By Fred Klein
Percy Soames was a small man with a baby face that made him look younger than his 32 years. He was elated that he had his first-class ticket on the maiden voyage of the Titanic to New York. There he would be able to socialize with the Guggenheims, Astors, and Strauses. He had gotten into land speculation and thought that New York would be the perfect place to make his fortune with its new skyscraper buildings.
Looking at the Titanic was awe-inspiring. It was the biggest, fastest ship ever built, and it was supposedly unsinkable. The black hull with the white superstructure and the four funnels made it look like it was in constant motion.
He walked up the gangplank and was addressed by the purser. “The first-class cabins are up two levels more towards the bow of the ship.”
“Thank you, I am looking forward to a great voyage,” replied Percy.
Percy walked up to the first-class level and looked around. It gave him a great view of the docks at Southampton. He then went to his cabin to put away his attaché case. He noted that his trunk was already in his stateroom. He then walked down the grand staircase with its marvelous wooden paneling to the smoking lounge, where he would smoke his Havana cigar.
“This is the life I will lead every day after making my millions in New York.” Percy had come from a well-to-do family in London that was in banking, but he desired more, so he was off to make his own fortune.
Later he changed for dinner and was put at the table with the noted Journalist William Thomas Stead.
“Sir, I am William Stead. Welcome to our table.”
“Thank you, I am Percy Soames,” replied Percy.
“What is your business, Mr. Soames?”
“I am in banking and real estate. My business is speculating on land in the downtown part of New York.
What is your business?”
“I am writing an article on New York.”
They continued their conversation throughout the evening. Near the end, Percy asked if Mr. Stead knew either Mr. Guggenheim, Mr. Astor, or Mr. Straus. Mr. Stead said he knew Mr. John Jacob Astor and would introduce Percy to him the following evening.
Percy thanked Mr. Stead and bid him a good evening.
Percy went back to his room, and because the ocean was calm, he had no trouble falling asleep in his huge bed.
The next day Percy whiled away his time playing shuffleboard and bridge. At the bar, he met up with Mr.
“Mr. Stead, how are you, sir? Said Percy.
“Quite well, and you sir? Said Mr. Stead.
“Very well. I had quite a run playing bridge this afternoon.”
“Are you ready to meet Mr. Astor?”
“Why yes, of course.”
They walked to a table near the bar, and there sat John Jacob Astor, one of the wealthiest men on earth. He was being attended to by his valet when they approached.
“Mr. Astor, this is Mr. Percy Soames, a banker, and real estate developer,” said Mr. Stead.
“A pleasure to meet you sir,” said Mr. Astor while shaking Percy’s hand.
“The honor is mine to meet you sir,” said Percy.
“Why are you going to New York?” said Astor.
“We are opening a branch there and are looking
at development opportunities.”
“I have been known to deal in some real estate there.”
“Yes sir, I am aware of your many holdings there and your vast business empire. I have even heard of your bravery in your war with Spain.”
“I played only a small part in that little conflict.”
“No doubt you are being modest.”
“One has to assert his manhood at some point.”
“But you could have been killed.”
“A brave man dies but once, but a coward dies many times.”
They had a few drinks together, and then Mr.
Astor said he had to check on his wife, who was in a delicate condition.
The next night Mr. Astor called him over to his table as they needed a fourth for a game of bridge. The day after, Percy met Thomas Andrews, the architect of the Titanic, while walking the deck in first class.
“Certainly a beautiful ship,” said Percy.
“Thank you, I designed her,” Mr. Andrews said.
“You must be very proud. Let me introduce myself. I am Percy Soames of Soames Bank.”
“A pleasure sir. I am Thomas Andrews.”
“Is it truly unsinkable?”
“Mostly; there are compartments that close to keep the ship afloat if there is hull damage.”
“The lifeboats are very predominant on the sides of the ship.”
“Unfortunately, there are not enough for all the passengers, but they are very unlikely to be needed.”
That stoked a concern for Percy, but he put it out of his mind for now.
“I am sorry, but I must run off. I have a meeting with the Captain,” said Mr. Andrews.
“Have a pleasant day!”
That night again, Percy played cards at the table with Mr. Astor. They smoked cigars and drank brandy to while away the night.
The next day Percy saw Mr. Guggenheim, but his valet was attending to him, and Percy did not want to intrude. The day was cloudy, and it was getting frigid on deck. They must be nearing the ice fields.
Strangely the ship did not slow down because of the ice.
That night they were playing cards again well after dinner when they heard a loud noise, and the ship seemed to lurch to one side.
“What was that?” shouted Percy.
“I am sure it was nothing,” replied Astor.
The ship slowed down but did not stop. There was some shouting amongst the crew, but then nothing.
They kept playing cards. Quite a while later, they heard the purser shout from his megaphone.
“Will all passengers please put on their life jackets and report to their lifeboat stations.”
“What is this intrusion?” shouted Astor.
“Maybe it is a lifeboat drill,” Percy hoped.
“Find out what this is all about, Victor,” Astor instructed his valet.
The valet returned a little while later and informed everyone at the table that they should do as the purser instructed. Astor went to attend to his pregnant wife. Percy went out on the deck and saw Mr. Andrews.
“Mr. Andrews, what is all this?” said Percy.
“Mr. Soames, get on your lifejacket. This is not a drill.”
“I thought you said you had compartments to keep the ship afloat.”
“The damage is too great. We ran into an iceberg. This ship will sink!” said Mr. Andrews, and then he ran off.
Then Percy remembered that Andrews had mentioned that there were not enough lifeboats. What could he do? So he ran off to get his lifejacket and waited by a lifeboat.
Then he heard an order from the purser that only women and children were allowed in the lifeboats at this time. Now he really began to worry. He walked through the grand ballroom and saw Mr. Guggenheim, Mr. Astor, and Mr. Stead in tuxedos at a table drinking brandy and playing cards. Mr. Astor spotted Percy and said, “Come, Mr. Soames, play cards, and die like a gentleman!”
Percy ignored him and ran through to the main deck of the ship near lifeboats. He saw that some lifeboats had already left; some not even filled. Percy knew time was running out. He saw some desperate people crowd one lifeboat and tried to get on board. The first officer had to threaten to shoot them to get them from overcrowding the boat and sinking it.
“I said only women and children!” the first officer as he shot at a man who tried to rush the boat.
This scared Percy even more. Now they were trying to compensate for the shortage of boats by putting more people aboard each boat but only women and children. He noticed some women took off their coats and hats to squeeze onto the boat. He saw this as an opportunity. He grabbed a woman’s hat and coat and then went to a nearby lifeboat to get in line with women trying to get on the lifeboat. He held his head down and got the last seat in the boat ahead of a pregnant woman.
The crew lowered the boat, and they rowed the boat away from the ship. Soon all the boats were away, and the Titanic started to go under. There were screams and the sound of the ship breaking in half. It was terrible.
The women in the boat started screaming and moaning.
“Oh, my Johnny is dead.”
“Oh, my poor dead husband!”
“My poor father!”
Then a Hungarian woman from second class noticed that under the coat and hat was not a woman but a man.
She screamed in heavily accented English, “You evil man. You lived while my husband and son had to die. You even took the place of that pregnant woman. I curse you. I curse you to live this day again and again forever until you die!”
Everyone on the boat pointed at him and cursed him. He thought they might throw him overboard. The next thing Edgar knew, he was in the boat by himself, floating on the ocean in the middle of a fog. He didn’t know what happened to the others, and he didn’t care.
He floated there alone for days, cold and without food or water. His only companion was the fog. Finally, a ship approached. He was going to be saved. He got rid of the woman’s coat and hat. He frantically waved his hands. They barely saw him but sent out a lifeboat to get him. He saw the name of the ship. It was the Lusitania bound for England. They brought him aboard.
The second officer said, “How long have you been in the boat?”
“Several days,” said Percy.
“What ship did you come from?”
“You must be daft. The Titanic sank three years ago.”
“It can’t be.”
“You have been out there too long; you are delirious.”
They brought him to the medical officer and said to look after him. “He must have hit his head or something.”
The second officer reported to the Captain. “He claims he was on the Titanic.”
“He must be delirious. He is lucky we even stopped for him in these war conditions. Keep a lookout for submarines.”
The next day, as the ship was approaching
Ireland, the German U-20 submarine fired a torpedo at the Lusitania, and it began to sink.
“What was that? Percy said.
“We must have been hit by a torpedo from a
German submarine,” said the medical officer.
“Why would they do that?”
“Because we are at war, you idiot. Get on a lifeboat.”
Percy ran to the lifeboats and barely got in one before the Lusitania sank. He was in a lifeboat with 16 other people when suddenly he was alone again in the lifeboat, and the ocean was again covered in fog. He was floating on the sea for several days when he spied a ship. He waved frantically. As it approached, he saw it was much more streamlined than previous ships he had seen. He saw the name on the ship was the Andria
Doria. They sent a small boat out for him.
“Va tutto bene?”
“What?” Percy said.
“Are you alright?” said the sailor.
“How long have you been out here?”
“What ship were you from?”
Percy thought for a moment. What should he say? “The Lusitania.”
“E pazzesco! That is crazy. The Lusitania sank 41 years ago.”
That brought him aboard and sent him to the medical officer. The sailor told the Captain that the man was crazy and thought he had been on the Lusitania.
The medical officer questioned Percy, who said he had been first on the Titanic and then the Lusitania when they sank.
So the medical officer skeptically said, “So you are the Jonah of the seas. Every ship you are -on will sink.”
Later the Andria Doria went through very thick fog as it approached Nantucket Island bound for New
York. Suddenly, out of the fog appeared like a ghostly apparition, the ocean liner Stockholm. The two ships collided, and the sharp bow of the Stockholm struck deep within the Andria Doria. Soon she was sinking. Again Percy had to get into another lifeboat.
This time Percy was on a lifeboat with 20 passengers when all of a sudden, he was alone again in a lifeboat floating on a foggy ocean. Again he floated for several days.
“So I am really cursed,” thought Percy.
“What can I do to stop this?”
He spotted a ship and initially waved his hands to get their attention, but then he thought better of it. He dove into the water to end his life and the curse.
The ship sent a small boat to investigate the lifeboat. The crew found an empty lifeboat, but the side of the boat said Andria Doria. “How could that be? It sank 56 years ago,” said a sailor.
The sailor reported what happened to the Captain of the Costa Concordia, who was busy entertaining his girlfriend. The Captain then told the navigator to cruise closer to Iso Del Giglio Island so he could show it to his girlfriend. Soon the ship scraped the rocks and capsized and later sank.
Fred is a member of the Southern California Writers Association, OC Writers, and Hometown Reads. He has had some short stories published and a self-published humorous book, Memoirs of a Road Warrior, for sale on Amazon.com.
Fred writes from his experiences as a salesman, laboratory technician, food service worker, writer, drummer, and pilot. He lives in California with his wife.
2 thoughts on “Jonah of the Seas”
Reblogged this on Aesthetic Dreams.