“I’ll never let go, I promise.” Rose kissed the icy fingers of her dead lover and released him. She watched him slowly sink, following the Titanic down into the abyss. Soon the murky depth had swallowed him and he was gone.
Jack had saved her, given up his own life so that she could survive.
But for how long? She was so cold, and in the distance she saw the last lifeboat leaving.
“Come back!” she croaked, but they did not hear. With a yelp she slipped into the freezing water, the pain hitting her like a thousand needles. She fought to swim towards the boat but her heavy coat dragged her down.
Where was her life vest? Turning her head she saw it on the makeshift raft where she had lain, stuck to its frozen surface. She had to return for it but her arms would not obey. All her limbs were numb, she could not feel her legs.
Was this it? Had Jack died in vain?
Only her nose was above the surface now, and then she slipped beneath it entirely. Above her the brilliant stars illuminated the night sky. A beautiful last view.
A strange calm came over Rose then. She would be rejoined with Jack, sharing his ocean grave.
No longer able to resist, she drew one last breath. Cold water filled her lungs and everything went dark.
“Do you fear death?”
Rose opened her eyes, looking about her with some surprise. She was standing aboard an old fashioned wooden ship, and below her feet smooth planks creaked quaintly in the rolling of the surf. The ship looked a bit strange with its seagrass-covered sails and odd pointy bits sticking out from the bow. The air was warm, tropical almost, and her thick coat began to steam slightly.
“Do you fear death?” the voice repeated, speaking very politely in a British accent. Rose turned her gaze to the young man who owned it, regarding him with curiosity. He seemed to be around her own age, with dark, shoulder length hair held back from his forehead by a grey scarf. His white shirt was daringly open up front, exposing a broad, tanned chest and a seashell pendant around his neck. An ugly scar across his heart maimed the otherwise appealing view.
“Are you a pirate?” she asked. He reminded her of someone from Peter Pan.
“What? Uh… well I guess I am. Was.” The question clearly confused him. “Anyway, I should be the one asking the questions. And you haven’t replied.”
“Who are you then?” Rose noticed other faces now, a row of more pirates or whatever they were lined up behind the man. They were mumbling among each other.
“I’m Captain Turner of the Flying Dutchman.” He bowed elegantly. A surprisingly well bred pirate, apparently.
“Where am I? Here’s a lot warmer than the North Atlantic.”
“This is the Caribbean Sea,” said Captain Turner. “But we travel all around the world, and we did indeed collect you in the Atlantic. I just find these waters more pleasant, so whenever we need to surface this is where I take her.” He patted the railing of his ship.
“I’m dead, am I not?” None of this felt real. Like one of those very strange dreams one might have during a fever. Rose found it hard to take anything seriously.
“Aye, Miss. Do you fear it?”
“You keep asking me that. Why?”
“I have to ask it. If you do fear death, I can offer you service aboard the Dutchman, and if not I shall guide you to the afterlife.” He smiled reassuringly.
“Captain?” interrupted an older man.
“Yes, Mr Turner?”
“Are you sure about this… I mean, she doesn’t exactly look like a sailor.”
“What? She must be.” The captain’s dark eyes narrowed as he scrutinized her, taking in her large coat, flimsy evening dress and elegant high-heeled pumps that she had worn when the Titanic sank.
He paled. “You are a sailor, aren’t you?”
“ No ?” Now he was flushing with embarrassment. “Oh dear. What have I done?” He cast a helpless look at the man who had spoken before.
“Don’t worry, son– uh, Captain.” He put an arm around the younger’s shoulders. “We’ll figure this out.” He turned to Rose. “Tell us what happened. How did you drown, Miss...?”
“Dawson,” she filled in, shamelessly using Jack’s last name for her own. They had been married as far as she was concerned, albeit not legally. “Well, I was travelling to America, but then my ship collided with an iceberg and...” Her voice trailed off. A pang of grief stabbed her heart as she recalled Jack’s cold, dead face. “And then it sank”.
“I see,” said the man kindly.
“It’s odd though,” said the captain. “Why did the Dutchman want to pick her up? Something pulled me there, I felt it.”
“I know no more of this than you do, Captain.”
“Maybe I could just stay here with you?” suggested Rose. She had looked forward to a long, carefree life, no longer bound to her former fiancé. Jack had told her she would die an old lady, and she had believed him. But instead she had drowned. Becoming a pirate would at least be something , and it was probably a lot more interesting than her old, confining society life.
“That’s not possible, I’m afraid, only sailors can serve on the Dutchman. But I shall take you to the afterlife. It was nice meeting you, Miss Dawson.” The captain stepped closer but Rose hurriedly backed away.
“Whoa! Wait a minute… What’s the hurry?” Her mind worked fast. There must be something she could use to bribe him with, some way she could make him allow her to live. As she took another step backwards, she heard a jingle from her coat pocket. The necklace!
Rose slowly pulled out the brilliant, heart shaped diamond on its white gold chain and held it up. The blue stone sparkled and glittered dazzlingly in the sun, but the collective gasps of shock from her audience were quite unexpected. Surely pirates must have seen treasure before?
“The Heart of the Ocean!” whispered the older man. “No wonder the Dutchman came for her!”
Rose was starting to feel seasick, which was ridiculous after so many days at sea, but the rolling of this ship was more prominent than the smooth motions of the much larger Titanic. She felt an additional queasiness because her future was so undecided. Would her necklace be enough to buy her more time? She was too young to die, it felt like her life had barely begun.
The crew were still talking excitedly. They were standing in a circle, passing the diamond from hand to hand as they examined it almost reverently. She hoped they would not just take it, pirates as they were. But was there not some sort of code of honour pirates abided by?
Come to think of it, this lot seemed rather strange pirates. She would have imagined them to use more modern weapons than swords and flintlock pistols nowadays.
The heat was becoming unbearable so Rose removed her heavy coat. She considered tossing the thing overboard, as it had belonged to her ex whom she would rather forget. But she refrained, it might come in handy yet. She owned nothing but the clothes on her back now.
“You look pale, Miss. Would you like something to drink?” It was the other sailor, whom the captain had called Mr Turner. He was middle aged with pale hair and blue eyes, and his Nordic features reminded Rose a bit of Olaf, one of Jack’s Scandinavian friends aboard the Titanic. She had danced with him in a much happier time, it felt like ages ago now.
The pang of grief returned. Olaf was dead, Fabrizio was dead. Jack and all his friends were dead. Heck, she was dead too.
“Yes, please,” she whispered.
He brought her a goblet of a ruby red liquid which proved to be a very sweet port wine. She would have preferred water, but politely swallowed a few mouthfuls.
“Thank you, Mr Turner.”
“Please, call me Bill, or just Bootstrap.” He had the warmest smile, and Rose felt herself returning it.
“Can you tell us how you came by this necklace?” The captain had returned, the Heart of the Ocean dangling from his hand.
“My fiancé… ex fiancé gave it to me.”
“And where did he get it?”
“Bought it, I assume. It originally came from Louis the Sixteenth’ crown, and when he was killed someone took it and recut it into a heart shape.”
“You mean Louis the Fourteenth? I thought he died of an illness.”
“No, the fourteenth was way before the Revolution. Wasn’t he the one they called King Sun? He who had no toilets, so everyone in his court used the corridors to… you know. And at his parties the maids had to crawl underneath the tables with chamber pots.” She giggled at the memory of just about the only fun part of her History lessons with her boring old tutor.
“What revolution…?” asked the captain.
“And what’s a toilet?” added Bill.
“What, have you never heard about the French Revolution? The end of monarchy in France? Happened back in the late eighteenth century.” She hesitated, seeing the crew’s eyes go wide as they looked at each other in disbelief. “What’s wrong?”
“When did you die, exactly?” Bill’s voice was hoarse. “I mean, what year?”
“1912 of course, it was just this morning!” Then she hesitated. How long had she been dead? “What year is it now?”
Rose had to grab the railing to steady herself. Had she just travelled back in time two hundred years?
”I haven’t got time for this. Even now, souls are waiting,” complained the captain. It seemed Rose’s time travel had made things very complicated for the poor young man. He looked frustrated about the whole thing, and no wonder, apparently he was new to the job.
“If she’s from the future we can’t take her to the afterworld in this time,” he continued. ”And what to do with the Heart? Calypso ought to have it back, but I can’t summon her.” He scratched his scarf.
“Aye, it’s an unfortunate business,” agreed Bill.
“I really only know one man who might be able to help,” said the captain, and the older man nodded. They spoke the name in unison:
“Captain Jack Sparrow!”