I went through a ton of stress as a Vice President at DisrupTitan, but I never expected the myocardial infarction.
The chest pain was intense. I tried to tap out an instant message, but my fingers went numb on the keyboard. I stumbled to the window of my office and weakly banged the glass. The developers beyond the clear partition stared at their monitors, their earbuds drowning out my feeble pounding.
I slumped to the floor. But I have a meeting with the CFO about my DisrupTitan stock option, I thought as the room blurred and turned to mist.
I clawed at my face, half-expecting to find a pair of VR goggles. Instead I poked my eye. The heavy mist came back into view as I cursed my coworkers.
I could feel my rubbery legs and attempted to walk. I stepped into an acrid puddle, lost my footing, and stumbled. My backpack slid off my shoulder and into the water with a dull splash.
I peered through the mist as I pulled the backpack from the water. The puddle was the size of a pond. Or a river.
I heard the faint sound of something piercing the water. It repeated, growing louder with each plunk.
A rust-colored skiff creaked into view, piloted by a bearded old man in brown rags. The skiff ground ashore next to me. The pilot leaned against his pole and extended his left hand.
I looked at his hand, then his eyes. I cringed as his stare burned into me.
“Your obol?” he asked.
“What? Where am I?”
“Your obol. The fee for passage to the afterlife.”
I looked him over and again searched for the nonexistent VR goggles.
“No coin? I’ll be back for you in a hundred years! Don’t worry — it’ll pass in no time.” He pushed his pole into the water, readying to shove off.
“Do you mean I’m — dead? Who are you?”
“Charon! How can you not know?” he replied. “The register showed you didn’t follow any current religions. Instead you spent all your time at a place named after the Titans. So the boss made me come out of retirement, figuring you were worshiping the Olympians and this would be the best way to ease you into the afterlife.”
“Titans? You mean ‘DisrupTitan?’ My tech company?”
“Don’t know anything about that. I’m just the ferryman.”
“And — an ‘obol?’”
“Are you daft? A coin! One-sixth of a drachma!”
“Didn’t the Euro replace the drachma?”
Charon balled his left hand into a fist and shook it at me. “Look, I’m supposed to pick you up and take you across the river. And you’re supposed to tip me with a coin. Did they not tell you this when you joined that cult named after the Titans?”
“It was just my job!”
“Then I best be going.”
“No! Wait!” I grabbed at my pocket and pulled out my iPhone. He warily eyed it as I hit the power button.
“Nobody uses cash anymore,” I said. “Can I PayPal you one-sixth of a Euro? I’ll assume it was a one-to-one exchange rate when it replaced the drachma.”
“What’s this ‘PayPal?’”
“The mobile payments system. I can pay you with my phone.”
“That?” he asked, pointing at the iPhone.
“Yes. You don’t have one?”
He sighed. “Do you see one in my boat?”
I fumbled back into my pocket and fished out a scrap of paper with a QR code on it. I held it to him.
“Here! It’s my Bitcoin wallet.”
“Coins! Now we’re talking.” He took the paper and looked it over. “It’s just a piece of paper!”
“No! That’s my Bitcoin address! Now it’s yours! I’d need to know the latest conversion rates to know what the wallet’s worth in Euros — I mean drachmas — but it’s a lot!”
“You expect to get aboard for a scrap of paper?”
I realized what I’d stowed in my backpack that day.
I unzipped the pack and removed the tiny, battery-powered MakerBot. I flipped its Bluetooth switch and paired it with my phone. Soon the prototype printer was sintering a small disk from a powdered bronze alloy.
I waited for the faux coin to cool and flipped it to the old man. He grabbed it out of the air.
“Well, I was expecting silver,” he said, eyeing the just-in-time manufactured coin. He offered a toothy smile. “It’ll do. I’d have come back for you after the one hundred year penalty period was up, anyway. Get in.”
I clambered into his rickety skiff and held onto its side as his pole pushed against the river bottom.
“Ask for Odysseus when you arrive,” the ferryman said, “and pull your ‘PayPal’ and ‘Bitcoin’ pranks on him! That scoundrel tried to cheat me many times. Why, once he — ”
Charon continued to ramble as I hoped there was Wi-Fi in the afterlife.
Jeff Racho earned degrees in engineering, law, and business from Notre Dame, Villanova, and Cornell. He is a patent attorney and practices in the fields of intellectual property and startup company law. His stories have appeared in Aofie’s Kiss, The Sci Phi Journal, and Stupefying Stories. He can be reached for comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.