The 22,000-tonne vessel was returning from a 42-night voyage in the Azores when water crashed through a window of the UK-based cruise ship MS Marco Polo. An 85-year-old man and a woman in her 70s were airlifted off the ship but the man later died. Several more people of the 735 passengers on board suffered minor injuries.
The poor couple, traveling home from the trip of a lifetime, never suspected it would end in death.
If you read this plot in a novel, you'd dismiss the occurrence as unlikely. Yet truth is often stranger than fiction. In my series of Moonstone books, the first two of which are on the sidebar, I used snippets from news stories as a base to write the interludes. The heroine, Liliha, wears a star moonstone ring which induces visions. Liliha arrives in an unknown situation and whispers advice to those in trouble. Just like the little guiding voice we all hear. Here's one such vision from the novel I'm working on at the moment, Seashell Effect. The excerpt started out as a 30 word story I found in the newspaper. See if you think it's improbable.
* * *
I'm standing in the dark--inky blackness ahead, but lights and muffled sounds come from behind. Legs beneath me adjust to a lurch beneath our feet. I've already merged with an intoxicated mind. Not sure if the dizzy effect comes from within or without. Where are we? The wind roars. Hair whips into my face. Her face.
Another lurch makes the surface slant beneath our feet. I tighten our muscles and whisper, 'Careful'.
"Jamie," a female voice calls. "Come inside. The sea's rough out there."
Ah. We're on the deck of a ship.
Dizzy, Jamie leans over a railing while I probe inside her. Goose bumps rise on the bare arms emerging from her light evening dress. She's just left two friends to get a breath of fresh air. The surface underfoot tilts.
We lose balance.
Topple over the barrier. Flail the air. Plummet down, down.
Hit. Swishing noises.
Our vision blurs. Can't breathe.
She's going into shock and dragging me with her.
'Wake up. Your life depends on it'. Thrash. Kick. Skirt catches on our legs. Try to reach a faint glint against the drag of downward momentum. Flaying arms take us up and up.
Head breaks into the air. Breathe one lungful after another. Glimpse hundreds of lights while waves lash our head.
Jamie's jumbled thinking reveals the name of the ship she's left. The Princess Seaways ferry. We're in the North Sea.
Gasp. Break surface again and breathe. Movements jerky. Cold numbing our limbs.
Yell. Someone might hear over the raging storm, otherwise this holiday will end in death.
Too weak. So cold.
Keep moving. Concentrate. Look at the lights.
No. They're growing smaller with each lunge.
Concentrate. I must keep Jamie alive until help reaches her. Chances are against rescue. Yet, why am I here if the task is hopeless? First, give comfort, and then search for someone to help.
I breathe assurances into her mind. 'Keep afloat. They'll search for you. Never stop moving. Your chances are good. The propeller didn't suck you under. You only need to survive for a short time. Concentrate on the comfort of the coming rescue. Think of your loved ones'. Don't let her worry about the unthinkable.
Although regret sears me, the desperation of her plight impels me to leave her. Abandon her.
While she fights the paralysis in her chilled limbs, I disengage and soar up and over toward the lights. On the lower deck, uniformed men toss an inflatable overboard and others hold the rope firm. Commands swirl in the wind while people scramble aboard. The outboard motor roars.
In the black night, they battle the waves. The throb of the ship's powerful engines fades. Shouts from hopeless voices penetrate the background of the raging storm.
I hover over the inflatable. Inside, the men are straining forward.
I concentrate on Jamie's whereabouts because they have to decide which way to search. With my guidance and calm assurances broadcast into their collective minds, the searchers set out in the right direction despite the lashing waves. I'm relieved they picked up my message.
In a flash, I'm back with Jamie.
Numbing cold. Hard to move. Tired.
'Fight', I whisper. 'Never give up. Help is close. Kick for all you're worth'.
Why bother? Too cold.
She needs a memory to give incentive. I emerge deep into her mind and find Darren--laughing, full of life and love. She grasps the image. 'You need to prove worthy. Show how you can fight any adversity. Think of the stories you can tell your children'.
Warmth washes over her to mix with the alcohol and adrenalin in her blood.
One more task. Direct the men to find her in the howling sea. I zap over to the inflatable to check their position.
"She must have drowned, Tom," one man says to another.
"She's been in the cold too long."
In a flash, I've merged with Tom and read his concern. Nobody has ever been recovered alive in these conditions, if found at all. I whisper, 'On the left, between the waves. See that clothing?'
We train the torch in the vicinity. The swell heaves and rolls.
'Look', I whisper.
"Try the starboard, Tom."
"Wait," he says. "I think I saw something." Tom, with me inside him, focuses on an object bobbing behind the spray. "There," he shouts. "Steer that way."
With a sigh of relief, I rise above the men heading for Jamie while she bobs, sinks, and breaks surface again.
At last they lift her dripping body. My consciousness fades.
* * *
A quick glance either way along the street assured Liliha no one had spotted her long pause. Heartbeat pounded in her ears without the raging storm to drown out other sounds. Impossible to remain unaffected after the rescue, but somehow she managed to calm her shaking limbs and continue walking. Although the odds were against a rescue, Jamie hadn't succumbed to defeat.