Gabriel loves to write stories: long; short; funny; sad or scary; fact or fiction. As long as there's an opportunity to create a story...
Standing on the crowded dock, Berth 44 - I inspected the monstrositiy in front of me, my neck bent awkwardly backwards, slightly to one side: a grotesque vision to any observer not equally as enthralled with the gigantic ocean liner dwarfing the impressive harbour of Southampton. I counted ten decks, or was it eleven. I kept getting confused with the hundreds of windows and portholes. Some 2,200 people were said to be aboard, passengers and crew. I didn’t need to wonder what windows harboured the emigrants searching for a better life. Dreaming of the green fields across the Atlantic. I rubbed the back of my neck and decide to retreat from the threating rain. The pier was awash with curious spectators more interested in watching the rich and famous in their gaudy get-up wave from their luxurious surroundings than the ship itself. And what a ship!
She was hailed the largest and the most luxurious of all ships. I didn’t doubt she was the largest. Any fool standing on Southampton docks could tell you that. I tucked my paper under my arm and went in search of a drink. All that craning and glaring had left me thirsty.
Settled in a comfortable chair I took a long sip of ale and laid my paper on the table. A roaring fire and soft chatter from the other punters created a homely environment. It was too early to go home and the April afternoons still grew cold very quickly, it was warm here, not like my digs. I looked down at the front page and read: 10th April 1912: The White Star Liner Titanic sets sail…
The Titanic embarks on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City. Entertainment on this luxury ocean liner will surely see the journey eclipse for the folk in first class. Will there be sufficient time for all that pampering with Turkish baths, swimming bath, reception rooms, parlour suites, gymnasium, concert-halls and Parisian cafes. One can only ponder if Cunard’s fleets are feeling a tad under pressure with certain proclaims surrounding the Titanic ocean liner: the biggest, the best, the most luxurious, the unsinkable, what if anything can Cunard do to keep their customers aboard their own lesser ocean liners. The proof will certainly be waiting at Berth 59, when this glorious ship so called after the Titans of Greek mythology ends her maiden voyage April 17th in New York City!
I wouldn’t have given another thought to the Titanic if it hadn’t sunk four days later in the North Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg. More than half the people on the ship died. I sat in the same tavern with my paper reading all about it: 15th April 1912: The White Star Liner Titanic sinks…
The biggest ship in the world - the Titanic has sunk after hitting an iceberg at 11.40pm on April 14thapproximately 600 km south of Newfoundland. Those poor souls whom didn’t make it to one of the twenty life boats are believed to have perished in the - 2°C freezing waters. More than 1,500 people, passengers and crew presumed dead…
What a way to go, heart failure or hypothermia in the middle of the night in a freezing vast ocean. I could hardly bare to think about it. The following days all the newspapers were dedicated to the sinking of the Titanic and the hundreds of people who drowned. The rich, the famous, the crew, the emigrants all brought together as one disastrous bulletin, day after day. Who was at fault? – the Belfast shipyard where she was built? Harland and Wolff? Her architect, Thomas Andrews? Her Captain, Edward Smith? The owner, J. Bruce Ismay? The huge expectations of the Titanic ocean liner now lay at the bottom of the deep blue sea along with one of the world’s best kept secretes – who or what was behind the sinking of the world’s biggest ship?
I didn’t know the answer and I was damned if I was going to write another article for the damned newspaper. I didn’t even want to read it. I drank the last of my ale and threw my paper into the fire and headed out into the cold April evening wondering sadly what – 2 °C felt like and whether I would have tried to take my shoes off.
“Hey! Hey you!’’
I turned around wondering if perhaps I had left something behind me in the tavern. A tall, thin woman stood in front of me, a heavy shawl covering her head, the shadows from the pale street lights hiding her face.
“You’re John Biggs? Right?’’
“I might be. Who are you?’’ I leaned against the cold wall and light a cigarette. I was used to people asking if I was John Biggs. Yeah! I’m John Biggs the journo. That’s me! So what!
“You might want to read this. It seems the answer to your question happened fourteen years ago.”
I leaned over and took what looked like a small book. I could just about make out the word – Titan, scrawled across the front.
“What the hell?’’ I asked looking up. But she was gone. The empty cobbled street stretched out before me. The pale glow from the street lights growing paler as the cold night desended and in the far-off distance the faint echo of fleeting footsteps disappeared into the darkness…
© 2022 Gabriel Wilson