1 SEP 14

Updated: Nov 13, 2018

Note: The following story was originally published in my first book, The Complete Works of the Literate Dead, now out of print. This tale, along with two others are still among my favorites, and I have decided to publish them on this site for those who might find them interesting. Each will be presented in its own blog, as will other stories that have not yet been put into book form.


1 SEP 14

It was shortly after three a.m. that the Hauser struck ice and began taking water. The tip of the berg emerged suddenly from darkness, gliding past the bridge like some prehistoric beast snatching for its prey. The Hauser swung frantically to the starboard, clearing the monster by mere yards. For a moment the ship was quiet then a slight, almost imperceptible quiver shook her as an icy claw grazed the bow. Some of the younger officers smiled in relief. They turned to the captain, expecting a nod of reassurance; instead found his face solid and grey.

"The hull's been ruptured," he spoke to the mate, but everyone heard him. "Mr. McDunn, I want a full damage report."

"Aye, sir." He stepped to the intercom on the rear wall and selected a channel. "Who’s on the Marconi?"

Someone checked a clipboard roster. "Chasek, sir."

He punched the button. "Chasek, this is the captain. Locate all nearby traffic and plot probable ERT's. Code 100. I repeat; Code 100. We're open below water."

He turned back to the observation post. From this place, high above the sea, the ship seemed calm. She rolled comfortably in the waves, reconciled once more with her spiteful lover. The captain drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly, listening to the sound the air made as it escaped his lips. Perhaps there was nothing to worry about after all. The Hauser was a lady with dignity, too proud to complain about minor injuries. If there were any pain from the wound in her belly, she had given no sign.

"Cap'n Deinoch?" He hadn't noticed the navigator's approach, and the sound of a human voice was suddenly very strange. "Should we prepare the lifeboats?"

"For what, Mr. Gibraldi? This isn't the Titanic, now is it?"

"Well, sir..."

"Well, what?" Deinoch snapped. "This isn't the goddam Titanic."

"No, sir. I guess not." He turned to go and the captain sighed. "Very well, Mr. Gibraldi. I suppose it won't hurt to stand by. Just make sure the passengers aren't disturbed. The last thing we need right now is a panic."

The navigator frowned. "But Cap'n, those people are gonna need a lot of time. Even normal folks'd be pressed to get clear once the lower decks start fillin'."

Deinoch's jaw visibly tightened. "Mr. Gibraldi, don't question my orders." He glowered until the navigator retreated through the cabin door with a quiet, "Aye, sir."

There was a sputter from the intercom, followed by the shouting of Chief Engineer Lighthall. "Damage report; damage report," the voice rattled. "Eight sections ruptured. First through fourth filling fast. Two men missing. Pumps can't handle it. Acknowledge, bridge." Deinoch pushed the response button. "Mr. Lighthall, order full stop, then report.

"Christ, he thought. Eight of sixteen sections. Then there was no hope for the Hauser; only the chance to maybe buy some time.

The intercom crackled. "Slowing to full stop, sir."

"Switch to auxiliary generators and keep full power to the pumps. How much time before the forward boilers flood?"

"Not much, sir. Maybe forty minutes, maybe less. Series five, seven, and eight on line. I can fire six up to max and get ready to blow off five right now." The engineer was nearly back to normal, reassured by his contact with the bridge. "We got lucky with the watertight doors. Slammed shut the minute we were breached. I think Evans and Deloatch were in number three when they closed."

Deinoch grunted to himself. No matter. A couple of oilers were hardly a priority at this point. He glanced at the binnacle and muttered an oath. Seven-degree list to starboard. Seven degrees in less than ten minutes! The Hauser wouldn't last another thirty. He stared at the intercom, hesitating just a moment before issuing the next order.

"Mr. Lighthall, send all non-essential engineering personnel to the boat deck at once. They are to alert the crew on E deck only in areas adjacent to the flooding. Is that clear, Mr. Lighthall? No passengers will be notified until I give the word."

"Yes, sir."

"Good. I want firemen and supervisory personnel to remain below. Dump the forward boilers before they flood, but remember, we'll need power for the lower decks to evacuate. Use your discretion as to when to switch to the aft."

Lighthall barked a short laugh. "I'm in number four and the water's up to my shins. I'll give you 'till it hits the family jewels."

A small red bulb lit up, indicating the Marconi room had information.

"Chasek?"

"Right, skipper. Nearest ship's the Normandy; estimated rendezvous, two and a half hours. I used the dead reckoning coordinates from the last watch, but maybe a rocket would help 'em out. We'd be visible in another ninety minutes."

"Very well, Chasek. Keep sending the distress. And see if you can raise anyone closer than the Normandy."

"Okay, skipper." But he didn't sound enthusiastic.

Deinoch frowned. Couldn't really blame him. The boy knew—hell, the whole crew knew—no other line traveled this far north. Only Brideway, Inc. skimmed a dollar that close. Company officials boasted they could cut travel time by three days on a round trip crossing. What they never mentioned was the high rate of tension disorders among officers who made these runs on a regular basis. Breakdowns were becoming more frequent, and experienced seamen often refused berth on a Brideway vessel. It got on a man's nerves to be constantly watching for ice.

And this time there were the passengers. The run would have been bad at any rate—they always were—but with them aboard it was impossible. God, he could choke the idiot who thought up this one! With increasing criticism coming from the union over potential hazards, the executive board responded by staging a publicity cruise. A friggin' ship full of the physically handicapped. Cut rates for gimps, handled, of course, by the right P.R. No mention of unions; certainly nothing about danger. Just a normal trip for vacationing rehabs. Crips are people too and all that. And if a cripple could make the crossing, what would an able- bodied crewman have to bitch about?

It made no sense, but that was precisely why it would work. Or should have. Only the Hauser had struck a berg miles from the nearest help, and she would sink, passageways clogged with wheelchairs and twisted bodies; good seamen drowning with the rest. And he, as captain, was expected to go down without a protest. Deinoch clenched his fist, trying to control the anger that was beginning to knot his stomach.

"Obligations," they had told him when he balked at this assignment. "You have obligations to your ship and her passengers. There is no room for personal prejudice aboard the Hauser."

Prejudice! he almost spat. Was it prejudice to recognize the difference between a man who could fend for himself and one who could not?

Across the room Larisch and Brown were hard at work on the maps. Final position had to be recorded in the log, and he knew that the junior officers would follow their orders to the letter. That was the kind of men they were: trustworthy, capable. A sudden rush of pride swept through him, and, just as suddenly, the feeling was replaced by shame. He was letting them down. Larisch and Brown, McDunn, Gibraldi—every sailor on board. It was monstrous they should die for a bunch of invalids, but at least he could give them the chance to fight for their lives. He owed them that.

"Mr. Larisch," Deinoch's voice was cold, demanding.

The officer looked up. "Sir?"

"Take the key to the arms locker and secure six handguns. I want you to report directly to me on the boat deck in five minutes. Under no circumstances are weapons to be distributed. Is that clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"In other words, Mr. Larisch, if anyone tries to stop you, or even so much as gets in your way, shoot him."

The young man hesitated. "Captain, sir?"

Deinoch glared at him. "Didn't you understand me, sailor?"

"Yes, sir." Larisch stiffened. "It's just that the ship's listing pretty bad. A lot of passengers'll be coming up on deck. What should I tell 'em?"

"You'll tell them to get out of your way. Same goes for the crew. If they want to argue, let your weapon talk."

"But, sir, surely the passengers---"

"That goes especially for the passengers!" Deinoch roared. "Now get moving, Mister. You've got five minutes."

Larisch snapped to. "Yes, sir!" And he was out the door.

"Captain." The intercom came on.

"Captain here."

"This is McDunn. I can't get below E deck from the bow. Water's to the lower hatchway, and it's startin' up the stairs. Same condition midship. Pumps ain't doin' much good. A lot of yellin' comin' from the cabins on E, and some of the stewards're startin' to move people into the passageways. D deck's crawlin' with gimps."

Deinoch swore. "Alright, Mac, get out of there. Hit crew quarters on your way up and give the alarm. Tell them not to waste time; I need 'em on the boats."

"Gotcha, Cap. Want I should start the stewards movin' that way, too?"

"Negative. Just get to the crew." He took his hand from the button then depressed it again. "Mac?"

"Yo."

"Use the aft stairway on B deck when you come up. Don't waste time."

"Right, Cap. See you topside."

Maybe, Deinoch thought as he switched off. He turned to the remaining officer.

"Mr. Brown, have you determined our position yet?"

"Almost, skipper," he replied without looking up.

Deinoch studied the man. He seemed strangely unconcerned about anything beyond the charts. If the orders to Larisch had had any effect on him, he was certainly giving no sign.

"How much longer, Mr. Brown?"

"I'm doing the math now."

The captain pursed his lips. "Belay that a minute. I want to talk with you."

Brown put down his pencil and straightened up. "What'cha need, skipper?"

Deinoch folded his arms. "You heard my instructions to Mr. Larisch?"

"Yes, sir."

"You understood them? What they meant?"

Brown sighed. "We're goin' down pretty quick. That's obvious. I figure less than an hour."

"Try twenty minutes."

The junior officer paled for a moment. "Then it's pretty desperate."

"Very desperate, Mr. Brown. Given the nature of the passengers we're carrying, we could lose all hands."

The younger man's face hardened. "I see, sir."

"Do you, Mr. Brown?" Deinoch unfolded his arms and paced a few steps. "I have a choice to make, and I have to make it now. Either I try to get the crips from below and into the boats, or I let every man go for himself. If I do that, some of us might live. Otherwise—" He shrugged.

Brown pushed his cap back and scratched the side of his head. "You sure of the time, skipper?"

"I will be once I've checked back with Lighthall."

"And if he confirms it?"

Deinoch frowned. "Then I'm going to order you to seal both the forward and aft gates on B deck. We can't allow passengers on deck. A riot at the boats could destroy us all."

There was no sign of emotion on the junior officer's face. He nodded and said, "I guess you'd better raise Lighthall."

Deinoch hit the intercom. "Lighthall, this is the captain."

There was no response.

"Engineering, answer."

The box crackled, went dead, then crackled again. An earsplitting whistle burst through, followed by a barely audible voice.

"Lighthall here, Captain."

"What the hell is that racket?" Deinoch demanded.

"Pop-off valve, sir." Lighthall was nearly screaming to be heard. "Steam's backed into the reserve domes on half the line. We can dump four of the mothers out the blow downs, but the blessed valve's stuck on the fifth."

"Where's the water?"

"When I closed off section four it was near waist deep. We're up to our ankles here, but the pumps're losin' ground. Won't matter much though if we can't cool the tanks. Water temp's below freezing, and these babies'll blast sky high."

"How much time?"

"Ten; fifteen minutes."

"Lighthall, get your ass out of there now. Clear out. Head for the boats. Tell the others." He didn't wait for an answer before switching off.

Brown started toward the door. "Looks like you were wrong, skipper."

Deinoch turned to face him. "Wrong?"

"Uh-huh," the junior officer smirked. "You don't have any choice at all." The smirk changed to a grim smile. "I guess you want the forward stairs closed first."

"That is correct, Mr. Brown. Carry on." He watched the young man go.

And now, he thought, I'm a murderer. For some reason the idea didn't bother him. Before leaving the bridge he pulled a bullhorn and one of the spare lifejackets from the utility locker, hastily donning the latter as he made for the stairs. Outside, the air was cold, a slight wind swirling occasional flecks of snow that melted softly on his face.

Muttering sounds spilled from the half-flight above, and as he cleared the steps it was immediately evident that boat deck was in disorder. Fifty or sixty men stood clustered in small groups at several of the launches while dozens of others wandered aimlessly around the tilted promenade. Number twelve's davits were already empty, but from the swearing of the men at the rail it seemed unlikely that anyone had got off safely. Without proper direction an inexperienced hand could easily lose control of the ropes, dumping occupants and capsizing the boat. Deinoch growled. Gibraldi should have been more organized than this.

He scanned the crowd and spotted the navigator near the tank rooms, dashing from port to starboard, gesturing wildly to anyone who mounted the deck. He was being largely ignored, and while there were yet no signs of outright disobedience, Deinoch knew it would not take long for stronger personalities to assert themselves. Larisch had better have made it.

He found the junior officer huddled against the central smokestack, clutching the folds of his oversized coat at the neck and waist.

"Captain!" He almost shouted as Deinoch approached him. Relief flooded his eyes. "Lower your voice, Mr. Larisch."

"Yes, sir."

"You completed your, uh—task?"

Nod.

"Good. Now follow me."

They wove their way across the promenade, reaching Gibraldi just as he finished barking another misunderstood order to the men at number seven. Deinoch signaled him into the shadow of the tank room.

"Mister Gibraldi," he said as the navigator joined them, "the situation is most serious." The navigator blinked. "Well, Captain, I'll admit it's a bit of a mess, but—"

"Shut up, damn you," Deinoch hissed. "There's no time for any crap. Larisch, how many pistols did you bring?"

"Pistols?" The navigator stared incredulously.

Deinoch clenched his teeth. "I told you we had trouble. It's that bad, Mr. Gibraldi. It's really that bad. How many, Larisch?"

"Six, like you said, sir."

"Okay. Give me two and some ammo. Give Mr. Gibraldi one, and keep one for yourself."

Larisch did as he was told. "What about the other two, sir?"

"Wait by the main stairwell. If and when Brown or McDunn come up, extend my compliments."

Larisch moved off. Gibraldi stood, fingering the weapon uncertainly.

"Put that out of sight," Deinoch ordered. "Get back to your post and stand by. I'll take over in a minute."

The navigator nodded dully, stuffed the gun into his pocket then wandered back toward number seven. Deinoch stepped out of the shadow, looking for high ground. The best place, he knew, would be the roof of the officer's quarters where the Englehardts were stored. From halfway across the deck he could see that one of the collapsibles had already been stripped of its lashings. A lone figure struggled to shift the gunwale forward; a potentially dangerous act that could result in the men below being crushed if the boat fell unguided from the footings. Deinoch broke into a near run, raising the bullhorn as he reached the ladder. "Ahoy, mate," the metallic voice burst the semi-darkness like a shell. "Clear the roof."

Crew in the immediate area turned as they recognized the speaker.

"The old man." He could hear the tension as they nudged each other.

The figure above had also identified him. "The hell I will, Cap'n." He moved to block the ladder.

Deinoch juggled the horn as he grabbed for the rungs. "You're gonna need help with the boat," he offered as he climbed. "It's too heavy to lift yourself."

The man weighed the offer a few seconds then stepped aside as Deinoch pulled up.

"Thanks, Cap'n," he mumbled, pointing to the rail. "Can't quite clear it."

His face was dripping sweat, but Deinoch realized it was more from fear than labor. He set the bullhorn to the side and indicated a place on the roof.

"Stand over there and get ready to heave."

The sailor turned, not seeing the captain's hand go into his pocket.

Deinoch swung his arm in a smooth, heavy arc, nearly loosing grip on the pistol as it made contact, sending the man reeling against the Englehardt's upturned keel. He crumpled and lay unmoving, his body half supported by the boat. Deinoch turned away and lifted the bullhorn.

"Attention," he called to the deck below. "Attention. This is the captain speaking."

The mulling stopped, replaced by a tense silence. He cleared his throat and continued. "Men, the situation is grave. We must move quickly now; in haste but not in panic. Go to the nearest boat and prepare to lower. Senior crew will supervise launchings, but leave no more than two men per fall. If a winch jams, don't waste any effort. Cut the lines and jump for it. There's time left, but not a lot; so let's move out."

They had barely begun to break when he heard Gibraldi's voice bellowing from mid-deck.

"Captain Deinoch, what about the passengers? We can't just leave 'em."

Some of the men paused in confusion.

Deinoch lifted the horn. "Mr. Gibraldi, where are you?"

"Here, sir." The navigator had climbed to the tank top, where he stood, slightly elevated behind an air funnel. He raised his arms. "Captain, we've got to try to save some of 'em. They haven't got a prayer on their own."

Deinoch gritted his teeth. "Get to a boat, Mr. Gibraldi. Now. That's an order."

The navigator persisted. "God damn it, Captain. We've got to try."

His tone was suddenly forceful, rising above the clamor around him. More heads turned, riveted by the force of his words, and someone below shouted, "Maybe he's right, sir."

A few other assents rose from the crowd. Deinoch fairly screamed into the horn. "Gibraldi, you mutinous son-of-a-bitch. Don't you dare disobey me." He reached into his pocket, estimating the distance the bullet would have to travel.

Gibraldi remained firm. "You're not God Almighty," he thundered. "You can't order us to let those people drown." He turned his appeal to the men. "We've got to pull together now. There's no room for cowardice here." He motioned to the group directly beneath him. "Get to B-deck and start helping the stewards carry 'em up. You there," he pointed to the crew at number seven. "Give 'em a hand. The rest of you, too. No one gets into a boat without a passenger."

From where he stood on the roof of the officer's quarters, Deinoch carefully drew a bead on the navigator's upper torso. He noticed the slight surge of men toward the stairway, crowding Larisch, and he hoped the junior officer was ready. He caught his breath, then fired, heard the ricochet off the funnel, and fired again.

Even as he pulled the trigger he felt the deck tremble, then lurch as a burst of yellow flame exploded from the central smokestack. The Hauser's bow visibly dipped, and Deinoch threw himself flat to avoid being toppled from the roof. From somewhere below he could hear a muffled rumbling that built rapidly to a crescendo as it rose to meet him through the bulkheads.

He groped for a handhold, found only the cold rush of air; darkness spinning web-like among the orange-white stars swinging crazily through his mind; backward, backward...

Salt flooded his throat; thick lumps of brine that poured into him like countless piercing ice knives. He could feel the slow motion thrashing of his arms and legs as he struck out against the choking ink, but the downward pull barely slowed. His brain seemed to expand outward, pressing his skull until his eyes bulged; and still he sank deeper, horribly deeper, his eardrums bursting as he screamed voicelessly for God in His mercy to let him die, to let the excruciating pain render him unconscious.

Instead, he began to rise. Up, up again, bobbing like a cork float on some fisherman's line. Frozen air gushed into his lungs, stabbed through the gaping holes in his ears, making him thrash wildly. His fists pummeled the water and struck something solid.

The Englehardt! He knew what it was--what it had to be-- even in that moment his hand made contact and he reached for the gunwale. He twisted and pulled, his head and stomach churning in opposite directions. He paused, clinging with one hand as he vomited, then grasped the side again. The boat felt wrong beneath his arms, and he couldn't make his leg clear the rail. His hands clawed the ribwork, seeking holds in the turning mass of wood, scarcely dragging his body over the edge before collapsing under him.

Lifetimes passed. The spin in his head subsided, o' so slowly subsided, and he could almost move again. Deinoch worked his head and chest upward, propping himself against the rail. Through the icy film covering his lashes he could make out the twisted form of the Hauser a hundred or so yards off. White thunderbolts belched from her midsection as the propellers arched steadily skyward. She paused, a pillar of flame that suddenly vanished below the sea. Gone. Just like that; not even a trace of suction to mark where she had disappeared. Deinoch stared vacantly across the waves. His vision was blurred and he could no longer detect high-pitched sounds, but somewhere out there, just beyond his reach, the water would be full of men. Drowning men. Freezing men. Struggling and screaming men, filling the night with their terrible cries.

He twisted stiffly and groped along the boat's bottom. No oar. How could he help them without an oar? He tried to shout, let them know he was there, close enough to swim to, but his lungs were too creased with cold, too burned by salt to sound more than a wheezing cough that left him gasping for air.

Deinoch flopped weakly onto his back, wincing as something hard jammed his hip. He gritted his teeth in recognition. The gun. The other friggin' gun. The image of that stubby barrel pressing to the roof of his mouth was suddenly irresistible. Would it still fire? Probably, but not for long. How long? How much time before the salt and ice and water ruined the simple beauty of that sliding trigger? Ten minutes? An hour? Could he last another hour? Could he hold his sanity for even one more second against the searing pain that burned like molten iron behind his eyes?

Somewhere beneath the shredded flesh that had once been eardrums the sound of his own breath roared like an exhaust valve. It seemed to keep rhythm with the ever slight rolling of the boat. Up, down; up, down; over and over. Up, down; up—

Deinoch started as the Englehardt suddenly tilted to the side. The gunwale dipped momentarily, bobbed, dipped again, and a hand appeared over the edge. It gripped the rail, flesh white against the wood, blue veins straining with the force of its pull. It was joined by another, this one sliding as it clawed the slippery surface searching for a hold. Then a forearm, its elbow locking in place, and a soaking mop of hair rose by trembling fractions.

He tried to move, to reach toward the rising form, but his arms could scarcely generate the force to shift his weight forward. He slumped back again and stared, mesmerized by the silent movie playing only inches away.

The second arm swung over, and now a face began to appear. High forehead, dark eyes...

Deinoch screamed. Sharp angular nose...

He screamed from his guts; pure savage rage. The face kept coming as if it hadn't heard. Thin, cracking lips...

But it had heard. And it kept coming, kept rising over the tilting side.

Deinoch screamed again, and this time he could hear the sound; a massive explosion tearing through his brain.

"Gibraldi...!"

Now the chest was visible, and a foot swung over. He was still coming. The leg, knee, thigh; coming. His hip, rotten filthy hip; coming. Deinoch's teeth clenched, his left hand jamming into the coat pocket. The effort cost him his balance, sent him toppling to the right, slamming his head against the bottom.

He jerked in agony, and Gibraldi blurred out of focus, came back again, then started to whirl. The nightmare carousel spun past him, silently gaining speed. It was getting darker, but the wheel kept increasing velocity, receding farther from him, growing into an expanded funnel. Gibraldi was getting away!

Deinoch fired. Left handed. Through the coat. He fired and fired. And fired until the gun stopped spitting flames and a coal black sun blew up inside him.

*

A low, thick bellowing called him slowly into consciousness. He swam dully through the fog-laden layers of dream fragments that snatched tauntingly from the dark. But the noise persisted, rumbling from somewhere outside him, demanding his attention. Reluctantly, he came awake. The sky had turned into a thick grey, barely distinguishable from the sea in the false shades of fading night. A heavy mist curtained the air, stinging his face as a stiff wind slapped against him.

He eased himself into a sitting position, wincing at the pain that slashed through his head. Then he remembered Gibraldi, and for a moment his blood surged. But the navigator was gone; not even a trace of corpse floated alongside. Nothing, for that matter, floated alongside. He sighed heavily in relief. The Englehardt must have drifted away from the bulk of the wreckage, though undoubtedly a fair amount would be visible once the sun had come up. He felt the deep-pitched sound again and turned. Something was out there just beyond him, a little closer than before; something very familiar, but made deformed by his ruptured ears. He peered into the half-light, squinting until his eyes hurt.

The noise came again, a bit more distinct and over to the right. Then he could see it: a small twinkle of light moving along the horizon. It was joined by another and another; a whole string of tiny candles poking through the mist, taking shape...

The Normandy!

He watched, almost afraid to hope, as the flickering lights danced nearer. If it continued on its present course he'd be within hailing distance in another hour.

He waited.

Dawn broke slowly into light rain that reduced the ship to a dim phantom toy, barely perceptible among the rising swell of the waves. He sniffed the air. There'd be a storm before noon. A regular squall, he reckoned, but by then he'd be safely aboard. If his luck held.

It didn't.

For a brief while the lights drifted straight toward him as if drawn by some invisible magnet. Then somewhere to the ship's port a green trail broke through the rain, glowing steadily skyward until it flared into an eerie white halo. And the Normandy stopped.

Deinoch stared in dumbfounded amazement. There were other survivors. But how? Thrown free like himself? Jumped? But where did they find a lifeboat? No time to launch before—

Of course! Number Twelve. It had spilled overboard while Gibraldi was in charge, and some of the crew had swum for it. He almost laughed out loud. They were safe. No matter what happened now, he had been proved right. Some of the crew had made it, and he would be vindicated. Gibraldi and all his accusations could rot in Hell. He had made the right decision, and his crewmen were alive. Alive. On their own power, unhindered by a bunch of crips.

The thought gave him satisfaction, and he savored it while he waited. He was still savoring it an hour later when the Normandy changed course and began to pull away, making twenty knots to outrun the gale.

*

(Excerpt from the personal log of Edward H. Janis, Captain U.S. Merchant Marine vessel, Normandy): "1 Sep 14 ...There are some men who deny the existence of an all powerful Agent actively intervening in human affairs. But I would put it to those doubters to ponder upon the likelihood of any one person surviving a devastation of the Hauser's magnitude without divine assistance.

"How much more miraculous, then, the rescue of those thirty-eight persons in Lifeboat #12? To be sure, a certain amount of coincidence might be attributed to the fact that this boat had already toppled free of the ship and was within the limits of reach of a normal swimmer. But when we consider that of the survivors, all but one were passengers afflicted with severe physical handicaps, the intervention of Providence seems to be the only explanation for their deliverance. And if further evidence were necessary to convince those agnostics, I would bid them to puzzle this: How was it possible that the only surviving crew member, Senior Officer Leocadio Gibraldi, whose skull had been creased by flying debris that had rendered him unconscious, was able to be plucked from the freezing water by those very same cripples who were scarce able to save themselves?

"Shortly after receiving medical attention aboard this ship, Mr. Gibraldi regained his faculties in full and was able to give a brief description of the Hauser's rapid demise. He was badly shaken, and when I inquired as to the likelihood of other survivors, he grew somewhat agitated and stated that since no other boats had gotten away prior to the boiler explosions there would probably be no one left to rescue. With this opinion I concurred, and given the rapid deterioration of the weather which could place this ship in harm's way, I have ordered the helmsman to resume our normal course.

"But it is with the deepest regret that I record the passing of Captain Deinoch and the crew of the Hauser. Rather than attempt eulogy or tribute let it only be said that they have gone down with their ship. In doing this, Captain Deinoch has lived up to the highest tradition of the sea, putting his duty to his charges even above his own life. He will long be remembered for his selflessness.

*

1 Sep 14 (Supplemental) ...

"I have just returned from sick bay where I visited again with Mr. Gibraldi. Of all the persons aboard the Hauser, I believe it is he for whom I feel the most sorrow. Terrible enough to have died in the cold cruel sea, as did his fellow crewmen, but mayhaps much worse to bear a lifetime of memories of that awful night.

"It was with the intention of easing his torment that I paid him this visit, and in my own clumsy way offered what sympathy I could, finally reading to him my entry concerning the fate of his Captain and ship. He lay silently as I spoke, but although he uttered no sound, I do believe there was some comfort in my words, for as I turned from his bed, I was sure I saw him smile."


2 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All