The Pebble

The bullet rolled down the slanted desktop in monotonous, tortuous repetition, each time snatched from mid-air by the swift hand of Spicer Lovejoy before it could fall to the deck. Again. Again.

Lovejoy seemed to finally tire of his game and, loading the bullet into his revolver, he glanced across the small room to Jack Dawson, who stood manacled to a pipe against the far bulkhead.

"You know, I do believe this ship may sink," Lovejoy said.

He uncoiled from his chair and strode over to the boy who had created so much trouble. Lovejoy still had a private investigator's instincts, and he had known Dawson would be bad news from the moment he caught sight of him.

"I've been asked to give you this small token of our appreciation." Lovejoy enunciated each word with polished perfection, like an Oxford graduate. And then he drove his fist hard into Dawson's midsection. "Compliments of Mr. Caledon Hockley."

Jack doubled over, breathless from the pain. Lovejoy spun and left the room, and after Jack had recovered from the blow he set to trying to free himself. He rattled his handcuffs against the L-shaped pipe, and then traveled the length of the metal from deck to ceiling, trying to find a flaw, a seam that could be exploited. 'Fifteen thousand Irishmen built this ship,' Tommy Ryan had said, the pride obvious in his voice. He had had every right to boast: the pipe was solid perfection.

"Can anybody hear me? Is anybody out there?" Jack yelled at the top of his lungs. His voice raced down the empty corridors and echoed back wrapped in cold metal.

It's no use, he thought. There's no one left down here.

To his horror, water started to flow into the room, rising swiftly. He pulled hard on his left hand, trying to will his wrist narrow enough to slip through the metal shackle. Screaming with frustration, he yanked again and again, until the back of his hand reddened like raw meat.

The water continued its relentless rise, and Jack was forced to scale a nearby desk to keep out of the cold stream. He banged and rattled and yelled and pushed and pulled… and finally he had to admit defeat. He rubbed the inflamed skin of his hand and slumped against the hull, eyes closed. The ship groaned in pain beneath him.

"Hello, son."

The voice startled Jack, and he opened his eyes, expecting to find a blessed rescuer. Instead, he reared back, flat against the outside bulkhead, stunned. His mind wouldn’t believe the message that his eyes were sending. Speech was impossible. He just stared across the room, directly into madness.

Am I already dead? he wondered, his mind detached, oddly fascinated by the thought.

"No, son."

It was his father.

Jack Dawson had always prided himself as one who didn't put much stock in stories of ghosts or angels or such. But here he was, face-to-face with…what? He forced his tongue to stir, almost having to shove the word from his mouth.


"Yes, Jack. And I am neither a ghost nor an angel…I am more of a…teacher."

His father looked strapping, able, full of life, just as he had the day of…the fire. Memories that had been long barricaded in a corner of Jack's mind came roaring out…. powerful, shocking, ramming into his consciousness like a tidal wave…. and he found himself floundering against their force.

"Dad….I tried…oh, God, I tried…but the smoke was so bad….I'm so sorry, dad….I couldn't….I failed you all…I'm so sorry…" His voice trailed off.

His father's look spoke volumes of kindness.

"I know….we know… Don't you be worrying about that. When one's time is up, there is nothing can be done to stop it. It was just our time, was all."

"Mom? James?" Jack asked. He didn't fully believe that it was his father before him, but he desperately wanted - no, needed - absolution. To know that his mother and brother forgave him for living.

"Everyone … understands."

Jack stared at the apparition, thoughts of his own dire straits consumed by the fire of his shame and his loss. It took all his strength to deal with the image before him - a grim reminder of his most abject failure, his lowest low.

"Why now? Why, after all this time, do you come to me now?" he asked quietly.

"Because there is something you need to know. Fate can be bent if the will is strong enough, but once that force is spent, all returns to where it was and where it would be."

"I don't understand."

"Titanic is doomed, I think you know that. No one should be coming down here…this section will very soon be under water."

"I'm going to die here?" Jack asked. He realized as the words left his lips that he had already resigned himself to the truth within them.

"Son… we all love you, we all have missed you. But we knew we had to wait until your course was fully run. There is time for us all."

The eyes were warm and generous, as they had always been whenever Jack had sat on his dad's knee and gazed up at him, wishing with all his might that the world he saw within them would funnel down into his own small body and make him into a Man just like his father.

"Jack, please listen," his father continued. "You can throw a pebble into the ocean and hear the splash, see the waves, but the sea goes on as before. You aren't meant to leave this room this night, son. But sometimes a great force will well up in the smallest of us and rail against fate, make ripples in the ocean of time… remember, though, that Fate is the tiller of the universe, and a pebble is only a pebble."

"Dad!" Jack cried out, as his father's image dissolved into nothingness. He was too stunned to move.

Had he really seen his father? It had all taken place in the span of a few heartbeats… too fast to be real. What did it mean? Why would his father come to tell him all of this if he was just going to die in this room? What did he mean… a pebble?

Just as the thought skipped across his mind, he heard a faint cry from far down the passageway.

"Jack! Jack!"

Rose! What is she doing down here?

"Rose! I'm in here!" he yelled, the adrenaline coursing through his body as his life halted its headlong rush and miraculously returned to his control. She had come back to save him, to be with him, and the phantom of his father was left far behind as they raced to their future.


"Swim, Rose! I need you to swim!"

The water cut like infinite razors, shocking beyond belief. They swam amidst the wreckage of Titanic, searching for a float of any kind.

Jack spotted a small board and they made their way to it.

"Get on," he told her. "Come on, Rose."

Rose climbed onto the board, pulling herself up with a supreme effort. Once she was balanced, Jack tried to hoist himself onto it alongside of her, but his weight pulled the board up out of the water and almost tipped it over completely. Rose cried out, but the board settled back down under her.

Jack could hear the water lapping against the sides of the board, an incongruously peaceful sound amid the storm of cries from the forsaken.

The water was so cold. So cold.

He knew right then that he wasn't going to be able to get out of the freezing sea, and that the boats wouldn't chance returning, fearful of being capsized by swimmers frantic to live. The mastery of his own life slipped through his fingers once again.

Suddenly, his father's visage came back to him… and everything became clear.

In the span between ticks on a clock, Jack came to understand all of this: that Rose was the pebble; that her coming back to save him in the master-at-arms' office had not been meant to happen, that she was supposed to have gotten warm and safe into a lifeboat, that she was supposed to have lived ever after, that she truly loved him as he had only dared hope she might - so powerful a love that it had temporarily rippled his Fate and allowed her to find him and rescue him, that he was beside her now only due to her strength……

And he was suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude for the chance to spend a precious few final moments with her---an incredible gift he wasn't meant to have.

His father had appeared to him to prepare him, and to allow him to fully understand and appreciate the gift. He wasn't meant to be out here in the frigid black ocean. Rose's love had made it so, but despite the warped path of time they now traveled she would still be all right… the ending would be as it was to have been. Jack's heart swelled with thanks once again… and something greater still.

He had a final chance to be with her, to hear her voice, to reassure her, to pass his strength onto her.

To gaze into her eyes one final time.

He could not tell her the true depths of his feelings; he longed to do so, but it would be too cruel to her… tomorrow.

He understood the truth. He was already supposed to be dead.

Another second clicked off the clock on the black morning of April 15, 1912. As he clung to the edge of the wood, Jack nodded almost imperceptibly: a resigned understanding, a brief assent to the inevitable, an acquiescence to Fate.


"It'll be all right now," he said to her, his final duty to protect the small piece of flotsam that would be her savior.

He turned celebrate the final gift of his life. Rose, barely visible, the starlight gleaming off her eyes, off the frost in her hair… incredible Rose. Their breath streamed and mixed in the frigid air, a warm touch on the skin. He held her hand once more and spun her tomorrows out of a promise….

Then he said his silent farewell to his love…..