stuck to my skin, forming more sweat on my already sticky body. I slicked my long, frizzed hair back into a ponytail. I would do anything to keep it away from my neck. 

The boat whirred and spurted down the narrow river channel. I swatted at the mass of mosquitos attempting to bite at the few uncovered places on my body. Not enough bug repellent in the world would do better than the long sleeve and long pants in this neck of the woods. You’d sweat off the repellent before you could put the spray bottle back. Backwater, that’s what we were traveling on. I had requested it, knowing the problems I would run into. It took me long enough to find a boat driver to run me through these parts.

Luckily, there’s always someone who’s willing to do the riskier trips if you look hard enough and in the right places. I knew just the right places, too. I had come from the backwater areas myself and had sworn I would never return. Never swear you’ll never do anything because life will make you eat your words. Now I’m eating mine; I had done this to myself. I felt my left arm burn as I thought about it.

“Damn it,” I muttered to myself, clutching the area.

“Where we headed, miss?” the man sitting beside me asked. His accent drug the vowels as though they were weights in the mud. He rolled his tongue in his mouth as he spoke. I grimaced; I could smell the tobacco he was chewing. I had gotten a ride, though, so I couldn’t complain.

“Further South,” I paused, weighing my options before continuing, “To Fefago.”

Silence hung in the air as the sweat on my back.

Fefago wasn’t known for its good reputation, not even among the scumbags like my driver. But I also knew money spoke, and I had compensated plenty even for such a trip. A small breeze kicked up. ‘Thank the gods,’ I thought, trying to wipe some of the sweat off of the back of my neck. I heaved a sigh as my driver shifted his grip on the rudder. A bridge built from the war still stood. It hung low, mostly a dark orange-red from rust.

The parts not affected by the rust were a darkened gray, the shine long since past. The driver and I hunched over to keep from hitting our heads. I swear I could hear the bridge creak as we passed under it. Flicking off the cobwebs I had collected, I turned back to see how the driver was holding up. He didn’t seem phased though he did have a mischievous glint in his eye. I felt my stomach knot.

“What’s forcing ya into this territory?” he asked, his statement not quite as drawn out as earlier. I shifted in my seat, avoiding eye contact. I hated when they would ask. It was none of their dang business, but it was their boat going into the rough territory, even if only for a short time. Boaters loved collecting stories, too. Perhaps I could give him a story. I didn’t have much time left anyway.

“How much time ya got?” I asked, cracking a half smile. The boater reflected my smile, leaning back.

“I’d give it about three hours before we hit the docks. Whatcha got for me?” He answered rather playfully. I chuckled, pulling down my left sleeve. The unholy mark gave off low red glow and still burned. I paused for a moment before looking up at him.

“Ya ever made a deal with a devil?”

Featured Image Credit (for those reading on WordPress):
Benjamin Lambert


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