“My dear Father,” said Pinocchio, “there is no time to lose. We must try to escape.”
“We can run out of the Shark’s mouth and dive into the sea.”
“You speak well, but I cannot swim, my dear Pinocchio.”
“Why should that matter? You can climb on my shoulders and I, who am a fine swimmer, will carry you safely to the shore.”
“Dreams, my boy!” answered Geppetto, shaking his head and smiling sadly. “Do you think it possible for a Marionette, a yard high, to have the strength to carry me on his shoulders and swim?”
“Try it and see! And in any case, if it is written that we must die, we shall at least die together.”
Not adding another word, Pinocchio took the candle in his hand and going ahead to light the way, he said to his father:
“Follow me and have no fear.”
They walked a long distance through the stomach and the whole body of the Shark. When they reached the throat of the monster, they stopped for a while to wait for the right moment in which to make their escape.
I want you to know that the Shark, being very old and suffering from asthma and heart trouble, was obliged to sleep with his mouth open. Because of this, Pinocchio was able to catch a glimpse of the sky filled with stars, as he looked up through the open jaws of his new home.
“The time has come for us to escape,” he whispered, turning to his father. “The Shark is fast asleep. The sea is calm and the night is as bright as day. Follow me closely, dear Father, and we shall soon be saved.”
No sooner said than done. They climbed up the throat of the monster till they came to that immense open mouth. There they had to walk on tiptoes, for if they tickled the Shark’s long tongue he might awaken—and where would they be then? The tongue was so wide and so long that it looked like a country road. The two fugitives were just about to dive into the sea when the Shark sneezed very suddenly and, as he sneezed, he gave Pinocchio and Geppetto such a jolt that they found themselves thrown on their backs and dashed once more and very unceremoniously into the stomach of the monster.
To make matters worse, the candle went out and father and son were left in the dark.
“And now?” asked Pinocchio with a serious face.
“Now we are lost.”
“Why lost? Give me your hand, dear Father, and be careful not to slip!”
“Where will you take me?”
“We must try again. Come with me and don’t be afraid.”
With these words Pinocchio took his father by the hand and, always walking on tiptoes, they climbed up the monster’s throat for a second time. They then crossed the whole tongue and jumped over three rows of teeth. But before they took the last great leap, the Marionette said to his father:
“Climb on my back and hold on tightly to my neck. I’ll take care of everything else.”
As soon as Geppetto was comfortably seated on his shoulders, Pinocchio, very sure of what he was doing, dived into the water and started to swim. The sea was like oil, the moon shone in all splendor, and the Shark continued to sleep so soundly that not even a cannon shot would have awakened him.
James held his breath.
A small wisp of smoke rose then thickened as the blankets began to smolder. James showered them with a few more sparks for good measure then stood back. Within seconds, the smoldering fibers ignited, and orange flames stretched toward the ceiling, releasing a thick black smoke that stung his eyes.
Adrenaline shot through James. This was it. Get to the control room.
He shut the engine room door behind him and sprinted for the cockpit stairs. Just as his foot touched the first step, an alarm launched into a high-pitched wail, and emergency lights flashed around the perimeter of the room.
Tunny waited for him at the top of the steps. “Did a good job of that, I see.”
“Yes. Sorry to ruin your years of hard work, Tunny.”
Tunny clapped him on the back. “Never mind about that. You can buy me a beer when we get to the surface. They still have beer, right?”
“Yes, they still have beer. And I’ll buy you a whole keg.”
Tunny nodded, satisfied. “Get in then, and we’ll lock the door. I think your friends have been able to make some progress on the hatch.”
“Really?” James cringed as he stepped into the control room.
Joseph sat in the captain’s chair, working busily among the wreckage of the console. Pine stood next to him. Her shoulder was back in place, though it still didn’t look normal. Considering the damaged room, though, it was surprising her injuries weren’t worse. The other passengers sat in a silent group in the center of the floor, as far away from the bodies of the captain and first mate as they could.
Pine glanced up as he came over. “Joseph thinks he’ll be able to trigger the hatch to open when we get to the surface,” she said brightly, loud enough for everyone to hear.
But he caught the unnatural tone of her voice.
“That’s great,” he said. “That’ll make it so much quicker to get that first breath of fresh air.”
Pine rewarded him with a grateful smile.
“Are the ducts closed? Is the room as airtight as possible?” Joseph asked.
“Everything is as snug as we can make it.” Pine staggered slightly as the room rocked. “Here we go.”
The room grew noticeably cooler as compressed air roared into the ballasts. The sound was deafening.
James’s stomach turned queasy, his legs heavy, like they were whenever he took an elevator. It’s working. We’re rising. One look at the others told James they felt it too.
The older woman gripped Caleb’s hand so tightly that the hard man winced, though he made no attempt to pull his hand away. Someone began praying under their breath, a litany of pleading that James couldn’t make out.
So far, so good. He went over to Pine and wrapped his arms around her, watching out the window as the water lightened almost imperceptibly.
This might just work.
A blast from the control room rocked the sub, throwing those standing to the floor.
No, no, no. James braced himself, expected the sub to descend, sure they’d blown out the tail.
They kept rising.
The prayer chanted more fervently, and Caleb tucked the old woman’s arm under his.
“Joseph? How fast are we ascending?” James tried to keep his voice from reaching the others.
“Not fast enough.”
“Is there anything we can do?”
One minute passed then two. James waited for another explosion, but none came.
Three minutes, four.
The water was noticeably lighter now, changing from twilight blue to rich cobalt.
The tiniest wisp of poisonous black smoke snaked through the crack in the vent.
The water was now rapidly lightening into a pale sapphire, and James could almost feel the sun. We’re so close. Just a couple of minutes more.
The wisp of smoke thickened and coiled, and James’s eyes began to sting. Around him, the crew pressed whatever they could over their noses and mouths.
The prison shot out of the water like a bullet, arcing gently before its belly smacked back down onto the surface with a wave-rolling crash.
Sunlight streamed through the translucent hatch, blinding James. “Joseph, now.”
Joseph fumbled with the hatch controls. The mechanism groaned then stopped. He slammed his fist down on the panel, and the groan turned into a shriek as the top of the shark’s head lifted at last.