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Terror Aboard The Titanic

Will the illness devour you?

By Stephanie DownardPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 20 min read
A picture I took of my hand.

“Dr.Quill, come quick, the rats! There's something wrong!”

“What do you mean something is wrong? We already knew they were sick, Arthur.”

Both Dr.Quill and I watched as our lab rats began to shake and foam at the mouth. The rat's eyes turned blood red as the shaking stopped. They then started shrieking and snarling. The wails that came from the cage sent shivers down my spine. It wasn't natural. Nothing about our work seemed ordinary. I wasn't sure if any of this was even ethical. The rodents then went into a violent rage, frantically trying to gnaw and bite their way out of the cage. It was almost like they were all working together to inch closer to the healthy rats.

“Dr.Quill, what is wrong with them?” I looked over at him but was horrified by the expression on his face. Instead of fear, he wore a giant smile.

“Arthur, my dear boy,” He said happily, “We've done it!”

“Done what, sir? The rats are crazed with madness!”

“Precisely! This is it! The results I've been waiting years to perfect.”

Taken back by his response, I couldn't help but think that maybe being Dr. Quill's lab assistant was a terrible idea. Why was he so enthused about the rats acting like carnivorous monsters? What would he do with this elixir we had created? I was about to tell him I didn't want to be a part of this experiment anymore, but he tempted me with an opportunity I couldn't refuse.

“Arthur, what day is it?”

“It's April 9th, 1912, sir.”

“Outstanding, we still have time. I knew this ticket for the Titanic would come in handy. I have one last task for you to complete. Could you take this elixir to America on the Titanic for me?”

I was overwhelmed with joy. The goal had always been to go to America. Not thinking about the consequences of what would get done with this concoction, I just blurted out,

“Yes, Dr.Quill, I would be delighted too!”

“Wonderful, I knew I could count on you.”

Dr.Quill then went on to tell me all the details of who and where I was to take the questionable mixture from our science experiment.

“Now listen closely! I say this with uttermost importance, my dear boy! You must guard this elixir at all costs. Do not let it out of your sight! The aftermath could be catastrophic if anything happened to it.”

I replied nervously, “I understand, Dr.Quill.”

He pulled out this black wooden box with the most impressive gold trim around the edges and a golden keyhole. Along with a key to unlock the box and, to my surprise, a first-class ticket for my Titanic voyage.

“This ticket cost me a pretty penny, lad. I originally wanted to make the trip myself, but with the breakthrough in our work, I need to stay here.”

“Dr.Quill, I'm not sure I will fit in with the first-class passengers. I don't even own a decent jacket.”

“Awe, yes, of course, take this money and go to the nearest clothing shop and get yourself some proper attire.”

He handed me the most money I had ever seen. I wasn't sure where Dr.Quill had gotten all this cash or how he was able to afford his experiments. I just figured maybe he came from old money.

“Hurry back, Arthur. We haven't much time to get you ready for the trip tomorrow. I have luggage you can have. Don't worry about getting any.”

I left the lab excited, but in the back of my mind couldn't shake the feeling that taking the compound to America was a terrible idea. Were my selfish motives worth the risk? What were the intentions of the scientist in New York? I already told Dr.Quill I would do it. How could I go back on my word? Would the consequences of telling him no be career-ending? I began to feel panicked as I made my way to the clothing store. Was I supposed to ignore this feeling of doom and go for a dream I’ve always had?

Once I reached the shop, I stood outside and contemplated if I should go inside. Going in meant I’d decided, and I wasn’t sure if I could do it. As time passed, I knew this would be my only chance to go to America. So I opened the shop door and went inside. The tailor helped me pick out some formal attire when I mentioned Dr.Quill and my first class quarters on the Titanic. Once he got me everything I needed, I made my way back to the lab to pack what little belongings I had.

I didn't have a home since my parents and house perished in a fire a few years back. I had just finished high school and thought my future would be bright. But the fire took everything along with all the savings I had for college. I was left to rummage through the streets of England in hopes of finding a new purpose.

Shortly after that, I met Dr.Quill, and he took me in as his assistant. He gave me a room in his lab and paid me a small wage. In that sense, I would always be grateful to him. If it wasn't for him, I could have wound up a street urchin begging for scrap.

It didn't take me long to get everything ready, so that night, I lay in bed, unable to sleep. I was overwhelmed with joy and fear and a little sad about leaving Southampton. What would I do once I got to America? Also, I had never been on a boat before, let alone a gigantic ship. What would it be like on the Titanic? Would I get seasick? I tried not to let myself think too much about anything lab-related. I'd already made my final choice, and I pushed the thoughts to the back of my mind.

The following day came fast. I hardly slept from all my mixed emotions. I put on one of my new suits and waited. I was so eager all I could do was walk around the lab.

“Arthur, won't you sit down? You're going to put a hole in the floor with all that pacing.”

“Sorry, Dr. Quill, I'm just anxious about sailing on the Titanic.”

“Don't be nervous. Besides, I hear this ship is unsinkable. I envy you going in place of me.”

“I can't thank you enough, sir. This opportunity is one in a million for me. Oh, speaking of money, I almost forgot to give you the leftover bills from yesterday.”

“Keep it, my dear boy. Consider it a parting gift.”

“Sir, I couldn't possibly keep all of this.”

“Nonsense, I wouldn't have it any other way. You've been an excellent lab assistant, and you're practically family to me now.”

“But you have done so much for me already.”

“Just take the money and say thank you, Arthur.”

“Ok, Sir, Thank you so much!”

I couldn't believe Dr.Quill had given me this small fortune. With this, I knew I could thrive. I looked at my watch and saw it was almost 9 o'clock.

“Dr.Quill, should I start heading to the White Star Dock now?”

He glanced at the time and said, “Well, that would probably be smart. I believe they start boarding at 9:30 am. I'll help you carry your luggage to the dock.”

We grabbed all my stuff, and Dr.Quill picked up the black box with the compound and clutched it as if he would never let go. We walked down the street, and the closer we got to the docks, the bigger and bigger the Titanic got. Even in the distance, it was an amazing sight to see. The four smokestacks stood out to me. They were so huge I overheard someone say they were 62 feet tall. It hit me that I would be aboard the ship within the hour.

We finally made it to Berth 44. Dr.Quill handed me the box, and I went in to shake his hand, and he pulled me in closer and gave me a hug. It was slightly weird, but I embraced it and hugged him back with my free hand.

“ I'll miss having you around, Arthur. My lab won't be the same, and I don't know if I will ever find an assistant as extraordinary as you.”

“Thank you, sir! I'll miss you too! I will forever be grateful to you! Who knows where I would be right now if I hadn't met you.”

“Alright, that's enough sappy talk. Go on and get aboard. I wish you the best of luck, my dear boy! And remember, keep a close eye on that box.”

“I will, sir. I promise! Thank you, Dr.Quill. Until we meet again.”

“Goodbye, Arthur!” he yelled as I made my way onto the ship.

I still couldn't believe how magnificent the Titanic truly was. The ship of dreams is what they called it. And to me, it was. As I made my way up the ramp, a porter called me.

“Excuse me, sir, may I help you with your luggage.”

“Yes, of course, thank you.”

He tried to reach for the black box in my arms, but I shuddered away from him.

“I’ll keep hold of this if you don't mind.”

“Not at all, sir. Come this way; I'll show you to your room.”

I entered the ship on the port side on the B deck and followed him to the elevators. We reached the A deck, and I immediately marveled at the sight of the solid oak Grand staircase and the bronze cherub holding an electric torch. I'd never seen such a thing like this. Above the stairs, on the central landing, there was an exquisite clock. On both sides, it had two intricately carved angelic female figures. I overheard a lady say they were called Honor and Glory crowing Time. They were wholly elegant. When I looked up, there was a huge glass dome with a crystal chandelier hanging in the middle. It let in the most beautiful light.

“It is quite the sight, isn't it, sir.”

“ Yes, it is. I could stare at it all day.”

We reached my single berth stateroom. It wasn't as luxurious as the other first-class suites onboard, but who was I to complain. It was a free ticket, and honestly, I didn't care if it had been a spot in the third class quarters. I was just glad to be on the ship at all. By the time I got all settled in my room, it was only 10:30 am. I decided to explore the vessel before we set sail. I made sure to grab the black box before I left. It felt awkward carrying it around, but Dr.Quill was very adamant not to lose sight of the mixture.

I wandered around the A deck. I made sure not to stray too far because I wanted to go out and yell Bon voyage as we left the dock. I checked out the reading and writing room and the first-class lounge. I peaked into the smoking-room, knowing I probably wouldn’t spend too much time there. I made my way to the Veranda café and Palm court. The café was a remarkable place. It had black and beige checkered floors with live plants everywhere and ivy-covered trellises with wicker tables and chairs. The large floor-to-ceiling windows were a lovely addition that allowed you to look out at sea. It was completely enclosed, and I thought it was a perfect place to have some tea.

By the time I got done with my refreshments, it was almost noon. I went back to the Grand staircase and up to the boat deck. The ship was a little confusing to maneuver around, so, at this point, I only knew how to get to places from the staircase. I prepared to wave and say goodbye to the only place I’d ever called home. Walking along the deck, I came across the gymnasium. It was a neat room with two electric camels and a horse. There was also a rowing machine, punching bag, weightlifting machine, and mechanical bicycles. I knew I had to come back and check out all the contraptions.

There were quite a few people up top as the ship began to leave the dock. I looked out and watched as everyone cheered and waved madly. Standing there, I wished I had a family to wave back at me. Thousands of people below clapped and shouted. I knew that this moment would go down in history. With all the chaos going on, the Titanic almost collided with the SS New York tied to the RMS Oceanic. It happened so fast, but a tugboat named Vulcan was able to pull it out of the way just in time. That set our journey back by an hour, but we finally voyaged out into open waters.

I stayed up top and walked around for a while. I noticed that there weren't very many lifeboats on board. I found it odd, but from what I could tell, there were only twenty. I was no expert when it came to a ship they said was unsinkable, but it seemed like maybe they should have had more. I stopped to look out at sea and was stunned at the beauty as the ship sailed onward. As the fresh air hit my face, I couldn't help but feel freedom for the first time in a while. I couldn't wait to get to America.

I went back to my cabin to take a nap. I was exhausted from all the excitement from the day and the night before. When I woke up, it was close to dinner, so I decided to change into my fancy attire. I put on my white tie, tailcoat, and a white pique waistcoat. I was about to leave when I remembered the box. I went to grab it but decided to leave it. I knew I would already be out of place eating with the first class, and bringing the box would just add to it.

I got to the dining saloon on D deck and went inside. The room was luxurious and massive. I bet it could have fit 500 people. The walls were wood panels painted white, and the floors were covered in blue linoleum tiles with an elaborate red and yellow pattern. Inner leaded-glass windows elegantly concealed the room’s portholes. Every table had a vase with fresh flowers. It seemed like I was dining at the fanciest restaurant around. The food was delicious. I had never eaten like this before, having more than ten courses. I couldn't wait to see what the breakfast menu had.

When I got back to my cabin, it was late, so I chose to get ready for bed. I began to take off my tailcoat, but I realized the black box was gone. I panicked and searched everywhere. It was nowhere to be found. I wasn't sure what to do next. Who could have taken it? I left my room to try and figure out where it went, and I ran into a well-dressed man.

“Excuse me, sir, but who should I contact if I've had something taken from my room?”

“Something was stolen, you say. You would need to speak to the Master at Arms. Come this way; I just saw him.”

As we walked, he introduced himself and said his name was John Jacob Astor. I later found out he was the wealthiest man on the Titanic. I couldn't believe it. Once I learned who he was, I felt like I had been talking to royalty. When we found the Master at Arms, I described the box and told him it was imperative I get it back. He said he would look into it and let me know what he could find out.

A few days passed, and I heard nothing about the box. I had an uneasy sensation in my stomach. If someone opened the box and the compound got out, how would it affect people? It did terrible things to rats. I finally ran into the Master at Arms. He told me they had found a third-class passenger disguised as a steward going around taking things. But right now, he was severely ill, as were all the people he shared a cabin with. At that moment, I knew it was too late. I had to tell Captain Smith these sick passengers had to get off the ship immediately.

No one took me seriously. I tried to warn them the whole ship was in danger. By the 13th of April, I decided to go down to the hospital on the ship. It was a horrid sight. All the beds were full and then some. The patient's eyes were just starting to turn red. I told the doctor about the compound and the effects it had on the rats, but he looked at me like I was crazy. He assured me they would be fine and told me not to return. I begged him to let me speak to the man that had taken my box. After a lot of arguing, he allowed me to. The man was barely conscious. I tried to keep my distance. Our conversation was brief, but he said he dropped my box, and when he broke into it, there was broken glass and liquid everywhere inside. The man lifted his finger, and I saw a cut. And then I knew how he got infected.

I wasn't sure how he spread it to the rest of his cabin, whether through touch or just breathing the same air. I found out the third class only had two shared bathrooms, so it was only a matter of time before it reached everyone there. I tried once more to explain to the doctor how dire the situation was, but he still wouldn't listen.

By the next day, April 14th, the Captain came to me directly along with Thomas Andrews, who helped design the Titanic. We went into Captain Smith's quarters, where they explained the sickness had spread almost entirely throughout the third class. Also, the hospital had to be completely closed off with everyone still inside. We got disturbed by one of the crewmates asking the Captain when they were having the lifeboat lesson. The captain canceled and said not to interrupt us again. They wanted my advice on what they should do, but at this moment, I didn't know. We were hundreds of miles from land.

I followed them down by the majority of the third-class quarters. They had all the gates closed and locked. Mr.Andrews said they moved the healthy passengers to the dining hall to keep them safe, but some refused to stay inside. The horror I saw behind one of the gates haunts me to this day. It was like watching the dead walk the earth. Screams of anguish filled my ears. I watched as men and women were being eaten alive by the sick, begging us to unlock the gates.

“Please let us out! The demons have taken over!” A man yelled as he fled towards us.

Blood covered the halls as the infected consumed the people's flesh. When the sick spotted us, they charged our way. They devoured the man in their path. We all stared as he was mauled and shredded, becoming completely unrecognizable. His body was like a meat carcass, with blood oozing everywhere. One of the infected looked up at me as he chewed on the man's hand. He let out an ear-piercing screech. It was like watching the rats in their cage back at the lab. They pushed and rammed at the gate, trying to get to us. One of them managed to scratch the crew member with us in the process.

“Captain, this ship can't reach New York!”

“I know, boy, I won't let it,” he replied.

“We believe about 76 percent of the third-class has been stricken down with the illness,” Mr. Andrews said with panic.

“We have to get the rest out of there! Move them somewhere! We have to do something! We can't leave them down here to die!”

“The Captain and I will do what we can to save them. It’s probably time we tell J.Bruce Ismay.”

“Who’s J.Bruce Ismay?” I asked.

Mr.Andrews responded, “He’s the managing director and chairman of the White Star Line.”

“I think we should keep this between us. Telling more people will start a panic.” The Captain said with assertion.

We went back up to the boat deck. Mr. Andrew’s pointed out J.Bruce Ismay.

“Don’t say anything to him!” The Captain repeated.

A thought popped into my head, wondering how long it would be before the gates gave way and the infectious people got out. I knew It couldn’t be too long.

First Officer William Murdoch walked up.

“Captain Smith, we have been getting ice warnings. Should we slow down the ship?”

“No, Officer Murdoch, we continue full speed ahead.”

“But sir.”

“But nothing, go back to the bridge immediately.”

The night quickly came upon us. They managed to get what few women and children left out of the 3rd class section. It was just after 11:30 pm when we got word that the gates had broke and the infected people were running rampant down below. The Captain ordered all the stewards to gather and wake everyone and get to the ship's upper levels. Ten minutes later, we heard a bell and Fredrick Fleet call from the crow's nest.

“Iceberg ahead!”

Officer Murdock acted quickly to send a message to the engine room and did his best to avoid crashing into it, but there wasn’t enough time. The ship collided with the iceberg at 11:40 pm. Ice pieces fell onto the ship, and we felt a slight jolt. Unknowing that at that very moment, the ship started taking on water and began to flood. Not too long after, Mr. Andrew’s made it known that five water compartments had filled up. And the Titanic would go down in a matter of hours. The stewards were now ordered to pass out life vests to all passengers. Everyone except us remained calm because they were blissfully unaware that the ship was sinking. All the while, sickly people raged below our feet as they hunted for fresh blood.

I ran back to my room because I wanted to grab my small fortune. It was all I had left to my name. When I opened the door, I was instantly attacked by the same crewman that had been scratched earlier that day. His eyes were red, and foam seeped out of his mouth. I did everything I could to push him back. He was strong and constantly tried to bite me. I reached over and grabbed my fountain pen. As I was fighting him off, I took the pen and stabbed it right in his eye, and pushed as hard as I could. Blood spewed out all over his face, and he fell to the ground. I got my money and ran out, closings the door behind me.

I went back up to the boat deck. By this time, the crewman we’re struggling to lower the lifeboats. People were hesitant to get off the Titanic because they only allowed women and children to get on. Most women didn’t want to leave their husbands. Some of the boats were barely half full as they were lowered into the water. I think at this point, they realized the ship was sinking. Panic was setting in. I could hear the band playing, trying to keep everyone calm. Flares were being shot off at the bridge. According to Captain Smith, the nearest ship, the Californian, ignored our distress call. The only ship that responded was Carpathia, but it was hours away.

I watched as a calm and clear lady helped many passengers get into lifeboats. She was, in my eyes, an angel because she ensured many people got on before getting on one herself. I later found out her name was Margret Brown, and she was called the Unsinkable Molly Brown. The bow of the ship was sinking farther. I could hear screaming below me, and I knew the sick had made their way to the A deck. The infected must have navigated through the ship, and more than likely consumed the bulk of the second class on the way. Against my better judgment, I walked over to the Grand staircase. I just need to know how close they were.

I went down, and fear hit me. Below I saw hundreds of the infected. It was mortifying. They were fighting over live people ripping and tearing them apart. Eating any limb, they could get. The pain and agony I saw from people being yanked to pieces made my stomach curdle. Water started to rush in; as it filled more and more, it became red from all the blood. The water swallowed everyone and everything.

I ran back up the stairs. I looked around for Mr. Andrews, but he was nowhere. I saw Captain Smith. He was speaking with some crewmen, and I overheard him say,

“Well, boys, you’ve done your duty and done it well. I ask no more of you. I release you. You know the rule of the sea. It’s every man for himself now, and God bless you.”

Captain Smith walked away. I tried calling after him, but he kept going. I didn’t know what to do. The ship was rapidly going down. I looked down at my watch, and the time was 1:40 am. I came across a lifeboat on the starboard side that was about to be lowered down. I knew they were only taking women and children, but I chanced it anyway. I jumped in at the last second. Right after me, another man got in. It was J.Bruce Ismay. No one said anything, and down we went.

We reached the water and rowed away. Looking at the Titanic sink was an awful sight. I hoped the frigid water would kill all the infected people. If not, I didn’t know what the outcome would be. I reassured myself that they would just sink to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again. Everyone watched as the Titanic sunk lower and lower. By 2:00 am, the ship's bow was so far down that the sterns propellers were above the water. People in the distance yelled for help, and some jumped off into the water. By 2:17 am, we saw the last distress signal. A minute later, all the lights went out. Shortly after, the stern was so far in the air, I’m not sure what happened, but we watched the Titanic break in half. The bow disappeared in the water. The ship's stern bobbed for a few minutes but sank like the other half. And the Titanic was gone.

We waited for hours floating in the water to be rescued. The cries for help eventually stopped. The remorse I felt was heartbreaking. If I had just taken that box to dinner, this could have been avoided. The tragedy would plague me till the end of my days. It was after 4 am by the time the Carpathia got to us. They help us all out of the lifeboats. I found out that of all the people on the Titanic that only a little over 700 survived.

Once Captain Arthur Rostron rescued all the survivors, we made our way on the very crowded ship to New York. Although I felt like the worse person in the world, I was glad to be alive. I could still start over in America, and to my knowledge, I was the only one alive the knew of the illness. As we were sailing at sea, I went up to the railing to look down at the water. I was standing next to a man, and I noticed he had what looked like a bite mark on his arm.

“Hey, what happened to your arm there?” I asked cautiously.

“Oh, well, in all the craziness of the Titanic sinking, I was attacked by a madman, and he bit me. I pushed him away and took off!”

I looked around behind us to make sure no one was watching. I grabbed the man, picked him up, and threw him overboard. I was not going to let another outbreak happen again!


About the Creator

Stephanie Downard

I'm a mom of 3 plus a bonus son. I've discovered I love writing, and in my free time, that's what I do! I may not be the best, but that will not stop me! It can only go up from here! I hope you enjoy the words that trickle out of my head.

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