To the Depths of the Sea


He gazed longingly into the sea, waiting for the day when she would return to him.

Emily Stocksdale, Staff Writer

Waves came rolling in to break against the craggy shore.  He watched as they scurried back, only to gather themselves back up and ram against the rocks once more.  Straining his eyes, he looked as far as he could into the distance, but it was futile.  The sun was setting, and with it went any hope that he would be able to see more than a few feet in front of him.

With a sigh, Alexei Vorslav turned and stumbled back over the beach towards civilization.  He did not have a particular destination in mind, but he was sure he would get there eventually, if he kept walking steadily.  It was a tiring business—worrying—and he could only hope that the pain would end soon.

She had been gone for three weeks now.  Three weeks without a word, without a sign, without a hope of seeing her again, and he could hardly bear it.  If it wasn’t for the stubborn resolve of his heart to keep on beating, he was sure he would have died.  As it was, he lived each day without direction, wandering the beach in search of something he would never find.

Pushing past the cove where he had taken up his search, he found himself in town once again, with hardly any recollection of how he had gotten there.  He shimmied through the docks.  His mind was consumed by one thought alone: to make it to the safety of his home before nightfall.  The sky had turned a dull shade of pink, melting into the wispy gray clouds which hung low on the sea.

As he was drifting through the throng of sailors and merchants, the frenzied movement of the crowd suddenly caught his attention.  He realized with a start that a ship had pulled into harbor, and with his blood roaring in his ears, Alexei hurried over to hear what was causing the commotion.

The boat was in poor shape, and this fact alone was likely to get people talking for a while.  Its hull was battered and draped in tangled lengths of seaweed, and the mast was split down the middle.  A skeleton crew scampered ashore, but their faces held none of the usual joy upon reaching land again.  They looked weary and anxious.  One man, dressed in the uniform of a first mate, jumped down from the docks and spoke in a low murmur to a merchant near the back of the crowd.

The crowd’s excited chatter reached his ears.  “They were attacked by pirates off the north end,” some gossiped eagerly.  Others shook their heads and muttered, “Impossible! It was far more likely a storm that brought about this damage.  Look at the hull! And the ship still bears her cargo, precious as it is.”  Stories mingled and intertwined until the original tale had all but lost its meaning.

With panic fluttering against his stomach, Alexei shoved his way through the rumors and landed next to the first officer of the ship.  Perhaps such a man would have information on his own missing vessel, and the lovely woman within.

Alexei Vorslav, in the brusque manner which suited him best, trotted over to the man and pulled him around.  The man scowled, spat at him, and moved to push past.  Vorslav shook his head and grabbed the first’s arm.

“I’m looking for a woman,” he muttered casually.

The man laughed outright, gruff and deep.  “Aren’t we all, friend?” he called out, once again trying to walk away.

Vorslav frowned.  “Listen to me!” he shouted, and several sailors turned to gawk at him before crawling hesitantly back to their work.  The crowd erupted into futile gossip once more, straying just as far from the truth as possible without sounding absurd.  Alexei lowered his voice.  “Listen,” he said, “I’m looking for a woman named Nika Alkaev.  She boarded a ship only a few weeks ago, but she hasn’t sent any word since then, huh? She promised me she would send word when she arrived from America.  I need to find her.”

The old sailor sighed.  “Alright, man,” he allowed begrudgingly, “what did you say her name was, eh? Maybe I’ve something for ya.”

“I said her name was Nika Alkaev.”

“Mmm,” the man nodded, but in a way which suggested that he had never heard such a name before.  “And the ship?” he questioned solemnly.

“The Lusitania, sir.”

“Ach, the Lusitania!” the first officer nearly choked on his pipe.  For a few minutes, he seemed at a loss for words.  Finally, he spat out, “What was your girl doing all the way over in New York, then?”

“She was looking for a job.  America, the promise of a new life, yeah? No war, no poverty—it is the perfect land, or so people claim.  Me, I don’t think it’s so good, but she wanted to try.  Some of her family is over there, and they offered her a job at a factory.  There are plenty of open positions, they claim, even for a woman.  She was going to scope it out first, I suppose, while I packed up all our things.  Then, she was going to return to England.  We will get married when she arrives, and afterwards we will return to the United States.”

“Quite a story, yes…” the man’s voice still carried an almost strangled quality to it, and he shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably.  “Let me go speak with some of my crew, huh? Then we can talk about your missing ship.”

The man departed before Alexei could stay another word.  It was only then, standing there alone, that he realized he had never given the man his name, nor gotten one in return.  With a sigh, he sat down against several crates and lay in to wait.

After a half hour or so, the first officer had finished giving orders.  The ship was tied to the dock, the cargo unloaded, and most of the sailors had been released to terrorize the small town before they shipped out come morning.  The first found Alexei where he had left him, sleeping restlessly against a shipment.  He sighed and considered leaving the man to his rest; eventually, though, he caved against his strongest desire to flee and woke the young man.

Alexei looked about himself with startled eyes.  He relaxed when he saw the sailor, if only minutely, and made to stand.  The pair walked to a small café and sat down at a secluded table in the corner.

The restaurant, which normally would have locked its doors by that time, had remained open in light of the ship which had just docked in the harbor.  Most of the business’s money relied on sailors, so staying open a bit late was worth the extra work, at least in the owner’s opinion.  Alexei frowned slightly, noticing how exhausted their waiter looked, but ordered black tea anyway, just for something to take his mind off of his girl.

“So,” he began after a long period of silence, “you know something of Nika, yes? Of the ship she was on?”

The first officer sat still for a moment, breathing deeply as if all the air in the room were about to run out.  He had frizzed, grayish-brown hair and deep wrinkles around his eyes.  His hands were coarse, every inch of his skin tan; he looked every bit like a sailor should.  After a considerable amount of time had passed, the man regained his senses with a quick shake of his head.  “Hmm… Yes, well…” he cleared his throat.  “The Lusitania set out from New York on schedule.  She was a fair ship, nothing amiss, and although the Germans had been sinking merchant vessels along the south coast of Ireland, the captain didn’t think the threat so great to him.  The Lusitania… It was just a passenger ship, really… I was with him, a few days before he was scheduled to sail, and the captain told me he had been warned by the British Admiralty of the U-boat attacks, but that he didn’t worry about it that much.  Maybe he should have.

“May 7, that was just three days ago, of course, the ship was ambushed.  It sank straight to the bottom of the sea, carrying two-thirds of the passengers down with it.  I don’t know if your lass was one of the lucky ones to survive.  If she did, I’m not even sure where she would be.  I’m sorry, but that’s as much as I can tell you.”

With the end of his speech, spoken just as impassively as if he had been discussing sailing conditions, the first officer turned on his heel and left.  Alexei fell back with a groan, eyes wide.

“Sunk?” he muttered in disbelief.  Then he too stood and made for the door.

He was home before he realized that he had been walking.  He strode into his bedroom, washed off, and finished readying himself for bed.  He lay down and was asleep in an instant.

When he awoke, the sun had long-since risen.  Alexei stepped out into the fresh morning and smiled happily.  Another day to spend on the beach, waiting for Nika to return to him.  They would be married as soon as she arrived, of course.  He had already made the arrangements.

He walked down to the sea.  It sparkled, brilliant blue in the early light.  How long had it been since he had seen her? He was not sure.

Smiling, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small cloth.  Within it, wrapped up tight, was a diamond ring.  It glinted in the sunlight, catching each ray and reflecting it back to the heavens.

He had never felt so happy, he thought.  Soon she would be home.  They would be married, they would have children.  They would grow old and die together.  That was how things would work.  It was how they were meant to be.

As he gazed lovingly down at the ring, Alexei Vorslav abruptly drew back his arm.  Then, slinging it forward with enough force to dislocate a shoulder, he threw the cloth into the sea.  The ring was swallowed in an instant.

Alexei smiled again.  She would come for him soon.  Then he could show her the ring.  Oh, how happy she would be!