The full story appears in my short-story collection, LONNIE, ME AND THE HOUND OF HELL. Here’s the beginning:
THE DAMNED PLACE WAS FULL OF CROCODILES
by Marian Allen
The river teemed with them. They were the true, traditional Crocodylus niloticus, or Nile Crocodile, not the saltwater or estuarine variety (Crocodylus porosus) from India. I could see their narrow heads and elongated snouts, so graceful, so filled with sharp white teeth, the fourth lower teeth on the sides of each jaw gleaming in the fevered light. Some of the crocodiles were nearly invisible, only their eyes, nostrils, tails, and the armor on their massive backs showing above the water.
I was with Professor Campbell and Mr. Moyers, who might have been chatting in a studio for all the notice they took of the very sharp teeth very close by.
On the near bank, a dog with three heads barked at us in close harmony, like a ‘30’s movie they never made, The Andrews Sisters Go to Hell. On the far bank, a ferryman stood up in his boat, thumbed his nose at us, and wiggled his backside. Childish.
There goes your tip, I called over to him. No pennies for you!
He stuck out his tongue and turned his back to us.
Now what are you going to do when you need a ride? Mr. Campbell asked. Golden boughs don’t grow on trees, you know.
Moyers and I exchanged looks and made good one signs to each other.
A couple of the crocodiles got into a deep philosophical discussion with one another, and one of them didn’t come back up.
They looked dangerous, and I said so.
Nothing to worry about. Mr. Campbell’s eyes twinkled reassuringly. They’re only literary crocodiles.
They must use waterproof ink.
Be Your Own Three-Hole Punch, said Moyers, and we all cracked up.
The biggest, scaliest, toothiest croc of them all—nine meters if he was an inch—clumped up on the bank and hissed.
I watched with interest, certain he would make for the three-headed dog. Instead, he lunged at me. In vain I protested that I was unfit for human sacrifice, being neither young nor a virgin, but he didn’t seem particular. He began with my feet, and gulped until I was up to my ears in crocodile; then he gulped again, and I was gone.
I counted my blessings: First, it was lucky for both of us he started with my feet, because I get carsick. Of course, a crocodile is not a car. Cars are not on anyone’s endangered list, and I never heard of anybody paying five hundred dollars for a purse and matching shoes made out of a Chevrolet skin. Still, I think it would have made me carsick if I had gone in head first.
In the second place, not only had I not been chewed to pieces—I didn’t even have a scratch on me! The only way I could explain it was the double-capful of Avon’s Skin-So-Soft(TM) I had put in my bath the night before. I made a note to write to Avon, to tell them of this new use for a fine product.
A third blessing: this crocodile, unlike the one in my NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, was not physiologically advanced. Its internal anatomy did not resemble that of a bird, with a four-chambered heart and a well-developed nervous system. This beast was, in fact, empty. Except, of course, for myself.
Mr. Campbell, you were right—at least this one is a literary crocodile. He’s hollow, like the one in the Dostoevsky story, and he smells of gutta-percha, just like that Russian crocodile. (I don’t know what gutta-percha is, but it sounds like something that would smell distinctly funky, which is how the inside of this crocodile smelled.)
You mean just like that German crocodile. Moyers likes to get things right.
No…. I could hear the indulgent humor as Campbell set us straight. You’re both wrong. It was an African crocodile, exhibited in Russia by a German.
And he was right, of course.
There’s plenty of room in here, just like in the story, and I wouldn’t mind some company. It was lonely in there in the dark. There was very little light, except when the crocodile opened his mouth, and then I was nearly blinded.
Before they could move or answer, my host decided to take a powder. I shouted Whoa! but he lumbered and slithered and flopped until the sound of the three-headed dog and the cries of Good luck! faded behind.
WRITING PROMPT: A character finds himself or herself in an afterworld from mythology.