Monday, February 13, 2012

I Will Go Down With This Ship

As they watched the last of the lifeboats pull away from the stricken vessel, the golden-haired man took her hand and held it tight.
“You should have gone with them,” the captain said, each word soft and broken. “There was no need for you to stay.”
“Yes,” came another voice; both turned their heads slightly to find silver eyes accusing upon them both. Their owner leaned against the railing, back purposefully presented to the shadows that disappeared into the darkness upon the water. “Yes, you should have gone with them, and me with you.”
The golden-haired man shook his head. “No,” he said, simple and honest. His hand tightened. Though her fingers trembled, his remained as steady as the shore they had long since lost sight of. “No, my place is here.”
The man, silver both of eye and of hair, shook his head and looked away in disgust. But even as he watched the winking lights of salvation drift further into the desolate distance, he made no motion to jump overboard, to join them. He’d made his own decision long ago.
The captain, still with the golden-haired man’s hand about hers, turned. There were others who had chosen to stay upon the deck of the sinking ship. Two women stood together, both dark of hair; one was far taller, her hair in elegant spirals to match the graceful lines of her burgundy evening gown. The other, her arm firmly about that slim waist, wore her hair ragged and loose, her heavy skirt flaring out in a riot of bright colour.
“Don’t say anything,” the gypsy-girl said before the captain could speak. “I ain’t going nowhere. I know where I’m needed.”
“But it doesn’t matter,” she replied, her dark eyes swimming with tears. “This is my ship. You don’t have to stay.”
“We helped build it.” The tall woman’s words were even and brooked no nonsense, nor even any reply. “We’re entitled to make that choice for ourselves.”
But the captain had to wonder otherwise. The lady-knight would go nowhere without her companion, and the gypsy-girl had been the first to refuse to disembark. “We’ve only just met,” she had said, managing to be somehow both sensible and utterly ridiculous in the same breath. “I can’t leave you here all alone now!”
But the other couple had no such excuse. They’d been present almost the very longest, he dark of hair and so very tall next to the woman’s tiny stature. Her own blonde hair seemed darker than normal in the chill midnight air, but her face had become almost as pale as his.
“If you’re scared, I can call a boat back.”
The blonde girl started, then looked over. Her rounded features held a rueful expression. “I think I understand better than anyone that this is where I’m meant to be,” she said, and gave her tall companion a small smile. “Besides, he wouldn’t go without me…and I suppose all endings should go out with a song.”
He nodded, eyes bright with a dark amusement as he lifted his violin. “What would everyone like, then? A dirge, a jeremiad? Or maybe just some Glenn Miller, to be really perverse about it…?”
“I’m thinking something some The Fountain,” volunteered the gypsy-girl, and then looked wounded at the look this earned her from her knight. “What? I can watch incomprehensible art-house films when I want to, thank you very much!”
“But not Together We Will Live Forever,” the captain spoke up, sudden and very nearly violent. The black-haired violinist frowned.
“But that’s the simplest piece, as a solo.”
“Make do.” She paused, again nearly on the verge of tears. “Please.”
He sighed, even as the golden-haired man gave him a pleading shrug. “Death Is The Road To Awe, then,” he said, and cast the steep incline of the boat’s deck an incurious look. “By the time we need serious accompaniment, I don’t think it’ll matter much anyway.”
“Fair enough,” said the last of her companions. A young man with tangled brown hair, dressed in hoodie and jeans, moved up the deck from the waterline that crawled ever further upward, even as the boat’s unnatural incline grew steeper. “Might as well make the most of it. Too bad I didn’t bring a viola or something, I could have helped out.”
The dark-haired man shrugged, violin already under his chin. The mournful first notes began to murmur into the darkness moments later, and the boat seemed to sigh beneath them. Its time drew nigh, and it knew it. Even so, the captain looked to the brown-haired man and gave a wry smile.
“Are you sure about this?”
He only shrugged. “Doesn’t make much difference to me,” he observed. “Besides, Morgan’ll bring her boat back around to see if a decent drowning’s done me a bit of good. I’ll be fine.”
“But this is a different kind of death.” She swallowed hard. “You might not live through this one.”
“In the end, none of us might – whether we’re here with you, or drifting somewhere in the darkness out there.” He waved a hand, and then slung the whole arm companionably around her shoulders as he looked to the violinist. “Huh. If I’d known how bad you’d gotten I’d have hired a dance band to play Abide With Me.”
She smiled, even as the tears began to fall. “I don’t think it makes any difference,” she whispered. “Though…having you here…”
As if on cue, they stepped forward. Even as the deck tilted alarmingly, the captain sank to her knees with the golden-haired man always at her side. He wrapped his arms around her; on the other side, the gypsy girl did the same, burying her head in her neck. The elegant lady-knight put her own arms about the girl, and the blonde girl knelt before her captain, arms about her waist. The brown-haired youth put his arms about the captain’s shoulders, face buried in her hair. “I suppose it’s almost time,” he whispered, and she shivered at the light touch of his breath against her throat.
“I guess so,” she murmured back, as the silver-haired man curved his body against the side of the golden-haired man he would never leave. The captain looked up, felt comfort in the distant twinkle of the lifeboats in the distance even as the ship beneath her gave a dreadful groan. The musician stuttered in his playing, and she could feel the little group losing traction. The cold dark water awaited, patient as always, enduring in its knowledge that one day she would give in to its sinister siren call.
“It’s time,” she whispered, and held out her hand. The musician paused, and then raised the violin to his chin again.
“I’ll play on.” And as the captain closed her eyes, waiting for the end, she heard his music rising, ever seeking the crescendo that would signal the enlightenment that waited only at the end of all things.
Then the water swallowed them all whole, and she knew no more.

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