Week two of taking part in the weekly flash fiction challenge issued by Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds. This week’s assignment: Write a story (no more than 1000 words) set in one of five settings.
I instantly chose “the bottom of the ocean.” My offering contains 999 words, just as last week’s did.
The deep-sea submersible seemed to inch forward, so slow was it moving. Its lights, for all their intensity, barely made a dent in the unwavering darkness found 12,600 feet below the surface of the northern Atlantic Ocean.
The descent to the ocean floor had taken the better part of two and one-half hours. Once there,the destination coordinates – 49° 56’ 49” W, 41° 43’ 57” N – were double-checked before the vessel began its slow, forward motion.
The lack of light, and of sound, save for the low hum of the submersible’s engine, made for an eerie, yet oddly comforting, setting.
Kay kept her face pressed to the small porthole, her eyes peering intently through the upper portion of her progressive lenses in a vain attempt to see through the murky water.
“There she is.”
“Where?” Kay’s heart began to pound, and she swallowed hard as her eyes smarted with unexpected tears.
It didn’t help that the pilot’s choice of words brought a song from the stage play to mind.
“Where is she? Please, I can’t –” All of a sudden, she could.
Kay didn’t know how long she went without drawing another breath. Additional lights on the submersible illuminated what she had been waiting over a year to see; wanting all her life, as long as she could remember, at least, to see.
Even covered with rusticles and sitting impossibly deep in the mud-covered, debris-littered ocean floor, the shape was unmistakable,and still majestic. R.M.S. Titanic’s bow was right in front of her.
“Oh, my God,” she breathed, tears trickling down her face. “She’s huge.”
Kay had read her first book about the Titanic when she was eight years old. It was a chapter book about a young girl who dreamt she was aboard the ill-fated ship and didn’t necessarily survive the tragedy.
The most startling part, though, seared into her memory, was that the girl awoke from her vivid, nightmarish “dream” in her own bed, but drenched in sea water. Something about the scenario resonated deep within her, and Kay had been borderline obsessed ever since.
When Robert Ballard announced his discovery of Titanic’s wreck in 1985, her deeply emotional interest in the steamship rose exponentially.
She pored over the National Geographic issue that featured the mighty liner, and watched the video tie-in countless times, eventually wearing out the tape. She also read and watched everything she could get her hands on that was associated with finding of the “ship of dreams,” reveling in the revitalized interest and the wealth of information that followed as a result.
In 1997, James Cameron’s epic opened in movie theaters. Watching the fictional account of Rose and Jack, set within the historically and technically accurate outline of Titanic’s demise, was a shattering,near-cathartic experience.
Kay sobbed uncontrollably when the broken ship disappeared from view, empathizing with those who went down within her, and those who perished as they screamed for help in the icy, turbulent water on the surface.
In the spring of 2009, Kay had a Titanic-related experience that she shared with few people due to its esoteric, even controversial, nature. After watching Dr. Brian L. Weiss discuss and demonstrate past life regression on the Oprah show, she thought it would be an interesting thing to try.
Since she lived in New Hampshire, and Dr.Weiss was based in Florida (and no longer taking clients), she searched for a certified regression therapist, found Michael Hathaway at White Mountain Hypnosis Center, and scheduled an appointment.
What happened during that session was like nothing Kay could have imagined. She had been careful not to build up any expectations and held a simple context: be open to the experience.
During the one-hour session, Kay viewed five of her past lives, and one of them included what was, in the end, a horrifying, three-minute memory aboard the Titanic.
It started off serenely, as she saw herself – at least,another version of herself – standing aboard the deck of the Titanic in a pink silk dress with a matching hat; a new outfit her mother had recently purchased. As the ship’s speed increased, the wind picked up and blew the hat off her head and into the ocean, where it bobbed prettily.
She had laughed out loud along with her other self, even as she recognized her mother was not going to be happy about the loss.
That light-hearted scene cut abruptly into a dark, cold, confusing whirlwind of fear and chaos which ended abruptly when Kay felt herself thrust into emptiness; “the in-between,” as she later called it. Through that session, she came full circle and faced the memory of the chapter book read in her youth.
All of those remembrances rushed through Kay’s head as she stared out at the hulking marker of the lives – and deaths – of 1,517 souls.
Viewing the wreckage through the lens of Robert Ballard and James Cameron, and gleaning a sense of her size, was one thing. Seeing it up and close and personal, albeit through an eight-inch window, was completely different, and remarkably overwhelming.
She could see the foremast, which had lost its crow’s nest since 1985, lying down on the bow; the gaping hole from what was likely a coal explosion; clouded, intact windows both flung open and closed; yawning doorways beckoning to be entered; the steel infrastructure of one of the grand staircases;the still-white, claw-foot bathtub filled with debris; the 1,970-foot stretch of mud and material remains, including a remarkably preserved pair of shoes that was a solemn reminder of life lost; the misshapen, now-collapsed stern section which imploded as it sank.
Kay took it all in and committed it to memory, as pictures and video footage did not do the reality of what lay there, at the bottom of the ocean, justice.
“Time to go.”
The announcement punctured the surreal bubble Kay had been encased in. She closed her eyes in silent prayer for a moment and then watched Titanic fade to black.
Titanic‘s Timeline: born March 31, 1909; launched May 31, 1911; maiden voyage April 10, 1912; impact with iceberg April 14, 1912, 11:40pm; died April 15, 1912, 2:20am