I found myself waking from an accidental nap in the first-class diner at what I would’ve assumed to be, from the darkness shown through the window, quite late into the night. Although I knew I should’ve transferred myself to the comfort of my suite, I no longer felt any desire to sleep, so I stood up and walked placidly out the room. I wondered why no staff had bothered to ask me to leave, and also why the doors hadn’t been locked, however hardly cared to investigate. It felt as if the night were simply calling me – to explore the parts of the boat I had not yet seen. And of course, I would never go against the night’s wishes.
I strode purposely down random hallways, my dress swinging slightly to the rocking of the boat at my heels. It was an elegant, ankle-length piece – a lovely shade of blue – displaying a fine work of detailed silver embroidery. I couldn’t remember in the moment where I’d gotten it from, but I knew I must’ve bought it with my necklace, as it matched perfectly. If I was like the scrawny third-class women who played by the rules, I would’ve been politely been retreating back to my suite to change into my night gown and sleep. Proudly, I made my way down to the lowest part of the ship, near the deafening engines, knowing my dress highlighted me in all my beauty in every way so, despite the fact there was no one to see it.
I’d heard a few rumors there was an accursed Egyptian mummy somewhere on our cruise ship – a sarcophagus that wherever it went, tragedy was caused. Whether that tragedy was death, disease or misery it never ended up positively. However, these were rumors, and were incredibly unlikely to be true, yet nonetheless I was eager to at least see the mummy. Artifacts like such had always fascinated me, and if there was one aboard, I at least had to see it before we disembarked in New York. We would arrive on the 17th, and it was currently either late at night on the 14th or early in the morning on the 15th, so I only had about forty-eight hours to explore the ship entirely, and there were never many opportunities for that. Any I received; I would take.
Any room that was unlocked I burst into and searched. I passed a couple people who had strayed to similar parts of the ship as me: not to find the mummy, but simply to stretch their legs in the cool April night air. Or at least that’s what I assumed, as I didn’t stop to ask, determined as I was to find the artefact before dawn. Through and through countless neatly arranged, sophisticated corridors; in and into immeasurable rooms I had no clue what use they had. No amount of sauntering up and down the boat tired me, as my enthusiasm fueled me like a drug. Just as I began to hear commotion begin to upsurge presumably for sunrise, I found an almost empty room, except for something that made my eyes widen and my cheeks dimple in pleasure.
It sat prized pushed up against the wall at the back. There were no windows in the room, but the commotion muffled through walls was still increasing all around me, so if there were, they probably would’ve helpfully filtered in light, as the room needed some, being so dimly lit by the dingy lamp in the corner. The walls and inner side of the door were significantly less elaborate than any other room I’d walked into. I noticed whilst examining the door that the handle seemed only weakly attached to the main body of it, which indicated it had originally been locked, and only by luck – or pure strength of muscle – had I managed to break in.
I marveled at the beauty in front of me. Clearly ancient, yet so stunningly and carefully carved: everything I’d expected and more. I couldn’t help but stand and gape for a while – although I’d been so convinced, I’d find it, I was still genuinely shocked I had. Soon enough, my hands were roaming its surface area impatiently, fingers tracing every miniscule carving to the great gaping ones which rimmed the face. I inspected all the wears in the pigment and the delicate patterns so intensely it was as if I was trying to learn them off by heart. It was quite cracked in some areas, yet that only increased my interest. I wondered what materials it consisted of, how old it was, who’s dead body lay inches beneath my fidgeting hands. An ancient dead body lay inches beneath my hands – I squirmed happily, bursting with glee.
I was aroused from my thoughts when something burst open the weak door. I turned abruptly on my heels, ready to throw hands with anyone who wished to take me away from the sarcophagus. My sarcophagus. How could anyone expect me to let it go now? It was mine. Mine, mine, mine, and only mine.
“Are you alright–”
My head snapped up so painfully quick I heard it click. I hadn’t noticed it drop down to stare at the floor, but clearly it had. A man. Oh no. A man. I had said I’d stay away from men. Tall. Brown hair. Perfectly permed curls of chocolate. Eyes, too, the perfect shade. Perfect. All he was: perfect. How could he be anything else? He was a man. Too perfect; I had to stay away.
Breathing shaky, I managed to utter. “Can you leave?”
“That’s what I said.”
He stared harshly into my eyes. I was supposed to be the dominant one, as I was first class, and my dress looked simply faultless. Nobody could disobey me when I looked so gorgeous.
“I will not leave.” He looked me up and down, seeming completely disinterested in how attractive my dress must’ve looked. “The mummy – move out my way. I need to see it.”
I think I fell in love with him then.
Disinterested in me, however interested in the artefact. It was horribly cruel how that was what got me hooked. I was shaking from his wrath as I stepped obediently aside for him to walk calmly back into my place and begin to do the things to my sarcophagus I had done. His fingers wandered the same routes as mine had, up and down the carvings. They looked even better when he touched them, like his touch was magic, a beautifier. I’d memorized the scuffs and faults, though, and they seemed the same. It was witchcraft, yet I knew he was far from being a witch. He was simply a man.
He stood up straight again and locked eyes with me. There was a cold silence in the room, but not on the whole boat. Commotion continued elsewhere.
“You know it’s cursed?” We said in perfect unison.
There was a crash that shook the boat from its gentle rocking on the ocean, and sent me crashing into his arms. He held me warmly until the disturbance ceased, but when he let me go, I felt a disappointment hit my stomach in a blow far, far worse than whatever had troubled the boat. The commotion picked up into screaming and crying. My first assumption of what had just occurred was almost instantly confirmed by the man, still too close for my breathing to regulate. “We’re sinking,” he said so calmly he made the idea of getting swallowed up by the great water body of the ocean seem as fun an experience as going to a theme park. Usually, this would have greatly concerned me – for I wished not to die so gorgeous and young – but the way his eyes strolled about my body, tinted ever so slightly with concern, made my insides threaten to spill just so he’d wrap his arms around me as we slowly bobbed towards our doom.
However, his eyes left me swiftly when he, all of a sudden, marched out. I needn’t think before my legs were hastily taking me after him, unfeeling on if he was taking me to my death. The hem of my dress danced about my ankles like earlier, but this time I didn’t care how beautiful I looked. I was so focused on ensuring the crowds didn’t gulp him up and cause me to lose sight of him busying themselves in the corridors of the boat. I heard a mix of words, all speculation on what was happening. Intrigued as I was, I didn’t stop to listen. Him. I was following him.
We surfaced on the deck of the colossal cruise ship after a while of wading through panicked third and second class. I expected him to turn and face me, perhaps to tell me what was going on, as he seemed to know quite well, but he stormed right up to a crew member, his face thunder.
He snarled, “You crashed the ship, didn’t you, you great idiots?”
The crew member glared steadily back at him. His lips stayed press tight and he seemed to be signaling at a group of women attempting to begin filing onto the lifeboats without permission. At last, he spoke: “If you have a complaint, please speak to Captain Smith.”
The man I’d been following seemed to be boiling with annoyance. “If Captain Smith couldn’t manage to stop the ship from crashing into a stray iceberg–”
Just as if he had been summoned, the man was cut off by a great hush that spread across the ship’s deck. Someone who was clearly the captain the two had been talking about stood on a crate in the center of the bustle. He raised a megaphone to his excessive beard-rimmed lips and announced formally: “The ship has struck an iceberg. We have under two hours to evacuate everyone before it will sink below the water. Women and children first onto the lifeboats, please.”
I stopped in my tracks, my jaw threatening to fall off. The man I’d followed was somehow near me again, grabbing my hand and leading me away from the lifeboats. I tried to protest, yet my mouth was glued shut, and his fingers were laced strongly with mine, and showed no signs of budging. He only stopped when we reached the very tip of the boat. His face was now serene as ever, nothing like how he’d scowled daggers at that crew member. He turned to me, still hand in hand, and stared deeply into my eyes, before nodding to the ocean, a painful leap away below us. “Does this seem like the right place to jump?” Once again, his voice held no sign of fear.
“W-women a-a-and children, he said,” I stammered, lips numb. “I h-have to go. Women and children. Lifeboat…”
“Don’t trust them. They don’t even have enough lifeboats to fit half the passengers on this boat, you know? And you’ll probably die of pneumonia, anyway, even if you manage to secure yourself one.”
I gawked at him. “You want to make the final jump together – you want to commit suicide with me? I- I don’t even know your name! You don’t know mine–”
Malcolm. Malcolm. Of course, it was Malcolm. It couldn’t be dull and unattractive. It had to be something like - like Malcolm.
He laughed. Did I show my shock? I realised then how his arms were around my back, propping me up. My legs had been shaking uncontrollably. He was too close. He was too far away.
Malcolm smiled warmly at me, “What’s yours?”
“Well, I want to jump off this ship with you, Darcy.”
He wanted to jump off this ship with me.
And then he kissed me.
Kissed me like we’d known each other for years: it was so gentle and soft, and his lips were slightly parched from the cold, but that made him human. So perfectly human. I was kissing a human, and I never wanted it to stop. Yet when it did, it felt reluctant, and I tap-danced internally. He wanted to kiss me. He wanted to jump off this ship with me. All because of that sarcophagus. My sarcophagus.
“I hope we can do that in heaven.”
And then he grabbed my hand again, clambered over the railings, and jumped. I closed my eyes to plunge into the icy depths, bracing myself for the smashing impact, but I felt none. When I opened my eyes, I took in no sinking boat – I was sitting on a squashy sofa, Africa by Toto alive in my eardrums. It was 1982, and there was absolutely no large body of water insight, waiting to drink me up. No RMS Titanic. Just my living room. And my name was certainly not Darcy. There was that necklace, though. The same one from on the boat - the same one I’d never seen before that… that vision? - it was presently hanging on my neck.