Barry Fentiman

Tarabulus the Ferryman

When the devil comes to take you, there is no fire and brimstone, no fall into a lake of flame. That is the devil of the bible and the next world. There are deceivers on earth and it is they you must fear.

No, the devil of this world will put his arm around you and carry you to a promised land. He will hold open his elegantly tailored jacket and ask you where you want to go, and he will take you by the hand and lead you there.

Daddy will take you to see your heart’s desire. He will lead you out of the desert to the bright fires that burn many horizons from the place you were born. And he will tell you that they burn for you my special one. There will be running water and no men with guns. It will be paradise.

Look here! What do you want pilgrim? A diploma? A house? To be on TV?

They are all there waiting for you, all you have to do is follow this man of many names. You will soon be worth a fortune.

So says Shad The Salesman. Appearing at your side like something from a Clive Barker story. Buttoning his jacket of pure starling silk he will usher you to the shore to meet his friend Tarabulus The Ferryman.

And you will be as damned as any sinner my friend, though your only sin was to be born in a time and place of tyrants. For hell is very much of this world, and you can go there any time you like, all you have to do is say yes. There may even be official paperwork for you to sign. A mere formality of course, it must be seen to be written, but trust me traveller, it is not written to be seen.

For The Ferryman must be paid and he will take whatever you have to give him.

And so the mortification of all that you possess shall begin so that you may make the crossing.

First he will take the money that you made from selling fruit in the market. Expenses must be met you understand? Then your mobile phone. Just for safe keeping, there are dangers you understand.

Then he will make you naked. He will explain that in the land of others you must look as others do. He will tear the very threads from your body if you deny him.

And then you begin to understand. But it is too late.

Tarabulus will not return what has been freely given.

Next he will take the skin that your mother washed before you were taken away and he will brand it so that you will be known as one of his children.

Then he will take the tongue that tasted the snow the first time that you went to the mountains. And he will hold it in his hand. You will speak to no-one but him. You will speak when he says that you can. You must obey this for your own good. You will die, you understand?

Then he will place you in darkness. He will take the eyes that ran rivers as the doors of the truck closed. When they are opened you will have got what you desired and be grateful. But you must not look at him. You are dirt, you understand?

And in darkness you shall live for you are a creature of Tarabulus now and will do as he wishes.

You will stitch buttons until your fingers bleed if he wishes it.

If he touches you, you will welcome it. For he is The Ferryman and he has made a new world for you.

You will bleed for him until the day that never comes. Be thankful he says for you are deserving of this. Is it not all that you asked for?

You will hear the wind and the sea beyond the walls of your paradise and dream of what is out there but fear it in the same measure.

Tarabulus is father, mother, brother, and keeper.

He is also defiler, drunkard, and slothful. His men have fear but no respect. And they are forgetful.

In seeing the light you run towards it as a drowning person seeks the surface of the sea.

And freedom is a world of frights and sensations. Of rain and the smell of heather.

And the people speak to you in words that you do not understand.

Fallling crying rescue into the arms of a watchful confessor.

You sleep and dream strange dreams of fire and foulness. And The Ferryman’s hand outstretched awaiting silver.

Awaking in a house built of bricks with windows allowing light to touch you.

You have learned nothing of politics or philosophy but much about economics.

You have been on television.

And the man with the kind eyes asks you to tell him your story. Taking notes. Nodding here and sighing there.

And so you fall in genuflection for six weeks and 3 days and tell him the story of Tarabulus The Ferryman and how he took your body and hung it like game for his feasting.

But Tarabulus The Thief has stole away. Just a businessman on holiday. His palace scourged by flames, his minions fled. But he will return. He who walks by choice in fire becomes a thing of it and does not feel its burning.

You are clothed and awake in the place of others. Fearing sleep for the visions that it brings.

And so you pause. You have your tongue, your eyes, and the skin that you stand up in.

In the waiting room for the promised land as the confessors mull your fate. Yes, yes, you understand.



    1. Thank you. It was inspired by some work my wife is doing with refugee/anti-trafficking charities. She has a play touring at the moment called “My Mind Is Free” which hit me hard when I first saw it. If we are to be unacknowledged legislators we must fulfill that expectation.

      Liked by 2 people

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