Trick-or-treaters dressed as ghosts and ghouls could be bumping into the real thing this Halloween, after it emerged that Charon, the mythological figure that ferries the newly deceased across the river Styx and into the underworld, is refusing to accept PayPal. As a result, increasingly large numbers of lost souls, deprived of an afterlife, have been left to wander the streets of Britain.
Metropolitan police officers have reported a dramatic rise in homeless spectres among the beggars and vagrants drawn to the bright lights of the nation’s capital. ‘I came across this tramp dossing down outside Clapham North tube station,’ one constable recalls. ‘He had this weird, ghostly white pallor, and when my toe went through his leg when I prodded him to wake up and move along, I realised he was the real deal.’
An even greater rise in ghosts of no fixed abode is forcast by the end of October, after it emerged that Saint Peter has also hardened his attitude towards the dead as part of a radical modernisation programme. ‘I lived in the same convent for nigh on sixty years,’ moaned one spectral shade, ‘but he steadfastly refused to let me through the Pearly Gates because he couldn’t see any evidence of my charitable works and pious life of contemplative prayer in my Facebook updates. I don’t even know what Facebook is! And when he asked me if I’d twittered them – well, I looked at him as if he was mad!’
For his part, Charon the ferryman remains unmoved and, despite turning away thousands of would-be denizens of Hades, justifiess his position by blaming the prohibitive administration costs that PayPal charge for every transaction. ‘With cold hard currency like coins you know where you are,’ he told a crowd of restless spirits queuing for his barge. ‘But PayPal are a business, not a bank – with them skimming off my profits, I just wouldn’t be able to stay afloat.’
(Written just before Halloween 2009)