April 10th 1912
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 hurt 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 rails 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.
Chapter Two“Am I ever going to learn your name or will you forever be known as the mysterious woman?” Tristan asked me. The only thought in my mind at that moment was that he couldn’t be seen talking to me. Not only would mortals think that he had gone mad but if my kind where to catch us together Tristan would draw their curiosity and they might begin to suspect what he really was. I had to protect him and keep him safe, keep Darwin from discovering him.
I gave him the first name that came to mind, a name that I had always favored. “Viviane.” It had been the name of the first soul that I had accompanied to the next world. I remembered that Viviane had a beautiful painting etched on her old withered face, quite the contrast, but beautiful all the same. I remember that her loved ones had called her, “Vivi,” I said aloud.
“Vivi?” Tristan repeated. He held his camera out to me so that I could see it. “Seems this has been a part of me all of my life, like an extension of who I am. Not this camera exactly of course, I actually broke my first camera, but I’m glad that I did. Seeing the inner workings of a camera gave me a better appreciation, I even made a few modifications to this one.”
“Quite clever of you, what kind of modifications did you make to your camera?”
“The lens,” he said and tilted the camera at a better angle. “It’s sharper than before, giving me a better picture.”
I was afraid to touch the camera afraid that my fingers might brush against his. “You were looking through the lens when you saw me on deck.” My eyes focused in sharply onto the camera accusing it as the culprit. In order to be sure I would need a better look at the camera.
“It seemed to be drawn to you.”
“You shouldn’t have stepped on board; surely you have better things that deserve your attention. There may still be a chance that you can return to-”
He cut me short, “You seem determined that I leave the ship, in fact the moment we met you urged me to leave.” A dark looked crossed his handsome features. “Do you have a husband, Vivi?”
A husband? More like a boss who had a quick temper. But if he believed that it was a husband I had then perhaps that was the excuse I would give him. A shadow passed over the deck and without thinking, I left Tristan on the deck as I ran, not wanting be seen with him-- talking to him of all things. I had to find a way to protect him. Maybe if I got a hold of his camera I could see what kind of modifications he had made and just maybe I could reverse them before it was too late.
I had to find Darwin and keep him far away from Tristan. I knew that he wouldn’t hesitate to use him; after all Tristan was something that each of us waits eagerly for.
It wasn’t Darwin who I found, Joseph was sitting in a corner of a bar looking at the patrons, he even had a glass in front of him someone must have left it without finishing it. Joseph saw me and waved me over, we had always worked well together and he understood the time I needed to take for myself and never questioned it. Joseph had been a banshee longer then I and there was never a question I could ask him that he would not try to answer. Even though I trusted Joseph I would not tell him about Tristan, I was afraid that even he might succumb to temptation.
“I see you are dressed as one of the mortals,” Joseph said as I joined him. He was dressed in the traditional robes; banshees wore long black robes the layers of material on each side of the robe served a purpose. One side was dark and one side was light. It is not for the banshee to determine which side a mortal gets consigned to after crossing over, we are only to bring comfort and empathy at their final moments.
“Where are your gloves?” I asked concerned.
“There hardly seems to be any point in being cautious, you know what waits in a few days.”
“But even so, every day is a gift and one we should not play with.”
“Have you been reading those mortal books again? If you are don’t let Darwin catch you.”
I rolled my eyes at the mention of Darwin’s name. “It’s not he who I serve.”
“Feisty! When did this happen? You don’t need to give him any reason to have you sent away. You know what happened to Jethro don’t you?”
“That story is not possible.” The story of Jethro was a depressing one and one that I had never believed. It’s said that Darwin had claimed that Jethro had spared a life, had refused to carry it to the other side. She was a young girl who had been stricken with the Black Death. She was so young and had such a lovely painting on her face that Jethro felt she was meant for much more. By sparing her life he was sent to wander the earth as an immortal stripped of his powers.
“All the same be careful of him I wouldn’t put it past him to see to it that you meet such a fate.”
I ignored his warning instead, but I reflected on the story of Jethro, “The story never says what became of the girl whom he saved, which makes me question its authenticity and Darwin is the one who was more than happy to share that story with us.” Darwin was a lot older than we were; no one knew how long he had worked as a banshee.
“And that is why I caution you, you are always thinking instead of just doing the job.”
“I don’t see it as a job, I see it as my duty,” I argued.
Joseph stood up and slid the glass down the bar it flew off the table and shattered. “You should want the same thing that we are all after, but you would be happy to be guiding souls until the end of time. You dress as a mortal and you read mortal books, but you are no longer a mortal and haven’t been in over a hundred years. Be who you are and nothing more.”
The ship was full of life as I made my way down to Tristan’s quarters; I kept an eye on him for the remainder of the day making sure he stayed clear of the others. I had to keep him safe, call me Jethro, I don’t care. The moonlight filtered into his room, which was surprisingly nice, Tristan had a first class cabin. He wasn’t in the room he was up deck at the moment. There was one large trunk pushed against the wall I hurried over to it but found it locked. I tugged on the lock and it easily fell open one of the advantages of being what I am.
The trunk was filled with clothes, books and photographs. I couldn’t help but look at each one; I took my time looking at the detail in the first photo and as I reached for the second the image in the photo made me catch my breath. It was a photograph of me; dressed to attend an Opera. As I looked intently at the photo I noticed a shadow in the background. Darwin. Darwin was in the photograph. Quickly I placed all the items except my photograph back into the trunk and secured the lock. I wasted no time as I made my why back down the passages headed to the deck in search of a quiet place.
In the moonlight I drew the photograph to my chest holding it close, this was not possible. Should not be, yet I am holding the truth in my hands. Hearing someone approach I folded the photo and tucked it into my bodice.
“Vivi?” Tristan’s voice was clear and unmistakable. I was too afraid to turn around, too afraid because I knew his secret. He had seen me before and what’s worse Darwin knows of him.
He called my name again and this time I turned and found him looking at me curiously. It was as if I was in an exhibit that he had found of interest. “How did you find me?” I asked; my question holding double meaning.
“I saw you come out here, you didn’t join us for dinner. In fact I could not find a Viviane on the passenger list.” He stood with his hands tucked behind his back; the black suit he wore fit him perfectly. “And you accused me of being the stowaway.”
“Not exactly a stowaway, I can promise you.” I could feel the photo against my skin and it sent an eerie feeling coursing down my back. I have not felt fear like this since the day I died.
“Then why is there no record of you on the passenger list?” As he took a step forward I pushed back against the rails. “Or maybe Viviane is not your real name, but an alias?”
The rails were biting into my back, I moved around him careful not to touch him. He seemed intent on keeping me within arms length as for every step I took in retreat he took a step forward.
“Why would you check the passenger list?” I evaded his question with a question of my own.
“To see if you had a husband of course.”
“But you would already know that, wouldn’t you?” I took the folded photo from my bodice and held it out to him. “How long have you been following me?”
“Following you?” he asked perplexed as he took the photo from me.
“How do you explain that photograph?”
“This was at the Opera, it was at the performance of the Soprano Maria Jeritza, and she gave a wonderful performance as Blanchefleur in Kenzl’s piece. I remember that night well.”
“You attended the performance?” I asked, “With your camera?”
“I saw you for the first time that night.”
I watched his face closely trying to determine if he spoke the truth or not. “Did you see anyone else that night? In the photo was there anyone else that you saw?”
He gave some thought to my question before answering, “You mean the man in the shadows? He’s not your husband is he?”
“No-- he is not my husband. Can you tell me if he saw you?”
“Are you hiding from this man?” he seemed genuinely concerned and he came even closer to me. He reached for my arm but I was quick enough to pull away. “What are you afraid of Vivi?”
“I’m afraid for you … you should never have stepped onto this ship.”
“You keep going back to that, why don’t you want me here? Is something going to happen? Is the man in the photo plotting something?”
“It’s not like that.” How could I explain it to him, to even hint at who and what I am is forbidden.
“Then why does he scare you?” He was fast this time and grabbed hold of my shoulders I screamed in fear and he released me. I carefully looked at him; he seemed to be unharmed, nothing had happened. I breathed a sigh of relief.
“What are you afraid of?” He had dropped the photo when he had reached for me and he ignored it, but I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off of it. “Are you afraid of me?”
I shook my head in denial but he didn’t seem to believe me as he went on to say, “I saw you that night and I wanted to learn more about you, I never thought I would see you again. But now I have.”
He reached for me again. “Please don’t,” I said in a whisper.
“What are you afraid of? Are you afraid of me?”
“No, I’m afraid of me…” I wasn’t sure if he had heard my words or not, my voice had gone to a whisper. He wouldn’t be able to understand my warning, I wouldn’t understand it myself if our places were reversed, it had taken me years to come to terms with what I am. I would hate nothing more then to look in his eyes and have him see me as a monster.
“What do you mean?” I saw the confusion in his eyes. The laws forbade me to share with anyone what I am. Yet he was different, my kind would not think twice about using him and he should know for what and why. As I opened my mouth to tell him I felt the pull of Darwin; he was summoning me. A great wind pulled at me dragging me away from Tristan, I could only imagine what he thought as he watched me being dragged away. He reached for me and he ran after me, but the wind was too strong and too fast and it pulled me across the decks to Darwin.
Chapter ThreeI fell at Darwin’s feet. With his foot he kicked at me and yanked at my hair pulling me up to face him. This was not the first time I had seen him this way. I had witnessed his brutality many times before. He released me and I took several steps away from him. Once I had some distance between us I noticed that we were not alone. Joseph and three others stood behind Darwin. Joseph did not look at me, he kept his eyes down, but the others seemed more then eager to participate.
“Why did you not report that mortal to me?” Darwin’s voice was low, never a good sign of what was to come. I had to look for a way around his rage.
“His destiny has not yet been determined; there was no reason for me to--” I did not have time to finish, although I really didn’t know what excuse I was going to give.
Joseph spoke up for me, “Darwin, whether she informed you of it or not does not matter. In a matter of days we will be done here and on to the next job.”
With his will Darwin raised me off the ground as he addressed Joseph. “That mortal is my freedom. If any one of you decides to use him for yourselves you will regret it, of that I can assure you.”
I could not help but speak, “You can not be sure of his destiny. It has not yet been determined.”
He released me from his hold and I fell. “You are the only one of us who believes that drivel about destiny. That mortal will take my place amongst you and I will in turn move on to my eternal peace. I have earned it.”
The other three banshees followed Darwin out only Joseph remained by my side. He had a peculiar look on his face and I was well familiar with what that meant. “You’re thinking about using him for yourself?” He didn’t answer me, not that I had expected him to. To speak the words aloud would have surely marked him. “If you try to take him before it is determined you could dam yourself.”
He finally looked my way. “We are already damned; you are the only one of us who has yet to realize it.”
“I don’t see it that way, and you shouldn’t either. We have no idea what waits for us and I am in no hurry to find out.”
“I’ve been thinking a lot about Jethro’s story. I do not want to spend an eternity as an immortal.”
“The story is not true. I know it.” I tried to assure him, but I could see in his eyes that he had already made up his mind.
April 11thI didn’t see Tristan the following morning which concerned me; I knew that Darwin and the others would be watching him closely waiting for a sign that they could have him take their place. Even though Darwin had been very clear that Tristan was not to be touched by anyone else I knew that if the opportunity came anyone of them would take it. Darwin could threaten all he wanted, once a banshee crossed over there was no way Darwin could touch them.
As much as I respect my duties its not something I would wish on anyone, especially on Tristan. There are so many possibilities waiting for him … a life. Maybe this is how Jethro felt, if I were to believe that story that is. A story I believe Darwin told us in order to strike fear in us and to make sure that we would never think twice about claiming a soul.
Finding Tristan was the only thing I could allow myself to focus on; I had to see to it that he survived the next few days and somehow I needed to find a way to get him off this cursed ship. I made my rounds across the decks before deciding to look for him at his cabin, I had gone there earlier but he had not been in, maybe I would find him there now.
Instead I found Joseph. He walked right out of the closed door and turned to face me. He always enjoyed reminding me of what we are. His robes flapped around him and his eyes were piercing black. In this moment he certainly did look like a bringer of death. I knew instinctively that Joseph hadn’t claimed Tristan. If he had it would not have been Joseph who had stepped out of the cabin. “Are you waiting for him?” I asked knowing that he most certainly was. “You should be more careful, I could have been Darwin.”
“I don’t care anymore, I just want peace.” His voice was solemn which concerned me.
“What is wrong? For the last few days you have seemed different? Does it have something to do with your last job?” Unlike the rest of us Joseph had taken a soul before joining us on the ship. He seemed different somehow.
“I need this, I need to move on I’m not afraid like you.”
His words chilled me, the way he said them, like he was at his end and had no hope. “Tell me what happened?”
“I told you about Jethro--”
“And I told you it is nothing more then just a story that Darwin made up.”
“It’s not just a story; I met Jethro on my last job.”
That wasn’t possible, I was certain without a doubt that Darwin had concocted the whole tale. Yet the look in Joseph’s eyes made me question it. His eyes were haunted and his usually guarded features were vulnerable. “How did it happen?” I asked finally accepting the truth of it.
“The old woman I took, he was with her. I didn’t know he was able to see me as I helped her out of her death bed. I didn’t even speak to her or look his way. In fact I didn’t even know he was in the room until he grabbed hold of my arm. No one had ever done that before-- not that I had ever heard of.”
I was afraid of what he was going to say next, but I had to hear it. I had to hear all of it. “How can you be sure it was Jethro? Did he tell you his name?”
“He looked me right in the eyes and told me that he had been waiting for me. He asked me to take his soul instead and that I could return for her another day. He said to let her family have her for a little while longer.”
Even I knew that request was not possible to fulfill. I was reminded of Tristan and how he had been able to speak to me and even touch me. “You could not have been sure it was Jethro, it could have been someone like Tristan.”
“I read this man’s face, there was nothing there, it was blank. There was an emptiness about him.”
“How do you mean?”
“He had no soul.”
“That’s not possible every mortal has a soul.”
“Not immortals.” His voice was cold and a chill seemed to settle around us.
“It’s not possible, Joseph. Not possible at all.”
“He begged me to take him instead, he told me his story, that it was not his fault for saving the girl, that he had been betrayed.”
This news frightened me even more. “He told you the story? He said he was betrayed?” I checked the halls to ensure that we were indeed alone, other than the passing mortals, but no one could hear our words. “What did you do?”
“I told him that even if I could do as he asked I couldn’t, that I had a ship to catch in Southampton and that I wouldn’t be able to return as he had suggested.”
“What happened next?” I asked in a whisper, nearly afraid to hear his answer. This would explain why Joseph had been so obsessed with the story of Jethro and why he had been sure of it authenticity. He had met the man!
“He knew right away which ship I meant to catch and he said not to worry he would see me soon.”
I shook my head in denial. “You can’t mean that he is on board? Why have none of us seen him?”
He was silent for a moment. “I had to be sure that you hadn’t. I thought for a moment that Tristan and Jethro might be one and the same.”
I had not once thought of that possibility and I shook my head again. “No, I would know.”
He gave me a half smile before answering. “Don’t worry, they are not the same.”
“That’s why you were in his cabin, you wanted to make sure?” I breathed a sigh of relief. “But that means that Jethro could be somewhere on this ship. Describe him to me I need to know what he looks like I can help you locate him.
“Just look for a man without a soul.”
Needing a moment for myself I left Joseph and went to the deck where I had first seen Tristan. Somewhere on this ship was Jethro, and he had said that he had been betrayed. If he was betrayed by anyone I’m sure it would have had to have been Darwin. I grimaced. Maybe if I found Jethro before Joseph he might be able to bargain with me. In exchange for keeping Tristan alive, I would be willing to help him cross over. It’s a lot to do for someone I had only just met, but to cut short a life that had so much to give; surely the sacrifice would be worth it. At least that’s what I would tell myself when I’d be forced to endure the same fate as Jethro.
On a ship this large with this many passengers it would be next to impossible to find someone who was determined to remain hidden.
Tristan ended up finding me on the morning of the twelfth and it was as I feared, he had been marked with the curse of the banshee. Any banshee that came across him would try to use him to gain entry into the next life. I’m not sure how it had happened but he had been so full of life and now all of that was gone. “I have been looking for you,” I said to him as he neared me. It took everything I had not to tell him what would soon happen to him. I had to find a way to reverse the process. I had to find Jethro he was Tristan’s only hope. I noticed Darwin across the deck, he was intently watching us. I knew what he was thinking and I knew that at any moment he could summon me over to him and that there would be nothing that I could do about it.
“I tried to find you after you left me on the deck the other night. I wasn’t sure what I had just witnessed and I thought of all kinds of possibilities. But only one made any sense to me.”
I didn’t know where he was going with this and I tried not to jump to conclusions. My only option was to wait for him to tell me what he was thinking and what he had thought about me. So I waited patiently while he worked it out for himself.
I wasn’t left waiting long. “I think your some kind of ghost. The way you left me that night, your legs and arms seemed to fade out of sight, but your dark hair and face remained as clear as I see you now.”
“You think I’m a ghost?” I don’t know why but having him believe I was a ghost seemed better than the truth.
“You have to be, it’s the only thing that makes any sense to me.” He seemed sure of it.
“Tristan there is something that you should know about me.” I wanted to say more but I caught Darwin’s intense look and it kept me from going any further. I swallowed and spoke anyway. “I’m not a ghost although I really do wish I was.” He looked very confused so I rushed on. “Anything would be better than what I actually am … I’m a banshee.”
Now Tristan looked really confused, even dumbfounded. “There are no such things,” he looked ready to argue.
“Yet you believe in ghosts.”
He nodded his head. “I’ve seen strange things appear in my photographs, things that cannot be explained.”
“That night at the Opera you caught me on your film. I don’t know how, maybe it has something to do with the modifications you did or maybe it was your destiny. We may never know.”
“How can you be a banshee?”
“A banshee is not a bad thing to be, just a confusing one. We help souls cross over, we offer comfort in their final moments on this earth.” I couldn’t help but look over at Darwin, but I found that he had left his perch. I was worried about where he was and what he might be doing. I wondered if he had any idea that Jethro was on board.
“This is insane.”
“I know.” I couldn’t tell him what about to happen. I still had hope for a different outcome and it would have been too much for him to handle all at once.
“What are you doing on board? From what I understand when a banshee’s cry is heard it means death is coming.”
“There is more to it than just that. I’m here because of death. I’m here to help mortals with the crossing.”
He gave me one of his charming smiles as he said, “I hope you’re not here for me although I don’t think I would mind it if you were.”
“No I can’t say that I am.” I couldn’t tell him anymore. An idea came to mind. “Have you been taking many pictures?”
I hadn’t even noticed that he didn’t have his ever present camera. “Where is your camera?”
“In my cabin, I didn’t want to take it to breakfast although I probably should have, there were some great opportunities.”
I finally smiled at him. “Can you show me the pictures you took?”
“I can, but can I ask why?” For a moment he seemed hesitant.
“There is someone I’m looking for and I’ve been having a hard time locating him.”
“The one you’re here to help in crossing over?”
I only nodded my head as I decided to save him from the details. I was sure he would learn them in time. I just didn’t want to ruin what was left of his morning. “Tell me again about your camera and how it works?” I asked as we walked to his cabin. I wanted nothing more than to fill my mind with anything other than what was presently it. It didn’t take further prodding as he went into great detail. As we made our way through the corridors, walking in the sunlight amongst the other mortals I could pretend that I was one of them.
“This isn’t the way to your cabin.” I wasn’t sure where we were. I thought I had found every part of this ship when I had looked for Tristan the day before.
“That would be because we are not going to my cabin; I found a place where I could develop my film. I came across it yesterday.”
That would explain why I wasn’t able to find him, he must have spent the day developing his film. We looked to be in the ship’s hull, there were workers running around but they paid no attention to Tristan at all. They were too busy seeing to the needs of the massive ship to bother with him. He opened a side door holding it open for me and I headed in. There were strips of film hanging from the ceiling along with photographs. There were even a few more photos of myself. Tristan closed the door and the room became semi dark.
“These are the photographs that I took on the day Titanic left the dock.” He indicated a table that had over a dozen photos spread across it. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find Jethro among the people in them, but it was worth a try. We spent a few hours at it until Tristan held up a photo of a man seated alone on the upper deck. He wore a black hat that covered most of his face, his long hair shot out around the hat past his shoulders. He was dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, but he was missing his boots. “What made you take this?” I asked as I held up the photo.
“I’m not sure why, sometimes I don’t need a reason.” He took the photo back from me and asked, “Is this the man you’ve been looking for?”
“I’m not sure,” but I thought it might be. “Can you help me find him?”
April 13thIt was early morning; I couldn’t be sure what time it was actually, sometime between two and three in the morning. Tristan had stayed with me while I looked for the man in the photograph, he didn’t ask me anymore questions about it. He seemed to think the man was someone I was here to take to the other side. Tristan seemed to accept what I told him without question, maybe a part of him knew what was coming for him. I tried to remember how it was for me when I first changed into what I am, did I sense somehow that there was more for me then just death waiting? I couldn’t remember it’s like a part of my mind had blocked that time of my life out completely.
It was probably for the best, who would ever want to know that for the unforeseeable future you would have to guide souls to the other side without a say in the matter. After speaking with Joseph I could understand his fears, an eternity of doing our duties only to be rewarded by immortality. I was beginning to think this lifestyle was not for everyone, after all look at what it had done to Darwin, there was so much hate inside of him that it was beginning to eat at him and the rest of us were suffering for it as his brutality became more evident.
I could feel the shift in the wind; it was a sign of what was to come. The passengers on board lived in ignorance to it. Not only were their lives about to change, they had no idea, no inkling that us banshees, who’s duty it was to see them safely across, were all planning ways to use Tristan to cross over.
“You don’t think he would have found his bed by now?” Tristan asked. He looked exhausted; he was after all still mortal. Jethro however was not and I knew he would be making use of this time.
“Will you stay with me just a little while longer?”
Without hesitation he said yes. As quickly as he said the words Joseph stepped out of the shadows his dark robes made him appear larger and menacing. “Joseph,” I said. “What’s wrong?”
He didn’t answer, but Tristan’s eyes locked on him, he clearly saw Joseph standing before us. I looked between them both watching them, waiting. Tristan moved closer to Joseph almost mystified by him. I stepped forward and held out my arm it was within inches of touching his chest. “Don’t go any closer.” I warned.
Joseph at last shifted his intense gaze onto me, I relaxed slightly. His voice sent chills down my spine. “I’ve been watching you two, you’ve told him too much.”
“Not nearly enough, there were things that shouldn’t have been kept from him. I did nothing wrong.”
Joseph took a step back, there was something about him that was different, he didn’t seem to be himself and I didn’t know why. But it was not knowing what he intended to do that put me on guard.
“You don’t need to look for Jethro any further. I have already crossed him over.”
“What?” I didn’t want to believe that it could be true; I needed Jethro to help me save Tristan.
“It’s what Jethro asked me to do, none of us deserve an eternity of torment like that.”
Joseph took another step back and it was how I knew that he had been lying to me. He was under Darwin’s control and he was fighting it. “How did Darwin learn that Jethro was on board?”
“Vivi, what is this all about?” Tristan asked as he stepped around me he had a look of confusion in his eyes.
“Joseph is just like me, a banshee and Jethro is the man who is going to help us save you.”
“Save me from what?”
Joseph interrupted us. “Darwin knows everything. Except he doesn’t know where Jethro is hiding, you don’t have much time.” Joseph propelled himself over the ships railing and dove into the icy water below. As he dropped a wicked scream pierced the air, it sounded like an unearthly cry of a thousand souls being tormented.
Tristan reached the rails before I did. “We have to help him,” he said.
“No, he will be fine,” I assured him. As long as he kept himself hidden from Darwin. Darwin would not tolerate betrayal or disobedience.
“What was he talking about? Who are Darwin and Jethro and what do you mean that Jethro can help save me? Save me from what? Darwin?”
As he asked his questions my eyes searched the decks looking for Darwin. He could be anywhere; he could summon me at any moment. Joseph had managed to break free of Darwin’s hold; he was older and stronger than I. Fear made me afraid. Fear of what Darwin could make me do against my will.
April 14thDarwin was out of control. He was putting everything that we are at risk for his own selfish reasons. He was capable of anything and the only help I could think of was Jethro.
Jethro had to be strong enough to place Darwin under control, there wasn’t much time left before the mortals on the ship had to be crossed over. Tristan was running on no sleep, yet he didn’t complain or express fear. “What are you thinking?” I finally asked concerned.
“I think it’s best if I kept that to myself.”
He had asked me so many questions and I did try to give him straight answers, but I knew that it wasn’t going to keep him at bay for long. He was going to want to know everything and I really felt that he deserved to know all about it. The only reason why I didn’t just tell him was because I knew that Darwin could be watching and listening and I was afraid of what might happen--more than that I was afraid of what Darwin might make me do to Tristan.
“It’s not safe to talk about Darwin; you have to understand he is a dangerous man.” We were heading back to Tristan’s hideaway--his darkroom. His cabin was not the safest place for him. “There’s a chance that Darwin could even know about this room you have hidden here.”
“How can he harm me? I don’t understand why you’re not telling me everything.”
We came to the door and I kept walking, Tristan followed me and neither one of us spoke. I wasn’t sure where I was leading him. I just wanted to reach the deepest part of the ship. The sounds of the men who worked so diligently to keep the Titanic running were beginning to fade. When I felt it was safe enough I closed my eyes and I began to tell him. “Darwin wants you to take his place as a banshee. He desires his freedom.”
“How can I take his place?”
“You’ve been marked by the banshee, I don’t know how it happened, but it did. Your only hope is to find Jethro and make a trade with him.”
“Jethro is the man Darwin is looking for? What would he want to trade?”
“Jethro is an immortal who’s been cursed to walk the earth for eternity, but I believe that he would consider helping us.”
“He would? Well that’s good, but what would I need to give him in return?”
I couldn’t look at him, I didn’t want to lie but I had no other choice. So I only told a partial truth. “He wants to cross over and I can help him with that.” What I didn’t tell Tristan was that I would be trading places with Jethro, cursed to walk the earth, alone. Tristan wouldn’t understand why I would do something like that for him. He couldn’t understand that I had seen the painting etched on his face, I had seen his destiny and it had been beautiful.
An unfamiliar voice filtered through the air. “You would be willing to make such a trade?”
Turning to face him I knew instantly that his body held no soul, he was Jethro. Instead of finding him he had found us. “Yes,” I answered and stepped forward wanting to make sure that he didn’t disappear. “I spoke with Joseph; I understand completely what you want.” My words rushed out, stumbling over each other, and I was afraid that Jethro might divulge something that I didn’t want discussed in front of Tristan. Jethro looked at me cautiously, like he was trying to gauge me, trying to see what kind of banshee I was.
He finally spoke up, “What do you need in exchange?”
It was done. “I understand you know Darwin, that he may have betrayed you.” I didn’t know if that were true or not but I knew that there was a good chance that it had been Darwin who had betrayed him.
“How did you know about that?”
“I have heard the stories, at first that’s what I thought they were--just stories I had no idea that you existed.”
“What story?” Tristan asked. However I knew that there was no time to share it with him. The Titanic was going to sink in hours and I had less time than that to save his soul.
Jethro must have felt the same way as he ignored the question. “I know where Darwin is.”
Of course he did, I had wondered how he had managed to hide from Darwin all along. “What will you do?” I asked.
“If the price you want is for Darwin to be placed under control then it should not matter to you how it will come about.” He stepped closer to me our faces were nearly touching. “I need assurances from you that you are not lying to me that I have your word.”
I knew what he was asking; removing my glove from my right hand I settled the weight of it on his shoulder. My touch was like ice and it seared his skin leaving the mark of the banshee. There wouldn’t be much time and Jethro would have to work fast.
“What just happened?” Tristan asked. I knew he had seen everything but he would have to wait a bit longer before he learned what it all meant.
“Don’t be afraid.” I said to him.
“I have not known fear since the morning I nearly drowned as a young boy.”
“There was a pond outside my bedroom window and I wanted to catch one of the frogs so I jumped in and hit my head. My parents said it was on a rock, but I remember that I was not alone under the water there was a woman there with me. I couldn’t see her clearly but I knew she was there to help me. She saved my life.”
Now I understood why he had been marked, his life had been spared and now the jealous hand of death wanted him back. With the number of souls that were to cross over in a matter of hours, death wanted to reclaim him and saw this as an opportunity. I turned to Jethro but he had gone. I ran back the way Tristan and I had come needing to find him and Darwin. I understood now that there was nothing I could do to stop what was about to happen to Tristan and if I had interfered that we would all pay a terrible price. Tristan chased after me I could hear the sound of the men working and my ears picked up the familiar voice of Darwin. I came to a sudden halt and Tristan nearly ran into me. Below in the hull of the ship were Jethro and Darwin exchanging harsh words. I needed to get down there and I needed to get down there fast. Without thinking I jumped over the rails, being undead did have its advantages. Darwin had fury written all over his face. He did not like having Jethro standing across from him. I caught the last few words Jethro said as I landed a few feet away from them.
“You wanted me out of the way, you were afraid that I was going to report you for everything you have done.”
“I didn’t make you spare that girl’s life; you did that all on your own.”
“But I didn’t spare her life; you got to her before I did. You were the one who spared her, not I.”
“It was you?” I asked trying to follow. “The stories were about you?”
Darwin hadn’t bothered to spare me a glance he had been so focused on Jethro. I heard Tristan shouting down to us as he made his way down.
“Why would you do that to him?” I asked Darwin.
With hesitation Darwin finally turned to me, but it was Jethro who answered my questions. “He wanted to make sure that his crimes were left unreported. He does not care for humanity--he never has. He just enjoyed the rush he got from being a banshee.”
Darwin did not try to defend himself, I had seen with my own eyes his brutality I knew what he was capable of. “That’s why you need Tristan; you need to cross over before your crimes come to light.”
He advanced toward me, but I held my ground. “I have served my time; I, more than anyone deserve to cross over.”
“But at what cost?” I asked.
Darwin sent me flying across the hull knocking me into steal. The wind was knocked out of me and I was momentarily stunned. Tristan reached Darwin and sent his fist flying across Darwin’s chin. He had caught him unaware. A light like I had never seen began to ebb out of Tristan’s eyes; it was green and reminded me of the emerald isle. Jethro and Darwin began to back away from him, but as quickly as the light shone from his eyes it was gone. Tristan clutched at his head with both hands as he groaned in agony.
“What is happening to him?” I demanded.
Jethro used the distraction to attack Darwin, who in turn sent him flying across the hull. He landed on the floor above. He quickly regained his feet and jumped down, rushing again at Darwin. At that moment, something massive struck the ship. The sounds of steel being torn apart were unnerving as they echoed across the hull. It was time. Within moments the Titanic would be swarming with banshees they would be coming to escort the dead across. I could spare no time for Tristan, I wouldn’t have much time before they would find us and I wanted no witnesses for what I was about to do.
I ran for Darwin and with one hand I threw Jethro several yards away. Where my strength came from I wasn’t sure, it must have been sheer panic. Digging my hands into Darwin’s eyes his face began to shimmer and he fought against me. I could feel his power, he was trying to will me away and he should have been able to. Jethro was at my side and he had placed his hands on either side of my head giving me his power. White--my eyes became white orbs and I screamed the sounds of the banshee the screams filled the hull becoming deafening. The black robes of the banshee covered me and engulfed Darwin. He was gone.
Jethro released me and as the white cleared from my eyes I realized that it was not only the three of us in the hull. The souls of the Titanic stood witness to what I had done. I turned to Jethro. “I cannot cross all of them over all by myself.” He knew what I meant, if I didn’t cross him over now he could lose his opportunity, banshees would be coming for the souls. Without waiting for his answer I placed my hand on his face. “Thank you,” I said to him. He could say nothing in return as he crossed over into the light.
Tristan was unmoving on the floor. Banshees began to descend upon us and began collecting souls. I pulled Tristan up to a sitting position and held his head up as he regained consciousness. “Are those banshees?” he asked.
“The choice is yours now, you can cross over with the others or you can stay and be like me.”
“Like you? I can be a banshee?”
“It’s your choice and no one can make it for you. Although you should know that this life can change you it can corrupt you.”
“You seem to be doing alright.”
“Just barely.” I thought of Joseph, Darwin and Jethro.
“Are you sure there is no third option?”
“There is nothing on this ship but death.”
“Don’t you remember, I fought against death once before.” He rose to his feet and held onto my hands. “Vivi, who is that behind you?”
I turned and saw Jethro; although he looked different he seemed to be at peace. He placed his hands on Tristan and everything became black.
Light filled my eyes. Straining them as I slowly opened them, I found myself lying on sand and I picked up a hand full just to be sure. Leaning up I found myself in paradise. “Tristan?”
It wasn’t Tristan who answered, Jethro helped me up. He was different, he seemed at rest. “You didn’t have to help me, but I am eternally grateful that you did.”
“Where have your brought me and where is Tristan?”
“It’s my gift to you both.” He began to back away from me; he had a smile on his face and he was surrounded in white light, He was nearly transparent, so much so that I could see Tristan on the other side of him.
Tristan reached for me and I reached out for him. If this was indeed paradise, I wouldn’t question it.