12 August 1944
She is reading again: Who could possibly calculate the minimum time required for us to get out? Might we not be asphyxiated before the Nautilus could surface? Was it destined to perish in this tomb of ice along with all those on board? The situation seemed terrible. But everyone faced it squarely and decided to do their duty to the end . . .
Werner listens. The crew chops through the icebergs that have trapped their submarine; it cruises north along the coast of South America, past the mouth of the Amazon, only to be chased by giant squid in the Atlantic. The propeller cuts out; Captain Nemo emerges from his cabin for the first time in weeks, looking grim.
Werner hauls himself off the floor, carrying the radio in one hand and dragging the battery in the other. He traverses the cellar until he finds Volkheimer in the gold armchair. He sets down the battery and runs his hand up the big man’s arm to his shoulder. Locates his huge head. Clamps the headphones over Volkheimer’s ears.
“Can you hear her?” says Werner. “It’s a strange and beautiful story, I wish you could understand French. A giant squid has lodged its giant beak into the propeller of the submarine, and now the captain has said they must surface and fight the beasts hand to hand.”
Volkheimer draws a slow breath. He does not move.
“She’s using the transmitter we were supposed to find. I found it. Weeks ago. They said it was a network of terrorists, but it was just an old man and a girl.”
Volkheimer says nothing.
“You knew all along, didn’t you? That I knew?”
Volkheimer must not be able to hear Werner through the headphones. “She keeps saying, ‘Help me.’ She begs her father, her great-uncle.
She says, ‘He is here. He will kill me.’”
A moan shudders through the rubble above them, and in the darkness Werner feels as if he is trapped inside the Nautilus, twenty meters down, while the tentacles of a dozen angry kraken lash its hull. He knows the
transmitter must be high in the house. Close to the shelling. He says, “I saved her only to hear her die.”
Volkheimer shows no signs of having understood. Gone or resolved to go: is there much difference? Werner takes back the headphones and sits in the dust beside the battery.
The first mate, she reads, struggled furiously with other monsters which were climbing up the sides of the Nautilus. The crew were flailing away with their axes. Ned, Conseil and I also dug our weapons into their soft bodies. A violent odor of musk filled the air.