The sun was beginning to set. A vibrant orange sky sparkled on the chill waters of the North Atlantic. The great ship pushed ceaselessly through the waves, on its inevitable course with destiny. Claire stood at one of the ship's railings, silently watching the scene spread before her eyes. The breeze off the ocean brushed lightly across her pensive expression, and across the petals of the rose in her hands. Trevor walked slowly to her side, standing there wordlessly as the soft noise of the water flowing past the ship's hull wafted up to them in a soothing hush.
Claire said nothing for several seconds, and Trevor left it that way. He sensed she wanted, needed that quiet. As she leaned over the railing, she looked down to the churning froth along the ship's sides, tinted orange in the setting sun. Her eyes began to mist as she looked up, staring out over the ocean.
"I don't understand, Trevor. What is it all for? What does... what does any of it mean?"
Concern in his eyes, Trevor looked at her with empathy. "I don't know, Claire. Even gods don't have all the answers. No matter how comforting it is to believe they do."
Claire sniffed, unexpectedly on the verge of tears. "I mean... these people. This ship. They'll be gone in less than twelve hours. Why? Why did it happen... why's it going to happen? No matter if you live ten years or a hundred, any life is too short. Hopes, dreams, experiences," she looked over at him, "...loves. They'll all be gone, faded away to nothing by sunrise. Flowing past like water that doesn't stop, doesn't leave a mark before it's gone. Just when it seems you've barely found them."
Trevor smiled sadly. "That's the thing about mortality. Just when you figure it out..."
Claire finished for him. "-it's over."
They both said nothing as they stood there. Silently they watched the sun edge closer to the horizon.
Claire tried to make some sense of it, but failed. "Trevor, I don't know if this is real. If it's anything more than a hypnotist's illusion. I don't know if our lives back in Chicago are real either, for that matter. But... let's just say it is. Say it is a previous existence. Even if there are multiple lives for us, for everyone, we never remember them from one life to the next. In that context, what's love worth then?"
"Everything," he said simply. " It's worth everything. Love shall make the earth tremor, as it's reborn in a storm of fire and hail..."
Trevor turned to her as Claire looked at him, her expression curious while he continued. The setting sun cast a glow over his face.
"That's what makes mortality the gift it is, Claire. When you're immortal nothing really matters. You began to stop caring about all the things that are really important like love, connection. Because no matter what happens, it'll eventually change anyway. So there's no joy in anything. No true appreciation. But when life can end, you have to enjoy every sunset, every smile, every bout of laughter." He smiled as he looked at her. "Every great love your lucky enough to find."
She didn't seem convinced. "Those are just easy answers, Trevor."
"Maybe they are, I don't know. But sometimes the easy answers are the truest."
Claire wiped a tear from her cheek. She laughed softly at his conviction. "I suppose it's all we got."
"It's more than you think, Claire."
She smiled, feeling the warmth in his words. Even faced with certain doom, he held on to his optimism. There he was at her railing, still trying to convince her how precious life was. That it was worth it. She realized that if she died in the next few hours, maybe having Trevor with her did just that. Made it worth it.
"Trevor..." she said quietly.
"When the end... well, when it happens. Will you stay with me? I need you to just be here with me. Please?"
Trevor nodded. "Of course. Always."
Claire turned away to look out over the waters. "Thank you," she whispered softly. Then reluctantly, haltingly, she reached her hand out between them, not saying a word. Trevor looked down at it, and silently he slid his hand into hers, warm and solid in the chill air. Their fingers intertwined and they both held tight as they stood outlined in black against the fading sky. They waited for the future... together.
Later that night, Trevor woke to find Claire was gone. After the sun had fallen they had gone below decks to their small room to talk. Mostly about their lives back in Chicago. Talk which had lifted some confused eyebrows on the other passengers who had come within hearing range. As the night had worn on, Claire had fallen asleep in his arms, but only after his insistence that he would wake her before the end. She didn't want to die in her sleep. In any case, Trevor was still determined to get her into a life boat. But as she had slept in his arms it had seemed a perfect moment, holding her close. Now, as he came out of the very sleep he had tried to avoid, he woke up and found she was gone.
Quickly he rose and looked out into the hallway. "Claire!" There was no one there except a steerage passenger stumbling down the passage, humming a tune to himself after too much drink.
"Come on, Eileen..." the passenger lisped drunkenly.
Trevor looked down at his wrist to check the time, until he remembered his wrist was bare. He pulled the watch that Claire had given him out of his pocket and read the hands on its wide face. His heart dropped into his stomach at the time he saw.
Instantly he darted out of the room, running down the hallway calling her name.
Frantically he searched every room, waking several sleeping passengers who cursed at him angrily. Ignoring them he continued to look. He had to find her. At a run he headed topside. He would get her to a lifeboat if it was the last thing he did. But otherwise, they had all run out of time.
Claire hid in the shadows on deck as a ship's crewman passed, darting quickly across the forward well deck when he was out of sight. She did her best to make her way with as much stealth as possible. Closer to the lookouts. And the crow's nest.
She could still hear what she had told Trevor about accepting the situation as real. About trying to change it. And she knew what she believed herself. But she couldn't just let this happen. She had to fight back. Things could change. It didn't take a god to alter history.
As she moved in the cold night air she shivered. The breeze from the ship's momentum felt icy. Beyond the edge of the outer railing stretched nothing but blackness. She looked up hopefully and saw it. There it was, the crow's nest. She could see the hats atop the two crewmen assigned to lookout duty, hunkered down against the cold.
Quietly, Claire made her way beneath them. A ladder stretched up before her. As she reached her hand out to grab it, the cold metal seemed to dig into her palm. She winced at the sensation. She placed one foot cautiously on the ladder's bottom rung. It was lunacy to climb that ladder in the shoes she was wearing, but she had no other choice. She wasn't going barefoot. Time was running out and she had to hurry. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Claire stepped up.
"Excuse me, ma'am." A calm voice spoke just behind her. "Just what do you think you're doing?"
Trevor was on deck now, running down well lit passages as he yelled out Claire's name. He passed through second, then first class, not caring which section he crossed. The huge ship slid smoothly by as he ran, making him feel like he was running in place. There weren't many others awake at that hour and the wooden decks were empty. Those that were awake gave him strange looks as he ran past yelling like a maniac. Standing at the starboard railing, two shadowed figures, a man and a woman, turned as he ran by. They had been laughing and talking, enjoying the other's company, holding each other for warmth, engrossed in the flush of new love. But the man looked over concerned. He carefully came out of the woman's arms, moving over to Trevor.
"Trevor? What is it? What is wrong?"
Trevor looked over as the man touched his arm.
"William! It's good to see you!" He looked behind him to see Eileen at the railing. "It's good to see both of you. Have you seen Claire?"
William gave him a strange look. "No..."
"I've got to find her! We're out of time."
William chuckled. "I realize you like to tell fanciful tales about being the god of love, and about being from the future. But they're just tales. Even if they did bring Eileen and me together." He looked fondly at the railing where she stood
"No, you don't understand! We are all out of time. Time has just run out for all of us!"
"Don't tell me. This catastrophic iceberg of yours. If there were such a thing, it would be spotted long before it could pose a threat, I'm sure of it. The lookouts would-"
"Lookouts," Trevor said, thinking to himself. He grabbed the other man's arms. "That's it! That's where she's gone! She's trying to change it! Thank you, William."
Trevor let go of him and ran off, leaving William absolutely confused behind him. Suddenly Trevor stopped and turned back, coming up to him again.
"William, listen to me. Go wait by a lifeboat. Right now. No matter how cold it gets or how long you wait, don't budge from that spot. Put yourself and Eileen in one when the time comes. Promise me." Trevor spoke forcefully, soberly, glaring into William's eyes with as much conviction and seriousness as he could muster.
William couldn't believe what Trevor was saying. No one could know the future. But even as he looked at Trevor doubtfully, for once he believed him. "Fine. I'll do just that, Mr. Hale. Me and Elly will go wait by one right now."
"Good. I've got to find Claire. But you go this second. Hurry..." With that Trevor ran off, dashing for the front of the ship. William watched him leave and then walked over to Eileen, still waiting by the railing.
"William, what's wrong?" she asked, concerned.
"Elly, you've got to come with me. We've got to get to a lifeboat. We may be in trouble."
Claire stopped in mid-step, realizing she had been caught.
Damn, she thought to herself. Not now.
"Excuse me, ma'am. But you'll have to come down from there."
Slowly Claire lowered her foot from the bottom rung, her mind racing. She didn't have much time and she could feel the seconds ticking away. Maybe she could talk her way out of this. Trying her best innocent face, she slowly turned around.
"Uhh, hello sir," she said lightly. "I was just hoping to find a higher vantage point to get a better view of the ocean. Or perhaps the stars, I hear they're stunning in the North Atlantic. I noticed that perch up there is much higher than all the decks. Is there any chance I could go up there?" she glanced at the ladder.
The crewman grunted in amusement. He had seen many passengers wandering the decks after too much to drink. "I'm sorry ma'am, it's not allowed. You really should go back to your section. You're not supposed to be here. Besides its frightfully cold up there..."
"Oh, I don't mind. When I saw those two men," she motioned above her, "I thought what a fascinating view they must have." She turned and stepped back onto the ladder. "Maybe if I could see what it is they do..."
The crewman came up to her and held her shoulder. "Those two men are lookouts, ma'am. Watching for icebergs and the like. They can't be disturbed. Now, I hate to sound rude, but I must insist that you-"
"Icebergs you say? Maybe I can help-"
"No, ma'am. You can't. Now if you will step away from the ladder, I'm going to have to insist that you go back to your section." He held her more forcefully, losing patience. Claire had to climb off the ladder again.
She was so close. Looking up, she could see the perch high above her. She decided to try a more straightforward approach. Looking out over the bow, she tried for her best look of surprise, her eyes widening.
"I think I see one! My god."
"Doubtful, ma'am. The lookouts would have-"
"No, its right there!" Claire stared blindly out into the night as she grabbed the crewman's arm and tried to get him to look. "Look! Can't you see it?"
"I'm afraid that will be enough, ma'am!" he said loudly. "You are out of you're section! This area is off limits to you. Please come with me... now!"
Claire looked at him and realized she had no chance of making him believe her. Out of nowhere she wondered if this was how Trevor felt most of the time. She didn't like the sensation. She sighed slowly.
With that she balled her fist and slammed it into his face with all she was worth. The crewman had not been expecting it. Flailing his arms he fell backward, collapsing to the floor, severely dazed but still conscious. Claire immediately turned and began to climb, rising as quickly as she could into the night sky. The crewman looked up at her where he lay holding his nose, seeing her reckless ascent.
"Hey!" he yelled out.
The cold tore at Claire's clothing, as if all the heat were evaporating from her body the higher she went. She kept her eyes locked on the perch above, ignoring the growing drop beneath her. Her foot slipped on one cold rung, but she caught herself and continued to climb, not stopping.
"Ma'am!" The crewman yelled below. "Get down from there this instant!" He scurried to his feet and started up after her.
Claire climbed higher, her breath coming faster and faster and misting before her from her exertion. The perch grew larger, closer. Almost there, just a few feet. Then...
She slammed into the trapdoor at the top of the ladder, flinging it open. As quickly as she could she scrambled halfway into the perch, fighting against the vertigo under her feet.
The two lookouts were rubbing their own hands for warmth and stomping their feet. As Claire climbed unexpectedly into their platform they both turned in shock.
"Bloody hell! What are you doing up here?"
"Listen to me!" Her voice was desperate. "There's an iceberg out there right now! I... I saw it. A large iceberg, right there!" she pointed towards the ship's bow without looking.
The two of them seemed to ignore her words. To them she was a crazy woman.
"Get down from here! This is no place for a woman! What do you think you're doing!"
"No, you have to listen to me! There's an iceberg! The ship will hit it and sink unless we turn right now! Oh god please. You have to believe what I'm saying!"
Then the first crewman from below appeared at the trapdoor and grabbed her foot.
"No!" she cried.
"Ma'am, come down at once!" he said. "You can't be up here! Fellows, help me out here..."
The two lookouts turned and grabbed Claire, pushing her back towards the ladder. "You'll have to go back down ma'am!"
"There's an iceberg, you've got to-"
"I'm sure there are ma'am. Plenty of them. But you've got to leave. We won't be seeing any bloody icebergs with you up here! Now please, just go back down and let us do our jobs."
Claire looked at them. They were both like the first. They didn't believe her, they only stood watching her in annoyance. "Fine," she said finally. "I'll go back down. But there is an iceberg in our path. Please, you've got to turn the ship."
"Of course, ma'am. We see it. Clear as day. Now if you could please step down the ladder..." Neither of them were even looking.
Claire lowered her head, realizing it was hopeless. "I'm leaving. But it is out there! We can still avoid it."
"Certainly, ma'am. As soon as you're gone."
Claire nodded and began to climb back down. As she disappeared down the trapdoor one of the look outs kicked it closed again. He shook his head in disbelief as he blew into his hands.
"Drunken loon! Some women just can't hold their spirits."
"Just our luck she would decide to bother us," the other said. "Bit of a looker though. She could have kept us both warm, don't you think? Still, wild tales about..." he looked up. His eyes widened at what he saw.
Claire was barely halfway down the ladder when a bell sounded out frantically from above her, ringing three times. It sent a chill down her spine as she quickly climbed down to the deck. Running to a railing, she looked out over the bow. The crewman who had forced her down was at her side, the clanging bell had pushed away all thought of her transgression. Together they squinted, looking out into the darkness.
Then they saw it. Dim in the black night.
Claire closed her eyes and began to whisper.
"Turn... please, turn."
Trevor still searched desperately through the disorienting maze of decks and passages as he called her name. All around him the bright ship slept, glittering like a jewel in the night as it passed beneath his running feet. Then the jewel... shuddered.
Trevor stopped instantly. He had felt the huge craft actually shake. A loud, moan-like sound flowed across the air from the front of the vessel, as if something were scrapping its hull. As he looked up in shock, a huge wall of ice slid silently past the ship's outer railing. He half imagined he felt the cold emanating from its surface. The icy mass was lit yellow by the ship's lighting, shadows sliding across its contours. Trevor felt his heart freeze.
"Oh, no... Claire."
It had happened after all. Just as he had know deep down that it would. A chill passed through him as he realized what was coming in the next few hours, unstoppable.
The few others scattered on the deck at that hour moved to the railing, leaning calmly out to watch the iceberg grow slowly distant in the ship's wake. There was no sense of panic. No alarm on their faces. But Trevor's face was tempered with knowledge.
There was little time, and he knew it. He still had to find Claire, if for no other reason than for his promise. Looking wildly around, he began calling out again.
Nearby, the older gentleman in the bowler hat stood with a lit cigarette in his mouth. He had been on deck to smoke and had witnessed the whole thing. Wrapped warmly against the night air, he came up to Trevor to try to calm him.
"It's all right, my good man." He motioned towards the departing iceberg. "No harm, no foul and all that. It was just a graze, that's all." He took another puff, as if it happened every day.
Trevor looked at him as if he were speaking gibberish. "Stay near the lifeboats, right now." he said simply before running off, continuing his search. The man shook his head, dropping his cigarette to the deck and crushing it with his heel.
Claire slammed open the door to their small sleep area. "Trevor! It happened! I couldn't-" She stopped as she realized he wasn't there. Leaning out of the door she called down the passageway.
She got no answer. Looking at the walls around her, she had the disturbing thought that everything she saw would be underwater in a few hours. She didn't know whether she should wait for Trevor there or go looking for him. Where could he be?
Claire paced for several seconds, undecided. Then she resolved herself as her jaw set firmly.
"The hell if I'm just going to stand around waiting for history," she said angrily. Something was wet on her forehead. She touched her skin and found a trickle of blood. Ignoring it she left the room behind, heading up on deck. She would find him. She had to, because she would allow nothing else.
Trevor craned his neck to look up as he stood at the base of the lookout's station. Claire was no where to be seen. He looked around, wondering if his guess had been wrong. Nearby, a crewman was still tenderly touching his face. Trevor listened as he spoke with another crewman near him.
"What happened to you mate?" the other asked. "Run into a personal iceberg of your own?"
"No, some crazy woman punched me for trying to help her," he explained.
The other man nodded. "That's what you get for trying to cross a woman," he said, smiling.
"Insane," the wounded man continued. "Totally bonkers, she was. Why on earth she wanted to go up to the lookout post I'll never know. Stubborn, infuriating woman."
Trevor stopped listening as a smile spread across his face. That was Claire alright. He turned and as innocently as possible he walked up to them.
"Don't I know how women are," Trevor said. "Like forces of nature, you can't avoid them." He laughed to lighten the mood. "So... what did you do with little miss fist in mouth. Throw her in the brig? Push over the side?" He rubbed his hands for warmth as he said it, trying to keep the urgency from his voice.
"She ran off once we grazed the iceberg. We had some debris knocked loose and it must have spooked her, I imagine. Foolish lass. We made it through, didn't we?"
Trevor nodded, smiling. Without warning he sprinted off, having learned what he wanted. The two crewmen gave him curious looks as he sped away, obviously thinking the same thing.
"Must be something in the air. Everybody's gone bloody insane."