DISCLAIMER: I only own Aibrean Murphy, not the White Star Line or the Titanic or Carpathia. I wrote this as a narrative for my English 131-H class back in August and it's just been collecting dust on my harddrive. I know it's not the movie, but hey, it's the ninety-ninth anniversary today! In rembrance of all those lost we have this story. Title, like all of my Titanic-related ones, comes from the Maury Yeston musical.
Morning in Southampton proves to be a busy one filled with excitement and expectation. The towering height of the ship eclipses everything else, the morning sun losing itself behind one of the Titanic's great, majestic funnels. From the highest deck the people milling below look like ants, their voices lost to the salty wind. Amid that mass stands a woman, red hair coiled tightly into a bun, simple brown dress swishing about her ankles as she walks briskly, squeezing past motorcars and horse-drawn carriages. Her face, porcelain and pleasant, skin dappled with characteristic freckles, is set in a determined expression. She carries with her one simple suitcase, large enough only for her clothes. They'd be all she'd need in America. She dares a look above, shielding her eyes with the cream-colored paper that proudly reads White Star Line: Third Class Ticket. The first-class gangplank extends high above the dock, and she finds herself watching rapturously as one of the women—The Countess of Rothes, maybe?—is escorted up and into the belly of the ship with the poise and grace of the most elegant of swans.
This doe-eyed Irishwoman is Aibrean Murphy, Abe for short, born in Wexford and raised in London. Throughout most of her life she had lived in a small London apartment not too far from the wharf, raised singly by her mother. Her father died before Aibrean was born and was the prime reason her mother had packed up and set off for England. Just recently a strain of scarlet fever had gripped her mother in its fiery claws, and it was only a few meager months after that that she succumbed to the sickness, leaving Aibrean weak and alone and just barely able to pull through it herself. The doctor had ordered all their things be burnt, since they too carried the virus, and Aibrean had no choice but to agree.
No matter how willing she was, it still hurt to see all her mother's possessions shrivel to ashes, black flakes scattering on the wind.
Her mother had been a strong and wise woman, of the same slight build as Aibrean, and the younger Murphy remembers her mother's hands as being gentle yet rough, her voice always kind even when stern. She had wanted nothing more than a better life for her only daughter and the answer for that lay in a little place called America. "In America the streets are paved with gold," her mother had once said, back when Aibrean was a young lass parked at her mother's feet as the elder sewed by dim candlelight. "You'll find much more opportunities there."
Following her mother's death Aibrean took it upon herself to make passage to North America, and now here she is, moments away from boarding the third-class gangplank with a ticket that may as well be made of the gold American streets were supposedly paved out of. High above the horn blows, deafening and exciting all at once. She rushes toward the line of other immigrants, a motley crew of Irish, German, Italian, French, and countless other nationalities Aibrean couldn't even begin to place. With every footstep she's brought closer to the interior of the ship, gangplank reaching out over the small sliver of water like an extended arm.
Aibrean feels like it is God's hand leading her, helping her on the voyage across the Atlantic, and inside her ribcage she feels her heart flutter. Tears spring to her eyes, glistening in the morning light, and she barely hears the steward ask for her ticket over the deafening cries of the well-wishers and press gathered at the very edges of the dock. She steps inside, clutching the well-worn leather handle of her suitcase, and before she knows it her feet are carrying her outside, up to the boat deck. Soon she's squeezing by the other passengers to lean against the railing, morning sun warm on her face, its touch another comforting presence that the Lord who watches all was watching over her. Without her mother by her side it's exactly what she needs.
Down below people wave, goodbyes are yelled, and from Titanic passengers happily return the gestures. Aibrean feels a pinch behind her eyelids, and this time it's an unhappy one. No one was down there for her. She quickly pushes that thought away and breathes in the salty air as the ship is slowly led out of the dock.
The first clue to the disastrous fate of the ship should have been the almost-collision with the small ship the New York. As Titanic was steered out, directed by a tugboat, the suction of the great vessel's wake caused the moorings holding the New York at dock to snap, leaving the smaller ship free to collide with Titanic's hull. She draws close, too close, leaving all watchers and passengers to hold their breath until another tugboat tows the New York away at the last minute.
An anxious feeling crawls up Aibrean's spine as the ship continues on its way, dock becoming smaller as the expanse of water grows larger. A pair of women mutters next to her, their words dark and anxious as they discuss the incident.
"That's a bad omen, that is," says the one with a large, plume-covered hat. "Not good for a ship's maiden voyage. And did you see that they didn't christen her before she left port?"
Her friend nods her agreement, her movements quick and jerky. She adjusts the small black lace-trimmed hat perched atop her blonde hair. "I know. This is a grand vessel, no doubt about it. I wouldn't have paid eighteen-hundred pounds otherwise, but this isn't the smoothest start I've ever seen, never mind some of the passengers."
Aibrean silently agrees, ignoring the jab toward those less-fortunate aboard, but she's read the newspapers and the articles in shipbuilding magazines. Titanic was unsinkable, everyone knew that. There was no need to worry about omens or silly superstitions.
Why, then, did she continue to have this feeling that darkened the morning like an inauspicious storm?
Aibrean spends most of Wednesday and Thursday exploring, too restless to stay inside her room, only retreating from the rapidly chilling air for dinner and to head to her stateroom for sleep she knew wouldn't come until she was past exhausted. She's in love with this ship, and irrevocably so. Down to the fresh white paint and jet-black hull Aibrean's heart is with Titanic as though she were a long-lost lover. From the back of the
stern to the tip of the bow no space is left unnoticed by her keen eyes and avid curiosity. She never believed such an amazing structure would be brought forth by human hands.
The sturdy teak furniture and pine paneling give the third-class general room a somewhat despairing air, and the longer Aibrean can stay away from such dreadful décor the better. The colors are dim, hues subdued, everything screaming welcome to steerage. While her quarters were no better, consisting only of two sets of bunk beds with flimsy cots, flimsier blankets and barely enough room to change in, it was homely and made her feel safe. Her bunkmates, three German girls with stocky figures and nearly indecipherable accents, were the closest to family Aibrean had had in months.
Friday is spent peering over the railing, watching the gentle waves of the ocean roll against the ship's hull. The North Atlantic seems to be particularly welcoming on this day despite her ruthless reputation, and the sky remains bright and clear, not a threatening leaden cloud in sight. Children play on the decks, their squeals of laughter as warming as the sun as they chase each other, weaving through adults' legs with the quickness of garden mice.
Early Saturday morning she runs into the ship's builder, Thomas Andrews, a kind Irish man who's more than glad to explain the ship's infrastructure to her. He takes her on a small tour, writing into his notebook every once in awhile as he surveys the ship, stating how hard something was to design, or how "adding this would change the way ocean liners were built from now on." Aibrean clings onto his every word like an icicle to a tree branch.
"She's as sturdy as you can get," Andrews says near the end of their impromptu tour, a small, proud smile tugging at his lips, as though he were embarrassed to admit his design had been a success and that he had brought forth into reality the largest, grandest ship to ever sail the seas. He tucks the book into his coat pocket, gloved hands clasping modestly together.
"And finely made," Aibrean comments, running a delicate palm over the smooth wooden railing. "She surely is a fantastic liner."
"Thank you, Miss Aibrean," Andrews replies, hand gentle on her shoulder as they descend the boat deck stairs to the middle deck, where he leaves her with a quick goodbye.
On Sunday she skips the onboard church service in favor of braving the chilly air on the boat deck. She emerges from the closed-in passageways and braces herself against the gust of cold air when she opens the door and steps out onto the outside deck. She's mesmerized by the white crest of the waves that trail out to foamy ribbons spread upon the green sea as Titanic cuts her way across the North Atlantic. She retreats to the rows of wooden benches, shivering as she comes in contact with the cold wood. The horizon blends with the sea, an oil painting of stark, vivid colors.
"I'll make something of myself once I get to America," she says aloud, determined, sun sparkling in her eyes like tiny diamonds. "I'll be a governess, a sewing girl. The opportunities are endless!" She punctuates this statement with a flourish of her skirts as she gets up, sending them on a frenzied dance around her ankles. Her arms extend towards the heavens and a smile paints itself onto her face, bright and glorious.
"Just like you wanted, Mother." She closes her eyes, very briefly, and imagines not her mother's last words, but instead the invaluable advice that had been bestowed upon her in her early teen years.
"It takes a lifetime to live, but only seconds to achieve a dream," her mother says, holding Aibrean's hand. "Remember that, little Abe."
"I'm not little anymore," Aibrean huffs, but nods nonetheless.
"Promise me you'll never let anyone tell you that anything is impossible." Mother turns to daughter, red hair gleaming brightly in the sunlight, long and beautiful like Aibrean only wishes hers could be.
"I promise," Aibrean says, confused at the sudden display of overwhelming emotion. Her mother pulls her into a tight hug, and Aibrean doesn't know why, but she feels a lump in her throat and hugs back that much harder. "I promise."
As Titanic sails on, Aibrean's promise becomes more tangible. When she goes down to dinner a few hours later it's with a bounce in her step that adds a swish to her hair, relieved from its bun and falling around her shoulders in scarlet curls, the hair she'd always dreamed of. Only a few more days and she'd be able to make her mother proud.
Like every night since she set out to sea Aibrean is unable to sleep. 11:00P.M. finds her out on the lower decks once again, shawl wrapped tight around her lithe frame, her breath coiling like white snakes, slithering and disappearing into the night. At such an hour the only passengers to be seen are young couples, presumably honeymooners, and crew doing their nightly rounds. Times like these were when Aibrean longed to be up in first-class; though things down below in third-class were quite lively, Aibrean would sometimes give anything for a quiet cup of tea with the refined ladies of North American society, perhaps even sneak into the first-class Smoking Room to see J. J. Astor or Benjamin Guggenheim. She had heard that the Grand Salon was something to be in awe about, but so was everything else in the upper echelons of society. Like every other second- and third-class passenger she was fascinated with the lavish ways of life these millionaires possessed.
She loses track of time, something she had always been chided about, and when she makes her way to the bow a black, hulking mass is looming out of the darkness, dead ahead in the ship's path. She barely has time to try and decipher what it is before collision becomes inevitable and a clamor arises from the crow's nest. A bell is rung, three times in succession, and after that the seconds seem to slow down and stop altogether. The ship begins to turn, just slightly, but not near enough. As they sail closer the skid lights illuminate a gleaming gray mountain of an iceberg. No swells break around its base, no moon hangs in the sky to give its position. The sea is still as slate, sky giving only a slight silvery glow.
When the iceberg hits starboard it's almost like time is in a dream. Ice, broken off from the sudden shudder, falls onto the deck in what seems like slow motion, scattering like breaking glass, shards glistening under the keen eye of the skid lights. Ocular reflections of yellow light from the portholes paint themselves onto the face of the iceberg as the ship sails by. The gentle hum of the engines has ceased. The only sounds remaining come from the alarmed crew and the confused passengers who witnessed the collision. The last clangs of the crow's nest bell seem to ring in the eerily still air, reverberating in shrill, ominous tones. In the water the surface is as smooth as glass, a flat calm that is seemingly unperturbed by the incident. The night seems almost too perfect to harbor such danger, and behind them the iceberg fades innocuously into black.
Aibrean is in shock, puzzled as to why this collision had happened, why there had been little to almost no warning to steer away. Across the deck a few teenage passengers are kicking around a sizeable chunk of ice, laughing raucously, ignorant to the severity of the situation. Aibrean makes her way towards the stairs and ascends them, looking around frantically. The first person she comes in contact with is First Officer Murdoch, though she doesn't dare stop him and ask questions. Sweat beads at his brow line and his eyes are stormy and worried as he walks quickly around the side of the ship and out of sight. A fierce worry starts to mount in Aibrean's stomach. No matter how sturdy Andrews had said this ship was, something was terribly wrong. That terrible screeching noise, the unmistakable crunch and scrape of ripping metal, could only mean that they hadn't just grazed the iceberg.
Her simple white lace shawl and green wool dress dull down the cold only a margin, and it is then that a new nagging fear begins to gnaw at her insides. If it was this cold up above, how cold was the water? Her green eyes widen and her lips part in silent horror. This was the North Atlantic: the air was cold and the water was colder. If Titanic sunk, their only hope would be the lifeboats, which there seemed to be precious few of.
People are beginning to appear on the deck, most clad in just their pajamas. A few sleepy-eyed children, yawning and shivering, cling to their parents' hands, oblivious, while the adults speak in hushed undertones. Aibrean looks around for Mr. Andrews, someone who could surely explain their situation to her, but is unsuccessful. She begins to make her way toward the first-class lounge, and along the way she hears stewards trying to placate the passengers.
"We've likely damaged one of the wing propellers," Aibrean hears.
"The engines will start again soon, ma'am, no need to worry."
She swallows the lump in her throat and trudges on, boots click-clacking on the well-polished wood floors. When she gets up to first-class she tries not to be astounded by the well-decorated Grand Salon and its sweeping staircase and instead tries to focus on finding Andrews. The chandeliers, magnificent and breathtaking, light up the room, dangling crystals shimmering like suspended stars. A thin veil of grayish smoke hovers like a phantasmal presence, and somewhere off to the side the band is playing ragtime. Many, if not all of the first-class passengers are already crowding the room, dressed in a mix of pajamas and evening wear, lifebelts securely fastened underneath jackets and overcoats. Aibrean raises her eyebrows in confusion. When had the order gone out for lifebelts? It surely couldn't be that serious already. Even as she thinks this she realizes that whenever she takes a step she's slightly off-kilter, a sure sign that the ship was listing forward.
The panic she had been trying to push back starts to bubble over, choking her. The situation was becoming all too real: Titanic was sinking in an undetermined amount of time, and yet almost no one was taking it seriously. She flees the Grand Salon and when she gets back outside the lifeboats are starting to be prepared. Andrews is standing next to one of them, just outside the gymnasium. Breathing a sigh of relief Aibrean rushes over to him. The ear-splitting hiss of steam escaping from the funnels is as loud and rushed as a cyclone.
"How much time?" she asks, voice choked, raised to be heard over the din.
He looks at her, eyes dark and solemn, lines creasing his face, lines that weren't there before. "Two hours if we're lucky."
"Two hours?" Aibrean echoes, disbelief tangible in her voice. "That's not enough time, not near enough. I—I don't know the exact body count, sir, but I get the feeling two hours won't even get half the passengers loaded."
The look he gives her is sadly solemn. "Get on a boat as quickly as you can," he instructs her, handing her a lifebelt. She notices that he avoids her statement and knows immediately that she's not the only one aware of the egregious error of both time and lifeboats. "Take this and don't waste time. Once the boats start launching we've only got a minimal window of opportunity to save as many as we can."
Aibrean takes the offered lifebelt with shaking fingers, tears welling up in her eyes. "T-thank you," she whispers, hurriedly lacing it up while Second Officer Lightoller appears to aid with the loading of the boats. She looks around, noticing the men and women in various states of dress. A few could be seen in warmer garb, obviously having taken the warnings to heart. Amidst the scores of people, though, Aibrean could see no third-class passengers. An uneasy feeling knots in her stomach. Suppose the barriers between the class areas of the ship hadn't been moved?
The ship's captain, Edward J. Smith, appears next to Lightoller on the boat deck. He betrays no emotion as the two hold a brief conversation before he leaves, moving as mechanically as a robot back to his quarters. Aibrean watches as what feels like a hand squeezes mercilessly at her heart.
"Women and children first!" Lightoller yells while two stewards begin grabbing the aforementioned from the throng to load them into the first lifeboat. Aibrean glances quickly around before she backs into the crowd. She can't bring herself to load the first lifeboat, not with distraught families being separated. The women with families deserved to have a first shot at getting to safety first. Aibrean was just a lowly third-class girl; what right did she have taking a spot away from a mother and a child?
The sound of strings comes from near the bow's end of the boat deck, and it takes a few seconds for Aibrean's panic-riddled mind to comprehend that the band has appeared on the boat deck, instruments and all, and were continuing with their theme of ragtime.
Pandemonium begins to set in as the people onboard start to realize that this is far from a simple precaution. The once-magnificent liner is beginning to list, bow sinking down enough to cause a slight incline. The masses scramble for a seat on the lifeboats; fathers are torn from their families as their wives and children bid them tearful goodbyes. People begin launching themselves off the railing of the boat deck, landing down below with muffled splashes. The sky is still calm as the water raises higher and higher, the murky depths looming like an icy monster. Aibrean looks on with mounting sadness as men plead with the crewmen working the boats to "spare me a seat, please; my wife and child are on here."
All those pleas fall on deaf ears, the officers sticking with the rigid "women and children first" rule. Aibrean watches as George Widener is separated from his wife, the two sharing a tearful goodbye as she's pried from his grasp and loaded into a boat. "Don't lose hope," he calls, still reaching out toward her. "We'll meet tomorrow."
The list becomes more evident as water streams in the gash torn down Titanic's flank. Now that the inevitable fate of the ship is becoming apparent lifeboats are being launched completely full, whereas before, due to the insecurity of the officers in charge and their fears that the boats could possibly buckle under the weight of too many passengers, their capacities were not being met. Water begins to flood the lower decks where just hours before Aibrean had stood and watched the iceberg hit. People start to head aft as the stern flies up toward the sky, silhouetted by the light of millions of stars. Only two lifeboats remain. Aibrean looks at the one closest to her, then at the rising stern.
"Anyone else?" an officer calls. Two crewmen placed there to work the oars stand in the lifeboat. Aibrean bites her lip, breathing in the cold air that stings her nostrils. She makes a break for it.
A dark, terrifying chasm rests between the smooth white edge of the lifeboat and the starboard rails of the ship. Aibrean swallows, uneasy, and balks for a second, afraid of falling the eleven stories that make up Titanic's height and down into the cold North Atlantic waters.
"Ma'am, it's alright," one of the crewmen says, his voice pleading and just this side of impatient. "Step into the boat. I've got you, love." He extends a hand and Aibrean takes it, closing her eyes as she leaps onto the boat. She doesn't realize that she's been holding her breath until the soles of her boots connects with the seat of the lifeboat and she releases the air she'd been holding in with a whoosh. Before she's even turned to sit down a man leans over the railing, placing a small child, a boy no older than four, into her arms. He's wailing loudly, face blotched red from cold and exertion. Tears roll down his round cheeks in swift waves, like water cascading down a mountain slope.
"He has no mother," the man says in a thick French accent, his brown eyes wide and brimming with unshed tears of his own. "He's all I have, and I want him to have a better chance." Aibrean opens her mouth to reply but finds that words have left her. She can only nod and hold tighter to the boy as Lightoller signals for the men to start working the pulleys.
"His name is Caleb. Caleb Lambert," the man says again, voice constricted as the lifeboat begins its slow, tedious descent. "Keep him safe." Caleb begins a fresh wave of crying, and Aibrean pulls him close and wraps her shawl around his small frame, murmuring gently to him. She closes her eyes tightly and strokes his mop of brown hair, fingers trembling against his scalp.
"Remember your father," she says softly. "He was a brave, noble man."
"Careful, men, careful," Lightoller orders as he instructs the crewmen working the pulleys to work left, then right in a slow, steady motion. The davits creak under the weight of the boat, and Aibrean suddenly has a terrifying vision of the rope breaking
loose and the lifeboat tumbling down ten stories into the water. As she peers over the side, she suddenly realizes: the ship is mainly underwater. Ten stories have become two, three if she's lucky. The tears fall, then, rolling in hot trails down her blotched cheeks. She pulls her shawl around her shoulders, pulling Caleb closer as the panicked noises from above decrescendo as they near Titanic's hull. A child sobs, its voice cutting into the night. Its mother comforts it, little shh noises that do little to placate it.
As their lifeboat is being lowered to the water another one, number thirteen, is being launched at the exact same time. The crewmen working the pulleys in Aibrean's boat struggle to get the ropes loose, and consequently lifeboat fifteen is lying still in the water as lifeboat fifteen is being lowered at a steady speed. As the hull is lowered closer Aibrean hunches over Caleb while the crewmen and passengers aboard shout for the boat to stop.
"I need a knife!" a man yells frantically. One is handed to him, its silver blade glinting dimly, and he begins sawing away in earnest at the thick, twisted ropes. By now lifeboat thirteen is close enough that the men below can reach up and touch its smooth hull.
"Hurry!" a woman begs hysterically. "God, please hurry."
With a few barely-audible grunts the ropes are cut and lifeboat fifteen is able to row away just as lifeboat thirteen is set into the water. Aibrean breathes a sigh of relief and straightens back up, watching the scene before her unfold with wide, watery eyes.
From on the ship the sad, solemn tune of "Nearer My God to Thee" wafts out into the cacophonous night, gradually getting softer as the lifeboat rows back to safety.
By the time her lifeboat rows far enough out to sea the propellers on Titanic are fully visible. The porthole lights reflect in the water, shimmering ovals standing stark against the blackness of the night. Horrified screams can be heard, distantly, echoing out into the empty ocean as the passengers climb higher aft, holding on for dear life, clinging much like bees to a hive. The bow starts to disappear, slowly, brackish green water swirling upward until only the last three funnels are visible. The soft yellow glow of the ship's lights flicker before going out completely, plunging the scene into darkness. The stern rises higher, higher, reaching for the heavens, before it finally snaps between the third and fourth funnel with a great creaking sound. The bow plunges into the ocean, disappearing within seconds into the unforgiving waters, while the stern bobs, corklike, for a few breathless minutes before descending to its watery death.
"Blimey," one of the crewmen, Fifth Officer Lowe if Aibrean remembers correctly, whispers, eyes wide, the whites shining under the meager starlight. The screams and shouts for help are deafening, terrifying. White crests, ripples out from the positions of the thousands of people stranded in the water, splashing as they cry out.
"We need to go back," one of the women says shrilly. She's clad in nothing but a thin silk nightdress the color of ripe peaches and a pair of flimsy, cream-colored slippers. Her lifebelt is absent, her brunette hair skewed about her pale face. Plump lips, as blue as ripe blueberries, tremble with cold while her delicate hands wring together nervously. "My husband, my Victor… He's still out there."
"We'll be swamped," Lowe says, though the tone in his voice suggests he's seriously considering her proposition. Before them is a smooth expanse of sea, no
evidence left that the great liner Titanic had nestled in its waters just hours before. A great dream now rests at the bottom of the Atlantic, sucked down in only a few hours' time.
In lifeboat number fifteen forty women, ten children, and two men float in the still waters that remain calm like a beast that's just been fed. The hours crawl by as the air seems to get even colder. Aibrean watches as ice begins to crust on the hair of those who'd gotten any semblance of wet and she protectively curls around Caleb, who's long since fallen asleep nestled in Aibrean's arms. The shouts and screams that had been a sickening soundtrack before have quieted down to a few lone voices. "We could have saved some of them," she thinks, biting onto her chilled lip.
When Caleb begins to stir a well-dressed woman seated next to Aibrean turns and holds out her arms. Her eyes crinkle in the corners as she smiles and says, "Let me take him, dear." Aibrean hands him over, shivering as the once-warm spot on her lap is exposed to the air.
"Mommy, when is another boat going to come?" a young girl asks. She's small enough that she looks as if she's being swallowed by her lifebelt. Her eyes are wide and round like polished marbles, hair black as a raven's feathers.
"Soon, dearie," her mother replies in a tone that suggests she doesn't believe any kind of help is going to come at all. That kind of hopelessness tears at Aibrean's heart like a scythe through wheat. "Just give them time."
Around three in the morning Aibrean's lifeboat meets up with three others. Lowe orders all passengers in his boat be transferred to either one of the others, and with water-numbed limbs Aibrean and the other survivors comply, stumbling on the slippery wood, held steady on by crewmen's hands as they move to the other boats. An elderly woman slips on the ice-encrusted rail with a shriek, and it takes Aibrean and one of the crewmen to steady her and help her onto the next boat.
"We're going back, men," Lowe orders once all the survivors are positioned safely into boats, flashlight at the ready, breath fogging out in front of him. "We have to save who we can." That's the last Aibrean sees of that lifeboat until morning as it disappears into the darkness, Lowe's voice calling out and the beam of his flashlight cutting into the black waters like a blade.
The people left in the boats can only wait for morning's warming, welcoming arms and the hope that a ship was coming to save them. Aibrean falls into an uneasy sleep once she leans onto the wool-clad shoulder of a woman sitting next to her, both too tired to care. There she lies until night begins to fade slowly away. The night of wrath is now just a terrible, horrifying memory, those who survived emerging like butterflies from cocoons or sprouts from the ashes of a great fire.
The image of the Cunard's Carpathia in the early morning sunlight, silhouetted by the rising sun, backdrop a Monet landscape of reds, oranges, and gold intermingled with the rich navy of the night sky, serves as a beacon, a symbol of a phoenix rising from the ashes, a savior for the shivering, water-logged Titanic survivors. As the cruiser sails closer, smoke trailing from its one spindly funnel, confused faces of the Carpathia's vacationing passengers can be seen peering over the railings as the lifeboats become more than just specks on the dark waters, the shouts becoming more than just barely-audible noise in the distance.
The people in the lifeboats are numb physically and mentally, their bodies automatons as they're loaded onto the Carpathia. Aibrean climbs the rungs of the wooden ladder lowered from the railings slowly, deliberately like she isn't sure she wants to get back on another ship. Once she reaches deck and joins the rest of the third-class survivors she realizes just how lucky she is, how close she came to death and how intensely she had stared into its ugly face, its twisted maw open and ready to take her alive. The sun is barely peeking over the horizon, its golden glow warming the blue-green waves that are rolling and twisting as far as the eye can see. No icebergs can be found, no traces of what had happened just hours previous.
She knows she's lucky to see this sunrise, to stand on this boat and drink the hot soup a steward had given her, its warmth igniting her insides as it travels down her throat, tendrils of heat slowly thawing her fingertips and toes.
Aibrean Murphy is shivering and freezing, but she's alive. She made it.