Chapter no 149 – Captain Nemo’s Last Words‌

All the Light We Cannot See

By noon on the twelfth of August, Marie-Laure has read seven of the last nine chapters into the microphone. Captain Nemo has freed his ship from the giant squid only to stare into the eye of a hurricane. Pages later, he rammed a warship full of men, passing through its hull, Verne writes, like a sailmaker’s needle through cloth. Now the captain plays a mournful, chilling dirge on his organ as the Nautilus sleeps in the wastelands of the sea. Three pages are left. If Marie-Laure has brought anyone comfort by broadcasting the story, if her great-uncle, crouched in some dank cellar with a hundred men, tuned her in—if some trio of Americans reclined in the nighttime fields as they cleaned their weapons and traveled the dark gangways of the Nautilus with her—she cannot say.

But she is glad to be so near the end.

Downstairs the German has shouted twice in frustration, then fallen silent. Why not, she considers, just slide through the wardrobe and hand the little house to him and find out if he will spare her?

First she will finish. Then she’ll decide.

Again she opens the model house and tips the stone into her palm. What would happen if the goddess took away the curse? Would the fires go out, would the earth heal over, would doves return to the windowsills? Would Papa come back?

Fill your lungs. Beat your heart. She keeps the knife beside her. Fingertips pressed to the lines of the novel. The Canadian harpooner Ned Land has found his window for escape. “The sea’s bad,” he says to Professor Aronnax, “and the wind’s blowing strong . . .

“I’m with you, Ned.”

“But let me tell you that if we’re caught, I’m going to defend myself, even if I die doing it.”

“We’ll die together, Ned my friend.”

Marie-Laure turns on the transmitter. She thinks of the whelks in Harold Bazin’s kennel, ten thousand of them; how they cling; how they draw themselves up into the spirals of their shells; how, when they’re

tucked into that grotto, the gulls cannot come in to carry them up into the sky and drop them on the rocks to break them.

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