Hey everyone! This is due Wednesday afternoon, so please critique it before then! While I haven’t told anyone in the class that I’ve written a book of short stories, I do expect them to figure it out when Tulane University’s campus is overrun with flyers and advertisement for my book release.

This is a new, original story written for the class. It is about Sebastian, a man onboard the RMS Carpathia, and his struggle with the ocean. For those who don’t know, the Carpathia was the first ship on the scene to rescue the survivors of the Titanic.

I consider this the equivalent of asking my peers to edit it before I turn it in—so please, any serious criticism is needed. Especially grammatical and spelling, etc. Also, if there is anything I can clarify more…

Ah, I’m proud of this. It was fun to write, but the inspiration came and went regularly. Cheers!

 

The Calling Currents  (v 1.2)
By Terence Sanders

“There is nothing to fear at all.”

The words settled over the quiet bridge of the RMS Carpathia, and the echo reverberating within the spaces. Sebastian listened in shock as Captain Arthur Henry Roston concluded with reassurance over the intercom, with all the sincerity of women with questionable morality. After all, the announcement explaining the sudden change of direction and speed of the ship had come hours after the fact. Perhaps, it was late with reason. The news of the Titanic sinking on its maiden voyage numbed him, and he was certain that he wasn’t alone in that regard.

Alone now in the bridge with the captain, Sebastian could feel the suffocating despair wash over and around him. The Carpathia was the closest ship to the last known coordinates of the Titanic. Carrying the somber responsibility of this knowledge, the captain shared the burden of attempting a rescue with the rest of the crew.

Sebastian made his way to the door. His limbs felt unresponsive and trembling. His body was reaching for the doorknob, but his mind was drifting to years ago. When he was just a boy, his father had been lost to the sea. Sebastian swore that he would never abandon his family for a watery grave. Yet, heading to the sinking carcass of a sailor’s fantasy— it was there that the very beast loomed ever present and waiting. He considered the possibility of heading to his cabin, hiding in his bunk. In hiding, the ocean would take no notice of him. Halfway out the door, his hopes fell to pieces as the captain informed him that he would be standing out on the deck, searching for survivors.

There was no escape. There was no hiding. The captain waved him away.

Visibly shaken, Sebastian nodded mutely. He left the captain on the radio and made his way to the outer decks.

Illuminated by the ship’s lights, the calm ocean traced the outlines of the hull. From the safety of the doorway, he stared out wistfully and imagined land. The sweet, reassuring feeling as grass gave way beneath his feet while wandering the woods. He could smell the jasmine growing by the windowsill, and within his mind, traced the hard oak wood that built his home. He wondered suddenly why he was onboard. He didn’t belong here.

The ocean seemed to be aware of his presence. For hours the water had been placid, indifferent to the frantic scrambling of the sailors aboard the ship. But now, with every splash across the deck, the water seemed to drag the very energy of men back with it. Alarms were sounding, warning of the troubled waters ahead. Glancing around, Sebastian realized that he was alone with the beast.

The waves crashed uniform against the side of the ship. The steady march of the ocean was escalating, unforgiving of this encroachment on her prey, and battered the Carpathia in its pursuit of rescue. By now, the distress alarms had stopped ringing across the ship, but the silence onboard only amplified his fears. When they arrived, would he hear the muffled cries for help? Or would there be nothing, merely the ceaseless wrinkles of movement in the dark?

Imagination now turned on him. Sebastian could hear the whisper of screams among the waves in his crowded mind. Hidden among the swell of the tide was the slow moans of those drowning ahead, a child’s whimper for him to hurry. The ship shook with speed as it cut through creases between the waves. Still, guilt barricaded within his chest against reason; it was a weight sinking slowly to the soles of his damp boots. It rooted him to his place as audience before the calling currents; the ocean begged for his acquaintance and more.

He was sweating profusely. He licked the salt, the warmth melting ice from his lips. The saliva froze colder than before. Ice floes, the voiceless sentries of this frigid hell, nodded to the dark jive of the tide. Harmless at first sight, each harbored a history of violence— and tonight, they danced heartily to the feast of souls in these waters.

The ship pressed on perilously close. The ice was visible around them. A whisper in the wind, he strained to hear. The dark water seemed to mock his efforts, clawing up the side of the ship hungrily at him. The taste of salt once more on his lips, he stared toward his reflection in the water. His face was joined by the imagined faces of all those trapped in the water just ahead, unable to rot away with their pain forgotten. Suspended in their beauty, they were meaningless beneath the spray and foam. There was nothing else enduring, the ocean reminded, than this endless hunger.

His breath stalled on the way to his lungs. The unmistakable outline of the sinking Titanic interrupted the steady line of the horizon. Cut down by the frozen scythe of the ocean’s mistress, he saw the slow fall of man’s greatest effort against the waves. Sebastian could feel the fear rising as the ocean continued to mock him, with each wave beckoning him to ride its pull back down toward the deep.

Sebastian heard the shouting from the bridge. The others had spotted the fading treasure as well. Three and a half hours had passed since the course had been set. Was there anything left to save? The ocean seemed to prowl each wrinkle of it’s surface, racing against him to feed. His eyes narrowed and tried to see in the dark twilight, searching for movement— for hope, a desperate need of his own soul as much as those among the freezing waters.

The water grinned back at him.

“You can’t have me.”

His voice was met with low voices talking within earshot. He stood stunned by a response, and cupped his ear. Soft, tender sounds were floating toward him. Sebastian shouted out to the captain and was surprised to be greeted with a hard smile. The ship shuddered to a stop. Sebastian reached down and picked up a length of rope, some courage. For the first time since he had stepped outside, the water seemed anxious by the presence of the Carpathia. Of Sebastian.

The icebergs that had seemed so far away now loomed dangerously close. No longer stolid and vacant, his mind carved malevolent expressions across the face of the floating sentries. The wind, though ever present, wailed now for his attention as he struggled to place where the voices were coming from. Such low murmurs, they seemed further now. The water swirled causing endless small, sharp waves swirling dangerously— the rabid ocean’s frothy maw, churning in hunger. He saw the scattered remains of the Titanic floating; he felt the tug within for hope to be splintered among the debris, and swallowed whole.

There was color among the waves. He squinted, but his eyes widened in astonishment. It disappeared, fading from view as though once more his mind was taunting him. But louder now, above the wind, were pleas for help. He could be brave. Sebastian shuddered, his face grim.

Gripping the railing tightly, he made his way toward the voices.

Dipping beneath and rising between the swell, he could see a ravaged life boat drifting aimlessly. Onboard, huddled figures were pointing and waving. As the ship approached, the extent of the damage became evident; once more, he could feel the weight of the rising tide anchoring him to the deck. Time was running out onboard the boat and in its void, water was quickly filling.

With the rope, Sebastian leaned over the railing. The boat was just beyond his reach. At the mercy of the tides, he watched the water teasingly pull the boat away and bring it closer. He tried to ignore the fear frozen across the faces of the small children onboard. Desperation had begun to cloud his judgment. He stretched wider, courage pulsing through his veins—

And nearly fell into the water himself. At the last moment, the trap sprung, the current pulling the sinking life vessel sharply away. He could hear the traces of perverse laughter from deep below as he struggled to regain balance, his face wet with sea spray. The rope slipped from his grip. People screamed as a wave nearly capsized the life boat entirely, but dragging it so very close to the ship as to tempt him once more.

He could feel the courage slinking back within his veins, leaving burden of self-preservation to hold him down, useless but safe. Sebastian felt his face turn to stone, a mask against the people to hide his hesitation. What did they see? Their hero, brave and valiant, struggling against the strength of the ocean? He was no Achilles. Or perhaps he was, with the heel in his heart. He recognized that he was flawed, imperfect. And worse, that it was no excuse to stop living, to help live.

The life boat was now collapsing. Frantically, the people pleaded for help, reaching out toward him as moments passed quicker than a breath. People were falling into the water, while others held their children higher, closer to the ship and out of the mounting water. A rising swell was visible on the horizon, the impartial scythe; the chariot of the ocean’s mistress approach once more.

Sebastian stared at the child held out over the edge of the boat. His eyes locked with the small boy’s own. The child’s mouth moved to say something, the wind carrying the whisper to Sebastian’s ears:

“Please, sir. I’m afraid.”

Sebastian could wait no longer. He took the bait. He lunged toward the child’s small outstretched hands. The wind stung at his eyes. His hands were cold. His jaw clenched firmly around what was left of his nerve. The waves pulled back, and the child what seemed miles away. He was exposed. The ocean reached up to engulf him whole—

And in a sea of frost, he felt warmth.

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