This story is by Trynda E. Adair and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“I don’t care,” Paimon growled, a hand touching her upper arm, “you stand more a chance of surviving in that rickety lifeboat than on the deck of this ship with me.” He stepped them closer to the lifeboat hanging over the painted side of the iron titan.
Chthonia’s eyes focused on Paimon’s pale face before looking to the white boat adorned with the red flag and white star of the White Star Line company. The number seven attached to the tip of the boat filled the pit of her stomach with dread as a single thought occupied her mind. How, in all the thousands of years in her undead life, had she never learned to swim?
“I’ll not leave you.” Chthonia whispered, she would rather sink to the bottom of the Atlantic than leave his side, regardless of her swimming abilities.
Hands colder than even she was, touched either side of Chthonia’s face and guided her to look up at Paimon’s silver eyes filled with the panic he kept from showing on his calm facade.
“You can, and you will, because I am giving you a command.” As he spoke, the pointed white tips of his fangs pointed out from his top lip; Paimon had to be struggling with the racing heartbeats rushing around them, just as Chthonia was. It wasn’t often Paimon issued orders as an elder, but when he did, she knew it was serious. “Listen to the officers. Ships are on the way, get on the first one you can.” Paimon pressed his lips against Chthonia’s, before breaking away and leaving only their foreheads touching, “You know when the sun rises.”
Paimon pulled away before she could argue, stepping them closer to the lifeboat.
Chthonia wanted to resist, but something at the back of her mind kept her mouth clamped shut. If it was because of some instinct to obey her elder imposed by their curse, she couldn’t tell. The mouthwatering waves of adrenaline and sweet fresh blood drifting from the mortal passengers and crew were already too overwhelming.
“Officer, my wife please.” Paimon called over the venting steam to the young man dressed in a deep navy overcoat with bronze White Star Line buttons helping first class women and children into the boat. The man nodded with a subdued polite smile and reached to take her hand if asked.
In a daze, Chthonia grabbed her long pale blue dress made of silk and lace in a matching gloved hand before stepping into the boat. Her heeled shoe hesitated on the slanting deck as she was about to leave. The mortals wouldn’t have noticed the gradual starboard list the ship had taken on, but their heightened immortal senses had noticed soon after a great shudder had rumbled through her fixtures.
Chthonia looked back to Paimon, standing away from the thin crowds gathering in the chilled air to push loved ones into a boat, with his unusually serious gaze locked on her. Chthonia had sworn to never leave his side again, no matter what. She continued in, the iron davits moaning under her extra weight as she lowered down to the hard flat seat wondering why she’d done as Paimon commanded.
“I’ll find you.” She said no louder than if speaking to the woman beside her, knowing his supernatural hearing would no doubt catch her words over the steam and crew shouting orders.
A weak smile spread across Paimon’s lips, displaying his fangs once more, not that any of the frightened men and women dressed in their expensive evening dress took notice.
“You always do.” The words were as clear as Chthonia expected.
The boat dropped, causing several of the surrounding women to gasp as their hearts jumped in their chests. Bit by bit they lowered toward the black sea below until the Promenade deck was high above and Paimon was no longer in Chthonia’s line of sight.
Water surrounded the bottom of the vessel and before it had time to settle, freezing water bubbled up through a circular hole. Chthonia froze. Others pulled hats and garments from their outfits to plug the hole as heartbeats irrupted inside her head. Jolts of pain filled Chthonia’s jaw as fangs descended and her thirst for blood pulled at the control she couldn’t afford to lose if she was to survive the night in a boatful of frightened humans. The wood cracked and splintered as her fingers anchored Chthonia to the wood seat.
A collective sigh of relief sounded as the water stopped even if they were sitting with their feet submerged in ice cold water.
Chthonia closed her eyes, doing her best to ignore the intoxicating cocktail of blood, fear, and panic as they drifted next to the black hull. She hung onto Paimon’s words like a lifeline, trying to push aside any thoughts of tearing out her companion’s throats.
Rage filled her at first, more so at herself for not protesting, but the fire in her chest faded the more she thought of her immortal lover. Paimon still had to find his own way from the sinking ocean-liner, lest he meet his end to the sun amongst the dead and the debris.
Chthonia couldn’t help but wonder if her fate would be much different. The panicked chatter Paimon overheard from the wireless room said ships were on the way, but who’s to say they would arrive. Humans, Chthonia had learned, were not always as dependable as they liked to claim.
Her ears reached out across the water, away from the heartbeats and muffled cries surrounding her. She needed to know if Paimon was off the sinking ship. Would he even be able to get away? Most lifeboats had only allowed women and children to enter their unstable, but safe vessels.
The massive titan groaned as water continued to fill her compartments. Screams echoed across the wood decks, growing louder and louder as time seemed to drag from one minute to the next. Gunshots echoed out from one corner of the deck and over the surface of the water.
Explosions thundered from below the surface of the water before a great groan cried out from the belly of the ship.
Chthonia’s eyes snapped open to see the bow all but consumed, the stern hanging high in the brisk evening air.
Lights with a now dull reddish tint flickered as screams of those left aboard intensified. Bursts of deep orange and yellow tore through the middle of the ship, tearing a massive hole in the middle of the iron titan. The aft part of the ship, with its three massive propellers slammed back into the ocean displacing any water in its way. The bow descended below the surface of the water, leaving the aft section drifting alone for a few moments before also being dragged down to the depths of the Atlantic.
At first the screams were all Chthonia could hear alongside the splashing of those who tried to swim in the frigid waters.
Some in the boat argued they should go back for survivors, but the others decided it too dangerous. The cries for help faded until only the sound of water against wooden lifeboats and soft whimpers of fresh widows remained.
Unsinkable they said.
“What do we do now?” One of the ladies behind her asked after some time drifting in silence.
“That’s a good question.” Chthonia whispered to herself, frantic hearts hammering in her ears as she looked across the endless surface of water dotted with what remained of the R. M. S. Titanic and her passengers. Who was to say when rescue would arrive?
For the first time in centuries Chthonia felt the fear of certain death creeping into the back of her mind as they drifted through the dark with only the company of a few twinkling stars.
Maybe it would have been better to go down with the ship than wait for dawn to come.