Read The Last Passenger Online

Authors: Manel Loureiro

The Last Passenger (30 page)

BOOK: The Last Passenger
12.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

LIII

Once the luminous glow had begun to fade, Kate opened her eyes. The spectral flashes of lightning began flickering in through the dance hall’s windows. The storm had redoubled its efforts, and the entire hull of the
Valkyrie
was creaking and trembling against waves thirty feet tall.

The floor swayed relentlessly beneath Kate’s feet. The ship moved like a pendulum, and the furniture shifted about like dice in a cup. An expensive seat made of oak and leather cracked when it slammed against a pillar. Seconds later the tremendous cacophony of glass shattering into infinite pieces boomed out of the great hall. The huge chandelier, unable to withstand the rocking of the ship any longer, crashed to the floor. The
Valkyrie
was disintegrating amid the storm.

She looked all around. There was no sign of the baby.

In another moment and place in time, a terrified British naval officer was picking up the baby off the dance floor. The only difference was that he wouldn’t have any jewelry around his neck this time. From there, the future would be altered. That child would live, but he would not be the same. The cycle had changed.

A wall of foamy gray water slammed into the dance hall windows, breaking them. Kate had just enough time to run out of the hall before it was flooded with thousands of gallons of water and broken glass. The lights flickered, and after a final spark, they went out for good.

Kate crossed the landing with the eagles and had to step around the broken remains of the crystal chandelier. Frayed wires above her head cast intimidating sparks with each movement of the ship.

In order to get outside, Kate needed all the help she could get from her good elbow and her knees. With one of her arms out of commission, she found it incredibly difficult to hang on to the window frame and leap onto the ship’s deck. When she managed to, Kate’s eyes opened wide and she gulped.

The
Valkyrie
was drifting through the storm with no one at the helm and its engines powered off. The waves had lashed the ship off course. In a storm like this, it was no more than a question of time before a particularly strong wave obliterated the hull and sent the
Valkyrie
to the bottom of the ocean. The wind grew more blustery, and it was hard to tell if it would take hours or just a few minutes, but one way or another, the ship was doomed. If she didn’t hurry, Kate would go down with the ship.

Fighting against the ceaseless wind and rain, Kate gripped the railing and walked forward step by step. Each movement forward was a serious accomplishment. The salty water was splashing against her knees more frequently, and Kate realized that the water level had risen quickly. It could only mean one thing—the ship had sustained a leak somewhere, and the
Valkyrie
was sinking.

While the leak hastened the
Valkyrie
’s end, it also saved Kate’s life. Flooding the
Valkyrie
’s cargo holds, the water was weighing the ship down and causing it to be more stable as it sank. For Kate to lower the lifeboat down to the water without hitting the side of the ship, it was imperative that the ship not rock too violently. If the lifeboat slammed into the ship, the force would break the boat apart, casting Kate into the ocean to drown.

She finally reached the closest lifeboat. Next to that boat, in some vicious time warp, she had found a straw hat, the first sign of the nightmare that was to come. Kate shivered at the memory.

She raised the glass protecting the pulley and activated the boat’s descent. The electric engines hummed to life, and the boat began its trip to the water. When she was about to step into the vessel, her foot bumped something. It was Robert’s urn. Kate picked it up and entered the raft.

Then, she breathed deeply a few times, and screwing up her courage, she pressed the button to release the two pins simultaneously.

With a click the lifeboat was released from its securements, and it dropped to the water. Kate grabbed hold of her seat to avoid being bucked off. The tiny lifeboat was tossed about in the middle of waves that looked like enormous hills all around her.

A treacherous wave slammed the side of the boat and flooded it. Kate struggled to keep her head above the waves. Seawater got into her mouth, and she spat out what she did not swallow. Then, she heard a thunderous crunch behind her, and she looked back. Through the fog of the storm, she watched as the majestic stern of the
Valkyrie
tipped up above the waves and sheets of water poured from the bronze propellers. The ship was sinking and producing a symphony of sound. Metal crunched and scraped. For a moment the ship remained vertical and was tossed about by the waves, and all of the lights turned off on board. Kate flinched and waited for the final blow that would finally send the ship to the depths of the ocean. But the
Valkyrie
sank tamely below the waves, as if an invisible hand were pulling it from below.

The ocean surface bubbled a few times, and a couple of life preservers appeared in the dirty, oily whitecaps that crowned the waves, but suddenly, everything had come to an end.

The
Valkyrie
was no more.

LIV

Eight hours later

 

A cold morning sunrise slowly usurped the darkness. The sea had been tossing the lifeboat around for hours, leaving Kate bruised and unable to sleep. She was exhausted, terrified, and dying of thirst. The fog had vanished, and the sunshine had revealed a wide expanse of empty ocean that was still stirring from the aftershocks of the storm receding on the horizon.

As soon as the boat had quit swaying, Kate risked letting go of the seat she’d gripped tightly for hours. She took a couple of shaky steps to the other side of the boat and pulled open a rubber cover to reveal a modern emergency beacon. With tired eyes she followed the instructions and pressed a button to activate it. The beacon turned on with a blip, and a red light began blinking on one side. Then, far too exhausted to care, she collapsed against it and closed her eyes.

Even though the
Valkyrie
had drifted quite a ways during the storm, Kate knew more or less
where
she was. She was near the commercial routes that crossed the Atlantic. What she did not know was
when
she was. She contemplated what the hell she might do if she wound up trapped in 1939.

She looked up and weighed her possibilities. All in all, living in 1939 would not be such a bad thing. It would have its drawbacks, of course, bu
t . . .

Smoke. Smoke was on the horizon.

Kate got up and looked for a pair of binoculars in the boat’s emergency kit. In the distance she could make out a black spot moving against the rising sun. She put down the binoculars and searched through the supplies until she found a flare gun. She placed a flare inside before pointing into the sky and firing.

With a hiss, the flare ascended into the air and exploded high above in a lovely cloud of red. Kate fired two more flares before opening a colored smoke flare she found at the bottom of the emergency kit. The lifeboat was immediately enveloped in a red cloud that had to be visible miles away. She picked up her binoculars again and looked toward the ship. She sighed in relief. The spot in the distance was coming closer.

They had seen her.

The wait felt like an eternity. It was an enormous, imposing cargo vessel that was sailing alone. It made Kate feel miniscule and left her in a state of doubt. But eventually, the ship was close enough for her to make out the colors on the hull. On the deck above she could see hundreds of stacked Maersk containers.

Overcome with joy, Kate looked around the bottom of the lifeboat. Tucked back in a corner, dripping wet, was Robert’s urn. Kate picked it up tenderly and brought it to her lips for one last, soft kiss. Then, she held it above the waves and let go. Entranced, she watched as the urn slowly sank down to its final resting place at the bottom of the ocean.

Good-bye, Robert.

Robert, who had helped her survive this horrible experience.

Robert, whose spirit had somehow nestled into those ashes.

Robert, the man who had been able to remain by her side even after Moore had tossed his ashes out to the winds.

Robert, the man who had defied the shadow’s plans.

Kate smiled and delighted in her secret. She watched as the boat that would rescue her descended to the water. As she waited Kate gently placed a hand over her womb.

Because there, inside, grew the fruit of one last fit of passion. Because she knew that the child of a dead man was growing inside of her, the child of the man who had come back from the shadows to save her life.

A child of love. A child of light.

The last passenger on board the
Valkyrie
.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo © 2012 Pablo Manuel Otero

International bestselling author Manel Loureiro was born in Pontevedra, Spain, and studied law at Universidade de Santiago de Compostela. After graduating, he worked in television, both on-screen (appearing on Televisión de Galicia) and behind-the-scenes as a writer. His Apocalypse Z trilogy—
The Beginning of the End
,
Dark Days
, and
The Wrath of the Just
—took him from the blogosphere to bestsellerdom, earning him acclaim as “the Spanish Stephen King” by
La Voz de Galicia
. Loureiro continues to reside in his native Pontevedra.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

Andrés Alfaro is a translator, teacher, and musician who focuses on Central American literature, especially that of contemporary Costa Rica. He received his MFA in literary translation from the University of Iowa. His translations have appeared in
The Buenos Aires Review
,
MahMag
,
Hispanic Issues
, and
Trinity Journal of Literary Translation
. He currently resides in Iowa City, Iowa.

 

BOOK: The Last Passenger
12.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Angel's Assassin by Holt, Samantha
Person or Persons Unknown by Bruce Alexander
The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble
The Last Enchantment by Mary Stewart
Nothing Can Rescue Me by Elizabeth Daly