Claire and Trevor were silent for several moments.
Trevor finally spoke. "People say I'm delusional but she's still walking the streets?"
Claire looked at the old lady. "That's ridiculous."
"I wish it was. A lot has happened that you don't remember. All of it evaporated away." The psychic took another puff. "You know, someday I'm going to figure out why I've been cursed with the two of you. What I did to deserve this. I've been all over the world, in different bodies and different times. Yet no matter where I go, you two always find me. If I could put less effort into doing something else, I'd leave the business."
"Hey, Cancer woman!" Trevor waved to get her attention. "In case you missed it, I'm the god of love, OK? I'm not some delusional mortal who thinks his pointless life is stuck in re-runs! I've got a ticket waiting to take me home someday. Maybe you heard of it. Olympus? Nymphs, gods, nude calisthenics, ring a bell?"
The old lady ignored him, muttering to herself like a crazy woman.
Claire looked at the woman, not believing her little presentation. "Well, it's a nice story, but conveniently, there's no way you can prove it. Let's get out of here Trevor. This is a waste of time."
They both got up to leave when the old woman laughed. Loudly, with the first genuine mirth they'd seen from her. It took several seconds before she was able to speak again. "Proof? You want proof? Sure. I can do that. It might be fun to show you two up. Sit down. I'll give you your proof."
Trevor and Claire stood there, trying to decide whether to stay, still damp from the rain. It continued to pour down in sheets outside. Thunder boomed overhead, fading into the old lady's giggles to herself, still amused by what she planned. Claire looked at Trevor.
"Well, it is still raining..." she said. Trevor tossed his hands into the air, accepting that as he nodded. Together they sat back down again.
"So sunshine," Trevor said, smiling. "Show me what you got. Let's see you wow the god of love."
"Trevor, be nice." Claire chided him. "OK, we're sitting down. Where's your proof?"
The old woman interlaced her fingers and cracked her knuckles. "Fine. A lot of lives have changed since you came to me last. I'm going to show one of your past lives to you. But this time, you'll keep your awareness. You'll see yourselves as who you are now instead of who you were then. It could prove useful. You might be able to find out some things about each other." She pushed the table to the side and scooted her chair up next to them. The rain continued to hiss against the outside of the tent, loud in the quiet air. "Now, please. If you would just hold still..."
Trevor made a nervous glance towards Claire. She was looking at him as well. They both had no idea what to expect. Together they looked back, resolved.
The old woman smiled as she lifted her hands and pointed one long, bony finger at each of their faces. Softly, she placed a fingertip on both of their foreheads. Trevor and Claire sat totally still, curious at the sensation of her touching them.
The aged psychic closed her eyes and exhaled, concentrating. Suddenly she inhaled, and held her breath as a bright flash of light flared between her fingertips and their skin, filling the tent with a blue glare. Trevor and Claire saw nothing, dropping instantly into blackness, as the thunder faded away.
Claire woke first, opening her eyes to a dim white light. She was on her back staring at the ceiling above her. A solid ceiling, fairly low and definitely not the tent she had been in before. Looking quickly around she realized she was on a tiny bunk in a small white room. Somewhere out of sight a distant bell rung.
Claire rose to a seated position and came to the disturbing realization that someone had changed her clothes. She was now dressed in a simple woolen gown which covered her from head to toe. It was unsettling to think of someone first undressing, then dressing her while she had been unconscious. She took a closer look around the room, spotting another bunk parallel to her own over against the far wall. It was occupied. Trevor was sleeping there.
Carefully, Claire examined the room. There was a small wash basin between the two beds. A white medicine cabinet was on the wall above it, marked with a red cross. The air smelled sterile, yet slightly salty. Everything she saw suggested some sort of hospital or medical ward. The walls were white and sparse, the designs of the beds, the cabinet, all sturdy and heavy looking, made evrything seem like they were decades old yet brand new. She didn't know what to make of all of it. Claire rose and moved across to Trevor, waiting silently over him.
Trevor began to stir as she stood there, still groggy from his sleep. In a haze he noticed Claire watching him. For some reason he imagined he saw a curtain of bubbles rising between them. A phantom image, as if they were deep under water. But he shook his head and the image disappeared.
"I'm sorry," Trevor said with a smile, "there must have been some sort of mistake. I specifically ordered the clothing-optional dream package. Where are your three naked clones? Did they go looking for the honey and whipped cream?"
Claire wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of a response. "Right now, instead of whipped cream, I'd be satisfied with the whip. Get up, Trevor," she said simply.
"Well, I'm game if you-" Trevor stopped as he rose, finally noticing that he was also in different clothes. "Clairebear, you dressed me! I'll assume you didn't avail yourself to anything naughty while I was out. Here's hoping you didn't manage to sneak a peek..well, mostly."
"Trevor, before you elbow a frat buddy in the ribs with pride, let me just say that I woke up here the same as you. In different clothes that I don't remember putting on. Just like you."
"Sorry I brought it up. Disappointed?"
She scoffed nervously. "Right. I bet I would have only been disappointed if I had gotten a peek."
Trevor rubbed his head. "Well I definitely don't share the sentiment. You getting dressed is one curtain call I would have liked to see. Where are we anyway?"
Claire shook her head, looking around the room. "I don't know. That bitter old psychic you took us to must have forced us to pass out. She probably took our money and our clothes. We must still be at the carnival, in a first aid station or something..."
Trevor nodded, but seemed confused as he looked at the wall behind her. "OK, Shirley Holmes. Answer me this. Why are we in a first aid station with round windows?"
Claire turned around and noticed that he was right. She walked over and looked through the small opening. A diffuse light from outside touched her face. Her features dropped in shock at what she saw beyond the window.
"Oh no, this can't be..." Claire whispered. "What has that crazy hag done to us?"
"What is it? What do you see?"
"Water. Lots and lots of water."
"We're on a ship?"
Claire threw her hands into the air, fed up and angry. "Oh, this is just great Trevor! Perfect! We've been kidnapped. Abducted to some exotic port. What's next? Sale to some horny Sheik from Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous? Remind me to thank you again for another fascinating day of what only you alone would call fun. To think I could instead be home working on my book. Oh no. Can't have that. You thought I needed to get out. 'Let's go to the carnival', you said. 'It'll be fun', you said. And in a bout of insanity, I agreed. So instead I'm here. Living out a bad scene from a tv movie of the week!"
"Well, if you had just agreed to go on the rollercoaster like I wanted to..."
Claire snapped at him. "Life's too short to hop on every rollercoaster you come across, Trevor."
Trevor smiled back. "Life's too short not to, Claire."
A stubborn look crossed her face as she looked at the room. "Well, one thing I know for certain. I'm not staying here waiting for whatever they have planned for us. They've probably locked the door, so we'll have to bust it down with-" Claire darted over and turned the doorknob. It opened easily. "Or not," she said surprised. Slowly Claire opened the door and stepped into the hallway beyond.
Trevor began searching the inner pockets of the coat he wore. He pulled out several papers and began leafing through them. There were several personal items, belonging to someone named Mr. Collins. His hands stopped suddenly on a worn black and white photograph. It showed him and Claire standing in front of some run down house in the country that he had never seen. Lush green hills rolled into the distance behind it. They were both in each other's arms, happy, smiling. He moved to the next item, a small stub of paper like a boarding pass or ticket. His face froze when he read it.
"Um, Claire... could you come back in here please?"
The door opened and Claire walked in slowly, in a daze. She was carrying something, a large white life-saver of the type found on ships. There was bold lettering imprinted along the hoop's edge. In disbelief, Claire watched Trevor as he read it.
They stared at each other in shock for several seconds.
"Oh... my..." Claire said softly.
"-god." Trevor finished.
Suddenly one of the ship's nurses bustled into the room, moving quickly around Claire. She seemed oblivious to both their stunned expressions. Cheerfully she stood between them, seeing nothing out of place.
"Well it's nice to find the two of you up and about. I'm your nurse, Violet Jessop." The woman spoke in a lively British accent. Her face exuded the kindness of someone who loved her work. And though no longer considered young, she still moved and spoke with the energy of youth.
"It seems you both had a bit of a fainting spell earlier," she continued, turning occasionally to look at them both. "But it's good to see the two of you on your feet again. How are you feeling?" She waited expectantly for Claire to speak.
Claire paused, bouncing a finger in mid-air as she considered it. "Wait, this... this can't really be happening."
The nurse misunderstood. "Oh don't you worry about that," she said lightly. "It happens quite a bit to people who aren't used to sea voyages. Passengers pass out all the time on other ships I've tended. I must say it was a bit of a strange thing in both your two cases. Most reactions aren't so deep or so sudden as the ones you two had. The doctor didn't know what to make of it, to be honest."
Trevor looked up. "We were on this ship earlier? Walking around?"
Violet nodded. "Until you passed out and were brought here."
It was beginning to dawn on Violet that the two of them were... confused. They both stared at her like she was a phantom. Violet glanced down at the life saver Claire was holding with a concerned look. Why was she carrying that? Now that she thought about it, they were both acting strangely. Perhaps the two of them hadn't fully recovered after all. With slow movements, she reached for the life saver, not wanting to upset Claire if she wasn't feeling well.
"It's alright love," Violet said in soothing tones. "There will be no need for that. Try not to worry yourself. It was just sea-sickness. Besides, this is quite a sturdy ship. Best in the fleet. Better than the Olympic, and I served there for a time. Some even say this ship's unsinkable, but I wouldn't know of such things." As she spoke she calmly removed the life preserver from Claire's hands and placed it under her arm. She looked at both of them again with a more clinical eye as they stared at her, speechless. "Are you sure you're feeling well?" she asked.
"I suppose we're not quite feeling ourselves," Trevor said cautiously. "Unfortunately we're not feeling each other either."
The nurse laughed. "Oh, Mr. Collins. I've heard of how you carry on so."
Trevor's eyebrows lifted. "Mr. Collins? I'm... Mr. Collins?"
"Yes, of course. What else would I call you?"
"Some people like to call me Trevor. Although it's not what I prefer."
"Really? What name do you prefer?"
"Well I've always liked Cu-"
Claire interrupted him before he could finish, waving him silent.
"Trevor will do fine. Excuse me, but... how did we get here?"
Violet looked at her, puzzeled, as if she were asking obvious questions. "Why you purchased tickets. Most likely boarded at Southampton I imagine."
Behind Violet, Trevor held up the two boarding passes he had found, waving them for Claire to see. Claire looked back to the nurse.
"And well, how do I put this..." Claire decided to ask straight out. "Who are we again?"
The nurse eyed her warily, more concerned by Claire's apparent lack of memory. "Mr. and Mrs. Collins, of course. Are you feeling well?"
Trevor couldn't stop his grin as he enjoyed the expression spreading on Claire's face. Her lips hung in shock.
"Wa-.. wait," she sputtered. "Wait a second. Did you just say Mr. and Mrs.-"
"Collins, yes." The nurse finished for her.
Trevor glanced down at his hand and noticed he had a wedding ring on his finger. "Well I'll be matrimonied." He held it up for Claire to see and raised an amused eyebrow.
Seeing Trevor's ring, Claire looked down to find one on her finger as well. The sight of it was the final straw. She had seen enough. "Ok, that does it! Just what are you trying to pull, Trevor?"
"Don't look at me Claire. For the first time in three thousand years, I'm as clueless as you."
"Yeah right. Like I believe that for a second."
Trevor sighed, feeling a lecture coming. "It's a suprise to me too. Why are you blaming me? I didn't have anything to do with this."
"This has got to be some plan of yours, Trevor. You're probably in cupid-cahoots with that bitter old psychic back where we were."
"Oh sure. I managed to reconstructed an entire 1912 luxury liner on a bartender's salary..."
The nurse watched the two of them as they continued to argue and she felt her concerns ease somewhat. She asked with a smile, "So it seems you've been married for a while?"
Trevor and Claire turned to her and spoke in unison. "We're not married!"
Violet nodded. "I understand. My sister always had the same angry spats with her husband. Argued all the time. They weren't married almost once a week."
Claire turned on the nurse. "Look, to think that I'd be married to this egotistical-"
Trevor decided to play his part. "Now, honey! Be nice."
"-self serving, pig headed, delusional-"
Trevor turned to the nurse. "We fight," Trevor poked at fake tears in the corners of his eyes, "It tears me up, but you know trying love can be..."
"-interfering, busybody, aggravating, ulcer-inducing-"
"Sweetie, can't we all just get along?"
"-one word from me and he's in a mental ward, manipulative....man!"
Trevor only seemed offended by the last. "Man?"
Claire darted towards him. "I said man!" Violet chuckled to herself as she held Claire away from Trevor. Trevor smiled like he always did when he got her to lose her composure. Claire stalked away from the nurse as if she were going to a neutral corner.
Trevor leaned in to whisper to Violet. "I apologize for my wife. She gets like this about this time of the month... if you understand."
The nurse turned instantly to stop Claire again. Behind Violet, Trevor looked with mirth into Claire's face and realized he had teased her enough. He raised his hands in surrender and mouthed I'm sorry to her silently. But he still kept smiling.
Claire seemed to accept his apology and she began to calm down. This wasn't the time or place for an argument with Trevor. Considering she wasn't even certain what this time or place really was.
The nurse stood between them. "Well. I sincerely hope you recover the use of your faculties along with your tongues."
Trevor nodded. "Yes, we're feeling much better. It was just a brief disagreement, nothing to worry about. We always make up later. Sometimes twice. " He turned towards Claire. "I'm sorry I upset you, honeybuns. Hugs and kisses..." he held his arms out to her.
Her expression said it all. "Don't push it, Trevor."
The nurse touched each of their foreheads for a final check of their temperatures. Feeling nothing wrong, she was all smiles and cheerfulness again. "Well, you don't have any fever. And the doctor has instructed me that you are both free to go back to your berth, if you would like. I believe the cabin number should be listed on your tickets. I may be by later to check on your conditions. If you'll wait here, I'll get a steward to lead you back." With that Miss Jessop left the small white room, leaving the two of them alone.
Trevor came closer. "Ok, all kidding aside, Claire. What do you really think is going on?"
"I don't know. But-" Claire knocked on a bulkhead, it rang solidly under her knuckles, "-there's no way this can be what it seems."
Trevor rolled his eyes. "Why can't you just accept something on face value for once..."
She spoke with conviction. "We are not on the Titanic, Trevor."
"You're absolutely right."
Claire looked at him, surprised. "Thank you, Trevor. I didn't expect you to agree."
"Technically we're in the Titanic."
She shook her head. "Well, wherever we are Trevor, it can't really be what it looks like."
The small door opened and they saw the steward waiting in the hallway outside. He looked at both of them. "This way, please."
Claire walked out with Trevor right behind her. He spoke over her shoulder.
"You know, Claire. If you really don't believe any of this is real I could test it and pinch you."
"Don't you dare!" she said instantly. "I know where you'd pinch."