Saturday, March 24, 2012

Haunted Souls Preview...

Titanic's 100 year anniversary is coming up and I am contributing a short story to a collection of work that Read 2 Review has put together. Here is a preview of my short story titled Haunted Souls...
Chapter One
April 10th 1912
Southampton England

          As I looked across the vast expanse of the ocean I waited for what was coming. After all, it was the reason I was sent here. Not that I had a choice in the matter, it was not a task I would have chosen, it was not the life I would have chosen, no, I was born into it much like a prince is born to inherit a crown, it is my destiny. Destiny is a word I’ve always hated.  Turning away I gave one last look at those who were waving goodbye to their loved ones with eager merriment. The excitement of the passengers around me electrified the air and for a moment I lost myself in it. These were the moments that I appreciated the most; the moments when I could feel human, feel that I belonged to this world and not to the next.
          No one could see me as I made my way across the expanse of the deck. No one could hear the heels of my boots click along the walk ways or the rustle of my long white dress. My hair blew freely along my shoulders and down my back. There was no need to confine the dark strands, as there was no need to be fashion conscious. It is hard to consider the trends when there is no one to appreciate them on me; besides it is in the moments when I am among the living that I can see, touch and feel all that is around me;  however briefly.
          Reaching the deck on the other side of the ship I leaned against the rails and I even gave a gentle wave. Every face in the crowd below held a story, the young and the old--they all had a story etched on their faces. A beginning, middle and an end, it was like looking at a painting and seeing all the beautiful angles. The word destiny trailed through the air again and a flash of a camera caught my eye. Down below in the crowd stood a young man who held a rectangular camera in a tight grip. He stood a few feet taller then everyone else, but what really caught my eye and what made me cautious was that he seemed to be focusing his camera at me. Which couldn’t be possible, it wasn’t possible that a mortal could see me. I had to be sure, I leaned a bit further out and waved my hand at him and I smiled, knowing I was too far away for him to catch my smile. It didn’t matter; he raised his camera up against his chest and focused it right on me. I jumped back startled at the possibility that he could see me and at what that might mean.
          Very carefully I walked back up to the rails holding out a hand for balance and I looked again, but this time he was no longer in the crowd below. He was nowhere in sight. What did this mean? I had read his face, I knew that he was as mortal as those he stood next to and I read his story. I couldn’t be wrong … could I? Yet he had seen me and that has never happened before, something was different. I had to look across the deck and I re-read the faces of those who were on board with me and on each one I read the same. Death was coming.
          On its own my face turned down the long walkway as if I were a doll and I pushed against the rails not by my own will. There standing in the walkway near me was Darwin; he looked at me with disapproving eyes. He never liked it when I took time for myself to pretend to feel mortal, he couldn’t understand my reasons for it.
          Darwin was older then me, he knew the ways better than I and I knew that I needed to tell him about what had just happened, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. At least my mind was my own, although he always tried to make it seem that he knew what I was thinking. He summoned me over to him and on a will not my own I began walking toward him. He held up his hand, I stopped so suddenly air caught in my throat and I coughed a bit to clear it; and also to give myself an extra moment to consider my words carefully. I had learned early that he couldn’t be trusted, he had a habit of turning everything that he learned about someone into something that he could use against them. Sooner or later I knew he would begin to focus his attention on me. What did he want with me now? I didn’t have to wonder about his intentions very long after pondering the question.
          “You do understand why we are here, don’t you? I thought I had spoken plainly enough for you.” He spoke harshly and I knew it was because it always made him feel superior when he spoke to me like a simpleton that had been forced upon his company. I was smart enough to know that he spoke to everyone in the same manner. Darwin raised his hand as if he were going to strike me and I flinched, I don’t know why it’s not like it would have hurt--much.
          Pain is a funny thing, being what I am, I feel pain but to a lesser degree than mortals. It is my empathy for mortals that hurts me more; it is also the reason that I was chosen for this task. It was hoped that my empathy would make the crossing over easier. Why Darwin was on board, I had no idea; empathy was never his strong suit.  It wasn’t for me to decide why he was chosen, Darwin and I were not the only ones of our kind on board, there were a dozen others and more would be coming.
          Of my own will I took a step toward him. “I understand perfectly,” the heels on my boots gave me more height and put me at eye level with him. I could see in his eyes that he didn’t like that one bit. He raised his hand higher and his eyes glazed over in fury and I knew that I shouldn’t push him. “I believe I should get to it.” I darted past him and I didn’t look back.
          I knew he wouldn’t be following me; it was beneath him to give chase after anyone he considered lesser than himself. I rushed past mortals who only felt a brush of the sea breeze racing through the walk way. They would have had no idea that I had brushed past them and they would have had no idea that the glorious ship built for their luxury was carrying not only mortal passengers but immortal ones as well.
          The Titanic, an unchristian ship, was built in the ancient lands of Ireland where my people have lived for centuries and where, when their name is spoken with mortal tongue it is in fear and in secret. Given the name of banshee, our cries are the last sound that one hears before death, but there is more to it then just that. We are more then what the stories tell. Some of us, like Darwin may have lost their way, but for me all I have to do is to look at the faces of mortals to be reminded why my duties are so very important.

                                      
         The man from the crowd was on the deck now, standing only yards away with his back to me, how did he gain passage? I looked over my shoulder to see if Darwin had changed his mind and decided to follow me after all, but he had not. My eyes darted around the ship to see if others of my kind where on deck, thankfully they were not. I had to know more about him; I had to know why he was on board and what he wanted. More importantly I had to see to it that he departed the ship before it left port. He turned and stood facing me, his hands still holding his camera and his eyes locked onto mine. I re-read his face but there was something different this time which couldn’t be possible.
          Instead of seeing the painting of his life etched on his face all I could see were different shades of gray. That was never a good sign, but it could explain why he was able to see me. He walked over to my side. His eyes, were different, they held a different color than his face. They held traces of the emerald isle, please hold onto him tightly, I quietly pleaded.
          “You were taking my picture,” I said in an accusatory tone.
          The smile that broke across his face caught my focus and I relaxed a little bit. I needed to get him to leave the ship, but I was caught off guard by his words.
          “You were a mystery to me; would you like to know why?”
           “You need to leave now before someone realizes that you have not paid for passage and have you thrown overboard.” My tone was urgent. I knew the ship would be departing in moments and he wouldn’t have much time to make his way off of the ship.
          “No need to worry about that, I’m here on official business.” Holding the camera with one hand he brushed his coat pocket aside and revealed a brown wallet with a flap. With an easy gesture of his hand he flipped the brown flap over showing me his documentation. “I’m a photographer for The London Times it’s my job to collect photographs of this momentous day.”
          “But why would you want to?” I could tell the question which I had whispered under my breath seemed to baffle him somewhat, so I decide to ask another. “Clearly you have all the photographs you will need and should return. I’m sure you would want to develop your film right away so you can have your pictures ready for the next edition, perhaps even this evening’s edition?” I wanted to drag him by the arm to safety but knew my touch could have complications. It’s why I always wore gloves on my hands, you could never be too careful. With one touch I could accidentally take his soul and a mistake like that would be unforgivable.
          “You don’t seem to understand, I will be traveling with you.”
          This time I was baffled by him and I knew that the way I was acting was only going to make him even more curious. All I knew for sure was that the first time I had read his face it had been so beautiful, so full of life, and now it indicated something much worse than becoming a victim of this ship. I knew I could not fight destiny, but if I tried I could steer it back to the course it had left only moments ago. What had brought this change?  
          He ignored the strange look on my face pretending there was no need for concern as he next said, “As you can clearly see on my card I’m Tristan Montgomery.”
          Suddenly I felt the lurch of the ship, it was too late. We were leaving England. I rushed to the rail even though I knew we were moving away from the docks. My heart began to race. Tristan had followed me to the rail and peered over it even as I did. He even gave a wave of goodbye. I turned to face his profile; he seemed like such a good man. I watched as he held his camera against his chest and began to take photographs as we pulled away.
           Maybe I could talk him into taking one of the life boats and heading back. He seemed big enough and sturdy enough to handle the life boat on his own. He looked back at me and smiled that charming smile of his. I searched his eyes and they still held that emerald isle color deep within them. I hope that meant that there was still a chance for him after all.
          As I stood there with him we watched the shoreline drift away. However, where Tristan thought that we were about to embark on a luxurious adventure, I knew better. I knew that death was coming and that I was death’s handmaiden.

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