Category: story

Chapter 5 – The ice


Initially shocked by the freeze, I went into hyperventilation. The water that night was colder than I ever imagined. Suddenly amidst the floundering mass of people I was sucked away, towards one of the ship’s air ducts. Pinned under water by the suction, I needed air badly and summoning all my strength, I swam out of the sucking current.  I didn’t even know I had the strength in me, but I made it out just in time. Had I been any later the burning burst of steam that blasted out of the vent would surely have scorched me. Now, swimming in the water, I watched as the giant smokestack before me began to buckle.

    “GET OUT OF THE WAY!” I screamed with all my being at the other swimmers below the stack. It was too late, it fell in a terrifying crash, killing those in the water instantly. Next thing I knew, the wave from the splash slammed me against the side of the ship, it must have been around 2:15 and the ship was making its final plunge. All the life boats had left, and the passengers who were still on board were now making a mad dash for the back of the ship.  At that point, the music had stopped, the tilt, by now more of a drop, had caused the instruments to slide out from the musician’s feet. I knew I had to get away from the ship lest the suction pull me under. All was chaos, I swam with all my might away from the mighty beast.  The sound I will never forget, a terrible crashing, screaming, exploding noise… I could hear the splashes as people plummeted into the water.  I was only 30 or so meters away when I involuntarily turned towards a terrible noise. I saw the TITANIC’S lights go out, then, slowly arching, she broke her back. Her keel snapped in an inexplicable haunting shriek.  It was a noise fit for over a thousand lost souls.  With only the dim starlight, I watched in horror as the ship fell back, then rose, like a dying hand grasping for one more chance at life.  I knew I had to swim away, and I managed to swim a few more feet before taking one last look back, only to see the tip of the ship slide smoothly, anti-climactically under the sea.  The TITANIC, ship of hopes and dreams, was gone!  I swam around in the pitch black looking for something to hold on to. The lifeboats would return soon, I knew most weren’t even half full, they had to come back soon. After maybe 5 minutes in the blackness, I was freezing. Every stroke I made was a bite into my flesh. Then, by the grace of God, I found something, a crate of some sort I think. I Instantly grabbed hold of it and clambered on top. For the only time in my life, I was glad the rich traveled excessively with so many things.  I waited for what seemed like an eternity, freezing, I couldn’t feel anything anymore.  My calls for the lifeboats kept getting weaker. Where were they?! God? Were you really going to let me die after all this?! Send something…. send something… I was not a religious man, but that night, I prayed for the first time since childhood. Someone, anyone… please…save me… The screams were getting fainter and fainter, I must be drifting away I thought.  I resigned to my fate, I was lost. Summoning all my strength, I undid my life-jacket. If I died I did not want my body to be found and moved from its resting place. I wanted to sink into the sea, the fascinating Arctic sea, the peaceful sea which gave me calm, and ironically, would now be my death.  At that moment, I heard a call, it was a man. He was shouting at something. I hardly had the energy but I whimpered back. I have never endeavored so much. I couldn’t comprehend that it was a lifeboat. I thought maybe I was having delusions, or maybe even dying. In a time that seemed like hours, but was surely only minutes, they had found me, and I was pulled up and in. A lady put her warm coat over me. A brave thing to do considering how cold the air was. I, having long since foregone my honor, didn’t protest. Shortly afterwards, I passed out…  

The sinking


Slowly, one by one, I watched as the life-boats lowered away.  Even more slowly, the TITANIC began to tip, and the passengers started to worry.  Thirty to forty minutes later it was far easier to find women and children who wanted to enter the boats.  There was still the odd lady who went berserk or hysterical, but on the whole, filling the boats went a lot smoother. Albeit, they still weren’t filled to capacity, but at least they had most of the women and children on board. Everyone was finally beginning to realise that we might be sinking. Time seemed to be running out, the ship was clearly taking on water fast. I knew because the porthole down the side of the prow which I could see at 12:50, had disappeared far under the water.  It was slowly dawning on me that we were, most certainly, sinking, and by the time the water was up to the nameplate, I panicked.

    “Get on the bloody boat now!” I shouted to one young lady who didn’t want to leave without her fiancé. Surprisingly, my tactic worked, along with her fiancés assurance he would be fine. I was not so sure. I was also unsure whether he was lying, or if he was really, incredibly still oblivious to the seriousness of the situation. Regardless, he played his part well, and I watched as boat #16 was lowered with her in it.   No sooner had it gotten lowered than I noticed a commotion, the passengers had begun to panic. I heard gunshots. What the hell was that! I thought as I rushed towards the noise. By now most of the boats were gone and the last rockets had been fired, and some passengers finally realised what was happening. Some cowards were even dressing up in women’s clothes so as to get into the boats!  As I arrived at where I thought I heard gunshots, I saw it had to do with lifeboat number 1.  After overhearing the commotion, I was led to believe that an officer had fired his gun to ward off the crowd pressing up against the rails by the boat.  By around 1:30, order was breaking down, and there was nothing more a landlubber like me could do. No one needed to be convinced into the boats by now.  In fact, it appeared that some Italians had been conspiring together to rush the boats. It was also clear to me that now, my final journey was approaching. I knew it would be impossible for me, a young man, to honourably get a spot in the lifeboats now. Besides, other people deserved my spot more than I did, there was no reason to live anyways. My business was going bankrupt, my mother and father were dead, and I had just said goodbye to my family in Poland.  What better time to die than to die now?  Now was my moment, I assured myself.  I went down the grand stairway to the galley of the Al La- Carte Restaurant, the stairs were tilted and quite difficult to climb down, on account of the angle. This was my final journey into the depths of the ship, perhaps my final journey…ever.  I rummaged around and grabbed a few pastries, but wait, who else was down here? I glanced around the corner and saw my friend William, half drunk rummaging around as well, I inquired whether he wanted to have his final snack with me.  

     “Sure!” he gaily agreed as we both brought our sweets and delicious treats to the table.  He, struggling to walk properly on the deck, nearly spilt his brandy all over himself, and would have, had I not helped him to his chair.  I decided to put the plate on my lap where I could balance it, (I didn’t want my food sliding off). After eating quickly and nervously, I checked my watch, if I was going to die I wanted to know roughly what time I would die at. It was 1:48. I gave myself a good 20 mins.  

    “What do you think it’s like to die?” I asked William.

     He replied slowly, drunkenly, “Well, it’s quite painful to others. I am beginning to wonder if dying is really worth all the trouble….”  What did that mean? Did we even have a choice of whether or not to go through ‘all the trouble?’ I had no reason to live, but I never really thought about dying as ‘trouble’ or as painful either. No sooner had I thought these thoughts when William continued in a slurred mutter, “What does it matter? Dying. Most of us are dead anyway, only difference is some are breathing and some aren’t.  Most people don’t die naturally, they kill themselves, their hopes and dreams too soon. I have lived my whole life, done my hard work!  Only to watch my kids– young, promising souls, vanish from my hands! My life’s efforts, wasted….”  He then, angrily, despairingly cried out, “Is it even worth living, if everyone kills themselves inside, before their time is up? Why did I have to work and slave?! When death should have been my peace like it was others! I would have been wiser to give up sooner. I thought I was being brave by living… perhaps… but who was I to be brave when others were not? Rather than living and watch as slowly… pieces of me, the loves of my life died. I should have given up long ago. What does life matter, if no one cares for your efforts, your love?  Life is pain, death is peace… I just wish people would have trusted me, and fought on longer… but no, I had to take on the cold world alone. Death is for cowards… but is it really if life’s accomplishments and dreams vanish because of selfishness. Death… what does it really matter if I die today or tomorrow?”  Somehow this drunken man struck me. His words reminded me of how my mom and dad had loved me. I remembered their caring, how much they slaved for me.  Was I just taking the easy way out? Was I the coward he was talking about? Was I killing myself, my dreams, too soon… like Williams’ children had done? Was I ignoring others love for me? Yes, I was letting down all those who ever cared and gave me their time, their effort. I was not only killing myself, I was being selfish and killing others dreams as well.  Now I saw the true pain of giving up, it’s not death itself that’s the pain, it’s the desire to be selfish, the killing of not only yourself and your dreams, but everyone else’s love for you.  Ah, the trouble with dying… you have the weight of the world on you…but no matter what, you must not let go. The only reason life is worth living is to be courageous and love, along with the rest of humanity. Dying before a fight, giving up, is not love.  

    “I must fight on”, I whispered as I got up from the table. I realized I was shaking, not from fear, but from shock.  “William come on! We at least have to try!” I urged, but he would not listen. Time was almost out, the lights from the insanely angled chandeliers were flickering. Then I saw it…WATER IN THE RESTAURANT! It was already a foot high at the end.  At that moment, to my surprise, up from the hold came a swarm of steerage passengers on the grand staircase.  They were struggling to climb up the stairs. I, attempting to help, decided to provide some order and went to assist them. I took my final look at that intricate clock. I can’t remember what time it was, but it was after 2:00.  It was even harder now to adjust to the stairs, and to make matters worse, the water could be seen rising just a few feet below us. We were desperate now, and our adrenaline more than helped as we surged frantically up the steps just in front of the torrent of water. I turned back to see if William had come, no…he had made his choice. It was every man for himself, no one could save us but God. To my utter disappointment no sooner had we arrived on deck when we realised that there were no lifeboats left. However, even more disheartening was that there were still WOMEN AND CHILDREN on the deck!

    “Why aren’t they in the d*mb lifeboats!” I screamed at a frightened seaman.

     “I… I don’t know how they got here!!! Get out of my way!” was his panicked reply as he ran down deck.  I presumed he was going to help with the collapsibles which were still tied to the roof of the ship… but to my astonishment he jumped into the sea! He was abandoning ship to swim for one of the more recently left boats. There was no more time to gawk, I ran to a few Swedish steerage ladies and in my best Polish tried to explain that they had to get into one of the collapsibles. To my dismay they didn`t understand…. I haplessly motioned to them to follow me, and finally resorted to taking one by the hand down the deck, the others followed. Collapsible A was ready, and it was floated off the deck with the two Swedish ladies and a few young men. I tried to climb aboard, but the people all around were crowding the boat, it was getting swamped with water. After some panic, I chose to sacrifice my spot for the sake of keeping the boat afloat longer… and as a result, over the edge I plunged, into the icy depth’s.

Chapter 3-  Rising panic


That’s strange, WHY are there
people in life jackets?!  What’s going
on?  The thoughts shot through my head
like a cannon. People whizzed by me briskly, but calmly, heading for the upper deck.

    “The captains
ordered everyone on deck, no need for alarm, it’s
just a precaution” a young steward assured me in a Bristol accent.  “You best try on this life jacket” he ordered
as he shoved one at me and abruptly ushered me into the crowd. The large
multitude of people compelled me to forget any previous plans of retiring and
move down the rest of the hallway.  Quite
perplexed, I attempted to make sense of what was happening while making my way
to the main deck.  I no longer trusted anyone’s explanations now, I had
to find an officer who actually knew what was going on! On my way up the grand
staircase, I got a short glimpse of the intricately adorned wall clock, it was
12:25.  After arriving back in the lobby,
I observed that it was significantly more crowded than when I had left it.  Many people were waiting around, few seemed
worried, although it was evident many were slightly disgruntled.

    At that moment, a
crewman came in shouting above the
commotion “Quiet! Quiet! Please!!” The lobby fell silent, save for the few
steerage and late second class passengers that now started to arrive.  “Thank you, we need all women and children on
deck, as the lifeboats are beginning to be lowered.” Instantly, passengers
evidently now not only disgruntled but also confused, excitedly looked around
for someone, anyone, to answer their questions.
I, confused now as well, could
hardly believe my ears! The unsinkable ship? Lowering it’s lifeboats?!  I hurried
outside to have a peek for myself. To my utter astonishment, it was true. Boat
#7 was indeed being filled. However, to my relief it didn’t look serious,
almost no one wanted to board.  In fact,
it wasn’t even a quarter full.  Even
though this helped put my mind at ease, my gut feeling of worry would not go
away… I had to know exactly what was
happening if I wanted to be at peace.  I
looked around for an officer, someone experienced who wasn’t busy, a difficult
task. As I was doing this I noticed the ship was blowing off steam, it was evident
we weren’t going anywhere soon, I may be delayed more than previously thought.  There is one! The thought burst into my head
so fast I almost shouted it for all to hear! I walked quickly, I almost ran up
to the officer. The only reason I didn’t run was because I wanted to enjoy the
calm music that began to play.  I arrived
just in time, the officer was on his way to the bridge.  

    “Excuse me, sir? What is happening to this ship? Are we
in real danger?” I asked.

    He hardly turned
around, he was in a hurry, his answer was firm “We hit a berg,” followed by a
simple, grave “Yes.” He started walking away and hurried back onto the
bridge.  To this day, I don’t know who it
was, but he was the reason I trusted the gut feeling I had.

     “Everyone on to the boats!” I shouted, to
assist the crew. By now it was 12:35 and some of the officers were getting
restless and impatient. The passengers were not cooperating.

    I overheard John
Jacob Astor exclaim “We are safer here than in that little boat!” I decided to
assist the loading of the boats as best as I could. Is the TITANIC sinking? I thought, probably not. I quickly pushed the idea
out of my head, I was unsure and didn’t want to scare myself. Still, better to
be safe than sorry, I reasoned.  In the
distance, I could hear chants of lower away, lower away, lower away! Before I
knew it, the first boat, boat #7 was in the water.  Despite my best efforts to convince some of
the ladies to enter, they would not listen. Foreign aristocracy can be so
stubborn at times, too stubborn, I surmised. For goodness sake, the boat wasn’t
even half full!  I was getting very
anxious and irritable now, with the situation and the people’s stubbornness.
Presently the tilt of the ship
began to become more and more noticeable, you could feel it clearly now. The
rockets also began to fire, and for the first time that night I began to hope
help would arrive, and that it would arrive soon.

Chapter 2 – The Beginning


I looked up.  The lobby was now filled with people talking. Most had confused looks on their faces, though there was the odd one distraught. I glanced at my watch, it was 11:53. Something was up. I took one last look at my notebook,

“The dark black waters

The icy mountains

The moon and stars

The cold in my hands

The glory of nature

Heralds in peace

Amidst the glaciers

Fascination peaks

and worries cease”

I closed it, got up and glanced around. Why were there so many people?  There was much commotion, I could over-hear the words: iceberg, propeller, and captain. It had been a while and I was thirsty now so I went to get some water.  However, feeling slightly worried, I inquired as to what was happening. The steward hastily assured me it was nothing and all was fine.  No sooner had he finished answering me when he went on to answer another worried man’s inquiries.  His hasty reply and the amount of people on deck began to worry me. I decided to inquire about it to my new friend I had met while playing squash earlier that evening. I knew he would still be awake, playing cards, since it was a Sunday.  Usually, passengers weren’t allowed to play cards on Sundays, but today the captain was allowing an exception and I was sure William would be taking full advantage of it.  He was a moderately well-off former whaling captain. He knew the ways of gambling, and fortunately for me, the ways of ships as well.  

    “Ah, William?” I called as I entered the rich greenery of the linoleum-floored second-class smoking room.

    “One minute… I am almost done this hand” he grumbled in his Irish accent as I politely tapped his shoulder.  I decided to patiently wait, I was slightly worried, but there was no rush. I looked at my watch while waiting, it was 12:07. When I looked up I noticed something very worrying, the whiskey he was drinking sitting flat on the table was slanted in the glass…Was the ship tilting?! I pondered.  

    William who had just finished his hand, turned and gruffly responded, “What’s the matter mate? What are you doing here at this late hour?” I, suppressing my doubts and worries, as clearly and casually as I could, explained to him my recent observations and what was happening on deck. “You bothered me for that?!” William said chuckling. Then after noticing I wasn’t laughing, he confidently exclaimed “Don’t you worry mate. We have simply lost a propeller, and we will surely be back up and moving again soon, although we probably will have to divert for repairs.” I scolded myself for my foolishness. See? everything is alright, worrisome landlubber!

     “Thankyou. Goodnight and see you tomorrow, I will beat you at squash yet!” I replied as I hastily, slightly embarrassed, retreated from the room. I was exhausted.  Ah, it will be nice to turn in, I mused as I slowly neared my stateroom. I could hardly walk fast enough, the desire for a warm bed and sleep was overwhelming, it had been a long and tiring day. Yet, despite my exhaustion, for whatever odd reason, a feeling of impending doom was slowly growing inside me. I could not shake it, it only grew stronger…

Chapter 1 – April 1912


The cabin was small but comfortable. I spent most of my first few days buried in my journal or playing squash, it was a relaxing trip, just the kind I needed. After a few relatively uneventful days I decided to go up on deck at night.  I had never been outside at night, and besides, I had always been fascinated with the stars and I was eager to get a good look on such a clear night as this. As I stepped outside I was greeted by and icy blast of cold.  “Dang… That’s cold!” I stammered, and indeed it was… It was one of the chilliest nights I could remember. Yet even so, I could not resists the slow rumbling call of the sea. Besides, I needed some peace and quiet away from the stresses and worries of my floundering business back in Ottawa. Although the cold was biting at my face I was content to finally be alone, have a place just for me, to recharge and think. I was happy, blissful in the silence and peace of the darkness, as well as pleased with the fact that I was finally going home. It had been a long trip in eastern Europe and now I was excited to be back on the ocean. I had always been fascinated by the Arctic, its chill, the endless stretches of ice, its frigid, dark waters. I had read about it in my childhood books and now, finally, I could have a glimpse of the freezing northern sea for myself.  Black, icy, eerily tranquil.

I thought I heard the lookout bell, but I could have been mistaken.  I was distracted by the calm waters, the moon glinting off it, the stars and the peace.  I thought to myself, It’s so awe inspiring and… I wasn’t able to finish my thought. For at that late moment of night, I heard a creaky shudder. No, a rumble, no, it was both. Whatever it was, it rudely awoke me from my daydreams. What was that, I wondered…. then I saw it… a huge berg drifting by our ship into the distance. Now I was even more thankful I had gone out and braved the cold rather than go to my cabin, for I got to see this gigantic iceberg for myself! Up close and personal too! I looked forward on the deck to where it came from, and there I saw a bunch of ice on the stern. Maybe I could touch it… the thought lit up my heart.  I turned from the guard rail on the promenade and started heading towards it, I felt like a like a child again, i could hardly wait to touch the blocks of an iceberg! However, as I was on my way I heard an even stranger noise, no it wasn’t a noise, more a lack of noise. That’s odd, what happened to the engines? I thought. They had stopped. That was strange.  But first, about that ice.  I would not let a small thing like the engines stopping, bother me. This ship was huge and had a well-experienced crew, they would surely handle it. I had almost reached my destination, there was more ice than I had first noticed. I was overjoyed by the multitude of fragmented chunks that had fallen on deck.  I tried to pick one up, its bitter chill shocked my hand at first and I let it go, but determined, I tried again. This time I was able to. A sizable chunk, though no larger than a brick, it was one of the smaller ones. After observing the ice gleefully, I decided to go inside the lobby and write a short poem about my experience.