I shivered from my place at the back of the boat, though it was not cold. The fog hung thick and low above the water. A tall robed figure stood at the front pushing us along with a narrow oar.
Silently we glided through the mist. Something looming in the distance came into view. I saw flames dancing and heard barely audible chanting, but could not see from whom the voices raised.
Soon, an island appeared clearly in front of me, a large fire reaching toward the sky in its center. Amidst the flames, contorted bodies writhed and voices became louder. I understood a few words.
“Death eternal, soul’s inferno, deep into darkness, days abolished,” was interspersed with indiscernible words.
I shifted uncomfortably. We neared the shore, and the figure turned to me. I could not see his face, only darkness where it should have been.
The boat bumped against the sand, he reached a long arm toward the land in a gesture I understood to be a command, and I was compelled to move forward.
The chorus ceased. My insides burned.
With arms spread wide, I leaped into the blaze.
The chanting resumed, now with my voice among them.
– Written for Jane Dougherty Writes, Microfiction Challenge #20: Isle of the Dead. Painting prompt by Arnold Böcklin. WC 200.