So we were given the task of writing a short story about the sinking of the Titanic. As this is a very dark topic and this piece is very bleak in its tone. Warnings for serious topics, character peril, character death and all of that good stuff. The photograph I’ve used is from the dry dock where the Titanic was actually housed before its launch. The picture does no justice to it’s scale, it is humongous.
The air dances in short puffs of mist. There is a cacophony of screaming. One endless note of misery. Beneath us the ship moans too, an immortal being dealt a deadly blow. She’s dying; we all are.
There a lurch as gravity no longer seems a force that is rooted in reality. My stomach floats towards the deck, almost weightless. People slide past me slowly, until time seems to right and they careen down the deck. The lights flicker, once, twice before we are plunged into darkness. I hear a guttural groan, it takes me a moment to realise I am its source. In the distance a violin sings a sweet serenade. It’s discordant with the fear welling up within me.
I clutch to the sound as my numb fingers dig for purchase in the coil of rope at the bulwark, knuckles are white and I wonder if they are now frozen in place. The violin weeps softly and I feel the first heat in hours, on my cheeks. I must be crying. My breath rattles noisily in my chest as the rest of the world fades out. How can they keep playing? Do they not hear what I hear?
I taste salt and it’s unclear whether it’s from my tears or the water I will be imminently plunged in to. I can swim, I can swim. I tell myself this fact over and over to prevent that other thought creeping into my mind. Death.
Death fills every space, it seeps out, gathering every sense into its embrace. I can’t swim if I’m dying and I don’t want to die, so I squeeze death into a tight box, right beside m heart as the person next to me succumbs. Death takes him, plunges him down the ship into the dark waters below.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’m going down with the ship now. Why should I resign myself to everything else that might befall me? I’m strong, young, healthy.. and I can swim.
The violin is silent now, the wood splintering along the deck has become the percussion, overwhelming any further music. The ocean is swallowing the ship. Less people are screaming. There are less people.
I shouldn’t even be here. All I wanted was a new life, a different life. Opportunity. What little money I had I scraped together to buy my ticket and now I’m going to pay for my ambition with my life. I should have stayed home like Ma said. What did I want with adventure and an entirely different country? I can’t think like that, I’m not going to die here. I’m going to reach America and find work, a little place, make a family.
The water it rushing up the deck, I pull myself over the railings with strength I can barely believe I possess. I don’t want to be trapped on the deck when it reaches me. I plan the kick to part my body and the ship’s. The lifeboats are too distant, their lights nothing more than a candle in a vast, dark abyss.Help must be on its way, we’d been sinking for hours, days, I no longer has a concept of time.
As the frigid water captures me in its embrace I shove back as hard as I can against the railings, thrusting myself away, trying to escape. Air is stolen from my lungs, I knew it would be cold but I could never have imagined it would feel this way, driving every last drop of warmth from me.
I can swim. I can swim. I can..