It’s two o’clock in the morning on April 12th, 1912, and I am about to die.
The temperature is two degrees below zero centigrade. Everything within one hundred meters of us is ice. Even my thoughts seem to have frozen.
I look around and regard that I am not the only one. Most of the crew appear to be paralyzed. They stand in place awaiting orders which no one is giving. A few moments pass like this until the sound of breaking ice shatters the silence.
I am not thinking about whose fault it is. I am not thinking about the ship’s design or the amount of wealth about to be lost for centuries. I am not thinking about the myriad ice warnings we received over the past few hours. I think of nothing at all. It is somewhat peaceful, given the circumstances.
The few of us left on deck have nothing to say to each other. None of us will live to take home final words or last wishes. The boats are gone. Hopefully they’ll be found before hypothermia catches up with the passengers.
The captain releases us from duty and disappears. I descend several levels and break into one of the first class cabins. A plethora of abandoned riches is sprawled upon the floor, gliding in accordance with the tilting of the ship. I put on as many fur coats as I possibly can. Then I sit down on the floor and close my eyes.
As my thoughts flicker to life, I begin to wonder how, if at all, the Titanic will be remembered. Will she be forever condemned as one man’s failure? Will anyone be able to imagine her beauty and glamour? Even on her way to the bottom of the ocean, the ship loses no grace. I look around me and my eyes drink in the velvet and crystal surroundings, what was meant to be an unforgettable experience.
Others have mimicked my idea of raiding first class. Still no one says anything. It is as if our mouths have been sealed by fate. For some reason I cannot comprehend, the band continues to play many levels above. How they can play with the freezing cold air and the tilting floor, I will never know.
The angle of the ship is becoming sharper. It is time to make a decision. There’s no jumping into the water at this temperature; ice skates would be a better bet. Putting a scroll into a bottle is beneath me, and in any case I’m not sure I have time to write. But I am desperate to live on in some way, even the most insignificant act. I may go down with this ship but I am determined to leave something on the surface of the earth.
I brace myself and run back up to the deck and begin to set off fireworks, something which should have been done an hour ago. Even if it does nothing, even if nobody knows it was me, I have put myself, my truth, my whole life into those rockets. They crack loudly in the still night, and light up the total darkness.
Originally published in Coffin Bell Journal. July, 2018.