Saving Time

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium

A mysterious box appears, changing the events of a tragic night. Written for the Imaginarium House's sentence challenge.

This is also a prequel to my short story Washed Away:

Submitted: March 21, 2018

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Submitted: March 21, 2018



“What’s in the box?” Captain Edward Smith asked. The chief officer, Lieutenant Henry Wilde, had just walked into the cockpit holding a strange, metallic box in his arms. He looked a bit nervous just holding it. 

“I’m not sure, sir,” Wilde said. “I can’t get it to open.”

“Then why are you looking so nervous?” Smith said with just the hint of a smirk on his face. 

Wilde cleared his throat. “I’m not sure, sir, there’s just something about it that feels… wrong.” Smith chuckled. At 39, Wilde still had a hint of youthful exuberance about him, with a strong, rounded jaw and bright eyes. Smith always thought that Wilde was too often given to fanciful ideas; truly he had become quite as superstitious as most sailers. 

“Come, Lieutenant,” Smith said, “bring the box here.”

Wilde nodded and stepped forward, holding the box toward the captain. Smith took the box, and as soon as he took it a strange energy seemed to course through his arms. He understood why it made Wilde feel wary. He placed the box beside the controls before saying, “Where did you find this?”

“It was in the cargo hold. One of the crew found it. He said the deck where it had lain was scorched, as if the box had been on fire or something.”

Smith nodded slowly. This was an ominous sign, but Captain Edward Smith was not a man to be cowed by a simply box. With one swift motion, Smith threw the box open with ease. 

“What?” Wilde said. “But I—” 

Smith put up a hand to silence the lieutenant. The box contained several items, and atop them all was a sheet of paper containing a note. He picked it up and began to read:

Captain Edward Smith,

Within this box lie the items that will ensure your salvation, as well as that of every passenger aboard this ship. In addition, I have included a set of instructions that, if followed to the letter, will prevent an incident that will cause the ship to sink, killing approximately 1500 people. 

Smith paused here and gave a hearty laugh. 

“What is it, sir?” Wilde said. 

Smith gave another chuckle, then said, “This note claims that, if I don’t follow the instructions provided, the ship will sink. Can you believe that? The Titanic, sink?”

Wilde gave a small smile, but still looked nervous. 

Smith looked back at the note, simply to see what other cock-and-bull stories it had to offer. 

You likely do not believe me, which is understandable. That is why I have provided evidence of what I claim. Within the box you will find a newspaper dated next week detailing the events that will happen if you do not follow my instructions. 

Still smiling, Smith looked inside the box again. Indeed there was a newspaper within. He lifted it from the box and saw the headline on the front page:  ALL DROWNED BUT 868. Beneath this heading was a picture of the Titanic, the bow up in the air as it slid backwards into the sea. Lifeboats were depicted as sailing away from the wreckage. Perusing the accompanying article, Smith read that the Titanic had stuck an iceberg, and sank four hours later. Four hours? How could such a large ship sink in just four hours? The blood drained from Smith’s face and his stomach dropped. The detail in the article was uncanny; it contained dates, times, names, even the exact location that the ship would sink. Could this indeed be real?

He looked back at the note. 

Now that you believe me, please take heed of the following instructions:

1. Ensure that the cruising speed of the Titanic does not exceed 18 knots, especially when traveling in icy waters. 

2. Provide the iceberg spotters with the binoculars contained within the box. 

3. Change your course to follow the provided chart. 

If you follow these three simple steps, you will reach your destination safely. 

-The Watcher

Smith stared for a moment at the note. The instructions seemed unobtrusive enough. This could all be a huge hoax, but if it was, it wasn’t very well thought out. What did anyone have to gain in him following these instructions?

He looked inside the box again and noticed several pairs of binoculars and a chart containing a slightly adjusted course. Making up his mind, Smith pulled out the binoculars and handed them to the fourth officer. “Sub-Lieutenant Boxhall, I need you to get these up to the lookouts immediately.” Boxhall nodded and rushed from the cockpit. “Adjust our speed to 18 knots. And we will be taking an alternate course.” He handed the chart to the navigator, who looked confused but nodded. 

Doubt still clouded Smith’s thoughts, but it was better to be safe than sunk. 


On the morning of April 17, 1912, the Titanic docked at White Star Line’s Pier 60 in New York City. Captain Henry Smith watched as every passenger disembarked safely. Not a single incident had occurred during the voyage; not so much as a nose bleed was reported. Whoever this Watcher character was, he had just provided a great service for humanity.


Continued in Washed Away

© Copyright 2018 J. R. Merrick. All rights reserved.

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