The Ship of Dreams: Chapter One
Chapter 1 (Serialized Novel)
All of life can be measured in a single breath. At 2:02 a.m. British Summer Time on the morning of April 2nd, 1912, that is exactly what Geoffrey Archibald found himself gasping for as he stirred awake from his deep slumber, his eyes bulging wide from the momentary lack of oxygen. Suspended somewhere between the fleeting feeling one gets that gives them the impression that they are falling from some high altitude as one might experience right before they fall asleep, and the sensation as if he had just been submerged under ice, Geoffrey sat upright on the edge of the bed. It was the dream again.
There came another gentle gush of seaward wind that pushed its way in through the miniature double-paned window, past the moth-eaten curtains, shining a glimmer of the night’s pale moonlight onto Geoffrey’s freckle-spattered pasty skin, as well as that of the pine nightstand that sat parallel in front of him.
With it came the intoxicating aroma that was commonly associated with saltwater, but that Geoffrey knew to be the chemical concoction of all the bacteria, seaweed, and plankton on the ocean’s floor, and it acted as a visceral assault on his senses, almost as much as he was disgusted by the subtle moans coming from just beyond the veil of the thin walls that separated him and his neighboring guest. He let out a loud sigh as he blinked his electric blue eyes repetitively as if each bat of his eyelashes would bring him that much more to a slightly more conscious and awakened state, thinking all the while of how much he detested all the fille de joie’s and other creatures of the night that such places attracted. For, he was of the opinion that, with the exception of the luxurious hotels that were created for the most prestigious individuals of the elite class, all inns, hotels, and places of the sort were a type of dead-end last stop for the degenerate outcasts of society.
Overwhelmed by the combined effect of the bodily sensations that he was experiencing, Geoffrey hastily slid the window shut, which only displeased him and his high standards all the more, as he found that he had to put more effort into the action than he should have to, as the windowpane would frequently become stuck in place from years of constant use combined with little to no maintenance or upkeep.
Once he had finally managed to bring the window pane to its resting place on the window seal, whose wood was drastically worn with cracks and streaks in it throughout, Geoffrey proceed to draw the forest green curtains as far back as he could, holding them with his arms stretched out in front of him, with his thumb and forefinger pinching the edges of the material as if he was changing a babies diaper so that the room was all the better illuminated.
When he had adjusted them in such a way that he was satisfied with, the beam gently exposing the top of the nightstand, as well as that of his naked body that was loosely covered by the hotel’s bedding, at least so much as his more intimate parts, he continued to pull open it’s drawer, revealing his writing staples. From its depth, he withdrew a pack of cigarettes, along with a booklet of matches, as well as that of his loose-leaf papers, inkwell, and personal quill that he himself had crafted himself as kind of lost talent.
He turned his attention once more on his breathing, slowing it down to the point that he was trying to focus on that space where in-breath becomes outplace, or where out-breath becomes the prior, as to obtain a place of focus where his hands would be steady and true to their aim. Geoffrey had the patience of a saint, and he carefully waited until he had both felt this place of unison and till there was a moment of silence before he slowly reached his hand and the quill within it towards the small glass bottle, using all of his awareness to dip the edge in and out of its contents.
The most reserved of monks would have been impressed by the degree of care he took in inching the writing utensil towards the paper, but still, try as he might, there was all of a sudden another burst of all the ruckus that comes with humanly pleasure, and as a result, it sent a blot of ink drizzling over the top of his notepaper. He let out a sigh and an upward glance at the heavens as this happened, and he had to crane his neck slightly to the side in confusion as the unintelligible groans turned to some bizarre kind of back and forth bickering. It didn’t make the least bit of sense to the New York journalist how sexual intercourse between two persons could possibly turn to something tenser as what he was being subjected to, even if the act in itself was not as sacred or holy as it should be, given the lot that he felt that he was surrounded by. One thing he could discern for certain was that the occupants on the other side of the wall were probably going to be absent from mass this coming Sunday.
Persevering through his environmental circumstances, Geoffrey brought his writing tool to paper and frantically scrawled away in a steady stream of consciousness sort of way, paying no attention to spelling or legibility, with his scrawl like a kind of chicken scrap, so that he could document those things that were fleeting from his shaky recollection of memory to being forgotten forever, even though he had had the dream so many times before.
He had only recently taken up this kind of dream journaling exercise upon looking into the works of the Western Psychologist, Freud, or something another. The main premise was something about how various aspects of the psyche presented themselves in the outer world as a result of complications taking place in differing parts of the mind. That it was this that created the individual’s personality. In addition to that, there was something about how it was his response to literature that presented a kind of psychoanalytical means for the individual in question.
Albeit, Mr. Archibald was not sure as to how much he should buy into all that this Mr. Freud had to say about Psychology, for, based on what he had read, this Freud guy seem to spend a good time focusing on the hysterics of women, and clinically diagnosing women to whom he had some sort of relations with, not to mention the emphasis that he seemed to place on sex. Nevertheless, Geoffrey decided to give this practice a chance if there were any hope that it would resolve any deeper emotional conflicts he may have been suppressing or avoiding that may be resulting in the nightmares in question. There was another part of him that felt that it was a good methodology that not only allowed him to get all those things that were on his mind out onto paper but also proved good practice for improving his writing.
The thing that Geoffrey found most interesting about these night terrors, was the way in which they were not like one’s typical dream, no, far from it. They were the sort that consisted of multidimensional layers, in which it felt like a dream within a dream, wherein the brain seems semi-conscious of. As such, he started with what he knew, for it always started the same.
Geoffrey furiously jotted down the eerily familiar scenery of him hanging off the railing of a gigantic bow, observing the open waters before him. He had no way of telling for how long, largely due to the peculiar phenomenon of dreams that it could seem like a year went by, but this all occurs within a matter of seconds within the mind. What he did know, was that after some time, a wave of horror and confusion crashes over him, sending him into a panic, as he witnesses a rather bizarre sight. Much to his terror, he notices a great vast ice field coming into view. Not only that, but scattered throughout the icy debris is a group of large white doublewide lifeboats, that are left, as far as he can tell, completely unmanned, like some kind of warfare speaking of calamity that was, or catastrophic events to come.
Upon this discovery, Geoffrey found himself racing along the length of the ship’s vast deck, his bewilderment increasing all the more, for not only did it seem that the gigantic vessel was without its own lifeboats, but it appeared to be an unmanned ghost of a ship with not a single solitary soul in sight. All around he looked, but there was no one to share the concerns pressing his heart, and in his solitude, as he looked at the waves thrashing around the sides of the boat, and the infinite heavens above, he couldn’t but help to shake this overbearing feeling of being but a mere grain of sand in what could only be perceived as an otherwise indifferent universe. And it was usually at this point within the dream that what was his sense of self, or consciousness, was ostensibly transported to an entirely different locale.
Now, from his point of view, he was all the more gripped by terror than ever before, yet he found himself entering a magnificent hallway, unlike any he had ever had the privilege to grace with his presence, that had with it a marvel of a staircase of grand design at its forefront, to which he entered into, wearing his best suit and tie. To his surprise, this elaborate hallway of sorts was swimming with a sea of all the need-to-know aristocrats of the social world, but they were all laughing, drinking, and enjoying themselves as it were, with not one person displaying any kind of concern, dismay, or urgency that Geoffrey felt deep within his being; quite the opposite really.
For whatever reason unbeknownst to him, he had this sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, as if in he had, in his heart skipping a beat, managed to swallow it whole, where butterflies fluttered around it from this place. His steady hands were shaking as sweat formed in the palms of his hands as well as that of his brow, and all breathing techniques and meditative practices went out the window as he stood rooted in his spot, seized and frozen in an ineffable kind of terror unlike he had ever experienced before.
Gripped by the very visceral sense of dread and impending doom, Geoffrey looked wide-eyed with a grimace that would fit a mad man that had just escaped some asylum up at all his peers, in this mixture of disgusted astonishment that not one of them seemed to share with him his pain, and at the tremendous incredulity at their sheer unawareness of the situation, and their unfathomable sense of celebration notwithstanding the situation, that he himself was not one-hundred percent certain of or conscious of. And, for some inexplicable reason, Geoffrey held within him at the center of his chest, the most insatiable longing to bring these people’s attention to the very source that created this frightful feeling that had become him, so that he could prepare them for something, to give them the due caution that they so rightfully and justly deserved, and so that upon that awareness that could possibly hope to do something about the situation at all, but for all that Geoffrey could discern, it was as if he were invisible to the individuals that surrounded him, and they with him seemed not to have a care in the world about him, or anything else for that matter.
In his desperation, utter fear transmuted itself into an irrational form of melancholia, and from this state of mind, Geoffrey looked in every which direction to see if he could find the point of origin that had evoked such great agony, and his mouth feel ajar when his sight finally came upon it. His sight has settled at the zenith point of the room in question, and in any other circumstance, he would have been at a loss of words, captivated, and stunned by the brilliant and beautiful glass dome that made up the ceiling, comprised of a material that seemed to be that of some majestic combination of crystallized diamonds. But this was not the case. Glancing up at the formation above he was able to confidently ascertain two undeniable truths. The first was that he and all the people in the room were in the heart of the colossal ship, and what was more, was that there was no doubt that she was going down; almost half of the thick glass pane was submerged underwater.
For Geoffrey, all hope and logic were abandoned was lost in this moment. Where the mind would normally say, forget everything else, all for self, nothing became else mattered more in the world than to help as many people as he possibly could come to know the danger they faced and to see if there was anything he could do to stop, or at the very least suspend the inevitable from happening, but it all seemed a very vainglorious attempt.
For what seemed to be eons, with each second being its own eternity, Geoffrey ran himself through the crowd in a crazed frenzy to bring as much attention to himself as he possibly could. As he stormed through the place, he flailed his arms around all over, pointing at the ship's Achilles heel as it were, shouting from the top of his lungs all kinds of precautious warnings, inquires, and finally every frustrated obscenity he could fathom.
“What is wrong with you all,” he bellowed from the top of the staircase. “Can’t you all see that the ship is sinking, or have you become Helen Keller, with your very eyes failing and lying to what is so clearly before you? Save our ship, send out the Morse code; every man, woman, and child for themselves. Anyone,” he announced passionately, his voice nearing a vehemently hoarse cry.
And so, eternity turned over in this way with Geoffrey growing exhausted and frustrated at the kind of fly on the wall ghost he had become, until much to his surprise, the ship finally met its watery grave. The fact that the ship went under was not all that bewildering in itself, but rather because it made him question if he himself were a type of ghost or spirit to the sea. All around him, he saw the lifeless corpses of his counterparts, but no matter how deep the ironclad machine dived, he, Geoffrey remained very much alive and conscious of the events that were still unfolding before him.
Then once again he was taken away to another location that was just as mysterious to him. There were no living words yet known to man that he could use to describe what he was seeing. There was himself, or at least his sense of self for he could not see his physical form, but he could tell that he was in the presence of one other individual. Together, the two of them occupied a small cramped mechanical whale.
This beast of an apparatus had two small circular eyes that acted as a window to the ocean and its floor and front of it, and its ocular lenses had with it two beams of light above them that allowed them to see all the more clearly, and surely this was a miracle to witness. Finally, these beams cast themselves on the wreckage of a large steel ship that had been eroded away with time, and that carried with it a strange sense of familiarity.
Geoffrey concluded his journal entry by describing the feeling that came from experiencing this otherworldly discovery of the ship's remains. Most curious of all, was the way that, despite the macabre nature of his dream, in seeing it, and with his being with the other passage, a feeling of closure, forgiveness, and an elevated peace, the kind of peace that surpasses all understanding that he could not hope to find even if he searched for it was provided in the totality of that moment.
With that observation, Geoffrey put his writing material asides, and in a swift motion grabbed at the pack of cigarettes and the booklet of matches that were waiting for him atop the nightstand. After lighting the fag that hung loosely between his long slender fingers of his limply held left hand, he took a deep drag, and ran his free right hand through his coarse red hair, contemplating to himself the implications of the reoccurring dream.
Exhaling a thick cloud of smoke, Geoffrey’s mind raced all over the place in trying to decipher what it all meant. He began by using a process of elimination as to the obvious as to what it was not. Although his thoughts touched on premonition, considering his travels ahead of him, he was not near superstitious enough to think that was it. The unsinkable Titanic was exactly that, not to mention a wonder of the world as a living testimony to the industrial accomplishment of man.
If anything, he felt that it said something about how much he strongly detested traveling. Like everything else, he liked routine, structure, predictability, and all the other more commonplace banalities of the world, and all the modes of traveling were in stark juxtaposition to the way he liked things. In his mind, traveling, and its various means were chopped full of countless unknown variables; acting as a chaotic and unpredictable mathematical system were all things that could go wrong will. Nevertheless, he had an article to write, and as such, his feelings were going to have to take the back seat in this expedition.
At the thought of his writing, his mind wandered to another possible explanation, which was the closely related matter of his reading material. The story of the Titanic was booming, and its maiden voyage was surely going to act as the peak of this trending bubble. In chasing this narrative, he was hoping that he could etch his name along with the likes of great journalists such as the great Ida Tarbell. With her vendetta against Rockefeller and his Standard Oil, the plethora of articles that she had written that exposed his cutthroat practices allowed her to make a good name for herself, and as Rockefeller was her claim to fame, he was hoping that the same could be said for him in following the events surrounding the Titanic.
As a result, in the cat and mouse game that he was playing in this aforesaid endeavor, he had taken to surrounding himself with all the articles written by his fellow colleagues that were even remotely related to the Titanic. There was the exception that he refused to indulge himself in those that were produced by the caliber of journalist that in certain circles had come to be known as yellow journalism, which he felt was a style of tabloid that was not only vulgar but inaccrochable. Albeit, there was no denying that the articles that ran rampant through Harper or any other similar publication house, such as those of Tarbell’s standard were filled with personal biases, they came from a factual place of evidence, which could not be said for the latter. If anything, Geoffrey felt that yellow journalism was like a disgusting parasite that infected its host that ostensibly studied the craft; one whose primary underlining symptom was a problem of creating uneducated, and unintelligible fake news stories, with no real sensible objective in mind, other than that of creating for a sense of titillation amongst its audience.
Although, as he contemplated the matter further, he had to be candidly honest with himself in that, while he would not entertain himself with articles that seemed to be crafted with the faculties of the imagination alone, he did have to admit that this did not differ too drastically from those works of fictional literature pertaining to maritime happenings which, as of recently, he had fully emerged himself in as to get a better understanding of the lexicon associated with the issue.
Come to think of it that point presented a plausible explanation of the matter that was pressing his mind. Over the course of the last month, he had been deeply lost and engrossed in two pieces that had used the most vivid descriptions in telling a story of horrible nautical disasters. Not only that, but if his selective memory served him right, both of these novellas had used parameters that were so eerily similar to the Titanic, that, if the reader were educated knowledgeable enough about White Star’s brainchild of a ship, they, like him, might even begin to believe that they both almost touched on mysticism, with some esoteric clairvoyance involved that may be a prophetic premonition.
The first work was composed by an English bloke by Morgan Robertson, and there was no overlooking the way the book had many striking similarities in illustrating the defining characteristics of the ship within the contents of its page. First and foremost, the very name of the vessel, very aptly included in the novel's title, was bloody near-identical to that of the Titanic, save a letter or two, as the author had coined it the Titan. And to think But, in the backdrop of Geoffrey’s mind, that could be no coincidence, as there were so many other parallelisms between the very fictional Titan and the very real Titanic.
One such exemplification came to mind, as Geoffrey noted that they were both hailed as the largest ship in the world at the time in which they were built. Not only that, but it was as if this Robertson fellow had spent some with the architects and designers of the Titanic; as if he were there watching over them at the Harland and Wolff shipyard found in the center of Belfast, Ireland closely observing all the innermost workings of the project. Hell, it almost seemed like he had spent time and even interviewed Thomas Andrews himself, for the length and parameters of his fictional boat, could have made it a twin in comparison to the Titanic. There was even an issue of too few lifeboats, as leaked reports indicated was a preliminary concern in the interest of the Titanic and those that were invested in her construction.
The other piece was one with a rather long title called, How the Mail Steamer Went Down in Mid Atlantic, by a Survivor. This one was a rare little gem of a read, that he may have never even heard of, had a little bit of investigative journalism uncovered the author of the work who was also rumored to be one of the many names worth mentioning that were to be on the ship that attracted the who’s who of the social world. William Thomas Stead’s book, like Robertson’s, carried with it a similar likeness or similitude to the Titanic, and it was Geoffrey’s hope that he could talk with and interview the author as part of his developing story. Could it be that these dreams were but his brain's way of processing these tales, both of which dealt with ships sinking, and were written at a time some ten years previously?
Still, he searched deeper within himself to see if he could unearth any alternative meaning his dream could have. He wondered if perhaps it was a metaphorical kind of dream filled with symbolism that only his subconscious mind could grasp. Was it that he felt like he was going down, or sinking in his day-to-day life, or maybe a representation of feeling down? No, that could not be the case. He was far from depressed as far as he knew, and personally, he felt that he was on the rise if anything, having landed a position at the New York Times, and in following his various leads on the notorious ship of dreams.
“Or, maybe I am up to my head trailing a large boat, and it is nothing more than a mere dream, it being all I have, for I am so poor; all of this being trivial nonsense belonging to the thoughts of the dreamer, for he in his awareness of the dream is awake,” Geoffrey softly muttered to himself, opening the drawer to the nightstand once more, snuffing his cigarette out in its bottom without a care in the world about possible damages done, his thoughts trailing off into a blank state of tabula rasa.
From this place of no mind, Geoffrey turned his head towards the small port of a window and peered out at the sight of the large industrial cranes in the distance that marked the location of the Belfast port, and with it the Titanic herself. There was surreal contentment that came over him at that moment, as if he had already lived this exact moment in time, perhaps in a dream of the past, but still, it gave him complete solace.
Be that as it may, Geoffrey knew that he had to let this all go. He had always been a deep sleeper, which probably accounted for his vivid nightmares, but still, upon waking there was no going back to bed for him. That, and the Titanic was scheduled to begin its sea trials at precisely 6 a.m., after which she was due to set sail towards Southampton, and he intended to be present for both, sniffing around for a scoop like a dog looking for its bone. It wasn’t that he wanted to, it was more of a matter that he needed to do it, he had to do it. By his calculation, he had approximately three hours to prepare himself in-between the hour it would take to get ready and arrive at the pier, and if the Titanic was the ship of dreams, then he planned to firmly build his top of her.
That, and he would be lying to himself if he denied the way excitement coursed through him on the cellular level, unlike he had ever experienced before in considering all that lay ahead of him in the next couple of days to come. To him, he was seeing the world through rose color lenses, or through the wonder-filled eyes of becoming as a child again as religious texts spoke of, as if he, in chasing the Titanic, had his very spirit, his eternal primordial essence become entangled and meshed with it and the history of the world.
There was still a part of him that did not believe the fortune that had befallen him, as his boss Carr Van Anda had blessed him with a first-class ticket aboard the unsinkable titan. As such, his mind could hardly begin to fathom all the fascinating discussions and conversations that he would have, and all the intel that he would gather, from being situated nicely with such socioeconomic greats as John Jacob Astor, William Snead, the Archibald Butt, or Benjamin Guggenheim, all of whom were rumored to be traveling via the Titanic, as just a handful of the countless remarkable individuals that would be there. Then to consider the ship's size and grandeur, and the history that it had already made him feel all giddy and very much like a young boy indeed.
On that day in history, which would in fact mark the story for the ages, only not as Geoffrey had hoped for, estimated one-hundred-thousand souls would watch as brilliantly designed unsinkable Titanic set sail from Belfast to Southampton for it’s maiden voyage with some four-hundred crew and passengers aboard. Little did Geoffrey Archibald know, that when departed the little hole-in-the-wall hotel at the Belfast Inn to join in on the joyous occasion, that he had begun to embark on a spiritual journey to the center of the soul; an entirely different passage that would ultimately hold with it the quintessence of the spirit’s life lesson, which would take more than one lifetime to learn and master.