‘THE UNTHINKABLE SHOES’ by V. KNOX –
– a TITANIC-inspired novel of Literary Fiction / Magical Realism / and Paranormal Romance
EXCERPT: CHAPTER ONE – ‘THE END’
FINN CLEARY APRIL 10, 2012
Yes, those are definitely my shoes, there in the museum case. Who would have thought I’d be famous for my shoes. And such a sad pair as that. I wore them the day I stepped onto the Titanic and the day I floated free of it, April 15, 1912.
I’m not sure if I was five or almost six when it happened, but after I drowned I discovered that time is an inexact measurement. Time raced ahead of me, pulling me backwards and spun me around so I met myself arriving. Even now, as the centenary of Titanic’s maiden voyage approaches, it continues to fling me forward, years speeding past me until I come to a full stop without my growing an inch or aging a single day.
Visitors come to marvel at the miracle of my shoes, awed that a pair of innocent shoes survived the terrifying chaos when hundreds of people perished. The little shrine of the shoes celebrates a moment in time. But not what they imagine. I know their secret. You’d think a dead child’s shoes would make them grief-stricken, entirely. But then I’ve known miracle shoes before and I know how they can capture a soul with magic. I’ve seen them cast a spell. I’ve seen them break a mother’s heart. I can’t go back to Mam shoeless. Sure she’d skin me alive. Losing my shoes is a sin and I lost TWO pairs in the one day.
But now I’ve outgrown my shoes and my age of innocence is over. Hindsight, second sight, and insight are the keys to navigating random events that were meant to happen. And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that time is a paradox of frozen promises and fluid reckonings. That’s why we ghosts must stay on to tell our stories. I’m almost free. I have five days to break a promise. But only an invisible headmaster can release me from school.
Remaining in spirit form close to the living isn’t being kept after school as a punishment. It’s graduating with honors on a level playing field where I’m both a naïve five-year-old pre-schooler and a scholarly professor of three score-and-ten, although I can’t always control which one will speak. I sometimes use words like paradox and conundrum and vicarious to show off but I prefer the words nearest to my former life.
I’ve never felt more like a child but I’ve never been wiser. I’ve never been more me.
I drowned three times. First, in the relentless rain of Ireland, second, in the deep gloom of mourning that settled over my mother, and third, in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic. My shoes have their own life now, and Mam is with her sainted Michael in heaven.
I’ve only had one grownup understand me. Two if you count Lacey. We did everything together. But I always think of her as a child because we met when we were young and I watched her grow old.
Essentially we humans are homing pigeons. We head for the nearest thing to home we can remember. For me it was a person rather than a place. It was Mamie Broughton. We’d only just met but sometimes a chance meeting with a stranger changes everything. Life is a surprise that turns on a breeze. The pendulum swings, and then… ‘worse things happen at sea’.
I used to be plain Finn Cleary before I found fame as the unidentified lost child from the Titanic and my shoes were enshrined as an object of wonder. As if no-one else ever had shoes!