The Travelers Blurb
In 1947, the luxury liner Queen Mary transmits a message which is intercepted by an extraterrestrial intelligence. This errant radio signal serves as a beacon for a North Atlantic encounter between James and Jess Bennett, a GI and his British war bride, and an otherworldly, desperate mother and her two small children. The Bennetts left Southampton with only each other but arrive in New York as a family. In the present day, Guy Turner, a melancholy, black film maker, finds himself at the center of a supernatural mystery after a haunting prelude with the now elderly mother in a corridor aboard the retired liner in Long Beach, California.
Standing at the edge of eternity, the old woman and the Bennetts have the complex task of setting certain aspects of the past in order as the doors to their lives are closing. Guy is thrust into an unexpected and unwanted voyage of self as he is solely enjoined to bring the three together one last time. The Travelers is a journey to the limits of anxiety, despair, grief, and joy that are common to every human experience of suffering and growth.
The Travelers Excerpt
A magnificent electrical storm split the billowing, black skies above Long Beach with supernatural pale-violet streaks. For a moment or two the buildings, streets, and smooth sea were illuminated in uncanny daylight, then plunged into appalling darkness somehow blacker than the night. The Queen Mary’s flood-lit stacks fought valiantly to maintain their stark superiority against the antagonistic skies, then repeatedly and completely washed in a great scorn of purple-white.
A few days earlier Guy had been on the forecastle when the ship’s whistle blew as it did every morning at 10:00. He and the other day-trippers unfortunate enough to be on deck hunkered down and covered their ears against the angry roar of a great, captured animal in unfamiliar surroundings. “Dear God,” someone had said as car alarms sounded in the parking lot in a cacophony of whoops. But the silence that followed was like an explosion to Guy, the startled sound of bare existence. Guy likewise simply existed. He had always known loneliness but never as such an intimate companion. He was infinitely depressed and imagined that he and the ship shared the same wish, to cease existence. Not with a spectacular end but rather a quiet slip into oblivion.
But today, Guy had intended to spend only the early afternoon at Queen Mary exploring the archives for that extra minutia of memorabilia before settling into the editing room, but day turned to night after Mr. Vaughn, the ship’s CEO, visited with ’suggestions.’ Guy had immersed himself into the documentary since Lynn left him, and the great liner quickly became his mistress. There was a moribund loneliness about her that Guy now identified with, an inexplicable sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Her captains were long dead, her passengers nonexistent, and she would never hasten again into a turnabout voyage. She was an enormous monument to the fragility of time, a fact Guy pondered often.
“This is the very suite Winston Churchill stayed in en route to the Quebec Conference to meet with President Roosevelt,” Mr. Vaughn said as he tried unlocking the door. “You know he traveled to North America three times on the Queen Mary during the war? Not to mention the countless times during peace.”
“Yes,” Guy replied in a weary tone. “It will be part of the narration.” He wanted nothing more than to be at home, sitting in the dark with a cigarette as he did most nights, emptying his mind of everything but the loss of Lynn.
“But couldn’t you at least film the tub where he planned D-Day?” Mr. Vaughn asked. “He sat in it with toy boats and harbors while his aides surrounded him. How many people do you suppose know that?”
The lights flickered and Guy said, “Mr. Vaughn, we have over two hundred hours of film to edit for a two-hour documentary. I assure you we have more than enough images to choose from.”
The little man examined the keys closely and chose another while Guy waited impatiently. “But to actually see the very tub in which that piece of history was planned is quite extraordinary, I promise you.” Again, the knob would not turn. Mr. Vaughn glanced down the corridor and said, “Now surely you got a shot of that never-ending hallway?”
“Yes, we have it.”
“Do you know what ‘sheer’ is?” Mr. Vaughn asked as the lights dimmed and brightened.
“Yes, that’s the convex curving of the deck,” Guy said obligingly. “The deck is so long you can’t see the end.”
“A hallway over seven hundred feet long,” Mr. Vaughn said, and shook his head in awe.
Indeed, the corridor dipped lightly far ahead of them. The paneling glowed in warm tones from the softly lit fixtures in the ceiling corners while the lines of handrails on either side led the eye even farther. The cabin doors were like silent, regal sentries standing guard over a hallowed pathway that stretched into the past, measured by years rather than feet. The deck began to rise imperceptibly into the distance. Then there was the golden blur of door, panel, and handrail as they melded mysteriously into one with the final illusion of a pin-prick of darkness reaching infinitely upward.
When Guy raised a hand to rub his eyes, static electricity jumped from his fingertips to his eyelashes. Mr. Vaughn jerked his hand back when the key shocked him with a blue snap upon contact with the doorknob. “For heaven’s sake,” he said, and Guy watched as he began examining the keys again with infuriating slowness. Guy had decided to lie regarding a previous engagement and make a hasty exit when he heard an unusual sound down the corridor. A soft, rippling sound like water running over rocks in a shallow creek. He turned and a figure appeared distantly, walking toward them through the slashes of golden light given off by the light fixtures. Guy turned back to the CEO.
“Mr. Vaughn, I really need to run,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I still have quite a bit to do at the studio tonight.”
Mr. Vaughn half twisted with what Guy assumed would be an appeal to stay. Instead the keys fell to the carpeting with a metallic whimper and he whispered, “Good heavens.” Guy followed his gaze. With pure and absolute astonishment he watched as the figure grew clear. An old, long-haired woman, completely naked, approaching with small, tentative steps.
Out of the corner of his eye, Guy saw Mr. Vaughn shakily lift a cell phone to his ear. “Security to Main Deck,” he said in a low tone. “The Churchill Suite.”
She was a deeply lined, dark-skinned woman with feet horribly misshapen by arthritis. Her gray hair swung behind her waist as she walked, her shoulders raised and rounded. Her hips sagged ponderously, more from age than extra weight, and her breasts hung like pears against her chest with dark, olive-colored nipples. The return of Eve after five hundred generations.
Then she stood before them like a timid deer, her eyes pensive as she looked from one man to the other, perhaps in the hope of detecting compassion. She settled her dark eyes on Guy and moved closer. Her eyes did not reflect the depths of madness or dementia but rather an incessant plea. She swallowed before speaking as though choosing her words carefully in fear of misunderstanding. When she opened her mouth, the voice that fell from her lips was deep and strong though she spoke slowly in a language Guy did not recognize. It sounded faintly Latin with many ls and ts and when she finished, she was silent and waiting, begging him for an answer with her eyes.