This story is by Viktor Riley and was part of our 2020 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I will be leaving a few details out. Otherwise, your mind would never fully recover.”
The last thing I could recall was being prepped for surgery. Between going under and waking up, someone must have moved me, for when I awoke, I found myself inside a snug vintage room.
The golden glow of incandescent lighting illuminated the room from a mirrored vanity. It took the place of a nightstand against the white wood-paneled walls. Slowly, I sat up on the side of the bed. Across from me was an exquisite victorian sofa. Short red curtains were drawn tightly above it.
Standing from the bed, I felt unsynchronized from my body. I dismissed it as a lingering side effect from the anesthesia; it obfuscated my perception. Hazily, I reached out for the curtains but froze in horror. I had no arms, much less a body to go with them. Looking down in disbelief, I stared at the green carpet’s diagonal patterns.
Moments passed before I hesitantly turned to the mirror. The perfectly made bed caught my attention before I dubiously peered into the mirror with anxiety. Strong feelings of dread quickly consumed me, for I had no reflection. I didn’t know what I was expecting to see. A ghost perhaps?
Reaching out for the mirror, my hand never made contact. Instead, my body phased into a similar unlit room that mirrored mine. Strangely, I was still able to perceive the details of the room, but not colors. The significant difference was an elderly couple who were silently slumbering in each other’s embrace, like a child with a teddy bear.
Sorry, I tried to whisper, but nothing came out.
Discombobulated, I found myself floating backwards. I phased back into the room I awoke in. My racing thoughts began to compile scenarios in an attempt to make sense of things.
Was I dead?.
Was I still under?
The awful screech of grinding metal halted my concentration. It jarred my thoughts while jolting my vision.
What the f…
I ceased mid-thought, as everything halted with an eerie silence that allowed my vision and mind to stabilize. Cautiously, I floated towards the only doorway at the foot of the bed. Phasing to the other side, I found a long elegant hallway. Matching walls, carpet, and rows of doors on both sides reminded me of a hotel more than a hospital.
Maybe I was a ghost?
I entertained the thought briefly before making my way down the right side. My desire to escape to somewhere more familiar was more potent than my curiosity about what was happening to me. My movement was ethereal, for I didn’t seem bound by the laws of physics. I manifested at the end of the hallway, moving with more velocity than I could comprehend. To me, I teleported before phasing through yet another doorway.
It led to an open marble-floored lobby with a grand staircase ascending in the front and descending behind. I needed a vantage point, and I needed it now. Instead of taking the stairs, I simply levitated upwards. My incorporeal form manifested at the top floor of the staircase parallel to the balcony. The ceiling was a magnificent glass dome with a beautiful view of a star-filled night sky.
It distracted me momentarily from the dozens of wealthy-looking individuals in dated tuxedos and gaudy evening gowns. They appeared to be going down the stairs, frantically. The odd part was that they were all motionless as if doing the mannequin challenge.
Time to leave
Phasing through the glass dome, I was getting… my hopes up. I was not going anywhere anytime soon. I seemed to be stuck on a cruise ship, but at least I had a gorgeous view of the night sky. I hovered for a moment. The quiet helped ease my mind, and I found clarity in the situation.
Sound resumed with distortion, as time began to flow again slowly. So much, that the smoke billowing from her stacks moved slower than a cloud on a calm day. The flow of time seemed to be connected to my thoughts. I tried to control it as if it were a lucid dream.
I thought while I imagined a stop sign. The eerie silence filled my mind once more, as everything smoothly came to a halt once again.
This time I visualized an arrow like that of a play button on a remote control. Sound resumed at its normal pace and tone. I watched a handful of people quickly descend the staircase in a hustle. The rest left more casually.
I envisioned an hourglass in the middle of its cycle, except the sand was falling upwards. The passengers moved in reverse, as their garments flowed unnaturally. With the hourglass still envisioned in my mind, I made the sand move faster. All sound became unintelligible as time rapidly rewound as far as it could.
Everything stopped when all the sand from the hourglass was inside the top chamber. I tried imagining it with more sand, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not go back to before I woke up. Whatever I was experiencing seemed nearly unbound by space or time.
Being unable to rewind time past waking up, I watched the dream play out. Following the group of people descending the staircase, I quickly found myself on the cruise liners deck. Curiously, I floated off the starboard side to do a lap around the vessel’s hull to see her name. It would have been difficult had I possessed a physical form. But as an incorporeal consciousness, I was able to phase between her and a large white rocky island with ease. It resembled the isle of Es Vedrà in the Mediterranean sea.
I recognized the ship from my childhood, but had never heard of her colliding with anything. Imagining the hourglass again, I rewound time to nearly the beginning while levitating above for a bird’s eye view. Luckily, the collision was a glancing blow that veered the vessel to the left, seemingly undamaged by it.
I manifested my consciousness to the ship’s bow. Adults in raggedy slacks held up by suspenders kicked small bits of debris around the damp deck while the crew used the fire hoses to declutter the deck. It wasn’t long before the passengers quickly resumed celebration under the full moon. The accident didn’t faze them.
Within the hour, chaos rapidly ensued. Partially filled lifeboats were prematurely launched as they paddled to safety. They never returned for survivors out of fear of capsizing. Terror permeated the crisp air as the slowly sinking ship suddenly went under in a torrent of waves. The remaining passengers thrashed in the water, as their cries for help echoed into the void. I stayed behind with them, as the moonlight reflected off their pale, shivering hopeful faces. One by one, the night grew more silent as they slowly expired in the icy waters while waiting to be rescued.
Wait… What the Hell was happening? Did I just experience hundreds of deaths?
I needed a moment to process everything. The experience was too vivid and horrific to be a lucid dream; it was unlike anything I could have imagined. She sailed over 29 years before sinking. All but her maiden voyage was under the command of my great-granduncle, Captain Hayden Skylar.
A fishing vessel trying to ride the cruise liners wake got sucked under by her powerful propellers. The small, rugged frame got wedged between the propellers, detonating the main engine. Both vessels sank in a fiery blaze just miles off the coast of Florida on Monday, May 12th, 1941. There were no survivors of the U.S.S. Titanic.
I’m sorry, I should have mentioned earlier that I will be leaving a few details out. Otherwise, your mind would never fully recover. I wish I had told you that from the start, but it’s not like I am a time traveler or anything.
Everything feels cold…
The sound of a flatline engulfed the room. A team of surgeons and medical technicians surrounded a patient; they appeared to have stopped mid procedure. A surgeon spoke, her mask slightly muffling her commanding tone.
“Mark the procedure as a failure. Patient Skylar suffered a massive spike in brain activity lasting just seconds after successfully implanting the S.T.A.S.H. chip. Cause of death: electrocution.”
A toneless voice interrupted from an overhead intercom.
“Doctors, we are still getting a signal from the Space Time Augmented Stasis Hurdle; it’s still fully operational. Cryopreserve the body immediately, and attempt to extract any information from the S.T.A.S.H. chip without disrupting the stasis field. Project S.T.A.S.H. is still on schedule for the next phase in three weeks. Tell the other eleven candidates that patient Skylar’s tumor herniated during the procedure.”