In the Year of the Tiger

May 23, 2010
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As much as you would like to, you cannot outrun death. It is rather impossible, for death catches us all. It inches beneath our lungs, perching itself in our hearts; destroying us. And there you are, unarmed, unsuspecting, and free for the kill. It spreads like a drop of blood in a bowl of milk; like a plague. Death, I believe, is simply inescapable.
It was 1950, year of the tiger. Before I left for the Sea Serpent my father had told me that it was very likely to be a volatile year, for everything will be taken to its limit. It is a year of war, disasters and disputes. He told me that it was a year for massive change but that it can also bring out the best. But how often is that the case? How often does it bring out the best?
I told this to my wife, Kathryn, as we set out to the ship's dining hall for supper. She laughed, effortless, as she gently hit my arm. Sea breeze thrashed against our faces like the paws of a jungle cat. “You know, Will,” she said, “I always thought you to be a tiger.”

I grinned at her, pulling her towards me; the swell of her pregnant belly pressed against my stomach. “And why is that, Mrs. Cabot?”

The pads of her fingers danced in my hair. Kathryn was suddenly serious; she looked up at me, her eyes warm. “You’d face any horror if it meant protecting someone you love.”

To this day, I still do not know how she knew. It was as if she known what the night held. I smiled, only because I didn’t think I would ever come across what you would consider as ‘horror’. But of course, I was severely mistaken.
In the dining hall, it smelled like roast beef and mashed potatoes. And funny enough, that was exactly what it was. The light from the chandeliers lit the room. Kathryn and I were seated at the end of a long wooden table when Finley Thomson, a man we had met earlier in the week, sat down beside us. “Ay man, I heard that some shark is circling the boat.” He told us, grinning. “How awesome is that?”

Kathryn’s dark eyebrows rose, but it wasn’t in alarm. Surprisingly, she was smirking. “As long as that shark doesn’t come near me, then it is pretty awesome, Finley.”?

I shook my head, fleeting a look at Kathryn although my question was directed at Finley. “How is the fact that a shark is circling the boat awesome?”

Finley then stood up, waving my question off with a shrug of his shoulders. “I say, it’s awesome, you say its possum.”?

I never did understand that man. I glanced in his direction, only to see that he was gone. A moment later Kathryn’s soft hand was on my chin, forcing me to look at her. I turned to see she still had the smirk on her face and because it had always been contagious, I began to smirk as well. “Will,” she murmured with a slight laugh in her voice “live a little.”
Live a little is what she had said. Live a little. And as I think about that now, I have one thing to ask her: Why don’t you, sweetheart? Why don’t you?

On the way back to our warm room, the boat started to shake. Kathryn immediately grabbed by hand and then used her other hand to cover her stomach; to cover our baby. “What’s going on?” She asked me, now alarmed. Her fingers clasped me, us, tighter.

But I didn’t know, so I lied through my teeth. “Nothing, probably some heavy waves tonight.”

She nodded, accepting my answer, trusting it. “You’re right.”

No Kathryn, darling, sadly I was not.

Down the long beige-painted hall from where we stood, a woman rushed out of her room running straight towards Kathryn and me. She pointed her bony finger at us. “We’re all going to die.” She said, simply. It wasn’t a scream nor was it a whimper of fear. It was a hard cold fact.

I narrowed my eyes at the woman as I felt Kathryn’s fingernails digging into my arm. “No we are not.”?

The woman nodded fiercely. “Oh, sir, but we are. That little shake, was us hitting an iceberg.”

At this Finley’s earlier words replayed in my mind as Kathryn let out a shrill scream of fear. “Ay man, I heard that some shark is circling the boat.”?

That was the moment I began to have doubt.
The woman had been right. Crowds upon crowds of people stood upon the Sea Serpent’s deck, yet I couldn’t find Finley anywhere. Kathryn and I wanted to say goodbye to him.

The sky looked as if someone was angry and scooped up the darkest part of the ocean they could find, and for some reason decided to throw it into the space above them. I bet they did not know at the time that it would create a beautiful masterpiece. A man, who I didn’t know, handed an orange life jacket to my wife. When she tried to put it on, it would not fit. Her pregnant belly, eight months, had been too large. Kathryn began to cry, then. In defeat. I brushed the brown hair out of her face. “It’s okay.” I said, “You’re going to be okay.”?

Kathryn nodded, biting her lip. The space between her eyebrows creased as she slung her arms around my neck, pulling me against her. I kissed her cheek, softly. “You’re going to be alright.” I whispered again. But at that point, I didn’t know who I was trying to convince.
Woman first, that is the rule on boats. Which was fine with me, I needed her and our baby to be safe. A white-bearded man ushered Kathryn towards the lifeboat, along with eleven other woman. She turned to me. “I’ll see you soon, okay?” As soon as she said it she corrected herself, placing a firm hand on her abdomen. “We’ll see you soon.”

I nodded, forcing a smile. “Sooner than you think.” I replied, another lie. But at the time it wasn’t a lie I knew I was making. I felt a sudden emotion and it hurt. It was one that told me that what I had said was far from true. I kissed her gently on the lips then kissed her stomach, our child.

“Miss?” called the bearded man. “We need you to get on the lifeboat now.”

He was talking to Kathryn and both of us realized his mistake. “Mrs.” She cried, clutching to me. “Mrs. Cabot!”?

I quickly disengaged myself from her, pushing her softly towards the man, before I could stop myself. She looked at me with wide eyes, tears streaked her cheeks. I sent my thoughts towards her like a tide: be strong for me, be strong for me. Like a current: I love you, I love you. I can only hope that she received them.

“Miss?” called the man again.

“Go.” I told her. And now, as I sit here at this desk, I am not sure why I did. “I love you, Kathryn.”

She kissed me once, twice. “I love you too, William Cabot.” Then like before, she corrected herself: “We love you.” I found myself hoping she wouldn’t go, hoping it was all a dream. And despite what I knew happened, despite what I saw, that hope still hasn’t wavered.

Kathryn did go though, she got in the lifeboat and down they went, into the deep violent waters of the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t until fifteen-minutes later, when I heard her scream, that I regretted it deeply.
I ran to the edge of the boat and looked over to see an image that would forever be etched into my brain. My first thought was: It’s not her. But the thing is, it was her. She was in the water with her body in the mouth of a shark. A deafening sound filled the air like a clap of thunder; it was inhuman, unearthly. It took me a moment to realize the sound had come from me.

I don’t believe that I will ever be able to explain or forget the feeling I had felt when I saw her that way; mangled. It was as if someone had just ripped me open, expecting it to be quick like a Band-Aid, only to find that it would hurt for years, for life.
Not soon enough I was in a lifeboat, paddling towards her in the fury of the night. When I got closer the shark was gone. I could tell by the glassy look in her unblinking eyes that she, and our baby, was gone too.
I close the photo album and get up from my seat at the aged desk and walk stiffly towards my twin bed. She was so beautiful. I lie down, covering my mouth with her old pillow. Then I allow myself to remember her. The olive planes of her face, her brown eyes as wide as a does, and her mouth like red wine, asking for a sip.

Remembering gives me an impossible pain, as if my heart were about to rip out of my chest. I then begin to l cry for the first time since it happened two years ago in the year of the tiger. My cry is strangled. I press the pillow harder against my lips, for I believe you should never let anyone know that you are breaking down.

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thepreechyteenager said...
Jun. 6, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Very sad, the end more than anything else :(

I think this was very well written, but the part where he sees his wife and the shark, I think you might want to elaborate a little more on the guy's emotions.  It's the climax, and I think a little more detail could do it some good.

Very nice story though, the ending was soooo sad!

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